I'm powerless to speak or move. I can't blink. I can't breathe. In all of her sandy blonde and hazel eyed beauty, Grace is standing still as a stone outside of the library. Anger, an anger that terrifies me, is all over her face. She isn't staring at me. She's staring through me.
My, God. How long has she been standing here? How much did she hear?
Shaking my head, I catch a glimpse of Christian, who is behind me. Now I realize who Grace's eyes are resting on - her middle child. He's as pale as his mother – maybe more so. Our eyes meet, unshed tears in mine, as I offer him a small smile. I hope it's a smile and not a grimace because I have lost control of my body – it's on cruise control.
My husband is looking at his mother, and it's as if he's standing in front of a firing squad. I'm sure that's how he must feel. I don't know what to do, so I do nothing. As hurt and angry as I am, I don't want to leave him. I don't want him to face this alone.
"Ana, I need to speak with my son privately." Her voice is eerily low. "I sent my children and Kate to go . . . well, I don't know where I told them to go. Perhaps you'll find them in the living room."
I'm being dismissed, and I understand why. She sent the others away. Grace obviously heard more than I fear. Where was she? I thought I was the only one within earshot. This is bad. This is really bad.
"Of course," I stutter. Before I force my legs to work, I turn to Christian. I must let him know that I won't leave. I won't leave him. I exhale deeply.
"I'll be in the living room," I tell him. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to leave you."
The corners of his lips slightly turn up and he nods at me.
My heart is working in overdrive. This doesn't feel right. Leaving Christian doesn't feel right.
"Everything will be fine, dear. I promise. I just need to talk with my son," she quietly says.
I nod but realize something. Turning back and looking at my husband, whose eyes are full of unshed tears, I know I can't leave him. I don't want to leave him. Give him solace. Solace, Ana. Turning, I stumble my way to him and pull his head down to mine. I kiss his neck, cheeks, his hair. His tears are hot as they run down my neck and intertwine with mine.
"I love you," I whisper. "Forgive me for what I said. I'll never leave you. Ever." Please say that you forgive me."
Christian takes me in his arms, holding me tightly, and murmuring words I don't make out.
I look back at Grace, who is also crying – shoulders shaking.
"I can't leave him. I won't. He needs me, Grace. He's broken," I tell her.
I'm holding onto Christian's waist as tightly as I've ever held anything. He relaxes at my words and faces his mother again.
Grace says nothing. She walks straight into the library and holds the door as I follow Christian in. She slumps into a winged back chair and we take the small sofa across from her. I take hold of Christian's hand. I'm not sure he's breathing. I'm not sure if I'm breathing.
"Ana, I need to tell you that I didn't bring Elena Lincoln back around the family to hurt you or make you think that I don't care about your feelings. Please accept my apology," Grace softly says. She's looking everywhere but at us.
Clearing my throat, I scramble for words. I don't know what to say. What she's said has thrown me.
"I'm not sure why you're apologizing to me. You've done nothing wrong."
You didn't know Elena Lincoln was fucking your teenage son. You had no idea she was entrenching him into BDSM at fifteen.
She shakes her head. "Yes, I have. Ana, I had to. I knew it would upset you. Upset everyone in the family, for that matter, but It was necessary. I knew there was something. . . off. . . whenever you were in Elena's presence. The night of that disastrous dinner solidified the nagging feeling I had about the two of you."
Grace turns her body to face Christian and me head on. I'm nearing a panic attack. I don't know what to say because I don't know what happened that night.
The infamous night that I stormed out of this house.
"I considered every reason that made you react so out of character when Elena was around. I recalled a time early on in your relationship when Elena made a comment about your youth, and Christian's wealth. I thought they were uncalled for considering she didn't know you…but now I believe that she did know you. I knew she was insinuating you were after his money, but Elena's always been a gossip who makes snide comments about people. I'm ashamed to say that I associated with her and called her a friend. I knew that we didn't have anything in common."
"Grace, I don't think you should feel that way."
"Yes, Ana, I should. Carrick has always said she'd befriended me, burrowed her way into our family because she's a social climber, and that she wanted to be known as a close friend of the Grey family. I don't mean that to sound pretentious, it's just the truth." She stops and wipes the tears from her cheeks away. "When she and Linc moved in next door, I naturally went to introduce myself and welcome them to the neighborhood. Soon, she was a regular fixture around here. I saw it as Elena being lonely since Linc worked so much and was hardly at home."
"Really, Grace, there's nothing to apologize for," I mutter. "You've done nothing to hurt me."
Who should be apologizing to me is my husband. He's the one who has been dishonest.
She opens and closes her eyes while wagging an index finger at me. Her expression bland and cheeks pink. Christian has fallen back into the sofa's pillows. My hand is still squeezing his.
"No, Ana. There is. I'm guessing you don't remember anything that I'm referring to. Let me say that while I was looking underneath every rock for that root of hostility you had for Elena, it occurred to me that the only thing the two of you remotely had in common was Christian."
Grace finally looks at Christian, who's staring into space. Seconds of silence pass before she continues. They feel like years.
"She always knew things about Christian that I didn't. In fact, looking back, Elena seemed to go out of her way to fill me in on my son's personal life. She tended to appear like she was gloating whenever she would tell me about Christian's life. Little details that I wasn't privy to."
