I would like to give thanks, love and birthday shout-outs to my beta, Sherryola from FF, my husband MG and his twin.

A/N: In this chapter (which has once again gotten away from me), Grace and Carrick help Christian fill in the blanks. CG and Ana talk seriously about their blips and address their work-life balance. Fallout from the attempted abduction continues.

Chapter 11: Stellar

Meet me in outer space
We could spend the night
Watch the earth come up
I've grown tired of that place
Won't you come with me?
We could start again

How do you do it?
Make me feel like I do
How do you do it?
It's better than I ever knew

Meet me in outer space
I will hold you close
If you're afraid of heights
I need you to see this place
It might be the only way
That I can show you how it feels to be inside of you

How do you do it?
Make me feel like I do
How do you do it
It's better than I ever knew
You are stellar

- Ana comes over to me and says in a low voice, "I had Taylor contact your parents. Chances are, if you knew Hyde when you were four, they might have met him, too. They've brought your adoption records."
And the truth shall set you free. Well, we'll see about that.

APoV

Grace and Carrick's visit left us both wrung out. I don't know what I had envisioned about Christian's adoption, but this wasn't it. We learned about various obstacles and burning hoops this couple had to traverse in order to adopt a newly-orphaned child who had suffered extensive abuse. I can't imagine what the state of Michigan thought it was doing, looking for anyone who could have left Ella and Christian to the deplorable living conditions in which he was discovered. Hadn't he been traumatized enough? Did they have to send this abused, malnourished baby into the dubious arms of foster care, too?

He was forced to reside with the Colliers for two months while they searched for relatives that would be willing to take him in. Grace and Carrick made visits to the foster home as often as they were allowed but, while they admit that the Colliers seemed like a good couple, they still felt as if they were abandoning their child each time they were required to leave.

When questioned about Jack Hyde and shown the picture we had of the Colliers, they did recall an aggressive boy who intruded on all of their visits, that would angrily skulk away when Mrs. Collier reminded him that the Greys were there for Christian. So, it was true. Hyde did resent my husband for something he did when he was just four. Existing. Perhaps, Jack thought the Greys were shopping for child and begrudged Christian for being selected. Did Jack realize that Christian had been chosen before he ever darkened the Colliers' doorstep?

Could this short period of time in the Colliers' custody have contributed to Christian's distance from his family? Grace saved and bonded with him, only for him to end up with another couple and a bunch of misfits. Could a child of four recognize a bait and switch? He was grieving and he was four. Who knows what went on inside his head then. But I know that Christian has a difficult time relating to people, even those that love him and have no reason to hurt him. Did he see a good psychologist ever? Did Grace and Carrick? What made them think that a summer spent landscaping would help him when over a decade of their love could not?

Sure, he may not have been ditching school or fighting anymore, and he may have reported for duty when Grace and Carrick expected him to, but couldn't they tell it was all a performance? Bitch Troll just wound him up by his cock and pointed him in the direction she wanted him to go. And these upper-class professionals, known for their powers of perception and observation, bought it hook, line and sinker. God, their good friend Elena must've been cackling in her dungeon while preparing for Christian's next scene.

He's sitting on the couch now, his eyes vacant of any expression. He's stunned. I know how it feels to realize you never had much of a chance growing up. It really is the luck of the draw whether or not your biological parents were gambling with their genitals. Some come to the table with a full deck. Others try to stack it. Would they end up holding a full house, or would they come up craps? Carla was a divining rod for scum. Her relative poverty coupled with temporary grief at losing her meal ticket allowed her to luck up on Raymond Steele, but once she recovered, she reopened her twat for business to the biggest loser. Russian roulette is an option for the extreme gamblers like Ella. It's not like we get to choose our parents after all.

I reach for him, caressing and rubbing his arms and shoulders. I try to pull him towards me, but he resists initially. I crawl into his lap and use my hands to frame his beautiful face. The face of my angel, born in the fires of hell. His eyes focus on me, and I attempt to pull him to me again. As he acquiesced this time, I slowly remove myself from his lap, moving alongside him on the couch, dragging his muscular frame towards me until I situate his head on my lap. I begin to rub and massage his head and shoulders, slowly, rhythmically. I wonder if he's ever let himself have this type of touch. I doubt it as something like this would require a great deal of trust, and he didn't have much to spare.

I'm running my fingers through his unruly locks, making his hair stick out in even more directions. He has cowlicks! How did this happen? I allow my fingertips to lightly press into his scalp, moving in small circles. His breathing has slowed, he's becoming so relaxed, I thought he would fall asleep, resting his head on my lap, when he asks, "Why did you want to abort our baby?"

And my throat seems to swell shut as my hands falter. His voice reverberates to my core. His hand comes up to grip my wrist and he guides my hands that have fallen away from him back to his head where he motions me to continue to massaging his head. "See, you're safe. I'm very calm right now. I'm at your mercy, in fact."

"Melissa says that she doesn't trust the calm, because that's when things turn to shit," I reply.

"Patterson said that?" he asked.

"Yep, right before we went to the gym."

"She seems like a very smart woman, but this time she's wrong. I've been trying to find a way to ask you, and since I've literally fallen into your lap, I think the time is right. Normally, when I lay in your lap, something else is happening, and we get swept away from our lives, our problems, but not tonight. OK?"

"Ok," I say with a very small voice. "I thought you wouldn't want a baby. I didn't think you'd you want children ever."

"See, you said what was on your mind, and I didn't strike you, yell or run into the night, did I?"

"No, you didn't do any of that," I agreed, still wary.

"When I saw the form and pamphlet, I panicked, you know. About the pregnancy," he admitted quietly.

"You did?" I asked. All I could see was his anger. I never imagined his hope.

"Yes, for about five whole minutes, until I remembered that the mother of my child would be you, and you wouldn't let me fuck up."

"So I was right. You didn't want children?" I asked.

"I didn't want a lot of things that I realize now are highly desirable and would be very good for me. I know I took a criminally long time to get rid of the things that were bad, but you, Mrs. Grey are the best thing in my life."

"But you were so anxious for me to be on birth control. I don't understand."

"Because I wanted you to be comfortable. You were a young woman who had just graduated from college and were looking for the first job in your field. I'm pretty sure early maternity leave would've cramped your style. And I wasn't planning to knock you up. Did you know one of the biggest problems in achieving orgasm for women is fear of pregnancy?"

"Really?"

"Yep," he stated with a pop, "Even condoms aren't sufficient. What if I used too much force? Oops would be much too late. Besides, I hate the fuckers."

I laughed. "So the birth control was mostly for my benefit?"

"In a way; you really have no idea how I handled birth control before you. I've never checked your basal body temperature. And though you hate to use the bathroom with me there, I've never walked in, handed you a cup and made you piss in it while I watched," he said matter-of-factly.

"You did that?" I asked skeptically, once again upset on behalf of his ex-subs, before I remembered that A, they signed the dotted line which meant they agreed with that shit, B, they got to fuck my husband, therefore I get to despise them on general principle after the fact and C, I was fucking grateful that his early shenanigans never bore fruit because my husband is so fucking anal.

