Chapter 21

For the second night in a row, I’m pulled abruptly from sleep because of a nightmare. Only, this time, it’s not mine.

“No, Ana!” Christian screams, and I immediately sit bolt upright in bed, looking wildly around the room as I try and negotiate my surroundings. “Don’t… don’t go,” his voice begs through the darkness.

“Christian,” I say, turning and reaching out to try and gently nudge him out of his dream. “Hey. Wake up, baby.”  

“No! Come back!”

“Christian!” My voice is more forceful this time as I take hold of his shoulders, shaking him until his eyes snap open and begin dancing back and forth with confusion. “It’s okay, I’m here. You’re okay.”

“Ana?” he checks, as though he isn’t really sure it’s me.

“Yeah, I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Fuck,” he breathes, and the next thing I know he’s rolling me onto my back and climbing over the top of me. His lips come down on mine and his hands reach down for the hem of my camisole. He yanks it quickly over my head, only breaking our kiss when absolutely necessary, before moving on to my panties.

“Christian,” I protest against his lips, but he simply groans and moves his tongue deeper into my mouth. The moment my panties are gone, his hand is between my legs, teasing my clitoris. He works quickly, dipping his fingers inside of me as soon as there’s enough moisture to allow him easy access and then returning to my cliotirs again, using my arousal to heighten the sensation.

“There you go,” he growls when, a few seconds later, I’m slick and ready for him. Without removing his lips from mine, he pulls his hand from between my legs and I feel him raise himself off the bed just enough to get his boxers down over his hips. In the next second, he’s thrusting inside of me.  

“Fuck!” I yell, unprepared for the sudden invasion, but he doesn’t still to give me time to adjust to him. He dives in and out of me hard and fast, his hands holding me so tightly it feels as though he’s clinging to me for dear life.

“Ana,” he moans again, my name crossing his lips with the same reverence as a prayer. “Oh, god, Ana!”

I arch my back and then tilt my pelvis up to give him a better angle, but he’s so erratic it’s hard to lose myself in him. One moment, he’s lying right over the top of me, kissing me with a kind of frenzied passion that’s almost alarming, and the next he’s holding himself up on his extended arms, staring down at my body and examining every inch of me as though he’s trying to find some kind of proof I’m not real.

“Christian?” I try again as, once again, his face morphs with a sharp flash of pain, and the pace in which he’s moving in and out of me quickens.

“Mine,” he growls. “You’re mine.”

He lowers himself onto me once more and I whimper slightly as he yanks my leg up into the crook of his elbow so that he can take me deeper. I grip onto his shoulders and turn to face him, trying to force him to make eye contact with me, but now that his skin is pressed against mine again, his eyes are closed and his mouth is open in a silent gasp of pleasure.

“Fuck,” he hisses. His muscles tense, and then relax in the span of a few seconds, accompanying the faint rippling sensation inside of me. Holy fuck, did he just…

He releases my leg and positions his body so that he’s touching as much of me as possible without forcing his full weight onto me. His mouth finds mine again, the same urgent kind of hunger keeping his lips tense, and when he breaks the kiss, he rests his forehead against mine until he regains control of his breathing.

“I love you,” he whispers.

“I love you, too.”

He’s quiet for a moment and I think I hear him swallow. When he speaks again, there’s almost a  kind of nervous tremble to his deep tenor.

“Say it again.”

“What?”

“Say that you… I need to hear…” he pauses, and I pull him back from me so that I can finally look into his eyes.

“Hey. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” he replies quickly, shaking his head.

“Christian, talk to me.”

He takes a deep breath. “I just dreamed… you were gone. I’d lost you again.”

“I’m right here,” I reassure him. “And I’m not going anywhere. I love you.”

He nods and then leans down to kiss me once more before he rolls out of bed and moves to the dresser to pull a pair of sweatpants from his drawer.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“I’m going to go check on some things for work. I’ll be in my office.”

“Christian, it’s 3:30 in the morning,” I argue, but he ignores me and continues through the door out to the great room anyway. As I fall back into my pillows, I think about going after him to try and coax him back into bed to talk to me more, but I know from experience that, sometimes, he’s more open with me when I give him the space he needs until he’s ready to come to me on his own.

I fall asleep debating what I want to do.

Christian is still locked away in his office when I wake again several hours later, and, according to Gail, he hasn’t stepped out once since she’s been awake. I frown as I look towards the hallway that leads to his office and think that maybe, before I head into the lion’s den, it might be a good idea to bring him some food… and caffeine.

“Can I make a plate for you, Miss Steele?” Gail asks, as she places a slice of quiche on a plate for Christian.

“I think I’m just going to have a green smoothie this morning,” I tell her while I pull a mug out of the cupboard for Christian’s coffee. She purses her lips together, but doesn’t say anything as she moves to get the blender. I begin to pour the dark, aromatic liquid into the mug on the counter, but, as I look down at the quiche next to me that I know she wants me to take, I hear the ping of the elevator.

I glance up and see Gia step out into the foyer, looking angry, and I have a pretty good idea why. Hurriedly, I place the carafe back on the counter and then scurry around into the great room to run interference, but, thankfully, Luke steps out of the security office first.

“Miss Matteo?” he greets her coolly.

“Is Christian in his office?”

Mr. Grey, is not currently taking visitors. I’d be happy to pass along a message for you.”

“I just need him to make a quick phone call to clear something up for me,” she argues. “If you’ll excuse me.”

She attempts to move around Luke but he takes a step to stand in her way once again. She glares at him.

“Is Taylor in there?”

“Yes, but I’m afraid he’s not going to help you either, Miss Matteo. Mr. Grey’s orders were very clear.”

She straightens and her lips form a tight line just as I step into the foyer behind Luke. “Is everything okay in here?”

“Yes, Miss Steele,” Luke says. “Miss Matteo was just leaving.”

“No,” she argues. “I wasn’t. Ana, can you please take me back to Christian? For some reason that store we were in yesterday is suddenly refusing me service and they still have my dress. I need him to call the store and clear up whatever it is…”

“Yeah, about that,” I interrupt her. “There was some kind of problem with the dress and since you put it under the Grey account, they called Christian. He didn’t know what they were talking about so they cancelled the transaction.”

“So, why didn’t you say anything?”

“Honestly, I forgot that you were there with us,” I say, giving her the same fake innocent look she gave Kate yesterday after she’d confronted her about trying to steal Christian. “Pregnancy brain, I guess.”

“Well, what the fuck am I supposed to do?” she asks. “The GEH event is in less than twelve hours.”

“I suggest you hurry and find something then. Macy’s should be opening soon right?” I give her a snide smirk and then turn to saunter back into the apartment.

“Ana!”

“If you’ll just step back into the elevator, Miss Matteo,” Luke says, and my smile broadens as I hear her frustrated snarl and then the sound of her heels against the marble as she turns to leave.

Gail has laid Christian’s breakfast out on a tray, so I carefully pick it up from the counter and then make my way down the hallway towards his office. When I get to the door, I can hear him talking on the phone inside, so I ease into the room as quietly as I can.

“No, of course I understand,” he says to whoever he’s on the phone with. “Can I do anything?”

His eyes follow me as I walk up alongside he desk and gently place the tray in front of him, and, while I turn to wait patiently for him to finish his phone call, he continues staring intently at me.

“That’s great news. Wish him luck for me. I’ll come by first thing tomorrow morning. Love you too. Bye.”

“What was that?” I ask, as he hangs up the phone, but he ignores my question and turns a sharp look back on me.

“Why aren’t you wearing your engagement ring?”

“What?” I ask. I look down at my hand for a second and then back up at him with a little exasperation.

“It’s too big to sleep with it on,” I tell him. “I don’t really want to hit myself, or you, in the face with a 16-carat diamond in the middle of the night.”

“You’re not sleeping anymore,” he argues, and I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes.

“I just got out of bed to bring you breakfast and make sure you’re okay. I will put it on once I go brush my teeth, I promise.” He narrows his eyes at me so I quickly move back to his phone call before we end up in an argument over nothing.

“Who was on the phone?”

“My mother.  They’ve pulled lifesupport from the donor in Portland, so he’s having his surgery today. She was calling to tell me she won’t be attending the gala tonight.”

“Oh, that’s great news! Should we cancel?”

“I can’t, I’m hosting,” he says, and as he picks up the coffee I’ve brought him, he reaches out for a manilla envelope on the corner of his desk and tosses it to me.

“Since you’re here, I need to you sign the AoI for the foundation,” he says.

I pick up the envelope and give him a confused look. “You just said a lot of things I don’t understand.”

“I’m starting a foundation to help support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” he explains. “I’m naming you as a member of the board of directors so I need you to sign the forms that have to be filed with the state to make the non-profit legitimate.”

“Oh.” I pull back the flap on the envelope and slide a stack of forms out from inside that are headed in bold font with, The Christian and Anastasia Grey Foundation. “Uh… Christian and Anastasia Grey?”

“Yeah.”

“Christian, this is a legal document.”

“I know,” he says. “That’s why I need your signature.”

“But… we’re not married yet. My name is Steele.”

“It’s easier to change your name as listed on the board of directors than it is to change the title of the non-profit,” he dismisses me. “It’s just future planning.”

“But, we haven’t even discussed this yet. I’m not even sure I’m going to change my name.”

His head snaps up and his eyes narrow in on me again. “What do you mean you’re not going to change your name?”

“I don’t know… I’m the last Steele. If I change my name to Grey then my dad will be the last Steele and he’ll know that his legacy ends with him. If I keep my name, our children will be Steele-Grey and he…”

“No,” he cuts me off. “Absolutely not.”

“What?”

“My children will have my name, and my name only. We’re not hyphenating anything.”

“And I don’t get a say in that? That’s just your decision to make alone?”

“Yes, it is. No hyphenating.”

I cross my arms. “Well, if you’re so adamant about that, maybe you should take Steele.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? So, you just expect me to change my name to yours, but the very idea of you possibly taking my name is ridiculous to you?”

“Correct.”

My mouth drops open at his audacity and soon, we’re in the middle one of the biggest blowouts we’ve ever had. He escalates every argument I make to an extremely unreasonable level so nothing gets resolved in the thirty minutes we spend screaming at each other, nor in the cold war like silence that follows after I eventually walk away and sequester myself in our bedroom. When it comes time to get ready for the event later that night, I’m still fuming with anger, and saying all the thing I wish I would have thought to say when we were fighting earlier into the mirror over and over again makes applying makeup extremely difficult.

It brings up a lot of what it was like the last time we attended a big event like this together, the Governor’s Ball, and when he comes into the bathroom to take a shower without speaking a single word to me, it feels as though I’m having lucid, PTSD flashbacks. It also reminds me that Kate had been here with me that night to help me get ready and the longing I feel for that support is especially poignant when I finish with my hair and makeup and am ready to get into my dress.

The Alexander McQueen gown Caroline Acton ordered has been tucked away in the closet for future use and the blush colored Elie Saab, which Gail has had steamed and pressed for tonight, is laying on the bed. I slide into it and try to ignore how tightly it fits against my skin since Gia had required several inches to be taken in. Once I’ve struggled to get the zipper up alone, I step in front of the full length mirror, slip on the diamond cuff bracelet and the Cartier earrings Christian gifted me our freshman year, and examine my reflection, twisting and turning to judge how I look in the dress. I’d feel more comfortable in something a little less form fitting, but I think the soft, draping fabric that hangs over the top of the constructed bodice is enough to conceal anything that would suggest I was pregnant. That’s not really something I’m ready to deal with in the press yet and I don’t know what to expect from this event in terms of photographers. In fact, I’m not even certain I want to wear my engagement ring…

I stare down at it, sparking in the muted light from the bedside lamp. Christian had snapped at me for not wearing it around the house, I’m certain it’ll be worse if I don’t wear it to a public event, especially after I’ve been fighting with him all afternoon. Still, I wonder if it’s something I should ask before we go. Afterall, he’s just as protective of our privacy as I am when it comes to the media, and he might want to have his PR team handle the announcement.

