Chapter 31

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Never have I seen Taylor go so pale. He gives me a long stare, narrowing his eyes before he lets out a slow breath, letting it whistle through his teeth. “I can’t say for sure but my gut tells me it was meant for Christian.”

I hear my blood thrumming through my ears, a sound not unlike that of a cicada insect’s singing. The sudden rush of oxygen forces my head into a swim; the woozy feeling making my belly squirm in the worst possible way. I don’t know if there was an answer I would have preferred but I can say for sure this is not it.

He presses his lips together at the sight of my ashen face, “Mrs Grey.” For a beat he pauses, brow quirked. “Ana. Are you sure you want to hear this?”

I can only blink my assurance as I wonder the same thing and battle to keep down what little I ate today.

After his signature short nod he looks into the distance, getting lost in his own analytical thoughts, “That’s not to say I don’t think that you’re not involved, in fact, I have a feeling that this whole thing is deeply personal for the perp. The type of personal you can only get from scorn.”

His words rip a gasp from my breath, “You mean someone who thinks we hurt him?”

“Hhm, yes, but it’s more than that. If I were to profile this person I’d guess that this behaviour would be outside of his normal character. He’s being driven to extreme measures by something that’s touching him deeply. He feels the need to set something right in his world and his perception is that Christian and to some extent you, skewed it.”

Like watching a car wreck I find the conversation oddly fascinating, Taylor speaks with such eloquent certainty that it’s hard not to follow the story he weaves. “Like a crime of passion, a temporary blind rage that makes you do things you won’t normally do?”

Still thoughtful, he doesn’t meet my gaze, “Yes. Exactly like that. Look at the bullet as an example. Dr Trevelayn said that it lodged and mushroomed, that it wasn’t consistent with a hard copper jacket projectile. Usually a sniper would use a copper jacketed round. It would have to be a decent calibre because of the distance that it would need to travel in order to reach the target, like this one obviously did, but because they’re excellent shots they don’t need fancy additions to their rounds to make the kill shot. Things like softer hollow point bullets that tear through the skin making a big exit wound and rip everything in between to shreds because of said mushrooming head are unnecessary.”

Briefly he focuses on me, maybe to ensure that I’m keeping up with his explanation or maybe to check on my pallor. “I’m with you.” I say licking my dry lips. I sit on my hands to stop them fidgeting.

Seemingly satisfied that I’m not about to faint he picks up the thread of our conversation, “A hard projectile like the copper jacket would’ve travelled straight through a fleshy part like Christian’s upper arm but instead it got lodged which means that a soft tipped round was used. I’m fairly certain that wasn’t a hollow point either, not enough damage for that.” He winces in sympathy as he imagines what harm a vicious bullet like a hollow point would do.

“My guess is that it was a lead and copper mix, making for a much softer head like one would use for hunting.”

“As in animals?” The incredulous note underscores my surprise at his statement perfectly. Why would someone use a hunting rifle to shoot at us?

“The very same. The guy is clearly bright but he definitely doesn’t have a police or military background and he’s no professional sniper. We’ll be able to make some reasonable assumptions once we see the piece embedded in Christian’s arm, unfortunately we can’t match the bullet with the weapon unless we have the actual rifle to match the barrel striations on the bullet but we’ll know the calibre for sure.”

Okay. Most of that went over my head but I think I get the gist of it, we’ll have some clues. “I still don’t understand the part about this person acting out of character.”

“Doing what he did today isn’t normal for him; he doesn’t know enough about taking a professional shot at someone, he’s made too many mistakes. The bullet, I’m almost sure, is going to prove that the shot was fired from a hunting rifle. The scope he used glinted in the sun, because he was out in the open, on the roof. It gave away his position and ultimately cost him the kill. That’s what tipped Christian off just before he fired.”

He speaks in such a matter-of-fact manner, the terms kill, projectile, scope all suddenly part of the terms jostling around in my head. “So that’s how Christian knew what was coming? He saved our lives.” My hoarse whisper brings insight and with it a fresh batch of what-ifs, if this psycho was just a tad more professional one or both of us would be dead right now.

Mother fucking fucker!

I skid through the stages of anger, hardly stopping at annoyance, frustration or infuriation and go straight to hostile, jumping right off my blue plastic, standard issue hospital chair, the metal legs clanging against the floor in protest of my speedy rise. “He could’ve been killed! No husband, no father for Chris. Who is this crazy fucker? Why haven’t we caught him? He’s still out there!” I yell at Taylor as if he didn’t know, my arms flailing madly.

Taylor’s rounded eyes betray his shock at my outburst only for a second before his look turns bewildered. “Uhm…,” he says to my glaring face.

My hostility quickly gives way to hysteria, both hands fly to my face, covering the gut wrenching sobs. My shoulders shake with the heave of my juddering breaths as I wail my frustration and fear. Suddenly I feel violated, like something very private and dear was taken from me. I feel exposed, like danger is lurking around every corner when I realise it’s my peace of mind.

Until today, in the back of my mind, I believed that Christian was overreacting in his usual, overbearing way. That the threat wouldn’t encroach on our lives in such a personal manner. Now I’m wondering if staying in Seattle for the time being is a good idea.

With my new constant companion of dread I gasp, “Taylor, Chris is alone with Grace! We have to find him!”