Christian still hasn't uttered a word while he stares ahead unblinking. I'm unclear as to where Grace is headed, but I know what I overheard. I know that Elena Lincoln molested my husband when he was only fifteen. I know it lasted until he was twenty-one. I nearly gag when I think that was only seven years ago. That old slut, attractive on the outside, but undeniably amoral on the inside, bound and beat Christian when he was still a boy. A young and troubled boy. Tears begin to flow faster than I can dash them away and I bring his hand to my lips and kiss his each of his knuckles.
He told me that I saved him. He told me that he'd hurt and suffered his entire life, but I thought it was because of his life before he became a Grey. I'd no idea what he really meant. He'd said he'd suffered, yet, earlier, Christian almost sounded like he was downplaying what Kate and his siblings were saying to him. It sounded like an intervention. It sounded like an intervention that he wanted no part of. I think about our conversation the day we got married.
She fucked me up. She made me believe that I had to—"
He was referring to Elena Lincoln.
Holy, fuck. He doesn't think their fucked past is wrong. If he did, she wouldn't have remained a part of his life until right before I got hurt. He said they were friends. Business partners. Her fucking phone number is still programmed into his phone. Christian said he ended his relationship with Elena Lincoln because I told him too. Why naturally I would. Who the hell would tolerate that sick shit being around them? But. . . we became involved in May. He didn't end his friendship or business relationship with her until September. Why not?
Did I know about them from the beginning of my relationship with Christian? Wait, yes, I did. I told Kate and Mia. How much did I tell them, though? No one threw out the lovely term BDSM, but Kate told Mia that I hadn't told her everything. I told Kate everything, and Kate being the loyal best friend that she is, didn't even breathe a word of it to Elliot. Obviously, I left out the juicy tidbit of information when I told Mia why I reacted the way I did at that dinner. God, I wish I could remember what happened that night.
"Ana told me. She told me everything." Kate had said. I must have
My thoughts shut out Grace's words. It's only now that I tune her back in.
"I knew that Carrick and Elliot didn't approve of your business relationship with Elena, Christian. Your father said she used us to get to you. I didn't want to believe that. . .I believe it now, though. God, how did I miss this?"
Grace stands and makes her way to us, sitting down on the sofa beside a motionless Christian. She takes his hand.
"Fifteen, Christian. You were just a child. A child that my friend manipulated and seems to have controlled for the past thirteen years. I heard you. What you were saying. . . I heard you defending her. Don't you realize she abused you?
Christian sits up, places his forearms on his thighs, and looks at the floor.
"Elena didn't abuse me, Mom. I was out of control and angry at the world. She helped me learn how to deal with my problems. How to cope and stay cool and collected," he answers.
Unbelievable. He is defending Elena.
"Christian, you can't tell me that you know what she did to you was wrong? She was an adult, you were only fifteen. Elena was married, for God's sake! Didn't we teach you right from wrong, son?" Grace wails.
My husband faces her and cups her face in his hands.
"Mom, at the time it seemed right. Elena made sure I did well in school and quit drinking and getting into fights. That made you and dad happy. Knowing you were no longer worrying about me made me happy."
Jesus. Does he honestly believe that bullshit? He thinks that pedophile helped him.
Grace pulls away from his grasp, but not unkindly. We both gasped at his words. She must be thinking about this the same way I am.
"She molested you, and I heard that it continued until you were twenty-one. Is this why you helped her start her business? Guilt? A sense of duty? What?"
"No. I helped her because I owed it to her. She gave me the money to start GEH," Christian whispers.
I nearly fall off of the sofa. She gave him the money to start GEH. He gave her money to open up a chain of damn beauty shops. Christian kept her as a friend for years. Elena Lincoln has had her claws in him since he was a young kid. And I thought he was a brilliant man.
"Ana," Grace addresses me. "Do you know anything about this?"
I'm still too stunned to speak. Christian shakes his head at his mother. He looks ashamed.
"No, she doesn't."
"Did Ana ever know? Before she lost her memory, that is. Had you confided in her, and that's why she reacted so badly that night?"
"Yes, Mom. I had told Ana everything, and she despised Elena for it. When she saw her here that night, she lost it. We didn't speak for several days afterward."
"Ana, do you remember that night?"
I'm sure I look like a deer in headlights. I swallow and shake my head no.
"No one has told me. Kate briefly mentioned two occasions that I behaved less than ladylike here, but she never expounded on them, and I never pressed her for information. At the time, I didn't think to delve. I had more important issues to worry about. Now. . . I think Kate might have been trying to spark some kind of memory about Elena Lincoln."
"Yes, I heard what Kate said. She was protecting you from finding it out on your own when Christian could have told you. Why didn't you tell her?" she asks her son.
Christian looks at me, I think his expression is one of regret. But right now, I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything anymore.
"I didn't want to hurt you," he says to me, not his mother.
Grace scoffs on the other side of Christian and stands.
"I want to talk to your brother and sister about this. I'm going to go find them," she tells us.
Looking at her, her eyes are bloodshot and mascara is running down her cheeks.
"No, no, Grace. Stay. I'll go find them. You stay here," I tell her.
Christian grabs my wrist when I stand up.
"You're coming back, aren't you? Please come back."
