Chapter 30

Bellevue Skyline and Lake Washington

“Daddy!” I throw the comforter off my body and scramble out of bed so quickly, I nearly trip over my feet in my rush to get to him. He catches me under my arms and pulls me into a lung crushing hug while I dissolve into tears and press myself against him as hard as I can, digging my fingers into jacket so that he can’t pull away from me, until the force knocks us both to the ground. I can feel his lips press in my hair and my forehead, and the side of my face, anywhere he can reach, but I can’t tell if the erratic breaths I hear him take are from laughter or tears.

“What are you… How did you get here?” I ask through the uneven sobs forcing their way out from deep inside my chest.

“I was in the neighborhood, thought I’d drop in,” he says with a laugh, and when I pull away and attempt to give him a hard, sardonic look, he smiles, wipes the tears from under my eyes with the pads of his thumbs, and continues. “Your uh… um… you know, that guy in the other room. He had his… people get ahold of my superiors and explained to them what happened. I thought they were going to give me a few days leave but they offered me early separation.”

“Early separation? Wait… so, you’re back? You’re home?”

“I have to finish out the last six or so weeks in the guard and spend a few weekends up in Everett but, yes. I’m home. I’m not going back.”

“Oh my god, Daddy!” I laugh as I launch myself at him, crying again and wrapping my arms tightly around him while he rocks me back and forth. “I can’t believe you’re here. I’ve been so worried about you, I’ve hated every second that you’ve been over there. Oh my god, you’re home, you’re home, you’re home!”

“I’m home, baby girl. I’m home.”

“I’ve missed you so much!”

“I’ve missed you too, Annie. Every single day.”

I bury my head into his jacket and inhale as deeply as I can, letting the warm familiar scent I’ve been missing for so long wash over me and drown all of the tension in my body. I can’t stop myself from instinctively pulling myself even closer to him, as tightly as possible, for as long as possible, while I turn my head to kiss him hard on the cheek. He kisses me back and when I pull away and see the tears in his eyes and the broad smile across his face, I can’t hold back the joyous giggle that forces its way out of me.

“Hi,” I laugh.

“Hi,” he replies.

“This ruins your homecoming, you know,” I tell him as I sit back and smile. “I had this whole plan where I was gonna pick you up from the airport and have this big sign that said Welcome Home and when you came through the doors I was going to drop the sign and run into your arms and you would spin me around and we would cry and everyone around us was going to start slow clapping and someone would get it all on their phone and post it on YouTube… it was going to go viral.”

“Well, I’m sorry about YouTube.” He smiles and puts both of his hands on my shoulders so he can lean me back and give me a once over. “But there’s nothing about this moment that’s ruined. God, look at you.”

“Ugh, don’t look at me,” I reply, reaching down to cover my baby bump with my arms. “I feel like a marshmallow.”

“Well, I warned you that all that sweet tooth of yours was going to catch up to you once you stopped having the metabolism of a teenager. Now look at you.”

“Dad!” I slap him playfully on the shoulder and he laughs.

“I’m just kidding, baby girl. You look so beautiful. It is weird, though, seeing you… pregnant. I just can’t believe it… May I?” He reaches his hand up in front of my stomach, pausing as he waits for permission, and I nod.

“Yeah, of course. She hasn’t moved very much today, but she’s in there.” I move my arms so he can lay his palm flat over my bump, and as if she knows her grandfather is waiting to feel her for the first time, she responds with the tiniest kick right where his hand lays on my t-shirt.

“Oh!” my dad exclaims, his eyes immediately lighting up with wonder. “She kicked.”

“Yeah! I guess she can’t wait to meet you either,” I giggle. “Don’t tell Christian, it took her weeks to finally kick for him.”

“Christian,” he says, and the moment I hear the uncertainty in his voice, my smile falters.

“Yes, Christian. You have to get along with him, Daddy. I love him very much.”

“I didn’t say a single word against him,” my dad says defensively.

“Yeah, but I know that look. And I know this is hard for you, and probably really weird because everything is so different, but you’ll really love him too if you give him a chance because he loves me, Daddy. Like really loves me, and he makes me very happy. Besides, he’s also my baby daddy so he’s not going anywhere.”

I laugh, but my dad doesn’t. Instead, he lets out a low groan before finally nodding. “Alright, I’ll give the boy a chance. One chance. He did get you pregnant out of wedlock so, strike one.”

I roll my eyes. “We’ll see if you still say that after Calliope is born.”

“Calliope?”

“That’s her name. Calliope Katherine Grey.”

“That doesn’t sound like Ray to me, which I can only assume is because of your guy out there so… strike two.”

“Daddy!”

He laughs and then shifts me off his lap so that he can get up and help me to my feet. “So what do you say, kiddo? Hungry? I could definitely use some food that doesn’t come de-hydrated in a package right about now.”

“Sure.” I smile. “Come on.”

I entwine my fingers through his and then lead him through the hallway back out towards the kitchen where we find Christian pacing in front of the windows against the far wall, talking on the phone.

“That’s great news, Ros. Bring him back on as quickly as we can, tomorrow if possible. I want him to comb through every bit of data we have and find everywhere this guy has been in our server. They’ve been using a connection through Ana’s laptop to navigate through the system so he can start with anything accessed using her permissions.”

He turns back to face us and his eyes widen slightly when he sees me standing there with my dad.

“No, that sounds perfect. Thank you, Ros. I’ll call you in the morning.” He hangs up, slips his phone in his pocket, and give us both a nervous kind of smile. “Hey, baby. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, we’re just thinking about getting something to eat. You hungry?”

Relief immediately mixes with the joy suddenly apparent on his face. “Eat? Yes, great…”

“I was thinking,” my dad says. “We should go down to Taxi’s. It’s actually a beautiful day outside and just thinking about those grilled onions on that cream cheese has my mouth watering.”

“You mean… you want to go out?” I ask. “Like, down to the market?”

“Sure, why not?”

“There’s just… there’s a lot of people down there,” I say hesitantly, and when I turn to Christian, he gives me a reassuring look before turning to smile at my father.

“My parents have actually planned a barbeque this afternoon in Bellevue for your homecoming. My family are all very excited to meet you. Perhaps we could try the market a different time.”

“Well, I never say no to good barbeque,” my dad says.

“Great, then I’ll just confirm with my mother and let security know we’ll be leaving the apartment. Excuse me.”

My eyes follow him the entire way across the great room and down the hallway to my office as he turns to leave the room, and as his words about leaving the apartment echo in my ears, I feel myself start to tremble. We’re really going to leave? Am I ready to… leave?

“Everything okay, kiddo?” my dad asks and when I turn to face him, his smile immediately fades away. “Annie, what’s wrong?”

“I… I don’t think I’m ready to go out there yet. I can’t leave, he’s still out there.”

“Ana…” he says, his face reflecting the pain suddenly evident in his voice. “Come here.” He pulls me over to the couch, sits me down next to him, and tucks me into his side. I push my face into his jacket, trying to keep myself from crying  again as he gently moves his hand up and down over my shoulder.

“They didn’t tell me much,” he begins. “When I was in Iraq, they told me that you’d been attacked but that you were okay, and when your boyfriend’s security guy… uh, Taylor, picked me up from the airport, he told me a little more. He said that it was someone who had been following you, someone who wanted to hurt you, but they hadn’t caught the guy. I asked him again if you were okay and he told me you were, but… are you, Annie? Are you okay?”

I look up at him and then shake my head. “I’m so scared, Daddy.”

“Of course you are,” he says. “We’re all scared. I don’t think anyone of us likes to think that we may have almost lost you, but the important thing now is to be grateful that we didn’t. You’re sitting here today with me, your baby is fine, you didn’t get hurt. Those are all miracles and you just need to keep reminding yourself of that, because the bad things are always going to be bad and dwelling on them isn’t going to help you not be scared. I know a thing or two about being scared. I spent a lot of nights over there being scared.”

“So how did you deal with it?” I ask. “How do you do what you know you have to do when you feel paralyzed?”

“You think of everything you have in your life to go on for. The thing that’s most important to you that is going to make you get up everyday and do what you have to do because whatever it is makes failure not an option. For me, that was you.”

“Daddy…”

“So, what’s it going to be for you, kid? What’s the thing that’s going to keep you going?”

I swallow. “I suppose… Calliope. I mean, she’s going to be here so soon and she needs a mom. She needs me. It’s gotta be Calliope.”

“Well that’s perfect because Calliope needs you to eat right now and that’s what we’re going out there to do. So, let’s get ready to go to dinner, huh? We can talk more later. Come up with a plan to make you feel better and get you back to school. Can you do that? For Calliope?”

I take a breath and nod. “Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.”

He smiles, leans over to kiss me on the forehead, and then takes my hands so that he can help me off the couch. I give him one last hug as tightly as I can possibly manage with my belly in the way and thank him for talking to me. Somehow, he always knows what to say to make me feel better and I hope that’s something I’ll have with my own daughter.

After he kisses me one last time, I feel his eyes watch after me until I make it down the hallway towards our bedroom, but the moment I close the door behind me, the feeling of confidence the conversation with my dad gave me seems to vanish and those nerves only intensify with every step I take toward the bathroom to get ready to leave for the Greys’. There’s not much I have to do, I’m not really interested in make-up right now or doing anything with my hair besides brushing it out and twisting it up into a messy bun, I’m still much too tired from my mostly sleepless week to worry about anything like that, but as I think more and more about leaving the apartment, even the simple task of brushing my teeth begins to feel overwhelming. The more the panic starts to build in my chest, the more I think that I’m just not ready to do this yet, but both my dad and Kate told me that moving on isn’t something that just happens, it’s a choice you make. Today is a choice to put aside my fear and spend an afternoon with my family, and my dad is right. For Calliope, I need to start making those choices.

“Are you doing okay in here?” Christian asks behind me, and I look up to make eye contact with him in the mirror.

“Fine, I’m just… I’m fine.”

“You still look so tired.”

“I’m very tired,” I agree. “But we’re going to go have a dinner with our family.”

He frowns and steps into the bathroom. “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I could have them come here, Gail could order in, I could even have Taylor go get those hot dogs for you and your dad. You can sleep more if that’s what you want. It’s up to you, Ana. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

“No, I want to go,” I say quickly. “I need to go. Just give me a few minutes, okay?”

He presses his lips together, and then places his hands on each of my forearms. “You know, before he came in to see you, I asked if he could try to get you to eat something. Twenty minutes later, here you are. People have been telling me for years that no one understands you like your dad, but I didn’t want to believe them. I like to think that I know you better than anyone else does, but here you are, getting ready to leave to have dinner with my family and I’ve hardly been able to get you out of bed for days. I guess he is the best thing for you.”

“It’s not a contest,” I tell him. “And he has an advantage. It’s kind of hard to say no when this is the first chance I’ve had to spend time with him in years.” I stop and turn around to face him, looking deeply in his eyes so he can see my sincerity. “Thank you, Christian. Thank you so much for bringing him home. This means the absolute world to me.”

“Of course. You know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see you happy, and I just thought you really needed your dad right now.”

“I do, so thank you. I love you, so very much.” I reach up to wrap my arms around his neck so that I can pull myself up to his lips and kiss him. His returning kiss is hesitant at first, but grows softer and more tender the longer my lips linger against his. When he pulls away, he brushes the back of his fingers across my cheek, and gives me a warm, half smile.

“You sure you’re ready to do this?”

“I’m sure.”

“Alright.” He nods. “Well, you should know that I’ve hired additional security for Mia and my parents, and for Gia and Elliot, so there will be a full detail at my parents tonight. They’ll all be watching you. Taylor and Sawyer are coming with us, and Cardella, Kommer, and Ryan are going to stay back here and keep an eye on the place while we’re gone. There’s a plan in place. We’re going to make sure you’re safe.”

“Good,” I tell him, glad that his reassurance actually do seem to help dampen some of the anxiety I’m feeling. “I’ll just be two more minutes, okay?”

“Okay.” He leans in to kiss me softly on the cheek and whispers, “I love you,” before he turns to leave.

“I love you too,” I tell him, and once the door is closed behind me, I take a deep breath, pick up my toothbrush and stare through my heavy lids at the dark cicles beneath my eyes.

You can do this, Anastasia. You can make it through one dinner.

 

The elevator ride down to the parking garage is crowded. Taylor has already gone to get the SUV so that we just have to step out of the elevator and into the back seat, but both Kommer and Ryan join Luke to escort us downstairs. I can feel my dad’s uncertainty as he glances between the three bulky security guards packed in around us and Christian, so I reach down and grip his fingers. He turns, smiles at me, then squeezes my hand and shifts his attention to the numbers over the door.

“So, are you a car guy, Ray? Uh… Sir? Um…” Christian says awkwardly and, for some reason, his discomfort makes me smile. He’s one of the most important men in this city, a big time CEO who has Harvard business classes being taught about him, so he’s usually the paragon of confidence. But my dad, the small town guy from Montesano Washington who has spent his entire life in the army or doing contract work as a carpenter, is currently making him nervous.

“Sure,” my dad says. “I’ve fixed up a few old muscle cars in my day.”

“It’s a shame that we’re not going up into the garage then,” Christian says. “I’ve got a new Lamborghini up there, a limited edition Reventon, and a Mercedes Maybach.”

“Really? So, you’re not an American made kind of guy, huh?”

“Oh um… not necessarily. I looked into Cadillac when I was shopping around for an SUV, but I find that the European market has the corner on sports cars in speed and efficiency…”

“Everyone has their opinions,” my dad dismisses him, and Christian frowns as the doors to the elevator slide open.

“Sir,” Taylor greets us, opening the back door to the SUV as we step out into the garage. Christian takes my hand and climbs in first so that I’m in the middle of the roomy back seat and my dad slides in behind me. Once the door closes, I’m surrounded and it feels secure until Christian pulls a small, knit blanket out of the open trunk space behind the seat.

“There’s still press outside,” he explains “I think it’ll be better if no one is keeping track of when you’re leaving and returning to the apartment.”

“Okay.” I crouch down so that my head is in Christian’s lap and he tosses the blanket over the top of me, moving his hand over my arm under the blanket reassuringly as the car starts up. I would think lying down on Christian’s lap would exacerbate the exhaustion I’m battling, but I’m too hyper aware of the movement as we begin to roll out of the garage and of the muted noise of the paparazzi outside to worry about being tired. All I know is that Christian’s right, I don’t want it advertised that I’m out in the city, and the garbled noise of shouting voices and cameras clicking has my anxiety peaked until Taylor’s able to find an open lane and punches the gas so we fly down the street away from them.

“No one in pursuit, Mr. Grey,” he says.

“Thank you, Taylor. Ana?”

I take a deep breath and yank the blanket off of me, breathing in the cool, fresh air for a moment before finally sitting up and chancing a glance through the side window, but the view of the city streets does nothing for me. Everything around us feels haunted, as though every dark corner is concealing someone who wants to harm me, and that feeling is only made worse when we pass an alley with an identical entrance to the one I was attacked in. I think my dad can feel the tension radiating off of me because he immediately starts telling stories about times that he’s been here with my mom, but the nerves I feel don’t dissipate until we cross the I-5 bridge and we’re out of Seattle. Thankfully, once I see the sign for Bellevue, I feel relaxed enough that I actually almost feel normal, except that I’m completely exhausted.

When we pull into the long driveway in front of the Greys’ house, I have to hide a smile when I glance over and see my dad’s reaction, which I imagine is identical to what mine was the first time I saw the gigantic house nestled right up against the lake. Finally, I’m no longer the only fish out of water amongst the Seattle elite.

“So you… uh, you’ve always had money then?” my dad asks once we’ve stepped out of the car.

“No, not always,” Christian says. “But I’ve been very fortunate.” He reaches out for me, but before I can clasp my hand in his, my dad puts an arm over my shoulder to keep me close to him.

“Well, lead the way, Christian.”

Christian’s shoulders rise as he takes a breath and then turns to lead us up the walkway to the front door, past two security guards I’ve never seen before, but who nod at Taylor as we pass. The moment we step into the entrance hall, the low murmur of conversation in the living room stops and I notice Elliot quickly reach for the remote to switch off the TV, which I think was playing the news.

“Ana, darling,” Grace says, getting off the sectional and sweeping into the entrance hall with her arms held open for me. “How are you feeling? Have you gotten any sleep?”

“Yeah, a little today,” I tell her. “Thank you. Grace, this is my dad, Ray Steele. Dad, this is Christian’s mom, Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey.”

“Of course, Ray!” Grace chrips. “It’s so good to finally meet you. We’ve heard so many wonderful things from, Ana.”

“I’m glad to meet you as well, Dr. Grey. I have to say your oatmeal cookies made me quite the popular man last Christmas. Everyone just loved them.”

“Grace, please. We’re family!” She reaches out to pull me back into her side. “And I’m glad you enjoyed them, because we’ve enjoyed Ana so, so much.”

“Well… Thank you for giving her a family while I was away,” he says.

“It’s truly been our pleasure. We are so in love with your daughter. Now, come have a seat. The rest of the family is so excited to meet you.”

I hook my arm through my dad’s to lead him into the family room, and as we approach, Carrick places his drink on a side table and looks up at us with a smile.