Taylor gets up from his chair to grip me by the shoulders, his even baritone and quietly composed words forcing me to calm down, “Mrs Grey, I would never leave Chris unguarded; I am a professional after all. Grace has her own security detail. She’s with Grace all the time, you just didn’t notice her. She’s with them now.”

Oh, of course.

“O… okay,” I say my voice still stammering from my heavy tears. I blow out a long breath through the circle of my lips, feeling my equilibrium returning. “Why haven’t we caught this guy yet?” now my gaze is pleading as I pose the question to Taylor and the universe in general.

He drops one hand, fisting it into his side. Two fingers of his other massages his forehead while he looks down at his shoes. “I don’t know Ana. Nothing fits. My first thought was Mr Lincoln.” Moving back he sits down again, lacing his fingers behind his head as he looks to the ceiling, as if asking Divinity for help.

My brow knits with a surprised frown. “Lincoln, as in Elena’s ex-husband?”

“Yep. This is really Christian’s story to tell but he screwed Linc over in business not too long after you left. He bought his company’s shares right out from under him. He dismantled the company, selling off the pieces. I think he made some good money off it but his motive was certainly more than just plain profit.”

I nod, recalling Christian mentioning that Linc beat Elena to a pulp when he found out she was having an affair. I don’t know why but the news shocks me, Christian is a lot of things but vindictive isn’t how I know him. I guess it must mean that he still feels something for her.

He is married to you. Again!  My subconscious is wagging a stern finger at me; her eyes are slits as she looks over the rim of her winged glasses.

“So you thought that Linc was getting back at Christian?” I prompt as I sit down, my legs all jellied from the emotional ride I’ve been on for hours now.

“Yes, I did but after checking and re checking it didn’t add up. Obviously we have him under surveillance, just to be absolutely sure but I’d bet anything that it’s not him.”

Okay.

Now he meets my gaze, a flash of hesitance jolts in this eyes before he continues, “With Linc out of the picture I thought maybe Jose.” He lets the statement hang, giving me time to adjust to the idea. “Forgive me Ana, obviously Christian shared the details with me when he ran into you in Miami. With the level of security he needs we don’t have the luxury of secrets.” He shrugs his shoulders; momentarily I glimpse the weight of his responsibility bearing down on him. I can see the toll our threat is taking on him.

My face awash with a shameful blush I break the contact of our eyes. If Jose was indeed involved in this it would be all my fault. Looking back that e-mail I wrote on the plane and sent to him straight after we landed seems like a pitiful excuse for an apology now.

“And what do you think now?” my heart is beating so hard I hear it in my own ears, that cold shiver of anxiety stealing across my skin as a clammy sheen of sweat coats my lame limbs.

“Honestly? He also doesn’t fit some aspects of the profile. I certainly can see him being mad, bitter and resentful but attempted murder?” he strokes his chin, thoughtful. “Unless… Ana are you sure you told Christian everything? No other major things go down between you two that can help us here?”

Startled I shake my head, vehemently. “I told Christian everything and I never, not once disclosed any of Christian’s secrets.” I swallow, hoping to get some relief from the sandpaper that’s lining my throat. “Look, Jose can be very passionate about things, that Latin fire is in his spirit and I can attest to the change in him after I… After I did what I did but…, but I just don’t see it. My dad still sees Jose senior, by all accounts Jose has been happier, even started dating again.”

Taylor leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together. “He never liked Christian and he was desperately in love with you, any fool could see that he wanted you but I agree. If there’s no other motive I don’t see him going this far.”

“Are you having him watched too?”

“We try to cover every possible angle so yes, we are. He travels a lot for work, when he’s shooting on isolated locations it’s not always so easy to keep tabs on him but at least then we know he’s out of the country.”

“I take it we’ve correlated his travel dates with the things that have been happening to us?” I watch him from the corner of my eye, nervously biting my lip.

He bristles slightly, sitting up a tad straighter, “We have Mrs Grey, some of them correspond but for others he was definitely away.” After a pause he continues, more to himself than to me, “Of course he could be working with someone, the same goes for Linc but in a case like this it would be very unusual, especially considering how personally this person seems to be taking it.” I watch his brow knit with a frown of concentration; mentally I see him trying this way and that to make the puzzle pieces fit.

Ah, now I’m Mrs Grey again, I realise that I’ve overstepped a mark in questioning his professionalism.

We fall into a brooding, restless silence, leading my thoughts neatly back to my husband still in surgery.  When will we get some news?

Minutes later Grace appears with Chris in hand, I’m inordinately relieved to see him; and her for that matter. This time I also take note of their shadow, a young, sharp looking black woman that does very well blending into the background but by her bright eyes, no less observant.

“Hey buddy, how was the ice-cream?” Dropping to my haunches I catch him in a bear hug, burying my nose in his hair, eternally grateful for the vital warmth of his healthy little form. My precious son.

“It was good mommy, can we see daddy now?” The flatness in his tone and spirit is disturbing, gripping my heart into a worried crush.

I hold him in the hug, picking him up as I push through my knees to heft his weight. When I catch Grace’s eye I see my concern reflecting there. Pressing her lips together she shakes her head, looking at Chris as she rubs his back with the flat of her hand – reassuring.

Her expression and my thoughts are the same. He’s already being affected by today’s ugly turn. I look to her for an answer to his question, lifting a gentle brow.

“Are you okay to have him while I check on Christian or do you still need some time?”

