Chapter 49

ambulance-lights

It’s the noise that wakes me, because the discordant mixture of sounds filling the space around me is like a drum beating hard and loud against my temple. My head feels like it’s going to explode with pain but my body is too heavy and unresponsive to do anything about it. It’s like gravity has somehow intensified in strength and it’s pulling me down into a sea of black that threatens to drown me.

I’m awake, though.

For awhile there was nothing, but I can hear things now. I can sense movement around me and I can feel. Someone is touching me, moving me, but I can’t decipher exactly what they’re doing to me because all sensation is convoluted by the noise and the pounding pain in my head. I try to think around the pain, to push past it and find a voice I recognize, but I can’t. The man I hear speaking is unfamiliar to me.

“Minor abrasions on both of her hands, wrists, and knees. There’s a fairly deep laceration on her right thigh. No GSW. From the look of the bruising over her limbs and torso, I’d say she needs a scan to rule out any internal injuries.” He pauses and presses his hands on the inside of my thigh, which are still sticky with blood. “And possibly a rape kit.”

Rape kit?

It takes a great deal of effort, but I’m able to pry my eyelids back enough to see light and vague shapes through my lashes. The brightness intensifies the pain in my head and I’m still so drowsy that everything around me is really just one amalgamated blur, but when I’m able to push out a weak sounding whimper it catches the attention of the man holding my arm and he immediately leans over and begins shining a light into my eyes.

“Mrs. Grey, can you hear me?” I try to speak, but I can’t. My body just isn’t responding the way I want it to. “Mrs. Grey, my name is Ken Davis. I’m a paramedic. Do you know what’s happened to you?”

What’s happened to me?

The paramedic pulls the light away from my eyes and in the brief moment of darkness that occurs while my eyes adjust, the memories of tonight start flooding over me all at once. Ava in a puddle of blood on the foyer floor. Luke sinking to his knees after Gia shot him in the chest. Gia, Kommer, Christian. The last memory I have is of Andrew Lincoln pinning me to the floor, his hot breath washing over me while his hands groped by body. He told me he was going to take me, that he was going to violate me, and then he stabbed me with a needle. Now I’m in a strange place, unable to move and unable to scream.

Panic sets in but it’s not enough to free me from my almost paralyzed state, so as a series of ghostly, terrified sounds bubble through my lips, the paramedic leans over me to hold on to both of my arms. I don’t know, though, if that’s meant to comfort or restrain me.

“It’s okay, you’re okay. Can you speak?”

I do my best to shake my head, but the movement is so subtle I’m not sure he’ll notice and the inability to properly communicate when I have no idea what’s going on around me makes my entire body shake. What’s wrong with me?

“That’s okay. You’ve been incapacitated by a sedative drug, Mrs. Grey, and it’s affecting your motor skills and muscle control. We’re currently in an ambulance on our way to Virginia Mason Medical Center where they’ll be able to help mitigate some of the side effects you’re experiencing. They’re going to take care of you. We’ll be there in three minutes, okay?”

His words swirl through the haze of my mind, but dissipate without any lasting impact. I can’t concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time and already I can feel consciousness trying to slip away from me again. It takes everything I have to fight the temptation of painless bliss that beckons to me, but I do it because it’s the only way I can get answers to the questions that are the only thing pressing enough to stick through my fuzzy thoughts. Where’s my daughter? What’s happened to Andrew Lincoln? The last memory I have of tonight is of Christian bleeding on the floor a few feet away from me. He needed help, not me. So why am I the one in the ambulance?

I try to speak again, but the only sounds I can make are shallow, rapid gasps that make my head spin. No matter how hard I try, I simply can’t speak. So I spend the remainder of the ride in silent agony, simply fighting to stay awake.

When we finally arrive, the back doors fly open and the ambulance is filled with flashes of red and white light. The paramedics begin repeating the status of my condition to the doctors, who take hold of my gurney and pull me out into the brisk night air. None of them talk about my family or how I got out of my apartment. Through the flurry of movement and shouting, all I want to do is to scream for answers but I’m mute. Movement makes me nauseous and dizzy, and I want to close my eyes to stop the swirl of my stationary surroundings, but I know that if I do I’ll lose my grip on reality again. So, I force myself to swallow back the vile liquid creeping up into my throat and try to reach out for a hand close to me, thinking if I could just get someone’s attention they would know to update me on my loved ones. But nothing moves. Nothing changes.

The doctors whisk me through the automatic doors into the emergency room and for a split second my frustration and fears are interrupted by surprise over the commotion going on all around me. There are people everywhere, too many people, like I’m being wheeled through a FEMA relief center after a record breaking storm, and the room is filled with screams and the sounds of doctors calling for more blood and burn kits. I want to cringe away from a patient in a temporary bed only a few feet away from me who’s skin is charred black and blistered. He screams while a young doctor attempts to debride his wounds. It’s a scene repeated over and over again as I make my way further into the trauma center and the realization hits that I’m not the only one who’s faced something horrific tonight. The hospital is busy, and in the sea of people I don’t see one concerned family member standing by a bedside. Maybe that’s why no one is here with me.

Please, let that be why.

“Non-emergent cases in the hallway, Johnson!” a very frazzled looking doctor yells at the man steering my gurney.

“Sir, this is Anastasia Grey.”

“Shit. Gunshot wound?”

“No, sir. Minor abrasions, lacerations, and evidence of assault.”

The doctor drops the clipboard in his hand on the counter behind him and comes to my bedside to get a closer look at my injuries. His hands clasp around my wrist and I unconsciously flinch away from him, like I’ve developed some kind of new reflex that repels human touch.  

“Did that hurt, Mrs. Grey?”

I moan, and am met with confusion.

“She’s been drugged, sir, and only just regained consciousness in the ambulance on the way here. The paramedic said she hasn’t been able to speak or move of her own volition yet.”

“Well, let’s get her a blood test so we know what’s in her system and a CT to check for any internal injuries. I’ll put the order in, take her straight there. There’s no room for an extra bed in here.”

“Yes, sir.” I’m jolted forward once more and pushed away from the crowd of people filling the trauma room. Too late, the thought crosses my mind that Christian may have been one of the patients being triaged in the room behind me, but the doctor moving my gurney through the hallways towards the imaging rooms misinterprets my anemic protests to go back.

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Grey. You’re safe now. We’re going to take some images to make sure you’re not bleeding internally and then we’ll get you cleaned up. No one is going to hurt you. You don’t have to be afraid anymore.”

Afraid?

I’m not afraid. Not in the way he means. The helplessness of not being able to tell him stop him and get the answers I so desperately need is so much worse than the fear. The fear only exists because I still have hope, but that hope is tied to time and with every precious second that passes my impotence slowly drains away whatever optimism I’m able to conjure like water cupped inside my hands. I have no idea where my daughter is. I have no idea if my husband is alive. I have nothing. When the doctor leaves me in the hallway to wait for CT to be freed up so he can check on his other patients, I’m in limbo and after a few minutes of doing everything I can to shirk the aftereffects of the drug, I lose the battle and slip into blackness once again.

 

I have no idea how much time has passed when I wake up, but it must have been significant because I’m back inside the noisy trauma room with an IV stuck inside my arm. The pain in my head is gone and I don’t feel so heavy anymore, so I try to move but a voice quickly stops me.

“Easy, you might be weaker than you think.” I look up and see a new doctor standing by the monitor next to my bed looking down at me with concern. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” I rasp, and although the sound is feeble, I’m overjoyed simply by the fact that my voice responds at all. “I’m fine. Where is my family?”

“They’re in the waiting room. There isn’t space for extra bodies back here right now. We’re just waiting on the results from you CT. If everything comes back clear, you’ll be released tonight and they can take you home.”

“But my husband… he’s here? He’s okay? Does he have my daughter with him?”

His face falls and my stomach drops. “He’s, uh– here…”

“Where? Is he okay?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey, I’m not his doctor. I don’t have any updates on his condition. I believe he’s been taken into surgery though.”

It feels like all of the air is sucked out of my body at once, and for a split second I think I’m going to throw up. Of course he’s in surgery, I felt the blood he was losing with my own hands, but I don’t know long it took for the police to arrive after I lost consciousness or how quickly they were able to get him here. There’s no reference for me to gauge how serious his condition is.  

I have to get to him. I can’t stay here and not know every single thing that’s happening.

“I need to leave,” I tell the doctor, but he shakes his head.

“It shouldn’t be much longer before we get your results, Mrs. Grey. I can’t discharge you until–”

“You don’t have to discharge me, I just need to get to the surgery floor. Please.” The desperation in my voice seems to resonate with him, because I can see the conflict in his eyes when he shakes his head.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Grey. We’re going to get you out of here as soon as possible, I promise.” With that, he turns, leaves, and I’m alone again. Out of the twelve or so doctors who rush past my bed, none of them come to check on me again, so there’s no one for me to appeal to. God, what I would give for a phone. Even if Grace, or Carrick, or even Elliot can’t come back to see me, they have information on Christian and not having any form of communication with them has me just as helpless as I was when I first got here. It’s maddening and I make it only twenty minutes before I’m pulling at the tape holding my IV in place with the intent of getting off this floor and to Christian’s bedside. Doctors be damned. Unfortunately, I only just pull the IV from my elbow before I’m caught.

