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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 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 19 Family Affair

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

Chapter 19 | Family Affair

EMMETT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Staircase.Family Home

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Room
Great Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward better watch it with this one.

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

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

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

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

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

“TART!” Ella and Everett shout in unison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 17 Before the Storm?

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 17 | Before the Storm?

ELLA

“If that fucker thinks he’s welcome in this family…” Eran is so mad he can’t even finish his sentence. I’m in the backseat chucking to myself.

“Something funny Ella? Don’t worry, Everett will give that pretensions fucker what for. The bastard won’t know what hit him. Eran calls out to me from across the seat. I’m in shock.

What the fuck!

Everett isn’t going to hurt Christian. Christian’s family.

What the fuck is wrong with Eran?

Everett, Eran and Emerson all remember Aunt Ella and her relationship with Daddy. However, Everett was just as close to her as Daddy. I’m anxious to find out what went on between Evy and Christian too. I know, unless Christian got out of hand, it was an intense yet amicable pissing match, but that’s all.

“Ellie? Why are you so quiet? Surely you don’t hold well with that Grey fucker having anything to do with EB…do you?” Eran gives me a quick look in the rearview mirror and I explode.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Is that all you care about? You both remember Aunt Ella. Don’t you care about what happened to her…to her son? Don’t you give a fuck about what this means to Daddy and Granddad? What it means to Everett. Mio Dio, you have the nerve to refer to Granddad as an asshole. I guess all that running away really did erase your memories?” I can hardly catch my breath.

In a condescending tone Eran says to me “We were there Ella, you weren’t. We saw everything, up close and personal, so don’t try that guilt trip shit because it won’t work. We can comment on anything in anyway we see fit, especially when it comes to this fiasco so just piss off.” Once again, my older brother has managed to shock the shit out of me. He remembers being there, he remembers what happened then why in the Hell is he behaving this way? I’m speechless.

Let Everett deal with these idiots. Don’t waste your energy.

You’re right, I have Liam Jared Beckett to attend to.

Precisely.

What the fuck was Liam thinking? He’s the one who said to give Christian time, so why did Liam approach Christian?

We pull into the driveway of the Family Home and Eran parks the car. Unfortunately, this conversation just gets better and better as we continue into the house and stop in the foyer.  Finally finding his voice and speaking up, Emerson The Peacekeeper chirps a weak-ass statement, “Leave her alone Eran, she sees the best in everyone.” Emerson looks down at me with sympathy in his eyes. He tries to maintain a sense of calm when we begin to argue among ourselves. Ironic, because he can fight with the best of them and win, hands down. He’s even knocked Everett on his ass a few times.

Before parting ways, Eran seals his fate. The fool doesn’t have the decency to lower his voice, “It’ll be her downfall one day. Ev’ll beat that son of a bi…” that’s as far as he got. None of us knew what was happening, until it was too late.

From behind, Everett wrapped his hand around Eran’s throat and simply began to squeeze. Everett’s voice was crisp, quiet and daunting as he hissed almost directly in our brother’s ear, “I know more about this subject than any of you and I’m telling you that son of a bitch is our aunt’s only child.  Our only cousin.  And you will respect her memory and her son as you do every other member of this family. Do you…fucking…understand me…Eran Rockhold-Brown?”

Eran’s face was turning dark red and his eyes were starting to close. I have to stop this. “Ev,” my voice sounds desperate, even to my own ears, “please Everett, listen to me.” Everett’s eyes slowly move in my direction and I immediately start to ramble. “Everett, please. I love Aunt Ellie too Everett you know that. Eran just ran his mouth without thinking. You know how Eran and Emerson are Everett.” From the corner of my eye, I can see Emerson’s facial expression change and his mouth drop open. I know he hasn’t said anything hurtful, but he sure as Hell hasn’t been helpful in this situation. “Please let Eran go Everett. Please.” While I agree Eran deserves to have his ass beat over this scene, Everett needs to calm down and rethink this course of action.

We’re all so engrossed in the outburst unfolding in front of us, we don’t see Daddy and Granddad enter the foyer. Daddy’s words were spoken softly, but that didn’t diminish their strength. Daddy moves to stand directly next to Everett, “Son, let your brother go. There has been enough violence throughout this situation, we do not need any more.” Everett’s only response to our father’s command is the lone tear I see escape from his eye. Daddy speaks again, a little softer this time, “Let him go Everett.”

Staring at the figure of our quickly fading brother Everett sobs, “He called Aunt Ellie a…” Everett’s voice sounds like that of a five year old and the sadness in his eyes is breaking my heart.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and strong arms encircle me, “Love,” Liam speaks just above a whisper in my ear, “come with me. Let your father and brothers work this out among themselves.”

I shake my head. I can’t leave them like this, “Liam…”

“Hush, come with me Love.” He says as he gently moves me away from the three generations of Brown men. The last thing I see is the look of pain in my eldest brother’s eyes and my father gently prodding him to release the object of his ire.


Liam stayed with me while my father coaxed Everett’s hands from around Eran’s throat. I’ve never seen Everett this emphatic about anything or anyone…other than Christopher. Pointing in the direction of Eran’s room Everett announces “That fucker needs to learn respect. If you or Granddad won’t teach him, I WILL!” He snarled the last two words.

Scrubbing his hand over his face, Daddy attempts to remind Everett, “Son, you know how Eran and Emerson are. They turned a blind eye to this situation for years. Your relationship with Ella and Christian was different from theirs. Just as their experiences during that time were different from your own.” Dad has tried to calm Ev down for the past hour to no avail. The only thing our father managed to achieve was to stop Ev, and then Granddad, from murdering Eran.

“You have to accept their coping mechanism, such that it is.” Daddy lost some of his conviction at the end of that statement. My brothers way of coping is to cop-out. They’ll laugh and joke and breeze past a family issue. There always seems to be something or someone more important. “They’re the same boys they’ve always been Everett. They haven’t changed.” I know Daddy’s not happy about that fact either.

Had he remained silent I would’ve forgotten his presence, but Liam Jared Beckett, once again, couldn’t leave well-enough alone, “If that dumb-ass brother of yours would keep his mouth shut he…”

I shoot Liam a glare blazing with rage. I step directly in front of him and poke my finger in his chest. The bastard is a foot or foot and a half taller than me, but I don’t give a fuck. I can still take his ass down. The bigger they are is my golden rule. “You started this shit”, I yell at him. “I told you to…leave…my…cousin…alone…damn you. Why the fuck did you…”

Little did I know there was an ulterior motive in tonight’s performance. From out of no where, Granddad bellows, “ELLA, ENOUGH!” I turn my attention toward the echoing sound.

I though he’d gone to bed.

So much for formalities when speaking in front of Granddad.

“I asked Liam to approach Christian.” My mouth drops open. There’s astonishment engraved on my face.

What the fuck!?

Ignoring my reaction Granddad looks past me to Liam as he says, “Thank you Liam, you did exactly what I asked you to do. I appreciate your assistance.” Liam nods, acknowledging my grandfather’s remark, but he never takes his eyes off of me.

Still gaping at my grandfather, my eyes are wide and I have to shake my head to try to clear the confusion from my mind.

We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.

What the fuck is going on around here?

Standing tall and embolden with anger I announce “I want a Family Meeting and I want it NOW! I also want HIM,” I point directly at Liam “included.”

Now, anyone can call a Family Meeting. When it’s called all are to attend, it’s non-negotiable. The use of Skype and/or FaceTime are acceptable when one is out of town or overseas.  In the event you are technologically challenged you may, possibly be excused. However, it’s easier to get an Act of Parliament than to be allowed to miss a Family Meeting.

As adolescents and younger adults, Eran and Emerson had an uncanny knack for disappearing when “shit-uations”, as they affectionately referred to struggle and strife in our family, edged toward Family Meeting status, enabling those two to miss almost every single meeting.

I remember Daddy and Everett telling me how Eran was hiding out trying to devise a plan of escape, but Emerson told Granddad what Eran was up to so Granddad sent some of his security detail go and round Eran up. Apparently Emerson was pissed because his internal radar failed and he had to be at the meeting. When Eran arrived, it was a knock down drag out between he and Emerson before the meeting could begin, all because neither brother wanted to attend.

“Ahem, you’ll have to call Grey too, won’t you?” Eran quips upon making his return.

I guess near strangulation isn’t incentive enough to keep his fucking mouth shut.

Further antagonizing me, Granddad chuckles, “Yes she does and yes, she will contact him if she is serious about this meeting.” Granddad’s smile, a testament to his disbelief in my sincerity, is pushing the wrong fucking buttons tonight.

I pull out my iPhone and instruct Siri to “Call Christian.”

Siri’s male voice responds, “Calling Christian Grey.”

Ring…Ring…

“Grey!” He snarls.

He must have looked at the Caller ID.

There’s no fucking way in Hell he wants to hear from any of you.

Like I don’t fucking know this already.

As quickly as I can, I announce myself, “Grey, it’s Ella…”

He cuts me off, as I knew he would “What the fuck do…”

There’s no way he gets to control this conversation, “Shut the fuck up and listen you prick!” Suddenly, there’s silence on his end of the line. No doubt he’s staggered at my address. We’ve never been this pissed at one another.

“I’m calling to notify you about a Family Meeting and…”

Sounding like Granddad, Christian barks, “I’m not your fam…” He should really save his breath.

I’m in control here, fucker.

“Like it or not, you pompous ass, you are a member of this family. Rule One, when a Family Meeting is called all must attend. Exceptions are made for childbirth and death, your own mind you. You.  Will.  Attend.  GREY!”

“This is new to you, I understand, and tempers have gotten out of hand so I’ll be lenient and give you 24 hours to make your arrangements. We will meet at the Family Home in the Great Room, 7:00 PM sharp. I don’t abide by tardiness. And, as wonderful as she is, Anastasia is not eligible to attend this meeting. Get it?” He hasn’t gotten a word in edgewise. I’m actually surprised he’s been quiet this long.

“ANSWER ME!” I growl. I don’t like being ignored.

With a cold, distant sound Christian tries to brush me off, “I’ll check my cal…”

“No…the fuck…you won’t! You’ll attend or you’ll regret it.” I’m pissed, out of breath and panting so hard I’m almost hyperventilating.

“Give me that.” Everett snatches the phone out of my hands while Liam gathers me in his arms, trying to calm my nerves. Not one to mince words, Everett roars “COUSIN! Have your ass here in 24 hours!” Just like that, he ends the call and nods at me as if to say, ‘Done’.

Times like these, you need a good old-fashioned landline. Nothing like slamming the phone down so it rings in the other guy’s ear.

So true…technology ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Ev’s voice immediately calms as he lifts my chin and tells me, “He’ll be here Ellie. He’s too fucking obstinate not to come.” I nod absentmindedly, not really certain what I’m agreeing to.

Liam then speaks up, “Love, are you going to be alright?” Liam always worries about me. He remembers my Aunt Ella as well, so he understands the stress level involved in any discussion about her. Sometimes I get jealous at how vividly he can recall her when he tells me tales from his youth. Again, I nod.

No further words are spoken in the Family Home. I believe we’ve all had quite enough excitement for one year, let alone one evening. We knew telling Christian we are related would cause difficulty, but good Lord who the fuck knew it would be like this?

GREY

Who does that little bitch think she’s talking to? And that brother of hers can kiss my ass! I stand silent, glaring at the phone after Everett Brown hung up on me.

Ahem…

What in the name of all evil do you fucking want?

Don’t call her a bitch.

WHAT? Whose side are you on?

I’m on the side of right, damn you. The girl has been your friend. She’s looked out for you and protected you when Ana wasn’t here to do so.

I’m silent. I know he’s right…and I fucking hate it.

Cat got your tongue Grey? No smartass, witty retort for that one, huh?

Well she…they…they all…

Lied? Is that the word you’re looking for?

Yes mutherfuck…

Shut…UP! I’ve had enough of your talking, just listen.

Whatev…

Fuck you very much. She took the time to get to know you. She took the time to tell you about herself and her family. She took the time to introduce you to your surroundings, to make you feel at home. She listened when you whined about Ana not being here and, as I recall, she scared off a few nightmares by taking your 2:00 AM phone call and talking to you…all fucking night long.

No, she didn’t tell you she was your family. Would you have let her get this close to you if she had?

N…

I said, shut the fuck up! No! You would’ve cut her off like a gangrenous appendage and continued on your sullen and depressed way. I can’t say it enough Grey, she was your friend who turned out to be your family. She hasn’t done anything to you. She’s been there for you and taught your stupid ass a few things about interacting with other humans. Remember?

I smile inwardly as I think back on the rollerblading, surfing and her cussing me out for my temper tantrums then acting like nothing ever happened, once I calmed down.

You don’t know anything about your birth mother other than the fact that she was strung out on drugs, a prostitute and didn’t provide for you. You have no idea what was going through her mind, what was happening to her heart or her soul. You don’t know where she came from, what her dreams were or how she truly felt about you. You don’t know anything, yet to you, she’s better off dead and anyone who has anything to do with her is innately vile and disgusting.

You have nightmares, reliving your worse experiences going back in time night after night. Why the fuck can’t you move forward? They’re rich. They don’t want your precious, fucking money. They have plenty money of there own.  They haven’t bothered you since you stormed out of their home, other than to advise you of a meeting. They’re your BLOOD, dammit! Does that really mean nothing to you? REALLY?

I have Mom, Dad and…

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know the spiel, ‘I have a family. I have a brother and a sister and two loving parents. I’m not interested in extending my family beyond that.’ What-the-fuck-ever prick. You told Steele that shit during your interview then you fell in love with her…and look at you now.

When are we going back to Seattle because if all you’re going to do is run from the unknown then what’s the point of being here? Go back to your ‘perfect family’ and forget this place and these people, but let me tell you, I don’t want to have one nightmare, not one ‘what if’ thought, not one ‘I wish I had’ reverie. When one of these people is hurt, gets sick or, as they age, die I don’t want to feel even a pang of anything or I’LL be your END! Think about that…fucker.

“I will.” I mutter to myself.


“Christian? Are you ok Baby?” I’m sitting in the living room staring at the Great Barrier Reef, through the floor to ceiling window. I can’t see a thing. I’m lost. I’m at my own crossroad and I have no fucking idea which way to turn.

I look over my shoulder and at Ana, standing in the doorway, with what I know is fear in my eyes. I whisper, “Ana…” She slowly approaches me and sits on my lap. I immediately wrap my arms around her waist and pull her close to me. I nuzzle her neck, breathing in her sweet, calming scent.

She puts one arm around my shoulder and runs her fingers through my hair. She whispers, “Do you want to talk to me or would you rather call Fl…”

I raise my head and cut her off immediately. Looking into her blue orbs with desperation I say, “No! Not him! I’m not calling him! No!” I shake my head to emphasize my statements. Talking to Flynn is like admitting defeat somehow. I’ve been doing just fine. All I wanted was for Ana to be with me. Why is that too much to ask? I was happy before…before…I don’t even remember what happened to burst my bubble, but the free feeling I’ve had since I got here is gone. I need to tell Ana, not Flynn.

“Baby, I can’t talk to Flynn.”

“Why not Christian? He’s there to help you.”

“I’ll rephrase that. I don’t want to talk to Flynn. I don’t want his help. All I’ve wanted since I came overseas was for you to be with me. I wanted to be free from Seattle, free from security, free from Elena and…free from my family, I guess.” I shrug a shoulder. “I know that sounds bad, except for the Elena part.” She smirks at me.

I go back to nuzzling her neck and kissing that secret spot behind her ear, “I feel like the weight of the world is weighing on my shoulders again and I don’t like it. I want to be free.”

Free from what is the question.

She turns and kissed my forehead then coaxes me from my hiding place.  Seeing the glass as half full, Ana points out, “Well, Taylor’s not here so there goes your security problem. The Bitch-Troll isn’t welcome so that’s a done deal. Your family… that’s another story.” She raises a finely plucked eyebrow at me, still with a smirk on her face.

“We all know Karma is a bitch and being the shrewd business man you are I’m certain you remember, you’re only as good as you are specific. You said get away from your family, you didn’t specify what family and it’s too late to amend your request.”

Smart ass.

Once again, I go back to my hiding place, kiss Ana’s neck and make a point of my own, “Well, family is what you make it and right now, you’re all the family I want.” I slide my hand up her back and tangle my fingers in her hair effectively controlling her head. I finally raise my head and pull her face to mine so I can first kiss the tip of her nose, then her forehead then, her beautiful, soft lips. I’m rewarded with a growl coming from her chest as her eyes close and her breathing quickens.

“I want you Ana.” I whisper against her lips. “I want to feel your body underneath me.” I say as I kiss her neck. “I want to feel your legs around my waist, on my shoulders, straddled across my hips.” I softly bite her collarbone and glide my tongue to the other side of her neck. “I want to feel your bare breasts against my bare chest, your delicate fingers in my hair, your petite hands on my back and on my ass pushing me, forcing me deeper inside you.” She stunned into silence, so I continue.

“I want to lick your pretty, pink nipples then close my lips and suck on them one at a time, gently at first then harder and harder.” I lick the shell of her ear. “I want to nibble on each one then bite each one.” I tell her as I trail kisses to her temple. “I want to kiss my way from your breasts to your navel,” I whisper as I slowly kiss my way back to her mouth, “so I can run my tongue around inside of it. I want to follow your trail of love and lick you from your navel to your core, circle my tongue around your clit until you’re right on the edge of a climax then blow gently on it to bring you back down. I want to blow your mind and hear you scream my name Baby.” She’s breathing hard and so am I.

“Ana, do you want that too Baby?” She doesn’t open her eyes, she just nods slowly and pants in my ear.

I stand, with her in my arms.  In a slow, deliberate pace I walk to our bedroom and gently lay her down on the four-poster bed. She opens her mouth to speak, but I stop her with a finger to her lips. “Shh…Baby…hush. I want to talk to you, make love to you and fuck you all night long. Please just listen to me. Will you do that?” She closes her mouth and kisses my finger then licks it up one side and down the other. Finally she takes my finger in her mouth and begins to suck…hard. “Yes Baby, I like that very much. I have other things you can suck on tonight, if you want.” Still sucking on my finger, she looks up at me, a lascivious grin raises the corners of her mouth.

And so the evening goes.  Once we’re both naked, I go about doing all the things I told Ana I wanted to do to her and a few things I didn’t mention. When we’re finally sated, we snuggle and in our post-coital state we talked all night, some with words, some without words, but all with love.


When I woke up the next morning, Ana was lying on her stomach, eyes closed facing me. I rolled over on top of her sleeping body, her back to my front and slid my arms around her waist, my hands sliding up her belly to her chest stopping at their ultimate goal…her lovely, full breasts.

She wiggled and smiled beneath me as I began to slowly spread her legs apart with my knees until I could feel my cock slide down her back, over her butt cheeks and come to rest in the spot between her ass and her core. “Mmm,” I hummed in her ear, “you feel soft and warm..” I kiss the nape of her neck “…and warm and soft” I press my pelvis against her butt my cock moving closer to her slit. She smiled as I did this over and over again, my cock sliding, searching, stretching to reach its goal.

I kissed the sweet spot behind her ear and felt the first trickle of juice slide from her pussy onto my cock and drip off the end. Her lower lips began to twitch, begging for my attention

Not yet Baby.

I tighten my arms around her waist, grinding my dick further. If only she were ready. I’d love to claim her ass right now. She arched her back, opening her legs even more and raising herself to tempt me inside.  Her warm wetness running freely onto my growing erection. “Mmm Baby, so plump and juicy…is all this for me?” She begins to answer, but I pinch her nipples hard, warning her not to speak.

“Uh uh, uh Baby, remember? This is my time to talk. You listen and respond…with this luscious body of yours.” I slide one hand off of her breast to grab hold of my cock. As I rub the tip between her lower lips and around the entrance to her wonderland we hear the unmistakable kiss, between my cock and her cunt. “Aw fuck.” I hiss not able to resist her any longer. “Lift your fabulous ass in the air.  Press your ass against me. Grind on me Baby…aw fuck…yesss.”

Without further notice I slowly slide my rock-hard cock into her pussy. The more I give her, the more she wants. Her pussy contracting and relaxing, sucking and swallowing my cock then twitching as if begging for more and I have more than enough fulfill her needs. “There’s a greedy little kitten between your legs Baby.  Is she still hungry? My Ana nods quickly so I tell her, “Get up on all fours Baby. I’ll give her what she really wants.”

She does as I say and I do as I promised. All at once, I began to pound into her from behind. I leaned forward to squeeze her breasts and pinch her nipples. I slid my tongue up her spine and bury my throbbing cock deeper and deeper inside her core. Our lovemaking evolved into something turbulent…primal.  I slapped her right butt cheek, “You’re mine Anastasia. Don’t ever forget that. This”, I palm her mons and slide my index finger over her clit, “is mine as well. No one else will ever have you Anastasia. No other man will ever see what I’ve seen, touch you where I’ve touched you or be where I’ve been. You’re mine in every single way.”

I move my hands to her hips and hold her firmly in place then I pump into her harder…faster…deeper…deeper…the sound of my balls slapping against her ass as I fuck her is music to my ears. “I love you Anastasia…I love you. I want to…I need to…get lost inside you Ana. Please, I…ah…oh fuck your pussy is so…fucking…tight. That’s right Baby…grind on me…fuck me back…ah, ah…ahhh.”

I’m in Heaven. All thoughts are gone. Ana’s pussy surrounds me, hot, soft and wet…her ass pressed against my groin. Her soft, silky skin against my body. I hold her waist tighter, if that’s even possible, hang my head back and fuck her with abandon. Panting, pumping, sweat pouring down my chest. I fuck her for as long as I can…then…her body begins to tremble, her pussy gets tighter and I know my time in paradise is almost over. The changes in her body cause mine to respond as well and my balls tighten more and more.

I lean across her back, swivel my hips and kiss her shoulder then whisper in her ear, “Come for me Baby.  Give what I need.” My Ana makes no noise. She takes a deep breath then her pussy clamps down on my cock to suck out every drop of cum I have. I pump into her four more times before I still and wordlessly, find my release then collapse on top of her.

I roll off of her onto my side of the bed, taking her with me, her back to my front, my manhood still buried in his happy place. “Oh God, thank you Baby…thank you.” I repeat I don’t know how many times as I kiss the back of her head, her neck, her shoulder and hold her tightly against me.

When she finally speaks, the words make my heart melt, “I love you Christian. I love you.”


Sometime around early afternoon we get out of bed. I barely make it into the shower when I hear, “Courier.”

“I’ll get it.” Ana yells to me.

“Thank you Baby.” I yell back.

Never would’ve done that at Escala would you?

No, we wouldn’t. What’s your point? I thought you were gonna leave me alone.

My point is, life is normal here, where life in Seattle is…melodramatic isn’t a strong enough word…histrionic is closer… I’ll think about it and get back to you. Anywho, life here is better than anything Seattle has to offer and you know it.

Are you finished?

Sigh.  Yes fucker I’m…

I mean for REAL because I’m sick of this subject. It’s gotten OLD.

FINE! Ruin everything! Go right ahead, but don’t cry to me when your shit soup is served piping hot…just like you like it.

Fuck you.

No thanks!

The nervousness in Ana’s voice pulls me out of my internal battle of wills, “Christian, I signed for your package. It’s from Seattle.”

“It should be documents from Dad Baby, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.” I sound nervous too.

“Ok…well…it’s laying on the breakfast bar. I’m going to do some job hunting. Do you mind if I use your computer?”

“Not at all Baby. What happened to yours?”

“Taylor still has it.” Oh fuck. I completely forgot about the virus on her laptop and Blackberry.

“We’ll see about getting you a new one today. Go ahead and get mine out of my office.”

“Thank you…Love.” She giggles as I hear her move away from the bathroom door.

Normal.

Who’d of thought you could put Christian Grey and the word normal in the same sentence? I like it. I’m not ready to give up our little slice of heaven, especially not for some stupid shit.

Don’t start none Grey, there won’t be none.

Yeah, yeah yeah…I know.

After a nice long, hot, contemplative shower where I argued with myself about all things Brown related…

Hee, hee, hee..pun intended.

Whateva!

Ana and I enjoyed the lovely brunch she made.  “Damn Baby, you did it again.” I smile as I sit back and relish the last bites of my Greek Omelet and the last sip of my Single Estate Chardonnay Cava.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it. As much as I miss Gail and Taylor, I can’t say I don’t like having you all to myself. This is how we should be living Christian.” She hops down off the breakfast bar stool and moves to stand between my legs. “Baby, I want to be the one who takes care of you. I want to be the one who cooks, I want us to share cleaning duties because I don’t want you to get out of practice and I want us both to have careers.”  Oh good Lord in Heaven not this shit again. Can’t we ever get away from this job bullshit?

At this point, she can go flip burgers as Mickey D’s Grey. Give me a fucking break already.

I groan at the thought of this conversation. “Christian stop, you have to let me finish.” I sigh, put my arms around her waist and pull her to me.

I look her straight in her beautiful baby blues, there’s some apprehension there and I can’t figure out why “Ok Baby, the floor is yours.”

She clears her throat, determination evident in her posture.

She’s got this deal prepared Grey, be careful. Listen closely.

“Ahem…I looked at the websites Mr. Brown suggested,” I frown, as she hurries on, “the writer’s and publisher’s centre has some wonderful ideas. Like Mr. Brown said…” I zone out again at the sound of his name. She can work anywhere she likes and if there are publishing opportunities here, all the better, but why does she have to listen to him?

Cool it Grey. The man gave her some job ideas and she looked into them, that’s all. Fortunately they panned out and she’s interested in staying. Now fucking focus!

“…Isn’t that great?” She has a proud smile on her face when she finishes and I realize I missed something big.

Asshole.

I try to save face, “You can do anything you want to do, you know that. I have faith in your abilities Ana.”

I smile and lean forward to kiss her forehead, but she leans back away from me and asks, “Did you even hear me Christian?” I freeze.

WOO HOO! Didn’t take a Harvard degree to see you missed that one. HA! I love this girl. You lose her fucker and I’ll never let you live it down.

Never let ‘em see you sweat. I tell her the truth, “I heard you say you looked into the job opportunities that old-ass son of a bitch suggested, if that’s what you mean.” I didn’t realize until I saw the astonishment on her face that I was angry. “You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not particularly enamored with anything remotely associated with them Ana.

“Well, what I said was that I applied for a work Visa as well as the Townsville Writers and Publisher’s Centre Director position. I’m waiting to hear from them both. I also looked into the Writers in Townsville Society to see how I can help encourage aspiring writers along the way.” It seems as though she’s settling in, that’s a good thing.

Then she quickly rains on the parade, “Mr. Brown didn’t do anything bad Christian. He gave me some suggestions and let me take it from there. I could’ve easily ignored him.”

“I wish you had.” I mutter quietly or so I thought.

A flash of anger immediately blazes across her face and remains in her eyes, “Dammit Christian! Why in the fuck do you hate people who love you? You do it all the time. Why do you constantly find fault with people who want you in their lives? Please explain that to me because I’m at a loss to understand you.” She steps back and crosses her arms under her breasts.

No use in looking at the girls Grey, they’re not gonna get you out of this conversation.

I know…fuck.

“Ana, what do you want from me? They lied. They didn’t tell me who they were. She led me to believe we were friends. What do you expect from me?” I run my fingers through my hair.

‘How did anyone lie to you Christian? How did Ella lie? What have they done that was unfriendly toward you? You told me yourself Ella showed you around town, she listened to you, supported your desire to rid the Earth of that vile thing posing as a human being. So what did she do that was so despicable?” Before I have an opportunity to respond she continues making her point.

“Had she attacked you in the street saying ‘Oh, you’re my long-lost cousin’ would you have believed her?” I frown again. “No, you wouldn’t. You would’ve closed yourself off and gone all Fifty Shades on this beautiful town. You would’ve sacrificed all the peace and normality you achieved without giving it another thought.” What the…

Listen up Grey. She’s not pulling any punches.

“Instead, Ella Brown supported you in your emotional time of need. It’s what a friend does Christian. It’s what Kate does for me, when she’s not running her big mouth…”

Oh no, not her.

“Don’t even drag her into this conversation Ana,” I’m begging her, “please don’t.” I can’t deal with the thought of that bitch. Secretly I hope Elliott sees her true colors and makes a break for daylight.

Crazier things have happened.

“I’m just trying to put things in perspective Christian. Ella was…is…your friend. It’s just icing on the cake that she’s your family too. You told me how awful her brothers have been toward you, but it looks like that’s changing as well…provided you accept it.” Again, she finishes her monologue with a raised eyebrow.

Why does she love challenging me?

She knows the way to your heart. She knows the way to motivate your sorry ass. You say it all the time, you’re always up for a challenge.

Shut up you.

Without acknowledging her statements, I take my eyes off of her and visually scan the room.  “Where’s that package from Dad?”  Yes I’m changing the subject.

Her shoulders droop and her arms fall to her sides as she sighs.  “It’s in your office. I laid it on your desk along with the mystery letter. Will you let me know what’s in the letter, since it was addressed to me?”

“I’ll do better than that Baby. Would you mind terribly if I bring that shit out here and we go through all of it together?” The astonishment is loud and clear on her face. “Yep, we’re in this together Love.  New leaves turning over and all that jazz. Let’s start all over again, the way it should be. What’dya say?” Now it’s my turn to drop the gauntlet.

Rubbing her hands together she says, “I’m always up for a challenge Mr. Grey. Let’s get started.”

I retrieve the letter and the package from my study. We clear space on the dining room table and set to work reading the copious amount of information from my father.


ELLA
Mio Dio
My God

 

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 16 Our Spot

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 16 | Our Spot

ELLA

“Good evening gentlemen, Ella.”  Granddad is always so formal.  So much so that at some point during a conversation with him you find yourself sounding the same way, unless, however, you are a member of the Brat Pack [1].  My three brothers take nothing seriously unless it affects them directly, which this conversation will.  Since Christian deduced we’re related, Granddad is going to tell the Three Amigos [2] the same thing and how it affects them…directly.

