The Devil Incarnate
Despite the late hour when we got back from Christian's apartment, Carrick and I lay in bed together unable to get to sleep, as we both struggled to unwind after the most agonizing day of our lives.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Christian walk in tonight. I was so relieved. I was so scared. I really thought…" I whispered, as I gripped his hand.
"I know, darling. It didn't look good, did it?" Carrick replied as he squeezed my hand back. "But it seems our son can actually fly that helicopter of his. He must be some pilot. How he managed to get it down safely when both engines failed, I just don't know. Both engines, for crying out loud!"
"Yes, of course, and I know you want to get to the bottom of that, but it's just going to have to wait for now, isn't it? But that's Christian. Anything he does, he has to excel at."
"Yes, which is why I still don't understand why he didn't complete his degree at Harvard, especially after all the lengths we went to in order to secure him a place when it was so difficult to get in. And it wasn't as if he was struggling academically was it? But now he has to carry stigma of being a drop out for the rest of his life."
"Oh please let it go, Cary! That's all water under the bridge now, and I hardly think anyone would judge our billionaire hot shot entrepreneur son a failure these days, would they?"
"No, I guess not," he sighed. "It just seems such a shame to me, when he was so close to finishing. Even Elliot managed to complete his Environmental Sciences and Engineering course to come out with a decent degree, when between you and me he was the one I always thought might end up dropping out."
"I guess it just goes to show you never can predict how things will turn out. I mean, look at the way we saw Christian behaving with Anastasia tonight. None of us would ever have believed the day would come when we would get to see him quite happily sitting there with his sweet lovely girlfriend cuddled up on his lap."
"No, it was a joy to see, wasn't it? They certainly seem very close – very close indeed. Which makes me wonder. You know how impulsive he can be, and seeing as this is Christian's first sexual encounter, do you think perhaps one of us should have a word with him, Grace? Perhaps we should make sure they're being careful, not getting carried away or taking risks?"
"No, Cary! Don't you dare say anything! I know Christian would be horrified if either of us were to try and interfere in that way. We just have to trust him. He might be sexually inexperienced, but he's a very responsible and sensible young man, and I know he's spoken to Elliot several times about practicing safe sex because he was worried about his brother's somewhat relaxed morals regarding girls. That's why I think Kate is very good for Elliot. She's clearly a strong minded young woman, and I think there's little doubt she won't stand for any nonsense from him, which is precisely what he needs," I insisted.
The last thing I wanted was another falling out between Christian and his father, however well-meaning Carrick's intentions were.
"I suppose you're right, Gracie," Carrick sighed. "It's just so hard letting go, and accepting they're adults. You think it'll get easier as they get older but it doesn't, does it?"
"I know, darling. But did you see the way Christian hugged me, I mean actually properly hugged me tonight? It felt so wonderful, especially after I thought I'd lost my darling boy. He actually let me hold him close. I feel we've turned a huge corner with him, and I'm certain it's all down to Anastasia. That's why I really want to make her feel part of our family, and why I don't want you upsetting the applecart in any way."
"Okay, message received loud and clear. I shall do my best to refrain from giving our son the benefit of my wisdom. Now, I really think we need to try and get some sleep, as I gather Mia has quite a birthday party planned for Christian."
"Yes, you're right. I do hope she hasn't gone overboard, you know how Christian hates any kind of fuss about his birthday. He usually just about tolerates a quiet family meal. I did try and keep her from going too mad, but you know how determined Mia can be. Perhaps I ought to warn him, I'd hate there to be any kind of an upset," I fretted.
"Maybe speak to him just before he's due to leave. That way it'll be too late for him to make an excuse to back out, but he'll still be forewarned and prepared," Carrick advised.
"Yes, I think that might be best. Well, good night my darling. I'm just so happy and thankful we got our boy back safe and sound."
"Me too. Good night, Grace."
Luckily, most of the party preparations were already well in hand, so the fact that we were rather later than usual in getting up in the morning didn't impact on things too much. Mia had put the catering experience she'd gained in Paris to good use to help me plan out a wonderful buffet, which we decided, after much discussion, to serve informally in the kitchen. Gretchen had enthusiastically offered to come in and help when she heard the occasion we were celebrating was Christian's birthday.
"So that means he'll actually be here then?" she'd beamed excitedly. Clearly she had a crush on my son, like most of the females he came into contact with.
Another female who also had a crush on my very handsome son was Mia's friend Lily, who had managed to inveigle an invite for herself on the somewhat dubious grounds of being her best friend. But as Mia had organized this party, I supposed she was entitled to have her best friend attend if she wanted. Somehow my daughter had managed to get hold of all sorts of Christian's closest associates – I wouldn't really call them friends as such. Christian doesn't really have friends. Sad but true.
But my parents would not be attending. All the stress and worry yesterday when Christian was missing, along with a late night, had brought on one of my father's angina attacks, and so reluctantly they had taken my advice to stay and home to rest.
"We'll take lots of photos to show you," I promised.
"You make sure you do, and tell both the boys to bring their girls over to visit real soon," my mother insisted.
"Christian's acting all weird," Mia pronounced at lunch time.
"What do you mean?"
"He's just rung because he wants me to let a florist into the boathouse for him. He's got some sort of a surprise lined up for Ana, apparently. In the boathouse, for goodness sake! I mean can you imagine anywhere less romantic? I tried to help him, suggest somewhere way more suitable, but he wouldn't listen."
