Elliot PoV: They Said Move On, Where Do I Go?

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Getting back to work after Kate has officially left me is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My suit is pressed, my hair is slicked back, and my face has been cleared of the stubble I let build up over the weekend. I look like I would any other day. Except that today, I’m completely falling apart. As if losing her wasn’t bad enough, she isn’t even speaking to me right now, so there’s nothing I can say to change her mind.

I have to find a way to change her mind.

My eyes once again well with tears as I step into the elevator, and I’m so distracted dashing them away that I run head first into a small woman holding a stack of papers in her arms. When I look over to apologize, I almost have to do a double take. Her hair is exactly the same shade of blonde, and her eyes are the same pale green. She’s wearing quite a bit more makeup than Kate normally would, her body is a little slimer, her breasts slightly larger, and her beauty doesn’t have the same sweetness to it, but she could be her sister. My body reacts to the glitter in her eye when she looks up and sees me, as if she really is the woman I love.

“Mr. Grey! I’m so sorry, excuse me.”

“No, it was my fault. Here, let me help.” She gives me a wide, sparkling smile as we bend down to gather the files on the floor, and when I pick up a piece of loose paper to slide back into the manila folder it came from, I recognize the layout of Christian’s building.

“You’re on the the GEH project?” I ask.

“Yes, sir. I’m Gia Matteo, the uh… designer.”

“Oh… Right.”

“I’ve actually been trying to schedule some time to meet with you for a few weeks, but you’ve been booked solid. I have some design proposals for the Grey Executive Suite, I wanted to run them past you.”

“I’ll take a look at my calendar. You’re here until…?”

“Until after our meeting.” She smiles again, broader this time. It’s infectious. I can’t help but smile back and as the elevator pings at her floor, and it’s not lost on me that this is the first time I’ve smiled since I had Kate in that hotel room a few weeks back.

She steps off the elevator and I hit the button to close the door behind her. When I get to my office, I immediately pull up Outlook and find an open time to schedule for Miss Matteo. Unfortunately, there isn’t much available right now except for the later hours in my work day.

 

From: Elliot Grey

Subject: GEH Design Meeting

Required: Gia Matteo

When: September 22nd 2011, 05:00 PM

Location: CEO Office

Miss Matteo,

I hope this fits in with your schedule.

Elliot Grey

CEO, Grey Construction

 

I send the invite and start going through the other emails I have waiting for me this morning, feeling a little of the crippling depression this break up has left me in lift as my mind is temporarily distracted by each and every crisis I read in my inbox. I’m just responding to the foreman on the SoDo project when the acceptance of the calendar invite I sent to Miss Matteo comes through.

 

From: Gia Matteo

Subject: RE: GEH Design Meeting

Date: September 19th 2011, 08:49 AM

To: Elliot Grey

I’ll get take out. I have a lot of really great ideas.

Gia Matteo

Interior Designer, Grey Construction

 

With the meeting on my calendar, I don’t give much thought to it until Thursday rolls around and the reminder pops up on my screen. This week has been hell between the constant rejection of trying to get Kate on the phone and Christian checking in on me every 45 minutes. For as bad as it hurt when Kate officially broke it off, the separation from her now is becoming unbearable and the distance makes it more difficult to handle everything. My workload and the stress that come with it are starting to weigh on me.

I miss her.

So much.

And all I want in the world is to hear her voice and have her back in my arms.

“Mr. Grey?” I look up and see the same blonde hair and green eyes that met me in the elevator earlier in the week, and just like before it strikes me hard how much she looks like the girl I’m desperate to talk to.

“Come in, Miss Matteo,” I say, waving her over to the chair on the other side of my office. She has a plastic bag in her hand that sends the delicious scent of Chinese food wafting over to me, reminding me how hungry I am. When did I last eat?

“This is very kind of you,” I tell her, as I take a seat and glance over the cardboard containers she opens. “Give me your receipts and I’ll expense this out for you.”

She waves a hand dismissively. “It’s my pleasure. Honestly, it’s nice to have someone to eat with.”

“Hm.” I hope the subtle response is enough to cover up how much I agree.

“Alright. So, I’ve been going over this for weeks and I’ve done several mock-ups because I’m not really sure what Grey… er, Christian Grey would feel matches the culture of his organization aesthetically.”

“Well, he’s pretty uptight and takes everything very literally. The building is going to be called Grey House, we can probably just paint everything gray and he’ll be over the moon.”

She laughs, and at first I think it’s a placation because I’m her boss, but there’s something genuine in the sound, and in the way her hand brushes over my arm before she continues. I return my attention to her materials, pointing out the things I like, the things I don’t, and make a few jokes as we move from concept to concept. She laughs every time, and I can’t deny that it feels nice. As we dig into the chinese food she’s brought, the conversation becomes lighter and steadily less and less about the project in front of us.

“Oh, good lord. It’s almost six thirty. Your wife’s not going to be mad that I kept you, is she?”

I shake my head. “I’m not married.”

“Girlfriend?”

It hurts, like being punched directly in the diaphragm. “Nope. No girlfriend.”

“Really? Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“You?” I ask, trying to be polite, but she shakes her head the same way I did. “No, I uh… just haven’t been able to find the right guy. Looking though, definitely looking.”

“Looking,” I repeat. “God, I never thought I’d be back here. I uh… I just got out of a really long term relationship. I thought that was gonna be it, but she’s gone and it’s… miserable.”

“Any chance of a reconciliation?”

I let out a defeated sigh. “I really want one, but I don’t think so. She’s a pretty stubborn girl and once she makes up her mind about something, there’s no changing it. It’s funny. I used to love that about her.”

“Why did you break up? I mean, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“We’re on different paths.” I tell her, the disdain in my voice obvious as I quote Kate. “I guess I underestimated how important some things were to her. Things I can’t give her.”

“Well, then maybe it’s good you found that out now, before you invested anymore time. I’m sure it feels like the end of the world now, but it would hurt more later. Trust me, I stayed way too long with my last boyfriend, and then too long after we broke up feeling bad about it. You’re never going to be younger than you are now, you should be out there taking advantage of that.”

I don’t know why, I hardly know this girl, but for some reason I feel comfortable talking to her. She’s my employee, so it feels like there’s a fine line I have to walk, but just the way Kate was always able to get me to open up, so it seems can this girl. Maybe it’s the wide, green eyes.

“I really don’t even want to right now. I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there who would come even close to her.”

“There’s only one way to find out. You’re a Grey. You’re hot, and young, and successful. This city is filled with girls who would love to go out with you.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. And you’re single now, it’s not a crime to look.”

I stare at her for a long time, reflecting on the blunt honesty of her statement. Christian has told me over and over again that the best way to heal a broken heart is to take some time for myself and reflect on what I want from here, but he was miserable over Ana for years. What does he know about healing a broken heart? Maybe the answer is to not think. Maybe the answer is to just… do. I wasn’t looking for Kate when I found her, maybe the next girl I’ll love is out there just waiting for me to show up. At least getting out and letting myself be open to the idea will help with the loneliness. It’s easier when I’m not alone because I think about her less. Maybe, in order to get over her, I have to force myself to move on.

“Thank you, Miss Matteo, for your presentation and the free counseling.”

“Free? I’m sending you my bill.”

I laugh, and then pick up one of the mock-ups still on the table in front of us. “Look, there’s a lot of work to be done on GEH and not a lot of time left to do it. It might be good for us to meet on a regular basis. Thursday nights at 5?”

“Really? Oh, that would be so great, Mr. Grey. Thank you!”

“Elliot,” I correct her. “Honestly, whenever I hear Mr. Grey I look around for my dad… or my brother.”

“Elliot,” she says, smiling again. “Then, please, call me Gia.”

“Alright. I’ll see you next week, Gia.”

“Next week, Mr. Grey. I mean… Elliot.” I smile and help her gather her things, then walk her to the door. Once she’s gone, I head back for my desk, find my phone, and quickly dial Christian’s number.

“Hey, Elliot,” he answers. “How are you doing?”

“Good. Really good, actually. Hey, what are you doing tonight?”

“Well, it’s a Thursday, so no plans… Why?”

“Because we’re going out. Meet me at Montana in half an hour.”

Montana? Isn’t that a bar?”

“Yep.”

“So… you’re going to get drunk with people around now? I’m not sure that’s a positive step.”

“No, I’m going to talk to some girls.”

“Girls? You’re sure you’re ready for that?”

“Dead sure. See you soon.”

 

Over the next few weeks Christian and I hit every dive bar north of King Street, and while he’s an exemplary wingman, I find that Gia was perhaps a little too right about finding girls in this city. I’m open to the idea of casual dating, sharing dinner with someone, spending a night out, maybe sex… but I’m nowhere near ready for a relationship. But it’s like every woman I meet hears my last name and immediately starts picking out china patterns and wedding stationary. So, rather than trying to pick up overly available girls in bars, I start taking Christian with me to strip clubs where the girls have a very clear idea of why I’m there and don’t try to make us into something we’re never going to be. Unfortunately, we only get to go a few times before Ana finds out and Christian’s availability for nights out on the town comes to a sudden and abrupt end. I try for a while to go out with some of my old buddies from High School, but it’s just too damn depressing hanging around the same guys I was friends with before Kate only to find out that they haven’t changed at all from who they were at eighteen. Eventually, I’m right back to where I started. Having dinner in my now too big house, alone.

Except Thursday nights.

My Thursday night meetings with Gia quickly become the highlight of my week. She has an electric kind of personality that draws you in and the more I get to know her, the less I find comfort in her similarities to Kate and instead find enjoyment in what makes her unique. She’s a little shallow, that becomes obvious very quickly, but she’s also a really great listener. Each week our conversations become more and more engaging until we’re hardly meeting to talk about business at all. By November, every meeting begins to feel like a date.

“I don’t know,” she says, sipping a glass of the white wine that Christian recommended to go with the cod I’d had my secretary bring in before she left tonight. “Maybe the whole idea of soulmates is just bullshit. Maybe there isn’t one person out there for everyone. Maybe there isn’t really any point to anything beyond the chemical attraction that exists to make us fuck each other in order to continue the human race. In which case, what’s even the point of relationships or marriage at all? We should just be having sex, right?”

I don’t think she’s being serious, so I chuckle as if it’s a joke, but after I take a sip of my wine she leans in and gently presses her lips against mine.

I freeze, unsure of exactly how I’m supposed to react. Her lips are soft against mine, and her tongue tastes faintly of wine. It’s intriguing, but inappropriate. We work together. In fact, I’m her boss. This kind of relationship between the two of us would be… wrong.

But that’s kind of hot, too.

When she pulls away, she looks at me with fear in her eyes, like she’s afraid of how I’m going to react. “I-uh…”

I don’t wait to hear what she’s going to say. Instead, I lunge at her and take her mouth with mine. It’s a rush, like adrenaline, knowing what I’m doing is so taboo, and that rush is strong enough to truly lift the weight of my depression off of me for the first time in nearly two months. I can’t stop myself. I really kiss her, and she responds. Soon, our hands are flying over each other, tugging at clothes and hair, until she’s actually panting in my mouth.

“You can leave,” I tell her, giving her an out just in case this is all only because I have a very definable amount of authority over her and she doesn’t know how to say no. “Really. If you don’t want this, you can go and nothing will change. We’ll move on from here as if this never happened.”

“I want this,” she whispers back. “I’ve wanted this since the first time I saw you in the elevator.”

It’s all the green light I need. I push her back onto the sofa and let my hands explore her body, pleased with everything I find. She’s in amazing shape. She’s small, but strong. Her tits are full, her hips narrow, and her ass is high and really, really tight. I can feel that through her slacks. And, as I hitch her leg over my hip and really get a feel, I know that I’m going to take her from behind right here so that I can see that ass bouncing against me.

Her tongue is fierce and confident in my mouth, ravaging me. It’s hot and primal. Dirty. And it makes my head swim with fantasies about everything I want to do to her. But it’s been a long time now since I’ve done this with someone who I even remotely cared about that wasn’t Kate. I’d perfected the art of pleasuring her to the point where that’s all I really know how to do anymore. I have no idea if what works for her is going to work for Gia, and I want to pleasure her. As I start to obsess over her reaction to each and every one of my touches, I get so in my head that the heat building between us fizzles and dissolves away.