He looks like a scared little boy. I caress his cheek.
"Of course. Let me go get them."
I scurry out of the room like a rat on a sinking ship, and quietly shut the door behind me. I make my way to the living room, only to find the Mia and Kate comforting one another, and Elliot staring out of the window. They all look at me when I walk into the room.
"Is he all right?" Elliot asks, running a hand through his curly hair.
I ignore that stupid question. Of course, he isn't.
"Grace wants to speak with you. . . in the library."
"Shit," he mutters. "Just me?"
"No. She wants Mia to come as well. Kate, you should probably come. Grace can tell you to leave if she doesn't want you around." I scowl at my friend, the secret keeper.
We make our way back to the library, quiet and dread rolling off of us. Mia's constant sniffling is driving me crazy. Opening the door, the scene before me shocks me to the core. My husband's head is in his mother's lap. Grace is rubbing his head and whispering to him, as he weeps his heart out. It cuts me in half. I rush to him.
"Oh, Christian, please don't. Everything will be fine. Hush," I say, kneeling down and kissing his head.
He raises his head and looks so forlorn. Doubt is shining in his eyes. He sits up, and motions for me to sit in his lap.
Elliot and Mia cautiously walk into the room. Kate is slowly moving behind them. She shuts the door behind her.
Grace must not care if Kate's here because she says nothing. However, she does motion for them to sit. Where she looked hurt when she was talking to my husband, she looks mad as hell staring at her other two children.
"Elliot, how long have you known about your brother and Elena?" she asks, glaring at him.
"Mom, please," Christian pleads. "Don't drag Elliot into this, please. Don't be pissed at him," Christian tells her.
Elliot sits, inhaling, and then exhaling loudly, he ignores his brother and is facing Grace's glare. Kate and Mia are sitting in the same recliner – holding hands.
"Since I was eighteen," Elliot admits.
The glare on Grace's face disappears as her eyes begin to shine with tears. She places her head in her hands. Christian is rubbing her back. A moment or two slips by, and she sits up ramrod straight.
"Did it occur to you that he was considered a minor in the state of Washington? That she was molesting him? What was the reason, Elliot? Did you think it was cool that a beautiful older woman was fucking your brother?"
Jesus. I've never heard Grace swear before. Never. Ever.
"No, Mom, I didn't. I tried to get him to stop it because they were making you look like a fool since you were friends. I wanted to choke her every time that I saw her. I never thought it was right."
Elliot looks so pained, and his eyes are watering. Kate makes her way to him and sits on his lap. I catch her staring at me and I turn my head. The two of us will be having a discussion later.
"Why didn't you come to me or your father, Elliot? We could have put that woman away. She's a pedophile. There's no telling how many boys she did this to. Unfortunately, now it's too late to do anything."
Elliot looks at Christian. Neither say anything, but I know what's happening. Elliot is asking his brother's permission to be completely honest. Well, I'm sure there isn't going to be mention of the BDSM.
"Because Christian asked me not to. At first, I bought into his claims of her keeping him out of trouble. I now know I was stupid, but I was a kid myself, and I didn't know she was hurting him—"
Elliot stops, his eyes widen as Christian jumps off of the sofa and stands in front of his mother. His voice is hoarse.
"No, Elliot. Don't you dare!"
Christian's booming voice vibrates off of the walls. Elliot pushes Kate off his lap and stands up, facing his brother.
"I'm sorry. It just slipped out. I swear, it just slipped," he tells him.
Mia looks confused. Her eyes are moving to her brothers and then her mother, who has paled considerably. I can sense her panic. At this point, we're all standing.
"What do you mean Elena was hurting Christian?"
Her question is directed at my brother-in-law, whose hands are fisted. This is going to get ugly. Ugly. Oh, so very ugly.
Kate's come to my side, tears running down her face, and starts to rub my shoulder. The one that Leila Williams didn't stab.
"El, what are you talking about? How did that old slut hurt my brother?" Mia demands. Her face is flushed and she's breathing heavily.
Elliot remains quiet, locked in a stare down with Christian, whose body is shaking. He's pale and looks like he's about to burst into tears. I push Kate away from me and wrap my arms around him. Elliot knows.
Elliot knows about the BDSM that Elena introduced his brother to. I wonder if he's known all of these years. I can't help but feel compassion for him. How did he carry such a burden around? It could only have been done because he loves Christian so deeply.
"Put her out of her misery, Christian. Put us all out of our misery. This has got to end, man, and face it, it looks like it's going to end right now."
Elliot said this not so very long ago, and although I don't know anything definite, I agree with him. Christian is going to have to fess up. To put an end to the misery.
I bring Christian's head to my mouth and I whisper in his ear.
"I don't know everything yet, but I know enough to tell you to be honest. Tell the truth," I tell him.
He steps back, enough to face his mother and tells her to sit back down. She does, with the rest of us following.
"Did you overhear everything?" he asks Grace.
We all exhale deeply. We know what that means. She doesn't understand why Elliot or Mia haven't told her. She knows that Kate knows more than Mia and that I don't remember what the hell they all know. I'm as clueless as Grace.
Christian takes a shuddering breath and takes both of Grace's hands. I feel like I'm watching a soap opera. Or an execution.
