Chapter 41

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Carrick seems oblivious to Grace and my careful scrutiny of Christian, smoothly he starts on a new topic just as I wanted to probe a little deeper. With a quick glace in my direction Christian answers his father’s question, obviously eager to change the subject.

Grace and I slide off our chairs to join Mia in the great room with Chris, and instantly the talk turns to Kate and Elliot’s visit. Mom and daughter seem equally excited about the visit and it’s easy for me to get swept up in it. I know I’ll be facing some hard Kavanagh questions before all will be forgiven but I’m pretty sure I’ll have my best friend back before long.

“Do you think they’ll consider starting a family soon?” I ask, making conversation but also a tad curious. Kate will make a wonderful mother but I realise that I don’t know Elliot well enough to know if he would want children.

I catch a look passing between Mia and Grace, both of their faces growing sad. Grace takes it upon herself to explain when I tilt my head to the side, my brow creased with a perplexed frown. “Oh Ana,” she sighs. “I’ve forgotten that you’ve not had much contact with her. They’ve been trying for almost two years now. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’ll be seeing some fertility specialists while they’re here.”

My heart aches for my dear friend. The love, the joy that Chris has brought me, not to mention our families is something every woman deserves. Now I feel selfish. I’ve been so wrapped up in my own problems, what little time we’ve spent talking has been about our threat and coming to terms with married life again. Not once did she mention her own burden. Reaching over I squeeze Grace’s hand. The fact that she went through the same struggle, eventually adopting three children, makes my heart constrict in my chest.

“Hey, why so glum ladies?” Carrick inquires as he and Christian take up their seats on the long sectional couch. Not wanting to sour the mood any further I offer him a bright smile; “Nothing, just girl stuff. You know,” I bat a playful hand at him before pushing to my feet. Christian gives me an odd look but Carrick is too distracted by Chris climbing onto his lap to take any more notice.

“Mia, do you mind applying those cheffy skills of yours to my salad?” I coax, beckoning her with a wink to come to the kitchen with me. I haven’t forgotten our conversation on my wedding day, and I can still see that lingering sadness clinging to her in spite of her efforts to appear happy. It makes me more determined than ever to get behind her sorrow and start working on getting her back to her old spunky self.

“Sure Ana,” she agrees, jumping up a little too eagerly. I hope it means she’s ready to talk.

We leave the remaining Grey’s in the great room and head to the kitchen. She takes an apron from me while looking over the large salad platter I have sitting on the counter. “That looks yum, what are we doing?”

“I was thinking chicken salad and a warm, crusty bread. Will you grill the chicken breasts on the skillet? I’ll pop the bread in the oven and finish chopping the garnishes.”

“Perfect,” she smiles looking over her shoulder as she expertly adjusts the stovetop knobs to her liking. “How about some wine for the chefs huh?”

“Of course, chef’s prerogative!” Giggling I turn to the fridge, “White or red?”

“White will go well the chicken,” she suggests, scrunching up her cute nose.

Once I hand her a large glass of chilled Chardonnay and pour one for myself I take up the counter space beside her, close enough for me to hear her chatting over the sound of the sizzling meat.

I’m pleased when she starts almost immediately but unfortunately it’s not about herself, “It’s been a rough couple of weeks for you. How are you holding up? Is my brother looking after you?”

I can’t help but grin thinking about my overbearing husband and all the ways he showers – or is that drowns – us with affection, “Yes, it’s been rough but it’s over now and I think Christian is pathologically incapable of not looking after us, whether we need it or not!”

She giggles at my barking laugh, “Yes I can only imagine!” Laughing with Mia I get a glimpse of the girl I used to know but she slips away after a second, almost as if she reminded herself that she’s not allowed to be happy and the sudden silence between us turns loaded.

Perturbed I look at her. Even in profile I can see her hurt but she keeps her eyes glued to the grilling breasts, shutting me out. “Mia? Please talk to me. Is there anything I can do?”

Her lips curl into a wry smile but it leaves her beautiful eyes cold, “I don’t think so Ana. That ship has sailed and I missed the boat,” she snorts sarcastically, jerking her head back. Apart from the bitter undercurrent I also hear the layers of regret and disappointment.

Laying down my chopping knife I angle my whole body towards her, “You know, up until two days ago I was convinced that our lives were about to change irrevocably, that this threat would succeed in destroying us. I can’t tell you how frightened I was and in some ways I still am but Christian found a way. In an utterly hopeless situation, when even his wife doubted, he kept fighting and fixed it. I don’t know what happened and I can only assume it has something to do with Ethan,” her sharp inhalation confirms my theory when I pause to watch her, “but whatever it is there’s always hope.”

Turning her doe eyes onto me she blinks back the tears threatening to spill, “Do you really believe that?”

Gently I rub her upper arm, “If you’d have asked me two days ago I would’ve told you no, but now? Absolutely.”

She gives me a small, resolute nod before swinging her gaze back to the chicken. I sense the fragility of the moment. The last thing I want to do is spook her so I return to my chopping, leaving the decision to talk up to her.

“You’re right,” she murmurs, “it was Ethan. It still is Ethan.” Blowing her bangs off her forehead she faces me, “I blew it with him. So badly Ana.” Again she drops her gaze, looking at her perfect French manicure as a shameful flush douses her cheeks. Carefully I lay my knife down to give her my full attention but I don’t prompt her. It’s clear that she’s marshalling her thoughts.

After a full minute of silence I see her chest rise with a deep breath, “I was so in love with him and we were getting more and more stuck in the friend zone,” she eye-rolls on the word friend, exasperated, “so I decided to take matters into my own hands. If he couldn’t see how good we could be together then I had to show him right?”

I have to bite back my smile. Though she and Christian don’t actually share DNA they’re remarkably similar. I give her a smiling nod as encouragement.

“Just casually I started dating one of his friends in the hopes that he’d get jealous and… I don’t know!” She hangs her head, shaking it sadly. “I thought my plan had succeeded when he invited me for a drink one night, just the two of us. We went to a bar, and almost immediately he started telling me that he cared for me, that he didn’t want to see me making a mistake and that this friend wasn’t the right guy for me. I was thrilled that he was so concerned. In my mind it could only mean one thing and all I could think about doing was to put him out of his misery, so I spilled the beans. I told him that I only started seeing Eric to show him I could be more than just a friend.”