“Hello Granddad, how are you?”  Emerson says, starting a banter Granddad never finds amusing.

“We haven’t heard much from you recently.  Are you feeling ok?” Eran, the unoriginal one, follows along.  Jeez, for a psych major he’s pretty non-fucking—observant of Granddad’s reaction.

I learned, at a young age mind you, that both Granddad and Daddy’s eyes turn translucent when they get mad.  I’ve seen my father’s eyes go almost clear.  I was never more frightened in my life.  He wasn’t mad at me, thank God, but it was still scary as all fucking Hell.

“Yeah, you look a little under the weather ole man?”

SHIT Everett, you dumb bastard!

I sneak a peek in my grandfather’s direction and…yep, there they go.  Granddad’s eyes remind you of a mood ring the way they swirl as they change color.  Grey to silver to…OH FUCK!  CLEAR!

SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP, THE LOT OF YOU!

Granddad’s face is puce and there’s fucking steam coming off him.

Smiling, and fucking chuckling as he enters the room, my father makes his happy-go-fucking-lucky appearance “Hello father.  I see your grandsons have graced you with their presence.”  Daddy’s gotten to the point where he feels if the boys believe they can take Granddad on he’ll let them, all…on …their…own.

Daddy saunters over to me.  “Hello Ellie, how was your day Love?  Have you spoken with Liam?”  I’m mute.  I simply shake my head, never taking my eyes off of Granddad.

“I have asked her not to discuss the matter with him until we have addressed YOUR sons and spoken with MY grandson further.  She can release information to him soon, but not yet.”  Granddad winks at Daddy and I.

Eran, finally paying attention, frowns for a second then laughs.  “Ha, ha, ha…your grandson?  We’re all right here Granddad, what are you talking about?”

“You’re a little off your game today Ole Boy.  Miss your midday nap?”  I choke on my water, but they all ignore me.  Everett is in for it with that one.

Emerson shakes his head in mock disapproval.  “Now, now gentlemen that’s no way to address your elderly grandfather.  In his advanced years, he’s allowed to have a slip in his memory.”  He  then looks at Granddad with some kind of mock pity in his eyes and says, “Don’t worry Granddad, we don’t hold it against you” and the fucker has the nerve to wink at the other two.

This is gonna be messy.

Granddad, not missing a beat, smiles brightly then drops the bomb, “Well youngsters, I am referring to Christian Grey and since my tenure in this family brings you such entertainment, I will begin proceedings to give he, Ella and your father a total of 75 percent controlling interest in EB, Pty.  You three mockeries can divide your paltry 25 percent any way you see fit.”

Granddad sits back in his chair with a shit-eating grin on his face.  He clasps his hands in front of his face, steeples his index fingers and rests them on his lips, it’s not enough to hide the smile residing there.  Then again, who the fuck said he had to hide his smile?

I know I wouldn’t.

You can hear a gnat gasp for breath in the room it’s so fucking quiet.

Granddad looks over at Daddy and I, his smile widening, if that’s possible, “Emmett, Ella, I do believe that got their attention.”  He looks back at my brothers then growls out in a contradictory hushed voice, “Oh, and boys,” they each nod, “your snide-ass comments will cost each of you a quarter of a million dollars.”  His grin turns into a smirk as the boys turn green.  “I want CASH!  Your fucking checks and electronic transfers are no good with me.  I do not care if you pay in large bills, small bills or fucking penny rolls.  I want my fucking money in 36 hours and you KNOW I am not pissing around.”

“Now, do you have any intelligent questions or valid concerns about my announcement?”  The bastards are in shock.  We all know they don’t give a rat’s ass about their ‘fine’.  I, and my father, on the other hand wince anytime Granddad mentions money.  “Very well.  Any salient questions or comments, at all, regarding your fines?”  Again, not a sound.  “Good…then…GET THE FUCK OUT, NOW!”  Granddad bellows!  My brothers can’t get out of their seats fast enough.  Without looking back and in order of their age Everett, Eran and Emerson vacate the room and quietly close the door behind them.

I look over my left shoulder to see my father trying to fight off his glee, “Dad, you only get better with time, that was…fucking…hilarious.”  Daddy is struggling to catch his breath and wiping tears from his eyes because he’s laughing so hard.  “That tops your conversation with the CEO from the Russian conglomerate.  Wow!  Did you see them scamper to get the fuck out of here?  It was better than comical…ha, ha, ha…WOO HOO!”

“Time to infuse some reality into the situation.  Standing in front of the two comedians, with my hands fisted on my hips and tapping my toe I reprimand my father, “Daddy, that is not nice, they are your sons after all.”  I chastise him.  One would think he didn’t care for the Three Stooges [3], I know better, but it really does look bad.  “It is in poor taste to behave this way Daddy and you know it.”  We have work to do and this shit is getting on my nerves.

Now the Peanut Gallery [4] pipes in, “Oh Ellie, let your father have his moment.  They had it coming to them, in spades.  They will be fortunate if I do not vote them out of EB all together.”  Granddad isn’t bullshitting about that one.  All’s fair in love and money with him and it is always survival of the fittest.

“They are not always my favorite animals in this zoo we affectionately refer to as our family either, but then I was not given a choice of who my siblings were, so please dispense with the frivolity and get this boxcar moving.  I am tired and I am not in the mood for bullshit.”  I cross my arms in front of my chest and give the two of them a curt nod.  I’ve had my fill of all of these bastards for one day and I still have to deal with Liam.

“Grandfather,” his eyes widen at my none-too-affectionate address, “since all of YOUR grandsons have been notified may I tend to my business, which includes updating Liam?”  The two of them are looking at me like deer caught in headlights.

Now THAT is hilarious.

Truly.

Wordlessly they nod their consent.  “Thank you. Good evening…gentlemen.”  I say as I leave Granddad’s office.


Ring…Ring…

“Hello Love, how are you?”  Liam sounds pleasant enough.  “Please let me apologize for my behavior at the Beach Party.  The sight of you with him…” Liam begins to growl.  I have to put a stop to this.

“Liam, that’s enough, I told you then and I’m telling you now, I’m not in love with Christian Grey.  If you’d like to discuss the situation further then you’ll have to get off your ass and meet me because this topic is too sensitive to discuss over an unsecured line.  Do you understand me Liam?”  I want to tell him everything that’s been going on and I want his help.  Liam has contacts in the United States who may be able to help us remove The Interference, which is the next item on our task list.

“Yes Love I understand.  I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”  Now, he sounds worried.  Don’t worry  Baby, I told you to trust me.

“I’ll be waiting Baby” I say as I hang up and race to our spot.


Whenever Liam and I talk, regardless of the time of day or the issue in front of us,  we go to the Jetty on The Strand.  At night, the Jetty is a sight to behold with lanterns hanging from both sides of the boardwalk lighting your way to the covered end of the pier, where the world is on display.  The sky is crystal clear and from this spot I can see across the Coastal Waters of the Great Barrier Reef, all the way to Magnetic Island.  The water is a deep, majestic blue, but under this night sky, the water looks almost like molten onyx.  The moon is high and large in the sky with stars twinkling all around.  Their dazzling images reflect on the vast sea.

Thinking about all the times we’ve met here brings me to the verge of tears.  Good, bad or indifferent Liam has been my ear to bend, my brain to pick and my shoulder to lean on.  Even when there were various skanks in his life, I would always bite the bullet and meet him here to talk, or to fight, whichever was necessary at the time.

Boy, we’ve had some doozies here.

Before I know it, I feel his warm body behind me then his strong arms around me.  “Have you been here long?”  He says softly in my ear.  I simply shake my head, never turning around to look at him.

“Ella, please tell me what the problem is, I’m begging you.”  Standing with my back to his front, I tilt me head back and look up into his sad-sweet smile.  Liam peers down at me, “Hello there” he says.  “You know I’m worried about you, right?”  I nod as I, not so secretly, admire his face, and his beautiful emerald green eyes.

Even upside-down, Liam is yummy.

Liam is a gorgeous man and he towers over me, like most men, but a little more somehow.  I always dreamed of being his…his one and only.  Sometimes I think I am and we just haven’t admitted it, then somehow, from out of nowhere, something happens in one or both of our lives and the possibility of us goes to piss.

“I know you do and I’m thankful for that.”  I say ever so softly, tears pooling in my eyes.

“Ellie, please, tell me.”  His eyes are wide and show the deep concern I know he feels.  I haven’t discussed this with anyone, not that I have a huge list of people to tell.  I feel bound to keep Christian’s relationship to us a secret despite having Granddad’s permission to talk with Liam.  Christian is such a private person and knowing what he went through as a child I can’t blame him one bit.  Somehow, I feel like I’m betraying a trust.  Telling an outsider about Christian’s life before Christian himself has had the opportunity…or taken the initiative, to know it all.

“Chris…” my voice cracks and I have to clear my throat. “Ahem, Christian Grey is my…c…cou…cousin.”  I finally mutter the last word.

Liam doesn’t react immediately.  He looks at me for what seems like an eternity when realization flashes across his face and through his eyes, “Your Aunt Ella?”  I nod.  “Oh my God Ella, are you alright?  How is your Grandfather?  Hell, is your father alright?  What about Everett?”

I spin around and place my hands on his chest.  “Slow down Liam, slow down.  We’re as well as can be expected, I guess.”

He furrows his brow and states, “You guess.”  It definitely wasn’t a question.  “This is the day you all have dreamt of for so long.  How can you guess about how you feel unless…” he trails off, knowing all is truly not well.

After a moment Liam’s eyes darken and he snarls, “…that bastard.  The prick lashed out at you didn’t he and now he’s off pouting like the fucking brat he is.  I’m right aren’t I Ella?  Tell me the truth.  I’ve seen that insolent fucker and his infamous temper in action.  “I know how he can behave.”  He’s right, I completely forgot.

Liam held the Stroke Seat on Yale’s Heavyweight Crew.  He told me once about his front row seat the day he saw Christian perform so badly.  Liam’s race was over and he was watching the teams.  Apparently someone got too close for comfort and Christian, true to form, started swinging.  Liam said for the remainder of the Regatta, Christian sat alone a good distance from everyone else.  Needless to say, I know Christian’s past so I understand why he reacted the way he did, but I can’t discuss that with Liam.  It’s not my business to tell.

“Yes to all of the above” I try not to sound as heart broken as I actually am, but it’s difficult.  Christian and I became friends.  I don’t have many of those.  Liam is right.  My grandfather and father were devastated for years after loosing track of Aunt Ella.  The situation was worsened when they learned of her drug overdose and became disastrous when neither of them could find Christian.  All of that is the reason for the Reconnaissance Team Granddad now employs.  The folks from the old days were sloppy and half-ass.

Daddy always blamed himself for standing beside Aunt Ellie in her decision to attend school in the United States.  She had a curriculum in mind, making sure to fulfill our family requirements.  To the business courses she added Music, specifically Piano, to her major.  Granddad didn’t want his princess leaving the roost but she was Hell bent and bound to make her dream come true…in the United States.

Both Daddy and Granddad loved Aunt Ella with a vengeance.  Daddy argued that his baby sister should be allowed to pursue her education wherever she wanted as long as she took the requisite courses, which she intended to do.  Deep down, Daddy didn’t want Aunt Ellie to go to the US either, but to him, whatever Ella wanted Ella got.  So he stood by her side.

I don’t remember the full story.  Only Daddy and Granddad can explain it, but somehow she ended up in Detroit, Michigan pregnant.  Then she found herself and her young son trapped by a pimp.  Finally, she died in front of her child.

I know Christian was abused and I know he was found with Aunt Ella’s body, but I learned that through reading reports.  I don’t know the emotional portion of the experience.  I don’t know how deeply it affected him.  In my opinion, his carriage and demeanor are simply indicative of the men in our family.  Cuss first, fight to the end and love hard…sweet and simple really.

I hear a distant sigh and remember I’m not alone.  “I apologize Liam.  My intention was to tell you that Christian knows he’s related to us.  The reason for my closeness to him all of this time was to keep him protected so he would feel comfortable here in Townsville.  He and I became fast friends and that’s the reason we spent so much time together.  As for the pictures, you know the paparazzi.  Getting a shot of the elusive Ella Brown and the enigmatic Christian Grey were jackpots.  Granddad didn’t have the photos stopped because he decided it was an easy way to keep the hyenas at bay.”  I smile to myself.

Anastasia never had a thing to worry about, but it’s good she did come to be with him because he needed her, no doubt.  There was no way any bitch was getting close to  my cousin.  I wouldn’t have allowed it.

“Thank God.”  He breathes in my ear.  “I was afraid I had lost you to that arrogant, mutherfucker.  You’re too precious for him.  He doesn’t deserve a woman as beautiful, intelligent and exciting as you.  I don’t care how wonderful his fiancée is, she can’t compete with you Ella, no one can.”  Liam kisses my cheek then rubs his nose along mine before closing his eyes and hugging me tightly.

After several exquisite moments, Liam kisses the top of my head then places two fingers under my chin, effectively tilting my head so our eyes meet, sadden blue to comforting green.  “He’ll speak with your father and grandfather.  They’ll tell him everything then he’ll be able to make an informed decision.  He’s hurt Ella.  Surely you understand how that feels.  Give the man time.  He’s a son of a…” Liam stops short, ashamed to end the phrase, “…sorry.  He’s a short-tempered prick, but he’s not stupid.  He’ll approach this like a business endeavor and make decisions accordingly.  Mark my word.  Just give him time” to that I can only nod.  I wouldn’t expect anything less.  He is, after all, my family.


“Ellie, you don’t have to go.  We can handle that asshole with kid-gloves if that’s what Granddad wants.”  Emerson tells me, as I get ready for the final Fundraising Committee meeting.

I stand tall and with a strong voice inform by brother, “I have a report to give Em.  I can’t skip out on the committee.  I won’t be intimidated by anyone, including Christian Fucking Grey.”

With smirks on their faces, each of the Three Stooges gives me a curt nod.  “Your chariot awaits m’lady.”  Everett takes a deep bow and ushers me to the front door.  “We’re leaving Dad, Granddad!”  Everett yells on our way out.

“JUST A FUCKING SECOND!”  Our father comes barreling through the foyer.  His face bright red and his breathing quickened, Daddy glares at all of us asking, “Where the fuck are the four of you going?”

The boys are dazed by his outburst.  Daddy knows where we’re going.  He already lectured us on our behavior for an hour and a half.  I look up at my father, bat my eyelashes and in a sickly sweet voice remind him, “Daddy, we’re going to the Fundraising Committee meeting.  It is the last one and we have to report out on the event as well as make tentative plans for next year.  You know all of this.”  I rise up on my tiptoes and kiss my father on the cheek before saying, “It will be a short meeting and I, for one, will be returning as soon as we’re finished.  Everett is driving.”

Although the technique is as annoying to perform as it is for Daddy to accept, I thought I had him under control until he comes back with “We want all four of you home immediately after the meeting.  We know how long it takes to get there and back and we know how long that stupid fucking meeting should take.”  Fixing his eyes on the boys he says, “Don’t fucking play with me.  I told you to leave him alone and if you disobey me there’ll be HELL to pay.  Do you all understand?”  The boys nod yes then Daddy looks down and gives me a pointed glance as he says in a softer, but not weaker tone, “That goes for you as well young lady.

Falling in line with my older siblings, I nod to my father and say “Yes Daddy, I understand” then we’re off.

GREY

Anastasia,” I whine, “I don’t want to go to this fucking meeting.  Can’t I just skip it?”  Taylor and Gail left for the US yesterday, after A LOT of coaxing from both Ana and I.  Gail has decided to come back to Townsville after settling her affairs, while Taylor has some serious thinking to do.  He can’t just up and leave.  He has his daughter to think about.  I was shocked Gail said she was coming back, I believe Taylor was too.

“Yes Christian, you have to attend.  You have no choice.”  Ana stands in the bedroom doorway with one hand on her hip and the other holding my suit jacket out to me.

How cute is that?  Yes Dear…

“I don’t wanna.”  I stomp my foot, cross my arms over my chest and give her my cutest pout.

Dude, really?  Is that the way you want to play this?  Billionaire CEO THE Christian Grey plays toddler.  You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Shut the fuck up.  It’s how I feel.  I…don’t…want to go.

It’s NOT…going…to work and when she laughs…

“OH MY GOD CHRISTIAN!  ARE YOU POUTING?”  HA…HA…HA…HEE, HEE, HEE…WOO.  Oh no…Oh no…Oh no…  She’s holding her sides, doubled over in hysterics.

I told you it was a stupid mov…

Whatever.

“Something amusing you Miss Steele?”  Still with my arms crossed, I stand up taller and raise an eyebrow as I gaze at her, which only sets her off more.

“OH HELL NO!  NO YOU DIDN’T TRY TO GO DOM!  NOT AFTER THAT TODDLER SHIT.  HA…HA…HA!”

Get your shit together Grey, let’s go.

“Ana, will you come with me…please.”  I flash my mega-watt, panty-dropping smile at her.  I’m not only disinterested in this meeting, but also leery of the outcome.

Straightening her stance and smoothing her clothes Ana says, still with a bit of humor in her voice, “Sure thing Baby.  I’m right by your side.”


“Ladies and gentlemen, I call this meeting to order.  In the interest of time, we will only hear from the Budget/Finance Committee.  As you recall, our goal for this year’s event was one million dollars.  “Mrs. Tate?”

“Thank you Eran…” with that, Mrs. Tate goes on to explain the event exceeded its goal.  I made an anonymous donation and absorbed the security cost myself, but that part is left out.  All Mrs. Tate knows is the invoice she received showed the expense was paid in full.

After the report, an impromptu Q&A session and tentative outline for next year, to which I refused to make any commitment, this shit still wasted an hour of my time.  Time away from Ana.  Once we’re released from this Hell Hole, I go straight to my girl, “Come on Baby, let’s get the fuck away from here.”

I want to throw Ana over my shoulder and sprint to the car.  All of the Brown kids are here tonight and while none of them has so much as looked in my direction, I don’t want that to change.  I’m not ready for them yet.  I’m not ready to deal with their shit and to tell the truth, I don’t know if I’ll ever be.  Dad’s information hasn’t arrived yet and I’d rather look at it before dealing with those little bastards.

My mind is elsewhere when Ana asks, “Christian, who’s that?”

“Huh?  Who is who Baby?”  Dammit, now I know what Dad was talking about.  I sound like a fucking owl.

“Over there Christian, he looks familiar” Ana points across the parking lot.

I stop and hold Ana tightly against me.  “I have no idea who he is Baby and furthermore, I don’t give a fuck.”  I bend down to speak directly in her ear.  “Let’s get out of here…I’m hungry.”  I growl.  She smiles up at me with lust flashing in her eyes.  It’s been all afternoon since I had Ana and the way I feel right now, she should be glad it’s Friday because she won’t get any sleep tonight.

“Over there Christian” she says as she turns me around to face the mystery man.

I shade my eyes from the setting sun to see the person Ana’s referring to, “It’s that fucker from the Beach Party, the guy who embarrassed Ella.”  What the fuck does he want?

What’s it to you?  He’s her friend let her deal with him.  I’m sure Ninja Girl can handle him.

I’m certain Ella can handle him, and her brothers are here with her, but for some reason I don’t like the look of him.  I swear I’ve seen him before that fucking party.

“Do you think she’ll be alright?  He treated her badly at the party.  Do you think we should let her know he’s out here?”  Ana’s always worried about others.

I look down at my angel and softly say, “Baby, Ella’s a grown woman and her brothers are here.  I’m absolutely certain she’ll be fine.”  I lean in to kiss her delicate lips and whisper against them, “Now let’s go.”  Ana smiles and nods.

On our way to the car we hear, “Hey Grey!”  I look over my shoulder to see the mutherfucker coming toward us.  I don’t know what he wants, but let’s get it over with so I can take Ana home.

When he reaches us I stand in front of Ana, cross my arms over my chest and stare at him.  “That’s me” I say in my driest tone.  This bastard means no good.  I can feel it.  Over the years I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct and right now it tells me this fucker is looking for trouble.

He extends his hand, but I don’t take it.  He acted an ass the last time I saw him.  Now he’s developed manners, really?  He slowly drops his hand and scowls at me.

This bastard’s got some fucking nerve.

“I see.  You fit in well with them.” he mumbles under his breath.

Without changing my tone I ask, “Fit in well with whom?”

Prick.

“The Browns, although, you’re more like the Three Stooges.  I expected better.  Based on your track record in business I thought you would be more civilized.  I see I was wrong.”

Who IS this son of a bitch?

Ana reaches up from behind me and places a hand on my bicep reminding me she’s here.

“What the fuck do you want?”  I quip.  I’m not in the mood for bullshit, but I know better than to turn my back.

“We weren’t properly introduced.  I was attempting to rectify that error.”  He then turns his gaze on Anastasia.”

Pompous fucker, we weren’t introduced because you behaved too badly and embarrassed my cousin.

Wait a fucking second.  Where did that come from?

“The error was yours.  Ella tried to introduce us when you went ballistic.  What the fuck is your problem anyway?”  His smug look is quickly replaced with annoyance, which slowly morphs into anger.

“Don’t worry about Ella.  She can take care of herself.  You’re the last thing she needs.  Matter of fact, you’re the last thing any of them need.  Why don’t you and your lovely fiancée go back where you belong?  You’re sentiments were heard loud and clear so why don’t you just fuck off?”  This prick is delirious.  Not only is he pestering Ella, now he’s invading my privacy and he dared to speak about Ana.

Oh no mutherfucker…not my girl.

There was no sound.  First there was no movement, then there was a hand on his shoulder spinning him around followed by what I can only describe as the sound of evil.

ELLA

“Thank God that shit is over.”  Eran sits on one of the tables in the conference room as Em and I collect the remaining agendas and reports.

“You can say that again brother.”  Everett chimes in.

“Boys, do we have everything?” I ask and they nod.  “Then let’s go.”  I sound as exhausted as I feel.  Sitting for an hour trying to ignore someone is one thing, but trying to ignore someone you really want to speak with is too juvenile for words.  Evy, Em and I positioned our chairs so we wouldn’t face Christian directly and we sat on the farthest side of the table.  We could look at Eran, for moral support, so he wouldn’t even have to look at Christian as he spoke to the committee.

“I mean really, how old are we.  I had more fun when Granddad cussed me out the other day for my old man jokes.  I know Dad always says looks aren’t everything, but that Grey fucker looks like Granddad and acts like him too.”  He’s right.  Christian’s presence this evening exuded hostility and we all felt it.

“Well, we’re done for this year and if he maintains his self-imposed exile from us we’ll be done with him as well.  Let’s get the fuck…” Everett doesn’t finish his sentence.  As we file out of the building, we look up and see Christian, Liam, Dad, Granddad and Anastasia together in the parking lot and it’s not a happy encounter.  Anastasia is standing behind Christian, but she is still in the line of fire.  We rush to them and I reach Ana in time to move her away from the men.  I don’t say a word.  I simply shake my head.

Daddy is holding Liam by the back of the neck almost off of the ground while Granddad is in his face, “Liam Jared Beckett!  Leave my grandson alone!  He is his own man and has the right to be treated as such.  Do not let me see nor hear that you have bothered him ever again or you will have me to deal with young man” then Granddad leans closer to Liam and continues growling, “and we all know what that can entail.”  Everyone, except Daddy’s eyes are as round as saucers.  The look of anger on Daddy and Granddad’s faces is like none I’ve ever seen before.

From somewhere near me I hear, “Oh my God.  Aunt Ellie…” Everett barely whispers as the blood slowly drains from his face.  He looks at me for confirmation. With melancholy in my eyes, I nod to him and see a lone tear trickle down his cheek as he mouths ‘I apologize’ to me.  I give him a weary smile in thanks.  Now he understands.

Suddenly, Daddy drops Liam.  “COME!”  Granddad’s voice booms over all.  “We have bothered Christian and Anastasia long enough.”  Granddad looks at Daddy, me and the boys, then nods strongly as if he’s just closed a huge business deal.  He turns to Christian and says, “I apologize for this display.”  Likewise he looks at Anastasia, smiles and takes one of her hands in both of his, as he apologizes to her.  “Miss Steele, please forgive my outburst, I do not make a habit of behaving this way in public.  I hope I have not given you cause for trepidation.”  To her credit, Anastasia smiles at him.  He kisses her hand then turns to us and utters again, although in a slightly softer tone,”Come.”

All eyes turned toward Christian and Anastasia.  We all, including Liam, look at the couple who is still in shock.  We nod our goodbyes and offer quiet apologies, like the chastened children we are, as we leave.  We hadn’t gotten far when Everett stops in his tracks and looks back over his shoulder at Christian.  “You all go on without me.  I’ll meet you back home.”

Oh shit.

Granddad halts then turns his head, slowly, to look at Everett with silver-grey narrowed eyes, but Ev holds his ground.  I’ve never been prouder of my big brother when he glares back at Daddy and Granddad, with his fists clenched at his sides, and says, “I will meet you at the Family Home later.  I wish to speak with my cousin, if he will allow it.  You have both taught me well and although I may not always exhibit the best decorum, it does not mean I do not know how.”

Granddad and Daddy look at each other impassively then the two men give simultaneous, yet almost imperceptible, nods to Everett, as the rest of us continue to walk away.  I hear Daddy quietly say to Ev, “Watch yourself young man.  He’s family.”

Ev responds in the same tone of voice, “I know Dad.  I remember them…well” then I hear footsteps as Evy walks away…toward Christian.

GREY

I turn to look at Ana who’s just as surprised by that little scene as I am.  We continue our trek toward the waiting R8 when we hear one of the Browns yell, “GREY!”  I refuse to acknowledge him and we continue on our way.  “DAMMIT GREY, STOP!”  The sound of his voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

“Oh Heaven help me”  I groan in mental pain.

DAMN!  Mutherfucking Son of a Bitch, REALLY?  What the fuck else do they want?

Ana tugs on my hand, “Christian, stop.”  She seems to implore me.

“No Anastasia, I don’t want to hear anything else those fuckers have to say.  They’re nothing to me.”  I snarl.

She stops dead in her tracks and tilts her head to one side as she tells me, “Christian, you and I both know that’s not true.  Just because it’s painful doesn’t mean it’s nothing.  Stand there and tell me you don’t want answers.  Stand there and tell me you don’t want to know.”  She crosses her arms over her chest and raises a beautiful eyebrow challenging me.

I sigh and look straight up into the dazzling night sky, “Anything for you my Love” then I look down at her, bend over and kiss her on those sweet pouty lips.

In true Anastasia style she shakes her head and tells me, “No Christian, for you,” she points a finger in my chest to emphasize her statement, “not for me.  This is about you and your family.  When you talk with them it’ll be because you’re ready and you want to know not because you want me to leave the subject alone.”

Come on Grey, we both know the answer to that, especially after the contact you’ve had with the Brown’s so far.  Lets hear the fucker out and take it from there.  No commitments, just listen to the spiel.

Fine, I huff at myself.

As Everett reaches us, I turn around and straighten my stance.  He’s not a little boy, but then, neither am I.  Slowly I transform into Dom Mode and it’s with a deep, strong voice I ask, “What the fuck do you want?”

He comes to a halt a few feet in front of me then softly says, “Damn.  I see it now” a look of wonder on his face.  “I knew you looked familiar, but I figured it was from all of newspaper and magazine photos I’ve seen lately.”  He sounds like he’s in awe, like he’s just solved the toughest trigonometry equation he’s ever faced.

Brown shakes his head, as if to clear his thoughts, then he extends his hand to me.  I look at him in disbelief so he says, “Yes, I’ve been a true schmuck toward you and I deserve to have my ass kicked for it.  All I can do is apologize.  I know you better than you think, I love you more than you could ever believe, I’m glad you’re alive and here.”  He smiles at my obvious shock.

Slowly, and for some reason I don’t understand, I take his hand in a firm shake.  With the speed of a lightening strike, he surprises me even more when he tugs hard on my hand and pulls me into an embrace.  My entire body stiffens and he says in my ear, “I won’t hurt you Cousin.  If I went through your trials and tribulations, I’d feel exactly the same way.  You don’t have to fear me.  I love you Christian” then, just as quickly, he lets me go, nods to Ana and leaves us beside my car.

I’m left standing in amazement.  At first, I wanted to scream and knock the shit out of him, but his words changed my mind.  I don’t understand why I didn’t beat the shit out of him when he got so close.  Why didn’t I push him away?  Now that he’s released me, why don’t I feel the burning on my chest and back?  I hear her small voice next to me, like the voice of reason she is.  I know she can read my thoughts, “He loves you Christian, that’s why you didn’t fight him.  I have a feeling you would be the same way with your grandfather and uncle as well.”

I pull Ana into my arms and see the tears streaming down her face.  “Baby, it’s alright.  I’m ok.”

She pulls away from me and says, “I’m not upset Christian.  These are happy tears.”  Gradually, she raises on her tiptoes, laying her tiny hands on my chest to balance herself, and plants a gentle kiss on my lips.


[1] The Brat Pack is a nickname given to a group of young actors who frequently appeared together in teen-oriented coming-of-age films in the 1980s.

[2] Three Amigos is a 1986 American western comedy film directed by John Landis and written by Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, and Randy Newman.  Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short star as the title characters, three silent film stars who are mistaken for real heroes by a small Mexican village and must find a way to live up to that reputation.

[3] The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy act of the mid–20th century (1930–1975) best known for their numerous short subject films, still syndicated to television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick.

[4] Peanut Gallery is a group of people who criticize someone, often by focusing on insignificant details

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 15 Decisions…Decisions

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 15 | Decisions…Decisions

GREY

I told you once before I do not mince words and I do not care if I step on anyone’s toes. Christian, if you are thin skinned, you will need to leave now. Those statements hold true for every conversation with every person I come into contact with and they hold true today as well.” He said with a stern expression and a deep, solid voice. Whatever was on his mind was not to be taken lightly. I understood Mr. Brown and I was forewarned.

