Chapter 32

Publishing contract

“So, what exactly has been compromised?” Christian asks, pacing the floor of my bedroom. I stare at him rather than at his t-shirt in my hands, which I’m supposed to be folding, hanging on his each and every word. He pauses for a long time, listening to what Welch is telling him, and the longer he goes on, the tighter the muscles in his face become. Eventually, he closes his eyes, looking as though he may actually be counting to ten to calm himself down before he speaks. “Have we secured those access points? Good. And what have the police found out?”

I turn my eyes back to my basket of laundry as Christian turns back towards me and begins pacing again. When Welch came back on and did a complete system analysis, he found several places in the GEH server where firewalls had been disabled or security measures had been bypassed with code that had not been written by the Technology/R&D department. Thankfully, most of what he found was minor. In the beginning, it looked as though the majority of the access points created in the GEH server were merely put in place to monitor information being put in, kind of like spyware. But then Welch expanded his review outside of the main company server and he found a major breach in the security system, Taylor’s system, and not just what he used at GEH.

From what we can tell, they’ve had access to our home security system for months. They’ve been able to monitor everything we’ve done inside Escala, when we left, when we arrived, when we sat down to have dinner… If there was a camera in view, they’ve had eyes on us. Twenty four hours a day. It’s the kind of thing that couldn’t have been done through a simple VPN on my laptop, they had to have had someone on the inside, someone to install the software undetected. Welch was finally able to crack the security codes on that software two days ago and when he did, he found the credentials of Sam Walker, the man Christian had hired to take over R&D after Welch’s departure, all over it.  He was arrested yesterday morning.

“Great,” Christian says, the anger breaking through in his voice as he replies to whatever Welch has said about the police. “Just… make sure everything you’ve found has been secured and protected, and loop Taylor into anything else you find. If the police aren’t going to take this threat seriously, he will. Thank you, Welch.”

He hangs up the phone and turns back to me, looking as though the entire world is weighing on his shoulders.

“What did he say about the police?” I ask.

“They’re refusing to connect the security breach to your attempted kidnapping so they’re not asking him any questions regarding who could be behind all of this.”

“But this has to be how they’ve been keeping track of us,” I argue. “How they knew that I was out on the street that morning.”

“You know that, I know that, but the police don’t seem to care. I think Leila was right, we can’t trust the police. From here on out, we’re going to have to deal with what we find on our own.”

“And what have we found? Anything?”

Christian frowns. “No. Taylor thinks that whoever it is was shaken badly when he failed to get to you, it looks like it’s the first time something’s gone wrong for him. There hasn’t been anything since that day, nothing for us to follow. He’s just… disappeared.”

“No, he hasn’t,” I reply, shaking my head. “He’s just waiting for us to let our guard down again.”

“But we won’t. I promise you, Ana, I’ll never let him get near you again.” He pulls me into him, holding me tightly against his chest. His lips press into the top of my hair and as I nestle into his shirt and breathe in my favorite smell in the world, I sigh contentedly and he speaks again. “It was a good idea to come back to Cambridge and I’m glad I came with you. You’re different here, more comfortable I think, and I like to see you this way. I’ve very much enjoyed these past few weeks with you.”

I smile into his chest. “Even though we have to vacuum our own floors?”

“Even though we have to vacuum our own floors,” he agrees with a laugh.

He’s right, being back in Cambridge has been really great for us. Away from the pressures of the press and his public image in Seattle, we’ve been afforded a degree of freedom and anonymity we haven’t had since he went to school here. He’s been much more relaxed, more playful, and much more easy going. We’ve had more sex in the past few weeks than we did even last summer when we together all the time, and I’m starting to believe it has something to do with the Cambridge air. We’ve been happy, and it’s helped me make tremendous strides in moving on from what happened.

But there has been a learning curve to our life here. It’s been a long time since Christian has had to live without a full staff, specifically a housekeeper. In fact, I don’t think he ever has, except when he was at Harvard, and even then his meals were prepared for him and he had a his laundry sent out every few days. Kate and I aren’t about that life and now everytime we have to go to the grocery store or do the dishes, it’s like he turns into an alien from a different planet who is learning the ways of Earthlings for the first time.

“Let me help,” he says, turning towards the basket of laundry on the bed, but when he takes out a t-shirt to fold, he ends up twisting it into a crumpled mess and I laugh.

“I’ve got it, babe,” I say, reaching for the shirt, but he holds it out of my reach.

You don’t need to be on your feet all day, especially when we’re just about to leave to have your blood pressure checked. I want to help, just… show me one more time.”

Between the efforts I put into teaching Christian how to fold, and his subsequent obsessive compulsiveness making sure every corner matches up exactly, it takes nearly half an hour to get through the single load in the basket. And when we do, I’ve still done the lion’s share of the work.

“There, done,” he says proudly as he lifts a pair of my leggings up for me to see how meticulously they’ve been folded.

“It’s perfect,” I tell him, picking up the basket to take back down to the laundry room, but once he’s shut the drawer to my dresser, he hurries towards me, grabs onto my waist, and pulls me down on the bed. He nestles himself against my side, because he has to now with my bump protruding out so far, and his lips come down on mine.

“One more time before we go,” he moans.

“We don’t have time,” I protest, though the wanton need laced heavily through my voice, elicited by his tongue, isn’t very convincing.

“But these look so good.” He reaches up and kneads my breasts with his palms. “I love your body like this.”

“Ugh… I don’t, but I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”

“Immensely,” he breathes, moving down to push his face into my cleavage and sucking slightly on the swell of my breast peeking through top of my button down blouse.

“Well, take it all in, Grey. You’ve got nine weeks left.”

“Nine weeks,” he repeats, and he takes a long breath as he looks up at me. “She’s almost here. It seems like it’s gone by so fast…”

“No it doesn’t,” I laugh and then, after kissing him quickly on the mouth, I shove against him with my hands. “Come on, let’s go see how she’s doing, shall we?” He groans with disappointment but pivots so I can get up off the bed and as we leave the room and make it to the top of the stairs, his hand grips tightly to my behind.

“Watch it now, Grey,” I say indignantly, but he just gives me an overly satisfied, toothy smile in reply.

“It slipped.”

“Uh huh.” He takes the laundry basket out of my hands since I’m a little unsteady with my center of gravity thrown so far off, and we descend the stairs to find Kate and Carter sitting around the dining room table, eating breakfast.

“There are law schools in Seattle,” she says. “UW’s a good school and you’d look good in Husky purple.”

“From Harvard to state school,” he says dejectedly. “Great.”

Christian moves past them, clearly uninterested in whatever dilemma they’re facing as he pours himself a cup of coffee, but I pause as I pick up my purse from the kitchen counter.

“What’s wrong?”

“He got wait listed for Harvard Law.” Kate says.

“Oh… Well, that’s not a rejection,” I say, trying to be optimistic. “It’s still early, something will probably open up.”

“Yeah, tell that to my father. He already thinks I’ve been wasting all my time here partying, this is just going to validate all of that for him.”

“Well, if you don’t get in this year, maybe you could take a gap year,” Kate suggests. “Get some real world experience and then re-apply.”

“Maybe,” Carter says unsure. He takes a drink of his coffee and then turns to me, clearly looking to change the subject. “Where are you two off to?”  

“I have a doctor’s appointment in the city and then a meeting with the representatives from HarperCollins.”

“HarperCollins?” Kate asks. “Wait, when did you get an offer from HarperCollins?”

“Last week. And they’ve been very insistent. Dr. Ralston says they’ve emailed him every day since I got their letter. Apparently they’ve expedited their whole process to get an offer put together in the same amount of time as the others.”

“And you were worried you weren’t going to get published,” she smiles.  

“Yeah. I thought the waiting for the offers to come in was the stressful part, but now everyone is just throwing numbers at me and expecting me to make hard fast decisions on something that feels really precious and personal, you know? I kind of wish I could just pause for a second.”

“You don’t have to sign anything you don’t want to,” Christian reminds me. “If they’re pressuring you, tell them you need some time and you and I can go over everything tonight.”

“You’re not going with her?” Kate ask, turning to Christian, and he shakes his head.

“This is her deal,” he says. “And she’s perfectly capable of making it on her own.”

“Thank you, baby.” I lean over to kiss him softly, but as I pull away, I see an all too familiar glint appear in Kate’s eyes.

“So, you’re going to have the afternoon, free?” she asks.

“I suppose,” Christian responds. “Why?”

She shrugs but then gives a pointed look to Carter. They have a sort of silent exchange with a series of tense looks until Carter finally takes a deep breath and turns to Christian.

“Uh… if you’re not doing anything, maybe you and I could hang out. I’m not doing anything either and I still have a few friends on the rowing team, so I can get us access to Newell. We could go out on the river. Get a few reps in…”

“You want to row?” Christian asks dubiously, and Carter nods.

“Sure,” he says, but he doesn’t really sound sure. In reality, I know this is all part of Kate’s plan to get Christian and Carter to bond because, while he and I have had a great time being back here in Cambridge and Christian and Kate have grown closer living under the same roof, the same can’t be said for him and Carter. There hasn’t been any issues, Christian has been perfectly cordial, but there’s still a tangible wall of resentment between them and Kate is bound and determined to knock it down.  

“I think it’s a great idea,” I interject. “You were saying just a few months ago you could row circles around the new team. Now’s your chance to prove it.”

“And, it’s a beautiful day,” Kate adds.

Christian looks at us both suspiciously for a moment, but eventually lets out a long breath and nods. “Why not? It’s been awhile since I’ve been out on the water. Reed might actually be able to keep up with me now.”

“Maybe,” Carter says and as Kate launches into her plans for picnic lunches by the river, Luke comes in through the back door with keys in hand.

“Mr. Grey, Taylor and I are ready when you are.”

“Which is now.” He reaches out for me and as we turn to leave the kitchen, he shoots a dubious kind of look back at Carter. “I’ll be back in a couple hours.”

“Can’t wait,” Carter says, and as Kate turns to me, beaming, I shake my head and follow Christian through the back door.

 

Since it’s a Saturday and Dr. Baker is only seeing me today as a special favor because she’s already on call, the waiting room to her office is completely empty and it makes the short wait feel much longer and more awkward. There isn’t even a receptionist sitting at the desk, just me, Christian, and a large empty room filled with Parents magazines and discarded toys scattered amongst the chairs.

“Okay, Ana,” Dr. Baker’s nurse says as she comes through the door from the back. “Come on in.”

I smile at her and take Christian’s hand as we follow her to the examination room. She takes my vitals and records them in the system, then tells me Dr. Baker will be in real soon before leaving Christian and I to wait again.

“What could she possibly be doing?” Christian asks, getting up to pace back and forth across the small room. “We’re the only people here…”

“I think there must be some law about doctors being legally required to make you wait. I’m usually her first patient because I try to get here before I have to go to school most of the time, and it’s always like this.”

He sighs and leans against the counter, impatiently tapping his fingers against the sharp ledge, until Dr. Baker eventually comes through the door.

“Good morning, Anastasia,” she greets me. “How are you feeling today?”

“Tired,” I tell her. “Always tired.”

“Well, being seven months pregnant has been known to do that to a person,” she smiles. “But, we have some good news. Your blood pressure has gone down.”

“It has? Oh my god, that’s great!”

“Yes, it’s still a little elevated, but this is the first time since last November that it hasn’t gone up so we need to figure out what’s changed and make sure you’re doing more of it. Have you started running again?”

I frown. When I first got back to Cambridge, I tried to pick up running with Luke again, but just the few days I stopped during that last week in Seattle was enough to derail me. It was so uncomfortable trying to jog up the street that I simply couldn’t make it through our normal route and after three days of it just getting worse and worse, Christian and I decided it was better to stay at home and rest than push myself too hard. Especially since I was headed into my 3rd trimester.

“No,” I tell her. “Ever since I’ve come back from Seattle, I’ve found that most physical activity just completely wipes me out. I get winded going up the stairs sometimes now. We’ve have a really good few weeks though, very little stress. Maybe that’s the reason?”

“Perhaps, but with finals and graduation coming up for you, I think your environmental stress levels are bound to increase once again. If cardio is becoming too much for you this late in your pregnancy, then it might be a good idea to find something less strenuous. Yoga, maybe? Meditation. Even simply having sex regularly can keep us on the right track.”

“Sex?” Christian repeats, intrigued, and Dr. Baker smiles at him.

“Yes, Mr. Grey. Sex has many practical health benefits. Orgasms help reduce stress levels and have a measurable impact on blood pressure.”

“I see,” he says, with a smile. “Well, if it’s doctor’s orders…”

I roll my eyes. “My roommate did yoga for awhile, I can probably convince her to pick it back up with me.”

“Great,” Dr. Baker says. “Well, let’s take some measurements shall we?”

I nod and lay back so that she can measure my belly and listen to Calliope’s heartbeat. She does a quick check of my wrists and ankles and since my ankles are a little swollen tells me to make sure I’m elevating my feet as much as possible when I’m sitting or even laying down. She asks about how much movement I’ve been feeling and when I tell her I’m nearly convinced that Calliope is going to be a gymnast when she grows up, Dr. Baker laughs and tells me that’s a sign of very good things.

“Alright, I think we’re looking very good,” she says with a smile. “Do you have any questions for me?”

“I just wonder if there’s a point where her exhaustion should become a concern?” Christian asks. “She’s been noticeably more difficult to get out of bed in the morning and she’s tired throughout the day. She’s fallen asleep at the dinner table more than once.”

“That’s normal,” Dr. Baker says. “All I can say to listen to your body, Anastasia. It’s very good at telling you what it needs.”

“Thank you, Dr. Baker.”

“No problem,” She smiles. “I’ll see you in two weeks?”

