Chapter 16

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September 2011

“Christian, I think it’s time we start considering that Ana might need REAL help. This isn’t healthy,” Carrick says.

“Don’t you think I’ve tried? I’ve flown in doctors from around the world, I’ve shielded her from the news and every mention of what happened. Hell, I’ve asked her to just… go see Flynn every single day since we left Escala, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s not ready.” There’s a soft thud as, I imagine, Christian lets his head fall against the closed door between us. He should be at work now. I’ve heard through the bits of phone conversations he’s had with Ros and Welch as he paced the floor, thinking I was asleep, that GEH is launching a new, top secret energy project that he expects will take up most of his time until it’s complete. But he can’t go to work. He can’t leave the house. Because he won’t leave me.

I curl my fingers around the blankets that cover his childhood bed and pull them up over the top of my head, trying to block out their voices.

“She’s not eating, Son,” Carrick continues. “She’s not sleeping. She’s not taking care of herself…”

“She showered on her own this morning. That’s progress.”

“It’s been six weeks, a shower shouldn’t be a celebration. I think it’s time we thought about sending her to some kind of treatment facility. Somewhere beautiful and relaxing where she can get some separation. Find peace. They’re better equipped to deal with this kind of depression.”

“She’s not depressed. She’s terrified. And, sending her away from Calliope would only make her worse.”

“Christian…”

“She just needs more time, Dad. And if that’s what she needs, that’s what she’s going to get. I can take care of her until she’s ready.”

Carrick sighs. “Alright, I’m sorry I brought it up. Your mother is preparing a bottle downstairs. If you’ll get Calliope for me, I’ll take her down.”

I can hear the metallic grind of the knob as it turns, but Christian opens the door the rest of the way and moves across the bedroom in complete silence. The bassinet Calliope has been sleeping in since we moved in with Grace and Carrick is in the corner closest to the bed I’m lying in, and through sound and some other sense that seems to have been heightened in the aftermath of our ordeal with Andrew Lincoln, I know he’s lifting the baby into his arms and carrying her out of the room. Her small, sweet coos disappear with the click of the door closing and it takes everything in me not to call out for her, refuse to let them take her from my side.

My eyes screw tightly closed. ‘Grace is feeding her. She needs to eat. Grace is safe. This house is safe. We are safe.’

I repeat those words in my head over and over again, willing myself to believe them.

“I know you’re not sleeping,” Christian says, making me jump because I thought the room was empty. I take a deep breath to try and calm my system again, to stop the shaking, and pull the blanket off my head so that I can blink up at his worried face.

“How?” My voice is hoarse.

“You’re not screaming.” He takes a deep breath and sits on the bed beside me. His fingers move up into my hair, rubbing gently against my scalp. It feels nice, but I still involuntarily flinch under his touch, just as I have every time he’s touched me in the last six weeks. I know that it hurts him to see me recoil from his hands and I wish I could stop, but I can’t.

‘This house is safe. We are safe.’

“Ana. Baby…”

“Please don’t send me away,” I croak. “I’m trying. I’m really trying.”

“I know. You’re not going anywhere.”

I nod and then curl my bottom lip under my teeth, trying to hide the tremble from him. There’s heat from impending tears blooming in my eyes. “How long am I going to feel like this, Christian?”

“Baby–”

“I can’t stop seeing it. Every time I close my eyes, I see him. I feel him on top of me. No matter how much time passes, I can’t get out.”

“You are out, Ana. You’re right here, with me. Only me.” His voice is thick now too, and when I glance up to look at him again, I can see the pain etched in every crease in his forehead and around his eyes. As difficult as it is for me to simply press on day after day, I can’t imagine how devastating it is for him to see me this way. To watch me unravel over and over again. To be completely and utterly shattered. To know that every time he tries to pick me up and put me back together, I slip through his fingers and break all over again.

I feel weak, and I hate it. I hate what Lincoln has done to me. I hate that, even in death, he holds power over me. Christian, Carrick, Elliot, Kate, and my dad can all tell me that it’s over, that we’ve won and everything is safe now. But this isn’t victory. This, what I’m living right now, is the very definition of defeat.

“I promise you, Anastasia. I’m never going to let anyone hurt you ever again. No matter what it takes, no matter what I have to do, I’m going to keep you safe. I’m going to keep Calliope safe. No one will come for us ever again.”

“How do you do that?” I whisper. “How do you sound so sure?”

“Because I have to. I can’t fail at this again. I won’t.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Christian. You didn’t fail us. He was…”

“Insane, I know. But the holes in my defenses that he exposed will never be left open again. We’re wiser now. Stronger. I am in control, and no one is going to take that from me again. You’re safe, Ana. Please, let me try to help you.”

The pleading hope that looks down on me is nearly enough to break me in two.

“I love you, Christian,” I tell him, my voice cracking. I reach up and place a hand on his cheek. His eyes close as he leans into my touch and the look of relief that flashes briefly across his face makes my heart beat the first solid thump I’ve felt in weeks. But the warm, wholeness I feel pressing my fingers into his scruff fades as quickly as it came, changing instead into something cold and sharp. My hand recoils and I may as well have slapped him for the look of pain that instantly replaces his moment of serenity. “I just… can’t. Not yet. And I’m sorry. I wish I had your strength. I wish I felt any ounce of the control you do, but I don’t.”

He takes a deep breath through his nose and looks down at me for a long time, like he’s trying to solve a puzzle, but is continually coming up short. “What if…? I mean, maybe you can.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know how you’re feeling, Ana. I know that it feels like no one could ever understand, but I do. I spent a long time feeling like everything around me was out of my control. Like life was happening to you and you were helpless to stop it. I can… I can help you change that. I can help you take back control.” I can’t help but notice the caution in his voice, like he’s not sure he should really do what he’s suggesting. But the lure of his promise is too much to resist.

“Show me.”

He takes another deep breath in preparation and then nods. Slowly, his hands peel the comforter away from my body and the cold air of the room brings goosebumps to the surface of my skin. I want to pull them back. There’s a kind of vulnerability that comes from being exposed that I want to fight against on an instinctual level, but I force myself to bear it. The promise of respite from this constant fear is too strong.

“I love you, Anastasia,” he says, gruffly now. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I know.”

His fingers release the blankets still clutched in his hand, and he moves his palms over my legs. My muscles tense, and every sinew of my body aches to pull away, but I don’t. I stare down at his hands, determined, and watch them trace the curves of my body.

“These are my hands,” Christian says. “Not his. Not anyone else’s. You belong to me, Anastasia, and these are the only hands that will ever touch you again.”

I nod and continue to watch the drag of his fingers over my skin. For months, the parts of me that Andrew Lincoln had groped and molested seem to burn with the imprint of his touch. But when Christian’s hands sweep over them, tender and full of his love, that burn is extinguished for the first time. I feel like he’s swiping an analgesic over my limbs, numbing the guilt and the pain. When he touches me the memory of all other touch dissipates, and the relief is like being able to breathe freely for the first time in months.

“You are mine, Ana,” he repeats.

“Yours,” I whisper back.

“You are safe.”

“Safe.”

His hands move up my body, over my hip, my side, my breast, until his hands cradle either side of my face. Again, he pauses to look deep into my eyes and like a bear awakening from a long winter hibernation, I feel the first stirrings of heat between my legs.

“Christian.”

His hands tighten around the roots of my hair, making me gasp, and then he leans down to kiss me. A real kiss, not the hesitant press of lips I’ve come to know over the past few weeks that always breaks away in rejection and hurt. His mouth is demanding against mine, taking from me what he wants but maintaining an expression of love that cannot be denied. A part of me realizes that his power should frighten me. In the aftermath of everything I’ve experienced, I should cower under his insistent, commanding touch. I should fear the pain and humiliation that is sure to follow, that I felt when Andrew Lincoln touched me. But Christian’s dominance doesn’t frighten me. His certainty, his strength, and his love reassure me in a way that’s different than it’s felt in the past. Somehow, his sovereignty in this moment is also mine. It’s not something I can explain, even to myself, it’s something I can only feel.

“Tell me your safeword,” he growls against my mouth.

“Red,” I pant back.

“Say that word, and I’ll stop. Whether it’s pain or pleasure, all you have to do is use that word, and everything will end. Do you understand me?”

“Yes.” And it’s in that moment that I truly do. Because I think of Christian as the strongest man in the world. The most powerful. The most influential. And for all that he controls, I’m the one who can stop him. Only me.

That’s power. True power. And it’s mine.

“Yes, what?” he asks, voice low and dark.

“Yes, Sir.” And with that, I’m flipped around and his hand comes down hard on my behind, the pain searing all memory of foreign touch from my body. When Christian climbs onto the bed behind me, kneeling between my legs and working quickly to get his belt open, I’m a clean slate. I’m brand new again. Stronger. More Sure. Put back together again by his strength and the power he lets me wield through the guise of submission.