“Mrs. Grey, wait…”

“No!” My voice is sharper than I mean for it to be, but I can no longer hold back the eruption of emotion that’s been building inside of me like a pressure cooker. “You can’t keep me here. I don’t care what the consequences are or if leaving is against medical advice, I have to get to my family and you’re not going to stop me.” It occurs to me then that my assertion would hold a lot more weight if I had Luke with me to run interference, but even just the thought of his name brings back the images of Gia and the gun, and I immediately have to push that all thoughts of him aside. I can’t deal with the grief over losing my best friend right now. I have to keep it together.

For a tense moment, the doctor stares into the challenge burning behind my eyes, but he doesn’t have time to try and deny me again before the doctor I’d had before comes in with clipboard and inappropriately upbeat attitude.

“Great news, Mrs. Grey. Your scans are just fine and your system looks to be fully flushed of the flunitrazepam that was affecting you earlier. You’re good to go. I have your discharge paperwork right here.”

I snatch the clipboard out of his hand and use the pen wedged under the metal clamp to scrawl a messy version of my name across the signature line at the bottom. He takes the paperwork back and then hands me a pair of light blue scrubs, which makes me realize that I’m completely naked under the paper gown, when before I’d at least been wearing underwear.

“Where are my, er… clothes?”

“The police have taken them as evidence. They came to take pictures of your injuries earlier and they’re waiting outside to get a statement, but I’ll let them know they’ll need to contact you at a different time.”

“Oh… Thanks,” I reply, snatching the scrubs from his hands and yanking up the bottoms under the hospital gown. I should be more grateful, I suppose, since all he’s trying to do is get me out of here as quickly as possible, which is all I’ve asked for since I really woke up, but it’s hard for me to feel any gratitude when what he’s just said feels so violating. I lost my trust in the police months ago and after everything that’s happened tonight, it’s sickening to know they’ve been in here while I was unconscious. That they’re collecting evidence for a crime that they’ve had a part in. I don’t know where we go from here, I don’t even want to think past Christian’s surgery right now, but once we do leave and we begin to pick up the pieces of everything in our lives that has been shattered, the corruption inside the Seattle Police Department will be one of, if not the first, things that Christian and I will take on.

I’ll be sure of that.

The doctor gives me a tight smile, then taps his colleague on the shoulder and motions for him to follow him out of my makeshift vestibule. They close the curtain behind them to give me some privacy and I slip the scrub top over my head before darting out into the crowded trauma room and following the signs that will me to the surgery floor. It’s like a maze getting through the hospital, and I’m not even really certain I’m going the right way until I round the final corner and see Grace, Elliot, Kate, and Mia all seated in a line of chairs outside a set of double doors that are guarded on each side by a police officer.

“Ana!” Mia flies out of her chair and rushes towards me, but stops before she can hug me. “Oh my god, she’s covered in blood.”

“I’m fine,” I say dismissively, because I don’t want to waste any time answering questions right now about me right now. The first thing I need to worry about is the carseat in the chair next to Kate, which I can’t get to fast enough.

One question answered.

“Is she okay?” I ask, fumbling with the buckle to pull her out of her seat and into my arms.

“Yeah,” Kate replies. “The paramedics didn’t think she needed to be brought here by ambulance so we had her evaluated right when we got here. She’s perfect.”

“Oh, thank god,” I whisper, and then kiss the top of her head while squeezing her as tightly to my body as possible. “And Christian?”

Grace lets out a grief stricken sob behind me that makes my scalp prickle.

“What?”

It’s Elliot who answers. “He was shot. The bullet lodged into his kidney and it can’t be salvaged. They’re removing it now. Apparently, there was a fire in an apartment building downtown tonight so the doctors have been too busy to talk to us regularly. That’s the last update we got.”

“What do you mean that’s the last update? What does that mean? Is he going to be okay?”

“He’s still in surgery. We’re not going to know anything else until they’re finished.”

Once again, I find it hard to catch my breath. Organ removal presents a litany of complications all in its own. His condition is serious, critical even, and there’s nothing I can do to help him or ensure that he’s going to be okay. It’s the worst kind of fear, knowing that I’m in danger of losing the man I love, but also being certain that there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it or help him in anyway. The pain of that feeling is indescribable and the only thing that can give me even an iota of solace in this moment is my daughter in my arms. That’s something, a connection to Christian that feels tangible. Like comforting her when she fusses is somehow comforting him.  

I start to pace, bouncing Calliope slightly in my arms as she tries to fall asleep, and while I do everything I can to ignore Grace crying steadily into a handkerchief, I realize for the first time that there should be another person here to worry with her, to hold her hand, and to assure everyone that everything is going to be okay.

“Where’s Carrick?” I ask, and the effect of my words is immediately apparent on everyone’s face.

“He’s uh…” Elliot begins, but Kate puts a hand on his arm and leans towards me. When she speaks, her expression and her voice are both careful, controlled, and purposefully reassuring. She’s going to give me bad news.

“He’s with your dad.”

“My dad? In Georgia?”

“No, Ray isn’t in Georgia. He’s–” She pauses to take a bracing breath. “He’s in the King County Detention Center.”

My eyes widen. “Jail? He’s in jail? Why?”

“For the murder of Ava, Kommer, Gia, and Andrew Lincoln.”

“What!”

Elliot leaps out of his chair and holds his hands out like he’s afraid I’m going to drop the baby. “Easy, Ana…”

“I’ve got her, Elliot. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Okay. Your dad was the one who called 911 to get help for you and Christian. When the police arrived, they found four dead bodies and they had no conscious witnesses, and after questioning Ray, he admitted that he’d killed Linc. That’s how we all found out what happened. When they arrested your dad, the police called Mom because of the baby and so Dad went down to the police station to advocate for Ray. We picked up Calliope and brought her here. That’s all we know.”

“What happened, Ana?” Kate asks.

They all look up at me expectantly, and for the first time since I’ve woken up, reality catches up with me, begins to overwhelm me, and tears start to pool in my eyes. I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about this yet, but I also know how horrible feels to have no idea what’s going on and I can see the same agony I felt only a short while ago reflected in Grace’s eyes.

“She was there waiting for us when we got home,” I begin in a shaky voice. “Ava was already dead by the time we got into the apartment and Gia was there holding Calliope and a gun. We were wrong about Gresham, he was just another pawn. It was Andrew Lincoln. This whole thing was revenge for the money Elena gave Christian after the trial and the affair that they had. He said taking me would make things fair between them and Christian got shot trying to protect me. He said he was going to… going to…” I can’t finish the sentence. Instead, I break down into tears.

“Jesus.” Kate gets out of her chair, takes Calliope from me, and then helps me into an empty seat where I can try and regain my composure. All three of them reach out to put a comforting hand on me, but again, the physical touch feels invasive and uncomfortable and I end up just cringing away. Obviously, I was right before and I’m not in a strong enough place to talk about this yet, so I take a breath and then redirect the conversation to the things I need to know, rather than what I need to explain.

“Have any of you talked to my dad?”

Elliot shakes his head. “No, but Dad will get this sorted out. It’s going to be okay, Ana. It’s over.”

I want to nod, but it’s hard to feel reassured over his words when everything that could have possibly gone wrong over the last twenty-four hours, did.

“You know what,” Kate says. “You should go back and see Luke. He’s been asking about you and it might make you feel a little better.”

“Luke is dead Kate. Gia shot him before he even got near us.”

“No, he’s not dead, Ana. He’s banged up pretty bad and he had to have surgery to fix his pneumo… uh–”

“Pneumothorax,” Grace whispers.

“Yeah, collapsed lung, punctured lung, whatever. But he’s fine now. He’s awake and resting.”

“What?”

She nods and after I realize that she’s completely serious, I scramble out of my chair and go to the reception desk, where a young, very tired looking woman is fielding a non-stop stream of phone calls.

“I don’t have an update on Grey,” she says, glancing irritably at Kate behind me as we approach the desk.

“No, I know. Luke Sawyer?”

“Are you family?”

“No, just a friend. A close friend. My name is Anastasia Grey.”

Her eyes widen with recognition. “Anastasia Grey? We’ve tried calling several times, you’re his emergency contact.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have my phone.”

“Well go on in. He’s in recovery room 237.”

“Great.” I turn, but then pause and look back at her with pleading eyes. “You’ll let me know when my husband is out of surgery?”

“Of course, Mrs. Grey.”

“Thank you.” I give her the most grateful smile I can muster and push away from the desk, but Kate doesn’t follow me.  Whether that’s because she wants to give me time alone with Luke or because she doesn’t want to leave Elliot while we’re still waiting to hear about Christian, I’m not sure. But I don’t stop to ask her. I slip past the watchful eyes of the officers standing next to the double doors and then wind my way through the surgery floor until I find room 237. When I push my way inside, he rolls his head in my direction, away from the TV playing re-runs of an old sitcom over his bed, and then immediately sits up. The movement makes him wince.

“Ana?”

“Don’t move,” I say, staring at him in disbelief. “Don’t hurt yourself.”

