When they all hopped into the waiting SUV, Ana was startled to realise Taylor was the one behind the wheel.
"Wait, why is he…"
"Miss Steele, I assure you I no longer work for Mr Grey," he told her, leaving the curb as they soon took off towards Sea-Tac Airport. "In due time, I will explain the situation to you in further detail, but I promise you your safety is my utmost responsibility."
Ana breathed a sigh of relief. Taylor had always been a comforting presence to her, especially with Christian's erratic moods. He might have worked for her husband, but Taylor had always treated her with respect. Ana had always gone out of her way to be friendly to Taylor and even share a joke or two every now and then, but Christian constantly put a stop to it with his childishness, forever accusing her of 'flirting' with the staff. Not that Christian would ever be able to recognise politeness and common decency right in front of him.
Kate turned to Ana, sharing the backseat together as she quickly took her best friend's hand in hers.
"It's okay," Kate assured her. "We're almost there, Ana. You'll be far out of the country before that sick creep realises it."
They had to snatch the window of opportunity while they still could. Ana's heart was racing so fast, she thought it would burst out of her chest. She wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans for the umpteenth time.
Tears threatened to run as the stress weighed down on her like lead, unable to shake the feeling.
"I'm scared, Kate. Real scared of what he might do. He has so much money and all these yes-men surrounding him, he might –"
"Well you know what?" Kate exclaimed, tightening Ana's hand in her grasp. "My family's got a lotta money, too. They're not afraid of spoilt, nouveau-riche dickbags like Grey puffing up their chests thinking money talks. Guys like Grey are nothing but a joke in business circles. All money, no fucking sense."
"Don't worry, Kate's parents know you're on your way," Elliot chipped in from the passenger's seat. They'll house you up at their place in London for the time being. Just as long as you're far away from that psychopath is all that matters."
Ana blinked back tears. She and Christian went to London during their honeymoon. Not on her volition, mind you. Rather, she had been cooped up the whole time in their opulent hotel room at The Savoy, Ana desperately wanting to go visit The Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill, the same one from the Hugh Grant movie. Instead, Christian had demanded she stay inside and not to go anywhere until he came back while he went to some damn business conference. During their honeymoon. 'You don't know who's out there,' he told her, 'I won't have you without me for a second…'
Ana shuddered at the memory. She had always wanted to go to England and Christian ruined that for her, too.
Kate made a sharp breath through her nose, blinking back tears of her own.
"Kate, are you okay?" Ana asked.
She took an even deeper breath this time, hanging her head.
"It's just... It's my fault," Kate cried. "I should never have made you go to that fuckin' interview in my place, I was being lazy and I panicked when I got sick, I should've just cancelled! I'm so sorry, Ana. This wasn't worth it, I can't take it! If I had known what a psycho he truly was... I wish I had known, I wish I had gotten my hands on all that research I found earlier."
"Kate, it's fine," Ana replied, stroking her shoulder. "No one saw it coming, how were we to know? Seriously, what are the odds? What are the odds some supposed billionaire was gonna come after me and stalk me all around Seattle, huh?"
"Unfortunately, Miss Steele, Mr Grey has a long history of this type of behaviour," Taylor explained. "For the past several years, I've been working on his case tracing back his history with the women he's been involved with. In the past decade or so, several of Christian Grey's past submissives have gone missing, and the girls who are still around refuse to speak to the FBI. I've been working as a security guard on Christian's payroll to gain access into his inner sanctum, see if we can get any more evidence on the case."
Ana felt the pit of her stomach burn. She knew there had been other subs in the past. She knew Leila was now in art school and another had become a doctor, but Christian never elaborated on the others. He threw a fit over some kid she used to make out with in 10th Grade, but God forbid Christian Grey gave details about his past loves. But all this time some of them were missing? He didn't… he wouldn't…
"Wait, are you saying Christian murdered his past girlfriends?!" she exclaimed.
"I'm not at liberty to say, Miss Steele," Taylor told her. "We're not ruling anything out."
Ana leaned over as far as she could to reach Elliot.
"Wait, did you know anything about this?" she asked him, almost on the point of hysteria. How could her own best friend be dating the brother of a complete monster like this, did he know what his brother was…
"I'm the one who went to the police in the first place a few years ago," he replied. "Ever since I could remember, Christian's… Well, he's never been all there. Something was always off about him, even when we were kids. I thought it was because he'd never had a real family before and still suffering from some childhood trauma, but when we finally got to high school…" Elliot swallowed hard, rubbing at his forearm. "He just… got worse or something."
"Worse how?" said Ana. Mia had told her in the past
"Well, he got into trouble for fighting a lot," Elliot explained, "and he was expelled from about three or four other schools. We didn't even know he had hooked up with Mrs Lincoln and she was one of Mom's oldest friends! I actually don't remember seeing him all that much at that time, especially when I ended up going off to college myself. But even then, I'd be hearing all the crap Christian was pulling at his new school…"
Ana nervously threaded her fingers in her lap.