 

“Mrs. Grey?”

I start and blink away the memory, before turning to look at my CPO standing in the doorway to my office. Even through my exhausted state, I can see the hesitance in his eyes. Like he’s unsure whether or not to bother me. I’d attempted to go back to bed once Christian left for work this morning and I’d made sure Calliope was fed and taken care of, but the moment my eyes closed, the nightmares returned, filled with fire and smoke and the whisper of Andrew Lincoln. So, I dragged my tired body into the shower, dressed, and came into work, intent on occupying my mind with chapter submissions and whatever I’m going to say to Scott about Phoenix. Unfortunately, my capacity for critical thinking after my long, sleepless night isn’t as keen as my will. The speech I’ve prepared to convince him feels empty of the conviction that I feel so potently, I’m willing to put my career on the line for it.

“Yes, Woods?” I yawn.

He closes the door and steps into my office, settling down into the chair on the other side of my desk and leaning towards me. “Is there something I can get for you, Ana? Coffee? Food, maybe?”

“No. I’m fine, thank you.” I offer him a weak smile that doesn’t fool him for a second, then sigh. “Did you speak to Andrea?”

“Yeah, he’s been in a meeting with his lawyers and PR team all morning.”

I fight not to roll my eyes. “Yeah, I had about seven different text messages from Jacqueline when I got out of the shower asking me to post a picture of Calliope on PixC to distract from all the media coverage about GEH right now.”

“Which you ignored?”

“Obviously. But I’ve got lots of pictures of Christian and I from my last year at Harvard that I thought would be just as distracting. I’m about six months pregnant in the one I posted, so maybe someone won’t realize it’s old and a new rumor will be started and all this other stuff will be swept under the rug.”

“Do you want it to be?” Woods stares at me, but not as though he’s expecting an answer. His tone and the careful look of empathy behind his eyes tells me he already knows what I want to say. I swallow my doubts and turn away from him. “Look, Ana. Taylor told me when I was assigned to your service that Mr. Grey had been clear about not wanting another CPO to get close to you. That’s why I’ve tried to keep you at arm’s length and stay professional. But… I’m here if you want to talk. I was there yesterday. I saw it. I know how hard that must have been for you.”

I look down at my hands in my lap, blinking away the hot moisture pooling over my lower lids. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” he concedes. “But I’m here if you do.”

“Thanks… Evan.”

“My pleasure, Ana.” He gets out of his chair and grins at me, trying to be reassuring, I think. It’s a different side of him, something I haven’t seen before. I never thought I’d find another CPO like Luke Sawyer, but there’s something genuine his concern, in the almost avuncular gleam in his eyes, that soothes the sense of unease inside of me just a fraction. I smile as he turns to go, but before he exits my office completely, he stops and faces me again.

“He’s doing a press conference this evening.”

“What? Why?” Woods raises an eyebrow, an indication that I should already know. And, after a few seconds thought, I do. By addressing the media himself, he can try to re-shape the narrative. He can express his regret over what happened and reassure the public of all the steps they’re taking to make sure none of this happens again. Offense as the best defense.

“Should I go?” I ask, but Woods just shrugs.

“If you want. But if you don’t, it’s going to be televised.”

Of course it is.

My phone beeps on my desk, interrupting my internal argument over supporting my husband publicly and disagreeing with him privately, and Abby’s voice comes through the speaker.

“Mrs. Grey, Mr. Wallace is on line one for you.”

Shit.

“Thank you, Abby.” I look up at Woods, tell him that I’ll let him know what I decide before this afternoon, and pick up the receiver on the phone. “Hi, Scott.”

“Ana, hey. Are you alright?”

My heart sinks. I guess, if he’s heard about it in New York, yesterday’s incident is now national news. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Is Grey…?”

“He’s fine. Everyone was fine.”

He lets out a sigh of relief that sounds surprisingly real through the phone. “Good. Carmen said this morning she wanted to send you flowers or something, but we weren’t sure if you’d be in the office today, or even if something like that would be welcome.”

“I appreciate the thought, but we’re fine. My immediate concern is what book we’re going to put up for Carmen tomorrow.”

“Really?”

My brows knit together. “Of course. I’m in the office, I’d like to my job.”

“Well, when I saw the news coverage last night, I assumed you’d be out for a few days. I only called because Stevens said you were in today and I was surprised.”

“You talked to Stevens? Why?”

“To let him know that Daves’ contract was sent out this morning. I expect it to be signed and returned by end of business today.”

“What?!” Angry heat rises inside of me, scorching away the exhaustion and dread lingering in my bones. “You approved The Black Rose?”

“Like I said, Ana… I thought you were going to be out.”

“Well, I’m not! I’m here, fully prepared to talk to you about why that very decision absolutely cannot be allowed to happen. Jesus, Scott…” My teeth clench as my continually growing anger renders me speechless.

“Look, I know you don’t agree, and that’s a shame, but this was always the right decision, Ana. Daves is a proven best seller, this is going to float you through the rest of the fiscal year. And once his sales make the right impact on our bottom line, you can go ahead with that other title you want.”

If they make the right impact,” I argue, “which I have serious doubts over, that impact won’t be felt for a year. Maybe more. You expect me to ask my author to sit around for that long, praying this novel doesn’t tank and destroy her chances at being published?”

“I’m sorry, Ana. It’s done.”

“And Carmen just approved this, without even discussing it with me?”

He goes on the defensive. “Like I said, we didn’t think you would be in.”

“Do you think cellphones only work inside this building?”

“I thought you probably had more important things to worry about yesterday than getting whatever book you liked best that week to the top of the frontlist. Decisions had to be made and you left the office early. You’re welcome for running your branch while you were gone, by the way.”

I can’t even dignify that with a response. I pull the phone away from my ear, slam it back down on the receiver, and turn back to my computer. On the screen is an open document I’ve used to create an outline of all of the research I’ve done on the current sales climate and competing titles, which I’d planned to go over with Scott on that call. Instead, I exit out and pull up my email.

 

From: Anastasia Grey

Subject: Resignation

Date: April 3rd, 2012, 11:45 AM

To: Carmen Gallagher

Dear Ms. Gallagher,

Please let this letter serve as notification of my resignation from Greenwich Small Press, effective immediately. There is nothing I, nor anyone else, can do to save your publishing house as long as that motherfucking….

 

I stop, take a breath, then let my head fall into my hands. I’m well within my rights to resign. How can I be expected to do what’s asked of me when every time I try to make a change, I’m blocked by the old guard? Scott can preach about how this is the right move until he’s blue in the face but it’s my name that’s on the line here. My credibility. And if this release fails… no, when this release fails, all the blame is going to fall on me.

But I’m not a quitter.

The only thing I’ve ever walked away from my entire life ended up being one my biggest regrets. I’ve spent years now putting what I broke that day back together. And I doubt Scott or Carmen will be as forgiving of me leaving as Christian was. I don’t want to run anymore. I don’t want to be seen as the person who throws their hands in the air in defeat every time something gets too difficult. I don’t want to be the girl who things happen to, where everything is outside of my control. This is a shitty hand, but I’m not a novice to this game.

With stubborn determination, I turn for my bag and pull out the beaten up copy of The Black Rose manuscript contained inside. The text on the page seems to mock me as I scan each chapter, picking up mistakes and lazy writing from even just a cursory glance. But this is now my cross to bear. The manuscript has been approved, the contract has been sent, and now I have to find a way to turn this into something remarkable. Or I have to leave.

Maybe it’s a side effect of spending too much time with people named Grey, but, despite how hopeless I feel this manuscript really is, I decide then and there that I’m not going to let it defeat me. I’m not going to throw away the work I’ve put in to fill this seat. Carmen told me when I was hired that she was essentially asking for a miracle, now it’s time for me to produce.

I press my finger into the zero on my phone to page reception.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey?” Penny responds.

“Penny, can you get Hailey Lewis on the line for me?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Our conversation is brief. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I’ve failed her over the phone. So, instead, I invite her to lunch. The excitement in her voice stabs at my heart as we agree on a time and place, and when I hang up I feel a crushing sense of disappointment warring with my newfound determination. But my path is set now, thanks to Scott, and the only way to go from here is forward.

I gather my things and make my way out of the office to meet Hailey for lunch, texting on my phone as I go. It’s only after I’ve slipped my phone back into my bag and glanced up to find Woods that I notice the shift in the atmosphere amongst my employees. Stevens is leaning far back in his chair, his feet kicked up on his desk and a gloating smile plastered on his face. Those in his close proximity stare at him with admiration, except for Jacki, who shakes her head and focuses her attention on her own screen. Clearly, the word is out. Scott won, and I lost.

