Chapter 29

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Trauma is strange.

Just a few days ago I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, surrounded by friends and family who loved me. Today, I’m an island. Not because there aren’t people around me. I’m constantly surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists, police officers, my security team, and Christian, but just because there are people physically in my presence doesn’t mean I’m not alone. They all still have the before. I only have the after.

The most notable difference now is time. It’s no longer measured in hours, only when I’m thinking about it, and when I’m not. I spend most of the daytime feeling like a zombie. I can see and hear everything going on around me but it’s very difficult to find meaning in any of it. Like I’m trapped in a bubble and while the outside world continues to go on beyond the invisible shield, I’m stuck inside as some kind of passive observer. Nights are worse though, because while I feel like I’m sleeping during the day, I’m wide awake at night. I lie in bed shaking, unable to stop myself from replaying what happened over and over again, because my nightmares are no longer sequestered to my dreams. My nightmares are all around me.

“Miss Steele?”

I look up and realize that the officer sitting across from me has asked me another question, but I’ve zoned out. Christian squeezes my hand, rubbing his thumb reassuringly across the backs of my fingers, and I try to focus.

“I’m sorry, what?” I breathe back, my voice just as dull and lifeless as it’s been for the past two days.

“Did he make any demands?” the officer, whose name I think is Campbell, asks again. “Did he want you to perform any sexual acts on him? Did he ask for money?”

“No,” I whisper, shaking my head. “No, he just threatened me.”

“What did he say?”

My eyes fall into my lap once more as I hear the harsh voice of the man who attacked me echoing in my ears again.

“He…” I hesitate, losing even more strength to my voice if possible. “He was going to kill me.”

“Did he have a gun?”

“He had a knife. He held it to my throat and…” My voice cuts out as tears prick my eyes and my throat tightens. “He said if I didn’t stop screaming he was going to kill me.”

“Does that explain the wound on your neck?”

“Yes.”

I turn and stare at the picture on the wall while the officer starts making notes. I can feel Christian next to me, silently trembling with rage and anguish. This is the third time we’ve tried to have this interview, and I’ve gotten farther today than I have before, so Christian is hearing these details for the first time. It’s difficult sharing my pain with him because I know he feels it as acutely as I do, but I have no way to comfort him. I want to say to say something reassuring. I want to offer him some words of solace, but I don’t have any to give. So, instead, I stare at the wall and wait for the officer to continue.

“Is there anything at all about him that you’d be able to recognize? His hair color? His skin color? His age?”

“He was wearing a ski mask,” I whisper.

“What about his height? His build?”

The memory I have of the man who attacked me flashes across my mind, as quick and as clear as a cut scene in a movie. For a brief second, I can feel his weight on me again, the moisture of his breath on my face. I can hear his voice and it makes my chest tighten with panic until I feel as though I have to gasp to get enough air.

“I think she’s had enough for today,” Christian says. He reaches out for me in the same slow, careful way that he has since I’ve been in the hospital, but before he can help pull me up out of the chair, the officer stops us.

“I’m sorry, Mr Grey. I understand this is difficult but I need her answers to these questions now, while the memories are fresh, if we’re going to have any hope of apprehending the people responsible for this. Everyday, the trail goes colder.” They stare at each other for a moment, I think testing one another, until Officer Campbell eventually turns to look at me. “Take your time, Miss Steele. There’s no rush.”  

“I only saw the one who was… touching me. There were two of them, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t focus on the other one.”

“That’s okay, just tell us what you can.”

“He was, I don’t know, about the same height as Christian. Bigger though. Heavier.”

“How tall are you, Mr. Grey?”

Christian’s jaw tenses. “6’2.”

“Okay, and what about the girl? This, Leila Williams?”

“She didn’t try to hurt me,” I tell him. “She was the only one who didn’t try to hurt me. She had a taser and when my dog came back to try and protect me, she used it on the man who was holding me against the wall and helped me escape. She helped me hide. She got me out of there and brought me to the hospital.”

“Did she have a car with her, or did she steal a car?”

“She stole it, I think. I don’t know, I didn’t ask. I just needed to get here.”

“And what did that car look like? What was the make? The model? The year?”

“I don’t know. It was older, probably from the 90s… and it was tan. The inside was tan. All of it was tan.”

“We’ll check reports for a stolen car, see if that will give us a place to start.”

“No… I don’t want to press charges against her. She saved me. If it weren’t for her, I would be…”

“I do,” Christian interrupts.

“Christian…”

“Ana,” he cuts me off again, and this time, I can hear the strain in his voice from the patience he’s trying to force. “If she hadn’t been following you all year, keeping tabs on you, learning your vulnerabilities and reporting them back to whoever this fucking psycho is, you would have never been in that situation. She may have gotten you out of it this time, but she’s the reason your life was threatened. She knows who is behind this. I want to press charges.” The furious growl beneath his voice at the end silences me, but as I turn to look down at my hands in my lap, Officer Campbell speaks again.

“Miss Steele, did she give you any indication as to who may have hired her or the men she was with?”

“She said she couldn’t tell me. She said he would kill her. I told her that Christian would protect her…” Christian snorts. “But she said he couldn’t. That we couldn’t even protect ourselves. She said this is… this is just the beginning. They’re going to come after me again.” My voice breaks as tears bubble up through my eyes and spill down over my cheeks. I shake as my breathing rattles in and out of my lungs, and Christian squeezes tightly to my hand again.

“They’re never going to get to you again, Anastasia. I swear to you.”

“We’re going to do everything in our power to keep you safe, Miss Steele,” Officer Campbell agrees, but I know that his words are empty, so I continue to cry.

The interview goes on for hours as I’m forced to repeat every detail I can remember, three or four times. From beginning to end, I tell the story as though I’m there again, observing what’s around me, what’s happening, until I eventually can’t bring myself to speak anymore.

“That’s enough,” Christian says again. “She’s had enough.”

“Of course, Mr. Grey.” Officer Campbell finally agrees. “I think we have enough to move forward from here. We may contact you again, Miss Steele, possibly several times over the next few weeks, while we continue this investigation. But if you think of anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

“We have your card,” Christian says briskly. He helps me up out of the chair and wraps a protective arm around me as he leads me out of the room. Both Taylor and a hospital security guard are waiting outside the door for us and they walk us back to my room, the room my psychiatrist said he didn’t want me participating in police interviews in so that it could remain a safe place. But it’s not a safe place. Nowhere is.

He, whoever he is, has taken that from me.

I’m in the hospital a total of three days, and I’m actually surprised when the nurse comes into discharge me Thursday morning. I haven’t been sleeping since they brought me here, and it hasn’t gotten any better. The psychiatrist who has had me under observation says it’s PTSD, that it’s common for victims of trauma like mine, but putting a name to the problem doesn’t make me sleep, and without having slept, that nightmarish day feels as though it’s never ended. But the doctor has ruled that I’m not a danger to myself or others, and as long as those aren’t true, they can’t keep me here.

“We could go somewhere,” Christian suggests as he helps me re-pack the bag Gail brought a few days ago. “We could leave the country, stay somewhere in Europe or French Polynesia if you’d rather…”

“And run forever?” I ask, lifelessly, as I hand him a long, thin sweater from the hook on the back of the door. “How do you know he wouldn’t follow us?”

“What do you want?” he asks. “What can I give you, Ana? What can I do?”

I glance up and see the torment reflected in his expression and it tugs at my heart again.

“This wasn’t your fault, Christian.”

“Yeah? Tell that to your mother.”

My stomach clenches as remember the phone call between Christian and my mom the first night I was here. She’d screamed at him for nearly ten minutes, non-stop, blaming him for everything that had happened, telling him that he’d brought nothing but pain and suffering into my life since the day I met him, and that now, if he didn’t let me go, he was going to end of killing me.

“She shouldn’t have said those things to you,” I whisper. “They’re not true.”

“Aren’t they?” he asks.

“No, they’re not.” I try to keep my voice firm, but it’s difficult because I’m still so hoarse. “Christian, this isn’t your fault. You didn’t know…”

“We knew someone was after you.”

“In Cambridge. Seattle was supposed to be safe!”

He shakes his head. “They came after you because of me. They know that you’re the only thing that can hurt me and so they tried to hurt you. Whether it’s my money or something personal, it always comes back to me. You’re a target because of me.”

“You can’t think of it that way.”

“I have no other way to think of it. Fuck, I shouldn’t have gone to work that day. I shouldn’t have left you alone, I shouldn’t have taken the security team to GEH…”

“And I shouldn’t have taken the dog out,” I interrupt him. “Okay, I shouldn’t have gone out by myself, I shouldn’t have chased after Champ when he ran away, I should have had the pepper spray Luke gave me in my hand, I should have had my cell phone, I should have screamed louder, I should have fought harder…”

“Ana,” Christian says, coming around the bed and wrapping me tightly in his arms as I dissolve once again into deep, gut wrenching sobs. “Ana, stop. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Neither did you,” I whisper once I get my breath under control. “So what do we do now? How do we move on from here?”

He swallows and then leans down to place a gentle kiss on top of my hair. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

“He’s there, Christian. Leila said he was there.”

“He’s not. Okay, we’ve searched everything. We’ve changed all the codes, we’ve changed the locks on the service entrance, my team has reviewed all of the security footage from the apartment since Leila went missing before you left school, and we haven’t found anything. You’re safe, and you’re going to be safe, because I’m not going to take anything for granted anymore. I’m not going to make any more assumptions or any more concessions. I will make sure that you’re protected, I promise you.”

“I want Luke,” I tell him. “Not Kommer, not Cardella, Luke. Leila said that the only reason this happened here, this week, was because Luke wasn’t with me. He would have never let me go out like that, he would have been there…”

“I know. Baby, please don’t cry,” he says. “He’s here. Sawyer is at Escala.”

“Okay.” I nod and Christian kisses my hair once more before moving back around the bed, zipping up my bag, and taking it in his hand while reaching for mine. I push myself tightly into his side as we exit the room and this time, it’s not only hospital security waiting for us along with Taylor. Ryan is there and so is Anthony and Cardella, and, as we walk through the halls towards the back entrance of the hospital, they form a tight pack around us.

“Is there press outside?” Christian asks.

“Yes, sir,” Taylor responds.

“Good.”

“Good?” I repeat. “Christian, I don’t want to be photographed…”

“We’ll keep you out of sight, Miss Steele,” Taylor assures me. “But, right now, the press is your friend. They’re witnesses and they draw public attention. No one is going to attack you when you’ve got 30 cameras pointed at you.”

“Oh…”

Christian shrugs out of his jacket as we come to the end of the hallway and throws it over my head, then grabs tightly to the arm not in a sling under the jacket and guides me through the doors. The moment I hear them roll open, there’s a deafening cacophony of clicking cameras and the shouts of reporters.

“Miss Steele, would you like to make a statement to whoever it is that did this to you?”

“Mr. Grey, is she alright?

“How’s the baby?”

I close my eyes shut as tightly as I can under the jacket and try to block it all out until I hear the low sound of a car door being opened.

“Step up,” Christian says.

I reach my hands out and feel the edge of the leather seat and look under the jacket so that I can climb into the back of the SUV. Christian slides in behind me, continuing to hold me tightly to his side as though he’s afraid to let me go for a single second, and the moment the security team has piled in with us, the car starts moving.

I’m covered the entire way home so that, even when I get out of the car to get into the elevator at Escala, the reporters standing on the street can’t get any photographs of me from the sidewalk. Once the doors slide closed though and the new code even I don’t know is entered into the keypad, I tug the jacket off and fold it over my good arm.

“Everyone is here,” Christian says while we make the steady rise up to the penthouse. “I told them I didn’t want anyone coming and overwhelming you at the hospital so they all came here. But if you’re not ready to be around them yet, you don’t have to. We’re going to do this at your pace, Ana.”

“Okay.” I nod.