“Oh, no. I’m fine. Are you? What’s going on with Grey?”

“We don’t know yet, he’s still in surgery. Kate told me they’re removing his kidney.”

“Shit.”

I nod and then slowly approach the side of his bed. As he sinks back in the bed, his face once again contorts with pain so I try rearranging his pillows in an effort to make him more comfortable, purposefully touching him a subtly as I can to make sure he’s real and that I’m not just experiencing some kind of lucid dream. There’s no way he should be here talking to me right now.

“Thanks,” he says, and then reaches up to brush his fingers over the part of my chest that is still caked with blood through the v of my scrub top. “You’re a mess. Are you okay?”

“Me? You’re worried about me? Luke, Gia shot you. I saw it. I thought you were dead.”

“No. You should know that you’d never get rid of me that easily.” He laughs, but that quickly devolves into coughing, which obviously causes him a great deal of pain. It hurts, seeing him like this, and as I pull my bottom lip into my mouth to hide the quiver from him, his smile fades and he reaches out for my hand. “Before I left Georgia, Taylor told me to make sure I wore a vest when I brought the son-of-a-bitch down. I think part of that was tongue-in-cheek, because he wasn’t wearing one during that drive-by, but it saved my life. It broke three of my ribs and punctured a lung… but I’m here.”

He looks down then, like he can’t bear to make eye contact with me anymore.

“Ana, I’m so sorry. I should have never let you go up there. I thought they had Gresham and I’d called Kommer on our way back from Columbia Tower. He said everything was quiet but… I just gave him heads up that you were on your way. I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, it’s not…”

“Don’t tell me it’s not my fault. I’ve worked with this guy for months, closer than anyone else on the team. How did I not notice something was off about him? How did we not find anything that would tell us he was in on this?”

“Not everything can be found out about a person through a background check, Luke. Christian likes to think you tell everything there is to know about a person through their history, but knowing who they were doesn’t necessarily reveal their current motivations. Or their obsessions. Everything he did was for love, as twisted as that is, but we thought that the person he loved was dead. They weren’t married, they didn’t live together, I don’t even know when they talked… How could you have possibly known that he and Gia were together? I don’t think there was a way that we could have foreseen this from him. He played his part well.”

He shakes his head again. “But I was with him all the time. All those nights in Cambridge, on the flights… Jesus, I left him alone with you. That’s why I never really put much stock in the idea that it was him when we were trying to find the mole earlier. If he was a part of this, why did he wait? He had more than enough opportunities to make a move. Why didn’t he take you when he had the chance?”

“I don’t know.” I shrug. “Risk, I guess. Lincoln valued him more as the inside man than an abductor. That’s how he could stay ahead of us. He always knew our moves before we made them because Kommer told him everything.”

Luke’s jaw tightens as he clenches his teeth in anger and shakes his head. “I wish I would have been the one to kill him. He didn’t deserve a bullet to the head. I would have made it slow. I would have made it painful.”

His words are too visual and they bring back flashes of what happened so clearly I can hear the reverberations of the gunshot that hit Christian echo through my ears.

“Luke, please…” I reach up to dash away the moisture pooling against my lower lids and he lets out a painful sigh before moving over in his bed and pulling back the blanket so I can crawl up next to him. I hesitate at first, thinking I’ll hurt him if I even touch him, but he doesn’t seem to be worried about that so I move as carefully as I can until I’m nestled into the empty space at his side.

“I’m sorry,” he says.  

“It’s fine.”

“No, it isn’t. You’re not fine, I’m not fine, but at least it’s over right? No more anonymous threats, phone calls, or strangers hiding in the shadows. You don’t have to be scared anymore. We all get to move on.”

“How?”

“That’s up to you, I think. Whatever you need from here on out to make yourself feel safe, that’s what we do.”

“I just don’t want to go back,” I reply, my voice breaking. “I’m never going back into that apartment, Luke. We’ll stay with Grace and Carrick until the house is finished, or maybe Kate, my dad… I don’t care. But I’m never stepping foot inside Escala again.”

“Okay. We can make that happen.”

I nod and then try to calm my resurging tears by taking a few deep breaths and pushing as much air from my diaphragm as I can, like I can expel the memories with each long exhale. He gives me a minute to compose myself, but when I don’t speak again, he reaches for the remote to unmute the TV, which I now realize is playing an old episode of I Love Lucy. I’ve seen this one before, many times, and it’s a good one, but it doesn’t stop my mind from racing through all of the questions I still don’t have the answers to.

“Can I ask you something?”

“No.”

I can’t help it, I laugh, but even though the movement of me in the bed makes him grimace, his face lights up a little.

“What?”

“Kate said my dad was the one who shot Andrew Lincoln.”

“Lucky bastard…” A hard look silences him, and he nods. “Yeah. Ray shot him.”

“My dad is supposed to be in Georgia, Luke.”

He shakes his head. “Nope. Plan B.”

“Plan B?”

“Your dad spent 20 years doing special ops in the military, Ana. He has more experience than everyone on Grey’s team, Taylor included, and Taylor thought we were being stupid leaving him behind when we were short handed and we knew someone was still going to come after you. They talked and agreed he would come back. Taylor didn’t even call Grey until Ray was on a flight home so he couldn’t argue. But Grey knew you wouldn’t want your dad anywhere near this, so he and I decided his involvement would be on an as needed basis. Plan B. We didn’t know at the time that we were going to need him as soon as your book party.”

My eyebrows crease as I try and piece together what he’s saying with how I remember the last 24 hours. Christian had said something about plan b yesterday morning in his office and for me not to worry about it. Was that my dad?

“Wait, he was at my book party?”

Luke nods. “Yeah. Remember I told you we’d finally gotten one of his guys to talk and he told us their plan?”

“You mean your persuasive resources?”

“Your dad’s a scary man, Ana. He got the job done but, damn…” He tries to look repulsed, but he can’t hold back a small, overly pleased smile and once again, I can’t stop the small laugh that forces its way through my lips.

“Yeah, imagine being brought home at midnight by the police at the age of 16 for drinking beers under the overpass…”

He looks back down at me and narrows his eyes. “So all that partying before wasn’t actually a symptom of you and Grey breaking up? You’re hiding an alcohol problem, aren’t you?”

“Not as well as I thought, obviously.” He laughs at my joke, but it’s not long before my own teasing smile disappears and I start chewing on the inside of my cheek as a release for my nerves and uncertainty. “They arrested him, Luke. They’re charging him with the murder of Ava, Gia, Kommer… everyone.”

“Don’t worry about that. He didn’t kill any of them and what he did do is justifiable in the eyes of the law. He’ll be fine.”

If they believe him. Luke, we can’t trust the police, remember? What if exposing Lincoln exposes the corruption in the police department and so they try to pin it on my dad and use the fact that I was drugged and Christian was shot to discredit our statements?”

“Then we’ll use the security footage.”

“Kommer disabled the cameras. There is no footage.”

“No. Kommer thought he turned off the cameras, but in reality he never had that power. There’s a master code in the system that we can use to shut everything down and every person on Grey’s team has that code, but, after what Leila said about him being in Escala, Taylor took four cameras off the mainframe and programmed them with a different code that only he has. The one at the bottom of the elevator, the one in the foyer, the one in the great room, and the one at the service entrance. Not even Grey can turn them off, only Taylor.”

“How do you know that if Kommer didn’t?”

“Because having cameras that can’t be turned off led to footage being on system that Grey never intended to be captured by security cameras, and Taylor doesn’t have the time to review film so he delegated to me to erase it all. Other systems had been compromised and he didn’t want someone to get into the home server, download the footage, and distribute it. Or use it as blackmail.”

“Like what?

“Like your wedding night.”

“Oh…” My cheeks flush and Luke immediately begins back peddling.

“I didn’t watch it or anything. Believe me, I’m not really interested in…”

“No, it’s okay,” I say, cutting him off. “This is good. This means that it’s all there. We have the proof of everything that happened. Actually, this is great. Luke!” Without thinking I quickly wrap him in a hug only to have him let out a horrible sounding groan of pain.

“Oh my god, I’m sorry! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!”

“It’s fine,” he says in a tight voice. “Just… you stay on that side and I’ll stay on my side, okay?”

“Okay.” I ease back and lie absolutely still next to him, feeling guilty until I feel his body relax, and then rest my head on his shoulder. I still have things I want to ask, but I think that it’s probably better to let him rest now so I lay still and silent through the rest of I Love Lucy and then another episode of Bewitched, until there’s a knock on the frame of the door.

“Mrs. Grey?”

“Yes?”

“Mr. Grey is out of surgery. He’s in a recovery room just down the hall, if you’d like to see him.”

“He is? Is he okay?”

“He’s still out from the anesthesia, but his surgery went well. They’ve already taken him off the vent and his vitals are strong.”

I turn a frenzied look back at Luke and he smiles. “Go. I’m fine.”

“Feel better, okay? And let me know if you need anything. Anything at all. I’ll be just down the hall.”

“I will.”

I lean over to kiss him softly on the cheek and then hurry out of the room as fast as I can behind the nurse. She takes me only four doors down and then moves aside to let me pass, but as I step inside the room, I feel as though I hit a brick wall.