I supress a frustrated groan. Even worded like that Ethan would see right through the lie. If there’s one thing Ethan despises it’s mind games. Growing up attractive and wealthy he quickly learned to distinguish between the real and fake affections women inevitably showered him with. To him deceit like this would be almost unforgivable.  He was an easy going guy until you made him mad. “How did he react?” I ask mildly, pursing my lips as I imagined what he would have done.

Mia’s eyes grew large, tears filling them to the brink a second time. “He got so mad Ana. He went all silent, clenching his jaw, not even looking at me. I was terrified so of course I made it worse and gave him an ultimatum.” When she sees me wincing she nods her head as if to say yeah, stupid right? “I just had to know what was going on in that gorgeous head of his so laid I down the gauntlet. Love or nothing.” Her mouth thins, turning down in a regretful line, “He chose nothing,” she whispers, barely able to stop her bottom lip from trembling.

“Oh Mia,” knowing that a full blown hug will set her off I just slip my arm around her shoulders to give her a firm squeeze. “I’m so sorry. Have you spoken to him since?”

Still trying to keep her fraying emotions under control she shakes her head resolutely, “No,” she sniffs, “he saw me home and that was it. I’ve not heard from him since, and I haven’t been brave enough to contact him.” Her expression is so forlorn I can’t help giving her another sympathetic rub on the side of her arm. “We saw each other at Kate and Elliot’s wedding but he came armed with a date.” Her eyes glaze over with a faraway stare as she gets lost in the painful memory.

“Wow, that’s what? About four years?” I muse, almost more to myself.

She sighs, turning back to flip over a chicken breast, “Three years and ten months.”

The fact that she’s keeping count says so much about how invested she really is. “Have you tried letting someone else into that beautiful heart of yours?” Playfully I bump my shoulder against hers, eager to lighten the mood without seeming flippant.

Wrinkling her nose, her mouth slides into a rueful curve, “I’ve been on a handful of dates, but I don’t know…” She shrugs, leaving her words hanging, “I think I’m a bit like a swan, you know?”

When I frown lightly, she explains, “I only love once.” Suddenly my eyes are bright with unexpected tears and complete empathy. Sharing a common thread like that is deeply bonding. I can tell by her gaze that she believes that I get where she’s coming from.

“Well,” I say hoarsely before clearing my throat, “in the light of what you’ve just told me there may be some hope. Kate told me that Ethan hasn’t seen anyone serious in years.”

Mia blinks at the revelation, gasping she touches the base of her throat, “I’m not sure how to feel about that,” she issues a nervous giggle. “Is he pining or did I ruin his trust in all women?”

I smile at her dramatic assumption, “Look, I don’t want to give you any false hope but Ethan is made of stronger stuff than that. Personally I think your instinct about how he felt about you was spot-on but you have to admit that the situation was a bit extraordinary,” I give her a pointed look, “the three of us with the three of you. I guess it seems almost an impossible probability that we would all find love at the same time and with each other.”

“I know,” she whines, “I just wish I had listened to you. I wish I backed off and waited for him to come around. It was just so hard when I saw him running away from his feelings for me, feelings that I wholeheartedly reciprocated.”

Another pang of sympathy punches my heart. Knowing Ethan I offer her the only advice I can think of to sway things back in her favour, “Mia, you’re obviously not over this. You owe it to yourself – if for no other reason than to get closure – to peruse this and see where it takes you. We’re bound to see him now that Kate and Elliot are coming home. The first thing I’d do is apologise. Make him see that you know what you did was wrong, and then give him space to figure it out for himself.”

Slowly she nods her head, looking thoughtful, “Okay. I can do that.”

“Also, it can’t hurt if you show him what he missed-out on over the last four years.” My saucy wink has her grinning. Just like that we had a plan.

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Christian seems to enjoy Chris’ bedtime routine, and I’m more than happy to accommodate anything that helps them forge a stronger bond. This Sunday evening is no different when he takes Chris from me, fresh from his bath and already yawning.

When he finally joins me in the great room I smile shyly at him over the rim of my glass, noting the relaxed sinuousness of his movements. He looks happy and content when he takes the glass from my hand and swallows the lot in a single gulp. “Hey!” I object as he sinks onto the couch, dragging me into his arms.

He kisses the top of my head, “No more for you Mrs Grey.” With my back to his front I try twisting around to see if he’s being serious but his strong arm is banded around my waist, pinning me in place. His other hand sweeps my hair over one shoulder so he can nuzzle in the crook of my neck. “I want that womb in tip top shape for our baby.”

What?!

My traitorous body shivers, making me lean my head to the side to give him better access. “I hardly think…” I start but my protest is cut short by his gently berating tone.

“Uh, uh, uh, no arguments,” his big hand splays over my abdomen, the heat pervading through the layers of my clothes. “Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, you’ll start your pre-natal vitamins and I’ll make sure Gail stocks up on all the green, leafy vegetables. What sort of exercise do you think you’d want to do during the pregnancy?” His baritone is low and oh-so reasonable, but of course the content is  outrageous.

“I don’t have a choice about what I eat or drink but I can choose how I want to train?” Try as I might I can’t keep the incredulous note in my voice from rising. It doesn’t escape me that I’m lucky to get even that choice; seems I’ll be training whether I like it or not.

I feel his whole body stiffen behind me but his hold remains firm, “Yes,” he replies carefully. “There seems to be a few options and I didn’t know which you would prefer.”

Oh boy! It’s so hard to explain when he just doesn’t get it.

“You seem to forget that I’ve done this before,” I reply tartly. “I appreciate your need to be involved but you can’t just bark orders at me, you make it seem like I’ve no say in the matter.” I’m desperate to hold on to my temper, we’ve been doing so well lately and I don’t want to spoil it with an argument.

“I’m not barking orders at you Anastasia,” he says mildly though I can sense him gritting his teeth. “I’ve offered you the one option that is available to you. The others are no-brainers. You want the baby to be healthy don’t you?”

It’s impossible to argue with that levelled at me but it’s hardly the point. I take a breath, centring myself. “Of course I want the baby to be healthy but I’m not even pregnant yet. And it’s not what you want me to do it’s the way you’re telling me to do it.”

