25 May 2013

Chapter 62 - Never Let The Sun...


I have no idea how to work things out with Anastasia.

I'm lost and confused and conflicted, because there is no easy solution to our situation  that I can see. 

What am I supposed to do? Ignore how angry I feel and just pretend to be happy about her being pregnant when I’m not? She’d know I was lying anyway. 

But seeing as Ana’s determined  to go ahead, it doesn’t really matter what I think, does it? She said she’s having this baby with or without me, and that the choice is mine about whether to be part of things or not, and she means it. She’s going to walk away if I don’t accept the situation, however I feel about it. 

So what choices are left for me if I don’t want to lose Ana?

But I’m not ready to be a father. I don’t know how to be a father. I don’t know how to do this and I feel trapped and angry at being forced into this situation.

I hate that Ana backed away from me and wouldn’t even let me touch her this morning. How can we even begin to work things out when she’s acting this way? 

Her deep loathing of Elena means we can't get past that issue to discuss anything else, despite my assurances that I am not going to see Elena again, that it’s finally over between us for good. Ana’s chosen to see the very worst because I ended up spending time with Elena, rather than trusting me when I tell her the meeting has led to the final closure of that relationship. 

I’m deeply hurt that Ana has already decided that I ‘spilt my spineless guts to her’, without giving me the benefit of the doubt, or trusting  that I would not discuss our private life with her. She never gave me the chance to explain how things really were with Elena, and even asked if I’d slept with her. Well, thanks for that vote of trust, Mrs. Grey.

I head to the office where I resort to the tried and tested solution of burying myself in work, but even so, about a dozen times I pick up the phone, or start to email my wife, to try and get the ball rolling to find a way forward. 

But what to say? And let’s not forget that she is the one who fucked up in the first place, so shouldn’t she say sorry first? Getting pregnant was a monumental cock up on her part, no question about it. She can't deny that, however she twists things round to make me the bad guy here.

As the morning progresses, word seems to have spread round the office that the boss is in a foul temper, and so everyone is annoyingly tiptoeing around me - apart from Ros of course.

“You look like shit today, Christian. In fact, if I didn't know better, I’d say you were hung over.”

“Fuck off and mind your own business.”

She must have heard something, despite the fact that my staff know better than to gossip. They all understand the second I get wind of anything like that, they’re out of the door, dismissed on the grounds of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

“So you are hung over. No sympathy for self inflicted illnesses, I’m afraid.” She purses her lips disapprovingly.

“Can we just concentrate on the matter in hand, instead of indulging in idle fucking chit-chat about my personal life? I shouldn’t have to remind you we have all the finer details of the Taiwanese deal to work through right now, and if we don’t come up with a way to sell it to the unions here, we could have a very ugly situation brewing the second they get wind of it.”

I glare at Ros, waiting for her to back down.

I am not going to bleat about my personal issues to her. I refuse to bring all that shit from home into the office. I am not going to lose my edge because of my wife’s inability to check her schedule and keep important medical appointments. No, you’re going to try and bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, aren’t you Grey?

I need to focus on work. This is one of our biggest deals of recent times. This is what I do, this is who I am. 

Christian Grey the brilliant, cool, calm, efficient billionaire entrepreneur, always in total control.

I refuse to be cast as a petulant adolescent who wallows in a pit of self pity and self loathing, and who needs to grow up and smell the coffee, as my wife described me this morning.