The shock doesn’t come from the tubes in his arms or the beeps from the machine monitoring his heart beats, I can handle that. I expected that. The shock comes because I hardly recognize my own husband. The entire left side of his face is marred by deep purple bruise and his eye is so swollen, I don’t think he’ll be able to open it even after he wakes up. There’s a cut on his lip that looks like the doctors had to sew up and he’s so pale that every injury looks much more stark and severe than I’m sure it really is.

“Should I let the rest of your family back, Mrs. Grey? Or do you need a moment?”

“I-I–” I walk aimlessly towards him, like a zombie, too petrified to give her a proper answer. My eyes move over every inch of his face, pulling out anything and everything I recognize, and as I finally see him beneath the carnage, my chest heaves with a deep sob and I collapse into the chair at the side of the bed. I take his hand and curl my fingers with his, and as tears start to stream silently down my cheeks, I hear the door close behind me and we’re alone.

 

Grace falls apart when she sees him for the first time. Elliot has to hold on to her to keep her from collapsing to the floor while Mia finds another chair, but even though the nurse gave me at least half an hour before she finally let his family back here, I hardly register any of them. I don’t have the capacity to worry about comforting her or anyone else right now. The entire time I sit at his bedside, nothing is able pull my attention away from Christian, not even the doctors who come to tell us about his surgery and what we can expect as far as recovery goes. He’s going to be okay, I gather that much, but I don’t trust anything enough to take my eyes off of him for even a second.

The grief comes in waves. First it’s Grace, then Mia. She sits at the foot of his bed, holding on to his leg and trying to coax him awake by pleading with him and promising him anything that pops into her mind. It wounds all of us, listening to her fears for her favorite brother, but not as much as the sharp, single sob Elliot lets out when he finally breaks and can’t hold it back anymore.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “Fuck, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Elliot,” Kate says. “You can be upset.”

“No.” He shakes his head and looks up at me. “Ana, I’m so fucking sorry.”

“What?”

“This is my fault…”

“Elliot.” Kate tries to pull him into her, but he pushes her away, and then doubles over in his chair. “I brought Gia into our lives. I gave him someone else to use against us. If I hadn’t been so weak…

“Stop, Elliot. It’s not your fault.”

“How can you say that? If I had never started dating her…”

“It’s not your fault, Elliot,” I repeat, interrupting him. “Gia was always going to be there. It had nothing to do to you. In fact, you were the part of their plan that failed.”

“Failed? What do you mean?”

“She only dated you to try and turn you against Christian. You’re his support system. When he needs to lean on someone, he goes to you and you’re always there. She wanted to take that away from him. Lincoln wanted to take that away from him. He’s self-destructive when he feels alone, easier to get to, so she tried to get Christian to sleep with her so that you would feel betrayed and you would walk away.”

“What?” He turns to look back at Christian, and, slowly, the look of blank shock on his face slowly fades to anger. So much so that, when he speaks, he’s almost incoherent. “He told me that she was trying to… that she… and I defended her.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of what you do. You stick up for the people you care about and you stand by them, even if they’re wrong. Sometimes, that can be a flaw.” He grimaces and looks away from me out of shame, but I reach across the bed to take his hand. “I’m not angry with you, Elliot. Who you are and the things you do are valuable enough to Christian that Lincoln knew he had to ruin your relationship if he was ever going to really destroy him. They preyed on you when you were weak, but you didn’t let them take what they were after. You were the part of their plan that failed. I have only gratitude for that.”

He presses his lips together and, after a long pause, nods. “Thank you, Ana. Seriously. I can’t believe how well you’re holding it together right now.”

“I’m not,” I tell him,  then turn my attention back to Christian and silently beg him to open his eyes.

 

After the first few hours, the sleepless night begins to weigh on all of us. Elliot falls asleep in the chair across from me with Kate snoozing quietly on his shoulder. Mia curls up on the floor next to Calliope’s carseat and Grace nods off somewhere around 4 o’clock. Everything is quiet and dark, but there’s no way I can sleep, and I don’t want to. I’m not ready yet to face what dreams may come after tonight, so I force myself to stay awake by counting each and every breath Christian takes. When my head feels too heavy to hold up anymore, I lean over to rest my cheek on our conjoined hands and focus on the feel of Christian’s steady pulse beneath my fingers. The wait is agonizing and for the first time, I feel like I can truly appreciate what Christian went through after Calliope’s birth. I wouldn’t wish this torture on anyone. Waiting, not knowing… it’s devastating.

“Ana…”

My body tenses and at first I think I have fallen asleep and the hoarse voice I’ve heard is just part of a cruel dream, but Christian’s fingers lightly squeeze mine, and I immediately sit upright in my chair, wide awake.

“Christian?”

His mouth moves as he swallows and then, slowly, he turns his head towards me and opens his eyes.

“I haven’t seen it, but I don’t think I’m going to be on The Most Beautiful People list this year.”

Jokes. He’s making jokes.

“No,” I reply, and the half-laugh, half-sob sound the explodes out of me makes me sound insane. “You’re definitely going to lose out to Bradley Cooper.”

He too laughs and the pain of doing so is immediately apparent on his face. I reach over for the call button at the side of his bed, but he takes hold of my hand to stop me.

“Not yet. Where’s Linc?”

He doesn’t know? “Dead. My dad got into the apartment and shot him. He’s dead.”

“Good.” He lies still again, but I can tell from the tightness in his face that he hasn’t gone back to sleep. It looks like he’s trying to hide the amount of pain he’s in from me. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Calliope is fine. We’re all okay. I can call the nurse, Christian.”

He takes a deep breath and nods, so I reach for the plastic box hanging from the monitor and press the call button. Once the red light comes on, I move to sit again, but he grabs onto my scrubs and then shifts his hand up to cup the side of my face. For a long time, he just stares at me and then the corner of his mouth upticks into a soft smile.

“Hi.”

I smile again and place my hand over his against the side of my face. “Hi.”

He pulls and I follow until I’m leaning over him and can place the softest kiss I can manage against his lips. He holds me there until the doctors come. In that kiss, as chaste as it may be, there is promise. Not for an ending, as I have been assured of all night, but for a beginning. A new beginning for both of us. Just us.

The nightmare may be over, but the dream has just begun.

Next Chapter

70 thoughts on “Chapter 49

  1. With that final sentence I can smell the final of the story and I do not like it.
    I knew Christian had to be okay, yet you manage to let me afraid all the chapter.
    Lots lots and lots of aftermath chapter would be gladly appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Like you, I feel frustrated not yet knowing all the pieces of the story. BUT realistically, you can see why that is. Ana would of course be separated from the other potential victims, as each needed to be treated for his or her injuries. AND the doctors would NOT be told what OTHER people came in with Ana. So they couldn’t be expected to know about Christian or Sawyer. After all, there only job is to keep people ALIVE and treat their injuries. The backstory is just not known to them unless it is relevant to the medical care.

      AND there was a burning building with all the victims THERE that happened that night as well. My first thought was to wonder if Andrew had tried to cover his crimes surrounding Gresham by staging a fire at his building, but the two incidents are likely to be unrelated. STILL, it would NOT be unlike Andrew Lincoln to start a fire in a building to cover one crime while failing to care that OTHERS would be killed in the fire.

      We KNOW Ana heard a gunshot before she went unconscious, and we can presume (at least at this point) that it was fired by Ray. So Andrew presumably did NOT get to rape Ana, but the rape kit will tell us that for sure.

      But poor Ana AND Christian probably don’t have all the answers yet, and their family members aren’t in any state to really help them. Poor Carrick has had to go handle Ray’s case, regardless of knowing EITHER Ana OR Christian’s ultimate fate at the time he left for the jail.

      AND everyone is dealing with the aftermath. Poor ANA is having to provide comfort when, quite frankly, SHE needs to be one of the people comforted right now, but the situation requires it. I mean, the Grey family didn’t have ANY idea of what happened, given that no one was in a state to tell them anything, and Ray had been taken to jail!

      So this is a necessary chapter to let us know how everyone is. BUT the next chapter will give us MORE clues as everyone has to re-live everything for the official police record. AND I’m anxious to see what kind of spin the police are going to try to do with this whole thing.

      ON THE PLUS SIDE, the Feds have even MORE reason now to be involved, given the nature of Andrew’s crimes that he OBVIOUSLY did in MULTIPLE states, which is FBI jurisdiction. AND the police will look VERY suspicious if they are LESS than cooperative. AND THE FEDS should also be exploring WHY the police did so little. So the law enforcement angle could get VERY interesting next chapter!

      But by necessity, this chapter could only deal with getting everyone stable at the hospital that survived. NEXT chapter will show how everyone got there and follow up on the position the police will NOW take, given all that has happened.

      (AND I am with Ana—WHY ever go back to Escala after everything that has happened? So it will be interesting to see where she and Christian go while the house is still being finished. Although given everything that has happened AND Elliot’s obvious guilt, I bet Elliot will double-down his efforts to finish the house for them quickly. AND should also be the PERSONAL wake-up call that Elliot needed as well!)