With a sigh, I slip on the shoes Caroline delivered with the dress and then make my way out to the great room. I find Christian standing in front of one of the huge scenic windows, staring out at the city lights and inky water of the sound with a tumbler of amber liquid hanging loosely from the hand at his side.

“I’m… ready,” I say hesitantly. He turns around to face me and the hard expression I’ve seen all day shifts. He looks at me in a way that, were we not currently fighting, I think would mean that we’d be very late for tonight’s event.

“You look beautiful,” he says. I smile and then twirl to give him the full effect of the dress.

“Really?” I check. “It’s a little tight… You don’t think I look fat do you?”

“Of course not. You look absolutely gorgeous.”

“Thank you. I’m not really sure if I want to tell everyone I’m pregnant yet and I wasn’t sure what the press was going to be like.”

“Well, since they ran our engagement announcement in the Seattle Times this morning, I assume there will be photographers waiting for us, but that’s why I have Jacqueline.”

“There was an engagement announcement?” I ask, surprised, and he nods.

He walks to the table in front of the sofa and picks up the paper, flipping back to a full page article titled, Billionaire CEO Christian Grey Engaged. It’s accompanied by a huge blown up photo of the two of us from the Governor’s Ball and a few family photos I’ve only ever seen on Grace’s wall.

“Where did they get these?” I ask as I look over a picture of Christian and I at Elliot’s birthday dinner on the beach in Hawaii that I’m pretty sure was taken by Mia.  

“I gave them to Jacquiline,” Christian says. “We’ve never had a portrait taken of the two of us so I had to make do with what was available.”

“You knew about this?”

“Of course I knew about this. I made the announcement.”

“And you didn’t think to talk to me about that before you sent personal pictures of us to be published in a newspaper?”

“It was this or wait for it to leak to the press and allow some sleazy reporter to control the narrative, probably call you a gold digger or accuse me of going to any lengths to cover up the accusations made against me last summer. I don’t know why you’re upset, this isn’t an unusual thing. People run engagement announcements every day.”

“Yeah, but most people don’t have a full page in the article in the society pages.”

“Are you telling me that you don’t want people to know? Is that why you made such a big deal out of changing your name? Why you weren’t wearing your ring? Have you changed your mind?”

“Of course not, but come on Christian, you know better than anyone else what this is going to mean. I still have three weeks in Seattle. This article means that until I go back to Cambridge, there are going to be photographers following me everywhere, trying to get a picture of me wearing this ring. I haven’t had to deal with any of that for months and, now that I’m pregnant, I don’t know if I can go through that right now. Don’t you remember what it was like when they found out we were dating? How we had to go all the way to Montesano just to have two days to ourselves? I couldn’t even get out of a car without being swarmed.”

“You have security, and, if you think you need more, I’ll hire more,” he argues, but I shake my head with exasperation..

“Are you like, allergic to talking to me before you make decisions like this?”

“Mr. Grey?” Taylor says, interrupting us and giving us each a chance to take a breath and step back. “The limousine is waiting downstairs.”

“Thank you, Taylor,” he says, and then turns back to me. “We’re going to be late.”

I push my lips together and turn back towards the elevator, refusing to look at either Christian or our security team as we make our way down to the elevator to the lobby.

Why is it Christian and I can never attend a public event in a good place with each other?

He was right about the press. When we pull up in front of the venue there is a hoard of photographers outside already taking pictures of the big name donors Christian was able to secure for the gala. Jacqueline is standing on the curb in a sleek, black gown, waiting for our arrival, and the moment the limousine comes to a stop, she’s opened our door and stuck her head inside.

“Keep Miss Steele on your left side so when she turns to pose for photos her ring is front and center,” she hisses quickly, and then opens the door for us to step out.

“Are you ready?” Christian asks. I look out at the flashing lights of the photographers and sigh.

“I guess I have to be.”

His jaw tightens at my less than enthused reaction. “Will you just act like you’re happy to be marrying me, please?”

Oh great.

“Christian, my frustration with you right now has nothing to do with…”

“We don’t have time to do this right now,” he cuts me off, and he turns to step out of the limo. I take a deep, calming breath, brace myself, and then take the hand he offers me to help me onto the sidewalk. He tucks my hand into his elbow and leads me forward, stopping to turn and pose for a picture that feels disgustingly fake. I angle my body into him and place my left hand on the lapel of his tuxedo jacket as we both stare into the blinding light exploding all around us, and, to Christian’s credit, he’s much better at hiding his irritation this time than he was at the last ball. His hand tightens around my waist and the way his lips brush lightly against my forehead as he pulls me into his side sends a welcome wave of comfort over me while, together, we face the hoard.

“Mr. Grey won’t be answering any questions,” Jacqueline says, stepping in front of us so that we can turn to head inside and silencing the garbled questions about wedding dates and venues being thrown at us. Someone calls to ask if I’m pregnant and I immediately feel my cheeks pink.

“They can’t tell,” Christian whispers in my ear. “You look stunning tonight, Anastasia.”

I nod and give him a nervous smile as he leads me inside.

The venue is absolutely beautiful. Unlike the last ball we attended together, which looked like an expensive wedding reception, the decor Christian has selected is sleek, modern, and young. It looks like a high class nightclub in here, especially with the DJ playing bass heavy music from the back of the dance floor. I take a sweeping glance of everything around us and then my gaze settles on Elliot and Gia standing near the bar, and Gia looking back at me with her mouth agape in shock. She’s wearing a plain black sheath gown that looks entirely unremarkable and doesn’t fit her the way I know she’d like it to, and, when I glance down at my dress, I feel a grim sense of satisfaction. At least one thing has gone according to plan tonight.

“Sick party, bro,” Elliot says as we make our way over to them. “I was afraid this was going to be stiff and I was going to regret coming, but I think you’d be able to sell tickets to this thing if you opened it to the public. You should go into the nightclub business.”

“Thanks, Elliot.”

“You look great, Ana,” he says, turning to me. “I saw your announcement in the paper this morning. I think Mom is having it framed.”

“Thank you, Elliot,” I reply, and then turn to give the still very angry blonde next to him a smug smile. “Gia, you look beautiful tonight.”

I lean into her and she grimaces as she kisses each of my cheeks. “So do you. That dress is gorgeous,” she says through her teeth.

“Thank you. Christian was very complimentary when he first saw me this evening.”

Christian looks down at me with a half smile and then leans over to kiss my hair before turning to Elliot. “Have you heard any more about Dad?”

“Not since we’ve gotten here. Last I heard they’ve taken the donor into surgery and Dad’s just waiting for them to start the transport before they prep him.”

“Yeah, that was the last I heard too,” Christian says.

“Well, by the time we leave here tonight, he’ll have a new liver and we can move on to the next step to getting him better,” Gia says, pouting her lips as she turns a carefully constructed look on Christian. It has my teeth on edge.

“Thank you, Gia,” Christian says, and then he tightens his grip on my waist. “We need to go mingle. There are a few potential clients here that I’m hoping to secure big contracts with by the end of the night.”

“Sure,” I nod, and then turn back to Gia. “Excuse me, wifely duty calls.”

She gives me a tight, closed lip smile as Christian leads me away to join Ros and Gwen just on the other side of the main entryway. They’re talking to a silver haired man with a woman, who can’t be much older than I am, clinging to his arm.

“Ah, here he is,” Ros says brightly. “Mr. Staiger, this is Christian Grey.”

“Pleasure,” Christian says, reaching out to shake his hand. “Mr. Staiger, this is my fiancée, Anastasia Steele.”

He shakes my hand as well, then turns back to Christian, and the two of them start talking business. I try really hard to look interested in their discussion at first, but I hardly understand anything they’re talking about and the things that I can follow are extraordinarily dull.

Once the ball shifts into full swing, waiters begin weaving their way through the crowded room carrying trays of champagne, but that doesn’t do anything for me, so, once there’s a break in the conversation, I gently place my hand on Christian’s arm and tell him that I’m going to go to the bar to get some water. He nods, kisses me on the cheek, and then goes back to discussing the future of the fiber optics market with Mr. Staiger.

I feel a small bit of relief being away from the interminable business talk, but there isn’t much else for me at this party. I don’t know anyone except Elliot, but he’s fully preoccupied with Gia and I’d rather spend three weeks listening to Christian trying to woo clients than spend a single evening trying to get along with her.

I wish Kate was here. Things were always so much easier when it was Kate pulling Elliot off into dark corners rather than the blonde haired succubus he has now.

I get to the bar and ask for a glass of water, and, while the bartender turns to put ice in my glass, I hear a gruff voice next to me.

“You look like you’re playing your part well.”

I turn and see Jack Hyde leaning on the bar over a glass of scotch. He turns to me and I’m almost a little surprised by his appearance. His eyes are sunken, marred by deep, dark circles, and his hair is greasy. He doesn’t look anything like the charismatic man I worked with over the summer.

“Jack,” I say surprise. “I-uh… how are you?”

“Stuck,” he says. “I’m stuck.”

“Stuck?”

“Don’t play stupid with me, Anastasia. You know exactly what I’m talking about. I seem to recall something about you talking to Grey, putting me up to take over at SIP after you left. But I’m not in charge of SIP. Elizabeth Morgan is. So you lied. You’re a liar.”

He’s clearly already had too much to drink.

“Oh, I’m… I’m sorry about that, Jack. I had no idea that he was already interviewing for my replacement when I told you that. I did talk to him about you. I told him that I thought you’d be great, but he’d already hired Elizabeth.”

“And to think…” he says. “I worked so hard to be kind to you the few months I got to know you. What a waste.”

I’m not sure what exactly it is about those words, but something suddenly has all the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I glance over my shoulder, wondering if anyone is watching us. Luke and Taylor are here somewhere, aren’t they? They weren’t in the limo with us, but surely they’re here.

He’s just drunk, Ana. Stop being paranoid.

“What’s it matter to you though, right?” he continues. “What’s it matter to Grey? You go home each night to your penthouse apartment where you’re waited on by your full time staff. You fly to your Ivy League school in your private jet…” He looks down at the ring on my finger and lets out a disgusted sounding huff through his nose. “Why would you have to worry about us peasants?”

“Jack, I really…”

He cuts me off again. “You know, when I met you, I thought there was really more to you. You’re smart, Ana, you could do something. You could be something. But here you are, clinging to the arm of a man, who only chose you because of the way your tight little ass fits into a pair of jeans, while he throws his dick around a room of finance bigwigs. I don’t even know why you’re wasting your time at that fancy school of yours. Do you think Grey is going to let you do anything with a degree? That he’ll care at all about you having a career after you graduate or doing anything but waiting at home for him ready to spread your legs? You’re going to end up just like every other woman in this room, telling yourself that running your husband’s foundation is enough for you, trying desperately to look twenty when you’re thirty five, and hiding a secret affair with your personal trainer.  He’s going to keep you like a doll, own you, control you, make your life decisions for you, and then throw you away when he’s done playing with you.”

I stare back at him blankly, reminding myself that the man telling me these things isn’t Christian’s biggest fan right now, that he doesn’t have anything invested in either of our happiness, and that, after being passed over for the promotion last fall, he probably has personal satisfaction to gain from Christian’s suffering, from my suffering. But all of that would be a lot easier to swallow if his words didn’t ring so true to everything I’ve been through with Christian this afternoon. And then, there’s the all too clear memory of sitting against a bar, throwing back tequila shots, and pulling a confession out of Elena Lincoln.

You’re ambitious, you’re well educated, you have potential… Christian will slowly take all of that away from you until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

“Excuse me,” Jack says, picking up his tumbler. “Enjoy your evening, Anastasia.”

I take a breath, trying to shake off the uncomfortable shiver his whisper has left in my skin, then pick up the glass of ice water the bartender left for me and turn make my way back to Christian. I only make it a few steps away though when I practically run into him.

“There you are,” he says. “What took you so long?”

My head is spinning, still working through the visions Jack’s warning has flashing through my mind, so I look up at him with pleading eyes. “What does the future look like, Christian?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, when I graduate, and move back here, and we’re married… how do you imagine our life will be?”

“Happy?” he says, though his tone suggests he isn’t clear exactly what I’m asking him.