Anastasia and I went to the Brown Family Home for brunch. Almost from the time we reached the foyer things seemed different…off. Now, granted, I was anything but a regular visitor in their home, but somehow the air was thick with tension and even general conversation seemed forced.

Ella was actually nervous when she saw Ana and I walk into the dining room and she’s never nervous, except for maybe the very first time I saw her, in the park.

Ella and her father exchanged more than a few sideways glances at one another. I was about to ask exactly what the issue was when the senior Mr. Brown began conversing with Ana. “Tell me Love, what is your occupation?”

At first Ana looked at me in shock. No doubt waiting for me to loose it over Edward’s endearment. I quietly explained “Love seems to be a general term of affection. I was thrown off when Ella said it to me as well, but it kind of grows on you.” I gave Ana a warm smile and squeezed her hand lightly.

Mr. Brown watched our exchange then sought Ana’s forgiveness. “I apologize Anastasia. Please forgive an old man his even older habits, they die hard” then he flashed Ana a bright smile.

What the fuck old man? Watch it.

“Christian! Christian! Wake up Christian!” Where is that voice coming from?

Well Mr Brown, I am just beginning my career. I am a new Acting Editor for Seattle Independent Publishing.” Her voice is soft and rather timid. Does this guy intimidate her? While I respect Mr. Brown and value his opinion, daunting my fiancée is a hard limit for me.

Well Love, Townsville really is your cup of tea.” I saw the twinkle in her eyes. She loves all things book related.

What’s he up to?

How so Mr. Brown?” Her interest was clearly piqued.

If she found a job here, on her own, she might be willing to stay, at least for a while.

Hmm. He had my attention as well.

Well,the best place for one to begin retrieving information is from the Townsville Writers & Publishers Centre. It is a not for profit group, launched in June 2011, and provides support to emerging and professional writers and publishers who live in North Queensland. I know for a fact there is a new Director position available now and you can make your application online. You can use it either as a resource to locate an organization looking for a new editor or, which I strongly suggest, work for the centre itself and enable others to realize their dream.”

Impressive.

That sounds fabulous, but…” She stopped short. I knew what she was thinking, but I didn’t want to give her away. Ana still hasn’t decided how committed she is to living in Townsville. She’s not entirely against the idea, but she still seems to be up in the air. After a long pause she told Edward, “I do not actually live in Townsville, although Christian does.” She looked so sad.

Not to be outdone Edward counseled her further, “The Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection also has a website, with information on applying for a Visa, if you are not interested in citizenship. And, in the event you change your mind sometime in the future about remaining here, the same website has information on living in Australia and becoming a citizen. Just a tidbit to think about Love” THEN THE FUCKER WINKED AT HER!

Dude, calm down. He’s old enough to be her grandfather. Take a chill pill.

Chill pill my ass. He’s a good-looking older man and he looks a fucking lot like…m…

My fork stopped, midair, and a cold chill rushed through me. “Wait a minute.” I looked around the table at each of the Brown family members. “Who are you and what do you want with me…with Anastasia?” My gut instinct was screaming at me now, albeit after the fact.

That wink, that smile, we know those looks.

“NO! Please NO!” Not this, not here, not now. I can’t believe this. Who are these people?

“CHRISTIAN! CHRISTIAN! Can you hear me Baby? Come back to me Christian.” The voice begins to shout then sob. It sounds pained and frantic. Where’s that voice coming from?

Ella finally found the courage to speak, “We have not asked you for anything and we have not asked anything of you Christian. What do you mean, ‘what do we want’?” She looked shocked…and hurt. Immediately, I felt like an ass.

Her father reached over and gently touched his daughter’s hand, “Now Ellie, Christian was simply musing out loud. Isn’t that correct Christian?” THAT LOOK! The sadness in his eyes. I turned to my right and saw the same look, mixed with concern in Edward’s eyes.

Oh my God.” I managed to whisper.

“NO! NO! NO!” It sounds like my voice. I sound angry and hurt. I sound betrayed.

Ana touched my shoulder then asks, “Christian, Baby, what’s wrong? Are you feeling ill? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.” Ana is attuned to me, but not our surroundings, specifically our hosts.

I nod as I glare directly into Mr. Edward Rockhold-Brown’s lightening grey eyes. Humpf, I knew for certain my eyes looked exactly the same at that moment. I glanced over at Emmett, ditto, while Ella looked resigned to her fate. “I have Ana. Look around you.” I say with a stark, coldness lining my voice.

Christian, what on Earth…” I cut her off.

“Do you see anything oddly familiar about Mr. Edward Brown, Mr. Emmett Brown and myself? Do you recognize Ella? Think hard Baby. I know you don’t have the vision ingrained in your memory, but you commented about it when you saw her picture in that text message you received.” This time I glare at Ella. I trusted her. I thought she was my friend. Now I see it was all a ploy to get close to me, for what I don’t know, but surely the truth could’ve come out before now.

“Christian, I don’t understand. What’s wrong with you?” Ana was already frightened and now she was frustrated.

I calmed Ana down enough for her to understand me and just as I was about to ease her fears, Edward said, “My Dear, he is referring to our physical similarities and apparently he remembers his mother much better than I thought. The fact that he recognized the resemblance between her and Ellie is a testament to the impression she left on him.”

“I, my son and my daughter’s son have an uncanny resemblance. My daughter and my grand-daughter look strikingly alike as well. Emmett’s sons, however, resemble their mother.” He said all of that without ever batting an eyelash or taking his gaze off of me.

“NO! IT CAN’T BE! PLEASE NO!” I feel myself thrashing from side to side. I can’t stop myself. I’m fighting to get away from them.

“Christian, you have to wake up Baby. I’m here and I need you to wake up.” I hear a faint sound behind the chaos in my mind. Which is my reality? Which is my nightmare?

I abruptly stood up from the table and put out my hand to Ana, “Come Anastasia, we have to leave.”

“NO!” It can’t be true. Why didn’t they save us? Why didn’t they come for us? Why didn’t they come for me!?

Somewhere between this Hellish night terror and it’s frightening reality I hear a sweet melodic voice say, “Christian, please open your eyes. I’m right beside you Baby.” She’s beside me? Where? Why can’t I see my Ana?

“Christian, please open your eyes.” I try as hard as I can, then all of a sudden…I see her, my Ana. He beautiful baby blue eyes are round as saucers, rimmed in red and overflowing with tears.

I gasp, “Ana, you’re here!” A rush across the too-large bed and pull her to me. Oh my God she feels so good, so warm, so soft and she smells wonderful. I hold her tightly and bury my face in the valley between her breasts.

“It’s ok Christian. It was a dream Baby, just a dream. You’re safe. You’re here at home with me. You’re safe.” She coos and stokes her fingers through my hair immediately calming me, soothing my damaged soul. I nuzzle the inner mounds of her breast then begin kissing and biting her chest.

I turn my face to her left nipple and lap it quickly. The beautiful, tasty treat lengthens with each caress of my tongue and turns hard as I suckle her and bite down on the little pink pebble. “Hmm. Beautiful. Delicious” I say as my lips close over her nipple again. She tastes so sweet and feels so right in my mouth. I can’t stop sucking on her.

I turn my face to her right breast and suckle it as well. As I pull more of her breast in my mouth my member hardens and grows, pulsing, twitching, fighting to get out. “Open those pretty legs up for me Baby. Hold me the way only you can.” She parts her legs and wraps them around my waist, cradling me. I grind against her core as hard as I can, pressing my cock into her wet, warm, wonderland and feeling her juices dampen my pajama pants. I need more.

From where I lay on top of her, I feel a hum in her chest and hear a groan in her throat with each caress of my cock. No words are necessary. She releases her hold on my waist and I reluctantly take my lips from her breasts to wrestle with my pajama pants. I pull them off of my hips, ass and finally down my legs then yank her barely-there thong over her thighs. Kissing and licking my way from her groin back to her breasts, I massage her legs beginning at the soft spot behind her knees. I rub small, delicate circles on her skin with my thumbs igniting the want and need between her legs. When my hands reach her inner thighs I hold onto the flesh tightly and yank her legs open wider than before.

I reclaim her left nipple in my mouth and guide her legs around my waist so I can retake possession of her right nipple between my thumb and forefinger. I pinch and twist the lovely pink gem causing her to callout my name. My cock is erect and pointing due North, to the promise land between her legs. I grind my pelvis against hers and rub my dick against her warm, wet lips…then hiss. That’s my only preamble. Swiftly and with determination I slam into her hard and hold her beautiful, juicy hot core against me. “YYYEEESSS…” I hiss before I bury my face between her neck and shoulder and I pump into her harder and harder over and over again.

All thoughts are lost, all time is forgotten. I’m oblivious to her moans, her kisses or her gently whispered words. This is my favorite place to be in the world. This is where I belong…inside her. My Ana is here. She’ll protect me. I have to be further inside of her. I only need to feel her. Her sultry, sopping, silken pussy is my home. Her wet walls hold tightly onto my cock, rubbing against me like a velvet glove especially made for me. I can feel every ring of her vagina pulling me further inside. As my manhood continues to swell and pulse, I know I have to go deeper. I need more…balls deep.

I pull her legs from around my waist and put them on my shoulders. I lift myself up onto my arms and drive into her with all my strength, she meets me stroke for stroke, pumping against me faster and faster and it feels wonderful. I have to hold off my orgasm as I feel my balls slapping against her ass, the sweat running down my face and chest and dripping from my hair.

Suddenly, her legs begin to tremble, her stomach begins to tighten and her walls begin to quiver. I’m not ready to let her go yet. I need more. I slow my pace and take my time as I push my cock into her cunt. She opens her eyes and yells out “Christian! No!” Berating me for her missed orgasm.

I look down at her and beg her to understand my plight, “I need more from you Baby. Tonight, I need so much more. I’m safe here, with you…inside you. No one can hurt me…inside you. I’ll make you scream all night Baby, just let me be inside you.” At those words, my Ana leaned up, kissed my chest then sunk her teeth into my nipple sending an erotic volt through my torso and straight to my dick.

I pull up on my knees, never breaking our intimate connection, and hold her ass in place while I pump my cock deeper into her center…my center. I pull her ass against me with each thrust feel her legs tighten around the back of my neck. “That’s it, more Ana…more…gimme more Baby. Fuck me Ana…fuck me Baby.”

Just like a lightening strike, her walls closed, my balls tightened, her pussy gripped my throbbing cock and I felt the wave of ecstasy I was chasing run through me. Up and down my spine from the top of my head down to my toes, “AHHH, FUCK YES! YES! YES! I pump into her three more times relishing the feel of our aftershocks. Ana loudly calls out my name again and gives her orgasm to me. With a final shudder, I collapse on top of her completely spent.

All’s quite. I can’t speak anymore, I can’t think anymore and I don’t want to. All I want to do is lie here, inside her, inside my safe place, my favorite place in the world. “Christian,” Ana’s tranquil voice breaks the silence, “Baby are you alright? I’m worried about you. You haven’t had a nightmare since you’ve been away have you?” I can hear the anxiety in her sweet voice.

I nod. I want to enjoy this postcoital feeling, not talk about my nightmares. Those fucking things began reoccurring the night she left me, but I don’t want to think about that. She moves her legs from around my neck and returns them to my waist, again cradling me in her own special way.

Somehow still I can’t get them off of my mind. Somehow I still can’t get them out of my head. I pull Ana closer to me and once more bury my face between her stunning breasts, inhaling deeply. Without looking her in the eyes, I lick the side of her breast and bite down on the succulent flesh there before announcing, “Time for round two Baby.”

CARRICK

“DAMMIT CHRISTIAN I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD YOU’RE SAYING! NOW CALM THE FUCK DOWN!” Good Lord in Heaven what the fuck has happened down there?

“Its five o’clock in the fucking morning Christian, that’s entirely too fucking early to call someone and ramble in a fit of rage. If you can’t speak using your indoor voice, right the fuck now, I’m going to hang up and you can call back at another time. Good… Now, I ask for the third time, what the fuck is going on?”

The last time we spoke, he was hopeful because Ana was on her way to Townsville. Now he’s clamoring about being lied to and babies and old men. If I ever get a word in edgewise I’ll ask if Ana’s pregnant. Until then, I’ll just have to ride this wave of bullshit until it ends.

To think, for someone who didn’t speak for two years, he’s got a big ass fucking mouth.

Shut up you, my son needs me. Now focus.

“…they lied to me Dad. They acted like they were my friends then they sprung this horse shit on me, like I’m supposed to just believe them.”

“Believe whom Son? Believe what? I’m lost in all of this Christian. Is Ana with you? Is she alright?”

“Yes, she’s here and she’s fine. She’s the only reason I’m not in some Australian prison right now. I can’t fucking believe this shit Dad. How the fuck did she even get to the United States? They can buy a pot of gold from a fucking leprechaun, why the fucking Hell didn’t they save her? Why didn’t they save ME!?”

Then, the line goes quiet for a few seconds. As I“m about to call his name Christian burst out with an, ”OH FUCKING HELL! Are they working with HER? This has got to be a ruse.”

“ANASTASIA!” He calls into the background. Thank God, maybe she can shed some light on this.

“We’re returning to Seattle as soon as I can contact Stephen to have the jet ready” with that statement I hear Ana gasp.

“Christian no, you’ve got to stay and get answers. We can go back once all of this is sorted out.” She’s always the voice of reason for him. He really needs to marry that girl…and soon.

I clear my throat and catch my son’s attention, “Why didn’t who save who Christian?” I sound like a fucking owl. “This is your last chance to respond to me young man, then I’m hanging up and taking YOUR jet to Townsville. Do I make myself abundantly clear?”

“Yes Dad”

“Good… Now, please answer my all-encompassing question. WHO?”

“The Browns” he sneers as if he were chewing on something nasty that he couldn’t spit out fast enough.

“You say that as if it’s an obvious answer Christian. The Browns who, and I’ll have you know I’m sick of saying that fucking word.” My blood is beginning to boil. I know he’s upset, but how the fuck am I supposed to help him when he won’t, clearly, tell me what the fucking problem is. He’d better be glad Grace had to go into the hospital early. I’d put her on the phone. Let her deal with his attitude. I swear he get’s this ranting shit from her side of the family.

“Edward and Emmett Brown” again with the clipped responses, wait a fucking second. It couldn’t be.

“Do you mean of EB, PTY Christian? Those Browns?” I whisper. Please let him say no. They’re in Melbourne. Townsville is more than 1,600 miles north of Melbourne. What the fuck is ‘ole man Brown playing at?

“You know them?” He says in the deathly quiet voice he learned from Grace and I. We never wanted to yell at our children so we agreed to lower our voices and speak distinctly. Apparently it’s a habit that rubbed off on Christian. He gets loud…REALLY loud, but the trouble doesn’t begin until he starts to whisper.

Hostile witness time Cary.

No doubt.

“Yes, I know of them Christian. Being such a large entity affords them the ability to place their mark on various facets of the world, including the law as, I imagine, their M&A acumen is deliberated in business courses.”

Be careful Cary. The boy’s not an attorney, but not because he’s stupid.

I know this all too well. Christian is absolutely brilliant, that’s why I was particularly hard on him throughout his life. The fighting, drinking and disrespect of all things academic were depressing considering the boy could out think EVERYONE, including me. Christian’s downfall is that his fuse is way too short to be allowed in a courtroom. Least until he made it to the bench, which he could’ve.

“Dad, please tell me it isn’t true. Please tell these people are just fucking with my head and out to take GEH from me. I need something to hang my hatred on. Please.” I’ve only heard this type of pain from him when he’s having a nightmare. This time his agony is real…it’s tangible. I knew this would happen when he said he was going to Australia. My concerns lessened when he finally confided he was going to Townsville, but I was still on high alert.

“I apologize Son. I wish I could tell you that.” DAMMIT! This is not a conversation to have over the phone, let alone when he’s more than 7,000 miles from home. DAMMIT!

“Son, have you questioned Mr. Brown to find out what documentation he has?” I won’t keep anything from him, especially now he’s been told, but I’m not going to bombard Christian either. One of Christian’s blessed curses, in addition to his attention to detail, is his ability to compartmentalize his thinking. Christian will actually file away a thought or question and bring it up at the most unusual or inopportune time. I think he does it for dramatic effect. Anyway, the more information he’s given the more files he creates until he can reorganize those files and formulate his plan of action.

This is what happens with his personal life. Christian’s emotional “separation of church and state” is due to his categorizing and assigning priority. Emotional thoughts get in the way of business and NOTHING is more important than business, until he met Ana at least.

Thank God.

Indeed.

He’ll keep his mind on business all of his waking hours, but when he gets tired and his mind is allowed to relax all thoughts regarding business move to the rear and his personal file explodes, thus leading to his night terrors. I keep telling myself he’ll be alright because Ana is with him. The truth of the matter is, depending on the severity of his experience while he’s sleeping, Christian can unintentionally cause physical harm to Ana in his sleep. Christian is probably a foot and a half taller than Ana and God only knows how much more he weighs, then there’s his musculature to consider. I shake my head. I’ve got to do something to either calm him down or keep her from sleeping with him, at least for a little while.

“Christian, I’m coming down there. Contact Stephen and have the jet ready by the end of business today, Pacific Time.”

“No Dad, you can’t come running every time I bump my knee. You’re right. I need to talk with Edward and find out just what he knows.” He sighs. He seems more resigned to his fate as opposed to calm.

“Are you sure Son? You know it’s no trouble for me at all and your mother doesn’t have to be involved.” In fact, this is one of the few, albeit most important things I’ve kept from my wife, the thought saddens me.

She’s going to find out.

Believe me, I know.

“I’m sure Dad. Could you send me any and all information you have about me, about my adoption and life before I came to be with you and Mom?” Research time. He’s planning an attack. Knowing my son, before long, he’ll have his eyes set on EB, Pyt. Brown had best watch out.

“I have all of your official legal and medical records. I also have a few things, mementos, if you will, that your birth mother left for you. I’ll have everything express couriered to you today. It should reach you in three or four days. Do you want me to alert Welch and Taylor as well?”

“No, Taylor is still here. He and Gail have rescheduled their flight and will be leaving for Seattle in a few hours. I’m going to address this personally. This experience has taken me back to the early days of GEH. It feels good to reacquaint myself with the way I began doing things, keeps me on my toes. As long as I have Anastasia beside me, I won’t go off the deep end, I promise Dad. Although, she may be leaving this evening as well. Taylor turned into Super Security Man after my nightmare and refused to leave until he was comfortable neither Ana nor I were in any danger.”

Taylor won’t last in Seattle without Christian. He’ll be bored shitless and dying to get back over there to keep an eye on things.

Taylor has Sophie to think about. He can’t rush out and make snap decisions like that anymore. I’m proud of Christian for not trying to force Taylor into staying in Townsville.

He’ll be back.

Bringing to halt my thoughts of Taylor, I vaguely hear Christian say something about Ana not staying in Townsville. “WHAT! WHY would she leave you?”

“Two words.” They better be two fucking spectacular words.

“Her job” I groan my disappointment. I know Ana is dedicated to following through on her career goals. Part of this is my fault with the prenuptial agreement faux pas. Grace made it all too clear Ana was hurt by the subject and while she’s always fought with Christian about working and succeeding on her own, she’s had to constantly deal with comments about the integrity of her intentions toward my son. Elena Lincoln’s gold-digger comment sits at the forefront of my mind.

She’s got some fucking nerve to talk.

“Precisely” Christian growls.

I sigh, “Well Christian, have you discussed the situation with Ana? Have you asked her to stay there with you?” I can’t imagine him not wanting her to stay. I’m sure he’s even gotten down on his knees and begged her to stay. She has that affect on him.

“No Dad I didn’t.“ WHAT?! ”I told her the decision was hers and hers alone. I don’t want her to feel controlled or pressured into doing anything. I believe she still doubts my sincerity on this point, regardless I refuse to push her.”

I scratch my head. This is a new Christian. I guess he has a point, “Good idea Son. Well, I’ll send you the material I have. I recommend you contact Edward Brown and listen to what he has to say then we can take further steps, if necessary.”

“Alright Dad, I look forward to reading the information you have and thanks again for your help.”

“Anytime son, you know we’re all here for you Christian. You never have to go through anything alone.” I don’t know why ventured across the pond, other than for business purposes, but I know he didn’t trust his mother and I to support him in any personal turmoil he may have been experiencing at the time.

After a few moments of silence Christian says, “I know Dad, really I do.“ I still wonder. ”Look, I’ve taken up enough of your early morning. I’ll talk to you later, bye Dad.”

“Bye Christian, and with that, the call is over.

I have a good mind to call Brown and ask him just what the fuck his problem is. We agreed he would leave Christian alone unless Christian, himself, expressed an interest in his birth mother or her family.

Not now, I have to get those documents together and possibly rearrange my schedule to allow for a trip Down Under.

GREY

He knew about this. He knew about all of it I’m sure. He was the go-to person with regard to securing guardianship and ultimately my adoption, while Grace took authority over my medical affairs.

He saw the pimp. He said I didn’t look like the asshole and that the fucker denied having anything to do with me.

No love lost, right?

Nope, none at all.

He has documentation and mementos? What the fuck kind of mementos, leftover crack pipe or a stray cigarette butt?

Grey, you’re NOT going to like what I have to say.

Then keep your fucking mouth shut.

Ahem, as I was saying, before I was so RUDELY interrupted

I sigh to myself, What the fuck do you want asshole?

What do YOU want?

Huh? What do you mean? I don’t want anything, except to wake up from this nightmare. I came here to get expand by business and get away from the pain and agony of Seattle then what happens? You guessed it, people I only knew of from school end up being related to me. I can’t fucking believe this.

Ok, now…what do you want?

I laugh out loud, but take no solace in the sound reverberating around me. You kill me. Question asked and answered dickwad.

Save the name calling ass-WHOLE. You and I BOTH know you want to find out about your family. You want to know where you come from and who you come from. You’re scared of the unknown and that’s reasonable to a certain degree. These people as you like to call them are your family and they’ve looked out for you since you arrived here. As far as when you were a child, well…you have to delve into the lion’s den to get answers about your history.

Suppose you and Anastasia do get married one day. You know how she is about family. She’ll want to know everything about them and you. Plus curiosity is killing you, right? I know the thing that’s fucking with your head is the fact Carrick knew about all of this and didn’t tell you, but consider how disinterested and/or non-receptive you’ve been about who you are let alone who you belong to. You need to find out…WE need to find out. Do it for my peace of mind, I promise I won’t hate you for it.

I’ll consider it. I want to see Carrick’s documentation and mementos before I go rushing over to talk with Brown. Actually, right now, we’ve got a more pressing situation to address.

Anastasia.


Knock…Knock…Knock

“Come in.” I don’t even bother looking up to see who is entering my study. If it’s not Ana they can go to Hell.

“Christian?” Her voice is as soft as a spring breeze. Her voice always calms me. It’s what I need…no what I want to hear.

“Ana”, I sound desperate to my own ears. “Baby, would you mind sitting with me for a little while?” She gives me her pretty little shy smile and meanders over to my chair. Ana climbs up on my lap and snuggles into my chest. I strum my fingers down her back causing her to hum against my neck. I close my eyes and sigh contently, “Ah, that’s nice baby, thank you. You’re the best medicine.”

I look down at her and smile, but then immediately frown. She gives me a confused look then asks, “What’s wrong Christian?”

“Baby…when are you leaving? Gail and Taylor should be going tonight. If they do, it’ll be a couple days before Stephen will be ready to make that back and forth trip again. If you plan on getting back anytime soon, you best get ready to leave with Gail and Jason.” There, I said it and I said it all. Now, will she stay with me or will she leave me?

At first, Ana frowns back at me, but quickly her eyes take on another emotion and this one I recognize loud and clear. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I see rejection written all over her face. She lowers her head then whispers, “Do you want me to leave?”

I put my index finger under her chin and raise her eyes to meet mine. Sadden blue to confused grey, “Anastasia, I’ve been begging you to come back to me since before I went to Taiwan. My story hasn’t changed since I left the United States. No, I don’t want you to leave me, but I also don’t want your career to suffer and you resent me for it. After everything we’ve been through Baby, neither one of us could withstand that” she nods her head absentmindedly.

“If you feel it’s best for you to leave, I ask that you let me know as soon as you decide. It’s going to take some getting used to after seeing you again, and with all that’s happened recently I’d really like a head start on reorganizing my thoughts and feelings.” If I’m going to be alone, I need to know so I can get my head together. It doesn’t have to make sense to her or anyone else. It’s just how I operate.

She nods her head a few more times then staring directly into my eyes she tells me something I never would expect to hear from Ana, not in a million years, “Fuck my co-workers, fuck Roach and fuck Kate! I’m not leaving you and it has nothing to do with the latest episode in The Life and Times of Christian Grey.” I now my eyes are wide.

“I love you Christian and once again I’ve caused us both a lot of unnecessary heartache. I’ve run from you twice now and each time was based on my perceptions and mine alone. I thought the only way I could be with you was to be your submissive. I didn’t think about being honest and telling you how I felt about you. I was more worried about it being too soon or what Kate would think or how my parents would feel. I didn’t take the time to see how you and I felt…about us.” She looks at me, somehow pleading for me to hear her…to understand her but most of all to...believe in her, again.

“Now, I’ve run because I thought being in charge of my own life, being independent, made me more creditable than if you were to give me any kind of help. I’ve learned that help is nothing more than the word implies: to make it easier for someone to do something by offering one’s services or resources; offering assistance. You can help me all day, but if I don’t know what to do with that help then it’s all for naught.” I stay quite. I can’t believe I’m hearing her correctly. Is she saying we’re alright? Are we gonna be ok now?

“In the time we’ve spent apart I’ve learned to be careful who I listen to because everyone may not have my best interest at heart and even if they do, I have the final decision. I also learned I still have a long way to go in opening up and talking to you, even if that means telling you to fuck off and mind your own business.” I give her a small smile. All those lonely nights at Escala…all of the time I spent in Taiwan…even, up until recently, here in Townsville, she has no idea how much I would’ve given to hear her tell me to fuck off rather than hearing nothing from her at all.

“You’re a rich man Christian, but you’ve never rubbed that in my face. I need to accept who you are and how you are or I need to go away and leave you alone…and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve missed you so much my heart actually hurt. I let other people’s ideas about how my life should run come between us. You matter to me and I matter to you, that’s what’s important.” She gives a little nod as if to say “take that”.

My surprise and astonishment change into love and admiration, “I’ll be here for as long as you’ll have me Baby. I love you.” I wrap my arms around her little body, “Oh Ana, thank you Baby. I need you as well. I’m nothing without you. Please don’t leave me again, please.” I hold her tightly against me as if my life depends on her, which it does.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 14 Alright

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 14 | Alright

STEELE

“Ana, honestly, I don’t know that I ever want to return to Seattle…permanently.  I know I’ll have to go there on business, but to live…I can’t say.”…

“Baby, why would I go back to that?  Can’t you feel the difference between Townsville and Seattle?  It’s in the air, the sun, and the water.  You can feel it in the sand under your feet.  I don’t want to go back to Seattle; not right now at least.”…

“Ana, in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to go back to Seattle.  I’m not trying to be mean, I’m not trying to pressure you and I’m definitely not trying to control you.  I only know that for my own peace of mind, I can’t go back there, I just can’t.”…

Stay in Australia, permanently?  I can’t stay in Australia permanently?

For the sake of argument, why not?

I’m a citizen of the United States.  I can’t just pack up and move to Australia.

Ahem, why not?

I don’t belong here.  What about my dad?

He lives in Montesano and has for quite a while now.  It’s not like he’s a 95 year old man.  He manages just fine without you.

What about my mom?

I really, really, REALLY don’t want to touch that one.  Can you come up with a few more excuses first?  I need a lot of strength to tackle that conversation.  That and…

What about Kate?

I FUCKING KNEW IT!  THAT’S IT!  I…HAVE…HAD…ENOUGH…OF THIS!  Steele, and I mean that in name only, are you SERIOUSLY going to start this bullshit bash again?  I can’t think of another way to say this to you, GROW THE FUCK UP!  That bitch…oh my God why am I bothering?  You know what, fuck it.  YOU handle this one on your own.  I’m done trying to be the voice of reason here.  You don’t listen and you won’t learn.  Wake me when it’s over.

WAIT!  I need your help.  I can’t do this alone.  I need time to process all of this.

Sweetie, what’s there to process?  You think en-fucking-tirely TOO fucking much and that’s putting it more than mildly. Rhetorical questions dear:  (1) do you love him…

I…

Ahem, which letter in the word rhetorical did I mispronounce?

None.

Thank you, and I won’t repeat myself so listen well:  (2) do you trust him and (3) how much, of each?  You take it from there honey.

Well, one and two are no-brainers, yes I love him and yes I trust him.  How much?  I don’t know.  Is there a scale from one to ten I should use to measure how much?  How the fuck do I know how much?  I’m not leaving here without him though.  He’s just having a Christian Grey sized temper tantrum.  He hasn’t thought this through entirely.  There’s no way he’s going to run GEH from Australia.

I march off in the direction of Christian’s study.  As I approach the door, I hear uncontrollable laughter and…IT’S COMNG FROM CHRISTIAN!  The sound is so strange, but also comforting.  I’ve heard him chuckle every now and then, but never a full blow laugh.  I smile imagining the look on his face as I hear him pant for air.

What’s so funny anyway?

“Tay…Taylor. Her old man…was in Vietnam. He served in the air and on the ground. Her granddad…WOO, you should see your face…her granddad served in World War Two in Europe…oh fuck, I can’t breathe…this is too much…mainly on the ground. WOW! Did you just turn green…HA HA HA…don’t hate mutherfucker. I sent you to deliver a simple report, not a warning. Oh…ok…lemme catch my breath.”