The doors slide open and, as we step onto the marble floor of the foyer, I glance into the great room and see everyone seated around the giant white couch. A hush falls over the room instantly, and while most of our family waits for me to make the first move, staring at me like I’m a cornered animal or something, Luke jumps off the couch and practically charges at me. I can see, just before he wraps both of his thick arms around my head to hug me, that there are tears in his eyes.

“What were you thinking, you stupid, stupid girl?” he roars angrily, despite the fact that his voice is thick and ladened down with tears. “What did I tell you? What did I say to you before I put you on that plane?”

“I’m sorry,” I sob, breaking down with him. “I wasn’t thinking… I thought Seattle was safe. The dog needed to go out but there was no one here and I- I didn’t think. I’m sorry!”

“You scared the shit out of me,” he says, and then, out of nowhere, he lets me go. I look up and he’s rounding on Kommer. “Where the fuck were you?”

Luke grabs ahold of the front of his jacket and throws him into the wall, and while I watch him hold him there by his shirt so he can get right up into his face, the flashbacks start and I begin shaking.

“Stop,” I whisper, but he doesn’t hear me.

“I leave her alone with you for three goddamn days and this happens? What part of your job don’t you fucking understand? You’re lucky I don’t fucking kill you.”

“Stop!” I scream, as the panicked sobbing starts to overwhelm me. “Stop, please!”

Taylor rushes forward to pull Luke off of Kommer and, as Christian pulls me protectively into his chest, he turns an angry glare on Luke.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he demands.

“Uh… I didn’t mean… Ana, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Enough,” Taylor says, sternly. “Now, we’re all a team here which means we all fucked up that day. I don’t want to hear any blame being thrown around because this isn’t on any one of us, it’s on all of us, and it isn’t going to do any good. It happened, it’s over, now we’re going to make sure it never happens again.”

“Yes, sir,” Luke says bitterly.

“Come on, let’s get you into bed,” Christian says, shooting one last dark look at Luke as he guides me out of the foyer and into the great room. Everyone stands as I approach the couch, even Carrick, who looks like these past few days may have set him back some.

“We appreciate all of you coming,” Christian says. “But I think this might be a little bit too much for Ana right now. She needs some sleep.”

“That’s fine, sweetheart,” Grace says. “We just wanted you to know that we love you and that we’re here for you. For anything you need.”

“Thank you, Grace,” I whisper. Christian turns to lead me back to the bedroom, but as I look away from Grace, I realize, for the first time, that Kate is sitting on the end of the couch. Why is she not in Cabo?

“Kate?”

“Hey, Ana,” she says softly, dashing tears out of her eyes as she gets to her feet. “I came as soon as I got that Google Alert. I didn’t know… I-I… Can I hug you?”

I nod quickly as tears begin leaking over my lower lids and she closes the space between us to pull me into her. She’s the only other person in this room who knows what this feels like, who knows exactly what I’m going through, and to see the pain on her face and to feel her tears dampening my hair is somehow both validating and making everything that happened so much more real, and so much worse.

“I’m so sorry, Ana,” she cries. “I should have put Champ in boarding for the week.”

“No. If it didn’t happen like this, it would have happened another way and Champ saved my life, so… I’m glad he was there. You should be proud, Kate. You’ve got a real attack dog on your hands.”

She breathes out a small, broken laugh, and then pulls back so she can look at my face. “Look at you, making jokes. You’re so strong, Ana. I love you so much and I’m here for you, okay? Whatever you need. Just like you were there for me.”

“If I remember correctly, that involved a lot of you and Ana sharing a bed and not a lot of Ana and I sharing a bed,” Christian interjects, and Kate laughs again.

“Just like it should be,” she says, and she wraps her arms around me again.

“Okay,” Christian says. “Come on, I don’t want you up and around so much. Your blood pressure isn’t going down, remember? You need to be resting.”

I nod and hug Kate one last time before turning to offer a grateful smile to the rest of Christian’s family. Mia also has tears in her eyes, but she manages to smile as I walk away, and it’s then that I realize that Elliot isn’t here. I glance around the room, but don’t see him anywhere, and for Elliot… that feels really strange.

“Where’s your brother?” I ask Christian as he pulls the comforter back for me to climb into bed.

“I told him not to come.”

“Why?”

“Because he would have brought Gia and I thought it would be better if she wasn’t one of the first faces you saw when you got home. I only wanted you surrounded by people who really love you right now.”

“Oh… was he upset that you didn’t want him here?”

“Not really. Apparently Gia is being really melodramatic about this whole thing, worrying if they need their own security now, and Elliot honestly didn’t want to bring any of that in here either. He’s gone through this before with Kate so he understands what you really need right now.”

“What about you?” I ask. “Elliot’s always been such a rock for you. Don’t you need him?”

“I’m fine, Ana. Please, don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not. I mean, I am. I’m not saying that what you’re doing isn’t helpful or that I don’t need you to lean on, but… I just keep thinking about what those few hours must have been like for you. The not knowing…” I swallow back the tears that seem never ending as Christian climbs into the bed next to me. “It would have killed me if it had been you out there.”

“Come here,” he whispers, pulling me into him. I scoot across the sheets and allow him to fold his arms around me while I rest my head against his chest. He holds me there, just holds me, and for really the first time since this happened, I feel like I could sleep. In fact, I’m just about to when Christian’s voice pulls me back into consciousness.

“It was the worst three hours of my life,” he says, so softly his voice is like an echo. “From the second I answered Ros’s phone call until I got the call from the hospital, it was worst three hours of my life. I thought I was never going to see you again. I thought you were dead. I kept replaying that morning in my head over and over again. How I didn’t even really say goodbye to you before I went to work because I didn’t want to wake you. I just brushed your hair out of your face, kissed your lips as softly as I could, and then I left. That would have been our last kiss. Of all the kisses that I can remember so clearly that I can still feel them, that would have been our last kiss and you weren’t even awake. I had no idea when I left that morning that that could have been the last time I ever saw you.”

I look up when I hear his voice break and I see a single tear roll down over his cheek. It takes me by surprise because, for as long as I’ve known Christian, for everything we’ve ever been through together, I’ve never seen him cry. Not when he first confessed to his father about his relationship with Elena, not when I left him after we got back from New York, not after he’d finally admitted that he’d been abused, not even when we were certain he was going to go to prison for Elena’s crimes. Never. My throat constricts as I reach up to wipe away the bead of moisture, and Christian swallows so that he can continue.

“I think the worst part was everything that’s happened over the past few months. The time with you that I’ve sacrificed working as many hours as I did, the dates that I wanted to celebrate with you and didn’t… On October 21st you and I had officially been dating one day longer than we did before you broke up with me the first time. I wanted to give you something or do something for you, even just kiss you as deeply as I could and tell you how much I love you, but you were in Cambridge and I didn’t think it was the kind of milestone you’d want to celebrate, so I didn’t do anything. I let that moment go. Even this weekend we were fighting, or… not fighting, but we weren’t connected the way we are when we’re at our best. When I imagined you, scared and hurt, knowing that this was the end, I was terrified that maybe because I’d been angry with you that you might have had some kind of doubt, in that moment, about how much I really love you. That you were going to go not knowing that you are my entire world.”

“No,” I say with hitched breath. “That thought never crossed my mind. Not even for a second.”

“I love you,” he says again. “I love you more than I can tell you. You are absolutely everything that has meaning in my life and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that a not one more day goes by that you don’t know that.”

I turn so that I can move my body up and reach Christian’s lips with mine, ignoring the ache in my badly bruised elbow as I open my mouth to him. His hand moves up to the side of my face and gently caresses the side of my cheek before slipping into my hair and pulling me tighter into him. His tongue is needy against mine so I kiss him with all the hunger and fervor I can manage in the dissociative state that’s been my life for the past three days, and when we finally break apart, we’re both left panting for air.

“I know how much you love me, Christian,” I whisper against his lips. “Because I feel that same, consuming love for you. I would never forget that.”

“I’m going to help you heal, Ana, I promise. I’m going to find a way to make this easier for you. And I don’t care how many times they tell me it can’t be done, I’m going to find away to give you what I think you need most right now…”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, but he simply kisses me again, not deeply this time, just a series of small, soft pecks against my lips, before he shifts me back into his side.

“Sleep, baby,” he says quietly. “You need to sleep.”

 

The first full day I’m back home doesn’t go very well. I’m in and out of sleep all day, tormented by nightmares that make me relive it all over and over again. It seems like every time I fall asleep, I’ve only just closed my eyes before Christian is leaning over me, shaking me awake while my screams echo through our bedroom. By day two, it’s gotten so bad that he has a doctor come to the apartment to try to give me something to help me sleep. But, between my pregnancy and the complications with my blood pressure that I’m already experiencing, the best he can do is give me 3 milligrams of melatonin, which makes me tired but doesn’t do anything to help with dreamless sleep.

When Sunday finally rolls around, I feel despondent. I lie in the bed that I haven’t left for more than the time it takes to shower or go to the bathroom in three days, drifting in and out of sleep as I run my fingers through Champ’s fur. He came home from the vet yesterday and has been resting with me ever since. He’s healing too, and surprisingly, or unsurprisingly really, Christian doesn’t care at all that the dog wants to lay in the bed with me. In fact, every time he’s come in here to check on me, he takes a second to scratch Champ behind the ears and tell him what a good boy he is.

The dreams start again sometime in the late afternoon, but my brain protectively pulls me out of them before they go too far. I start awake and look around the room with confusion for a moment until I hear the low sound of Christian’s voice coming from the great room.

“She sleeps for a while but she wakes up screaming every time. I’m starting to really worry. She’s pregnant and she can’t sleep, she hardly eats, she hasn’t been out to run, not that I would let her, but..it’s like she’s fading away and I don’t know what to do to make this better for her. I thought I did, I’m trying to get her something that, I’m hoping, is going to at least bring some light back in her eyes, but I’m having more difficulty that I thought and I’m afraid she’s going to waste away before I can make it happen. I don’t know what to do.”

“There’s nothing you really can do,” Elliot’s voice responds. “She’s been through some shit that she’s got to find a way to work through and that takes time. You just have to give her time. Be there for her, let her talk to you, make sure she feels safe, and don’t give up on her. No matter how long it takes.”

“Of course not,” Christian says. “But it’d be a lot easier if I felt like some kind of fucking progress was being made to catch this motherfucker.”

“The police haven’t found anything?”

“No. Leila’s car was found abandoned with no indication where she went, they didn’t pull anything off of Ana’s clothes, and there was so much blood on the dog that all the samples they pulled off him were useless.”

“It’s only been a few days, though. Something could come up. Maybe someone saw something.”  

“Maybe. God, I just can’t stand seeing her like this.”  

“I know. It’s hard. And it’s going to be hard. Is she… is she going back to school?”

“I don’t know. She hasn’t said anything about it and… I hope she doesn’t. I hope she decides not to go, to stay here with me, because I don’t think I could let her go right now. The very idea of her being out my reach is unbearable. No. No, I can’t let her go.”   

“Is that your decision to make?” Elliot asks. “She might feel better if she gets out of the city. I mean, even you said that that girl that saved her told her she’d be safer in Cambridge.”

“You don’t think I can keep her safe? You don’t think I can protect her?” His voice is angry now.

“That’s not what I said,” Elliot says conciliatory, pausing for a moment before he continues. “You okay, Christian? You can talk to me you know.”

“I’m just… I’m so fucking angry. Someone out there tried to take her from me, Elliot. Actually take her from me. Forever. Someone tried to hurt my girl, and now she’s so terrified she can’t even sleep. I keep thinking about him out there, planning this, watching her like some kind of fucking peeping tom, stalking her, and then somehow convincing this group of thugs that he has at his disposal to put aside their humanity enough to grab a pregnant woman off the street, harm her, and threaten to murder her and her child. Every time I think about it, it makes me murderously angry. I could kill him, Elliot. I want to kill him.”

