The only thing that kept me from bawling my eyes out was Chris’ sweet enthusiasm for the duration of the ride in Charlie Tango. Inside my heart was breaking, cracking open, splitting with what seemed like a terrifying finality.
Christian, of course, took care of every detail of our covert escape from Seattle. Once we landed we drove to Ray’s in a normal sedan, no tell-tale luxury Audi for us this time. Though the windows were tinted it was one of those cars that were completely unremarkable, so every-day that it was easy to forget.
Taylor even took the precaution of driving straight into Ray’s garage, making us wait until the roller door was firmly shut before letting us get out. All of this just on the off chance that someone was keeping an eye on us.
The sound of the garage door locking into place made me think of the slam of a prison gate; here we’ll be captive until this mess is resolved. Every second away from Christian was a sentence passed on to me by this bastard thug that was chasing us. I hated him with a rawness that I swore would give me an ulcer.
As I slip out of the car Ray greets us with a surprise at his side. It seems Taylor has taken Sawyer up on his offer to help out over the next few days or weeks or whatever. Fifty sure means business if he’s assigned three security guards just for us and that doesn’t include Ray who, in spite of being my dad, is no less qualified to keep us safe. Taylor will join Brandon once Collins and Carl arrive here this evening; the both of them assigned to Christian and on my insistence, will remain glued to his side.
Ray pulls me into a bear hug. Even in his embrace I can sense the weight of his concern. “Hi dad. Thanks for taking us on. I’m sorry that you’re caught up in this.”
“Oh Annie, don’t be sorry sweetheart. Keeping you safe isn’t a chore for me; it would kill me if anything happened to you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He tightens his hold reminding me of what it was like to be a little girl who lived for the love and approval of her father – albeit a step one. He was the only one I ever knew. “I’m glad Christian trusted me with the pair of you.”
It takes every single ounce of my resolve not to give in to the emotional meltdown inching forward with a merciless surge. “Thanks,” is the only strained word I manage to force past my constricted throat.
Ray shepherds us into his heavily modified home. It comes as no surprise that it already looks like security central in here. The dining room has been commandeered as headquarters, the table overrun with criss-crossing cables to monitors, hard drive towers and telephones. I feel like I’ve walked onto an FBI movie set.
There are cameras mounted in a corner of every room, even in the bathroom I note with no small twinge of dismay. Considering the window is only about 30 by 20 inches I can’t help thinking that it may be a step too far, especially when all the windows and doors are also armed with motion sensors.
Taylor sees the perturbed look on my face but instead of annoyance his visage softens, understanding how overwhelming this is for me. “The cameras,” he points to the offending corner, “we can change the angle to give you privacy.” He shows me the bathroom on the tablet screen he’s holding. Swiping across the controls displayed on the bottom I watch how the eye of the camera quietly swings away, readjusted to look up at the ceiling.
“Oh. Okay.” I say, still feeling a lingering reluctance for the over-the-top intrusion. “Do I control it or ask the guys when I want to uhm… shower?” my cheeks grow a flaming red at the cringe-worthy idea.
He chuckles gently, “Ana, Christian would kill the boys if they even considered…” Too embarrassed to finish his sentence he blushes right along with me before he slips back into Robo-Taylor mode. “Just consider it a necessary precaution. If it will make you feel any better, take the tablet with you so you have control over the functions when you’re in here.”
“Thanks,” I mumble, not quite able to shed my discomposure though his suggestion does go some way to appease me.
For our safety Taylor insists that Chris and I share a bedroom and Ray’s had the foresight to replace the double bed with two singles. Truth be told I’m relieved. If I think about what this creep has already managed to do to my family, keeping a continued eye on Chis is an absolute necessity.
After my tour I go in search of my Chris and my dad. I find them in the kitchen riveted to the window like it’s a TV. I follow their fascinated gazes and spot some work men in the backyard. “What are they doing?” I ask Ray as I watch the men lay some kind of matting on the dirt.
“They’re laying Sportflex.” After a pause he continues, probably realising that he needs to clarify. “As you mostly won’t be able to go out Christian thought it would be a good idea to install a jungle gym for Chris.” The pair of them so intent on watching the guys that Ray can’t tear his gaze away even as he explains.
“Okay,” I say – still without a clue of what they’re doing. “So what’s Sportflex?”