Sent Taylor where to deliver what report?  What’s going on?  I have to hear this.

How does it go?

How does what go?

“Never listen to phone call that isn’t meant for you.  Never read a letter that isn’t meant for you.  Never pay attention to a comment that isn’t meant for you.  Never violate people’s privacy.  You will save yourself a great deal of anguish…”  Joseph Kennedy, True Compass by Edward M Kennedy

I sigh, you’re absolutely right.  What kind of trust am I showing by eavesdropping on his conversation?

Come on, there has to be a book in this place somewhere.

GREY

After talking with Taylor, I went looking for my sweet Ana and found her lounging on one of the balconies.  The view of the Coral Sea is magnificent, a continuous blue, from the sky to the water, deepening, becoming more intense as it defends onto Magnetic Island and the ocean below.  If not for the island itself,  you wouldn’t be able to tell where the one ended and the next began.

A soft breeze blows through Ana’s hair as she looks off into the distance, deep in thought.  I hope nothing’s wrong.  I want her to enjoy our time in this place.  In the event it’s the last time we’re together, I want it to be memorable in a good way.  She hasn’t said she wanted to leave with Jason and Gail, but I’ve learned not to underestimate her.  She may decide once and for all that her friends are right.  She may feel that I only want to control her and moving to Australia is just a ploy to exercise that control.

That’s not the case.  It’s not fair for her to hold something like that over your head.  You didn’t forbid her from going back to the United States, you simply said you wouldn’t be going back anytime soon…for your own peace of mind, not simply for business.  She has to see things are different here…you’re different here.

We both know you can’t control her…you can’t rush her either, remember?  She has to think about what you told her.  Let’s not get into a pissing match.  She’s here, in this beautiful location and you two have had a wonderful time so far.  Enjoy this.  Don’t dwell.  Keep a cool head and go to the beach party.  We can deal with the emotional flood later.

I nod.  You’re right.  “Hey Baby, everything ok…”


“Wow Christian, this is beautiful.”  As the Sun begins to set, we arrive at The Strand, a 2.2 kilometer palm tree studded beachfront promenade with a magnificent view of the Port to Townsville and Magnetic Island as well as view stretching all the way to Cape Cleveland.  This evening, the sky shines bright orange.  The Sun has not yet touched the horizon; instead, it hovers over the water like a fireball with clouds wafting past.  The scene is splayed over a vast deep blue sea.

I initially thought a beach party was infantile, reminiscent of college days gone by or just a slacker’s way of throwing a fundraiser together.  Man was I wrong.  The bicycle and walkway paths are lit with lanterns and the glow coming from the mini-bonfires strategically placed along the beach.  Ella explained to me it was necessary to stay back at least 50 meters from the water’s edge and 2 meters above the high water mark.  The committee knew logistics for this event would be a challenge.  Taylor made certain he and the security team had additional preparedness and frontline medical aid training.  EMTs are nearby, but Ella stressed caution, even if we didn’t see warning signs.

In addition to the live music, playing a mix of jazz, 1980’s pop and R&B, the Entertainment Committee managed to procure carnival games.  Nothing major, Dime Pitch, Ping pong Ball and Fish Bowl, Balloon and Dart, a Weight Guessing Booth and what I’m told is an absolute must for a beach party…a Kissing Booth.  I shake my head at the whole lot.   The sights and sounds are wonderful and everywhere, then, gently floating through the air we hear,

Seeing that your love’s true
Never I’ll doubt you
My heart belongs to you
That’s alright with me

Worlds could end around me
So in love that I can’t see
You and me were meant to be
That’s alright with me

Friends come and friends may go
My friend, you’re real I know
True self you have shown
You’re alright with me

Through thick and thick to thin
I’ll love you till the end
You know it’s true my friend
You’re alright with me

Alright with me
(Alright with me)
Alright with me…

I look down at Ana who has a puzzled look on her face “Did you request this song?” she asks me.

“No,” I shake my head, “I was going to ask you the same thing.  Fitting though, huh?”  I pull her closer to me and we continue down the beach.

Catch a fallin’ star that shines
Make a wish clap three times
Dreams come true it’s in the mind
That’s alright with me…

I kiss the top of her head and wish for happiness.

…Your wish is my command
Never thought I’d fall in love again
Again with my best friend
That’s alright with me…

If she commanded me to return to Seattle, I’d go.  End of…  Please God let her stay here with me.

…Friends come and friends may go
My friend, you’re real I know
True self you have shown
You’re alright with me…

I think about Kate and Jose.  I wonder if keeping them in her life is more important to Ana than building a life with me.

…Through thick and thick to thin
I’ll love you till the end
You know it’s true my friend
You’re alright with me…

It’s true, I’ll love her forever, no matter the circumstance.  There’ll never be anyone else for me.  She’s ruined me for other women, no one will ever compare.

…Always and everlasting
This love is just not passing
We’re happy as can be
Alright with me…

Can’t we just be happy?

Alright with me
(Alright with me)
Alright with me

Worlds could end around me
So in love, I can’t see
You and me were meant to be
That’s your love it’s alright with me
Alright with me

Me too.

As the final words of Janet Jackson’s song Alright finish.  Ana snuggles up under my arm and we both breathe a sigh of contentment.  I whisper-sing, more to myself than to anyone else, “This is alright…with…me.”

All along The Strand we pass young and old guests alike, “It really did turn out lovely didn’t’t it?  I wasn’t sure how it would look.  This isn’t like any of the events my mother hosts,” but this isn’t her event.  I smile to myself.  I helped with this one, at least a little.  It feels good to participate, not just write a check.

Hmm, change is good after all.

No doubt.

“I think it’s wonderful, almost like going to the fair.”  Her eyes sparkle as she smiles.  I never went to the fair as a child, or as an adult for that matter.  All of the people bumping into me or touching me, even by accident, was too much for me to bear so I would stay home with the housekeeper while my family enjoyed the festivities.

We missed some great times it seems.  All the better to make up for it now.

I guess my contemplation is showing on my face, “What’s wrong Christian?”  Ana looks up at me with genuine concern in her eyes.  I shake my head, not wanting to spoil the evening, and we continue on.

After a while, we stop and eat some delicious smelling roasted pork and sample potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, fresh fruit salads and many more trimmings.  Even Gail joined in the festivities and made my favorite…yepper mac-n-cheese and it was enough for the masses.

How does she do that?  Did she work for the military before coming to work for you?

Not that I know of and not that I care.  I am in heaven.  The Refreshments Committee added food from a local Korean Fusion restaurant onto the menu to try and cater to varied tastes.  A few committee members did some recipe hunting with regard to American cookout choices so I would feel at home.  Ella assured them it wasn’t necessary…apparently they ignored her.

They won’t hear me complaining.

Me neither buddy.

Ana giggles at me as I eat.  I guess dropping food down the front of my shirt qualifies as humor.  God I love that sound.

I raise a brow and ask, “Miss Steele, is something amusing you?”

Her smile slowly changes from playful to lust-filled and her eyes begin to blaze.  “Yes Sir.”  She whispers, so only I can hear her.  My breathing hitches and our eyes lock.  Oh Baby, what you do to me.

I shake my head to rein in my desire, “All good things Baby, you know that.  When we get home, we can make our wishes come true.”  She smiles brightly again and I give her a loud, wet kiss on the lips.

God, this feels so good.  Just think, we have no personal security trailing us.  The only security here is for the event.  We’re free!

I don’t know why it means so much to me not to have personal protection.  I am the one who stresses the need for security and here I am, not only breaking protocol but also enjoying it.

It’s called being normal Grey; no ivory tower, no need for Secret Service Agents.  We’re just plain folk enjoying the evening’s festivities.  No women falling all over themselves, batting their eyelashes and tossing their boobs under your nose…not that there’s anything wrong with that, occasionally…I am just saying.  Ana can go, do and see whatever she wants.  No one is following her and there’s nothing to report because she’s safe.  This is what life’s supposed to be like.

Why would she want to leave here?  I don’t understand.

ELLA

“Hello Ellie, you look lovely as usual Sweetheart.”  My father strolls up from out of nowhere and kisses me on my cheek.

“Thank you Daddy.   You, however, are trying too hard.”  My father looks at me wide eyed as if he doesn’t understand.  Anytime he goes to a beach party or pig roast he wears light blue Bermuda shorts, a white polo shirt and brown flip-flops.  It’s almost his uniform; you can spot him a mile away.

He’s had a pedicure so he passes inspection.

This is true.

“Whatever do you mean Love?  The invite didn’t specify a dress code so I opted for comfort.”  He gives me a lopsided grin.  His curly, light auburn hair and grey eyes look orange as they reflect the light from the bonfires.  Even now, my father is still a very good-looking man, tall, broad chest, large biceps and a smile to die for.  Women have always been a biological hazard for him, as far as I’m concerned.  He’s my Daddy and no woman is ever going to be good enough for him in my eyes.

My brothers have dumped many a girl for making eyes at our father and Daddy eats it up.  He once bet Eran and Emerson that Everett’s new girlfriend wouldn’t make it through the first course at a family dinner before she winked at him…the first time.  When they looked stunned, he upped the anti and bet them exactly how many times she would wink at him before she left.

Not seeing Daddy for the good-looking man he is and putting entirely too much faith in the tramp population they all  seem to attract, they told my father he was senile and bet she wouldn’t give him a glance.  I had to get in on that one.  It was easy money.  Needless to say, Granddad threw her out for inappropriately addressing his son and forgetting with whom she arrived, while Daddy and I lined our pockets.  Neither Eran nor Emerson has made a bet, at least not with one of us, again.

“Sure thing Daddy,” I wave my hand at him dismissively, “whatever helps you sleep at night.”

“That’s no way to speak to your father young lady.  You were raised better than that.”  A deep voice rings out above me.  I turn my head, but no one’s there.  I look at my father who has a shit-eating grin on his face, but shrugs his shoulders nonetheless.

“Don’t look at him, you know very well that I’m right.”  This time I turn my whole body to face the sound and look up into the most beautiful, dazzling, emerald green eyes.  Eyes I know all too well.

“LIAM!”  I squeal and jump into his arms.

“Ellie, dolce, dolce Ellie.  Mi sei mancato così tanto” he whispers his endearment to me while stroking my cheek.  I’m smiling so hard I feel as if my face will crack.  He can be a very sweet man when he wants to be.  He can be every word in the definition of putz as well.

“And I you my Love.”  I whisper back to him.

My father clears his throat then speaks loudly, “Liam, it’s good to see you young man.  Are you back permanently or just stopping through?”  Liam puts me down and greets my father, who claps him on the shoulder…hard.

Must be a man thing.

No doubt.

“I am back for good Sir.  There’s only so much you can learn at school.  Sooner or later you have to put at least some of that knowledge into practice.”  Liam attended Yale…for a long time.  People make fun of we Browns, ‘Oh, they think they’re so smart…’ ’They have all of those degrees…’  ‘They’re so rich…’  “They’re TOO perfect…’  Well, I make fun of Liam.

Liam Jared Beckett graduated at the top of everything.

Well…someone has to be there, why not him?

That, my dear, is the definition of a rhetorical question.

Liam has his Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Mathematics, PhD in Economic History and was a participant in the World Fellows Program.

YUCK!

Tell me about it.

“You’ll need more than practice to beat this little one.”  Daddy says and kisses me on top of my head as he begins to walk away from us.  He turns back, grey eyes on fire as he says, “Oh, Liam, non cercare di parlare dolce mia figlia.  You’re not the only one who speaks italiano, spagnolo o francese to name a few” then he’s gone, into the crowd.

I shake my head, Liam knew Daddy would understand what he said.  We each speak various languages, especially when we’re pissed.  Granddad taught us it was necessary for business.  We’ve learned it’s a useful tool outside of business as well.

I look up at Liam again, “How are you Love?”  I’ve had a crush on Liam ever since I can remember.  We were born on the same day, six years apart.  I always took that as a sign we were meant to be together.  Although, the time he brought a girl home with him on holiday, I was devastated.  He came to visit me, out of habit.  I made sure I couldn’t be found.

There are advantages to living in a large, old house with lots and lots of hiding places.

“I’m well.  You all did a great job Ella,” he looks around the beach, “this is a new spin on an old tire.  Good to see young and old actually enjoying this event.”  He looks down at me with his green eyes dancing, as he smiles and says, “You look beautiful Baby.  How’s my little Sting Ray?”  I cringe and make a face.

I always hated him calling me that.  Just because I’m small, every man I’ve ever met has taken my diminutive size and easygoing persona for granted.  I can give better than I get and for some reason men take that as a negative.

He was twelve the first time I had to kick Liam’s ass for some reason or another.  He was picking on me, like boys always did and I got tired of his shit.  That’s when I first used my Daddy’s take down move.  Liam never knew what hit him.  His last recollection was pointing and laughing at me.  The next thing he knew, he was on the ground, face down, with my foot in his back.  When he twisted his neck to look up at me, I smiled and told him, “Liam, I’ll do this each and every time you piss me off.  Do you understand?”  He nodded his comprehension and I let him go.

That wasn’t enough for him.  The next time he felt high and mighty he was sixteen, trying to impress his friends.  He made a snide she’s just being a girl remark when suddenly, swoosh, he was on the ground wishing it would open up and swallow him.  To this day, his friends haven’t let him forget the incident and I bring it up now and again for good measure; keeps him in line.  His only response was to name me Sting Ray.

“Good, still dodging Granddad, but otherwise I’m good.”  He tilts his head to the side and raises an eyebrow.  Ok, so he doesn’t believe me.

“You know I don’t believe you, right?”  I nod.  I don’t know how, but he can tell when something’s bothering me.  It’s extremely annoying.

“I know you don’t believe me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m telling you I’m good.”  I nod my head with finality.

“Ok, ok, you’re good.  I’ll just have to stick with that story until the truth comes out; and you know it will.”  He says with his high and mighty tone.

Pest.

I absentmindedly nod my head.

“Ella.”  He struggles to say my name.  It’s with a mournful expression on his face that he says, “I saw the pictures of the two of you together…holding hands…laughing.”  Liam squeezes his eyes shut and asks me, “Do you love him Ella?”

When he opens his eyes, I see the hurt in them, I’m shocked and I know it shows clearly on my face.  I spent time with Christian to protect him.  When Granddad found out he was here, he knew Christian would be a target of the media as well as all of the gold-diggers on this continent.  I didn’t randomly run into Christian in the park…or at the coffee shop for that matter.  Granddad wanted Christian watched and protected.  Christian Grey didn’t know who Ella Brown was but Australia and places beyond do and I feel I’ve been effective in my task.  It was all a means to an end.

Befriending Christian afforded him the protection he needed.  No one is going to cross my grandfather, my father or me.  Sticking close to Christian prevented a lot of potential bullshit from the locals.  Holding his hand and letting shutter-fuckers get a few pics was just the way of make a broader announcement, LEAVE THIS MAN ALONE!  I wasn’t trying to tag him as mine.

“Ella?”  Liam’s strained voice brings me back from my reverie.  “Do you love him?  I have to know.”

“No Liam.”  I shake my head for emphasis, “I don’t love him…not like that at least.”  I whisper the last part or I thought I did.

“What do you mean, not like that at least?  I don’t understand Ella.  What about us?  You are mine.”  He pulls me to him.  I wrap my arms around his waist and hold him as tightly as I can.  My family followed me from Melbourne to Townsville after a graduated from Hawaii Pacific University.  I wandered over the continent and came to rest in Townsville.  I like the atmosphere, the people and the scenery.  The men in my family, and Liam, didn’t want me to be on my own so…they packed up EB, Pty and moved it to Townsville.  Granddad flat refused to be left behind and he refused to leave any portion of his business in the hands of someone unrelated to us.

We became acquainted with Liam’s family though one of my mother’s society circle things, as Daddy and Edward called them.  The boys welcomed Liam in as a snot-nose little brother and I…basically fell in love with him, forever ago.

Daddy, Everett and Liam arrived first, basically to survey the area.  They found the Family Home then sent for Granddad, Eran and Emerson.  Liam found a home for himself, but returned to Yale shortly after putting down roots.  He comes back from time to time, otherwise he’s in the united States or abroad.

Liam and I spent a lot of time together and little by little his feelings for me began to change.  He was determined to finish his education so…despite his feelings toward me, he went back to school.  He’s kept in touch and, again, visited every chance he could.

Now, he’s back for good.

Yeah, and I’ve got hot Shit Soup to serve him.

“I love you Liam.  I’m not in love with him, I never was and I never will be, I promise you that.  I love him like a…”

“There you are.  we’ve been looking for you.  How are you?”  Christian and Anastasia walk up, arm in arm, with smiles on their faces.  They’re so adorable together.

I lift my head off of Liam’s chest when feel him squeeze me tightly and look up in time to see his beautiful green eyes flash with anger before they turn fire-engine red; changing color based on his mood as opposed to the lanterns and firelight.  I know red is mad, but this is more than mad…

He’s super duper pissed.

I manage to turn and address the happy couple before Liam can, “Hello Christian, Anastasia.  I hope you’re both enjoying your evening.”  I try to sound as cheerful as I hope my face appears, but it’s not easy.  I have to straighten this out with Liam, fast.  His imagination can wreak havoc on the best intentions.

Christian smiles brightly, just like Daddy, then proceeds to introduce us, “We’re enjoying ourselves very much, thank you.  Anastasia Steele, this is Ella Brown.  Ella, this is Anastasia.”  She nods her head and offers her hand to me.  I do the same and we shake, all the while under Liam’s intense glare.

Dude, lighten up, DAMN!

“Hello Anastasia, welcome to Townsville and thank you for attending our fundraiser.”  She’s so pretty.  Her pale pink skin is flawless, her large eyes are bright blue, not tainted by the firelight and contrast well with her long, dark auburn hair.  Granddad is probably right, her eyes are a wonderful color blue.  That probably was the kicker for Christian.  I smile to myself thinking about it.

“Please call me Ana” she says, then she blushes, at me?  Why?

“This is Li…”

As I begin to make my introduction of him Liam burst out with “We’ll talk later my Love.”  He bends down, on the pretense of kissing my cheek whispers “Questa conversazione non è finita” then storms away, leaving me standing there, embarrassed.

“Ahem.”  Christian clears his throat and I reluctantly look first at Anastasia, who has a pitying expression on her face, then at Christian who looks like he’s surprised I associate with Liam.  “Is everything alright?” his smooth, baritone voice is strong and a tad bit protective in its tone; reminiscent of Daddy’s and Granddad’s.

I don’t respond.  I don’t trust my voice at this moment.  Tears I can control, I’ve learned how to hold those at bay and plaster on an impassive appearance well.  I would practice making faces in the mirror for hours at a time when I was a child until one day, I got it right, but the sound of my voice, I’m still working on that one.  Granddad always told me I would need an impassive voice as well…for the boardroom.  Well, I don’t have one so I simply shake my head no.

Finally, I muster up enough courage to say, quietly, “I apologize.  Please don’t let me dampen your evening.”  I feel like a Class-A fool.  I have to get out of here, “If you’ll excuse me.”  I duck my head down and practically run past the happy pair.  I hear Ana and Christian each call my name as I move away from them, but I don’t turn around.  I simply wave good-bye over my shoulder and takeoff…to parts unknown.


That son of a bitch has got it coming to him.  How fucking dare he speak to me like that and in front of other people too.  He has no idea if they understood him or not and even if they didn’t, I don’t give a fuck.  Rudeness is NOT permitted.

I managed to get far enough from the crowd and sit at a picnic area further up the Strand with a calming view of Magnetic Island, where I can think.

Quietly I hear, from behind me, “You cannot give him the satisfaction Ellie.  You do know that do you not Little One?”  I look over my shoulder and straight up to see Granddad standing alone with his hands in his pockets leaning against a nearby palm tree.

“You startled me Granddad.  I know I cannot let him get to me.  It is difficult sometimes.  I care a lot about Liam, I always have, but his jealousy and snap judgment are ridiculous.  Why not wait until a situation plays out or a discussion is had before commenting or criticizing?”  I’m getting angrier and angrier the more I talk this out and Granddad sees it.

“Ellie…Love…ELLIE!”  He bellows.  I quickly raise my head to see a pair of lighting silver eyes glaring down at me.  “You cannot give him the satisfaction…period.  All of his years at university have not afforded him the ability to control his emotions.  He does not know better…yet.  He will learn because you will teach him.  The same as you taught Christian.  Although, I suppose Christian learned more quickly than Liam will.” I nod.  We know how Christian learned control.

I know what he’s getting at and I know I can’t talk to Liam about this.  Granddad was clear when he gave Daddy and me our assignments, “No one can know about this until he does.  Once we have discussed everything, and I do mean everything, with him properly then he will be free to make whatever decision he likes.  Control is mandatory in this endeavor.  No one outside of this office,” he looked pointedly at Daddy then me, “can know of this situation.  Emmett, that includes the three’” that was when Christian was leaving Taiwan and things were being finalized.

“I know Granddad, I know.  I have no intention of jeopardizing our work.  His attitude being the way that it is, will be challenge enough without throwing Liam into the pissing pot.”  Granddad smirks at my choice of words.  I grew up in a house full of men.  My mother passed away when I was young.  My grandmother and aunt, my father’s only sibling, passed away before I was born, so I am not held to the same dialectical criticisms as most women.  Translation, I grew up with men who cuss like sailors and I can do the same, especially in their presence.

“Good girl.  We will take care of Liam in due time.  Have you invited them for a meal, preferably brunch.”  Granddad has it in his craw that we get this out in the open…yesterday.  Daddy and I keep trying to tell him to be patient, but that’s not a character trait Granddad recognizes.

Like someone else we know huh?

“I got side tracked Granddad.  I will invite them before the event is over.”  I try to reassure my grandfather who is neither out of the loop nor behind the times.

“Provided you can catch them before he rushes her home.  They fuck like jack rabbits you know,” again with the smirking?  He and Daddy get on my nerves with that shit.

“Yes, I know.  I guess that is something else you all have in common, unless it is simply a gender flaw.”  Now it’s my turn to raise a brow.

Slowly, my red haze lifts and I go in search of Christian and Anastasia to invite them to tomorrow’s brunch.  The evening is almost over, nothing left but the fireworks display.  I hope they’ve enjoyed themselves.  I know it was important to Christian and Anastasia feel comfortable here.  He wanted her to relax and consider staying here with him, at least for a while.  Secretly, I hope so too.

I find the happy pair locked in an embrace.  I sigh at such a romantic sight.

If Liam would get his shit together we could be like them, couldn’t we?

Eh, I guess.

He seemed genuinely happy to see you and very interested in your relationship with Christian.

I should’ve made him sweat for a while.

You know you’re no good at that.  It’ll just come back to bite you in the end…pun intended.

I shake my head at my inner musings and approach Christian and Anastasia.

The twosome are in a heavy-duty lip lock.  I try to wait it out  and not be too obvious.  Off to my left, near one of the refreshment stands, I see Daddy and Granddad laughing, heads thrown back guffawing at me.  They’re getting on my fucking nerves with that bullshit.  Just wait until I have a man I my life.  I’m going to make them regret this.

I clear my throat to try and get Christian and Ana to break it up.

That or throw some cold water on them.

Don’t give me any ideas.

“Ahem, excuse me.”  I don’t want to tap either of them on the shoulder.  I don’t want them to feel like I am invading their personal space.  I just want to deliver my invitation and get the fuck out of here.

Awkwardly, I try again, louder this time, “Christian…Anastasia?”  She’s the first to come up for air.

“Hi Ella, how are you?  We tried to find you, but you disappeared.”  Anastasia immediately assumes the role of caretaker.  She’s here to spend time with her fiancée and she’s thoughtful enough to show concern for me after Liam’s earlier display.

“Oh, I am fine, no worries.  Thank you for asking.”  I lie.

“Would the two of you be available to have brunch with us tomorrow?  Nothing fancy, just family.”  I can tell by the fire in Christian’s eyes he had other plans for tomorrow, but I seem to have piqued Anastasia’s interest.

“That would be lovely Ella.  What time?”  I almost burst out laughing at Christian.  He’s the picture of Daddy and Granddad.  I think their hair stands on end all by itself when they get aggravated.  Each man has a habit of raking his hands through his hair, but it really isn’t necessary.  The damn stuff has a mind of its own.

“Ana, I was hoping we could sleep in late tomorrow,” Christian whines.  Again, I suppress a laugh.

When Anastasia pouts at Christian, his entire demeanor changes.  Gone is Christian Grey, hotshot CEO and Master of the Universe.  Hello, love struck Christian.  I can’t help the smile that hides at the corners of my mouth.  “Ok, Ana, whatever you want Baby.  What time Ella?”  We make arrangements for late day and I tell them that Taylor and Gail are welcome as well, but I doubt they’ll attend.

I hope not.  None of us can stand that pretentious fucker.

I say my goodbyes and turn to leave, only to run straight into the all too familiar sight of Liam Jared Beckett, his eyes still flaring bight red.  As I begin to walk passed him, he grabs my arm and pulls me toward him, taking me by surprise.  I gasp then realize he’s been drinking…a lot.  Drinking is the last thing anyone should do when they’re mad, it only makes things worse.

“Liam, you’re drunk, let me go.”  I don’t raise my voice because I don’t want to cause a scene.  I know Liam would never do anything to me so I’m not afraid, but this brand of bullshit is more than annoying.  What the fuck is his problem anyway?

“We have…a conver…sation…to finish,” he slurs.  I laugh a little inside.

Not that this bastard would remember.

“You can barely finish a sentence, let ‘lone a conversation.  We can finish this when you sober up.”  I hiss and pull out of his grasp.

Liam’s eyes are wide and definitely hurt when he whispers, “It’s true, you do love him.  Why Ellie, I’ve told you how I feel.  We’ve shared so much baby.  Why him?”  The pain in his voice lances my heart, but Granddad will kill me if I give this away.

I look directly into Liam’s eyes and kiss him sweetly on his soft, full lips then tell him, “Liam, you’re the only man I love, the only man I’ve ever loved and the only man I will love.  Fidati di me.”  It is true.  I have always loved him.  There will never be another for me.

Somehow, my statement has touched his heart because he surrenders control to me by saying, “Sì il mio amore, ti darò.  My life, my heart…my soul are in your hands.”

GREY

It was a lovely evening.  We walked along the beach and talked about the music, the food, and the games.  We simply enjoyed each other like we never have before.  It felt so carefree.  It was heavenly.  I didn’t stress about coming home.  Was able to devote myself to Ana because I didn’t have to run off to my office and be debriefed about anything.  We came home, took a bath and fell into bed; into each other’s arms.

As we lay in our king sized bed, Ana takes a deep breath and sighs, “I owe you so many apologies, I don’t know where to begin.”  I turn onto my side and pull her closer to me, giving her my full attention and kiss her forehead.  She seems resigned to her fate as she continues.  “Christian, I’ve treated you unfairly.  I’ve unreasonably blamed you for things…for stifling my freedom when you haven’t.  I know you want to protect me and I know being your girlfriend puts me in the spotlight.  I, even better now, there are people who would love to get at you.  If someone could use me to achieve that goal, they would.  Unfortunately, no matter how immune I think I am, that’s not true.  I’ve even treated you like a villain for wanting to help me achieve my career goals.”  She shakes her head and I wipe the single tear that’s escaped onto her cheek.

“I’ve worried about what Kate, Jose, my co-workers and anyone else would think of me for being your girlfriend and working for you.  I worried I wouldn’t be considered an equal.  I worried my success would be due to your name, not my knowledge.”  She frowns and seems pensive as she speaks.  Why is she recounting all of this?  I thought her time away from me was so she could sort these thoughts out and come to her own conclusions, not hold onto them to rehash at a later date.  I don’t want to hear all of this anymore.

She’s a thinker Grey.  She takes her time and ponders a situation before taking action.  You, on the other hand, act out…period.  In business, thinking fast and acting quickly are virtues.  You’re not in the world of M&A right now.  Let her talk this out.  Just listen.

“…listening to Kate.  I don’t know when I gave her so much power in my life, but it happened.  I listened to what she had to say and took a lot of it to heart.  The times when I knew she was weak, I took the lead but more often than not I listened to her opinion and made it my own, that was my mistake.”  I knew Kavanagh was behind this shit.  Months of our lives wasted because of that bitch.  I don’t give a fuck what Elliott sees in her, I can’t fucking stand her…

Shut the fuck up Grey!  Listen!

“…overlooked the fact that she got her internship with her father’s company and she holds her head high when people say, ‘that’s Kavanaghs’ daughter.’”  Do you fucking mean to tell me Anastasia let that rich bitch cloud her opinion of herself?  That bitch caused Ana to doubt her own abilities?  She best be glad she is still fucking Elliott or she’d be the last one in the unemployment line…

GRRR!  If I have to tell you one…more…time…to shut the fuck up, this magnificent, multitasking brain of yours is going to shutdown and leave your carcass to the wolves.  For the last time…FOCUS!

ALRIGHT!!!

“…my opinion of me matters.  I want to be proud of my own accomplishments.  I know how hard I worked to graduate from college with my GPA in tact.  It’s unrealistic of me to want the world to even give a fuck about me, let ‘lone care about how I got from point A to point B.  The long and the short of it is I was wrong to let anyone other than me color my decisions.”

She sighs then looks me straight in my eyes and says, “I love you and you love me that was never in question.  I shouldn’t have let anyone or anything influence my self-image or our relationship.  We’re partners.  I need you to help me sort things out when I get stuck in life, that’s what partners do for each other isn’t it? “

I smile and nod, “Yes it is Baby.  And we’re going to be the best partners ever.  I love you so much Anastasia.”  I hold her tightly in my arms and kiss her deeply, with all of the love and adoration inside me.

I’ll only ever love you Ana.