“Fine,” comes his terse reply. “Anastasia will you please stop consuming alcohol until such time as it’s safe to do so again, for you and the baby?”

Oh brother!

“Yes Christian I will.”

“And were you planning on starting a course of pre-natal vitamins prior to conception?”

“Yes,” I say, feeling ashamed of myself now.

“Good. And can I trust you to take extra care of when and what you eat for the duration of the pregnancy and breastfeeding period?”

“Yes,” blushing deeply I look at his possessive hand spayed over my belly. I realise I need to tread very carefully if I’m to hold on to my identity. Find a place where I can still be myself while walking the knife’s edge between his controlling nature and my guilt.

I feel him nodding behind me. “Right, so as far as the exercise is concerned, can I get you to agree that some form of exercise will be beneficial for you and the baby?”

“Yes,” I breathe again, this time with a heavy note of resignation.

Now that he’s gotten his way he relaxes, scraping the growth on his chin against that sensitive spot in my neck again. “Okay. Your options are: Pilates, Aquanatal classes, walking, jogging, swimming, Yoga or low impact aerobics. I can arrange for any of these here at home or you can come to my gym and have the instructor meet you there.”

I answer without hesitation, eager now to get this conversation out of the way, “Pilates please. Here at home, and in the mornings before I’m too exhausted.”

Again he kisses the top of my head. “Thank you Mrs Grey, albeit for the world’s most pointless conversation. Five minutes waisted that I could have been making out with you here on the couch.”

I feel my resolve harden. He’s made me promise to talk if I needed to, and I’ve promised myself, not to mention Grace, that I’ll make the effort to communicate better but I’m obviously not expressing myself adequately.

Because he thinks our “discussion” is over his hold goes lax, giving me the opportunity to turn out of his embrace to face him. His own falls when he sees the expression on my face, “What’s the matter?” he queries, honestly clueless as he reaches out to cup the side of my cheek.

“You’ve made me promise to talk to you when I’m unhappy right?” At his solemn nod I continue, “I’ve just told you that the way you handled that made me feel excluded and controlled but instead of hearing me you steamrollered me into getting your way. Involving me in our decisions – no matter how trivial or obvious – isn’t pointless, it’s vital for me to feel like your partner in this marriage. I simply want to be included in all of those discussions.”

He looks at me for what feels like ages – our eyes locked – mine pleading, his searching. “Okay. I’ll try.” His expression is so sincere, so contrite that my heart crumples a little.

Pushing up from my knees I fling my arms around his shoulders. I plant a firm kiss on his delectable mouth, “Thank you. That’s all I can ask for.” My reward is his beaming smile and a hot tongue plunging into my willing mouth.

I’m a little disappointed when he breaks the kiss and settles me between his legs again, just like before. Again his hand rests protectively on my still fruitless belly but I don’t complain. I know how excited he is about the prospect of a baby; not for the first time I hope he won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen right away.

I shudder a little at his low voice beside my ear, “Tomorrow, early evening the detective that’s working our case will be coming to interview you and tie up some loose ends with Taylor and me. Will it suit you if Gail takes care of Chris for that hour or so?”

My smile splits my face in half, “It would suit me just fine Mr Grey, thank you for asking. Now, was that so hard?”

“Mrs Grey,” he warns, playful. “I can think of something you can do with that smart mouth of yours.” At my giggle his arms tighten around me, “Come, let’s get you to bed, we’ve got work tomorrow and I still want to fuck you.” He lifts me off the couch and onto my feet.

“Such a romantic, Mr Grey!” I squeal as he slaps my behind, the sound reverberating through me, pulsing right where it matters the most. I turn my head, smiling at him but his fiendish grin drips with sin, and I’m more than ready to play this game. I do the one thing I know will drive him nuts; to make him follow through on that glint in his stormy eyes. As fast as I can I sprint away, making a run for our bedroom.

Of course I know he’ll catch me and I want nothing more, but the thrill is in resisting and for him, the chase. He only catches up with me short of our bed where he wastes no time tackling me into the mattress, easily pinning my arms above my head. “Where do you think you’re going Mrs Grey?” he licks the shell of my ear despite my best efforts to buck him off.

I love how strong he is, how effortlessly his body blankets my back, holding me in place. I try rolling to one side and then the other while his free hand drags along the length of my legs pushing my skirt up and up to expose my butt. “You are a feisty little thing,” he growls, cupping a big handful of flesh as he firmly kneads into my naked buttock. “Do you think it’s nice to run away from your loving husband?”

I grin and shiver, still squirming beneath him but undeniably aroused, especially by the hoarse baritone, breathless and hot in my ear. Just as I try to answer he grinds the evidence of his desire into my hip, groaning. “Answer me!” he commands, smacking my cheek with the flat of his hand. It stings in that delicious way I remember before his palm skates over the skin to soothe the burn.

spank2

“No, it wasn’t nice of me to run away from my husband,” I pant, feeling the heat of the smack in my empty, aching core.

“Then why did you do it Mrs Grey? Is this what you want?” Again he spanks me, just below the sting of the previous one.

“Ah!” I arch my back, the sensation rocketing through me. I’m suddenly hyperaware of every square inch of my skin. “Yes!” I hiss, too breathless to string a full sentence together.

“Yes what?” he demands on another growl, his hand striking the flesh on the side of my ass. Instead of soothing the skin, like he normally does, he holds his hand in place, letting the burn of the sting suffuse with the heat of his palm.

“Yes! Yes, this is what I wanted,” I sob, my desire having built so fast I was drenched and desperate already.

Roughly he turns me over, fusing the slate of his stare with mine. He takes a long minute looking down my body, no doubt taking in the flush of my desire and the aching, pebbled points of my nipples poking clearly through this thin cotton of my shirt. His breath gusts short and hard as his thick length lies twitching against me, impatient. “Really baby? You missed this?”

Blinking I look up to him, my teeth grazing my lip. Even lying flat on my back I can see the rapid rise and fall of my chest. I feel my blood sliding sinuously through my veins, my skin screaming for his touch and my core clenching in wild anticipation. “Yes,” I whisper, giving him a shy smile. “Can’t you tell?” Opening my legs a little wider, I try to rock my hips against his.