"I should just go along with whatever your brother asked you to do, my dear. It's usually the best way with Christian," I smiled at her.
At least it sounded as if Christian fully intended to show up tonight with Anastasia, so that was promising. Even so, over the years I've learnt to always tread very carefully with my son, so I decided it would still be best to warn him about the party.
I rang his cell just before I judged they were probably about to leave, or maybe even on their way here to Bellevue.
"Hi, darling. How are you feeling today? Fully recovered from your ordeal yesterday?"
"I'm fine, Mom. Really. Look, I was going to talk to you later, but seeing as you've rung, I wanted to ask a favor?"
"Sure, anything. How can I help?"
"Can you recommend a top Orthopedic Surgeon? I mean the best there is, in Seattle or Portland?"
"Well yes, as a matter of fact I can. I trained with David Archer, and he's now the top Orthopedic Surgeon at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He'd certainly be who I'd recommend. Why are you asking?"
"Dan McAllister, the truck driver who gave us a ride back yesterday. He told us his wife is in constant pain because she needs an urgent hip replacement, but their insurance doesn't cover it. I was hoping maybe you could…"
"Give me all her details when you come over, Christian. I'll speak to David personally and get her an urgent consult," I immediately insisted.
"Thanks, Mom. I thought you'd be able to help. And just tell your doctor friend to bill me direct. No need for McAllister to be involved," he said.
This was so typical of Christian. Quietly helping others with no fuss. I was very proud of him, and only too willing to step in.
"No, Christian, your father and I will take care of this. Anyone who helps our family the way that truck driver did most certainly deserves our help in return. It's the least we can do. And once I've explained to David all the circumstances, I'm sure he'll go out of his way to make sure this lady receives the full gold star treatment."
There's a professional etiquette in the medical profession. Speaking personally to another doctor to request their assistance means a patient is to be treated as a VIP. We don't need to spell it out, it's just an accepted unwritten rule.
"That'd be perfect. Thanks, Mom. Now, was there anything in particular you were ringing for? Only we were just about to leave."
"Well, I just wanted to warn you that your sister has excelled herself in organizing quite a party for you, rather than the quiet dinner you're probably expecting. But I don't want you to worry, because they are all friends of yours," I explained, crossing my fingers that he wouldn't react badly.
But he really surprised me by how he took my news.
"That's cool, Mom. Actually, I'm pleased they'll all be there, because I'll be making an announcement," he told me.
"Really? An announcement? What kind of an announcement?" I asked curiously.
"I've asked Ana to marry me, and she had said yes. I asked Ray, her stepfather, for his permission, and he has given it. So tonight I will be announcing our engagement."
I nearly dropped the phone in my excitement.
"CHRISTIAN! That's wonderful news. You and Ana, getting engaged! Oh I'm so happy for you both, darling."
This was perfect news as far as I was concerned, even if it had come out of the blue, and even if they hadn't known each other that long. I just knew they were right for each other, and it was hardly as if they needed to wait while they saved up, was it?
"Thanks, Mom. Just keep it to yourself for now. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise for everyone."
Well, of course I had to share the news with Carrick . How could I possible keep it secret from him when I had such a huge soppy smile plastered all over my face, and I was bouncing up and down with glee as if I was Mia?
"Yes, that's great…but you don't think they're rushing into things just a little bit?" my cautious husband worried. "Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly approve of Ana, but is this not another case of Christian being impulsive again? Maybe a knee jerk reaction to his relief at cheating death? She is his first girlfriend after all, and they've only known each other for a few weeks."
"Oh don't be so unromantic, Cary! They're head over heels in love, they're perfect for each other, and Ana has already worked wonders with him in these few short weeks. They're getting engaged, showing the world they're serious about each other. Just be happy for our son. You can't deny you've seen the change in Christian for yourself, haven't you?"
"Of course I have. So yes, I suppose I can be happy for them. And getting engaged isn't the same thing as getting married. In a year or two, it'll be the perfect time for them to set a date."
So it was going to be a triple celebration. A birthday, a safe return, and now an engagement as well. As planned, most of the guests arrived before Christian so they would all be there to welcome him, but they were unaware that there was also going to be a special announcement. I had to try my best to contain my excitement so as not to spoil the surprise, but Mia still kept giving me odd looks. My daughter knows me very well.
Carrick and I were very pleased that John Flynn was able to come to the party, and that he'd brought his wife Rhian with him this time. I liked her very much indeed, and we chatted for quite a while about her two little boys, who sounded delightful and clearly kept her very busy.
I hadn't had much chance to catch up with Elliot since he and Kate had returned from their vacation in Barbados. They had both certainly picked up a nice healthy tan. Kate looked stunning in a gorgeous red dress, and Elliot couldn't take his eyes off her. So now both my sons were head over heels in love it seemed. Two very different girls, but both perfect in their own way for my two very different boys. But Kate seemed on edge for some reason as we waited for Christian and Ana to arrive, although I had no idea why. I wondered if perhaps she and Elliot had had some sort of a lovers tiff.
Elena made her way over to me to have a few words, looking divinely elegant as usual in a close fitting black silk dress.
"Grace, darling, so lovely to see you," she smiled, as she air kissed my cheek. "You must have been so relieved yesterday when you finally found out Christian was safe. I know I certainly was."