“I know. I know exactly how angry you are. I went through this too, knowing there was someone out there who wanted to do horrible things to the woman I loved, and that anger can’t be quantified. It makes you irrational. It makes you want to do stupid things and none of that is going to help her. So I’m going to say the same thing to you that you said to me.”

“Yeah? What was that?”

“That this is the time when you have to put your shit aside and really step up and be a man. You don’t get to sit here and be angry, you don’t get to go out and do something reckless to try and get revenge, because she is all that matters right now and she needs you. You have to let her dump everything onto you and just be whatever she needs you to be, carry it for her as much as you can. You have to be the strong one and if it’s too much, you come to me. You can complain to me, you can scream at me, hell we can put on some pads and you can throw punches at me, whatever you need, but when it comes to her, you never let her see you struggle because this is not about you. This isn’t about what you’re going through. This is going to be worse for her than it was with Kate because when that psycho came after her that night with the gun, Kate wasn’t alone. She didn’t see what happened, she didn’t have to fight to get away from him, and when that night was over, it was over. Ana was alone, and Ana did have to fight. Whoever this fucker is is still out there and she’s gotta be terrified. You have to make her feel safe now. Especially because she’s gonna have a baby to take care of in a couple months and she needs to be strong enough to do that.”

“I know. And I want to carry anything I can for her. I wish I could take it all. I’m not going to fail her like this ever again. I’m going to keep her safe. I’m going to heal her. And I’m going to find out who he is and when I do, I’m not going to fuck with police or my security team, I’m going to hunt him down myself and beat him to fucking death.”

“And I’ll hold him down for you.”

“Thanks, Elliot.”

“So, how’s work going? How are you dealing with all of that and being here? You haven’t been able to stop working for months but Mom says you haven’t left the apartment since Ana got home.”  

“I’m not doing anything,” Christian says. “Ros is back.”

“Ros? Really? How’d you manage that?”

“It wasn’t hard, it’s what she wanted. But I’ll tell you this, I don’t think I’ve ever gravelled to anyone the way I did to Ros that first night Ana was in the hospital.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just felt so stupid, being played like that. That’s what Elena used to do, like with that photograph she took of Harrington and Ana back in our freshman year. It’s like this fucker knows each and every one of our vulnerabilities, and exactly how to exploit them. Ros has never done anything to make me distrust her and the second my trust was tested, I turned on her. And when she was gone, and everything was up to me, I saw how much she really does for me. How much of my life and happiness is subsidized by her willingness to give up her time and to work for this company like she owns it. So, I begged for forgiveness for a while, and then I gave her a new title, a higher salary, and called the lawyers to start dividing up assets so that I can gift her a 25% ownership stake in the company.”

“Wait, you’re gifting her part of GEH?”

“Yeah. I’d originally proposed 80/20 but she negotiated to a quarter stake. She’s good.”

“Wow,” Elliot says. “What about Welch? Is he coming back too?”

“Welch is more difficult,” Christian admits. “We made an offer and he rejected it. Apparently he has some bad feelings about what happened and he’s got a new job now. Ros is counter offering, hoping she can draw him back with more money, but I’m going to call him personally later. I think I know what he really wants.”

“And what’s that?”

“Patent rights.”

“Wait… what?” Elliot exclaims. “Christian, you can’t give him that! Your technology division is the most profitable part of your company. You depend on those…”

“Obviously, not exclusive rights,” Christian interrupts him irritably. “But a clause in his contract stating that he will be adequately compensated for anything he develops under the GEH brand if he ever chooses to terminate his employment.”

“Wow, that’s… generous.”

“I need him. I think that’s what this whole thing has taught me, Elliot. I can’t do this on my own anymore. I can’t be an island. I need people around me, people I can trust and people I can depend on.”

There’s a pause.

“You have no idea long I’ve wanted to hear you say that,” Elliot says, and I can hear his smile in his voice. There’s a muffled clapping sound, which could be either a handshake or a hug, followed by the muted ping of the elevator.

Champ growls and I grip his fur with my fingers as my body stiffens and I listen as acutely as I can.

“Hey, Christian,” Kate’s voice says after a long beat of silence. “Oh… Elliot. I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were here.”

“No,” Elliot responds. “Don’t be sorry, I’m happy to see you. Come here.” She lets out a soft, pleasant sounding, half-laugh and then there’s silence while, I assume, they hug. “How have you been?” Elliot continues. “Are you going back to school?”

“Yeah, I’m on my way to the airport right now, I just wanted to stop in and check on Ana before I go.”

“She’s sleeping,” Christian says. “Don’t wake her.”

What? No. “Kate!” I call, and almost immediately, I hear the sound of her shoes cross the great room and come up the hallway towards the bedroom.

“Ana?” Kate says softly as she pushes open the door, and I prop myself up so that I can talk to her or hug her if I want to. She closes the door behind her and then crosses the room to plop down on the bed next to me and gives me a sad kind of smile.

“How are you doing, babe?”

I shake my head. “Not good. I can’t stop reliving it. Every time I close my eyes, I see that alley. I can still hear his voice, smell his breath…”

“Feel his touch on your skin,” Kate finishes for me and I look up at her in shock. “That never goes away. At least it didn’t for me.”

“How do you do this, Kate? How do you just… go on?”

“You make a choice,” she says. “It gets easier. You’ll never forget but, eventually, you’ll start thinking about it less. At first, you’ll make it a whole hour, then an afternoon, then a day. Sometimes now I go weeks without thinking about it, but I’ll never forget. The choice you have now is about you and your life. You can move on, learn the lessons about never taking a day of your life for granted that sound cliche but end up being true, or you can let the fear have you. But if that’s what you choose, then he wins. Then he did kill you that day, because he’s taken your future from you.”

My face crinkles as I hang my head again, and I feel her arms wrap around me.

“I’m not saying that you’re weak. You’re not, Ana, you’re very, very strong. And I’m not saying you need to put this behind you today. But the sun is going to rise tomorrow. Days are going to pass, the seasons are going to change… In a few short months, you’re going to give birth to my goddaughter. You have so much to look forward to, so much to be grateful for, and so many people who love you. Those are the things that are going to get you through this so don’t forget about them, okay?”

“I won’t,” I promise.

“So… I don’t see a suitcase. Are you, I mean… are you coming back to Cambridge?”

I swallow, take a deep breath, and then slowly shake my head. “I can’t. Christian needs me here. He needs to be close to me right now and see that I’m safe and okay, and he can’t come to Cambridge.”

“But what about school? There’s only eight weeks left, we’re almost done…”

“I know. Maybe I’ll see if I can finish from here, or maybe get a few weeks academic leave and then decide if things have calmed down enough for me to come back. I just can’t leave him right now.”

She looks like she has more to say, but instead she presses her lips together and takes a moment to think about her words carefully before she speaks. “That’s your decision, but I hope you change your mind. I know what Harvard means to you, Ana, and I’d hate to watch you let it slip away from you now that you’re so close.” I frown but don’t respond, and Kate leans over, kisses me on the forehead, then turns to scratch Champ behind the ears.

“I can take him with me if that’s what you want,” she says. “But if you want him here, you can keep him for as long as you need.”

“Thanks, Kate. I want him to stay.”

“Okay. Well, I should go. I don’t want to miss my flight.”

“I’ll walk you out.” I climb out of bed, hook my arm through hers, and walk with her back out through the great room. Christian and Elliot watch us cautiously as we approach, but when Kate stops and smiles at Christian, he gets off the couch to hug her.

“Call me if you need anything,” he tells her.

“Thanks, Christian. I’ll see you soon. Take care of my best friend, okay.”

“I will.”

“Elliot.” Kate turns to him and gives him a wistful kind of smile before she steps forward and squeezes him tightly. “It was really good seeing you. You should… you should call me sometime. We should catch up.”

“I’d really like that,” Elliot says. “Have great time at school, Katie. Knock ‘em dead.”

“You know I will.” She smiles and then reaches back for me to go the rest of the way to the elevator with her. While we wait for the doors to slide open, she hugs me again.

“Call me every day,” she says. “And Skype me whenever you can. We should watch movies together, and Grey’s on Thursdays.”

“I will,” I promise.

She pulls back and wipes away the tear rolling down her cheek as the ping of the elevator’s arrival sounds around us.

“I love you, Annie.”

“I love you too, Katie.”

Her fingers squeeze mine and then slowly drag away. I stand there, staring after her as she steps into the elevator and then disappears, going where I should be going. Leaving me behind.

“Oh, Miss Steele,” Taylor says, looking almost surprised when he comes out of the security office. “I’m sorry, I waited… I was trying not to startle you.”

“That’s fine, Taylor. You didn’t.”

“Good,” he says, and then he nods and heads back into the great room. “Mr. Grey? I have the phone records for Miss Matteo that you requested.”

“Matteo?” Elliot asks. “Gia? You’re checking up on Gia?”

“Leila told Ana that whoever’s doing this has access to Escala, which means they have the elevator code. There are very few people who have that code, Elliot.”

“Okay, so are you checking into my phone records too? Into Mia’s?”

“Do you think it’s likely that Mia is the one coordinating with someone who’s trying to murder my fiancé?”

“About as likely as it is to be Gia,” Elliot snaps back.

“Then she shouldn’t have anything to hide,” Christian says.

“Sir, he’s right…” Taylor interjects. “I went through her phone records, her texts, her email communication, her credit card statements, and her bank accounts. There’s nothing out of the ordinary that suggests she has had contact with anyone who has the kind of capabilities we’re dealing with, unless she has another phone that we aren’t aware of.”

“Does she another phone?” Christian asks, turning to Elliot, and his face immediately turns a fiery red.

“No, she doesn’t,” he says coldly. “She’s not the villain, Christian, no matter how much you want her to be. All she wants is to be received into this family, the way that Kate was, the way that Ana is. Why can’t you accept that?”

“Because someone gave out those codes, Elliot.”

“Well it wasn’t her,” he snaps, and he rips the records out of Taylor’s outstretched hand and stalks to the elevator. Christian sighs, and Taylor lets out a low cough.

“I’ll uh… I’ll get you another copy, sir.”

“Thank you, Taylor,” Christian says. “Any word on…?”

He nods. “In transit. We should expect arrival tomorrow morning sometime.”

“Good. Thank you, Taylor.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” He nods to me and then turns to leave while Christian reaches out for my hand so that he can pull me into him.

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

“Like the world is spinning too fast for me to hold on anymore.”

“Then let me slow it down for you.” He leans down and kisses me, slowly, tenderly, so that warmth washes over my entire body. “Are you hungry?” he asks when he pulls away.

“No.” I shake my head.

“I really wish you’d eat. You have to eat, Ana…”

“I’m not hungry,” I repeat. “I’m tired. I’m going to go back to bed.”

“I’ll be in in a minute,” he sighs, and I nod as I worm out of his arms and make my way back to our room.

 

It’s another mostly sleepless night for me, until the morning starts to creep in through the windows and the shadows of dreams begin to dance across my eyes. For the first time in a long time, I don’t immediately see the entrance to that alley behind my eyelids, so I nestle deeper into my pillow and let sleep have me.

It’s wonderful. Peaceful. There’re no screams, no sharp spikes of pain, or cold whispers in the dark. There’s only warm sunlight shining down on my face, fine white sand curling around my toes, and the gentle rumble of the tide washing in and out.

“There you are,” Christian’s voice says behind me, and I blink through the sunlight until I find him standing over my towel with two cold tropical drinks in his hand.

“My hero,” I reply, taking the blue drink that matches the crystal clear color of the water.

“You look like you’re getting too much sun,” he says. “Let me help you.”

He nestles down on the sand behind me, picks up a bottle of sunscreen, and squeezes a dab into his hand. I watch, fascinated, as he rubs his palms together before he places them on each of my shoulders and begins to massage me.

“Mmm, that feels nice.”