“Stevens,” I say sharply, He blinks and glances lazily in my direction, as if the very act of turning to face me is a great expenditure of effort.

“Ana?”

“I just wanted to congratulate you on how hard you fought for your author. It’s that kind of tenacity that the people who put their careers in our hands every day expect from us. Well done.”

He laughs, gloating again. “Sure.”

“And I’ve decided, since you are so sure that this is the novel that’s going to carry us through the rest of the fiscal year and keep us from closing our doors come Christmas time, that I’m going to personally see to its success.”

The smug look on his face vanishes immediately. “What?”

“You won’t be needed going forward.” I give him a saccharine smile. “I’ll take it from here.”

“That’s my commission,” he argues.

“No, it was your commission. Now, this project is moving in a different direction. A direction that does not include you.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Oh, yes I can. You see, I think you’re under the impression that I’m not your boss, but I am. It is my name on that door and as long as that is true, we’re going to do things my way. Try to go over my head to Wallace again, and you won’t be missing out on commissions, you’ll be packing your things.”

His face grows red as his mouth drops open in shock, and his eyes flit around the room as though he’s looking for support from his fellow co-workers. But no one comes to his defense. Eight pairs of eyes turn to their computers, leaving him alone and dumbfounded.

“Oh,” I continue, stopping on my way out the door to face him again. “And it’s Mrs. Grey.”

A series of disjointed sounds escape his lips as he attempts, and fails, to make a coherent argument, but I don’t stay to see if he regains his composure. I have a lunch appointment. So, I motion for Woods to follow, turn on my heel, and walk through the doors

Shaker + Spear is an upscale seafood restaurant located in a hotel a few blocks from my office. It’s quiet and not too busy, the perfect atmosphere for a meeting. I’m the first to arrive and I wait at the table to for Hailey to join me with a cold glass of Chardonnay, one of Christian’s favorites. The taste reminds me of him, and the memory of a kiss that I can’t quite place in time, so I pick up my phone and send him a text.

Thinking of you. I hope everything is going well today.

Is that what I hope, though? It’s a question that’s been running through my mind all day. I know Christian. I know that this investigation being launched by the city and all of the negative media coverage is getting to him. He wouldn’t have gone into the office today if he wasn’t worried that his absence would derail everything he’s spent the last half a year trying to build. Not after seeing me in the aftermath. For the past seven months he’s heard nothing but no. Elliot, Ros, experts brought in from NASA and research groups all over the world have all told him this dream he has of creating sustainable, unlimited energy is impossible. I wanted to be the person that told him yes. I wanted to be the person who believed in him. But after yesterday, after seeing the destruction caused by his intractability and feeling even an iota of the devastation that would plague me forever if I were to lose him, I’m not sure I can be that anymore. I’m not sure that I can stand by his side and give him my full support and faith when I know what’s at risk. Ros worries for the future of GEH. Carrick worries for the sustainability of the city he’s been charged to protect. And I worry for him.

Calliope was in that building.

“Sorry I’m late!”

I’m pulled out of my thoughts by the jolt of the table as Hailey crashes down into the chair across from me. Her eyes are wide with excitement, her smile stretched wide and open across her face. There is no hint of doubt in her expression, no clue that I’m about to crush her dreams.

“You’re not late,” I assure her. “I was early. Shall we order an appetizer? You’re going to die over their oysters.”

“Yum!” she chirps, then picks up her menu. We chat until the food arrives, or rather, she chats and I listen intently. I haven’t had a conversation with her that’s ever lasted more than a few minutes, and I’m surprised to find how light and fun she is. Like Kate was when we first went to Harvard. I thought, after reading her novel, that I knew her on a level more personal than idle conversation. I imagined her to be serious. Wise beyond her years. Introspective and deeply observational. Discovering her almost childlike persona actually has me far more impressed with her writing ability than I was before. It has me aching to further explore her potential, to learn what else lies below the surface of this seemingly ordinary young woman.

“I haven’t gotten my contract by the way,” she says, as if it were simply a continuation of her previous thought. “You said you were going to send it last week, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

I frown. “Yeah, that’s why I asked you here today.”

“Oh?”

“Hailey…” I pause, unsure how to break this news to her without breaking her heart. “I need you to know that I think you’re incredible.”

Her face falls. “Oh no…”

“I tried everything I could, but the stars just wouldn’t align. It was premature for me to call you and make you an offer, and I’m sorry about that. I was confident that the people above me would see everything I see in you, but the timing just wasn’t right. I can make you a future offer, for next year maybe, but…” My words cut off, and she finishes for me.

“But I’d have to wait.”

“And I don’t think you should have to. Especially because anything I offer you for the future can’t be guaranteed. This is about your work, your talent, and your moment. I don’t want to take that away from you. I believe in your work. I believe that it’s going to do good things for you and for the countless people who will read your words and find hope. That kind of power shouldn’t be caught up in something as mundane as budgeting considerations and bureaucratic power plays.”

“So what do I do?”

“Get a lawyer. Someone who will look out for your interests above everything else. Someone who can help you navigate offers being made to you and the contracts you’ll be asked to sign. Don’t let anyone push you into publishing before your book is perfect. You only get one shot at a first release, and that release will make or break your entire career. Never settle. You should demand the best editors, best artists, and the best representation. You’re worth it. Phoenix is worth it. You’re going to be big, Hailey. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

She nods. “Okay. So–” She’s interrupted as another woman slides into the seat next to her, drops her bag on the floor by her feet, and picks up a glass of water on the table.

“Alright, alright, I’m here. What’s the big emergency? And I swear to god if the next words that come out of your mouth aren’t, ‘I’ve finished my manuscript and am ready to send it to the editors,’ I’m leaving.”

“What a surprise! Hailey, this is Lydia,” I say, gesturing to my agent with a smile.

“Pleasure,” Lydia replies with an uninterested glance in Hailey’s direction. “Do you have a manuscript for me or not, Ana?”

“I do, just not mine.” She looks taken aback for a moment, but I simply reach for my own bag and rise from my seat. “Lydia, this is Hailey. I think the two of you will get along just fine.”

“What are you talking about?” Lydia replies. “Where’s your manuscript, Ana?”

I wink at her, then turn to leave without another word. Maybe it was unethical. There’s probably some violation of my non-compete, despite how careful I was to not actually pitch Phoenix to Lydia. But it’s what I could live with. She’ll be in good hands. The best hands. With Lydia representing here, she might even get a contract with a big five publisher, and that’s what her talent deserves.

With a new spring in my step, I make my way through the restaurant, deciding to stop at the restroom before I rejoin Woods, who’s waiting for me at the front door. But just before I step into the hallway that leads to the bathrooms, someone large and hulking moves into my path, blocking me.

“Wait,” Luke hisses.

“Luke? What are you doing here?”

“Shh.” He leans against the wall, trying to look casual while still blocking me from sight of the bathrooms. He stays that way for a long moment, and just as I’m about to push him aside for being ridiculous, I find out why.

Alexis Young steps out of the bathroom and pauses just a few feet away from us, scanning the restaurant. Her eyes land on the table where Lydia is still sitting with Hailey, and her face falls with disappointment.

“Shit.” I hear her hiss. Then she storms out of the restaurant and disappears from view.

“Holy fuck,” I breathe in disbelief. “What is she doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Luke says. “She’s following all of you.”

“All of us?”

“You, Mia, Kate, Grey…. She was at the hospital when Kate went into labor, she trails Mia to every one of her ballet rehearsals, and she spends every morning at the coffee shop across the street from your office. I saw her yesterday, at GEH, and she looked… I don’t know, disappointed?”

My heart stops. “Disappointed? In what? That Christian got out? She wants him dead?”

He shakes his head. “I don’t know. I’ve been following her for a few weeks now and I can’t derive any kind of motive. I’ve searched her car, but haven’t found any weapons. I’ve tapped her phone, but she’s not getting calls or instructions from anyone. I’ve got her emails and her browsing history on surveillance, but nothing. She just… follows you. Never getting close enough for you to see her, but always so that whoever she’s tailing is in her line of sight.”

“So she’s keeping tabs on us,” I assume. “She’s keeping track of where we are and relaying that information back to someone. Someone from the police department, someone we haven’t uncovered from the conspiracy…” My voice grows more and more shrill with each word, until Luke reaches out to cover my mouth.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But I’ll find out. In the meantime, I need you to stay with Woods. No more waiting at the door bullshit.”

A familiar feeling creeps over me, the same feeling that encapsulated my entire life last year. The feeling of knowing that Leila was out there, watching me, waiting for a moment of weakness, and feeling it again makes me nauseous.