“This is my husband, Carrick,” Grace begins. “He’ll be our master griller this afternoon.”

“Master is a bit of an overstatement,” Carrick says, groaning slightly as he slowly rises off the couch. “But the steaks will get grilled nonetheless.”

“That sounds great,” my dad replies, glancing wearily over the still visible scar on the side of Carrick’s head. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good steak.” He shakes hands with Carrick and then turns to follow Grace’s gesture as she moves down the line.

“And this is our youngest, Amelia, or Mia, as we call her. She’s a junior in high school this year.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Mia says, reaching out to shake my dad’s hand. “Ana is one of my favorite people in the entire world. I don’t know what we all would have done without her.”

“Me either,” my dad says. “And it’s a pleasure to meet you too. You’re quite the beautiful young lady, you must be driving all the boys school crazy?”

Elliot snorts into his drink.

“And this…” Grace continues. “Is my oldest, Elliot, and his girlfriend Gia Matteo.”

“Yes, Elliot I know,” my days says, brightening a little as he reaches out to shake Elliot’s hand. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciated all those Seahawks updates. This one over here,” he gestures to me with his head, “gets so frazzled whenever she wrote me that she always left out all the important information. Like draft picks.”

Elliot laughs. “Well, never fear. If you need someone to talk football with, I’m your man. In fact, Christian has box seats, we should go to a game sometime.”

“Does he?” My dad asks, turning an examining look on Christian. “Yes, I’d like that very much.” He pauses as he glances between Christian and Elliot and then furrows his brow. “You know, if you hadn’t told me, I would not have guessed that you two were brothers.”

“I could see that,” Elliot says with a nod. “One of us got the brains, one of us got the beauty… the other is Christian.”

“We’re adopted,” Christian clarifies, rolling his eyes.

“Oh,” my dad says awkwardly. “I’m sorry… I uh…”

“It’s not a secret,” Christian reassures him. “Believe me, it’s a godsend really. The idea of actually sharing a gene pool with Elliot is…” He shakes his head with disgust and Elliot narrows his eyes at him.

“What’s the matter, Christian? Worried your kids might actually have a sense of humor?”

“Oh no, they’ll get that from their mother,” I interject.

“And hopefully that’s where it’ll end,” Christian says, teasingly. “God forbid our daughter gets your smart mouth.”

“You mean, god forbid she stick up for herself?” my dad challenges him, and Christian immediately looks slightly taken aback.

“Uh… no… I just meant…”

“Real men aren’t threatened by strong women, Christian. You should be grateful for Ana’s tenacity.”

“I am,” Christian says quickly. “Of course I am. I love absolutely everything about her. I’m inspired by her.”

“Hm,” my dad hums dismissively, and then turns back to Carrick. “You mind if I help you with the grilling? It’s been awhile since I’ve had a beer over the grill.”

“Uh… absolutely, Ray,” Carrick says with a smile. “Grace, do you want to grab the steaks out of the fridge and we’ll head out back and start up the grill?”

“Of course.” She gets out of her seat and places a tender hand against Christian’s cheek before she moves around the couch to the kitchen, while my dad follows Carrick out the back door. Once the door is closed behind him, Christian moves over to me, pulls me into him, and sighs.

“I don’t think your dad likes me very much…”

“He’s just protective,” I assure him. “He’ll warm up once he gets to know you, then he’ll love you just the way that I do.”

“Well, I hope not just the way you do,” he says with a smile, and I roll my eyes and lean up to place a soft kiss on his lips.

“Are you doing okay?” he checks.

“Yeah, I’m doing great. This is good, being around everyone. It feels normal.” I pause as I feel a pressure in my lower abdomen. “But Calliope just moved and is now sitting on my bladder so if you’ll excuse me…” He kisses my forehead and then releases me so I can scurry across the entrance hall to the closest downstairs bathroom. I notice, when I turn into the hallway, that Luke appears seemingly out of nowhere from the formal living room, and then follows me into the hallway, stopping at the door and waiting while I go inside. Clearly, he isn’t taking any kind of chances leaving me alone for even a second anymore and it reminds me of what Leila said about how he watches me closer than anyone else on the security team. Having him around does give me a certain degree of comfort, makes me calmer, at least until I dry my hands on the plush towel hanging on the rack by the sink and hear his voice coming through the bathroom door and realize that he’s trying to stop someone from coming in.

“I don’t think so,” he says sternly.

“Sawyer, please,” Gia’s voice responds. “I just… I just want to talk to her for a second.”

“Well, I can almost guarantee she doesn’t talk to you, so why don’t you make your way back out to the living room, and we don’t have to make a scene here.”

“Look, I know I’m not at the top of her christmas card list, and I deserve that but…”

I open the bathroom door, and both Gia and Luke look at me. I take a deep breath and then turn to Luke, who looks beyond irritated.

“I tried to get rid of her,” he says.

“It’s okay, Luke.”

“Alright…” he says, turning back to Gia. “Talk.”

“Can we have some pri…”

“Nope.”

She takes a deep breath, nods, and turns back to me. “I just… I know that we’re not close, and I know that’s my fault and that I’ve behaved inappropriately, but I want you to know that, when I heard what had happened to you, my heart truly hurt. I was so scared for you.”

“Yeah, I guess being the billionaire’s girlfriend doesn’t sound like much fun anymore does it?” I say, my voice an accusation, and I watch her pout shift as she swallows.

“I’m so sorry, Ana. I’m sorry for everything. I really want you to know that I care for you, even though I’m not very good at showing it. I need to work on that. I love this family and you’re apart of that, and I’m glad that you’re okay. I was devastated when I heard.”

“Were you?”

“Ana, please. I’m trying to make this right between us.”

“You want to make this right?” I ask, dubiously.

“Yes, I do.”

“Then admit it. Admit that you were trying to steal Christian from me. Admit that you tried take a man who had a pregnant girlfriend while you were dating his brother.”

She takes another deep breath and breaks eye contact with me. “I don’t know what I was doing. Christian is hard to ignore and he was the only one who was nice to me. I got caught up in something that wasn’t there, but he made it very clear to me that it was only you, that he had no interest in anyone but you. I accept that. I’m happy that you two are so in love because you’re so good together. And… I really do love Elliot.”

“Do you love him? Or do you love his trust fund? Or the fact that he’s a Grey?”

“It’s him,” she says quickly. “It’s only him. Elliot is everything I’ve ever wanted. He makes me laugh and I love the way he is with his family. He’s truly kind and I think… I think he’s making me a better person. I’m in love with him and, even though things aren’t really good right now, I hope I’m going to spend the rest of my life with him. That’ll make us sisters one day and I want us to be close. Really. I see the way you are with… Kate, the way you are with Mia, and I want that kind of relationship with you. I want to be your sister, Ana. So, can we start over?”

She opens her arms like she wants to hug me, but I cross my arms over my chest. “Kate’s not going anywhere. She’s my best friend and the godmother of my daughter so she is going to be in our lives, in the Greys’ lives, and if you want any kind of relationship with me, that’s something you need to accept.”

“I know. I was just… It’s hard. It’s obvious Elliot still has some feelings for her and it makes me feel inadequate sometimes. Like I’m not enough. I’m sure you can at least understand that, even if she is your best friend.”

“I do, and I’m sorry that you feel that way but it doesn’t change the situation. She’s in this family too, and if you want to be a part of all of this, you have to be okay with that.”

“I will,” she agrees. “I promise, no more fighting, no more drama. I’m over it.”

“Then, okay,” I agree. “But only because of Elliot. I don’t tolerate people who talk to my best friend the way you did. I won’t be forgiving the next time.”

“Thank you, Ana.” She takes a step forward and wraps her arms around me, and after taking a surrendering breath, I hug her back.

“So, how are you doing?” she asks when she pulls away. “Elliot and I are… well, we got into a fight so I only heard kind of the basics, just what Christian told him after it first happened… but I can’t even imagine. I mean thank god that girl was there to save you. What was her name?”

“Leila.”

“So scary. And to think your security team thought she was one them the whole time. That she was going to hurt you.”

“I think she was. She just had a change of heart.”

“Did she say anything to you? Who’s behind it? What they want?”

“No, she said she couldn’t. She just… she just got me out of there.”

“Well, thank god she did. I’m so happy you’re okay, Ana. I don’t know what Christian would do if anything happened to you. It would wound this family forever. You’re very, very loved.”

“Thank-you, Gia.”

“Of course. Now, should we join the others?” she asks. “Try to get your mind off everything for the rest of the afternoon?”

“Yeah, but… sorry, I actually have to pee again. Pregnancy life, you know? I’ll be out in a second.”

“Okay.” She smiles at Luke then turns back down the hallway, and once she’s rounded the corner back into the entrance hall, Luke turns a suspicious look on me.

“You really bought that?” he asks, and I shrug. “Ana, you know that Grey is having her looked into right? She could be one of them.”

“Yeah, and she could also just be a superficial girl who could one day be my sister-in-law, and if that’s where this is headed, she’s right. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life fighting with her.”

“And if she is one of them? If she gave whoever is after you the codes to Escala or is keeping tabs on you for him while you’re in Seattle?”

I take a breath. “If she’s one of them, then I want to make a personal connection with her. I want to be close to her. That way, if I ever get into a situation like this again, she’ll hopefully make the same choice that Leila did. Enemies don’t do me any good right now, Luke.”

He frowns. “Just… be careful what you tell her, Ana. I don’t think it’s smart to put a lot of your trust in Gia Matteo right now.”

I let out an incredulous huff. “Do you really think I trust anyone anymore?”

His shoulders rise as he takes a deep breath, and his lips tighten, but he doesn’t say anything. He simply turns so that his back is against the wall once again, while I turn around and move back into the bathroom.

 

The conversation is light once we sit down around the table and it’s refreshing. No one asks me any questions about what happened, no one is watching me as though they’re waiting for me to have a breakdown. In fact, Christian, who is sitting directly across from me because my father took the empty chair at my right, is the only person I ever find truly staring at me, but there’s no worry or concern in his eyes right now. Only warmth and affection. The eye contact between us is merely a private expression of love, meant just for me and him. For the first time, in what strangely feels like a very long time, everything feels perfectly normal.

“So, Mia…” Grace says in an almost mysterious kind of way. “Have you told your brothers about your prom date?”

“Mom!” Mia exclaims.

“Prom date?” Elliot asks. “You mean, someone asked you out?”

“As a matter of fact, they did,” she replies smartly.

“Why?”

She rolls her eyes. “He’s in my ballet company. We’re friends.”

“Wait…” Christian says. “You didn’t meet him at school?”

“No.”

“How old his he?”

“Nineteen,” she says, and the gray in Christian’s eyes immediately hardens.

“I don’t think so. There’s only one thing nineteen year old boys are after and he’s not getting if from my little sister.”

“I’m sorry, Christian, remind me. How old were you when you and Ana started dating? It wasn’t eighteen and it wasn’t twenty…” She waits, as though she’s actually expecting him to answer, but when he doesn’t, her expression hardens and she gives him an accusatory look. “You have no room to say anything. Don’t act like I didn’t share a wall with you and Ana on basically every family vacation we’ve ever gone on. You two aren’t exactly quiet.”

“Amelia!” Grace exclaims, and, as I feel my dad’s eyes dart over to me, I immediately begin to feel my face burn.

“Oh god,” I groan, burying my face in my hands.

“What?” Mia asks innocently. “She’s pregnant, it’s not like it’s a secret.”

“Regardless,” Christian says tersely. “You are seventeen and I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to be dating anyone who isn’t in high school. Or anyone else for that matter.”

“Oh really, Christian? Did you wait til you graduated high school to have sex? And did you do it with someone who was still in high school?”

“Alright, alright, alright,” Elliot interjects, clearly understanding the direction the conversation is going in and coming in to stop it like my own personal superhero. “First of all, Mia, you are too young to be having sex, so if you are, stop it, and if you’re not, don’t. I’m still your big brother and I don’t want to have to murder anyone, even though I think I’d be really good at it and I have all of the tools to dispose of a body. Second of all, Christian, I don’t really think you need to worry.” A smile slowly creeps across his lips. “She’s going with a ballet dancer.”

He laughs and Mia throws a crouton at him. “You’re such a dick, Elliot.”

“Amelia Trevelyan-Grey!”

“Sorry, Mom.”

She falls silent, just as everyone else around the table does, but I can still feel my dad glancing between Christian and I until Grace finally says something to break the tension.

“So, Christian, where are you and Ana at on wedding planning? Please tell me you’ve at least decided on a date.”

“We haven’t talked much about it actually. We were waiting until Ray got home. Ana wanted him to be here.”

“Well, he’s home!” she exclaims happily. “So, let’s talk dates. I think Carla is picturing a fall wedding, but fall in Seattle is such question mark with the weather. Honestly, I think Ana would be just beautiful as a June bride.”

“June?” I repeat, and then immediately shake my head. “No, I… I definitely want to wait until after the baby is born. There’s just too much going on right now to add the stress of wedding planning on top of everything. I think I could probably wait another year before we start planning…”

“I think that’s smart, kid,” my dad says, clapping his hand on my knee. “It’s better that you don’t rush this.”

“I hardly think we’re rushing anything,” Christian interjects, perhaps a little too sharply, and my dad looks up and raises an eyebrow at him.

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Ana and I have known this was what we wanted for some time now. She’s pregnant with my child, I think it’s only fitting that we make our family official sooner rather than later.”

“Maybe. I guess it’s hard for me to judge how fast all of this is moving because there’s so much about you and your relationship with my daughter that I still don’t know.”

“Well, she’s happy, and she’s in love. I don’t know what more you need to know than that.”

“Excuse me?”

“Daddy…” I interrupt, giving him a pleading look to try and head off any argument that may be about to start. If there’s one thing I know Christian won’t tolerate, it’s any insinuation that us being together, or getting married, isn’t a good idea, and I’d rather not watch my father and my fiancé get into a power struggle over the Greys’ dinner table.

“I’m just saying kid, there’s no need to rush.”

Christian opens his mouth, but Grace cuts him off. “Well, I don’t think it would be a bad idea if we at least looked into wedding planners. You know it can take a year to find somewhere suitable to have the ceremony. It can’t hurt to start looking.”

“Sure,” I agree.

She nods and turns back to my father. “Carla and I have shared so many phone calls about this wedding, she’s so excited.”

“Yeah, Carla always did love weddings,” he says. “We never really had one. Maybe that’s part of the reason it didn’t work out.”

“You didn’t have a wedding?” Mia asks.

“Well, we had a wedding, but it was just a small ceremony. We got married in her parents’ back yard and had turkey sandwiches and cheap wine afterwards. We were young and didn’t have a lot of money, but I know she always wanted a white wedding, with the church and the flowers and everything. I guess Bob was the guy who finally gave her what she wanted.”

“It’s always like that though, right?” Elliot says. “It’s about the wedding. You can be with someone forever and never get married. I mean having one party doesn’t mean you’re going to stay together any longer than you would have if you skipped the whole wedding thing.”

“I don’t know,” Grace says. “I think there’s something to exchanging vows with the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. That declaration of love and commitment in front of God and all of your friends and family really makes the union between the two of you feel like family.”

“And yet, 1 in 2 marriages now end in divorce…” Elliot argues.

“That’s because marriage is work,” Carrick interjects. “You’re spending the rest of your life with another imperfect person and it can be difficult sometimes. Some people aren’t prepared to put in the effort required to make it through the tough times or they chose the wrong person to spend their life with. But if it’s the right person, it’s worth it a hundred times over.”

“That makes it nice to know that you’ve found the right person, right?” Gia says, reaching under the table to grasp his leg. Elliot frowns and pushes his salad around his plate for a second before looking back up at my dad.

“What do you think, Ray? Would you ever get married again?”

“Me? I don’t know, maybe. If I met the right person.”

“So… you don’t regret getting married to Ana’s mom? Even though you got divorced?”

“Regret? No. Carla and I were married for 16 years and 15 of them were the happiest years of my life. Besides, I got this little girl out of it and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

He leans over to nudge me and I smile back at him.

“I don’t know if that’s true,” I tell him with a yawn. “The best thing that’s ever happened to you? What about Sunday Night Football?”

“Well, Annie, Sunday Night Football is the reason you have children. So that you have someone to go get you a cold beer when the game’s on the line and you’re past the two minute warning so there aren’t any commercial breaks left.”

“You screwed up then,” I laugh. “Because there’s no way I’d get up for anything under the two minute warning.”

“Or I did everything right,” he says with a smile. “Sounds to me like I’ve instilled the right priorities in you, kid.”

“Looks like it,” I reply.

He reaches over and wraps his arm around me, pulling me into his side and kissing me hard on the top of the head, and for a moment, it feels like no time has passed at all since the last time we sat at the table having dinner together. Christian glances between us, the look of uncertainty from my father’s comments still clear on his face, but he doesn’t say anything. In fact, he’s mostly quiet for the rest of the dinner, despite the fact that the general conversation between my dad and his family is light and enjoyable. Elliot even takes a few opportunities to talk Christian up a little, which I’m quick to agree with each and every time.

“Yeah, we’ve been sailing since we were real little,” Elliot says, “but Christian’s always been the better of the two of us. He’s more patient than I am, and he’s better at the meticulous stuff, tying knots, making sure the cunningham stays tight, not drinking eight or twelve beers when we’re out at sea. You know, the little things.”