“Good.” His lips press into the slender part of the back of my ear. “I only ever want to make you feel good.” I moan as his lips are quickly replaced by his tongue and he begins tracing a line down my earlobe to my neck. Once he starts to nibble and suck on the sensitive skin there, I place my drink in the sand and turn to kiss him. His lips are warm and his tongue gently teases mine. I move my hands up into his hair and tug gently, making him moan too.

“Oh, Ana,” he says. “Ana. Ana. Ana!”

I wake up with a start, see Christian leaning over me fully dressed, and groan. The light coming through the windows is entirely too bright for the early morning, so I must have been sleeping for a while, but not long enough to feel well rested.

“Wake up, baby,” Christian whispers.

“No,” I groan.

“I have something for you. Something I hope is going to make you feel a little better.”

“Is it a fruity cocktail and a warm beach?” I ask.

“No,” he laughs.

“Then I choose sleep.”

“Trust me, baby. You want to wake up. There’s someone here for you.”

Someone?” I check.

“Yes, someone. Wait here.”

“It’s not another doctor is it?” I check as he turns to leave the room, but he just shakes his head and disappears through the door. I groan and think maybe I’ll just go back to sleep anyway, try to salvage the dream Christian ripped away from me, and I almost think that I have when I hear the next voice.

“Annie?”

My body freezes. I slowly pry open my heavy eyelids and then feel my mouth pop open with complete and utter shock when I see the man standing in the doorway, still dressed in his army green fatigues.

“Daddy?” I whisper, and he smiles.

“Hey, baby girl.”

Next Chapter

84 thoughts on “Chapter 29

  1. I KNEW IT. I swear to you that i see that coming. In fact, when I was reading “i’m going to find away to give you what I think you need most right now…” i said to me, copy this because Christian is going to be the best. I know it. Love you for that.

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  2. Still loving your story! Did Ana mention anything to the police or Christian about Billy and the accident during the winter? The police could question Huynh, maybe he has some info they can get out of him.

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  3. Daddy is home Yaaaaaaaaaayyyy! If anyone can make Ana feel safer, it’ll be her dad.

    I was hoping these events would bring Kate and Elliott back together but I guess not. He’s still blind to Gia…even if she isn’t part of conspiracy she still needs to go.

    Glad to see CG mended fences with Ros. Hopefully Welch will return as well. I don’t recall Ana telling them how they stole her laptop to hack into the GEH system; did I miss that.

    Can wait for next week!!! More please!

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  4. The Grey’s aren’t giving the codes away. It has to be Gia, or one of the security detail. I’m getting angrier and angrier with Elliot on the Gia subject. He’s just sooo blind!
    I hope he sees she isn’t what he think she is, and maybe find another girl – I don’t think Kate should take him back.
    I’m just so happy daddy Steele is back! He’s what Ana needs right now.

    It’s getting harder and harder to wait for Monday 😛

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  5. Yassssssss!!! Raymond Steele. Oh how I love him. I hope she goes back to school and takes her daddy with her. I can’t wait for the Outtakes in CG and Sawyer POV from the kidnapping. I knew Sawyer was gonna go nuts. So good so so good.

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  6. I was also hoping that Ray Steele would make an appearance. He has been in combat, so he knows the type of pain that Ana is going through and is the best person to help Ana through. After all, combat soldiers often have to go through traumatic events and then somehow keep fighting.

    And Kate is wonderful as she also knows what this is like. So Christian is really trying to handle this in the best way possible.

    And I love that Christian now truly values Ros and everything she has done for him. Interesting about Welch.

    But Ray being present will help Ana figure out what to do regarding Harvard. I DON’T want to see Ana lose that. She has worked too hard. And it will be FAR more difficult to finish her degree after the baby is born.

    And I hate that no viable clues came out so far.

    I’m not sure what to think of Gia at the moment. SHE SEEMS far too immature and frightened of what could happen to HERSELF to be involved in any way. At least, KNOWINGLY involved. I still see Gia as someone the Conspiracy could use. For all we know, her phone could have been cloned or something like that. Someone WITHIN GEH or Grey Construction could have easily enough “bumped” into Gia, knowing that she was dating Elliot.

    Only time will tell with Gia. And Elliot automatically gets furious at anyone questioning Gia, but the whole Grey family initially tried to welcome her. It was Gia’s OWN statements against Kate and her temper tantrums that helped push people away. I get that Gia was insecure, but she chose the WORST ways that could never endear the Grey family or Ana to her. Ana WAS willing to give her a chance, but Gia’s own actions prevented a friendship from building.

    And I still trust Ana’s instincts regarding Gia. It remains to be seen what Gia is truly capable of and how far she is willing to go to get the ring on her finger that she wants so badly. When Gia figures out that Elliot WON’T marry her, then I think she would try the pregnancy route.

    But Elliot is clearly determined to try to make things work with Gia, despite her immaturity and despite what all Elliot has to do to smooth things over with his family. And I guess it DOES speak to Elliot’s loyalty that he supports his significant other, even over the wishes of his family. He makes his own decisions, BUT Elliot ALSO WANTS a friendship with Kate. And that will NOT go over well with Gia AT ALL. So I’m interested to see if Elliot DOES call Kate and tries to maintain contact with her.

    But where was Carter in all this? KATE clearly returned from Cabo. Did Carter stay there?

    And what kind of security will KATE have in Cambridge? I still see the Conspiracy Head going after Kate in order to get to Ana, ESPECIALLY SINCE Kate is fixing to fly back to Cambridge. ASSUMING the Conspiracy IS watching everything, then I see the Conspiracy trying to grab Kate BEFORE she gets on the plane.

    For the most part, we just got to see Ana’s emotional state in this chapter. Which makes sense, given that the story is from her viewpoint. And she is simply TOO overwhelmed to reason and analyze all the details. But hopefully, RAY will be able to help her with this.

    And if RAY is here to stay, then Ana has another military man to help her, and one that is motivated to tear the Conspiracy apart.

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  7. I knew it would be ray. when Christian said he was going to do something, no matter who said it was impossible, I knew he was going to get ray home! I loved Christian and Elliot together and then Kate and Elliot. I read the first two stories again trying to figure out who it could be? is it the guy who attacked Kate in book one? Is it Isaac, or whoever Elena’s last sub was? Is it Carter? Who has the codes? Loving this mystery. You portrayed ana’s fear and PTSD so well. I could feel it with her. Loved this chapter so much, one of the best in this story.

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    1. I also thought about the guy who attacked Kate, since he was rich and had the contacts to pull something like this off. AND he would be obsessed with Christian who helped Elliot take him down. YET Christian got to KEEP his love-of-his-life while having kept HIM from getting Kate.

      So the rationale could compute. AND the need for revenge against the whole Grey family, since Carrick worked as the attorney helping Kate and her family.

      But even though that guy was intelligent, I don’t see him having intimate knowledge of how to play on Christian’s issues with Elena. The Conspiracy Head KNOWS exactly how Christian thinks and acts and how to play on his insecurities. SO IF IT WAS KATE’s former attacker, then he would be utilizing some of Elena’s former people in order to understand how best to attack Christian.

      So I still see ISAAC as being a better candidate. AND he could use former subs of Elena’s, since they would undoubtedly fear him still, especially psychologically, since he was in a former position of authority to do Elena’s bidding.

      But Tara MAY have given us a CLUE in this one—she has Christian looking into GIA’s Phone Records and makes the offhand remark that he wouldn’t investigate MIA. But MIA is the one that spent SO MUCH TIME in Elena’s bar working for Elena as hostess. And it would have been easy for Elena OR one of her henchmen to get Mia’s PHONE when she wasn’t looking. In fact, Elena may have REQUIRED Mia to seemingly turn her phone off and put it in a locker while she was at work, supposedly to keep Grace and Carrick from finding out. BUT Elena would have been MOTIVATED to put tracking apps on Mia’s phone that would allow her to access CODES and even BANK ACCOUNTS of the Grey family. So MIA’S PHONE may actually be the KEY.

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  8. Almost forgot to comment on LUKE’S REACTION. Surprisingly, I think Luke handled this in the WORST possible way with Ana, BUT we saw his REAL emotional response. Luke really DOES love Ana. HOPEFULLY, that is in the best friend/little sister way, because that could be the worst possible thing to happen if Luke suddenly realized that he loved Ana in the boyfriend/girlfriend type of way.

    HOWEVER, I don’t think Luke would ever try to break Ana and Christian up, even if he DID realize that he loved Ana. He KNOWS that Christian is “the one” for Ana, and he wants her to be happy. So I see Luke unselfishly never admitting that he might feel “more” for Ana.

    But losing Ana would truly be like losing FAMILY for Luke. And that is the ONE thing that clearly makes him fall apart. Luke would willingly give his life to save Ana, and Leila was right that with Luke, Ana is safest.

    THANKFULLY, Ray seems to have a better reaction than Luke did to Ana’s attack. And BOTH men are military men, so they are each in the best place to protect Ana. And Christian WILL work with both of these men and trusts them both WITHOUT QUESTION. So that helps the situation tremendously.

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  9. I find it interesting that Elliot DID take Gia’s phone records from Christian. Elliot MAY find something within them.

    Plus, if Gia WAS a part of the Conspiracy, she would use burner phones, NOT her own phone or anything connected to it. (But that may start Elliot thinking, particularly if he sees Gia talking or texting someone later on a phone that does NOT show up in her records.) I guess we will have to wait and see in regards to Gia.

    And another commentator has said in a past chapter that s/he would like to see Kate with Luke. I am not sure that Luke is able to handle a true boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, especially with his job requirements. I think his very real attachment to Ana has snuck up on him, and Luke is just now realizing just how much she means to him, hopefully as the sister he never had. And Luke is CLEARLY having issues with losing Ana. So he just may be afraid, given his previous experiences, to have the kind of relationship with someone else that he could LOSE if unable to protect her.

    But Kate and Luke have that buddy kind of relationship and ongoing argument about who Ana loves best as her “best friend.” So they are closer already then anyone else to Luke. So it remains to be seen if Kate and Luke may end up as a relationship possibility. And that all depends also on where Carter and Kate end up.

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    1. Hmmm, that’s an interesting point. I thought Elliot would defend Gia until he is blue in the face and the evidence is pushed right in front of him but it would be very interesting if HE was the one who found out she is involved. You’re right, he may start to look closer and realize that she is hiding or leaving the room to use another phone.

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      1. Or I thought about Elliot seeing in an email about a “company meeting” Gia attended and then realizing that Grey Construction had no such meeting. So things that would appear innocuous to Taylor will have MUCH more meaning to Elliot, given that he knows more about his company and Gia’s actual job requirements.

        And it also still doesn’t rule out the Conspiracy using Gia without her knowledge. Gia’s phone could have been hacked, and she could have stored info about the codes in there.

        I still think Gia’s being determined to know all the Grey’s schedules, dry-cleaners, codes, etc. at the BEGINNING of her relationship to Elliot was rather fishy. Still, she could have been innocently trying to make herself indispensible to the Grey family. But Gia’s self-involvement would seem to preclude being THAT sensitive to someone’s needs. But she could have just been trying to make herself look good.

        You would think that someone trying THAT HARD to please the Grey family would not do something like purposefully insulting Ana’s best friend in their faces AND storming off multiple times. I mean, Elliot didn’t even return to Ana’s house that evening in Cambridge and apparently had to get a hotel room to pacify Gia. And THAT could not have endured her to the Grey family.

        So I can’t reconcile this Gia that wants to please everyone by running around doing their errands and getting the books that they MIGHT want to read with the Gia that insults people they love to their faces and then storms out. That is the self-entitlement and self-absorbed sides of Gia that overwhelm the possibly decent side to her.

        At this rate, I am having a hard time seeing WHAT Elliot actually sees in Gia other than that she has a good body and resembles Kate in looks. THAT maybe enough for Elliot, although you would think that he would be getting annoyed with ALWAYS having to run after Gia and pacify her when she gets miffed.

