Chapter 25

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Normally, I have packing for Seattle down to a science. I know exactly what I’m going to take, exactly where it’s at in my room, and exactly how to fit it in my suitcase. Unfortunately, this isn’t a normal trip home. I’ve been shopping all week, trying to find lingerie that looks sexy despite my now obvious baby bump, because this weekend is Valentine’s Day, and my Harvard t-shirt and sweatpants now have to make room for the various colors of lace and satin that I’m hoping will drive Christian crazy. Or rather, they would if I could find that stupid pink bag.

I begin tearing through the mess of unpacked clothes all over my room, wondering how something I just had in my hand an hour ago could have grown legs and walked away, when my door opens and Kate comes in and flops down on my bed.

“Look at you being proactive,” she says. “I thought you always put off packing until the last possible minute?”

“I do, and I have. I’m flying out of Boston tomorrow morning at six,” I tell her distractedly. “I’m skipping classes tomorrow to try and surprise Christian for Valentine’s Day by getting to Seattle early in the morning.”

“That’s adorable. Did you get him anything?”

“I booked us a suite at the Fairmont Olympic.”


“And… Once we get there, I’m going to fuck his brains out for the rest of the weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day, Christian.”

“You’re so romantic it kills me sometimes,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I laugh.

“Well, I might not do anything if I can’t find that stupid shopping bag!” I yell with frustration. She shakes her head.

“Then we definitely need to find it because I’m going to need you to be out of the house this weekend.”

“Why’s that?”

“I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon to get everything checked out and he says I’ve recovered very well. He thinks I can go back to school on Monday and if I’m well enough to go to school, then I think I’m well enough to make this thing with Carter… you know, official.”

“What do you mean?”

She gives me a pointed look. “I mean that I’m going to sleep with him. It’s Valentine’s Day, I think it’s very fitting.”

“I don’t understand how that makes things official. You’ve already slept with him.”

“Yeah, but not when we were together. I don’t know, it feels different, meaningful, and I’m actually… a little nervous about it. Sex hasn’t meant anything to me since… well, since Elliot.”

“Oh. Well… I think Carter’s great. He’s been amazing since you’ve had your surgery, taking care of you and everything. I can tell how much you mean to him. You two are really good together.”

“I know.” She nods. “And I really like him. He’s sweet and funny, and he makes me feel comfortable. I’m just anxious, I guess. Breaking up with Elliot was really hard, I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready to put myself out there like this again. It doesn’t seem like we’re moving too fast to you, right?”

I shrug. “You’re the only one who can know that.”

“I guess you’re not really the best person to ask anyway. Every time you and Christian have made it official, you slept with him immediately.”

“That’s not true!” I snap. “I slept with him before I got back together with him the last time.”

She laughs. “And then a week later you move in with him, and then four months later you’re having a baby with him, and then three months after that you’re getting married…”

“Okay, okay, I get it. Christian and I move fast.”

“Yeah, but I like that about you guys,” she says, more seriously now. “You’re both usually so careful and you overthink everything way too much, but when it comes to each other, you’re not too cautious or afraid to do what feels right. You truly live your life when you’re together and I love that.”

“Awwwww.” I crawl onto the bed next to her and wrap my entire body around her, making sure to be careful as she’s still just a little sore. She hugs me back for a moment, but when she tries to pull away, I don’t relinquish her.

“Ana, let me go.”


“Anaaaaaaaaa!” She tries to give me a tortured look, but the effect is dampened by the smile she can’t hold back, and as she attempts to struggle out of my arms, I tighten my hold on her.

“Stop fighting me! Let me love you!”

She devolves into a fit of giggles as she lets her entire body go limp and I pin her down. Now that I’m victorious though, I’m not really sure how long I’m supposed to hold onto her, but I still have packing to get done so I don’t hold her there long. When I do get up from the bed and start looking for the lingerie bag again, she rolls over on her side and looks purposefully at me.

“How’s Christian doing anyway? He left here so suddenly last weekend. I was shocked when we woke up on Saturday and he was gone.”

I frown. “I don’t really know. I’ve only talked to him twice this week and both times it was only for a couple minutes. All he’s told me is that he’s busy and he misses me. I talked to Taylor briefly and Mrs. Jones and they both told me that he’s been going into the office between six and seven every morning and staying past midnight.”

“What about Ros?” Kate asks.

“He fired her. He had the new technology guy dig into her profile on the server and found some emails between her and some of the board members at PixC. Apparently she was trying to sway them towards hiring a new CEO before Christian even got involved. She’d actually used Christian as a bargaining chip… like a threat. That they should hire her or GEH would take over the company and they’d all lose their jobs.”

“But, why? That just doesn’t seem like Ros.”

“I know. I don’t understand either.”

“What did she tell Christian?”

“He called her into his office on Monday morning and told her what they’d found and she got mad that he’d gone into her emails, but when he confronted her about the deal with PixC, she just tried deny everything. She said she’d never contacted PixC prior to their negotiations with GEH, but he had the proof in his hand. So, he told her she was done and had Taylor escort her out. He hasn’t talked to her since. I guess he’s thinking about taking legal action against her now.”

“That’s so crazy, they were like… best friends. I can’t believe she would do that to him.”

“Well, he hasn’t exactly been the best friend to her over the last few months,” I admit. “When I was there for Thanksgiving, they got into an argument and he basically told her that she wasn’t as important to GEH as she thought she was. Maybe that was enough to make her want to leave.”

“Yeah, Christian’s a dick when he gets mad, we all know that. She knows that better than even probably you do, and she’s known that since she started this with him. So, what? She just put up with that long enough for him to make her rich and powerful enough to take over a company and get the big job and now she’s just going to leave Christian to deal with the fallout at GEH by himself? That’s the real dick move, and I hope he does sue her. I don’t care how pissed you get, you don’t fuck over your friends like that.”

“I just rather they worked it out,” I tell her. “You’re right, he can’t run GEH all on his own, but he’ll try and he’ll either work himself into an early grave or he’ll fail, and he doesn’t do well with any kind of failure. He won’t admit it, but he needs her.”

She shrugs but I can tell by her face she doesn’t really agree with me. Kate’s always been a fiercely loyal friend, but she’s also not the kind of girl you’d want to get on the bad side of. I think that whole “a woman scorned” saying is actually her life’s mantra.

“Well, since you’re leaving me again, I’m going to have a sleepover in here with you tonight, cool?”

“Whatever makes you happy, my dear.”

She smiles and shifts back onto the pillows as though she’s going to crawl under the covers and settle in for the night, but the moment she leans back, she frowns and looks back at the pillow behind her.

“What in the world?” Her hand reaches under the pillow and after struggling more than she should, she pulls out a shiny, pink bag.

“There it is!” I exclaim.

“Glad I could help,” she smiles as she tosses the bag to me. “Just remember that when you’re having your first orgasm this weekend. It’s literally because of me.”

“Shut up, Kate,” I laugh, and I pull out the sheer lavender chemise and put it in my suitcase.


Luke wakes me up at four the next morning, being careful as he moves around the room not to wake Kate while I begrudgingly get out of bed. I do take note when I get out of bed that my pillow, which is the match to the one I bought as a Christmas gift for Christian, isn’t glowing, which either means he isn’t using it, or he hasn’t gone to bed yet. But, since I’m flying to Seattle this early to try and surprise him, I don’t want to call and find out which it is.

“Alright, is it just this bag?” Luke whispers once we’re back out in the hallway.

“Yeah, I’m ready to go,” I reply. “We’ve got to hurry. This plane won’t wait for me like Christian’s will.”

Luke nods and takes my bag with him as he heads for the stairs, but as we make our way past a very sleepy Champ in the kitchen, Anthony, the new security guy, comes in through the back door to stop us and I immediately freeze. I haven’t gotten comfortable with the new security team yet, especially Anthony. He’s very tall and bulky, with a severe jaw line and angular features. He’s bald, but there’s usually a shadow on his head that tells me that he purposefully shaves all of his hair off. He kind of reminds me of a hit man you’d see in old gangster movies and even though he took the time to introduce himself, and insisted I called him Anthony or Tony rather than Kommer, since that’s how I address Luke, part of me is a little afraid of him. I guess that’s good though. He’s intimidating and maybe that will scare off whoever he is…

“Sir, we have a problem,” he says to Luke.


“Down the street, about five hundred feet, there’s a white Toyota Camry with a Massachusetts license plate number 643FW7. It’s been parked there every night this week so Harrison finally called in to have the plates run. It’s registered to Leila Williams.”

“Is she alone?” Luke asks.

“I’m not sure, sir. He’s doing a sweep of the block now, but, yes, she appears to be alone.”

“Well, let’s get Ana to the airport and call Harrison back. He should be ready to fall into pursuit in case Miss Williams follows us.”

“Yes, sir.” Anthony steps aside and lets Luke move through the back door, which has been replaced with french doors rather than the sliding glass door so that they could put deadbolts in them, but once I follow after him, they both surround me until I’m shut safely away in the back of my Lexus. It feels ridiculous and way over the top, but it’s what Christian needs to feel safe and, with as much stress as he’s under at home right now, I don’t want to do anything to make things harder for him and that means following security protocol to a T.