Even if she’s right, Grey?

~~~

I work on at the office into the evening, even after Ros has gone home. There’s been no word from Ana; she hasn’t attempted to reach out in any way. Clearly she’s still mad at me. Well, I'm still mad at her. If she’s still in the same frame of mind, I can't face going home. I can't bear not being able to hold her like this morning, when she told me she’d scream the place down if I touched her.  

As much as I miss her, I’d rather not see her than have to deal with that, because it’s just agony for me. It’s like being tortured and tantalized with the thing you want most in the world being held just out of reach.

Better get used to it, Grey. She’ll be spending all her time and energy on the baby now. Certainly not you anymore. You had a taste of how good life could be and now it’s been snatched away. Serves you right, you sick bastard. Best she keeps the baby away from you isn’t it? You’d only contaminate the poor kid.

I call Gail to let her know I won't be home for dinner, knowing that's how Ana will find out that I'm working late. Well, she’s the one who made it crystal clear she didn't want any contact, isn’t she?

“But please ensure that you still provide Mrs. Grey with a suitable meal, and don’t let her fob you off that she isn’t hungry.”

However mad I am with Ana, it still doesn’t stop me from worrying about her. She needs to eat, now more than ever.  Because she’s eating for two …

“Of course, I’ll do my best Mr. Grey.  But… are you sure… isn’t there any way you could maybe try to get back for dinner?  You still need to eat after all.”

Gail is pushing her luck and she knows it. She has no business questioning my decision not to return. I don’t need to justify my actions to her. Maybe to your wife though?

“No. I will not be back until very late. I’ll send Taylor out to get something for us to eat here at the office.”

At nine I get a call on my cell. My heart literally leaps when I see it’s from Ana. But I keep my cool, waiting to hear what she has to say and judge her mood.

“Ana.”

“Hi.”

Just hearing her voice makes me ache to see her.

“Hi.”

“Are you coming home?”

She’s still mad at me. I can hear it in her challenging tone of voice.

“Later.”

“Are you in the office?”

“Yes. Where did you expect me to be?”

With Elena.

The unspoken words hang in the air. My wife is still focusing on her it seems. So we can't progress.

“I’ll let you go.”

But neither of us hangs up straight away, no doubt each willing the other to say something, anything to end this stalemate. But what to say?  Eventually I speak.

“Good night, Ana.”

“Good night, Christian.”

And then I hang up. Nothing has changed, nothing is resolved.

I don’t go home until after one in the morning, when I'm pretty sure Ana will be in bed. But not our bed. The spare bed upstairs.

As I walk into our bedroom, I'm still  hoping against hope to find her curled up there waiting for me, all soft and warm and lovely. But she’s not. She’s carried out her threat to move into the other bedroom.  Our bed looks cold and empty and far too big. I want Ana. I miss her so much.

I find myself drawn to her, so I head upstairs and into the spare bedroom to find her.

She’s asleep, and I don’t disturb her. She needs her sleep especially now…. now that she’s pregnant. She is with child. Our child. Face up to it, Grey.


Ana looks so beautiful as she sleeps, with her loose chestnut hair fanned out. As I lean down to gently kiss her,  I notice that her pillow looks damp. She’s been crying. I want to get undressed and slip in beside her and take her in my arms, but I can't. She told me not to touch her, didn't she? Why has she done this to us? Why is she diverting all her anger onto my meeting up with Elena when it meant nothing? Why can’t she just trust me on this?

As my lips brush the soft skin of her cheek, she murmurs in her sleep, but I can't quite catch what she says. It might have been my name, but maybe that is just wishful thinking. I bury my nose in her hair - she smells wonderful of course. But as she stirs again, I step back, and then sit on the chair by the bed to watch her, as I have done so many times before.

I sigh as I slip off my tie. It’s the silver-gray one that I know is Ana’s favorite. Why did I pick that one this morning? To remind myself of how much I love my wife? I don’t need reminding. Thoughts of Ana are never out of my mind, however hard I try to immerse myself in work.

I watch the steady rhythm of her breathing, just as I did that very first night I took her back to my hotel room. I've come to believe that she was sent to me that day she tripped into my office. I’d never even considered the possibility that I would fall in love and get married. That wasn’t part of my life plan in any way whatsoever.

And yet here I am, just a few short months later,  married to the love of my life, and up till now, despite several ups and downs, I thought I was adapting pretty well, all things considered.

But a baby?

 That’s just a step too far for me to adapt to. But I'm going to have to, if I don’t want to lose my wife. She’s made it clear that she’ll choose the baby over me, because that’s the right thing to do. That’s what mother nature intended. It’s just a shame the crack whore fucked me up so badly that my natural instincts are messed up, and I don’t have a clue how to be a good parent. I expect the only reason she didn't get me aborted was that she’d left it too late, not because she actually wanted me, and then she didn't give me up for adoption because she’d have lost the child support check she got for me. She must have wished over and over that she had gotten rid of me when I was just a bunch of tiny cells.

 I might not be ready to be a father, but would I really want Ana to abort our baby if it was up to me? Would I really want to destroy a pure, innocent life that didn't ask to be created, a life created out of our act of love? How would I have felt if I found out that Ana had had a termination without involving me in the decision? Wouldn’t I think she’d been cold and callous? 

I'm so confused. What the fuck do I know about babies anyway? The only experience I’ve had was when Mia arrived as a tiny baby in our family. I remember being fascinated by her, and that I used to love to watch her, but I was only a small boy then, so it was only natural.

Perhaps I’ll try and speak to Flynn tomorrow, but the truth is, I already know what he’s going to tell me. He’s going to say we have to talk about this to reach a resolution. But all the time Ana is being irrational because she’s blinded by her hatred of Elena, I don’t see how we can have any kind of a constructive conversation.

I can't talk to my parents about any of this. Especially as I told my dad I’d never be stupid enough to get Ana knocked up, when he queried why we were getting married so quickly. And all Mom will care about is the baby, especially as she thinks Ana can do no wrong anyway. So somehow, this will all be my fault. 

What a fucking mess.

I watch Ana sleep for a long time, before heading back to our empty bedroom. I sleep fitfully before waking up in a cold sweat at around five thirty, because inevitably I've had a nightmare.  The usual one I have these days. Ana leaving me. Ana lying cold and unresponsive. Ana dead. Just like the crack whore.

I head off down to the gym to work out and try to rid myself of my demons, but it doesn't work.  All I desperately want is to feel Ana in my arms, and knowing that she’s just a short distance away upstairs is worse than torture, because she doesn't want anything to do with me.

Taylor comes down to the gym with me, and we silently pump iron side by side. Being the strong silent type who knows when to keep his mouth shut, means he hasn’t spoken about bringing me back the previous night, thank fuck. But I take the opportunity to bring up the subject that's been worrying me.

“Did you carry out a full security sweep of the apartment as I instructed? Do you have any clue as to where my wife spent the other night? Because if any kind of security weakness has been exposed….” I’m about to vent some of my bad temper on him when he interrupts.

“I think I may be able to shed some light on the matter, sir. I was going to report back to you at our morning briefing, but as you've inquired now, I’ll fill you in.”

He’s got my full attention.

“Your play room. The door was definitely locked when we were searching the apartment, wasn’t it?”

“Yes.”  I remember checking it myself.

“But when I checked, the spare key was not in the usual place in the cabinet in the utility room. And then later Gail noticed signs that someone had been in there since she’d cleaned the day before, and she knows it wasn’t you because you were out.”

“So are you saying that my wife took the spare play room key and then locked herself in there, and that’s why we couldn’t find any sign of her?” I work out.

“Looks that way, sir. I’ve been worried there’d been some kind of security lapse, so I’d be reassured if Mrs. Grey could confirm that this is the correct explanation of events.”

 Fuck.

 Ana used the playroom of all places as a secure hidey hole to escape to. It never occurred to me that’s where she would have tucked herself away, but Taylor's explanation makes perfect sense. My wife is full of surprises.

So she was safe and sound in the apartment all along, when she knew I’d be frantic with worry that she’d run. She knew I’d think the worst, that she’d left me. She was punishing me because of how mad she was when she read Elena’s text.  That’s pretty cruel and nasty of her. I know I reacted badly when she told me she was pregnant, but it was one hell of a shock, as she knew it would be. 

And I thought she knew me better than to even have to ask if I’d slept with Elena. She’s blown out of all proportion the fact that I had a quiet final drink with an old friend, which is all Elena was to me. Ana set out to deliberately hurt me, and she succeeded. I was sick with fear until she nonchalantly strolled in, and then she was too irrational to calm down, to see reason, for us to have a civilized discussion. And she had the gall to accuse me of being the one acting like an adolescent.

I don’t want to risk seeing or talking to Ana while I'm dealing with this latest twist to our situation.  I need some distance. Working so late last night means that I'm up to date as far as possible with the shipyard deal. I was going to have a conference call with the guys at WSU today.

Fuck it.

I decide to attend the meeting in person instead. I like to do this from time to time - it helps to keep everyone on their toes if I turn up unannounced every now and again.

 But I do the decent thing.  Before I leave, I email my wife to inform her that I am flying down to Portland. No one can accuse me of being petty and vindictive.