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      1. Yep, I wondered if the fire was Linc related who knows maybe he was trying to burn evidence because he thought he was going to leave with Ana in tow. Perhaps the burn victim was another collateral damage on Linc’s part.

        Poor Ana it’s like everywhere though not just Escala was infiltrated by Linc and his band of crime croenies even their home they are yet to move in has been tainted probably through Kommer and Gia having access. I don’t care how in love Kommer was with Gia, as much as I am not about an eye for an eye he got what he deserved by helping Linc he saw his psychotic girlfriend who admitted to sleeping with Elliot to try and sleep with Christian to ruin his life be shot by her own poor escuse for father. Let’s face in without being crude Gia was most likely a product of I don’t even want to imagine if you get my drift or just a one night stand, she was never meant to really be so she was expendable anyway. I can’t imagine what it must be like to finally find your Dad knowing what he is -evil but still wanting to please him by doing all the things he asked if she was a decent person she would have walked away instead of doing his dirty work but she got what she deserved.

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  2. And I admit that it crossed my mind that Ray might be taken in by police for ALL the murders, since they wouldn’t want to admit to the corruption and lack of investigation into anything. AND all the victims were unable to speak at the time.

    On the positive, since Ray is at the jail, then he was NOT injured when shooting Andrew Lincoln, since the paramedics would have had to take him to the hospital as well before sending him on. AND since Ana heard THE shot that Ray fired as she went unconscious, then that means that Andrew was NOT able to rape Ana prior to dying, although what he WAS able to do will undoubtedly cause Ana discomfort and sleepless nights.

    AND Sawyer had the vest on! I figured that the bullets hitting him full-on, even with the vest, would mean he had internal injuries, but he STILL managed to fight, even with the lung and other injuries. Bless Sawyer!

    Given Taylor’s prior injuries and the fact that he was NOT wearing a vest, he obviously wasn’t able to be a technical part of “plan B,” so Ray went in alone. BUT at least TAYLOR will be able to access the necessary footage to PROVE Ray’s justifiable homicide. (I just wish Andrew Lincoln would have bragged about AND GIVEN names of the police officers that helped him!)

    With Ana being awake, she obviously NEEDS to be interviewed by the police in order to get Ray out quicker. AND with Andrew Lincoln dead and unable to bribe them further, the police SHOULD be overly anxious to HELP Ana rather than fight her, since it would HAVE to be obvious to them that, given the amount of carnage left to Seattle’s elite Grey family, Christian will WANT them held accountable. (At least Ana WAS drugged when the hospital had to do the rape kit and all that, given what all had just happened in the apartment.)

    So the police situation should prove interesting. On the one hand, officers should rush to help, given that NO ONE will want to appear “corrupt” and one of Andrew’s toadies since he cannot protect them or bribe them further. ON THE OTHER HAND, the officers will be VERY reluctant to admit that they ignored all the obvious signs leading to a truly psychotic man being able to kill numerous people. AND a cover-up will naturally begin.

    So that will be a hard interview for Ana, since the police are likely to ask horrendous questions and do anything to try to make it seem like the Grey family brought on their attack so that they don’t look so bad. So Carrick is going to be needed in multiple places at once.

    (Hey, since Ros is not there, has anyone informed her yet of everything that has taken place? I’m guessing poor Taylor may be left to be the go-between for GEH, given that all the other security are dead or gone or not with the authority to do anything. AND is Taylor in Seattle now or still in Georgia?)

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      1. Then my sympathies to Ros and Andrea who are going to have to field a LOT of press calls, etc. I mean, a personal attack of this nature ON CHRISTIAN’S DOORSTEP is going to garner public interest. ESPECIALLY given the previous attack on Ana and the fact that the police had no leads. AND the Feds were involved. So if the police have “failed” to notify the FBI, then THAT should hopefully make the Feds question the police’s “response” to the case!

        Hhhmmm. Still multiple places the story has to go. AND an accounting from the feds or police about who is left alive from the Conspiracy, if anyone, and where they are located now.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m thinking the police will have to come to the hospital for the interviews. AND I hope Carrick is able to be there for that, given the suspicions about the police. But obviously, the police need to talk to Ana, Sawyer and Christian ASAP. AND the press will undoubtedly be standing vigil outside the hospital as well. PLUS, the FBI was involved in this case AND should still have jurisdiction, given the amount of crimes Lincoln committed across state lines.

      So the law enforcement angle of all this is still ongoing. PLUS, we don’t know what kind of fight the police are going to try to put up to try to “justify” their failure to do anything helpful or run down any leads. HOWEVER, given the nature of all the compromises that Christian had from INSIDE his own company and security, the police will probably try to blame THAT. After all, if CHRISTIAN couldn’t even know his own security force was compromised, then how could the police? (AND let’s see how that works for them once the FBI steps in!)

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      1. Doesn’t Ana has the right to have an attorney present when the police interview her? And shouldn’t she had someone present when her injuries were photographed? I’m not an attorney but after what happened, shouldn’t the FBI have jurisdiction over the police corruption, doesn’t it comes under Public Corruption which is a federal offense, “Federal laws that address police misconduct include both criminal and civil statutes. These laws cover the actions of State, county, and local officers, including those who work in prisons and jails.” The local police obviously mishandled Ana’s case when he tried to abduct her, and everything else that had to do with Linc et al. They are already on the case because of their interstate crimes, I hope that the agent in charge gets to them soon, I can’t wait to see those corrupted police officers arrested and go to federal prison.
        I hope that the doctors were able to repair Christian’s kidney, and I’m so glad that little Calliope is fine and she wasn’t injured, especially her hearing. I think that they all will need psychological help after this traumatic events. Thank you Tara.

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      2. GigiM,

        Anyone who wants to have their attorney present for when they are questioned by the police can, of course, have said attorney. But the police don’t have to wait to question Ana—in fact, the sooner they do so, the better, usually, because you want to know what happened when it is freshest in a person’s mind. (AND the police don’t have to advise Ana that she has the right to an attorney since she is NOT supposed to be a suspect but only a witness to a horrendous crime.)

        And Ana is NOT a suspect, at least at this point, so she wouldn’t necessarily automatically think to request that her attorney be present. HOWEVER, given the way the police have handled this situation so far, I think Ana SHOULD have an attorney present. The police will most likely look for ANY way that they can turn this around on Christian and/or Ana (as if they somehow asked to be attacked!).

        BUT the drawback to having an attorney when you are being questioned as JUST a witness can often be that people (and the press) will think that the person is somehow guilty or has something to hide, thus needing an attorney. (An example I can think of this is JonBenet’s parents–they looked “guilty” automatically to the police because they exercised their right to have an attorney present. Although in that case, that was smart given that so many child abductions/murders are often by people known to the child.) AND the police could always be looking for an angle here to somehow “blame” Ana for something, especially given Ray’s intervention, so I’m hoping that Carrick or someone can be present with Ana.

        In fact, that always blew my mind that in the original EL James’ works, Detective Clark questions Ana (with Christian present), but she does not have an attorney. AND Christian doesn’t even think to get ANa an attorney, and THEN you find out that HYDE is trying to accuse ANA of sexually harrassing him. (However, that goes nowhere after Hyde gets out on bail and commits numerous other offenses.)

        In THIS case, though, since it is Ana’s own father that stands accused, the police can “claim” that they suspect Ana is misleading them in their investigation in order to protect her father. So Ana NEEDS an attorney, if for no other reason then to make sure the police don’t “mishear” Ana. But given the fact that the police will need EVIDENCE asap, then they need to get on those interviews immediately.

        OH, the police DO NOT have to wait for Ana to be awake to photograph her injuries, etc. IN FACT, that would be bad of them to wait. After all, if Ana died on the operating table (since for all we originally knew, Andrew Lincoln could have injected Ana with something that would cause permanent damage, and she could have died without ever waking up), the police would have lost valuable time and evidence by not having photographed Ana when the bruises were fresh. AFTER ALL, Ana would be expected to get MORE bruises at the hospital, given that the hospital would have to take bloodwork, possibly operate, etc. So THE BRUISES and INJURIES FROM THE CRIME needed to be photographed BEFORE anything else happened, as long as Ana was medically stable. OTHERWISE, the evidence could be thrown out by great defense lawyers (had Andrew lived to face a trial) as not necessarily being caused by him but by OTHER means.

        The bruises and injuries on ANa show the ordinary observer that Ana FOUGHT her attacker. So SOMEONE was trying to harm Ana, and that would not be likely to be her father. I mean, you have a crime scene with MULTIPLE BODIES and MULTIPLE people INJURED, but by the time police and paramedics arrived, the injured were all unconscious. So you JUST had Ray, uninjured and with a gun in his hand, admitting to murdering one of the individuals in the room. PHOTOGRAPHS of Ana’s injuries should show that SOMEONE had attacked her, which strengthens Ray’s argument of being forced to intervene in the matter.

        (But it shows just WHY assault victims can be so reluctant to come forward right after the attack. They have to relive everything for police and be asked VERY personal questions, as well as having to complete an invasive rape kit that is handled by strangers right after having had traumatic things happen. Poor ANA felt embarrassed and humiliated when she had done NOTHING wrong, and she had, at least, been unconcious for the examination. After all, you see a glimmer in this chapter of Ana’s reactions to being TOUCHED, which is to be expected after everything she just went through.)