“No,” I say firmly. “No, we’re not waiting anymore. Every second she’s out there, Calliope, Mia, Kate… they’re all in danger. And I’m not going to sit idly by and wait for our enemies to make the first move anymore.”

“Ana…”

“You’ll set up a meeting. I don’t care how, I don’t care where. I don’t care if she knows I’m coming or if we have to ambush her, but I’m going to confront her. I’m going to find out what she wants and take care of it before it has the chance to fester into something that will come back and destroy us.”

“You know I can’t do that, Ana. This isn’t like Kozlowski or even Harrington. She was Gresham’s submissive, a man we know was dangerous. Who threatened violence against your sister-in-law and who was in the very deepest parts of Lincoln’s circle. This girl could be an actual threat and I’m not going to voluntarily put you in harm’s way.”

“I’m already in harm’s way. As long as she’s out there, she’s a threat, and I will no longer tolerate threats against me or my family. She’s a problem that needs to be taken care of and I will do that with or without your help.”

“Ana–”

“Are you going to get me a meeting, or not?”

His eyes dart between mine, obviously looking for some kind of hesitation he can prey on to change my mind, so I ensure he doesn’t find any. I purposefully exude every ounce of confidence I feel in my gut, and eventually he sighs.

“It’ll take me a few days. Maybe weeks. Once I find a way to do this so that you’re safe, then we’ll talk about setting up a meeting.”

“Good.” I lean forward, feeling slightly guilty for speaking to my best friend the way I just did, and kiss him softly on the cheek. “Thank you, Luke.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now get out of here, and stay with your bodyguard, Anastasia. I mean it. I’ll call Taylor.”

“What are you following me too? How do you know how often I’m apart from Woods?”

“If I told you, you’d try to avoid me, and I can’t have that.”

My eyes narrow. “Don’t you have a girlfriend you could be stalking?”

“Nah, she stays where she’s supposed to, unlike someone I know.” He gives me a look that dares me to challenge him, but I don’t. I simply roll my eyes and turn away.

“I’ll be waiting for your call, Lucas,” I say in a sing song voice as I walk away. For a few more steps, I wait for some biting response, but it never comes. He doesn’t say anything. And when I turn to face him again, he’s gone. Disappeared, like a shadow at high noon.

“How does he do that?” I whisper to myself, and then realize, that’s how he keeps track of people. Me. Alexis. He can probably see me now and is having quite the laugh over me looking like an idiot, searching the restaurant to find him. I won’t give him the satisfaction. I turn and head outside, staying half a step in front of Woods the entire way back to the office.

Next Chapter

 

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65 thoughts on “Chapter 16

  1. Excellent chapter as always! I was so excited to see her type that resignation letter, but even happier at her changed direction. I’m hoping that Lydia and Hailey get that book to Grey Publishing and it goes through the roof. Let Carmen and Scott take that!

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  2. I know how Ana building a place for herself in the publishing field is a vital storyline in this book but i really miss moments with her and christian. I got really excited with the flashback though. Also i feel like Christian hasn’t recovered from the whole lincoln fiasco. He’s as damaged as Ana, thats why he just isn’t ready to let go of this project which he thinks will make him untouchable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I’m sorry that he didn’t have too much of a presence in this chapter. In reality, this chapter got split because there were two more important things that needed to happen, including a lemon, but I was already at 6,000+ words and 14,000 word chapters are a nightmare to edit and get up in time. So, he’ll be in the next chapter more. Also, there are some really good quality time moments coming up soon. We’re at the beginning of April, and Callie’s 1st birthday is quickly approaching 🙂

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  3. It might take her some time to get back to her normal self but these assholes make the beast in Ana come out and I love it. She is a tigress make no mistake about it. Hear her fearless roar good people of Seattle for this is a new day for Anastasia Rose Grey Steele.

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    1. AMEN. And NOTICE that Anastasia is always strongest and rises to her best when she has to in order to HELP OTHERS outside of herself.

      You have to ADMIRE and love Ana for backing Hailey, even at the risk of damaging her OWN career. After all, even Ana recognizes that giving Hailey’s manuscript to Lydia is most likely a violation of her non-compete clause, and you KNOW that Scott AND Carmen WILL want to go after Ana after Hailey’s book breaks big. After all, even Scott “hoped” that Hailey’s book might be a future publication. He just expected Hailey to wait around for him and Carmen. And THAT is where the problem is—Ana has ACTIVELY helped Hailey, rather than helping her own company. AND it would technically be seen as a “business lunch,” since Ana was there to formally rescind the oral contract she had previously given Hailey. BUT ANA WAS WILLING TO TAKE THE RISK BECAUSE SHE BELIEVED IN HAILEY.

      (ALTHOUGH a good lawyer can make some GREAT arguments on Ana’s behalf, since SCOTT actually sent out the contract for the other author and made the decision over Ana’s head, making Ana ethically obligated to rescind the oral company offer of a contract that she had previously made to Hailey. And it shouldn’t be in Ana’s contract that she can’t give ADVICE to a would-be author of how to go about getting a book published. She told Hailey to get a lawyer, and she didn’t specifically tell Lydia to go to a particular company. She made no particular references at all, although we all know what Ana REALLY meant. I’m hoping Ana didn’t “arrange” for Lydia to be present, but if she did, that is HER agent, not Hailey’s, and wasn’t connected to Ana’s employment company. So I don’t see why Ana should be kept from PERSONAL CONTACT with an unaffiliated AGENT. Still, I freely acknowledge what shaky ground Ana was on. She should have made “attempts” to keep Hailey stringing along, at least, that is what Scott and Carmen will undoubtedly later argue.)

      AND EVEN THOUGH TRAUMATIZED right now, Ana CHOSE to NOT resign from Carmen’s company. She is determined to make the book work that Scott has chosen over her head. She COULD have resigned. She CHOSE to stick it out. That ought to count for something, PARTICULARLY is Ana is able to make “The Black Rose” into something workable. (IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN if Ana’s AUTHOR will listen to her or not. After all, if he is like Scott, he may go over Ana’s head and refuse to make changes because he is lazy, and Scott will undoubtedly back him, even though he has not even READ the book. But that is Tomorrow’s problem. . . .)

      Ana came up with a SOLUTION for Hailey and went out on a limb to help her. AND she is insistent on confronting Alexis Young herself IN ORDER TO PROTECT HER FAMILY.

      AND Ana is slowly coming to realize that it may be up to HER to keep Christian from losing everything in the business world that he has worked SO HARD to build up, AND to keep him from losing his relationship with his father as well. Ana KNOWS that she has the power. And where she WANTS to support Christian, whether right or wrong, she KNOWS she can’t when LIVES ARE THREATENED. And Calliope WAS IN HARM’S WAY as a result of Christian’s experiment.

      So Ana KNOWS the issues and is ready to FIGHT for the ones that she knows and loves. She IDENTIFIES with Hailey, and she is willing to risk her OWN career and even, potentially, her reputation, since Scott and Carmen would drag her through the mud in a heartbeat, blaming HER for the company not publishing Hailey, if she becomes as successful as Ana believes.

      THAT is Ana’s only real failing, though, in thinking that she ALONE must right every wrong. In the end, that almost certainly WILL damage her career AND even risk her SAFETY. And even the REST of the Grey family IF something happens in the interim with Alexis. . . .

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    1. Scott will NEVER see it as HIS fault, if Hailey becomes successful elsewhere. He will argue that Ana didn’t take the opportunity to fight hard enough for Hailey to keep her for Carmen’s company, instead choosing to “take a day off” because her child and husband were in danger. (But THAT is Ana’s biggest argument—Scott didn’t even wait for Ana’s arguments, even though Carment TOLD SCOTT TO WORK IT OUT WITH ANA. Scott just went ahead and “ran the company for the day” while Ana had a LEGITIMATE family emergency.)

      HOWEVER, Scott will look bad to CARMEN when Ana is proved right as to Hailey. Still, Scott can argue that Ana was expected to persuade Hailey to wait around until Carmen’s company could publish her. AND TECHNICALLY, Ana’s loyalty was supposed to be to the COMPANY rather than Hailey. Ana, though, chose to fight for HAILEY and for her to get the best book deal she could get soonest, which would NOT be with Carmen’s company, due to SCOTT’s actions.

      But Ana also sees AGAIN how Scott tried to undermine her. EVEN THOUGH IT IS ANA’S NAME as boss of that branch, rather than Scott. So it is ANA that looks to blame. WHICH IS WHY Ana chose to take the editor off that was assigned to the book and refusing to do what Ana told him to do.

      And Scott has OPENLY undermined Ana still yet again. IF SCOTT COMES IN and, once again, undoes her decision as to replacing the editor, then I hope Ana will, in fact, resign, since she is powerless to actually DO anything.