“No mom, we’re done, for now. Thank you for taking him and please… Bring us some good news.”

Her nod has her looking to the floor, I’m almost certain it’s to spare me the worry in her stare. She pivots smartly, striding off, her gait professional and controlled.

Sitting down I let Chris straddle my legs so I can talk to him face-to-face. “Buddy, do you understand that daddy will be sore for the next few weeks. We’re going to have to be very gentle with him. Only soft hugs.” I lift his chin with my finger, searching his sad little face.

Unwilling to look at me he agrees but his heart isn’t in it, “Mm-hm.” It’s clear that he’s finding this hard to understand.

Grace’s return interrupts our mother-son chat, “Ana, Jason, he’ll be awake in a minute or so. The surgeon said it all went well. Apparently it took forever to find all the tiny little splinters of bone but he’ll regain full use of the arm once it’s healed.” The earlier chalk-white tone of her skin has reclaimed some of its usual rosy glow.

I close my eyes and tilt my head to the heavens, thanking God for answering my hasty, fervent prayers. I’m beginning to feel like I owe Him a debt. “Can we see him now?”

“I think he would want that,” she smiles kindly at me. “You go first; I’ll bring Chris in a minute.” I read between the lines of her offer: check to make sure Christian looks well enough to see Chris before we upset him more.

With a heavy sigh and a shake of my head I feel the tears prickle behind my eyes. I’m so grateful for her strong hand and guidance right now. “Thank you,” I mouth at her, inclining my head to punctuate my gratitude.

“Buddy, I’ll go check on daddy to see if he’s ready, will you stay with grandma for a minute or two?”

Without a word he bunches his small fist into my shirtsleeve, his head finds the crook of my neck where he lodges it in that very stubborn manner he’s inherited from his father. “Huh-uh.”

Just like dad he’s unmovable when he gets like this. “Chris, honey.” I sigh as I try to put a little distance between us so I can reason with him. “I’ll only be a minute baby; can you give mommy a minute?”

He burrows deeper, only pressing himself closer. This time the huh-uh is muffled as he mumbles it against my skin.

I give Grace a resigned look but she misses it as her eyes crinkle in the corners with her mirth. She has her mouth covered with her hand, despite our circumstances she has to stem her giggles as she recognises the mini version of Christian on my lap.

Taylor surprises us both by being the one to have a go at prying him away from me. “Hey champ, look what I have here. It’s a stop watch and I’ve got it set on 60 seconds. That’s exactly one minute.” I watch him tap at the face of his smart phone but he stays seated, speaking to Chris in a conversational, no-pressure voice.”

I feel my boy respond by turning his head toward Taylor as his interest gets piqued but he’s not ready to go yet. I give Taylor an encouraging smile over Chris’ shoulder.

Looking very interested in his phone Taylor continues to draw him in, “So I’ll just set it like this. And then if I press this button it will start to count down. It will make a big noise when mom’s time is up then I can race in there, only I have to find someone to race with me.” Thoughtfully he taps his chin with a finger.

Chris is suddenly upright as he sucks in a breath, “Let me see then I’ll race you.” Without so much as a backward glance he’s off my lap and onto Taylor’s, completely taken in.

I seize my chance and dash to Christian’s side, more than anything I want to be there when he opens his eyes. My strained heart is thumping manically as I push open the doors to his private suite. His magnificent bare chest is only just visible from beneath the flimsy blanket. Both his arms are resting along the sides of his body, on top of the blanket, the left one heavily bandaged.

Seeing him laying here, still pale has me reeling about the possibility of losing him. Involuntarily I bite my lip, drawing blood from the barely healed split in an effort to stem the swelling tide of fear and desolation.

My heart, my love.

Tenderly, reverentially I stroke over his forehead, down his sculpted jaw, along his beautifully turned shoulders and bicep of his right arm before his eyes flutter open. “Baby,” he breathes and smiles. Only Christian can look heart stoppingly gorgeous waking up from surgery after a gunshot wound.

I lean over to kiss his forehead, lingering and loving that my lips are pressed to his warm, reassuring skin. “Husband of mine I …” My murmur is interrupted by an appreciative purr. It may be the drugs talking but then again, it may very well just be him, he’s obviously feeling well enough to nuzzle into the hollow of my throat and cop a sneaky feel of a convenient breast squashed against the underside of his face.

I giggle then straighten instantly as I hear the unmistakable rush of an excited toddler. “Daddy, daddy, did you get a Band-Aid? Is it a big one? Did they give you some ice-cream? Ice-cream always makes it better.” The tumble of his chatter is followed by a quick clamour onto Christian’s bed, his face shining with excitement.

Wow, his mercurial shift in moods tops even his dad’s. “Buddy, remember that you need to be gentle with daddy okay?”

After a solemn nod his attention is back with Christian, expectant. “Hi baby boy.” Christian says raking his fingers through Chris’ hair. There’s a definitive awe and wonder in his slightly croaky voice, happy to be alive and here with his family around him. “I don’t have a Band-Aid but I have a bandage, look how big it is.”

Regardless of the pain it might cause him he lifts his left shoulder, showing off the pristine bandage. “Wow!” Chris is suitably impressed, now intent on comparing battle scars. He rolls up his pant leg to show Christian a two inch scar that sits just to the right of his knee. “This one needed three Band-Aids!” he holds up four fingers making us all smile.