“So, if I publish my book and I go on a book tour, or I get a job with a publishing company and work full time, travel even, how would you feel about that?”

“Proud of you.”

“Even if my career sometimes has to come before yours? Even if you need me here but I can’t be?”  

“Ana, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to be like these other women,” I tell him. “I don’t want the kind of life Gia wants. I don’t want to just be your wife, I don’t want to just be a mom, and I don’t want to throw away everything worked for because our entire lives only revolve around you and GEH.”

“Okay, so don’t. If you want to write books or work in publishing or start mega conglomerate that’ll one day put me out of business, I’ll be your biggest supporter. I’ll always be your biggest supporter.”

I stare up into his eyes, looking for any sign of insincerity, but there’s nothing. Only confusion and maybe a little concern for my sanity.

“I want to believe you, Christian. I want to believe that you’re different than all of these other men and that you don’t just want me as a trophy wife to parade around events like this, but when you spend all day arguing with me about my name, and when you make decisions like publically announcing our engagement without even talking to me first, it’s hard to not to believe that’s going to be true.”

He hangs his head, takes a deep breath, and then nods.

“I’m sorry. I know that I’ve been unfair to you today, but.. I can’t help it. The truth is that I’m having more trouble with today than I thought I would. New Year’s hasn’t been great for me the past couple years. I associate it with losing you, with how it felt being without you. That pain has been very real again for me all day, like I’m experiencing it all over again. I’ve been trying to prepare for how today was going to make me feel, that’s why I made sure our engagement was announced today, but it wasn’t enough. All those feelings I had thinking about you in Cambridge without me, drinking, meeting someone else, moving on… it’s just all very real today and that’s why I yelled at you for not wearing your ring. That’s why I’ve been fighting with you about your name. I want you to have my name, Anastasia. I want the world to know that you’re mine and I want to know without a doubt that you and I are forever. That’s what that means to me. And, I want my daughter to have my name, our name. I want to be a real family.”

“We will be, Christian. No matter what my last name is. We’re family now, aren’t we?”

He frowns and looks down, but nods, and the residual sadness I can see in his eyes tugs at my heart.

“If it means this much to you, I’ll change my name,” I tell him.

“You will?”

“Yeah,” I nod. “It’s just a name. Believe it or not, I know what it’s like to want everyone to know you belong to me, too. In fact, I kind of wish it was tradition for men to wear engagement rings too so that some people would get that you’re spoken for. Besides, if I take Grey then I’ll save our children’s struggle of having to write out Steele-Grey every time they have to write their names.”

“Coming from a Trevelyan-Grey,” he says with a smirk, “they’ll thank you for that one day.”

I smile and then push myself into him, inhaling his familiar, comforting scent as I get to really hold onto him for the first time all day.

“You ready to go rejoin the party?” he asks. “I promise, we’re almost done with the business talk.”

“With you Mr. Grey, always.”

The rest of the ball goes off without a hitch, and, as we approach midnight, more and more people pack themselves onto the center dance floor so they can be in the thick of it when the countdown begins and the confetti cannons cover everyone in glitter. Christian holds me tight against him as we dance together to an acoustic cover of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours. I tilt my head back and stare up into his eyes, smiling broadly at the sheer force of love I see reflecting back at me, until Elliot reaches out and nudges Christian’s arm.

“Is that Mom?” he asks, his voice panicked. Christian and I both turn and see Grace standing on the edge of the dance floor in a long, deep purple gown, her eyes searching diligently through the crowd.

My heart stops.

Carrick should be having surgery right now, there’s no way she would leave him at the hospital while he was being operated on. If she’s here…

Christian grabs tightly to my hand and pulls me through the people dancing around us, Elliot and Gia both following closely in our wake.

“Mom?” Christian asks when we reach her. “What are you doing here?”

“This is your first hosting event,” Grace replies, her voice quivering slightly. “I couldn’t miss it.”

“Where’s Dad?” Elliot asks. “How did his surgery go?”

She swallows and presses her lips together for a moment to pull herself together before she speaks. “There was no surgery. When they removed the liver from the patient in Portland, they found a mass that the scans didn’t reveal. The organ isn’t viable. Your father has been put back on the transplant list.”

“But… but there isn’t time,” Elliot argues. Grace gives him a sad, tight lipped smile and steps towards him, holding her arms out to hug him, but before her hands even touch his shoulders, he pushes her away.

“No. No, there’s got to be something else,” he argues. “It’s New Year’s. Maybe a drunk driver or…” His hands start shaking as he takes a step back, like the energy swirling between all of us is what’s keeping his father from receiving an organ and if he can just get away from it, a miracle will happen. Christian turns to him, looking as though he’s going to attempt to offer some kind of comfort, but before he can say anything, Gia steps in front of him.

“Elliot, it’s going to be okay.”

“Don’t,” he says quickly, but she wraps her arms around him.

“I’m going to get tested,” she says. “I’m not arguing with you about this anymore, we don’t have the time. Tomorrow morning, I’m going down to the hospital and I’m getting tested to see if I’m a match.”

He stares at her for a long moment, searching her eyes with his and shaking his head with disbelief. “Why?” he asks. “Why would you do that?”

“Because if your father doesn’t get this transplant, it’s going to ruin you and I can’t let that happen. I can’t stand to see you going through this a moment longer because… because, I love you, Elliot.”

“What?”

“I love you. I’m in love with you and if I can do this for you, for your family, nothing will stop me.”

He looks tortured as he holds her gaze and the silence is so poignant it’s like we can hear it over the thumping music blaring from the DJs speakers. Eventually though, he takes a deep breath, moves his hand up her arms and says, “I love you, too.”

“You love her?”

We all turn and find Kate standing just behind us. Her platinum hair is held back in an intricate braid that leaves the hair around her face loose like a shining halo. She’s dressed in an elaborately beaded golden gown, which hugs her curvaceous figure flawlessly all the way to her knees until the fabric of the skirt fans out into a soft pool all around her. Her makeup is flawless, her skin is glowing, even her nails are perfectly painted. She looks unbelievably beautiful, except that she also looks heartbroken.

She glances between all of us, but no one says anything. There’s nothing to say. So, as the DJ announces the final minute of 2010, Kate gathers her skirts, turns on her heels, and sprints for the exit.

“Kate!” Elliot calls, the same tortured look that had been in Kate’s eyes now mirrored in his. I shoot him a disgusted look and then chase after her, pushing slightly to try and catch up to her through the crowd packing tighter and tighter around me.

When I make it out of the main ballroom and back into the entrance hall, I don’t see her and my mind immediately starts racing through the possibilities of where she’s gone.

Home. She has to be going home, right?

I decide it’s my best bet, so I turn back for the ballroom, back to Christian, as the crowd begins counting down the last ten seconds of the year.

“She’s gone,” I say the second I get to him. “I’m going after her.”

“Where?”

“Mercer Island. I’m going to try her house.”

He nods and I turn to carve my way through the crowd again, but his hand reaches out for my arm and pulls me back to him.

3, 2, 1! Happy New Year!

The hoard of people around us erupt into cheers and applause and Christian’s lips come down on mine. I pause for a half a second and then wrap my arms around his neck and open my mouth for him. His tongue caresses mine softly, contrasting with the way his hands hold me tightly against his body. The entire world seems to stop and for just one, split second, everything is okay.

“Go get her,” he whispers, a little mournfully, against my lips.

“I love you,” I tell him, and then turn to hurry for the main doors, ignoring the smug look of victory Gia wears on her face as I go.

The fifteen minute drive from Seattle to Mercer Island feels like an eternity. As the cab I’m in rolls steadily over the I-90 bridge, I dial Kate’s number several times but continually get her voicemail. Knowing what she’s probably feeling, playing the memories I have of her from last fall when she first felt this devastation before she numbed it with alcohol and partying, has me tied up in knots. The regrets about leaving Elliot that she confessed to me yesterday run through my mind on a continuous loop. I’ve left the man I love before, I’ve felt the agony of that decision, but I’ve gotten him back. I’ve walked through fire to bring him back from hell but even though the things I’ve gone through with Christian have made us stronger together, I think they’ve also made me naive. I realize now that I’ve been assuming that Kate and Elliot were going to find their way back to one another eventually. Maybe not for a while, but, someday, they would be together. That’s how it feels it’s supposed to be, the way I’m supposed to be with Christian, but just because Christian and I could repair what had once been shattered, doesn’t mean that everyone gets their fairy tale ending.

It’s Ethan who opens the door when I finally make it to Kate’s house and, even though he and I have always gotten along well and even though I haven’t seen him in years, there is no moment of reunion between us. He immediately steps to the side to let me in and nods to the stairs.

“She’s in her room,” he says quickly, and I give him a grateful nod before making the climb to the second level of the Kavanagh’s home. Kate’s mother is standing outside of her bedroom, speaking softly through the door. When she sees me, a look of relief crosses her face. She steps aside and, without knocking, I step inside.

“Katie?”

She’s sprawled across her bed, her gorgeous gown fanning all around her as she sobs into her pillows, and I have the brief thought that the scene before me would make a beautiful photograph if my best friend’s pain wasn’t so tangible that I could feel it the moment I crossed the threshold.

I close the door behind me and make my way to her bed, sitting next to her gently brushing my fingertips over her skin as I whisper to her reassuringly. It takes a while, but eventually, her tears stop long enough for her to form her anguish into words.

“It’s over. It’s really over.”

“No, Kate…”

“He said he loved her, Ana. He’s in love with someone else.”

I swallow. “She’d just offered to donate an organ to save his dying father’s life.”

“That sounds an awful lot like love to me.”

“It’s not though. She’ll say and do whatever she can to…”

“Ana, stop!” Kate yells. She sits up off the bed, the intensity now blazing in her eyes exaggerated by the streaks of tears staining her cheeks. “This isn’t about her, this is about him. I heard him say I love you. So either he loves her, or he’s the kind of guy who would says those words to a girl to get her to do what he wants. Either way, it’s over, Ana. Elliot and I are over.”

The finality of her words weighs down on me, leaving me speechless. She’s made his confession into a kind of catch-22 that neither of them can work through. She’s letting go. She’s giving up. She’s decided not to fight anymore.

“What can I do, Kate?” I ask. “What do you need?”

“I need you to go,” she whispers. “I need to be alone so that I can cry and feel what I need to feel before I can move on. I’ve been running away from it, but I can’t anymore. I have to accept that it’s over. I just need some time to myself.”

“You don’t have to do this alone, Katie…”

“Please, Ana. just go.

I swallow and then nod, but as I get up from the bed and turn for the door, she calls out to stop me.

“Ana.” I face her, a frisson of hope rising in me, and then quickly deflating when I see the tears welling in her eyes once more. “Don’t ever let Christian go.”

“Kate,” I try again, pleading with her to open up to me, to let me be with her and support her. To hold her together while, inside, she falls apart. But she just turns back around, buries her face in her pillow, and cries again.

“Is she okay?” Kate’s mom asks worriedly when I step back out into the hallway.

“I don’t know. No, I don’t think she is. But, she’s made her choice.”

“They were so happy,” she says, shaking her head. “I just don’t understand.”

I nod in agreement. “Call me if you think I can help.”

“Thank you, Ana. Thank you for being such a good friend to Katherine.” I hug her and then head back downstairs. I planned on calling another cab but Ethan offers to drive me back home, though I think that’s just so he can grill me for all the answers he can’t get out of Kate right now.

When we pull up along the curb outside of Escala, his knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel so hard and he’s threatened to go kick Elliot’s ass three different times, but, for what… I’m not really sure.

“Thanks for the ride home,” I say gratefully, and then lean over to give him a hug goodbye before I step out of the car. He waits there until I’ve entered the resident’s code into the security lock on the main doors and, once I’m inside, I turn and wave goodbye, then watch him disappear down the street.

After I’ve gotten in the elevator, I type in the code for the penthouse and then lean my head against the wall as it hums to life. I’m exhausted, drained from the too eventful day, and now that I’m finally home, all I want is to get into bed with Christian. As the elevator starts to slow, I pull out my phone one last time to make sure I don’t have anything from Kate before I unplug for the rest of the night, and my heart sinks when I see that I do have a text. Not from Kate, but from Gia.