“Right before finals,” I smile at her.

“Good. Until then, let’s work on keeping your blood pressure down.”

“It’ll be my top priority,” Christian says, trying to hide an implication filled smile and I shake my head with exasperation. Although, if what the doctor told me today is true… our increased sexual activity may be the reason my blood pressure has gone down in the first place. It’s really the only thing that’s changed…

I thank her again and shake her hand before we leave the office, and as we make our way through the deserted hallways to the car where Luke and Taylor are waiting, Christian’s hand skims down my back to grip tightly to my behind.

“Subtle,” I chide him with a smile, and his answering grin is infectious.

“I’m just doing my best to ensure your health and well-being, Anastasia.”

“Yeah, that’s what you’re doing…”

He stops me in the middle of the empty hallway and turns me back to face him. Our eyes meet for a long second, his gaze swimming with a hundred varying degrees of love and adoration until he finally pushes me gently into the wall at my back, brings his hands up to cup my face, and kisses me. I moan at the feel of his insistent but soft lips against mine and rejoice in the heat of his body washing over me as he consumes me. It’s the kind of kiss that would almost make me willing to miss my meeting, to never come up for air even, and as I feel his body press against mine, pinning me between him and the solid wall while his hands hold me firmly in the kiss, I think for a moment that he’s as content to revel in this connection as long as I am. All too soon though, he pulls away.

“I am so in love with you,” he whispers against my lips.

“And I, you,” I breathe back. I tilt my head up again, skimming his lips once more with mine, but he merely leaves me with a gentle, chaste kiss in return before he pulls back to look at me again. When he speaks, his voice is soft, warm, and filled with promise.

“I want to take you home and make love to you for the rest of the afternoon. Slowly. Deeply. Until nothing in the world exists outside of you and me.” He kisses me again. “Do you have to go to this meeting?”

“Yes,” I tell him. “And you’re not getting out of spending the afternoon with Carter.”

His lips, moving down to touch mine again, suddenly stiffen, and when I pull back to smirk at him, he shakes his head and smiles.

“One day, I’ll remember how well you know me.”

“One day, maybe,” I repeat with a laugh, and then I reach down to take his hand. “Come on, Luke and Taylor are waiting and I’m going to be late.”

 

Christian looks nearly solemn when we pull up in front of the house, but I really am running behind, so I can only give him a quick kiss and a few words of encouragement as he climbs out of the car. The pout on his face as Luke pulls away from the curb makes me laugh and for a moment, I’m almost sorry I can’t go sit on the grassy slope next to the river and watch Carter and Christian trying to row a boat together all afternoon.

I really hope neither one of them ends up in the water…

A deep yawn forces it’s way out of my chest when we pull up in front of the unassuming building on the edge of the law school side of campus, so as Luke parks the car and moves around to the back to let me out, I try to shake away the exhaustion quickly clouding my mind. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to do much good.

“You okay?” Luke asks, when he opens my door and I reach for his hand to help me out.

“Just tired. You don’t happen to have a five hour energy on you, do you?”

“Sure! I’ll just mix it with this beer I’ve got here and then before we go in, you and I can jump on trampoline. Wake you right up.”

“That doesn’t sound very good for Calliope…”

“You think?” he laughs, and as I join in, I reach back into the car for the files I need for this meeting and then hook my arm through his so we can make our way inside.

My lawyer, Russell Prosser, and Dr. Ralston are already in the room waiting for us when we arrive, along with a woman and two men I don’t know, but who are dressed in impeccable suits.

“Ah, here she is,” Dr. Ralston says, standing and smiling broadly at me as Luke and I enter the room. “The brilliance behind Escaping Neverland, Miss Anastasia Steele.”

“Soon to be, Grey,” one of the men interjects.

“Uh, yes… hello. I’m sorry I’m late,” I apologize, taking the seat next to Dr. Ralston. “This is Luke Sawyer, my bodyguard. I hope you’ll understand the need for him to be here today.”

“Of course, Miss Steele.” the woman now sitting across from me says. “And welcome. We are so impressed with your work at HarperCollins, we really can’t wait to get the ball rolling. Are you ready to begin?”

“Absolutely, please.”

She turns to smile at the man on her left, who gets out of his chair to turn on the laptop that brings up a PowerPoint presentation behind him. There are introductions, then an explanation of the history of their publishing press, which I don’t need because of the stalker like research I’ve done on all the big five publishing houses since I finished my novel, and then a lot of talk about demographics and target audiences. I know the latter is important, and I do my best to focus, but it’s hard to stay engaged when I’m just looking at graph after graph on their presentation and I’m already fighting the third trimester exhaustion. Thankfully, Calliope is awake and very active, so every time I feel my eyelids begin to droop or my mind starts to wander, a get a sharp kick behind my belly button that makes me focus again.

“Now,” one besuited man says as he turns off his PowerPoint presentation, “Our one hurdle is how quickly we need to work to get this on the shelves. Generally, we expect at least a three month turnaround between signature and publication, but I don’t think we have that long. I’d give us six, maybe eight more weeks of public interest before we miss our window.”

“Public interest?” I repeat. “How is there public interest? No one knows about this book except the people in my family.”

“Well…” the woman hesitates. “Because of the kidnapping. Your name is recognizable, you have a national media presence, the public is interested in knowing your story. Frankly, your lack of response to the media allegations has been a brilliant move. Everyone is waiting to hear from you and now, to do that, they’re going to have to buy your book.”

“Media allegations?” I repeat.

“I’m sorry,” Luke interrupts. “But the event Miss Steele experienced last month is under on-going investigation and we have been advised not to discuss any details of what occurred before or after what happened. We need to keep this meeting focused on Miss Steele’s book, please.”

I turn to look at him, examining him closely as he fights to keep his face a stone facade of impassivity, but I can tell he’s hiding something and now, I have a good idea what it is. Christian’s media blackout wasn’t lifted when we moved to Cambridge. We don’t watch the news, we don’t read the papers, and I’ve avoided every mention of what happened online. I’ve even evaded discussions about it on campus thanks to my security team shielding me from everyone who isn’t Kate or Carter. And, I’ve been fine with all of that because the truth is, I like my bubble here, and I’m not interested in listening to vague recounts of what happened to me or how they’ve been embellished to sell magazines or news stories. I don’t want to hear what the media’s reaction is, whether they’re painting me as a victim or saying I deserve what happened. I like feeling removed from everything, but now…

What are they accusing me of?

“I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head and trying to stay focused on the business at hand. “I thought that media coverage was a negative to getting published. Dr. Ralston told me that your publishing house wasn’t interested in my story because the bigger story was Christian. That people wouldn’t care about my book because they wanted me to write about his legal issues.”

“Right…” the woman says hesitantly. “But he’s not the story anymore. You are. Everyone is dying for real details of what happened to you and here you’ve written this book about pain, and devastation, and loss. It couldn’t be more perfect. This has best seller written all over it.”

I feel my face fall as the realization hits me. Carter was right. The sudden turnaround of interest in my manuscript wasn’t because of what I’d written, it’s because my name has been on TV. Because there’s a morbid quality to the curiosity and buying habits of the masses and the generous offers I’ve received are merely these publishers trying get a payday off of my trauma.

“We do believe,” one man says, “It would be prudent to change the name of the novel. Our research department has found that simply Escape will resonate with readers more profoundly as they believe it’s a more important allusion to what the public is looking for from you.”

“And we’d like you to add a forward,” the woman interjects. “Just a few words describing how writing was therapeutic for you, how this story was able to help you change your outlook on the world. Something uplifting, inspirational, a suggestion maybe that with this novel you hope to reach out to those who have suffered or have been through a horrific ordeal to help them heal. Again, alluding back to the kidnapping.”

I glance across the table, my gaze flitting to each of them and the hollow, black emptiness I can see behind their eyes. Suddenly, the room feels cold.

“Ana,” Mr. Prosser asks. “What do you want to do here?”

I take a breath and sort through the warring thoughts and emotions racing through my mind, and as the conflict becomes more and more apparent on my face, one of the men sitting across from me suddenly launches into the numbers aspect of the deal. They offer me a $30,000 advance, half upon signature, half after I’ve completed my promotional duties, and then 12.5% in royalties on the first 5,000 copies sold, 17% on every purchased copy thereafter. It’s a generous deal, more generous than the others I’ve received, but money isn’t my concern. I have money. My purpose with this book was always to try and reach people who needed a lifeline, the way I did when I wrote the story, and to do that, I have to get my book on the shelves. This deal may not be what I wanted it to be, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t accomplish what I’ve always set out to do.

“Fine,” I agree. “But you can make those royalty checks out to The Christian and Anastasia Grey Foundation, which my fiancé and I created to help victims of violence. You can spin that however you want to, I don’t care, but I want Random House to donate an additional three cents of every sale to my foundation as well. If you want this to be about evoking emotion over what happened to me to make money, I want that money to go to something good.”

The three of them exchange glances, even lean over to whisper in each other’s ears, and after a few minutes, the woman turns to me and smiles.

“I think we have deal.”

“Good. Send me a contract to sign, and we’ll get started.”

 

There are more details to iron out, most of which involve my promotional responsibilities and how I’m going to fulfil them so late in my pregnancy, but most of that discussion is postponed for a meeting scheduled after I complete my final exams. As we get up from the table and shake hands, there’s a celebratory kind of mood in the air, at least for them. I thank them graciously once more for their part in realizing my dreams, but when I leave the room, the false sense of elation I’ve put on immediately disappears.

“Congratulations, Anastasia!” Dr. Ralston says. “I’d told you that we’d make this happen.”

“We?” I repeat, rounding on him. “I’m sorry, what did you do?”

“I-I…” he stutters. “I got you this deal. I brought them to the table.”

“No, you didn’t. Because that would imply they were here for my book, for what I had written, but they’re not. They’re here because I was attacked outside my home and now that the media’s taken an interest in that, I’m a payday to them. If anything, the person who brought them to the table was the man who tried to kidnap me, so if you find out who that is, you let me know and I’ll send him your ten percent.”

“Anastasia…”

“You can bill me for the editing your class did over the summer if you’d like. I’ll send you a check for whatever you think is fair. But I think we’re done here, Dr. Ralston. I don’t need you anymore.”

I turn around and walk through the dark hallway, ignoring Prosser’s attempts to call me back, and I don’t stop until Luke and I get back to the car. As we pull away from the building and merge back into traffic on Cambridge Street, Luke seems content to let me stew in silence. Once we’re stopped at the first red light though, he finally looks over at me and reaches over to place a comforting hand on my forearm.

“You’re good enough, Ana. I’m sorry they’re too worried about bullshit gossip stories to see that, but you are good enough. Once your book is published, everyone else is going to see that too, and it’s not going to have anything to do with what happened to you.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I reply. “It would have been nice to feel like I did something on my own, but at the end of the day, I just hope at least one person gets something meaningful out of this. All I’ve ever wanted to was to help people who were feeling the same kind of devastation I felt when I wrote it, and to give them hope or the desire to go on. If I have to write a few stupid paragraphs about being held up in an alley and change the name of the book, that all seems very trivial compared to it’s real purpose.”

“Well, I’m proud of you, and I’m proud you didn’t just walk away. You put too much work into this for too long and it really is good. You should be proud.”

“Thanks, Luke,” I tell him, but as he turns to look through the front window again, I take a deep breath and ask the question that’s been nagging at me since it came up in the meeting. “What is the media saying about me?”

“What?”

“The allegations that woman from HarperCollins brought up. What is she talking about?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Luke. You know how sometimes you can be my best friend and sometimes you have to be my CPO? I need you to be my best friend right now.”

He glances over at me, takes a deep breath, and then sighs. “There have been some… questions as to how you got out of the situation you were in with no help and very minor injuries, and the fact that Grey had offered such a substantial reward for your return seems to be playing into that. Like you made some kind of deal…”

“What? Why would I…”

“I know, it’s ridiculous. They’re just looking for stories and if there’s anything more scandalous than a billionaire’s girlfriend being kidnapped, it’s a billionaire’s girlfriend faking a kidnapping to extort money from said billionaire. Grey thought that if you saw that, it might make things worse for you, so, we’ve been instructed to keep you away from it.”

“Yeah, but everyone else is reading it. My mom, my dad, HarperCollins. This could be why the police aren’t taking the security breach seriously. They might think I’m lying…”

“I know,” he agrees.

“So, why can’t we just tell them about Leila? That I had help escaping?”

“Because we can’t find her to verify that,” Luke says. “If we had any idea where she was, sure, we could respond. But right now, we’re not even sure that she’s alive.”

“She is,” I reply immediately. “She has to be. She’s just always been good at not being found.”

“I hope you’re right, because we really need her.”

We pull into the driveway of the house and before the car has even stopped all the way, Kommer is at my door. He helps me out of the car and then follows me up the walk to the house where we’re greeted by Champ’s excited, thunderous bark.

“Champ!” Kate yells, coming into the kitchen, and when she sees me standing there, her face immediately lights up with excitement. “So? What did they say?”

I pause and prepare myself to work up the excitement I know she’s going to expect. “I got a book deal,” I tell her, and she screams.

“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Congratulations!” She bolts towards me and wraps me in a tight hug. “I knew you were going to do it, and HarperCollins! Ah! We are so celebrating tonight! Virgin margaritas for all!”

“Sounds great,” I say, laughing at her overzealous excitement, and then leaning back a little to look through the arch between the kitchen and living room. “Is Christian upstairs?”

“Nope, he’s not here,” she says, in an over satisfied way. “He and Carter haven’t come home yet.”  

“Did they drown?” I ask, narrowing my eyes, but she just smiles and shakes her head.

“Nope, they’re probably just out there bonding and becoming best lifelong friends.”