“Everything okay?” Gia pants, sitting up slightly so she can look at me better.

“Yeah, sorry. I uh… I’ve just been in a relationship for a long time. This all, weirdly, feels a little new for me.”

“Well, let me help…”

She gives me a coy smile as she wriggles out from beneath me and falls to her knees on the floor. I pivot to face her, then she reaches up and starts slowly unfurling my belt from the buckle. I’m entranced by the precision with which she undoes the buttons, then the zipper on my pants, and when she reaches through my boxers and grips my erection, my breath hisses between my teeth. She moans.

“Thick. Mmm, this is going to be really, really good.”

She sits up, simultaneously pulling my dick out of my pants, and then leans down to take me into her mouth. I hum my approval, letting my head fall back against the sofa as she sets to work. She’s got skill and not much of a gag reflex. Between her tongue, the suction of her lips, and the tightness at the back of her throat, she soon has me gasping and my thighs clenching with unexpected pleasure.

“That’s it, baby. Oh fuck!”

“Mmm, you taste amazing, Elliot. Your cock is incredible. I can’t wait to have this monster in me.”

She starts sucking harder and uses her hand to cup and tug my balls as she devours me. I lose myself in her rhythm, taking pleasure in each and every pass of her tongue across the base of my cock until I’m ready to explode.”

“Shit, baby. You’re going to make me come.”

“How fast can you rebound?”

I look down into her wide, green eyes, those eyes, and know I’m at the point of no return. Even if she stopped now and let me start fucking her, I’d explode immediately. But I can draw this out. And, if I’m going to screw myself over by screwing the staff, I might as well do it thoroughly.

“Pretty quick,” I growl. “If you don’t want me to come in your mouth, stop now.” Her lips tighten around me so I grab the hair at the back of her head, push her down on me, and erupt into her throat. Her mouth continues to suck the length of my shaft, tightening with each pulse of my orgasm, until it starts to overwhelm me and I have to pull her off.

She straightens and starts kissing me again, rolling her tongue with mine as she pushes me back onto the couch. Once I’m lying down, she pulls away and stands over me. Keeping her eyes on mine, she undoes each button on her blouse slowly and peels it away from her smooth, creamy skin. Next she sashays out of her pants, turning away from me as she pulls them down her hips, and my breath actually catches in my throat when I see her perfect ass framed by the tiny lace thong she’s wearing.

I can’t stop myself. I sit up and bury my face into her, reaching with my tongue to brush over the small triangle of fabric that conceals her clit from me. She moans and arches her back, pushing herself back into me. I reach up and grab both her breasts, holding her still while I work to get my tongue under her panties. It’s hard to breathe, but that just turns me on.

Once I have her wetness on my tongue, I’m like a shark that’s tasted blood in the water. It sends me into a frenzy. The way I start to eat her is ravenous and sloppy, but she quickly goes from small mewling moans, to screaming and gasping. With one hand she reaches back and grips my hair, clawing into my scalp, egging me on. She drained me only minutes ago, but just hearing the sounds she makes and feeling the way her body quakes for my tongue already has me hard again.

“Come, Gia,” I say into her pussy, rolling my tongue with each word. “Give it up for me, baby.”

She trembles, and when I tug down the cups of her bra with my hands and tighten my fingers around each of her nipples, she starts convulsing. My mouth is filled with the slickness of her release, but I swallow it hungrily, desperate for more.

“Oh my god,” she says, breathless as she comes down.

“More?”

“Mhm.”

I yank her arm to pull her back onto the couch then maneuver between her legs. Thankfully, I always keep a condom in my wallet for emergencies, so, after fishing it out of my pants and rolling it on to my erection, I slam into her without even bothering to fully remove her panties. She screams, but doesn’t ask me to stop. This isn’t like the sex I had with Kate. I don’t care about creating a connection with her. I don’t care about being tender or gentle. I care about getting off, about getting her off, and she’s right there with me. She meets me, thrust for violent thrust, crying out my name and clawing the sofa to keep herself anchored. I move my hands between her tits and her hips, marveling at the perfection in front of me. Damn, this girl is so fucking hot. She’s gorgeous, her body is outrageous, and she’s seemingly completely uninhibited. I’ve had sex with my fair share of girls over the years, but it’s never been like this. She isn’t shy, or coy. She doesn’t bother trying to make this about love we both know isn’t there. She takes from me what she wants and gives me back what I need. And that’s it. Simple. Animalistic in its very nature. I’m enraptured, instantly addicted, and… unexpectedly possessive. Now that I’ve had her, I don’t want to stop. And I don’t want to hand her off to someone else.

It’s confusing. Painful and filled with pleasure all at once. But when I see her mouth fall open and her screams become silent as the orgasm I’m building her up to starts to take over, my mind is set. I wait just until her orgasm hits then let go myself, continuing to thrust in and out of her as the waves of pleasure wash over me. It pulls me into her, more than just physically, and I know the deal is sealed.

I didn’t think I wanted another relationship. I don’t really, but being around Gia feels better than being alone. If Kate has made up her mind, which seems to be the case based on what I’ve seen splashed across every tabloid and gossip site about her exploits in New York, then maybe this is okay. Maybe spending time with Gia, not just on Thursdays, but everyday, will keep life from hurting so bad. Maybe this is how I move on.

I realize that doing this means I’ve accepted what’s happened and that I’ve given up on trying to fix it. Well, no… Kate’s given up. She won’t see me and she won’t talk to me, so I don’t know how I’m supposed to fight for her, or even if she wants me to. Truth be told, I don’t even know that I should. She’s told me what she wants, what will make her happy, and I can’t give those things to her. If someone else will, then maybe loving her means that I have to let her go and find the person who will make her happy. It feels like a knife being thrust into my heart even considering that, but what other option is there? I guess that’s what Kate was telling me all along. There’s no way forward from here unless one of us gives up what will make us happy in the future, and if either of us has to make that sacrifice, we’ll never be truly happy together the way we were before it got to this point.

We’re on different paths.

Gia said she didn’t believe in soulmates or marriage earlier. Maybe that’s true, and if it is, maybe I could be happy with her. Maybe.

“Oh fuck,” Gia moans, rolling around on the cushions of the sofa with a pleased smile spread across her face. “That was incredible. You, Elliot Grey, might just be a sex god.”

“I do what I can.” I slip out of her and remove the condom, knotting the end and tossing it onto the floor to deal with later. Then, I crawl over the top of her and settle down on my elbows so that we’re face to face. “What are you doing on Saturday?”

“I’m… having dinner with you.”

“Good. Then I’ll call you.” She smiles and pulls my lips down to hers again. I let the kiss linger for a long time, testing it. It feels good, and good is better than anything I’ve felt in over a month. I don’t know that I’m ready for this, maybe I’m making a mistake, but everyone has told me for weeks I need to find a way to move on. That felt like such a pointless phrase. “Move on.” Where did they want me to go? Now, I have a destination. Gia. And, hopefully, this won’t just be an end to the epic chapter of my life that was Katherine Kavanagh, but the start of new grand adventure.

Next Chapter

Kate PoV: Big Girls Don’t Cry

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End of Chapter One

 

September 10th

I feel a little giddy on the elevator ride up to the suite of the Four Seasons. Christian has always loved surprises, but I’m not usually on the receiving end of the fanfare. I fully expected to have to lock myself away in my bedroom all weekend with something to study and pair of headphones, or even to retreat down to my office at the Crimson and get a headstart on next week’s issue, but instead, I’m finally going to get at least two gloriously uninterrupted nights with Elliot.

I don’t know who is more excited over that prospect. Me, or my vagina.

When the doors open, I fiddle with the key card I’d gotten from the front desk as I step into the well lit hallway and glance at the room numbers and signs to figure out where I’m supposed to go. Of course, we’re as far from the elevator as humanly possible, but it’s a corner room and I’m pretty sure this side of the building has a river view. With an excited smile, I slip the plastic card into the lock, wait for the electronic chime, and push the door open.

“Elliot?” I call, stepping into the warm glow that fills the room. There’s a loud creak as he leans back in the chair at the desk against the long, scenic wall so he can see me in the small entryway. The moment our eyes meet his face breaks into a smile.

“Hold on, Mike,” he says, then places his hand against the mouthpiece on the phone. “Come over here and kiss me.”

Some of the disappointment I feel over the fact that he’s clearly still working wanes a bit as I cross the room, wrap my arms around his neck, and softly press my lips into his. He moans and swipes his tongue across my bottom lip, but I pull away. Until he’s off the phone and fully focused on me, the good stuff is going to have to wait.

“Are you almost finished?” I ask.  

He nods. “Yeah, I think so. Why don’t you go change into something much less comfortable and once I’m done, I’ll help you take it off?”

I can’t help the smile the salacious promise in his bright blue eyes brings out of me, so with a last quick peck, I hurry back to the bathroom in search of the naughty lingerie he’s brought for me to model for him. But the bathroom is empty. So is the closet, and the cabinets in the bedroom. There’s no bag on the bed, or in the armchair, or even in his own suitcase. There’s nothing, and since he’s fully absorbed in his conversation on the phone again, I simply remove my bra and the flannel I’ve been wearing all day, slip one of his t-shirts on over my leggings, and wait.

And wait…

And wait…

Twenty minutes pass and instead of wrapping up his conversation, Elliot has to conference more people in. So, rather than stare at the back of his head any longer, I fish the remote out of the drawer next to the bed, turn the TV to an old re-run of Friends on TBS with the volume way, way down, and scroll through the article submissions waiting in the inbox of my email on my phone. I get through every single one of them before he finally finishes his impromptu meeting and hangs up the phone. When he turns around to face me, his face falls in disappointment.

“That’s not dirty lingerie…”

It’s been two weeks since we’ve seen each other. Two long weeks where we’ve gone from sleeping next to each other every night to a few brief phone calls throughout the day, and I’ve been sitting behind him for an hour and twenty minutes and… he hasn’t even turned around to look at me. Not even once.

“No, I didn’t find it and I didn’t want to interrupt your work so…”

His brow creases in confusion. “Find it?”

“The dirty lingerie you brought.”

“I didn’t… I thought you and Ana went to Agent Pro— uh… you know, the fancy lingerie store this afternoon?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t buy anything.”

He stumbles backwards in mock shock. “Okay, first question. How dare you?”

I’m not quite ready to be done being mad at him for his less than warm reception, and his response makes me wonder if he’s aware of that. The Office? He’s pulling out the big guns.

“Ana and Luke were with me the whole time. You’ll have to forgive me for finding a lack of sex-spiration.”

He smiles and then leaps onto the bed, crawling over me with his eyes fixed on my lips. “Oh, baby. You know how your puns drive me wild.”

I laugh but the sound is cut off by a sudden, deep kiss that burns through the last of my anger. Reluctantly, or maybe a little too willingly, I surrender and let myself enjoy the feel of his weight pressing me into the bed. Fighting is pointless now anyway. I miss him too much to waste any of the time I have with him now doing anything but this.

With a soft moan, I wrap my arms and legs around him, pulling him into me and opening my mouth for his tongue in one smooth motion. His hands move up to the side of my face, cradling my cheeks tenderly while his mouth moves aggressively against mine. Soon, we’re out of breath, panting. When my lips break from his, he doesn’t relent. Instead, he captures my bottom lip between his teeth and tugs gently before he sucks it into his mouth. It has me instantly wet, and my breath shakes as I tilt my pelvis up for him, silently begging for his attention.

“You need to lose some clothes,” he whispers into my mouth. I nod and his hands move down to the hem of the t-shirt I’m wearing, but instead of hastily yanking it up over my head, he slips his hands beneath the fabric and slowly moves them up my skin, dragging the material with him as he goes. A trail of goosebumps lie in the wake of his touch, brought out by the intimacy of the gesture and the gentle caress of his kiss against my lips. When his hands finally reach up and cup each of my breasts, my whole body shudders and the muscles between my legs clench.