Tell Kate how sorry I am that she had to see that. You’re SUCH a good friend to go after her. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Christian gets home okay.

My face heats as the elevator doors roll open, but as I step out into the foyer and find the apartment dark and empty, the angry fire is doused by an unwelcome sense of deja vu.

“Ch..Christian?” I call, my voice shaking slightly, but there’s no answer. I peek inside the security office off the foyer, but it’s empty, and when I move into the great room and see the low glow peaking beneath the door to our bedroom, I feel a hundred needle like pricks of pain all over my scalp.

My mind immediately begins racing through the scene when I left the ball tonight, evaluating Christian’s demeanor. What was his reaction to Gia telling Elliot she loved him? Was he upset or angry? I can’t remember, I was too focused on Kate. He kissed me though, right before I left, he initiated it. He kissed me, but then I said I love you and… did he say it back? I don’t think he did. Fuck, I don’t think he did!

Oh no…

My heart is thundering in my chest as I begin to walk up the hallway and when I reach out for the doorknob, listening hard for any indication of what I may be just about to walk in on, I almost chicken out. It takes me a few deep breaths to summon enough courage to face what’s on the other side of this door, but, once I’ve steeled myself, I reach down for the knob and then slowly push my way in the room.

Christian is in bed, alone, his laptop open in front of him.

“Hey,” he greets me softly. “Did you find her?”

I immediately burst into tears.

“Ana? What’s wrong?” He pulls back the comforter and climbs out of bed, pulling me against him and brushing his fingers soothingly through my hair. “What happened?”

“I thought I was going to find you in here with Gia,” I sob into his chest.

“Gia?” he repeats, sounding confused.

“I had a dream the other night that I came home late and you were in bed with Gia and… and…” My words cut off as I replay my nightmare in my head once again and the tears come more forcefully. Christian tightens his hold on me.

“Baby, shhh. It was just a dream. You know that I’d never do anything like that, I’d never want to do anything like that. You didn’t really think…”

“I don’t like the way you are with her,” I interrupt him, and he pulls me away, forcing me to look up at him as he furrows his brow down at me.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’re dieting with her, you’re working out with her, you’re buying her designer gowns, and I don’t like it.”

“Okay, first of all, I’m not dieting with her. Gia lives an extremely healthy lifestyle and I admire that about her. It’s something I strive for, personally, I always have. It’s something we both do, but it’s not something I do with her. And we work out together because it’s the only other thing we have in common and I thought it would be a good way to try and get to know her. My parents haven’t been as open to her as they were with you or Kate and Mia hates her and refuses to have anything to do with her, so Elliot asked me to make an effort, to try and make her feel like she could be apart of this family. After all he’s done for us and how he’s treated you like one of our family since day one, I didn’t have a choice. The gowns, I bought for everyone. You, my mother, and Mia too. I thought it would be a nice gesture because they agreed to come in support of me even though, odds were, they were going to be bored all night.”

I press my lips together. Most of that makes sense from his perspective, except… “You let her touch you,” I say quietly. “You have no idea how hard that was for me in beginning, when you wouldn’t let me touch you. And then you did, you gave that to me, and that meant the world to me. That was what solidified what we had was real, that you trusted me, and that you truly loved me. But you let her touch you.”

“That’s because… I’ve been working on that,” he says, hanging his head now and speaking softly.

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Flynn and I,” he clarifies. “We’ve been working on touch for months. Ever since I found out you were pregnant. All of the baby books say the same thing, physical touch is the most important aspect of parent-infant bonding. Our daughter needs to be able to touch me, without any kind of negative reaction, and I’m trying to prepare myself for that. I don’t seek out physical touch from anyone, only you, but I’m trying to learn how to temper my reaction when other people touch me. I would never be inappropriate with Gia, or anyone, I’m just trying to learn to accept other people’s touch so that I don’t pass my problems onto our children.”

“Oh.” I look down again, feeling slightly ashamed of my accusations now that I hear his reasoning, but he doesn’t let me off the hook that easily. His fingers brush beneath my chin and he tilts my face up so that I’m looking into his eyes again.

“Why are you so worried about Gia? She’s a flirt, I’ll give you that, but a lot of girls our age are. Kate was a flirt, just… not with me because of you.”

“I just don’t like your relationship with her,” I admit. “Even if your intentions are all fine, I don’t like that you’ve gotten so close to her. It makes me uncomfortable, especially when I’m spending most of my time across the country and you’re here alone with her. I know that may sound unreasonable but…”

“Okay,” he cuts me off, and I raise an eyebrow at him.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” he reaffirms. “If it makes you uncomfortable, I’ll back off. I swear to you, Ana, I was just trying to be as welcoming to her as Elliot has been to you, but if you don’t like it, I’ll stop. You’re not being unreasonable.”  

“Really?”

“Of course not. You’re being honest about your feelings, and I appreciate that. You don’t think I understand being uncomfortable with the person you love having close a relationship with someone of the opposite sex? Do I need to fire Luke again?”

I laugh and he leans down to kiss me.

“I love you, Anastasia. Only you.”

“I love you too, Christian. I’m sorry that we didn’t break your shitty New Year’s Eve streak.”

“Well, there’s one thing we could do to salvage it. One New Year’s tradition I’d very much like to revive.”

“And what’s that?”

“Fucking you on every surface available to me.” He reaches down, scoops me into his arms, and I let out of squeal of mixed surprise and anticipation as he carries me off into the great room.

Next Chapter

 

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61 thoughts on “Chapter 21

    1. I see Gia’s actions already as showing she is a bad person. She could have been classy and taken the high road when approaching Kate at the store in the first place. She could have said something like she could see why Kate would find Elliot easy to love and that she hoped to one day be friends with Kate, given how close Ana and Kate are. She could have even said something to the fact that she knows how much the Grey clan still love Kate.

      Instead, Gia chose to be as wicked a vixen as she could be. AND she flaunted the fact that Christian was buying HER dress. She clearly played up Ana’s fears, as seen in her text this chapter.

      And how else would Christian know that Gia is a flirt if Gia hadn’t at least TRIED to pull off her flirtatious vibe around Christian? Gia has chosen to see Christian’s attempts at friendship for Elliot’s sake as a possible “in” for her. And Gia clearly intends to work EVERY angle available to her.

      I don’t buy Gia really being in love with Elliot. Her comments at the store in the previous chapter make it clear that she is after a wedding ring as quickly as possible for a Grey man.

      I’m still hoping that Kate’s doctor’s appointment was for testing for Carrick. Kate is still very close to Mia and cares about the Grey family, regardless of her relationship wtih Elliot. And the fact that the doctor’s office is taking so much time to get the results back to Kate tells me that it was because a donor had already been found. Now that we know the liver can’t be used from the donor, I’m thinking Kate could be a match.

      And if Kate IS a match for Carrick, she WILL have the operation done. No matter what it does for her completing her degree on time or how that could interfere with her life, at least temporarily. AND if Kate DOES manage to save Carrick, Elliot undoubtedly WILL see JUST what he has lost. And be forced to see what the REAL thing looks like as opposed to what he has with Gia. (AND I expect Gia to OVERPLAY her hand and continue being nasty to Kate and even Ana, when Kate will have shown her true character.)

      But at this point, Elliot needs to realize how wrong he has been. AND he needs to have to FIGHT for Kate to get her back, if he even can. Kate was willing to give up HER most cherished dreams of marriage and children JUST to be with Elliot. Elliot now needs to realize the importance of a true love and doing whatever it takes to redeem himself. Because he DOES need to redeem himself, in my opinion, at this point. Especially when he comes to realize JUST what kind of person Gia is and how he supposedly “loved” someone he didn’t even really know at all!

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  1. Omg was waiting for this update all morning and you didn’t disappoint. I am so glad ana didn’t wait weeks before she told Christian how his relationship with Gia was affecting her. And what can I say about Elliot he needs to grow a pair his girlfriend is after his brother and hes to distraught about his father to even notice. I actually thought Gia was going to throw a hissy fit when she saw Ana in her dress, didn’t see that one coming (ana actually wearing her dress) but that was a great twist. Gia is a snake and if Christian wants to support Elliot he needs to help Elliot see Kate is the woman for him. I need Christian and Kate moments!!!! I didn’t like the fact that Christian acknowledged Gia is a flirt. I think if the roles were reversed he would go apeshit on Ana and anyone who was flirting with her. With that said I am glad Christian is going to cut Gia out of his life. Had to hold my breath when he explained he was trying to get help with his touch issues for their baby girl. So sweet. And please lets find Carrick his transplant and lets not make him die ☹

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  2. Loved loved loved this chapter regarding the Ana/Christian interaction. (Although there were a LOT of other important tidbits in the chapter as well.) And Christian working with Flynn on his touch issues because of his becoming a parent!! Ana is clearly Christian’s world. AND he has NO PROBLEM with cutting Gia out of his life if it will make Ana feel better. And I loved that they were able to communicate and ultimately talk through everything.

    Now onto Elliot and Gia. If Elliot can say “I love you” to Gia and seemingly mean it, then I DON’T want Kate with him. He would NOT deserve Kate. “Love” seems to mean an entirely different thing to Elliot then it does to Kate. NO WONDER Elliot doesn’t want to actually marry someone. And Kate is right not to try to fight for Elliot at this point, if he can so easily move on, ESPECIALLY with someone like Gia. And Elliot could have ALWAYS had Kate back, had he just been willing to consider marriage and children. So the fact that Elliot never seems to have considered the possibility of getting back together with Kate says something about him.

    So even though I have loved the Elliot/Kate pairing in the past, I am with Kate on this one. The relationship is truly DONE, unless Elliot recognizes that he did NOT mean what he said to Gia. (Still not liking Elliot if he said “I love you” and didn’t really mean it.) But Elliot would TRY to love anyone that was willing to save his father. He IS in a really vulnerable place right now.

    And Gia’s text to Ana about getting Christian home. CLEARLY, Gia really does believe that she could have Christian if she wanted him. Right now, however, she seemingly has Elliot in her corner, and she will NOT risk losing Elliot UNLESS she is guaranteed Christian.

    But Gia is clearly an enemy now, at least to Ana (and Kate). And HYDE was clearly putting on a show for Ana back in the day. His true colors are showing, as well as the instability issues. So Hyde COULD be behind the Conspiracy against Christian. But the greasy look AND the alcohol make Hyde a less-than-suitable Conspiracy Head. Not someone who followed the trials and recruited Lelia. I mean, Lelia has to REALLY believe in the guy that recruited her to be willing to go to the lengths she did of following Ana and having the thug ready to grab Ana in New York.

    So I still see someone ELSE as being the real controller of everything behind the scenes OTHER than Hyde. But Hyde definitely has the HATE thing for Christian AND Ana in SPADES. So Hyde may be the man. At the very least, he most certainly would WANT to be a part of the conspiracy. And Gia would join right in, if given an invitation.

    I’m just hoping Gia won’t be a match for Carrick. I can’t see Kate’s doctor’s appointment having been about anything OTHER than having herself tested regarding Carrick. And even if she and Elliot HAVE closed the door permanently on their relationship, Kate would NOT let that effect her decision to save Carrick, if she were found to be a match.

    And if Kate IS found to be a match for Carrick and is able to save him, I can’t help but thing Elliot will have REAL REGRETS then regarding letting Kate go. BUT HE NEEDS his eyes opened as to Gia’s REAL character. So I’m hoping Gia gets caught being a part of the conspiracy. Because Gia WILL be motivated to go after Ana. And THAT would be enough to make Elliot want nothing more to do with her.

    As always, JUST WOW Tara. Everytime I think I know where you are going with the story, you throw another clue or wrench into the works. And I always love it. (But just out of curiosity, will Ana tell Christian about the dress? Or show him the text? Christian really needs to know that Gia is now gunning for Ana. I have a feeling that you plan to make some significance about that rift sometime soon. . . .Gia won’t on any account go quietly into the night, and she will certainly not want to lose to Ana. So she’ll do anything fair or foul to get at Ana in the upcoming weeks. Right? Right? Come ON Tara, talk. You KNOW you need to tell us avid rabid fans. Really, before I start foaming at the mouth and need serious medical attention!!! Them rabies are nothing to mess with!!!)