“Is that so?” my dad replies, and he actually looks a little impressed. Definitely more so than when Carrick was talking about GEH. “I’ve never really learned to sail. Montesano is landlocked so we’re mostly limited to lakes and rivers, but I do love to fish though.”

“Christian likes to fish,” I jump in. “He and Carrick and Elliot go all the time. You should join them sometime. He has the most amazing yacht, I think you’d really love it, Dad.”

“Well, if we’re going fishing out on the yacht, we probably won’t take Elliot,” Christian says, and my dad frowns.

“Why not?”

“Jet skis,” Christian’s entire family says in unison, and a broad smile creeps across Elliot’s face as he lifts his hands and rubs them together excitedly.

“It’s almost summer,” he says. “Once Kate gets back from Harvard, we’re going to lift two jet skis off Christian’s yacht, take off into the sound, and never return. Well, until we get low on gas, and then I guess we’ll have to come back or risk a horrible death at sea…”

He laughs but everyone around the table falls quiet and looks over to Gia, specifically me who just had a conversation with her about how she reacts whenever Kate is brought up. Her shoulders rise and fall as she takes a deep breath and then turns to look at Elliot.

“You know, I would go jet skiing with you,” she says calmly, but Elliot just turns to face her with a raised eyebrow.

“You’d get your hair wet,” he argues.

“So?”

“And the life jacket would give you a weird tan line.”

“I’d be spending time with you, Elliot. That’s what matters.”

“Spending time with me? Are you sure? Because it seems to me like your schedule is packed.”

“That was… I already told you…”

“Yeah, I know what you fucking told me,” he says, angry now.

“Elliot,” Gia replies, her voice almost a warning. “Can we talk about this later, please?”

“Why? I thought it was just a business lunch? You have nothing to hide right? I mean, it was a business lunch that I, as your boss, had no idea about and it was with a man my company has never done business with, but it’s completely innocent, right?”

“We talked about this,” she says, her face reddening, “His company his doing a remodel and they were looking for interior designers. They’d already contracted a construction company, this was an independent contract for me, not for Grey Construction.”

“And he just happened to get your name?” Elliot presses her.

“He knows Christian. We met at the GEH New Year’s Eve Charity Ball and I gave him my card. I promise you, it was just a business lunch. I’m not even going to take the contract.”

“Why? If it’s so innocent, why wouldn’t you take the contract?”

“Because obviously you can’t handle it!” she snaps.

Elliot narrows his eyes at her and then turns to look at Christian. “His name is Charles Gresham, you know him?”

“Uh…” Christian stutters, obviously extremely uncomfortable being put in the middle of Gia and Elliot’s sudden and highly inappropriate argument. “Gresham? Yeah, he… he’s an investment banker at Seattle Metropolitan Investing. He manages about 40% of my liquid investments.”

“See?” Gia says. “Baby, it’s just work!”

“An investment banker for a billionaire,” Elliot says ruefully. “Sounds like someone with a lot of money. A lot more money than me.”

“Why would that matter at all?” Gia asks, the frustration finally building enough that I can see tears welling in her eyes. “Elliot, can we please talk about this at home?” His jaw tightens, as do his fingers around his utensils, until eventually he shakes his head, pulls the napkin from his lap, and tosses it onto the table.

“Excuse me.” We all watch, slightly dazed, as he pushes away from the table and storms out of the room. Christian looks, for a second, as though he may get up too, but he stops when Gia practically leaps out of her seat and quickly scurries after him.

“Well, it wouldn’t be a family dinner if at least one of our kids didn’t storm out,” Carrick says with a small laugh, trying to keep the mood light.

“I’m sorry, Ray,” Grace says. “They’re… still figuring things out I think. Are you still hungry? There’s dessert. We have peach cobbler.”

“Uh… that sounds delicious.” my dad answers awkwardly.

“Mia, will you please bring the cobbler in from the kitchen? Mia? Hello, Mia?”

Mia looks up, jerking slightly as she seemingly comes out of her own secluded stupor and stares blankly back at her mother. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Will you bring the cobbler in from the kitchen.”

“Oh… uh… no. I gotta go. I’ve got ballet rehearsal.” She too puts her napkin on the table and slowly gets out of her chair, walking towards the exit of the dining room as though she’s been stunned.

“Take security with you!” Christian calls after her, but she doesn’t respond. She simply shuffles from the room and disappears.

“Make that two kids,” Carrick says.

“Well, I will get the cobbler then,” Grace says, but my dad reaches out to stop her.

“You know, Grace, you’ve been so wonderful tonight, and I can’t tell you when I last had a meal this delicious, but it looks like Ana might be about to fall asleep in her potatoes, so it might be a good idea if we head home.”

“What? No, I’m fine,” I say, shaking my head slightly to try and push some of the exhaustion away, but even as I turn to face my dad, my eyelids suddenly feel so heavy that I’m struggling to keep them open. My mind goes a little foggy and I can feel my body start to sway as I struggle to maintain my balance in my chair.

“Taylor,” Christian calls, waiting only half a second before he steps into the room. “Bring the car around. We’re ready to go.”

“Yes, sir.” Taylor replies. My dad helps me up from the table and I give half-hearted, exhausted hugs goodbye to both Grace and Carrick before we make our way through the dining room towards the entrance hall. As we walk, the fatigue really starts to overwhelm me and soon Christian is half carrying me with the arm he has wrapped around my waist.

“Come here, Ana,” Grace says, pulling me away from Christian for one last hug. “We love you so much, Darling. I’m so happy that you’re safe and back with us.”

“I love you too, Grace,” I reply, trying and failing not to mumble. She squeezes me tightly and passes me back to Christian, and his arms wrapping around me is the last thing I remember until I’m suddenly jolted awake by the sound of my phone vibrating against something hard in the darkness next to me. The sudden change in my surroundings is disorienting because, not only do I have no idea how I got here, I don’t even know where I am. The room is dark and I’m alone, but as I bolt upright and glance down on my phone on the bedside table, I realize I’m in my bed. Christian must have carried me here from the car.

How long have I been asleep?

The vibrating catches my attention again so I reach down for my phone, read Kate’s name flashing across the screen, and take a quick second to note that it’s nearly 10 when I answer, which means that it’s past midnight her time.

“Hello?” I croak.

“Ana Marie,” she slurs over the loud thumping music in the background.

“Rose, Kate. My middle name is Rose.”

“No, I changed it,” she says, and then laughs. “Anaaaaaa, I miss you!”

“I know, Katie. I miss you too.”

“Carter and I have been slaying at beer pong all night and I don’t even have anyone to brag to because my best friend is so far away. You should be here, why aren’t you here?”

“You sound awfully drunk to have been slaying,” I say wryly. “Is Carter having another party?”

“Mhm. We’re celebrating.”

“Celebrating what?”

“I got a letter from the Dean today saying that I’ve been selected as our graduating class valedictorian. I’m going to graduate at the top of our class, Ana! I did it!”

“Oh my god, Kate, that’s amazing! Congratulations!”

“Thank you. I honestly can’t believe it’s really happening.”

“I can. You’ve worked so hard for this. Congratulations, Katie. I’m so proud of you!”

“Ana! Come back here!” she says, pleading now. “Walk with me at graduation. You promised! Start together, finish together, right?”

“Right, but…”

“Oh shit, I’m up. I gotta go, but think about it, okay? No, don’t think about it. Just get your ass to Cambridge. I love you and I want my last eight weeks before I turn you over to Christian and Calliope forever.”

“I love you too, Kate,” I tell her, and then I hear some muffled noises through the phone followed by her yelling Carter’s name and then the long drawn out sound of silence. I pull my phone away and see that the call has ended so I sigh and toss it back onto the nightstand.

The aftermath of the conversation leaves me with a palpable ache in my chest, and it doesn’t take me long to identify that the ache is a little bit of jealousy. Not because she’s been selected for Valedictorian, I really am proud of her for accomplishing that because I know better than anyone how hard she’s worked to earn it. The jealousy is simply that she’s there. She’s out and she’s having a great time and she’s wringing every last experience out of college that she possibly can.

I want that. I want to get back to that, and from what everyone tells me, I can. I just have to make the choice. I could get on a plane, tonight if I wanted to, go back to Cambridge and finish what I’ve been striving for for three years. I could walk with Kate. I could see the look on my dad’s face when they announce my name at graduation. All of my dreams are within the reach of my fingertips and all I have to do is make the choice to go get them. I’m the only thing standing in my way right now. Maybe my problem is that I just need a swift kick in the ass to get me to make the choice to go.

Suddenly, I feel a solid kick right in the center of my belly and it’s hard enough that I actually let out an audible gasp. My hand automatically reaches down to the place where Calliope has kicked me, subconsciously hoping to feel more movement, but there’s nothing. Just a single, encouraging kick, as though she can read my thoughts.

Great, Christian’s right. My daughter is going to get my smart mouth.

A smile creeps across my lips and I take a deep breath and pull back the covers to get out of bed, determined to find wherever Christian is in the apartment and tell him that I’m going to go back to Cambridge tomorrow. But, as I make my way out to the great room,  I pause and duck back in the hallway to stay out of view when I hear him talking to my father.

“She’s not ready.”

“Look, I get that this has been traumatic for everyone,” my dad says. “I don’t like it any more than you do, believe me, but I’m not letting her drop out of school. Our top priority right now needs to be getting her back to Cambridge to finish up these last eight weeks and get her degree. I will not allow this son of a bitch to take that away from her, I’ll go with her if I have to.”

“She needs more time,” Christian argues.

“No, I agree with Captain Steele,” Luke says. “She only has eight weeks, less than that because she’s already missed part of this week and two of those eight weeks are dead week and finals. If she misses much more school, she’s not going to be able to catch up, at least not in a way where she’ll do well on her finals and end her college career the way she wants to. If we don’t do something to get her back there, she’s never going to, and it’ll be the biggest regret of her life. She just needs to be pushed a little, reassured.”

“But can we reassure her?” Christian asks. “How do we know she’s any safer there than she is here? She’ll be exposed on campus…”

“She has a full security detail,” my dad interrupts him, and then under his breath adds, “a little ridiculous if you ask me.”

“She also has a full security detail here, and here we are. I’m not going to put three thousand miles of distance between us when I can’t absolutely guarantee her safety.”

“Can you ever guarantee her safety?” my dad asks. “You don’t think I worried about her every day I was in Iraq, even before any of this happened?”

“Mr. Grey, I know the idea of her being so far away is uncomfortable for you,” Luke interjects. “But you have to understand the circumstances that fell into place for this to happen in the first place. She was alone. She didn’t have her team with her, and that’s not going to happen again. I won’t leave her by herself, not even for a second, I swear to you. We’re going to keep her safe and we have the ability to do that in Cambridge.”

There’s a pause as I imagine Christian mulling over Luke’s promise. “Shouldn’t she have a say in this?” he asks at last. “What if she doesn’t even want to go back to school?”

“I do!” I call, and then immediately curse myself. With a bracing breath, I step out of the hallway and into the great room where the three of them look up at me, clearly surprised. “I do want to go back to school, Christian. Tomorrow, if I can.”

My dad smiles. “Well, there you have it! Don’t you worry, Sweetheart. We’ll have you on the first plane out of here tomorrow morning.”

“Mr. Grey has a plane,” Luke chimes in. “It’s the safest way for her to travel. The staff have been vetted and we have complete control over the flight plan.”

“Well… great,” my dad says. “When can she take off?”

“Wait,” Christian says. “I don’t… Ana…”

“Mr. Grey?” Taylor’s voice interrupts him and we all turn to look at the entryway to the foyer where he’s standing with a manilla envelope in his hand. Christian’s eyes narrow in on it, and then widen with sudden understanding.

“Did you find her?” he asks.

“Miss Williams?” Taylor clarifies, and then shakes his head. “No, I haven’t been able to locate her yet, but I did find Hyun Son.”

“Good, that’s a place to start,” Christian says. “Where is he?”

Taylor’s jaw tightens, then he walks into the great room to stand before Christian on the sofa and tosses the envelope on the coffee table in front of him.

“What’s this?” Christian asks.

“A coroner’s report.”

Christian’s expression shifts as he reaches out of the envelope, and while he flips through the pages inside, Taylor explains what the report contains.

“He was found in the trunk of his car down by an abandoned fish house on the docks with a bullet hole in the back of his head.”

“He was shot?” Luke asks.

“Yes,” Taylor confirms. “Execution style.”

“In Boston?” Luke clarifies, but Taylor shakes his head.

“No, in Seattle.”

Christian grimaces as he looks at the last item in the file, which judging by his expression must be a photo, and then closes the folder. It falls into his lap and he places his forehead in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees.

“Taylor call Boeing, have my plane ready for an 8 AM departure,” he says. “Ana is leaving for Boston in the morning.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Taylor? Find Leila Williams.”

“Yes, sir.”

Christian scrubs his hands over his face and tosses the folder onto the coffee table before slowly getting off the couch to walk towards me.

“Come with me. If you’re going to leave in the morning, then this is our last night together for awhile.”

I nod and reach out for his hand, but stop to look back at my dad. “Do you have everything you need? Did Christian show you the guest room upstairs?”

“I’m fine, Annie. Besides, I want to talk to Luke here about a few things. Have a good…” he pauses and his face wrinkles with conflict before he finally settles on. “Sweet dreams, babygirl.”

“Good night, Daddy.”

Christian’s hand tugs against mine and I follow him into our bedroom. Once we’re alone though, he releases me and sits on the edge of the bed, placing his face in his hands again.

“I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do this, Ana. I don’t know if I can let you go.”

“You’re not letting me go,” I tell him. “Nothing is changing. It’s just going back to normal. I need a little normal right now.”

“Ana…”

I move across the room and drop to my knees in front of him so that I can look him in the eye when I speak.

“I love you, Christian, but I can’t be here right now. Everything here reminds me about what happened and as long as I’m here that’s all I’m going to be able to think about. I need to get away from that, take a break… and I need to get back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s going to school. I want to be at school and I think getting back to that and having something purposeful to keep my mind distracted is going to be good for me.”

He looks down at me, staring into my eyes for a long time, until he eventually reaches down to cup either side of my face with his hands and pulls me up to his lips. I return his kiss with eager fervor, basking in the warmth of his lips and letting it wash away everything inside of me except for the love I feel for him and the comfort I find in his touch. I force myself to surrender to the passion of his tongue and his lips until I can’t form coherent thought, and when he pulls away, I immediately climb off the floor and into his lap for more.

“I love you, Ana,” he whispers.

“And I love you.” I reply. He shifts me so that I can lie back on the bed and then moves to my side so that I’m nestled in his arms. I can feel his lips brush softly against the skin on my neck and shoulders, the tip of his nose moving tenderly against my hair while he nuzzles me. Every gentle touch sends a shiver of warm pleasure over me and makes me want more, to be closer to him, despite the fact that my entire body is flush against his.

I moan slightly and arch my back when I feel his fingers trace a soft line up my arm, and as I do, I feel him pressing hard and ready into my backside.

“Oh…”

“I’m sorry, just ignore it,” he says quickly, but I turn around and frown.

“Ignore it?”

He takes a breath. “I know that you need some time. I don’t want to pressure you…” I turn in his arms so that I can cut off his words with my lips. He kisses me back, though not in a way that makes me feel as though this could progress beyond a kiss, so I slowly reach down and grip his erection thorugh his pants.

“Ana…”

“I just want to be close to you, Christian,” I reply. “Please. Love me.”

His eyes search mine, looking for any kind of hesitance, so I try and assuage his concerns by kissing him again. He doesn’t stop me and I press my luck again by moving as though I’m going to climb over the top of him.

“Wait,” he says, holding my hips firm with his hands. “Just… lie back.”

“It’s okay, Christian. I want you.”

“I know. Lie back.”

I glance up into his eyes once more, trying to judge the meaning behind the conflict I see warring there, and then turn once more so that he’s spooning me. His hands reach for the hem of my t-shirt and he slowly inches it up so that his hands can explore my body. Once again, he begins kissing my neck, only this time his fingers slip beneath the cup of my bra and close tightly around my nipple. I gasp and grind into him, desperately seeking friction as the heat begins to bloom between my legs, until I can’t take it anymore, and I yank down the band of my yoga pants and pull them down my legs. He sits up so that he can kiss me while he undoes his fly and while our tongues and harsh breathing all mingle together in a kind of synchronized dance, I feel him slowly slip inside of me.

“Is that okay?” he checks.

“Yes,” I breathe. “Just keep me quiet. I don’t want my dad to hear…”

He turns my face back towards him and thrusts forward again, muffling my cry of pleasure with his lips. Euphoria begins to cloud my mind as he moves in and out of me, slowly, meticulously, building me to the kind of orgasm that goes on and on and burns through my entire body until I feel like I’m flying. I pant through the molten pleasure rolling over every inch of my skin as I finally fall over the precipice into release. His name breaks through my lips and he groans as I continue to cry out my pleasure into his mouth and soon, I feel his thrusts grow sharper until eventually he finds his own release inside of me.