“No bra.” His tone is approving as he toys with my hardening nipples.

“Mmm, Elliot,” I moan. “Use your mouth. I want your mouth on me.”

“Where?”

“Everywhere.” I reach up, tangle my fingers in his hair, and push. He doesn’t fight against me. He moves easily down, kissing me along my jawline and neck, then collar bones, until he can trace the deep valley of my cleavage with the tip of his tongue.

The moment he’s at my tits, his hands go wild. He kneads each of my breasts so intensely it borders on painful, and his lips latch against the inside swell with enough suction that I’m sure I’ll have a hickey when he finally pulls away. That doesn’t bother me though. Elliot has always been good about never leaving proof of a wild trist where it can be seen outside the bedroom. But I not-so-secretly love it when he marks me.

“That’s it, Katie,” he growls into my breast. “Moan for me.”

“Keep going. Further down.”

I can feel him smile against my skin. “You want me to eat your pussy, you’re going to have to say it. You know how I like it when you talk dirty to me.”

“Eat me, Elliot. Fuck me with your tongue.” The words leave my body in nothing more than a breath, but the moment the sound crosses my lips Elliot’s hand dips down into my leggings. I grind against his fingers, lifting my hips so he can pull my leggings down as he nestles between my thighs.

“Oh fuck, Kate,” he whispers, dragging the pad of his thumb against my clit multiple times, making my body jump and convulse with anticipation. “You’re already so wet.”

He leans in and flicks his tongue over me again and again. When he pulls away, his breath hisses between his teeth. “Like fucking honey.”

“Don’t stop, baby. Make me come.”

He hums in approval at the desperate lilt to my voice and uses his thumb on me again. “All in good time, but I need a minute to get reacquainted with you, baby. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to look at your gorgeous little cunt.”

“Elliot!” I whimper.

“Oooh, saying my name like that though–” His voice cuts off as his phone starts vibrating furiously on the desk a few feet away from us, and he turns to look at it. “Son of a bitch, hold on…”

“What? No!”

He gets off the bed, glances down at the number on the screen of his phone, and curses under his breath. Then, to my horror, he answers it.

“This is Grey. What? When?” He pauses and listens intently to whatever the person on the other end of the phone is saying. I wave my arm in frustration to get his attention, then gesture up and down my body to remind him he has me fully naked and waiting for him. He gives me an apologetic look, mouths that he’s sorry and that he’ll be done in a second, and then returns to his phone call.

Are you fucking kidding me?

“And it’s good?” he says into the phone. “They are? That’s great. That’s really, really great! Send it over to me now, I’ll look over it tonight, and send it back to you by tomorrow morning. No, it’s going to be tight with GEH but we can manage. Thanks, Julia.” He hangs up the phone and turns back to me.

“Babe, we just got Microsoft!”

“What?”

“Microsoft. They’re completely re-doing their campus in Redmond, so Grey Construction submitted a bid and they selected us.”

Suddenly, the burning want between my legs is extinguished, and I have to fight to keep my face from showing the horror his words ignite inside of me.

“I-I thought you were doing Christian’s building?”

“I am. It’ll take a few months to get the right permits in place and for us to be able to break ground. By then, most of the engineering work for Grey House will be finished, or at least nearly finished, so I’ll be able to step away and let the interior-build staff and designers take over while I focus on Microsoft. This is a huge contract, Kate. This one client alone is going to keep Grey Construction solvent for… years, all on its own. Give me time to develop some of those sustainability projects I’ve told you about. Not to mention the other business this will draw. This is just like Christian’s first contract with Amazon, the big one that gave him capital to expand. Fuck, this is so great! We’re going to be set, babe.”

“Elliot…” I hesitate, like I’ve been hesitating ever since he took the helm of Grey Construction. “Don’t you think you should… I don’t know, pace yourself?”

“Pace myself?”

“Yeah. You have a ton on your plate already, are you sure you can take on any more?”

“Of course I can.”

“I don’t know, Elliot. You’re already so… uh, busy.”

“A little, I guess. But that’s good. I think I’m on the right track. Before my first day as CEO, I took Christian out to lunch to get some advice and he told me the biggest thing I had to focus on was not being afraid to succeed. That’s his secret. He never accepts that something is too big and that the only small startups that exist are the ones who view themselves as small. I took that to heart, and now look!”

“Okay, but Christian has a partner. You don’t. With just GEH and the inner city housing developments you’ve been working on, you’re already just barely treading water.”

“You think I’m in over my head?”

“No, of course not. You are brilliant and you have the potential to be very successful in the next few years. I’m proud of you. But I don’t think you’re weighing the personal cost of growing at the same kind of rate GEH did with what you’re giving up.”

“I don’t think I’m giving anything up.”

“Really? Because ever since you’ve taken over at GC, I almost feel like I’ve lost you. You didn’t come drop me off at school when I came back, like Christian did with Ana, we don’t have any plans for upcoming weekends, and when I do get to talk to you on the phone, you give me like two minutes and then you have to go. I understand that this is all new for you and it takes time to adjust to your new responsibilities, but I expect that you are going to adjust and eventually, all of this work you’re putting in all the time is going to slow down. Right now, with me here and you in Seattle, it’s good that you’re busy, but once I graduate and move home, I want to start our life together, Elliot.”

“And we will. Baby, what do you think all of this is for? I want to start our life together too, and I want it to be perfect. I want to be able to take you anywhere in the world you want to go. I want us to have everything we could ever want and never need for anything. I want to give you the life you deserve.”

“Yeah, but when? After five o’clock, or seven if you’re busy? On weekends? On the one week a year you can pry yourself away from work long enough to take a vacation? You think that’s the life I want?

“Kate… I don’t know what to say to you right now. I can’t just not work, especially now that I have a company to run. People’s livelihoods depend on me, I can’t purposefully slow Grey Construction’s growth just so I can spend more time at home.”

“I know, and that’s not really what I mean. I’m really impressed by how well you’ve taken on this new role. I just…” I stop, not really sure what it is that I do mean. He moves to the bed and places his hand on my still naked leg, rubbing his thumb reassuringly over my skin, just above my knee.

“I didn’t know you felt like this. I know I’ve been busy, but believe me, the last thing in the world I want is for you to feel neglected.” He presses his lips together. “But I didn’t make the decision to stay home when you left for school… You told me not to come back to Cambridge with you, remember?”

“Yeah, but only because I was mad at you, not because I didn’t want you here to say goodbye to me. You were supposed to come anyway.”

“Mad? Why were you mad at me?”

Oh right. He doesn’t know.

This is a very difficult subject for me to talk to him about, mostly because I’ve avoided talking to him about it for too long.

His not proposal.

In the beginning, when he was in Stanford and I was in Cambridge, I really didn’t want to take our relationship too seriously because, well I knew his reputation, and as hard as we fell for one another, and as much as I really, really loved him, long distance relationships never work out and I was always prepared for him to call, say he couldn’t do this anymore, and then just… disappear. But he didn’t. He moved here and it would have been the perfect time to talk about our future together, except that then, his family fell apart. He was so devastated by what had happened and by the fighting between Christian and Carrick that the only thing I felt I could do was be his support system. He was already the only thing holding his family together, I didn’t want to add more pressure on him. Now, we’ve been dating for three years and the marriage thing feels somehow more delicate, like even bringing it up will make him feel like I’m fishing for a ring or pushing him to ask me before he’s ready. I don’t want that. I want him to propose, but I want him to want it just as much as I do. Only, time keeps passing and he’s had ample opportunity to propose in exactly the right way, but he hasn’t yet.

I swallow. “You know, Christian bought Ana an engagement ring. Months ago.”

“Yeah…” His voice trails off, telling me that he has no idea what I’m talking about. “So?”

“So, he’s going to propose to her. It’s her birthday today, he might even propose tonight.”

“I don’t… Is this you changing the subject? Are we done fighting?”

“We’re not fighting, Elliot. I just… I want to know how you feel about Christian and Ana possibly getting engaged tonight.”

He continues to stare at me, unsure for a moment, until he finally shakes his head. “They won’t. He won’t propose to Ana until she moves home. If I know one thing about Christian, it’s that he won’t drag out their engagement. He’ll want to be married within a week after he proposes, even the same day if he can manage it, but he knows Ana won’t marry him until after she graduates.”

“But he has the ring. I’ve seen it. They’ve only been back together for like four months and he already has the ring. Hell, he’s had it since June.”

“Yeah, but that’s Christian. He needs to lock her down and he’s not going to feel comfortable until he does. Which is stupid as fuck. From what I can tell, they’ve got a good thing. They’re happy. I don’t know why he wants to change it.”

“Because he loves her and he wants to be with her for the rest of his life.”

“Okay, but you don’t have to get married to be together forever. In fact, half of marriages end in divorce so it kind of seems like getting married and spending your entire life with someone is an oxymoron.”

“Wait, are you telling me that you don’t believe in marriage?”

“Not really. I mean, out of all of the friends I had growing up, my parents are the only ones who never got divorced. And divorce has been a real possibility for them several times. Recently, even.”

“Yeah, divorce is always a possibility, but you shouldn’t avoid the whole institution just because it might fail. I mean, what about when you have kids? Don’t you think it’s important to be married to the person you have children with?”

“I guess, but I don’t think Christian wants kids. He and I have always told my mom that if she wants grandchildren, she needs to invest heavily in Mia.”

I’m stunned. It’s like he’s hit me with a one-two punch. He doesn’t want to get married. He doesn’t want kids. If both of those things are true, what the fuck are we even doing?

“Wait, stop.” I’m shaking now, holding back the flood of tears I know are imminent, and possibly even vomit. “Are you telling me that… you don’t ever want to have kids with me?”

He stiffens. “Wait, I thought we talking about Christian and Ana?”

“Answer the question, Elliot. Do you want kids someday?”

“I— I thought we were on the same page about this. I mean, you’ve never talked about having children…”

“No, you’re right. I haven’t. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want them, or that I don’t want to marry you. I do. I need both of those things in my future. I’ve been waiting for you to propose all summer.”

“Katie…”

“Are you being serious right now?”

“What?”

“When you say you don’t want to get married and that you don’t want kids, does that mean you don’t want them now or that you don’t want them ever?”

“Kate, I–I thought you felt the same way I did. I didn’t try to hide this from you. I thought you were happy the way things were, that we wanted the same things–”

“I am happy. Right now. But, I won’t stay that way if you’re never going to give me children. So I need you to tell me the truth, Elliot. I need you to put your feelings for me aside for one second and be honest. Do you think this is just the way you feel now and that in a few years you’ll change your mind? Or is this really, really how you feel?”

He takes a long pause, and I watch his adam’s apple bob in his throat before he eventually shakes his head. “No. No, I’m not going to change my mind.”

Neither of us move as his words hang between us. He’s waiting for me to react. I’m waiting for the impact of what he’s just said to hit me. When it finally does, my body feels like it’s collapsing in on itself and a horrible, devastated sob forces its way out of me.

“Excuse me,” I cry, turning away and hurrying for the bathroom before my legs give out and I’m no longer able to hold myself up anymore. He follows after me. I can both feel and hear him a few steps back, but I can’t stop. I’m seconds away from completely falling apart and I don’t want him to see it. For the first time in our entire relationship, he doesn’t feel safe.

“Katie, please wait…”

I slam the door to the bathroom behind me, lock it, and then sink to the floor. The sobs coming out of me are so deep and powerful that after only a few seconds crying on the bathroom floor, my abs start to hurt. I can hear the pain almost as acutely as I can feel it.

How did this happen? How could I have misjudged him so entirely? I do my best to wipe my eyes, even though the moisture I’m able to wick away is almost immediately replaced by the continuous wave of tears pouring out of me. Tears that won’t stop because I know exactly how this happened.

It’s his family.