“Seriously, has anyone checked to make sure they’re alive?”

“Ana!” she exclaims indignantly, but when I laugh, she rolls her eyes and turns around for the cabinet. “They’ve got to be home soon. Let’s make dinner and make some plans to celebrate your deal. We should go out!”

“Easy there,” I tell her. “I’m still seven months pregnant and exhausted after a very full day. My idea of celebrating is vegging out on the couch and watching a movie.”

“Well, you better pick one that at least has a hot guy in it.” she says. “Full frontal nudity preferable.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of full frontal nudity in my life tonight. You’re not the only one who is going to want to celebrate.”

“Gross,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I laugh.

We decide on tacos to go with the margaritas Kate is insistent on, and while we stand at the counter chopping vegetables together, I notice her phone buzzing again.

“Elliot?” I ask, as she picks up her phone to answer the text. She nods, but doesn’t give any further details, so I press her. “What’s he up to?”

“He broke up with Gia,” she says casually, as she sets her phone down, and I drop the knife in my hand.

“What?!”

“Yeah. He’s at Grace and Carrick’s right now and he’s staying there for a few days until she moves out.”

“Wh-what happened?”

“Remember how he thought she was cheating on him with that investment banker?”

My eyes widen. “She was?”

“No,” Kate says, shaking her head. “Apparently Christian’s security team is still monitoring her communication and she had another meeting scheduled with that guy so Elliot had that bodyguard that Christian hired to keep an eye on them secretly follow her to find out what the meeting was really about. But it turns out, the whole thing was legit. She was just meeting him to decline the contract that he’d offered her to do the interior of his new building.”

“So why did Elliot break up with her?”

“Because when he found out that she wasn’t cheating, he was actually kind of disappointed. I guess he realized that he had been hoping she was because he’s wanted to be done with her for awhile, he just didn’t want to hurt her. It would have been easier, you know? But once you know that’s how you feel, you can’t unknow it, so he had to break up with her. They got into a huge blow out about it last night and now he’s at his parents. He said he’s fully prepared to go home and find his house completely trashed. Apparently, she’s really pissed.”

“Yeah,” I nod. “But, she can’t possibly want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with her. What would she get out of that?”

Kate rolls her eyes. “Millions of dollars.”

I stare at her for a moment as she reaches down to answer another text on her phone, then slowly pick my knife back up to continue slicing the lettuce on the cutting board in front of me. “So… what does this mean for you, then?” I ask.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, Elliot’s single again and you two have been talking an awful lot…”

She shakes her head. “He may be single, but I’m not. I’m not going to throw away my relationship with Carter just because Elliot broke up with his girlfriend. The problems in our relationship haven’t changed. Elliot doesn’t want the same things I do, Carter does. I’m happy with Carter.”

“But do you love him?”

She frowns. “Maybe… I think I could. I don’t know, I’m very confused about my feelings. But I do know that the idea of breaking up with him is painful, so, that has to be the right track to love, right?”

“I don’t know… I knew right away that I loved Christian.”

“Well, sometimes love at first sight is real. Sometimes it has to be built. We’ve only been dating for three months, I think I deserve some time.”

“Okay, but if you’re really trying with Carter, then why are you hiding Elliot from him?”

“I’m not,” she says defensively, but when I raise an eyebrow at her, she frowns. “Fine, I am… but not because I’m being inappropriate with him, I’m just worried about how being friends with him will make Carter feel. I think we all have very clear memories of the last time a Grey brother got close to Carter’s girlfriend and I don’t want what happened between Christian and Carter, to happen with Elliot.”

“But I was partially at fault for that,” I admit. “I did things with Christian behind Carter’s back and I wasn’t honest about my feelings for him. The whole thing with Carter blew up because he found Christian and I together in a way that we shouldn’t have been and that’s what started the animosity between them. He’s going to feel the same way if he finds out you’ve been talking to him behind his back. You need to tell him, Kate. Especially if he’s going back to Seattle with you.”

She sighs, but nods. “Okay. I’ll tell him. But if someone gets punched out, it’s your fault.”

I laugh. “Just don’t make out with Elliot at a Halloween party and you should be in the clear.”

“Oh my god,” she says, pouting suddenly. “That was such a fun party! Remember how cute our costumes were?”

“Of course I do,” I tell her. “There’s a picture of us in those costumes in the living room.”

“Oh right,” she laughs, and while I laugh with her, the back door opens and, to my surprise, Christian and Carter come in, both smiling as they talk to one another.

“Beer?” Carter asks, and Christian nods before coming over and wrapping his arms around me.

“Mmm,” he hums, burying his face into the curve of my neck. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”

“I could say the same about you,” I say, turning in his arms to kiss him and noting that his face is several shades darker. “You look like you got some sun. How was it?”

“Good. Reed’s actually not as terrible as I remember him being.”

“That’s because I wasn’t ever terrible,” Carter says, placing a cold beer on the counter next to me for Christian. “You were just pissed off at me all the time because you wanted to fuck my girlfriend.”

“And I hate to tell you this, but I did do that.” He points down to my baby bump and Carter laughs.

“That’s alright, I made out pretty great in the end. Hey, baby.” Kate smiles and leans over to kiss him, before she reaches over to stir the shredded beef frying in the pan.

“Are you hungry?” she asks. “We’re making tacos and virgin margaritas!”

“Virgin?” Carter repeats. “Why?”

“Because we, including Ana, are celebrating.”

“What are we celebrating?” Christian asks, and Kate smiles as she turns to look at me.

“I accepted HarperCollins offer today,” I say, and Christian’s eyes widen with excitement.

“You did?” I nod. “Congratulations, Anastasia!” He sweeps me up from the ground, spinning me once, and the enthusiasm and happiness I see reflected on his face is too much for me to dampen with the less than ideal details behind the deal, so I don’t. At the end of the day, my manuscript is going to be published, and no matter what the circumstance are, that fact remains. For now, I’m going to be grateful for that and celebrate with the people I love.

“Jesus, Kate!” Carter says, his mouth hanging open as he lets out long, harsh breaths. “Think you put enough jalapeno in that?”

“Oh don’t be a baby,” Kate says. “And it’s not jalepeno, it habanero.”

“Ugh, no wonder. Where’s the blender? I need that margarita.”

I twist away from Christian to get the blender out of the cabinet while he and Kate set the table. When we’re finally able to sit down, I place a lime colored drink in front of each place setting and then take my seat next to Christian. It’s nice, finally getting back to what’s become our normal after my meeting this afternoon. The whole night has me in a great mood, especially watching Christian laughing and actively participating in conversation with Carter. This afternoon seems to have done exactly what Kate planned for it to, the ice has completely melted between the two of them, and now the four of us sitting around this table feels more like family than just two couples who happen to live in the same house.

“Alright,” Carter grimaces as he finishes the margarita I’ve put in front of him and then eyes the half full pitcher in the middle of the table with disinterest. “Without tequila, this is just pure sugar.”

Kate nods in agreement as she too makes a disatisfied face after taking a drink for herself. “Round two, Cervezas.”

“Oh sure, go ahead. Have your alcohol. I’ll just suffer with my sugar drink alone…”

“Deal.” Carter says, getting up from the table and heading for the fridge. Once he’s taken two out for him and Kate, he grabs a third and tilts it towards Christian. “You want one?”

Christian shakes his head and then reaches under the table to grip my leg just above my knee. “No, I think we’re just about ready to turn in for the night. Ana looks tired.”

“I’m not tired,” I tell him, and he raises an eyebrow at me.

“Are you sure? Because I think you’re very, very tired after such a long day.”

“Oh…” I reply, picking up on the implication of his words, and as he tightens his hold on my leg, I smile. “I am a little tired.”

“Then let’s get you to bed.” He gets out of his seat and then helps pull back my chair, and as I glance down at Kate and see the knowing look on her face that proves we’re not fooling her at all, I find myself more glad than ever that it’s her night to do the dishes.

“Night, Kate,” I tell her. She raises an eyebrow at me.

“You too, Annie. I’ll assume any screaming I hear is just from the night terrors.”

“That’s a safe bet,” Christian says, and without any warning, he sweeps me up into his arms and carries me off to the stairs.

When he’s closed us off in our room, he takes me to the bed and lays me out before crawling over the top of me and taking my lips with his. With each soft kiss he leaves on my mouth, my smile widens, and I find myself glad for once that he doesn’t deepen the kiss and hold me there, because I’d have to close my eyes and that would be a shame with the way he looks right now, tanned, happy, and absolutely gorgeous.

“I’m really proud of you,” he says, settling in next to me and taking me into his arms. “You’ve accomplished something truly remarkable, Ana. I should give you something to commemorate it. Jewelry, or… maybe a car. We could start looking at sailboats for the new house.”

“No need for that, Mr. Grey. There’s only one thing I want and it’s not something you can buy.” He raises an eyebrow at me so I reach up into his hair and pull his mouth down to mine. At first, he lets me set the pace and follows my lead as I push my tongue past his lips and pivot my body towards him. Soon though, I hit a roadblock as my protruding baby bump makes it impossible for me to roll over the top of him without breaking away from our kiss.

“Here,” he whispers against my lips. “Let me.” I feel his hands push gently against my shoulder so that I roll back into the pillow and he presses into my side, his hands exploring my body while his tongue moves languidly through my mouth.

“I’m wearing too many clothes,” I tell him. The corner of his mouth ticks up into a smile, and his fingers move to the buttons on the front of my blouse. I moan and arch my back, pressing my breasts into his hands as they move down to the center of my body. Once the last button is unfastened, he pulls the fabric away from my skin and we both move down to begin work on my pants.

“Now you,” I moan when I’m lying beneath him in only my bra.

He sits up on his knees and slowly pulls his heathered blue shirt over his head, revealing each of the rock hard muscles on his abdomen one at a time. My teeth sink into my bottom lip as he tosses his shirt to the floor and I get to take in his full, perfect form. His broad shoulders, his swollen biceps, his pectoral muscles, which are so perfect they look as though they’re carved from stone. He’s so beautiful, and he’s all mine.

“This gives me very intriguing ideas,” he says huskily as he reaches down to free my lip from my teeth.

“Like your cock in my mouth?” I ask. He smiles.

“For instance.”

“Then give it to me, Christian. Let me taste you.”

His eyes darken and his hands move for the button on the front of his shorts, unfastening them deftly until I can follow the enthralling line of hair that trails down to the base of his erection. I sit up immediately, moving to my knees as I reach into his pants to free him, and the moment I have him hard and ready in my hand, I wrap my lips around him.

“Deep, Ana,” he pleads. “Take me deep.”

My mouth begins to water as I hear the longing in his voice and I pull his erection deeper into my mouth, keeping my lips tight around him until he hits the back of my throat.

“Yessss, just like that,” he groans. His hands twist into my hair and he thrusts forward, encouraging me to take him as far into my mouth as I can each time my mouth moves down over his erection. I massage him on every pass with the flat of my tongue, revisiting every inch of the familiar territory that I’ve already learned by heart. The feel of him, smooth and yet so firm, between my lips drives the desire inside of me and has heat pooling between my legs. My body is anticipating what’s to come, and I’m hungry for it.

“Fuck, I love your mouth,” he hisses as I hold him in my throat and force myself to swallow. I look up at him through my lashes as I pull away from him, opening my lips so he can see his erection drag across my tongue.

“Just my mouth?”

“Oh no, baby. Not just your mouth.” Leaning down, he kisses me deeply, distracting me as he reaches for my hips, but once his fingers close around my middle, he pulls away from my lips and flips me around onto my hands and knees. “Get that ass in the air.”

I moan as I slide down on the sheets, pushing my chest into the bed and raising my behind as high as I can. His hand slides between my legs and my insides clench as his fingers make contact with my clitoris.

“Oh Jesus, you’re already so wet,” he groans.

“I want you.”

He slides a finger inside of me, then another, pumping them in and out while I keen desperately beneath him, letting myself fall mercy to his expert touch. When I start pushing back on him, he let’s out a low growl, removes his fingers, and I feel the tip of his erection brush lightly against me.

“Is this what you want?”

“Yes!”

“Then take it. Push back and fuck yourself on me, slowly.”

My fingers twist into my sheets as I shift backwards, and a long, drawn out gasp escapes my lips as I feel him slide inside of me, stretching me, electrifying me with need that I know won’t be sated by slow, gentle love making. I lift my hips and fall down on him again and again, clenching each time I feel him press against my pubic bone, and each time I tighten my walls around him, he lets out a low, pleasure filled moan.

“Oh fuck,” I breathe as I push all the way back onto him and begin to swivel my hips so that he’s moving against every part of me. His hands tighten on my hips while I grind against him again and again, until eventually he hisses a needy sounding fuck, pulls back, and begins to pound into me. His thrusts are violent and unmerciful, training my insides to his rhythm, which will eventually be matched by the convulsions of my orgasm. I scream out my pleasure, his name, all too loudly. I know Kate and Carter can probably hear me, but I can’t stop the frenzied, feral noises coming out of me. Even Christian seems to gasp and groan with a loud, deep baritone each time his hips make contact with my ass, and when I come around him, he actually yells.

“Oh, fuck!”

“Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop,” I plead in time with each of his thrusts, and he complies. He continues to piston in and out of me while I fly so high through my orgasm the heat coursing through me begins to burn, like I’ve flown directly into the sun.

“Oh fuck, Ana,” he breathes, leaning back but not faltering in his pace. “You feel so fucking incredible when you come.”

“I want yours,” I whimper. “I want your come. Come inside of me, Christian.”

He groans again and tightens his fingers on my hips, pressing into me so hard that it’s almost painful, but I relish in it. I want him to hold me tighter, bruise me, as he pours his release inside of me.