Once the pulsing pleasure dies down, leaving us to bask in the post orgasm haze that is completely absent of all hurt and fear, he turns me back towards him, brushes my hair away from my face, and looks down into my eyes once again.

“I’m coming with you,” he says.

“What?”

“To Cambridge. I’m coming with you. If you need to go, I’m not going to stop you. But being apart from you right now… I can’t handle that. So, I’m coming with you.”

“But GEH…”

“Fuck GEH. You think I care about my company right now? Don’t you understand, Ana? I thought I was going to lose you. I’ve done this without you before and I won’t do it again. None of this means anything without you. ”

“Christian…”

He presses his fingers into my lips to silence me. “It’s only eight weeks. I can work remotely from Cambridge, travel from Boston if I absolutely have to. I can find a way to make it work, but I can’t make 3,000 miles of distance between us work. Not until we know who’s behind this and we’ve done something about it. So I’m coming with you.”

My lips slowly creep into a wide smile. “Okay.”

“Good, then it’s settled.” I nod and after he takes another breath, he smiles too and then leans down to kiss me once more.

“I love you, Anastasia.”

“I love you too, Christian.”

Next Chapter

 

99 thoughts on “Chapter 30

  1. Omg I really want Gia to be involved so that Kate can be with Elliot. Great job with the story i have been following your stories since the first one got me hooked.

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  2. omg i didn’t think i could love Christian anymore after going to get Ray but really going to Cambridge with Ana, yes i do love him more. What is up with Ana telling Gia about the attack. I get it she thinks one day she will be her sister-in-law but i think Luke is on the mark about not trusting Gia. and love it how Christian is looking into Gia’s background. Yeah Elliot thankfully he’s seeing Gia for the HO she is. Im leaning towards Gia tried to make the moves on Christian and this is when he told Gia that Ana is it for him. Who knows my mind is spinning in a million different directions. The dinner business date Gia went on with that man, definitely related somehow. Maybe hes the mole. And Mia’s reaction at dinner when they said his name, focus Christian, Mia knows something. Your story is so well planned out and written, you should really do this for a living, lol Love love love this cant wait for the next update.

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  3. I think Gia is now trying to gain Ana’s trust as she now feels she cannot fool Christian anymore.
    Also that guy that Gia met could be the main man as he is already involved in business with Christian.

    He could very well be Gia’s meal ticket

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  4. Omg how is Christian so perfect, each time I think he can’t do anything else, you go and make him even more amazing.
    Also am I the only one who doesn’t like Ray at all! I mean fair enough he doesn’t really know CG but come on, like whose the one who got uou home early, can’t be even be grateful!!? CG has done SO MUCH for ana over the years and Ray can’t even acknowledge him. Not a fan at all.

    TARA YOU ARE AMAZING THANK YOU XX

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    1. Ray has been the REAL parent with sense over the years and the one that was always there for Ana. And he has to know that Christian obviously has to have SOME kind of bad history for Ana NOT to have mentioned him earlier than she did (which, quite frankly, is true).

      I mean, if you were a father, would YOU feel good about someone like Christian if you learned about ELENA and how hard it was to free Christian from her? I can’t even IMAGINE what Ray will say and feel when he learns about THAT!

      And Ray should be forgiven for having worked so hard to give his baby girl everything only to realize that she has TRULY grown up and is fixing to start her OWN family! I admit that I would ALSO be worried for my daughter dating a rich man that seemingly had everything handed to him on a silver platter. Ray is afraid that he doesn’t truly love Ana OR that he would make a trophy wife out of Ana, only to throw her off for a younger model a few years down the road. That IS the typical behavior of so MANY billionaire types!

      So don’t dislike Ray too much—I think his heart and values are in the right place. And I think ANY father would worry about a pregnancy that came before a wedding, quite frankly. And Ray was ALWAYS going to take TIME to warm up to the man that is taking his little girl away from him.

      (I keep picturing the table scene in Steve Martin’s version of “Father of the Bride,” where his daughter tells him that she met a man and is marrying him. Steve Martin then pictures a small child version of his daughter telling him this same information. And he spends the movie just trying to accept that he is NOT getting his daughter back living in his home ever again because she is grown up and in love with someone and ready to start her life with him full-time. Ray thought he had MUCH more time with his “little girl” before she made such monumental changes, so I think we should forgive him for being over-protective and wanting to actually KNOW and approve of the guy before Ana commits to forever with him.)

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      1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, this is tough for Ray, accepting everything that’s happened to Ana without him being around, but, having said that….hopefully he’ll lighten up a little on ‘ole CG. I mean, c’mon. 😘

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  5. I was driving my self crazy wondering when you would post today when I got the email. Lol. Love this chapter. I’ll have to go back and check on the Mia thing that another comment mentioned with Gia’s lunch “meeting”. Can’t wait for the next chapter!!!! Amazing writer!!!

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    1. You and me both! HOW MANY times did I refresh and refresh AND refresh the site, JUST to see if the new chapter had come in yet? I even tried to time my lunch break with when I thought the next chapter was going to come in before realizing that it could be MANY hours down the road, so I just needed to eat and get it over with! And wouldn’t you know it, the chapter had JUST come out after I got back from lunch!

      But I am with you about that lunch meeting. SOMETHING clearly threw Mia—and I was wondering if it was the name of the guy that Gia had lunch with. Mia may have been so TRAUMATIZED at the time that she failed to remember the guy’s full name UNTIL it was mentioned at the Grey dinner. So I’m thinking that it was the man that tried to rape her, BUT it could also be someone that Mia knew was one of Elena’s “clients” back when she worked at the bar.

      You would THINK that the police would have tried to trace down some of Elena’s “clients,” but that never seemed to be a focus of the investigation. But SOMETHING really affected Mia, so either she was dazed from receiving a text message, OR it was the SPECIFIC mention of that guy’s name. HOPEFULLY, Mia will REALIZE that she needs to tell her parents OR Christian about recognizing the name SOONER rather than later.

      So once again, Tara has left us with intel BUT given us even MORE questions! And MORE reason to want another Monday while still on THIS Monday!

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  6. Gia knows how to say all the right things. BUT I think Ana is right to make a show of being friendly to Gia—it hopefully WILL make it harder for Gia to hand Ana over in the long run.

    And MIA—was THAT MAN that had dinner with Gia the man that tried to attack her???? It would explain Mia’s reaction. She was obviously dazed by something, so either she received some text message that threw her, OR the name caused fear in her for another reason.

    It may be that the Man with Gia was a client of Elena’s, and Mia recognized the name. At first, I wondered WHY Mia didn’t say anything, but then I remembered that she was probably reluctant to say anything Elena-related in front of Ray, as he clearly disapproves of Christian (or is at least wary of Christian).

    So I REALLY want the downlow on what Mia knows. HOPEFULLY, Mia WILL say something prior to Ana’s leaving. She would HAVE to know that refusing to give information that she is privy to can’t help the situation. And if she KNOWS this name and that the man has TIES to Elena, then she should SURELY know that that information is NECESSARY for Christian.

    I wonder how much about the attack on GEH has been shared with Mia? She may think that Christian shouldn’t be overburdened by her knowledge that the man is a “friend” or “client” of Elena, but right now, Christian should know of ANY ties to Elena. Come on Mia, communicate!

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    1. Yeah, I agree that Mia was definitely dazed immediately after Elliot mentioned the banker ‘s name. It just can’t be a coincidence.

      And that brings a whole other issue since this Charles Gresham manages 40% of Christian’s net worth… IF this same man is the one who tried to hurt Mia, is/was involved with Elena, AND is now involved in the conspiracy that means that the conspiracy is way, way too close. It makes sense that Elena would want him to be the one managing Christian’s money too. If this is the same shady guy from the club then Elena would have some deeply incriminating dirt on him. Elena probably planted Gresham and convinced Christian to hire him. And since he was doing so well Christian never thought to trade managers after the fall out with Elena. So she planned it so that even if she and Christian had a falling out she would still essentially have something over him in regards to Gresham… who she also has something over because of his actions at her clubs. She is the ultimate puppeteer in this situation.

      But it all comes back to Elena… I just can’t see a way that she wouldn’t be involved… Taylor definitely needs to check up on her activities in jail though I doubt she is dumb enough to leave evidence.

      I’ve got to say this story is so amazingly well entwined and well written. I love how all these details are hidden but still in plain sight. Lol, it’s actually starting to feel like a labyrinth which is definitely not a bad thing. Now all we need is a bulge-tastic David Bowie to make an appearance at some point and I’ll be even more obsessed!

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  7. I still think that Gia is a part of the Conspiracy and that this “business dinner” was a chance for her to provide updates. OR Gia was trying to keep her OPTIONS open in finding a rich man. MIA’S seeming REACTION to the name just clinches it.

    I’m wondering if ANY of what Gia is saying to Ana has some truth in it or if Sawyer is, in fact, correct about her. Gia MAY be having regrets and may truly have come to have some feelings for Elliot. HOWEVER, if she truly felt anything REAL for Elliot, then she WOULD tell about any possible attacks to GEH.

    There IS always the possibility that Gia took the dinner with the rich man and did NOT know about the Conspiracy at that time. The Conspiracy Guy may have gotten intel from Gia unknowingly.

    HOWEVER, again, if Gia HAD any qualms about ANYONE, then she SHOULD provide the information. I think Gia is GRASPING AT STRAWS to now get along with Ana, knowing that her relationship with Elliot is on the rocks.

    AND I found it interesting that Elliot started talking about his plans with KATE again. He is OBVIOUSLY having some regrets, now that he knows that Gia is seemingly/possibly keeping her options open for the richest man she can get. After all, if it WAS all innocent, then why not TELL Elliot that she has a possible sub-contractor offer from a business connection of Christian’s AND that she is meeting with said person to discuss it?

    But IF Gia IS tasked with getting information for the Conspiracy, then NO WONDER she is TRYING to get in good wtih Ana. It sounds like Elliot is FINALLY being cautious about giving her information. And with SECURITY supposedly following GIA around now, then Gia’s contacts will NOT go unnoticed.

    So Gia is now in a REALLY PRECARIOUS situation, both professionally AND personally, especially if Elliot kicks her out NOW. Then she would be of no further use to the Conspiracy Head, AND WE ALL NOW KNOW what happens to you if you cease to be of USE to the Conspiracy—you get a BULLET in the back of your head!

    So wonder what is going on with Gia AND Mia. Because SOMETHING freaked Mia out at the Grey dinner. And I believe it was the mention about just WHO GIA HAD MET WITH. Only time will tell. But HOPEFULLY, Mia says something IMMEDIATELY to her parents OR calls Christian, Elliot or Taylor. Because if Gia IS seeing someone with ties to Elena AND that tried to HURT Mia, then Mia NEEDS to tell that IMMEDIATELY. Especially since ANA was the one to prevent the rape that night, and so NO WONDER the man wants to harm Ana so badly—he gets revenge TWICE over!

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  8. Ok so much was shared in this chapter. So I’m not sure you are throwing us off the scent by making Gia look like a suspect. But her behavior today was clearly suspicious. Is Gia really in love with Elliot or looking to move ahead. It sounds like she was cheating on Elliot. But also why is she talking to the banker that is investing Christian’s money. More suspicion. Mia’s behavior was sort of odd at the dinner table too but Ray pissed me off. He needs to be more appreciative of all that Christian is doing for Ana. If he can’t see how much he loves Ana then he’s freaking blind. I get he doesn’t know Christian but take the time to know him before judging him. Damn this was good today. I have so many people who I think it might be and yet you don’t give us anything to lead on. You evil genius you! Until next week.

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  9. And I love that Christian is willing to see through his own mistakes and trust Ros again to run GEH for him so that he can stay by Ana’s side. AND that Christian would put his family above his company. HOPEFULLY, that will also score points with Ray.

    I think Ray sees Christian as an overprivileged “entitlement” kid that has always had things handed to him (so he is not likely to appreciate what he has). And Ray hasn’t even HEARD yet about Elena. THAT will NOT go well wtih Ray. And Ana HAS to tell Ray about her full history with Christian sometime. And preferably SOONER than later, because the longer she waits to tell him, the more likely Ray HIMSELF could be put at risk, since he would NOT know about the risk that Elena and those associated wth her, INCLUDING HER CLIENTELE, can bring.

    I find it interesting now about what the Conspiracy will do with BOTH Christian AND Ana back in Cambridge, because that is something that you KNOW the Conspiracy Head did NOT count on happening!

    And I LOVE that Sawyer is taking NO chances at this point and REALLY despises Gia. I rather think his instincts are CORRECT. But ANA also has good instincts—keep your friends close, and your ENEMIES CLOSER. The LESS unaccountable time that Gia has, the LESS she can give to the Conspiracy!

    Gia’s ACTIONS can be explained by a DESPERATE girl now willing to do ANYTHING to hold on to what she has, because if she LOSES Elliot, then not ONLY does she lose the rich man that she thought she had hooked, BUT she is useless to the Conspiracy. AND she could even lose her job at GEH. PLUS, she loses ANY protection and security that she has if she gets kicked out. And if she KNOWS about the Conspiracy, then she KNOWS that it would most likely be the death of her. So she will do ANYTHING to hold onto the Grey connection.

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  10. This chapter presents SO MANY nuggets and clues of information that I am quite overwhelmed. I’m going to need some re-reads just to see what all I missed.

    And unfortunately, Mia did not help Ray feel better about Christian at the Grey dinner. She ELUDED to the table about ELENA and Christian’s PAST, something which Ray probably picked up on. AND the fact that Christian and Ana were physical pretty fast, at least since Mia has known them, so Ray SHOULD be worried that Christian is merely interested in Ana for her body, not her mind. AND that Christian is used to getting what he wants.

    And poor Christian does NOT always have the patience to deal with certain things, PARTICULARLY anyone failing to understand JUST how much Ana means to him. And Christian’s INSECURITIES are never completely away from him—he has wanted Ana to be married to him SOONER rather than later, and he CLEARLY resents Ray wanting to give Ana time to CHANGE her mind about marrying him.

    Christian KNOWS that Ray is the most important person to Ana that is FAMILY. So he WANTS Ray to like him and has NO IDEA of how to make that possible. It is so funny that Ray might actually prefer ELLIOT as a potential partner for Ana rather than Christian, when CHRISTIAN is the one that is SURE of what he wants for the rest of his life. And Christian wouldn’t even consider dating anyone OR sleeping with anyone that was NOT Ana in the almost two years that the two were apart. THAT is devotion. Christian ALWAYS knew that Ana was “the one.” And Christian clearly can’t relax around Ray or bond with him yet.

    I’m hoping that Grace AND especially Carrick will try to talk to Ray alone. While they would give Ray much to worry about Christian, meaning his past, they can also say how INSTRUMENTAL Ana was in giving them back their son. AND that Christian has always been HAPPIEST with Ana. And that she is his EVERYTHING. The Grey family CLEARLY LOVE Ana, but then Ray would think no one could do anything BUT love his little girl.

    (Oh, and a side note: I just LOVED that Ana was RIGHT in ABSOF that Ray would want to go to TAXI’S for hotdogs as soon as he got back! Shows how well she knows and loves the man!)

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  11. Creo que la relacion entre Chistian y Ray no va a ser facil. Los dos son muy protectores de Ana y ninguno quiere compartirla. Sera dificil que Ray confie en Christian.
    Me encanto como Ana enfrento a Gia, créo que era hora de que le diga sus verdades.
    No le veo mucho futuro a la relacion de Elliot y Gia.
    Sabia que Christian no podria dejar a Ana marcharse otra vez despues de lo que paso.
    Me encanta que se vaya con ella. Se necesitan muchisimo.

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  12. Christian’s love for Ana is on ending. I’m glad he is going back to Harvard with her. That will be unexpected to The Conspiracy. I’m with Luke on his opinion of Gia. She knew her relationship with Elliott is at the end and she is trying to hold on. How much does Mia know? I think she knew that name from when she worked at Elena’s bar. If she knew the name of the man that almost raped her, why didn’t she tell everyone before.. I think, it is a man that came to the bar and knew Elena, but is now trying to get information out of Gia. I hope Ray lightens up on Christian.. I really don’t like his attitude toward Christian. That will put unwanted stress on Ann. Can’t wait for next Monday.

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  13. Sounds like some of Gia, bs is catching up with her… I laughed when Luke play interference with Ana and Gia. I hope Ana keeps her eyes open where Gia is concerned.
    Who is the guy Gia is trying to hook?? Her own billionaire?
    I love the way Elliot was talking about Kate. Although I think it might be to late for them.
    Ray is a unhappy pappy! LOL…
    I am so glad that Christian is going to Cambridge with Ana.
    Thank you for the update 😀 Loved, Loved, Loved it 😀 😀 ❤

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    1. Mia’s REACTION happened right after the Gia/Elliot argument, so I’m thinking that this man that ACUTALLY WORKS WITH CHRISTIAN is KNOWN to Mia as a result of working for Elena. It is either a CLIENT or the man that tried to rape her at Elena’s bar. I would think that it would be the latter, given her reaction. So if Gia was WITH THIS MAN, then that can’t be anything good for Christian! ELENA would have blamed ANA as the reason that this man was unable to rape Mia, as Elena was dragging Mia back into the bar when Ana intervened. So THAT explains why ANA ESPECIALLY was targeted as having thwarted his intentions.