Anthony takes the driver’s seat while Luke slips in the front, and they both look very attentively through the windows surrounding us as we pull back down the driveway. Their attitudes make me paranoid and almost a little worried to be leaving Kate behind, but I can at least feel better knowing that, in addition to Carter and Champ, Kate will have Harrison and Cardella, my new female CPO, remaining behind with her.


We arrive in Seattle just after nine o’clock, which gives me time to go home, take a shower, and get ready before I head to GEH to see Christian. I’ve secretly blocked a half hour out of his schedule today, the maximum amount of time Andrea could help me secure, and as we make our way out of the parking garage under Escala and up 5th avenue, I dial the number to the front desk of Christian’s office to make sure that half hour is still on his calendar.

“Christian Grey’s office, this is Olivia speaking, how may I direct your call?”

“Hi, Olivia, it’s Anastasia. Can I speak with Andrea please?”

“One moment.” There’s a beat of silence and then Andrea’s voice comes over the phone.

“Hi, Ana.” She sounds exhausted.

“Hi, Andrea. I’m on my way in. I just wanted to make sure we’re all set.”

“Umm… yes,” she says hesitantly. “But, I have it on the calendar as an extension of the meeting he has with his brother at 10:30 and he’s asked me to cancel the extension three times. I haven’t yet, but I don’t know if he’s filled the time with something else.”

I feel my heart sink. “Well, we’ll see. I’ll be there in about five minutes.”

Once I hang up the phone, I turn and look gloomily out the side window and realize that we’re stopped at a light on the same corner where Christian’s new building is going up. I haven’t come down this way to see it since last fall and the difference between then and now is staggering. It looks… complete. No longer is there just a shell of iron beams and concrete floors on each level, the building standing before me is an architectural marvel of glass and steel. It looks like there are workers on the inside, putting up what looks like a giant screen in screen in the lobby but from the outside, Elliot’s vision has come to life, right down to the Grey House mounted proudly over the front doors. I smile to myself as we pull away and I think of all the times Elliot taunted Christian by telling him he was going to put his name on the building.

I really miss that Elliot.

When we get to GEH, Luke takes me up the elevator from the parking garage and after he’s swiped his badge against the electronic pad next to the door to let me through the security doors, I immediately feel the tension filling Christian’s office. Andrea is surrounded by boxes of files piled so high you can barely see her over them and Olivia hangs up one call and answers another in the four seconds it takes us to get from the doors to her desk.

“Anastasia,” Andrea greets us, saying my name as though it’s the first chance she’s had to take a breath all morning. “Mr. Grey is on a phone call…”

“That’s okay, I can wait. I’ll just…” I point back to Christian’s office as Olivia answers yet another phone call, and Andrea hesitates for a moment, as though she wants to stop me, but ultimately decides objecting isn’t worth the time away from her work. Luke ducks into the security office down the hall and I wave at Taylor as I pass before gently easing open the doors to Christian’s office and stepping inside.

He’s behind his desk, on the phone, and the first thing I notice is how exhausted he looks. His hair is in disarray, his face is covered in what looks to be a day or two of stubble, and even though he’s dressed in an impeccable suit, he looks a little disheveled with his tie hanging loosely around his neck.

“So, when’s the vote?” he asks, pausing for a moment and then following up with, “And how many board members are going toward GEH? Jesus… what the fuck did she sell them?” He sighs. “Give me some names, I’ll make some calls.”

He turns in his chair and the moment he sees me standing just in front of the closed door, his eyes widen and his back goes stick straight.

“No, I can handle it,” he says, talking to the person on the phone again. “This isn’t my first hostile takeover. Thank you, I’ll talk to you soon.” He hangs up the phone and looks back up at me.

“Well if Mohammed won’t come to the mountain…” I say, but the tension in his face doesn’t relax.

“Why are you here? What happened?”

“Well…” I begin, trying not to let the almost accusatory way he says why are you here get to me as I lower my voice seductively and saunter towards his desk. “Time has gone on, days have past, and now, it’s Valentine’s Day weekend. I flew here early to surprise you with an extra day and now that I’m here, I thought maybe you’d like to take a break.”

A brief flash of conflict washes over his face as he watches me reach for the top buttons on my coat, but he lets out a hard sigh and regretfully shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Ana. I don’t have time right now. I’ll see you tonight, okay? I’ll try to get out of here early.”

“Oh.” The shock of rejection I feel is more poignant than I’m prepared for. Never before has Christian turned me away or said no. He’s always made me his number one priority, at all times, but… that’s because he used to have Ros. She was always willing to step in for him when he needed her to so that he could free up his schedule to be with me and his family. Now, he’s at the helm alone, and if he’s not here, no one is. He’s an island and, as I see the fatigue and the frustration behind his eyes again, I suddenly feel the quick anger that I’d seen from Kate last night for myself. He needs Ros, she knows that, but she went and did this terrible thing anyway. Maybe Kate is right and she was just using him.

And that’s when it really hits me. It’s not just exhaustion that I see in him right now, it’s hurt. I’ve been thinking about the business perspective, that Ros saw an opportunity and jumped at it. It was a shark kind of move, but she’s learned from Christian and that’s exactly the cutthroat attitude he’s always had. Act now, apologize later. Except, that this isn’t just climbing the corporate ladder, this is using her position in GEH, the position that Christian put her in, to get what she wants with absolutely no concern for the consequences to him. In fact, it’s almost specifically to spite him. And now that she’s just so carelessly moved on, tossed everything she and Christian have built together aside as if it were nothing, one can’t help but wonder if ever meant anything to her at all. Perhaps she was using Christian, and if that’s true, their entire friendship, the friendship that was all he had for so long, has been a lie.  

Elena… Ros…

He’s once again had someone he allowed himself to be open with prove that they never cared about him, and that thought hits me like a bullet to the heart.

“Christian…” I say softly, but he cuts me off.

“I really don’t have time right now, Ana, I’m sorry. I’ll be home tonight.” The phone on his desk rings and he immediately reaches over to answer it. I stand there for a moment, watching and listening to him bark a few orders to some department head over the phone, before I turn around, but when I hear the phone slam down on the receiver behind me, there’s a brief moment of silence before his agitated voice cuts through empty space between us.

“Fuck it. Come back here.”

I turn cautiously and see him get out of his seat, pulling his unknotted tie from his collar and moving to the top buttons of his shirt as he moves around his desk and stalks towards me. He doesn’t even reach for me to pull me into him, he just lets his entire body crash into mine, his hands only reaching up to my face to keep my lips against his as I stumble backwards a few paces.

“On my desk,” he whispers against my mouth. His hand takes mine and he pulls me roughly back with him to the desk. I quickly close his laptop and move it, along with some files and stacked papers, to make some room, and when I glance over at him, a huge smile crosses my lips as he very purposefully picks up his desk phone, pulls the cable out of the back, and sets it down on the floor.

“We can’t ever be to cautious with you, can we, Miss Steele?” he asks lasciviously as he comes around the desk, but when he reaches out for me, I move deftly out of his reach. The sudden spark of lust I see in his eyes has given me the opening I was waiting for to do what I wanted to for Valentine’s Day, namely play out every one of his fantasies. Starting with a little office role play…

“Mr. Grey,” I say firmly, reaching out to stop him, and he does, but he looks at me confused.

“What’s wro-”

“I’ve been told by my superior that I’ve broken GEH policy,” I interrupt him. “But you have to understand, I didn’t realize when I left the house this morning that my outfit didn’t adhere to the dress code.” I reach up and open the long trench I picked out specially from my closet back at Escala and when he sees the short, lacy, champagne colored babydoll lingerie I’ve been concealing underneath, his expression twists with desire for a moment before the CEO shutters come back down.

“Well, Miss Steele,” he says. “Let’s take a look shall we?”

He moves to a file cabinet on the wall next to his desk and removes a paper bound book, which he brings back and drops it on the desk in front of me. I stare down at it for a moment as he lowers himself into his chair again and gestures at the book.

“Your um… outfit does seem a little short. Why don’t you find what the handbook says about skirt length?”

“Yes, sir,” I reply. He smiles at the emphasis I put on the last word and, as I step between his legs and bend over the desk right in front of him, I hear his sharp intake of breath and the sound of his fingers tightening on the leather arms of his chair as he tries to stop himself from reaching up to touch me.

“Let’s see…” I continue, flipping through the book. “This says that skirts and dresses may fall no less than four inches above the knee.”

He clicks his tongue, and even though the lace of my lingerie isn’t even covering my behind with the way I’m bent over the desk, he says, “I suppose we’ll have to measure.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Grey.”

He reaches around into one of his desk drawers and pulls out a metal ruler, and my breath hisses through my teeth when he presses it into my skin.

“Cold, Miss Steele?”

“A little…”

“Well, perhaps you should be covering more of your skin.” His tone is chiding as he marks the place on my thigh where the ruler ends with his finger, and then slides the metal further down my leg to continue measuring. “Sixteen inches. That’s a foot too short…”

“I’m sorry, sir,” I tell him, but he simply clicks his tongue disapprovingly. The ruler slides up my leg, catching the hem of my lingerie, and as he continues to move it higher, he begins dragging the lace along with it.

“Such a grave violation should lead to immediate termination…”

“No, please, sir!” I beg. “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

“Miss Steele, I can’t simply look the other way. You knew the rules, and you’ve chosen to break them.”