“Shit, I’m gonna come,” he tells me, and, while his pace increases, I begin to flex and pull my kegals until he stills and cries out a strangled, garbled version of my name.

When he comes down, he pulls out of me, taps his erection a few times against my clitoris, and then collapses on the bed next to me. His arms open and I slowly stretch out my limbs until I’m flat on the mattress and I can snuggle tightly into his side.

“Mmm,” I hum in approval as his arms wrap around me. “I love this part. You pressed against me while my entire body feels like it’s melting into the bed. I think the good doctor is right, orgasms are definitely good for my blood pressure.”

He lets out a low chuckle and then presses his lips against the apex of my cheekbone. “I think that being apart wasn’t good for your stress. I should have come here more, spent more time here, made you travel less…”

“It wasn’t possible. I’m just glad you’re here now.”

“Me too. These past month has been so good, I’m almost sorry that we’re going home in a few weeks.”

“Ros would kill you if you didn’t,” I say with a very tired laugh, and then sigh. “I guess everything comes to an end eventually.”

“Not everything,” he says and he tilts my face back to his so he can kiss me once more. When he pulls away, he brushes his hand over my cheek and places one last, quick kiss on the tip of my nose. “Sleep, baby. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

“Mmm,” I hum again, and as his arms tighten around me, my last conscious thought fades away and I drift into a peaceful, relaxing sleep.

Next Chapter

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70 thoughts on “Chapter 32

  1. Yep, I KNEW the media would be like that. The police, too. So they are questioning Ana’s being able to escape the thugs. I had figured that it would have been reported that Ana had SOME help in escaping, just not mentioning Leila’s name, but it sounds like the police have turned it around on Ana to avoid having to come up with reasons for having no leads. (And they don’t have leads because they are not looking, due to being paid off.) And turning it around on ANA makes it easy for the police to get away with no leads.

    But I figured that the computer was the way into the security hack. My concern remains that Mr. Big Bad (nice name, Allie!) has who knows WHAT kind of video on Ana and Christian. PLUS, any audio would also include certain details that the Conspiracy could exploit.

    And now with Elliot having broken up with Gia, she has a reason to want revenge on him. If the Conspiracy hadn’t recruited her before, then you just KNOW they will reach out to her now.

    And Gia still has naked pics of Elliot and who knows what else. KNOWING Gia, she probably has a sex video of her and Elliot. AND she may have taken what would LOOK like inappropriate pics of her and Christian while they worked out, without him knowing it.

    And The Conspiracy Head could contact Gia PRETENDING to be a reporter or who knows what who just wants information and is will to PAY her for her “story.” Gia would be feeling vengeful and would give any information that she thought would hurt Elliot, not realizing that the Conspiracy Head could use the information for even MORE.

    And the Professor DID help exploit Ana’s relationship and attack to get the book deals. But Ana is right, he really did nothing but exploit what had happened. I’m glad that Ana is agreeing to publish her book, though.

    And I kept thinking Christian and Carter would get kidnapped while out rowing, especially when it took them so long to get back. I think the Conspiracy Head is trying to lull them into a false security OR is concentrating on getting LEILA first. Mr. Big Bad has to KNOW that Leila’s intel could be crucial in taking him down, so he HAS to find her first before she can compromise him further.

    So Leila seemingly HAS been able to stall the Conspiracy for now. But EVERYONE is now trying to find Leila, including the police, who wouldn’t want her to compromise THEIR payoffs! So Leila must keep moving. It just remains to be seen if she heads back to Cambridge or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I almost wish she wouldn’t have signed for the book. Maybe when she gets the contract she won’t. Maybe Christian can talk some sense into her and have her publish it with SIP it pisses me off that they are using her kidnapping to sell the book. It will just make her look bad. Like that is what she set out to do. You know?? And I really want to know what’s happening with who ever is trying to hurt them. On another note. Can’t wait for Baby Calliope to enter the world!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you, I’m worried about how publishing the book in this way will hurt Ana. However, we already know that Ana has been painted as the golddigger and the police have done nothing to assuage that belief. In fact, if Ana gets attacked or taken again, I think the police will try to claim that she “planned” it herself. Which is ridiculous, given that Ana is going to give birth to Christian’s child. If she truly wanted money, the child support alone would be staggering. So the media is just trying to sell stories, and villifying Ana works for them AND the Conspiracy, sadly. But this book deal could PLAY into the media speculation.

      So I want to see Ana talk with Christian about the whole book deal and get his take. Quite frankly, the more I hear, the better I think it would be for Ana to publish through SIP. After all, Ana does not want or need the money. She could publish on her OWN terms, and the sells help her OWN company, since what is Christian’s will be hers once the marriage takes place.

      But like you, I can’t WAIT to see Calliope enter this world, although given Ana and Christian’s history AND the fact that the Conspiracy is still out there, biding its time, Calliope’s birth is probably not going to be a simple affair.

      We just have to wait and see when the Conspiracy will attack. I think the Conspiracy is concentrating on finding and killing Leila first. HOWEVER, while the Conspiracy would want Christian to know that they got to Leila, if the MEDIA learned of her death, then the Conspiracy WILL be seen as “real” no matter how the police try to spin it.

      So the Conspiracy may be biding its time and looking for the perfect “in.” Which could now come from a vengeful Gia. I’m wondering if she will try to contact Ana, presumably to ask for her “help.” Gia is now like Leila originally was—wanting revenge and not considering the FULL consequences of her actions. Gia strikes me as being like Elena in wanting to make the other person PAY, so no way she goes quietly.

      But with all the above going on, and Calliope’s due date approaching fast, I think the Conspiracy is going to time their attack to when Ana AND Calliope are at their most vulnerable.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad Ana confronted Kate about the whole texting Elliot thing. And I feel much better about Kate in reading this chapter. She is NOT going to just throw away Carter BUT is trying to figure out just how she feels.

    But Ana is EXACTLY right about how Carter will see it as betrayal the longer that Kate goes on in communicating with Elliot without telling Carter. And Carter WILL basically be in the SAME position he was last time around.

    And Carter’s OWN future is still up in the air since he got wait-listed to Harvard Law. But a year off could give him time to go back to Seattle and beef up his resume, since I would think that Christian WOULD give Carter a chance, if his work merits it. There are any number of ways that Christian could help Carter, and I am sure that he WOULD help Carter, career-wise, for Kate’s sake. Assuming the two stay together.

    But I am now really intrigued to see how Carter, Kate, Ana, Christian and Elliot handle being back in the same town together, assuming Carter DOES come back to Seattle. (AND that is assuming that everyone lives through the Conspiracy.)

    I’m also wondering what happens to Gia’s JOB now. If Elliot fired her, that would look like it was because of their relationship status and not because of her work performance. Elliot may now get to see firsthand what Christian lived through with the whole Leila thing, ESPECIALLY if Gia tries to make similar claims. So Elliot is basically stuck having a vengeful ex working for him.

    So the Elliot/Gia thing may have multiple serious reprocussions. Which may or may not end up being used by the conspiracy. If Gia DOES try any type of revenge porn against Elliot, he would be within his rights to fire her, since she would be hurting his company, but there could be legal actions pending in Elliot’s life.

    So I anticipate the whole Gia thing being a learning experience for Elliot. AND we will all get to see JUST how retaliatory Gia could be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a freaking amazing chapter!! 🙂
    I feel so bad for ana. I think that it would be heartbreaking to learn that they are only interested in you because of this horrifying incident that could have killed her!!
    But Ana’s book is going to stand on its own. It’s going to be beautiful and amazing and people will see that she’s a great writer on her own! 🙂
    I do think she should tell Christian…but I’m glad that she at least got a deal and took it! It’s amazing!!!
    Glad that christian and Carter got along better…
    Although I don’t know how long Carter and Kate are going to be together…I love you Kate, but come on girl. Carters not right for you. You know it, we know it, it’s just what it is. I know you care about him and he’s a close friend, but I really just don’t see him being the boy for Kate. He just seems a little too much of a boy lol.
    But I love Kate and I know she’ll make the right decision! 🙂
    THANK GOD THAT ELLIOT FINALLY BROKE UP WITH GIA!! THANK GOD! 🙂
    Great chapter!! I can’t wait until next week!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I keep trying to rationalize a way for Carter and Kate to actually make it, but I DO think you are right and Elliot is the person that Kate truly loves.

      HOWEVER, it does NOT change the facts that caused Elliot and Kate to break up in the first place. Kate doesn’t just want a marriage ceremony, she wants everything that a marriage stands for. Even her mother won’t allow her to stay overnight in her family home with a man unless there is a ring. So Kate has been brought up to VALUE marriage and to see what it means to her family.

      And Elliot’s attitude that you have a relationship until you don’t is NOT the commitment that Kate seeks. So Elliot really DOES have to change his ATTITUDE regarding relationships. Because he has shown that he CAN just seemingly “move on” quickly. So Elliot has to show that he NOW realizes that it is NOT so easy, and you can’t simply replace the love-of-your-life with a meer lookalike.

      But I DO think Elliot’s opinions WILL change on both marriage and children. I think he realizes now what it means to have that REAL significant other in your life that you can depend on. And as I have said above, I anticipate CALLIOPE’s arrival as being the thing to really change Elliot’s mind about children. I just think Elliot will want a son or daughter to watch Seahawks’ games with and have the SAME type of rituals that he and his father have when watching a game.

      But I feel sorry for Carter because it seems like he really HAS become almost a family member for Christian and Ana AND Kate now. IF Carter manages to survive this story, I HOPE that he would want to preserve his friendships wtih BOTH Ana and Kate. Sometimes, an ex can truly be a friend, as we have seen with Carter and Ana. And Christian now KNOWS that he has nothing to worry about in regards to Ana’s feelings for him. And Christian actually NEEDS real friends AND seemingly values them now. And I think that has EVERYTHING to do with seeing Ana and Kate’s friendship through the years.

      Ana really HAS rubbed off on Christian in so many positive ways. Christian has FINALLY learned to really TRUST because of Ana. (So I am going to TRUST that Tara will not kill off Ana. Nope, not going to happen. Just can’t. The resulting deluge of tears that would result from such an event would flood the world AND destroy all computers, so Tara just won’t risk that. Yep, I will cling to Denialville regarding ANY character deaths for as long as possible!)

      But the Conspiracy Head WILL have to be caught red-handed for the police to try to take him down. AND given that Elena gets out so soon while Calliope is still a child troubles me. I would RATHER see the Conspiracy Head target the REAL evil, which is Elena.

      As always, there are SO MANY ways that Tara can go with this. Just wish we could convince her that Monday occurs more than once a week!

      But since I sometimes forget to say it because it is SO OBVIOUS, I really LOVED this chapter. It provided some subtle clues while giving us to see Ana and Christian having a HAPPY loving household, DESPITE the things facing them. And I LOVE to see Christian opening up so and really ENJOYING his relationship and LETTING his company take a back seat. I LOVE seeing a Christian WILLING to make such a sacrifice as relocating AND appreciating being with Ana WITHOUT resenting the time it takes from his profession. Christian more and more seems to make his family a priority. And being able to be WITH Ana for all of this makes all the difference in the world!

      (And with Ray not having made any surprise appearances, I take it that he DOES on some level appreciate what Christian was willing to sacrifice to allow Ana to have an almost perfect life for her last months at Cambridge.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Tara, I get that if characters don’t have to FIGHT for their happingess, then you wouldn’t have intriguing stories. While we all want everyone to be happy all the time, no one would read that. Or really trust in anything THAT perfect with no obstacles. And you don’t know how REAL something is until it is tested.

        But that also means that you get downright SCARED during the happiest of times for your favorite couples, because the calm almost always comes before the perfect storm.

        So that IS a thing to worry about—when the main characters seem so happy and the author gives you those perfect moments, it almost always ends up being because it will be the LAST happy memories for some time to come. I mean, even though I KNEW Gwen Stacey died in the Spiderman comic books AND that she was killed by the goblin, I was still crushed when it happened in the movie the Amazing Spiderman #2. ESPECIALLY after that loving scene where they admitted their feelings and intent to be together. You get THAT PERFECT MOMENT, and then the HORROR happens.

        But yeah, I sort of get that the likelihood of EVERYONE making it out alive when the stakes are what they are is most likely impossible. So I naturally tend to almost distrust the REALLY happy moments, because I feel that is oftentimes used before EVERYTHING changes.

        But that is an obvious tribute to great writing when you actually FEEL for so many different characters. I mean, I don’t want to lose ANYONE from these stories. ANY of the possible scenarios that I can see moving forward are ones I would love to see explored. I just don’t want to lose ANY of the characters.

        So I continue to be nervous for these characters that I love. I mean, you have me even rooting for the DOG, and I am NOT a dog person! So I’m still trying to prepare myself for the “tear jerker” warning that will probably be coming. Poor Christian is due a reckoning, I’m afraid, for what all went on in the past. I fear he will have to pay a horrible price. I’m just hoping it is NOT ANA. Calliope is obviously going to make it, but I wonder what will be sacrificed to make this come about.

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  5. So good! I love just reading about them hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company. Plus, the lemon at the end was HOT, HOT, HOT! 🔥Others have stated that they like Carter better now for Kate than Elliot and until this chapter I haven’t agreed but they seem to have a really good energy. I’m still a hard core Elliot fan so if they do get together then I hope he’s made to work for it. Maybe, holding his niece for the first time and that feeling of instant love and protectiveness he’ll feel will knock some sense into him. How scary and creepy that, The Conspiracy, had them watched in Escala 24/7. I feel that something big is about to happen. I think instead of waiting for their enemy’s next move they need to set strap to lure him/her/them out. Hopefully, they can gain some control of the situation and start getting the upper hand. I think Ana made the right decision by accepting the publishing deal. I also, like how she forced their hand, to donate, to a worthy cause and told her professor were to go. I think it’s safe to say he shouldn’t expect a thank you or an acknowledgement in the author’s, forward! I can see how she would feel disappointed on the reason why all of a sudden her books getting interest but it is getting published and unfortunately, that’s business and she’ll probably reach a wider audience this way. If she’s not good then she be a flash in the pan but if she is then her work will start speaking for its self and this will launch her career as a respected author. Great Chapter, it just gets better and better.! Thanks for the update.