“I was okay after that fall,” he says to Christian as his brow furrows with his thoughts, then places his small hand on his dad’s shoulder. “You’ll be okay too,” the earnest delivery is adorable and earns him a one armed hug from his slightly overwhelmed father.

I’m grateful for Grace’s timeous arrival just then; it will keep my boys from seeing how close I am to breaking down. “Darling,” her tone conveys so many different things; relief, love and a good measure of annoyance.

I couldn’t agree more, waiting to be treated was a senseless thing to do.

She grabs his hand and rubs the back of it against her cheek. “I hate it when you scare me like that. You silly man, you really should know better!” her lilt is only mildly scolding. I guess it’s because he’s just been through surgery; under different circumstances I think she would’ve been much harder on him.

My turn to chip in and I’m not feeling half as sorry for him as she is, “Silly doesn’t begin to describe it, you have a family to think of, I can’t believe that you put yourself at risk like that!”

My darling, maddeningly frustrating husband does what he always does, he takes the wind right out of my angry sails, “Why Mrs Grey, I’m delighted to see that you care so much about me. Am I to surmise from your little outburst that you’d miss me?” As if the panty dropping smile isn’t enough he gives it to me in full HD with a lascivious wink.

Gah!

I can’t help but laugh, he should be groggy and slow but instead he’s playful. “Yes Mr Grey,” I wag my finger at him in my best schoolmarm impression. “I care! I care a whole damn lot!” My voice wobbles then falters as reality chooses this moment to hit me fast and hard. A great hacking sob issues from my lips and a gush of hot, scared tears follow in its wake. I rush to Christian’s free side, flinging my arms around his neck, none too careful.

Talk about mercurial.

“I love you so much,” I mumble through the sudden flood.

“Hey baby, please don’t cry. I’m fine. I love you too.” His pleading whisper penetrates my veil of misery, reminding me that I have to be strong for him and our son.

Still in the nook of his neck I supress the effusive waterworks, eager to be the one my family can lean on in this crisis. With a trailing row of smacking kisses down the side of his face I pull away putting on my mommy-in-charge face. “Right, you need some rest Mr Grey so when Taylor and later the boys come back you can talk. I’m sure you’re anxious for some answers. Chris and I will go have a bite to eat at the cafeteria downstairs and give you some peace. We’ll be back a little later. I’ll just unpack your things.”

Keeping my mind off this horror is going to help me cope. I throw myself into the menial task of unpacking Christian’s toiletries and clothes, put his laptop on the bedside table then leave to find someone to organise more beds for the night. There’s no way I’m leaving my injured husband alone in this hospital. I know he won’t let us go home so we might as well stay here instead of some random hotel.

With Grace’s clout it’s easy to arrange two extra cots for the night, no doubt Chris will be thrilled – to him this will seem like an adventure. The room is slightly too small to accommodate three full beds but I plan on pulling mine right up to Christian’s.

I find Chris where I left him, still on Christian’s bed, chatting away and rubbing his tired eyes. “Come angel boy, let’s leave daddy to rest. We can eat something and then we’ll get to sleep here tonight!” Christian opens his mouth to object but Chris is already bouncing on the bed, howling his joy.

My husband sends me a dark look, savvy to my scheming plan but I ignore him. Nothing in the world will drag me away from him tonight. After another kiss he waves us off, “Take Taylor with you.” His last command as we leave the room is delivered in his Dom voice, not to be discounted.

Yes sir, I think to myself and smile as I lead my boy to find food. In the passageway we meet Taylor who’s in deep discussion with another security type. We stop a little way away, waiting for him to finish. A moment later he calls us over to introduce us; “Mrs Grey, I’m sure you remember Sawyer.”

The broad shouldered guy swivels round; a wry smile twists his mouth. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the infamous escape artist. Good to see you again Mrs Grey.” His voice is dripping with sarcasm and mercifully, with mirth as well.

The heat of my face feels like a furnace blast, cheeks, ears, neck, every showing bit of my skin is bright red. I spot the pink tinge on Taylor’s ears; he too is sensing the awkwardness of the situation. “Luke. Good to see you,” I splutter in recognition.

Gulp.

I shake his hand, hoping in vain he doesn’t notice the blaring scarlet of my face. Taylor’s explanation is on hand, “Just a quick private job for us while we wait for the other three, I needed someone who already knew the drill and Sawyer happened to be free.”

Luke is the obvious choice but no less embarrassing for me. I shove Chris in front of me, keen to get off the subject. “This is Chris,” I say bluntly.

Sawyer’s eyes light up with recognition and understanding like he’s already been filled in. He extends his big hand, dwarfing Chris’, “Hi there little man, I’m on duty at your daddy’s door tonight.”

Cringe.

Chris shakes his hand, nodding again then saves me. “Mommy can we eat now?” he asks, looking over his shoulder at me. Boy I love him. Good timing buddy, I think.

They pass a look between themselves before Taylor leaves Sawyer to guard the entrance to Christian’s room.

Phew!

“I’m sorry about that Mrs Grey; I didn’t have time to warn you.” He appears genuinely contrite, but even if he wasn’t I can’t hold it against him. I brought that awkwardness on myself.

“I understand, don’t worry about it.” I can be gracious now, away from Sawyer though he seems not to be holding a grudge.

“How is Mr Grey? I missed checking in on him, had to get that bullet to a ballistics buddy of mine.”