“There has to be something I could do… some other way you could reprimand me.”

“Perhaps there is,” he says huskily. “How badly do you want to keep your position here at GEH, Miss Steele?”

“I have to, sir. I need this job. I’ll do anything…”

“Then don’t move.” He flips the hem of the skirt over my behind and then smacks me with the ruler. I let out a small, surprised yelp and he stops. “Too much?”

“No,” I reply. He hesitates for a moment but then pulls the ruler back to hit me again. When I moan this time, he doesn’t pause before he brings the ruler down on me once more. The crack of the pliable metal on my skin sounds threatening, vicious even, and the sting is biting, but not so much that I can’t handle it. He hits me four more times before the final blow makes me whimper again, and this time, rather than pausing to check that I’m okay, he simply lets the ruler fall to the floor. While I listen to the metal thud against the rubber mat under his chair, his fingers curl beneath my panties and he pushes them deftly to the side, his mouth making contact with me in the next second.

The stubble on his face scratches against my lips, contrasting and heightening the sensation of his tongue swirling softly around my clitoris, and it immediately has my legs shaking. I moan and gasp as I writhe over his desk, wishing I had something to sink my fingers into rather than the hard, unrelenting surface beneath me, but he seems encouraged by the sound of my fingernails scraping desperately against the wood.

“Oh god,” I whisper as I feel the building heat inside of me. “Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop!”

His lips begin pulling at me, sucking my clitoris between the long, tantalizing strokes of his tongue, and soon, the shaking in my knees seems to migrate up my thighs and between my legs, adding pressure to and ultimately unwinding the concentrated ball of pleasure inside of me waiting to explode. I cry out as my orgasm hits me and Christian pushes his face harder into me, between my legs, and it sends the shockwaves coursing through me rebounding back, intensifying my orgasm. Fuck, he’s so good at this.

“Holy fuck, Christian,” I pant as I start to come down, the roleplay I’d set up now completely pushed out of my mind. He kisses me one last time before he gets out of his chair, stands behind me, and I hear the promising jingle of his belt. Taking a deep breath to prepare myself for round two, I move so that I’m in the best position for him, higher off the desk, but he reaches down for my hips and flips me onto my back.

“I want to see you,” he says, and then he thrusts inside of me. My mouth falls open in a silent scream of delight as he pushes in and out of me, harder and more viciously with each thrust. Our harsh breathing synchronizes, filling the air around us, and as I look up in his face and see the serenity there that has replaced the uncertainty, I know he’s losing himself in me, and I want to go along.

“Kiss me,” I plead. He leans over me, pressing his body into mine as he claims my lips, and I reach up to tangle my fingers in his hair. He allows me free reign to touch him for only a moment and then reaches up for my arms and pins them to his desk, next to my head. His fingers entwine with mine and it’s more intimate than I would have supposed. A long time ago, when he used to restrain my hands to keep me from touching him, I could feel the distance in the gesture, but this feels less like he’s pushing me away and more like he’s trying to connect. There’s tenderness in the way his hands hold mine and it makes it seem that, even though he’s fucking me in a carnal, instinctual way, we’re somehow still making love.

“I love you, Christian,” I whisper, and he moans.

“And I love you. Give it up for me, baby. Come with me.”

I bite down on my lip as his mouth moves down my body to the swells of my breasts above my lingerie. His sure hands hold tightly to my sides, lifting me from the desk, holding me firm while he moves in and out of me. I can see the muscles in his jaw tensing and his eyebrows furrowing as he climbs closer and closer to release, trying to hold off for me to join him, and once again the thought of his pleasure is enough to push me off the edge and send me tumbling into the warm abyss of welcome madness. He lets out a strangled kind of groan as he feels the force of my orgasm clenching tightly around him and then he too lets go.

“Oh… fuck, I needed that,” he says when we’ve both come down and he’s pulled out of me. I smile up at him as he straightens his clothes and then moves to put the phone back on his desk. Once I too am wrapped back in my trench coat and decent to be in public again, he takes me by the hand to walk with me back out to the elevators, but I stop him before he even unlocks his office door.

“I booked a room for us this weekend. I was kind of hoping we could spend the next couple days just getting lost in every one of your fantasies.”

“Mmm,” he hums. “I want that too. I might be here a little late tonight, though.”

I want to sigh, but to try to hold it back. “That’s okay. I was going to go see your dad this afternoon and I still have to go for a run so I’ll just meet you at the Fairmont Olympic tonight?”

“I can’t wait,” he tells me, and then kisses me once more before we open the door and Luke comes out of the security office to follow us up to reception.

I remember the phone call I had with Andrea on my way into the office this afternoon, so I half expect to see Elliot waiting in the lobby, but I’m disappointed when I see that it’s Gia who practically leaps out of her seat when we come around the corner.

“Good afternoon, Christian,” she says. “And… Ana, what a surprise. You’re… early, aren’t you?”

“No, not really,” I say coolly. “There isn’t a time I’m supposed to be here so how could I be early?”

“I just thought you usually get here late on Fridays,” she says, brushing me off as she turns to look at Christian. “I assume she’s leaving, though? We have an 11 o’clock.”

“No,” Christian says irritably. “I have an 11 o’clock with Elliot.”

“Right,” she nods. “He’s just a little busy this afternoon, so he asked me to fill in. He wants to make sure everything is wrapped up at work before we take off for the weekend. He’s taking me to St. Barts for Valentine’s Day.”

Christian’s expression hardens. “Look, I know that you have a personal relationship with my family that may make it feel like the lines between us are blurred, so let me make things real clear for you. I’m the CEO of one of the largest companies in the country and I do not have meetings with salaried employees. The meeting I have scheduled is with Elliot Grey and that is the only meeting I will be taking.  You do not belong in this office and you should remember that going forward. Now get your things and go.”

“Christian…” she protests, but he cuts her off with one biting word.


She gives him an indignant look but she gathers the briefcase and folders she left on the chair next to her and moves towards the doors that lead to the elevator regardless.

“That was kind of harsh,” I tell him once we watch her disappear behind the elevator doors.

“Well, that’s how I would handle any subordinate employee who came into my office. No special treatment. Grey Construction is no longer a part of GEH, and I only ever meet with the executive management team of other companies. I never deal with anyone who would need to confirm with their boss before giving me a concrete answer. It’s waste of everyone’s time and time is not a luxury I have now.”

“Yeah… but he’s not just another CEO, he’s your brother.”

“I’ve been lenient on procedure for people close to me before. With Elena, with Ros… and I’ve been burned every time. Not anymore. I’m happy to do business with Elliot, but when he steps through those doors, he isn’t my brother anymore. He’s the owner of a company I have under contract and when he schedules a meeting with me, I expect him to show up, not an Interior Designer.

There’s a definite note of disdain in his voice when he says Gia’s title but I’m not sure I want to get to the bottom of that with Andrea and Olivia standing only a few feet away, so I don’t reply, and Andrea takes my silence as an opportunity to get Christian’s attention.

“Mr. Grey? Miss Bailey has called for you three times this morning…”

Miss Bailey is to be directed to my lawyer or HR,” Christian says through clenched teeth.

“Yes, sir, she has,” Andrea continues. “And the lawyer, David Kramer, has called for you as well.”

“Alright, get him on the phone. I’ll take it in my office.” He turns to me and I give him a sad kind of smile before I reach up and give him a quick kiss on the corner of his mouth.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” I promise him, and he nods.

“And I will get to you as soon as I can.” He squeezes my hand as I turn for the glass doors with Luke and when we step into the elevator, Christian stare at one another, holding eye contact, until the doors close and I can’t see him anymore.

It’s only 11:30 by the time we get back to Escala, but since I’ve technically been up since one AM local time, I’m in desperate need of a nap. It’s a good way to kill a couple hours and by the time I get up, finish my run with Luke, shower, repack, spend a little time in Bellevue with Christian’s family, and make it to the Fairmont Olympic, it’s after six, which I hope means Christian is going to be arriving soon.

There’s a menu for room service next to the hotel phone so I order dinner for Christian and I and have them set up the dining table in the suite with candles and flowers, but by 7:30, I’m still sitting at the table alone. There’s a clock in the sitting room adjacent to me that ticks away the seconds I sit there, staring at the wall across from me, until I finally pick up my phone to call him.

“Grey,” he answers quickly.

“Hey, where are you?”

“Oh… Ana. I’m sorry, I’m still in the office. I’m trying to get out of here but I’m just so buried…”

“Is something wrong?”

“No, not really. I’ve just had to take on all of Ros’s clients and it’s a lot to go along with the acquisitions I’m already working on. I’ve got a million things going on at once.”

“Oh, well… I ordered dinner.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, and at least I can hear the true regret in his voice. “I’ll be there as soon as I can, I promise.”

“Okay, I love you.”

“I love you too, bye.” He hangs up and I stare solemnly down at the phone in my hand. Not only is he not almost here or on his way, it doesn’t even sound like he’s leaving any time soon.

I look down at the food in front of me, cold now, and push it away. I know that Luke is in the room next to me, so after pacing the floor of my suite a few times and deciding that I’d rather have company than wait for Christian to get back by myself, I change out of the sexy nighty I’m wearing, throw on a pair of leggings and a t-shit, and then make my way down the hall to his room.