      And a requirement for the Conspiracy Head was money and contacts, which a man of this caliber has. AND he meets the requirement of someone that even Elena feared failing to meet his “needs,” as she was willing to hand over Mia to the man. So he obviously PAID well and was powerful.

      But Elliot still seems unable OR unwilling to think longterm as far as marriage is concerned. He just wants to live with someone until he no longer wants the relationship. And wants an easy out. So Elliot is NOT where Kate is in regards to “the one” and committing to someone for life. And yeah, it may not work out, but you DON’T go into a relationship with someone that wants an attempt at a “Forever Match” desiring to have no true commitment. So Elliot is NOT there yet. AND he needs to EARN Kate back, quite frankly, in my opinion.

      After all, whether Elliot likes it or not, Kate would compare Elliot’s commitment to what she saw Christian give Ana (and vice versa). You can’t just run away when the going gets tough OR just turn to the FIRST warm body you see! So Elliot needs to EARN his way back into Kate’s heart. AND Kate is HAPPY with Carter now AND has seemingly let Elliot go for good. She still wants his FRIENDSHIP, and Elliot will have to show he is content with that. We will just have to wait and see if Carter is a SERIOUS longterm option for Kate. After all, BOTH are set to graduate shortly. Both will have to see what they are willing to sacrifice in order to be together BUT pursue their dreams.

      But RAY—he is going to give Christian a hard time until he sees just how well Christian knows and loves Ana. Right now, he is worried. And I think he SHOULD be. After all, we have already seen what risks happen when someone is NOT committed to someone and just wants a warm body beside them (cough, Elliot, cough). So Ray needs to SEE how committed and in love with Ana that Chritsian is. And SEEING Christian put his company in the hands of others in order to BE with Ana for her last weeks of school SHOULD make a real difference to Ray. THAT shows Christian’s willingness to SACRIFICE FOR ANA’S DREAMS, which is what EVERY father wants for their little girl. And Ana will ALWAYS be his “little girl,” even when she is holding Calliope in her arms! (WHICH is something that Christian will ALSO understand when he has HIS OWN little girl!)

      If we think that RAY is overprotective, just THINK what Christian will be like with his OWN little girl, who you KNOW will just look like a mini-Ana in pigtails!!!! Ray will be excused for ALL of his caution once Christian holds his OWN daughter in his arms!

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  14. My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.
    -Jim Valvano
    I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.
    -Sigmund Freud
    Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong
    -Ella Fitzgerald
    “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
    ― Neil Gaiman

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  15. Great chapter. I’m so glad that Ana has Ray with her now, he and Luke will keep her safe. Christian is doing a great sacrifice to see her achieve her goal of getting her diploma from Harvard, by moving to Cambridge with her, and leaving GEH in the hands of Ros after all the turmoil happening inside GEH. In a way, I think that it will help Christian see from the outside what is going inside, what I mean is that sometimes when you have a problem you can see clearer when you aren’t inside the problem. I’m with Luke about Gia, Ana should be careful with her. I think that the man she was having lunch with is part of the scheme, and by Mia’s reaction to his name I’m guessing that she knows him from Elena’s club, he might be the man that was trying to rape her, maybe Ana, Taylor or Luke could identify him as they saw him attacking Mia and Taylor has a recording. I hope that Christian or Ray saw Mia’s reaction. I was hoping that for a change Ana would be the Valedictorian, but it’s okay, maybe she could be the Salutatorian, because she has a 4.0 GPA too, and although isn’t the editor of the Crimson she has collaborated with articles in the paper and is in the process of having a book published which was edited by the English department of Harvard during the summer course. Of course this is your story, and what a great story it is. Thank you.

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    1. While I agree with Luke about Gia, I also agree with Ana—she needs to keep her enemy “close,” as the saying goes. Although Leila CAUSED so much of the problems for Ana in the first place by agreeing to monitor and report ALL of Ana’s actions, she at least couldn’t go through with it when she realized that Ana would be tortured and killed. So if Gia has ANY moral fiber, then she, too, would do the right thing in the end.

      But I think Gia is sadly different from Leila. Gia wants the WIN too much and clearly wants the most lucrative deal that she can get. She is determined to land herself a man that will keep her from having to work and allow her to have the lifestyle that she desires. And admitting that she aided the Conspiracy in ANY way would cause her to lose ANY hope of a Grey connection, loss of her job, AND would get her prison time.

      So Gia will not back down, in my opinion. Things are now really shaky with Elliot, who was OPENLY admitting that he wanted to leave with KATE on jet skis. THAT did irritate me, though. It is like Elliot thinks he can NOW simply have Kate back if he wanted her back. And he doesn’t YET know that she ALSO saved his father!

      So Elliot needs to do something to earn a possibility of getting back with Kate, IF he even has a chance of that. Kate seems happy with Carter now. BUT I hope that Elliot NOW watches Gia more carefully, AND that Taylor will continue to be able to get intel on her. Because now that GIA is being watched through their OWN security, Gia won’t have the access that she had before to intel that the Conspiracy wants. Makes her virtually WORTHLESS to them UNLESS she can somehow get in good with Ana. And ANA is going back to Harvard, so Gia’s contact and potential usefulness is all but OVER, hopefully, UNLESS she sells out Elliot to the Conspiracy.

      For whatever reason (I have my suspicions), the Conspiracy Head seems motivated to get ANA first and above all else. So it doesn’t seem to have tried to kidnap other members yet, INCLUDING Mia or Elliot, which should be obvious targets. I guess the Conspiracy Head KNOWS that Christian CAN and HAS done without his family, but he CANNOT do without Ana. Which AGAIN shows that the Conspiracy Head has heard things from ELENA or her representative, and that it is ENOUGH information to know Christian WELL.

      But Gia DEFINITELY sounds on her way OUT. And GOOD RIDDANCE to bad rubbish, I say!! (However, desperate people will do ANYTHING to remain of value. . . . So Gia is now at her most dangerous and most vulnerable, it would seem.)

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  16. The whole chapter was just amazing! Not going to lie, I hope Elliot breaks up with Gia, and tries to Kate back! Kind of funny the back and forth between Christian and Ray wonder where that’s going to lead too. These updates make Mondays 100X’s better lol.

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    1. I feel sorry for BOTH Christian AND Ray in that those two probably ARE going to continue to be uneasy around one another for the foreseeable future. After all, Ray does NOT yet understand just how much of a TRIGGER it is for Christian to have ANYONE question his love for Ana or vice versa. Christian reacts BADLY when even his OWN family question that connection. After all, he went over a month without talking to his OWN father in ADSOF when his father stated that he thought Ana might be a golddigger. So Ray is going to have a tough time figuring Christian out to begin with. But it CAN’T take that long for Ray to see how truly DEVOTED Christian is to Ana.

      CHristian also wants to provide Ana with EVERYTHING, and Ray will worry that he thinks he can “buy” Ana. Ray assumed he was coming home from war to live with his daughter again, and realizing that WON’T be happening will cause some contention undoubtedly.

      And NOTICE those lovely little “hints” of things that have happened that Ana wasn’t there for that Tara LEAKS in these chapters—Christian is now determined to prove wrongdoing by Gia because she obviously DID make an open play for Christian, thus TRIGGERING Christian’s defensive reaction of someone doubting his love and commitment to Ana. Gia basically ADMITTED in her conversation with Ana that SOMETHING happened, as Christian MADE A POINT of telling her there was NO ONE for him but Ana!

      ANA had even previously picked up on Christian’s sneer regarding Gia’s occupation in a previous chapter and saw how negatively Christian reacted about Gia. You just KNEW then that Gia really HAD been interested in Christian and made it known TO HIM, thus triggering his automatic response of anger toward ANYONE questioning his ABSOLUTE love/devotion to Ana.

      And NOW, Elliot has some proof of Gia’s looking ELSEWHERE for an even MORE suitable rich guy, ALL while supposedly dating AND living with HIM. So I LOVE that Gia has seemingly been “caught” in her web of deceit and cold-hearted social climbing. And NOW that she has jeopardized EVERYTHING that she thought she had, she is desperate to get ANA’s approval!

      Gia went from thinking she could have Christian AND Elliot to being about to lose the WHOLE Grey connection! Grace did NOT want to cause ANY disruption with her children, after having witnessed the whole Carrick-accusation-of-Ana thing that caused so MUCH family tension, yet even GRACE got mad at Gia’s making the dig at Kate that she wasn’t “Family” at the Baby Shower that KATE had helped plan WITH Grace! So Gia has alienated ALL the various Grey members, so NOW she needs ANA to help her get back into their good graces!!!

      So MANY stupid choices that Gia has made all around that are NOW coming back against her. She ADMITTED to wanting CHRISTIAN over Elliot, ALL while seemingly wanting “the ring” from Elliot. WHY anyone would stay with someone that admits that is BEYOND me, so I think it is MORE than time for Gia to go! Her claiming to NOW be over Christian and “in love” with Elliot sounds WAY too hollow and convenient to me, and Elliot IS right that Gia cares FAR more for her physical beauty than anything else, as it is her meal ticket.

      So I can’t wait for next Monday either, as we will get more Ray/Christian interaction AND learn if Elliot HAS finally had it with Gia. OH so MUCH to look forward to!!!!

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  17. Amazing, amazing chapter! There’s so much that went on here. First, it was great to see Ray and Ana together. I expected him to give Christian a bit of a hard time. In the long run I think Christian will appreciate and learn more from gaining Ray’s respect from his actions of love for Ana and his his family than showing off his car collection or GEH accomplishments. I love that Christian is following Ana to Cambridge. I couldn’t imagine them being apart for the last two months of school, not only because of the attack but because her pregnancy is so far along and he can go to dr appointments and they can reach anymore milestones together. I’m sure now with Ross and potentially Welch on board he can run things for awhile in Cambridge. Gia sounded sincere but I definitely think there’s reason for suspicion. My biggest red flag was Elliot’s reaction, he never struck me as a jealous guy. Also, something was definitely off with Mia! Maybe, Torik is right that Mia, recognized his name from Elena’s client list when she briefly worked at her club. If that’s the case then she really, really needs to tell someone. Hopefully, she doesn’t try to play hero and go rogue. Again, amazing chapter, your so talented. I looking forward to the next chapter. ❤️

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  18. Excellent chapter – so what I’m thinking is that Gia has got something to do with the attack and it has something to do with that Gresham guy she was talking about at the table because whoever he is, it freaked Mia out. Hopefully hopefully Mia will be the one to crack this and will tell CG and Ana and everything will be solved AND then Elliot and Kate can get back together too. Really wanted Ray to like CG, of course he will have reservations but he should give him the benefit. Also i imagine that Ray will want to go to Cambridge to mind Ana too. Great great chapter

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  19. All plans has to work out, can’t let any conspiracy win this one. Even better plan that I had thought with Christian also going to Cambridge with Ana besides Ray and Luke. If there is a failure in protecting Ana, one of them can take the blame. Gia has been helping Charles Gresham who is also managing 40% of Christian’s liquid investment. There is plenty of wealth involves there. Quite a co-incidence. He is next to watch and hope Christian is already in it. Ross is back to watch the Seattle office while Christian works off site, and Welch is getting back in the fold. Seems like Elliott and Gia had been having disagreements unknown to the rest until now, due to her secrecy with her time spent with this new client. Gia could be a con artist good in acting innocently for men to fall on & looking for the bigger fish to fry. Well good moves so far and see what happens next Monday. Thank you, Tara.

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  20. And Christian’s conversation with Ros about getting “HIM” back as soon as possible SHOULD be referring to WELCH, since Christian wants the “him” he is talking about to do technical things, such as seeing where all HE has been in ths system. (And wonder if Christian has any idea yet of who “HE” could be? I’m assuming not, as he would have told Ana.)

    So Christian has the best guy possible finally fixing to look into the problem! Excellent!

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    1. I just don’t see it at this rate. After all, why have a guy crash through the house if Carter could have simply gotten to Ana’s computer while she slept or else was studying something else, since Carter has often been to Ana’s house in the past AND was even there overnight after having “hooked up” with Kate before they ever started dating. Ana probably wouldn’t have thought ANYTHING of Carter asking to use her laptop while he studied at her place, in order to “check his email” or some other excuse.

      And if Carter HAD been involved, then the Conspiracy Head would have had WAY more info and intelligence to reach Ana at Cambridge, more even then when she was in Seattle. So although Carter is a possibility, I still see him as being a remote one.

      (After all, to be perfectly blunt, Carter could see CHRISTIAN as being a MUCH better possibility to provide a business connection and job on down the road, due to Carter’s ties to Kate and Ana. The Conspiracy Head has been brilliant at TAPPING into people’s weaknesses and exploiting their needs. He is not going to target someone that would have MORE to gain from Christian than he would lose by otherwise supporting the Conspiracy.)

      But I DO see Carter as a potential person that the Conspiracy COULD target for kidnapping. He is now the love-interest of Kate AND a close friend of Ana’s. So BOTH would be desperate to help him. AND Carter’s demise would sadly forward the possibility of Kate turning to Elliot for support during her time of grief and ultimately getting back together with him, as so many people want to see happen.

      So I AM worried for Carter’s being a TARGET. After all, he and Kate are getting openly drunk together at a party that Carter is throwing, PRESUMABLY in his own house. So it would seem to be a rather simple matter to get Conspiracy members in and out of the house at this time OR else get LISTENING devices within said house. Since KATE calls Ana regularly, this would be a GREAT way to get intel!

      Like

  21. I forgot to comment on Elliot’s ‘faux pas’ about going jet skiing with Kate. I think that the conversation that he had with Ana in the hospital, made him think about everything she said, and he’s finally seeing Gia for what she really is and what she tried to do to get Christian, and finally realizing what he did to Kate, he’s really missing her, what he’ll do about it is yet to be seen. I have a question, is Gia an employee or a contractor of Grey Construction? It will make a difference in her excuse for the lunch meeting, if she’s an employee with exclusivity, I don’t think she can take outside contracts unless it’s specified in her own employment contract and she could be fired, but if she’s a contractor then she’s her own boss.
    I’m afraid that Ray is thinking that Christian has always been a rich entitled boy, I can’t wait for either Ana or Grace and Carrick to tell him the truth about him and what he had endured, he’ll be able to see what a noble, caring person is inside of that stoic façade.
    I can’t wait for next Monday. Are we in the final discovery facet of the story? I have to prepare myself after reading what happened to Hyun Son. Thank you Tara, you’re doing a great job with this story. You’re keeping me in the edge of my seat wondering what’s going to happen next.

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  22. What a beautiful gesture from Christian. It s better than Ray going to cambridge with Ana.

    Despite everything, I feel for Gia. Even if Elliot and she stay together, she will never be enough for Elliot’s family particularly Ana. And I really disagree with Ana when she said that Kate is family and will stay like this. Kate is a friend of the family not a member of the family (maybe a member of Ana s family but that s all). I don’t know where you want to lead the story between Elliot and Gia, but if I were Gia, I will leave Elliot. Neither the Greys nor Ana won’t stop to reming her that she is not what they want as a daughter/sister in law. Maybe she made some serious mistakes toward Ana and Christian, but she doesn t deserve to be treated like this because Elliot decided to replace Kate with her. Ana should be the most understanding among them, she can easily ask herself what she would feel if the Greys shove some Christian s ex every chance they have into her face. Or what would her potential children feel if the Greys acted as they do with Gia toward her.

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    1. In theory I get what you mean. It would definitely suck if your boyfriend’s family kept bringing up his ex. But Gia is so far from innocent it isn’t even funny. All of the Grey’s (except maybe Mia) tried to make the most out of the situation and be nice to Gia from the beginning. And Ana was very nice to Gia and willing to give her a chance. But what did Gia do?

      * She immediately starting flirting with Christian right in front of both Ana & Elliot.
      * She put down Kate in her own home.
      * She tried to make Ana feel inferior. Several times.
      * She tried to use her closeness with the Grey Family & Christian in particular to get her ahead. Especially when she tried to get Christian to step in to take care of the dress situation
      * She was horrible to both Ana & Kate before the NYE Charity Ball when they were shopping. There is honestly no excuse for that.
      * She threw in Kate’s face that she and Elliot were together and that she would get “the ring” by the end of summer. AND she wanted to shove it in Kate’s face even more by inviting her to the non-existent wedding.
      * She texted Ana that she would be helping Christian “get home” and basically saying that she would be sleeping with him.
      * She constantly creates drama so much that the other family members don’t even want her around.
      * And just like Ana said, she tried to steal/seduce a man away from his pregnant fiancé while she is dating his brother.

      And I beg to differ that Kate isn’t Family to the Greys, Grace even said that she was during the baby shower. Kate will be Calliope’s godmother and the baby will be named after her. And Kate saved Carrick out of the goodness of her own heart when she definitely didn’t have to and didn’t even tell anybody what she had done. If that isn’t Family then I don’t know what is. She was with Elliot for two/three years so of course the family loves her. Elliot was upset that his family didn’t warm to Gia like they did to Kate but he just didn’t get that 1) They are two different people 2) Gia is nothing like Kate 3) Gia made it worse for herself and she doesn’t have anyone else to blame.