"You have no idea, Elena. It was the worst day of our lives when we thought…anyway, enough of all that. He's safe and well, and very happy with Anastasia."
Elena's smile seemed to freeze a little.
"Oh, he's still with her, is he? I'd have thought that would have all blown over by now. She really doesn't seem his type to me," Elena stated, as she took a sip of her drink.
But before I could pick her up on what she could possibly mean, Carrick pulled me to one side.
"Christian and Ana have arrived," he whispered, "But I don't know what's going on, because before we even made it here to the living room, they were accosted by Kate and dragged off into the dining room for some sort of a private meeting. She literally slammed the door in my face, Grace!"
"What on earth is going on? Maybe Kate has found out about the engagement and is annoyed that Ana hasn't told her first. They are best friends after all. I can't think what else it could be, can you?" I worried. This was the last thing we needed.
"Look, we'll give them a few minutes, and if they haven't reappeared, I'll pop my head round the door to see what's going on," I suggested. "It's probably nothing, just girl talk."
So when they still hadn't appeared after a few minutes, I tentatively knocked on the door and poked my head round.
"Everything okay, darling?" I asked Christian. I couldn't help noticing that he looked less than happy.
"Everything's fine, Mrs. Grey," Kate said quickly, as she seemed to glance at Ana guiltily.
"Fine, Mom," Christian confirmed. Well, whatever it was, it seemed to have blown over now.
"Good. Then you won't mind if I give my son a birthday hug," I beamed at him. And once again, Christian gave me a wonderful big hug, which I savored every second of as I closed my eyes in sheer bliss. So yesterday wasn't a one off fluke, because Christian was hugging me again. I was reassured that everything really was fine.
"Happy birthday, darling. I'm so glad you're still with us," I whispered.
Yesterday I'd feared we would never celebrate another birthday with him, but now he was safely returned, and we had even more good news to celebrate. Christian and Ana were getting engaged.
"Mom, I'm fine," Christian said, as he gave me one of his rare wonderful smiles. I could see that he was happy. Really happy. Probably the happiest he'd ever been in his whole life.
"I'm so happy for you." I caressed his beautiful face, and he didn't even flinch as he grinned back at me. Thank you for bringing about this change, dearest Anastasia.
"Well, kids, if you've all finished your tête-à-tête, there's a throng of people here to check you really are in one piece, Christian, and to wish you a happy birthday."
"I'll be right there," he promised
I glanced over at Kate and Ana, but all seemed well. So I couldn't help myself, I gave Ana a special wink as I left the room. My future daughter in law.
Back in the living room, I noticed that although Elena had been talking to Elliot, she made a bee line straight for Christian when he and Ana finally made their entrance. She kissed Christian on both cheeks and even hugged him, but she seemed to ignore Ana, which irritated me.
What concern was Christian's relationship to her anyway? She was only here at his party because a few days back, she'd rung to ask what we had planned for his birthday, and then it had seemed rude not to include her. She'd also rung me yesterday when Christian was missing, trying to find out what was going on, but I'm afraid I cut her rather short as I didn't feel like talking to her, and I wanted to keep my cell free, just in case Christian had called. Then it went clean out of my mind to let her know he'd got back safely, but she must have heard all about it on the news anyhow.
Finally I saw her acknowledge Ana, but her smile was so false that I wondered what exactly her problem was. Why was Elena so set against Ana, when it was so obvious how happy she made Christian?
Then Christian called for everyone's attention, and I hugged myself in anticipation of the wonderful news our son was about to announce, as I held Carrick's hand and smiled happily up at him. Even he looked relaxed and happy, having pushed his doubts to one side. Lord but that man worries about his kids but I love him all the more for it.
"…Miss Anastasia Rose Steele has consented to be my wife, and I'd like you to be the first to know," Christian ended his short speech. And he looked so proud and so happy, that I thought my heart would burst with joy to see our boy so happily in love.
I looked round at everyone's reaction. Elliot whooped, put his fingers in his mouth to whistle loudly and then applauded. Mia squealed and clapped her hands in delight as she jumped up and down. Kate smiled broadly and applauded. Everyone seemed happy for the young couple.
Except young Lily, of course, and Gretchen, both of whom turned virtually green with envy as they looked at Ana. And then I noticed that Elena had virtually the same look on her face, as she gaped open mouthed at the happy couple. Perhaps it was because her own marriage had ended so acrimoniously that she found it hard to be happy for a young couple just about to set out on their matrimonial pathway, but if that was the case I thought it very mean spirited of her.
I went over to give Ana a big hug and kiss, determined that she should be in doubt about how thrilled I was about this news. Carrick did the same, even sneaking a quick hug with Christian.
"Oh, Ana – I am so delighted you're going to be family. The change in Christian…He's…happy. I am so thankful to you," I found myself gushing, making Ana blush deeply. But she looked very happy.
Of course Mia wanted to know all the details about their wedding plans, which clearly they hadn't even gotten around to discussing themselves yet, and I could see Christian getting irritated as he threatened to fly to Vegas. Over my dead body! I would certainly be ensuring they had a beautiful wedding, not some rush job in a tacky Vegas chapel. I thought Christian was just joking – I hoped so anyhow.
"Way to go, bro," Elliot said, as he clapped his brother on the back, genuinely happy for him.