Time and time again, I’ve watched him sacrifice little pieces of himself for each and every one of them. He never misses family get togethers. He looks for reasons to spend quality time together, especially with Christian and Mia. He’s always there when they need him. I’ll never forget the anger that only I saw after he found out about Christian and Elena, or the guilt he was riddled with because of what Mia went through last summer. The first time I ever saw him cry was sophomore year, when Christian didn’t show up for Christmas. He is the quintessential family man. How can he possibly not want a family of his own?

“Katie…” I hear him call through the door. “Please come out and talk to me.”

Talk? About what? This is an impasse. I know that no matter what happens in my life, I will not feel fulfilled if I never have children. It’s what I’ve wanted my entire life. From the first time I picked up a baby doll, I knew that being a mother was something I had to experience. It’s a calling too powerful for me to ignore and I’ve never been the kind of girl to give up on a lifelong dream. It’s not in my blood. So if he’s not willing to give me babies, we’re wasting our time together.

With a long, painful breath, I quell my tears and slowly peel myself off the floor. Everything feels as though it’s moving in slow motion as I twist the knob and pull back the door, and when I see him standing there, waiting for me and looking hurt, confused, and terrified all at once, it knocks the wind out of me. The love I have for this man isn’t something that can just be callously tossed aside. What we have is powerful, life-changing, and rare. If he isn’t it for me, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to find anything close to what we have together again.

He’s my soulmate.

Or at least, I was really sure that he was.

“Is there a compromise here?” I ask quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“Five years?” His face crinkles, and tears start to prick my eyes again. “I can’t not have kids, Elliot. It’s a deal breaker for me. I can give you some time. You can build your company and we can travel and we can do everything that you want to do before we settle down, but… I have to have kids. I’ll give you five years.”

He presses his lips together, then looks down at the floor, and for a terrifying second, I think he’s going to tell me no.

“Can I think about it?” he asks at last, and while it isn’t a no, it hurts just as bad as one. How did we get here? Five minutes ago, his face was buried between my legs and now we’re talking about whether or not we can even be together or if we’re going to break up.

Break up.

Holy shit, we might be about to break up.

“Yeah,” I croak. “Of course.”

He nods, takes a deep breath, and reaches out for my hand. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now…”

I swallow the lump in my throat and try as hard as I can to at least wipe the doubt and devastation off my face. It’s not as easy as I’d hoped.

“Julia was sending you something to look over, right? You should… do that. I’m just going to take a bath and think for a little while.”

“Okay. Can I, um… Can I get your anything?”

“No. I’ll be okay, thanks.”

But I’m not okay. I’m not okay at all. I fill the tub with nearly scalding hot water, but it can’t burn away the cold feeling that grips me like a frost in the dead of winter. I sink down low in the tub so the water covers my ears and try to force the kind of cavernous echoing sound of being under the water to drown out my thoughts, which run on a kind of continuous loop of everything Elliot and I have shared that makes our relationship so important to me. Like that time Grace and I were flipping through old photo albums and she told the story of his first science fair, where he’d won first place for a capillary bowl he’d built that he said was going to revolutionize the way energy was utilized in the United States.


At eleven years old, he’d created perpetual motion,” Grace says. “Of course we didn’t have the heart to tell him that perpetual motion didn’t actually exist and even the capillary bowl had an energy source in the form of low boiling point gases… but I always knew he’d grow up to be my little engineer. And he did.”

“Perpetual motion, huh?” I ask, smiling as I turn to face Elliot. “Aiming high.”

He rolls his eyes. “Well, I’m sorry that I didn’t fully grasp the laws of thermodynamics at the age of eleven. Full understanding of that didn’t come until I was at least twelve.”


Even just remembering the embarrassed pink that colored the tips of his ears as his mother gushed about every one of his primary school accomplishments makes me smile, but that smile disappears as quickly as it came. I have so many amazing memories with him. Like, sitting in the passenger’s seat with the windows down and the radio turned up while we drove along the beautiful coastline in the late months of summer, soaking up the sun. His smile and laughter as I clung to his middle while the jet ski he was piloting skimmed across the water. The feel of his hands wrapped around mine on the very first night we spent in the house we bought this summer. He’d pulled me around the kitchen island, dancing with me in the glow from the refrigerator and the electronic clock over the range. No music. Just him. Just me.

I pull the plug on the drain, step out of the bath, and wrap myself in one of the towels folded on the shelf near the counter. I expect Elliot is going to be buried in work, possibly even back on the phone with his colleagues in Seattle, but he isn’t. When I open the door, I find him sitting on the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees, and his head hung below his shoulders. He looks up at me as the sliver of light from the bathroom cuts through the darkness just enough to pull him out of the shadows, and after we gaze deeply into each other’s eyes for a long, drawn out moment, he gets off the bed, wraps me in his arms, and kisses me more deeply and passionately than he has in years.

“I love you, Kate,” he says.

“I love you too, Elliot.” We kiss again, but this time, he doesn’t stop at holding my body close against his. He sweeps me into his arms and carries me back to the bed, and there, we make love, showing each other everything we can’t say with words. When we’re finished, wrung out and exhausted, I lie there wrapped in his arms and think that everything is going to turn out okay. Elliot and I are meant to be, and while this seems insurmountable now, we’ll work through it. We always do. As long as we love each other, we’ll always find a way. His hold tightens around me and I allow the comfort I feel in his embrace to pull me into a deep, comforting sleep.

But when I wake up in the morning, he isn’t in the bed next to me anymore. He’s sitting in a chair across the room, his packed suitcase at his side, watching me sleep.

“Hi,” I whisper, my voice still thick with sleep.

“Good morning,” he replies. “I didn’t want to wake you, but… I have to go.”

“Go? Where?”

“Back to Seattle. I got an email early this morning. The GEH building failed an impromptu city inspection yesterday afternoon, I have to go handle it. I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

“Oh…”

He gets out of his chair and walks over to me, falling on one knee next to the bed and leaning in to kiss my lips as softly as he can.

“Don’t… don’t make any decisions, okay? I’ll come back next weekend, or maybe you can come with Ana the next time she flies home… we’ll talk. We’ll work this out.”

“Okay.”

“I love you, Katie.”

“I love you too.”

Another kiss and he’s gone. I watch every step he takes until the door closes behind him and the electronic sound of the lock clicking back into place fills the room. In his absence, I don’t feel any of the hope I was filled with the night before. Somehow, everything looks different in the pale gray light of dawn, and as I pull back the sheets and re-dress in the same clothes I wore shopping with Ana yesterday afternoon, I realize that something was broken last night. Maybe we put a bandaid over it when we needed to, but I don’t think we’ll ever be able to put it back together again.

And as I gather my purse and glance back at the sheets that still smell of him, I feel utterly and completely alone.

****

Middle of Chapter Four

 

September 17th

The car ride is tense. Ana is fidgeting in the back seat, glancing anxiously at the tightly packed traffic around us, and Luke is stewing in the seat next me, furious with her. We’re nearly two hours late getting her to the airport and both of them are lamenting what Christian is going to say about their late arrival in Seattle tonight. Personally, I’m happy to have the extra time.

Elliot was supposed to fly back here this weekend so he and I could talk, but surprise, surprise, something came up at work. He asked me to come with Ana back to Seattle, but flying 3,000 miles and then being asked to wait around until he’s finished with whatever new crisis has come up at GC doesn’t seem like a good way to start the conversation about how seriously he’s taking the future of our relationship. Besides, I have things to do here too. Ana may be willing to sacrifice her time studying or fulfilling her school obligations to fly to Seattle every weekend because of Christian’s work schedule, but I’m not. I won’t make myself smaller for Elliot, or for anyone for that matter.

Taking a breath, I try to push away the anger that’s been slowly festering inside of me since last weekend. Elliot has been the greatest boyfriend I could have ever dreamed up, he doesn’t deserve the kind of thoughts I’ve had about him this week. I need to remember that he didn’t do this on purpose. I need to remember that he’s made sacrifices for me in the past. I need to remember that I love him. Nothing is set yet. Maybe he did think about what I told him, and maybe he’s changed his mind.

Maybe.

The music we have playing at a background level suddenly cuts off and is replaced by a loud ring from the bluetooth connection through Ana’s phone. I glance over at the LED display on the dash to read the name on the caller ID then glance at Ana in the rearview mirror.

“It’s Christian,” I tell her.

“Answer it,” she says, continuing once I do. “Hi, you’re on speaker.”

“Why aren’t you in the air?” Christian’s angry voice demands without greeting. “My pilot just called to tell me you haven’t even arrived at the airport yet.”

“I know, I was going to text you just before I took off. I’m running late…”

“Two hours late?”

I watch Ana’s reflection cringe at the bite in his tone. “My meeting with Dr. Ralston went long, and it took me longer to pack than I expected, and now we’re stuck in traffic.”

“How close are you?”

“Ten minutes,” I answer for her, then reach down to flick on my blinker so I can merge into the exit only lane that will take us to the airport.

“Fine,” Christian says. “I’ll call and have them prepare for take off so you can leave the second you board the plane.”

“Thank you,” Ana says. “I’m sorry I’m late. I love you.”

“I love you too. I’ll see you in a few hours.” There’s a clicking sound before the music starts playing again and as I pull up to a dead stop behind the car in front of us once again, I feel a strange tightening in my stomach. That usually happens because I don’t really like the way Christian talks to Anastasia when he’s angry, but this is different. It’s difficult to hear Christian and Ana express their love for one another right now because I know how much they mean it. I have zero doubts about how much Christian loves Anastasia. Even though I believe Elliot when he said that Christian doesn’t want kids either, I also know that if Ana told him that she needed children to be happy and that their relationship would be over if he wouldn’t give them to her, she’d already be pregnant.

Maybe that’s selfish of me to expect. Maybe I’m being selfish. I don’t know. I never thought in a million years we’d end up here, and now that we are, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what to think or feel…

 

Getting to the airport is like getting a front row seat to the influence of Christian Grey. We drive up to the private entrance to the tarmac and all Ana has to do is give her name for us to be waived through and directed to the huge jet with GREY etched in huge letters on the side. The moment we stop, Luke jumps out of the passenger’s seat, pulling Ana out of the car before I’ve even given her a proper hug good-bye.

“See you Sunday!” she calls to me as she’s being dragged to the stairs leading into the plane. I open my door and stand on the plastic covering on the edge on the inside of the car so she can see and hear me over the roar of the engines.

“Love you, Ana! Fly safe! Text me when you land!”

She can only nod in return before she disappears through the door and they close her inside. A few crewmen scurry around the cargo hold, tightening bulkheads, but only seconds pass before everyone begins backing away, and waving to the pilot that they’re clear for take off.

“Ma’am, you’re going to need to get off the tarmac!” one of the employees calls to me. “For your own safety.”

I nod and give him a small smile before slumping back into the car and navigating my way off the airfield and back towards the freeway. Traffic doesn’t seem to be so bad going into Cambridge, probably because it’s after eight now, so I make it home in okay time. But once I come through the back door into the dark, empty house, an unwelcome, familiar sense of foreboding comes over me.

“Hello?” I call uncertainty, but the only answer is my own weak voice echoing through the kitchen and living room. It doesn’t make me feel better, so I immediately start going through every room in the house, flipping lights on.

There’s no one here. I know that. But if I’m upstairs, my brain starts conjuring images of someone picking the lock on the door and sneaking undetected into the laundry room, or maybe the bathroom, to hide and wait until I fall asleep. If I’m downstairs I can’t shake the feeling that someone is hiding in Ana’s closet. Before I know it, I’m googling Dylan Abernathy’s name to make sure that he wasn’t released from prison and I somehow wasn’t notified.

I thought enough time had passed that I would be able to do this, but clearly I was wrong. So, after scouring the internet for proof that someone is coming after me and coming up empty handed, I go into my bathroom, lock the door, and dial Elliot’s number.

“Hey, baby,” he answers, and, instantly, I’m in tears. “Kate? What’s wrong?”

“Ana’s gone and I can’t do this… I can’t be in this house by myself. I’m freaking out right now. I can’t stop thinking about somebody breaking in.”

“Hey, hey, hey. Baby, you’re okay. No one is coming to get you, okay? Calm down. Take a breath.”