"Tell me how this began, Christian?" Grace asks softly, wiping her tears with the handkerchief Christian gave her.
My anxiety level is so high that it's near the sun, and I want to dig my fingernails into my thighs. Then tension. . . is a heavy woolen blanket around us all.
Christian's shoulders move as he draws in a deep breath and blows it out.
"Excuse me, Christian, Grace," Kate says quietly. "Would you prefer if I leave? I-I mean, I'm not family, and I know this is—"
Both my husband and mother-in-law shake their heads.
"No, my dear. You're Elliot's fiancé. You're a part of this family, too," Grace interjects.
"I don't want to intrude," Kate replies.
"You already know, Katherine. Stay." Christian sounds furious, and in more ways than I can count, I suppose he should be furious with me for telling her.
She doesn't say another word and looks contrite. Very unlike Kate.
"Mom, please don't hate me when I'm finished telling you this. Please. I never wanted to hurt you. That's been my fear since I was fifteen."
"You're my son, Christian. I could never hate you. I love you."
He drops his head and begins telling us his story. Not a bedtime story that would bring a person sweet dreams, but a story that you could tell around a campfire to scare the hell out of people.
We are all exhausted after hearing how Elena Lincoln pounced on a very troubled adolescent and introduced him into BDSM. Our tears have dried up and we're silent. The only thing to be heard is the grandfather clock in the far corner of the room. My mind is now an empty space. I can't say a word; I can't stop thinking. I'm shocked and disgusted; I'm disgusted with this woman. I'm shocked that Grace and Carrick never picked up on anything between Christian and Elena Lincoln. Christian described how surprisingly unmindful his parents were while he was a teenager. He didn't come out and say it because I'm sure he refused to upset Grace, but all it took was a few excellent report cards for her and Carrick to become lax in the way they parented him. No wonder Christian was able to spend most of his time two houses down with Elena Lincoln.
I can't think this way. I'm sitting here blaming Carrick and Grace for what happened to Christian, and before me is a devastated Grace. I'm a horrible person.
The chiming of the grandfather clock declaring it's ten o'clock pulls me out of my judgmental thoughts. And with that chiming that broke the savage silence we are sitting in, Mia Trevelyan-Grey jumps to her feet shrieking, startling everyone.
"Where is that bitch?" she seethes. "I'm going to kill her with my bare hands."
Before anyone of us can catch her, Mia has sprinted out of the library and is running towards the dining room. We're all calling for her to stop, but it's a lost cause; Mia seems to be out of her mind.
The closer we get to the dining room, the louder the voices of the party guests become. My, God, surely, she isn't going to barge in there and berate Elena? She can't let the world know her brother fucked the bitch. I have Grace by the elbow, helping her down the hall because she's shaking and once again, weeping. Mia, Elliot, Christian, and Kate look like they're running a race, with Mia in the lead. As we sat in silence, now we run in silence. We can't very well allow Seattle's elite hear our posse yelling at each other over Elena Lincoln molesting Seattle's boy billionaire.
Please, please, please, let Elena have already left. Please, God.
God didn't listen to my desperate prayer. Or begging, if you will. There she sits, among people who don't fuck fifteen-year-old boys. Well, at least I hope they don't.
Elena Lincoln, the old, but still attractive woman, that molested my husband, and who had a six-year sexual relationship with him, is sitting at one of the tables closest to the buffet. Unfortunately, it's the table across the room, meaning Mia is having to scramble through the tables and a throng of people. She isn't doing it quietly.
"You piece of trash! You are a bottom feeder and I want you out of my parent's home, right now," Mia yells. The room falls silent, and Carrick stands. He looks at us like we're crazy.
"What's going on. Mia, what in the world is wrong?" he asks.
Everyone is staring at all of us. The people who are sitting at the table with Elena scoot their chairs back, as we trail behind Mia, desperate to shut her mouth before she sticks her family in it.
She's hovering over Elena within seconds, her finger in Elena's face, while she shakes with fury. It's frightening.
Elena blinks rapidly, looking confused and unsure. Her eyes are darting around the room until Grace pulls herself from my hand, and stands in her way.
Mia's rage is palpable. "We know, you, sick bitch. We know everything. So I highly suggest you get your old ass out of that chair and crawl back into the hole you came out of, she hisses, quite loudly.
Elena jumps, startled, and her eyebrows shoot up her forehead. Her confused expression is almost amusing.
"Mia, let's go. Stop this," Christian orders his sister. He grabs her upper arm and does his best to pull her back, but she's resisting – and doing a good job of it.
"Let me go, Christian," she whispers. "Elena, get the fuck up and leave. Now."
On Elena's face, confusion has evaporated. Her expression hardens when she looks at Mia, and then at Christian. I bristle. I swear I watch her blue eyes cloud over as they bore a hole into him. He completely ignores her.
Carrick is standing beside us now, looking at each of us in turn. He frowns when he takes in his wife's appearance. Her makeup is ruined; mascara smudged all over her cheeks.
The tension in the room is oppressive. It's so quiet that the only thing that I hear is Mia's heavy breathing. She's basically panting.
"Mia, come with me. You're upset. Come. You can tell me all about it," he says ever so softly.
A man and woman at the table discretely excuse themselves and Mia stretches across the empty chairs and is staring Elena down. Elena has reverted to looking confused and hasn't said a word.