Elliot gave a humourless laugh.
"Where do I start? First, Christian tried to assault his history teacher and tried to throw a chair at him, then he was accused of stealing money from the school, accused of sleeping with the principal's wife at one school, slapped one girl who turned him down, tried to choke another girl he was dating, was stalking another girl and constantly following her and getting all creepy telling her he couldn't stay away from her anymore… God knows what else."
Ana couldn't breathe. Dear God… this was the man she had married after all?
Elliot's mood quickly changed, his brows furrowing as he rested his head on his hand, leaning his elbow against the window.
"And you know what the shittiest thing was? Mom still made excuses for his bullshit. While I was the one busting my ass in school and studying, she and Dad were always down at whatever fucking school Christian was at the time trying to bribe the faculty to let him off the fucking hook! Mom always, always coddled Christian, saying he was just this poor little lost boy or some fucking crap, that he 'needed our love' and we shouldn't fight him in any way, just let him go on pulling whatever crap he wanted. He pretty much could get away with murder, he probably has by now!"
Ana didn't know what to say. The most awful thing of all is she could imagine Christian getting away with murder, without remorse, without any thought whatsoever. In cold, stark detail, she imagined him finally tracking her down, finally making her pay for escaping him, choking the life out of her as his eyes remained blank…
"They never helped him, you know?" Elliot continued. "They ended up creating a monster. They didn't want to see Christian for who he really was. Even other people they knew could see him for what he really was, people who recommended that he should be taken to a psychologist, that he should be locked up, but Mom didn't want to hear it. Christian is her prodigal son. Even at the expense of Mia and me, Mom still made sure Christian had the best of everything. And we were just supposed to accept it. Seriously, Mom made such a big fucking deal about yours and his wedding, saying he'd finally found the girl that was gonna save him. Yet she couldn't give two shits about Ecole Construction signing off on one of out biggest jobs yet."
Ana could feel herself slowly deflate.
"Elliot, I'm so sorry…"
He sighed, turning in his seat to face Ana.
"It's fine," he told her, turning in his seat and giving her a weak smile. "It's not your fault. I was just praying you'd eventually see Christian for who he really was."
She turned to Kate, watching as she wrapped her arms around herself.
"Did you know all this, too?"
"Elliot told me the night after his mom invited you for dinner the first time. At first, I didn't want to believe him, but I couldn't ignore it. I tried to tell you, but… Christian was keeping tabs on us. He was threatening Elliot that he would come after me if he tried to spread any 'lies' about him to you. I couldn't do anything, I wanted to tell you everything, I really did."
"What's new?" Elliot spat. "Christian runs all our lives. Why do you think we walk on eggshells around him? That asshole can snap at any moment. We're all just dispensable to him, he can buy and sell you and cut you off without a moment's notice."
After over an hour or so, they finally arrived at the airport, Ana hopping out of the car and straining to control her unsteady legs. She was so close. Any moment now she would be flying out to London, far away from Christian, far away from all the madness and no longer feeling foolish. This wasn't her fault, she owed Christian nothing, she was no longer under his spell.
"What if he finds me, Kate?" Ana asked her, her head feeling so dizzy she swear she could feel herself spinning.
"He won't even have time to realise it," Kate assured her. "Besides…" she walked over towards Taylor just as he got out of the car, placing a hand on his shoulder and smiling."Taylor will be accompanying you all the way."
Ana's heart raced a little. She didn't realise Taylor would be going with her, though she was incredibly thankful. She gave Kate a weak smile.
"Thank you so much, Kate. For everything, I just... After the way I treated you and everyone else, I don't deserve it. I forgot about everyone. I forgot about myself, I treated you like shit and I just..."
"Ana, it's alright. I'm not mad. Just no more psychopaths, okay?" she tried to joke.
Ana smiled once more.
"I promise. I swear."
Kate handed Ana the prepaid Tracfone out of her handbag.
"You need to call your dad at least. Tell him what's going on before you leave. My parents can fly him out and your mom, too, when it's safe to do so. They really love you, Ana."
She nearly started crying right there on the pavement, taking the phone from Kate's grasp.
"I will. I just wish I had told them. I thought they'd hate me if they found out what I was doing... What Christian was making me do."
"They wouldn't do that to you, Ana. I think it's more important that you're safe and sound no matter what."
Kate swept Ana up in a tight hug, practically squeezing her as she was almost afraid to let Ana go. She started to breathe a little easier now. Thank God for Katherine Kavanaugh. She owed her big time for this.
As she and Taylor walked into Sea-Tac with Kate and Elliot waving them off, Ana started to dial her dad's number, barely holding onto the prepaid cell as her hand started shaking once more. He picked up after a couple of rings
"Hello? Who is this?"
"Dad, it's Annie. Listen, I've got something to tell you. Don't worry, I'm okay, though..."