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  3. Also interesting that CHRISTIAN still has at least as many insecurities as Ana at this point. But that makes him more willing and open to discussing those issues with Ana.

    But the PRESS issue will also come into play soon, undoubtedly. I mean, we already heard that one reporter ask if Ana were pregnant. And with the engagement being announced publicly, the press WILL be looking into Ana, especially with her being across the country.

    I actually find that the Press issue gives me SOME comfort as to people keeping tabs on Ana. Would make it much harder for someone to kidnap Ana, at least initially. HOWEVER, the engagement ring AND the pregnancy will make the would-be Destroyer of Christian act SOONER rather than later. Especially since this is Ana’s LAST semester at Harvard. After that, she would be returning to Seattle and would be under MUCH more security and scrutiny full-time. So if someone is going to grab Ana, it will be while she is still in Boston.

    So things are much more likely to come to a head soon with the engagement announcement having been made. And Ana will have to deal with reporters chasing her heels while she is trying to complete school and get her book published. So added STRESS to her. And Kate as well, if Kate turns out to be a match for Carrick.

    And if Gia DOES turn out to be a match for Carrick, then she can pretty much dictate to Elliot what she wants. So I DEFINITELY hope that she is NOT a match!! And that Kate is. And that Elliot then has to see what a real ruin he has made of his life, since if Gia thinks she is losing Elliot, she would DEFINITELY try to harm Ana (or Kate).

    So things are going to keep picking up as to drama. COME ON next MONDAY!!!!!!

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  4. I love you Tara, you lil stinker! You had a lot of people panicking over Gia I wasn’t though. I just wanted to see kick ass Ana in action today. So I love how they are communicating with each other about their feelings. They are learning to use the curves being thrown their way without disrespecting or breaking up with each other. Hyde is a major threat and with everything that happened today Ana forgot to mention it to Christian. I hope she tells him in the next chapter. Poor Kate my heart breaks for her but I do believe Elliot did not mean what he said to her. But she needs to go and soon. And then there is Christian, between working at getting his business off and building on it, Ana being away, Carrick being sick he is trying so hard to be the husband and father he needs to be for Ana and the baby. I am so in love with your Christian and this story. So well written and planned out but yet so realistic with the drama that is. It makes my Mondays so much better to get thei the day😂

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  5. i’m so ANGRY with you Tara Kuper. Poor Kate, can she please catch a freaking break. She is going to go off the rail now for sure. I seriosly teared up I feel so bad for her. At least Ana put her in her place and Christian will back off. Wake the hell up Elliott.

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  6. You never disappoint. I have to admit that I was turning frenetic thinking you wouldn’t post, but I never lost the faith (thanks for always being there every Monday).

    About the chapter… Regarding Ana and Christian’s relationship, I can’t help but be truly happy with them. I mean, in ABSOF were a similar scene (when Christian had a revelation about Elena) but this time they talked about it, both exposed their point of view and got to end the night stronger than ever. Well, Christian told Ana about his feelings and Ana did the same, so I’m considering it a great advance from the second book.
    Just to say it, you SUPERASTE my expectations about them, and they weren’t specialy low.

    And talking about Elliot… I have to say that I don’t like this new Elliot… He isn’t like the old Elliot who was all the time joking, being kind with Ana and all that. Now, I understand that he just lost Kate (well, I have to say that he didn’t do a big effort to gain her back, he just skipped the hard road) and that he is vulnerable because of his father’s illness, but saying he loves Gia only to save his father seems like a low blow. I’m really thinking that he doesn’t know what love is, and like other people said, I’m with Kate here and think that they are actually done if he doesn’t change that fact.

    Oh, and if I have to talk about Gia… I think that Christian is really going to cut iteration with her (finally!) but also think that we haven’t heard the last of her (now she knows that Ana knows about her intentions). Please, make her burn in hell the sooner the best.

    And well, about you… like I said, you never disappoint, but you also manage to keep us really counting the seconds until the next chapter, making every new chapter a new world wonder (and I couldn’t be more happy with the course they are taking).

    Looking forward for the next chapter, while creating all types of ideas on my mind regarding what the next chapter may contain!

    Lots of love,
    Andie xx

    Ps: please, forgive all grammatic mistakes, English isn’t my first language.

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  7. WOAH–just picked up on the Ethan thing—he threatened to go beat Elliot up. Three times, no less. And even ANA was wondering why his reaction is that way.

    So maybe Kate COULD be pregnant. BUT she would have to be as far along as Ana for it to be Elliot’s since they broke up around Ana’s birthday. THAT would be why Ethan would want to beat up Elliot.

    But I’m rather hoping Kate is not pregnant. She has been partying hard and doing drugs AND sleeping with multiple guys. So she would need a DNA test just to prove Elliot really WAS the father.

    Kate also might have been at the doctor’s office to run tests on the fetus to make sure everything is okay given how she has been living her life. And that WOULD be a reason she would fly back across the country JUST for a doctor’s appointment–either she realizes she is pregnant OR it was to be tested for Carrick. (OR it might even be a combination of the two—in being tested as a possible donor, she learned of the pregnancy).

    So Ethan wanting to beat up Elliot tells me that either Elliot got Kate pregnant OR he realizes that Kate has just found out she is a MATCH for Carrick and is planning to have the operation. And there are always risks when having an operation. And Kate would be doing so much for the Grey clan that she got to know as a result of her relationship with Elliot.

    (And maybe Ethan just wants to hurt the person that has hurt his sister. But Ana’s take on his reaction indicates to me that it is MORE.)

    I’m DYING here Tara! Come ON, give us some CLUES soon as to what Kate’s doctor’s appointment was all about and just WHY Ethan wants to harm Elliot so bad!!!!!

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  8. You never disappoint. I have to admit that I was turning frenetic thinking you wouldn’t post, but I never lost the faith (thanks for always being there every Monday).

    About the chapter… Regarding Ana and Christian’s relationship, I can’t help but be truly happy with them. I mean, in ABSOF were a similar scene (when Christian had a revelation about Elena) but this time they talked about it, both exposed their point of view and got to end the night stronger than ever. Well, Christian told Ana about his feelings and Ana did the same, so I’m considering it a great advance from the second book.
    Just to say it, you SUPERASTE my expectations about them, and they weren’t specialy low.

    And talking about Elliot… I have to say that I don’t like this new Elliot… He isn’t like the old Elliot who was all the time joking, being kind with Ana and all that. Now, I understand that he just lost Kate (well, I have to say that he didn’t do a big effort to gain her back, he just skipped the hard road) and that he is vulnerable because of his father’s illness, but saying he loves Gia only to save his father seems like a low blow. I’m really thinking that he doesn’t know what love is, and like other people said, I’m with Kate here and think that they are actually done if he doesn’t change that fact.

    Oh, and if I have to talk about Gia… I think that Christian is really going to cut iteration with her (finally!) but also think that we haven’t heard the last of her (now she knows that Ana knows about her intentions). Please, make her burn in hell the sooner the best.

    And well, about you… like I said, you never disappoint, but you also manage to keep us really counting the seconds until the next chapter, making every new chapter a new world wonder (and I couldn’t be more happy with the course they are taking).

    Looking forward for the next chapter, while creating all types of ideas on my mind regarding what the next chapter may contain!

    Lots of love,
    Andie xx

    Ps: please, forgive all grammatic mistakes, English isn’t my first language.

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  9. I have to say that in the beginning of this chapter I really really wanted to kick Ana’s ass for picking stupid fights with Christian. I mean hell he is who he is and there will always be paps in their life so what is the problem now? And ohh my god the name. Is she really trying to tell me that it would hurt Ray if she changed her name because he woukd be the last steele? Ray should have known that would happen cause the dude doesn’t have a male child so it was always going to happen anyway. So yeah I wanted to kick her ass for being so childishly stupid. But then she went and was honest with Christian about bitchy Gia and well yeah I forgive her. And ohh how devious was Ana with the dress thing. I laughed about that.

    Elliott and Kate are a lost cause. Please now that’s really over could you pretty please let her and Ana become like sisters again and then let her find love? All this time it was obvious that Elliott knew he was not the guy for Kate and decided that Gia was better suited for him so please let him stay with that thing and let Kate be happy with someone who wants what she wants. This Kate is the only one I really like of all the fs stories I’ve read so I think she deserves the world.

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  10. I’m so happy they’re communicating. It just shows how they’ve grown as a couple. They’re so in love and devoted to each other but still have insecurities. It’s nice to get insight into Christian’s feelings. He definitely has become stronger trying to better himself for the baby.

    I hope Ana shows Christian Gia’s text because he’s been oblivious to what a manipulative snake she can be. This way he can help Elliot open his eyes.

    Poor Kate! Hopefully she’s a match. Gia is a social climber. She’s just wants the Grey name so she can be the trophy wife. Elliot needs to see it.

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  11. “There’s so much I should say, so many things I should tell him, but in the end I tell him nothing.
    I cut a line and my losses, and I light a cigarette.”
    ― Clint Catalyst
    “Years of love, followed by heartache.Those are the years that define me.Those are the years that know – love’s eternity is you.”
    ― C. Elizabeth
    “You loved him enough to let him leave… Now you need to love yourself enough to let him go.”
    ― Ranata Suzuki
    “You are not going to be the girl I’m going to marry are you? You are going to be the girl that got away.”
    ― Angela Richardson

    “I’m devious, cruel, cunning and addictive.”
    -Anthony Hopkins
    “Lies can be verbal or nonverbal, kindhearted or self-serving, devious or bald-faced; they can be lies of omission or lies of commission; they can be lies that undermine national security or lies that make a child feel better, but they are lies.”
    -Robin Marantz Henig
    “Lies cannot succeed without some perception of honesty”
    ― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
    “Bad people often end up as heroes.”
    ― Michael Bassey Johnson

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  12. Just Wow! I love Monday’s because of this and you never disappoint. I’m so glad Ana and Christian communicated their feelings to each other. They’ve definitely grown as a couple and like all relationships they go through ups and downs and hopefully this makes them stronger. Ana wearing Gia’s dress was awesome but I think this opened up some real animosity between them. I don’t think Elliot truly loves Gia I think he said those words because it was expected of him given the situation. Poor Kate! I’m hoping maybe she turns out to be the donor. Awesome chapter!

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  13. I just love all the comments from your followers, Tara. They’re just as good as the story! 😀

    Excellent chappy, as usual. So happy our two love birds are growing and maturing together; easy to forget how young they really are. I hope they only get stronger together, a united front in all things.

    The Kate/Elliot thing is….I don’t know. I’m kind of starting to agree with another follower…maybe they shouldn’t be together…? I know they had a deep love for a good while but it doesn’t mean they are a solid enough match that lasts a lifetime, y’know? It hurts now but both of them shouldn’t give up what they truly want in life just because they’re afraid to let go. I dunno, just my take. Personally, I’ve always thought the Kate/Luke match up would be fun. Perhaps better aligned when all is said and done.

    Thanks again for this universe you’ve created, it’s just wonderful. ❤️

    P.S. Can’t leave before hollering: Down with Gia! Down with Gia! 😤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I AM SO HAPPY THAT ANA AND CHRISTIAN TALKED ABOUT THINGS THAT BOTHER HER… I HATE THAT BITCH GIA! SHE IS A VERY MANIPULATIVE BITCH! ANA SHOULD SHOW HIM THE TEXT AND LET HIM SEE WHY SHE DOESN’T LIKE HER…. I HOPE ELLIOT ONLY SAID HE LOVED HER BECAUSE HE WAS GRATEFUL. I CAN’T SEE HER GOING THROUGH AN OPERATION FOR HIS FATHER. NOT HER THING! I FEEL SO BAD FOR KATE. SHE DOES LOVE ELLIOT AND I FEEL HE DOES STILL HAVE SOME LOVE FOR HER… HOPEFULLY THE DOCTORS APPOINTMENT WILL BE FOR KATE TO BE A MATCH FOR CARRICK, WOULDN’T THAT BE LOVERLY! LOL I LOVE HOW ANA AND CHRISTIAN GREW AS A COUPLE, BUT THEY STILL HAVE SOME INSECURE FEELINGS. I REALLY CAN’T WAIT TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT… BTW CAN GIA GET RUN OVER WITH A STEAMROLLER OR SOMETHING AS GOOD? THANKS FOR THE UPDATE.