"Unless you want me to tell everyone around us what you. . . did to someone that I... .know, I would pick up that Chanel bag of yours and get the hell out of my parent's home," continues Mia, who seems to become angrier by the second.
Elena's expression hardens, and still looking at my husband, she purses her lips.
"Mia, dear, I-I don't know what you mean. I haven't—" she begins to say, but Mia interrupts her. Loudly. She slams her hands on the table.
"Yes, you have! And yes, you do know what I mean. Now get your ass out of my sight. Your secret is out. It's out!" she yells.
By now, everyone at the table has abandoned it, and the room is beginning to quietly buzz, with what I suppose is speculation. This is a disaster.
"Grace, what is going on here?" Elena asks, finally looking at my mother-in-law.
I really wish she wouldn't have asked Grace that question.
Grace, moving with the ease of a black panther, looms over Elena Lincoln, chest heaving.
"I know what you did to my son, you slut," she says so softly that only we can hear her.
Elena seems unable to locate a word that could salvage her from being publicly outed. But, then, she looks at me, and I see the disdain in her eyes. They remind me of two icicles. Grace's words cause her to look away from me.
"Get out of my home, or I will kill you. Do you understand? If I ever lay eyes on you again, I will kill you," Grace exclaims loudly, causing me to jump.
Carrick pulls his wife to his chest. I hear her sobbing.
"Christian, can you explain—" Elena begins.
"No, you whore, he won't explain anything to you, because you already know what's going on. Get off your ass and get the fuck out, or I will kill you." Mia shouts, grabbing for Elena's arm, and pulling her up.
"Elliot, get your sister out of here, for God's sake," Carrick mutters, confused and angry.
Elliot doesn't listen. Mia doesn't listen. But the entire room is listening. In fact, they just heard Mia and Grace Grey threaten to kill Elena Lincoln.
Finally, Elena stands, grabbing her clutch and lifting her chin defiantly. She's got her disgusting eyes locked on Christian's face again. My head begins to ache. A dull ache on the left side of my head.
"Just get out, Elena. Leave," he tells her in a low grumble.
However, Mrs. Lincoln doesn't leave. What she does do, is turn her body towards me, running her eyes up and down my body – like she's checking me out. I involuntarily shudder under her gaze. The woman licks her lips – all blood red lipstick – and taps a finely manicured finger on her chin.
Her eyes meet mine. For some reason, she's trying to intimidate me. Trouble for her is that I'm not easily intimidated.
She suddenly looks at Christian, smirking.
"I think Anastasia's dress would look better with a belt, Christian. What do you say?" she asks, her voice as dark as her clothes.
Christian looks like he's swallowed a frog. His expression, that once was angry, is now one of alarm. Anxiety begins to crawl up my spine. Her words don't make sense.
"Shut up, Elena, "Christian replies. His jaws are clenched so hard that I can't believe he can speak. "Respect my mother's request and leave our home." Each word venomous.
She looks at me like I'm a piece of rotten meat. Her pupils contract and I want nothing more than to slap her face.
"Dear, I recommend that you wear a belt with your dress. I'm sure Christian has one that's suitable for you, and I've always told him you do look better when he uses—"
"Elena," Christian breaks in with a snarl. He's scowling at her, and she's smiling at me. In a kind of wicked step-mother sort of way.
"What's the matter, Christian? You do want Ana to remember everything, don't you? I'm just trying to help. Bring her to the Esclava at Bravern Center. I remember you brought her there, and it was quite the experience for her."
And then. . .
And then that's when the dull ache in my head turns into a shrieking pain. I don't know if it's the words, or the person saying them, but it's now a noise, akin to static on an AM radio station. Suddenly, my heart is pounding, sweat threatens my forehead, and I feel bile from disgust rising up my throat.
The words. Those words. Her words. They may have fallen off of lips, but they've opened up a portal that leads straight to my mind. I gasp, because I clearly see everything. I hear everything. My stomach knots.
"I know who you are and what you did to Christian, and you should be in prison, not freely walking around children."
I was wearing a white eyelet dress. It was strapless, and I don't remember ever having one, and it makes me fade into my pristine white surroundings. My shoulders were shaking with anger as I pointed a finger at Elena Lincoln's face. She was standing there, dressed in all black, her attractive face sneering at me, and giving Christian a deadly glare. He was giving me an equally deadly glare.
That wasn't my Christian. That was Dominant Christian. Shit. I was his submissive. I don't have to question if I'm remembering something that happened. . . I know it happened. This is the day my idiot husband took me to Esclava and I thought I heard Elena tell him to punish me. My, God. I remember.
"This one needs a firm hand, Christian. Show her who you really are. If you don't break her down, then you can't build her back into what you want of her."
The more my mind's eye can see, the stronger the pain in my head becomes. The noise, whether it's the buzzing in my ears, or from those around me, is steadily rising and heightening my anxiety. It doesn't matter though. The only thing that matters is what I'm remembering.
"…I'd use a belt. Your first punishment was a cane, wasn't it? And see how well I taught you?"
This fucking bitch. A god damned pedophile.
I rush, and slap Elena, hard across the face. Her head snaps to the right. The sound resonates off the walls. She clutches her cheek in astonishment and wobbles on her high heels. But I'm not finished with this woman.