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    1. Oh, also I think it should be announced that Ana’s stipulation to getting her book published was that all her profits and a percentage of the books profits from the publisher are going to charity. Especially, since the media (started by The Conspiracy???) are starting a rumor that she’s doing this for money.

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      1. The media themselves could have come up with the rumor that Ana orchestrated a “fake” kidnapping in order to get money from Grey in order to sell newspapers. But you are correct that the Conspiracy Head could have gotten his people within the media to start the rumor. After all, it would be in HIS best interest not to have people looking for him.

        But my bet is on the corrupt police officers who are supposed to be investigating the case. After all, when harm comes to a billionaire’s pregnant girlfriend, there SHOULD be expected public outrage and a demand that the case be solved. So for police to have “no leads,” then they get accused to being incompetent UNLESS they can try to point the finger back at the victim. By “leaking” to the media that there are suspicions that Ana did it all herself, then the police get out of investigating REAL leads AND can also claim “no connection” between the major security breaches at GEH and Escala with Ana’s kidnapping.

        So the media insinuations help BOTH the corrupt cops AND the Conspiracy Head. And the media drums up further interest in a case with no leads by pointing the finger at Ana. (But you figure the media is being fed info. by SOMEONE, as making accusations of that kind could get them sued by Christian and/or Ana unless there is supposedly some “source” to base the allegations on.)

        But I DEFINITELY hope that Ana’s stipulation about the profits going to the Foundation gets published AND not just because it shows what kind of person Ana REALLY is. But if Ana were REALLY all about the money, then she would keep every dime of profits rather than doing what she is doing.

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  6. Hmm 😒 if I was Ana I wouldn’t have signed with any of these publishing house. I would have tried SIP in Seattle and settle for less money. Give the smaller publishing company a chance to rise up. Random House left a bitter taste in my mouth and I still don’t trust professor Ralston too. Kate is playing a dangerous game. I hope she knows what she is doing. I guess the chaos will resume when they go back to Seattle. I don’t trust krommer the new cpo. Good stuff today Tara.

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  7. But interesting how much HAPPIER Ana AND Christian are in Cambridge. Ana’s blood pressure is even down. And while I get it is because they are both FINALLY able to be together all the time, it is also because BOTH of them can RELAX outside of the media presence and speculation.

    The Media really HAS been an ever-present Third Party to their relationship since they got back together in Seattle. The anonymity in Cambridge has clearly been beneficial for them BOTH.

    So Christian has some interesting choices in front of him upon returning to Seattle. GEH really does need him, but it is up to Christian to determine just how much of his life he devotes to GEH. Quite frankly, he can choose to take a step back and operate similarly to how he has done in Cambridge.

    So much will be determined by identifying the Conspiracy AND surviving everything. I still think Ana is in a vulnerable situation, and her pregnancy could still flair up into the preeclampsia, depending on what the Conspiracy does.

    The wait is making me anxious to know just WHY the Conspiracy is biding its time and WHO Mr. Big Bad will recruit or try to bribe in Cambridge.

    (And I admit that I would really like to get an Outtake from Taylor’s perspective about learning of the security breach. You KNOW that Taylor will take it personally that he didn’t figure out himself that this was going on. Leila SAID that security had been compromised. The Conspiracy Head was NOT counting on his new software guy being discovered, but it sounds like the police aren’t taking it seriously and REFUSE to connect the dots (because they are specifically being paid NOT to!). So I wonder what the Conspiracy is going to do to further compromise security NOW. —I have some ideas, but they all come back to vengeful exes looking for revenge!)

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  8. It is good to have Welch back! Sam Walker already got arrested.
    Domestic bliss and chores suit them very well even Christian is uber wealthy, he fits right in. I hope Ana goes through the publishing contract with Christian. The kidnapping hastened their deal which is unfair because she worked damn hard pouring her writings to reach the final outcome. Wonderful if after going through the contract she declined publication, instead do so with SIP. Very glad Ana told Dr Ralston off and cut ties. Kate’s views on Elliot and Carter, I appreciate that, the right thing to do, not wanting to hurt Carter. Elliot broke off with Gia, what finally decide that decision for him? Wary of what Gia might do to harm Elliot, the Greys, even Ana and Kate, to seek revenge. Thank you for a wonderful update, Tara. As always, look forward. Xoxo daytona

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  9. Christian and Ana are genuinely happier in Cambridge right now. And Christian does NOT have to sell the house after they return to Seattle.

    And I like that Christian seems to actually be TRYING to like Carter rather than just faking it. And how the two have been able to finally put aside their differences in relation to Ana. Sadly, that is because Carter really seems to have TRULY moved on with Kate.

    I’m back to feeling semi-bad for Kate. There are clearly residual feelings for Elliot still present, but his CHOICES and attitude are contrary to what Kate wants. And at this point, for them to get back together, Elliot really would have to change his attitude. Kate really IS the kind of girl to want an actual marriage because it DOES signify that the parties love each other and intend to commit to one another for life. Elliot’s attitude on relationships that marriage is just a wedding “party” without understanding the REAL meaning of committing to life, NOT just assuming the relationship will dissolve on its own someday.

    I think Elliot’s attitude toward children will go away on its own once Calliope is born. I see Elliot loving his little niece and realizing that a child could be worth the time constraints and lack of freedom that naturally come with having a child. Some people really DON’T want children, but I do NOT see Elliot being that way, not with the devotion he has shown to his family.

    So IF Elliot’s attitudes change, then Kate really WILL be faced with a dilemma moving forward. If those barriers were removed, then if she still loves Elliot, it would seemingly make her choice for her future clear.

    But things NOW are so complicated wtih Carter, as Kate truly IS trying to give the relationship a try. BUT she has never been able to truly sever her ties or her feelings for Elliot. So I CAN’T see her suddenly waking up one day and loving Carter. YET she has SOME feelings for him.

    I’m really wondering what Kate and Carter will plan to do after graduation. Carter is CLEARLY not happy about not knowing about Harvard Law. However, Harvard IS the kind of place where money and/or ties to rich connections CAN make all the difference in the world. So Christian COULD intervene on Carter’s behalf, if asked to do so.

    But Christian, Ana, Kate AND Carter have all seemingly become their own little niche family in Cambridge. And assuming the Conspiracy leaves them alone for a few more weeks, I see Christian GENUINELY wanting to help Carter. And he could give Carter some form of employment in Seattle to test where his career aspirations REALLY are.

    I could ALSO see Christian approaching CARRICK about giving Carter an internship in his law office, assuming Carrick is able to return to practicing law. Such an internship would give Carrick needed help during his recovery AND would allow Carter to see if law is really what he wants. Christian could ALSO give Carter some kind of internship and see if Carter’s business acumen is real or not. And I see Christian AND Carrick helping Carter BECAUSE of Kate, as I think Christian would quietly tell his father about WHO gave him his liver and chance at recovery.

    So Carter really could come to have that actual Grey connection that Gia always wanted. That is IF Carter decides to relocate with Kate. AND if they decide to continue with their relationship. At the same time though, I wonder what ELLIOT will try to do. Because I REALLY think Elliot is going to want Kate back.

    (But I still fear for Carter’s safety moving forward, given the Conspiracy. And while I see Gia wanting revenge against KATE for seemingly stealing Elliot’s heart, she would be stupid to help the Conspiracy get CARTER, as getting rid of Carter reduces a SUBSTANTIAL current blockage to Kate and Elliot getting back together.)

    But Carter is probably the least likely to fear the COnspiracy at this point. He wouldn’t anticipate the conspiracy targeting him.

    But the Conspiracy is clearly waiting for SOMETHING. I just wonder how flexible the COnspiracy Head is about WHO they target in order to get to Ana and Christian.

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  10. ONLY thing is that I wish the doctor would mention something to Ana about doing a MEDICAL POA in case some complication DOES arise. I mean, I know that you don’t want to talk about negative horrible stuff that could place a new mother and infant in danger, but you SHOULD know about the consequences of NOT having anything in writing regarding medical decisions if Ana is unconcious and in labor AND in danger.

    But the closer Ana gets to her due date, the more likely she AND the baby are to survive. But I still see the Conspiracy targeting her in a car and causing an accident in order to knock out security. So I worry about what the Conspiracy Head is waiting for.

    (And good luck to that Conspiracy guy remaining alive now that he is in custody. The Conspiracy Head will NOT risk someone giving information, so I see that guy supposedly being found in his cell, having died from an “apparent suicide,” which would be anything but a suicide!)

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  11. I don’t dislike Carter, I just like Elliot more I hope he finds out about Kate being the one to have the surgery. Love the drama of Ana and Christian but I also love the mush like in this chapter lol. Can’t wait for more!!!

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    1. You sum it up beautifully. I, too, can’t see Carter being “THE One” for Kate. And you really can’t help but want to see Kate become a permanent part of the Grey family. But Elliot isn’t THERE yet, in my mind, to warrant getting back together with Kate. LOVE has to mean more than that to him. I mean, this is the guy that said he LOVED Gia, who no one else could stand. Which shood have been the clue to Elliot, but he chose to actually move a girl into the home that he AND KATE bought together after only a few weeks of being broken up.

      So we need to see an Elliot dedicated to building A LIFE with Kate. He needs to look towards the FOREVER relationship AND not something that seemingly works “for the moment.” But I fear that Elliot’s wake-up call could come by Kate being put in REAL danger, such as the Conspiracy Head kidnapping her in order to get to Ana and Christian.

      I also admit that I don’t want Elliot to so easily be able to get Kate back IF Gia DOES turn out to help the Conspiracy. Because the only reason that Gia is now in a place to compromise the ENTIRE Grey family is because of Elliot’s poor choices.

      But I LOVED the “mush” of Ana and Christian in this chapter as well. It is wonderful to see Christian relax and be happy, WITHOUT his company having to be the source of the perfect future. I LOVE how Christian is willing to REALLY TRY to have a relationship with Carter for Ana AND Kate’s sake. He can bend and re-examine his initial evaluation of someone else for the sake of those he loves. It is wonderful to see Christian opening up and being able to truly enjoy his life and feel complete for the first time.

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      1. Or in Christian and Ana’s case, A LOT OF MUSH! I mean, Christian DOES have a medically SANCTIONED order to mush-around with Ana to their hearts’ content!!

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  12. Great chapter. Hopefully Gia didn’t destroy to much. Good riddens now maybe she’ll be caught by the coverts reporting back with the bad guys. Only go thing about the cops not believing them is that Taylor and the guys will get the pleasure of “talking” to them before turning them over to the authorities. Can’t wait. Thank you.

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    1. Or let’s hope that Gia just went with destruction rather than installing her OWN monitoring devices in Elliot’s home. I still see Gia as someone that gets approached by the Conspiracy Head just like he did with Leila, KNOWING that Gia will want some sort of revenge or retaliation, especially against Kate and Ana.

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  13. I bet that Christian more that loved what the good doctor said about the best way to keep Ana’s blood pressure down and was more than willing to help with that! LMAO

    Christian doing laundry and not knowing how to fold his own shirt was too good too.

    I feel sorry for Ana who really wanted to get her book published on her own merit but instead they are publishing the book because of what happened to her and who she is engaged to. Which is a shame but she is right it still gets her book out there but it’s not the same.

    Elliott finally broke up with Gia, that’s awesome although Kate is with Carter. BUT Kate doesn’t love Carter and I believe is trying to hard to make herself believe she could. Is Kate going to tell Carter that she’s been texting with Elliot? How is he going to feel about that one? Is Carter going to lose again to another Grey? What did Kate mean that Gia and Elliott breaking up could cost millions? Didn’t Christian have Gia sign one of those NDA’s that he is so famous for?

    Night terrors in deed. LOL

    Oh I almost forgot, Welch found the security breach and the guy has been fired BUT what and why was he doing it and who was behind him doing that????

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    1. I think Kate’s reference to “millions” was in stating that Gia still wanted to stay together with Elliot, even KNOWING that he no longer wanted to live with her, ALL because she didn’t want to lose him and his millions. BUT I think YOUR interpretation COULD be prophetic depending on how vengeful Gia is over the break-up. Since Elliot IS texting and communicating with Kate AND let Gia know it, then Gia is going to feel the need to GO AFTER KATE.

      So I could see Gia providing intel to the Conspiracy KNOWING that they were going after KATE. However, the Conspiracy Head would use Kate to get to ANA, the ultimate target, in order to terrorize and get revenge on Christian.

      I’m hoping that security is still tasked to follow Gia, even though she and Elliot have broken up. Gia has WHO KNOWS how many incriminating and embarrassing pictures of Elliot on her phone. And Gia could allow OTHERS to put cameras or other devices within ELLIOT’S home in the same way as Escala, so the Conspiracy could still obtain information.

      I’m thinking that Carter is going to either be killed in the crossfire OR Christian could help him get into Harvard Law, thus keeping Carter on the other side of the country from Kate. Because when Calliope is born, I think Ana will be at death’s door, either due to the Conspiracy OR eclampsia OR a combination of both, which would make Kate stick close to Seattle and the Grey family in order to help out with Calliope.