We spent our morning much like we spent our evening.  We have made love in the bedroom, bathroom, our walk-in closet, the kitchen, before Mrs. Jones got up of course, and on the couch in the TV room, before Taylor started walking around the place, which I’ve told him isn’t necessary.  It felt like two teenagers hiding from Mom and Dad.  It was kind of cool.

As we get ready to go to the Brown’s for Brunch, my lovely Ana says from the bathroom doorway “Christian, do you have security in this place?”  She has a concerned look on her face.  Is she afraid of something?

I immediately become tense.  “No.  Why, are you afraid of something?  Has someone been bothering you?  Do you want me to ask Taylor to stay or send for Sawyer?  What is wrong Ana?”

She shakes her head at me and smiles, “Calm down Christian, nothing’s wrong and no one has bothered me.  I’m just surprised you don’t have security here.  I mean, this place is much bigger than Escala and you are all alone.  There are no cameras, no one walking the halls…nothing.  It feels so…” she shrugs her shoulders, “…you know…”

I smile, “Normal,” I finish the sentence.  “Yes, I know.  I came to Australia on a whim and needed a place to stay.”  It sounds impossible, but it’s true.  I couldn’t face being in Seattle without Anastasia and I promised to give her the time and space she wanted.  So for all intents and purposes, I was homeless.

“I couldn’t bear go come back to Seattle.  The work I did in Taiwan took like fifteen minutes and the touring took another twenty.  I just hung around there, keeping up with GEH affairs, hoping you would tell me you wanted me to come back home.  When you didn’t call me, I moved on.”

“Ros and I joked once that GEH should have offices worldwide.  I’ve dreamed of making GEH an International presence, but never took it seriously.  When I thought I would never see you again, I figured why not make my business dream come true.  I’ve worked, non-stop, to make this happen; just like in the beginning of GEH.

I told you, work is my therapy.  I haven’t bothered with Flynn since I left the US.  I got in touch with Claude and he helped me find a gym in Taiwan and then here.  I run, workout at the gym here at home or with my kickboxing trainer, have breakfast then head off to Grey House. “

“I know you want to talk and I know you want to talk about the pictures you’ve seen in the press, right?”  She nods her head and looks down at the floor.  “Do you remember what I told you about the press?”

She speaks solemnly, “Yes, you pointed out that you would be in the spotlight even more than before we met.  You said our relationship would be questioned and basically you’d be the number one bachelor again.  I remember saying you were threatening me.  I need to apologize for that statement too.  I don’t know why I even said it.  It seems every time you try to prepare me for something, I take it the wrong way.  I need to work on that.”  She looks up and stares at me, there’s more, I know there is.  I’m not stupid.  She wants to know if I took a submissive.

“Ana, please sit down.  Let’s clear the air, get all of this shit out of our lives so we can move forward…together.  Can we do that please?”  I want this just as much as she does and we’re in the best place to have this conversation.  There’s nothing and no one to interrupt us.  We have all the time in the world, another reason why I love it here.

She twists her fingers in front of her then whispers, “Yes”.  I walk with her over to the balcony off our bedroom, which faces Rowes Bay.  It’s a tranquil view of the water.  I often get lost in the warmth of the Sun, the breeze from the bay and the hypnotic sound of the waves.  I love the water.  It’s so open, so free.  I take a deep cleansing breath and actually forget I’m not alone.

Her voice is almost as faint as the wind when she says, “This is totally different from Escala.  This isn’t your ivory tower.  You seem so happy, at ease here, trouble-free even.  It’s a welcome change to see you this way.  You look wonderful Christian.  Time away from Seattle has done wonders for you.”

I smile and nod my head.  “You’re right.  Life is normal.  No one knows me, or so I thought.  I can be just another face in the crowd.  I can walk down the street, sightsee, shop, whatever and no one looks at me.  I say, ‘I’m Christian Grey’ and people shake their heads, silently asking if my name is supposed to mean something to them.”  I chuckle a little remembering how offended I was at first.  In business, your name is your brand and my name has always been highly marketable.  In the world of M&A, no matter what continent I’m on, the name Christian Grey means money, power and prestige, but in the city of Townsville, it means the guy who lives over there.

It’s fan-fucking-tastic!

“My ego took a bit of a blow, until Ella told me people knew who I was and basically didn’t give a fuck, I was nothing special to them.”  I shake my head remembering the conversation.  It was before I knew who she was, who her family was.  It reminded me that money doesn’t matter.

“Who is Ella?”  I look at Ana and see something in her eyes I’ve never seen before.  Not anger or jealousy, not even a look of hurt or betrayal.  I see fear.  She fears Ella.  Why?

“Ella is a girl I saw when I finally got out of this house and ventured around Townsville.  I’m sure there are pictures of she and I floating around the gossip sites.  She reminded me so much of you, I almost called her by your name.”  Ana says nothing, but I can see the gears spinning.  I know how I would feel if it was the other way around.  I’m not a hypocrite.  I can’t expect her to simply take it all in without having any emotion.  I’ll answer any and all questions honestly and wait for her to decide her next move.

“Yes, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of you with her.  Seattle Nooze has you engaged and about to be married.  I was hurt when I first saw her picture, there were so many of you smiling, laughing, even holding hands.  I cried for days and Kate tried to set me up with a dozen blind dates.”  Tears begin to form in her eyes even now.

That’s what friends are for?

Humpf.

“Then I saw a picture claiming to be her hand with an engagement ring on it.  Kate was fanatical about that picture.  When I realized it was my hand and my engagement ring, I had to pose in the same position for her to look at my ring, but she still didn’t believe me.  I remembered you took the picture after your birthday, for insurance purposes.  I found it and showed it to her, which finally shut her up.  At that point, I decided to take everything I saw with a grain of salt.”

“People made snide comments behind my back and I think a heard a couple women in my office clapping hands at the prospect of you being on the market again.”  As if anyone would have a chance with me.  “I remember wondering if they’d devote more time to their own lives maybe they wouldn’t be so miserable and happy to see someone else’s life in turmoil.”  She looks out over the bay as I move behind her wrapping my arms around her waist and pulling her into my chest.  This mess was just as hard on her as it was on me.

“Other reactions were absolutely Anti-Christian Grey.  There were comments about how could you possibly cheat on me since I was so sweet and innocent.  Others made you out to be a selfish bastard who didn’t deserve the likes of me.  There were even people who wanted to picket in front of GEH with signs saying people should stay away from your businesses and they never were and never will be in favor of you.  Watching all of that, reading all of the hateful comments against you made me see that you weren’t over exaggerating about how people see you.  The press and the public were obsessing with lives that weren’t their own.”

Guess she learned something about your world.

“Meetings at SIP were ridiculous.  Initially, my co-workers would stop talking and look anywhere except at me when I entered the room.  After seeing so many pictures of you on your own in Seattle and then in various parts of the world, they would pointedly ask me, ‘How are you today, Ana?’, ‘Did you rest well last night?’ or ‘Have you seen the latest article about Mr. Grey, Ana?’  I wanted to ask them just what the fuck their problem was.  They worked hard at getting under my skin.”  I blame that fucker Roach.  He’s the one who’s supposed to be in charge of that office.  Can’t he keep those dogs on a leash?

Just another subsidiary of GEH remember?  She can file a complaint like anyone else would…

Whatever fucker and you know it…and you agree with me.

“The end all-be-all was when Kate told me your leaving Seattle was the best thing you could ever do for me.  She was glad you finally realized you shouldn’t try to control me.  She was glad to see you tuck your tail between your legs and run because I stood up for myself and put you out of my life.  She couldn’t say enough about how horrible it was for you to be in the same breathing space as another woman and when she saw a picture of you holding hands with Ella, I thought she was going to burn a figure of you in effigy.  She was insane, all in the name of protecting me and being my one true friend.”

BITCH!

You took the words right out of my mouth Grey.

“Then there was the Grey Family Dinner night when you called home and she inserted herself in the conversation.  She and Elliott still aren’t doing well because of her comments about you.  Elliott asked her if she was jealous that you and I were together.  He asked her ‘Why the fuck didn’t you do the fucking interview your fucking self?’  He told her ‘It would’ve saved us all your unwanted behavior,’ then he told her to stop obsessing about someone else’s life or he would never speak to her again.  Needless to say, it has been a battle of wills ever since.”  Ana shakes her head and the unshed tears begin to fall.

NO COMMENT GREY AND THAT’S FINAL!

DONE.

“Ana, I told you, I promised you, I’d be faithful to you and to us.  I told you I wouldn’t be with anyone else and I haven’t gone against that.  If you want to hate me, if you want to leave me, I understand perfectly.  I know if things were the other way around, your eardrums would be pounding from all of my yelling.”

She turns around and puts her arms around my neck before looking me straight in my eyes and asking, “Christian, do you love her?”

I tighten my arms around her tiny waist and look directly into her eyes as I say, “No Ana.  I don’t love Ella or any other woman for that matter.  I only love you.  When Ella looked into my eyes, she saw my pain.  I was amazed at how intuitive she was.  She told me something that’s held me together and helped me deal with this situation so far.”

Ana looks at me expectantly, “What did she tell you?”

“She said,  ‘If you are hers, she will find you.  If she is yours, you will let her.’ that statement gave me hope that you would change your mind and come back to me.  It also helped me keep a clear head and, as odd as it seems to me, an open heart.  I can’t act as though my feelings weren’t hurt by all of this, but I refuse to just walk away.  I’m nothing without you Ana.  I’m not willing to give up, because I am yours.”

She nods her head at me, taking it all in, “The old adage is right, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. I’ve continually told you I need to be alone to think, told you not to interfere in my affairs and told you security wasn’t necessary because I felt like I was being watched and controlled.  Then, when you give me everything I asked for, I, and it seems the rest of the world, turned on you and labeled you as contemptible and unfeeling.  You really can’t catch a break, can you Grey?”  I shake my head and hope she doesn’t hate me.

It’s all part of the package Baby.

“Christian, I know, better than you do, that you have a heart and you have feelings.  I know I hurt you with my words and my actions.  I was horribly wrong to do so.  In order for you and I to be together, I have to learn to talk to you just as much as I demand you talk to me.  Running to hide isn’t the way.”  I say nothing.  I’m still not sure where this is going so I just hear her out.

“I love you Christian and I apologize for pushing you away.  I also apologize for letting Kate cloud my thinking.  I can’t apologize for her treatment of you, she has to do that, but I apologize for not putting a stop to her chastising you.”  She hugs me tighter and lays her cheek on my chest.  I let out the breath I was holding, waiting for her tirade.

She knows this all could’ve been avoided.  This time she was wrong and she recognizes that.

Let it go.  Il est fini.

I bend over and kiss her cheek then whisper in her ear, “I love you Anastasia.”


LIAM

Ellie, dolce, dolce Ellie. Mi sei mancato così tanto. | Ellie, sweet, sweet Ellie. I missed you so much.
Questa conversazione non è finita. | This conversation is not over.
Sì il mio amore, ti darò. | Yes my love, I’ll (trust) give you.

ELLA

Fidati di me. | Trust me.

EMMETT

Liam, non cercare di parlare dolce mia figlia. | Liam, do not try to sweet talk my daughter.
…italiano, spagnolo o francese… | …Italian, Spanish or French…

GREY

C’est fini. | It’s finished.


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Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 13 Now, We Can Proceed

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 13 | Now, We Can Proceed

ELLA

“Good evening Granddad, how are you?”  I walk over to my grandfather who is sitting behind his huge mahogany desk.  He’s owned that thing for as long as I can remember.  It reminds me of the movie The Godfather.  Seeing how he speaks several different languages fluently I expect him to get pissed at my brothers one day and burst out in his best Sicilian to tell them how fucking stupid they are.

“I am well Ellie.  Is your father with you?”  Granddad asks, looking at his watch.

My eyes widen and I shake my head for emphasis, “No, I thought he would be here already.  He was so eager for this meeting I thought he would beat me here.”

“One would…” The door opens, interrupting my grandfather.

“…think, yes I know Dad.  Good evening Ellie.”  My father saunters into my grandfather’s study and kisses me on the cheek; he’s late.  Granddad doesn’t do late, ever, and he doesn’t forget when someone is late.

Granddad clears his throat, “Well, now that we are all here.”  He takes a moment to glare at my father.  “I have some questions.”

Turning to me, Granddad asks, “Ella, is she here?”

“Yes Granddad, she arrived early this morning.  He was there to meet her, even ran up the steps to the cabin door.  I burst out laughing.  They look wonderful together too.  She really does look like me.  You cannot tell from the photos, you have to see her in person.  It seemed uncanny.”

“Yes, I believe those blue eyes did it to him.  Lord knows that is what attracted me to your grandmother.”  He smiles, as he always does when he remembers my grandmother.  She died before I was born, but I’ve seen numerous photos of her.  I wish I could have met her, his one true love.

Sigh.

“They went back to the house and have not left, yet.  I believe he will be at the committee meeting tonight.  It is the last one before the event.  I do not know if she will accompany him or not.”  For both their sake I really hope he skips the damn meeting.  My brothers behaved so badly at the last meeting, I’ll have to take them down in public if they harass him or her at that meeting.

“Well, do not expect her to arrive and if she does, make sure those imbeciles you so affectionately refer to as brothers… leave…her…the fuck…alone.  They were not supposed to bother him and look what happened.” I nod in agreement.  He’s right.  The Bowery Boys have made things more difficult than they already were; if that’s even possible. [1]

“Yes, if need be, I will handle them.”  I look directly at my father.  All he does is nod his consent.  He knows some of the story.

“Like I said, she is here and they look happy.  This is a wonderful place for them to reconcile and move forward.  We can only hope for the best.  I have not told him…”  Before I can finish my sentence, my father chimes in.

“Are you certain it is him?  Looks do not mean everything.”  Here we go.  I hold up my hand to stop my father.  My dad isn’t really worried about the validity of our information; he knows we’re careful.  Daddy is wary of the reaction the situation will garner.  My father hates rejection and can behave poorly when confronted with it.  Seems to be a family trait.

“I know that better than you do Daddy.  First, yes I am certain, second, I will tell him whether you like it or not and third, the fellas need to know as well…after I tell him of course.”  Those selfish little bastard brothers of mine need to be removed as well, but that is not my call.  Pity actually.

I turn toward my grandfather, “Granddad, I truly believe she should be with him when we speak.  She has a soothing affect on him.  It really is amazing.”  I sigh.  Looking at the two of them is like watching Cinderella and Prince Charming.  I can only wish for that kind of love to find me one day.

“I agree, they should be told together and they should be told here.  I want to be able to show him proof.  He does not appear to be the trusting sort so I am certain he will want cold, hard facts to back up your claim Ella.”  I wish this could just be accepted at face value.  It’s not like we want anything from him.  If nothing else, he will increase his fortune exponentially.  But I know Granddad is right.  We have to be able to prove ourselves.

“I have all of that.  My daughter was not in the best way at the end of her life, but she was still my daughter.  She knew the importance of documentation and she knew her son would one day need to know.  I have all of the proof we need.”  My grandfather somehow managed to get evidence I never knew it was possible to have.  He really outdid himself on this one.  He would not destroy the proof because he recognized others would want to see it and verify its authenticity.

“Ahem,” ever the diplomat, “Dad, have you considered how his family will respond to this news?  This can be misinterpreted as our trying to drive a wedge between them.  We don’t want him to close the lines of communication based on reaction from…” we all know he’s speaking from experience, but at this moment experience doesn’t seem to have taught my grandfather a fucking thing.

With a distinct and blatant disregard for my father’s intention my grandfather states, “I do not give a fuck if he speaks to us again or not.  He must know his position and know his entitlement.  Afterward, if he wants to denounce the Brown family then that is his right.  However, he will have been told and my documentation will be available.  Ella, you will be responsible for following through with my wishes when the time comes.”  I furrow my brow at that subject.  I always do.  He knows how I feel.

Granddad softens his feathers before telling me, “Little one, I know you had your heart set on the sea, but you will step up at EB and you will make him do the same or I will haunt you all for the remainder of your lives.”  He gives me a devilish grin and a wink.  Granddad is always promising to haunt someone when he wants his way.  The only problem is, we know for a fact it’s true, that’s why it’s so effective.  I swallow hard and nod my head.

“Emmett, what about The Interference?  What is its status?”  My grandfather cannot wait to be rid of that, quite frankly neither can I.

My father’s grey eyes flash with anger, as he growls, “No change in position Dad and no change in status either.  In fact the entire State of Washington should pay homage once this is done.”

I gasp, “What?  You mean still?  That has to stop.”  I look frantically between my father and my grandfather.  “Granddad, is there anything we can do right away…anything at all?”

Granddad shakes his head regretfully.  “No Love, we cannot, but in time.  The Interference will go…period.”


“Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I call this meeting to order.  We only have a few loose ends to tie up; therefore, in lieu of time we will only need reports from those committee members.”

“First we will hear from Logistics, then Audio/Visual and finally Security.”  Eran looks around for Christian.  I was glad he and Anastasia skipped the meeting.  I can’t blame him for not brining her here, or coming himself.  He just reconciled with the love of his life and he’s afraid I’ll frighten her away.  I’m certain of that and I understand his position entirely.  This is when I wish he knew the truth about us.

Then there are the barracudas in the room.  Seems like the whole Brown clan is here.  Eran and Emerson invited Everett to this meeting.  I guess they thought I was kidding when I told them what I’d do should they continue to harass Christian.

I can guaran-fucking-tee you gentlemen I was not bullshitting.  Big brother can’t always save you.

I see Mr. Taylor has been assigned to discuss security for the event.  This should be interesting.  “It seems Mr. Grey has decided not to attend this evening.  Does anyone have his report?”  Eran looks at me as if to say ‘well, where the fuck is he’.  I shake my head and look at Mr. Taylor.

Eran follows my line of sight then asks, “Sir, are you here in Mr. Grey’s place?”  Taylor simply nods his head once.  “Will you please introduce yourself and give us an update on the progress of the Security Committee?”

Taylor clears his throat, “My name is Jason Taylor.  I am the Head Security Officer for Grey Enterprise Holdings.  The Security Committee enlisted five hundred personnel total.  We were instructed that one hundred individuals were necessary; however, after confirming the number of RSVPs then surveying the venue and its surrounding area, we opted to increase the number and have backup details available.”  Eran looks a little disappointed in Taylor’s progress.  I know he was hoping Christian would fail to find qualified security.  I heard Er and Em plotting how to approach Granddad about vetting and hiring security personnel.  I rolled my eyes at them.  I could have told them how to do that, but no…don’t ask the little girl surrounded by men her entire life.  Whatever.

“This document” Taylor holds up a packet of papers, “lists the names of vetted men and women awaiting instruction from you, Mr. Brown, and/or the Logistics Committee Chairman.”  Taylor raises ad eyebrow at Eran then the fucker looks at me.  Oh I can see Taylor’s in line for a good old fashion cussing out before long and I’ll be only too happy to oblige him.

Begrudgingly Eran says, “Thank you Mr. Taylor.  We appreciate your contribution to our endeavor.  Now, Logistics.”  And off we go to the rest of this pointless fucking meeting.  I think I’ll go home and change then have an evening by Rowes Bay.  This’ll prove to be a ‘fun filled’ weekend.  I can feel it now.

“…very good.  We will schedule a wrap-up meeting in approximately two weeks then we will be finished.  Meeting adjourned.  See you all at the event.”  Good, now to get the fuck out of here.  I almost run out of the meeting room when I hear.  “Not so quick Miss Brown.”  Bastard.

I turn around slowly with a smile on my face.  There big brother stands, summoning me over to him.  Taylor stopped by the door as if he were invited to the melee.  Everett and Emerson immediately flank him.  They each stand a head taller than Taylor and are much bigger.  Sometimes the fellas actually come in handy.  I really do want to laugh at Taylor.

Love, you have no idea just how outnumbered you are.  We have been known to stop fighting each other, gang up on an intruder in our argument then go back to kicking each other’s assess.  We may fight with each other…a lot, but we’ll fight for each other…always.

Taylor, wisely, leaves the room.  The boys close the door after him then Er descends on me.  “What the fuck gives Ellie?  Where was the bastard?  And who the fuck is the buzz-cut he sent over here?  I want some…” THAT’S IT!

“FREEZE Eran Rockhold-Brown!  First of all, Grey is a grown man and it’s not my job to keep him.  Forward your attendance questions to him directly or to his minion who you two,” I turn and point at Everett and Emerson, “so weakly tried to intimidate.  You wanted a security update and it sounds like you got what you wanted so why the fuck are you pestering me?”  I stand with my arms crossed daring him to start some shit.

“Something is going on with you two and we,” he gestures between the Three Amigos, “want to know what it is.  We have a right…” Oh Good Lord, not this shit again.

“PAUSE!  You have no right to anything in my life.  Any piece of information I deign to share with any of you should be considered a treasure.  Ergo, piss off, the lot of you!”  I turn sharply and proceed to march to the door of the conference room.  And of course Thing 1 and Thing 2 think they can prevent me from leaving.

If they touch a piece of lint on my shirt I will stomp the shit out of them and they know it.  In the quiet whispering groan that we all use when we get pissed I announce, “One move.  That’s all it’ll take for me to go absolutely, fucking ape-shit on YOUR ASS!”  I turn back to Eran and point.

“I have no idea why you all are intimidated by that man, but you had best put on your big boy boxers and get over it.  He’s a community member.  He’s established a lucrative business here and it seems he’s enjoying his stay, despite the three of you.  In the event he wishes to leave Townsville, I’m certain he knows his way to the airport.  Until he decides to no longer grace us with his presence, GO THE FUCK AWAY AND LEAVE HIM THE HELL ALONE!”  I shout so loud my voice can be heard echoing out in the hallway.  With that, my brothers move out of my way and I proceed to exit the building.


“Stay away from him!”  What the fuck?  I know I have the most confused look on my face as I stand facing my car.  One I’m surprised anyone is still out here and two, who the fuck does this man think he is?  I recognize the voice as that of Mr. Jason Taylor.

What the fuck is this, a testosterone convention?

I don’t bother to turn around to face him.  “Good evening Mr. Taylor.  Is there something in particular you would like to discuss with me?”  I spread the nicety on as thick as possible.  This bastard is threatened because my security checks proved better than his.  That’s easy to see.  If he worked for Granddad he would be six feet under for the shit he missed and could only speculate at.  It’s inexcusable.

“I said stay away from Mr. Grey.  He has a wonderful woman in his life and he does not need some gold-digging whore traipsing around after him.”  My eyes have popped out of my head.  This bastard has the moxie to think I am after Christian’s money.  Yeah, this fucker would not make it at EB, Pty that’s for damn sure.  His deductive reasoning is non-existent.

I’m not going to entertain this conversation.  My back is still turned toward him and I am praying he lays a hand on me.  He’s sorely underestimated me, like men always do.  I just want to see the shadow of his hand near my face and he’ll need a medic.

“STEP AWAY FROM THE YOUNG LADY YOU FUCKER!”  I look up to see the Bowery Boys standing to my right, a few feet from my car followed by another distinct voice.

“Mr. Jason Taylor I presume.”  I don’t bother to turn around.  I know from the smiles on my brothers’ faces and the smooth sound of the voice, it’s Daddy.  My father always starts out professionally, a genial greeting, even a handshake, but if you’re not responsive to his business persona, all etiquette goes out the fucking window.

“Mr. Taylor, I know you are not hard of hearing so you are well aware of my sons’ statement and my direct address.  I strongly recommend, sir, that you accept my salutation and shake my hand.  Should you decide against that, I do not want or need my sons assistance to rectify this matter.”  My brothers and I are chuckling quietly.  Our father is only this dramatic when he is pissed beyond recognition.

Granddad tried to teach us not to swing first, which was difficult when that’s still his first reaction.  He did manage to school us in the “proper way” to handle a situation, especially one that goes out of control.  Rule one, know your opponent, rule two, know your surroundings and rule three, walk, don’t run, away.  We say it all of the time, it’s almost like a family motto…we really are a sneaky bunch.

To his credit, I sense Taylor turning around and, I presume, shaking my father’s hand.  Poor sot, he has no idea what was going to hit him.  I hear the handcuff snap onto Taylor’s wrist.  I know the next moves.  I have used them myself.  Daddy has spun Taylor around, to face away from my father then clamped the other wrist with a cuff.  This is followed by a swift kick of his feet so he looses balance and ends up face down on the pavement with my father’s foot in his back.  I would have loved to see the look on Mr. Head of Security at GEH’s face as it all occurred.

I never turned around.  Then, I heard footsteps and saw my brothers’ eyes grow wide.  No need to fret, it’s just Granddad.  I wonder what he wants.  I told him I would handle Christian should he decide to attend this meeting.  These men are getting on my nerves.

I wonder, do they make pills to counteract testosterone surges?  These guys could do with a monthly dose.  Pissing contests be damned.

“Good evening Love.  How was the meeting?”  Really Granddad?  He’s so sweet sounding I want to bark laughing, but instead I turn around and smile brightly.

“Good evening Daddy, Granddad, what on Earth brings you out this evening?  Surely not this.”  I point at the now prone figure on the pavement beneath me.

“No Love”, Granddad smiles.  “You know why we are here.  Judging by the present company,” he looks down at Taylor and raises a brow, “I take it all was for naught.”  I nod.  “Pity.” He shakes his head as he gazes down at the silent victim on the ground.

By now, all of the Browns have converged on Mr. Jason Taylor who has been extremely quiet throughout this exchange.  Wise choice Taylor.  It would’ve been nice to see him run that arrogant yap of his though.  I would’ve loved to see the show.  Daddy makes doling out a good old-fashioned ass kicking look effortless.

“Mr. Taylor” my granddad has stepped forward, “I do not know what type of security you are used to, but things are very different here.  Do not approach my relatives in a hostile manner ever again.  We have no issue with you or your employer and we do not appreciate your antagonism.  Do I make myself clear Mr. Taylor?”  This really is funny.  I won’t need to distress by the bay after this show.

Taylor simply nods, he doesn’t try to look up, but that’s enough for Granddad.  The toddler section always wants eye contact and verbal confirmation they were heard, but Granddad and Daddy drilled into my head when there is no need for noise, don’t make any.  Taylor gets it.

Daddy and Granddad each kiss my forehead goodbye then, I get in my car and drive away.


Since her arrival, Christian and Anastasia have been all over Townsville.  They even took time out to go to Magnetic Island, the National Park there is wonderful.  I’m hopeful she’ll stay here for a good while.  She really is good for him.

Naturally, I’ve maintained my distance from them both and radio silence from Christian.  I saw Christian at the coffee shop the other day and made sure to keep walking past.  I shake my head and tell myself, “Sorry Love, my job is almost finished” I can only hope I still have a friend when this is all over.

Once I let him know the sordid tale then I’m sure he and Anastasia will be on their way back to Seattle.  I’ll miss him.  I wish I had met Anastasia.  She seems like a beautiful woman and I’m very glad she came here of her own accord.  He really needed her.  It’s wonderful to see him smile.  I mean truly smile, from his heart.  He looks so young and carefree.

Striking resemblance.

Family trait.

I didn’t want to do any of this in public.  I’ll invite them to the family home for brunch after the beach party and we can take it from there.  The three blind mice should still be out whoring around town so the timing can’t be better.  Granddad will sit his grandsons down when we’ve finished our conversation with Christian and deal with those fireworks later.  This is going to be an interesting weekend.

GREY

I wake up to the most wonderful feeling in the world.  Ana and I are spooning in bed.  My hands are on her firm breasts kneading them gently and occasionally pinching her nipples.  With each pinch, she wiggles her beautiful ass against my cock making me smile in anticipation.

I move to lick the shell of her ear before whispering, “Mmm, Miss Steele, good morning.  Did you sleep well?”  She doesn’t nod and she does not open her eyes, but I can see her smile.  I pull her closer to me, put my hand on her stomach, to hold her in place then grind my dick on her bare ass.  While she moans her appreciation, I trail kisses from her ear down her neck to her shoulder then back again, ending at that delightful spot behind her ear.

I can’t keep my hands off of her body.  One hand is still squeezing her breast and pinching her nipple while the other moves down from her stomach to her waist, over her hip to the back of her thigh.  I push her top leg forward and slide my cock into the crevice between her ass and her lovely folds.  Back and forth, back and forth, of course my baby is wet and ready for me and I love the feel of her juices spreading over my throbbing cock.  She feels too good not to fuck.  With no preamble, I slide quickly and quietly into her holding myself still for a moment; she grinds against me again making me gasp.  “Ah…Baby…that feels…ah…I can’t take…ah, yeah Baby just like that.  Don’t stop.”

She still doesn’t open her eyes, but makes a primal sound deep in her throat while following my command.  Holding myself up on my arms is almost impossible.  My head falls forward and I begin kissing her bicep, her shoulder then around to her pert nipple that’s standing all alone waiting for my lips, my tongue, my teeth.  I won’t thrust into her…yet.  I want to enjoy her grinding on me while I stay firmly in place.  I lave her nipple with my tongue then suck…hard.  “Oh Christian, I’ve missed you” that’s my cue.  I sit up and pull her onto my lap, her back to my front.

My hands resume their original task of fondling her beautiful breasts and pinching her taunt nipples, while I kiss her neck.  I begin to thrust into harder and harder, wrapping my arms around her waist and hold her tightly to me.  She gasps loudly and throws her head back against my shoulder.  Her long dark hair cascades down my back and sends a rush through me.  I bite down on the skin of Ana’s ivory neck and thrust into her again and again and again.  She pants, “Ahh, Christian!”

I slow myself down and slowly slide my cock back out of her while I whisper in her ear, “You like, my Sweet?  There’s more. There’s always more for you.”  When she nods, I slam back into her holding her in place on my lap.  I whisper again, “More baby?  Do you want more of me?”  Unable to speak, she nods quickly and grinds that fabulous ass against my pelvis.  It feels like we could go on forever.