Grabbing hold of her arm, I jerk her towards me, my fingernails catch the fabric of her gown. The room is as quiet as a graveyard. I don't care. I've just remembered I cared too much of other opinions before, and it got me nowhere.
Not now. Not again. Never again.
Pulling skin and fabric, I lick my dry lips and squeeze the flesh into my grasp tighter. All eyes are on me. I tear fabric tearing. I don't bother to lean in and say anything quietly. I want them all to hear me when I give her my promise. My vow. What I should have done long ago, but didn't. Why was I so weak?
"I'm taking this slow, Elena. Back off."
My, God. I hear him. He said that about me. Over the pounding and sharp pain, I smile. A demented and furious grin that must look ghastly. There aren't any shuddering breaths. No trembling hands. Fear and trepidation are nowhere to be found. It's all hatred. I have remembered everything, and all I feel is black hatred.
"Ana," someone behind me pleads. I don't know who. I don't care to know. I shrug them off.
As loudly as church bells ringing on Sunday morning, my voice is strong, my words are full of conviction.
"No, don't 'Ana' me," I say. "I have something I'd like to say. You see, I remember."
I look to my right. Elliot is holding his sister by the arm. Mia is trying to twist her way out of his grip. Their mother is gone, her husband with her.
But each party guest is looking on, gaping.
"What do you remember, Anastasia?" Christian asks in a rush. His voice has broken through the static, and our eyes meet – he's panicking. I feel his warm breath on my ear. He realizes what I've seen. I could let him off of the hook, but I feel like he deserves to squirm on the end of one for a while.
He hit me because she encouraged him to. No, I asked him to show me what a real punishment was like. He was only too willingly because she influenced his decision. She put a wedge between us and nearly ruined us. Elena is probably standing here hoping she's finally broken us.
"I remember it all, Christian. That doesn't matter, right now. What matters is this piece of trash standing in your mother's dining room," I reply.
"Elena, leave. It's not a request. Leave, and don't come back," Elliot growls.
"Oh, no, Elliot. Mrs. Lincoln needs to hear something from me." I square my shoulders, past the point of giving a fuck. "You heard Mia and Grace. If they don't kill you, I will. I know what you told Christian, but don't think it will tear us apart. We're married now, I'm carrying his child, and that means that I'll do whatever has to be done to protect my family. To protect Christian from the likes of scum like you."
Elena's mouth falls open.
I hear Christian gasp. Kate gasps. Mia and Elliot. Ray and Mom gasp. Who cares if it's how they just found out we're married and I'm pregnant, or because I just told this bitch I was more than willing to kill her. Their reactions mean shit to me. My attention is elsewhere.
"Shall I say it slower, Elena? Enunciate each word? I want to savor every word. I. Will. Kill. You. Your life means nothing to me. Everything is over for you now, but you already realize that, don't you?" I use my free hand to motion to the quietly enthralled crowd, lapping up this catastrophe.
"Annie, don't—" Ray begins in a whisper. He's suddenly at my side, pulling my hand off of Elena's arm.
"Go with Ray, Ana. You can't threaten to kill people," Christian interrupts him in a quiet voice. He finally frees Elena Lincoln from me and passes me to my father. Ray rushes me out of the room, and I hear Christian speaking in a stern and cold tone.
Ray's walking down the hallway, practically dragging me behind him. He doesn't seem to know where he's going.
"Ray just ahead is the living room," Elliot says from behind us.
I look back over my shoulder. He's holding onto an equally enraged Mia.
"This house is too damn big," Ray mutters. Before he can say anything else, we pass the staircase and are met by Carrick, who's standing on the threshold of the living room. Grace is sitting on the arm of the sofa with a glass of cognac in her hand. She looks calm. Too calm.
Elliot all but shoves his sister on the sofa beside their mother and runs his hands down his face. I've somehow ended up in a chair across the room. Carrick is now facing us. Both hands fisted in my pockets. Fury is radiating off of him. He sets his gaze on his daughter whose face is thunder.
"Mia, I'll tell you what I told your mother, and it's something everyone should already know. You can't threaten a person's life," He's talking as softly as he can. There are three dozen people at the other end of the house, and who knows if anyone is eavesdropping on us.
Eavesdropping is what started this shit storm.
Carrick continues. "And you never threaten someone with a room full of witnesses, for God's sake! You were raised by a lawyer. Hell, even if you weren't, you know better than to tell a person that you're going to kill them."
"Did you hear that, Ana?" Ray asks me, causing Carrick's neck to swivel towards us.
"You didn't?" Carrick sounds incredulous and angry.
"Oh, she did, all right, Dad. Ana here made physical contact, as well," Elliot answers, then groans.
"Afraid it's true. Christian tried to stop her-" Ray begins.
They're talking about me like I'm not here. I interject.
"Pardon me, but the 'she' and 'her' is in the room. And last time I checked, I'm an adult."
"Then you should behave like one," Ray replies sarcastically.
"I do, Dad. I believe tonight has called for..." I stop talking when I see Kate bound into the room. Christian is not far behind.
"Christian, if you're here, who's dealing with the pack of salivating wolves who've witnessed this fuck up?" Carrick asks, surprising me by swearing.