Ray holds out a crisp bag to Chris who plunges an eager hand into its crinkling foil folds. “It’s the stuff you see on a running track. Sort of squishy spongy surface that has great traction and a bit of bounce.”
“Ah, I see. So Chris doesn’t hurt himself if he falls?” Boy Christian really does think of everything but as always, even from a hospital bed, he leaves his overbearing stamp everywhere. I hope my dad doesn’t feel like he’s being bullied into this. “And are you okay with all of this dad?”
Chuckling he finally looks at me, “Are you kidding? This is great.” He ruffles Chis’ hair, “We’ll have so much fun out there, it’ll be better than fishing.” He gives Chris a high five, their mutual excitement shared and palpable.
Oh well, if Chis is looking forward to it then I’m grateful. I love how Christian wants to make our stay less strenuous. “I’ll leave you to it.”
I wander to our bedroom to send Christian a text and to do some unpacking.
*Arrived safely but miss you so much. How are you feeling? Thank you for the jungle gym. Love you xoxo*
As I unzip my bag my phone chirps a reply.
*Hey baby, I miss you too. Thank you for going to Ray’s, you’ve no idea how relieved I am that you’re there. I hope Chis enjoys the jungle gym, Ray was very accommodating. Let’s try to stick to e-mail as much as possible; our communication will be more secure that way. I’m feeling fine, just hate being stuck in this bed, especially without you… 😉 What do you want to do regarding Chris missing preschool?*
I haven’t given it much thought so I sit on the edge of the bed to ponder our options for a minute. Christian did mention the possibility of an au pair when we were heading back from Vegas but now circumstances have changed. I pull up my shiny new laptop, the matte silver finish so smooth it begs for my touch.
A Post-it note on the screen announces my new, secure e-mail address and informs me that my previous account’s mail has been forwarded to the new one. Reading between the lines I realise that my account was probably hacked, compliments of Mr Grey via his trusted computer geek Barney.
Boy I’m glad that I don’t have anything to hide! Christian still doesn’t seem to understand boundaries or even the concept of simply asking instead of telling after the fact but hey, I knew what I was getting myself into. Eyes wide open, I remind my disgruntled self.
From: Anastasia Grey <<< Note the name
Subject: School and more
Date: 28 October 2016 11:00
To: Christian Grey <<< Husband of mine
Thank you for the shiny new toy! I shall enjoy using it to tease you in your frail state. I too miss being in your bed, your arms, your mouth… Let that be motivation enough for you to keep yourself safe.
I’ve given Chris’ schooling some thought and for the time being I don’t mind taking care of it. Not home schooling per se but I’ll make sure that he does something educational every day. I can dig up some fun projects on the internet for us to do while we wait (impatiently) for this thing to blow over. As it is he only goes twice a week.
Any news since this morning?
I love you, I miss you, I want you.
Your faithful and compliant wife who was obedient enough to come to her father’s on her husband’s request, accepted the fact that her husband hacked her e-mail account and is tolerating – though grudgingly – the fact that she’s a prisoner in Montesano without the company of her beloved husband.
I giggle gleefully, if I don’t keep things happy and light between us I’ll be consumed by a depression so deep I may never find my way out. Playful, teasing banter to look forward to will keep up my spirits when all I want to do is gnaw off my nails in apprehension.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Compliant wives
Date: 28 October 2016 11:34
To: Anastasia Grey <<< Liking the sound of this very much
Baby, your mail made the ice chips in my mouth melt… Us frail, men folk should not be subjected to such suggestive banter, I’m sure the nurse that was fluffing my pillows wondered why I refused to move the laptop off my lap so she could change the sheets.
There has been no further development in regards to our situation and before you ask, I will keep you up to date. As far as Chris is concerned I think that’s a great idea, it will keep your mind occupied.
I’ve spoken to John, he’s awaiting your contact. His Skype details are: DrJohn.Flynn. You can arrange a time that suits.
Julie Logan should come back to you by this weekend with some editorial changes. She’ll be e-mailing you chapters that you can re write or revise as per your meetings. Her Skype name is GreyEnterprisesJLogan.
I’ll be discharging myself this afternoon once Taylor arrives back. I know this won’t meet with your approval but we’ll all be safer at the Fairmont and at least I can get on with work there. Rest assured my mother will be making twice daily calls on me. You will however be pleased to know that I won’t be going into the office for the next two days; Andrea will be coming to me instead.