Then, I feel it.  Her pussy begins to pulse and tighten more around me, squeezing me, holding me inside of her, begging me to go on.  “NO Anastasia, not yet!”  I want more of her.

I slowly pull out, turn her over and lay her down on her back on the bed.  As I lay on top of her, she wraps her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist.  We kiss deeply, as if our lives depend on one another.  Her tongue tastes sweet and her lips are plump and soft and delicious.  “I love you Anastasia.  I only ever loved you.”

“And I you Christian.  I have missed you so much.  You mean the world to me.  I’ll never let anything come between us again.”  I groan at her words and slowly slide into her heavenly core again.  She’s so soft and warm and drenching wet, all for me.   She’s mine.  She’ll always be mine.  That thought causes my dick to grow harder and my balls begin to tighten.

Her legs loosen their hold on my waist and I slide my elbows underneath her knees and shrug her legs up onto my shoulders.  I rise up on my arms and sink deeper into her.  “Oh God Ana.  Yes Baby, fuck me…that’s right, grind on me just like that Baby.  Oh fffuuuccckkk…yeeesss!”

As I pump into her I can feel her getting wetter and wetter.  Soon, I can feel her sweat mix with mine and feel her juices run down my stomach.  “Do not stop Christian.  Faster Christian… faster…harder Christian…yyyeeesss.  That’s right.  Just like that.  That’s the spot.  Keep it right there.  Oh SHIT!”

I love when she tells me exactly what she wants.  Her wish is my command.  I thrust harder and she meets me stoke for stroke.  I feel her hands on my ass, pushing me balls deep into her.  “Deeper Baby, deeper…feel all of me Baby…more Ana, gimme more.”  I say in her ear.

Her legs locked around my neck, her nails digging into my ass and I am ramming into her with everything I have.  Then, I feel it again.  Her walls start to tremble around my cock.  When my dick twitches in response it becomes a challenge.  How much longer can she last?  How much longer can I last?

“Open your eyes Anastasia, I have to see you Baby.  Look at me Ana.  She opens her beautiful blues that are now almost black, dilated from pure lust.  We stare into each other’s eyes almost unseeing, like two wild animals in heat.  Finally, we say those magic words in unison, “Come for me Baby!”  The feeling is intense, very intense.  Her back rises off of the bed, pushing her breasts into my chest.  Her mouth falls open soundlessly.  I grit my teeth and clinch my jaw.  My cock explodes pouring hot streams of my seed deep into her.  I see stars and flashes of light then…darkness.

I open my eyes to her showering me with kisses and holding me tightly against her.  “I can never tell you how much I love you Christian.”  She whispers to me.  “I can never tell you how sorry I am for pushing you away.”

I raise my head and look straight into her baby blues.  “Ana, Baby, you’re here, I’m here and that’s all that matters.  We still have some things to talk about, but as long as we have each other, everything will be fine.  No need to apologize anymore Baby.  I’m not going anywhere without you.”  I smile as brightly as I can, hoping to dispel her insecurities.

I only ever need my Ana.


“Baby, what would you like to do today?  Remember, we have the beach party this evening so we can just hang out around here unless you have your heart set on going somewhere.”  I love how effortless things are here.  No calling ahead to check a venue, no closing down stores so she can shop, which she rarely does anyway.  Simply put, nothing over the top.

“Don’t you have to get with Taylor and arrange for us to go out?”  She looks surprised when I shake my head no.

“Nope,” I pop my ‘p’, “just get up and go.  I told you, no one knows us here and even if they do, they don’t give a fuck.  It’s been like this since I set foot in Townsville.  I almost feel invisible here.  Like nothing and no one could touch me even if they wanted.  No women batting their eyelashes or drooling as I pick my nose, no one stuttering when they try to answer my question and no one staring as if I had two heads and a tail on backward.”  It was strange to me at first, almost unnerving, but once I began to relax I forgot security was not around.

She walks over and puts her arms around my neck, “In that case, I would like a tour of the new GEH office.”

“That is a given, but not today.  No work, remember?”  She nods.  “If there’s nowhere else you want to go, then we can lounge about until the party.”

She pokes her bottom lip out in an oh so cute little pout.  I love it.  “Well, then we can always talk.”

OH FUCK!  Talking, again…REALLY?  Doesn’t that shit ever get old to her?

I flop down on the couch, cover my face with my hands and sigh deeply, resigned to my fate.  “Can we at least talk about sex?”  I peek out at her with a hopeful expression, only to see Ana shaking her head no emphatically.  “Dammit.”

“What was that Mr. Grey?  I don’t believe I heard you.  Would you repeat that last statement please?”  I don’t know what she is playing at but I am not falling so easily.

“Smart-ass.”  I mumble, “What shall we talk about then Dear?”  I say as sweetly as I can.

“Well, let’s see” she taps her finger against her bottom lip and I have visions of licking her there instead “…there’s your family, your return to Seattle, the wedding and that letter.”

Oh shit, I forgot.  “The letter, where is it?”  I begin to retrace our steps to the bedroom.  I don’t remember where we laid the damn thing.  “Where did you lay it Ana?  We need to see whom it’s from.”

“Christian!”  I immediately halt my search.

“Let’s take these things in the order of importance, ok?”  I nod slowly with a stunned look on my face I’m certain.

I didn’t realize there was an agenda for this meeting.

“Good…your family.  Have you called them lately?”  She’s standing with her arms crossed over her chest, leaning against the bedroom door jam.

Why does she look so fucking sexy?

Down boy, remember, we’re talking?

FUCK!, Alright have it her way, but make this shit quick…I’ve got other plans.

I ignore him and respond to Ana, “I talk with Carrick weekly and Grace every two weeks.  Tomorrow night will be their joint call.  You’re more than welcome to join in the interrogation.”  I grumble like a sulky teenager, but I don’t care.  I’m a fucking, grown-ass man who has to call Mommy and Daddy on a regular basis.  Why?  I didn’t talk to them this much when I was away at Harvard.

“That’s a good idea and please, loose the tude.  They care about you and miss you terribly.”  I don’t comment.

Good boy.  Hold your tongue Grey.

“Now, how about Seattle?  When do you plan on going back?”  I look at her astonished.  She’s really serious about this going back to Seattle thing.

Who in the fuck said we wanted to go back to that Hellhole?  That place is the definition of trouble anymore.  That old sack of shit bitch is there and she won’t leave us alone.  Why would we go back to the doom and gloom of Seattle when we have sea, sun and splendor all around us right here?

I have to be honest, “Ana,” I can feel the sweat forming on my brow, “uh, honestly, I don’t know that I ever want to return to Seattle permanently.  I know I’ll have to go there on business, but to live…well, I can’t say.  Other than you and my family, there’s only stress, strain and heartache in Seattle.

“I know I made the art of tolerating my lifestyle look easy, but…I like my newfound freedom.  I like not having security looking over my shoulder.  I like people nodding hello and continuing on their way.  No one gives me a second glance here.  It’s fucking fabulous!  You, of all people, should appreciate those sentiments.”  Based on her look of astonishment, I guess the answer is no.

“Baby, why would I go back to that?  Can’t you feel the difference between Townsville and Seattle?  It’s in the air, the sun and the water.  You can even feel it in the sand under your feet.  I don’t want to go back to Seattle; not right now at least.”

She shakes her head and takes on the tone of a parent trying to reason with a small child. “Christian, you can’t stay here.  What about me, about us?  I can’t move to Australia.  I have a job that I love.  How can you ask me to walk away from that?”

Oh not this shit again.  Where’s that hole we wanted to crawl into?  Can the Earth open up and swallow us now…please?

I slowly approach her with a weary look on my face.  “Ana, stop, Baby please, stop.  I don’t know how we’ll deal with your job and my living in Australia.  If you really don’t want to move here, unless I want to live the reminder of my days without you, which I don’t, then I’ll have to go back to Seattle.”  That response didn’t seem to appease her though.

What the fuck else does she want?  We’re willing to walk away from peace and solitude and she still looks pissy.

“Ana, you want honesty right Baby? “  She nods.

“Ana, in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to go back to Seattle.  I’m not trying to be mean, I’m not trying to pressure you and I’m definitely not trying to control you.  I only know that for my own peace of mind, I can’t go back there, I just can’t.”  Here’s our crossroad.  I’m going to lose her for sure now.  There’s no way in Hell she’ll move around the world for me and I can’t expect her to.  I don’t expect her to.  By the same token, she can’t expect me to be unhappy either.  Realistically, she can’t demand I go back there.

I put my arms around her waist and gently pull my Angel to me.  “Ana, Baby, say something.  Yell, scream, hit me just say or do something, please.”  When she looks up at me there is a lone tear sliding down her cheek and she shakes her head.  “Silence speaks volumes Baby.”  I kiss her forehead then rest my forehead on hers.  “Silence speaks volumes.”

There was no need to take our conversation any further. She didn’t say it but I suspect Ana will be returning to Seattle. I’m trying to stay positive and focus on right now, but she’s getting more and more distant as the minutes pass.

I am sending Jason and Gail back to Seattle tomorrow. To my surprise, neither of them is thrilled about the idea. What is it with these people? Had I dictated we all traipse over here I’d never have heard the end of it. As it stands, they can come and go as they damn well please and everyone has a fucking attitude. THIS IS WHY I like control.

I find Taylor sitting at the breakfast bar talking with Mrs. Jones. “Jason.” He sits straight up when he hears my voice. “At ease Jason.” I smile at the confusion on his face. When I glace over at Gail, she’s smiling too.

“I wanted to let you and Gail know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you like, provided security in Seattle is under control. Otherwise, you two can go back to the US tonight or tomorrow if you wish. Just let me know your decision.” The look of shock is clear on their faces. They look at each other then back to me.

Is something wrong?

I’m sure I have a confused look on my face, so Taylor speaks up “Mr. Grey…um…sir. I guess this is my mistake. I expected once you and Miss Steele reconciled we would all return to Seattle.” I have seen surprise on Jason’s face before, but never to this degree.

“Well, Miss Steele may very well be going back to Seattle too. She hasn’t told me her decision. I, however, am not going back. I can’t Jason.” I can feel my heart beat hard every time I say the words out loud. I’m going to loose her. She’ll go back to Seattle and forget all about me, not that I cam blame her. I’ll never love anyone else, ever. I take a deep breath and give them a tight smile.

Jason stands up ramrod straight and asks, “Mr. Grey, may we speak in your office please sir?” Wary of this discussion, I nod my head and motion for him to lead the way. I glance back at Gail and give her a questioning look. She shrugs her shoulders and mouths ‘I have no idea what he wants’ then walks away.

Dear God, what’s happened now? Seattle brings out the worst in my life and now these people want me to go back there. Why?

When I reach my study, I see Jason Taylor standing at attention in the middle of the room. I want to laugh, but I maintain my composure and close the door. I stand in front of him, not nose-to-nose but almost as close, and look him dead in the eye. I’m more than a few inches taller than Taylor. Elliott always laughed about Taylor guarding me because when we were kids I used to kick guys like Taylor’s ass on a regular basis. I’m not saying Taylor is some scrawny little man, not by any means, but standing here like this I see what Elliott means.

“Yes Taylor, how may I help you?” I’m trying not to smile, but this shit is just too funny. I told Taylor things are different here, although I appreciate his respect of our employer-employee relationship, his stick up the ass demeanor is over the top.

“Sir, this is about an encounter I had following the event committee meeting.”

“Wednesday night!” He nods. “What the fuck happened and why did you wait until now to discuss this? What’s going on Taylor?” I’m dazed and aggravated that he didn’t tell me about any problems he had that evening. I didn’t see him when he returned that night. Ana and I were in the Jacuzzi enjoying each other’s company. That’s why I asked Jason to deliver the final report. Had I known there would be some bullshit going on I would’ve dealt with the shit myself.

He still hasn’t said anything. He’s just staring me in the eye, when it hits me, “THE BROWNS!” I growl through clenched teeth. He nods again. “THOSE FUCKERS! What did they do Taylor?” I don’t know what the fuck those bastards issue is with me. I haven’t had any business dealings with them and we haven’t clashed personally. Their sister, father and grandfather have been most respectful. They seemed concerned about me as well as helping me resolve the issue of The Interference in my life. It’s another reason I feel at ease here. In my mind, if I need assistance with anything I can ask either or both of the senior Browns. It’s almost as good as having Carrick here himself.

“I’m waiting Taylor and you know I’m not a patient man.” He appears to be torn up about something. “Come on Taylor, you called me in here. What the fuck happened?”

“I approached Miss Brown after the meeting…”

“WHAT!?” I cut him off. “Why on Earth would you bother Ella?” I haven’t seen her since Ana arrived. I wanted to introduce them, but she hasn’t been around. We don’t have one another’s phone numbers and I don’t feel comfortable just showing up at her family home unannounced.

“Why Taylor?” He takes a deep steadying breath. This is bad. This is really bad…I can feel it.

Without blinking an eye he says, “I advised Miss Brown to cease and desist her contact with you.”

HE DID WHAT!?

He nods his head and continues, still standing at full attention. “I advised Miss Brown that Miss Steele is in your life and I made it clear she should not interfere with your relationship.” Well, he’s protecting Ana. I can’t blame him for doing that. He’s concerned for her happiness and I’m not mad that he is. Who wouldn’t be, but Ella couldn’t give a rat’s ass in a rainstorm about me. I don’t know how many times I have to explain this to him. Is it such an oddity for a man and woman to be friends? Or is he protecting Ella as well. Am I so abhorrent he feels the need to guard her against me?

“Taylor…” I don’t know how to verbalize this without starting a pissing downpour. “What happened next?” Let’s get this all out before I suffer an aneurysm.

Seems to be the new theme in our life now, right Grey?

No shit Sherlock. I wonder why?

“Permission to speak freely sir?” I am so fucking sick of that question. I nod and wave my hand dismissively. If this helps Taylor relax enough to give me the full fucking story then so be it. I sit on the edge of my desk like a little kid listening while Uncle Taylor spins a yarn.

“Like I said, I told Miss Brown…” Again he hisses her name as if she were some loathsome creature.

I hold up my hand. “Taylor, like her or not, she’s been a friend to me. She’s done nothing wrong at this point so please, stop belittling her name.”

His face turns a deep shade of red as he continues, practically yelling, “I told that gold-digging whore to stay away from you! I told her you have a wonderful woman in your life and the last thing you need is her sniffing behind you!”

OH MY FUCKING GOD NO! DEEP, DEEP ,DEEP BREATH GREY! He’s just protecting Anastasia. This is what you pay him to do. He hasn’t spent any time around Ell. And think about it, she showed him and Welch up with her security checks and photographic memory. Do NOT get pissy with this man Grey. Don’t fucking do it.

It’s taking EVERYTHING…and I do mean EVERYTHING not to jump on this mutherfucker right now. I can’t explain why, but that little girl is like family to me and I’m every letter in the words PISSED TO THE GILLS right now. I take that deep breath before thinking about opening my mouth, but my thoughts are still scattered. All I can see is red.

You only get this way about Mia Grey. What is it about Ella that gets you riled up?

I have no fucking idea. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t have to give a shit about me, but she does. No offense to Gail and Jason, but no one, other than Ana and my family, has ever taken a genuine interest in my happiness without being paid or gifted in some way.

“Taylor,” I have to whisper this or I’ll break the fucking windows bellowing at him, “what, if anything, happened next?” Dear God in Heaven let that be the end of the conversation. I can hear Ella chewing his ass out now. Please let that be the end of it.

You and I both Ninja Girl can’t stand Taylor. So fuck yeah there’s more. You’re gonna have to school Mr. Taylor in Ella Brown 101.

“I approached Miss Brown and placed my hand on her shoulder. My intention was to force her to face me…”

My eyes widen in shock and I interrupt him again, “DO YOU KNOW THAT WOMAN IS A MMA FIGHTER?! And I don’t mean just a little rolling around on the floor. Taylor, I mean Sprawl-and-brawl, Clinch fighting, Ground-and-pound and Submission grappling.” His eyes widen as well at the list of things Ella can do. I haven’t mentioned her tussling with things in the sea.

Keep that to yourself Grey.

“Taylor, just like you don’t underestimate Ana, do NOT underestimate Ella Brown. She has skills you and I have never indulged in. Her father and grandfather are even worse.” Ever so slowly the blood drains from his face leaving him whiter than snow.

THAT got him. I bet her old man got hold of Taylor.

I nod my head and he shakes his in astonishment.

“That explains it then.” He remarks. I hang my head. These people will tie him up, carve him up and feed him to the fish in the local aquarium. No need to get a boat and go out to sea. The fact that he made it home is a testament to Ella’s father and/or grandfather’s civility.

I wave my hand again, “Go on Taylor.” I can’t raise my head to look at him. They scared the shit out of him. I know they did.

“A man approached me from behind and offered a handshake…” My head snaps up and I hold up my hand again.

“I am going to make this easy on you Taylor. Was the voice pleasant and smooth sounding?” He nods yes.

Yep, that’s her father.

“Did you turn around to shake his hand?” Yes again.

Wrong move Jason.

“Did he look a Hell of a lot like me?” He nods yes once more.

Bingo!

Ella did this move on me and I was so fucking insulted, I didn’t speak to her for days afterwards and it didn’t seem to bother her at all. After a committee meeting, she cussed me out when I tried to confront her about the shit then she had me apologizing for something I still don’t know what I did.

Hee,hee, hee…She had you apologizing for being an arrogant schmuck. Oh what a funny day that was. Little Miss Spitfire’s a HOOT!

Cool it asshole.

Whateva, you still got taken down by a LITTLE girl.

“Did the gentleman cuff you, take you down and put a foot in your back?”

Don’t laugh at him Grey. You remember how embarrassed and pissed you were. At least he was subdued by a grown man not one of the Lollipop Kids.

I don’t give a fuck if you call her Tinker Bell the shit’s still funny to me. Big Bad Jason Taylor jacked up by a lowly Townsville local. Seems I’m not the only arrogant schmuck in my life.

He gives a very small nod. It almost looks like he only blinked his eyes. I can’t hold it in anymore. The laugh starts deep in my chest then moves quickly to my stomach. When I see the look of indignance on his face, I fall back, rolling on the desk.

“Tay…Taylor. Her old man…was in Vietnam. He served in the air and on the ground. Her granddad…WOO, you should see your face. Her granddad served in World War Two in Europe…oh fuck, I can’t breathe…this is too much…mainly on the ground. WOW! Did you just turn green? HA HA HA…don’t hate mutherfucker. I sent you to deliver a simple report, not a warning. Oh…ok…lemme catch my breath.” As I wipe the tears from my eyes and struggle to catch my breath, I see I have clearly offended Jason.

I shake my head and walk over to him, “Jason, I’m not fucking around with Ella and she is NOT interested in me or my money. Like you, I didn’t do any research on her and I still haven’t and I don’t intend to.” His eyes widen again. I’m just full of surprises lately ain’t I?

“Taylor, I told you I met her family, they come from OLD money. Not rich…wealth. Not just billions. I mean mega-billions! They could crush me if they decided to. They‘re not recognized by Forbes and the other rag lists because they’re a private entity and have the right to stay under the radar if they so choose, which they do. I learned about EB, Pty while at Harvard so I have no question about its legitimacy.”

“I’m not interested in Ella and she’s not interested in me. She has grown to be a friend and her family, at least her father and grandfather, have proven themselves to be decent human beings. Her brothers are a bunch of spoiled, rich fuckers just like the ones I grew up with so there’s no love lost between us, but I know how to handle them regardless of how juvenile they may be.” Just thinking about those stupid bastards takes me back to high school and the fights I had in the locker rooms, the hallways and the classrooms. I sigh and continue.

“And I’ve learned, from the main three of the Brown clan, ‘they’re a bunch of sneaky fuckers’ so I highly recommend you watch your ass when it comes to them.” I raise an eyebrow to emphasize my point. He nods, but still seems troubled.

“What else Taylor? Please, speak up.”

“I cannot put my finger on it sir. Like you said, there is something shady about that crew and your disinterest in doing background checks is disturbing to me. You did a background check on Miss Steele the day you met her, but not this Ella Brown. Why not?” I think about this for a minute.

See, I told you, common theme.

Whatever. Shut up and think. Why didn’t we get a background check on her?

Do I have to remind you of everything?

…Maybe Welch can…

OH NO YOU DON’T, no stalking Grey! That’s a hard limit from this point forward. We’re done with that bullshit. She’s not looking for a job with you, ok. Background checks, stalking and monitoring are for work and the safety of loved ones ONLY. We turned over a new leaf remember? None of your bad habits or dirty tricks allowed.

So how do I know she’s not some little tramp looking to line her purse? I get background checks so I have information to protect myself, remember?

It’s what the general population calls ‘sticking your neck out’. Get used to it.

Ever consider she is wealthy in her own right? No, THAT never crossed your mind because, of course, you’re the only rich fucker on the planet. Look, if you don’t like people calling you arrogant and self-centered then stop being arrogant and self-centered.

“I didn’t see it as a necessity Taylor. I saw Ella in a park. We didn’t even speak. At first I seriously considered calling Welch and having him work his elfin magic to find out who she was, but I realized that’s how I’ve run my life for a long time and it doesn’t really protect me. If anything, it makes things worse.

When I finally did get up the nerve…yes, get up the nerve…to say hello to her, the situation quickly became a friendship. Talking to her I learned who she was and I realized there was no threat; unless I pissed her grandfather off and he came after GEH of course. So I never bothered with a background check. The Browns have become confidants, if you will, and I value their opinion.” That’s all there is to it, nothing outlandish, nothing sinister about it, sweet and simple.

“Now, I hope you and Gail will attend this evening’s event and I hope to introduce Ana to Ella.” I shake my head as the man goes pale again.

“Taylor, the only thing I have to worry about now is how to deal with the possibility that the woman I love may leave me… again. Anastasia hasn’t consented to staying in Australia and I have no intention of returning to the United States, permanently, for the foreseeable future.” He looks at me questioningly and I nod.

Speak up man.

“Sir, I know the young woman who came to Escala that night; she was distraught. It took all Gail could do to comfort her while Welch, Barney and I worked feverishly to find out what the fuck was preventing her from contacting you. There is no way she would leave.”

I smile weakly. “Taylor, sit down.” I proceed to go through the whole ridiculous tale about how I ended up in Townsville Australia. Beginning with her accepting my proposal to the day she showed up at the airport, just pertinent information of course.

“So you see Taylor, I cannot go back there. I feel like the weight of the world is off my shoulders here. As much as I would like for Ana, Gail and you to stay with me it is not fair to any of you. I know full well how important Ana’s career is to her and I knew this would be the issue.”

“Taylor, I am tired. I can’t explain how tired I am with people interfering in my life. I can’t make Ana happy because she feels trapped and stifled by me. When I’m in Seattle, I worry about her safety, not because I don’t trust her, but because I don’t trust the rest of the world, that she’s trying to live up to I might add.” She can’t see the distinction between the two for some reason. “Since I’ve been away, Sawyer’s protection seems to have been enough so it must be me.“

“Then there is Elena…” His hackles are raised now. I can see the steam jetting from the top of his head. “Yes I said it, the Bitch-Troll. Do I have to fight in the lobby of my building, foyer of my apartment, in the middle of a restaurant to keep that old sack of shit out of my life? How the fuck do I get rid of her?” I throw my hands up in frustration.

“Someone please tell me, how the fuck to I get rid of The Interference in our lives?”

Taylor and I just look at each other then down at the floor shaking our heads. There has to be a way to get free from her. There has to be.


[1] The Bowery Boys were fictional New York City characters, successors of the “The East Side Kids” who were the subject of feature films released by Monogram Pictures from 1946 through 1958.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 11 It’s Up To Me

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

Chapter 11 | It’s Up To Me

GREY

“TAYLOR!”  I yell from the foyer as Ella and I burst into the house.

“Yes sir.”  Taylor appears with his hand on the gun I didn’t know he had with him.

Something ELSE to discuss with dear ‘ole Taylor.

I ignore him re-holstering his gun and make introductions as we enter the living room.  “Jason Taylor, this is Ella Brown.  Ella this is Taylor, he’s my Head of Security.”

He takes his hand off his weapon then says “Ma’am.”  And gives a curt little nods, but he doesn’t accept her proffered hand.  I’m actually stunned.  Professional Taylor is nothing new, but this guy is someone I’ve never met. 

Down Jason, she’s not the enemy. 

I know he and Gail are fiercely loyal to Ana, but we’ve discussed Ella is detail so I don’t get it.

“Taylor, Miss Brown has information about the breach in Miss Steele’s computer.”

He raises an eyebrow and says, “Oh she does?  Pray tell Miss Brown?”  What is with the attitude Taylor?  She is here to help Ana as well.

“Taylor, Miss Brown is here to HELP us.  She’s not here to take over and she’s not here to be looked down upon.  Just as easily as she can give her help she can take it away.  So please, lose the ‘tude’, ok?”  I don’t want to scold a grown man, but this shit is totally out of character for him and it’s gotten on my last fucking nerve.  These people need to learn about me.  They say they care then why the fuck do I feel like they want to keep my locked away from anyone and everyone except Ana.  Am I not to be trusted around other people?

Easy Grey.  We need to get through one situation at a time.  Right now, it’s about Ana and her not being able to contact you.  Stick with me here.  You can light into his shit another time.  Right now, focus.

Fine, but later he gets it.

Fair enough.

He looks offended, but right this fucking second I don’t give a rat’s ass.  Just get this shit sorted out.

“Miss Brown, what information do you have?”  His tone is dry, his face is set on impassive and his behavior is deplorable.  I’m fucking embarrassed to call him my employee right now.

Ella goes into her monologue about Isaac, his abilities with technology specifically computer hacking.  “But that means he would have to be in the area of Miss Steele’s apartment in order to access her Internet signal.  Are you proposing he sat on her porch while he did all of this?”  She looks up slowly and I see it is the same look she gave her brothers as she reminded them of her ninja capabilities.

“Mr. Taylor is it?”  Taylor nods.

“First, I do not intend to be spoken to that way.  Second, if you do not want my information then I will gladly piss off and save my oxygen for the next time I dry heave, the choice is yours.  Third, I suspect by your obvious military training you learned how to spot bullshit at a thousand yards; therefore, based on your snide remarks, curt tone and overall chauvinistic behavior I must have hit the mark and your pride is sore.  To prevent you any further discomfort, you can grovel to me when you need more information.  Oh and I suggest you upgrade your search tactics and contact lists.”  She quips.

‘I suggest you upgrade you search tactics and contact lists.’  That remark took him for a loop.  He just stands there.

“Good evening…’gentlemen’.”  Ella nods her head quickly then marches out of the room.

What the fuck is the deal?  “Ella, wait!”  I glare at Taylor.  This woman has information we need.  Fuck his pride and mine too.  I reach her as she’s putter her hand on the doorknob, “Ella, please do not leave.  We need your help.  I need your help.  Forget about the male egos and just tell us what you know so we can get this shit fixed.”

“Love, I can out investigate him,” she motions over her shoulder at Taylor, “with instructions from a box of Cracker Jacks and tips from a Nancy Drew mystery.  If you want this sorted out, we Browns will sort it out, but that arrogant fucker won’t be involved.  Like I told you, my grandfather will be the only point of contact and his investigators do…not…fail.  Meet me at the family home tomorrow evening after work.  I’ll introduce you to two of the most civilized gentlemen in this solar system and we’ll take care of ‘the interference’.  See you then Love.”  And out she goes.

I return to the living room, tired, pissed and embarrassed.  What the fuck is Taylor’s issue?  “TAYLOR!”  I bark.  This is bullshit.  Taylor is always the epitome of professionalism no matter what the situation.  He always listens if for no other reason than to point out the inadequacies in the information he received.  This time, he didn’t even hear what the information was.

“Yes sir.”  He can snarl all he wants, we need her help.

“What the fuck is your problem?  She’s here to help.  She’s on our side, MY side, in all of this.  What the fuck gives?”

“Welch and I will gladly review whatever documentation Miss Br…”

“She doesn’t keep documentation Taylor.  She has a photographic memory.  She read the information herself and committed it to memory.  Is there a problem with that?”

Unfazed by my statement he says, “Mr. Grey, how much do you know about Miss Brown?  Who is she?  What does she want from you?  Is she asking for…”

I cut him off.  I know he of all people didn’t just say that.  He is constantly telling me to lighten up about people being after my money.  “PAY?  Is she asking for money?  Is that what you want to know Taylor?”

“Have either you or Welch ever heard of EB, Pty?”  He looks at me with a blank expression, but I know that look.  He has no fucking idea who or what I’m talking about.  “I thought not.  EB Pty is THE largest and most powerful unlimited proprietary company in the southern hemisphere.  EB Pty is what I fantasize GEH becoming one day.  Miss Brown has access to more money than I do in my wildest, wettest dream.  She gives a fuck about me, as a friend, almost family, and my happiness not my money.”  She alone, right this second is worth more than I am and she has not worked a significant job a day in her life yet.

I’m so fucking tired of bullshit.  I can’t deal with him anymore tonight.  “Good night Taylor.”  I do not wait for a response.  I march to my room, slam the door and let out a sigh of frustration.  God, please let Ella help me, please.


Hello Pet, are you not glad to hear from your Mistress?  You disappointed me, again, my beautiful Pet.  You were my favorite, but if you continue to disrespect me you will fall out of my favor.  Do you understand Pet?  I’m in her dungeon.  She has me strapped, naked, to the cold bare stone wall.  I’m blindfolded.  Her voice seems to come from everywhere around me; the sound pierces my brain and has me on high alert.  She’s never sounded this frigid and calculating before.

NO!  Go away…leave me alone…you hurt me…you’re bad, you’re mean…my voice sounds high, loud and very afraid.

Hush, hush Pet, I saved you.  I saved you from yourself.  I showed you the error of your ways and put you on the path to success.  Everything you have is because of me.  I own all of your happiness Pet.  Do not forget that.  Her cold hand is stroking my face and then my neck.  She stops at my collarbone.  She intended to touch my chest.