He hisses, sucking in a breath, “Shall we see how you’re doing?” All the while keeping his heavy lidded eyes on me he drags the back of his finger over the lace covering the lips of my sex. “Mmmhhh, if you’re this wet on the outside just how wet are you on the inside?” he murmurs, his irises growing darker as he pulls my panties aside to slip a long finger inside.

My lids close, my neck arcing at the sensational friction of his intrusion but it’s way too short. When I open my eyes I find him rubbing my wetness between his fingers, studying the movement with concentration.  Before I can ask what he’s doing his mouth covers mine, and we get lost in each other, intimately and intensely, like only we can.

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If the course of Monday is anything to go by, we’ll be coasting through the rest of our lives. All things considered it turns out to be the perfect work day. We wake up from a fantastic night’s rest, have breakfast with an upbeat Gail and drive to work with Taylor. Christian and I drop Chris at the day care that is nothing short of a mini children’s paradise. Christian introduces me to Daisy, the carer then kisses us goodbye. She’s young and energetic and has a lovely way with the kids.

When Chris spots three boys about his age playing a boisterous game of pirates he runs over to introduce himself without a backward glance to me. I’m thrilled a minute later to see that they’ve taken him into their fold and showing him around. Daisy is showing me around the impressive facility that has every amenity you can think of. She hands me a welcome pack with all the information about the centre, and after hugging my baby boy I head to my new office on the Grey Publishing floor.

Julie and her team greet me warmly and in spite of being the big boss’ wife, I don’t feel like I don’t belong. I had the book deal before Christian’s interference and I’m glad she got a look at my work without his undue influence. Apart from Julie I’ll be dealing mostly with her PA, Derek. She introduces me to him and I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s about my age and very enthusiastic for his first project. He tells me that he has a keen interest in publishing, hoping to learn from Julie to become an editor himself.

My next surprise is my office. Julie hands me an envelope with my key card and a hand written note from Christian.

Christian note

It makes me giggle as I take in the sparsely furnished office. It’s a good size but not in-your-face big. It’s carpeted with bare walls and a large window overlooking the teeming streets of Seattle. A desk, three chairs, a laptop and wastepaper basket makes up the rest of my office ensemble. I might add a couch, some plants and a few pictures but it’s perfectly functional as it is.

I’m grateful that Christian is standing back, letting me create my own identity and carve my own path here, more so when I only get three e-mails from him during my half day stay.

Christian is in a meeting when I decide to call it a day just after lunch. Collins collects Chris and I to take us home, and I even remember to send Christian a text to let him know. We spend the afternoon playing and laughing like we used to in Savannah before I had to go to my evening shift at work.

When Chris hears his dad’s voice coming from the foyer he drops everything, dashing up to meet him, squealing with delight. A few seconds later I join their hug, sandwiching Chris between us and greeting my husband with a warm smile and a firm kiss. “Mmhhh,” he groans appreciatively, “a man can get used to this.” The honest elation in his gaze is breathtaking as he basks in the love of his very own family.

After dinner Gail sweeps Chris away with the promise of many bedtime stories. Christian and I share a smile as we listen to the two of them chattering excitedly as they make their way down the passage.

Twenty minutes later I’m shaking the hand of detective Mancuso. “It’s good to finally meet you Mrs Grey. I’m sorry for intruding on you in your home, but I’m sure your husband would have briefed you, we need your statement for our records.”

His manner is warm and professional, making me feel at ease, “It’s no problem detective. I’ll do whatever I can to help. Please have a seat, and can I offer you some coffee?”

He takes a seat, accepting the coffee then starts his line of questioning. Firstly he clears up a few facts with Taylor before bringing his focus to me. He asks me about Jose and our history which is horrible to rehash, the break-in we had in Savannah which I have very little to report on as I was at work, but I have a lot to recount on the shooting. Christian sits quietly beside me, holding my hand in silent support.

“So you were already at your father’s when you received the dead flowers?” he asks, looking up from the tablet he’s using to record his notes.

“Yes, though it is my understanding that they were sent here the day before. One of Christian’s employees brought the box as well as our post along to my dad’s.”

He nods, turning his attention to Christian, “Mr Grey, am I correct in assuming that you ordered your own independent ballistics report on the sniper round?”

“Yes, my security team is nothing if not thorough,” he jerks his head in Taylor’s direction. “I’ll be happy to e-mail you a copy for your perusal. Will a PDF file do?”

The detective looks up, surprised, “Yes please. I would appreciate that.”

Sitting here, discussing the whole ordeal with the detective and hearing our versions of the chain of events has my mind combing through the facts once more. There are still aspects of it that don’t sit well with me, things that just don’t ring true. “Detective, can I ask you something?”

All three men’s gazes swing to me, the detective’s expectant, “Of course Mrs Grey.”

“If this David person was after Christian and only found out about me being in the picture from a bogus tabloid article, why would he still bother to send me anything after the shooting? I don’t know him and if he managed to…” I swallow; unable to voice the words my mind scrambles for a euphemism to use. “If he was successful with his mission why would he bother to send creepy flowers to the widow of his target that has nothing to do with his contract? I don’t even understand how he knew we were married.”

Christian narrows his eyes at me and the detective strokes his chin, “Well Mrs Grey, it’s hard to say but in my experience these guys get their kicks in all sorts of ways. He might be a contract killer but to be in his line if work you still need to be unhinged enough to kill and therefore they often display behaviours that are out of place. As for his knowledge about the two of you getting married,” he shrugs his shoulders noncommittally, “he’s a pro, he would definitely have kept tabs on you, and no matter how discreet an establishment is there’s always someone whose information can be bought.”

“Oh,” I say nodding but feeling strangely unsatisfied with his explanation.

“Well, that’s it from my side. Thank you for your cooperation,” he says as he stands, extending his hand to Christian and then Taylor. He offers me a farewell nod before Taylor escorts him out.

With the quiet settling around us Christian enfolds me into a hug, “You handled that so well baby, you never cease to amaze me,” pulling away to meet my gaze he sweeps my hair behind my ears.

The warm glow of his eyes is like the sun on my face, the compliment making me blush with pleasure. I can only smile in reply. Leaning down he kisses the tip of my nose, “Why don’t you grab a shower? I need to have a quick debrief with Taylor.”