"Grandmother is. She's taken the reins and is currently herding the wolves out of the house."
"Yes, Mrs. Grey handled it perfectly and called it a night. Christian's right, along with Gretchen and Mrs. Trevelyan, they're calmly dealing with it. So is Carla," Kate says this all too quickly, and I don't have to look at her to know she's staring at me, dying to ask me about my memory.
I'm still mad as hell with her, with everyone, so I don't look at her. However, I do look at my husband, who looks like he was thrown under a bus. Well, I suppose you can say that he was.
I stand and make my way to him. Stopping short of being in his arms, I take his hands. We stare at each other, waiting. He's probably waiting for me to drop a bomb on him, and I'm waiting for him to just ask if I meant what I said.
Mr. Impatient Grey cracks first.
"Do you really remember?"
"What do you remember, Ana?" Kate blurts out from across the room. I keep my eyes on Christian's face and pause before answering.
"Everything," I reply, not to Kate, but to Christian. "I remember everything."
"Define 'everything', Ana," Dad asks, moving closer to me.
Carrick has drawn the doors shut and everyone's attention is squarely on me. My eyes dance across each of their confused faces.
"I remember meeting Christian. I remember our relationship, when we all went to Montana. My job..." I stop when a crystal-clear face forms in my mind and causes my blood to cool, and the pain in my head increase.
I see a man, a tall, red-haired man, an earring in one ear, and a cruel smirk on his lips. I'm in a room that's bright from fluorescent lighting and a refrigerator is buzzing in the background.
I'm cornered. He's got me cornered, one arm is pinned behind my back painfully. I'm trying to push him off of me, although it's useless. His breath is rank and he reeks of cigarette smoke.
I'm no longer in the living room with my family. I know where I am- the break room with Jack Hyde.
He's leaning down, biting my ear and threatening me. My brain is screaming for Christian. I know that he'd protect me. I know he'd kill this man.
"I'm going to ass fuck you across this table, you little cunt. You've walked around this office shaking it in my face for months, just begging for me to taste it. Does Christian Grey go balls deep in that ass, Ana?
A shiver runs through me. I continue to fight, stepping on his shoes, I spit in his face. It earns me a punch on the face, and my eyes tear up. I can't breathe. I can taste my blood.
Why did I tell Parson to wait for me outside?
Stupid, Ana, stupid. Are Elizabeth and Claire still in the building? You should have told Christian about this bastard like Kate told you to.
Hyde rips my blouse open. Buttons fly, and he leers at my breast. With his free hand, he pulls up the cups of my bra and pinches a nipple hard, causing me to cry out. I sway from the blow to my face. I'm defenseless.
He's really going to rape me. Right here, right now. And the terror brings out a loud visceral scream. Hyde let's go of my arm and covers my mouth. I bite his fingers as hard as I can, and he punches me in my stomach. Air explodes from my lungs as I register the pain.
Suddenly, I hear voices, and they're quickly becoming louder. It's Claire and Elizabeth. Parson, too. Thank God. Pardon is coming. He will kill Hyde. There's no doubt that Hyde is about to die.
I continue to scream and try to get out of Hyde's grasp, but the sick bastard is too strong.
He heard the voices as well and curses under his breath.
"Looks like you got lucky, you slut. I'm not done with you, though. I'll get to you one way or the other," he growls.
Then, the door to the break room opens, and Hyde punches me in the face so hard that I feel myself flying backward. My arms reach out for something to grab a hold of, but there's nothing. And then it happens. I can feel it happen. My head makes contact with something hard - like concrete - and everything goes black.
Grace is on autopilot this morning. She's bustling around the kitchen like a tornado and I understand why. I'd offer to help or cook breakfast myself, but I'm too busy contemplating running through the glass patio doors. Head first.
Instead, I sit sandwiched between Kate and Christian. Looking around the table, I think of my mom and Bob, who, along with Ray, seem to have slept in. They're probably hiding from the insane Grey posse. At least they didn't scatter and run away like everyone else at the party. Rather, the fiasco. Custer's Last Stand. Mount Vesuvius, and its catastrophic eruption.
Carrick is hiding behind a copy of the Seattle Times. Christian and I are holding hands under the table, and Kate and Elliot are making inane small talk, while Mia is uncharacteristically quiet. No one dares to look at the others. Could this be any more uncomfortable?
Silence is overrated.
The elephant in the room is bigger than this house. I can't help but wonder what everyone else is thinking. My first guess is that they're thinking along the same lines as me: I really wish the floor would open up and swallow me.
I feel Kate nudge my knee underneath the table to get my attention.
"Did you say something?" I ask her.
"I said I can't wait to see the video of your wedding. Maybe we can all get together next weekend and watch it. I want to see your dress."
I return her fake smile with an equally fake one. Lifting my glass of orange juice to my lips, I notice my fingers are trembling. Kate's eyes are sympathetic. I'm not quite sure why. There are too many reasons that demand sympathy.
And empathy. Anger. Hurt. The list is endless.
"Of course. Whenever you want is fine," I mutter, eyeing Mia, who's staring out the glass doors.
She's pale, and there are dark circles under her eyes. It looks as if she stayed up all night. Her untouched coffee must be cold. I know better than to ask if anything's wrong. There's a lot wrong with everyone in this room, save Gretchen, who's both glaring at me and drooling over my husband. She looked like she was sucking on a lemon when she heard that Christian and I had married. Then again, when doesn't she wear that same expression?