      Like you, though, I hope Ana finds a way to destroy Scott. Right now, Ana has basically been rendered powerless to actually make any changes. Scott just has a way to BLAME someone ELSE for the company’s lack of success, now, because it IS Ana’s name that is on the door, as she says. So Scott has the PERFECT position—he makes all the decisions that COST THE COMPANY, but he gets to blame Ana, who has the OFFICIAL title BUT NO POWER.

      In my mind’s eye, Ana has the RIGHT to resign if Scott can undo her latest decision, since Ana KNOWS the book is poor quality but will have no way of enforcing that it be rewritten, etc. If Ana can’t DO anything, then WHY should she mind the store and take the blame? AND if she wasn’t provided the JOB THAT SHE WAS PROMISED, then she should NOT be bound by the Non-Compete Agreement (at least, that would be what I would expect her attorney to argue).

      But I so hope Ana finds a way to publically and professionally show Scott to be the ineffective wimp behind driving the company into the ground, along with Carmen’s stupid decision-making. Ana KNOWS books—that was her DEGREE FROM HARVARD. She is a PUBLISHED best-seller, although Scott has implied that it was ONLY due to her public notoriety. You’d THINK that they would WANT to listen to Ana’s ideas!

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  4. Great chapter. I’m glad she didn’t let Phoenix wait. So drama on the way both with work and alex. Can’t wait for more. Thank you.

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  5. Great to see Bad Ass Ana. No one is going to touch her family. I love what she did for Hailey and how she but Stevens in his place. Please take care of her. We don’t want her to get hurt.

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    1. Well, someone MAY get to her family IF she doesn’t do the right thing. She wants to CONFRONT Alexis ON HER OWN, even KNOWING that Alexis is undoubtedly working WITH others.

      What is concerning to me is that it is NOW obvious that Alexis is following MULTIPLE Grey individuals. She does NOT have the power to do that by herself. AND Alexis was always working WITH other POLITICAL powers—people that were being bribed or blackmailed to work with Lincoln BUT WHO HAD THEIR OWN POLITICAL aspirations/motivations. NOW, with Lincoln gone and unable to blackmail them, it is in their BEST INTERESTS to get rid of Carrick OR damage Christian, thereby “eliminating” the Grey threat from a POWER standpoint.

      Ana should NOT take this all ON HER OWN or just with Sawyer. SAWYER NEEDS to do the RIGHT thing and NOTIFY CHRISTIAN AND TAYLOR. In fact, if Christian ACTUALLY KNEW HIS WIFE AND SISTER and rest of the family were being followed, he might actually see that he needs to worry about MORE than his energy project!

      Ana is WRONG to not bring others in on this. ESPECIALLY given Alexis’ ties to the very POLITICAL people BEHIND the police/jailers, etc.

      And NOW we see, again, the problem with SAWYER having his OWN guilt/trauma-related issues from the Andrew Lincoln case. He feels so guilty about not protecting Ana that he is determined to do what she wants, even when he KNOWS, deep-down, that Taylor should have been made aware of Alexis WAY before this.

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  6. Smooth move, introducing Hailey to Lydia. I hope Lydia sells her book to Random House or one of the other big publishers (not Grey — would look like Ana did it).

    I think Ana really should allow a partial face photo of Callie on PixC. Maybe playing with her daddy in the GEH day care area. And maybe one of her first birthday, with partially obscured face. I’m sure Christian really wants pictures, both for pride and for good PR.

    Can’t wait to hear Christian’s press conference and how he spins the story of the explosion. Were any buildings damaged other than the GEH bldg? Was anyone seriously hurt? I think Ana should be there with him, but she probably doesn’t.

    What’s Taylor doing these days? I wish he and Luke were communicating. I’ve thought ever since “Stronger” ended that Alexis knows something about the money Grisham stole from Christian’s Cayman account and she’s trying to get to it to get what she considers “her share.”

    Does Taylor still have a tail on Luke?

    Thanks for another great chapter, and anxiously looking forward to next week’s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Taylor had a tail on Luke, then he would have known by now about Alexis. AND would have certainly told Christian, who would have talked to Ana. And MOST CERTAINLY increased Security as a result.

      Alexis was WELL-connected to the POLITICAL figures of the Conspiracy. MEANING SHE WAS CONNECTED to the people that SURVIVED and were formerly blackmailed by Andrew. After all, the POLICE and JAILERS that murdered Elena have NEVER been identified, and they have EVERY REASON TO PROTECT THEMSELVES. AND to even try to DISCREDIT Carrick and Christian.

      And NOW we know that Alexis is doing MORE than simply following Mia, which was bad enough, in and of itself. (Because ONE theory I had was that Alexis was afraid MIA would rat-out that SHE had personally threatened her on behalf of Grisham, resulting in possible criminal charges and prosecution. So it would make SENSE that she either 1) wanted something on Mia to blackmail HER into NOT coming forward about Alexis or 2) confront Mia and either “apologize” or try put things right to see what Mia KNEW of those Alexis had worked with, since Alexis SERVICED OTHERS IN THE CLUB in ADDITION to Andrew Lincoln.

      But Alexis is following ALL the Grey family. Meaning that those previous police officers/political officials/officers of the court that were NOT discovered have a PLAN in place to either 1) come after the Grey family, thus eliminating them as a political AND personal threat to their careers or 2) seek to find some way of kidnapping OR blackmailing a Grey to ENSURE that they aren’t revealed or investigated, now that Carrick has political office.

      I’m now REALLY anxious to find out what Alexis is doing and who all she is working for. AND whether their intentions are to 1) actually HARM the Grey family, thus eliminating the political AND personal threat to themselves or 2) trying to find a means to embarrass or BRIBE Carrick and/or Christian. EITHER possibility is concerning.

      Mia’s previous stupidity of working in Elena’s club has come back to harm her again and again. ESPECIALLY when she CHOSE to CONFIDE and trust Alexis in the first place, who turned out to be the VERY person MOST connected to the SURVIVING POLITICAL side of the Conspiracy! After all, we never learned of any OTHERS Grisham had in his pocket OR the corrupt police officers and ranking officials that buried the leads in the cases and refused to do anything for the Grey family. And THEY potentially lost BIG when Carrick came to power.

      Alexis and her people are DOUBLY a threat NOW that CHristian has had his accident at GEH. NOW, they can consider “sabotage” to make Christian look even WORSE, since another accident would undo any faith in GEH that Christian is able to secure with the press conference (ALTHOUGH given CHristian’s current attitude and failure to see a problem, he may very well make the situation WORSE, if he is seen as arrogant and unable to face the reality of the problems with his project.)

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  7. I’m liking this but I’m troubled by the lack of unity between Christian and Ana. Also, I hope the storyline picks up a notch. In some ways it feels like these chapters are dragging a little. It’s great writing but I find myself thinking more and more, “just get in with it”. Still, great stuff. Can’t wait until next week.

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    1. AMEN. Notice that NEITHER one is communicating MAJOR issues and concerns with the other. And that voice in the back of Ana’s head is REMINDING her that she, alone, may need to force the issue with Christian if he is determined to run GEH and the family into the ground. AFTER ALL, if Christian fails to see how his project actually threatened CALLIOPE, then he is blind all the way around to the CONTINUED risks and actual damage, both to himself AND his corporation, that said project imposes.

      But BOTH Christian and Ana have TOO MUCH on their plates right now. AND have neither the time OR the inclination to let the other in on their “secret” actions—Christian with his project testing and plans, and Ana with the Alexis investigation. AND THE ACTUAL PHYSICAL RISK to MORE than just Christian and Ana is building AS A RESULT.

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  8. “A woman with vision is unstoppable, a woman who is always increasing her skills multiplies. Along with passion this woman is undeniable.”
    – Janna Cachola

    “Buckle up, and know that it’s going to be a tremendous amount of work, but embrace it.”
    -Tory Burch

    “Deal with all this, live with myself, you mean? I honestly don’t know. I stand often enough at the abyss of my soul, asking that same question, looking down into the dark crevices where the black monsters dwell on the bottom. They gaze up at me, and I look them in the eyes. “This also you are,” they say, and I almost fall into the void.”
    “And then?”
    “And then? I turn around and go do what needs to be done. What else is there?”
    – Andrew Ashling

    “Loyalty cannot be blueprinted. It cannot be produced on an assembly line. In fact, it cannot be manufactured at all, for its origin is the human heart – the center of self-respect and human dignity.”
    – Maurice R. Franks

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  9. Great twist with Lydia, didn’t see that coming. Love that Ana is so loyal and tenacious for those she cares about, such a rare trait these days.

    The press conference will be interesting, hope we get to “see” that soon.

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    1. Quite frankly, I figured Ana would go to Lydia. It was the only thing that made sense, since Lydia is CLEARLY a great agent and got everything that Ana wanted for her book. The PROBLEM is that Lydia is EASILY traceable to Ana. AND Ana PURPOSEFULLY introduced Hailey to Lydia at a BUSINESS lunch she had with Hailey.