I do, and it helps a little. “I can’t do this, Elliot. I know that I’m overreacting, but I just can’t. I can’t stay here by myself.”

“Okay, what do you want me to do? Can I call and book you a hotel room for the weekend? Would that help?”

“I want you to be here with me.”

“I do too, but I can’t. Is there… someone you can call and have come stay with you?”

My breath hitches as tears pour down my cheeks. “I-I don’t know.”

“Do you want to go stay at the Hyatt?”

“No. No, I’ll be okay. I’ll figure it out.”

“You’re sure?”

No. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Okay. Call me before you go to bed. I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.” I hang up and let my head slump against the back wall. I know that he’s right. I know that being locked in my house on a very well lit street with very attentive neighbors means that I’m safe staying here alone, but knowing that doesn’t make me feel better. This fear that I have is irrational, but unshakable.

I try a bath first, hoping the hot water and lavender will calm me down, but the drip from the faucet onto the smooth plane of water in the tub just makes the silence all around me seem somehow louder, and more unsettling. So, I decide to get rid of it. After getting out of the bath, I turn on some music in my room, lock the door, and try to focus all of my attention on the paper I have to write before next weekend, but the music just means I can’t hear anything going on outside of my room and after twenty minutes I’m convinced there’s someone sneaking around downstairs.

This is what it’s going to be like every time Ana leaves. What the fuck am I going to do?

Thinking maybe the best thing for me to do is just go to bed and try to sleep, I log off my computer, change into my pajamas, and crawl under the covers, but getting myself to go to sleep is impossible. I stare into the darkness, shaking, listening hard for any kind of sound, and sometime around two in the morning, there’s a loud thump that sounds too much like someone walking up the stairs.

I scream and leap out of bed, checking that the door is locked before I turn back to my nightstand and pick up my phone to dial the number of the only other person I know well enough in Cambridge to ask to come stay with me.

“Kavanagh?” Carter’s very tired voice answers after several rings.

“Hey, Carter. Um…. Ana’s in Seattle and I’m kind of freaking out being by myself. Would you… um… would you come over here?”

“You want me to come over to your house at two o’clock in the morning?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have anyone else to call. Please?”

He sighs. “I’ll be right there.”

“Thank you. Oh my god, thank you so much.”

“Yeah. See you soon.” He hangs up the phone and I immediately feel a wave of relief. The doors are locked downstairs, which means I’m going to have to let him in when he gets here, so I once again go through the house and turn every single light on before I settle down on the couch and hug my arms tightly around my body, waiting for him to arrive. When he knocks on the door, I jump and then hurry to answer it.

“Wh-who’s there?” I call nervously through the door.

“Carter,” he replies. With a deep breath, I unlock the door, pull it open, and when I see him standing there, I have to stop myself from throwing my arms around him.

“Thank you,” I tell him, stepping aside to allow him through the door.

“Sure, your house is nicer than mine is anyway. Are you okay?”

I shake my head. “No. I thought by now I could spend a couple nights by myself, but clearly… I can’t. Ana’s going to be gone all the time this year, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

He shrugs. “Call me.”

He takes my hand and leads me into the kitchen, pushes me down into a chair at the dining room table, and then goes to the fridge. “You’ve got some wine in here, do you want it?”

I nod, and then wait while he pulls the bottle from the fridge, finds the wine glasses, and pours me a full glass. When he hands it to me, I down it in one long gulp.

“Jesus, you really are freaked out.”

I nod. “Yeah, I don’t know why I thought I’d be able to handle this.”

“Because of that guy, right? The one that shot a bunch of people in your dorm freshman year?”

“Yeah. Because of him.”

“That sucks, I’m sorry. He’s in jail though, isn’t he? So he can’t come after you again.”

“You know that. I know that. But the part of my brain that keeps me from being terrified about it apparently doesn’t.”

“Well, you got any weed? That’d probably calm you down.”

I shake my head. “No, I don’t smoke, and if we brought any in here, Christian would have a heart attack and then I’d be homeless. I’ll be okay, I just need people around, I guess. Thank you for coming. You didn’t have to and I really, really appreciate that you did.”

“Of course. I’ve always been able to get more work done over here anyway, like when I came to study with Ana all the time last year. This way, with her out of the house and me still here, she won’t think I was stalking her all that time.” I laugh, and then reach for the bottle of wine again.

“I have no idea how I’m going to get through this year if she’s going to be travelling back and forth. I might have to talk to her about us getting another roommate.”

“Why didn’t you go with her? I mean, your boyfriend lives in Seattle too, doesn’t he? Don’t you want to go see him?”

I raise my eyebrows as I take another long drink from my glass. “Things are a little, tense between Elliot and I right now.”

“Long distance relationship getting to you?”

“No, it’s not that. I um…” I pause, and examine him closely. “Carter, do you want to have kids? In the future, I mean.”

“Uh… yeah, I think so. Maybe. I think I have to find a wife to do that first but that means I’d have to find a girlfriend and you’d be surprised how hard that is.”

“Probably because you’re stalking Ana.”

He laughs. “Probably. I think… fuck, I think I might have made what she and I had bigger than it was, you know? We were only together for a couple of months, but… I really liked her and I still do. She’s great and I’ve wondered a lot over the past couple years if she was, like, the girl I was supposed to be with. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to find anyone else. I don’t know… maybe I just never got over feeling like Grey stole her from me.”

I raise an eyebrow and give him a hard look. “She broke up with you because you were an asshole.”

“Nah,” he shakes his head and pours his own glass of wine. “I’m pretty sure it was Grey.”

I roll my eyes. “Well, I hate to break to break it to you, but if soulmates exists, then Christian is Ana’s.”

“You don’t believe in soulmates?” He’s smirking as he asks the question, but he doesn’t understand the real chord he’s struck.

“I did,” I reply, my voice a little more sullen now. “I thought I found mine. Now, I’m not so sure…”

“Well, if it’s not the long distance, what is it?”

“I just… think we might be on separate paths.” I take a drink, and stare at the liquid swirling around in the glass after I place it back on the table while I continue. “I’ve been waiting for him to ask me to marry him and he told me last weekend that not only will he never propose, but that if I choose to stay with him, we’re never going to have children.”

“Which you want?”

“More than anything.”

“More than him?”

I take a deep breath and finally look up from my wine glass, searching his eyes for the answer to the question I haven’t even asked yet. “How do I answer that?”

“Honestly.”

I don’t like the way that word falls on me. It makes me feel hot and unsettled, like I’m suddenly guilty of doing something I know I shouldn’t. But Carter doesn’t offer me any reprieve from the discomfort. He stares at me in silence until I finally reach for the bottle of wine again and tip the last three drops into the bottom of my glass.

“I guess we killed it,” I say softly.

“Well, then I’m going to get to bed,” he says. “You good?”

“Yeah, thanks. The uh… the guest bedroom is up the stairs and on the left, at the end of the hallway.”

“Thanks. I’ll… See you tomorrow?”

I nod and he picks up the backpack he left on the floor by the door before moving up the stairs and leaving me alone in the warm glow of the kitchen. The overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety is gone, which I’m grateful for, but with Carter gone to bed, it’s quiet again. And in the quiet, I have too much space to think.

I know that I can’t hide in the timeframe I’ve given Elliot to make his choice forever. Eventually, he and I are going to have to face this and because this is my issue, I’m the one who will most likely have to push it. But I don’t know that I’m ready for the consequences of this talk yet. I’m fairly certain the hot flash of guilt I felt when Carter told me I needed to be honest about my feelings over the future means that, if Elliot’s going to make me choose, I’m not going to choose him. There are a lot of things I would sacrifice for Elliot Grey, but having a child is not one of them. If he tells me no, then he and I have gone as far as we can go with one another and we’ll have to break up.

But I’m not jumping for joy at the thought of being single again. Not because I’m afraid of being lonely, but because I’m afraid life won’t be as bright without Elliot in it. He’s the man who taught me that a life that isn’t filled with adventure isn’t really a life that has been lived, but that has merely been survived, and because of him I’ve lived every second of the last three years without regret. Because of him, I’ve experienced things I never world have. Because of him, I’ve worked to improve myself and the way I treat and respond to others. Because of him, I’ve truly loved. He’s seen me at my best and he’s seen me at my worst, and yet he still loves me as much as he did the first time he ever said the words. I know that. And I know that even though work is an issue for him right now, his heart is in the right place and it hurts him to be away just as much as it hurts me. That’s something we would work through, because above all else, we love each other.  

And leaving him would mean leaving his whole family. Grace and Carrick have been like second parents to me. We’ve spent holidays together, we’ve gone on vacations together, and Carrick was the one who held my hand in the courtroom the day Dylan Abernathy was sentenced. I really love them. Mia has grown to be one of my closest confidants and best friends, as if she were my sister. And Christian… he’s somehow gone from the biggest pain in my ass to a man who I’m proud to know and who I am grateful for everyday because of the happiness he brings into my best friend’s life. They’re all family.

But they’re the only family he’ll ever give me.

I know what I have to do, and if I wait until I want to do this, it’ll never happen. And as I finally feel resolution in my decision, my phone rings. When I look over at it, I see Elliot’s name and picture displayed on the screen. Like fate.

“Hello?”

“Hey, you never called me. Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I called Carter Reed and he’s going to stay here with me until Ana gets back.”

“Oh, well… that’s good, I guess.” But his tone does not suggest he believes that having a single guy staying with me alone in the house for the weekend really is a good thing. “Are you going to bed, then? It’s almost three there.”

“Yeah, I haven’t been able to sleep. I was actually thinking about you.”

“Really? Sexy things?” He chuckles, and my heart suddenly seems to thud more heavily in my chest.

“No, about what we were talking about last weekend. I gave you a compromise, have you thought about it?”

“Kate… do you really want to do this on the phone?”

“No, but I need to do it right now. Have you thought about it?”

“I mean, what you gave me isn’t a compromise, it’s an ultimatum.”

“It’s what I can live with, Elliot. I’m willing to give you some time, but I’m not willing to give up having a family.”

I hear him take a deep breath. “Kate, I love you. And I want to make you happy, I think that I can make you happy, but I have no interest in raising children. I don’t want to be a father and if I were to go along with this and do the whole marriage thing and have a few kids… I think I’d regret it for the rest of my life. I don’t think I would find fulfillment in that life, and quite frankly, I’m already tired from raising the family I already have. I have nothing left to give to anyone else, and that’s not fair to you or to any children we may have. But, I do believe that we can be happy just you and me. I’m never going to grow complacent in our relationship, I will always treat you like I’m still trying to win your heart. I want you to be my partner in life and I want us to really go out into the world and live our lives to fullest. I want to go off the beaten path and try things we never thought we could or would try. I want to experience this world, and I want to do it with you. Only you. You’re enough for me, Kate. You’re all I want.”

I press my lips together and blink back the moisture that’s beading in my eyelashes. “That’s the problem, Elliot. I don’t know that you’re enough for me. Not because I don’t love you, but because I feel that part of my purpose in this life is to be a mother. I can’t turn my back on that.”

“Look, I don’t want to devalue your feelings about this, I understand that this is something you’ve wanted for a long time, but if we don’t have kids it doesn’t mean we won’t have children in our lives. Ethan wants kids, Mia wants kids, the odds are pretty high that Christian and Ana will have an accident someday, so we’ll have nieces and nephews. Maybe you and I could volunteer in some impoverished country somewhere and help build a school for some kids and get to know them. We could do outreach programs, take some underprivileged kids out for the time of their lives whenever we can. I think we can fill this need without giving up our freedom.”

“That’s why I was giving you five years. So we can go do all that, and experience what you want to experience, before we settle down.”

“But that’s the thing. I don’t want to settle down. Okay, I can agree with you and say, yeah, let’s give five years a shot, but when those five years pass, I know, deep down, that I’m not going to feel any differently about this than I do right now. This isn’t something you change your mind about.”

“No, it’s not.” My voice breaks, and the tears pooling in my waterline break over the edge and begin pouring down my face. “So, I think this is over.”