        I freely admit that I WANT Gia to be a dupe of the COnspiracy. And then get dumped by Elliot. But I have the feeling that Tara will NOT make it that easy OR that Gia is as completely shallow as she seems. If there wasn’t SOMETHING to her, then Elliot could have gone for someone else WAY more easy to deal with than Gia. So there MUST be something to her. Maybe.

        (Is it bad of me to confess that I almost wish Tara would work BACKWARDS so that we can see how it ends and who is guilty and THEN see how it worked up to that?? Just HOW many books I have cheated on by going to the ENDING first I will never be able to finally count in the end. With Tara’s stories, we HAVE to read everything in the right order!! NOOOOOO!!!!)

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  10. Well I know Ana’s head feels fuzzy but she can’t forget to tell Christian what Leila said about her laptop. When is she going to remember this? Ana needs to go back to Harvard and finish school. Why hasn’t Carla come to visit Ana is she so damn worried? So glad to see Christian is finally learning how to trust people. Roz is back and Welch has to be next! So good this chapter ooh and I see a bit of an open door between Kate and Elliot! I can’t wait for next week’s chapter.

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    1. Yeah, Carla is pissing me off. She is so worried about Ana that screams at Christian yet can’t fly to visit her. And that brings up another issue, does Christian have security on Carla? We pretty much all grew that the Conspiracy will try and get to Kate in order to get the Ana but they could also try it with Carla. That is worrisome even though I don’t like Carla too much at the moment.

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      1. ^ Lol, I don’t really blame him at this point. It was definitely a low blow, even for her.

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      2. Yes, Carla is everything that I can’t stand about Gia—that ENTITLEMENT thing and the MELODRAMA where she makes it ALL about HER. These reasons are why I can’t really stand either of these characters. I mean, when Christian wanted the baby to be a girl, CARLA complained about ANA being so sensitive as a child and too much to handle. I quite wanted to slap the woman silly and ask her to just LISTEN to herself! What child needed THAT in that moment? And even if Ana WAS like that, it was because of Carla’s modeling said behavior!

        It is a BLESSING that Ana takes after RAY. (Thank goodness for nurture over nature in this situation!) A stray comment in one of the previous books (ADSOF, I think) indicates where Ana states that it is not the first Thanksgiving or holiday without her mother. But she ALWAYS had had Ray before college.

        Carla was just FINE getting the free trip to Paris, but even she has to KNOW that Christian’s extreme wealth will ALWAYS mean there are enemies out there. AND kidnappers that see Ana as a way to make a few million. Carla should have been thinking about ANA in this moment and NOT about causing her daughter MORE DRAMA AND GRIEF that she does NOT need. ESPECIALLY at that moment in time.

        And Christian has tried everything that he could to encourage a relationship with Carla. Christian has had rage and control issues in the past, but he did not dump on Carla in return in that moment, because HE recognized that Ana needed him to behave appropriately. But grief DOES cause people to act insensibly. But Carla is a MOTHER and needed to have filtered everything through into what wuold help ANA. Sigh. (Can’t the Conspiracy just target a car with Carla and Gia in it? No, that would hurt Ana. Double Sigh.)

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  11. The MIA COMMENT by Christian DID get me thinking. Mia worked at Elena’s BAR for sometime. During that time, her phone could have EASILY ENOUGH been snatched by Isaac on Elena’s orders so that an APP could be installed so that Elena could track Mia OR get info from her phone.

    So I COULD see Mia as being the means of Isaac or someone else utilizing Mia’s own footsteps and contacts AGAINST the Grey family. JUST a tracker on her phone would give the Conspiracy intel on Carrick and Grace as well, since Mia is underage and with her parents regularly.

    And the Conspiracy would NOT want to tip off Christian that they are using MIA’s phone against her, so the Conspiracy Head would go after Mia as a LAST resort. So there may actually BE something to Mia’s phone being used against them!

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    1. Yeah, unfortunately Mia might be the key, or al least one of them. You’ve mentioned it before in past chapters and I agree that the wealthy guy that tried to rape Mia might somehow be involved. He wasn’t ever caught and charged with anything right? And Elena would presumably have dirt on him to make him do her bidding AND she could tell him how to best get to Christian.

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      1. Yeah, that is the reason why I listed this Unknown Guy as a possible suspect in chapters past. ANA was the one to rescue Mia that night, and the Unknown Guy might resent Christian even MORE for that. He may be obsessed with the whole Grey family, like the way Hyde was in the original books and movies. And Mia said that THIS GUY was REALLY WEALTHY and powerful, and Elena REALLY wanted to please him. To the tune that Elena was willing to risk Christian and his family’s wrath if Mia HAD reported the rape, had it been able to happen.

        Really, Elena had MULTIPLE important and wealthy clients. And knowing Elena, she probably had things FILMED without the knowledge of the clients. So she WOULD have blackmail material that SOMEONE could be threatening to expose unless they help the Conspiracy.

        So I still see someone like ISAAC being a better possible Conspiracy Head, BUT with Isaac being a SUBMISSIVE, Isaac may have simply attached himself to another DOMINANT client of Elena’s.

        So due to Elena’s past business contacts, the Conspiracy Head could be any number of people. BUT someone has been rendered insane due to their fixation on Christian and wanting to destroy him. So that sounds like someone DEPENDENT on Elena OR someone ALSO burned by Christian and Elena together (Andrew Lincoln).

        But Elena ALWAYS tried to plan ahead. So I see her putting APPS on Mia’s phone back in the day that Mia knows NOTHING about. Because by the time that ELENA made a point of approaching Mia, she had been denied access to Christian’s apartment. So she would WANT that access back, and may have put something on Mia’s phone to get it. Which is being utilized by the Conspiracy NOW. And Gia could ALSO still be a dupe of the Conspiracy’s. There are just SO MANY possibilities.

        But for LEILA to NOT give this information to Ana makes me think that the someone is BEYOND suspicion. So SOMEHOW, Leila believes that Christian could NOT stop this access to Escala. MAKES ME BELIEVE that SOMEONE that Christian still trust is being utilized for this information, possibly without their knowledge. Why ELSE would Leila be so afraid that Christian will be UNABLE to discover this source?

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  12. OMG! Ray’s home!!!! That’s just what she needs. Ana’s the ultimate daddy’s girl. I can’t wait to read more about him next chapter!

    Like

  13. First off, YAY RAY! As soon as Christian said that her surprise would put the light back into her eyes but was more difficult than he thought, I KNEW it was Ray. It can’t be easy to get a military man released early, even if it’s only weeks before he would normally be released. I’m so glad to see him.

    So it doesn’t sound like Ana was put on complete bed rest BUT her blood pressure is still high. That’s completely understandable with what she went though but still scary. There are so many risks if she has to deliver Calliope now but at least she has passed that crucial point in the pregnancy where the baby would still be viable. She’s got to be at least 28-30 weeks along right? BUT now she isn’t able to run like the doctor suggested so I wonder what will happen there. But she can always use the indoor equipment in the apartment if needed.

    I’m glad they are taking security seriously and even Ana doesn’t know the codes. They actually need to change them quite often (maybe even every 12-24 hours. Better safe than sorry). I’m betting they don’t tell Ana a lot of what they are actually doing. And I love that she is keeping Champ with her but who is going to protect Kate? Yeah, she has her own security (Christian has probably added it to because of the latest event) but that may not be enough. The Conspiracy can still get to Ana through Kate. Maybe she’ll stay with Carter instead of in their house? And where is Carter? I’m guessing he returned from Cabo too and Christian just won’t let him into the apartment just to be safe. While I don’t think Carter is involved, I don’t blame Christian. And I seriously almost cried when Luke freaked out. It’s so good to see him.

    Gia is going to be so pissed off that Kate was there to visit Ana and she was banished. With all the media coverage and papz outside Escala there should be plenty of photos of Kate entering & leaving the building… at exactly the same time Elliot is there. She’s probably going to be seething, especially since she tried to claim that Kate wasn’t family after the baby shower. Yet Kate was invited to Escala to welcome Ana home when she wasn’t allowed to be there. And of course Miss Gia wants her own security now. I wonder if she knows that Kate has her own yet? Somehow I think that she might fake being stalked or something to try and get her own security.

    Gia’s phone records are definitely the way to start but I don’t think either she or her contact in the Conspiracy are dumb enough to leave such proof of a link between each other. They need to have her followed! Elliot needs to stop being an idiot and realize that SOMEONE who had the codes gave the info to the Conspiracy. If it wasn’t Christian or Ana or any of the rest of the Grey Family, that only leaves so many options: Gia or security. As it is I’m sure security is being vetted even more than Gia. But Elliot needs to realize how it looks: Gia is the one who was obsessed with the codes in the first place. Why? Why does she need the codes so badly if she isn’t up to no good?

    At first I was thinking to solve this issue security should have one code and the Grey Family should have another, and they shouldn’t be told that there is a different code for the other group. That way if someone who shouldn’t be there tries to get in they can narrow down who the rat was by the code that was used. And you would have to give Gia & Elliot the same code because she would just find out what was going on if she knew there was more than one… BUT that could be risky. If someone in security is involved then they could erase the evidence before it was found. And that also gives the Conspiracy as least some access to Escala. It’s probably better to just go with a biometric lock that way there are no codes and each person would need to scan themselves in. BUT someone could just kidnap one of the Grey’s and get it. Or they could pretend to kidnap Gia and get in, which would actually work in her favor since she could pretend to be traumatized… Oh the possibilities!

    BUT I’m still thinking the best way for the Conspiracy to get to Ana would be for them to get her out. Christian has to go to the office at some point, even if it’s just for a little while. If they pull a fire alarm or even go as far as starting a fire Ana would HAVE to leave the building. And in the rush and confusion they could get to her. Or maybe they think they can BUT they don’t count on Luke (and Ray!) being there this time.

    I think maybe Ana was just using “I can’t leave Christian right now” as an excuse. Ana is probably terrified to go anywhere right now, even though Cambridge is supposedly “safer”. Now that Ros is back and handling all of GEH maybe Christian can go to Cambridge with Ana. Cambridge is safer and I hate that Ana is having to place her dream on hold. Christian can work long distance with Ros and still be there for Ana. But I don’t know how well that would actually work. Security would be a nightmare. Ana would still have to go around to each of her classes and would constantly be looking over her shoulder. She probably won’t be able to even concentrate on her school work. And even though the papz have so far left her alone at Cambridge there is no way they would do that now, not after what happened. But I don’t want her to give up on her dream and hopefully Ray will make her see that. I still think online classes is the best option but I don’t know if that is exactly feasible. And if she does continue her classes and is likely cooped up at home, graduation at Harvard might be the only other place that the Conspiracy can get to her…

    And I don’t blame Christian for wanting to put Leila in jail. Yes she had a change of heart and helped in the end. But they wouldn’t have had so much information without her. Even though Gia made sure to know all their schedules and security codes and such, Leila was one of Christian’s personal assistants! There are things that she could tell the Conspiracy that Christian wouldn’t even think would be important. Things that could have made it easier for Gia to get closer, like where Christian gets his dry cleaning done… So while Leila saved Ana’s life in the end, she contributed to the threat for MONTHS. I hope the Conspiracy doesn’t kill her but I do hope that she serves some jail time.

    And it’s bittersweet that Kate and Elliot are able to hug and talk almost normally right now. She’s still got to be hurt that he supposedly moved on so fast and he’s still probably jealous as hell but at least they aren’t fighting. And this is probably the best way to them maybe getting back together one day. Elliot will realize how much he loves and misses Kate BEFORE he finds out what she did for Carrick. He’ll come to the realization on his own. And the news of what she did won’t “force” him into remembering that he loves her but will add to it. But unfortunately we might have a ways to go. While Elliot might seem like he is tired of Gia’s dramatics and bullshit he is still defending her a lot. He is definitely wearing rose colored glasses in regards to her and he probably won’t admit the truth until it is right in front of his face.