      And if Gia HAS helped the Conspiracy to attack Kate and/or Ana, then Elliot WILL also be there to try to care for Calliope and Kate, and the way is paved for Kate and Elliot to get back together, since everything that happens to Ana and Christian that nearly cause them to lose one another will make extra help with Calliope NECESSARY. AND would lead to Elliot realizing that he wants a little Calliope all his own and that is a perfect little Kate Mini-me, in the same way that Calliope looks like a little Mini-Ana.

      I’m ALSO wondering what happens next to that Walker guy now that he has been arrested. As long as he is in jail, Christian and his people could be unable to question him, depending on what happens moving forward. And I would BET that the Conspiracy Head gives INSTRUCTIONS to his PAID police or prison guards to kill Walker and make it look like an accident so that he cannot provide information. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

      But Christian WAS clear that the cops are REFUSING to connect Walker to the Conspiracy, so they will NOT be asking him about Ana’s kidnapping and who was behind it. Scary, because ANYONE should be able to see the CONNECTION. So the Conspiracy Head really DOES have power to suppress these things. AND money to make the bribes possible. AND some connection to the media as well in order to make it get all turned back on Ana.

      So while this chapter SEEMED like it contained a lot of FLUFF and Christian/Ana cuteness, the CLUES regarding Gia, the security system compromise, the IMPACT of what Welch found, AND Walker’s arrest show that MORE is to come. AND that the Conspiracy Head has JUST as much power and control as Leila alluded to previously! LOTS to think about between now and next Monday!

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  14. I think that Laws of Physics don’t allow them to have more sex in one month than what they did in the summer (the are at it like rubbits).
    I only have to point that I loved the lemmon, loved that Elliot dumped Gia (and I’m also sure that she’s going to be trubble) and the fact that Christian seems like a little boy on Christmas around Ana.

    I have to ask… how do you do to keep sane when you write this and then you have to return to real life? Christian is too much to be true (sad fact 😔).

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  15. In re-reading the chapter, you really see the gamble that Leila has made. She has made herself important to CHRISTIAN’S people as well as to the Conspiracy Head. WITHHOLDING the information from Ana about who is behind the Conspiracy is intel that makes it IMPERATIVE for Christian’s people to find her. And Leila would have to know that.

    So Leila has a built-in assurance of protection, at least initially, from Christian if all her other escape plans fall through. She is the ONLY link to any proof against the Conspiracy Head. So they NEED to find her ALIVE. And there is no telling what information she has been secreting carefully aside to make helping her worth someone’s while. She is a MOST necessary witness, so Christian has no choice but to help her. (Which CAN present future police problems, since interfering with a police investigation by withholding evidence or tampering with witnesses can be a crime. But I DON’T see the police trying to “protect” Leila if she was turned over to them.)

    Obviously, since Christian’s GEH server has been compromised ALREADY from Ana’s laptop, you can have the police argue that ANA could be behind all of this, including her own kidnapping and security system breach. You would think that the police would realize Ana didn’t hire that Sean guy, and I’m hoping that Taylor and Christian can look into just WHO might have suggested Sean for the job AND where else he has worked/other contacts he has had. Even if the police won’t touch it, it would give Christian possibilities into WHO is behind all of this (still think it is a Lincoln, preferably Andrew.).

    But Christian’s people need to be able to question that guy BEFORE the Conspiracy Head can get to him. Since the police have obviously been compromised, I don’t see that guy lasting long within the jail or prison. The Conspiracy Head wouldn’t risk Hyun talking, so he certainly won’t risk THIS guy talking. AND if the guy gets bail, then he is dead or will be “disappeared” shortly thereafter.

    And I would LOVE to know what Elena thinks of all this. If she didn’t set this in motion (which she wouldn’t have, if it was Andrew), she may be enjoying that someone is going after Ana UNTIL she realizes that someone might have it in for HER as well. I just wonder if Elena realizes what is going on and suspects who is behind it. AND if she will reach out to Christian OR Ana.

    I really see Elena trying to use the current events to her benefit. If she HELPS Christian, then she could get a deal or time off her sentence. And even though she wants revenge against BOTH Christian and Ana, she would NOT want someone else to get there first if she doesn’t benefit from it AND she could exploit Christian’s need for information to get herself out earlier.

    SO MANY places the story could go next! Can’t wait for next Monday!

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  16. I hope Ana’s comment about hoping that her book helps AT LEAST one person is not PROPHETIC in what happens to the Grey Family, particularly Christian. We KNOW Christian and Calliope WILL survive, since Tara couldn’t write future Outtakes of an overprotective father Christian UNLESS Calliope AND Christian survived.

    But Christian COULD be so overprotective because Calliope survives while Ana does not. And the “one person” that Ana’s book ends up helping the most is CHRISTIAN, when he again reads her words about finding HOPE to overcome depression, PARTICULARLY the kind of depression that Ana’s BOOK speaks about—losing the love of one’s life and having to find a reason to keep on living.

    So I could see CHRISTIAN being the one to write the Foreword to Ana’s book about everything it said to HIM to survive without her for the sake of their daughter. And how much HER OWN words helped him realize why he had to go on. So Ana’s book MOST CERTAINLY would top the bestseller list AND come to help others, due to the circumstances of Ana’s death and how she sacrificed herself to save others, including Calliope.

    Tara has hinted in a previous chapter’s comments to future hospital drama, so I see the Conspiracy Head causing Ana to get injured, most likely in throwing herself in front of Kate or Christian, and causing internal injuries. Or in some car accident that the Conspiracy causes in order to get Ana. By the time that Christian is able to get Ana to the hospital, the doctors inform Christian that EITHER Ana OR the baby can be saved, as stopping the bleeding to save Ana WOULD cause Calliope to die. BUT saving Calliope would cause Ana’s internal injuries to kill her.

    And the previous “hint” surrounding hospital drama appears to be over WHO gets to make the call surrounding whether mother or child lives. Christian would want ANA to be saved, while Ray would tell the doctors to save CALLIOPE, knowing that this would be Ana’s wishes. And Christian would NOT get to make the call, since he is not married to Ana. But Ana HAS to be in state of near dying AND unconscious for someone ELSE to make the medical decisions for her, so any way you look at it, ANA’s LIFE will be in jeopardy at the time of her labor.

    So Calliope is saved, but Christian is almost unable to care for her due to his grief. Which WOULD cause Kate AND Elliot to step in to help tend to Calliope until Christian overcomes his depression issues, which he would find inspiration from Ana’s book. AND the other result from tending to Calliope would be that Elliot realizes he DOES want children AND to have a family with Kate, who he would have repaired and rebuilt his relationship due to the Family that they have already become with Calliope.

    So you have Ana’s death have meaning and be the catalyst to help others realize their cherished dreams, thus providing the HOPE that she speaks of in her book. And Calliope would come to be Christian’s EVERYTHING, since she is all he has left of Ana. THUS making him a VERY overprotective father.

    In the above scenario, I see Christian never returning to GEH. He would NOT want the company, since beginning it with the funds given by Elena started the whole process of revenge and keeping Elena in his life, thus leading to EVERYTHING that came thereafter, including the COnspiracy.

    While the ABOVE is a definite scenario that fits certain clues, I REALLY hope it is not the final end.

    I WANT Ana and Christian to get a happily ever after, although Ana surviving will be with medical complications. Such as that she cannot have any more children. (Which would ALSO explain WHY Christian is SO overprotective of his little girl—they almost lost her AND her mother. AND they can’t have MORE children, making Calliope a cherished only child.) I DO think that Christian WILL shoulder some of teh blame and have depression issues due to Ana’s issues after she DOES survive. And Christian would STILL probably let GEH go in order to just concentrate on his family and enjoying EVERY moment that he can with them.

    Again, Ana surviving something that SHOULD have been fatal WILL undoubtedly make her book sales go through the roof, opening up multiple possibilities for her. Christian would also have his trust fund, the money he has already made, and any other fund that a sale of the company to Ros or the GEH employees would produce. PLUS, Christian could undoubtedly still be some kind of consultant or whatever role he wanted in the company.

    BUT Ana SURVIVING, with the need for physical therapy or other medical things (like future surgeries) could cause her OWN words to be prophetic for herself and to provide an inspirational person to look to which would be why many people WOULD read her book and get out of it all that Ana hoped that they would. And having so many medical issues to overcome WOULD mean that Kate and Elliot again would be around to help Calliope, thus making them realize that they want THEIR OWN family.

    (And Christian could have used his influence to get Carter into Harvard Law, where he was on the oterh side of the country and grew apart from Kate, so that Kate and Elliot getting back together would not be problematic AND would allow Carter to still remain friends with the Grey family, particularly if he was somehow key in having helped locate Ana and/or Kate before Ana was beyond saving.)

    Either way, I see Ana’s life hanging in the balance as Calliope is born. And Christian suffering depression due to KNOWING that the Conspiracy Head ended up on his path to evil because of Christian having had his relationship with Elena back in the day and making the decision to take her money to fund GEH, thus starting all the damage that followed from Elena due to the money and power she acquired through him. So Ana’s book on SURVIVING and overcoming depression will be symbolic and prophetic on so many levels.

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    1. Tara-I totally understand what Torik has outlined here. But, please I don’t think your reader will be able to handle this. I know there are many possibilities, but this reach would be the most extreme.

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      1. Yeah, I’m hoping for survival for all the main characters. I CAN see Ana nearly dying in labor, though, or having other complications. STILL, if Ana or one of the Greys died, then the Conspiracy Head would have had his revenge, and I just CAN’T see it being “A Stronger Shade of Fifty” if Christian gets beaten. Yes, an argument can be made that Christian is able to rise above it all as a result of Calliope, but I refuse to think the Conspiracy Head would get the best of him and Ana.

        And we have had “dreams” and portents that amounted to nothing before (such as Ana’s dreams that Christian chose Elena or Gia over her). So while certain signs SUGGEST the possibility of tragedy to come, I’m going to remain optimistic.

        (Besides, Ana’s death would result in pitchforks, torches and rioting in the streets. She MUST live. The alternative is just wrong. I have decided to have FAITH that Tara couldn’t stand to do that to us. Just think we may get scared out of our minds with worry for Ana in upcoming chapters due to circumstances surrounding Calliope’s birth. So I’m preparing for the worst but EXPECTING the BEST outcome possible!!!!)

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  17. Ana is not set to meet with the book publishers until AFTER finals. I am hoping that Tara has not put this in for a REASON. Ana would not have handed in her Foreword prior to finals, so she wouldn’t be expected to produce her book Introduction before that meeting.

    So I’m betting that the Conspiracy Head goes after Ana at the conclusion of finals, and she ends up going into labor and in the hospital prior to handing over the Introduction. And WHATEVER happens, Ana will have jeopardized her life to SAVE someone else, and the media will be ALL OVER that. AND I see Christian, Kate or the Grey family as a whole stepping in to write that Introduction as to how Ana’s WORDS of hope and survival AND sacrifice are so much in line with HER character and all she has done for them. And THAT coupled with the whole Conspiracy revelations would cause Ana’s book to hit the top of the bestseller list. BUT EVEN more important in the long run would be JUST how many people the book HELPS who would never have known about it BUT for the publicity surrounding Ana’s death or near-death. (PLEASE, for the love of ALL that is good in the world, let it be a NEAR death and not an ACTUAL death!!!!!)

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    1. So far the only character that has died was a minor character.Christian may be STRONGER, but he would never survive the death of Ana. Tara CAN NOT kill off Ana. They have gone through way too much to have it end that way. OMG

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  18. “In life, there are those relationships where you really love someone, but they’re just not right for you and there’s a little bittersweet feel to it.”
    -Jennifer Morrison
    “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
    – Joanne Harris
    “Knowing your whole world is about to change, how can you sleep?”
    – Samuel Colbran
    “Publishing your writing is a bewildering mix of emotions somewhere between parental angst and walking down a public beach wearing only a thong. [scrub all you want that mental picture isn’t going anywhere] You feel all the pride and joy as well as the fear and trepidation that come with putting your child out into the world. At the same time you’ve exposed a part of yourself that is normally private and while you hope people will appreciate it, there is a very real possibility of a backlash.
    You’ve prepared yourself for either eventuality but a ‘no comment’ feels like crickets chirping in your soul.”
    ― Aaron Blaylock

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  19. I loved that Ana stuck up for herself to the professor. Actually I hope she talks the deal over with Christian and decides to publish at SIP, with her original title and without any references to the recent events.

    What’s Mia doing? Why didn’t Christian notice her odd behavior when Gresham was mentioned? (previous chapter)

    How did Christian happen to hire Charles Walker; where did he work before? So glad Welch is back.

    Can’t wait for next Monday (words I’ve rarely spoken before this story!)

    Thanks, Tara.

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  20. I love Mondays!!!😀😀😀. I love your Ana. She is so strong. I’m so glad that she stood her ground in the meeting with those cold executives. I don’t think Ana’s 100% on board with the circumstances of them signing her. But, we’ll see….. I’m still concerned for her safety. I keep picturing someone disabling Luke to get to Ana. I hope I’m wrong. Love the spicy lemon 🍋. Thanks for the update😘

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    1. And THAT’S another worry of mine—Luke. The Conspiracy Head CLEARLY wants NO WITNESSES when Ana is taken. So as long as his identity is NOT known, he would leave orders to kill any witnesses undoubtedly.

      It just depends on how many resources the Conspiracy Head is willing to use at once AND how much he is willing to risk being seen by observers on the street. I mean, it would be easy enough to arrange a “car crash” by having a car drive in front of Ana and Luke OR to the side of them and then block their exit. With multiple individuals, they could then threaten to burn Ana alive in the car if she doesn’t get out and go with them and then shoot Luke if he hadn’t been disablied in the crash.