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  15. Christian and Ana communicated like they should have been instead of wasting time in arguments, and it all because Ana has this constant suspicions and paranoia with Gia and Christian. Then there’s Jack Hyde exacerbating the issue planting more bad thoughts. They had been through rougher times and Christian’s love for her never diminished, so she needs to examine herself and also needs to reveal to him all about Gia and also Hyde. Christian can’t help her if she does not communicate her feelings and her thoughts. Kate might have had it with Elliott, she is not going to go back there again. He has to make a decision himself of what he really wants. He does not know the true Gia, and he will learn. She might even know she does not have same blood type as Carrick, but she is offering as a donor anyway to be in good graces with the Greys. Thank you, Tara until Monday.

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  16. Great chapter. Not the high note I was wanting but hopefully the text will be seen as doing harm to Ana and get Gia put outside the family circle and Kate being a match for carrick will cement her to the family with or without Elliott. And he will see the light and go after her. Can’t wait, it’s going to be a long week now. Thank you.

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  17. So glad Ana and Christian communicated. Their love is so strong, they didnt need to go through lots of arguments to concur. Gia’s issue isnt a hot potato, Christian agree to drop Gia to accommodate Ana, wonderful he does that, he loves his Ana too much to jeopardize their relationship. Ana needs to tell Christian about Jack.
    Poor Kate, such sadness. Elliot said those words to Gia out of expectation especially after volunteers the procedure. Still have high hopes Kate is the one.
    Thank you for an excellent update. Looking forward to Monday. Thanks very much, Tara. Xoxo daytona

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  18. Yea Ana for getting one up on Gia and for finally telling Christian how she feels in regards to Gia and kudos Christian for being understanding and willing to cut Gia out I can understand wanting to be a good brother as Elliot was always in his corner and working on his touch issues to be a better daddy to his little girl awesomely sweet.
    Now to Elliot seriously I think he said I love you because Gia offered to save his father life and drop the L bomb doing it he come on he’d seem like a total Asshat if he didn’t say it back he was totally manipulated especially in such a public settings. It just sucks that Kate heard it….. Her reaction it totally justified she needs to move on so Elliot realize what he’s missing out on….. So they can get back together
    GIA NEEDS TO GO….. that text she sent to Ana bitch move she a fake ass social climber that is trying to get herself anything with last name Grey she so can’t Carrick organ donor Gia would try to make a pass Carrick if she thought she had shot man I Hate her

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  19. I’m glad Ana and Christian are communicating and that she told him of her concerns about Gia. I loved everything he said. It was all totally reasonable and there is nothing at all to indicate he has any thoughts of straying. He is totally in love with Ana and she needs to accept that and work with it and when she does have some doubts she needs to tell him all her insecure thoughts to him so he can reassure her. And she should come clean to him about what she said to Gia about the dress, too. He was only being sweet and generous offering to buy the dress for Gia and Ana has lied to Gia about that.

    As for Elliot, I have a feeling he’d have said ‘I love you’ to anyone who just indicated a willingness to donate part of their liver to save his father. I think the anguished look in his eyes demonstrates he might love Gia but still be in love with Kate.

    I’m hoping that Kate’s test will show she is compatible and that she will go ahead, but insist her identity not be revealed, but someone will see her in hospital and all will be revealed. I can imagine a showdown with Gia saying Kate only did it because she – Gia – had said she’d be tested and Elliot said he loved her, and then everyone finding out Kate had already been tested and wanted to be anonymous, thus proving Kate was totally selfless about it. I can’t wait to find out what actually happens next.

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  20. Año Nuevo es una fecha agridulce para Christian y Anastasia.
    Christian todavia tiene miedo a perderla y su pesadilla lo dejo en claro.
    Es triste que discutan, pero ntindo la posicion de Ana y tambien entendi a Christian.
    Me gusto que Ana enfrentara a Gia y que finalmente le halla contado su incomodidad a Christian. Y que Christian la entendiera fue gratificante. Odio a Gia.
    Fue horrible que Kate presenciara lo que Elliot le dijo a Gia, quedo totalmente destrozada y no le veo futuro ya con Elliot.

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  21. i love that ana wore gia’s dress! would not have thought to do that. could we PLEASEEE get more updates. once a week is not enough!!! 😦

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  22. Loose ends. You haven’t talk much about what has been going on at GEH and after the firing of Welch. He could be the man that recruited Lelia.
    I loved how you handled Christian explaining his feelings about New Years and how it was bringing back nightmares. It was perfect how Ana broke down and expressed all her insecurities to Christian about Gia. She needs to show the text to Christian so he can go talk to Elliott. This was a text AFTER she said she “loved” Elliott. Gia will never donate a liver, even if she is a match. She is a taker not a giver. She is out for herself.
    I love your Kate. She is kind, stronge, smart, loyal and more. No one has ever written her like this. She has always come off as selfish and maybe jealous of Ana in other stories. I have always wanted this Kate with Elliott, but I think she deserves so much more. He doesn’t love Gia it was automatic response to Gia saying “I love you”. Elliott and Kate’s face told the true story as she ran out.
    In your ABSOF Outtake “A Last Ditch Effort”, Elliot said,” After three years I can’t believe how much I love her.” What changed?
    I like the idea of an unknown person being the donor. I want Elliott to realize what he had and lost not because she saved his father, but because he finally sees Kate.
    Ana wearing Gia’s dress was perfect

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  23. I love Mondays!!! Step one accomplished: expressing your displeasure about Gia and Christian, step two: get Taylor to change the elevator code for god’s sake. I feel so bad for Kate. I really want Elliot and her to get back together. I hope Gia’s not a liver match for Carrick. I’m surprised Gia didn’t rip into Ana about the dress theft. I guess she wants to appear classy in front of the Grey brothers. Ugh. She disgusts me. She’s Bitchtroll II. Thanks for the update. Xo

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  24. A wonderful chapter as always, Tara. You should definitely pursue writing as an occupation.

    Glad this chapter ending with Ana getting the last word instead of Gia. I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel after Christian and Ana confessed their insecurities to each other.

    As much as I want Elliot and Kate to be together, he is acting like a jerk and Kate deserves better. Hope Elliot recognizes Gia as the snake she is and realizes he lost the woman who truly loved him.

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  25. Oh wow… she wore Gia’s dress!! Good for her. I am so glad she talked to Christian about Gia! I hope that Elliot comes to his senses and sees Gia for the money grubbing skank she is! Or Christian, see her for her true self.
    I hope Kate finds someone, Luke would be good 😉

    Fantasic chapter, worried about Carrick. I hope Kate gets tested and its her that saves him. NOT Gia! (can you tell, I don’t like her?? LOL)

    Loving this ❤

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  26. I thought it was funny Ana wearing the dress Gia had originally picked out. But I feel so sad for Kate. I think Elliott might have felt a sense of obligation to say I Love You back simply because of Gia saying she was going to get tested. Now if Kate was not home to see a Dr for possibly being a match for Carrick could she be home for other reasons such as is she pregnant. How long has it been since she and Elliott have been together? Great chapter can’t wait for next weeks update.

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  27. I was so furious at Elliot earlier I couldn’t even type my comment. I think he was so upset about Carrick, plus he’d surely been drinking all evening, and he felt he had to respond when that conniving little bitch said she loved him. He’s not quick-thinking enough to sidestep that like Christian could.

    I think Kate is a liver match and was at the hospital all day, and that’s why she arrived at the party so late. Now she has to work out in her mind whether to go ahead with the donation (anonymously?) or forget it. Elliot SHOULD be racing to Kate’s house to apologize and beg her forgiveness, but I think he’s probably facing a very angry Ethan right now instead. I hope Gia gets dumped tonight and goes crying to Christian because she thinks Ana is still with Kate.

    So glad Ana told Christian how she felt about Gia, and she acquiesced graciously to the name change.

    Sounds like Jack Hyde is part of the Welch disgruntled group.

    Where was Luke tonight? Why didn’t he drive Ana to Kate’s?

    You’re doing a great job on the story, Tara — but you sure raise anxiety levels of your readers. Looking forward to next Monday’s chapter — and feel free to release it sooner if it’s ready. 🙂

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    1. You bring up a really interesting tidbit that I had missed in my read-through of the story. That WAS a rather supreme lapse in judgment and security for Ana to just take a random cab to Kate’s family’s house. Had someone chosen to kidnap Ana while she waited for the cab, no one would have known anything, expecting her to arrive at Kate’s and to be caught up in caring for her.

      I get that Ana was upset and worried for Kate, but she (and Christian) have GOT to start thinking before they run off after friends and family members the way they seem to be doing lately. They are at their most distracted, and it would also take a while for anyone to realize that someone could be missing or kidnapped. Security should be a MUST at all times for Ana at this point. ANYONE that knows Christian would know that Ana is his love (and where he would be most vulnerable if she were attacked in any way).

      Does make me also wonder where Luke was this evening. Someone from security should ALWAYS have eyes on Ana at this point. With everything going on with Carrick, people are taking risks they should not take. Grace obviously didn’t have security and just arrived at the GEH event unexpectedly. Leaving Carrick presumably alone at the hospital. Grief and being in the wait-and-see mode for Carrick has made everyone rather slack in minding their own safety, which could come to a head soon.

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  28. I’m so glad Ana talk to Christian about how she was feeling also Him reassuring her was really also Gia is really getting on my nerves I know it’s petty but I’m glad Ana took Gia’s dress . Gia doesn’t love Elliott cause if she did she would never be inappropriate with his brother flirting or not . I really do hope they find a donor for Carrick another awesome chapter see you next time take care…..

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  29. While Ana and Christian are communicating about some really important issues, others have been left unaddressed. We haven’t heard anything about the status of GEH and its disgruntled employees. Has there been any fallout over Welch’s firing? Are Ros and Christian okay now? Are employees still trying to push the board issue or trying to leave the company?

    And Christian never really wanted to discuss those things with Ana anyway. I get that he doesn’t want to worry her about things she can’t help him with, especially since she resides across the country at this point, but Ana is unaware of potential dangers lurking around the corner.

    And due to the multiple stressors hitting Ana at this point, things/issues keep getting pushed aside or unaddressed. Because of Kate’s unexpected arrival and the fallout from that, Ana never got to say anything to Christian regarding Hyde.

    And at this point, Hyde really didn’t do anything bad anyway, at least not at the GEH event, so Ana might not have even mentioned the Hyde conversation anyway. I mean, he basically seemed to be warning Ana against becoming a trophy wife. He didn’t come on to Ana or attempt to harm her or threaten her or the Grey family (at least at this point). If anything, he just came across as a disgruntled drunk who is unhappy with the present course of his career who blames Ana for not trying to help him more. (But Ana never promised Hyde anything originally anyway other than to tell Christian that she was happy with his performance and to recommend him for the promotion. Ana couldn’t name her replacement–only Christian could do that. But Hyde clearly feels “played” when he thought HE was doing the playing previously.)

    But Hyde clearly now holds a resentment against Ana as well as Christian. Which Ana should mention to Christian, knowing of his previous employee issues. But the encounter was minor compared with what happened later, so I am guessing that Ana doesn’t think further about Hyde. But Hyde’s appearance at the GEH event alone seems telling in that he is NOT being able to hold it together. He is seemingly coming unhinged, which could be dangerous.