"And more," he added unrepentantly. "Even though my parents sent their children to the most elite schools, there was much more underage, unplanned pregnancy than you might think considering the level of educational attainment of the parents. The only difference between our schools and those in the inner city was that there were many, many ways to handle the problem if it arose. Spas, finishing schools, fat camp, extracurricular programs and vacations were the most used excuses to cover up a quickie abortion and everyone turned a blind-eye."

"That's terrible," I said.

"That's what I thought you were planning to do. All I could see was you flushing me away," he said. "Would you have already done it if you didn't need my signature on the form?"

"I don't think I could have. I had to psych myself up for it from moment to moment. It was like tunnel vision. I couldn't bear to talk about it or think about it at all, really. And I was mad at you because it was an impossible choice. I felt I would lose you if I didn't do it. That you wouldn't want me. All I could hear in my head was that I wouldn't be able to meet your needs if I was pregnant," I said miserably.

"Elena and I really did a number on you, didn't we?" he asked musingly. "I tried to make you be civil to someone who molested me, and used her relationship with my mother to take potshots at you. Elena pursuing you to give you relationship advice. I'm surprised you didn't take a whip to both of us."

I was shocked. He had never said what they did was wrong. He's always said that she helped him and kept him from becoming a drug addict. He never really said anything negative about her, even after his fateful birthday cum glad you didn't die cum impromptu engagement party. He even gifted her hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equity in Esclava. Why now?

"You always told me she helped you," I argued.

"I was never going to be a father either, was I?"

"So getting me pregnant makes such a difference? It changes how you feel about Elena," I scoffed. I used to have nightmares about him one day building a shrine or a statue commemorating this bitch and now he tells me knocking me up caused this sea change? Well, excuse the fuck out of me if I don't buy this shit.

"Essentially, yes. I deal in risk each and every day, taking a chance that my investments will pan out. I gamble, in a way. It's not really fair to my competitors because I have the ability to see much more than they do because I'm playing against myself on a much larger chessboard. I've always had a grasp of angles and trajectory, so I can be in place to take advantage of their oversight. But in my personal life, I've been incredibly lazy. I can see that for years I've been subsisting on a diet of low-hanging fruit," he says, his eyes distant.

"I can't see you as lazy. You work practically all day, every day."

"Say you're very busy at home, caught up in some important project, you're very hungry and there's nothing to eat that can be made quickly or that doesn't require attention that you don't have to spare. What do you do? You order delivery, right?"

"Well, yeah. I tend to make my own food, sometimes in bulk, so that generally doesn't happen."

"You are a very industrious bee, but you've missed my point entirely. When it came to my singular tastes, I only had to pick up the phone or open my e-mail to receive a menu of women that I could select from to be delivered to me. And they scratched an itch so I could go about my business with lighter balls and less tension, but it was all empty, just like my relationship with Elena. I was just jerking off using women's bodies instead of my hands," he explained baldly.

And honestly, what the hell can I say to that? It was true. Could I say that he was using those women? Obviously, based on his generosity, they were very well compensated for their troubles. They were using him, too. Though I have some knowledge of the relationship between pain and pleasure, I wouldn't need the strike of a cane or whip to get me there. His ex-subs signed up for that, wanted that.

"What if you need the control again? The extreme kink? I can't be that person for you," I whispered sadly.

"You don't need to be that person, Anastasia. You're above them all. You would have to climb down to reach their level. Not because they were bad, but because none of them were right for me. I remember telling you that I whipped brown-haired girls because they look like my mother. That may have been true at first, but there's absolutely no way I'd have signed up to do that for the rest of my life if I had known what I was getting into. Could you imagine me as an old man still doing that shit? I'd need two canes: one to pop the sub with and the other to hold myself up."

I couldn't hold back the giggles that burst forth at that declaration. God, this man makes me laugh. He's looking at me like I have two heads.

"I haven't heard that giggle in a while. Glad to know I can still amuse you, Mrs. Grey."

"Hard not to laugh at an image like that."

"Toward the end of contracting submissives, I had gotten to a very dangerous point where the scenes became far less exciting and satisfying. Instead of throwing in the towel, there was escalation, because Elena responded by sending me subs with fewer and fewer limits," he confided. "I would have had to adjust some of my hard limits to accommodate their kink. I wasn't going to agree to choke or beat any woman black, blue or bloody, no matter how much she desired it or however many release forms she was willing to sign. You may see me as using them as surrogates for my mother, but that started losing its charm within years. I had already started seeing Flynn, but I still couldn't hug Grace. BDSM as a form of therapy wasn't working, but I held onto it because it was all I knew."

"It was all Elena taught you," I retorted. I hate the Bitch Troll. I hate her. I hate her. I hate her.

"Yes, that, and the fact that I didn't want to even date any of the subs she sent me, any of the women I met day-to-day or any of the debutantes and friends of friends my family tried to match me with. So instead of comparing yourself to fifteen women I never loved, know that I've met and had the chance to experience numerous women all over the world, yet I chose you. And I'll keep choosing you. I need you to choose me. Choose me, Anastasia," he implored, as I noticed we were no longer in the position of safety we had arranged.

He had turned over, and was holding me firmly, looking deeply into my eyes. His eyes, a slate grey, the color of a storm, bore into mine, as if he was probing for truth, demanding a response. Yes. I choose him. I haven't always, and let's see where that's gotten me. Angry at Christian for interfering at my job, insisting that going out of town with Jack, who made my skin crawl and sent all my Spidey senses tingling, was a great career opportunity. Assaulted while working overtime for a man who's been recently revealed as a fucking psychopath. Almost raped in a damn alley because I went running to Kate every time I got my feelings hurt. Going out with Jose, in clear violation of any respect that I have for my husband. I love Kate, but I didn't marry her. I made vows of faith, honor and respect. I'll fallen so short of all my promises, but he loves me anyway. All my hesitation falls away.

"I choose you. I chose you for always, and I'm sorry for ever acting differently," our new vows resonate within my heart and mind. All the hours of researching vows and promises for my wedding distilled into this one thing: choice.

He slips away, heading to our bedroom and motions me to wait when I make to follow. He returns bearing this massive white, blue and gray box, with a huge matching bow on top. He places it on the floor in front of me, and encourages me to open it. He must've bought out some upscale baby boutique, but some of these things look personalized and handmade. There is a small wooden music box which he takes from me, winding it up. The clear strains of Delibes' Lakmé, the Flower Duet, fill the room with their bell-like tones. Acting as anchors are two baby-size, white teddy bears, one with blue eyes the same shade as mine, the other featuring gray eyes like Christian's. They're dressed in lacy christening gowns, with satin trim of alternating colors. It's all quite beautiful and unisex, since we don't know the sex of the babies. There are even lace caps matching the gowns. Also enclosed are several sets of tiny knit hats, mittens and booties in pastel pink, blue, yellow and green. He's even managed to include baby blankets and quilts. It's an entire layette, with all manner of thoughtful provisions, but my only question was when he could have arranged all of this so quickly. I realize that I haven't seen the entire apartment, but I didn't think Christian had Santa's elves on speed-dial.

