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.
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?”
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.