I know you’re worried and I love that you’re strong enough to be brave. As always you never disappoint, I’m in awe of you baby. There are so many things I’d like to say but I’d rather say them in person. In the meantime I’ve made you a playlist to remind you of what we have and how much I miss and love you. See attached.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc and husband – desperately in love with his wife.
Even the toughest waterproof mascara would have failed me right now, lucky I’m not wearing any. Unchecked the tears track down my cheeks in hot unwelcome rivers as my heart breaks a little more. Even the stabs of jealousy I felt about the nurse leaning over Christian’s bed and Andrea in a hotel room with him seems far better than the ache that now consumes my being.
Oh Christian. I know some of the songs, enough to grasp the gist of what he’s saying but listening to the actual words will be nothing short of cruel torture if I’m not allowed to be with him. Nothing about this separation feels right but my usually reliable spidey-sense is so drenched with fear that I don’t think I could trust it.
If I had any sense at all I wouldn’t hit that play button but I do, knowing full well that it will probably rip out my heart. In the flow of Kelly’s lyrics I loose myself in the words my husband has selected just for me.
In spite of the void in my soul that his presence usually fills, for a brief moment, I allow the memories of the last few days to fill the empty hollows. Here like this, immersed in the echoes of his heart I can breathe because I feel so close to him. If I close my eyes I can almost feel the scorching trails of his touch on my ever indigent skin.
With a leap into my throat my heart’s start shatters the dreamy illusion as the intrusive notes of a Skype call overrides the gentle flow of the precious lyrics. I scowl at my screen, annoyed at the interruption until I see my husband’s name.
A quick fluff of my hair and a mad dash to wipe away the roll of my tears sees me ready to take the call.
“Hi!” I say as brightly as I can manage, backing my fake bravado with a full-beam smile.
“Baby.” His tone is slightly berating as he shakes his head. My obvious tear streaked face hurting him just as they do me.
Ashamed I hang my head, missing his earlier declaration of pride. “I’m sorry, the songs…”
His slate gaze softens as his mouth tugs into a gentle, indulgent smile. “I was wondering why you were taking so long to reply. Did you like them?”
Biting my lip I nod. Keeping my voice from cracking will be a requirement beyond my fragile emotional means right now.
His beautiful face crumples with concern, “I’m sorry baby, I don’t want you to be sad I just…” Again the rate of my heart sets off, taken aback by how deeply he feels my pain.
With courage that can only be born from unconditional love I push aside my deflated heart to give him an honest smile. “I love them! Please don’t think it hurt me, for a moment there I felt like I was with you.” As I feel the surge of love I know the truth of it rushes to my face, plain as day for him to see.
I watch him raise his hand, the tips of his fingers touching the screen, wanting to connect with me. Not a second later mine joins his, my fingertips caressing the image of his.
Though I sense a fresh batch of tears brewing I swallow against the tide, not wanting Christian to worry about me any more than he already is but the battle is precarious. If I don’t change the subject soon I’ll no doubt break down into a blubbering mess.
When my short breaths are even again I aim to lighten the mood. “Discharging yourself is a very naughty thing to do Mr Grey. I will be spending my free time thinking of suitable punishments.” I give him an exaggerated wink, my smile nothing short of suggestive.
Without missing a beat his mercurial self jumps into the moment with me. “Why Mrs Grey, you know I’ll be only too happy to receive any punishment you see fit. Just so I know what I’m in for do you want to tell me what I can expect?”
His words turn my joke into a challenge, calling my bluff. I watch the tiny picture of me turn an unnatural shade of red but I’ll be damned if I’ll back down now. Vanity and competitiveness overriding the shy, sensible part of my brain. The gauntlet is down.
“Uhm, ah…,” I stammer, “there may be some grovelling involved.”
He laughs, throwing back his head, “Okay, grovelling. What else?” His twinkling eyes holds a good dose of teasing.
Gah! He’s not taking me seriously – obviously not, I may be too inhibited to do this. My inner goddess shoves my prissy subconscious aside, taking charge with the textbook of slut clutched in her arm.
With a deep breath I channel my inner mistress and dive, head first without thinking too much. “We’ll start with a classic I think – some torture.” I tap my cheek with my finger feigning deep thought.
He nods, barely holding on to his flimsy pretence of earnestness.