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    1. I also see Elliot’s bond with his niece being the very thing that makes him realize that he might actually WANT a child. And how long will Elliot be able to tolerate Gia’s melodrama if he DOESN’T love her. Gia always wants the focus back on HER and that has to be wearing thin. And when Elliot DOES realize that he may be OPEN to kids and maybe marriage, then how long can Gia compete? ESPECIALLY when compared with someone that truly HAS made true sacrifices for others? KATE really is a STRONGER PERSON for all that has happened to her, including her own stalker situation. By comparison, Gia’s continuing melodrama and immaturity make her continue to appear the LESSER woman and the WRONG choice, even if she is not involved in the Conspiracy in any way.

      And while Elliot wants to defend Gia (which does speak well for Elliot–he stands up for his girl when he thinks his family is being unfair to her), he does NOT know about Gia’s text to Ana that made it seem that Gia DID acknowledge her intentions of getting to Christian. Elliot ALSO doesn’t know how Gia treated Kate AND Ana that day in the store. And Gia did NOT have to do that. Kate tried to be NICE to her at first. So Gia HAS made unwise decisions, again, possibly due to immaturity.

      But I still see Gia as being the type of person willing to aid the Conspiracy if it would NOT tie to her. At least as far as getting Ana out of the way. I guess only time will tell as to Gia. BUT SHE DOES have embarrassing photos of Elliot if they do break up, and I guess we will see her real character if that happens.

      But I, too, see Elliot comparing Kate and Gia more and more as we continue to see them together and with Ana in the upcoming months. PARTICULARLY in the wedding preparation.

      I want to hope the Conspiracy is found and determined as soon as possible. Ana ONLY has 2 months left of school. After what has happened to her, I’m POSITIVE that either a doctor or psychiatrist would write a letter or whatever is necessary to allow Ana to complete the work left in Seattle. I’m just not sure that would be best for Ana.

      Right now, there is MORE than enough to worry about Ana. She is NOT getting exercise, and she is NOT eating. THAT is not good for her stress levels OR for the baby. Hopefully, Ray’s presence will be the thing she needs most.

      And Ray has clearly been briefed on what happened to Ana. I’m sure he probably was devastated on hearing the news. AND since he had so little time left, it just makes sense that the army would release him. But I’m sure Christian and Taylor had their hands FULL trying to make this happen.

      And Ray reacted badly to Ana’s initial news about Christian back at Thanksgiving. He CLEARLY has felt a great deal of guild and remorse for how he handled that situation. It will make him even more DETERMINED now to help Ana through this AND to recognize just how much Christian had to have done to make this happen. So Ray WILL act differently from Carla, who was someone that could “oo” and “ah” over Christian’s wealth in Paris but then quickly behave horribly to Christian when the OTHER side of wealth gets revealed. Carla had to have realized that Christian WOULD have enemies. What is the old saying, “every great fortune is built on a crime” which WAS actually true in Christian’s case. But wealth attracts the paparazzi, stalkers and enemies.

      Carla and Gia seem to have a lot in common with the way they handle things. NOTICE that Carla isn’t there NOW with Ana. She handled things in the WORST possible way IN FRONT of Ana. AT LEAST Carla has the excuse of being Ana’s mother. So she gets a pass in handling things badly, as does Luke.

      Like

  14. “You’re not the same. You’re not supposed to be the same. You’re supposed to be different. This isn’t something you will ever forget.”
    ― Daisy Whitney
    “…the heart is a muscle like any other. Tearing it down is the only way to make it stronger.”
    ― Sarah Skilton
    “You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.”
    ― Anne Lamott

    A quote for Ana and Ray:
    “Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
    “Pooh!” he whispered.
    “Yes, Piglet?”
    “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
    ― A.A. Milne

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  15. I am so angry with Ana. What good does it do if she doesn’t work with the security team? Even if she thought Seattle was safe for the stalker there are still crazy people out there who want a piece of Seattles billionaire. On one side it’s good that this happened so Christian knows what he is fighting against but on the other side I really hope Ana finally learned a lesson.
    I have one question, I don’t understand why they keep hammering on how important Harvard seem to be to her but don’t they get that if she is dead or taken that Harvard means nothing.
    I am glad that Christian got Ray to her. I was just thinking that the safest she would be was with Ray there. Story gets more interesting with every chapter and I am dying to know who this ohh so powerful enemy is.
    I hate Gia but if Elliot wants her that much then he will have to see for himself what kind of person she really is. At this point I hope Kate is happy and only gets happier with Carter. Cause it’s obvious Elliot wants Gia more than he wanted to be more for Kate.

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    1. I think they keep talking about Harvard being important to Ana because 1. It is 2. She’s NOT dead 3. Seattle doesn’t seem to be any safer for her than Cambridge, in fact it’s probably less safe.

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  16. WAIT, what about WhatsApp or something similar? That wouldn’t show up on your phone/text/email records right (Idk, I don’t actually use it myself)? Gia could use her own phone but use the app to stay in contact with the Conspiracy!

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    1. And Gia could have burner phones which she would KNOW not to bring around the Grey family. I mean, we all know Gia has to be intelligent.

      But Leila’s hints to Ana seem to indicate that she does NOT think that Ana and Christian can guess how Mr. Conspiracy Head is utilizing their own resources against them. So that makes me think that Mia has the apps on her phone that allow the Conspiracy to COPY/CLONE her phone in its entirety. And Mia might have listed the codes to Escala in there, thinking that no one would have access to her phone, WHICH ELENA DID during those MONTHS that she worked for Elena.

      And Elena may have planted devices in Escala HERSELF back in the day when she was the only one that Christian allowed to have access in and out of his apartment. So there are multiple possibilities to just HOW the Conspiracy Head could see/gain access into Escala.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes, Ray is back! That’s the best for everyone specifically Ana, Christian and Ray himself. Love how strong and encouraging Kate is to Ana, offering solid advice; Elliot’s words to Christian too. He’s blinded by Gia though. This chapter is a winner, Roz is back and already lifted responsibilities off Christian so he could spend every moment with Ana. Glad Christian realizes and treasures her. The very wonderful things Christian said to Ana had me in tears. She is his world. Not sure if Ana would return to Cambridge. Hope Kate is safe. Do love how caring Christian is to her. Thank you, Tara, things are looking up a notch with Ray and Luke in the house. Look forward. Xoxo daytona

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  18. Tara also threw in that comment from Christian about the Astor Harrington photo. (I’m wondering if that was just a red herring, or if she is trying to remind us that someone out there had a deep-seated need to “best” Christian AND to try to steal Ana away, thus making him a possible suspect NOW.)

    Astor is one of the people in my original list of possible suspects, as he was SO COMPETITIVE with Christian back in the day. He wanted WHATEVER Christian had, yet Ana never was even a possibility for him. And Christian claimed that Astor had even tried to seduce Ros from his back in the day before realizing that she could never be interested in a guy.

    So Astor was downright pathologically competitive back in the day. And ELENA knew how to work that competitive jealousy, even RECRUITING Astor to help her. And we NEVER learned who ACTUALLY SNAPPED the photo! So even then, Astor was able to get people to help him.

    And Astor needed money from Elena, even though he, too, was rich. So he may have wanted to start his OWN company, but because he never got the additional funds, he has to go the long, slow route. We know he is in law school now.

    I still discount Astor Harrington since with his LIVING in Cambridge, his contacts should be MORE there, not less. He lacks the Seattle ties UNLESS he is using Elena’s contacts.

    So I COULD see Elena possibly reaching out to Astor again or vice versa. I can’t see how Astor could be doing well in law school though while running a conspiracy of this sort. But Astor DID previously have that tie to Elena. (AND I have always wondered IF Elena knew Astor BEFORE the Christian photo thing. Because how could Elena KNOW that Astor would help her, even for money, since he was seemingly rich beforehand.)

    A possibility is that Elena turned to ASTOR after Christian left her in order to effectuate some kind of “revenge” by sleeping with someone Christian hated. I never put ANYTHING past Elena. BUT Astor could have been another child that Elena seduced/abused. Elena is TOO GOOD at abuse to have limited herself to JUST Christian, quite frankly.

    So Astor MAY have reasons to have gone insane and to put his missplaced anger on CHRISTIAN rather than accept responsibility for his OWN actions. BUT I can’t see Astor having that kind of rage and anger against ANA, particularly since Ana did NOT report him, as she could have done. She could have pressed CRIMINAL CHARGES against him for assaulting her OR could have gotten Astor kicked out of Harvard, but she CHOSE not to do so AND told him so.

    But if Astor went insane, he could have decided that if he couldn’t have Ana, then no one could. AND decided to use Ana’s murder as the catalist to destroy Christian, since HE felt destroyed by not being able to obtain Ana.

    So Astor could still be a possibility. A REMOTE possibility, but still a possibility.

    But ALSO REMEMBER that we NEVER learned who ACTUALLY TOOK THAT PHOTO of Astor and CHristian. SOMEONE ELSE had to have helped Astor. THAT person could be a person that ALSO worked with Elena and is behind everything. Elena actually TRUSTED Astor to work with her, inasmuch as Elena ever trusts anyone to do anything for her. After all, she HAD to have thugs work at the bar to assure compliance by the girls there. So there are MULTIPLE individuals, from clients to Elena’s help that could be helping/behind the COnspiracy. IT STILL NEEDS to be a person with enough WEALTH and CONNECTIONS to make this possible.

    And BECAUSE of Elena, Astor always KNEW the importance of ANA to Christian. So that, too, tracks and why the COnspiracy looks like it was run by her.

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  19. Wow. Wow. Wow.
    Waiting for Monday’s is soooooo difficult. I totally did not even think of Ray. I guess the lack of sleep myself and a headache because I can normally put those kind of things together. As you know I can’t wait for the next chapter. I can assume they know about the laptop and all the fake emails which is why Christian begged Ros and is trying to get Welch back.
    I imagine Ana finishing her schooling kinda like “home school” because she isn’t well. Her Blood pressure isn’t good not to mention her mental state. I have a feeling she will finish Harvard just not in Cambridge but walk across the stage to get her diploma there.

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  20. Aahh! You are really cruel to make us wait another week… 😉 (jokes). Love your stories. Thanx for making me actually looking forward to Mondays! Ana really needs to go back to school I think, but this is your story and you make the decisions. Keep well!!

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    1. I’m actually with you that Ana needs to go back to school, if for no other reason than to get her out of bed, exercising and EATING. It CANNOT be good for Calliope what Ana is doing right now. Going about a routine can help her fake it until she makes it, as the saying goes.

      And the chapter updates on Monday are the ONLY thing that makes me look forward to that day of the week as well! Just NOW hate that next Monday is A WEEK away now!!! I NEEEEED more, I tell ya!

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  21. This chapter should have come with a tissue alert! I, like your other readers, just knew it was Ray!! Times like this a girl needs her daddy. I also had a feeling that Luke or Ana or both would dissolve into tears when reunited. I’m glad Luke gave the others hell about Ana’s lack of protection!! I love Elliot, but he’s got to get over himself and realize that no one is exempt from Christian’s investigation. I’m still not convinced Gia’s not involved. I was a mess picturing Kate and Ana at the elevator. You did an amazing job with this chapter, Tara, from start to finish, describing everyone’s feelings. Excellent story, excellent writer, you!!

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  22. Awww! Ray! I knew this story was missing something or someone! So happy he is here! But, I really hope that Ana graduates with Kate from Harvard! She worked so hard and it’s the final stretch! GIA IS THE CULPRIT GIVING THE CODES! How could she not have another phone? One for work, another for business? Elliot is so defensive over her. He’s so dumb. But I hope this works well and Kate+Elliot get back together! Because I love “Kalliot”! It just makes sense though, Gia wants Christian! The only way to do that is to have Ana dead and Christian vulnerable! But what would happen with Kate’s now boyfriend hmmmmm. Hopefully he get some job in some foreign country, so they have to break up because he’s a good guy. I don’t want Kate to drop him out of no where! Great chapter!!!