"Hey dude, hope you're up for the bachelor party of the decade. I just happen to have the number of a contact who can arrange our very own private strip show," I heard Elliot whisper in Kate's brother Ethan's ear as he smirked suggestively, while Ethan just grinned back at him.
Christian and Ana spent some time circulating round to speak to everyone, and I was happy to note that my son seemed perfectly ease, because all the guests were people he trusted and felt comfortable with. Mia had done very well, despite my initial doubts.
Just as I was announcing that dinner was being served in the kitchen, I noticed Mia disappearing with Ana into the dining room, along with a couple of Carrick's lemon martinis. He loves making up these recipes and trying them out on these occasions, but personally I prefer champagne.
Then I remembered Mia mentioning something about Christian wanting her to distract Ana so he could go and check out his surprise that the florists had been working on in the boathouse. I hadn't seen what they'd been doing as Carrick had said it was okay for them to drive their van right up to the boathouse. So once Mia had let them in, we just left them to it, especially as we had so much else to get ready in the house.
When neither Christian, Ana nor Mia appeared to partake in the food that we'd spent ages preparing, I was slightly annoyed, so I went looking for them, heading for the dining room where I'd last seen the girls. But I was shocked and perturbed to hear angry raised voices coming from in there, and I was thankful that the rest of the guests were all in the kitchen, busily helping themselves to the buffet.
As I got closer, I realized with horror that one of the voices I could hear was Christian's. Surely he wasn't angry with Mia or Ana? I stood and listened for a moment to try and work out what was going on.
"I taught you everything you know, everything you need," I heard a female arrogantly declaring. Elena?
"You taught me how to fuck, Elena. But it's empty, like you. No wonder Linc left. You never once held me. You never said you loved me."
"Love is for fools, Christian."
She taught him everything? Christian has been having an affair with Elena? That whore has been seducing my son?
A surge of white hot fury raged through me, and I didn't even think about what I was doing. I just wanted that…that…slut gone.
"GET OUT OF MY HOUSE."
Christian, Elena, and Ana all turned to look at me as I stood in the doorway. Ana was as white as a sheet, Christian appeared to be virtually incandescent with rage, and Elena had something dripping from her face. From the empty glass in Ana's hand, I guessed it was probably one of Carrick's cocktails. Good girl, Ana.
I have never been so angry in all my life as I marched across the room to confront that bitch from hell.
I slapped her as hard as I could, really hard, right across her face. The sound of it resonated loudly round the room.
And I thought that was really quite restrained of me under the circumstances. I wanted to slap her repeatedly, pull her hair out and kick her boney ass. But I didn't. Just one hard slap was all I dealt her. But the thought of that evil woman…with my son…her teaching him…touching him in that way… 'You taught me how to fuck, Elena'…I felt physically sick.
I saw her hand possessively touching Christian's sleeve. How dare she contaminate him.
"Take your filthy paws off my son, you whore, and get out of my house – now!" I spat at her.
At first Elena just stood there blinking, until she collected herself and hurried from the room as she clutched her cheek, which was glowing bright red from my slap. I realized my hand was really smarting and throbbing from where I'd hit her so hard, but it was worth it.
But now that Elena had gone, I needed to find out just what exactly had been going on – from my son.
"Ana, before I hand him over to you, would you mind giving me a minute or two alone with my son?" I said quietly, just about managing to keep my temper under control, although I could feel my hands were shaking with rage.
"Of course," Ana whispered, then hurriedly made her escape from the room, as Christian's eyes followed her longingly. But he had to remain behind to face the music. There would be no escaping from me until I had some answers about the shocking revelation I had just stumbled across.
"How long, Christian?" I asked. How could I have not seen this?
"It was a long time ago," he replied evasively.
What did that mean? How long ago? Six months? A year?
"How old were you?"
"Like I said, it was all a long time ago."
Oh no, you don't. Don't think you can fob me off. Not this time, not about this.
"Tell me. How old were you when this all started?" How young did Elena like her toy boys to be?
Christian realized I was not going to give up until I got to the bottom of things, so he resigned himself to his fate as he took a deep breath.
I was shocked to my very core. This was far, far worse than I'd initially thought. Elena had seduced my son when he was still a child? He'd only been fifteen? He'd been a minor? She had known he was under the legal age of consent, and yet she'd still molested him?
All these years she had pretended to be my friend, when the truth was she was a sick pedophile, grooming and taking advantage of my complicated and disturbed son for her own perverted pleasure. And I hadn't spotted it. Carrick hadn't spotted it. We were two supposedly intelligent, educated adults – I'm a children's doctor for crying out loud. I'm supposed to be trained to pick up on these things. Yet this had happened right under my nose, and I'd just stood back, assuming Christian's shut off and secretive behavior was all down to his difficult start in life. Which of course Elena knew all about – from me, and then she'd used that information to manipulate my son. That was truly evil of her. She was the Devil Incarnate.
"You were just a child, Christian."
"No, I wasn't Mom. I was an angry, out of control young man. You remember how I was?"
"Yes, of course I remember. But you were still a child. In the eyes of the law, and in my eyes too. How did it all start?" How did I miss this? What kind of a mother am I?
"You really want to know all this stuff?"
"Yes I do. I need to know how I couldn't see what must have been going on right under my nose." All those lies he must have told and I swallowed them all.
"It started that summer I did some work for Elena in her back yard. She came on to me. Made me stop drinking and getting into trouble, in return for….sexual favors."