      Honestly I think Gia is getting her comeuppance and good riddance. Even if she isn’t involved with the conspiracy (and I truly believe she is) she has acted like a horrible excuse for a woman based on her own previous actions. And goodness knows Ana & Kate aren’t perfect but they have handled this whole Kate/Elliot/Gia situation amazingly well. Kate is particular has been so mature about it. You don’t see her throwing a conniption fit over Gia or creating drama. It just shows how mature she is versus how immature Gia is.

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      1. AMEN. And also look CLOSELY at Gia’s OWN words in this chapter–she obviously made a play for Christian because she NOTES that Christian TOLD her that it was only Ana for him. So Gia openly admits that she tried to steal Christian away from Ana, even while SLEEPING and living with Elliot. AND that she obviously made her feelings KNOWN to Christian for him to REJECT her. NO WONDER Christian sneered at the mere mention of her name in a previous chapter!

        Christian had unwittingly sent Gia false signals in trying to be nice to her the way that Elliot was to Ana. Only to have Ana made uneasy and Gia to clearly confirm that she DID think Christian was falling for her. Unbelievable.

        And Ana DID try to be nice to Gia. In Paris, Ana tried to think ahead and order a breakfast that Gia would LIKE and that would respect Gia’s “dietary restrictions.” But Gia shows up to CHRISTIAN & Ana’s suite in slinky seductive attire, something NOT appropriate to a family gathering to open presents. She flaunted her body in front of Christian and used EVERY excuse to be close to him, even communicating with GEH employees like Barney over Christian’s needs in order to be “indispensable” to Christian.

        Ana also told Gia upfront that she would defend Kate, her best friend, and that as long as Gia said nothing against Kate, they wouldn’t have problems. And GIA chose to again and again insult Kate in front of Ana and the rest of the family. IF you don’t want the Grey family to find cause to compare you, then DON’T constantly bring it up. And THEN storm out every time someone defends Kate because YOU have started the fight!

        Gia acknowledges in this chapter that she did ALL that Ana had accused her of. She claims that NOW, after she failed to get Christian away from Elliot, that she is actually in love with Elliot. AND she wants Ana’s SUPPORT and friendship, AFTER she did so much to quarrel with Ana.

        So Gia is asking A LOT of Ana. BUT Ana is willing to even NOW give her a chance, IF she won’t continually bash Kate. And Ana is ENTITLED to accept as FAMILY anyone that she wants to. Family ISN’T always just blood, as witnessed by the fact that the GREY family adopted all three of their children, just as Ana sees Kate as her SISTER.

        So GIa has created her OWN problems and issues. NOW she has to run after Elliot, not the other way around. I am interested to see if the Conspiracy HAS actually recruited Gia or just used her unwittingly. The future chapters should be VERY illuminating!

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  23. And LOOK how quickly Elliot turned on Gia –it only took the ONE apparent “unexplained business meeting” for him to get suspicious! And even GIA admitted that “things were bad right now.”

    I mean, Elliot was NOT defending Gia at the table! He was outright ACCUSING her of things openly and FINALLY doesn’t seem to trust her! It is SAD to me that it takes seeing Gia out with another man ALONE, supposedly for “potential business contract” that has nothing to do with the COMPANY that she ACTUALLY works for, to get Elliot to question everything. And in typical Elliot fashion, he does NOT keep those things to himself!

    So Elliot moved in with a girl ENTIRELY too early and trusted her with everything, only to find that he might SHOULD have been more careful. So at least Elliot isn’t likely to provide Gia with Escala codes anymore. BUT as a MEMBER OF HIS COMPANY, Gia still may have access to codes and security gates for Christian and Ana’s HOUSE that Elliot is remodeling. But at last Elliot is FINALLY appropriately concerned about Gia’s actions!

    But ELLIOT’S ACTIONS may have cost him permanently in the long run. Because Elliot saying that he “loved” Gia in front of Kate made her really reconsider being with someone who seems so easily able to move on and so obviously uninterested in something PERMANENT, at least relationship-wise. So Elliot may have had his wake-up call too late. AND he may have exposed his family to danger.

    SO Gia is now about to lose everything. And is DESPERATE to get a connection with Ana and keep in good with the Grey family. May be because she was unable to get another option from a richer man. OR it may be because she is scared to be useless to the Conspiracy. AND because she wants to seem friendly with Ana while someone ELSE out there wants her harmed and dead.

    But I found it VERY interesting that Gia CONFIRMED that she was after getting Christian to ANA. Obviously, she thought that admitting to THOSE issues would seemingly confirm that she was telling the truth and keep her above suspicion. But HOW can Elliot even still be interested in her when she CONFIRMS that she actually wanted Christian, ALL at the time she was living in Elliot’s house and dating HIM? AND was trying to use exercising with Christian AND spending time with him in an effort to seduce HIM while actually claiming to care about and “love” Elliot.

    If Elliot was smart, he would tell Gia to move out, and let them take time off from their “relationship” until the Conspiracy issues are resolved. Gia will NOT want to be in Huhn’s shoes, so Sawyer may be entirely right about her. We will have to wait and see. But it would be VERY interesting to cut Gia out of the equation entirely and see if the “leaks” disappear.

    Is it NEXT Monday yet????

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  24. OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG! I love this chapter! I love that Ray and Luke are pushing for Ana to return to Cambridge because it is the best choice for her. Last chapter I was hesitant for her to return because of the distance from Christian but I absolutely LOVE that he is going with her. Thank goodness for Ros being back! And possibly Welch? Idk, I’ll have to read it again.

    You know, I almost believed Gia for second but Game of Thrones has made me naturally suspicious of every character. But she’s just trying to cover her own ass. Elliot probably told her that Christian’s team was looking into her and she wanted to erase suspicion, and the best way to do that is to cosy up to Ana since Christian won’t interact with her. But it doesn’t work like that sweetheart! Even if Ana wants to at least remain civil, Luke seems like he is going to be on guard and will tell Christian everything. They aren’t going to take anything for granted or let anyone slip between the cracks in regards to Ana’s safety.

    So ToriK’s prediction came true, Elliot DID notice something odd about who Gia is meeting. Gia tried to play it off but Elliot is clearly suspicious about it. When Gia said that she is “met him at the charity gala” I thought she was referring to Jack Hyde but it seems to be this banker. BUT Mia seemed dazed after Elliot mentioned the banker’s name… could that be the guy Elena tried to pimp her out to? Another theory might be confirmed!

    Is it mean that I kind of love that Ray is giving Christian a hard time? My dad still does the same to my hubby so it makes me nostalgic!

    And I love how Elliot was talking about spending time with Kate! And the whole discussion on marriage seems to hit the mark with him. Gia tried to play it like he is finally with someone that he can settle down with but he is definitely thinking about Kate!

    I read through this so quickly I am sure that I missed a lot! I can’t wait for work to be over so I can reread it! And I can’t wait to read the reviews and see everyone reaction!

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    1. Okay, after my second read through I have changed my mind. I wonder if Elliot did tell Gia that Christian’s team is looking into her… Its obvious that she is trying to cozy up to Ana to see if Leila said anything important that would give her away. But how did Elliot explain why he looked into the “business meeting” if he didn’t mention the team investigating her? Did he just happen to bring the meeting up and ask her about it or did he tell her what was going on? At least Elliot realizes that Christian was right to look into Gia’s contacts since she is hiding things and hopefully won’t be so trusting with her now. But I’m curious as to whether she is suspicious that she is being investigated…

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      1. YES and YES. Elliot may NOT have told Gia about Christian looking into her–he just may have said that he “heard” about her “business lunch.” Although Elliot DID mention/elude to having seen her “schedule.” HOWEVER, Elliot could have seen her schedule from work, not necessarily from Taylor.

        So I am thinking that Elliot claims to have seen Gia’s “schedule” by seemingly innocent means OR maybe even asked about her “business lunch” that was reported to him, when HE had not sent her out for any particular lunch. Which BEGS the question of whether or not Gia is employed SOLELY as an interior designer to Grey Construction OR if she is just a sub-contractor. Since Christian said he “might” be in the market for a interior designer for his and Ana’s home, that implies that Gia IS just a sub-contractor and can contract out for jobs outside of Grey Construction. STILL, Gia CLEARLY had basically been doing ONLY Grey Construction work, as Elliot would NOT have felt so betrayed otherwise.

        But CLEARLY, Gia was FISHING for what EXACTLY it was that Leila told Ana. She questioned Ana SPECIFICALLY about WHO was behind it AND whether or not LEILA SAID. My mind automatically went to thinking Gia is trying to show her usefulness by reporting BACK to the Conspiracy Head about just how MUCH info Christian actually knows about the Conspiracy from Leila.

        So Gia NOW knows that Leila hasn’t given away any OTHER names such as HERS or the Conspiracy Head. HOWEVER, I HOPE that Gia does NOT know she is being investigated to the extent that she is, but she has to know NOW that Elliot will NOT give her the benefit of the doubt anymore.

        And Elliot clearly IS reaching out to Kate and TALKING with her regularly. They have even made plans as FRIENDS to go out on jet skis during the summertime. HOWEVER, I wonder how comfortable Carter will be with all of this. REMEMBER, Carter tried to issue ANA an Ultimatum about hre spending time with Christian, and Carter WAS right about Christian being intent on using his “friendship” to steal Ana away from him. (And quite frankly, with Elliot flinging it in Gia’s face about having contact AND PLANS with his ex, THAT shows Elliot’s intentions to most likely break-up with Gia MORE than anything else does. After all, he KNOWS what a hot-button Kate is for Gia, and that was BEFORE Elliot had ANY contact with Kate!)

        So I rather feel for Carter at this point in time, as I suspect ANOTHER Grey brother will be after HIS girlfriend. Hopefully, Carter can handle things better and trust Kate. But KATE will have to also make sure that Elliot recognizes boundaries. Because if I am not mistaken, then ELLIOT may shortly try to pull the SAME thing that Christian did in trying to get Carter’s girl!

        (So again, Tara has MUCH to work with for future books. After all, I suspect Kate will NOW move back to Seattle after graduation. She will WANT to be a dedicated godmother to Calliope. And I think Elliot will try to tempt her back to him. And Kate had WANTED to be friends with Elliot and maintain THAT part of their relationship, but methinks Elliot will want MORE. And if Carter decides to attend law school in the Seattle-area, there could be MUCH to watch. And CHRISTIAN would actually PREFER to see KATE with Carter then have Carter single and possibly looking to ANA to comfort his heartache! WOW what a tangled family web that the Grey brothers constantly spin!)

        LASTLY, though, because I keep forgetting to mention it—RAY does NOT appreciate the EXTENT and RISK of the Conspiracy to Ana! RAY commented that he thought the “full” security detail was a bit much. So I’m HOPING that his talk with Sawyer will FINALLY get him to realize just WHAT the Conspiracy is capable of! Otherwise, Ray is at risk, and THAT is the closest family tie that Ana has outside of Christian and his family. Which GIA COULD REPORT to the Conspiracy Head. So said Head may try to grab RAY, especially if Ray has to stay in Seattle to complete his 6 weeks of armed forces/guard duty. But Ray would certainly put up one heck of a fight, and even if Ray refuses Christian’s offer of security, Christian may have someone put on him anyway, just in case!

        (Sad to think that Ray would probably prefer an Elliot OR a Sawyer to Christian right now. And while we KNOW that Ana can handle Christian’s almost pathological need to control everything, that WILL tend to rub Ray wrong. BUT Christian’s decision to be with ANA now in Cambridge SHOULD show Ray just HOW much Christian loves Ana since Christian is willing to to put GEH second to Ana and her needs. ESPECIALLY if Ray DOES have to stay in Seattle!)

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  25. I DON’T TRUST GIA! HER AND ELLIOT ARE ON THE ROCKS AND SHE’S NERVOUS. SHE WANTS TO BE FRIENDS WITH ANA SO WHATEVER HAPPENS BETWEEN HER AND ELLIOT SHE THINKS CHRISTIAN WILL COMFORT HER HA HA HA. THE GUY SHE IS HAVING LUNCH WITH MAY BE TROUBLE FOR CHRISTIAN…. THE PROBLEMSS HE HAD WITH GEH CAME FROM SOMEONE WHO WORKED WITH HIM RIGHT? COULD IT HAD BEEN THIS GUY? CHRISTIAN IS SOOOOO SWEET WITH ANA! HE GETS HER DAD HOME AT A TIME WHEN SHE NEEDS HIM AND HE’S GOING BACK TO CAMBRIDGE WITH HER. THEN HE WILL BE SURE SHE’S SAFE. I LOVE THIS STORY! YOU ARE A TERRIFIC WRITER. YOU SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF THIS!! GREAT CHAPTER! THANK YOU!

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  26. And you HAVE to see the hypocrisy in Christian’s double-standard about relationships and the age-gap when dealing wtih Mia after what he did with Elena. But Christian LEARNED from his mistakes that he was NOT ready for what Elena did to him and the abuse she ultimately inflicted. And there IS a definite difference between a college-aged guy and a high school guy.

    So Christian needs to TALK to Mia seriously about what he has LEARNED from his own past mistakes. And what it nearly cost him as far as his OWN dreams RATHER than giving Mia ultimatums. You would THINK that Mia would have learned from Christian’s mistakes, but she keeps showing an aptitude for getting into SIMILAR situations. Christian said it himself earlier in ABSOF that Mia may be taking after HIM.

    But if Mia is SERIOUS about her OWN dreams, then she DOES need to think about the relationship she is starting with this guy. Christian HAS to learn to TALK to Mia, as he is soon to be a father of his OWN little girl. He does NOT need to repeat Carrick’s mistakes. Ultimatums never did Carrick any good, ESPECIALLY when it came to his children’s dreams. So Christian DEFINITELY needs to RECONSIDER how he is handling things with Mia.

    (And sadly, SO MUCH is clearly STILL going on within the Grey household that Mia could not come forward with WHATEVER it is that has caused her SO MUCH concern/trouble at the table. THAT is concerning. And ANA has been the one person that seemingly got through to Mia, better than anyone else other than Kate. So HOPEFULLY Mia will go to Kate OR Ana SOON. Because SOMETHING clearly scared her. And it was AFTER Gia’s and Elliot’s conversation about “the guy,” so what else could it be? But while Mia felt free to argue about Christian’s past, she DIDN’T want to deal with her own—interesting.)

    HOPEFULLY, we find out next chapter what that was in regards to Mia as to WHY she had to LEAVE so suddenly. She CLAIMED it was ballet practice, BUT WHAT if it was something ELSE? Either the guy’s name scared her, OR she got a disturbing threat/text message. (I now must worry and obsess about this for a WEEK!!!! Insert long and loud wail and insane rocking motion.)

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  27. Really, this is my LAST comment.

    NOTICE, Ray wanted to TALK TO LUKE about “a few things.” I think that Ray senses that Luke really cares about Ana. He also most likely knows that Luke has been Ana’s security person in Cambridge AND is who Ana CLEARLY trusts most to provide protection for her.

    So Ray intends to get answers from Luke regarding the THREAT to Ana. AND to get information regarding Christian and his relationship history. After all, I think Ray picked up on MULTIPLE issues while at the Grey table. MIA’s inferences about Christian’s past would NOT have gone unnoticed by Ray, one would think. And Christian’s controlling nature made a CLEAR appearance as well.

    So TARA, please consider this REQUEST for an OUTTAKE later on about the Luke/Ray conversation. You KNOW that it will be lengthy, and may go a long way in swaying Ray’s opinion of Christian, one way or another. I’d also LOVE to know what Luke says to Ray and what he thinks Ana still needs to keep her safe. Oh yeah, that is DEFINITELY high on my priority list for an Outtake. (Actually, this chapter provided MORE than one possibility for Outtakes. Mia’s Issues along with the various Grey members reaction to this AND seeing Ana after what has happened. So MANY possibilities here! Again, ALL your fault for making so many characters have INTERESTING PERSPECTIVES that we are all dying to read!)

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  28. Ray is just what Ana needed to get her out of the house. LMAO Ray is really giving Christian a hard time and he doesn’t know how to handle that.

    I would so be suspicious of Gia and the particular questions that she asked??? I almost held my breath when I read that Elliott said he was going to go on the jet skis with Kate. I thought it was a typo until I continued reading and then I was fist pumping going oh yeah he did say that! 🙂

    Then you had Mia at the dinner table telling everyone and I am meaning Ana’s father that they can’t be quiet while they are making love. LMAO Just picturing my own father at that table when I was younger and the daggers he would be throwing but then again he would probably have swung first and asked questions later.

    I’m happy for Kate and thrilled that Ana is going to get her dream of her Harvard degree and walk across that stage. That Christian is going along is the best way for both of them to relax a bit. Is Ana’s dad going to be there too?

    You were full of surprises this chapter. Thank you again for another chapter.

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  29. I think Ray being back is going to help Ana tremendously. I really can’t blame Ray for giving Christian a hard time. That’s what any father would do when he doesn’t know the man his little girl is in love with. Of course this is him being protective of his little girl. I don’t believe anything that came out of Gia’s mouth. She definitely gives a good performance. I loved how Luke was so protective. I was kinda stunned though that Elliot and Gia went at it at the dinner table and why Mia was so shocked. Did she recognize the man’s name that Gia had an innocent lunch with? Is this man working with The Conspiracy?