“Good, and look. I know this is hard for you, but I swear…”

“No. Not this conversation. Us. I’m breaking up with you, Elliot.”

He’s silent for a long few seconds, and when he finally speaks again there’s a definite note of panic in his voice. “Breaking up? Wait… No, Kate–”

“I’m sorry, Elliot. I love you, I really do, but for as certain as you are that you’re not going to change your mind, I’m not going to change mine. You were right before. I guess that was an ultimatum. I’m not negotiating with you. There’s nowhere for us to go from here and not calling this what it is now and going our separate ways isn’t going to change anything. It’s just going to make it that much more painful in the future.”

“No, you’re wrong. This isn’t insurmountable, we can work through this. I know we can, I believe that we can. Look, you’ve had a hard night. I’m going to book you a flight back to Seattle for tomorrow morning and then I’m going to clear my entire schedule so I can devote the next two days only to you and we can talk, okay? Just go to bed, don’t make any decisions, and we’ll talk when you get here.”

“I’m not coming to Seattle, Elliot. You know as well as I do that there’s nothing left to talk about. You’ve made your decision, I’ve made mine. I’m sorry, but I’m done. This is over.”

As my tears start to come more freely, I hear him getting choked up too. “Please, just get on the plane…”

“I’m not going to do that, I’m sorry.” He tries to argue again, but his words come out in an incoherent torrent that is too easy for me to cut off. “It’s late and I’m tired. I’ll call you later, okay?”

“No, don’t hang up the phone. Just… stay. Please. Talk to me, let’s figure this out. We just need more time to figure this out.”

“Goodbye, Elliot.” I hang up and turn off my phone, and the moment the screen goes black, I feel a crushing sense of loss. Maybe it would have been easier if he’d been on the same page as me about ending things, maybe it would have hurt more. I don’t know. But the pain I feel building inside of me is incredible. Unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I made this decision, I know it’s the right decision, and yet, I’m devastated by it.

Just a few days ago, I thought I knew exactly where my life was headed, and now I feel as though I’m floating in an endless ocean, alone, with no sense of direction, and nothing on the horizon. The loneliness in the sentiment is so poignant, it might drown me, and for a moment, I can’t breath. My body feels heavy, but I drag myself up the stairs and into my room. Once I collapse on my bed, the gut wrenching sobs take over, and I cry until I fall asleep. When I wake up the next morning, I cry again. I don’t eat and I don’t speak to anyone. When Carter comes to knock on my door, I don’t answer. I just cry, and sleep, and ignore the piercing sound of the phone ringing down in the kitchen.

Next Chapter

 

Elena PoV: Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen…

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There is no sense of welcome in the dark windows that greet me upon my arrival home after the interminably long day I’ve spent in the King County Detention Facility. When I woke up this morning, I hadn’t even considered that this was how today was going to turn out. It was supposed to be Ros, not I, who was taken into custody. Anastasia would be gone, the rest of the Greys would be so appalled with Christian for making another deal with me that they’d cut him out again, forever this time, and he and I would finally be back on track. It was never supposed to be me in handcuffs. Hell, it should have even been Christian himself before me.

That was the less ideal scenario, but his father would have made some kind of backdoor deal to get him a plea bargain, or possibly even reduced charges so he wouldn’t serve any time at all. It didn’t really matter either way, whether it was from spending time in prison or because of Anastasia’s absence at Harvard in a few weeks, Christian was once again going to be alone. Right where I wanted him. From there it would only take six months or a year and he’d be back in my grasp. We’d pick up right where we left off. But none of what was supposed to have happened, happened. It’s not Ros or Christian who is facing prison time now, it’s me. Somehow, he and that noisy little bitch who just can’t stay off his dick have bested me. I’ve lost, and even my lawyer, who is the absolute best that money can buy, doesn’t have any hope for how I’m going to get out of this.

This isn’t how I raised him.

Thankfully, Isaac was able to pull enough money out of the accounts for me to make bail and spend what few days I have left before the trial in the comforts of my own home, though even that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. My eyes shift down to the blinking light on the ankle bracelet that will keep me locked within the walls of my house until the beginning of September.

House arrest.

Apparently, I’m a flight risk.

“Alright, Elena,” Ms. Novik says when she finally kills the engine of the car. “We’re here. Do you need anything before I leave you?”

“No, Isaac will be here.”

“Alright then, you have my number. Remember, you’re not to leave the house for any reason, under any circumstances. If you need anything, call me, and I’ll take care of it.”

“Thank you, Anne.”

She nods. “I’m sorry, Elena. I really thought we had them.”

“Don’t be, it’s my fault. I should have never taken Anastasia’s bait. I got cocky. I should have known better.”

She gives me a tight smile as I reach for the handle on the door and then step out of the car. Momentarily, my attention is captured by the light that suddenly comes to life in the previously dark car that Novik had pulled up beside, and a small amount of relief fills my chest when I see Isaac climbing out of the driver’s seat and making his way around to me. This house may be its own kind of prison over the next few weeks, but at least I’ll have my submissive with me. I’m looking at a long stretch of time without any kind of sexual release or gratification. So, until I’m taken away, I plan on using him as often as possible to get it all out of my system. And possibly to work out some lingering frustrations I’m feeling towards a certain ex submissive.

He puts an arm around me as we make our way into the house, then takes my coat and my bag to put away while I trudge dejectedly into the sitting room.

“Can I get you anything, ma’am?”

“Bombay. Lime. Neat.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I collapse onto the sofa as he turns to make his way into the study off the side of the sitting room where I keep a very well stocked liquor cabinet, but before he even gets through the glass french doors, a lamp flicks on across the room from me. I blink as my eyes adjust to the light, and once I see who is sitting in the armchair beneath the window, my entire body seizes with trepidation.

“I’ve already taken care of that,” Andrew says, holding up a tumbler filled with clear liquid and a wedge of lime. “It’s not as cold as it was. You took longer to get home than I planned for.”

His gaze is imploring as he tries to hand the alcohol to me, but my eyes are not fixed on the gin gripped between his fingers. Instead, I’m transfixed by the woman at his side. Young. Thin. Beautiful.

“I see you haven’t lost your penchant for blondes,” I tell him ruefully. He glances sideways at the girl, and then shakes his head.

“It’s not like that. Elena, this is Gia. She’s my daughter.”

Daughter? The word takes the breath out of me. This girl looks as though she’s nineteen or maybe twenty, but I would guess based on her clothes and the way she holds herself that she’s more like twenty-five or twenty-six. Andrew and I have been divorced now for just over two years, but before that we’d been married for twenty-five. There’s no way this girl is older than that. So, in one word, almost thirty years of suspicion is confirmed.

I swallow the bitter taste in my mouth and sit straighter on the sofa. “Well, then. I’m glad that while I spent countless nights here waiting for you to come back from your business trips, you didn’t have to feel the same loneliness that I did.”

“Were they lonely though? I think Christian Grey might have something else to say about that.” I feel my lips press together into a tight line and he smiles. “You’re not the one to lecture me about extra-marital affairs, my love.”

“Is that why you’re here, then? To gloat? Christian turned on me, I’m undoubtedly going to prison, and you’re here to say I told you so?”

“Hardly. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of you spending what’s left of your prime years locked away in a jail cell after what you’ve put me through is extraordinarily vindicating, but you’re not the only person who should have to pay some kind of restitution for the crimes in your past. Christian isn’t innocent either, and yet he’s going to walk away unscathed with everything he’s ever wanted and more.”

“So,” I counter. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re here in my sitting room, Andrew. I won the house in the divorce, you don’t get it back just because I’ll be in prison.”

“I’m here–” he begins, his patience wearing thin. “Because I’m going to ensure that Christian Grey does not walk away from what he’s done unscathed. Because of what you two did together, I’ve lost my company, a sizable portion of my fortune, my marriage, and a great deal of my self-respect. When I’m finished, he won’t have any of those things either.”

I snort. “Oh really? And what is it that you plan to do, exactly? Let’s face it, Andrew, this is my arena, not yours. You don’t get to know people well enough to understand what will best hurt them and Christian is not as vulnerable as you may think he is. Believe me.”

“I know what my strengths are, Elena, and that’s why I’m here. Because you’re right. This is your arena. You do know how to best destroy him. You’ve done it over and over again. Your fatal mistake is that, despite this hard exterior you try to put on for the world, deep down you’ve always cared about him. And you’ve always wanted something from him. I don’t. I only want his pain. I only want to destroy him, and I will stop at nothing to make that happen. I want his company. I want his money. I want his reputation. And I want Anastasia.”

“Ana? Really?” I turn and glance at Isaac who is hovering uneasily in the doorway behind me, then snap my fingers and point to the floor at the side of the sofa. Without hesitation, he moves to his knees on the carpet at my feet. Gently, I run my fingers through his hair as a reward and then move out of my seat to fetch the drink from Andrew. My eyes narrow in on him as I take a long pull of the burning liquid and settle back down into my seat. “She’s innocent, you know. She had no part to play in what happened two years ago. In fact, she’s the only thing that might have prevented it. Hurting her isn’t vengeance, it’s cruelty.”

“And you care about that?”

“No, but you said you were after Christian because he deserved retribution for what he’s done. Anastasia didn’t do anything.”

He lets out a dark laugh. “I respected Anastasia Steele for quite some time, because she chose to leave Christian after what he did. I’ve only seen him a few times over the years, but even through the mask he put on for business events and charity balls, I could see the pain he was in. I could only presume that was because of Ana, and it almost felt like justice in a way. He had won the battle, but lost the war, so to speak, and I had made peace with that. And then she came back here, and she took him back, and now he’s a man on top of the world. She gave him everything I wanted to take away. Anastasia has been my biggest disappointment.”

I raise an eyebrow as I take another drink, considering what he’s said.

“So, I need you to tell me how to get to him, Elena. He’s got security and money, I need you to tell me how I get past all of that and take what I want from him.”

“Me?” My eyes narrow. “Have you missed the part where I’m going to prison, Andrew? I tried to beat him and I couldn’t. He won.”

He shakes his head. “No, you weren’t trying to defeat him, you were trying to control him. This isn’t about some power play, this is about destruction. Most of that I can handle, but I need you to tell me how to get to him. How can I hurt him the most? Who will turn on him? Who won’t? How do I get into his life without him knowing I’m there? You made mistakes after the trial, I’m here to learn from them.”

“And what do I get?”

“Excuse me?”

“By helping you. What am I going to get out of giving you all of my inside secrets to the vulnerabilities of Christian Grey? He has more power than you, more money… it seems to me it’s smarter to invest my loyalties in him and focus my energy on bringing him back under my control. It’s always worked for me in the past.”

“You’re delusional,” the girl at Andrew’s side, Gia, says. I turn a sharp glare on her. To her credit, she doesn’t falter. She stares back at me calm, confident, and poised. “You’ve been exposed. Not just for what you’ve done to him, but for what you’ve done to all of those young women you’ve had working for you, including his little sister.  He’ll never forgive you. All that money and influence is going to be put into making sure that you stay in that prison for as long as possible. What you get out of helping us is protection from everything else he will inevitably do to you to make you pay for what you’ve done to him.”

Again, I glance down at Isaac. He’s staring dutifully at the floor between his legs, displaying no outward reaction to what’s being said. I can’t help but make comparisons between him and Christian. I never have, and it’s always been a touchy subject for him. He doesn’t like living in my first submissive’s shadow. Still, I wonder if my participation in any retribution against Christian will frighten him. As much as he hates it when I make comparisons, I’m sure he’s made his own fair share, and I don’t want him to be fearful of me because of the way I have behaved towards my ex. I’m going to need him more than anyone else for the foreseeable future and if I’m going to keep him, I have to make sure he trusts me.

“Isaac, my pet,” I say, and he turns to look up at me.

“Yes, Mistress?”

“What do you think about what Mr. Lincoln has said? Be honest with me.”

“I think he makes a fair point. Christian Grey is not a good person, and bad people deserve to have bad things happen to them. He’s certainly ensured enough bad things have happened to us.”

“You see?” Linc adds.