“Okay, see you in a few.” Without giving it a second thought I take my leave and head to the shower, ready to wash the day away.

Christian’s Point of View:

He stood in the great room watching her go but his heart was sinking. She made a very relevant point to the detective and even thought the asswipe didn’t answer her for shit he sure as hell wasn’t going to let it slide. If there was any chance that his family was still in danger it was his responsibility to stop it. Just then Taylor came up to him, dragging him away from his reverie. By the look on his face Christian could tell that the man sensed danger just as much as he did.

Without a word they strode to Taylor’s study, a new determination evident in the reach of their strides. Careful not to be overheard Christian closed the door behind him before sinking into a nearby chair. He pinched the bridge of his nose, exhaling a long breath before squaring up to his right hand man, “Fuck,” he spat, finding the denim blue stare equally concerned.

“What are your thoughts sir?” Taylor asked, folding his meaty hands on the top of his desk.

“I’m afraid we missed more crap because we wanted so badly for it to be over. Did we manage to finger the leak at the Bellagio?”

“No sir but we did eliminate the most obvious suspects. The butler from your villa was the last suspect we interviewed and even though he admitted to being approached for information he swears blind that he declined. I think he has a bit of a soft spot for Mrs Grey,” Taylor watched his boss, hoping he wasn’t going to choose this moment to fly off the handle in a jealous rage.

Christian snorted, “Dirty old goat!” He remarked before turning serious again. “I assume we stopped the investigation because the threat was eliminated?”

“Yes sir. After David’s death there seemed little point in pursuing it but I’ll put our men back onto it.”

Christian nodded; the grim set of his mouth only turning grimmer as he ran a nervous hand though his hair. “There’s something else I need to tell you, something I should’ve mentioned long before now.” He could feel his insides twisting though he doubted it was with regret, he was still glad he did what he did, but it could certainly be fear, he thought. Fear that he – once again – was the reason his family’s welfare was in jeopardy.

Taylor stiffened in his chair, it was clear from his boss’ hesitation that he was about to deliver a doozy, and in his line of work surprises were as welcome as a shot to the head.

Christian cleared his throat, “When I found out that Jose had left Anastasia just before Chris’ birth I hired someone to beat the crap out of him. Obviously I was discreet, the incident is in no way traceable to me but there is a chance that Jose might know that I had a hand in it. I instructed the attacker to deliver a message once it was done. I don’t know if Jose was coherent enough to receive it but he was told to keep his hands off her.”

Be kind and review, please.

Link to chapter 42

109 thoughts on “Chapter 41

  1. Jane Jones says:

    What can I say what a brilliant chapter can’t wait for the next xx

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  2. Sheila Hall says:

    Gosh, I knew it, I knew you would have something else up your sleeve for Ana and Christian 🙂 I loved this chapter, it is bringing everyone together again, lets hope Ethan is still longing for Mia as. Thank you Monique, brilliant as ever. Now I have to wait until Wednesday for the teaser.

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  3. Janien Meissner says:

    And here we go again! Now we have to wait for a whole week to see were this Jose-thing is going……grrrrrrrr, I hate-love you Monique!
    You must have so much fun knowing that you keep us wanting more! We are all so addicted ! Lol! Xx Janien

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      LOL! Your post made me laugh! Yes I admit I do like teasing you but at the same time, even though I know where it will all end, I don’t always know exactly where I’m going. Sometimes a chapter is as much a surprise to me as it is to you. Thank you for the comment! 😉

      Like

      • Diana says:

        As I was on my way to leave a comment about this fine chapter, I tend to read other comments…lol I read your response above and love that you are so versatile that you don’t know where things will end!!! I love that of you….I have so much respect for you Monique!!!!! This chapter is amazing as per all your chapters…….

        Like

  4. Katherine says:

    oh no!
    I knew it was to good to be true and you were going to bring us more surprises!
    Roll on chapter 42
    Getting the notification for this really cheered me up I’ve been snowed in since Thursday night electric been off for hours hence heating as well so thank you for that x

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Oh no! I hope you’re okay. I head on the news last night that you guys had a rough winter. Happy to bring at least a little bit of heat… 😉

      Like

      • Katherine says:

        Thank you Monique, the thing is the weather wasn’t too bad and it was on the 2nd day of Spring that all hell let loose – you just gotta love the Irish weather 😉

        Like

  5. Marion Evans says:

    Wonderful as ever Thank you xx

    Like

  6. tracy5678 says:

    Ok everybody, put on your “harnesses” ;), the roller coaster ride is about to begin…again 🙂 Loved it all…I was laughing out loud reading Christians options for Ana…sooo Christian. I also liked how they are learning to compromise with each other. And their “family time” is so sweet. Monique, you pack a lot into one chapter. Can’t wait for next Friday…or Saturday 😉 I put my other books down to read your chapters, they are my favorite.

    Like

  7. Ucbear says:

    All along I have felt that it wa the goat f–ker Jose. He no doubt poses a serious, viable threat to Ana. She rejected him in the worst manner possible – never consummating their marriage. I am looking forward to more drama – revenge being enacted against the Grey’s. I am also looking forward to Cristian planning the conception of their next baby and all the care/madness he has planned to keep Ana healthy and safe while carrying their next baby.

    This is spectacularly divine. Thank you Monique!

    Like

  8. Peg says:

    Just knew it was too good to be true that there would be a lull before the next rollercoaster ride. I can’t help thinking like Ana. My fear is Ana’s and Christians common weakest point is Chris. Now he is in daycare where I am sure Christian thinks it is secured like Fort Knox. Unfortunately criminal deviants continually try to find a weak link. Here in the States, after the Newtown, CT tradegy, Chris in daycare flashes red “warning, warning, warning.” Not only because of who he is, but because his name is Rodriguez rather than Grey. Who’s to say Jose or some nutcase from David’s contacts won’t try to create trouble with Chris or Ana?

    Like

  9. Mrs. G says:

    Great chapter! I enjoyed reading about Mia and Ethan as well as Kate and Elliot. The three couples are so great together and their stories uniquely interesting! C and A’s sofa conversation was fun to read, not to mention the bedroom “conversation” that followed!!! Hanky, spanky!! Can’t wait to see where this latest threat info. takes the story. Just glad it’s not ending!!