“He’s fine, just like himself. I’m so mad at him though, that he took such an unnecessary risk with his life.”

Taylor shrugs, acknowledging my right to be angry but also knowing Christian well enough not to expect anything else.

At the hospital canteen Chris takes a few bites and promptly falls asleep with his head on my lap while Grace and I make small talk, not ready to tackle the ugly issue of our threat. After the crappy meal we head back to Christian, tired and stressed.

Just as we arrive at Christian’s door the quiet corridor fills with the sounds and bulky forms of Collins, Brandon and Carl. “Wow, you back from Portland already? That was quick.” That’s a five or six hour round trip.

“Yes ma’am. We did some low flying to get back here.” Brandon shoots me a droll grin. “Any news?” He looks to Taylor who’s bearing a distinctly stern frown at his junior colleagues disregard for their own personal safely and the speed limit. I find it comforting that in spite of his burly appearance the edge of concern in Brandon’s deep baritone is obvious. Christian has a way of inspiring respect and loyalty in people.

Except for this crazed, shooting maniac! The uncharitable thoughts and choice expletives I have for this faceless asshole who’s threatening my family is endless.

All three of them manage to look sheepish at Taylor’s glare. “Mr Grey came through the surgery just fine. Join us, we’ll brief him now.”

Brandon is at my side, “Let me take him for you ma’am.” He holds out his arms for Chris as he’s draped over my shoulder, out for the count.

“Thank you,” with as much care as I can muster I pass him to Brandon. “I’ll check on Christian to see if he’s up for visitors.” As I pass Sawyer I lift my fingers in a tentative wave, I see the sardonic smile hasn’t left his face.

The sound of my entry alerts Christian, making him turn to me as he looks away from his laptop, rubbing his eyes. “Hey baby, where’s Chris? How was dinner?”

“You should be resting Mr Grey.” I admonish but really not surprised that he’s up. “Brandon has him, he’s fast asleep and dinner was terrible.” I wrinkle my nose and Christian chuckles.

“Is Taylor outside?”

“Yes, and all the others. They want to brief you before we all go to bed.”

“Okay, but before then come here.”

His eyes follow me as I walk toward him; he beckons me with his uninjured arm. When I reach his side he curls a strong arm around my waist. “You okay?”

I feel like curling up into his nook and crying my heart out but I don’t. Instead I put on a brave face. “As good as I can be, under the circumstances. I’ll be even better if you take your injury seriously and take it easy.” I give the laptop a pointed stare.

After a moment’s hesitation he concedes, “I’ll try. I just… Fuck Ana. If it was you or Chris instead of me…” His grip pulls me closer.

“I know.” In fact I know exactly how he feels because what he fears has happened to me, to us. He was shot, almost killed. I just wish he could see it from my point of view.

After our moment alone I let the security team in. I turn down a cot and Brandon lays Chris down. For such a big guy his gentleness is touching. With loud scrapes they all rearrange some chairs to fit their big frames. I perch beside my husband on his bed. No way am I going to let him keep this from me.

“Glad to see you in one piece sir.” Taylor’s attempt at being dry fails miserably as his voice cracks at a critical moment, giving away his sentiment. He cares for Christian; I don’t think he would ever forgive himself if Christian got killed.

“Glad to be in one piece.” Christian smiles, telling Taylor in his own way that he got the message. “What have you found out?”

He clears his throat, “Undoubtedly a .308 round sir. No surprise there, it’s very reliable in longer distances and if the target is hit correctly, very effective.” He pulls out his phone and swipes a picture into view, turning it to Christian. The retrieved bullet tip comes into view and suddenly I understand what me means with mushrooming. What I assume is the back of it is still intact but the front looks like it splattered against something flat.  It’s almost double the size of the back and completely distorted.

He continues, letting his phone make the rounds amongst us. “The interesting thing though is that it mushroomed. It means that the round was soft tipped but I suspect heavy for the calibre. Maybe 160 grains or so would be my guess.” He catches Christian’s surprised watch and nod, the unspoken understanding already in place.

“I’ve no doubt sir, that the shooter used a hunting rifle. It explains the soft tip, the effective traveling distance, the neat entry hole through the glass wall at Escala and ultimately why you haven’t suffered a more severe injury with an exit wound the size of a soup bowl.”

I watch the grey in Christian’s gaze turn almost black as his anger from this morning resurfaces. “A fucking hunting rifle? What the fuck does that mean?”

Be kind and review, please.

Link to chapter 32

110 thoughts on “Chapter 31

  1. Kate says:

    Amazing!!! I truly truly love this!!! It is soooo good!! I just read the other 30 chapters yesterday!! Not sure I can wait a whole week for the next one!!! You are truly talented!! I hope you write more and that someday I can buy your work!!

    Like

  2. Heather B says:

    ugh-I have no idea who it could be! Im on edge the whole time!

    Like

  3. Gwen says:

    Fantastic as usual!!!!

    Like

  4. Katherine says:

    Oh well done again
    Fantastic chapter so much detail
    Nice touch bringing Sawyer back
    I really thought it was Jose after them but now I have no clue
    Looking forward to finding out more in the next chapter

    Like

  5. Gemma says:

    Wow! Another amazing chapter!

    For some reason I think it might be Sawyer because I think he’s smart enough to fool everyone that it was a person who had no experience of what they were doing and he was free at the time Taylor needed him. Plus he knows about guns. But i could be completely wrong.