"When," I asked breathlessly. "How could you get this all together so quickly?"

"Well, not to put too fine a point on it, I'm a billionaire, so when I make requests, they tend to be fulfilled rather quickly. That, and I texted Andrea my requirements as soon as we left the doctor's office."

"Wow! So Andrea knows, too?"

"Of course, because she will be responsible for coordinating and tasking a few additional things for two very small people."

"Who else knows?" I asked, trying to find my calm, happy place before I blow up Escala in my ire. My Inner Goddess is cautioning me to be patient with him because he obviously doesn't know what he did wrong, while my inner team of miniature CSIs (common sense individuals) is checking the conversational minefield for clues and evidence… "Look here folks, we've got a live one!"

"Well, Taylor, Welch, Barney and Sawyer, of course. And Andrea," he says as if five extra individuals don't know my business. Doesn't he know most couples don't make the announcements until the first trimester? Is he trying to jinx my uterus?

"Why did you tell all of those people before the first trimester?" I asked impatiently.

"Well, Taylor learned from both of us via closed circuit television in the apartment. After he revived me, he must've reported the situation as per protocol."

And once again, I'm a situation. Wait. What? Revived him? What the hell is that noise? "Revived you," I asked with a strangled voice. These men were seriously starting to damage my calm, and I needed a whole shedload of calm right now.

"After you left in the elevator, I kind of had a panic attack and blacked out," he reported. "When I woke up, the team had cleaned and removed all of the flowers, glass and water."

Are we playing house? Am I being punk'd? How is all this crap happening around me without me possessing the first clue? If everything around here is going to be need to know, they were going to have to raise my security clearance because I was tired of being left out of the loop until they decide to hang me with it.

"So those are the only people who know?" I ask, my patience fraying. Melissa knows, as well as Garza and that ass who stole my earrings.

"Well, Gail knows because she has a listing of your dietary requirements. But that's it. No one else knows," he offered helpfully. So a dozen people, more or less, know that I'm pregnant. Lord, please give me strength, a blunt instrument and an ironclad alibi. Amen.

"How many people know we're having twins?" I ask.

"Maybe Andrea, because I said I wanted unisex colors and gave her the description of the two bears I wanted. But she may have thought I wanted various combinations based on the sex and coloring of one baby. Or Gail, because of the dietary requirement sheet," he added. I guess I could live with that. This is very thoughtful. He can't help it that he's accustomed to living in a high-security fishbowl and I'm not.

"Is every room monitored?"

"Pretty much. Some of the zones are not actively monitored, such as the bathrooms."

"There are cameras in the bathrooms, too?" Was I living in "The Real Housewives of Seattle"?

He must have figured that this train of thought was going to derail the evening entirely, and it was pretty late, so he places everything back in the box. Then he reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a very small Tiffany blue box. Is it another ring? I asked him to open it for me. It's another charm for my bracelet, a platinum fertility goddess. I don't even feel the tears that have rolled down my cheeks until he begins to wipe them away, kissing me, my forehead and lips.

"Your lips are so very soft when you cry, but these are happy tears, right?"

I nod, full of happiness. I'm overwhelmed. How can I be going from angry and sad to furious and amazed so quickly? These hormones must be managed before I become as mercurial as Fifty. He guides me to our bedroom, once again carrying that baby shower in a box which he deposits in our closet.

Better call Melissa. Tomorrow, I have to tell Ray his best friend's son attacked me. She reacted to the news that we'd be going to visit my father in the hospital like I thought she would. I usually give her the time and place and she explains all the ways we can be ambushed at that location. Apparently, a hospital is a house of horrors from a security standpoint. Multiple points of egress, people in costume, chemical and biological warfare in the form of blood, sweat, tears and other excretory emissions, possible torture, along with landmines disguised as catheter bags. Eww. Alright then. She asks me if I want a photo op or a quick in-and-out. Unfortunately, Christian comes in sans shirt as she asks me.

"I'll take what's behind door number two," he interjects. Silly man.

"I just want to see my dad. I don't want to see anyone else while we're there."

"10-4," replies Melissa before I hang up. She never says good-bye.

"So, photo ops?"

"No photos at all. I'm still trying to get my head around being considered a celebrity simply for dating and being married to you. It's ridiculous."

"It's life. You're always going to find people who want to know how the other half live, especially if they're one percenters."

"One percenters?"

"Members of the top one percent of a population by wealth," he says shortly. "That's me, and, by marriage, now you."

"But it's your money!"

"Anastasia, the money is a part of me. Choosing me means choosing every part of me, for better or for worse."

"But-" I begin.

"Ana, please stop talking before I send you out to spend at least ten thousand dollars a day on lingerie until it gets through your very hard head that my money is your money. I know you didn't marry me for my wealth, but this is our life," he interjects. "I'm considered very visually appealing and have a fairly huge cock. I don't see you complaining or being ashamed of that. This is our life. I shouldn't have to apologize to you for being financially solvent!"

"I hate being accused of marrying you for your money."

"Stop comparing yourself to the aluminum digger."

"What?"

"Carla. Now that I have some inkling of how you grew up, I notice that you spend a lot of time trying to avoid comparisons to her. Rest assured, except for the few physical features you share, you're nothing like her. You have a good heart. She doesn't. She couldn't even succeed in gold digging. All of her husbands combined didn't earn what I paid in sales tax last year."

"You're kidding. That can't be accurate."

"I'm actually overestimating their income."

"You looked into her husbands' incomes. Who does that?"

"People like me who don't like surprises and can afford to prevent them. I've actually been going over our financials. You still have outstanding student loan debt. When are you going to pay it off?"

"Well, I've been paying a little towards it each pay period," I said.

"Can't you just pay it off all at once? We're getting reamed by interest, but it's not nearly enough to save on our taxes."

"I can't afford to pay all of that at once," I defended weakly.

"You, a billionaire's wife, can't afford to pay fifty thousand dollars? Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? Think about how bad that makes me look! Even Cinderella moved away from the fireplace to live in the palace. You can't keep living like our money doesn't exist. It's embarrassing and insulting."

"I just wanted to do earn my education by myself!"

"You already did, unless I handed some other brunette your diploma. I have a solution. Add my name to all your worldly goods," he says.

"You want access to my checking account?" I squeaked.

"I want access to every part of you. But I'll start with that if that's what it takes to convince you that what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine. I didn't go up against a dozen attorneys before I proposed to prenup my wife and dole her out an allowance like a child!"

"I thought Carrick arranged that after the boathouse."

"That was Carrick's bright idea and it wasn't even original. I'm talking about the first proposal."

I don't understand. How could he have discussed me with his lawyers before he proposed? I always thought he proposed out of desperation because he bathed that crazy whore after he kicked me out of my apartment.

"When did you discuss me with your lawyers?" I ask. I can't imagine when this could have occurred. We had barely reconciled when he proposed. Just how long had he planned for us to get married?