I take a long breath and re-cross my legs, ignoring the extra weight from the ankle monitor, which adds stress to my calf muscles.

“Fine. You want to get to Christian, I’ll help you, but it’s not going to be easy. Unfortunately for you, Christian has an intrinsic distrust of people and expects that everyone is out to get him. You have to find a way around that and it takes time. GEH will be easy, so long as we can get people on the inside…”

“I’ve already begun that process,” Linc interrupts. “I’ve got a tech guy who worked for a sideline I invested in years ago and he was just hired in the GEH R&D division, and Gia here is already employed with Grey Construction. She’s going to be on the construction team for that skyscraper he’s building downtown.”

I settle back into my seat with my lips pursed together and swirl the liquid in my glass. I’m impressed. “I have a few more names that may be useful, and some dirt that will help you persuade a few others. The real challenge with GEH is going to be Ros. And Welch. Those two hold that company up just as much as Christian does. Anything that gets past him, they’ll be all over. If you’re going to get anywhere, you’re going to have to find a way to get rid of them.”

“I may know some people in New York who could offer Bailey a job. She’s good, right?”

I shake my head. “Ros Bailey helped build GEH and she and Christian have a very rare working relationship that she has to know she won’t find anywhere else. You won’t find anyone who will pay her more than Christian does, or who gives her the same amount of freedom or input. She’ll never leave willingly.”

“Then what do you suggest, Elena?”

I purse my lips together in thought and take another drink. My mind runs through a few different ideas, each of them more implausible than the last, until I lock eyes with Gia again. The insider.

“You said you have someone in R&D? What does he do?”

“He’s working as a programer,” Andrew replies.

“Right, but what does he do. What makes him useful to you?”

“He’s a hacker. Once he gains some trust within the company and is given a little more freedom, he’s going to work on a few of the GEH security systems for me. Get me access so I can start undoing things from the inside.”

I smile. “Perfect. Except Welch will find you the second you end up anywhere you’re not supposed to be. He’s phenomenal at his job and he watches that system like a hawk.”

“So, him before Ros?”

“Yes, and luckily for you, I’ve already planted the seeds to help you oust him.”

“Really?”

“My fail safe for Kink was to entwine it as thoroughly as possible with GEH while still keeping it secret, so that if it were ever exposed, it would look like Christian himself had set it up and was using his own company to launder the profits. It’s the defense we tried to use in court, and while it failed, it will lead to an investigation. Welch is very protective of the work GEH produces. He keeps his value by ensuring he, and only he, can produce the kind of technology that sets GEH apart from its competitors. He’s not going to like auditors going through his systems and taking notes for public record. Perhaps the people in his department could make those feelings more… potent.”

“And what will that do?”

“It’s like I told you. Christian thinks everyone is out to get him. If Welch expresses his own displeasure and the negative reaction of his team, Christian is going to feel attacked because it’s essentially his fault the audit is going to take place at all. It’s a trigger for him, and he when he’s angry, he makes rash and illogical decisions. He lashes out, and Welch isn’t the type of man to just take shit from Christian. It won’t ruin their relationship, but it will place a seed of doubt in Christian’s mind that you can exploit later. Perhaps by having your hacker place some damning evidence against Welch for Christian to find, evidence that shows he was planning on betraying him, we might end up with something. Betrayal is very hard for Christian to deal with, second only to abandonment. It was usually what I used to turn him against Carrick. It’ll work the same here. Fabricate something, plant it in the system for Christian to find, and he won’t even listen to Welch’s excuses. He’ll be fired, and you’ll have free reign over the system.”

Andrew stares at me for a moment, considering what I’ve said, then turns to Gia. “Make a note to have Walker try and subtly create bad blood in the R&D team over the audit.”

Gia rolls her eyes, but takes out her phone and starts typing. The screen illuminates her face and as I stare at her, I can’t help but think how familiar she looks.

“You know, Andrew. Gia looks an awful lot like Kavanagh.”

“Who?”

“Katherine. Elliot’s girlfriend. Consequently, he’s your second biggest hurdle. It was always easiest for me to manipulate Christian when he felt alone, and with Anastasia going back to school, you have the perfect opportunity to prey on that very deep rooted insecurity. Except for Elliot. I don’t think even a crow bar could separate him from his beloved brother. I tried everything I could to get rid of him, but he sticks around like a fucking cockroach.”

“So, what do you suggest I do?”

I purse my lips for a moment, then take another sip. “Gia, how well do you flirt?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never really had to work that hard to get men’s attention.” She uncrosses and recrosses her legs, then nibbles on the end of her thumb, and even Isaac sits up straighter. I reach forward and twist my fingers harshly into the roots of his hair.

“I saw that.”

“I’m sorry, Mistress.”

“Mhm. Here, go get me another drink.” He fumbles with the tumbler I thrust into his hand and scurries out of the room to the bar in the parlor, while I settle back into my seat and stare appraisingly at Gia.

“Katherine will be going back to school too. If you could find a way to seduce Elliot, break him and Kavanagh up, and even have him take up with you, then…”

“Then he’ll be very easy to control,” she answers for me.

I let out a breathy laugh through my nose and give her a pointed stare. “You do realize what I’m asking you, don’t you?”

“To win Elliot’s affection and use that influence to keep him away from Christian. Maybe even come between them.”

“I’m asking you to fuck him,” I say bluntly. “Repeatedly. Over and Over again, for as long as it keeps him happy. Is that something you’re comfortable with?”

She smiles. “I’ve been promised ten million dollars at the end of all of this. There’s not a lot I’m not comfortable with.”

“Good. You know, it’s a shame I didn’t know you before. You would have been a very welcome addition to a business I used to run. We could have made a lot of money together.”

“Alright,” Andrew says, cutting me off. “Welch, Ros, Elliot. Anything else?”

I narrow my eyes. “Is that not enough? Must I mastermind the entire plan for you?”

“I asked you for GEH, his money, his reputation, and Anastasia. You gave me GEH.”

“A quarter of the way there. You’re welcome.”

His jaw tenses and he slowly gets out of his seat. I sit, unmoving, watching him stalk towards me, then I climb to my feet to take the drink my submissive brings back to me. “Issac, my pet. Why don’t you show Mr. Lincoln and his daughter out?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Isaac moves around the couch, stepping aside to create a path for Gia and Andrew to take in front of him, but when Andrew moves, it isn’t towards the door. His hand flies up and wraps tightly and securely around my throat, making me drop the drink. I wheeze and start to struggle against his strong, crushing hold, then look to Isaac for help, but before he can move, Gia pulls a small pistol from her bag and places it firmly against his temple.

“I wouldn’t move if I were you,” she says softly, and he freezes, pleading to me with his eyes.

“Perhaps I should tell you the other places I’ve managed to get inside access,” Andrew sneers. His fingers flex around my throat, loosening only enough so that when he tightens his fingers again, more this time, it feels as though he’s going to squeeze the life out of me. “The Washington State Women’s Correctional Facility, for example. I promise you, Elena. If you don’t give me the things I want now, willingly, I’ll find another, much more painful way to get them out of you. I can make your sentence easy, or I can make it very, very difficult. In fact, I could make the few years you’ll be sentenced to more time than you have left on this earth. Understand?”

I try to answer, but I can only make a horrible, shallow wheeze as I struggle for air.

“Money. Reputation. Anastasia,” he demands. I nod, fighting the dizziness and pain exploding in my head from oxygen deprivation. His fingers instantly unfurl from my neck and I collapse to the floor, panting. Each breath feeling like fire as they move down my windpipe.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you insane?” He kneels onto the floor in front of me, bringing his face a few mere centimeters from mine.

“I’m not playing games with you, Elena. I am here for information and I’m not leaving without it. I meant what I said before. If you want to fight me, if you want to defy me–” He pauses to grip my face roughly between his thumb and fingers. “I will fucking kill you.”

I’m practically thrown to the floor with the force he uses to pull his hand away from my face. Slowly, he gets up and moves back across the room, settling down in the sofa where he was seated before and motioning for Gia to join him. She shoots a cocky kind of smirk at both Isaac and I, and then returns to her previous spot.

“Mistress,” Isaac says, moving as quickly as he can to my side and helping me back on the couch.

“I’m waiting,” Andrew says.

With my hand, I motion for Isaac to take his place next to me again, then work to swallow several times so I can speak more clearly.  

“Christian’s financial advisor was a client of mine. A top secret client who I can help you persuade to do whatever you need. To give you whatever you want. Even access to Christian’s fortune.”

“How?”

“He’s one of the more vicious dominants that I’ve ever worked with. A sadist, to say the least. And his preference in submissives was always young women. Too young. Underage. The last girl I tried to provide for him was… Mia, and I have proof that he tried to rape her.”

“Jesus, Elena,” Andrew says darkly, and I glare at him. The man who just had me by the throat, who has threatened my life, and who had his little blonde psycho holding my submissive at gunpoint only a few seconds prior to this very conversation, is implying I’ve gone to far.

“Christian double crossed me. He needed to be punished.”

Andrew shakes his head in dismay. “So we have the money then. What about Anastasia?”

“She won’t leave him.”

“That’s fine. I’ll just take her. She’s small, she shouldn’t be hard to overpower.”  

“It won’t be that simple. She has her own security team and she’s about to move all the way across the country. How do you intend to get to her?”

“I don’t know, Elena. How do I intend to get to her?”

I press my lips together, and Gia lets out an impatient sigh and lifts the gun again, pointing it directly into Isaac’s chest. “How much for his heart, Daddy?”

“Oh… ten thousand?”

She smiles and pulls back the hammer.

“Leila Williams!” I scream, feeling and ignoring the pain ripping through my throat with the same thought. “Leila Williams despises Anastasia Steele. She’s only too willing to do whatever you want so long as it means Ana suffers. Her parents live in Connecticut, which means you have the perfect excuse to get her to the East Coast and she’s one of the best liars I’ve ever met. Set her up in Cambridge, give her a plausible cover story, and she’ll do whatever you need. I promise you.”

“Leila Williams,” Andrew repeats. “Gia, make a note.” She does, and once she sets her phone down again, they look expectantly at me. “Reputation, Elena. Whenever you’re ready.”

“I don’t know,” I say, shaking my head. “He’s not the same person he used to be. He doesn’t live the kind of scandalous life that you can expose. He’s surprisingly ethical in his business practices, despite his line of work, he’s charitable, he doesn’t cheat on his girlfriend or have late night rendevouz with transexual hookers. I don’t know what you’ll be able to dig up on him.”

He’s still sitting across from me for a long beat, and then, slowly, a smile stretches across his face. “I do. There’s a very important event in his life that the public doesn’t know about. A trial.”

I swallow. “Those records were sealed. You can out him but he’ll deny it. Anastasia will vouch for him, Carrick will defend him, his publicist will spin the story to make you look like a jilted man seeking revenge for your lost company… You don’t have proof, Andrew.”

“No, you’re right. I don’t. Which is why I’m not going to be the one to tell the world his secret. You are.”

“Me? You think I’m going to tell the world about my past with Christian? About the things I did to him? That we did together? What do you think I’m stupid?”

“No, I think you have a very strong sense of self preservation. Or do I need to remind you again of the predicament you’re going to be in with my people while you serve your time?”

“Or that little Isaac is going to be in once you’re no longer here to protect him,” Gia adds with a malicious glint shining in the pale green of her eyes.

I glance down him and see his head hang, undoubtedly in fear, and then swallow back my own trepidation.

“If it’s you who lets the cat of the bag, he won’t be able to fight it,” Andrew says. “Telling your own story isn’t defamation. If you expose him to the world, what will he say to defend himself? That you’re lying about molesting a teenager? No, it’s perfect that it’s you.”

“And how exactly do you expect me to out myself in this grand way that will capture the world’s attention and destroy his reputation? Hold a press conference from prison?”

“No. You wouldn’t be able to share near enough detail in a press conference and I want it to be explicit. A book. An autobiography. You can give some background on yourself, try to make it look like you’re trying to explain why you did what you did or became the person you became, and then you’ll lay out everything the two of you ever did together and how you convinced him to lie about it under oath so that you could take my money and avoid prison. Well, until you got caught again.”