Taking a leaf straight from the Christian Grey playbook I prepare to shock that smirk right of. “I’ll tie your arms and legs to our bed and make you lick me until I come all over your face and when you’re done, I’ll make you do it again just so I can leave you hanging and aching for me.”
The stretch of his eyes are extremely satisfying, even on the screen I can see the bob of his Adam’s apple as it travels in a ripple along his throat.
Ha! Who’s laughing now?
This time, when he speaks his voice is syrupy, low and gratifyingly raspy, “And where do you want me to lick you Anastasia?”
Oh boy, he gives as good as he gets. My name is like velvet on his lips, as pleasurable and sensual as a caress. His tone makes me brave and before I know it the word I never speak trips off my tongue without so much as a pang. “My pussy.”
As his breath hisses through his teeth my hand flies to cover my dirty mouth. I curse my broken brain-to-mouth filter.
“Fuck Ana!” His image distorts with the sudden movements of his laptop, giving me only frame by frame views of him.
Oh shit he’s mad!
Once the image stills his laser focus latches onto me. Mortified I peek through my splayed fingers that are helping to hide my blush of distress. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologise baby; that was hot but jeez woman, are you trying to kill me?” He grins at my perplexing frown. “I uhm, have a little situation here…” The nudge of his head in the direction of his groin deepens my blush and understanding dawns. There is nothing little about that situation…
I giggle, thoroughly pleased with myself. Yay! Tormenting Mr Sexpertise is fun.
Fortunately or maybe unfortunately – I’m still deciding – my attack of shame and the subsequent fit of giggles have shattered the moment so we end up just chatting. Signing off a few minutes later has me feeling a whole lot lighter.
While I’m on Skype I invite Dr Flynn and Julie Logan to be added to my contacts and click to check my e-mail. May as well make use of my free time while Chris is being entertained by Ray.
My heart thuds when the first line spells Jose’s name. My immobile fingers remain poised over my keyboard, too numb to move. Desire to do the right thing by him finally lends me the courage to open the message.
From: Jose Rodriguez
Date: 28 October 2016 09:28
To: Anastasia Grey
My dear Anastasia,
You’ve no need to apologize, it may come as a surprise to you but I know you better than you think. I knew you were lying from the moment you told me, no man in his right mind would ever let you go.
Huh? He knew? I read it again, just to be certain but my conclusion is no different. He’s not angry, resentful? I sure as hell remember him being nothing short of enraged with me, so much so that there were times when I thought he might strike me. I kept that titbit to myself, if Christian ever found out that he scared me…
What’s more, according to Ray whose ear was bent backward by Jose senior’s rants, Jose was devastated and not just a little bitter about the break-up. The other thing that strikes me is the fact that he let me go. Does that mean that he’s not in his right mind? And what’s with the Always yours? I was expecting a lot of things in this mail but not one of them showed up, the unpredictability of it all only makes me suspicious.
I forward the e-mail to Christian then head out to show the mail to Taylor. I find him on the phone, beckoning me with his free hand, “Here she is now Mr Grey. Yes, sir, as soon as I can.”
Wow, Christian moves fast.
“Is that Jose’s mail?” Taylor asks as he clears a space on the groaning table for the laptop.
“Yes and I don’t mind telling you that it’s strange. It’s not what I expected at all.”
“Be specific Ana, everything you can think of. Tell me.” He scans the mail and taps away going into files that I wouldn’t know how to find.
I give him the run down on all the things I feel is off about the letter. Moments later he’s done then hands the slick silver case back to me, “Are you going to reply?”
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “Is Christian mad?”
He looks thoughtful for a tic, “I don’t know Mrs Grey, you’ll have to ask him.”
Reluctantly I slink back to my room to check my mail again. I’m pretty sure I have an irate order waiting for me. True to form Christian’s reply is curt and to the point.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: EX husbands
Date: 28 October 2016 14:02
To: Anastasia Grey
Under no circumstances will you be replying to Jose’s mail. Taylor has it in hand. As far as I’m concerned this mail puts him on the top of our list.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc
Irritated by his dictatorial tone and whatever he might be insinuating – because with him you just never know – I type out en equally blunt okay. Just as I get ready to snap the cover shut a Skype message from Dr Flynn pops up.
Mrs Grey, congratulations on your recent nuptials. I am, as always, at your service and have a time slot available tomorrow morning at 9:00am if that would suit. Please confirm.