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    1. Yeah, maybe Christian ought to give Gia “security” that could follow her around all the time (AND report her every movement). That might just be the best thing to do!

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  23. I love it!!! I’ve been waiting and waiting for her dad to come back!! So excited that he’s back stateside and can possibly help her through all of her healing. And maybe he can be of some assistance to Christian and his security in finding this psychopath that’s after her!!

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  24. I freely admit that I WANT to see Ana able to return to Harvard to complete her degree. I DON’T want the Conspiracy Head to be able to take that from her. PLUS, if she returned to Harvard, she would HAVE to eat and would get at least SOME exercise naturally by going to and from classes.

    She has worked SO HARD for this dream. Ana always KNEW that she couldn’t compete financially with what Christian could do for the baby, but she KNEW that she could show her daughter about her OWN perseverance in getting the best education out there. That was SO IMPORTANT to Ana’s identity, and I don’t want her to be denied the ability to walk across that stage and receive her degree. (Granted, now that I think about it, I think the graduation ceremony just might have to be forgone. HOWEVER, I don’t think the Conspiracy wants THAT much exposure if they tried to grab Ana from the ceremony itself.)

    I KNOW it would be hard for Ana to go back to Harvard so soon after what happened. But she is unable to be healthy for the baby now as it is. AND she is still ONLY six months pregnant, since the baby was due one month after graduation. And doing SOMETHING might HELP Ana take her mind off everything.

    And if Ray is BACK FOR GOOD now, then he can work with Luke to keep Ana safe in Cambridge. Since Ray had so little time left, you would think that he would have been released, but he may only have gotten a visitation. I guess we have to wait for the next chapter to find that out.

    I do feel for Christian, though, if Ana goes back. He would undoubtedly need to be in Seattle at least SOME of the time, due to Carrick’s ongoing condition and GEH. I hate that he would always be having to CHOOSE between who or what seems to need him the most, but the WORST thing for Ana would be to seal herself off in a bedroom in Escala.

    THAT is the unfortunate thing about trauma–you aren’t really in power of when to turn it on or off or how it will effect you in the long run. BUT Ana’s choice right now is NOT helping her or the baby. She NEEDS to get moving and interacting with the world somehow. So I see Harvard as the best thing that she could do now for NORMALCY. She can’t hide forever. IN FACT, Taylor and Ray may need to actually consider the possibility of LURING OUT the Conspiracy. More exposure gives a better chance at catching the perpetrator.

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  25. LASTLY (for now, at least), I understand Christian’s feelings towards Leila. He is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT in that the Conspiracy Head obviously needed Leila and her knowledge of GEH and Christian’s life, which she had followed like a stalker. AND that knowledge made the whole thing possible.

    At the same time, though, LEILA is the best connection to the Conspiracy that there is. AND she has seen what all is wrong with it. She would be able to TESTIFY against the other members to put them away. And a PLEA DEAL would be the best means of getting Leila’s cooperation.

    For the type of testimony that they would need from Leila, she would bargain that she should get immunity from prosecution. IF THERE IS real character from Leila, then she would KNOW that a jury would best believe her if she DID NOT take the plea bargain, but INSTEAD took the full charges against her. Because THEN someone couldn’t say that she only testified the way she did to get herself off. SADLY, this is more than CHRISTIAN did at his original trial with Elena.

    But if Leila REALLY wants Redemption, then she WOULD agree to testify WITHOUT a prosecutorial deal and immunity. She DID say that she deserves anything that happens to her. So I hope that Christian DOES ferret out the Conspiracy before it can get to Leila and that she DOES elect to testify WITHOUT the benefit of a plea bargain.

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  26. Happy Ray and Ros are back, now hope Welch comes back too…don’t care if Gia is not involved, she needs to go….ick……anxious to find out who is doing this….I’d like to see Ray take him down…..

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  27. oh, and I didn’t get a notice again, thank goodness for the facebook groups who alert us to updates….

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  28. Okay, REALLY mean it this time. LAST THOUGHT: I love that we got to see something of the OLD Elliot here. He used what he learned through Kate’s stalker to impart wisdom to Christian about how to handle all of this, exactly as Kate did for Ana. He told Christian to step up and be there for Ana and to even use him for a punching bag if needed. Elliot is still there for his brother as much as he can be. The sticking point is still Gia, but even ELLIOT has to acknowledge that Christian SHOULD look at every possibility.

    But Elliot isn’t fighting to put Gia where she is NOT wanted. He DOES want her acceptance by the family, but I sadly feel he doesn’t realize yet that Gia is NO Kate or Ana. She IS a much more immature person who doesn’t know when to turn the melodrama off. So it WILL take time for the family to bond and like her. Elliot SHOULD realize that you can’t FORCE people to like someone that could end up being JUST the rebound girl.

    (And Ana DID try to like Gia originally and make her feel welcome. Even in Paris, she tried to think ahead on Christmas morning to have something that Gia would eat when coming to their room. But Gia insisted on berating Kate to Ana, even after Ana had TOLD her that would not sit well with her. So had Gia TRIED more, as she seemed to in the beginning, then I think acceptance would have come. But the MORE she acted out and stormed off, the less the family was motivated to put on a show of acceptance. The FAMILY needed more time to get over Kate than Elliot did–STILL a sore point for me. With Kate, the family felt she was “the one.” WHY would you care or put as much effort into a “rebound” person? Sigh. Still not warming to Gia until I see her make REAL effort!)

    But I found it interesting that Elliot DID take Gia’s paperwork information with him. Meaning he will probably pour over it himself. Because he had to KNOW that Taylor would just print out another copy for Christian. So there maybe SOMETHING to come out of this–even if it is to only rule Gia out. HOWEVER, Elliot may find some call or something suspicious that came in at a time when Gia was ONLY with him or in a meeting. So I’m GLAD Elliot took the paperwork with him.

    But the ever-supportive Elliot and good brother was something that I really DID need to see from him. And I loved that Ana wanted him there if for no other reason then to be there for CHRISTIAN’S sake. And THAT is what I LOVE so much about CHristian and Ana, they are willing to SACRIFICE for one another. I just don’t see Gia being able to do that for Elliot—she expects EVERYTHING from him and NOTHING from herself. Just like she COMPLAINED about Elliot taking her on a pub walk in Paris–she didn’t just go along for the joy of seeing Elliot happy. She expected something in return without having really given anything herself. Her sense of ENTITLEMENT is what is so off-putting to the Grey family and Ana. And SEEING a giving Elliot just reminds me that Gia does NOT deserve a Grey man, quite frankly. Sigh. Only time and Tara’s writing will determine what is in store for Elliot.

    (And hey, Elliot’s situation leaves MORE room for MORE story and books to come, and shouldn’t THAT be what we are REALLY concentrating on? YEEESSSSS, more reason to chain Tara to that basement writing desk!)

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  29. That’s the best surprise that Christian could have given her at this time. Ray being there can help heal her and maybe help her feel safe. I love the advice Kate gave to Ana and glad she was there when Ana needed her. I’m glad Gia wasn’t there when Ana came home from the hospital. Christian had the foresight to know it might upset Ana seeing her. Luke was rightfully upset and can’t wait to read what he was thinking when he found out Ana was missing. I think maybe Christian has put doubt in Elliot’s mind about Gia even though he defends her. I mean why else take the phone records from Christian? As always, awesome chapter.

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    1. In his own mind, I can see Elliot thinking that he is taking those records in an effort to prove Gia’s innocence. BUT I think something WILL leap out at Elliot, like if Gia was in a “meeting” when there was no such meeting at Elliot’s company.

      The possibilities are endless. Gia’s phone COULD have been CLONED or hacked. Same with another member of the Grey family.

      KATE, too, undoubtedly left her tech devices at the house during the storm. So Billy might have put a HACK in KATE’s phone, too, while Leila was working on something else. Leila would have been SO focused on ANA that she never thought to look to Kate’s things.

      After all, the Conspiracy Head should know better than anyone that you should NOT put all your eggs in one basket. The Conspiracy Head SHOULD have a back-up plan in place , although he seems so power-focused on getting to ANA that he may NOT have concentrated on Kate before now.

      But ELLIOT would ALSO be in a potential position to TEST THE SITUATION. Maybe by giving Gia a “false” code, and then claiming to be mistaken when she actually tries it.

      I’m just hoping that Elliot DOES review the records, and that something does leap out at him. After all, the Conspiracy IS getting those codes from SOMEPLACE—either willingly or through a phone clone or hack. They need to figure out WHERE THE LEAK is coming from.

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  30. I think that Kate’s words really help her the most BUT now that her father is here I think that will be the best medicine in the world. I was surprised that found nothing or Gia OR does she have another phone???? Who is that close to them that they have the codes to Escala and would want to hurt them that badly? I’m so glad that her father is there and can’t wait to read more about that. Have a lovely week and thank you for the chapter.

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    1. And THAT is the UNKNOWN for the Conspiracy that they are NOT counting on–the intervention and presence of Ana’s step-father. They could NOT plan for that. And THAT may make all the difference in the world.

      (OR force them to Plan B, which Leila may know NOTHING about. . . .)

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Pobre Ana, esta totalmente aterrorizada por lo que le paso.
    Espero que todos los que la aman puedan ayudarla y mas que ya esta en el ultimo trimestre del embarazo. Ella debe cuidarse mucho con su embarazo.
    Creo que perdi las ilusiones de que Kate y Elliot vuelvan.
    Ray!!! Creo que es justo lo que necesitaba Ana, a su papa. Espero qu el le de la seguridad y tranquilidad que tanto necesita.
    Que bueno que todo se aclaro con Ros y Welch

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  32. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for bringing Ray back home, he’s the one that will bring Ana back to life. She’s a daddy’s girl and he adores her. I know now, that she will go back to Harvard and graduate, she has her daddy and Luke who will keep her safe. I wouldn’t dismiss that Ray could have some of his ex-military buddies helping him without the rest knowing about it, because I don’t think that he could trust anyone but himself in taking care of his little girl Annie and his granddaughter. I think that Ray could help Christian too, wasn’t Ray in special ops? (In one of his phone calls he told Ana something about special missions, that’s why I’m guessing.) Maybe Christian could move to Cambridge with them and Ros stay in Seattle until they finally find this evil conspirators, Leila said that it was safer there than in Seattle.
    I have to say that your Kate in this story is one of the best that I’ve read about, she’s loving and truthful in her love for Ana, they really feel like sisters more than best friends and I love it, I know that Ray will keep Kate safe too. At this time I don’t think that Elliot deserves Kate, she’s too good for him. To get her back he will have to prove himself to her beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t know what happened to him that he doesn’t want to get married or have kids, but I don’t think that Gia got the memo. Why is he so blind that can’t see Gia for what she really is? Sometimes I wonder if he’s into the conspiracy too because of his attitude, but he loves his brother and family very much, but as they say “a rat can come out of anywhere “. Christian and Ana’s love is so great that you can feel it reading your story, that denotes what a great writer you are. I hope that Christian and his security can get this conspirators soon and either feed them to the sharks in the Pacific or get rid of them somehow. I can’t wait for next Monday.
    PS: I just remembered something, I’m re-reading the whole story but haven’t got to that part yet, but I wonder if one of the charges against Elena was with the IRS or something federal, as she could get out of jail in five years with good conduct, could she be transferred to a federal prison afterwards? Or is it concurrent with the other sentence? I’m not a lawyer. It’s just that I want her to stay in jail forever and die there without seeing the sun shine ever again.

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      1. I think GigiM’s question is similar to what mine is. My understanding of Elena’s sentence was that it resulted from the prostitution angle. But the FEDS could charge her with tax evasion, due to it being proven that the business was HERS, not GEH’s business. And so the numbers given to GEH were supposedly from the salons, NOT prostitution.