“Ana?” he asks curiously when he opens the door.

“Christian’s not going to be here for awhile and I’m kind of lonely. You wanna come watch a movie?”

“Uh… sure.” He picks up the keycard on the table next to the door and then follows me back to my suite. I let him order the movie while I call down to the front desk to ask them to bring popcorn and as many packages of Scooby Doo fruit snacks as they can possibly haul up here and then settle down on the couch in front of the TV with the comforter from my bed.

“Ready?” he asks.

“Sure. What bloody, gory, ridiculously implausible action movie do you have planned for us tonight?”

“The bloodiest, goriest, most implausible once I could think of, of course.”

He lifts the remote and points it at the TV and hits play, and a smile crosses my face when I see the main title card come up.

It Happened One Night.

“Awh, I knew this was your favorite movie,” I say, pushing him slightly as he reaches into the bowl of popcorn on my lap.

“I can’t help it,” he says. “That scene where she lifts up her skirt to show her knee and flag down the passing drivers, whew… it just really gets my blood boiling.”

I laugh and then reach for a pack of fruit snacks, and he shakes his head.

“I can’t believe you’re eating those again,” he says. “How many fruit snack have you consumed over the past six weeks?”

“A million,” I reply while I chew.

“You know those things are loaded with artificial flavoring and corn syrup, right? You should at least get the ones with actual fruit juice in them.”

I shrug. “The baby wants what the baby wants, and the baby likes the ones that look like Shaggy and the gang.” He rolls his eyes as I plop another opaque fruit snack in my mouth and then turn my attention back to the TV.

Next Chapter


53 thoughts on “Chapter 25

  1. I don’t believe it about Ros. She’s more the type, if she couldn’t take it anymore, to walk up to his face and say, that’s it, I quit! Did someone spoof her email just to set her up and cause problems, or has she been a traitor all these years? But, I did like him putting Gia in her place. hippee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t see Ros doing this. SOMEONE is motivated to get those people out of GEH that WOULD protect Christian and GEH from further outside attacks.

      I question the TIMING of the emails found on the server. REMEMBER, Ana was given a laptop hooked into GEH at the time she started her internship. And it is that SAME laptop, I believe, that was left UNATTENDED due to the storm.

      And NOTICE that the emails condemning WELCH were found on the server DIRECTLY AFTER that lapse. (NASA’s computer systems were reportedly compromised due to the SAME thing where a NASA employee’s laptop was STOLEN.)

      Welch AND Ros were BOTH fired based SOLELY on emails found on the GEH server reportedly sent by them. I DON’T buy it. That would be the BEST way for the Conspiracy to attack–make Christian fire the VERY people MOST motivated to protect him.

      And with BOTH of these individuals out, Christian is spread TOO THIN and is easily vulnerable for the next attack. NO WAY can Christian handle his job AND Ros’ job.

      And it was supposedly the “new Welch” security guy that found the emails? Convenient much??? Welch’s being out has led the way for new employees to get in that might have contacts with Lincoln, Hyde, or Elena.

      And ANDREW LINCOLN lost his OWN company, in part, due to Elena’s having contacts on his OWN board. The Conspiracy Head was UNABLE to get a board put in to betray Christian, but s/he IS able to get Christian’s most trusted employees OUT. And undoubtedly instigate others still there. So it IS in essence making Christian LOSE HIS COMPANY FROM THE INSIDE OUT. Which sounds EXACTLY like what happened to Andrew Lincoln.

      But I definitely think there is a SECURITY BREACH somewhere —which is WHY the Conspiracy Head got rid of WELCH first before turning to Ros. And ELENA did want revenge against Ros and wanted to pin everything on HER. Seems like the Conspiracy Head is doing the SAME thing that she wanted.

      So either way you put it, I think a LINCOLN is somewhere mixed up in all this. AND I am now convinced that Welch and Ros were set up. Only time will tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What is going on with Ros? For some reason I don’t think she did what they are accusing her of, but I don’t know who would be able to plant emails. I’m so confused. Side note I’m always up for a Gia smackdown so thanks for that. I hate to say, but I am kind of rooting for Carter and Kate. She deserves to be happy.


    1. Like you, I LOVED the Gia smackdown. But it WAS concerning to me that Elliot sent GIA in his place. He obviously trusts Gia with the keys to the kingdom. She knows all the ins and out of his company AND has been sent to important meetings in his stead.

      So Elliot trusts Gia unconditionally. She could now compromise Elliot in SO MANY ways, if there were a bad break-up. Which doesn’t seem likely now at all.


  3. Okay, now I REALLY think both Welch AND Ros were framed. Again, the evidence against them was emails found on the GEH server. Since anything this day and age is hackable, that is scary if the only evidence is emails.

    Welch would have been the OBVIOUS first target, since he is the security head and was with Christian from the beginning. And Elena WANTED revenge against Ros since she had her audited. And now, it looks like she might have it.

    While I originally discounted any real involvement by Elena, the attack on GEH is done by SOMEONE with a great deal of inside information on GEH. It makes NO SENSE for Ros to be behind the attack, as GEH was her livelihood, and the resulting firestorm over PixC is likely to run the thing into the ground.

    And AGAIN, why would someone like Ros leave the evidence on her computer? And now GEH is involved in a hostile takeover by one of its own AGAINST one of its own. And Christian is divided WAY too much.

    And Ros’ trying to call Christian so much is probably because she can’t really see how Christian would be so against her so quickly and willing to throw off EVERYTHING the two accomplished together. If she had really done everything that she is accused of, she would KNOW that Christian would be determined to destroy her.

    And the additional thing is that WHEN the next attack comes, it WILL be against Ana. And if EMAILS are enough to condemn someone, then who KNOWS what the Conspiracy Head will do?

    This is NO kind of life for Christian. Or for Ana, for that matter. Christian cannot be happy like this. But considering how NOW Christian obviously believes he can’t trust anyone, then he is unlikely to want to hire a “new Ros.” So this chaos and overwork thing is likely to continue for Christian for some time to come.

    Plus, Christian can’t have much time for his family, including his father, who is still not out of the woods by any means. At most, he was predicted to have a little more time, time that Christian is losing the chance to spend with him. So the COST of this Conspiracy has already been extremely high for Christian.

    Someone seems to be intentionally “teaching” Christian Elena’s lessons of trust no one and that love and loyalty don’t exist.

    Ana was hooked into the GEH server through her laptop that Christian had given her when she started GEH. That SAME laptop that was left unattended in the house during the storm. AFTER that, Christian “found” the email evidence against Welch. Too coincidental for me.

    And if those Christian trusts the MOST at work could be set up, then Ana will be next. And Christian could NOT handle any perceived betrayal by Ana. AND he would be likely to believe someone telling him Ana “cheated” on him because he could not give her attention.

    So at this point, someone will either try to set Ana up to look like she has betrayed Christian, OR the Conspiracy Head will kidnap her. So far, though, the Conspiracy Head has been VERY careful to stay in the shadows so that Christian will NOT realize what is really going on at GEH.

    SInce emails supposedly condemning Welch included communication between him and Hyde, I am assuming that Hyde is either WITH the Conspiracy or being used by it (willingly, most likely). And although Elena has HIGH motivation for revenge against Christian, I still don’t see Elena as being the true Head of the Conspiracy, mainly because I see her still hoping to use Christian later down the road.

    However, SOMEONE in this Conspiracy has OR HAD ties to Elena in the past. I still see Andrew Lincoln as a real possibility. And I would like to know more about Isaac.

    I still see Andrew Lincoln as the real candidate, though, BECAUSE he saw the hold first-hand that ELena had over Christian AND how she exploited it. Andrew had TRUSTED Christian to help him take Elena down for what she did to CHristian, BUT Christian ultimately sided WITH Elena to screw over Andrew. So THIS SCHEME would seem like poetic justice to Andrew Lincoln. Christian would lose EVERYTHING he worked so hard for, AND it would look to have come from his MOST TRUSTED employees, the SAME way Christian and Elena ALSO took down HIS company.

    And THAT would also be why a now-crazed Andrew WOULD go after Ana—SHE was the reason that CHristian gave for supposedly doing EVERYTHING that he did, including taking the start-up money from Elena. And Andrew was accused of “abusing” his employees, something that Christian is now seemingly doing as well.

    So even though this chapter is short, it gives A LOT of food for thought. And CLEARLY, someone is now watching Ana ever more CLOSELY. And using Leila’s car? WOuld she really be that stupid at this point? SOMEONE is definitely setting Leila up for the fall. I wonder if she REALLY knows who the Conspiracy Head is OR if she is working for another stooge of the Head.

    SO MANY QUESTIONS. But I DON’T see Ros as the snake in the grass, PARTICULARLY if the ONLY proof was emails.

    But Christian is spread TOO THIN by all accounts. He is neglecting the people he loves most, as well as literally compromising his own health and well-being. Christian is ripe for the next stage in the attack, and with him being so overworked, I doubt anyone has told him yet about Leila’s car. . . .


  4. I DO believe Christian is being wise about NOT seeing Gia alone at his office. And I cannot see HOW Elliot would think this was okay. Just WHY is he so determined that Christian and Gia spend time together?

    And that is worrisome to me that Elliot obviously trusts Gia with all information regarding his company. Enough to even send her to meet with Christian.