"The first time you were discussed was when the graduation photo was published," he said. "I wouldn't do that for just anyone. The meeting was called by them to protect my reputation if you were to sell info about my personal life for a payday or cry rape for a settlement. They knew I wouldn't willingly pose for a photo with a woman unless I was serious, since there were never any published before. I spent a half hour with my lawyers and my publicists over that. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted from you, but I wasn't going to let those assholes throw potshots at you over my money."

Why do people treat that damn photo like it was the Holy Grail? I asked, "Over a picture?"

"How do you think I've managed never to get my photo taken, even with Elena?"

"Gag orders, I guess," I reply with a smirk. He does like his gags

"No. Even that wouldn't be enough if the rags really wanted to snap a shot of me. First, Elena is known as a very old family friend, hardly newsworthy at all. She was generally pictured with my mother. Plus, I made sure to never arrive or depart with any woman including Ros. Flying her in Charlie Tango that time was an exception. What if we had both perished? The sharks would've been circling for sure. She has her team and I have mine. I usually take the red carpet to enter, and leave before the party's over. Also, I use security to keep a very wide space between other people and myself. Anyone pictured with me would look like a stalker or a groupie since they would barely make the peripheral of any photo."

"I understand that it would generate some interest, but this had lunatics crawling out of the woodwork."

"It wasn't just the photo; it was the pose. I was touching you in such a way that it couldn't be an accident. You had not twisted my arm. It wasn't a dare. In the photo from Rodriguez's art show, I was holding you next to my body and I identified you by name. Both photographers witnessed me pulling you into the picture and were verbal permission to photograph us. I gave them the legal release that Rodriguez didn't give you."

"When did you decide you wanted to marry me, if it wasn't that night in the apartment?" I asked curiously. I had to know. I couldn't believe it. This changes so many things.

"While you were gone, I did a lot of thinking, soul-searching, I guess. I even contemplated tearing out the playroom or getting rid of Escala entirely. I didn't want anything in my life that was going to keep you out of it. But then I decided to wait to hear your opinion. I was willing to do anything to keep you, so marriage was on the table two days after you left. I was desperate. The art show just gave me the first opportunity to see you without appearing to be begging."

Fuck me. I could've gotten rid of this place ages ago! I was slightly ashamed of myself that this was my first thought, especially considering I wasn't even living with him at the time. Why can't I ever just say what's on my mind instead of letting everything fester?

"So, the day after the show, I made another set of changes to the disposition of my property in case of death or debilitation, and the topic of my possible marriage arose. My lawyers already had some standard forms ready since they assumed that a marriage was in the works. Imagine their shock when they were told there would be no prenup. Imagine the sight of a conference room filled with slack-jawed Ivy League pencil pushers when I told them to fuck the paperwork. At least the prenuptial shit. Their expressions were priceless."

"Why? I figured you'd expect that since I came into the marriage with just a degree in Literature and unpaid student loans."

"It's true that I didn't want to go into our marriage planning for its end. But the most important reason is that I had weighed all the pros and cons and decided that the loss of half my net worth was an acceptable risk. I have billions of dollars; half of that is still billions. I could start over financially. If I did something that hurt you so badly that someone like you would take my money and run, I would deserve to lose half my assets. Besides, didn't I tell you I wanted to give you the world?"

He was so earnest. He clearly means what he is saying. I have resisted his pampering because I don't want to be as useless as Carla or a trophy wife like Elena Lincoln. Troll Bitch is proof positive that idle hands are the Devil's workshop.

I never want to be a vapid society wife, though it would be nice not to worry about many of the things that come part and parcel of Christian's lifestyle. How does Grace do it? She maintains a beautiful home, keeps herself physically fit, has a thriving medical practice and chairs several charitable committees. I can barely manage one job and I have no real social life.

"How does Grace do it? She has it all. She works, she has a beautiful family with successful, accomplished children and she runs Coping Together," I mused.

"You can't compare yourself to Grace. We moved to Seattle because Grace got offered her dream job. She's a doctor and her hours were worse than Carrick's and he is a lawyer. Sixty hour weeks were his norm, but he frequently worked longer to build his practice. He missed more events than he attended. Elliot, Mia and I had nannies and when we got old enough, tutors. It's rather tough to master a foreign language, practice a musical instrument and train in a martial art while attending school unless they are extracurricular activities."

There's always a moment where you get one key piece of information and everything falls into place. I had often wondered why, or even how, Christian managed to keep such a firm distance from his family. I have a very uncharitable moment towards Grace. Why the hell did she even adopt a special needs child if she wasn't going to put him first? I saw that picture; Christian didn't look four in that photo. He couldn't even pass for three, he was so emaciated and his haunted expression reminded me of the victims of shell shock or the commercials claiming you could feed a starving child for thirty cents a day. Did she think he was like a damn Chia pet or something? Just water it, and watch it grow? Did she think a few good meals and a battery of mental health professionals was going to heal him? Nein, non, nyet, nope.

She complained about not being able to even wash him, and talked about how self-sufficient he was; when did she try, between hospital shifts and schmoozing? Did she try more than once? There was bait-and-switch after all. Grace rescues Christian, only for the state to send him to the Colliers. When he and the Greys were reunited, they move to Washington for her career, and Christian ends up with a nanny. And then they adopted Mia. What the fuck were these people thinking?

I had envisioned something else entirely. I thought Grace was constantly attempting to break Christian out of his shell. I imagined a tranquil, nurturing sanctuary. Instead, he was just as neglected, even if the neglect was benign. I thought it touching and sweet that his first word was "Mia". Now, I wonder at the fact that it took him two years to speak and if he used his speech to lobby for his parents to take care of the crying baby. Did he imagine they would leave Mia to her own devices? Did Christian allow Mia to touch him because she was a baby, unable to hurt him, or was she the first person in the Grey household he trusted or even worse, spent enough time with which to bond? Considering the speed at which she runs into his arms (even now) and the unrelenting pressure of her hugs, the last thing you could accuse Mia of is gentleness. Though his sister still lives with the Greys, Christian still gives her an allowance. It actually explained Christian's rather strong opinions regarding my comfort and safety. If I had once thought of Taylor as avuncular, Christian was downright paternal in comparison.

CPoV

Anastasia looked stunned. She opened her mouth, then firmly closed it, biting her lip. She raised her hand and her fingers splayed out as if she was trying to make a point or ask a question. She was totally flummoxed by what I had said. She was less shocked when I admitted that I had fucked Elena.

Was she surprised at our upbringing? Most of our classmates grew up like that. At least Carrick and Grace remained married, unlike our peers who were often ping-ponged from house to house like hot potatoes because none of their parents wanted to be reminded of the old when they moved on to the new. We were just lucky Carrick never fucked any of our nannies or maids.

Her reaction makes me wonder if she would be willing to be a stay-at-home mother. I'm getting the impression that my mother's star has waned. Ana had no idea how demanding my parents were, or how busy they were. Or just how many of my cries for help or attention fell on deaf ears. Neither Carrick nor Grace ever noticed that over a fourth of his wine and spirits had vanished or that I was drunk off my ass almost every other day. I think that's part of the reason I started fucking Grace's good friend Elena to begin with. Sure, it was free pussy, but the five finger knuckle shuffle was working pretty well for me. The thrill of getting one over on my parents in addition to receiving an adult's somewhat undivided attention while getting my dick wet, however, proved too hard to resist. Carrick wanted to send me to military school; I'd seen the fucking papers in his office. The bastard had already completed the forms.