    I know it may be awhile, but I really want to know about the Welch/Hyde/Leila possible connections. Plus, I still can’t help but wonder where Andrew Lincoln is and if he has anything to do with the Anti-Christian Conspiracy. He would be the person most motivated to go after Christian due to the events of ADSOF and ABSOF. He seemingly lost everything, which means he has nothing left to lose presumably in going after Christian. The only thing that makes me doubt his involvement is that he would NOT have a reason to really go after Ana, who only wanted Elena exposed and destroyed.

    Welch was the best-placed individual to orchestrate harm to Christian while still employed by him. Even fired, he retains the contacts that he built from within the GEH system, AND he would know all the employee “soft spots” and disgruntled individuals with something to gain if Christian lost control of GEH. Both Welch and Andrew lost power and prestige (and money) as a result of Christian’s actions towards them.

    So Welch and Andrew still seem to have the best motives against Christian, at least at this point, based on what we know so far. Hyde seems to be falling apart around the edges and is actually no worse off than he would have been had the company never been taken over. He doesn’t seem to have it enough together to be the recruiter of Leila and planner of Christian’s downfall. And he took a real risk in confronting Ana in the first place, as Christian would probably have fired him had he learned of that encounter. So Hyde doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to plan everything, from what we have seen.

    Astor Harrington is on the point of becoming an attorney and is seemingly unharmed by Christian. (And let’s face it, he was allowed to continue on at Harvard because Ana never reported him, so I don’t see him as being the person wanting harm to come to Ana.)

    So I’m still at a loss as to how the major players against Christian connect to one another. I refuse to believe that Ros would have anything to do with it. Her fortunes have always been linked to Christian’s. With all the emphasis on Carrick and the baby, Christian’s company issues have seemingly taken a backseat. Which gives the Conspiracy time to move and grow behind the scenes. . . .

    If Gia IS kicked to the curb, she will have the MOST knowledge of the everyday routine, employees, and facilities used by the WHOLE Grey family. And she now has a SERIOUS grudge against Ana as well, probably seeing Ana as being the sole reason she didn’t get what she wanted from the Grey family. So if Gia finds herself with nothing left to lose, she would be a MAJOR ally of the Grey Conspiracy.

    As always, TARA, you leave multiple issues huddling around the heels of the Grey family. With much potential for an explosion when least expected. NEED MORE CLUES as to what is brewing at GEH. Your fiendishly clever exploitation of the Grey woes has seemingly hidden the upcoming battle royale for Christian and all that he holds dear. ACK, next Monday is ENTIRELY TOO FAR AWAY!!!!

    (Come on Tara—give us a small crucial HINT, pretty please?!?!? When is the Conspiracy next expected to raise its ugly, potentially greasy, head??? TALK please, as my sanity most likely hangs in the balance. No pressure here.)

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    1. I love all of your theories! If I was going to give a hint, I would say that something is always happening. It’s just whether or not it’s being noticed. In fact, sometimes inaction is a part of the plan. I mean, security seems to be getting pretty lax, right? See you Monday!!!!!

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      1. Well, that hint just made my anxiety worse! Is security lax because they think all is fine at the moment or are perhaps concerned about Carrick as well? OR do you perhaps mean that security just SEEMS lax but are really working behind the scenes? Hmmm….

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  30. NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO! I knew it! When Christian didn’t even blink an eye at Ana leaving the event suddenly, WITHOUT SECURITY, to take a regular cab to find Kate, I started to worry. At least she had Ethan to transport her back to Escala and watch her go inside.

    And since things like the above are bound to keep happening, what with all the Gia and Kate stuff going on, Ana could easily be without anyone around her and think nothing of it. And no one would be worried about her whereabouts, assuming she is with Kate or another Grey. NONE of the Greys, INCLUDING Christian, seems worried at this point at how many of the Greys and Ana are going back and forth to the hospital regularly at all hours without security. So MAJOR potential for snatching NOT just Ana!

    (I do admit that even I figured no one would be so bold as to snatch Ana while she is in Seattle because she would presumably be missed fairly early on. It would be easier to grab her in Cambridge, with Christian a whole country away before he could even be on the scene. But as things are right now, all the Greys are DISTRACTED and unaware of where anyone else is. BAD combination, as it gives the criminals time to snatch just about ANY Grey or Ana and have a good head start to hide her/him before anyone even realizes anything!)

    I will NEVER MAKE IT TO NEXT Monday!!!!!!!! (You make me worry and care about these fictional people like they were family!)

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  31. Did Gia know that Kate was there and right behind them when she told Elliott she loved him? Loved that Ana wore that dress and stuck it to Gia. I feel so badly for Kate. Is Ana right and that Elliott might love Gia for what she is about to do but yet not in love with her? Will Gia really go through with the transplant if she is a match?

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      1. Yeah, Gia wanted to make a big show in front of Ana as well as the Greys. Remember, she had JUST told Kate in the last chapter that she would get that ring by the end of the summer. So she wants to seemingly play the “love” and devotion card dramatically in front of the Greys in hopes of winning them over. She already KNOWS that Ana sees through her, BUT she will play this off as Ana just being protective of her best friend. (However, that TEXT message she sent Ana SHOWS how she is deliberately fueling the fire of contention between everyone. THAT was unwise of her and will HOPEFULLY come back to bite her in the rear end!)

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  32. No no no no no no no no NOOOOOOOO!!!
    I have never wanted to stab a character more than I wanted I Elliot. HOW CAN YOU “love” that WITCH of a woman?!?! SHE DOESNT LOVE YOU BUDDY. SHE JUST LIKES THE CONNECTIONS AND ACTUALLY WANTS TO BE WITH CHRISTIAN! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS.
    Elliot is a complete idiot and I am so incredibly disappointed in him. He’s going to realize that he lost the best thing he ever had in life for a snake who is trying to trap him into marriage and a baby. When he realizes what a manipulative Bitch she is, he is going to have to work so hard to get Kate back.
    EWWWWWW.
    OHMYGOSH I’m so upset right now!!!
    I LOVED the Christian and Ana part. I’m glad they were able to talk and sort things out. They just melted my heart into a puddle. I wish Ana would stop worrying about her weight though! 😦
    I understand why she is, but I don’t want her to put herself in any danger!!!
    Can’t wait for the next chapter!! Thank you so much for sharing!! 🙂

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  33. WHERE IS MIA? No one mentioned seeing her at the gala and she surely would have wanted Ana’s approval of her dress.
    And we haven’t seen Gail, Luke, Ryan, or Taylor since the limo came, maybe 7pm or so.

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    1. You make a really good point. Where WAS Mia? I guess I assumed that she was at the hospital with Grace and Carrick. But Grace came to the GEH event, leaving Mia, still a minor, alone at the hospital with Carrick. And seemingly without security. Can we all say “uh oh?” I’m thinking that something wicked this way a-coming.

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      1. To clear that up, Mia was at the hospital with Grace and Carrick, but after the cancelled surgery, Carrick was discharged and Mia went home with him. She’s just trying to spend all the time she can with her very sick dad. Gail probably just had the night off, after all it’s a holiday and Christian and Ana weren’t going to need her. Security saw Christian and Ana down to the car but did not attend the event with them. Christian hasn’t perceived any threats (outside the dibocle at GEH with the patent rights), so he feels fairly comfortable in public without security. I mean, Elena is behind bars. What could possibly be out there?

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  34. You know, you would THINK that Elliot would have learned from what Christian experienced with Elena. You would think Elliot would be more cautious of the woman he chooses to date so quickly after a heartbreak. NOTICE, Christian said that Elliot wanted Christian to make Gia “feel like part of the family” SO QUICKLY after the break-up with Kate. Like Kate said several chapters back, Elliot replaced her after ONLY 2 months apart. Really Elliot? For someone you CLAIMED to have loved for three years???? No wonder Kate thinks Elliot may not be the man she thought he was or even worth fighting for.

    And it should be a CLUE TO ELLIOT that his WHOLE family is suspicious of Gia. After EVERYTHING with a Golddigger like Elena, you would think Elliot would be far more conscious of his dating choices. AND FAR MORE WILLING TO LISTEN TO FAMILY INTERVENTION after having seen the damage caused by the whole Elena AND Leila fiascos to the WHOLE Grey family. ESPECIALLY when Gia ALL BUT SAID at Thanksgiving that she was only working until basically getting a husband, where she would then do “charity work” like the other trophy wives of the world! And Elliot was already basically LIVING with Gia at Thanksgiving as well!

    And Elliot has left the whole family open with the whole Gia thing. Once again, Grace has to see her children at odds with one another, as Mia CLEARLY sees through Gia AND is angry on Kate’s behalf. Elliot just does not want to be alone. Yet he lets someone in that could REALLY embarrass the Grey family in more ways than one (particularly as we now know that Gia has naked pictures of Elliot on her phone).

    Maybe Tara can actually make me feel sympathy down the road for Elliot’s stupid actions with Outtakes from Elliot’s point of view that may come after ASSOF is finished. But at this point, Elliot seems shallow and short-sighted to me. He seemingly wouldn’t give up on Christian but so easily disposes of Kate and everything they were? Like a new blond is just readily exchangeable for the old one???

    And Elliot has now essentially GIVEN THE ELEVATOR CODE to an enemy of Ana’s who won’t hesitate to hurt her. Gia pretended to be nice to Ana originally BUT showed her REAL self by insulting Ana’s best friend in front of her at that store. No compassion. Just a evil woman staking her claim no matter the harm it could cause. And Ana’s seeing through Gia means that Gia has no reason to protect Ana, especially as she now sees Ana as a barrier to her most coveted dreams. Oh you stupid Elliot, who should have KNOWN better, after seeing everything Christian went through with Elena AND Leila.

    And all the in-fightinig is causing Christian to miss out on the fact that so many of his family members AND ANA are now wandering around after one another DISTRACTED AND WITHOUT SECURITY. So Elliot has opened a door that the Enemy can easily plow through. BAD ELLIOT, who thinks good sex with Gia can just cure everything!!!!

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  35. Agreed with just about all of today’s comments.Everyone was making quite perceptive comments…
    And, that ‘Hint’ from you, Tara – also caused more thinking and more confusion from All of your ‘Tara’s Posse’ people.
    Just read the last couple comments that were new.
    WOW! Marlene has HUGE POINTS re her Mia Comments.Cannot begin to understand how no one (including me!)
    registered that Mia wasn’t around – especially at C’s big, big night! His first Hosting event and such an important one-
    no less than it’s on NYE! And, also Marlene’s also mentioned the other missings – Gail, and Security. Too head-shakingly crazy.
    Christian’s middle name is practically ‘security!’
    Also completely agree with Jess’ comment that Gia DID KNOW/SEE that Kate was right behind her when she made her little speech.
    What a piece of work Gia is! She absolutely CANNOT be Carrick’s donor!! Kate would be the one with the most class and the BEST
    in all ways to be the donor. Would love, love, love to see that unfold.
    Tara – cannot say enough about your amazing writing and your ability to keep hanging on like crazy waiting for each next chapter.
    Please have a bit of mercy for us and give us a couple ‘bonuses’ from time to time – Like NOW, Please!

    Like

  36. So much going on in this chapter, as well as the reviews. I must that Gia laid her cards on the table in the beginning as Torik has clearly pointed out. She wants to be a trophy wife. Most women in that circle do, and out of that circle given the opportunity. I’m not really that concern about Gia. I’m just wishing for a donor for Carrick. I also think Kate will end up with Elliot. Elliott appears to be so distraught over the illness of his father, that he can’t think clearly. Once we have a donor, I think the entire family will be abe to think and see better. So much has been said already. I think this chapter had been beat to death. Thank you Tara for another fantastic chapter.

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  37. Tara’s comment about Elena actually triggered a WHOLE other set of possibilities here.

    Elena was seemingly WELL CONNECTED, at least behind the scenes, at the time of her arrest. No one would come forward for her when she was caught, as their secrets would be exposed as well. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that these same individuals wouldn’t HELP Elena out behind the scenes to get REVENGE against Christian, ESPECIALLY since Elena may have VIDEOS or PHOTOS or other proof of their “inclinations” that said individuals would NOT want to come to light. After all, Elena’s clients most likely KNEW that crimes were being committed, especially if a girl was obviously underage.