        However, since Elena IS serving something for the crimes in relation to her bar, the feds may not be interested in federal charges against her. It is too bad that Carrick or Christian doesn’t have some type of federal contact that they could utilize to find out if the federal government could press charges since the STATE sentence was so little.

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  33. Every girl needs her daddy😁 So glad that Christian was able to get Ray there for Ana in her time of need. Poor Ana, it’ll be a long and difficult road for her, but she’s strong and will pull through this. But it will definitely take time.

    Man Luke! I thought he was going to kill the guy watching over Ana! Everybody made mistakes that day, so everyone needs to chill.

    I am so proud of Christian for realizing that he can’t do everything on his own and needed the help of others. I’m glad he made amends with Ros and the many perks that she received for returning. Hopefully Welch will come around as well. I’m happy that as time goes by, that Christian seems to be maturing and losing much of the selfishness he seemed to have about himself and shaking off the damage that Elena caused him.

    I so want Elliott and Kate to get back together again! I know Elliott cares for Gia, but he does not love her. And if Gia were honest with herself, she knows it too. Gia wants to be accepted by the Greys as easily as Kate and Ana were, but she’s going about it the wrong way. Gia is trying to force the Greys to like and accept her. Instead of just naturally letting the Greys get to know her, she uses gifts, tries to butter up Mia and force a friendship with her and I’m still not sure of her intentions towards Christian! And that whole thing of her wanting to be tested for a match for Carrick still rings of her being disingenuous because she let everyone know her intentions, so they would be obligated to her for saving Carrick and would be forced into accepting her. Unlike Kate who told no one and did it because she truly loves Carrick( and Elliott!) as well as Grace, Mia and Christian. By the way, love how their friendship is becoming stronger, so much so that Christian hugs her freely now. Come on Elliott, stop wasting your time and Gia’s and go and win your girl back!

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  34. And can I add that I absolutely LOVE how everyone’s comments lead to great discussions of possible theories. I truly enjoy what others take from the various chapters that I have not even THOUGHT about. JUST when you think you have it all figured out and know what’s coming, someone else comes up with a NEW theory!

    But I also LOVE how Kate is portrayed in this story. In Tara World, Kate and Ana have known one another since childhood. I get the feeling, reading in between the lines, that maybe Kate’s Dad made his OWN fortune through the media empire, but he wasn’t always rich. I think that his family and Ana’s family originally lived near one another until Kate’s Dad made it big and moved the family to a much better neighborhood. BUT despite the income increase, neither Kate NOR HER FAMILY ever developed that Entitlement thing that makes them think they are BETTER due to their wealth. So Ana was STILL considered family and STILL spent many weeks of the summer at Kate’s house.

    So I love what we can glean about Kate’s past and her long-standing friendship to Ana, DESPITE Ana’s family not having had wealth. Kate was never pushed to have the “rich” friends like herself. And that SAYS something for just WHY she has actual CHARACTER.

    And you see why Kate LOVES the strength AND sweetness that Ana has. And the LOYALTY to one another is simply beautiful to behold. It is something that Gia would NEVER understand, due to her social climber-type persona.

    So I love that Tara World shows that rich people CAN still be decent AND instill values. Carrick Grey’s original problem with Ana was not that she was poor, but that he was worried that she only wanted Christian for his wealth, not himself. And as soon as Carrick realized that Ana WAS with Christian for love and the right reasons, he had no problem with Ana as a future daughter-in-law. And now he TRULY sees her as the perfect daughter-in-law, as he KNOWS how much pain Ana put aside in order to help his family be reunited.

    So I like the value system portrayed in Tara’s World. And how GOOD and decent people can come from ALL walks of life. AND that people with a sense of “entitlement” can come from ALL sides (Carla and Gia, I’m looking at you!).

    And you really see how DEVOTED a father Ray is to Ana, in that he was willing to re-enlist to help her achieve her dreams. He knows ALL about SACRIFICE, which is something Ana clearly learned from HIM (not Carla).

    Even Elena has a backstory that helps explain just WHY she was the way she was with Christian. And the psychology behind what she does and why she does it is so revealing. Elena actually BECAME all the horrible people that abused her BY CHOICE, knowing that what was done to her was wrong. And seeing just HOW MUCH DAMAGE Elena (AND her legacy) has caused is heart-wrenching. REALLY makes you want to go advocate for SERIOUS psychological intervention for abused and neglected children when you MIGHT could make a difference. Once they become adults like Elena, it is obviously too late. So Tara’s stories actually give you A LOT to think about as well.

    And Grace is beautiful in this as well. She loves her children unconditionally and NEVER gives up on any of them. And although Grace clearly detests Gia as much as the rest of us AND sees through her facade, she has not lectured Elliot or tried to influence him in any way. She has let him make HIS CHOICE and tried to support him in it. Gia just makes that difficult, ESPECIALLY when she attacks someone that Grace loves!

    So still loving the stories and characters as presented in Tara World! (Just wish we could force, err, PERSUADE Tara to just give up the day job and do nothing ELSE but write!!! Yes, obviously impractical, but we ARE talking about perfect wishes here!! Just wish she would get on board with that being chained to the writing desk in the basement. Sigh. One can always wish. And did I forget to throw in a half-naked Jamie Dornan into the mix? Consider that added as well! heeheehee!!)

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  35. Wow, that was an amazingly emotional chapter! Poor Ana having to keep reliving the attack because she just can’t go any farther, and Christian having to hear it over and over. With his self loathing, and Carla verbally attacking him, we knew he would place all blame on himself. Ray is exactly what Ana needs right now and I can’t wait to finally see them interact with one another.

    One thing that has me wondering, and I haven’t seen anyone ask this yet….why would Taylor announce to Christian that Gia’s phone records are clean right in front of Elliott? I would think that is something they would want to keep between them, because now Elliott is feeling defensive and this could drive a bit of a wedge between him and Christian.

    I wonder how many clues you have given us that we have simply overlooked….kind of like the lack of I Love Yous from Ana in ABSOF…it was there in front of us the whole time but how many people noticed! As always, this story is truly incredible and can’t wait until next Monday!!

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  36. Yesss! I knew Christian was trying to get Ray home for Ana, and he managed it. Ray is the best medicine she could have right now. I reckon he will take over as her number one security officer, and will be the way she will be able to get back to Cambridge to finish her university course.

    I am, however, wondering how she will manage the demands of tertiary study though, since her brain is pretty well scrambled right now and I don’t know how she will be able to concentrate. The combination of PTSD and other effects of the incident, plus pregnancy hormones and her other pregnancy-related health issues will make it very difficult for her. Is her degree course work and assignments throughout or final exams that count for the majority of the marks for the year? My degree was mainly closed book final exams, and no way could I have handled the mental and physical demands and stress of the build-up to final exams in Ana’s situation. Course work and assignments would be easier but still demanding on a scrambled brain. But having Ray and Luke there through the week, and Christian with her at the weekends, will give her the best chance, and she will enjoy an immense sense of accomplishment when she finishes.

    I look forward to getting to know Ray, too. And for Christian and Ray to get to know each other. I suspect Ray has been impressed by Christian’s concern for Ana and his efforts to get him to her side. I hope so, anyway.

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  37. This chapter was packed full!
    Loved that Ray is home, maybe now they can get to the nuts and bolts of what is going on. Ray is gonna kill whoever it is … your dead!
    Gia could be a patsy for the person, she wants what Ana has. And maybe her phone records will reveal something to Elliot.
    Did Ros tel CG about the computers? Did Ana tell CG all that Lelia said?
    Elliot still loves Kate, boy did he screw up!
    Is Elliot so blind he cannot see Gia for who she is?
    Kate has been a good friend to Ana, did Carter go back to Boston?
    What about that board member King that was after CG in the last book?

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  38. Wowwwwwwwww! Is my only thought for this chapter😍😭 you evil woman😮 That’s a hell of a cliffhanger 😩 Love it❤️

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  39. Ray and Luke will work together to help Ana go back to Harvard and secure her security. The Ana trauma incident brought back Ros and maybe even Welch to GEH. It is fair for Welch to be given shares of the patents of products he developed for the company, afterall it was his brain he used for them. Who is the head of this conspiracy to hurt Ana in order to get to Christian. Many of them we could guest that we know and more we don’t know. Maybe Elliott will start monitoring Gia now that a hint had been brought to him, eventhough he was mad about it, he will be made more aware of her activities. Katie’s advice to Ana was given as a true friend and she will think more of it and decide to go finish in Harvard. What is Elena doing now in prison? Does she have access with other people that could hurt Christian? Thank you, Tara.

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  40. Heart-wrenching, but beautiful, chapter, Tara. Your portrayal of Christian and Ana’s love for each other is perfect — Ana’s expressing her concern about Christian in spite of her own fears and nightmares.
    Ray’s presence should be the boost she needs to get back to Harvard and finish her degree and proudly accept her diploma in front of all her family.
    Ray may look at things with new eyes, too; since he just came into it and has no previous associations with the people involved (except Ana). Intriguing thought …
    I wonder if Welch already has some ideas percolating and a call from Christian will bring him back into GEH. Seems like Barney has been very low-key in this story; I hope he isn’t one of the Conspiracy.
    I bet you’re reading these comments, Tara, and chortling to yourself because YOU know how it’s going to play out.
    Great story!!!

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  41. Great update. So happy Ana’s dad has arrived. Maybe possibly he can go with her to Cambridge so she can finish her studies and graduate.

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  42. Great chapter. I was hoping for her daddy’s arrival. Now I thank Elliott is going to find another phone and give the number to Taylor and it will be very incriminating. Can’t wait. Thank you.

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  43. Omg I knew you were going to end it with Ray showing up and torture us till next week lol! I think Gia has another phone or gave the codes away verbally to someone out of spite!! Elliot and Kate must reconcile at some point!! Christian is too perfect of a man for any woman to handle!!

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  44. Men need to be the solution, they have an innate need to problem solve, especially for their women. Throughout the original books and through most fanfics, Christian is always the “fixer” to Ana’s problems. He always takes care of the problem for her. It takes a strong man to realize he is not the solution to a problem. And you wrote that amazingly into Christian. He realized the problem needed something other than him. And this testifies to his love for Ana, because he was willing to step aside knowing her fix was something other than him. So he gave her what she needed. Love these series.

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  45. Great Chapter! I know that Ana and Luke are extremely close. But, I never expected the tears from Luke. I was wondering what was Christian thinking after watching Luke reaction to Ana. I’m extremely happy that Luke is Seattle with the rest of the team. He seems to be the only one who can keep Ana on her toes when it comes to her safety.

    Can I say that I love your Kate. The bonding that her and Ana it’s unbreakable. It bring teard to my eyes.

    I have been thinking of the conversation with Ana and Lelia. Christian destroyed AL. Took everything he had. Lincoln was very known and powerful in Seattle. Christian destroyed his business, sold some of it right crom under him. We all know what he did to and with Elena. In the end if I’m not mistakenm Didn’t Issac assist Christian with getting very pertinent information on Christian out the house. So I don’t think it Issac. We will just have to speculate and wait for the revealing of Mr.

    Thank You Tara for bring Ray home. WoW Ana really needs her dad. I have absolutely zero thought on Carla. I simply can’t said anything nice about Carla, so I won’t say thing.

    Hopefully with Ray, Luke and Christina, Ana can go back to Harvard. But you have to wonder mentally can she handle it? PTSD is serious, and with the nightmares will she be able to go back to Cambridge and pick up where she left off with. Mentally I don’t think she can.

    I agree with one of the reviewers who said that Elliott still loves Kate. As much as I want them to be together, I can see Kate not taking him back. Not because if Cartet, but because Kate might have out grown their relationship. Hurt will do that to you sometimes.

    As always Tara thank you for sharing your talent with your fans.

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