    Like

  10. Retta says:

    Thanks for another amazing chapter! You love to leave us hanging don’t you 😉

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Uhm, yes, I think we’ve established that little quirk of mine… LOL! In fact my title in our Facebook FSOG writer page is Queen of Cliffies… LOL! I wear it with pride but you guys can’t complain, you’ve had three consecutive coasting chapters! 😉 Love the comment Retta, thank you! 😉

      Like

    • twinkie55 says:

      I loved this chapter a lot. I also had a chance to read al the reviews and agree and second so many of them. Monique you are a genius writer. I cannot wait for the next chapter and many more after that, what with C&A, E&K, E&M then Jose, Taylor and maybe Dr O Reiley…you never know with Monique. It s never over until…..

      Like

  11. Maggie says:

    Ahhh, the Jose connection at last…ok, let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all! We have babies to make, for heaven’s sake!!! Good to be getting the gang back together ;). Hope the swim meet went well…

    Like

  12. Mary says:

    I can’t wait to see what happens next… Hmm Jose I knew he was gonna be a problem.. But just how much trouble will he do.. 🙂

    Like

  13. Gwen says:

    Bravo! So Jose is on the prowl?

    Like

  14. tamara says:

    wow another great chapter, can’t wait to hear more of elliot and kate, about christian and ana’s baby adventure (will she actually be pregnant?) and the mystery that is coming. can’t wait for the next chapter to come, you do such wonderful work, Thank you so very much.

    Like

  15. SusanW says:

    This was pretty much the perfect chapter. It had a bit of everything — happy family moments, emotional conversations, a touch of kink, and the return of intrigue. And I have to say, as a former labor & delivery nurse and the widow of an OB/GYN, I have an educated guess as to what Christian was doing as he studied his dampened fingers. Jeez, Christian — give it a rest! Don’t turn everything into a research project and take all the fun out of it! He’s going to be insufferable during Ana’s pregnancy, isn’t he? Meander is such an enjoyable ride — thank you, Monique.

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Ooohhh, you spotted that did you? Well done! 😉 I’m so glad you enjoyed the chapter, it’s quite hard to maintain that pace though. I must admit that fan fiction is difficult in that regard because you only get the story a chapter a time. I aim to give you something big in every one so that it holds your attention. It’s a lot of pressure but I love that you enjoy the ride! Thank you!

      Like

  16. Mal says:

    Oooooo what an ending. You’ve got us on the edge of our seats now wanting more. Haha. Sooo love CPOV. Would’ve also loved to have heard how he felt about all the changes in his life over the last few weeks, about Ana, about Chris, his marriage. Thanks Monique. Such a captivating story.

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Thank you Mal, that’s great feedback. I’m toying with something… 😉 You’ve read Valentine’s Meander? That will give you a bit of insight on how he feels about his family.

      Like

  17. aturner0530 says:

    As always another great chapter…Love seeing all of the characters interact….

    Like

  18. Linda says:

    Thanks for the Mia update! and I can’t wait to have Elliott and Kate in the mix. . . maybe the Grey boys can get their wives pregnant at the same time?

    Like

  19. Lynne says:

    I have always loved the character of Mia so I hope there is some happiness that she and Ethan can have soon. Elliot and Kate are just wonderful and make any story they touch more entertaining. As for Christian this whole situation along with his pathological inability to not control Ana’s and Chris life will be so interesting to see. My favorite part was the swans loving one partner for life. So sweet! Thank you for sharing your talent.

    Like

  20. Victoria says:

    Wow what an ending can’t wait for next Friday!!! Love how the story is turning out

    Like

  21. Deb says:

    Where to begin……. This chapter was all over the place…..Christian and Ana, Mia and Ethan, pregnancy and ovulation…*smirks*, family, kinkyness and Jose! I knew he would be back…..and with a vengeance!! Holy Shades of Grey!!! YOU have done it again!
    I think you have a direct line into my head, bestie……..you go right where I hope you would…..ONLY….I don’t know that is where I am heading….but you do…..
    I can NOT believe you have not written a book yet…….YOU, Mo….are ……I have three words for you…….
    A……..MAZ……….ING!
    Every week just gets better and better……
    You do all this for us, even as your family needs you too!
    I am in awe of you, your writing, your imagination, your dedication to us, your story and your family……
    WOW!!!
    “More” please…….
    Love the lemons, cliffies and you……
    xoxo, as always, bestie….

    Like

  22. Becs says:

    Thank you so much for all the hard work you do every week to post each chapter. I am so glad I found this, to carry on reading and find out what happens next from someone else point of views. I always look forward to reading the next chapter, it’s what I need after a hard week at work

    Like

  23. T says:

    Brilliant! Taylor will blow a gasket!

    Like

  24. grublue says:

    This chapter covers lots of different topics which is very nice.
    I hope things are going to work out for Mia and Ethan.
    I admire Ana for her patience and diplomacy as she deals with Christian regarding workout during (and even before) pregnancy. Christian’s decision-making without asking the people involved certainly is one of the lesser liked traits for me. (And honestly, I’d lose my temper… :-)) Probably he should see Flynn again and work on this.
    At the same time, I’m aware of the fact that Ana is still driven by her guilt. I know it’s going to take time and I know she did something really bad, but I believe it’s essential for her and her relationship to overcome these feelings. She needs to forgive herself, otherwise she’ll remain dependent on the forgivness of others, which most of them were generously willing to offer, but I’m not sure about José, although I still hope that he’s not involved directly in this intrigue and that there will be conciliation one day. He used to care deeply for Ana and I hope he didn’t get consumed completely by his anger and hurt pride.
    I find it a little bit peculiar that Christian overlooked all these not fitting puzzle pieces so willingly. He’s former BDSM lifestyle almost got exposed, and the perp showed excessive interest in Christian’s and Ana’s private life. Was Christian too scared he’d have to admit his mistak and therefore prefered not to give it too much thought? I’d like to understand his motivation a little better.
    I love when you write from Christian’s point of view – you grasp him very well. If it suits into your story, I’d LOVE to read more from his point of view!
    Oh, and – I LOVE DOMINANT CHRISTIAN!