“I’m not a writer.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll make do. After all, you’re going to have a lot of time to yourself, Elena.”

I take a deep breath, pushing down the mixture of nausea and humiliation tonight has brewed inside of me. “How do I know you’re going to have any kind of power over me once they take me away? How do I know that this isn’t all some lie to try and terrify me into giving you what you want?”

He shrugs. “You don’t. And, if you want to find out how serious I am, by all means, ignore me. That’s your choice.”

I don’t respond, but instead focus on his eyes, looking for any hint of a lie or a bluff. I don’t see one. Could he be manipulating me? Yes. But I know the kind of power he’s wielded in the past, the kinds of connections he’s capable of making, and I’m not sure testing what he’s telling me is a good move for either Isaac, or myself. But is writing a tell all any better?

For Isaac, yes.

“Come, Gia,” Andrew says, finally getting out of his seat. “Let’s give Elena here some time to mull over what we’ve discussed.”

“But…”

“Gia!” She’s silenced by the harsh bite in his tone, and reluctantly gets out of her seat. Her glare follows me as she leaves the room, but I don’t watch her go. My eyes stay transfixed on Andrew.

“We’ll talk soon,” he tells me, then looks to Isaac. “And you, you I may be able to use. Perhaps you could even… make life easier for Elena on the inside. I don’t know. We’ll see how well you cooperate going forward.”

He gives us both a sadistic smile as he moves past us and out of the room after Gia, and both Isaac and I wait in tense silence until we hear the front door open and close. Several second pass as we wait through the silence to make sure we’re alone, but no sound travels up the hall towards us.

“Mistress, what do we do?’

I stare back at him, speechless. I don’t know how to answer him. For the first time in a very long time, I’m helpless.

Next Chapter

Fifty Shades Freed: Don’t Miss the Climax (He He)

Obviously, for those who haven’t seen Fifty Shades Freed yet…

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A few weeks ago, I won a drawing to attend an early pre-screening of Fifty Shades Freed. It was built up to be this big media event with press, and studio executives… turns out it was really just like going to see any other movie. But that’s fine because it was free and I got to see it a day earlier. Take that, countdown app!

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So, Wednesday night, my cousin and I got all dressed up, went and had dinner at the Space Needle (for the most Seattle-y experience one could have, obviously), and headed off to the movies. But standing there, in the long line of other contest winners, the pure, unadulterated excitement that consumed me prior to seeing both Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker was not there. I was happy to be there, I was looking forward to seeing the movie, but there was absolutely no chance I was going to pee my pants.

It was an odd moment.

I think it was because of Fifty Shades Darker. It’s my favorite book of the trilogy and after the interminably long wait between 2015 and 2017, I was out of control with anticipation. I said in my last review that I obsessively stalked filming updates with near religious conviction, and it wasn’t an exaggeration. I’m pretty sure I’m the reason the Fifty Shades Darker trailer broke the Star Wars view record. I think my phone might STILL be playing it on repeat…

But when I left the theater after Fifty Shades Darker, I was feeling let down. Upon retrospect, I did it to myself. I overloaded before I even got to see it until it was built up to this great big thing that nothing could ever actually have measured up to, and it ruined an experience for me that, two years prior, was amazing.

Note: In order to test this theory, I am also willing to have sex with Jamie Dornan. Just to see if you really can over hype something into mediocrity.

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I made a promise to myself with Freed. I wasn’t going to ruin it this time. I wasn’t going to DVR all the talk shows or live stream the premier. I wasn’t going to watch the trailer 50,000 times or even watch any of the promo clips that were released in the weeks leading up to it. I was going to go into this movie with absolutely no expectations.

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And here’s how that turned out:

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You guys. It’s so good. Like, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. I left the theater last night unable to stop talking about it (Sorry, husband). I’m actually mad that I’m not watching it right now. I want to go into my bedroom, turn on my TV, pull up my Amazon library, and scream at both Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker for NOT being Fifty Shades Freed.

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Let’s discuss, shall we?

The Good.

Jamie Dornan:

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I know you’re all going to take this with a grain of salt because of the source material, but he was so good. I feel they changed Christian’s character a bit from the books, but I love every second of it. He was so funny and warm in this movie. He made me fall in love with Christian in a whole new way. Spoiler: There’s a scene at the end where he’s trying to cook Anastasia dinner and he burns everything, including my loins, and while Ana gives him a bit of a hard time for it, he just pushes the pan aside and says, “Fuck it, let’s get take out.” I. Die.

Anastasia: 

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I love Dakota Johnson, and this is in no way a dig at her (since I put Jamie and not Christian), but I LOVE Anastasia’s character in this movie. Anastasia Steele might have been meek and shy, but Anastasia Grey is a badass. She will knife you if you stare too long at her husband, she will run your ass off the motherfucking road if you want to chase her on the highway, and she will get FINALLY get on her knees and do the deed for her very giving man. She’s still hilarious and warm and cute, but I loved the strength of her character so much in this movie. 10/10, Ana. Get it, gurl.

The Honeymoon Montage: 

This was just cuteness overload. Most of what came before the beach scenes was just quick flashes of them running through Paris, but it was seriously SO sweet. Spoiler: There’s a quick scene of them running through the pouring rain into this little cafe and Christian is shielding them both with his jacket. When they sit at the table, Ana has to dump water out of her shoes, but they both just laugh. They’re both clearly so happy and in love. Ugh, I loved it so much. Even the sex during the honeymoon was romantic and sweet, not gratuitous. It might be one of my favorite parts of the movie.

The Sex: 

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Apparently there was some outcry about Ben and Jerry’s and Ana not being included in Fifty Shades Darker because we get it in the Aspen scene, and it’s just as hot as it was in the books. We still didn’t get the D, but Jamie’s pants were not present for every sex scene the way there were in Darker. It was explicit and prevalent. Freed is only like an hour and a half long and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least 30 full minutes of that was sex.

The Soundtrack:

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I think that the music has been good in every movie, it’s something the Fifty Shades franchise has really excelled at. In fact, for all of my friends who hate Fifty Shades (don’t be too hard on them, everyone is wrong about something or another) I always refer to the first movie as Oscar Nominated Fifty Shades of Grey, because Earned It got a nomination for best original song. Anyway, Freed killed it. The music was perfectly chosen and really just made the whole thing cohesive. Unlike I Don’t Wanna Live in Darker, I was never wishing they would turn the music down so we could hear the dialogue better.

Seattle: 

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They actually filmed a lot of the aerial/car chase scenes IN Seattle, so that felt really nice to me. No fake 12 flags to report this time, folks.

The Pacing: 

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I think this is actually where the first two movies have their biggest weakness. Well, this and the scripts. The first two dragged in some places and were too rushed in others. But this movie felt really well paced the whole way through. Honestly, because of how well this was edited and put together, I think it’s my favorite of all three movies.

I could go on, I want to. Jack Hyde, more scenes of the entire ensemble, Luke Saywer’s gorgeous blue eyes… But I think it’s time we get to:

The Bad.

Aspen: 

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But for literally the opposite reason this was my least favorite part of the book. In the book, this part just drags on and on without any purpose or reason. In the movie, it’s really not long at all. BUT the club scene where the guy feels up Ana on the dance floor and Christian punches him out, you know, the one we saw in the trailer, that’s not in the movie at all. Elliot proposes, then everyone dances a little bit, Ana kisses Christian and suddenly it goes into this weird spliced scene between Ana and Christian in the red room and Ana in her office the next Monday. It’s a very jarring transition and honestly made the whole club thing pointless. I’m hoping we’re going to get more of this scene in the extended cut, because, as is, it’s baffling.

I’m pregnant: 

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The scene where Ana tells Christian she’s pregnant fell flat for me for the same reason the Christian submissive scene fell flat in Darker. It was SO rushed. There was no shock, realization, anger… it was just:

Ana: I’m pregnant

Christian: Instantly furious.

But also, not really furious. Jamie toned Christian down a lot, so he gets mad and storms off, but not in a Christian Grey epic meltdown kind of way. The table didn’t even get flipped. There wasn’t enough build up to this scene and so his following actions just didn’t seem realistic for me. That might not be an issue for anyone else, but if I was going to point to one pacing issue, that would be it.

And that’s it! THAT’S ALL OF THE BAD.

It really was such a good movie. The best of the three in my opinion and I can’t wait to see it again. I’m a little devastated that this franchise is coming to a close. I’m going to miss the anticipation for these movies so, so much. I really hope Jamie and Dakota both go on to have amazing, lucrative careers, and make plenty more films for me to indulge in for years to come.

Thanks for the ride, EL James. It truly has been remarkable.

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Welcome Back!

I know it’s been a long, cold winter, but never fear…

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Happy February!

 

First of all, I hope that all of you have had a wonderful few months. It’s been about since Thanksgiving since I posted anything and it honestly feels like a year ago. I took a pretty serious break between Thanksgiving and Christmas and didn’t do anything. No plotting. No writing. Nothing.

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It was fine.

BUT THERE ARE THINGS I’VE MISSED! I promised updates, specifically in regards to Darker.

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But, the truth is, I still haven’t finished Darker. I haven’t even picked it up in weeks. If this book was everything you’ve been holding out for for two years and you loved it, then I am very happy for you. Personally, I think it’s a little dry and I’m having some difficulty getting through it. I think the book is written in a way where we’re not really given a new perspective on the plot, instead we just see Christian’s internal reaction to dialogue in the moment, and in, I FEEL, a fairly shallow way. For example:

 

In Fifty Shades Darker, we may get a line where Ana says, “Christian chuckles.”

In Darker, that same scene will say something like, “Damn, this girl is funny. I chuckle.”

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There just wasn’t enough insight to Christian’s character or his journey for me. I still want to get to the Leila stuff where he finds her in Ana’s apartment, and then the later submissive scene, but the last thing I read was the pool table scene so I’ve got a ways to go. I did appreciate Christian’s subtle dig at Portland in chapter one though.

“Well, it is Portland…”

#SeattleRulesPortlandDrools

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But speaking of re-writing the exact same material in an extremely dull way–
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Thank you all for your requests! I had so many that, at my normal writing pace, it would have taken me six months to get through them all, LOL.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have six months, so the list was whittled down to what I think were the most important moments we didn’t see and to what I think is going to be important for The Final Shade of Fifty. In total, I have fourteen, possibly fifteen, outtakes with two, possibly, three left to finish. There is one, from Carrick’s PoV, that will be important to read before The Final Shade of Fifty, as it will bridge the time gap between Stronger and Chapter 1.

I’m going to wait until Fifty Shades Freed comes out, then I’ll do a reaction/review post similar to the one I did for Fifty Shades Darker. Once that’s up, the outtakes will start going up (probably one every three or four days). That should put us in March somewhere for the first chapter of The Final Shade of Fifty.

I do have some new subscribers since last November, so for those of you who are new, WELCOME!

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Once I begin posting book four, you can expect updates every Monday. I’m not 100% done with the plotting of TFSoF, but I don’t think it’s going to be quite as long as Stronger was. But Stronger was 50 chapters, so this is a good thing.

I do have a new beta for The Final Shade of Fifty, AND for my original work (title: TBD), so I’d like to thank Stephanie for all the work she put in for A Broken Shade of Fifty and A Stronger Shade of Fifty, and would like to thank Erika and Robyn for agreeing to put up with me for my next two books. I know you all don’t get a lot of the “behind the scenes” stuff that’s gone into Shades of Fifty so far, but it entails a lot of panicked phone calls that begin with, “I’ve changed my mind, I need to talk you through something…” and then a two hour long conversation where I inevitably end up right back where I started.

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^Actual image of my previous Beta during the last few weeks of Stronger

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’re all as excited about Fifty Shades Freed as I am. It was only last week when I realized that (besides Fifty Shades Darker) Jamie didn’t have a single new release last year, so I’m ready for his beautiful face on the big screen once again.

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Lots of Love, and eternally…. wishingmrgreywashere.