    So the ELENA ANGLE brings a WHOLE OTHER SET of people who want Christian brought down.

    1) ISSAC in Tara’s world was a lot smarter, more talented, and ran things at the bar for Elena as well as being her “pet.” Issac would have lost everything when Elena went down and would have a SERIOUS grudge against ANA as well as Christian, since Ana was the one that came into the bar and got Elena recorded, which proved to be her downfall.

    Issac would also know where Elena hid her money that she was bringing in spades prior to being brought down. So Issac would have Elena’s blessing and encouragement to go after Ana and Christian (and Carrick, too, for his part in the trial).

    2) Mr. Big Client. –The guy that tried to rape Mia was obviously very high up and important for Elena to push Mia so hard and risk a rape happening that WOULD have brought Christian to her doorstep. This guy KNEW who Mia was and might have even targeted her BECAUSE she was a Grey.

    3) Elena had multiple girls working for her at the time she went to prison. And while Christian has offered to pay for classes and new beginnings for all of them, there could be a Gia-type girl in the mix or just someone Elena had broken so badly that said person would do ANYTHING for Elena, including go after her enemies.

    4) Multiple individuals in GEH knew Elena. After all, Elena came to all the big meetings, and everyone knew she was close to Christian. And Elena had been able to seemingly put her own people into GEH before, as she would be responsible for getting interns fired if she didn’t like them.

    5) Any of Elena’s IMPORTANT CLIENTELE, since Elena would have been CAREFUL to store away potential blackmail info on any number of important people.

    ANY way you look at it, Elena WILL most likely be behind or with any Conspiracy against Christian. She wants him to PAY, and going after Ana and his family would be the ULTIMATE revenge to destroy him. OR AT LEAST get him to pay her the money she would have gotten as a result of money laundering through his company.

    So Elena is by no means truly gone, not when she has so many operative pieces/people that she could control. May be a REASON she got so LIGHT a sentence—too many people with things to LOSE if Elena talked.

    TARA, you made that comment ON PURPOSE, just to plague our minds with ELENA possibilities! Should have KNOWN she wouldn’t go away quietly and get out of prison, meekly determined to crawl away and lick her wounds. That woman is ALL ABOUT REVENGE, as we saw in her instigating CHRISTIAN to go after Andrew’s company. Time never lessens her determination or desire for revenge. She WILL come after ANA certainly. She always TOLD Christian that it was one of her DEMANDS, that he have nothing further to do with Ana. And if he wouldn’t do that willingly. . . .

    (That’s it! Someone go get the Tara Posse to go chain Tara to her writing desk and demand daily –no hourly!!!!–updates!! I can’t take it anymore!!! MUST KNOW who the conspiracy is and HOW Elena is involved!! Fictional LIVES are at stake here!!!!!! Prepare the torches and pitchforks immediately!!! Riotting in the streets until the questions are answered!!!)

    Like

      1. And although it about KILLS ME to wait a week in-between chapters, you always deliver, including little tidbits and clues that can generally get missed in the scheme of things, but are really important to the plot later.

        Your Ethan Interaction with Ana in this chapter still has me wondering, especially after having just re-read ADSOF 23 & 25. I can’t tell if Ethan sees himself as a big brother to Ana or if he secretly had a thing for her. Christian reacted badly to Ethan’s overfond hello in ADSOF, but we all know that Christian gets his hackles up towards ANY man that talks to Ana, so that might be nothing at all. And Ethan looks back at Ana with a Look in ADSOF 25 after having accidentally walked in on her and Christian in the shower, which might either be embarrassment or because he realizes he IS interested in her.

        But it might also explain Ethan’s anger in this chapter–one Grey brother broke his sister’s heart, and the other Grey brother might have stolen someone (Ana) that he was really interested in. So I will be watchful now of the Ethan sightings, JUST in case you may have something MORE planned with him. . . .

        I also have to add that re-reading ADSOF where Ana has her ski accident reminded me of how when Ana got hurt because of Elliot’s being unfeeling as to the potential danger to Ana because HE wanted to have fun on a harder ski run, Christian almost came to blows with Elliot. He was utterly unforgiving, at least temporarily, to Elliot being the cause of Ana coming to harm due to his selfish inconsideration.

        Based on the above, if Gia causes harm to befall Ana (either directly or indirectly through aiding the Conspirary), Christian may not forgive Elliot. The whole reason Christian and Elliot HAVE a great relationship now is because Christian directly credits Elliot with being the reason that Christian was able to get back together with Ana. If Elliot has brought in the person that causes Ana to be at risk, Christian WON’T forgive, especially if Elliot in any way berates Ana for her treatment of Gia.

        (By the by, I do NOT fault Ana in any way for what she did with the dress–LOVE how you had her handle that! Gia at first pretended to want Ana’s friendship IN FRONT of Elliot, but she clearly has no regards whatsoever for Ana to choose the most cruel things to say to Kate, unprovoked. She demeans Kate rather than acting classy and shows her real colors there. And Gia’s later text shows that she PLANS to throw Ana’s insecurities in her face AND would have no problem with someone thinking that she DOES, in fact, want Christian. Which goes directly against her claim to “love” Elliot. So those little touches REALLY show us the person Gia REALLY is, in case we were in doubt of whether or not she was a good person or not.)

        So, if you will give any clues about it, is ETHAN going to have a more substantial role moving forwards, or am I reading too much into his anger in this chapter?????

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  38. Why Elliot, why? Does he really love her or is he in love with Kate? Pleas let them get back together, I want to see Gia go down!!!!!! Shit start to a New Years but what a great ending! But I feel so bad for Kate!!!!

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  39. Random thought 😂 Notice how every time Gia touch Christian he squeezes or holds Ana tighter. Is that like a better way to deal with Gia touch for him? I always wonder why he does that all the time like that time he squeezed her leg. I knew Ana was being extra & he wasn’t feeling her up or w.e 😂😂😂 then again he had to have gotten used to her touch without Ana around. hope you add that part in the outta takes.

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    1. I noticed that “little touch” as well back in the earlier chapters where Gia hugged Christian, and he separates from her, pushes her towards Elliot, and then goes to hold Ana. Just didn’t realize what that meant at the time.

      This aspect of Christian’s behavior with Ana actually dates even further back—if you look at the chapters of ADSOF when Christian and his family is in Aspen over Christmas, Christian has a nightmare when Ana goes to get a tampon from Kate. After he is awake, he hugs and then holds onto Ana, making sure to curl around her before falling asleep. He actually NEEDS her touch after he has been made upset, even THEN.

      And Christian tells Ana that he doesn’t dream when she is with him. And his natural reaction later down the road to having had a quarrel between them that wasn’t resolved by the end of the night, he AGAIN has a nightmare and immediately seeks Ana out in her dorm room.

      So when Christian has something uncomfortable happen, he actively seeks out Ana. Always has since he has known her. The FIRST time he holds her hand, he is amazed at how much better he feels and how RIGHT it feels (WAY back when he didn’t even realize he loved her yet!)

      Ana keeps his nightmares at bay and is his comfort whenever something bothers him. He ACTIVELY needs her touch after something has ruffled him, which was the CLUE we often miss that Gia actually DOESN’T make Christian feel comfortable with her “friendly” hugs and overtures. Christian has just been IGNORING his bad reaction to Gia in an attempt to 1) make Elliot happy by actively trying to make Gia feel like part of the family and 2) try to accept touch from people so that he won’t react badly when his baby girl reaches out for him. (I’m thinking there will soon come a time, though, when Christian wishes that he never had been nice to Gia at all!!!)

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  40. Yesss! Omg I love your comment. I never thought about how much Christian needs Ana touch. Christian is automatically back in my happy place once he said he was trying to work on excepting touch for his daughter😍 I bet e Elliot really realizes how much he misses and wants kids with Kate after Ana have the baby. Hopefully late at least find someone to calm her down & make her happy for now.

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  41. Well I’m glad I was able to continue reading this wonderful story. I missed this so much
    Now, this Gia thing. Well what about she is the perfect donor, does the operation, but please have her have a reaction to the anesthesia and doesn’t survive. I mean miracles happen, don’t you think?
    Can’t wait for next chapter.

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    1. I laughed outloud, most heartedly, when reading your comment! While I admit that I, too, want Gia to face some terrible untimely demise, DON’T let us wish this on her until AFTER Elliot would have chosen Kate over Gia.

      TV shows so often introduce a third person to have a “love triangle” going on and then kill the person off. I hate this device, because it means that Kate would ONLY get Elliot by DEFAULT. I don’t want Kate to EVER think of herself as the “Second Choice.” I want Elliot to CHOOSE KATE outright over Gia so that there is no doubt who is the better person and preferred love.

      The Kate in the stories that Tara has presented is SO much a better person, in my opinion, then was presented in the original EL James books. Here, Kate ALWAYS stood by Ana. As you see in the Outtakes, she would leave her own vacations early so that Ana would not be alone in Cambridge. She didn’t judge Ana for refusing to speak with Christian, even though she knew it hurt Elliot. And Kate has ALWAYS been HAPPY for Ana, even when Ana got the engagement moment and ring that she, herself, had always wanted from Elliot.

      I want Elliot to realize what is TRULY of value in a relationship. Right now, although Elliot has been a wonderful and devoted brother to Christian, you can see that he always “lives for the moment.” He wants the fast cars, the freedom to go to games and wherever he wants, whenever he wants. He sees things like children as unwanted responsibilities that basically “end” the “fun life” that he thinks he wants. That is why a shallow Gia seems perfect for him in the short run. Elliot never did homework with Mia the way Christian did, which is why Mia is clearly closer to Christian than to Elliot.

      So the other side of Elliot, the one that just wants to be happy and have fun all the time, without consequence or responsibility outside of employment, is really NOT the person that I would want with Kate at this time anyway. Elliot truly needs to grow up and realize what love REALLY is. Elliot needs to recognize the true value and LOYALTY that Kate has. Gia is only PRETENDING to have that loyalty in order to land Elliot.

      Like others, seeing Ana and Christian with the baby and how they can still be happy together and in love may be what finally wakes Elliot up to all that he has lost. He just doesn’t get it now, at this point. He really seems fine with replacing one blond for another. And thinking that you could love them equally, when one has all the initial appearance of being as good and kind as the original woman. Sigh.

      So I want Elliot to have his “wake-up” moment to realize just what he has lost in Kate. AND that he wants Kate over Gia. And really SEES what Gia really is. Then, I will be happy to see Gia meet some horrible fate. Really, the more horrible the better (maybe being doused in honey, stung by wasps, eaten by bears and fire ants in the camping trip from Hades. I rather admit to wanting an ending where Gia’s body ends up looking as bloated and terrible on the outside as I feel she is on the inside! Would be justice for her. Really, I wouldn’t be overly picky about a particularly sinister ending to Gia). Just AFTER everyone has seen through her and wanted her gone so that Kate NEVER has to doubt who Elliot thinks is the better woman!!!

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  42. I have enjoyed this story as well as all the thought provoking comments that have been posted. I had thought that Kate would show up at the gala and get a chance to tell Elliot that she had made a mistake and how much she loved him. I guess not. I hate to see Kate hurt because you have made her into such a good character, unlike many other stories. If she is the match, she now will still do the right thing and have the surgery anonymously. I think, Kate’s family knows that she just found out she is a match and they are devastated too by what Elliot did to her. Is Ethan’s hostile reaction because of his feelings for Ana or for his feeling for what his sister is going through? I can see Ethan meeting up with Elliot and taking him out. Maybe that will open Elliot’s eyes.
    If Kate does donate anonymously, Ana will find out. It will be another secret she has to keep from Christian. This will not be good.
    I’m not sure why the security seems absent at the gala. Luke is too much of a friend to leave anything happen to Ana. It was strange having her take a cab to see Kate and Christian told her to go without yelling for security to follow. Taylor and Luke are too loyal to Christian and Ana without them starting to figure something out. I have been thinking about your story all week and can’t wait for Monday.

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  43. I dont think the baby touching CG will give him any reaction. After all the first person touch him was Mia who is baby at the time. CG will not have any negative reaction at all.

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