      (BUT Ana had met Hailey BEFORE she took the job with Carmen and had agreed to read the manuscript BEFORE signing on with Carmen. AND she took Hailey to Carmen’s company FIRST and was blocked. AND Scott SIGNED OFF on the contract, even AFTER Carmen had told Scott and Ana to “work it out” amongst themself. So I would think Ana would have MORE than enough arguments to give her attorneys a fighting chance in any upcoming legal battles. AND IF CARMEN had any sense, she would SEE and acknowledge SCOTT’s blame in all this AND HER FAILURE TO BACK ANA, even though ANA was the one given the job, NOT SCOTT. If those individuals ACCEPTED the blame due them, then Carmen would fire Scott OR AT LEAST forbid him from having ANY lingering decision-making capacity with her East coast branch. BUT I can’t see Scott OR Carmen taking the BLAME where it SHOULD be—they are the type of individuals to blame OTHERS for their failures. But we will have to wait and see moving forward.)

      Ana NEEDS to put a call into Astor telling him what she did for Lydia so that he could help her leave a PAPER TRAIL protecting herself—such as a WRITTEN letter to Scott stating that she told Hailey that they would NOT publish her book AT THIS TIME due to budgeting issues AND COULD NOT PROMISE HER ANYTHING for the FUTURE. That way, HAILEY is FREE to seek out other options, and it is clear IN WRITING that Ana had PUSHED TO HAVE HAILEY PUBLISHED through Carmen, BUT WAS BLOCKED BY SCOTT. ALL that needs to be carefully worded in said letter to Scott, with a “cc” to Carmen at the bottom so that NEITHER one of them can claim to be “uniformed” of the DECISION SCOTT MADE without Ana’s approval or consultation ON THE VERY DAY of a crisis/explosion at GEH.

      With so much on Ana’s plate, she CANNOT possibly address it all. So I can only HOPE that she calls Astor and fills him in. HOWEVER, sooner or later, SOMEONE, either Taylor OR Christian, is going to SEE that Ana is making CALLS to an attorney that Christian knows NOTHING about. And I can only IMAGINE how THAT will go down when Christian finds out! After all, even ASTOR thinks that Christian APPROVED Ana’s hiring him.

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      1. Also, it’s important to note that Ana never said a single word to Lydia about Hailey looking to publish a novel. Yes, a hint was made very obvious, but she never actually pitched Hailey’s novel to Lydia or told Hailey to seek out Lydia for representation. When Lydia approached Ana, she was asking specifically for HER manuscript. Ana told her it wasn’t available and walked away.

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      2. From a legal standpoint, unfortunately, that would probably NOT be correct. Ana INVITED Lydia to meet her there, as witnessed by Lydia saying “All right, I’m here. What is the big emergency?” and then asking where Ana’s manuscript was. Ana replied that she DID HAVE A MANUSCRIPT for Lydia, it just was not her manuscript.

        Thus, any lawyer for Carmen’s camp would argue that Ana demanded her agent come, GAVE her a manuscript stating it was specifically FOR her, and indicating that Lydia would “take care” of Hailey. Obvsiously, Ana meant for her to be the agent.

        Lydia, herself, would probably feel under an obligation to keep her client happy. After all, Ana could always get another agent easily enough if she wasn’t satisfied with Lydia. (In other words, Lydia would feel “under obligation” to keep Ana happy by doing well by Ana’s “friend.”) AND Ana took DELIBERATE actions to ENSURE Hailey got published far more quickly and easily then she could have ever done by herself. AFTER ALL, the chance that Lydia would have read an unsolicited manuscript WITHOUT the CLEAR recommendation of Ana is slim to none.

        (Ana really has used her name AND CONTACTS to ensure that Hailey gets published quickly, something that was not in Hailey’s power by any means. Can’t get around that fact.)

        So yes, a lawyer for Carmen and Scott would probably be VERY HAPPY with the above evidence.

        HOWEVER, even with the above evidence, IF ANA PROTECTS HERSELF BY EMAILING SCOTT AND CARMEN that she met with Hailey and told her that Ana could NOT make her an offer due to THEIR decision and budgeting constraints, Ana SHOULD hopefully be okay IF Carmen and Scott don’t send her further instructions to 1) ask Hailey to wait or 2) want a possible long-term deal on the table, etc.

        Plus, if Ana does what she needs to protect herself, will Carmen and Scott then want to ADMIT that they overrode Ana without ever seeing OR READING either book in question, AND went against Ana’s recommendations even though she was SUPPOSED to be in charge of the east coast branch? Showing themselves to be deliberately obtuse and unwilling to listen to the person that they hired, who DID get proved correct would only make THEMSELVES look bad. AND would most CERTAINLY have led to Ana QUITTING and alleging a Hostile/Toxic work environment.

        Ana, herself, knows that she might have violated her Non-Compete Agreement. But she stood by Hailey and getting her published, KNOWING she was a good author AND that she was blocked by her own company. She could certainly argue that she wasn’t allowed to do the job that she was promised. (And Ana comes out looking like a DECENT PERSON, determined to do right by a young author, since she remembers being in that EXACT position herself.)

        Quite frankly, I would really LOVE to know what a contract/corporate attorney would make with the above chapter. I mean, THINK of all those publishing houses that refused to publish J.K. Rowling’s books originally, since she was a poor woman on welfare, only to see the company that FINALLY published Harry Potter score so amazingly big! Can you imagine being an editor or company head that rejected THAT book???

        And hey, practically ANYONE can file a legal lawsuit—doesn’t mean you can actually WIN it. Despite the above, I think Ana should (hopefully) be safe, assuming no one makes the Lydia connection. After all, Ana TRIED to make an offer ON BEHALF OF CARMEN’s COMPANY and was deliberately STOPPED by Scott Wallace. Ana just needs PROOF of that, other than what Scott told her on the phone, which he would undoubtedly lie about later. So Ana should put IN WRITING that she told Hailey of the WITHDRAWAL of the offer by Carmen’s company DUE TO SCOTT’S DECISION to go with the other book OVER HER OBJECTIONS due to the CONTENT of both books.

        After all, Scott Wallace should NOT want it broadcast to other companies that he was the idiot that refused to jump on the bandwagon and publish Hailey’s book.

        And, let’s face it, there is also generally a WHOLE separate realm of justice for rich people, and Christian would back Ana all the way with the best legal counsel money could buy. AND would have the best PR people presenting Ana as the champion of the written word against corporate ignorance!

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  10. I soooooooo enjoy getting my notification that your chapters post on Mondays. Just makes my day.!!

    I worried how Ana would handle the disappointment of not getting Phoenix published. No need to worry though, cause it was a classy thing that Ana did there! Getting Hailey Hooked up with Lydia is such a benefit to her as a new writer. Very classy! And like a lot of other readers, I want her book to be published at Grey Publishing. (Just as Ana arrives back there, large and in charge to make Grey Pub. a powerhouse- cause I am sure hoping it happens.)

    Another thing I hope for- to see the dilemma that Ana will have when choosing a wine that is best suited to Wallace’s balls on a platter. (Sorry- it my job that leads me down the path of potty talk, LOL). I sure hope that Christian is involved in frying them up. I keep seeing Wallace’s antics with Ana as the exact kind of crap that Christian loves to “acquire and dissolve” in business. I say this because I love “protective /nail your ass because you messed with my girl” Christian. But, I am torn at times because I love seeing Ana make her way in a business that she is clearly cut out for.

    Oh well. surprise me. I don’t care how Scott Wallace is crushed, I just want it painful and stamped with “Grey” on it. 😉

    I see no one commenting on the flashback that you lead the chapter off with.
    I loved it.

    I often wondered how Ana would find a coping mechanism to get her out of the immediate terror of living through what they did at the end of the last book. You excerpt was PERFECT for this reader. Christian gave her back some control. At least enough to function within their relationship, and let’s face it. They NEED each other to cope in life. So perfect of him to make sure she understood that she has so much power to control some of the most basic needs she and he has. It was truly a moment that Christian goes all dom to hand over control that he really craves also, but knows his wife needs more right at that time. I re-read that flashback several times- just perfect.

    Enjoy your upcoming trip!
    Part of me is selfish in hoping that you have something to post next Monday- but I hope you are enjoying a strong coffee and pastry in a little out of the way shop in Paris instead.
    (And gives me more time to look up mountain oyster recipes…for Scott Wallace)

    Bon Jour!