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  3. Just amazing, though we all had an inkling I knew for Sawyer to survive he’d had to have a vest but at close range that’s gotta hurt! Loved that it ended up being Ray to kill Linc, but loved your twist that the police have him in custody. This is brilliant because it will be interesting to see how this pans out with the corruption! Linc may have paid the police and others off but there will be no doubt that heads will roll that the police was so corrupt hat this happened and for it to happen we all know people at the top were either being blackmailed for god knows what. I think a few people high up are going to have their skeletons come out for all to see. Nothing wrong with consensual BDSM but I reckon some sick tickets at the top are about to be revealed! So even though, I don’t want it to end there another s some room for just how Linc managed to pay off so many people for revenge on a kid his wife molested and still got her help to bring him down. Hell is too good for all those involved especially Linc and Elena the ultimate sociopaths!

    But again just amazing, I thing we all needed a little drama with Ray in custody at this point and Christian in surgery but everyone we all love is safe. I don’t think we could have handled another major death. Brilliantly written as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, THAT is what I am really interested in seeing next—whether or not the police become “suddenly” cooperative, fearing what Christian might uncover if he is inclined to dig deeper. OR if they will dig in the trenches and try for a massive cover-up.

      Given Elena’s compulsive desire for revenge, I can’t help but hope that she KEPT HER CLIENT LIST somewhere where Christian could get ahold of it if Andrew finished her off. After all, Elena’s clients undoubtedly helped Andrew after Elena gave them over to Andrew as part of the intel that she had to offer. AND I’m thinking that Elena’s clients either DIRECTLY bribed the police OR were bribed by Elena to “stay in business.”

      So I’m hoping that the trail of police corruption is easier to trace with Andrew AND Elena now gone. I just wonder how the corrupt police officers will play this now—try to turn it around on Ana and Christian, while trying to use RAY as bait, OR if they will be overly-eager to get on Christian’s good side. We just have to wait and see.

      (And there is undoubtedly a SPECIAL level in Hell JUST for Elena and Andrew and their type!)

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      1. ToriK
        If I were the police/Government officials or the dog walker who sold information that probably helped to kidnap Ana I’d be absolutely shitting myself and also because I think Linc had dirt on them all to help keep him by promising to keep their dirty secrets. I’ve already said this in another post which is still waiting moderation but Christian’s money versus well a now dead Linc and I also wonder since Luke advised to Ana that for safety issues the camera’s were still on (I wonder if sound was on?) I am pretty sure especially since Gia was so loose lipped about her involvement and admitting in a very blasé manner to boot how easy it was to bribe this person and then kill them while giving names, there is or would be no doubt especially since Linc even forcing Elena to help him she did so at first because she wanted to get back at Christian and Ana by telling Linc how to bring Christian down with Thant while Welch/Roz debacle and let’s face it in Elena’s line of work I am sure there were plenty of ‘Gresham’s’ she helped serviced over the years that were all helping Linc who were much higher in their jobs, so they had a lot more to loose. If there is no physical record I am sure because it’s not looking good for the corrupt Seattle Police Department right now that everyone who was involved will be doing deals to make sure they get off lightly, let’s face it I am sure a lot of these people who put some dangerous people behind bars won’t be wanting to share a jail cell with them 😏. Given, that the police basically ignored and the tried to angle that Ana pretended to kidnap herself the police will all be scrambling like rats on sinking ship to point the finger that no one took their threats seriously until it became a bloodbath, Billionaore or not you except these people to help you if you feel unsafe, if anything the media will have a field day because regular people will be you guys are public servants and you didn’t help them, if your not going to he,p a billionaire are you fling to help me? I assume because Christian’s past will not come out and it will look like a sick revenge for someone who took this guys company legitimately, that’s the angle I’d be going with. It’s like when Christian said to Kommer do you really think he is going to help you he will just use you and when your no longer needed because you can identify him you will be killed. That saying there is no honour amongst theives couldn’t be more apt.

        Side note, even banged up and bandaged in a hospital bed I can see Taylor still making sure that this time no one was going to get another one over him! 😎

        I agree there is a special kind of hell for Elena and Linc, I wonder what that would like? For Elena I see a kind of ground hog day stuck in suburban hell situation where she has to wear dowdy clothes , cook, clean, eat bland beige food and never have her hair and nails done again and maybe she’s married to Linc and he never ‘services’ her or he has a small dick amd she gets no pleasure, I just imagine that would be her Idea of hell! And she is constantly reminded of what she once had but can never ever get out of it!

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  4. Even though Taylor isn’t in this chapter, I expect him to feel like Sawyer does—they just didn’t see Kommer being the traitor that he was. I really felt for Sawyer in this one. And it probably hasn’t even hit everyone properly yet, given that no one has had the time to really piece it all together yet.

    After all, WE all wondered why Kommer didn’t act earlier and seize Ana. He certainly had MULTIPLE opportunities to do so. BUT Andrew Lincoln’s insanity and determinedness to do things his way ultimately insured that the Greys’ LIVED, because he was NOT the person that should have planned certain elements of the kidnapping, as you see from last chater. The EASIEST way for Lincoln to have gotten Ana was there all along, but Lincoln wanted the “show” of the reveal to Christian, AND to have Christian see what he intended to do to Ana. AND Andrew was so confident that he could willfully murder his own BEST accomplices right in front of him, even when it meant that he was grossly outnumbered in the end AND unable to expect/anticipate a counterattack!

    Poor Sawyer really feels bad about not realizing where the security leaks were coming from. AND I can only imagine what self-doubt TAYLOR is going through as well. I mean, both of these men will be able to join Ana and Christian on the therapy couch for PTSD when this is all done.

    BUT with Andrew Lincoln FINALLY being dead, there is no reason for any remaining accomplices to remain silent. So MORE pieces to the puzzle will hopefully be forthcoming. Assuming, of course, that anyone from the Conspiracy is still alive to talk!

    RAY will be able to provide some insight as well next chapter (after he gets out from jail). I mean, would you want to be the district attorney that keeps Ray in jail AFTER learning the details from Christian and Ana? At the VERY least, Ray committed justifiable homicide, and given the level of carnage in the apartment, Ray was justified in using the level of force that he used against Andrew. I can’t imagine a DA wanting to go through with charging and trying Ray for “murder” of Andrew. STILL, Ray’s situation is NOT a given, particularly if the police are less than cooperative. So I will be VERY INTERESTED in seeing what happens regarding RAY’S SITUATION next chapter!

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  5. OMG!!!! I knew it was Ray. I have been waiting on pins and needles for this chapter 🙂 I am breathing a little easier, now. Now, for Carrick to get Ray out of jail and for the corruption to come to light about Seattle PD. I knew Luke would be wearing a bullet proof vest 🙂 So glad. I love his and Ana’s friendship. I wish Gia could have been tortured along with Linc, lol. GREAT chapter!!!

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  6. Great chapter. Finally everyone is awake and going to survive. I’m so glad Tay was plan B and doesn’t have to feel he let his family down he saved them all. Can’t wait for all the details from ray and carrick. Now to get Taylor back home and everybody healthy. Thank you.

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  7. I’m in tears throughout this chap;, totally feeling Ana’s pain vividly. And, those final sentences… gosh… can’t (or just don’t want to) believe that we’re toward the end of this massive and brilliant trilogy. Can it be neverending? Love your A&C though can’t wait for any of your new endeavor. May I make a final request? If you’re gonna skip Grey’s and others’ POVs of Stronger and head straight to something new, would you please give this C&A one final steamy, lengthy, lemony scene?
    With such serious injuries that Christian goes through now, I’m kinda wary that we’re gonna end this w/o one. Need them to be healthily back on in the sack for a HEA sendoff. Just for a peace of mind sake… Never ever love and follow a story so religiously-like until this trilogy, honestly. Can’t thank you enough for these years’ entertainment. So sad to see it end, but can’t be more proud of you.

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      1. Since there’s only one more chapter 😦 Can we get it early? We all need some stress relief after this kick ass story that had us on pins n needles waiting a week (sometimes almost 2) PRETTY PLEASE with Sugar on top..?? LOL

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      2. NNNNOOOOOOOOOO—only ONE more chapter?!?!?!?! Sigh. Seems like WAY too much to wrap up in only one more chapter, what with Elliot, Kate and the other Greys. AND I admittedly did NOT want the day to come when this story could be over!

        However, I realize that “Future Takes” don’t have to be chapters, and THAT is what I really look forward to seeing admittedly. Whether or not Ana makes a book out of the Conspiracy and how Calliope is growing up are things I am dying to read about. AND I am admittedly looking forward to Outtakes as well. SO I have to look at this as NOT being exactly the end, since the other stuff is to follow.

        But that does beg the question—will you do Outtakes or Future Takes first? And do you have a schedule for how that will work?

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      3. Me too I’m ignoring the one more chapter!