    Can’t wait for the next chapter!!

    Like

  6. Caligirl says:

    OMG…so good. I cant wait for the next chapter.

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  7. t hall says:

    i think it is leila and jose

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  8. Karen says:

    Omg.. I thought sawyer, and when he was back … No! My brain is buzzing… Still feel Jose and Leila are there somewhere… Loving Taylor even more…

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  9. caroline miller says:

    could it be jack hyde?..mmmm… i wonder, sooo looking forward to ch.32
    roll on next friday 🙂

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  10. Marion Evans says:

    Wow i had my mind set it was Josie but now havent a clue left me hanging for more cant wait for next one xx

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  11. Joyce says:

    Brilliant chapter can’t wait for the next one I have a funny feeling it’s Doctor Sean.

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  12. Mary says:

    I read it fast and now the torture of waiting a week >.< …love it.. I wonder if it could be jack?

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  13. Lillimarlene says:

    Monique, one of the things I particularly like about your writing is your attention to detail, you obviously did your ballistics research for this chapter. It’s the mark of an author who respects her readers.

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Thank you, that’s a very nice thing to say. I do respect my readers and I hate it when I see big obvious holes in theories so I try. I am going to have to make an adjustment at the end of chapter 29 about the supersonic crack sound heard when the shooter fired the bullet, I settled on a smaller calibre in the end so the bullet will not be breaking the sound barrier, coupled with the smaller round and the silencer the velocity gets diminished. Ah well, such is life for a writer who posts chapter by chapter.

      Like

  14. grublue says:

    My bet is still on Hyde,especially as the story hints at some unresolved business between Linc and Christian. Remember the books – Linc payed Hyde’s bail, which, of course, in this story didn’t happen or at least not in the same way. But Linc and Hyde might be somehow connected.
    I don’t think it’s Sawyer. I’m not sure I remember correctly, but I thought Sawyer was ex-FBI. So he would know better how to kill. (I might be mixing up something. Was it Welch who was ex-FBI?) And even if he wasn’t ex-FBI, he surely would know how it should be done to succeed.
    And I really hope it’s not José. I still hope Ana and José will reconcile one day.
    Great chapter, good research! Loved it!

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Some astute observations there, good job! Thank you so much for the comment.

      Like

      • grublue says:

        Thinking about it, it might also have to do something with Leila. Remember in the books when Ana disovered the pictures that had been removed from the safe. Christian said he was going to destroy them, and in your story he actually did, if I remember correctly, the very same day. As I read FSOG I was a little disappointed James never brought this plot twist up again, it felt so inresolved. I wanted to know, if it was Leila, what her intent was. Or could it possibly be a red herring and it wasn’t Leila at all?
        I’m glad you’re bringing it up again. So if it was Leila who removed the pictures from the safe, she might be the person who is pressurised (as Christian states it to Ana some chapters back as the publication of the Red-Room-picture was prevented just in time). And the one who’s putting the pressure on her might be Hyde and Linc. (Linc might have found out about Elena’s past.)
        I also wonder why Christian or Taylor haven’t suspceted Hyde so far. At least they haven’t brought it up. Perhaps they think he’s still in jail.

        Like

  15. baedrei09 says:

    Wow I didn’t realize they had so many enemies!! The list just goes on, it could be anyone.
    1. Jose 2. Jack Hyde with help from Elizabeth 3. Lincoln 4. Elena (she could be that crazy) 5. Leila 6. Sawyer (maybe, but idk his motive)

    gah!!! I can’t wait til chapter 32.

    Like

  16. Moire says:

    Leila keeps coming to mind – with help but who ??- and remember Ana (to herself) in an earlier chapter said I wonder what/where Jack Hyde is these days “- is this a CLUE ???
    and that Jose was dating smeone that Elliott had once dated – so many possibilites and LOVE this chapter Hurry up next FRIDAY – I am sure we will all need a teaser mid week to keep from expiring !!! 🙂

    Like

  17. 640fan says:

    I also enjoy this blog and your creativity in coming up with this story. As you have asked us to comment, I thought I would point out some grammatical/choices of words that you could possibly improve upon, if you so chose. I will read the blog regardless of whether you take or ignore my suggestions as I like your storylines anyway. Suggestions: “shuddering” might be more appropriate in the context that you use it as “juddering” is usually used for machinery and shuddering for people; also “timeous” should be “timely”.

    Like

  18. 640fan says:

    To clarify: I am not suggesting that “timeous” is not a word, just that “timely” might sound better/read better in this context.

    Like

  19. Roslyn says:

    The hunting game is on! What if it was Jose’ father. He was in the military and hearing that Ana and Christian got married might have him sending a message? If he wanted to kill him he would have. Yes, maybe Jack Hyde or the good Dr. is resurfacing? Hmm, this is better than a game of sleuth. Thank you Monique, your work is wonderful and it makes me come back for more. I too would buy your books…you are almost there.

    Like

  20. twinkie55 says:

    Monique, I enjoyed this chapter a lot. Thank you for your attention to the small details and the sensivity that comes through the conversations. The Xmas Meander helped to calm me through this chapter knowing Christian will be fine. I do not want to guess I am just willing myself to wait for another chapter or two for the answers. Six more days…

    Like

  21. Kat says:

    Awesome keep writing!