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  30. Fantastic chapter, Tara, thank you. I don’t believe Gia. She wants in Ana’s good books after all the Greys love and listen to her, Elliot no less. They’re in rocky road right now. I am happy Ray is back but he isnt giving Christian any credit after all he has done for Ana. I’d love for Ana to defend Christian to Ray the way she does Kate to Gia. Hurts to see Ray so blunt to him but nice to the others. He loves his Annie so hopefully accepting Christian is not too difficult a consideration. Christian is absolutely the very best. Ana’s his world, better still she comes first before GEH, thanks to having Ros and Welch back. Mia must have connected the name to dash from dinner. She should tell someone. Glad Ana will finish school with all the men who love her there with her. Reading everyone’s views is so wonderful, minons at work because Tara writes and spins such a great story. Look forward. Xoxo daytona

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  31. Great chapter….love it

    I wonder if Gresham is the man Elena arranged for Mia to be with when Mia used to work at her club.

    I wonder what would Christian do in order to get on Ray’s good side…….and I can’t wait for Champ to welcome Ray in

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    1. Yeah, Gia was fishing for EXACTLY what Leila reported to Ana. Almost as if she wanted to know if Elliot’s sudden change of heart regarding her came from LEILA reporting on Gia. Something to definitely THINK ABOUT.

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  32. I missed something on my first read through… When Ana and Gia were talking outside of the bathroom and Ana wanted Gia to admit that she was trying to steal Christian she said “but he made it very clear to me that it was only you, that he had no interest in anyone but you.”… We’ve said it before that something happened behind the scenes that made Christian despise Gia and she pretty much confirmed it. I’m just wondering what exactly happened.

    And the way that Elliot mentioned how the banker had more money than him also hints that he knows Gia’s true intentions, no matter what she tried to play now. Gia even said “even though things aren’t really good right now” and then she mentioned that they got into a fight (over the ‘business lunch’?) so something is obviously going on with them. Maybe Elliot is finally having his ‘come to Jesus’ moment!

    And it also kind of seems odd to me that they would only take Luke & Taylor to the Grey’s and leave three other security personnel to guard an empty apartment.. Even though there would be other security at the Grey’s house are they not worried about an ambush during the drive? BUT Taylor did mention that they weren’t being followed but he probably meant the papz. It doesn’t seem like Luke or Taylor to overlook that possibility of an ambush… Do they just want it to SEEM like they don’t have much security to draw out the conspiracy? Am I thinking too much into leaving the other security at Escala? Probably 😸

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  33. So much to process! LOVE, Love, love that Ray’s back. Absolutely love his conversation with Ana regarding being afraid, getting out of the penthouse and not giving in and loosing contol to fear. I agree with all the reviewers about Ray. Yes why wouldn’t he have suspicious of Christian? Any decent father would. He’s away from his daughter fighting for his life daily to make her dreams come true. He comes home under circumstances which no father wants to hear. Seeing Ana in a lifestyle that they both knew so little about (rich and wealthy). Pregnant, unwed, scared with a rich man that Ana knew nothing about. I’m also afraid of Carla conversation with Ray. Will she try and help him to understand or will she add confusion to the mix?

    Here’s what bother me most in this chapter ( I’m sure Luke caught it) when Gia approached Ana claiming her concerns for Ana. Gia initially line of questions to Ana about her attacker! And the line of questions about Lelia. I feel she was searching for information to relay back to the conspiracy. Those was just Red flags to me. ( for the very first time I think Gia Matteo might be involved with providing informations to the conspiracy).

    Mia has connected something about the table conversation. I just hope she speaks soon. We know that Mia doesn’t always share with her family what she should. But I do feel she might go to Christian or Taylor or possibly Kate.

    I was wondering if Elliott saw Gia out with the investor or did he find that information on the report provided by Taylor? Either way she’s really scared and acting ooc. And it’s not being unnoticed.

    Although I really want El and Kate together (he has got to grow up) I said in the last chapter. Kate might be out growing Elliott. In the last chapter he was upset that Christian suspected Gia. I guess I just want details on how he got the informations that Gia was out with the invester, clearly she didn’t want Elliott to know. Also I think Christian was just taking in the conversation with Gia and Elliot. It’s worth looking into by his security team. clearly Gia has something to hide. I agree she’s desperate at this point.

    I’m happy that Ana decided she was going back to school. I was concerned that mentally she wasn’t ready. Yes I don’t see how anyone could doubt his love for Ana. But I think with him going to Cambridge with his teams might bring too much attention to Ana that might not be warranty at this time.

    Side Note! I needed a refresher, so I have been re-reading! Why do I feel that Christian has a mole within his security team? I still feel that Andrew Linc and some other power players are out to destroy Christian.

    Tara thanks for a wonderful chapter. Until the next chapter.

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    1. I have to agree that Ray is very concerned about Christian. He’s seeing his ‘baby girl’ in love with a man that Ray feels is a rich entitled young man because he DOES’NT KNOW HIM, YET. He sees his daughter PREGNANT and UNWED, being attacked by someone who attempted to kidnap her BECAUSE of Christian. I’m just hoping that the conversation he had with Luke will enlighten him somehow. Maybe they could have a civil wedding before the baby is born, just to appease Ray, and then have a vow renewal or religious ceremony after, I don’t know what I’m saying, it’s just that even though I can understand Ray, I feel like he’s not being fair to Christian. I hope that they can talk soon, so Ray understands better what’s going on. I believe that with his military knowledge, he could be a great help to Taylor and the rest.

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      1. I forgot something. I would like to add that right now Christian isn’t Ana’s next of kin, it’s Ray and if something happens to her with the pregnancy or something else, I don’t think that Christian can do anything. I may be wrong I’m not a lawyer and I don’t really know how that works, as he’s the father of the baby. Maybe someone who knows can explain that, please. I’m thinking about this because she’s the target that the conspiracy has to get to Christian, and with her pre-eclampsia condition she could go on an early delivery, that I hope she doesn’t. Maybe I’m overthinking. Thank you Tara, this story is so well written, that you get so immersed in it and sometimes makes me forget that it’s fiction.

        Like

      2. When Ana’s possible high-risk pregnancy and eclampsia issues were first mentioned, some of my comments from that chapter INLCUDE wondering if Christian had thought through the legal issues yet and realized that if Ana DID go into labor after the Conspiracy grabbed her, etc. and she ended up at the hospital, Christian would NOT be the one to make medical decisions for Ana if she couldn’t do it herself.

        Ray or Carla are Ana’s parents and next of kin unless Ana has some LEGAL DOCUMENT to the contrary that gives someone else the right to make medical decisions for her. I keep wondering why no one seems to have thought of this, given Christian’s almost pathological need to control every possible scenario. So if Ana AND the baby are in danger, and only ONE could be saved, then as it stands now, that decision would go to Ana’s parents.

        HOWEVER, if Ray IS involved, he WOULD want to take Ana’s intentions into consideration. If Ana told him to give the BABY the priority, then I believe Ray would tell the doctor accordingly. That would be a TERRIBLE position for EITHER Ray or Christian to be in. Because, quite frankly, although it would about kill Christian to consider losing the baby, I believe Christian would ultimately want the priority placed on saving Ana.

        Ana gets to make HER OWN medical decisions until she is incapacitated. Once she is incapacitated, then the PARENTS call the shots, UNLESS the woman is MARRIED, and then the husband generally gets the say-so, particularly if the woman is pregnant, as the presumption is that the child is the child of her husband and herself. SO HUSBAND or WIFE CARD trumps over parent card UNLESS there is a LEGAL DOCUMENT (medical POA, etc.) to the contrary.

        In an ideal world, everyone can talk things through and agree on a procedure. But in the REAL WORLD, medical decisions to undergo immediate surgery or not can need to be made QUICKLY. By people who are SO emotionally torn up that it is hard to think straight.

        Quite frankly, I can’t IMAGINE Christian being put in a position where he might be asked to consider life-saving surgery for Ana that might save the baby at the cost of her life OR vice versa. How would he EVER be able to deal with that? It might be a mercy-call that someone ELSE got to make that decision, because I can’t see Christian being able to really live with himself if his choice ultimately ended Ana’s life, even at the cost of saving Calliope. But that WOULD be what ANA would want.

        WHOEVER makes the medical decisions SHOULD openly let the doctors know what ANA would have wanted. That is WHY family gets to make these calls in such situations. IT IS AN IMPORTANT THING for everyone nowadays to THINK ABOUT THIS now, while you are healthy, in order to NOT put your OWN dearest loved ones in a similar position. That is WHY people get LEGAL Medical Power of Attorneys that STATE who the person wants to make the MEDICAL decisions for them, if they become incapacitated.

        A legal document can ALSO say whether or not you want to REMAIN on life support or have the plug pulled. Even if you are brain-dead, feeding tubes can continue to keep you fed and with water. Signing a paper saying you want NO additional services means that you essentially starve to death. BUT that could be preferable to being on life support for years and exhausting your family’s life savings to NO benefit, if you are, in fact, brain dead.

        HOPEFULLY, Ana’s doctor WILL discuss the possibilities that COULD result from her high-risk pregnancy and encourage her to discuss with Christian AND her family about what HER preferences are. AND advise her to complete some type of Medical POA in case anything goes wrong stating who ANA wants to make decisions, AND WHETHER OR NOT that person has the power to override any of HER stated options/choices that she has indicated previously that she wants. THIS could be critical! (Otherwise, Ray OR, may heaven help us, CARLA, could be called upon to make the decisions for Ana if her life and that of the baby is on the line, rather than Christian, since they are NOT married yet.)

        Like

    2. You bring up an issue that I hadn’t even THOUGHT about—Carla’s influence on Ray. We already know that Carla called up Christian, screaming at him and blaming him for causing Ana nothing but sorrow. I’m ASSUMING that Carla does NOT yet know that Ray is back yet. Christian certainly wouldn’t be calling HER about it!

      BUT we heard at the dinner table that GRACE has been REGULARLY talking with CARLA about the wedding. So I DO EXPECT Grace to IMMEDIATELY call Carla after having met Ray at the Grey house, UNLESS Mia talks or something else comes up. Otherwise, Carla WILL learn that Ray is back and probably WILL call him about Christian, IF she is still feeling mad.

      News that Ana is now out of bed and even returning to Harvard will HOPEFULLY prevent Carla from calling Ray and giving him an earfull. But Ray, HIMSELF, may call Carla about Christian, so that could be VERY interesting to see what Carla says to HIM.

      After all, I would think that Carla would STILL want that high-society wedding between Christian and Ana, PARTICULARLY with the grandbaby on the way. And with Ana recovering, Carla will hopefully REMEMBER Christian’s beautiful proposal to Ana (and that ring! There is a little Gia in Carla, as she readily fawned all over Christian and Ana in Paris.) and everything he did for her AND Carla through those marvelous family vacations. AND the fact that Christian sees the IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY on such moments SHOULD make him a desirable mate for Ana, in Carla’s eyes, when not faced wtih the more evil side to wealth, which means that kidnappers and never-do-well’s WILL try to find a way to PROFIT off the wealthy man.

      So I’m hoping Carla is feeling BADLY about screaming at Christian, particularly as she and Grace SEEM to be bonding so well over the wedding and grandbaby. It remains to be seen what Carla will tell Ray about Christian. Carla DID witness how heartbroken Ana was without Christian, so she may impart some of what she saw to Ray. And Ray WILL NOT like knowing Christian was the cause of so much pain to Ana, PARTICULARLY if he finds out WHY they broke up in the first place!

      Like

      1. I kind of view Carla as a person who likes the idea of being a mom more than she actually likes being a mom. I think she really loves Ana, but I think she’s selfish and that’s why Ana is so close to Ray, and I think Carla resents Ana a little for seemingly choosing Ray over her. Especially when it becomes difficult for her to justify her own parenting decisions. I think Carla knows her shortcomings, and I think she feels a certain degree of guilt over them, even though she’s not willing to change anything to actually be a better mother, but she looks for moments where she can step in and feel like she’s being a mom and protecting her daughter. I think she LOVED that she and Bob bought Ana’s books her freshman year because she could justify that as a contribution to Ana’s education when Ray had overshadowed her by re-enlisting to make sure she got to go. I think Carla loved when Ana was falling apart after she and Christian broke up (not that she loved that Ana was so devastated, but that she loved that SHE was the one who got to be there and protect her– especially since there a time limit for how long Ana could stay with her, aka. summer vacation). I see this as a situation where Carla can feel like she’s being a really good mom, without actually doing anything. The truth is, Ana was attacked because of Christian and not that that’s his fault or that he could have prevented it (except in the way you’ll find out at the end of the story), but if he hadn’t been in the picture, Ana would have never been threatened. So Carla can glom onto that and feel like she’s protecting Ana by turning on Christian, which we’ve seen her do in the past when she tried to sit Christian down and have a real talk with him on the yacht the previous 4th of July. Now, she DOES seem to like Christian when he gives her things like when he flies her on his private jet, he takes her Bora Bora and Paris… but she’s very quick to turn on him, a lot, and I think that’s evidence of how selfish she really is.

        Like

  34. I was ALSO re-reading one of the Outtakes from Carrick’s point of view from ABSOF. He comments on how what Christian did “destroyed” his relationship and the family’s relationship with ANDREW specifically.

    I maintain that SOMEHOW a Lincoln helped instigate all of this, even if not directly responsible. It only makes sense. SOMEONE actively goaded employees of GEH after Elena was jailed. And we all KNOW how Elena BRAGGED to Ana about getting Christian to take over companies or hire people SHE wanted by making him think it was HIS idea. And Elena made sure to be at EACH and EVERY departmental meeting. So she KNEW all the department heads personally, and KNOWING Elena, she made sure to try to get in cozy with certain people. AFTER ALL, she STILL had ties at Lincoln Timber when the time came to help Christian take over the company.

    So Elena’s actions would have only FUELED Andrew Lincoln’s hatred. Andrew was clearly disgusted wtih Christian’s actions AND the whole Grey household, since he chose to end his relationship even with Carrick and Grace. So THEN he loses his legacy and livelihood. And AGAIN, Elena makes SURE to come to NY and basically rub it in his face, when he had tried to MOVE and put the whole COUNTRY between him, Elena and Christian!

    So that is a LOT of rage and REASON to be resentful of Christian. On BOTH Elena and Andrew Lincoln’s sides, because ANA led CHRISTIAN to bring them BOTH down.

    So Elena doesn’t even HAVE to directly DO anything. She just has to make sure that the RIGHT people have INCENTIVE to go after Christian AND Ana. And her CLIENTS lost Elena’s “services” on their behalf, PLUS any pull that Elena had with Christian. PLUS, I am SURE that Elena made sure to have BLACKMAIL material. So she would NOT have to push hard to get OTHERS to take action against Christian AND TO THINK that it is HIS OWN idea!!!!

    So yes, I still see Elena as being the orchestrator of everything and the fuel to the flames behind the conspiracy. Whether the Head of the COnspiracy is Andrew remains to be seen, but it certainly makes SENSE. After all, WHY would a investment banker DESTROY his BEST client? He would HAVE to think that he would have SOMETHING to gain.

    But the Conspiracy Head obviously is someone with SEATTLE ties and is RICH ENOUGH to understand the business world and where Christian’s “soft spots” would be. AND would have enough familiarity with GEH and certain company AND employee practices.

    But Elena put into play certain REASON for multiple people she came into contact wtih to HATE Christian, if she ever fell out of favor. So I see it HAVING to be Andrew or a CLIENT of Elena’s. THAT would be why Mia got so pale at the dinner table—she RECOGNIZED the name!

    But Christian’s acting like Carrick and making those SAME mistakes with Mia could cause her not to want to come to him with this information. It just REMINDS everyone of her OWN bad decisions. And Mia might TRY to convince herself that it is “nothing.” But Mia has a GREAT relationship with ANA AND KATE, so she IS likely to come to one of them. HOPEFULLY, since Mia seems to act so much LIKE Christian, she WILL come to Ana and be open wtih her. Christian NEEDS to know about ANYONE with a tie to EITHER Lincoln!

    Like

    1. Tara those are exactly my feelings on Carla. She pretends to approve of Christian/Ana relationship when it’s convenient for her trips/gifts /private jets and the list goes on and on. Selling her soul to the devil . Yes, very much like Gia. What I like about Gia! Those cards was laid out in the beginning. No guessing what she was after. She was clear about what she wanted. However, I think she barked up the wrong tree that being Christian who had zero interest. I lnow for some readers Ray might be harsh with Christian, but from a military father I expected nothing less from Ray. He’s there to protect his Annie with his life. I think Torik explained it quite well. With Carla she goes from one extreme to the next really only thinking of Carla. That where the dislikes for her comes from with absolutely zero parental instincts.

      Like

      1. And WHEN the Conspiracy makes another attempt at Ana, that IS my fear that CARLA will be the one to get to make the medical decisions for Ana. HOPEFULLY, Ray will be present and the one calling the shots, since Ana and Christian aren’t married. UUUGGGHHH, that is a horrible thought that CARLA might be the only parent available, say if Ray threw himself in front of Ana in time to take the brunt of the blast or shot or something like that.