Then Grace had saved the day with her manual labor approach. How the fuck she figured mowing lawns and moving rocks was going to save me, I'll never know. Little did she realize that I was watering Elena's garden and getting my rocks off instead. I was happy to mow the Lincoln lawn after that because it was part of my cover story. Linc had one of the most beautiful lawns in the neighborhood. What fool would complain to his parents that they were sending him to get head and touch pussy all day when he wasn't wearing a ball-gag and counting to a hundred in French to avoid busting a load? Certainly not me!

Sure, there was a pain, but it worked. I had eventually felt as bad on the outside as I did on the inside, and strangely enough, it helped keep my mind clear of all the shit the shrinks kept confronting me with. She unleashed hell on my ass, and I blessed her for it. Her punishments diverted the pain away from my head. As far as I was concerned, my childhood was a total wash; Elena made me feel like a man.

Every once in awhile, I'd look at her, realizing she wasn't quite my type, but my type wasn't offering to fuck me hard or suck my cock. My type was afraid of the beast I could rarely rein in, frantically bubbling beneath the surface. The little girls had seen me decimate more than one contender for little more than brushing up against me in the halls; I even had a doctor's note excusing me from all contact sports. I was lifting weights, doing cardio and rowing while the other students wasted time being socialized. The good girls were waiting for college to fuck or get their MRS degrees. Others were either going steady or indiscriminately fucking everything with a dick. At least I knew where Elena's pussy had been (or so I thought). She always made time for me. She showed up at practically all my performances, competitions and rowing events. I guess she was making sure I wasn't going to the after-parties, and hooking up. Didn't matter; they weren't offering anything worth getting my cock caged over.

It's taken over a decade and Anastasia for me to understand Elena was a sham artist, fulfilling a need she created, and convincing me that I could never have anything better. Do I want my children to be vulnerable to the shit I fell for as a teen? Would it be wrong to ask Anastasia to protect our children by staying home and being accessible? Our money guarantees that our children will never have the same freedom of their peers, but they could still have a very rewarding life if Ana and I give them our all. I'm not going to lie; the lion's share of the work will go to Ana. I definitely don't want her to try to fucking emulate Grace; I love my mother very much, but if I wanted someone like her, I'd never have fucked Elena in the first place.

"Christian. I don't want our kids raised by nannies and tutors," she says tremulously.

"Then they won't be, but that will mean sacrifices. As much as I want our children to bond with us and have a solid foundation, I'm not going to step down at GEH so you can maintain a career that pays less than a hundred thousand a year just so you can feel like you're contributing. So how exactly do you envision that working?"

APoV

"So how exactly do you envision that working?" he asked seriously.

How did our night deteriorate into this? I didn't have a plan; I just knew that I didn't want to raise my kids the way I was raised. I knew I lucked out with Ray, but he worked very demanding hours attempting to keep Carla up in the manner to which she demanded to become accustomed. I never considered how far Grace had dropped the ball.

I lost quite a bit of respect for her now that I knew how uninvolved they were as parents considering they adopted three kids who had all lost their parents in one way or another. Their love for their children is obvious when I see them all together, but there are still many hours where we don't see them. Why adopt yet another child when it was clear Christian already needed all of the help he could get and they already had Elliot to consider? Would Elena have been able to get her talons into him if the Greys had one less child to monitor? Besides, to this day, despite all that he has accomplished, Christian still feels like the odd man out in his family.

Does he expect me to quit my job? I know it's nothing compared to his empire, but I worked very hard to get my degree and find a good job. I'd already sacrificed my dream of graduate school because of Carla. And now, even with all the money in the world at my fingertips, I know there's no way in hell Christian would want me to go back to college where I'd be surrounded by even more men he cannot control. I need something for myself, too!

"Well I thought that I would take maternity leave right before the babies were born like most other mothers with that privilege do," I stated. "GEH, and now GP, offers up to six months of maternity leave with full pay for recovery and bonding."

"Then what happens to the babies after those six months have elapsed?" he asks calmly.

"I don't know. I guess I assumed we would put them in a very good daycare."

Oh, fuck! Is he laughing?

"So you thought you'd put the biggest kidnap targets in Seattle in a daycare?" he asked. "Your salary would be less than the insurance rider. They also each need their own security, one for each baby and another hands-free CPO. There is no daycare safe enough, Anastasia and I think you know that. Is that why you were so anxious to abort them?" he asked harshly.

"I swear, Christian, I never thought of that. Never. Not even once," I pleaded. I hadn't. I imagined leaving Christian and raising the child by myself. I thought of both of us (back when I thought it was just one baby) being discarded and replaced, but aborting a baby for my convenience never played into my decision although I was distraught and temporarily insane enough to think I had to do it in order to save my marriage.

"Then you had to know that your life would never be the same after we got together," he explained patiently. "Even if there was no baby, didn't you realize what a high-profile person you were when the paparazzo tried to take your photo when you were taking a piss? It may let up eventually, but it will never truly stop. I haven't even accomplished all of my goals for GEH, so more wealth is coming our way. Despite what you think, I didn't just buy SIP because you worked there. It's just a small part of my M&A team's diversification objectives. I may have started with telecommunications, but I never planned to keep it there. My company is Grey Enterprise Holdings. My fingers are in a lot of pies, Anastasia."

Wow. I had a Scarlett O'Hara moment. He may as well have just declared he'll never go hungry again. It helps that he's bound and determined that no-one else will ever go hungry either, or he would sound like a pure megalomaniac. I always knew he was ambitious; I thought he was already the master of his universe. Apparently, there are still galaxies to conquer.

Living with Kate had spoiled me. I always considered the Kavanagh family as wealthy, but next to Christian, even they were paupers. Sure, Kate didn't run around with security, but that's just because I guess the true baddies were in search of bigger fish. If I felt like Little Orphan Annie to Kate, I must really seem like Oliver Twist compared to Christian.

"There it is. Without fail, whenever we discuss money, you get this look on your face. I worried you were some sort of reverse snob, but you're hypocrite on top of it. It probably started with the volumes of Tess I sent you," he mused. "How did you know how much they cost? Somehow I can't imagine you on Sotheby's bidding for first editions."

"Kate was with me when I got them. She told me how much they were worth, and I knew I couldn't accept a gift like that."

"So Kate told you? Why did it matter how much they were worth? Was I charging you for them?"

"No, you weren't charging me for them, but I knew I shouldn't accept a gift like that. I didn't want to owe you."

"Anastasia, there will always be people who make more money than their partners. It's a fact of life. Gwen makes far less money than Ros. My father makes more money than my mother. Eamon's name may still be on the letterhead, but the stockholders pretty much own Kavanagh Media. Mia's trust fund outstrips Ethan's by a mile. I know that you didn't even pay half the rent at either of your apartments with Kate. So why does it hurt you so much for me to take care of you?"