    AJM

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    1. Haha, well, I’m not leaving for Paris until Sunday, so Monday posting is actually a possibility. Maybe. I’ll know by Friday. And, I don’t know what you mean. What could Scott have done to earn a comeuppance at the hands of someone named Grey? 😉

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      1. You’re going to Paris, Tara??? How did I miss reading that! I don’t know whether to cry because I’m jealous or because you’re liable to delay
        a chapter. I hope this is a romantic trip and not business. You can’t quite duplicate Ana’s Christmas trip there, but I hope it’s magical anyhow!!! ❤️ ❤️

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      2. Oh WOW. Seriously, PARIS!!!! When was that announced? I missed any posting on that. Will it be for work or fun?

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      3. OOOOO—please tell me that you will go to that bridge you described in the proposal! (And hey, I guess this means you will be DOUBLY educated for future Ana/Christian/Calliope Paris exploits!)

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  11. Love the flask back Ana had of the earlier days after the attack. I mentioned in the previous chapter that we didn’t see Ana truly crumble even though there were several points on the trilogy that showed Christian’s breaking point so I am really thankful gir the flask back.
    Also am I the only one that thought so or what but what he used to get Ana to trust him, could that had been the same method Ellen had used. Huh…. *rubbing imaginary beard *
    each’s professional life is now filled with so much demand and that for me is awaits because it shoes us how real life couples make relationship work with a the pressure that comes from work, friends etc.
    hope you find a way for Christian to be one of the greatest. I feel like they need this after the great lose they have endured this past year

    1st year birthday!!!!! Go Callie. Wonder what PaPA Christian has on store

    sooooo soooo curious about what is to come next.love your story, Tara! !!!

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  12. The disappointment now increases Ana’s will to meet the challenge and don’t give up too easily. She has to win and maybe not now with the current project but more in what concerns her and her family including the Greys. Failures do come first before the successes and her past history had taught her to meet the challenges head on instead of giving up. The story will continue to keep us guessing and waiting for your next entry until the end. Thank you, Tara for another great chapter.

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  13. Love that Ana took that book away from Stevens and his commission to boot. GO Ana! Does Scott want their company to fail? It sure seems like it or is he just trying to discredit Ana? But then why want Ana so badly and not listen to her ideas and suggestions?

    I really liked that Ana got her Agent Lydia to the restaurant as well as Hailey and then handed the book over and just left. That was awesome. Hopefully Hailey understands that all Ana’s wants is for her to succeed but Ana had to do it a bit sneakily?

    What the heck is Alexis Young want and I agree with Ana, they can’t live like that again! Luke has been following Alexis. Love Luke. Thank goodness that Luke is always around the corner and watching out for her. I forgot about Alexis being Gresham’s submissive. Isn’t Gresham dead and gone? Is Alexis out for revenge? Geez just what they need.

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  14. AMAZING chapter!!! Loved it. We knew Alexis was who we needed to look out for. I knew she was going to be an issue. What is her deal following all of them? Is she that upset that they shut down her submission job? She can just find a Dom. She’s pissed and trouble.

    That resignation letter…..had me about to piss my pants. It was hilarious, LMBO!!! I swear, I echo those words that Ana put in that almost resignation letter. I am sick and tired of those assholes at her job.

    Like

    1. ALEXIS has MULTIPLE potential explanations. After all, SHE was the one MOST connected to the POLITICAL players involved with Andrew Lincoln. After all, Grisham was a POWER-PLAYER and financial backer for MORE than just Christian. He was CONNECTED, both POLITICALLY and to OTHERS INVOLVED IN DOM-related enterprises who did NOT want to be exposed.

      Grisham worked through ELENA’s ILLEGAL prostitution ring/club. AND MIA SAW THEM ALL in her job as HOSTESS. So MULTIPLE individuals could be brought down, ESPECIALLY if they had future political aspirations, if Mia came forward OR THERE WAS AN ACTIVE INVESTIGATION into those illegally using the club.

      PLUS, we KNOW that police officers were corrupt and PAID to look the other way while Alexis was sent to do Grisham’s dirty work, especially in regards to MIA. Now, SOME of those individuals STAND TO LOSE THEIR POLITICAL POSITIONS if Carrick tries to make employment decisions for the city. REMEMBER, Carrick is CURRENTLY BEING BLOCKED on the budge and political appointments that he wants to make BECAUSE OF CHRISTIAN. However, those very individuals that stand to LOSE power if Christian stops fighting Carrick are undoubtedly NERVOUS about what will happen next with GEH and Carrick AND Christian.

      And ALEXIS stood to be the very CONNECTION between Grisham and ALL those others. SHE is the one we KNOW remained at large. Alexis, herself, would KNOW that Mia knows her identity and what she did. So Alexis could still be CRIMINALLY PROSECUTED for her actions, as could any others that she could reveal.

      So I can SEE why Alexis and OTHERS would want Christian AND Ana and others followed, in hopes of getting more BLACKMAIL material on the Grey family. OR to find weaknesses to potentially KIDNAP someone, in case it was “necessary” to protect the corrupt politicians/policemen. AFTER ALL, JAILERS or police officers were allowed to go DIRECTLY into Elena’s prison, WHERE THERE WERE CAMERAS, and grab and kill her horribly. ALL that without ANYONE in authority being the wiser. Do you realize HOW MANY people it would take to accomplish that?

      And Carrick HAD PLANNED TO APPOINT PEOPLE TO SPECIFICALLY LOOK INTO the police and political corruption going on in Seattle. So the REASONS Alexis is following the Grey family could be devastating and staggering.

      Ana NEEDS to make THE WHOLE GREY SECURITY TEAM AND FAMILY aware of Alexis potentially following them FOR A REASON. And she NEEDS to do this BEFORE MIA AND HER FRIENDS end up going to Europe without more protection, where they could easily be grabbed, thus FURTHER dividing Grey attentions from Carrick doing what he set out to do.

      Like

  15. All I have to say is I love it, can’t wait to see what’s coming next. The letter was a great way in getting us excited.

    I understand why she is scared about the new project Christian has been working on, but I think even being afraid she needs to put does feeling aside and be positive for him and be with him at this moment. She needs to tell him how she feels about it and how scared she is she needs to remember he has always been there for her.

    I am so proud in how she handle both issues on the books. Glad she told Steven and put him in his place. But now she needs to keep her pants up and not let Scott and Carmen continue to walk over her.
    She did great in putting Hailey and Lydia together and I also hope Christian takes it on.

    Alexis Young why am I lost with i can remember this character help me?

    Like

  16. The unsupportive staff are not having the day, Ana is! Love how she told Stevens off. As much as I love her to finish the resignation letter and leave for good, she’s doing this for herself and with determination. We know when Ana is in that frame of mind, all systems go. Stevens and Scott watch out. She’s so loyal, hooking Lydia and Hailey. The success is promising. I wished Christian communicates with her on his project. He is on his own solo world. Luke is godsend, heads up of danger lurking and taking care of them the best he can. Got to watch out for Alexis. Thank you for the great update, Tara. Have a wonderful holiday. Xoxo daytona

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m just hoping that Scott doesn’t AGAIN override Ana and put Stevens back on the book. If he does, then Ana NEEDS to resign. AND if she didn’t get the job and responsibilities promised to her, then her attorneys have the means to thereafter fight the Non-Compete Agreement.

      Because at this point, I can’t help but wish Ana WOULD get out with the DOCUMENTATION available that SHOWS she didn’t want to publish the bad book and DID want to publish the good one. THEN, she could bask in Hailey’s success, particularly if it WAS under her at another job. AND especially if Scott is PROVEN to put the FINAL NAIL in the east-coast division due to backing a really bad book that doesn’t sell! THAT would serve Scott AND Carmen right!

      Still, admittedly, I WANT to see Ana actually SUCCEED at Carmen’s company because she is able to prove herself THERE. But as it exists right now, I can’t see how she can. Scott has blocked EVERY major decision that Ana has made, and it doesn’t look like it is about to stop any time soon. AND IT IS WITH DECISIONS that are presumably under Ana, since they are made AFTER Ana took the job!

      Like

  17. Girl, you’re going to Paris??’ How did I miss that? Have a fabulous time! Eat lots of pastries and mock poorly behaved tourists. 😜

    Like

  18. Very smooth writing, Tara. Recalling Ana’s frame of mind after Ray took down Lincoln was really never spoken about. Carrick apparently thought Ana was on the brink of dissolving emotionally. Christian truly loves his wife and gave Ana her nerve again.
    Scott and Stevens. One down; one to go. Who does Stevens think he is? Treating Ana like a girl and not like his boss and the VP of the Seattle office. Scott Wallace gives him the nerve to treat Ana thusly. And yeah, I’d like to help choose the wine for the sautee!!
    Smart move for Ana to contact Lydia. She is a mover and a shaker, and will see in Phoenix what Ana sees. In order to avoid any conflicts, or non-compete issues, signing with Lydia would get Hailey a great big contract with Random House.
    Oh, crikey. What is Alexis up to spying on the Greys? If she is looking for a share of the money Gresham stole from Christian, why stalk Christian’s family? Better to have Luke arrange a meet and confer between Ana and Alexis and blow up any dreams Alexis may have.
    Lastly, Ana should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Christian when he addresses the City and explains what exactly happened to cause the GEH explosion.
    Safe travels to Paris, Tara!