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I wondered about Chris’s last name!! I am with the other reader he will be taken from daycare and Ana will miscarry or something cause Chris is taken and Christian will hunt Jose down himself!! Why has the ever-paranoid Christian not drawn up adoption papers yet or whatever he needs to take back his son from a man he hates so much!! A man he does NOT yet know actually hit his wife!! Whohoo good times ahead, Monique!! Ana’s father can shoot too… I was so excited to see the post cause it is the highlight of my week! Hey the new assistant might be good for Mia. Oh boy do we get an EASTER ONE SHOT story as a treat!! It’s better than chocolate ;0

      Like

      • Monique Lain says:

        LOL! Love your comment you devious thing you! Boy, I should get the pair of you in a room and you can plot the course! Mmhh not sure about the Easter thing, I’d love to but I’m so behind having posted late two weekends in a row… Just one thing, you may have Meander confused with another story but Jose has not hit Ana in this story, though at the end of their short marriage she did confess to being a little scared of him. Chris’ name will come up again…. 😉 Thank you for your awesome feedback 🙂

        Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      You’ve made some very valid point here Grublue, your insights are just the way I see them. I think one redeeming point in Christian’s favour about making these decisions for his loved ones is that they are usually the one’s he sees as obvious or non negotiable – it very much goes to underscoring his control issues but also his vast intellect, but I agree, it would also drive me up the bend! 😉 Ana is still very driven by her guilt but at least it’s forced her to think about how she is reacting. As far as missing the information is concerned I think that often one stops searching for answers when you believe your question is answered and in David they had their loose ends mostly tied up… I can’t say much more without giving it away but if you want to chat more on the subject you can mail me – I do want it to be plausible.
      Don CG is FUN! And, yes I’d like to do more from his POV… We’ll see… 😉

      Like

      • grublue says:

        The thing with Christian is, that his behaviour gives him this presumptuous air. His control issues are kind of compulsive, and I’m perfectly aware the roots for his behaviour lie in his childhood, and Ana’s disappearing didn’t contribute much to an improvement, quite the contrary. BUT he also gives me the impression he considers himself superior to others, or at least to Ana. Mind you, he doesn’t display this behaviour with his parents or Ros. He tries with Mia, but she won’t let him. He doesn’t with Elliot. Neither with people in general. He has this air of arrogance, which is without doubt attractive. He certainly has high standards and doesn’t tolerate people in his surroundings who don’t live up to them, but he never underestimates anyone and doesn’t talk down to anyone. But he is overbearing with Ana. I know one reason he behaves this way is because he cares so deeply for Ana and wants her to be safe. But sooner or later this will, imo, suffocate her. That’s why I think he should work on this. And I have to give him credit for that he’s at least trying. I’d love to see him giving up control willingly for a while or trusting others to know better. Ana’s future pregnancy might be a good field where he’ll have to trust her.
        What I’m writing here about Christian is not how I see him since Meander started. Meander just continues the way how I perceived him in the trilogy.

        As for José… It seems like I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think his the villain. His friendship with Ana was genuine, and eventhough he might have made some crucial mistakes we are not aware of yet, I don’t believe he wants to hurt her or those she loves.

        Regarding missing the information – I’ll write you an e-mail. 🙂

        Like

  25. Roslyn says:

    This is great, I can’t wait for next week to read. I hate that I have to wait all week. That reunion is going to be a memorable one. OMG!!!

    Like

  26. Monica says:

    OMG! José?! I knew he had something to do with Christian’s threat. Thank you, Monique. You never disappoint. And also thank you for the Mia/Ethan thing. I had often wondered what happened between them. Great chapter as usual please keep them coming. XOXO 😀

    Like

  27. Danielle J. says:

    Baby demands…interviews….steamy makeouts…..Jose is back!!!! This was one beautiful chapter Monique. Thank you so very much. XX

    Like

  28. Andrea says:

    1) I can’t wait to see how they both handle Ana being pregnant…Taylor may have to prevent Ana from killing Christian from now until the child can walk.. 🙂
    2) I’m a sucker for drama and an all happy happy couple is boring (especially these 2)…can’t wait to see what the next obstacle you have planned for these 2 entails 🙂

    Like

  29. Kaz says:

    Knew things couldn’t go that smoothly for our couple! Had a nagging feeling jose’s pride couldn’t just leave them alone, is he involved?? He would have known CG was involved in that beating, and if he is with Leila they could be dangerous ! God help Ana when she gets pregnant, it will be a long 9 months ! Can’t wait for all the main characters to one back… Loved it as usual…

    Like

  30. Audrey says:

    I love the note!!… I just smiled and giggle ( yes.. Giggle!.. Maybe for a seond i thought that was for me. Lol)…. Love it! 🙂

    And love this chapter too. Like everyone already stated before me… It has everything you want. 🙂 and once again i was reminded on how talented you are in writing and expressing the story with your words. Ahh… Well done, Queen of cliffies!!!

    Cant wait for the return of Jose and…Leila. Yes… Im sure you would bring her back somehow and make us scream lol..

    Like

  31. GM says:

    So glad I found this blog 🙂 You are so good at this…. –

    Like

  32. carla says:

    mi hai lasciato con il cuore a mille riparte la tortura per ana e christian e anche per me 😦 la settimana sarà molto ma molto lunga grazie monique sei magnifica straordinario sei un vero tesoro!!!

    Like

  33. atterbury says:

    Monique, first and foremost you have fabulous fans! All the pertinent points of observation with this serving of insight, information, entertainment and intrigue have been beautiful pointed out before me! So just a few favorites of mine to add, Love that K & E are coming home! Love the Swan bonding, and Grey bonding! Love Baby Bootcamp, love that Kink is back on the menu and so are A’s conceptual signals. Really loved the CPOV well done, is that the first time? and CG having a realazation and a confession that Taylor is going to have his hands full with! One long runny sentance of adoration and gratitude! Always a treat, always a pleasure to read! Tks, XX, Liz

    Like

  34. Deanna says:

    I love your blog. I really liked you bringing Mia and her relationship into the blog. Can’t wait to see what is to come

    Like

  35. Erin says:

    That was great! I’m loving your story…more than the original 50 shades! And that’s saying something!