I felt trapped. Why did it make a difference? Did I feel less 'kept' since I cooked and cleaned at both apartments? Since I wasn't fucking Kate? I guess at least with Kate, I had the illusion of pulling my own weight. Why did she tell me how much the books were worth? She had to know how I would react; she had lived with me for almost four years. Long enough to know all I had was my pride and as soon as Christian showed me real attention, she said the one thing guaranteed to turn me off. I still had persistent memories of Three with my mother. He bought her lock, stock and barrel. His only mistake was believing he had purchased us both for the price of one. It's the reason I barely had any dates and that I went Dutch to all of them. I couldn't afford to owe a man anything I couldn't pay back. I had to tell him. Perhaps then he would understand.

"The last time a man took care of me, or pretended to, he attempted to rape me until I escaped to Montesano. Even though I worked several odd-jobs, he always made it sound like I was eating him out of house and home, although I bought my own clothes, paid for all of my school fees and groceries and cooked for everyone," I said in a rush, ripping off the band-aid.

He looked incredibly stricken. I bet that didn't turn up in his investigation. It's hard as hell to investigate a person who left a sparse paper trail. "He tried to attack me whenever Carla wasn't in commission. It's a good thing she's a good whore, or else I wouldn't have been a virgin when you met me. Apparently, even his standards were too high to fuck a teenager with broken ribs or arms," I stated in a monotone voice.

"How can you be in the same room or house with her now?" he yelled.

"I'm used to being in uncomfortable situations. It wasn't like when I saw her these past couple times she was letting Bob smack me around and curse me. Besides, she still owes me tens of thousands of dollars. I'm far more likely to recoup my losses in person."

"You'll take Carla's money, but not mine?" he asked. He still doesn't get it. It was never Carla's damn money in the first place. She stole every dime Ray sent for me and her fucked up husband took the money from the cards Ray sent me for my birthday and Christmas.

"The money that I've gotten from Carla is money she stole from me and Ray! She never spent any of my child support on me, not that I ever knew it existed until I got back home. I hardly had a bedroom bigger than one of your elevators when I lived with her! She stole my college fund! And she basically held me hostage because Ray never adopted me. So don't you think she owes me?" I asked, crying. He makes to reach for me and I back away until by back hits the wall. He doesn't get to do this crap! He had four terrible years, and except for some rather haphazard parenting by Grace and Carrick, he fell into a glory hole. He never had to worry about squirrelling away portions of his lunch for the days he couldn't eat any food in the kitchen because his mother burned it up trying to make a fucking gourmet dinner for an evil son-of-a-bitch.

I still don't think I've gotten over him selling Wanda from under me. If he'd truly read that fucking background check, he would know that I had very little to call my own to begin with. Even exchanging it for another car was fucked up, because if we ever broke up, I'd feel like an even bigger whore than all of the fifteen put together. It may not have been much, but it was something Ray sacrificed to give me. Is Christian the only person in the world who deserving of a modicum of pride?

Heck, if he decided to drop me right now, what the hell would I do? Take his money that I never wanted in the first place? I'd probably need a huge settlement anyway just for security since he outed me to the whole fucking universe. Even divorced, our babies and I would still be targets. Would've been nice to have a heads up about the true security issues before prior to his proposal. Of course, I still would have said yes, but the world wouldn't be able to assume that Christian was making all the sacrifices. Instead, he gives me a car he won't let me drive and offers to give me a publishing house I don't know how to run. I was a Literature major and the biggest budget I'd ever balanced was my savings account.

Why did he choose today to bring all of this crap into the open? Hasn't it already been fucked up enough? Murderous ex-bosses, fake and actual kidnap attempts plus men who either don't realize or care they're in the damn friend zone for a reason... All in less than a week!

I guess he calls himself ripping off a few bandages of his own, but couldn't he wait for my next appointment with Ericka to hash this shit out? I feel like we're skydiving without parachutes and I just want to disappear.

My phone rings again. Who the hell could be calling at this hour? Damn, it's Melissa! Guess it just sucks to be me tonight. "Mel? What is it?"

Christian looks up at me questioningly. He was startled by the call, too. "Ana, if you're not sitting down, please do so now," she instructs. Then she asks, "Would it be OK for you to put this call on speaker? I haven't liaised with Taylor yet. It's fucked up worse than normal, Ma'am."

I glance at Christian. It would be completely fair if I gave him the mushroom treatment he gives me. I sat down and proceeded to put the phone on speaker anyway. "We're both here, Melissa. Go ahead."

"Ma-Ana, I just got a tip from a friend of mine at the police station. I'd rather not say who it is as I might need this contact again. The person who bailed out Jack Hyde was Elena Lincoln. She must have a judge or two in her pocket. He shouldn't have qualified for bail based on his charges, especially since Mr. Grey had a team of lawyers blocking it. I'll liaise with Taylor after I send him my report."

Oh, clearly my day was just not nearly messed up enough. This shitty pièce de résistance was waiting for me. How lovely. I look at Christian and he's a man on fire. I want to run around the room screaming, see? I was right! One short call has offered up a full platter of vindication. Would it be gauche to host an 'I Told You So' party? I wonder if Elena knew about the kidnap plot or if she just wanted to release the hounds on me and Christian. What? The bitter old hag can't have my husband and the Greys have blanked her, so it's alright to cause the Greys maximum damage?

I look up and Christian is in shock. I realize he has not spoken at all since the call. I attempt to move towards him and he's completely nonresponsive. I press a button near the dresser and call out for Taylor. In less than a minute, I hear footsteps running in our direction. He does move rather stealthily for such a large man, but I lived with Three. I could hear a mouse piss on cotton. He looks between Christian and I, but Christian's not talking.

"We've just received actionable intelligence that the Great Whore of Babylon paid Jack Hyde's bail, just in time for him to try to abduct Mia. Christian's been like this since we got the news. What are we supposed to do now?" I asked.

"What do you want us to do, ma'am?" He asks. Why the fuck is he asking me? Why isn't he reviving Christian?

"Why aren't you reviving my husband?"

"We have to wait for his to relax enough to be moved. If I was to touch him, he would attack with extreme prejudice."

So we're just supposed to just stand the fuck around twiddling our thumbs while my husband sits in this catatonic state? Well, fuck that! Too many people have been respecting his stupid fucking boundaries long enough. I'll just have to take my chances. If he hits me, I'll be the last person he hits.

"Come on, Christian," I begged, attempting to only touch his fingertips. There was no movement. I even recited my vows again, softly in his ear and nothing happened. Suddenly, I remember a brief conversation that took place after our brutal argument over our vows. He hates to talk about his birth mother, but the only good things he seems to associate with Ella are the memories of her baking him a chocolate cake and brushing her long hair. As much as he claims to hate her, I have my doubts since all of the subs he chose for himself were brunettes with long hair.

I get up and reach for the brush on the vanity, and release the few pins from my hair. I begin to slowly detangle my hair, gliding my fingers along my scalp, where a tension headache has begun brewing. Then I begin to brush my hair with leisurely strokes while humming a lullaby, very badly. Taylor is looking at me like I've lost my fucking mind, but doesn't attempt to interfere. Perhaps the intimacy of this scene made him uncomfortable, so he backs quietly out of the room. As he begins to close the door behind himself, out of nowhere Christian starts talking.