        Because I frankly see the Conspiracy choosing to wait for when maybe Ana, Ray and 2 security people are in a car on the way to someplace (PROBABLY to supposedly pick up Kate or Carter or someone having “car trouble” on a side road close by, maybe because the Conspiracy had knifed a tire or two in such a way that the air was let out only a few blocks away from the home). The Conspiracy would have staked out a one-lane on each side type of location with little traffic. Preferably a side road without much traffic at certain hours. THEN, the Conspiracy has the FIRST car suddenly breaking through ahead and blocking the route. ANOTHER car then blocks the rear. They shoot out the security DRIVER so that it would be hard to move the car that Ana is in, and then literally Conspiracy men from BOTH cars get out and throw kerosene or gasoline ALL OVER the car Ana is in. THEN, ALL they have to do is hold a lighter up to the car and threaten to BURN the occupants of the car to death UNLESS they come out one at a time and are restrained by the Conspiracy.

        In this way, even if Ana has TWO security guards AND Ray, there is really NOTHING that can be done, in the above-type scenario. And it would literally only take 2 cars and about 4 Conspiracy people. And the Conspiracy would automatically SHOOT everyone BUT Ana, leaving no further witnesses.

        So even if Ana IS later freed, she would be in labor or at death’s door, due to eclampsia issues OR being shot, etc. And with Ray dead, it would be CARLA that would get to make the call regarding medical treatment for Ana. And THAT is the WORST case scenario, because Carla WOULD make it ALL about her and wring her hands and hee-haw with the decision. And the delay could further distress the baby and/or Ana.

        Once Calliope IS in the world, then Christian gets to make decisions for her as her parent. Even Carla wouldn’t try to contest paternity of the baby in order to try to keep Christian from Calliope.

        Sigh. I do NOT want to even think that the above will happen and Ana could be killed before the end of the story. I plan to assume that Ana, Calliope AND Ray will survive this story. BUT the Conspiracy Head IS mad, obviously rich, well-connected, and DETERMINED to make Christian suffer. And quite frankly, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to secure EVERY unknown situation.

        Ana’s imagination running wild and seeing a security guard(s) or someone else killed that is with her when the COnspiracy makes its move seems ENTIRELY plausible. So Luke and Ray and Taylor ALL coming out of this alive does NOT sound promising.

        And one of Tara’s COMMENTS above makes it sound like Christian WILL blame himself on down the road when he realizes that he shared his OWN role in having CREATED the mess and insanity that followed. Which almost HAS to point to one or both Lincolns. And BECAUSE of his relationship with Elena, SO MUCH of his life has been DIRECTLY influenced by HER—Christian got the MONEY for his company from her, the relationship destroyed the MARRIAGE of the Lincolns, Elena started a PROSTITUTION/exploitation business THAT used GEH to money launder, Elena made sure to maintain CONTROL over her submissives so that she could NOT lose THEM like Christian, Elena got Christian to destroy Andrew’s company. . . . The LIST goes on and on and on.

        For ALL we know, it could be one of Elena’s former prostitutes that is doing this, either with or without Elena’s instigation. One of Elena’s former clients could have re-started her business in her absence, using former contacts, and wanted Christian gone for having HELPED the OTHER girls move on successfully. AGAIN, the possibilities are ENDLESS, BUT the ultimate BEGINNING/starting connection was Elena and her relationship with Christian and ALL THE DAMAGE that happened as a result, even though Christian NEVER meant to risk harm to Mia, those other girls, Andrew and many others, including even ROs and Welch. But SO MANY lives were ultimately impacted. So Christian WILL feel that, especially if Ana should NOT survive, but Calliope DOES. Because that would mean that at SOME future date, Christian HAS to explain to CALLIOPE how everything went wrong.

        But if any of the above scenario comes true, then I CAN see Christian literally choosing to COMPLETELY walk away from GEH, as he would see the company as the foundation of so much evil, having been started through his relationship wtih Elena. He is rich enough to be able to do it and just give it to Ros or the employees. And then be the devoted father to Calliope. BUT if we all thought RAY was overprotective, then IMAGINE what Christian would be like if ALL he had was Calliope and NOT Ana. Because Christian would HAVE to make himself survive it all, as he would NOT leave Calliope without BOTH parents.

        Like

  35. And I keep forgetting to add that RAY trusting LUKE is a GOOD THING in my opinion. BOTH MEN were armed forces and faced combat situations. Ray will LISTEN to Luke. And Luke KNOWS how much Ana loves Christian and vice versa. Luke KNOWS that Ana has chosen the PATH most likely to make HER happy, and he would tell Ray that to his face. (AND confirm the fact that Ana knows her own heart.) And because Luke CLEARLY cares/loves Ana like HIS OWN family, (either sister OR daughter, take your pick. Because Luke’s conduct sometimes IS like a father to his daughter when interacting with Ana, if you think about it.) then Ray is likely to LISTEN to him.

    Because that IS concerning that Ray does NOT seem to appreciate the NEED for the security. He obviously would see Leila’s information as basically coming from a crazy, dependent girl in a bad situation rather than a RECOGNITION of just how POWERFUL the Conspiracy Head really is.

    And if Ray DOES stay behind in Seattle or Montesano in order to finish his remaining 6 weeks of duty, then the Conspiracy Head might decide to target HIM in order to get to Ana! So Ray NEEDS to understand the REAL RISK that faces Ana and himself by proxy!

    And if Ray DOES go with Ana and Christian to Cambridge, THAT will be interesting to see! If I remember correctly, there are 3 bedrooms in that house, and Sawyer had the spare bedroom. So Sawyer could take the downstairs couch at night while Ray takes the spare bedroom. But let us HOPE that the spare bedroom does NOT share a wall with Ana and Christian’s room! There is DEFINITE humor to Christian and Ray having to co-exist under the SAME roof with Ana for 8 weeks. BUt it WOULD give Ray direct access to actually SEE them living together.

    And Ana and Christian have never really had that much time to truly live together. HOWEVER, whenever they HAVE lived together, they basically faced MAJOR crises, so this really IS nothing new to them. And they ENCOURAGE each other to still MAINTAIN a life, so I think it would be GOOD for Ray to observe their day-to-day interactions.

    But RAY wants to be the one to protect Ana. And CHRISTIAN wants to be the one to do the same. RAY was the one to take the seat next to Ana at the table AND the one to pull her to his side when walking to the Grey house. He was sending a MESSAGE to Christian that HE is still the NUMBER ONE man in Ana’s life, so he is NOT ready to give up that position yet to a man he doesn’t know. So it would be INTERESTING to see how they manage in Cambridge. But LUKE would definitely be the go-between, and AT LEAST Ray seems to RESPECT Luke’s evaluation of the situation. So thank goodness for SMALL favors!

    Like

  36. There is ONE other possibility that NONE of us has mentioned yet, because it basically IS a long shot.

    We believe the Conspiracy and/or Elena placed Gia in the way of Elliot in order to put an INSIDER GIRLFRIEND that could get information. AND at the EXACT time that Gia’s usefulness seems at an end, someone “conveniently” enters MIA’S life and is the new “boyfriend.”

    If the Conspiracy wanted information on the Grey family to continue, then I would EXPECT the Conspiracy to get someone with Mia’s interests to attract her attention. What better way than another ballet dancer?

    Hopefully, the ballet dancer is everything he purports to be. But Mia is VERY young and like Elliot, she does NOT seem to see that other’s may see “trust fund” when they look at her. However, reacting like Christian did is the SAME type of response Carrick initially had for ANA, and we ALL know how wrong that impression was.

    So only time will tell as to what people the Conspiracy may throw in the way of the various Grey family members in order to continue getting crucial inner-Grey intel.

    But it was ALWAYS Elena’s go-to tactic to have CONTACTS within GEH or Lincoln Timber that she could rely on. And this Conspiracy Head seems to operate in the SAME way, so I would be WARY of any newcomers to the Grey Inner Circle right now.

    (AND if any of these contacts start to point to Elena and/or Andrew, as they SHOULD, since this Conspiracy Head OBVIOUSLY learned from Elena’s methodolgy, then Elena-related issues are GOING to come up. And Ray then will HAVE to learn about Elena. Let’s ALL hope he has SEEN how much Christian loves Ana and is willing to sacrifice for her BEFORE the reveal. Otherwise, I could see Ray giving Christian a punch to the face! Christian DID say that he wanted to pump as much alcohol into Ray as possible before spending time with him, knowing that Ray CAN shoot and has all his armed-services fighting skills!)

    Like

    1. I was also thinking on those lines as well. When Ana Taylor and Luke rescued Mia from Elena’s club. Didn’t Mia say to Ana that Elena insisted that she meet this man. But Mia claims she knew nothing about the man or his name and she just couldn’t do it. I need to go back and re read those chapter. I also remember that In the last maybe one or two chapters Christian has/had his security team checking her phone. This story really makes me want to re read the entire story over. I have never, ever been this into a fictional story before. Tara are taking me places on this journey I have never been. And for that Thank You! Can I just say I also love your readers. They’re all vested. We’re all vested.

      Like

      1. SPEAKING of RE-READS, go back and look at ASSOF Chapter #30. This is the chapter where Ana drives to meet Luke at a restaurant to see what info he has been able to turn up on ELENA. And she is ESPECIALLY interested in just WHO could have been taking the PHOTOGRAPHS that got leaked to the paparazzi.

        According to Luke, ALL of the photos were leaked from locations in NEW YORK in multiple housing listings that were for sale. AND it had occurred BEFORE Elena had even gone to New York to facilitate the sale of Andrew’s company.

        Ana also asks Luke is ISAAC could have been involved somehow and leaking the photos FOR Elena, but she admits that she doesn’t know his last name, etc.

        But I find it VERY interesting about this reminder that NEW YORK was where supposedly things were concentrated at a time when Andrew Lincoln still had his company AND yet was maybe monitoring Elena AND Christian AND was focused on ANA, once she had obviously returned to Christian.

        So the monitoring of ANA seems to basically date from the time that she comes BACK to Seattle and to Christian. And at the TWO places that photos were leaked, SOMEONE with ties from Elena WAS there, meaning Isaac.

        So it would SOUND like Andrew Lincoln was WATCHING and had been for a very long time. And that he went OVER the edge right after this, after Elena comes to NY in order to facilitate the takeover of Andrew’s OWN company.

        And if Andrew HAD already started going INSANE, it ALSO explains why his COMPANY PRACTICES had begun to be suspect OR gone so downhill. BUT the ONLY tie that we know of to New York at that time WAS Andrew Lincoln, who would have been STILL monitoring the situation in Seattle from afar, probably KNOWING that Elena (and Christian) were planning their next move against him.

        But I found that VERY interesting that Ana noticed that Isaac WAS with Elena each of the times that things got “leaked.” AGAIN, all tracks back to Elena and Christian’s initial relationship AND how it affected those around them. SOMEONE knows how Elena operates and was watching her every move and interaction, as well as Elena’s. So I STILL think it is ANDREW Lincoln, but Isaac seems ALWAYS in the background and ANOTHER person that was SO affected by Elena and Christian, as ISAAC was the submissive after Christian and the one that saw to all of Elena’s ILLEGAL contacts.

        So having ISAAC would be the KEY to having blackmail potential, ESPECIALLY over a banker thta controls Christian’s finances, someone that ELENA might even have recommended to Christian for the job! Someone Elena made SURE to get information on to ALWAYS be able to control. And THAT would be knowledge that ISAAC would have and could SHARE with Andrew.

        So Andrew AND Isaac BOTH have motivations to blame ANA for what ultimately happened between Elena and Christian. AFTER ALL, Isaac seemingly lost everything, including his “master,” who Elena would have been SURE to break to her way of thinking in order to not LOSE him like she lost Christian. Who would be devastated by Elena’s incarceration and losing home, business, etc. Who would SEE an ALLIANCE with Andrew Lincoln as BENEFICIAL, if Andrew spoke to him in a similar way as he did to Leila about DESTROYING Christian. AND following ELENA’S EXAMPLE to do it!

        This all TRACKS, and ANA’S INSTINCTS to look into WHO could have been following her AND Elena (since BOTH of them were at the locations involving photo leaks) were obviously DEAD RIGHT! So Ana has ALWAYS seemingly proved to be smarter than even SHE realizes! Because if this HAD been followed through on by TECH experts AND security, then the perpetrator of the COnspiracy now might have been identified previously!

        But yeah, Tara planted a lot of things in ABSOF. And EVERY time you find one thread, you are likely to MISS another. So a re-read of ABSOF with JUST a look for POTENTIAL Conspiracy Origins is DEFINITELY on my list!!!

        PLEASE Tara, give a CLUE to your faithful followers and readers about maybe what PARTICULAR past chapters in ABSOF that we might JUST want to RE-READ right now. (And hey, even the OUTTAKES provide snippets, including Carrick’s comment of about how the trial went down DESTROYED the Grey family relationship wtih ANDREW.)

        REALLY Tara, giving CLUES will just mean we BUG you LESS!!!! PPUUUUHHH—LEEEAASE give SOME hints. (OR promises that all our MOST favorite characters will come through this alive. I mean, SERIOUSLY, if there are ANY deaths for OUR people in upcoming chapters, I WILL need a kleenex BOX Alert. PARTICULARLY if it IS an insane Isaac or Andrew behind the scenes!!!)

        Like

  37. HeeHeeHee —- One FUNNY comment:

    Can you IMAGINE what Calliope is going to have to contend with, assuming Carrick is able to beat his cancer? After already seeing Carrick’s AND Ray’s overprotective natures in response to who their children date, ADD Christian to the mix as the poor child’s control-freak FATHER.

    I see Christian ordering a Rapunzel-style tower being built right beside the house within DAYS after Calliope’s birth, with Carrick and Ray applauding the action! Calliope better HOPE she inherits her mother’s “smart mouth” and independent nature! She is going to LITERALLY have to fight her way through armies of security guards that RAY will probably offer to train himself!

    But Carrick, Ray AND Christian are going to find MUCH to bond over in limiting poor Calliope’s future male interaction, I guarantee it!! She BETTER be stubborn like her mother!!!

    Like

      1. PLEASE see my below comment about the Article regarding a Military Man’s Rules for Dating His Daughter. I am SURE that Ray will be able to find a copy of this article, will frame it, and that CHRISTIAN will READILY agree to mount it above poor Calliope’s cradle!

        Like

    1. AND there will also be LUKE and Taylor as well, who will see Calliope as “their” daughter as well, having seen her grow up! THEY are military men as well, and you KNOW that they will be overprotective of Calliope, given what they have seen Ana have to go through!

      About a decade or so ago, there was a wonderful article in a military newspaper that was entitled something like “Rules for Dating the Daughter of a Military Man.” It stated that the man must be at LEAST ten feet from the daughter at all times, and that when returning the daughter from said chaste dinner date, the man must get out of the car, hold his hands up, and solemnly swear that he did NOT touch the daughter in ANY way. And even THEN, the Military Man stated that his “PTSD” might cause him to “flashback” to his combat days, while cleaning his gun on the roof of his house, causing him to “accidently” shoot said man-that-dates-his-daughter, PARTICULARLY if there was any clothing awry or close contact between daughter and man. AND the Military Man pointed out that with his “PTSD” having acted up, he WOULD get away with the shooting and that no one would find the body anyway!

      So Calliope has NO CHANCE of dating before the ripe old age of 30, if any of THESE men have their say! Christian will post AT LEAST 2 security men outside Calliope’s dorm room at all times, you just know it!

      Like

  38. Great chapter. I love the everybody goes to Cambridge. Can’t wait for everybody to show up at Kate’s and she’ll be hungover and really really surprised. Ray and all. Thank you.

    Like

    1. DOUBLE HeeHeeHee! I did not even THINK of this scenario—a drunken Kate waking to find a house filled with military men AND Christian!

      (Of course, I AM hoping that we get this scenario. Given that this is Chapter 30 already, it means that we should EXPECT another ATTACK of some kind or escalation by the Conspiracy.)

      So I’m hoping that the LINE going DEAD from Kate’s end was BECAUSE she was resuming her beer pong run with Carter and NOT because someone had started to grab her OR Carter in their inebriated states, because the Conspiracy had chosen to go after THEM since being denied access to Ana!

      That WAS a little thing that WORRIED me, Kate NOT saying goodbye to Ana. She was responding to SOMETHING or someone calling her, and then the line goes DEAD. So Ana assumes that she has returned to playing beer pong. And since Kate DOES have security, you would think that someone would have notified CHRISTIAN if anything went wrong. BUT an inebriated Carter and Kate WOULD be unable to defend themselves, and the conspiracy members would only HAVE to pretend to be “friends” trying to help them out.

      After all, with Leila on the loose, the Conspiracy Head will get NERVOUS if she can provide INTEL to Christian. After all, he made sure to KILL the other guy when Christian learned of his existence as a Conspiracy member. So I see going after Carter and Kate at a house party as being a likely cause of action, ESPECIALLY if intel came from Gia or someone else that Ana was fixing to return WITH Christian to Cambridge!

      So I WOULD prefer the FAR more humerous version of events that YOU describe then the other possibilities of Kate waking, hungover and in a place she does NOT know, with Conspiracy personnel holding her and possibly Carter captive!

      Like

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