    Like

  22. floyd281 says:

    Love it so exciting holding on waiting for more. I love your story i keep rereading it

    Like

  23. Katherine says:

    Hi Monique,
    Had a girlie night last night we played all the music on your blog and after a ridiculous amount of wine and putting the world to rights Fifty Shades Meander was the main topic of conversation with us reading our fav chapter out!! We had a ball 🙂
    This chapter was discussed at some length and we have all agreed that it is 2 people working together, this was our findings lol
    Jose & Linc 4 people think this
    Jose & Elena 3 people going for this
    Jose and Dr Dirty Dick 1 person thought this!!
    Just letting you know that your fantastic story is starting some very lively conversations!!

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Ah Katherine, that sounds like a great night, wish I could join you! Now I’m super glad that I pushed through and posted late last night! I would have loved to hear the favorite scenes part! Thank you so much for posting the comment, I love it! Xx

      Like

      • Katherine says:

        Most popular was when Christian met his son for the first time and the hottub on their honeymoon. Personally I couldn’t decide between when they told Chris that Christian was his father you wrote that so well, when the rest of the Greys met Chris or the fabulous hot sex the first time they spent the night again so I used that excuse to read all 31 chapters today again and still can’t decide 🙂

        Like

  24. kerry says:

    Great writing as always keeping us all in suspense. I have an idea it may be Jose and Leila but will continue to read as I’m loving the story. Excellent bringing Sawyer back absolute genius I hope there will be an apology to him from Ana as there was to Taylor!!!
    Can’t wait for next week.

    Like

  25. tracy says:

    I don’t think it’s Jose. I’m sure he’s upset with Ana, but I don’t think he would risk killing her if she was standing so close to Christian. Hyde is the one with a vendetta, I think it’s him. Or maybe Leila aiming at Ana and missing. Speaking of Leila, I’ve always wondered how she “slashed” Ana’s tires. Not that I’ve ever done it, but it seems like it would be hard to do especially if you are sick and frail. Is someone helping her? Maybe it’s easy and I’m just ignorant in the tire slashing department. Sawyer? Not feeling it. Linc? Maaaybeee? I mean Christian did fuck his wife and destroy his business. I guess that’s motive enough. Soooo…Will there be another “first” in the hospital room? Not that that’s how my dirty mind works… ha ha

    Like

    • grublue says:

      And I wondered how Leila got in Ana’s appartement at all. Doesn’t seem to be an easy job.

      Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      LOL! I’d be a little worried if we have a reader coming up with some handy tire slash hints but I think it would be quite hard to slash them, much easier just to poke them full on holes, especially if your knife is sharp. I don’t think that in the original trilogy Linc knew it was Christian that Elena was screwing. I’m sure Mr Grey will try his utter best to notch up another first in the hospital! LOL!

      Like

      • tracy says:

        Wait…Linc didn’t know about Christian in the 1st trilogy? I’m so confused…lol I’ve read too many fan fictions that I’m not sure what’s real…lol What? None of it’s real? Well, you sure make them seem real! 🙂

        Like

        • Monique Lain says:

          LOL! That made me giggle and you are correct, Linc knew that Elena had an affair but he did not know that it was with Christian but he obviously did have something against Christian because in Freed he posted Hyde’s bail.

          Like

  26. Valerie says:

    Ha! I see I’m not alone in thinking it might be Sawyer, but the shooter used a hunting rifle, and Sawyer is professionally trained, so now I’m baffled. I’m so happy that Sawyer is back and hope this isn’t a trick! Great chapter Monique!

    Like

  27. jewels24 says:

    I’m thinking Elena and Leila or Elena and Dr. Sean. Both Elena and Leila would know about the red room and pics. Dr. Sean would be for revenge for making a fool out of him. Wasn’t Elena’s father in the timber business? More than likely, she would know how to shoot from him. Being in the woods, you need protection fron animals, and her father would of taught her how to shoot.

    Like

  28. Barb says:

    I had company Friday and Saturday and couldn’t wait for your latest installment. It was great as usual. I have several thoughts on the shooter, First I think it could be Sawyer because if he is psycho which I think he would have to be to do something like that, he could probably hide all the signs and he knows how to handle a gun and probably saw the picture when Christian and Ana first reunited in Florida. Also Ana made him look and feel bad when she sneaked out of the apartment five years ago. Second I think it could be Dr Shawn. He came on a little too strong with Ana right after meeting her almost like he knew about her from someone else holding a grudge or maybe he had been trying to get donations from GEH for a long time with no success for his medical project. Also he’s been to Africa and probably knows how to use a hunting rifle and is familiar with ammo. Third I thought the shooter might be one of her wacky neighbors from Georgia. The transgender guy could be an imposter/spy and her neighbor/friend seemed to act a little weird when she told her about Christian. Just thoughts… I’m glad Ana stayed for the debrief, no more secrets. Taylor seems to be more open with Ana and keeping her informed; that’s good. Playful Christian, don’t you just loovveee him! Can’t wait until Friday.

    Like

  29. skinsavant says:

    you have an incredible way of building suspense and you sure don’t give away much. my guess would be hyde (he knows his way around inside escala and most likely the building across) and/or mr. lincoln (he maybe working with elena or got the information from her). definitely not jose. when i started reading the convo between taylor and ana, dr. mcdreamy came to mind but i don’t think he’s the evil, vindictive type and he adores chris too much. the suspect is still at large and most likely will try again until he/she hurts christian or someone very close to him. what will he do next? i hope they catch him soon because i want more christian and ana lemons! 🙂
    brilliant chapter as always.