    And Gia’s DIG to Ana about knowing her schedule–sounds like Leila isn’t the ONLY one trying to keep tabs on Ana’s whereabouts. And Gia is DETERMINED to push getting alone time with Christian.

    Christian is fixing to move into the new building, obviously. So he would not have had reason to upgrade his inner office security to record meetings in his office. So meeting with Gia alone is just not smart, in my opinion. I hope Christian sticks to his guns on this, BUT it will likely cause still MORE tension with his brother.

    Elliot SHOULD remember who GAVE him his company in the first place. Sending Gia in his place really IS a bad move. GIA does not know everything about building supplies, etc. and does not have the authority to make the company decisions. She PLANS to have said authority, obviously, in the future by being married to Elliot. I do NOT think Gia will give up her plans there—she is trying to make herself indispensible to Elliot, and it seems to be working.

    Gia is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. And THAT is worrisome for me, since I see Gia as being a MORE than willing recruit to the Conspiracy. AND she has so much ACCESS to any and everyone in the Grey family because of Elliot, who CLEARLY TRUSTS her with everything. Thankfully, Christian truly seems able to see through her. At this point at least.


    1. I agree, it definitely seems like Gia knows Ana’s schedule and is trying to get to Christian when she knows Ana won’t be there. I think Gia is laying low and hoping to strike Christian at his most vulnerable. She knows that Christian is stressed and that with Ana away at college isn’t getting any intimacy. She’s trying to be his friend so that he doesn’t notice her real intentions. She’s hoping that he will break under the pressure and fall into her bed. And that she will be what holds him together so that he “realizes” that he needs her more than Ana.

      We all know that the only reason she is mentioning her and Elliott’s trip to St Barts is because she wants Ana to relay that info to Kate. But I don’t really think it was Elliott’s idea or plan. She probably mentioned it and made all the plans but he paid for it so she wants everyone to think it was his idea. Just like I don’t think he purposely told her to cover for him with the meeting with Christian. She probably said that she had some things to go over him with but he wouldn’t accept a meeting with her. So he made the meeting but it was always intended to be her. And unfortunately I agree that this will cause another argument between Christian and Elliott.


  5. Was ros setup? What’s going, that doesn’t sound like her at all, if she she was going to jump ship she should have done that when he was up against Elena, and Ana was out the picture. I did like how he finally put Gia in her place, but I wonder how that is going to affect his relationship with Elliot I feel sorry for Ana having to fly all the way over there and Christian still at the office, I hope this doesn’t affect her or the baby and their relationship they have already been through so much


  6. Love Ana-Kate’s friendship. Poor Christian, spreading himself too thin. More than a hundred and ten percent overworked! He has no choice. Smacking Gia is so, so, so satisfying. He’s in real CEO mode. Ros strikes as the type to tell Christian off. Are her many calls her way of explanation? Just am grateful to read your updates. Thank you, Tara. Xoxo daytona


  7. And with it being Valentine’s Day, that leaves Ana at Harvard for roughly 3 months. (And four months until the baby is born.) And the chapter ALSO lets us know that the wedding has been scheduled tentatively for 3 months AFTER the baby is born (so around Ana’s birthday).

    Christian is practically at his breaking point. I think the Conspiracy Head is waiting a little longer to make things still more unsecure at GEH and to ALSO maybe put tension in between Christian and Ana as well. I see the Conspiracy tweaking the plan over the next month, ever-tightening the screws to Christian, before then grabbing Ana.

    I originally thought that the Conspiracy might try to INCRIMINATE ANA with the same type of email evidence. BUT Christian WOULD give Ana a chance to explain, and that might lead Christian to figure out the truth about Welch and Ros.

    AND the Conspiracy Head wants to destroy Christian, SO s/he would WANT Christian to be close to Ana, NOT on the verge of a break-up.

    STILL, the Conspiracy Head is clearly on a Divide-And-Conquer Plan. And ELLIOT is making that easy from his side with his devotion to Gia AND sending her to conduct Grey business. WORRISOME if the Conspiracy decides to potentially recruit Gia (if it hasn’t already).

    So something should be happening soon. Christian is NOT able to call Ana as much (or at all) due to being so overloaded. So the Conspiracy would have TIME to kidnap Ana and get WELL-HIDDEN before Christian even realized Ana was missing, due to being stretched so thin. So something should be happening SOON. All the pieces seem to be falling into place with the Conspiracy.

    And if Christian DID start a lawsuit, it MIGHT get uncovered about WHERE the emails came from. So the Conspiracy Head is likely to act SOONERS rather than laters, to coin a phrase.


  8. JUST realized something—I was assuming that Kate’s comment meant that the WEDDING was scheduled for 3 months after the baby’s arrival. In re-reading her comment, I get that she was saying that Christian and Ana got ENGAGED three months after finding out about the baby. Drats! I was thinking that they had scheduled a tentative wedding date! Just want to get them married so badly, PARTICULARLY as it seems like the Conspiracy is closing in so quickly and easily and is bent on destroying my hopes! Sigh.


  9. Like others I hope Ross’s betrayal was a setup. Since, it seems Ana might have some extra time on her hands maybe she can pay her a visit. If Ross isn’t behind this, then she’s got to be really hurting too. That also means that who’s ever behind this is more dangerous than any of them imagined and like Leila said, he’s always watching and everything’s in motion. It sends chills!!! Thanks for the update! P.S. I hope they out smart who ever it is especially, before Christian has a nervous breakdown.


  10. So I’m starting to think that Roz was set up like someone commented last week. Or perhaps this might be a ruse by Christian Roz and Welch in order to shift out the person or people behind these conspiracies against Ana and Christian. Leila is playing a dangerous game too. Loved the office rendezvous today but christian has to get it together or he will get sick. I wonder if Gia tried to put the moves in Christian? Kate is not fooling me I know she’s trying to move on and that’s great. I can’t wait for the next chapter.


  11. I don’t understand why CG did not get restraining order against Leila.. I am thinking Gia got something to do with Ros issues..


  12. “Have you ever stopped to think that maybe you were wrong? Maybe, you only saw your point of view and you never once put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Maybe, walking away from the senseless drama and spiteful criticism isn’t the best thing to do. Maybe, for just once in your life you could wear another person’s confusion, pain or misunderstanding. Maybe, your future doesn’t require explaining yourself or offering an explanation for your indifference, but your character and reputation does. What if one day you find out that you didn’t have all the information you thought you did? What if you find out that your presence was needed for healing? What if you only knew half of it and the other half was just your fear and anger translating everything you experienced? What if you were wrong? What if the same thing happened to you?”
    ― Shannon L. Alder

    “People only keep their eyes open out of habit. And, nothing more.”
    ― S.D. Lawendowski

    “You’re going to come to a lot of intersections in your life, roads and otherwise, and you can’t always just turn around. You have to summon the courage to go forward.”
    ― Priscilla Cummings

    “You know that you have been stabbed when you feel the deep pain of betrayal.”
    – Les Parrott

    “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
    – William Blake


  13. I definitely believe Ros was set up! Someone wants Christian to fail and what better way than to get his number 2 out of the way! Is Elena somehow manipulating this from behind bars or maybe her ex husband getting revenge?! I’m so glad Christian put Gia in her place because I know that it was probably her idea to take Elliot’s place for the meeting. Elliot’s an idiot for placing so much trust in her! I always look forward to any update long or short! Thank you!


    1. I agree, I think it was Gia’s idea. And it brings up another point: Since Gia was so eager for the meeting at GEH does this mean that she can’t get to Christian at Escala? Have the elevator codes been changed? Christian is definitely not giving the full disclosure on Gia’s antics to keep Ana stress free, but I want to know what she did that has his so fed up!


  14. Sorry, just had a random thought after I posted. I don’t know if your planning on introducing Barney in this story but his expertise would come in really handy right now! Plus, I always liked the nerdy guy 😊 And Christian could definitely use the help.


      1. Wasn’t it Barney that helped Ana with the pillow present for Christmas? Which means Ana still retains Barney’s contact information, since she had to coordinate with him to get the technology for said pillows. (Translation: I’m hoping Ros will go to Ana since Christian won’t talk to her directly and ask for Ana’s help to prove her innocence. Ana would then contact Barney to have him check into how hackable the GEH server could be.)

        I really think Barney could be the key to figuring out what is really going on at GEH. The Conspiracy wouldn’t think to target Barney because he appears to be such a harmless nerdy guy that doesn’t take the initiative on anything.

        Again, my take on Barney comes from the original EL James works, particularly “GREY,” where you saw how late on nights and weekends Barney would work on a project for Christian and how excited he could get on something technology-related. (And how he worked with a guy named “Fred,” giving Christian secret chuckles on his own Team Flintstone.)

        My belief is that Tara will keep Barney as the same lovable, geeky and loyal guy that he is in the originals. After all, he did not have to help Ana come up with the perfect Christmas present for Christian, yet he did. AND if the Conspiracy DID then try to target Barney due to his getting too close to discovering them, Ana would NEVER buy it. I think she WILL trust her instincts.

        I still maintain that Ana will be the key to helping unravel all of this, particularly if Welch and/or Ros HAVE been set up, simply because Ana CAN trust (both her instincts AND other people) and WILL believe in the people that she has worked with and known previously. And she will get Christian to listen to reason the way NO ONE else in Christian’s world can get him to do.