        I never posted on fanfic because I don’t know if it’s was me but I was forever being told incorrect password and by the time I felt liked saying something there never seemed to be a flow, maybe it was me because for the most part I read fanfic on my phone until I got my iPad but still. But this type or format we can reply to each other and it has really allowed me to get into it and want to post. I love this little community here and hearing everyone’s theories. There were lots,of stories that I would have loved to tell the author how great their stories were and comment like we do here. So it’s the first time I have felt vested in a story and I am actually voicing an opinion and my eternal gratefulness to you Tara. I feel weird calling you by assume your first name but I assume since everyone else does It’s cool. So I don’t want this to end please drag out the outtakes!!!!!!

        I know by the time you start writing your new story I will be like I assume everyone else who has been on this journey and gripped by what’s to come but I have had a shitty year and once I found it here I have looked forward to every chapter and after my first post I became addicted!

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  8. So many tears. What Ana said to Elliot, Christian waking up well worth the wait!! As always excited to see what happens next and for next Monday’s update.

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  9. I had faith in you Tara not to kill them off but them u suredid put the hurt on all of them forever! Ana will come out strong emotionally eventually and so will the rest of the characters but Christian almost lost his life and he was a victim in all of this. The road to recovery is a long one but at least they have one. Awesome awesome awesome story!!!! The best I think in all of fanfiction and there has been plenty of good ones. You should feel very proud to have completed three wonderful brilliant stories with our favorite couple! 👏

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. I put these three books as being as dear to me as the EL James original works. In many ways, Tara’s version of Elena and the rest gave SO MUCH insight into HOW she became who she did AND her motivation and reasons for using any means at her disposal to hold on to what she had created. AND her hold on Christian. PLUS, I LOVED seeing the struggles that Ana AND Christian went through to come out whole individually and to be together.

      So I loved the journeys that multiple characters went through. PLUS the Outtakes are really wonderful insight into the other characters AND provide still more information that Ana was not aware of. After all, it was the OUTTAKES originally that made me feel for Christian, as I was ready to punt him from the Empire State building by the end of ADSOF. But the Outtakes made you really feel for him and see the situation as he saw it to explain why Christian did what he did.

      Tara could still do other books to follow this one, as all that happened will undoubtedly influence the parents that Christian and Ana will be moving forward. Plus, Mia still has to grow up and Kate and Elliot have to be resolved. And there are the OTHERS that are close to them as well, such as Taylor, Sawyer, Carter, etc.

      BUT I get that Tara wants to move on and has other stories to tell. (Doesn’t mean that I will pout any less when the story is completely over. After all, I have just taken it for granted that I get my weekly Tara-fix in this particular universe of the Grey family. So the withdrawal effects will undoubtedly be agonizing, BUT I hope for LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of Outtakes AND Future Takes to keep me going!!!–hint,hint!!!!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeh I’d love more and to see how Mia and all the Grey’s and even other characters pan out. Like no matter what we all kinda thought there was no way Mia knew who Mr C really was she just asssumed and it was a great ploy but given the psychological damage Mia must be going through as a result of all of this would be an interesting insight now it’s over how she actually deals with it or more importantly how Grace and Carrick deal/help Mia to heal without their usual bullshit. As much as I still think Mia is a spoilt brat she’s still a kid.

        And now we have Elliot blaming himself for allowing Gia to be in his life he’s going to finally loose it I think. After all, his reasons for not wanting to marry and have children were fair enough because he felt he’d been babysitting his family for so long that he just wanted to be and if I’d been Elliot I’d feel the same way. Things change of course and I think he will want kids and after everything that’s happened I can see him wanting a form of commitment to Kate as I think he will see it as a way of wanting her to know how much he loves her not because society or blocdy Grace expects it of him!

        Then of course what’s left of security Sawyer is blaming himself but I think beyond got way to close to Ana then he was expected and I do kinda of agree how Christian is with a line between staff and friends because there were times where I don’t think Luke was on the ball because he was in competition with Katemto who was Ana’s best friend but I do t blame him for Kommer and I assume Taylor will be wondering how he missed it along with Welch and Barney etc.

        I think it was you Tori that said Flynn will need to be on speed dial for all the above! I am just glad Calliope is too young to remember any of this!

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      2. TNJ,

        Yep, there are SO MANY unresolved issues pending for the rest of the Grey family and friends. So Tara has the potential for MANY (at least, in my mind) Future Takes just to resolve how everyone ends up AND WHO everyone ends up with.

        Yeah, I’m wondering how Elliot will process all this in the end AND how he will react to it. After all, he DID choose to get into a relationship and defend a woman that he knew NOTHING about. He can’t help but feel it. ESPECIALLY now that he knows JUST what all Kate did for his family AND what Carter, the “competition” for Kate’s affections, did for the Grey family.

        Given all that has happened, I’m hoping Carter CAN remain friends with the whole Grey clan. After all, he risked his life to help two different girlfriends that had moved on from him. That really SAYS something for the guy that he did so much despite being the “scorned” and rejected one. Carter stuck his neck out for his friends, and he got injured AND undoubtedly scarred for life in the process. So he deserves some good things to come his way. (I mean, KATE’s rebound choice was DEFINITELY better than Elliot’s!)

        And Christian obviously promised something for Carter’s efforts. I actually want to hope that it is to offer Carter a job at GEH, given that Christian needs people he KNOWS he can trust not to be easily corrupted. And that Carter will find he might actually PREFER a life in the business world, assuming he does well, rather than law. OR maybe Carrick will take him under his wing if Carter DOES still want to go to law school.

        (AND I will go ahead and say it—Carter is more deserving of Kate, at least at this point. He is CLEARLY the type of guy that WOULD put her needs first. I STILL haven’t seen ELLIOT willing to do that yet. We just have to wait and see what Elliot is willing to concede for Kate.)

        But while I continue to think Carter might deserve Kate more than Elliot, it is KATE’s choice. AND she should be with someone she truly LOVES rather than someone that might deserve her. Sadly, we can’t control who the heart wants.

        WHICH also brings me to MIA. Like Elliot, Mia trusted the WRONG people. But in HER case, it was time and time again. FIRST, it was trusting Elena to make her dreams come true. THEN, it was choosing the WRONG friends. AND then doing the wrong actions to COPE with everything that had happened.

        So I can’t imagine what Mia is going to be like moving forward as far as TRUST issues. She needs to be able to date someone that is REALLY a decent person. I’m hoping Mia decides NOT to date while in high school. OR if she IS going to date, understanding that she needs security AND background checks and to have this individual meet her family.

        So I’m anxious to see where Tara takes Mia. AND I admit, I wouldn’t mind seeing Carter and Mia develop a friendship now that might blossom into something else WAY down the road, when Mia is much older and more mature. And, let’s face it, the age range in between Mia and Carter is the exact same amount of years as is between the original Christian and Ana in the EL James’ version.

        But I’m hoping that Carter finds his future due to Christian’s efforts, one way or another. Christian will NEED to see the good he can do and the HELP that he can provide the deserving. AND Carter could always meet someone through Ana or Christian that later provides him with happiness.

        I’m also eager to see what Ray will do now after this all gets resolved. I’m hoping that Ray will agree to help Taylor rebuild the security team. Ray could then be useful, employed AND close to his daughter and granddaughter. You KNOW the Grey family will love him unconditionally after all he did to keep Christian and Ana alive during this whole thing.

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  10. Thank G-d Luke, Christian, Ana and Callie will all be alright. And the bad guys are dead but Ana is right the corruption in the police department has to be dealt with and swiftly. Luke and Taylor were brilliant not giving anyone the codes to cut off all the cameras so the police will see that Gia killed Kommer, Linc killed Gia and Ray killed Linc protecting his daughter. Oh and that Linc shot Christian. Thank goodness he didn’t kill him! I forget who shot Luke but then again they are dead now anyway.

    Are there any other loose players out there that they don’t know about besides the police? Ana, Christian and Luke still have to give their testimonies to the police although the CCTV should collaborate that.

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    1. There are undoubtedly still loose players out there. I mean, we don’t know who actually killed Elena and where the murder happened (such as whether or not the guards helped “liberate” Elena to Andrew’s doorstep so that he could personally end her).

      So the prison guards and corrupt/bribed police officers should still be out there. As well as minor players that might not have known anything more than that they were legitimately hired to conduct surveillance. PLUS there are still the people involved in the drive-by shooting at Carla’s.

      Hopefully, a closer look at Gia’s and Kommer’s contacts should lead to anyone that SHOULD still be held accountable for their role in all of this. BUT all the MAJOR players were seemingly murdered by Andrew prior to his walking through Christian’s doors. So MOST of the thugs should, arguably, be dead.

      At this point, though, there shouldn’t be anyone MOTIVATED to come after Christian or Ana, UNLESS it is due to fear of exposure (such as the corrupt officers).

      Christian may be of two minds about whether or not to pursue every single minor player in all this. AFTER ALL, it was REVENGE that consumed and ultimately destroyed both Elena and Andrew Lincoln. So pursuing every little angle could take away from GEH and his family AND potentially lead Christian down an all-consuming path that he would NOT want to follow.