      But the above scenario means WITNESSES that are driving or walking along the route. And the Conspiracy Head has been VERY careful about keeping his people from being seen. He has done EVERYTHING to make things look “innocent,” including Leila’s NY trip that occurred at the SAME time as Ana’s. So the Conspiracy Head wants to leave NO trail.

      So Luke and Ana would basically have to be someplace ISOLATED before the Conspiracy Head sent in his thugs. WITHOUT a security link an overview of Ana’s schedule, this becomes MUCH more complicated. The Conspiracy Head NEEDS the Professor in Cambridge to provide intel regarding Ana’s meetings with her publishing company so that she could be snagged after the meeting, provided the Professor THOUGHT he was communicating (by email) with someone from Ana’s publishing company.

      I’m thinking that someone may STILL have a security hack into one of the GREY family members so that info could be learned about Ana’s publishing company that way. And that is IF the Conspiracy Head goes after Ana and/or Christian while they remain in Cambridge. In SEATTLE, Gia could be used, either with or wtihout her express knowledge, in multiple ways.

      So the Conspiracy Head could be coming at this from ANY number of angles. We just have to wait and see. But UNLESS Tara is going to do a time jump, it sounds like the attack will come in Cambridge, since we have only ONE fluffy chapter before something happens, yet we still have 8 weeks of school left.

      Previously, LEILA was the one assigned to watch Ana in Cambridge. So someone ELSE would need to be available to do the task NOW that no one would question. OTHERWISE, the Conspiracy Head would have to go with Seattle. Ana will have ONE MONTH after graduation before Calliope is born, ASSUMING she doesn’t go into labor EARLY. And Ana is expected to be in Seattle by that time.

      So I’m anxious to see what the Conspiracy Head has planned. He has been CAREFUL to keep a SMALL amount of thugs present at any ONE time to do anything major. It was Leila and Hyun and Billy in Cambridge, and Leila and 2 thugs in Seattle. CLEARLY, the Conspiracy Head wants his identity protected AND limit the number of people that have to be “silenced” that would have seen anything at a particular location.

      While I KNOW it will be tense, I’m psyched for Chapter 34 since SOMETHING will happen that Christian HOPEFULLY will have been able to anticipate in order to keep himself or Ana OR Luke or anyone else harmed by the Conspiracy Head. But this IS a desperate psycho after them who HAS shown a MARKED ABILITY to get away with so much so far WITHOUT his identity being compromised.

      Like

  21. Hallelujah, Elliot finally dumped Gia!! I have feeling she won’t go away so easily though. She might do something like fake a pregnancy to keep her claws in him. I’m not sure how I feel about her signing on with a publishing company that wants to profit on her kidnapping but I’m glad she got rid of Dr. Ralston. I hope Kate takes Ana’s advice and tells Carter that she’s friends with Elliot again.

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    1. My worry is also that Gia won’t go quietly. She has KNOWN for a while now that her relationship with Elliot was on the rocks, so I could see her TRYING to get pregnant before they could break up. I’m just hoping that Elliot had enough sense to not leave birth control options solely to Gia. After all, he knew Ana’s pregnancy was the result of Christian not having used anything and Ana’s pill having failed due to her antibiotics.

      And I also hope Kate talks to Carter about Elliot. If Carter stormed out over finding out something on his own, then Kate would feel terrible if something later happened to him.

      But the Conspiracy Head is now aware that Christian HAS found out about the security breaches and monitoring through the GEH server and has shut that down. And with someone actually being arrested, that puts a time crunch on the Conspiracy Head doing SOMETHING before it is traced back to him and his identity revealed.

      I think the only hold-up to the Conspiracy Head taking some sort of action is in finding and silencing LEILA so that his identity would remain secret. So finding Leila really SHOULD be a perrogative for Christian and Taylor.

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  22. Ok. No Ana death. No Christian death. No Kate death. No Calliope death. No Elliot death. No Champ death. No Ray death. No Sawyer death. No Taylor death. No Carter death. Hell, not even Gia death. NO. DEATH, period. Pleeeeease. 😩

    You guys are freaking me out with all the death pontificatation.

    Loved the chapter and so the highs and lows of this story; one never knows what Monday will bring. And we love it! 💋

    P.S. Gia got kicked to the curb. Neener Neener.

    P.P.S. Sorry, that was mean, but still. Neener.

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    1. AMEN and LOVE the “neener neener.” (Heeheehee!)

      Just hope Gia goes to that curb quietly and without drama. However, I think that is unlikely. It IS Gia afterall.

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  23. The benefit of being together with your love ones is what Ana and Christian are experiencing now, and a good time eliminating travels, less stress knowing they see each other daily, sleeping and happily enjoying all the love making they can have. Best way to control her blood pressure and avoiding complicated delivery, best for Ana and the baby.
    I wish she would wait for the book signing if the publishers are only cashing on the kidnapping story, her being in the news generating public interest, but there are also negative news being cycled around making her look like a goldigger. I wish she would wait for SIP to publish it and it would make it more personal and Christian would probably like it also since it is a story that touches on their past history and her personal struggles.
    Most likely Leila is now in the east coast and hopefully Christian’s people will find her and give her protection against the enemy. Will she be able to clarify Ana’s name and make the police force looks like they are only taking the easy way out and not going after the source of the crime.
    Ana needs a little peace so she can do her finals, graduate and return to Seattle without anymore harm on her. The baby will be due soon and anymore harsh treatment on her will make her deliver early. Others can take the punishment besides Ana. All this conspiracy working against them and succeeding is making Christian’s employees look like wimps. There has to be an end to them. Enough from me and wait until Monday. Thank you, Tara. Good chapter. They needed it.

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  24. One thing: we all know something upset Mia previously at the family barbeque. We think it was the mention of Christian’s banking guy and her recognition of that name from her time meeting Elena’s clients at her club.

    HOWEVER, as of this chapter, it sounds like Mia has not come forward with whatever caused her to become upset. At least not yet. So we still don’t know what that was about.

    But I’m now curious as to why Mia wouldn’t TELL someone if she recognized the name. OBVIOUSLY, the Conspiracy has multiple high-end people working for the Conspiracy Head. And for people to be risking imprisonment and death, the stakes MUST be high.

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  25. And Gia is by no means gone at this point. She still works for Elliot. He can’t fire her just because they broke up. (You know, you would THINK that Elliot would have learned something from seeing all the GRIEF that Christian and Ana got for THEIR relationship while she worked for him.)

    So Gia still has access to who knows what through Grey Construction. And since she can contract out for her own private jobs, she can meet with people, including Conspiracy members, and it look above suspicion.

    So the Gia problems remain and are probably going to escalate. We have SEEN how retaliatory she can be when she doesn’t even HAVE a reason (such as how she treated Kate at the dress shop). Now that she feels “justified” in going after Elliot or Kate or Ana, there is NO TELLING what she may do!

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  26. I loved the chapter, I think that it’s the calm before the storm. Love that for a short time Christian is relaxing a little bit, he even went rowing with Carter, and he’s helping Ana in keeping her blood pressure down ;-).
    I have mixed feelings about Ana’s book publishing, as it’s obvious that they want to take advantage of what’s going on in their life, and from a commercial angle I could understand. But from her personal angle she will have a little baby to take care of and won’t be able to go in a promotional tour, and we don’t know if the conspiracy will be thwarted by then. It’s too risky for her, she should point that out before signing the contract, talk about security. I’m glad that Ana put Dr. Ralston in his place, because in Chapter 15 of ASSOF he was the one suggesting that the rejections were because they wanted her to write a Tell All book about Christian. I wonder if he’s getting paid by the publishing company or getting some royalties from Ana’s book. I’m glad that she has until after her graduation to sign the contract, she should let Christian see it and send a copy to Carrick to check it. Right now I don’t think she should publish it with SIP as Hyde is there and I believe that he’s part of the conspiracy.

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    1. GigiM,

      You bring up a VERY interesting point that I hadn’t even THOUGHT about. I just ASSUME that the Conspiracy Head will go after Ana while she is in Cambridge, as that would be the MOST harm to Christian in possibly losing BOTH Ana AND his child since Ana is well-along in her pregnancy. But IF the Conspiracy chooses to WAIT until Ana returns to Seattle, then they COULD go after her as a result of any book signings or appearances that she would be required to make prior to the birth of the child. After all, Tara DID include a brief blip about Ana being required to do certain promotional things quickly due to her name being in the media NOW. So that would be in the MONTH prior to her giving birth, when she would be LEAST able to fight or get away.

      I mean, you KNOW that there will be book signings in Seattle, where the Conspiracy Head is strongest. And since that stuff is announced beforehand, then the Conspiracy Head will know WHERE Ana will be on particular dates.

      I also enjoyed when Ana put Ralston in his place. Because NOTICE that the companies were contacting HIM directly about getting Ana to sign, and Ralston had always pressured Ana to do SOME kind of tell-all about Christian. Even now, Ana has basically agreed to concede some of her privacy and re-live or tell SOMETHING about the kidnapping for the foreword of the book. And Ralston had OBVIOUSLY spoken directly wtih the company representatives about this arrangement.

      Ralston now goes on my list for possible Conspiracy recruits. After all, Ralston doesn’t have to KNOWINGLY be a member of the Conspiracy—one of the members could contact Ralston claiming to be from the publishing company regarding Ana’s SCHEDULE or something to that effect in order to find out where and when Ana will be signing in order to grab her THEN.

      So Ralston could unwittingly get used to provide intel to the Conspiracy for when to seize Ana, since there will be a meeting after finals. And Ana would be 8 months pregnant by then, and only Luke was with her at this first meeting. IN FACT, Ralston wouldn’t even HAVE to be directly involved, as his email could get hacked and an EMAIL come to Ana about a CHANGE in location for the MEETING.

      But I ALSO hope that Ana shows the contract to Carrick in case ANYTHING is off. After all, Ralston was contacted THROUGH EMAIL by the publishing company. And if the Conspiracy could bribe anyone from the publishing company into letting them hack THEIR system, then any number of scenarios are possible. (AND I could even see HYDE being prompted to get a “job” with Ana’s chosen publishing company in order to set in motion the whole thing.)

      So the BOOK DEAL all around presents multiple complications and places where Ana will HAVE to be that the Conspiracy would know about, in both Cambridge AND Seattle. Hhhmmmm.

      Like

      1. Hi Tori. That’s what I’m afraid of. We know that Christian is a security freak, but still it will represent a big danger if the conspiracy haven’t been defeated and even after they thwart it, they’ll need lots of security because everything that happened will be splashed all over the media. It should be stipulated in the contract. I only hope that none of them get hurt again, I’m crossing my fingers.

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  27. Forgot to say that I believe that Kate should be honest with Carter and tell him what’s going on with Elliot, about the messaging each other, the……friendship? They are making plans for the summer.
    I can’t wait for next Monday because I know that a storm is brewing an in it’s way. Thank you Tara, great writing.

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      1. That’s great Tara, I’ll prepare myself after that. You know what I love of your site, it’s that we readers and reviewers can have a FRIENDLY and RESPECTFUL interaction with you the writer and some of the other readers, and discuss and let OUR imagination run. For this opportunity I thank you.

        Like

      2. Yes, I’ve absolutely LOVED the discussion that goes on in between chapters as well. It is so much fun AND gives you so many more possibilities to obsess over!!!

        And it is also interesting to see how others see the various characters and their actions. The Carter/Kate vs. Elliot/Kate stuff has been particularly revealing for who everyone thinks Kate deserves to be with. I mean, although I am ENTIRELY in love with Tara’s stories for the Ana/Christian relationship, this is the first time that I have been thoroughly entrenched in the Kate storyline. I really HAVE grown to love her character in Taraville, and you see exactly why she and Ana have been friends for so long. And I LOVE that history, by the by. It was so CUTE when Christian picked up the photograph of Ana and Kate at a local fair at age 13 (way back in ADSOF), as it ALSO showed that Kate wasn’t just some rich girl that couldn’t appreciate REAL local county things that the rest of us love.

        Looking forward to the last fluffy chapter, although that means that CHAPTER 34 may have Conspiracy REVEAL stuff, right? Right????? (COME ON, Tara, you KNOW you WANT to talk. You don’t WANT to wait two whole LLLLOOOONNNNGG weeks to tell your faithful and devoted followers who hang on to your every word!!!)

        But always loving the fluffiness, unless poor Ana and Christian are made to pay for it later!

        (Ummm, I have also never asked, but will there be MORE books beyond ASSOF? I don’t want to see this book being the end of the journey for the characters as presented here. And if I haven’t said it before, I really DO now look forward to Mondays over every other day of the week BECAUSE of the chapter updates! REALLY keeps what little is left of my sanity in place for the rest of the work week. So ending these lovely stories really could risk me going all Stephen King-Misery-style!! So the SAFETY of the world at large is protected by continuous “Of Fifty” works!!!! I mean, I NEEDS my Prrrecccious, my precious “of fifty” stories!)

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      3. This is the last one, but I will also have Outtakes and future takes, the later of which will undoubtedly go on for a while. It’ll take me a while to let these characters go. But I have more stories to come 🙂

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  28. I love the loving relationship that Christian and Ana have and the relaxed time to be together and enjoy each other.
    I was wondering about the lack of security when Ana went to the meeting with the publishing house representatives and with only Luke. I thought Luke had said he needed a driver and a woman CPO to follow Ana into the bathrooms after Ana had run into Leila in the hallway. When Christian and Ana went to the doctor Taylor and Luke stayed outside
    I too agree that Kate needs to come clean with Carter. I like Carter and I hate to see him loose to another Grey guy. I don’t want him to die either. Tara you made him into a nice guy, please watch out for him. Elliott and Kate may get back together,but Elliott is no way close to be deserving of Kate yet.
    It’s been two weeks since Mia heard that man’s name and hasn’t come forward with that information.
    You are building and building and making us wait for the storm to begin. Great story and writing. We are lucky to be your fans. Thank you.