I startle when the doorbell rings. Grace's head turns towards us, it looks like she's doing a head count to see we're all accounted for. Carrick's lowered the newspaper and looks expectantly at Gretchen, who leaves to answer the door.
Not a second later, Christian's phone vibrates. It's a text from Taylor, who, along with Sawyer and Parson, is on "Hyde watch" in and around the house.
Christian's eyes widen, and his lips are now a thin line. Pulling his hand from mine, he quickly replies. I can't see what he wrote, or Taylor's text.
"Is something wrong?" I ask. He doesn't answer me.
Christian's phone vibrates again. He reads another text and swears. Standing, with all of us watching him, he looks at Carrick.
"Dad, I don't know why, but -"
He's interrupted when Gretchen enters the kitchen.
"Mr. Grey, Dr. Trevelyan, there are two police officers here. They asked if they could come in," she says. "They're in the foyer."
Elliot and Carrick stand and follow Christian, who's already making his way around Gretchen. My heart rate accelerates. I look at Grace for directions. She's staring at the backs of her husband and sons. From the corner of my eye, I see Mia patting her messy hair down. She ties her robe tight around her body.
My brain is repeating the same question: did they find Jack Hyde?
"I wonder what this is about," Kate says, pushing her chair back and rising to her feet.
"Let's wait and find out," Grace replies.
"There's only one reason why the police would be here -" Kate stops, looking down at me. She places her hand on my shoulder and gently squeezes it.
Gretchen is back and she looks at Grace. "Mr. Grey wants me to get the detectives coffee, ma'am."
Grace pours the coffee herself, leaving Gretchen looking uncomfortable, eyes looking around the kitchen.
Grace places the coffee, creamer, and sugar on an expensive looking silver platter. Her shaking hands cause the cup and saucer to clink together. She hands it off to Gretchen, who hustles out of the kitchen.
As soon as she leaves, Grace goes about laying plates of pancakes and bacon on the table, not uttering a word about why cops are in her home. She takes her place at the table. Kate does the same, and she gives me a look that screams "What the fuck?" I remain mute.
Mia hasn't uttered a word and is absentmindedly placing pancakes on her plate.
Even Kate is eyeing her suspiciously.
I want to run from the room and demand to know if this unexpected visit from Seattle's finest concerns Jack Hyde.
We eat in a Twilight Zone-like silence. We all feel betrayed by the other and are walking a thin rope of weathered anger. This is ridiculous.
I drop my fork and clear my throat.
"What's going on here? Because the tension is palpable. We're family and shouldn't shut each other out over this. Yes, many things should have been handled differently, but they weren't, and we all need one another to get through this."
My words got their attention and Mia's eyes are beginning to tear up.
"Ana's right," Grace begins. "We are family. Families need to come together in difficult times, not drift apart. I know we haven't had the time to process this, but we have to do it together."
I'm crying along with Kate and Mia, who both keep apologizing. This is going to be an uphill battle and we can't fight it if these two keep holding onto guilt.
Carrick, Elliot, and Christian suddenly materialize. I can't figure out what's going on by their expressions; they're a mixture of anger and shock. Carrick looks at the four of us in turn, then he directly at Grace.
They step in closer to us. It's like a huddle in a football game. Elliot is squeezing Christian's shoulder, who looks like he's about to pass out. Kate, who's closer to my husband reaches out to touch his arm but quickly pulls away. She must have remembered his phobia.
"What's going on?" she whispers. "Tell us. You're scaring the hell out of me."
Elliot takes her by the waist and pulls her to the towards the patio doors. She opens her mouth, but when Elliot says something in her ear she closes it.
Christian is stock still, hands pushing his hair off his forehead. Still, when Carrick sits in Kate's empty chair, he drops in the one beside me.
"Carrick, what's going on? Grace presses him.
"The police are here to ask if we'd heard or seen anything out of the norm last night. We told them no, and Christian reminded them of his security and said they'd have caught any suspicious activity," he tells us. They've requested to speak with you, Ana, and Mia."
"Why are they asking if we heard or saw anything suspicious? Was a neighbor's home broken into?" I ask, looking at Christian.
He shakes his head. "No," he replies.
Kate throws her arms in the air, exasperated, and I wish she'd just shut the hell up for once.
She doesn't say anything, because Christian inhales deeply, and stands. He looks at his father helplessly.
"Son, it's fine," Carrick says, sounding like he's talking to a wounded animal. "Kate, Elliot, come sit please."
Christian is behind me, both hands on my shoulders. I look up at his face and he's as pale as bone.
"Why do the police want to talk to us, Carrick?" Grace asks.
I narrow my eyes. Her voice is shaky and her hands, around her cup of coffee, are trembling.
Each of the men looks at us again and I swear they all swallow at the same time.
"They'd like to know about what happened at the party last night," Elliot says tentatively.
Kate's eyes widen. "Why?" she whispers.
"Because Elena Lincoln was found dead this morning," Carrick answers.
This is the last chapter that will re-hash the "Christian was brainwashed by Elena" storyline. I'm not re-visiting that overused blame game storyline.