All these years I thought Christian was gay and celibate because he never brought a girl home, when all along Elena was taking advantage of a disturbed child and molding him to hide the truth. Images of her showing him exactly what she wanted him to do kept forcing their way into my unwilling mind. I had to swallow hard to keep the bile down, as I thought of the means she must have employed to get him to conform and toe the line so effectively, when everything we'd tried had failed so miserably.
"You and Dad thought I was taking extra curricula activities at school, but actually I was seeing Elena."
"I remember. I remember how thrilled we were, because we thought that you were finally joining in some normal, healthy school activities. But now I find out that all along you were lying to us and sneaking off to see that… trollop." Lies, lies and more lies.
"I'm sorry, Mom. Truly I am. But at the time, it just seemed right, and it worked for me. You and Dad seemed really happy that I settled down and didn't get into fights any more. I started working hard at school, because that's what Elena told me I had to do. Everything in my life became a lot calmer and easier to cope with, because of her."
This was terrible. Even now, he couldn't seem to see that what she did to him was wrong. That's how much she had groomed and manipulated him.
"But Christian, don't you see, she was taking advantage of you. She was an adult, a married woman, and she pretended to be my friend, when all along she was…seducing my son. She knew it was wrong, but she manipulated you and took advantage of you because she knew all about your issues through me. That's despicable. It's truly evil. So how long did it go on for?"
"Until I was twenty one."
Dear God! It wasn't just a fling for a few months. This had been long term.
"Six years! You were seeing her for six years? So in all that time, she prevented you from forming any kind of a normal relationship with a nice young girl? That was the real reason you never brought any girls home?"
"That was never going to happen was it, Mom? Nice young girls weren't interested in me. Not with all my issues and problems. "
"We'll never know will we? You were never given the opportunity to find out, because that vile woman had her claws so deeply into you. Why did it finish? Who broke things off in the end?"
"It finished when Linc found out. In all honesty it was over by then in any case, and we ended up as just friends."
On top of everything else, Christian was having an affair with a married woman. How could he not have seen that was wrong?
"Linc found out? Is that why they divorced?"
"They would have divorced anyway, but I guess it was the catalyst."
"Christian, surely you knew what you were doing was wrong? We brought you up to know right from wrong, didn't we?" Were we such terrible parents? If we failed to instill the basics of right from wrong in our son, we must have been, surely?
"Of course you did, Mom. Don't go blaming yourself. It was me, just the way I was."
"If I blame anyone, it's Elena. She's a whore, a slut. No, worse than that, she's a pedophile."
"That was Ana's reaction too," Christian murmured. "She's really struggled to understand and come to terms with the relationship we had.
"So Ana knows all about Elena?" And she's still with Christian? Did this have anything to do with their break up, and why Elena knew about that when I didn't? No wonder she's always acted as if she knew my son better than I did. Because in a lot of ways she did, and that hurt – really hurts.
"Yes, we have no secrets. I've told her everything."
Well that was one less thing to worry about. If Christian had kept all this secret and Ana had just found out, then it would surely have been the end of their relationship. But at least it seems they are starting out on the right footing by being open and honest with each other.
"Well, I think that's very wise, and the first sensible thing I've heard you say in all this. So what happened tonight?"
"Some sort of a disagreement between them. I was just trying to get to the bottom of it when you came in, but I know Ana loathes Elena with a vengeance. She always has."
I knew there was a reason I liked Ana so much. It seems she has great judgment as she instinctively knew Elena was bad news.
"I'm with Ana on that score. I loathe her too, now. The evil witch was trying to break you and Ana up, wasn't she? She's jealous of Ana. I knew something was wrong when I saw her with Ana earlier, just after you'd announced your engagement. Elena had a really unpleasant fake smile plastered on her face, and I couldn't figure out why. Now I know."
"Something like that maybe. Elena's always looked out for me, so I guess she's finding it hard to let go."
Christian thought Elena looked out for him? Tried to control and manipulative him for her own benefit more like. How could he not see her for what she is? Maybe that's another thing Ana is opening up his eyes to. Pure, honest love, that's what Ana is showing him.
"I heard her telling you that love is for fools. You know she's wrong about that, don't you?"
"I do now. Now that I've found Anastasia. She's shown me the true meaning of love. I know now it was just empty sex with Elena."
"I think you'd better go and find your sweet lovely Ana, and make sure she's alright, don't you? And I think I've heard just about all I can take in right now. I'm still mad at you for deceiving us for so long, but I'm far angrier at Elena for corrupting my son, an innocent and vulnerable young boy."
"All I can say in my defense is that it didn't seem like that to me at the time, Mom. But you're right. I need to go and find my girl. Just one thing though – do you have to tell Dad?"
"Yes, Christian, I do. No secrets. Just like you and Ana, your father and I have no secrets in our marriage. I have to tell him. But otherwise, we'll keep this just between us. Your brother and sister don't need to know."
"That's what I thought you'd say," he sighed, as he left the room to go and find his Anastasia.
I was determined that evil bitch was not going to ruin my son's party, so I plastered on a smile, and pretended everything was fine in front of our guests, just about holding myself together, throwing myself into singing along with the karaoke with Kate in the family room to distract myself as best I could, and avoiding Carrick because he'd have known something was wrong straight away. I'd decided I'd tell him once all our guests had left, to avoid a potentially ugly scene in front of them all.