  15. I, too, think someone is sending emails to look like Ros. And based on her confrontation with Christian at Thanksgiving, I think she’d have come to hm in person. I just hope somehow she and Ana bump into each other, and Ana gets the real story, and the conspiracy gets discovered before anyone really gets hurt. Would love to see Barney figure out the whole thing.
    And I LOVED Christian’s put-down of Gia. I really want Elliot and Kate back together so Ana and Kate can stay close friends and in the same city. I want to see Gia totally gone.
    You have such a great story going, Tara, I can’t wait for next week’s chapter!


  16. Ugh this is so sad how he just stood her up! I love these stories though I can’t get enough I can’t wait to see what direction you’re going to take this one!


  17. Life get in the way sometimes take care of yourself and your family. We all appreciate your story and we will wait for you.

    I personally loved how Christian told Gia to leave. LOL So Ros was actually undermining Christian and hurting his progress with PixC? What the heck happened to her GEH was doing so good? Hopefully Christian is able to find someone to help him before he does have a heart attack? I mean I don’t know if he would want Carter but he is interested in the business world? Then again it is Carter, what am I thinking! Did Ana not tell Kate that Christian knew about her surgery and what she did to help Carrick? Too bad Ana is the wrong field to help him.


  18. Omg…could it be that someone is framing Ros? Maybe it’s Hyde he has access to GEH and what is Elliot going to say about how Christian treated Gia


    1. My theory is that ANYONE in the Conspiracy might have access to the GEH server as a result of Ana’s laptop being left at the house during the storm. We KNOW someone stole the cufflinks from the house, so you KNOW that s/he searched everything and probably first hacked into Ana’s laptop and left technology within thereafter.

      I certainly see Hyde as a recruit. I can’t see him being the Conspiracy Head UNLESS he was somehow involved with Elena’s world previously (see below on my Hyde Alternative Theory). WHOEVER is at the head of this Conspiracy has a real knowledge of Christian and how he operates. And a poetic sense of justice in taking Christian down in THIS PARTICULAR way, in a manner that Christian used Elena previously to take down Andrew Lincoln’s company (by going through board members and contacts WITHIN Lincoln Timber).

      While it may not be EITHER Elena or Andrew Lincoln, the Conspiracy Head has knowledge of both of their interactions with Christian, in my opinion. ISAAC was so much more important to Elena’s operation in Tara’s creation than in the original, although we saw so little of him. His monitoring the bar for Elena was TELLING to me, as well as his interactions with Ana at the sex shop.

      And the “important client” that Elena tried to force Mia to be with COULD have been Hyde or someone else from GEH that Elena KNEW would be in a position to help her later. Hyde would therefore be familiar with Elena AND her clientele, as well as the GEH employees and history, which he then could use when he didn’t get the promotion he thought he was entitled to. I tended to DISCOUNT Hyde originally due to the unravelled way he approached Ana at the GEH ball. NOW, however, with Leila’s saying that the person behind her recruitment is “crazy,” then Hyde COULD still be a possibility, IF he had more contact previously with Elena then we ever knew.

      So Hyde may not be operating with Elena, BUT he COULD be familiar with her AND her dark secrets and mode of operation if he was a previous “important” client. And he could have been so “important” BECAUSE of his contacts and things that he set in place, all while ORIGINALLY working with Ana. (AFTER ALL, Ana got that laptop WHEN SHE STARTED working for GEH. It would have been left at work periodically in her office while she was elsewhere in meetings. So Hyde might have put a tracer or technology on it WAY BACK THEN, in case Ana STAYED at GEH rather than going back to school.)

      At any rate, Tara has cleverly and fiendishly put MULTIPLE people in that could have MOTIVE AND OPPORTUNITY to frame Ros AND/or Welch. My top choices for People To Watch would have to be EITHER Lincoln, Isaac (or one of Elena’s former contacts) and Hyde.

      I’m still absolutely LOVING the intrigue and plot twists that abound on the way to discovering the true Conspiracy source. I still can’t help but believe that Ana will be the key to helping solve all of this. Christian is spread TOO THIN and trusts no one at this point, due to what has seemingly happened with Ros and Welch. Ana, however, IF ALERTED to the real issue by Ros, could get SAWYER to look into the hacking issues, since he was the one able to hack Elena’s system originally. ANA has the resources around her, she just hasn’t been motivated to look into it directly herself, at least not yet. She has left everything to Christian and Taylor, while failing to see how her influence and approach to things has been what has SAVED Christian in the past (like when she chose ON HER OWN to confront Elena at the bar–the confession she got out of Elena was then hacked by Sawyer on Christian’s authority.)

      What I may love the MOST in Tara’s World is that Ana and Christian work well professionally as well as personally. Christian always loved her for her MIND, sweetness and caring devotion as well as her body. Christian KNEW Ana could handle being head of SIP, and Ana certainly DID prove she could handle crises ON HER OWN, such as when the book printers mistakenly printed so many defective books. She came up with a solution ON THE SPOT and took charge easily, WITHOUT having to resort to asking Christian for help. She worked WELL with others and had the admiration of others within the company by summer’s end.

      So Ana is wonderful in a crisis, both in working with Christian AND working around him in order to save him. SO I am hoping that it falls to her again to help Christian through everything. I LOVE MOST that Tara has really had ANA to be the one to save herself AND others by the end of ABSOF, in more ways than one. And Christian has always proved to be a STRONGER version of himself BY leaning on and working with Ana, so I hope to see that again here.




  20. I too believe Ros is being framed. Hope Christian, or Ana, figures it out soon. Also, I think Gia may have already showed some of her cards to Christian. Maybe not blatantly hit on him, but dropped a few hints. That’s why his attitude towards her has changed so much. Yes, Ana did ask him to take a step back but now he is shutting her down completely. I’m not complaining, but even Ana mentioned him being a little harsh to Gia. Kate may also have played apart in Christian’s new attitude towards Gia. He knows Kate made a huge scarific for his family and didn’t do it for the recognition or to get Elliot back. She did it out of love. Oh Ellott. You are such a fool.

    Great chapter! And no matter how long or short they are, I will still look forward to and appreciate them each week when your schedule allows.


  21. Great chapter. I’m still not sure what’s up with Roz but can’t wait to see where you take it. Gia has done something can’t wait to find out. Loving it. Thank you.


  22. Excellent story telling 😊Great chapter, as always with interesting drama. Don’t worry about posting shorter chapters, it’s absolutely fine! Real life comes first.


  23. Christian won’t be able to go on working under this pressure. He will have a breakdown of some sort. I just hope he doesn’t turn on Ana. I have a feeling Ros has been set up. I hope so, anyway.


  24. Another great chapter. I have the gut feeling that Ros was set up. Also Gia is up to no good in my opinion. Can’t wait to read more. 🙂


  25. There are so many scenarios being assumed but whatever it is Christian will come out on top of it all after all this is ASSOG. He trusted too many people and was burned, so we will see the magnificent CEO he is meant to be. His lawyer can talk to Ross and will find out what really happened there. Yes, Barney, the nerd can figure out what happen if someone really hacked their server to make Ross and Welch looked bad, if that is the case or are they really just looking after themselves. Ross could have been harboring deep hurt that her name was not up there as Christian, since both worked together in setting up the company, although Christian never gave up even after disappointments at first, while Ross was ready to wait until they graduate. Christian will have a talk with Elliott and let him know about ongoing events and he also need to look out for himself and can’t trust just anybody including Gia. When will Elliott find out about Kate being the donor? What will Elliott feel about that, although it seems like Kate is happy where she is with Carter. Thank you and can’t wait for more.


  26. Super dooper chappy as usual, Ms. Tara. 😀

    My comment centers simply around Leila: what if she’s been there all week watching OVER Ana? She was REAL distraught and guilt-ridden upon discovering she’s pregnant. Perhaps she feels she owes it to Ana to “keep watch” and this is the best way she can do that, even though it’s creepy. (shrug)

    Dunno…just another way to look at that plot line. Have a great week!


  27. I’ll take shorter chapters as long as I get more chapters! 🙂
    This was an amazing chapter as per usual!!
    Christian honestly broke my freakin heart. All these people he trusts, he can’t trust anymore. No wonder this by has trust problems! It’s truly heartbreaking!
    And if Ros did actually go behind his back, then she’s a massive freaking bitch!
    But what if someone planted those emails????
    God! You never know with this story!!
    I am glad Kate’s happy, but Carter’s still meh. He’s a good boyfriend for her now, but I still think she can do better long term! 😉
    And I thought when Kate said this:
    “Yeah, but I like that about you guys,” she says, more seriously now. “You’re both usually so careful and you overthink everything way too much, but when it comes to each other, you’re not too cautious or afraid to do what feels right. You truly live your life when you’re together and I love that.”
    It melted my heart! That was so sweet! And we got some Ana/Kate bonding! So that was great!
    Gia needs to GTFO! And I am glad that she is getting put in her place! She is actually horrible and awful and just ugh. I can’t BELIEVE Elliot is actually taking her away on this romantic vacation. Gross!!
    I am really disappointed in him right now. Especially because I think he will go balastic on Christian for telling Gia to leave…
    Not excited for that argument because Elliot is being an idiot!
    But what an amazing chapter and I can’t wait until next week! 🙂


  28. I loved the smack down of Gia. But why was she here? By her comment, she figured that Ann wouldn’t be there and she had a chance to be alone with Christian. I think, she manipulated Elliot to get this appointment. I hope Elliot hasn’t given her that much power in the company. When will he open his eyes. I wonder if Gia hit on Christian, but he never told Elliot and Elliot thinks he is just being rude to her. Something happened and I am dyeing to know.