"Bad man gone, Mommy?"

What the natural fuck! I thought I would relax him by showing him something comforting. I wasn't prepared for this swift regression to toddlerhood. While I was still highly pissed at Taylor and the rest of his goons, but I wouldn't call him a bad man. Since he was finally talking, I was going to play along, God help me. I was going to burn in hell for this.

"Yes, the bad man is gone, Christian."

"Who Christian, Mommy?"

"Christian is you, baby," I replied gently.

"I Chris, silly," he corrected, smiling. Oh, hell. Just one more thing to add to the woodpile. I guess Ella was the only one allowed to shorten his name with impunity.

"The bad man is gone, Chris."

He walks towards me very slowly and carefully. He looks confused. I guess the last time he saw Ella, he was much shorter, but he towers over me. I walk over to the bed, and turn down the blanket. He looks at me strangely, then picks up the hairbrush from the vanity where I've discarded it.

"Mommy hair pretty."

"Yes, Chris. Make Mommy's hair pretty," I repeat, winging it in this strange, disastrous play.

He begins to brush my hair. He is brushing so softly and gently. I take a brief look behind me and his eyes are filled with child-like glee. I feel like crying. Minutes later, the brush slows down and I hear soft snuffling behind me.

"Chris sleepy, Mommy. Sleep wi' you," he pleads.

"Yes, Chris. Sleep with Mommy," I agree. I help him lay down and covered him up. Fuck! I'm touching him and nothing bad has happened except him slipping back two decades in time. I turn and rub his hair, brushing my fingers through his unruly locks. He wraps his arms around me like an octopus.

"Mommy smell good," he whispers, falling asleep. I slowly extricate myself from his arms, tears rolling down my cheeks, silent sobs wracking my body. This is the most vulnerable he's ever been. He's let me touch him, and touched me with neither flinch nor preparation, yet I was utterly disgusted by this. Elena could have used this shit to get into his head. Thank goodness she didn't know!

I wash my face and walk out of the room and bump into a wall of flesh. I look up, terrified. It's Taylor. Fucking ninja. I guess he never left.

"Mrs. Grey, that was either the dumbest or bravest thing I've ever heard in my life," he claimed.

"Maybe it was a little of both. Normally, I would've tried Flynn but there's a huge conflict of interest. Christian doesn't trust him like he used to."

"Like you no longer trust us?" he inquired.

"Why didn't you warn me that our security situation was so precarious? Why did you do that to me?" I whisper-shouted. "How could I trust you guys after this? You all left me hanging out to dry. Even Sawyer. I really liked him. He was nice."

"You're a survivor, Mrs. Grey. In our field, that can either be very good or very damn bad. You know we have your background report. I know about Rose Lambert, ma'am."

I reeled back in shock. I hadn't heard that name spoken by anyone else in a long time.

"Mr. Grey was terrified you were going to get killed, raped or abducted. Perhaps a combination of all three, and more. Look at the man in that bed and tell me you wouldn't do the same!"

"Why didn't he tell me all of this before?"

Taylor gives me a very knowing look and asked slyly, "Just like you told him all about your joyous months in Texas? Did you even last a whole year?"

"You had no right!" I cried out.

"With all due respect, ma'am, the fullness of your 'rights' doesn't outweigh a feather when you're dealing with someone like Grey. Christian Grey is a billionaire in a world where cash is king! There is no limit to the crazies. No-one who has walked into his life has a history I haven't sent through a centrifuge and studied under a microscope!"

"Not the Troll Bitch! How did she get past all of you all-knowing bad-asses?"

"What makes you think she escaped the treatment? We have files upon files on that woman, but until Mr. Grey let us act on our intel, she was golden! Do you think we relished the idea of giving her a pass?"

"So what happens to her now?" I ask. Surely this bitch doesn't think she's going to get away with this. Wake up, Christian, so you can handle this shit!

"We're awaiting your instructions."

Shut the front door! What the hell? My instructions? "My instructions?" I ask stupidly.

"Yes, Mrs. Grey. As per protocol, while Mr. Grey is indisposed you're in charge." He stated confidently. At least someone is confident in this situation. "Surely you agree that Mr. Grey is incapacitated?"

I can't make Christian's decisions! What the heck was he thinking, putting me in charge? Don't you need to sign a lot of paperwork for that?

"Taylor, I can't be in charge. You've must have made a mistake. I don't remember signing any kind of forms that would allow me to make decisions for him!"

He retreats to his side of the apartment, then returns with a blood-colored leather portfolio. He directs me to the couch, taking a seat diagonally from me. I think I hear him mutter, "Why me?" as he opens the portfolio. He takes out several documents. I recognize some of the paperwork only it's missing all the little yellow sticky tabs from the time Christian had me sign all the forms we needed to get our marriage license. He asked me if I needed to read them, but people sign these types of forms every day to get married. I would have almost thought he was tricking me into signing a prenuptial agreement if he wasn't so dead-set against it.

Now I remember. I was so anxious to get out of Stepford Central that I just asked him where he needed my signature and I signed at all the X's he pointed out. I never bothered to look at the headings. The first document is very thick. It's a detailed listing of all of his assets. The second document is a durable power of attorney. Next is his living will. Then there is a copy of his actual will. A cursory glance at the contents chilled me to the bone. Except for some rather small bequests, the lion's share, the residue, of Christian's estate was left to me with trusts for any issue resulting from our marriage.

"Why do you have these, Taylor?" I asked. "Shouldn't they be in Christian's office?"

"This set of documents is one of many, ma'am. Mr. Grey's should still be in his office. If something were to happen to Mr. Grey, it's important for the succession of GEH to go off without a hitch. Tens of thousands of jobs are riding on its stability. Several key individuals have copies to head off any upheaval. You don't want to give the other wolves, vultures and hyenas time to pounce."

"He's going to be alright. This is totally unnecessary."

"He may be alright tomorrow, but at this moment, you're the boss. These are Mr. Grey's wishes. There are advisors, Ros, Welch, even Mr. Grey, esquire if you need them. Andrea is a godsend since she controls the calendar. If he wakes up fine in the morning, you won't need to use this information, but if he doesn't, this is your duty. It would have been much better if you had just taken over GP to get your feet wet, but this is how the cookie crumbled. Either way, you're his wife and therefore his next-of-kin. It would come down to you anyway, but since he put it down in black and white, there won't be a fight."

"If succession is so important, who was in charge when Charlie Tango crashed?" I asked. No-one seemed to be in charge. Everyone came to the apartment to commiserate with her, waiting for Christian's safe return.

"Mr. Grey wasn't officially missing for many hours. PR had already made their statements, but if push came to shove, and decisions needed to be made, the buck was always going to stop with you."

Christian. You controlling, trusting, infuriating man! What am I supposed to do with you? You were trying to bind me to you every way you could, weren't you? Didn't I tell you I'd prefer the debasement? This pedestal you've placed me is far too high and it's a long way down.