Christian and Ana had disappeared, I imagined to the boathouse for whatever this surprise that he had planned for her, and quite frankly I was pleased that he was out of my sight while I tried to get my head around his horrendously shocking admission that Elena had stolen his innocence and his virginity when he'd only been fifteen.
For years I'd worried myself that our son was celibate and gay, lonely because he was unable to form any kind of a loving relationship due to the terrible neglect and abuse he'd suffered during the first four years of his life. And then, after I found out about Anastasia, I'd happily assumed in my ignorance that she was his first lover, and I'd thought how sweet it was that they were discovering the joy of physical love together, when all along, his views on love, sex and relationships had been tainted by that She- Devil.
'You never once said you loved me' I'd heard Christian say. 'Love is for fools', she'd callously replied. So had it been just a purely physical relationship between them? Was that better or worse? I decided it just made Elena an even bigger whore. She'd used and abused my son and not even made him feel loved and comforted.
Finally all the guests left. Kate and Elliot were staying over as were Christian and Ana, with the idea that everyone could relax and enjoy a few glasses of champagne, and then we could have a nice family breakfast together in the morning before everyone left.
So eventually I had Carrick to myself – Christian and Ana had yet to return from the boathouse, so I decided it was now or never.
"Well, I must say that was a great evening…" he started to say, but stopped when he took one look at my face
"Oh Carrick, I don't know how to tell you this…" I started, as I struggled to hold back the tears I'd kept in check all evening.
"Good lord, what on earth is the matter, Grace?" he asked, as he sat me down on one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
"I found out…I overheard…she was so…he said…"
"Take it slowly. You're not making a whole lot of sense here, my love."
I took a deep breath to calm myself.
"Earlier on, when I went looking for Christian and Ana to tell them to come and get something to eat, I heard raised voices coming from the dining room. So I listened to try and work out what was going on…"
I paused to take a shaky breath, as Carrick frowned in bewildered concern.
"It was Elena and Christian shouting at each other, while Ana was just standing there watching them."
"But why would Elena and Christian…?"
"Because Elena had been really horrid to Ana."
"Horrid to Ana? Elena? Why would she do that?"
"Carrick, I discovered tonight that Christian and Elena had an affair. She seduced him when he was only fifteen, and then it carried on for six whole years, right under our noses."
My husband was so shocked that he literally paled in front of me, and had to sit himself down on the chair next to me
"No! That can't be right. You must have it wrong, Grace. Christian wasn't capable…he couldn't bear to be touched…" He struggled to try and work out how it could be possible.
"Elena knew all about his issues. I think she used them to manipulate him so that he felt grateful to her for giving him sex. When I confronted Christian, the way he explained it was that she used sex as an incentive to control him, so that he stopped getting into trouble and started studying harder. He seems to think that was a good thing, and that he's indebted to her, but that's only because she's groomed him to see it that way."
"But it started when he was only fifteen, you say?"
I nodded my head.
"We've included that woman in our close circle when all this time, she was a pedophile, preying on our son?"
"I know. That thought makes me sick to my stomach. I slapped her in the face, Carrick. Really hard. But I'm not ashamed, because she deserved it," I said, as I unconsciously rubbed my still sore hand while Carrick stared at me. He knew I never normally condoned physical violence, but there are always exceptions.
"I see," he muttered, bemused.
"Carrick, I want that perverted evil monster charged with every possible crime you can think of, so everyone knows what she is, and then they can lock her up and throw away the key. Would that be possible, after all this time?"
"Theoretically, yes. But in reality…I'm not so sure it would be a good idea." He held his hand up as I started to protest. "Just think about it, Grace. First off, Christian would have to be prepared to cooperate fully to give evidence, which knowing what private a person he is, combined with what you've just told me, I don't think is very likely. Secondly, all the sordid details would have to come out in court, so the newspapers would have a field day. Would you really want our family to have to listen to all that? And what about Anastasia? Just think how it would affect her. How much does she know anyway?"
"Everything, apparently. That's what Christian told me. He said they have no secrets, which I think is the right way for them to go. But as Ana knows all about Elena, I imagine that's why her drink, one of your finest lemon martinis by the way, had ended up all over her face, because the evil jealous bitch was trying to break them up. That's why I can't just stand back and let her get away with what she's done. She is still trying to manipulate our son and control him even now, isn't she? I couldn't understand why she was so negative about Ana all the time, but now it's obvious. She can't bear to lose her influence over Christian, especially as he's so rich and successful these days as well as being extremely good looking. I can't even begin to imagine the methods she must have employed to have had him so completely under her spell over such an extended period of time. And when I think about how she must have been laughing behind my back for all these years when I was worrying myself sick in case Christian was gay but scared to come out, when all along she knew.…"
I remembered how she had boasted to me just last week that she had always knows he wasn't gay. Of course she did - it all made perfect sense now. All her little hints about how she knew more about him than I did. His own mother. But now it transpires that she did know him in ways I never could – ways that she should not have known him either.
"So did Christian imagine himself in love with her? Is that why he acted that way? Clearly he knew it wasn't acceptable behavior and that's why he acted so secretly. And she must still have been a married woman at the time. How could he have possibly thought it was alright? He was supposedly such an intelligent boy."
"So I take it you've told him, Mom?"
We both looked up to see Christian and Ana making their way back into the kitchen from the back yard. It really upset me to see the way the happy smile died on Ana's face as she worked out what Christian's comment meant.