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Thank you for the comment and thank you for also reviewing on FF, the stats there helps, I appreciate it! Ooohhh, so many questions… 😉 I love it! Re the lemons, I was told before the sh@t hit the fan that it was getting a bit tired… I take it you’re not of the same opinion…? LOL!

      Like

  30. Lenette says:

    I have read all chapters since I discovered this in the last few days & have just loved, loved, loved it! It’s great that there is a continuation of the FSOG books with so much romance, sex, thrills & SUSPENSE! Your writing is just so professional & now I don’t think that I can wait for Fridays to read the next chapter but please keep them coming & thank you heaps! 🙂

    Like

  31. only1niqui says:

    Hmmmmmm…….so much speculation. I can’t decide so I will not guess for now. I love your story so much! Thanks as always for sharing. Can’t wait for next update! I may have to take a break so I have a few chapters at once. I can’t take the cliff hangers. LOL

    Like

  32. Melissa says:

    Oh, the suspense…but then that was your intent, wasn’t it? I’m trying to run through all the potential options to figure out what’s going on in that marvelously devious brain of yours, but i think i’m resigned that no matter what i come up with…..your version will be infinitely better. And so, i anxiously await the mid week teaser!! (but i hope it’s not Sawyer)

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Oh, yes, for sure, you know me and the cliffies… LOL! I’m so surprised at how many folks have commented on Sawyer, I never knew he had such a following. LOL! Thank you for the feedback 😉

      Like

  33. Michelle Ricciardi says:

    Monique, I am so glad I found you. Your writing is fantastic and you have such a great attention to detail. I cant get enough of FSOG and I love that I still get to read on. My husband has been sick and I loved that I found you in time (thanks to Camilla Rosendal) this way I could lose myself in your chapters while in waiting rooms waiting while hes getting tests done. Its been getting me through really, so thank you. Keep it up, I love the suspence . And that you brought Sawyer back 🙂

    Like

  34. Mercia says:

    I don’t know who fired the shot but, it is getting as much buzz as, ‘ Who Shot JR? In the meantime, I will re read the whole, FANtastic Meander story!
    I am on tenterhooks for the next chapter!

    Like

  35. moire says:

    started my reread yesterday (comments on that page 🙂 this really is a good read ) AAGghh had hoped that the “teaser” would have been up for my birthday but noooo!!! This is like when we went to Saturday movies and had to wait til next week for the continuation of the
    ‘serial ‘ LOL.
    Keep up the good work

    Like

  36. Jane says:

    Omg I’m dying here I just read all the chapters in 3 days.. I love it.. but I have a feeling its elana or one of her subs helping her.. or Jose…

    Like

  37. Jane says:

    Love love love it!!!! I read all chapters til now in 3 days.. n I’m on the edge of my seat…

    Like

  38. Leslie says:

    Read them in 3 days, so hooked. I really hope that it’s not Sawyer…..I betting on Elena and Leila or Jose.

    Like

  39. Hazel says:

    Shoo i am so glad Christian is still alive and that he will make a full recovery!!! The chapters are just getting better and better thank you Monique…. To all the ladies reading and posting comments you should all be detectives love reading your thoughts. I feel like these characters are our family and friends we all take what happens to them so personally.. Lotsa love H

    Like

  40. samantha says:

    why do I have a feeling that the suspect is jack Hyde all over again?

    Like

  41. BarbarabSolotoff says:

    I stumbled onto your blog and am enjoying your writing. I also have a thought about Hyde but who knows who else may be lurking.

    Like

  42. Terri says:

    I am in love your take on this amazing trilogy! I read the books and felt a void after they were done, i wanted more, when i found your blog i was hesitant, but gave it a try and have not stopped reading at every free moment, your writing is beyond my expectations, its like picking an alternate ending!!! THank you!

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Hello Terri! Yes, we all understand that void only too well! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your comment with me, I’m so glad you stopped by and gave Meander your time 😉 Thank you!

      Like

  43. Jocel says:

    I think it will be much better if the enemies (like Leila, Jack, Jose, Linc etc.) of Christian and Ana built a force against them. I guess that will make their relationship much stronger.

    Like

  44. i cross my fingers ,, and move to another chapter … Like a good school girl… anyway love the suspense you hav created ,,

    Like

  45. Jules says:

    So glad I found this! Absolutely love it!

    Like

  46. Stacey says:

    Oh Monique !!! I am so hooked it’s pathetic !! I have Demanded my friends who have read Fifty read your version and dare I say I find it very very close to better than the original !!!!

    Like

  47. Louise says:

    I’m beginning to vote for Linc. As if ruining his marriage, Christian also bankrupted him. Wouldn’t that be enough to drive him over the edge? Linc was mad enough to bail out Jack, so he’s obviously was still very angry with Christian after all the year had past since his divorce fro Elena. Linc must also know something about the detail of the sexual relationship between Elena and Christian, so he likely knows about the BDSM.

    Like Jose, too obvious for your crafty writing? Maybe.

    Like

  48. Patricia Stokes says:

    I have enjoyed this book every since I found it, I hope you write more, there are endless possibilities with Christian and Ana……

    Like

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