    Like

  36. tracy5678 says:

    Well, after you said you rewrote chapter 1, I had to go back and reread it. I didn’t forget the story, but I did forget about some of the “details”. Before I knew it, I was on ch 20. I couldn’t pull my eyes away, even though I knew what was going to happen. Love..love…love them running into each other at the zoo, C seeing Chris for the 1st time, the removal of the red dress, Chris asking if he could “keep him” after he found out C was his daddy, C freaking out about why A had an IUD, and let’s not forget all “the lemons” at the hotel. I’ll be disappointed if this isn’t published some day. It’ll be on my “top shelf” of rereads. 😉

    Like

  37. Jen says:

    Another great read!! Omg I started This Man and I already know it will be a reread !! Thank you!! There is life after FSOG and Bared. Liking me some Jesse!!!!

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Whahaha! Yes, there are other great books out there, we just have to sift through a lot to find them. I so enjoyed the This Man ride but boy was it intense! I had a real book hangover after that! I also very much enjoyed Cherrie Lynn’s Rock Me and the other two in the series. I say series but you don’t have to read them in order.

      Like

  38. Babawawa says:

    Delighted to read all the story lines in this chapter. It means that you will keep writing and your fans will keep reading! I am so grateful of your time and talent to entertain my day.

    Like

  39. skinsavant says:

    love the lemon…love sexy dominant christian…love ana still loving some kinky fuckery!
    the relationship between christian and ana are far better and stronger than before…they communicate and respect each other…they reciprocate and compromise to avoid a full blown argument.
    the beautiful moment christian, ana and chris had when he came home from work and greeted gleefully by his son and then joined by his wife in a group hug, was everything they have always wanted. christian being controlling over ana’s future pregnancy is understandable as i feel that he lost those precious moments with his firstborn and it’s something he would want to experience and well, he just being christian grey!
    now monique, i have “pimped” your stories so many times to friends and to my sisters. i always mentioned to them about christian hiring someone to beat up jose…i often wondered about that being brought up into your story and lo and behold, there it was!!! i love reading christian’s POV and i hope to see more in the future. it was brilliant!!!

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      AAAHHH! Yay! I’m so glad you brought that up and that you see it! AWESOME!! TY for the pimping! MWAH! Yeah, CG POV is HOT! I can’t wait for Beautiful Disaster book two because it will all be from Travis’ point of view!

      Like

  40. Kris says:

    Brilliant! Unpredictable!

    Like

  41. Lissa Jeri says:

    I continue to enjoy this Meander as I’ve been reading it over that past week since I found it.
    I just have to jump in now and “complain about” or “note” what you and ELJ have done in your writing that jars the flow as we read your enjoyable prose and story line.
    FSOG takes place in the city of Seattle in the State of Washington, in the United States of America. Throwing in (or not realizing the difference) of British English in the text causes a reaction to the American reader like grinding sand in your mouth.
    Let me mention a few that you’ve had in the past few chapters:
    1. Americans check the MAIL not the POST.
    2. We don’t use the word CARER. When it’s for an elderly or sick person, it’s a caregiver. When it’s a child care person in the home, it’s an au pair or a nanny or a babysitter. In day care, the person is usually designated as the teacher, although I have heard caregiver occasionally but usually in an academic or journalistic context.
    3. CentER not centRE. When we use the word centRE in a public space, it’s usually to be quaint, like YE OLDE CENTRE SHOPPE.
    4. SORTED OUT is a total Britishism that we Americans enjoy hearing in a very Hugh Grant way, but never use. It is always “taken care of” or some variation thereof.
    5. For ELJ, her use of MARQUEE for a party TENT made my eyes roll continuously.
    6. And while I just was in London recently and smiled at all the HOUSES like South Africa House and Victoria House, GREY HOUSE should have been called the GREY BUILDING. Yes, I know they’re keeping Grey House in the movie.

    BTW, I happened to be in Seattle since the books were published. I had no plans to take the FSOG tours offered, but my husband and I did meander around one day to enjoy the architecture. We rated a lot of buildings during the two hours we spent doing this, but my number one favorite I viewed from the Pike St. Market. Later that night, I looked it up….it was Escala (!). And, in case you don’t know, it does not have a helipad on top in real life.
    And speaking of Seattle, Monique, where did you get the picture of Seattle for your masthead? Any chance it was flipped around? If the view is from the water taken from the west looking east, the Tower should be to the left of downtown.
    And after all my complaining, thought I’d mention a cute thing that happened during that visit to Seattle. My husband (who has not read the books) is the navigator while I drive. We were going to where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean and he directed me down
    I-5 and then west through more minor roads. When he suddenly told me to take a left when we got to Montesano, I nearly drove off the road. (Did you know that Montesano is in Grays Harbor County?!!! Could it get even weirder?) Once past Montesano, he then told me we would be driving through University of Washington Vancouver then cross over to Oregon and drive through Portland. Sadly, it was via a bypass road and I didn’t get a chance to see the Heathman. He never knew what a day he gave me!!
    Lissa

    Like

    • Monique Lain says:

      Thank you for the corrections, Lissa. I’ve just started a serious rewrite. I’ve only done chapter one and I’ve also acquired a fantastically patient editor. I will be passing this on to her and I will hopefully be correcting all these issues, but it will take some time! Also, English is not my first language so there are some grammar issues that I struggle with. I would love to have the time to get is all sorted! 😉

      Like

  42. Meadow McGee says:

    I can’t wait for her to become pregnant again. To see thrill in Christian’s eyes.

    Like

  43. Lauren Smith says:

    Amazing when’s the next chapter coming out

    Like

  44. Monique, you are one amazing author! Creating a beautiful but sophisticated character such as Christians, was the best thing you could done, and then pairing him with Anastacia was perfect! I have watched the movie many times and it will never get old because of Christian’s quirky ways and Ana’s sincere love for a man who hasbeen through hell growing up….I know the sequel will be just as amazingasthe books and I cannot wait to see where there relationship goes next, especially when they get married…I could go on and on! Thank you for the Fifty Shades of Grey!

    Like

  45. MrsRZ says:

    Hi, I just recently discovered your site and can I say I LOVE YOUR WRITTIG. I just have a question. When it comes to Christian POV, why si it on third person?

    Like

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