"Ana, my dear, I would really like to talk to my son on his own, if you wouldn't mind?" Carrick said, as he stared intently at Christian.
"Yes, of course, I was going to go straight up to bed anyway," she blushed, and then hurried out of the room. Christian had asked if they could have his old bedroom rather than one of the guest bedrooms, so that was where I had taken their overnight things earlier.
"So, Dad, do I get the full lecture about how irresponsible I've been? Or are you going to accept that I'm an adult now and have moved on?" Christian's voice was deceptively quiet as he helped himself to a glass of wine.
"Don't act like a sullen teenager, Christian. Surely you can appreciate that your mother and I are extremely hurt and upset to discover that you have been lying to us for years, deceiving us and going behind our backs, when all along you must have known that what you were doing was wrong?"
"Like I told Mom. At the time it seemed to make you happy that I was finally calming down, finally becoming a socially acceptable son. And it was all down to Elena's influence. You may not like it, but that's the honest truth. At that time, she was good for me."
"No! How can you possibly think that about a woman who groomed and seduced a fifteen year old boy? Your judgment was impaired then because you were still a child, but how can you possibly still defend her now, as an adult?"
"Let's just agree to disagree about all this. What's done is done, and I can't change anything. I'm really sorry you had to find out about it this way, and that I've caused you so much grief, yet again." Christian looked directly at me as he said this. "We're never going to see eye to eye, Dad, and quite honestly, all I want to think about right now is the future and marrying Ana. Please, can't you just be happy for us?"
"Of course I'm happy about you and Ana getting engaged. But it's hard to move on because I'm just worried that you won't accept that maybe your judgment was impaired about having a love affair with an older, married woman."
"It wasn't a love affair, actually. It was just sex, okay? Would you rather I'd have paid a hooker to sort me out? Or would it suit you better if I'd been the lonely celibate gay that you all thought I was?"
"Christian! Please! There's no need to be like that," I said, shocked by his words, but knowing all too well how cruel and cutting he could be when he got into one of his really bad tempers, and how he and Carrick were in serious danger of having another massive falling out. And I had already started to think of ways I could punish Elena without going through the courts, and I didn't want anything to risk damaging things between Ana and Christian.
"Perhaps Christian has a point, Carrick. What is the point of raking over old coals? We need to look forward and concentrate on the good news about his engagement to Ana."
"Yes, I think that would be far more productive, Mom. Especially as we've decided we'd like to get married in one month's time, hopefully here if you'll agree."
"A month?" Carrick spluttered. "I thought you'd have a long engagement, give you time to get to know each other better. Don't get me wrong, Ana seems a nice enough girl, but you've barely known each other for five minutes, and now you're saying you want to get married in a month?"
"Of course, if that's going to be a problem for you Dad, I'm sure we can find somewhere else to get married," Christian calmly stated, as he took a sip of wine and coolly stared his father in the eye.
"No, no, I'm sure it'll be fine," I hurriedly protested, horrified at the thought of them going off to get married somewhere else because of Carrick's attitude, but neither of them was listening to me.
"So, what's the big rush? Any reason in particular?" Carrick asked suspiciously.
"If you're asking me if I've got Ana knocked up, the answer is no, I wouldn't be that stupid. The simple truth is we want to get married as soon as possible, and there are no financial constraints to prevent us from doing so."
"Ah yes, because of your considerable wealth. So what kind of a prenup have you agreed with Ana? Who have you got drawing it up for you? I can advise on the best format to suit your circumstances."
"Prenup? Why the fuck would I want a prenup?" Christian growled furiously, as he scowled at his father.
"Because it is a basic, sensible precaution for a wealthy young man such as yourself, especially when you're rushing impulsively into getting married. This is nothing personal against Ana, but bearing in mind what we've discovered tonight, I think it's fair to say that your judgment in personal relationships is suspect to say the least."
"Oh, so it's back to that is it? Well I'm telling you now there will be no prenup. I don't need one. Ana isn't interested in me for my money, and in any case, if she were ever to leave me, the money would be worthless. So there is no point in having a prenup, and I refuse to discuss this any further. Good night, Mom. Dad."
And with that, our son stalked off out of the kitchen.
I gave my husband a slow hand clap.
"Bravo, Carrick. You handled that so well, implying that Ana is a gold digger after his money."
"I did no such thing! A prenup would be no reflection on Ana whatsoever, but surely you can see that I'd be derelict in my duty both as his father and as a lawyer not to insist he takes the sensible precaution of negotiating a fair prenup, especially when he's worked so hard to build up all his considerable assets. And don't forget that many people rely on him for their living now. As their employer, he has responsibilities that he can't just foolishly ignore and take risks with."
"I know you're only trying to protect and look out for our son, but alienating him is not going to achieve anything is it?" I sighed, worried that if both men stuck to their guns there was going to be an almighty rift in our family.
"Hopefully, he'll have calmed down and will see sense about setting up a prenup tomorrow," Carrick persisted.
"I wouldn't hold your breath on that one," I murmured.
That night as we lay in bed, I began to make plans.
"I may not get to see that whore Elena receive the punishment she deserves in the law courts, but I'm going to make it my personal mission to ensure that forthwith she is persona non grata amongst all our friends and connections. She relies heavily on the patronage of the rich and elite of Seattle to make her business successful. Her reputation is everything."