NO!  Go away…leave me alone…you hurt me…you didn’t love me…all I feel is pain and despair and hate; it’s seeping into my soul.  Where the fuck am I?  I can’t see anything and I only hear her voice.

LOVE IS FOR FOOLS PET!  How many times do I have to tell you that?  Love is for the weak.  Love is messy and a waste of time.  It is more trouble than it is worth Pet.  Strength, dominance and control are the only characteristics worth developing, worth having.  Only these abilities lead to success and with success these skills are honed.

NO!  Go away…leave me alone…I need love…I need friends, I need family…I feel myself getting weak.  It’s as if my life’s energy is being drained from my body the longer I’m here…wherever here is.

It is that submissive who turned you against me, that mousey, little, gold digging submissive.  You trust her, you believe her instead of your Mistress?  It angers me Pet.

I don’t have a submissive!  I have Ana and you can’t keep us apart.  I love Ana and she loves me.  Ana will be here.  Ana will help me.  Ana will save me from you.  ANA!  HELP ME ANA!  ANA!  Where is she?  Where is my Ana?  I need her help.  Only she can lead me out of this darkness.  I need her.  I need her light.

HA!  You sound pathetic Pet.  You sound like a fool.  “Ana will help me…Ana loves me…boo, hoo, hoo.  Poor Christian, he needs HIS Ana to protect him.  HA!  As she mocks me, I feel myself getting weaker.  I feel myself giving up.   Ana, where are you?

She will take all of your money, she will leave you with nothing and you will come crawling back to me.  I WILL have you again.  DO YOU HEAR ME PET?  I WILL HAVE YOU AGAIN!  YOU…ARE…MINE!

NO!  NO!  ANA!  ANA HELP ME!  The darkness.  Darkness is surrounding me.  I can’t breath.  I can’t move.  I feel the darkness taking over me.  How did I get here?  How do I get out of this place?  ANA, PLEASE HELP ME!!!

I bolt straight up in bed, sweating profusely, my hear racing and I can’t catch my breath.  I find myself tangled in the bed sheets.  It was as if I was fighting to get free.

BITCH!


As I wait for Ella to arrive, I have enough time for a quick call to the States and because the noise level is just the right decibel, I don’t sound out of place when I yell, “WELCH!  Fucking forget about it, Miss Brown is point on this.  If you want to be involved you and Taylor will have to kiss her ass and see what she tells you” then I slam the phone down.

I cussed Welch and Taylor out for hours.  I’ll let Ella, her grandfather and her father handle this one…end of.  She has the intel and better, more reliable resources.  I may not be a fucking genius but I’m not a fool either.  I know when I’m at my limit and I know to turn to the experts when it’s necessary.  Compared to the Browns, Taylor and Welch are nothing.

“Hello Love.  Waiting for me are you?”  She came sauntering over in her slim black pencil skirt, fitted white button up blouse, matching black suit jacket and a pair of black, soft tanned leather, sky-high fuck me Manolo Blahnik’s, her signature shoe.

Hmm, never considered them, huh Grey?

I guess she had interviews today.

Those shoes aren’t included in the ‘What to Wear to an Interview Handbook’ are they?

No comment.  She asked me to meet her at the coffee shop after I was done at Grey House this evening.  We are going to meet with her father and grandfather about what is now affectionately being referred to as ‘The Interference’.

“Why yes Miss Brown, I’m waiting for you.  Did you have interviews today?”  She nods yes.  “How’d they go?”

“I believe I’ll get a position with one of the local aquariums which is a good start.  I have to make my mark somehow.”  I frown at that statement.  She sounds like Ana.

“Don’t frown Love.  People know my name, my face and my family.  That means I have to work harder to prove I’m not a slacker.  My grandfather would have my ass about that.  Even I recognize that what you know allows you to capitalize on who you know.”

“Too many rich kids think their family name will take them to the top.  The only thing my family name does is open the door.  It’s up to me to step through, barge in or barely skid by on my ass.  I’m not pushy, I’m independent and will fight, but I won’t shit on the hand that feeds me.  I prefer to step in like a lamb and work like a lion.  The world will look at me because I am Ella Brown.  The world will pay attention to me because Ella Brown knows what the fuck she’s talking about.”  She ends with a curt nod of her head.

Do I dare tell Ana she needs to talk with Ella.

Hold off Grey.  Let’s get Steele here and be sure you still have a fiancée first, ok?

“Now, let’s settle this ‘interference’ of yours so you and Anastasia will be together, happily ever after.”  She smiles brightly, takes my hand and pulls me out of the coffee shop.


The Brown Family home is not far from my own.  As we step into the foyer Ella yells, “Dad, Granddad are you home?”  She sounds like a kid coming home from school.  It makes me smile.

“Ellie, we are in the study.  Is he with you?”  A deep voice booms back to her.  HE?  Damn, am I in trouble or something

“Yeah, and you just scared him.”  She giggles at the look on my face.  Then, if it is possible her smile just got bigger and she winked at me.  All I can do is shake my head.

She is too much.

“Smart boy.  Bring him in here.”  We enter the study and I freeze.  Her father and grandfather are both my height with the signature square jaw line and almond-shaped eyes, only they both have curly, light auburn hair and grey eyes.  The gentlemen smile broadly and motion for me to enter the room.  I’ve seen these men before.  Just like Ella, there’s something about them…I KNOW I’VE SEEN THEM BEFORE.

“Nice to meet you Mr. Grey,” the younger of the two men steps forward and shakes my hand, strong but still friendly “I am Ellie’s father Emmett Brown and this” he motions to the older gentleman behind the large oak desk “is my father Edward Brown.”

The senior Mr. Brown simply nods and says, “We are pleased to meet you Mr. Grey.  Our Ellie regards you highly.  That is not something we take lightly.  Ellie is a superb judge of character.  Consider yourself privileged.”

I look to my left at Ella, who is dramatically rolling her eyes.  “Thank you both for helping me Mr. Brown, Mr. Brown.  Ella has been a wonderful friend to me since I came to Townsville.  I respect her and value her opinion.”  The men exchange a glance then Ella and her father leave me alone with the patriarch of the family.

Mr. Brown moves forward in his chair then says “May I call you Christian?”

“Certainly Mr. Brown.”  As much as I won’t admit it to anyone outside of this room, the fact that this man is speaking with me about any issue, especially a non-business issue is an honor.

“Call me Edward.  Christian, I do not mince words and I do not care if I step on toes.  If you are thin-skinned, you will need to leave now and I will handle this matter according to Ella’s recommendations.  She can play liaison.”

We look each other directly in the eyes, neither of us blinking.  After a long pause he continues, “Good man.  Ella is quite taken with you.  She is never taken with anyone or anything.  She is very analytical and can be lockstep at times, but she is never emotional.  It will make her a formidable CEO when her time comes. Make no mistake, she WILL do as I say and she KNOWS it.”

Note to self, GEH needs to stay in good graces with EB, Pty.  We KNOW first hand how off the chain ‘Ninja Girl’ can get.

“My granddaughter and I have a unique relationship.  No matter how much I love my son and grandsons, as it was with her aunt before her, my counsel with Ella is the final word on any and all business deals EB, Pty has had since the day she could follow the sound of my voice as an infant.”  What the fuck!  Is this old guy crazy?  “She has never steered me wrong.”

“The interference in your life has to go…period.  It cannot be controlled, it cannot be redirected and it cannot be contained.  Those options are not sufficient to garner the desired result for the appropriate amount of time…period.  Any questions, concerns or comments Mr. Grey?”

“No sir.”

“Good, this is what we know…” the Browns found out and confirmed, with one phone call, that Isaac canvassed the Pike Market area coffee shops as well as the actual market until he got close enough to catch the ISP signal for Kate and Ana’s apartment.  Why Kavanaugh’s father let her name the network ‘Laters_Babe’ is beyond me.  Anyone who has heard Elliott fart knows that is his signature shit.  Anyway, he got the signal and breached the network security.  Once there he had free reign.  So upon whoever’s request he cut Ana and my line of communication.

The ‘tainted text’ came from a disposable cellphone number, but Mr. Brown’s forensic technology investigators traced the shit all the way back to the store where the purchase was made. CCTV showed Isaac as the buyer.

Isaac has no reason to even blink in either my or Ana’s direction.  His Mistress is a different story.  Ultimately, we have who and we have how, why is the mystery; not really.  Mr. Brown asked if we needed “further assistance with ‘the interference’”.  I thanked him for all of his efforts and told him not at this time.  I asked if there was a change in the situation would he be available and he told me, “As long as my Ella says I should be available to you, then I will” on that note we shook hands and I left.

Ella was nowhere to be found as I made my way back to the foyer.  A sound in the darkness caught me off guard.  “Ahem, Christian.”  Shit!  The fucker scared me.  They are a sneaky bunch aren’t they?

It was Ella’s father.  “Yes Mr. Brown.”

“Emmett, please.  I wanted to thank you for befriending my little Ellie.  She has always been such a lonely child.  Our money and position were a hindrance to her having genuine friends when she was younger.  Ella is a mixture of her mother’s kind, caring nature, my sister’s innocence and intelligence and my own fire and stubbornness.  Ellie will give you the shoes off her feet then carry you to safety.  They do not make women like her anymore.”

“Her kindness has been taken for blindness in the past, so much so that she closed herself off to everyone, except my father and myself.  After her mother passed away and then my sister, Ellie became more introverted.  She was ‘lost’ behind her beautiful blue eyes.”  He shakes his head as if remembering a particular instance.

“Since she met you, she has come alive.  It is almost like she has a reason for living.  Her brothers are jealous of you and your relationship with Ellie.  They are older than her and were living their own lives when Ellie was…” He does not finish.  “Do not worry about them.  I believe she put them in their place at your last committee meeting.  They will not bother you again.”  He lowers his voice when he says, “She can be VERY persuasive.  We all worry that once your situation is righted, your friendship will end and the old Ellie will return.  It is a sad thought.  So forgive us our protectiveness of our princess.”  In his grey eyes, so much like my own, I see a fear for his daughter and her wellbeing.

“Mr. Brown, Ella has taught me a great deal and I value our friendship like no other.  I can proudly say that after my fiancée, Ella is my only friend.  I have been upfront, honest and by all means respectful of her.  I have nothing to gain by breaking her heart.  Somehow, she’s become family to me.”

Mr. Brown’s face softens and his eyes shine silver in the dim light of the foyer.  “It was good to meet you Christian.  We WILL raze ‘The Interference’ should you so desire.”  We shake hands again and he claps me hard on my shoulder.  Again, somewhere in my mind registers, I’ve seen this man before.  There’s a flash in my mind’s eye of a black and white photograph, but just a quickly as it appeared, it’s gone.

“It was good to meet you as well and thank you sir.”  Once out of the house, I look up to my left and see a tiny figure in a window.  I believe it is Ella, her long hair over her shoulder and her tiny hand waving to me.  I wave back then get in my car and leave.

When I get home, I don’t even bother with Taylor.  He and Welch have proven useless in this whole matter.  I eat whatever Gail set aside for me, shower, jump into my pajama pants and rush to the telephone like a love struck teenager.

Ring…Ring…”Christian?”

“Hey Baby, how are you?  Are you excited?  I cannot wait to see you.  You are going to love the house and my new GEH office.  I can’t wait to show you my study, and the TV room and the library and the bedroom…” I can’t help my run-on of questions and statements.  Just thinking of her here has me happy, relieved and horny as hell.  God, it has been SOOO long.  I feel myself start to tingle all over.

No way buddy, we’ve made it this long.  No hand jobs and no more cold showers.  Use some of that control of yours and relax.

I can’t help but rub my cock through my pajama pants as she speaks, “I get it Christian, I get it.  I have news for you, I can’t wait to show you my new pink lace bra and panty set and my green lace bra and panty set and what is under my lace bra and panty sets” then my baby giggles and my heart melts.

“God I can’t wait to be with you.”

DAMMIT GREY!  If you don’t get your hand off of me you will need a little blue pill when she get’s here!

I hear rustling in the background.  “You know you don’t have to pack right?  We can buy whatever you want when you get here.”

“Including a toothbrush?”

I smile at her question.  “I have a sneaking suspicion I can find a toothbrush for you on this side of the Equator Miss Steele.”

“Cool.  I’ll stop packing then.  Now, let me go to work so I can get done and get to you.  I love you Christian.”

“I love you too Baby.  I love you too.”  After we end the call I sigh deeply and look at my pajama pants.  Sorry fellas, I couldn’t help it.  You know?

We know and we’re pissed.  Don’t do that shit again or you’ll regret it.  Now start the DAMN shower.  SHIT!

STEELE

Ring…Ring…Ring…”Grey Enterprise Holdings, Incorporated, Ros Bailey speaking.”  She always has that raspy sound in her voice.  I have to remember that she is not angry about something.

“Hello Ros, this is Anastasia Steele from SIP.”  I hope she remembers me.

You are kidding me…right?

“Ana?  Hi, is there something wrong?”

Like she can forget the boss’ fiancée, even though you have been an ass to him.

“No, no, no I am fine. Everything here is fine.  I know this looks bad and I’m leap frogging over Mr. Roach’s head, but I want to let you know I’m leaving the country this even…” She stops me cold.  Oh no, here it comes.  This is why you don’t try to call in favors.

“Pause Steele.  It’s about fucking time one of you two stubborn bastards came to your senses.”  I didn’t know she felt like this.  “You, my dear, are just as bad, if not worse than Grey himself and that’s some accomplishment.  Go, you have my blessing.  Travel safe and tell him to get his ass back here.  I need a day off.”  She rasps out a deep laugh.

I can’t help laughing too, “Ros, you don’t know where I am going.”

“Don’t try that shit with me Steele.  You can only be going to Australia to see him so try again.”

“Thank you Ros.  I still have to tell Mr. Roach and I know he is going to have a fit.  He already mentioned…”

“The early meeting I called for all editors and their seconds on Monday morning?  That was good of him to follow my instructions and let you know.  However, YOU will not be able to attend because YOU had best still be out of the country.  What’s he going to do, come get you and drag you back to work?”  I can she her with an eyebrow raised when she asked that last question.

“I didn’t want to look like…” She cuts me off again.

“Pause Steele.  I’ve had enough of what you do and don’t want things to look like.  Are you sitting down?”

No but I will.  “Yes.”

“Good.  Besides Claire and Hanna, you are the ONLY hardworking member of the SIP ‘team’ and I use the term loosely.  Did you know that your name has either been moved to the bottom of or blatantly removed from individual and departmental reports?”  She says.

“Uh, no.”  What the fuck?  All the work I’ve done around here, the unpaid overtime, taking home other editors manuscripts to give them a second opinion and lets not mention all the fucking dirty looks I still get after all this time.  Those bastards are taking advantage of me and making me feel inadequate at the same time.  THOSE BASTARDS!

“I thought not.  I have to call Roach EVERY time he turns in a report and you’re not listed on it.  It usually takes him twelve to fifteen minutes to ‘find’ your documentation under the guise that you finished it late.  If he would look at the time/date stamp on the electronic signature he would see that I know differently.”

‘I went through some SIP historical records, dating back to when you were hired.  The information was sorely lacking at first.  After you appeared, there was more detail on the documents where you were listed, last of course, compared to the same reports filed before your employment. Obviously, you’re still considered an assistant in Roach’s point of view.”

Ros takes a deep breath and sighs before she says, “Ana, I know the deal with you and SIP.  I didn’t get to this seat by being a dumbass broad.  You’re playing into their hands and you’re letting them win.  Your civility and desire to fit in is getting you raked over the coals and fucked in the ass at the same time.”

“You work hard Ana and everyone in that office listens to you, because you know what the fuck you are doing and what you are talking about.  They’re shitting on you because you’re not standing up for yourself and accepting the role entrusted to you.  Blending into the crowd may have worked in college, but this is the real world.  The real world ain’t fair.  If you can get a push in the right direction or introduced to the right people AND you know what you are talking about, THEN everything you learned and all the hard work you’ve done will pay off.  You can’t capitalize on whom you know if YOU don’t KNOW anything.”

“Your arms are short right now Ana and you are stretching try to grab the brass ring.  If you’re given a hand to hold so that you can stretch further you may have a better change at reaching your goal.  Receiving help does not mean you will succeed, it means you got help.  You can get all the help in the world, but if you do not know how to best use that help it will all be for naught.”

“You may think I’m rambling, but please listen to me.  Don’t take help as an insult, accept it as help and move on.”  She sighs deeply again, “There, I’m done on my soapbox.  What time does your flight leave?”

“I’m going directly from the office to Sea-Tac, so I guess 6:30PM or 7PM.”

“EWWW!  Have fun with the time change.  Your sleep pattern is gonna to be fucked.  Travel safe Steele, tell Grey I said ‘hello’.”  She laughs.

“Sure thing Ros and thank you.”

“Don’t take help as an insult, accept it as help and move on.”  Hmm sounds like she is on to something there, huh?

Not you.  Not now.  I am busy…period.


I stand outside Mr. Roach’s office door, knock…knock…knock…”COME IN!”  He bellows.  Damn what’s his issue?

I slowly open the door and say quietly, “Hello Mr. Roach.”

Without looking away from his computer screen he says, “What do you need Steele?  I’m trying to get these P/L Reports together for Monday.  Have you turned in the information for your department?”  I wonder if he is busy deleting my report as we speak.

“Yes sir.  Here is a hardcopy.  I emailed the electronically signed document to you and copied Ms Bailey as well.”  Take that shithead.

He stops typing immediately and looks at me, in amazement I believe, almost a ‘how dare you’ glance.  “Why in the fuck did you send it to her?”

“I wanted to make sure she got the information.  I won’t be here on Monday and I wanted to be certain all parties involved received the information in a timely manner.”  I cross my arms and smile brightly.

Anger follows amazement as he yells, “I NEVER APPROVED TIME OFF FOR YOU!  Who the hell…wait a minute…you went straight to Grey for this didn’t you?  You went straight to the top for a ‘special favor’ didn’t you?”  He pounds his fist on the desk making me jump.

“Mr. Roach, I planned this trip weeks ago,” I lie, “you must have misplaced the paperwork.  I mentioned it to you recently.  I guess you were busy with the restructuring and evaluations, but I assure you I did request it.”

Lie, Lie, Lie

So the fuck what?  I am being majorly screwed here and you want to jeer at me?  I need to get to Christian and Roach isn’t gonna to stop me.

“I’ll look for those forms, if I don’t find them and you aren’t here for that meeting on Monday, even Grey won’t be able to help you.”  The look on his face is one of contentment.  He won’t rest until I am out of here.

We’ll deal with that bridge…ya know.  Right now, it’s quitting time.  There is a plane waiting for us NOW!

“Thank you for your time Mr. Roach.”  With that, I turn and leave his office, without looking back.

I collect my briefcase containing the latest reports, manuscripts and policy and procedure manuals then proceed to the lobby, proud of my decision.  “Hi Sawyer, we can go now.  Also, will you take this home, to Escala, for me please?”

“Yes ma’am.”  Christian insisted additional security wasn’t necessary in Townsville so Sawyer is staying in Seattle.  He deserves a break anyway.


“Hello Stephen.”

“Hello Miss Steele, we already have clearance so if you would please take your seat we can begin takeoff immediately.”  I salute him and sit in the first seat available.

“I’m on my way Baby.  I’m on my way.”  I whisper to myself.

Once we’re airborne, Natasha serves dinner.  “Oh, Miss Steele, this letter was delivered for you.”  She hands me a plain white envelope with the letters ARS typed on the front.

“Thank you Natasha.  I’ll read it later.  I’m going to lie down.”

“Certainly Miss Steele.”  She nods and goes back to her area of the plane.

I turn the envelope over and over again in my hands.  Christian always handwrites my name on the cards, letters and notes he leaves for me.  I wonder whom it is from.

Yawn…stretch…I don’t care whom it’s from.  I’m tired.

So am I.  I’ll think about it later.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 10 First Impressions

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

Chapter 10 | First Impressions

GREY

“She has a new BlackBerry and new cellphone number.  Here sir.”

I immediately search my pockets for my phone.  “I have to call her.  I have to reach her.  She’s going to think I don’t love her anymore.  I know Ana’s insecurities.   I know what she’s thinking because I get the same way when it comes to her.”

I find my phone and call her.  As I put the phone to my ear, I see Taylor looking at me with his eyes wide open, but I don’t have time for whatever he’s thinking about, my baby needs me.

Ring…Ring…Ring…Ring…”Hello, this is Ana, I am not available at this time, but if you leave a message I will return your call at my earliest convenience.  Beep.

“Ana…Baby…where are you?  I talked to Taylor and he told me about your BlackBerry and laptop.  Baby, please have Sawyer take you back to Escala and call me from my office.  Don’t use an unsecured line.  I figure you didn’t try to call from your office or your home telephone, which is good Baby.  Please call me again.  I miss you and I love you Baby…always.  Bye” then her voicemail cuts off the call.

I’m getting more and more nervous as I think over how elaborate this scheme is.  If this is Elena, who in the fuck has she paired up with to put this all in motion?  Is she that fucking brilliant?  She is a fucking glorified hairdresser for fuck sake.

I look up at Taylor, what the fuck is he still gawking at?  “WHAT?”  I bark.  I shouldn’t take this out on Taylor.  He had no way of knowing.  I’m sure Ana didn’t tell Sawyer.  She probably confided in Miss Kavanaugh though.  The Heavenly Father and all the Apostles know Miss Kavanaugh hates my fucking guts.

I sit down and put my head in my hands.  “Sir?’  I look up at Taylor with every bit of stress, fear and longing that I feel showing on my face. “She has not forgotten you.  She loves you as well.”

“Sir, we all thought you were moving on when the stories of you and the young lady…”

“Ella.  Her name is Ella Brown.  She’s originally from Melbourne.  She came to Townsville on vacation and to find an internship.  Her family then moved here as well.”  I tell Taylor in a monotone voice.

If he thought I was moving on, then I know Anastasia thought the same thing.  Two emotions I understand more than any others are anger and jealousy.

I shake my head at the irony of the situation.  I left Seattle so she could “get her thoughts and feelings straight” and what do I do?  I end up muddying the water even more.  I close my eyes, groan and shake my head again.

Stop it Grey.  You have done nothing wrong here.

“Sir?”  Taylor again?  I forgot he was sitting there.

“Yes Taylor.”  I say flatly.

“Permission…”

ENOUGH OF THAT SHIT!

“Taylor, just speak dammit!”

He straightens up in his chair, clears his throat and says, “We were all mistaken, sir.  In the past, during times of stress, various young ladies, resembling Miss Brown, have entered and exited your life in rapid succession.  I have had Welch monitoring you…”

I slowly raise my head in shock.  He’s had me under surveillance?  “How long?”  I manage to whisper.

“Since you told me you fired Reynolds and sent him back to Seattle.  It is my duty to protect you Mr. Grey, whether you want me to or not.  I notified Welch and called in a few favors to have you monitored.  Yes sir, you are still being monitored.  Once we sort out your security here, we can see about releasing the current detail.”  He sighs and sits back in his seat, no doubt waiting for me to explode.

However, because of the various arguments we’ve had, Ella has taught me better.  This time I’m able to think fast enough and say to myself, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength” before I speak to Taylor again.

“Taylor, I appreciate that you take your job seriously and I admire your stealth, but I’m fine.  Like I said, no one knows me here and if they do, they do not give a flying fuck about me.  I’m not the only wealthy individual under the moon and I won’t be the last.  If you want to put security alarms inside the house to detect burglars,” I look him directly in the eyes, “then fine.  Please be sure the proper authorities will be alerted if need be, otherwise, I do not need nor do I want to be monitored or assigned Close Personal Protection.  If I’m in Seattle, that will be a different story, but here it is not necessary.”

“I’m not firing you or Ryan or Sawyer because Seattle is different.  There are people and places associated with me that need to be kept secure, but I don’t need that kind of protection.  You and Welch have vetted the security personnel at Grey House Townsville and you’re more than welcome to have a surprise inspection of their functioning.  As far as I’m concerned, if you’re willing to take on the responsibility, you’re the Head of all GEH Security, but I can’t stress to you enough, I…do…not…need…protection.”  There, was that calm enough?  I think it was.

Yepper boy, you done good.

It now is Taylor’s turn to be speechless.  I want to laugh and take a picture of him.  The definition of stoicism has been blown out of the water.  I have to smile.

Once he collects his thoughts he says, “Well, sir, I appreciate the responsibility and of course I am up to the task.  I will go over to the new office tomorrow and take a look around to make sure things are up to GEH Standards.  I recommend Barney do the same for the IT Department.”

I nod my head.  “I can’t agree with you enough Taylor.  I’ll leave all of that for you and Barney to arrange.  All I ask is that you keep me up to date.”

“Mr. Grey?  Christian?  You are not returning to Seattle are you?”  He actually has a note of sadness in his voice.  I shrug my shoulders.  Taylor nods his head and goes to the kitchen for another lager.

You have to make a decision sooner or later Grey.  You know that right?  What about Anastasia?  Are you going to bring her here?  What about your family, your mom?  It would break her heart.  She likes to see you at least once per week and because of how obstinate YOU are, she gives you a pass with once per month and regular telephone calls.  So…what…?

Why do you want to stay here Grey?  What’s so special about this place, besides the obvious?

What do you mean, “the obvious”?

Not what you think, unless that’s the reason.  “The obvious” being the sand, the sun, the beauty of the seas almost everywhere you look and the newness of it all, that’s what I mean?  Why, what do YOU mean?

Ring…Ring…Ring…

“ANASTASIA?”

“Why no Pet.  I thought you were finished with…her.”  I groan at the sound of her voice.  If I thought being cussed out by my father on a continual basis was bad, this is like chewing hot glass.  Taylor gives me a questioning look and raises an eyebrow when he hears me groan.

I mouth ‘Bitch Troll’ and both of his eyebrows fly up.  He nods and puts up two fingers in a peace sign and mouths ‘two minutes’.  I nod and go back to the ‘call’.

“…wonderful to see you have found a new one.  She is quite pretty.  You really do have a standard type don’t you?”  Cackling bitch.  “I could not see her body, but I would assume since she turned your head that her figure is divine.  Is she into the scene?  What is her name?  Would you like me to do some checking into her…”I watch Taylor throughout Elena’s monologue.

All GEH BlackBerrys, including mine, are equipped with mSpy.  While Taylor is the only one with security clearance to monitor my calls he rarely does so.  I won’t say he has never monitored my calls because there have been a few instances where I asked him to listen to and record my conversation.  This is one of those times.

I do not bother to answer any of her questions I simply ask my own.  “What do you want Mrs. Lincoln?  I told you verbally and by text message to leave me alone.  I gifted you the salon chain for the sole purpose of severing all ties with you, so what the fuck do you want?”

The line goes quiet for a few seconds then I hear the venom in her voice as she hisses, “How dare you speak to me that way.  I taught you everything you needed to know in order to succeed.  I made you the man you are today.  If it were not for me you…”

SHUT THIS BITCH DOWN AGAIN GREY…PRONTO!!!

“ELENA ENOUGH!” I shout so loud the windows in the living room vibrate.  “Once and for all, the ONLY thing you did was fuck me, beat me and convince me it was exactly what I needed if I was going to succeed in life.  You did not GIVE me the brains to make not one fucking business decision.  Do you know the legal structure of an acquisition?  What is a Triangular Merger?  What are the five most common ways to value a business?  What are the fundamental differences between a merger and an acquisition?”  Nothing but silence fills the telephone line.

“That is what the fuck I thought!  When you understand the principles of business and/or M&A THEN you can talk to me about what you gave, taught and made me.  I returned the seed money you stole from your now ex-husband and as I stated earlier I GIFTED to you not SOLD to you OR out from under you, as I should have, the salon chain.  Now, what the fuck do you want?”  I am panting for breath at this point.  I know for a fact my face is fire engine red.  My hands are trembling and I feel a sharp pain in both of my temples.

Calm down Grey.  Blowing a blood vessel isn’t going to accomplish anything.  Be very careful what you say to the old cow.  We both know we need open lines of communication with this bitch to figure out what the fuck she did to Steele’s phone and laptop.  Please always remember and do not ever forget, “keep your friends close and THIS ABOMINABLE enemy closer.”

I disagree wholeheartedly with your thinking and I really don’t give a fuck.  However, I do know that ‘You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength’ is definitely needed here.

I take a couple of deep breaths then continue, “Mrs. Lincoln, I ask again.  Is there an express purpose for your call?”  I’ve relaxed the tension in my shoulders and calmed my voice without going all the way to dad’s “deadly whisper”, but the throbbing in my head is still present.

“Pet,” every fucking time she calls me that my skin crawls, “I am only concerned for your wellbeing.  I have not heard from you since before you left the United States and even then you were so harsh towards me it was very disconcerting.  I can only attribute such attitude and behavior to your being overwhelmed with that Anastasia person.  Otherwise, you would never have treated me that way.”

Wanna bet bitch.  HA!

“I was hoping your travels would calm you and give you a better perspective on where your loyalties lie.”  I have GOT to get off of this phone.

“Mrs. Lincoln, I have a meeting to attend” and with that, I end the call.

I fall into the chair behind me, drop my head back and close my eyes.  I can honestly say, for the first time in my life I feel utterly defeated.  I am never going to get rid of that woman am I?

Yes, WE’LL get rid of that battle-ax.  It may not happen as quickly as we’d like, but it WILL happen.

How?  When?  How fucking much longer?  She’s worse than…than…actually, I cannot think of anything worse than her.  God, please get that ewe out of my life, for good.  I do not care how you do it, just please do it please.  I’m begging you.

God doesn’t work that way and you know it.  Reason, season, lifetime.  She came into your life for a reason during the wrong season.  She won’t last for a lifetime.  Believe me.  She will not last.  Now, come on.  We have a fundraising committee meeting to attend or have you forgotten?