    Like

  19. I had question on Luke. How can he follow Alexis 24/7 and know that she is following Ana, Kate and Mia by himself. When does he have time to be with his girlfriend? Is Ana paying him? What is his job status now or did he get a lifetime payout from the Greys??

    Like

    1. He knows that Alexis is following Ana, Kate, and Mia, because he’s following Alexis. Jade has a full time job, so Luke probably uses the time she’s at work to do his job. This is also the only person he’s really had to follow. Mostly, he looks into people Ana has concerns over and helps dig up dirt/formulate plans to neutralize any perceived threat. Ana is paying him. He’s no longer employed by Christian, he’s working solely for Ana now, just like Astor Harrington.

      Like

  20. UGH…

    I’m sorry I haven’t been commenting on the chapters – to say that work is kicking my ass would be an UNDERSTATEMENT.

    I haven’t seen people commenting this – but this is the thing that really stood out for me.

    How Ana feels about supporting Christian.

    And maybe it’s b/c I’m a Sag, and I love to talk about the philosophy of things, but I think…maybe I’m wrong (& please correct me if so) I feel that’s one of themes of this book? How do you support someone tenaciously, when you feel that they’re wrong? Especially after trauma, when the very thing that they’re after is something that you just can’t agree with?

    I feel that this is an issue that both Christian & Ana are dealing with – supporting each other while still having reservations. And it’s such a fine line, really – b/c isn’t your partner supposed to be your reality check? But aren’t they also supposed to support your dreams, as well? What’s the line? And it goes further, I think – b/c the themes of this book is not just about getting over a traumatic experience, it’s about SURPASSING it. It’s about OVERCOMING it, about being a SURVIVOR.

    And I absolutely love Ana’s thought processes over these issues – b/c honestly? I really feel that in her thinking about these issues make her start to realize her own? Like, I think it makes her see how much what happened is STILL affecting them. And it’s these realizations that are making me really hopeful for their future.

    Such a great chapter.

    Like

  21. The FLASHBACK really was the key to this chapter. It shows the root of SO MUCH of Christian and Ana’s current issues. Christian is SO DETERMINED to have the POWER to protect Ana, that he is seemingly risking it ALL for this project. He wants the POWER it affords to be the leader of industry. As a result, he is putting himself and everyone else around him at risk. AND alienating himself potentially from Ana and his family, friends and employees. Notice how MULTIPLE individuals are potentially losing faith in Christian and trying to raise red flags, ALL of which Christian IGNORES.

    But you see HOW that trauma has affected Christian, because he SAW firsthand what it did to those he LOVED MOST to not be able to protect them. And he thinks ultimate power will give him that.

    And ANA, in return, WANTS to put her faith in Christian and SUPPORT him in every way, especially after ALL he did for her. So she is IGNORING or not articulating to Christian when she SEES for herself ALL the red flags. SHE EVEN REALIZES THAT CALLIOPE was put in danger by Christian’s blind refusal to take “no” for an answer and to plow right on through with his experiment, DESPITE all the knowledgeable people warning him.

    So Christian is essentially undermining EVERYTHING that he stood for and alienating everyone. Ros has stood by him UP TO THIS POINT. But she will NOT risk others on Christian’s foolishness. At some point, SOMEONE has to step up. AND YOU SEE IN THIS CHAPTER THAT ANA KNOWS IT HAS TO BE HER IN THE END. She is the ONLY one that would be able to get through to Christian. BUT IT WOULD MEAN her threatening to LEAVE him again, something she is RELUCTANT to do, ESPECIALLY knowing the extreme damage it did to Christian’s psyche at the time.

    Ana is suffering her OWN issues and need to reclaim her POWER, so she is determined to handle this Alexis thing ALONE. Just like Christian is determined to handle his company project ALONE. And BOTH can see issues in the other, while ignoring their OWN issues.

    So yeah, SOMETHING will cause this all to come to a head. I’m just wondering what it will be.

    Like

  22. So much going on in this chapter! I like that Ana had a second thought about the resignation and I LOVED how she put Stevens in his place. However, I didn’t agree with her assessment of her turning her back on Christian and seeing that as running when things got tough. She had stuck with him through tough times and was still going to stick with him until learning that the only reason he had lied was for money.

    Like

  23. The OTHER thing that the Flashback shows is CLEARLY how Ana and Christian are BETTER TOGETHER and facing things TOGETHER than they ever are apart. It took Christian’s DIRECT understanding and participation to help Ana begin to see things DIFFERENTLY. The REVERSE is also true. Meaning that CHRISTIAN isn’t likely to change his current direction WITHOUT ANA making him aware of her true misgivings AND obvious threat, in multiple ways, to Calliope AND the Grey family if Christian continues on his current course.

    I’m really anxious to read about the press conference. Christian’s own attitude and way of handling things will set the course of things to come AND give others potential cannon fodder to go after him later.

    (Of course, you know that all the importance of the genuine substance of the story goes out the window in comparison to the cute, adorable CALLIOPE birthday stuff to come!!!! Her Royal Highness getting her quick little hands on that birthday cake before anyone can stop her or her “MINE!” to all her presents will just make everything ELSE pale in comparison to the cuteness!! REALLY looking forward to that fluff, especially since it seems like Christian actually seems motivated, at this time, to raise an entitled little princess. Oh Christian, be careful what you sow, as sweet little princesses become TEENAGERS all too soon, with demands far in excess of even what they wanted when they were little and endulged too much!)

    Like

  24. I have to admit, each time I re-read this chapter, I get madder and madder at Scott Wallace. I am completely with AJMackey’s oyster recipe plan at this point, quite frankly!

    The ONLY reason I want Ana to stick it out is to be proven right. However, that seems likely to be impossible to happen, given Scott AND Carmen blocking ANY attempt that Ana makes to do her job.

    Plus, Ana doesn’t get the REAL CREDIT for getting Hailey published that she deserves! Arrrgghhh!

    However, I know Tara will make it all work out well somehow. And I’m hoping that whatever is in future chapters puts Scott in his proper place (and maybe even gets him fired and unhireable for the future).

    I mean, WHY did Scott push to hire Ana? Was it really because he thought the company would be run by a socialite wife that he could BLAME for the company’s failures?

    And Carmen had TOLD Scott and Ana to work it out TOGETHER. Instead, she just authorizes SCOTT’s decision, WITHOUT any input from Ana, in direct violation of what she had promised. I would have enjoyed Ana’s unedited resignation if not for the non-compete agreement.

    (I’m beginning to think the REAL reason Ana was hired was just to keep GEH and Grey Publishing from having further success with Ana and to tick off Christian, since it was clear he didn’t want Ana working for Carmen. I wish Christian would have clued Ana in to Carmen’s way of doing things beforehand, as with more information, Ana might not have taken the job. Sigh. I just have to REMEMBER that it will all work out IN THE END.—Still, that idea of crushing Scott Wallace’s favorite body parts sounds awfully tempting.)

    (HeeHeeHee—just had an Image of Tara doing an Outtake entitled “Scott’s last thoughts” as he is being crushed, slowly, by some GEH construction equipment or the like! Yep, I REALLY want Scott to pay for his attitude towards women AND Ana especially!)

    Like

    1. I think Hailey will acknowledge Ana in her book to much she appreciated her help in some form without getting her in trouble. But
      you are right she will never get credit which is shame.

      Like

  25. Hey Tara,

    I know you haven’t posted in here in the last 2 weeks, I hope you are doing ok. I’m not sure if I’m just not seeing the new posts or if something else is going on. I’m eager to see what comes next and hope everything is going well with you!

    Like

  26. Hey Tara,

    I know you haven’t posted in here in the last 2 weeks, I hope you are doing ok. I’m not sure if I’m just not seeing the new posts or if something else is going on. I’m eager to see what comes next and hope everything is going well with you!

    Like

  27. Hi! I don’t know if you know, but there is an author on Wattpad that is posting all your stories in Spanish as her own. Please reach out to me if you want to get more info. She is doing the same thing to another Fanfic author that I follow too and I am notifying her too.

    Like

      1. I actually posted a comment on her profile asking her to at least give credit to the rightful owners of the stories. And I shared her profile with the other author from fanfic. Her profile is @AnielkaBenavides in Wattpad. I write to the moderators of the platform as well

        Liked by 1 person

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