      At some point, Christian and Ana just need to MOVE FORWARD and put all this behind them. I DO still think that they NEED to pursue the POLICE ANGLE, though, because such corrupted officers would undoubtedly take bribes to influence OTHER cases and put OTHER victims at jeopardy. So they do need to be stopped. AND the people that shot Carla, Carter, Taylor and Ryan SHOULD be identified and put behind bars. THOSE people were ones willing to take money to kill decent people, so I hope they are identified and held accountable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so agreeing with that last paragraph and that should so happen. Thank you again for your amazing stories. So can’t wait for the next book. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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  11. Whew! Glad that’s over, but I can ‘t help wondering whether HEH was the site of the downtown fire. Almost hate to see this fine story end.

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  12. Excellent well scripted all important people made it, that’s what counts after all the story is coming to an end. Witnesses and recorded video will be evidence enough to dismiss the impending charges on Ray.
    Police corruption will be exposed, clean up the department and make it safer for the people. Will wait to follow up chapter and thank you very much for sharing your stories.

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  13. “But the world moves on, even when you don’t want it to, even when change feels like the end of everything. It never stops.”
    ― Ann Aguirre

    “And then things would be fine. Then I’d be fine.”
    ― Sarah J. Maas

    “More than most, I know the pain of surviving.”
    ― Ann Aguirre

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  14. So glad they’re all going to be ok. Amazing finale, can’t believe is only one chapter left😓 love all three books, this one with so much action. You’re brilliant, Tara. Thank you for sharing your talents and precious time. Happy Thanksgiving. Xoxo daytona

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  15. I am right that end is near? I hope not because I love this story line and I never want these two to end!!! But back to the story I knew Elliot would blame himself, and I should of seen her dad being involved more he was too stuck on helping, I’m glad they shot Linc, I hope Carrick can get it all cleared up, but as always it’s wonderful and I am looking forward to next Monday

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  16. Excellent story, Tara. I just hate to see it end, and I’m anxious read some of the outtakes, esp. how Linc got Carla’s cooperation, what will Carter do now, etc. And how will the story be pitched to the News? Will police corruption be exposed? (How about Christian and Taylor having “friends” in the police force?) Did Ana’s book make #1? Hard to remember that the book party was just “yesterday”; that night at Escala seemed like much longer than a couple hours.

    Thank you for your many hours of writing and rewriting.

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      1. To Tara- Had to research again after your response. Christian stated Carter was promised Harvard and was gunned down in the street. Sorry if I misinterpreted that sentence.

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  17. Great chapter. Thanks Tara. Glad that Christian, Ana, Luke and Calli are all ok. And I hope that they can get the evidence from the security feeds to confirm that Ray is innocent. Oh I don’t want to see this story come to an end. It’s one of the best ones out there (sighhh)

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  18. That was an amazing and brilliant chapter! I’m so glad everyone is ok! I’m so sad for this to end but look forward to the outtakes. Thank you!

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  19. What a journey! So So happy to read that that Ana, Christian, Callie and Luke survived. As well as Ray. Happy that Ray was there in time to prevent Linc from doing the ultimate act on Ana. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that he shot his daughter with no remorse nothing but a cold heart individual.

    The scenes at the hospital was mind blowing. I was praying that Ana hold it together for her family. Did Lincoln start the fire in the other building to distract law enforcement staffs as well as hospital staffs? Loved Ana and Luke conversation. Sorry that Luke feels that he failed Ana and her family. I can certainly understand those feeling given all the events.

    I actually felt all of Elliott emotions. Surely this will allow him to make better choices going forward. Perhaps in one if the forthcoming outtakes we will learn of Mia promises made to Christian during his unconsciousness.

    As many of your reader has stated I have never been so vested in a story before. I must also say that the interaction among the fans was so respectful and beautiful. IT somewhat made me feel as we were clues finders. Many thanks to Torik, TNJ, and all the rest of your wonderful fans. I have truly enjoyed traveling this journey this far with all of you.

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  20. Tori, thank you for your explanation of the law. When I wrote that comment I was in such a state after reading the chapter. Tara’s writing was so real that made me feel violated too like Ana, after knowing that she was photographed as evidence of her attack, up to that point I understand, it’s needed. But it made ask myself, what if this happens to me?, shouldn’t someone other than the police be in the room as a witness like a nurse or a doctor, in this case the patient is unconscious, she doesn’t know what they are doing. I hope I’ll never be in this kind of situation but I will start looking into it, I don’t know why it made me feel like this. You see this is what Tara’s writing does, she makes it seem sooo real that makes you wonder, what if. Thank you.

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    1. Tara’s writing really DOES make you think about this stuff. Previously, I didn’t want to be kept on life support if I was in an accident of some kind, but Ana’s previous situation brings home that some people DO come out of comas, even years later, and are fine. And taking someone off life support OR nutrition can mean the person literally starves to death. HAD Ana been taken off life support too soon, she would have undoubtedly died painfully, and with some knowledge of it. We saw how guilt-ridden Ray was when he realized that he had been ready to pull the plug on Ana, believing that she was already gone, yet he chose to keep her on life support longer to attempt to give Christian the time he needed to supposedly accept reality. So it goes to show you that you DO need things like medical Power of Attorney documents AND that it needs to be kept updated with one’s wishes. AND you need to really think about Do Not Resuscitate paragraphs.

      Presumably in this situation, the police got the proper court Orders to get medical records, etc. that help them with the crime scene and to get information regarding the results of Ana’s rape kit, etc. AND that is what is hard to take—ANA is part of that whole Escala crime scene. And personal “rights” often fall by the website for a Murder investigation for the sake of public safety. THAT is when the police powers are at their strongest, and it is easiest to get court Orders for what is necessary under those circumstances. I mean, NO ONE that had actually been involved prior to Ray’s arrival was conscious to give the police statements regarding FOUR dead bodies that OBVIOUSLY showed murder!

      BUT Ana would WANT to do anything to prove Ray’s innocence, so she would have agreed to anything anyway. (AND at least she was unconcious for the whole rape kit, etc.). But the reality is that police photos are used all the time in court, and they show really horrific things that people would MUCH rather forget, particularly for the victims. Yet for JUSTICE to be obtained, the photos and evidence HAVE to be gathered at or near the time of the crime.

      I had never thought about many of these issues, either, prior to seeing a television show where the police detectives were snapping photos that just seemed to violate all kinds of rights, ESPECIALLY if the press later gets hold of said photos. It made me realize how much families in grief have to go through while autopsies happen that they didn’t even want, meaning their family member is cut open, the body put through tests and examinations that may mean the body is unrecognizable when completed, but it is necessary to determine if a crime has been committed. (The tv show “Bones” really brought this home for me when they get a body that is already so damaged, yet then strip the bones of the flesh in order to determine cause of death. So the family doesn’t get a body back that in ANY way resembles their family member—but it was necessary to prove cause of death.)

      There ARE procedures, though, that have to be followed and court ORDERS that have to be obtained. AND with Ana unconscious and unresponsive at the time, doctors and nurses would have HAD to supervise, if for no other reason than to assure that Ana was not medically traumatized or injured further. (After all, Ana would have had bruises on her front AND back, meaning she needed to be physically examined and moved.) And the police are required to go the LEAST obtrusive way possible, but here, there were only so many options available to determine what happened to whom to learn JUST what crimes had been committed.

      But ANA had previously signed a medical Power of Attorney for CHRISTIAN to be able to make decisions for her if she were incapacitated. But HERE, Christian was ALSO incapacitated and unable to make decisions for Ana. And RAY, her only relative, was in JAIL, accused of a crime. So ALL that trouble for a medical Power of Attorney that would NOT have covered the present situation for Ana. REALLY makes you think!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Tara – you most certainly have my ‘standing ovation’ for your amazing creativity, writing and the care you take in your ‘audience.’ My loyalty is secured each and every week as I look forward to the next chapter and the next chapter after that…my only regret is that this story is coming to an end. I want it to go on and on to continue with the Grey family and all those who compliment their lives and stories. Hell no – say it isn’t so! We need more chapters. And, perhaps just one more book before you traverse down another path for your next ‘series.’

    Marlene’s comments mirror my queries – there are so very many questions for Outtakes, and my curiosity and dedication just keeps building, along with your readers’ collective awe of you and your writing. Can’t wait for those Outtakes to begin.

    I never would have believed I could be so completely wrapped up in fanfiction – however, you changed all that for me; and I also found myself a fairly active participant in the comment section, as well (another surprise). It bears repeating that you are truly a gifted writer who goes the extra mile over and over and are constantly showing your appreciation and affection for your readers. Bravo!

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  22. Thank youuuu!!!! Great chapter!!! Can’t thank you enough for this amazing story! I don’t think I can live without this story 😢😢😢 but I am so grateful that you share this awesome, wonderful and amazing story with all of us! My fave ❤ THANK YOU! for all the effort you put making this amazing story! I have truly enjoyed this journey ❤
    And I am so ready for your next amazing and brilliant story

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  23. Thank you for one of the most amazing stories I have read with our favorite characters. You have taken this story to another level and developed even the secondary characters. I have read the first to books again with the outtakes as they occurred. When you write the outtakes for this book, would you please reference the chapter they correspond with. This would be very helpful. I hate to see this end, but I hope you take us on another journey. Thank you again for all your time and effort you have put in for us, your fans.

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