Oh fuck me.  That’s tonight isn’t it?  “FUCK!”

Oopsey…hee, hee, hee.  Someone forgot he wasn’t alone.

“Fucker.”  I look over at a confused Taylor and say, “Sorry.  I forgot I wasn’t alone.  I have a fundraising committee meeting to attend this evening so I’ll be gone for a couple of hours.  Taylor, you and Mrs. Jones make yourselves at home and I’ll see you both later.”

Since when did Taylor start rolling his eyes, let alone rolling them at me?  “Is there a problem Mr. Taylor?”

“Yes sir there is.  Security or the lack thereof.”  Oh my God does this man ever quit?  And they say I’m hardheaded.

“Taylor, N…O…means…say it with me…”

“No”, we say in unison.

“Good boy.  Now, I’ll see you later and if you have me followed I’ll dock your pay.”

Ha, ha…that one got him.

I smile and head to the car.


“Hello Love, the meeting is this way.”  I follow Ella to the meeting room.  The Brown Family is spearheading an event designed to raise funds for Townsville Communities for Children.  It’s along the same lines as my mom’s organization, Coping Together.  I’m not necessarily interested in participating in the planning but I have no problem attending the event and no problem with making a donation.

I tried to get out of going to the steering committee meeting by telling Ella I had work to do, but she was quite insistent.  Seems her grandfather and grandmother began working with the group in 2005, now it is a family legacy.

What does her family legacy have to do with us?

Just play the fuck along.  It’s this or listen to Taylor ramble on about ‘security or the lack thereof’.  Which do you prefer?

Well, when you put it like that…

Exactly.  Now shut up and listen.

“…Children are the life blood of the world, Love.  Yes we all need help, even adults, but children are the most vulnerable and most easily neglected members of us all.  If you don’t reach out and help a child in time, it becomes much harder to help them as an adult.”

She’s got a point there.

Although Ella made the concept sound as basic as ‘one plus one’, it struck a chord for me.  Elena reached me when I was a vulnerable child.  She took advantage of my weaknesses and ensnared me physically and mentally, so much so it has been almost impossible for anyone to get close to me now that I’m an adult.

Needless to say, here I am.  Ella’s brothers, Eran and Emerson are the chairman and co-chairman for this year’s event.  Their theme is a beach party, plain and simple.  Being the newcomer to the area I’m not going to try and tell anyone what to do.

You don’t really do fundraising anyway, right?  Your specialty is check writing.

It raises the funds doesn’t it?

Well…

I thought so, now shut the fuck up and listen, you may learn something asshole.

Takes one Grey.

That’s gotten really old, ya know. You need a new comeback.

No, you need to respond to the question…ha, ha, ha…so much for your ability to multitask.

Sure enough, everyone at the table is looking at me expectantly, “Pardon me, what was the question?”  I’m snapped out of my trance and can’t hide my embarrassment.

Ella smiles, “Mr. Grey,” Love she mouths, “are you in favor of a beach party for this year’s fundraising event?

Yea, nay or do you abstain?”  Then she winks, I thought at me, but the man beside me elbows me in the ribs and winks as well.

“Yea.”  I have a questioning sound in my voice, but I gather that’s what she wanted me to say.

Eran says, “Good, this year’s event will be a beach party.  Thank you all for coming to this meeting and please feel free to volunteer for any or ALL of the committees on the list that is being passed around.”  Again the man to my left elbows me, but this time Ella shakes her head at him then he gets up and walks away.

That fucker was asking for an ass whipping, you know?

I concur.

Time to get the fuck out of here Grey, before we get ambushed into something.

I am on my way out the door when Ella calls from across the room, “Mr. GREY!  Not so fast.”  Shit.  I stop dead in my tracks and turn around slowly.

When I turn I’m faced with the four Brown heirs.  Ella steps forward as her brothers stand behind her, ramrod straight, shoulder-to-shoulder with their hands clasped behind their backs.  They have a ‘we dare you to fuck with her’ look on their faces.  I’m amused, as well as impressed.

Mia would be in Heaven if she could get you and Elliott to heel like that…hee, hee, hee.

“Yes Miss Brown.  How may I help you?”  I say with a smile.

She turns to her brothers and tells them, “Back off fellas.  He’s a friend not a foe.”  The men relax their shoulders and now cross their hands in front of themselves.  Ella’s not impressed at that stance so she shouts, “Dammit BOYS I told you to stand down.  Do I have to show my ENTIRE ass to make you understand?”

I am shocked by her reaction to them but they’re not.  “Sorry Ellie.”  One of the men says with a sad puppy dog look on his face.  The other two men nod then bow their heads.  I cover my smile with my hand before I end up in trouble too.

“No, I was going to introduce you to my brothers, however, this bunch of assholes” she motions behind her, “don’t even resemble them so let me thank you for attending our meeting and hope you participate in the execution of our event as well.”  Then she turns and sticks her tongue out at the three men before turning back to me to say, “Come on Love, let them stand there and stare.”  Ella takes my hand and leads me out the door.

I take a quick look behind us to see three men arguing with each other, throwing their hands in the air and shaking their heads in exhaustion.

Oh this is too much.

As I walk Lil Miss Dynamite to her car I hear her mumbling, “…fucking assholes…all those bitches they’ve brought home…actually was a whore…gold-diggers…I can’t have a friend…bastards.”

WHOA she is pissed to the gills dude.  Watch out.

“Ella, are you ok?”  That was all I said, but apparently that was all it took.

“Those fucking asses have brought all sorts of bitches into OUR lives over the years.  From a whore, and I mean walk the street and fuck for pay whore, to three different gold-diggers who had their pregnant roommates take the pregnancy tests for them and brought those witches’ sonograms to our home for my GRANDFATHER to see then there are the various, random, plain old, everyday mean bitches.  I’ve had to politely meet them all and give them the benefit of the doubt until they proved themselves otherwise, which they ALWAYS fucking have.”  She puffing and panting at this point.

“All I wanted to do was introduce them to a friend and they act as though they’re guarding the Prime Minister.  HOW FUCKING DARE THEY!  Not once have I brought home some straggling fucker and tried to say he was a romantic interest.  This time I didn’t even bring you home.  HOW FUCKING DARE THEY!”  Once she is winded she leans against her car.

“I never had any friends in high school or even in college.  Is this how friends usually behave?”  I am being half serious and have humorous.

Ella looks up at me with soften eyes and says, “When a friend introduces you to people who don’t know you and have no reason to dislike you it is.”

I return her smile, take her hand and say “Thank you.”


Knock…Knock…that can only be Taylor.

“Come in Taylor.”  I don’t look up from my work.  “Mr. Grey, I completed my inspection of the facility.  I found a few weaknesses in the Reception and cafeteria areas, but nothing major.  Welch and I will have the personnel updated and resolve the issue before end of business tomorrow.”

That got my attention.  I raise my head and ask, “Anything specific I should know Taylor?”  What the fuck kind of trouble can there be in the cafeteria?

“The former receptionist signed for a few deliveries without checking the carriers identification and basically the same situation in the cafeteria.  The department manager accepted a provision without checking the courier’s credentials.  I will be meeting with all security personnel later today to review GEH Security Protocol, Policies and Procedures.  Tomorrow I would like to meet with the department heads for the same review.  That is why I am here.”

He loves this shit.  It’s GEH’s beginning all over again.  He feels it too I know he does.  He gets to put his foot in security detail’s asses and to torment department heads all day.  It’s a wet dream for Taylor.  I look him straight in the eyes and do not blink when I ask, “Feels good don’t it?”  He gives me a small smirk and a quick nod of his head.

“Any word from Welch?” He gives a small shake of his head and leaves.  I sigh.  This is fucking ridiculous.  A computer virus I can see, even something that will mess up emails I can just about believe that, but a cellphone?  A BlackBerry?  Really?  What the fuck?

I run my hand through my hair and stop…I haven’t done that since I’ve been here.  Seattle is no good for me.  I was so relaxed I didn’t even realize it.  Taylor and security, the Bitch Troll period and the prospect of something affecting my relationship with Ana, this shit is too much.  I shake my head and go back to my spreadsheets.

Buzz…Buzz…I catch my BlackBerry before it gets to the third ring.  “Grey!”

Short and loud as usual huh?

“CHRISTIAN!”  Oh my God.

“ANA!?  Baby is it really you?  Where are you Baby?  Taylor told me everything.  Did you get my message?  I miss you so much.”  I know she can hear the smile and relief in my voice as I fire off questions to her.

“I miss you too Christian.”  She sounds so sad it makes my heart hurt.

After a long pause she asks, “Who is the woman Christian?  Is she your submissive?”  I gasp.

What the fuck?

I can’t help but get angry.  “Do you think that little of me Anastasia?  Is it impossible for me to go without sex or a submissive?  Is that what you are worried about, whether or not I got some ass since we have been apart?  Well no.  She is not my submissive and as hard as it may be for you to believe, I have not had any since the last time we were together.  Can YOU say the same?”  Where the fuck does she get off?

I haven’t talked with her in weeks and the only thing she has to say is ‘I miss you’ and ‘who are you fucking’?  I am at an absolute loss.  It’s not like I haven’t had AMPLE opportunity to get a decent fuck and there are BDSM clubs all over the world.  For some reason it seems to be the craze.

“What do you expect me to think Christian?”  With that bitchy tone, I don’t give a fuck what she thinks or how she feels right this second.

“Miss Steele, was there a reason for your call other than to accuse me of being a man-whore?  For God sake Anastasia, I was monogamous with my subs, which I had no emotional connection to at all.  How the fuck could I cheat on you?  Why would you think I’d ever cheat on you?”  I hear her gasp.

I think she knows she fucked up…again.

I have to remember ‘You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength’.  One of these days I hope to meet Mr. Brown.  I take a deep cleansing breath then ask, “Ana, are you going to come see me?  Do you want to see me?”

“I apologize Christian.  I do not for one second think you are a man-whore.  You have never given me reason to think that way, I was just jealous.  Yes, I want to see you Christian.”  I think I can hear tears in her voice.  Oh please Baby, do not cry.

“I can have the jet ready by late tomorrow afternoon.  Tell Roach…” She stops me in my tracks.

“Oh no Christian.  I have to wait until Friday after work.”  She says it just like I asked her to go to the movies on a weekday and she needs to wait until the weekend.

“Alright Ana,” I sigh, “I’ll let Stephen know.  He needs to prepare the jet and himself for the flight.”  It is not as easy as she might think.  Stephen is a professional, but he has his limits too and I have to respect them.  “I cannot wait to see you.”  I feel at ease again.

“Neither can I.  Bye Christian.”

“Laters baby.”


“Gail, as usual that was the best meal I’ve ever had.”  It’s fucking great to come home to more than cold cereal and a take out menu.

You really need to learn how to cook something.  While Gail is here ask her for some lessons:  you know, how to boil water or make toast.

OOO! If you get REAL good, she can show you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  That’d be yummy, huh Grey?

If it would shut you up, I would let you starve.

Bullshit, you’d feel bad.  Get it?

“Thank you Mr. Grey.  I didn’t make dessert but if you like there’s ice cream in the freezer.”

REALLY?

“When did we get ice cream Gail?”  I don’t remember buying any.

“Oh, I picked it up when I went shopping.  It is nothing special, just plain old vanilla, but I can dress it up if you like.”

OH HELL NO!  I LOVE YOU GAIL!

I smile and shake my head.  “No Gail, not tonight.  Thank you though.”

Never thought you would say no to vanilla again did you Grey?  WOO HOO!  This is too much.

Are you finished?  We have that damn committee meeting and to get to the bottom of this fucking phone thing.

Ahem…cough…yeah I am ready now.

I turn to him at the dining room table and ask, “Ok Taylor, what do you and Welch know about this phone mess?  And for the record, this shit better be good because I still can’t believe it.”  If Taylor and Gail hadn’t showed up when they did…I can’t imagine where Ana and I’d be now.

Well, it’s not like you forgot about her.  She colors every little step you take.  The only reason you’ve been able to keep your shit to yourself is because Steele isn’t here.  It has only ever been her, you know?

Yes I know that, but does she?  I understand her being jealous, like I said I get the same way when it comes to her.  I’m not so stupid not to admit that, but her coming all this way after all this time simply because she thinks I’ve been unfaithful…really?  That’s not like Ana at all.

No, because you are destined to repeat all of this shit again at some point.  However, you’re more are important to her dude.  If she did not want you at all, she would’ve chalked it up to a loss and moved on in Seattle.

She is a kid in the most literal sense.  Your little bookworm, remember?  Her inhibitions are in control now.  Her same ‘ole same ‘ole comfort zone is in control now.  She has to see the writing on the wall and make her own decision, not listen to the decisions of those around her.  Those who see you in the suit with the shitty “motherfucker I’ll bite you” look on your pretty little face…hee, hee, hee.

As shitty as you can be, you can grow up and you can change.  She’s missing out on your change.  The change she initiated.  When she gets here, start over.  And if she pitches a bitch about something, find out why there’s a problem.  She’s away from everything here.  There are no outside influences.  She has to see you and nothing else, just like it should be.

You two aren’t going to agree on everything and that’s wonderful.  You should be friends as well as lovers and a true friend tells you like it is and pulls your ass back when you’ve gone too far.  When you can’t see the forest for the trees your friend tells you to open your eyes and look the fuck out.  She needs to do that with a few aspects of her life.  Just like you have to do it with yours and pay attention when she points out how much of a prick you’re being.  While you are one hell of a motherfucker, you aren’t perfect dude.

“…ahem, Mr. Grey?  Are you with us?”

“Huh?  I apologize Taylor.  No, I didn’t hear a word you said.  I drifted off.  I’ve been doing that a lot since I got here.”

Taylor smiles at me and says, “as long as it doesn’t affect business, then it’s not a bad thing.  Back to the matter at hand, Barney traced the virus to a plain old computer hacker…”

“O…k…”

“…there are tips and videos online that give detailed instructions on how to hack into even a secure Wired Equivalent Privacy network.  When Barney asked for Miss Steele’s computer to be set up the vendor used a Wi-Fi Protected Access II, which although it is highly secure it is not infallible.”  My head is spinning.  He sounds just like Barney.  Taylor is speaking slower than Barney does, but I’m still lost.

“So the basics are there was a breach in the Wi-Fi network for her computer and the virus was planted, is that what you are getting at?”

“Yes sir.”

“But we’re still at ground zero.  Who the fuck would bother?  Even if it was Elena, who the fuck did she find to do all of this shit for her?  This is fucking ridiculous and I have a meeting to attend.  I’ll be back.  If you’re still awake, I need to know who did this.  That’s all I care about right this second.  Who fucking broke into her computer?  Who texted her the ‘tainted’ pictures?  Who!”  I can see how easy it is to get her cellphone number and text her, that I get.  A computer virus, I get that too, but BOTH of them and with such attention to detail.  Come the fuck on.  Elena ain’t THAT smart.”

No, but there’s no telling what one, or more, of her submissive’s can do.

True.


The days events must all show on my face when I walk into the conference room because Ella looks and me and frowns.  She gets the same little “v” between her eyebrows when she frowns.  She does not get a chance to speak with me before Eran calls the meeting to order.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen.  I call this meeting to order.  Our purpose of gathering tonight is to verify the commitments you have each made toward our event and find out the status of your progress.  So, without further ado we will hear from the Media and Communications Committee.  Since Emerson is one of the Steering Committee Chairmen he kindly handed that task off to Ella.  Ella, tell us about your progress.”

And so the night precedes, Audio/Visual, Budget/Finance, Communications, Decorations, Logistics…”Ahem, Mr. Grey?  You were in charge of Security were you not?”

What the fuck now?  Oh yeah, this committee shit.  “Yes, yes that is correct.  My Head of Security vetted one hundred perspective candidates.  He and his second are in the process of narrowing that down to seventy-five personnel.  Will that be enough?”  They have a pretty large stretch of beach open for this thing and are expecting a grand turnout so I wonder if they’ll actually need more.  I told Taylor to vet five hundred just in case.

“Actually, if you could extend your search and actually hire a full one hundred guards we would appreciate it.  Although this event is an advance pay event, we want to be prepared for possible uninvited guests as well.”  I nod and send Taylor and Welch both a text advising what Mr. Brown requested.

He raises an eyebrow at me so I tell him, “I am conveying your message.”

“Why, thank you.”  Fucker.  I did not volunteer for this shit I got drafted.  I will write a fucking check and call it a day.  I see Ella shaking her head at me from across the table.  I sigh and nod at her brother.

Prick.

He continues on with the various committee chairmen then, thankfully, this shit is over.  “Thank you for all of your effort.  We should be ready for final updates next week.  Meeting adjourned.”  Can I retreat now?

“Grey!”

Groan.  Not again.  They left us alone for the last few meetings. What the fuck do they want now?

“Hello Mr. Grey.  I am Eran Brown and this is my brother Emerson.  We wanted to properly introduce ourselves.  It seems you have become rather close to our little sister and we felt as though we should engage you in a direct conversation.”

“Yes Mr. Grey.  If you have a few moments we would like to speak with you.”  Emerson looks like he wants to crack his knuckles as he narrows his eyes at me.

“Sure thing fellas.  Let’s ‘talk’.”  I haven’t had a good ‘ole fashioned street fight in a few years, but it’s like riding a bike, you know.  These two are tall, but not quite as tall as me.  Neither guy looks like he works out and if so, they need to work harder.  You can see the family resemblance.  They each have the curly dark auburn hair, crystal blue almond-shaped eyes and a square jaw line.

“So Grey”, I guess Eran is the voice here, “you have been spending quite a bit of time with our sister.  What exactly is going on?”  The snarl on his face is unmistakable.  They remind me of Elliott and myself when it comes to Mia.

Before I can answer, Emerson chimes in, “FYI Grey, we know about you.  Anastasia Steele, isn’t that your fiancée’s name?  Where is she?  You’ve been here a long time.  Why hasn’t anyone seen her?”

Then it is back to Eran, “We did some checking into you Grey and we didn’t like what we saw.  You’re bad news and we don’t want our sister involved with the likes of you.”

Now Emerson, “So what is it Grey?  Why are you nosing around our sister?”  What the fuck, is this a tennis match?

There is a millisecond pause in the ping-pong interrogation, I open my mouth to respond when I hear from somewhere behind me…”DO…NOT…SAY…ONE…WORD!”  She didn’t yell.  It wasn’t necessary.  Although she enunciated each word almost too quietly, her intended audience heard her clearly.

“Oh shit.”  The two of them moan simultaneously.

Well fuck me upside-down. She has them by the short hairs…again.  I love this chick.

Slowly, painfully so, for her brothers, Ella strides over to where we’re standing.  You can hear the calculated clicks of her Manolo Blahnik’s on concrete the floor.  I manage not to smile, but the inside of my cheek is killing me from how hard I have to bite down on it.

Stitches may very well be in order after this plays out, but it’s so fucking worth it to see this woman in action.

She stands between us all, coming no higher than the middle of my chest.  Then she hisses, “I told you once, stay out of my affairs.  This man is my friend.  Just because you two don’t know how to keep your peckers in your pants doesn’t mean I don’t know how to keep my legs and mouth closed”

“He has been a friend to me and that…is…all.”  She growls.  “If I see or hear of this type of behavior again from either of you, I will show up on YOUR doorstep Ere, or in the hall of YOUR apartment building Em in my ninja gear and you know what’ll happen.”

The two fuckers eyebrows jump up to their foreheads and beads of sweat start to form.

OH MY FUCKING GOD!  She’s the fucking TRUTH!  Grey, stay away from her, do you understand me?  Don’t piss this broad off AT ALL!

YES SIR!

“And tell Ev exactly what the fuck I said so there’s no mistake.  If you paraphrase or half-ass on my statement, you’ll regret it.”  Then she turns to me, smiles and winks before saying, “Have a good evening Love”, as she prances away like nothing ever happened.

It goes without saying that the Brown brothers are speechless.  They each nod at me then quickly walk away.

As I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding I hear snickers coming from the doorway beside me.  One of the older ladies on the committee shakes her head and advises me “You really don’t want to cross Ella.  She is a wonderful girl and a beautiful young lady, but she takes no shit from anyone especially her brothers.  She’s as harmless as a lamb until you push the wrong button…then lookout.”  She raises an eyebrow at the last two words.

We walk out of the building and the woman, I can’t recall her name, continues “After Ella’s mother passed away, her brothers became quite protective of her, to the point where they didn’t want her to go to college.”

“Ella got permission from her grandfather to break family tradition and go to Hawaii Pacific rather than Melbourne just to be away from her brothers.  Since no one goes against the patriarch of the Brown family, Ella went to school in the United States and the rest is history.”  I thank my fellow committee member for the information and proceed, carefully, to my car, which is exactly where Ella is standing.

“Hello Love.  I do apologize for my brazen display of ignorance.  Those goons can bring out the worst in me sometimes.  I don’t follow my own advice when it comes to them.”

Split personality?  This is what Steele keeps telling you about.  We need to keep an eye on her.

“No apologies necessary, just don’t do that shit to me and we will be fine.”  She crosses her heart.

“I have two questions.”  I’m almost too afraid of the answers.

“Sure, what are they Love?”  She flips her hand as if whatever I have to say is of no consequence to her.

“What is your ninja gear and what WILL happen?”  She holds her forehead for a minute then turns fire engine red before clearing her throat.

“Well, my ninja gear is a black hoodie, black yoga pants and black sneakers; Chucks usually.  My weapon of choice is a black aluminum bat, Louisville Slugger works well.”  She looks me straight in the eye as if she’s daring me to say something.

When I just stand there, she continues.  “As part of my research and dissertation in Hawaii, I was given the opportunity to travel by submarine to various locations and collect algae, sea water and even marine life samples.  Deep sea diving is something to behold.”

“Anyway, one of the professors was a retired mariner who spent time on submarines.  He reminded me of my grandfather.  As I worked, he told me about “submarine safety” so to speak.  He was aware of instances where angry sailors would wait in a doorway for a shipmate to walk thorough and sucker punch them.  If the vessel was on the surface, they would simply fling the body overboard at night, into the pitch black sea.”  A shiver runs, quickly, down my spine.

YEP!  It’s official. DON’T FUCK WITH THIS BITCH!  Neither Lincoln nor Kavanaugh would stand a chance.

“When I got home, Emerson stuck his nose in my business.  One night, he was walking through the hall of the family home and I was waiting in a doorway.  When he came through I kicked him in his knee.  Once he was down I punched him as hard as I could in the face, jaw, nose, eyes it didn’t matter as long as it was his head.  Hurt the hell out of my hands.  Whenever my brothers start to crowd me, I remind them what I’m capable of and they back off.”

“I’ve had to polish my MMA technique and I use a bat instead of my hands when I am really pissed off.  An aluminum bat is a touch easier to clean and does not leave splinters like a wooden bat will.  I can hold my own against them and others when need be.”  She gives a strong nod of her head for emphasis.

“Well Miss Brown, it’s good to know you are on my side.”  Let’s keep it that way.

“Let’s keep it that way Love.  Would you care for coffee, it’s still early.”  We got out of that meeting sooner than we thought we would.

“Sure, the usual place?”  I ask.

“Yep.  See you in a bit?” Then with a little wink and a wave, she is gone.


We meet at the coffeehouse where it all started.  Hard to believe I thought she was meek and timid just because of her stature.  This woman is larger than life and she’s helped me sort through my thoughts and feelings about work, family and my personal life.  She may be a Marine Biologist, but she has Flynn beat by a mile.

“Here you go Love.  Now, when is Anastasia going to be here?”  I choke on my coffee.

“What makes you think she’s coming here?  I mean she is.  She will leave the US on Friday evening.  How did you know she was coming here?”

“The last time we spoke, you told me how much you love and miss her.  You told me you felt a hole in your heart and you didn’t know what to do to fill it.  You looked so sad Love.  What did I tell you?  What do I always tell you when is comes to your ‘one true’?”

“If am hers she will find me…”  She nods encouragingly.

“And…”  She probes; motioning for me to continue.

“If she is mine I will let her.”  It’s almost like I am afraid to think of this phrase.  I must ask her where she found it.

“Did you call her or vice versa?”

“She called me, but she had been trying to reach me for some time and wasn’t able to get through.  Apparently there was some ‘interference’.”  I say with gritted teeth, thinking about the Bitch Troll and her latest stunt.

“That would be the Bitch Troll you were mumbling about earlier this evening correct?”  She speaks before sipping her coffee.

“I never said that!”  Did I?  I was a little out of it during the meeting, but I didn’t say anything to anyone, did I?

“Good grief Charlie Brown.  I read your lips.  You were cursing a mile a minute.  You need to either cover your mouth or let that kind of shit go until you are in a more private setting Love.”  I’m not accustomed to people watching me.  I’m usually the one who does the observing.  It’s starting to get creepy.

“Christian?  I haven’t been entirely honest with you.  I want to apologize in advance, but we have come to a juncture where I feel like I can help you.  In order to do that, I have to level with you first.  Ok Love?”

“O…k…” Now I am scared.  What the fuck does she know?

“Relax Love.  I know about your beginnings, adoption, adolescent and adult academics, the history of GEH and…about…Elena Lincoln.”  My eyes are the size of saucers.  How the fuck did she find that out?  Who has she told?  What’s she trying to do, blackmail me?  I thought we were friends, I thought I could trust her.  DAMMIT I’m a STUPID fucker for trusting ANYONE, especially a woman named ‘Ella’, all of this flies through my mind at the speed of light.  It takes me a moment to hear Ella again.

“Relax Love.  I may be young, but I’m not dumb.  I’ve lived some and I’ve learned a lot during my brief stay on this Earth.  I can’t be prejudice against anyone who’s done nothing wrong.  I also know the Cinderella story of you and Anastasia.  It’s so fucking adorable I can’t believe it.”  She giggles and there is a twinkle in her eyes.  But I’m not at ease with this conversation yet.

“How?”  I whisper.  I’m in utter disbelief.  I thought I was so fucking careful.  Here this little slip of a girl has found out my work, educational and personal…VERY personal information like it was no problem.

Who does HER research?

“…Breathe Love, breathe.  I told you the first day we spoke you were the talk of the town.  You were, still are matter of fact.  We Brown’s have a lot of pull in Australia and around the world.  Finding out about a new neighbor is very easy.  Once I had your name, I Googled you to get your photo and general information.  My grandfather’s private investigation team took it from there.  Since it was my explicit request, the documents were sealed and went directly from the investigators to me.  There were no duplicates.”  I am glad she’s taken measures to keep the information she found under wraps, but I still don’t like the fact she could get it in the first place.

“I have a photographic memory.  I simply read everything twice then burned the original documents.  My grandfather’s only stipulation when I make these requests” the question is clear on my face, “yes, I’ve done this before, is that any incriminating information be turned over to him immediately.”

“Based on the information I had about you I was able to approach our conversations accordingly.  In short, you’ve been ‘shrinked’ Mr. Grey.  Like I said, I apologize for not being upfront with you.  I hope my invasion of your privacy doesn’t affect our friendship.”  She bows her head and pulls on the edges of her dark grey pencil skirt.  I’m still speechless.  She did what you told me not to do.

I guess now you know how it feels.

I guess so.

“Wow Ella.  I mean…did I scare you that much or…”

Her head jerks up immediately.  “No” she shakes her head vigorously, “not at all Love, quite the contrary.  You’re an intriguing individual.  Like I said that first day.  I could see the pain in your eyes.  I’ve seen that pain when my father remembers my mother and when my grandfather remembers my grandmother.”  They’re the two most important men in her life.  Now she looks sad.  I take her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.  I like hearing about her family.  I mean I genuinely care.  It’s not about getting the 411 on the Browns.  I almost feel like they’re my family too.

“My brothers either don’t see, don’t understand or don’t care, but I do.  My grandfather and father mean the world to me.  I can feel their pain and I always want to help them through it.  I saw that in you and I felt the same way.”  She looks up at me straining not to let her tears fall.

“I can still see your troubled soul Love.  I can still feel your broken heart.  The difference is your one true is still alive.  You still have time to be with her.  I hope our time together has given you some things to think about, some tools to help you grow and I hope a friend you know you can turn to.  You said you didn’t have any friends in high school or college, well I believe we have made up for that.  At least I hope so.”  She pats my hand as I stare at her in awe.

This little girl has done nothing but be kind to me.  Taken my mind off my troubles by talking to me about the weather, songs on the radio, her father and her grandfather.  She has passed on the knowledge and lessons learned in her life to me like no one ever has.  She asks my opinion and debates her point of view.  Sometimes, even when she’s wrong, she plays devil’s advocate and won’t let an issue go.  No money exchanged.  No price tag involved.  No romantic interlude inferred.

“You are a fantastic woman Ella Brown.  You’re going to make some man very happy one day.”  She smiles and bows her head again.

I put my index finger under her chin and raise her crystal blue eyes to meet my grey ones, “Remember, you have a fourth brother to protect you.”  She nods and smiles.

“Well, on with my news.”  Huh, there is more?

Mood swing alert!

I must have the ever-present quizzical look on my face because she says, “Yes there is more.  The ‘interference’, do you know someone named Isaac?”  She doesn’t give a last name so I shake my head a few times then…

The light bulb comes on.  “Elena’s submissive?”  The bastard.  I knew his nose was wide open for that bitch.

“Yes.  Apparently he is rather proficient with a computer.  He’s the hacker you’re looking for.”  She says matter-of-factly as she resumes sipping her now almost cold coffee.

“How the hell did you kno…” She cuts me off.

“Love, I am a Brown.  We know lots of things.  I told you we were a sneaky bunch.”  She looks like a small child with a big secret.  A secret I need to hear.

“Come.”  I hold out my hand to her.

She hesitantly looks at me asking “Whereto?”

“My place.  Taylor needs to hear this first hand.”  She mouths ‘oh’ then takes my hand and we go out to the cars.

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?

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