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  29. I don’t understand why she accepted the book deal? I mean they point blank told her why they want the book and it’s obvious she was not happy and kind of disappointed but she still accepted. Why would she do that? If this is the way it was going to be then why not publish through SIP?
    I can’t help but feel she sold out. She didn’t want to make money of the book so SIP would’ve been the better choice right?

    Like

    1. Not necessarily. SIP is a small, Seattle local, publishing press that couldn’t offer her the benefits of a big five publisher, namely the widespread publicity and availability of her book. The most important thing behind the real success of a novel is promotion and she wouldn’t get the same level of promotion from a small press, even if Christian owns it, than she would from a conglomerate publisher, so this deal is her best chance for real success. Take FSOG, it had been published for a year before Random House picked it up, and that’s when it really took off, because they know how to market and they have the ability to get their novels in the big book stores. They gave her what she actually wanted, which was the credit, all the other aspects of the deal are details only she will know. And if we’re talking about perception, having Christian publish her book makes it look like she couldn’t get it published on her own and needed her rich fiancé to do it. So publicity wise, it would probably be dead on arrival. The circumstances of the deal aren’t great, but at the end of the day, her book is going to be published, her name is going to be out there, and if the critics like her work, she’ll never have trouble publishing again should she choose to write another book, no matter what the circumstances of this deal. Essentially, this is forcing Ana’s work to stand on its own. If it’s not good, it’ll still probably be a success because of the hype, if it is good, it’ll be widely acclaimed. That’s the difference to watch for now. Ana is doing what she can to make the less than ideal circumstances a positive.

      Like

      1. For Ana, it definitely makes the book deal bittersweet. She knows it will get published AND by a worthy publisher, but she also knows that the sudden interest is because of who she is and what just happened to her. YES, the book publishers are trying to cash in, BUT Ana isn’t being made to change her actual book in any way, so Ana is NOT having to compromise her work.

        And the whole reason a good publisher was steering clear of Ana in the FIRST place was because of her notoriety of the circumstances surrounding her being found out to be Christian’s girlfriend while working for him. So poor Ana seemingly wasn’t ever being judged JUST on her book for it’s quality BUT for who she was in the media. Which previously KEPT her from being published.

        So Ana being able to put aside her irritation due to the circumstances/timing of the publishing AND focus on the fact that she is getting published says something about Ana’s CHARACTER. She is willing to swallow her pride because she KNOWS she has produced a good book. While someone may pick up her book due to her NAME, they will realize what a GOOD book it is on reading it.

        So Ana WINS in the long run, since her book gets published AND the book publishers are MOTIVATED to PROMOTE it right away. And Ana did NOT have to just look to Christian to publish it. She still did it on her own, no matter what.

        (And good thing Ana made the deal NOW before Calliope arrives, as trying to get a book deal while balancing a newborn would have been a nightmare. ALTHOUGH I am now concerned about Ana’s book promotion details being ANOTHER way for the Conspiracy to know exactly WHERE she is and WHEN she will be there. PLUS, sadly, for the book publishers, having the Conspiracy around and trying to get Ana only HELPS them if they make another go at Ana.)

        I’m also longing to know if Ana’s Book Deal will prompt any action from the Conspiracy. I mean, the Conspiracy Head clearly BENEFITS by trying to turn things around on Ana in the media, and the book being published would make another “attempt” by the Conspiracy seem like Ana trying to get further media attention. The Conspiracy Head obviously wants to protect his OWN identity, which is why he killed a former loyal operative who had done and risked so much for him.

        So at least Ana gets SOME positive benefit from the Media by getting the book deal, because it is quite irritating and unjust for poor Ana that the Conspiracy Head has been able to BENEFIT by the media to keep inquiries MINIMAL into his REAL involvement by simply turning it around on Ana!

        (I’m continuing to rely on ASSOF title to mean that the Conspiracy Head WILL get his when this is all over!!! And it better not be just a padded cell in a hospital somewhere but a REAL jail cell!!! Or better yet, a tombstone! This Conspiracy Head has known too long how to protect and insulate himself, even though insane. Can’t wait for the final reveal on his identity!)

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  30. I was thinking on those same lines. Why did Ana accept the deal and not publish with SIP. Glad Tara loves us so much that she explained the different between a small publishing company and a very reputable publishing company.

    As everyone’s knows I want Kate and Elliott together. I totally agree that a conversation between Carter and kate are long overdue. I honestly don’t think we can force love. I respect Kate for her honesty about her feelings for Carter. Some relationship are meant to be for fun, romance and nothing more. I hate that she thinks she feels she can learn to love Carter when it clear imo that she loves Elliott including his faults. Or if it not Elliott, she shouldn’t have to settle for Carter simply because he’s a good guy.

    I’m so happy that Christian went to Cambridge with Ana. She needed his support doing these difficult times. Kidnapping, pregnancy and finals.
    I’m so afraid for Ana now, maybe reading too much into the story. It just appears that everyone has been paid off. And oh that professor, I’m happy that Ana stood up to him. He was just creepy. I was wondering if he knew or had conversation with Hyde.
    Mia / will she ever speak to someone? Anyone she just need to start talking. I think she has very important information to the conspiracy puzzle.

    As always Tara thank you for a wonderful chapter.

    Like

    1. Yeah, I think Kate is in denial about her relationship with Carter. He has been there for her when she desperately needed someone, but Kate was the one that told Ana WWWWWAAAAAAYYYYY back in ADSOF that you can’t force love. (And that you shouldn’t waste months when you don’t feel it.)

      But I get why Kate is trying to be objective here since she needed time to truly separate herself from Elliot to see what she could really feel for Carter. And Elliot isn’t where he needs to be yet either. So Kate is really sort of stuck. But the longer she waits to talk to Carter, the more like betrayal it will feel to him. And he HAS tried to be a good boyfriend to her, so she owes it to him AND herself to articulate whatever she is feeling and that she is talking with Elliot (supposedly as a friend). Either Carter can handle that, or he can choose to end it.

      Obviously, with graduation coming up, everyone has to make plans for what they do next. For Carter, his plans are up in the air all around since he doesn’t know yet what he will do about law school. It sounds like he would prefer to go to Harvard Law, but that means that he would be across the country from Kate for at least three years. And that is IF he does finally get offered a spot, which he might literally not know until the day before classes start.

      BUT everyone has SOMETHING up in the air at this point. Christian and Ana don’t yet know who is behind the Conspiracy or when the next attack will come. Ana is also set to be VERY busy with finals, Calliope’s birth, and her book release AND everything that comes along with that. And Elliot isn’t even able to be in his own home for AT LEAST a few days due to his break-up with Gia. AND I’m thinking there will be WAY more ramifications of this still to come. Plus, SOMETHING is going on with Mia, and we still don’t know the latest regarding Carrick’s prognosis. And the assumption is that Kate will be returning to Seattle to work for her father, and Kate would take her role as godmother to Calliope VERY seriously, so she will want to be near her as well.

      There really is a lot to speculate on for the various characters for years of their lives to come. NOW if we can only convince Tara to keep that going! . . ! . !

      Like

      1. I agree! I just want Mia to start talking Now. Call Ana or Kate. I read somewhere Mia stated that Kate was her big sister and always contacted her and updated her on what was going on. Call Kate Mia please. I’m also hoping that Christian’s team finds Lelia before it’s too late.

        Like

      2. I can’t help but hope that Taylor takes it PERSONALLY that The Conspiracy Head managed to compromise Christian’s security at Escala and have been watching everything there. Because quite frankly, Taylor NOW has to be smarter than the Conspiracy Head AND Leila in being able to find Leila FIRST and in ALSO being able to get her to come in for protection and questioning.

        After all, Leila is entitled to her freedom, and neither Christian nor Taylor can grab her off the street and force her to come with them. And at this point, the police wouldn’t be interested in helping or questioning Leila.

        So I’m hoping Taylor can find Leila. Because if he can find her, then he can argue that ANYONE can find her, including Mr. Conspiracy Head. And THAT would prompt Leila to seek protection with Christian’s people.

        HOWEVER, the reality is that Leila HAS, by her own admissions to Ana, committed her OWN crimes, and secretly hiding Leila from the police would make security team members accessories after the fact. But we KNOW the poilice wouldn’t try to protect Leila BUT would just hand her over to Mr. Conspiracy Head (OR make it possible for someone eliminate Leila in jail/prison AFTER making her write a “suicide letter” stating that she lied to Ana and really did it all herself).

        So finding Leila doesn’t end the problems, any way you look at it. Taylor and his team need to find her and get her to give them information in exchange for getting lawyers to IMMEDIATELY look into making some sort of deal for Leila to turn herself in that GUARANTEES her protection. (SINCE Mr. Conspiracy Head has had Leila STALK Ana in more than one state, Christian and Taylor ought to go through the FBI rather than the police since the crimes occurred across state lines in MULTIPLE states–that way, if the FEDS charge Leila, then she would be in a federal prison or otherwise secured by the FBI, who could make a deal for immunity or reduced sentence in return for actionable intel that lets them get Mr. Conspiracy Head.)

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  31. Maybe if Elliot is staying at his parents’ house now, maybe Mia will tell him? I wish she’d phone Ana or Kate and confide in one of them. I wish Luke had been in the room that night, because I think he would have picked up on Mia’s reaction.

    Like

    1. Mia clearly resents BOTH Grey brothers attempts at intervening in her personal life, so if Mia would not come forward with the information to Christian, then I certainly can’t see her doing so with Elliot. My HOPE had been that she would talk to KATE, since I could see her NOT wanting to bother Ana with any mention of Elena’s former clients so soon after Ana’s attack.

      I, too, wish Luke or Taylor had seen Mia’s reaction. I mean, Mia literally up and leaves after that, so SOMETHING had her upset enough and DAZED enough that she reacted by leaving. And the most likely reason was the NAME of the guy mentioned. Again, my assumption is that this man was a client or Elena’s club OR even the very guy that assaulted Mia.

      And WHY Mia wouldn’t come forward with this information is BEYOND me, because such a guy having ties to Elena would be something that Christian WOULD want to know. After all, since Elena was prosecuted for prostitution for what went on in the club, then KNOWING that Christian is putting SO MUCH of his money AND investments into the hands of someone that ELENA has potential blackmail on AND SAYING NOTHING really puts Christian at risk.

      At this point, I just don’t get Mia. She loses nothing by volunteering this information. And as much as Elena did to get revenge on Christian AND Andrew Lincoln AND the rest of the Grey family should be ENOUGH INCENTIVE to make sure that Christian knows of ANY ties that Elena has had, ESPECIALLY when you are dealing with someone that has THAT much access to cash, power and influence in Seattle.

      Sooner, rather than later, I think Mia will regret not coming forward with this intel. AND if this is the SAME guy that wanted Mia, he could have been promised Mia being kidnapped for him by the Conspiracy Head in return for his cooperation or any other number of potentially sinister things.

      With Christian, he had NOT seen Elena’s vicious and vengeful side in ACTION prior to what went down in the first trial in ADSOF (I mean, Elena was prepared to claim that Christian raped her if he HAD testified regarding their relationship). But MIA has seen that Elena was MORE than willing to sacrifice her in order to make a customer happy. AND then saw Elena try to get her own BROTHER imprisoned. So Mia withholding relevant information may cost her family in the end. Sigh.

      The ONLY excuse I can see for Mia thinking that she keeps the intel to herself is because Ana is already so traumatized by the attempted kidnapping. But the perpetrators and Conspiracy Head are STILL on the lose, and KNOWING this intel could help identify if anyone with ties to Elena is involved. But Mia IS 16 years old and may just not be thinking this through. So double sigh.

      Like

      1. I’m afraid you’re right, ToriK; Mia is just too young to realize all the implications. Maybe, if someone questioned her; but by herself I don’t think she gets the importance, even if it’s just a minor clue.

        Like

  32. Everything comes down to finding Leila sooner rather than later. The Conspiracy Head WILL kill her if he finds her, so Leila either counts on running for the rest of her life OR trying to save herself AND Ana and the Grey family by attempting to secure protection through Christian’s security until they can secure a deal for protection for her in return for her testimony and actionable intel against the Conspiracy Head.

    As I said above, Leila knows the police in Seattle have been compromised, and their willingness to try to turn everything around on ANA shows that Leila is right. So the ONLY hope I see for getting Leila to risk her life in testifying and providing information RATHER than running is if Christian could secure a plea bargain/deal with the FBI in return for Leila’s testimony. And that deal WOULD include protection. After all, Leila might be safest in a FEDERAL prison, particularly some plush prison with a golf course where the upper-level white-collar criminals generally go.

    After all, the Conspiracy Head has orchestrated crimes across two states, which falls under FEDERAL jurisdiction. And federal charges trump state charges, so if the FEDS take Leila into custody, then the state police can’t get to her (and neither could Mr. Conspiracy Head unless he tries to compromise FBI agents, which should be MUCH harder, particularly since Christian and Taylor would have gotten to the FBI first).

    So Leila would still have to PAY for her crimes, but her testimony would get her a REDUCED sentence or even immunity if the information she had could lead directly to Mr. Conspiracy Head’s conviction. And for Leila, prison time would be better than dying horribly at the hands of Mr. Conspiracy Head OR being forced to be on the run for the rest of her life, always looking over her shoulder.

    So Taylor NEEDS to find Leila FIRST. But the sad fact is that Mr. Conspiracy Head may act BEFORE anyone can find Leila, PARTICULARLY since He will HAVE to know that CHristian wants to find Leila as badly as he does!

    Like

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