    Ann maybe hurt by the lack of attention because Christian is so busy, but many of her comments show that she understands. I do see the next step in the conspiracy is to try and split Ann and Christian. I really don’t think that is going to work because as the title states they are stronger now. I want to see them stand together and fight this and have some happy time. When is Christian going to feel the baby kick? I thought it would be this time when they were holding each other after making love and the baby kicks Christian in the stomach.

    If someone was going to contact another company, you wouldn’t send emails from your current business computer. Wouldn’t you use your personal email? Finding those emailing was just too simple. I always thought that Welch, being head of security, wouldn’t leave such as easy paper trail.

    Ros is not setting up to fight him on the PixC deal as their CEO. Ros is trying to explain to Christian, because she is calling him. I would like to see Ann stepping up and helping by confronting Ros because she is so angry with her for hurting Christian. When she does this, she finds out some information that will help them fight back.

    I guess they didn’t find cameras and video equipment already set up in the house spying on Ann, but now they have a chance to hack into the equipment. I still think her computer has been comprised, because she left it behind during the storm.

    I hope nothing happens to Kate because she was left behind sleeping in Ann’s bed. I think, Leila’s car being parked down the street, is a distraction to split the security and someone tries to get to Kate. I hope Champ has them for dinner.


    1. I absolutely LOVE your comments. I, too, think that the Conspriacy’s next obvious step would be to try to break Christian and Ana up by seemingly implicating Ana. But Christian WOULD talk to Ana about it—even in ADSOF, Christian ultimately talked to Ana about the “kiss pic” of Ana and Astor and believed Ana. While Christian refused to investigate further into the supposed “email evidence” of Welch and Ros, he WOULD want answers regarding Ana.

      I, too, question Leila’s car being left at the end of the street. The Conspiracy already KNOWS that Ana knows about Leila now. So WHY would you leave HER car there? Leila could have BORROWED someone else’s car. So either Leila has taken it upon HERSELF to put the car there in order to raise the alert of security OR it is a ruse.

      I see Ros’ trying to contact Christian ALSO to try to convince him of her innocence. She would KNOW about the supposed email evidence from the lawyers. And would know that it is not her real emails.

      And Ros knows Christian better than anyone except Ana. And Ros should KNOW that Ana would be the only person that might actually listen to her. So I’m hoping Ros goes straight to Ana, maybe while she is still in Seattle.

      Champ is an actual unknown for me. What if he is a PLANT by the Conspiracy? He wouldn’t see the men as meaning “harm” to Ana or Kate if he knew or was trained by them. But that would make Carter a likely member of the Conspiracy, and I have been unable to see WHY Carter would be motivated to go after Christian, unless he really HAD been obsessed over Ana, is crazy, and never let go of her, even pursuing Kate to stay close to Ana. But I DON’T see Carter as being that way, but you never really know. So I’m hoping that Champ really WILL see anyone from the Conspiracy as being a THREAT to both Kate and Ana and WILL protect them both. And while it is funny, now, that Champ is so JEALOUS of Christian’s attention to Ana, I hope that when the time comes, he WILL recognize that Christian would do anything to protect Kate and Ana and WON’T attack Christian, if faced with him and the Conspiracy people in trying to get Ana (or Kate).

      Also like you, I feel Ana’s computer has been compromised. Maybe even earlier than the storm—it could have been compromised when she still worked at SIP/GEH. After all, she probably didn’t take her laptop into EVERY meeting–she may have left it in her office sometimes. And multiple people from GEH would have had access to it there, without anyone suspecting anything. We just don’t know HOW early the Conspiracy ACTUALLY started.

      But the STORM does seem to be the key here, because the incriminating emails began appearing directly AFTER that. So Ana’s computer (AND the GEH server as a result), were likely compromised at that time. And NO ONE has thought to check Ana’s laptop. The Conspiracy would not even HAVE to put monitoring devices in Ana’s house IF they had them on her LAPTOP. But Ana has used that laptop for “interesting” sessions with Christian, something that the COnspiracy would have RECORDED, and MAY try to make look like Ana was doing with someone other than Christian in order to try to break Christian and Ana up. IF the Conspiracy tried that route, though, then Ana would likely figure out HOW the Conspiracy got the footage—from her laptop.

      But SOMETHING has to get Ana or Sawyer to think about Ana’s laptop being potentially compromised. I figure something is fixing to happen sooner rather than later. The only thing AGAINST the Conspiracy theory of trying to break up Christian adn Ana is that the Conspiracy WANTS to make CHristian lose what he VALUES most, so getting Christian mad at Ana lessens the likelihood of his complete devastation at her abduction and possible death. Still, ANYTHING is possible with this Conspiracy, since they have seemingly been so successful in alienating CHristian from HIS MOST TRUSTED advisors and company people.


  29. There is seriously something wrong in here. It doesn’t really make sense to me. I mean, if Ros really planned it out, wouldn’t she have made sure that Christian doesn’t find out until everything’s been finalized and in favor of her? And that is if Ros really did that. Per my impression of her, she’s the type who won’t do that behind Christian’s back. She’ll probably just go right up and tell him face to face that she’s quitting. She doesn’t take shit and she would not stoop low as to betray a friend, even though that friend has been a shitty one for a while now. I think there’s something behind this. A set up perhaps? Someone’s out there trying to destroy Christian from within his inner circle? Divide and conquer is one of the most classic, effective war strategy. If Christian’s reduced to not trusting anyone, he’ll be isolated. It’s clearly starting now. Pushing everyone away… hadn’t he learned his lesson the first time?


  30. yeah, the Ros thing just doesn’t feel right, why all of a sudden? Maybe someone fed her a line that Christian was going to dump her… there a mole in the company and are Ros and Christian actually working undercover together? so many thoughts, but loving this….awesome writing as always…


  31. I, too, hate it about Ros. They have been together through everything. I hope things aren’t as they seem… Now, it’s been a long time, but isn’t Carter a business major about to graduate as well? I wonder if Christian can’t put aside his animosity and hire him to take Ros’s place? (Is everyone going to kill me now? ;)). It would be nice for him to move to Seattle with Kate when school is out. Still loving this story! Thank you so much for continuing on with it.


    1. I’m also wondering what Carter will do once they all graduate, assuming Carter is on the up and up. But I WANT to believe that Carter is the really decent fellow that he seemed in ABSOF when he encouraged Ana to talk things through with Christian. He seemed such a truly supportive friend, even though he wasn’t getting the girl like he wanted.

      And Kate DESERVES someone decent and devoted to her. And that most certainly is not Elliot, at least at this point. While so many want Elliot back together with Kate, I do not. Elliot made some bad choices and chose to let go of Kate WAY too early AND easily. I’m still expecting Elliot to come to his senses after Christian and Ana have their baby, but Elliot may be truly right about his own character. He may actually BELONG with someone like Gia.

      I still see Gia as a snake in the grass who WOULD willingly help in harming Ana OR Kate. There are seemingly too many hints that Gia is truly selfish and only really cares for herself, BUT it may come down to simple immaturity. Only time and more story will tell. Either there is something REAL to Gia that TRULY attracts Elliot to Gia, or Elliot is content to never truly love anyone, preferring the no-strings-attached way of living. Elliot HAS experienced his own trauma in seeing what it does to those around him to be utterly and completely devoted to another person–it causes PAIN when that other person can get ripped from you. He has seen that multiple times now in seeing how Christian reacted to Ana’s loss and how his own family dealt with Carrick’s possible death.

      So Elliot may have decided that he would rather live comfortably happy with a pretty girl than have that one-in-a-lifetime devoted love that can be ripped from you. But KATE wants someone that will truly love and value her, yet loves to have fun and would want children and a family. And I DO see Carter as being someone like this based on his interaction with Ana in ABSOF. He seemed to have matured so much AND to take it well that Ana STILL pined for Christian, even after two years. He admitted that he still wanted her back BUT ACCEPTED that she still loved Christian. His encouragement WAS one of the things that helped get Ana back to a place where she COULD re-initiate contact with Christian. So THAT CARTER seemed like a person of VALUE. And he always DID get along with Kate and could talk to her (remember, Kate was the one to confront Carter about his “kissing ability” in ADSOF as well as being the one that partnered with him to successfully play beer pong. So they always could interact and have fun together, right from the beginning).

      And both Kate and Carter have been HURT and faced rejection from someone they truly seemed to love. But both came back from it and even WANT the friendship of the person that rejected them. So both of them finding love TOGETHER seems poetic in nature.

      And I DO see Christian DEFINITELY helping Carter in his career if he remains with Kate. Christian is now MOTIVATED to see Kate truly happy. He would WANT to give Carter a position that would make it possible for Carter and Kate to remain TOGETHER in Seattle, thus keeping Kate close to Ana. Christian KNOWS Kate will be the godmother of his child, and he certainly now adores Kate AND is willing to interact with her MORE because he KNOWS what she did, unselfishly, for his family. Even at the cost of so much pain to her self. So CHristian now values Kate as much as Ana could wish, and he WOULD help Carter, for Kate’s sake.