"Taylor," I began crisply, "Mrs. Lincoln had reason to believe she was bailing out a potential felon. Instead, she unleashed a monstrous sociopath, intent on murder and mayhem, on us. Let's make sure that soulless piece of trash doesn't recoup a dime of that money. I would assume that the bail has been revoked, but then again I also thought Jack was safely behind bars. Isn't there some way she could be charged for this? Conspiracy, negligence, something?"

Taylor gives me a proud look and says, "I'll get Welch and Barney on it right away, ma'am."

"You said that you had dirt on Elena. Would any of it send her to jail?"

"The things that would send her to jail, could bring a generous slice of Washington's elite down with her. And it wouldn't look good that Mr. Grey bankrolled the business that made it all possible."

My mind raced at the possibilities. I know Christian wouldn't willfully contribute to any operation that hurt children, but I always got the sense that he threw money at her to appease her in some way. As much as he clung to her at the beginning, she seemed to make him very uncomfortable, as if she got some pathetic kick out of keeping him on edge. Edging – mindfuck edition. Gifting her the salons gave her more money initially, but she was probably on the hook tax-wise. And this is Christian, after all. He 'gifted' me a car he barely lets me drive. I need someone to look at the paperwork he used to 'gift' Elena his shares of Esclava. He probably has enough red tape written into that contract to make a nawashi jealous.

Elizabeth Morgan had rented an SUV and they had what looks like a very expensive murder kit: firearm, chloroform, tranquilizers and GHB. Did Elena help finance the abduction, too? The golden goose cut her ass off and she just couldn't take no for an answer?

"I can't believe Elena Lincoln hasn't screwed the wrong person over, or at least someone who doesn't give a shit about his or her reputation. What does she have hanging over my husband's head?"

"Mrs. Lincoln has a great deal of leverage over your husband. She's hand-picked every 'woman' who ever came here and took rather keen interest in the smallest details of those arrangements. I never liked that. I also got the impression that there was more to their relationship than just business partners, especially since her subs all seemed to be the same age as the boss."

"Look into the judges that signed off on bail. If she had enough on them to get Jack released, their asses are ours now. Her leverage just became our leverage. I'm sure those judges have lives and wives. Any other day I'd hold my nose and ignore it, but what they did was beyond the pale. These bastards used their positions to help the troll hurt us, all to cover up who and how they fuck. Let their efforts be for nothing."

"If you do this, Mr. Grey's past might come out," Taylor warned.

"Well then. Do your job and make sure all those sub-witches adhere to their NDAs. You need to learn one thing about me: I am not my husband. I don't negotiate with terrorists. He's spent over a decade keeping his head down with that woman holding his leash; as long as she controls him, she controls me and that is unacceptable. Christian may be willing to have this hanging over his head, but I'm not."

A raspy voice from our bedroom tiredly interjects, "Ana's right, T. It's time to take the gloves off. I was a fool to think Elena would ever go quietly into that good night. The only thing she has over me is evidence that I had consensual, kinky sex."

Christian emerges from the room, taking a position directly behind me, sliding his arms around me. "My parents already know that she molested me when I was fifteen, and they didn't reject or disown me. Pretending I wasn't a victim has hurt my entire family. I can't let this hurt my children, too."

Taylor nods and walks away with his instructions. It's one o'clock in the morning and all is not well.

"So, Mrs. Grey. Kicking ass and taking names?" he whispers slyly.

"Yeah. Apparently, some deluded megalomaniac put me in charge."

"Topping from the bottom is your specialty. Who am I to keep a good woman down?"

"I'm sorry. Taylor told me I'd have to make all the decisions while you were incoherent."

"I'm not. Hearing you take control and stand up for us was pretty damn hot," he declared, pulling me back to our bedroom. When we reach the bed, he stops suddenly. "I had a good dream for once. I was brushing your hair. I forgot to braid it though."

"That sounds nice." I said, planning a morning call to Dr. Weiss to request an earlier appointment.

"You smell good, baby," he murmurs, while sliding off my robe and chemise. He rips my panties and pushes me onto the bed. He quickly disrobes, joining me.

He's caressing my hypersensitive breasts, tweaking my nipples until they become hard and elongated. Once he uses his talented fingers on my nub, scissoring them within me, I am lost to sensation. My last coherent thought of the evening was wondering if a person could die from multiple orgasms.

E/N: FF is STILL being terrible with reviews. Sometimes I cannot view or reply to any unless I PM the reviewers.

On my writing style: I know that I have problems with 1st and 3rd person. I've also always had trouble with parallel structure. I lost one reader because of that. I do apologize. Just be glad I use spellcheck and try not to depend too much on autocorrect. My beta catches most, but I'm set in my ways. Perhaps one day, I'll go back with a fine-tooth comb with a team of betas, pre-readers and editors and address all of these glaring errors…when writing is my full-time paying job. Until then, this is fanfiction, not pay-per-fic.

About who bailed out Hyde. It just made more sense for it to be Elena. She's embezzled from Christian; she's lied to him. She stole his innocence and betrayed him in a myriad of ways. She manipulated him and his entire family. Elena could have told Linc, as she had most of the details of the crash and such via Grace that Linc couldn't have known, but Linc is an unknown quantity. There was no real reason for Linc to go after Christian, and him seeking vengeance after six or more years lends importance to Elena that she really doesn't deserve. Yes, I know revenge is a dish best served cold, but the only way I could see that would be if he was already dying or something. Linc never struck me as someone who would want spend his twilight years in jail. Replace Elena with a newer model, yes. Reside in the state pen, no.

Besides, everything we 'know' about Linc comes from Elena, who anyone would be a fool to trust. Elena, on the other hand, was already stalking Ana, confronting her at the Coping Together gala, sending her the note with a server, sending her the e-mail at her work address, showing up at CG's apartment when she must've suspected Ana would be there and finally the showdown at their engagement party. Where's Linc in all this drama? Absolutely nowhere to be found. As far as I am concerned, Linc dodged a bullet. Elena got caught red-handed and she got peanuts in the divorce. In canon, Christian retaliates for his wife and sister's abduction and Ana's assault by bankrupting Linc. The punishment in the book seemed less about Mia and Ana and more about getting one more over on Elena's ex-husband. We have to remember that CG had this bit of revenge in his back-pocket way before he and Ana ever met.

Oh, and I found out that while both New Jersey (where Princeton is located) and Washington have the death penalty, there is a moratorium on carrying those sentences out. This means a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is our best bet for Hyde and Morgan in either state which they are convicted.

Guests: I understand you may not always be able to login, but please leave your name or username so I can respond to your reviews. I don't want to be stuck moderating truly anonymous guest reviews. I have been approving them indiscriminately, but that will stop.

Next post: Elena has a date with Destiny's cousin, Karma. Another outing with Patterson. Ana informs Ray about Jose's stalking and subsequent attack. CG discovers something naughty in Anastasia's search history.

As always, teasers for new chapters are at FSoG Fanfic Obsessed FB.

Feel free to swim on over.
Thank you for reading.
Nichole Stewart FB