"Now you be careful, Grace," worried Carrick. "The last thing you want is to give Elena reason to launch a defamation of character case. You need to be fully aware of what could be construed as libel or slander."
"Oh, don't you worry. Trust me, I can do subtle. I'll start by letting it be known that no one in my family will be attending her salon again. I will then ensure that slut's name is removed from the invitation list of every social event on the calendar worth attending. It won't be that hard. Nobody really likes her; she has no real friends. She has only been accepted into the wealthy higher echelons of Seattle society because of her connections with this family. I will now be very publically severing those connections, All I have to do is cross her name from those invitation lists that are passed to me for approval, which will speak volumes without me having to utter a single word. I don't have to give a reason, but if anyone asks, all I have to say is 'no comment', and people will draw their own conclusions. Bottom line - I don't want to have to lay my eyes on that sick, evil, bitch-troll from hell ever again."
"I see," Carrick muttered, but I hadn't finished yet.
"Most people regard Elena Lincoln as nothing more than a social climber. Replacing Elena's name on all the lists with Anastasia's will show everyone where our allegiance lies when she had the audacity to snub our son's fiancée. And Carrick? I expect your full support in making it crystal clear to the entire world that every member of the Grey-Trevelyan family is totallyover the moon and fully supportive of our son's choice of Anastasia as his future wife."
"Grace, of course you will have my full support. Nothing I said tonight about the prenup was in any way intended as a critism of Ana, far from it. If anything, a prenup would protect her against any insinuations regarding her motives for marrying Christian. Truly, I do honestly think it would be for the best all round."
So clearly Carrick hadn't given up on the prenup yet.
The following morning we were all gathered together in the kitchen for breakfast, when the thorny subject of the prenup reared its ugly head again. Somehow the Seattle Nooz website had already gotten hold of the news of Christian's engagement, although they didn't seem to have any details about Ana. But already they were speculating about the type of prenup she'd be signing. Perhaps someone had sold some information to the papers - Gretchen? Or perhaps someone had wanted to stir up malicious gossip? Elena?
Unfortunately Mia didn't think before she tactlessly read the column out loud to everyone.
"Word has reached us here at the Nooz that Seattle's most eligible bachelor, the Christian Grey, has finally been snapped up and wedding bells are in the air. But who is the lucky, lucky lady? The Nooz is on the hunt. Bet she's reading one helluva prenup."
Christian glared furiously at Mia, but far worse was Ana's reaction. Her look of shock and horror as the blood drained from her face, was evidence that the thought of a prenup had never even occurred to her, as was only natural for a sweet but naïve young girl like her.
Christian immediately tried to reassure her as he shook his head and mouthed 'no' to her.
"Christian…" Carrick started to say.
Of course he couldn't resist the opportunity to open up the subject again, as I suppose this article proved it was a subject that was not going to go away.
"I'm not discussing this again," Christian snapped back. "No prenup," he stated firmly before turning back to read his paper again.
"Christian, I'll sign anything you and Mr. Grey want," Ana said very quietly, as Carrick looked at her rather guiltily. Even he could see that she was completely mortified by all of this, and totally sincere in her offer. But now she'd reverted to addressing him formally as Mr. Grey again, because he was making her feel like an outsider from our family. And I wanted to throttle him for that.
And Mia – I would be having words with my daughter to try and get her to learn to think before she opened her mouth in future
Christian looked up and glared again.
"No," he snapped at her.
"It's to protect you," Ana bravely persisted.
But I felt we were all intruding into something that they needed to sort out between themselves.
"Christian, Ana – I think you should discuss this in private," I suggested as I threw a black look at my husband. Let the matter drop for goodness sake, I ordered him with a frosty look.
"Ana, this is not about you. And please, call me Carrick," he said quietly, finally seeming to realize the damage his attitude was causing with his very sensitive future daughter in law.
I could see Christian was furious with his father. And I could understand why, as I saw the way Ana nervously knotted her fingers and stared down, clearly feeling very insecure because now she thought we saw her as a gold digger, which couldn't be further from the truth.
But the way Christian sought to reassure her was so kind and sweet, as he reached over to take both her hands in his. I couldn't hear exactly what he said, but I was sure he was telling her not to worry. Ana seemed to be arguing with him, and I cursed Carrick for putting doubts and worry into her head, when she already seemed to lack confidence. But in any case, Christian was adamantly having none of it.
"Stop. Stop now. This subject is closed, Ana. We're not discussing it any more. No prenup. Not now – not ever," I heard him declare, as he turned to me.
"Mom, can we have the wedding here?" he asked pointedly, as he glared at Carrick.
"Yes, darling, of course you can, if that's what you would both like, and if Ana's parents are agreeable too. We would be thrilled and delighted to have the wedding here, wouldn't we Carrick?" I insisted firmly, as I saw Carrick roll his eyes at me in defeat.
There was no way on this earth I was going to let the stubbornness of either my husband or my son prevent us from hosting the most wonderful wedding that I could possibly arrange for the young couple, and he knew it. He was either going to be with me on this, or he was going to be a very sad and lonely man.
A/N - I will be updating this story again in the not too distant future, to tie in with the chapters from Christian's pov on my blog. See my profile for details of how to access this story.
I don't own any of the Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters therein. They belong to E L James. I'm just borrowing them for fun and not for profit. Please refer to the Legals page on my blog for further details of the intellectual property rights of this work.