      But it remains to be seen what Tara will do with both Kate and Elliot. It may be that she wants both to try other people in order to realize that they ultimately won’t be happy with anyone other than one another. I’m to mad at Elliot now to want him with Kate–I rather feel he deserves Gia. But Tara also made me downright HATE Christian at the end of ADSOF. Only to then make me sorry for him AND to even see where he THOUGHT he was coming from in ABSOF and the Outtakes. So Tara’s JOURNEY for Elliot may have similar redemptive possibilities. Only time will tell. (And kudos always to Tara for making complex individuals that you can’t stop rooting for, even when they are at their worst. I love characters that can actually attain redemption and love the Christian that she has created. So I have faith that whatever end result happens for Kate OR Elliot, she will have made me want it in the end, whichever way she goes.)


      1. Yeah, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m questing if I even want Kate & Elliot back together. I agree that Kate deserves so much more. I want Elliot to get his head out of his ass, realize Gia is only with him to try and become a Grey (a Mrs Christian Grey if she could help it), dump her ass, and beg for Kate’s forgiveness… And then I want Kate to make him work for it. I’m almost wondering if it’s not that Elliot simply doesn’t want children but knows that he can’t have them. And he knows Kate wants a family so this is his stupid way of putting her first. But that doesn’t explain him being against marriage and also seemingly moving on so fast with Gia so I don’t really know.

        Every time I think of Kate being the baby’s godmother I picture Gia freaking out at the christening. That is if she makes it that far. And even with Elliot currently being an idiot, Christian will still name him as Godfather. Elliot + Kate + Ana & Christian’s baby’s christening will equal one pissed off Gia… Cheers to that!!!


  32. So many questions…as always, you leave us wanting more. I know you’ve mentioned this was all outlined. Any idea how many chapters this installment will be? Just curious. Thanks for another great distraction from reality.


      1. YYYYEEESS, yeeessss. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of chapters! EXCELLENT!!!

        But WAIT, that means we have to wait HOW long to know just WHO the Conspiracy consists of, if the baby is okay, whether Gia is evil or just annoying, SO MANY QUESTIONS. And SO MANY WEEKS until we get the ANSWERS???? NNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Must. . . renew plot. . .to chain Tara to her writing desk. Must recruit other torch-wielders and pitchfork holders to ensure Tara unable to escape her fate. . . . Would allow Tara to have multiple showings of the unrated version of Fifty Shades Darker, particularly the half-naked Jamie Dornan scenes, as motivation to continue writing neverendingly. . . .)


  33. It seems like it would not be well known that Christian was trying to take over PixC, so in order for someone to fake Ros’ emails they would have to know about that. The only people who would be likely to know who Christian and Ros talked to or met with are Andrea, Olivia, Ros’ assistant (if she has one), the first floor receptionist, and the people in Taylor’s security office — and possibly Gia, if she’s been hanging around there enough. So the two most likely to be leaking information are Olivia and Gia. (I hope it’s Gia and she ends up in jai!)
    By now, it seems like someone, Taylor or Christian’s attorney for instance, should point out that Ros would be too smart to use her company email to apply for another job; she’d use her personal email. AND, if Ros’ email can be hacked, so can Christian’s!


    1. Makes you really wonder about the LAWYERS as well. The lawyers would HAVE to know about any pending deals in order to prepare contracts, defend potential lawsuits, etc. Remember, Christian always had that Kramer guy, but Carrick came in and started ordering him around in ABSOF. That guy couldn’t hold a CANDLE to Carrick. So maybe he was quietly resentful of how useless he was to GEH and wanted to appear more “important.” And now, with all the possible employee legal action, the attorney will certainly appear necessary to GEH.

      But I think that the whole GEH server has been compromised. THAT has been the source of all the “email evidence” against Welch and Ros in the first place. However, that is potentially scary for someone to have THAT KIND OF ACCESS to the GEH server.

      Like you, I have always believed that the ultimate head of the Conspiracy knows Christian well. So that could be within OR OUTSIDE of GEH. But someone has studied Christian for some time and knows how he thinks and operates. And to COMPROMISE something like GEH’s server would take some real know-how OR the ability to recruit (OR BLACKMAIL) others into helping.

      So I think SOME of the Conspiracy would HAVE to come from within GEH. And Elena ALWAYS made it her business to have her presence felt at GEH. She even used her former board connections at Andrew’s company to help Christian take Andrew Lincoln’s company. And remember, THOSE employees came over to GEH. So somewhere WITHIN all that, there were contacts that were loyal to those that have reason to now HATE Christian.

      So the Conspiracy just has to have the know-how to compromise GEH’s server. Which could have come from Ana’s laptop that has been left unattended definitely back when the storm hit. Right AFTER that was when the incriminating emails were supposedly found on Welch on the GEH server. So LEILA could have handed the laptop over to someone that knew how to hack the system. And remember, LEILA had some former contacts from GEH that had originally helped her (like intern Susannah). She may have had other “friends” still within GEH with a motivation to help her or the Conspiracy Head.

      The Conspiracy Head has shown an inclination of recruiting those with MOTIVATION to go after Christian. And Hyde could definitely be added to that number, and he is STILL within GEH now. So teh possibilities are really endless as to the source of the Conspiracy.

      I think it may be up to Ana and Sawyer to figure out about Ana’s computer. So teh Conspiracy would have to leak SOMETHING that Ana would know should ONLY be on her laptop.

      I think the Conspiracry will refrain from planting false emails from Christian, for the time being, to keep Christian from realizing teh true source of the Conspiracy (and that Welch and Ros may have been set up). But ONCE IT IS OUT IN THE OPEN about the Conspiracy, then the Conspiracy would be MOTIVATED to try to plant evidence on Christian himself. It remains to be seen which route the Conspiracy will take next!


  34. Thanks for a wonderful chapter. I’m with the majority here. Someone might have hacked the emails of both Ros and Welch. It appears to be to simple. Both Ros and Welch are extremely high profile and most loyal employees. I agree that it has to be an inside job and someone has an agenda to take away the support that Christian has gained over the years through his most trusted employees. But who? The question of the day.

    I really hope that Christian doesn’t isolate himself again from his family. I was torned what he stated to Ana at the office. Once Elliot walked throught the door of GEH he was no longer a brother
    It was business. Although I understand, we know CTG can disconnect in a second.

    I believe something inappropriate transpired with Gia to Christian. I’m also sure if so, you will reveal in due time. Thanks again for an amazing chapter. You’re one of my favorite and whatever and whenever you can bless us with a chapter, it’s much appreciated.



  35. I forgot to mention that leaving Kate in Ana’s bed was a little troubling. But after re-reading I realized she wasn’t left alone. So she should be ok hopefully. Are you able to give us an update on Carrick progress?


  36. I just had a quick thought (daydreaming about fanfiction theories while at work, for shame!) and wanted to post it before I forget!

    Most posters on here seem to agree that both Welch & Ros were set up and their computers/emails were hacked. And the next logical step would be to remove Ana from Christian’s life to completely break him down. But maybe instead of Christian and/or his team finding incriminating information on Ana’s computer, it’s actually the other way around. Someone posted earlier that if Ros & Welch’s emails can be hacked then surely Christian’s can as well. So someone plants information in Christian’s email and sends Ana a copy thinking that it will make her break up with him. Even though Christian fired both Ros & Welch on the spot without any further proof there is no way he would do that to Ana if she was the one found with the incriminating emails. Just like someone posted earlier, he would give Ana a chance to explain. But Ana is extremely pregnancy and hormonal. If she thinks Christian is cheating she may not think straight or see how fishy it all is, at least not immediately.


    1. That IS a valid theory, especially if the Conspiracy needs to attempt to grab Ana while she is alone. Given Ana’s insecurity issues, Ana IS likely to run off by herself to think things through if given evidence that Christian was straying (such as emails between him and Gia).

      But her pregnancy means that she HAS to think of the baby first, and she KNOWS there is a DEFINITE threat since Leila is working for SOMEONE. So Ana would at least have Sawyer around her, but that might not be enough to overpower multiple individuals, especially the further along in her pregnancy that she gets.

      Ana loves Christian as intensely as he loves her, though, so I see EITHER Ana or Christian reaching out to talk to the other one if the Conspiracy tried this strategy. AND THE PERSON that contacted Leila at the end of ABSOF was motivated to leave Christian a SHELL of the man he was, so the person would want Christian to feel the FULL burden of seeing Ana (and the baby) dead. Meaning that the Conspiracy is not going to want to separate Christian and Ana and then kill Ana.

      But given the above, you are right to predict that the Conspiracy would target ANA in an attempt to get her upset enough that she unintentionally isolates herself from her protection, even if only intended to be for a short while. Then, no one knows where Ana is or where she was taken from. So you may be exactly right with your theory, since while Ana would think things through and plan on confronting Christian, it would only take THAT ONE MOMENT of isolation for the Conspiracy to have time to act in seizing her. (Rather scary thought, though, if the Conspiracy is THAT well organized to NOT be seen if ALWAYS tracking Ana and able to act on a moment’s notice!)


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