Though apprehensive I know that this will be good for me.
Thank you Dr Flynn, tomorrow at 9:00 it is.
The rest of the afternoon I spend mulling this over in my head, mentally preparing myself for my session with Flynn and thinking about Jose’s strange mail while I play with Chris and catch up with my dad.
In honour of our first night Ray has pulled out all the stops and decided to cook. This is a new development for me as he’s never shown an interest before. I guess that’s what living on your own will do for you, eventually take-out gets old.
Chris and I have been barred from the open plan kitchen but I can’t help casting surreptitious glances at Ray. If his impressive knife skills are anything to go by it should make for a good meal. He chats to me while preparing our food as I wander around the lounge feeling surplus.
“Maybe while you’re here we can brush up on your hand weapon skills, maybe some close hand-to-hand combat techniques?” He grins, finding my gaze across the room. “Do you remember Annie? How we used to wrestle here on the floor?” He points the business end of his chopping knife to a cleared space between the lounge and the dining room. A place where, I’m proud to say, I took my old man down a few times.
I beam at him as well as the memory. I love that he took the time to teach me things like that; it was his way to show how much he cared. For a man that has taciturn down to an art it was a valuable source of his love for me.
A movie strip of fond recollections reel across my mind, “Yes I remember! Only too well. Those fighting skills have come in handy on more than one occasion.” Gratitude grips my heart in a tight fist – the love of his father’s heart couldn’t bare the truth if I told him of the many times his training saved me.
Chris’ little ears pick up on the thing that he has an endless interest in, “Why did you fight with grandpa?”
Ray and I share an affectionate smile, “I didn’t fight with grandpa honey but he taught me some moves to help make me safe.” I choose my reply carefully. I don’t want to lie and I certainly don’t want to shield him from the realities of this sometimes wicked world but at the same time if there’s a need to learn to protect yourself then maybe he’ll grasp that there are things to fear.
In complete disregard for my carefully formulated response he jumps up, plants his feet in an anchored combat stance then kicks out his leg in an amazing emulation of a kick-boxing move.
Ray laughs in approval, abandoning the knife and rounding the counter in a stride. “That’s great champ. Now, do it again but this time, turn your body away from your opponent and always think about where your foot will land so you can plan the next move.”
I watch them with mixed feelings, being able to protect yourself is a good thing to know but he’s only four. Is he too young to learn a dangerous skill like that?
My train of thought is derailed by Taylor when he makes an appearance with Collins and Carl in tow. No need for introductions as they already met Ray at our wedding. After a quick greeting they follow Taylor to the make-shift high command that is Ray’s dining room. Their chatter becomes background noise as I look on to the impromptu self-defence class Ray is giving Chis.
I smile when I hear Ray explaining the responsibility that comes with the ability to fight when all hell breaks loose behind me. The soft murmurs of the boys huddled around the table has erupted into full blown action stations as they all jump to a task with Taylor barking urgent instructions.
What the hell?
Taylor has a phone pressed to his ear, listening intently before relaying more information to the team. When he remembers that we’re in the room he cups his hand over the mouthpiece, eyes bright with excitement. “Ana, we’ve identified the perp.”
Quick as a flash Ray scoops Chris up to take him outside. Grateful I sink into a nearby couch, praying with all my heart that it’s not Jose but in the light of the recent e-mail I suspect that that may be wishful thinking. I can’t bear being responsible for this as well as all the other crap I’ve caused.
Suddenly shot through with nervous energy I bounce my legs, unable to keep still as I wait for Taylor to fill me in. When he ends the call I almost pounce on him, desperate for any shred of information.
“Mrs Grey, the police, when following up on our leads form the shooting found an unregistered property that belongs to David Blackmore. They raided the apartment this afternoon in search of Mr Blackmore for questioning and found a room full of evidence. Photos, newspaper clippings, logs of Mr Grey’s movements. There is no doubt in the detective’s mind that he’s responsible but they’ve not managed to locate him.”
I remember Christian mentioning this guy this morning. A former employee, the one he fired for industrial espionage. My eye catches the satellite map images on the two screens I can see from where I stand, our boys intent on tracking the perp wherever he may be. The relief I feel about Jose’s innocence is completely overshadowed by the fact that knowing his identity doesn’t mean we’ll catch him before he strikes again.
Be kind and review, please.