~~~

“Could I have a word in private, Mr. Grey?”

It’s early afternoon, and I'm just wrapping things up at WSU when Taylor interrupts my meeting.  One look at his face tells me I'm not going to like whatever he’s about to tell me.

“I’ve just received an amber alert from Sawyer concerning Mrs. Grey. He reports that she’s unwell.”

Shit.

Suddenly nothing else matters. Anastasia is unwell? I have to get back to her as soon as possible. I consider calling her, but since she hasn’t rung to tell me she’s ill,  I know she’s unlikely to take my call, or even if she does she probably won't tell me what the matter is. I’d rather talk to her face to face, see for myself how she is.

“In what way unwell?”

“I don’t have any details as yet. I’m just about to call Luke back for clarification, but I thought you’d want to know immediately.”

“We’re leaving. Now. Make all the necessary…”

“Already done, sir. Rather than delay take off, I thought we could speak to Luke to get more details while we're on our way.”

Taylor is a fucking genius mind reader.

We are just about to take off when he gets through to Sawyer, while I listen in.

“T… I wanted to let you know that Mrs. Grey is with me.” He’s letting us know he can't talk openly. “She’s unwell. I'm taking her back to Escala.”

So whatever is wrong, he doesn’t feel it warrants taking her to hospital. That’s good, right?

“We’re just about to take off from Portland, so we’ll be returning within the hour.”

“I see.”

“As soon as you reach the apartment, call Doctor Greene to arrange an emergency appointment with her for Mrs. Grey. Then call me back to give a full update on the situation,” I instruct him.

“Sir.”

“Your priority is to ensure that Mrs. Grey gets medical attention, even if she says she doesn’t require it. You must call the doctor,” I reiterate.

“Yes,” he agrees then hangs up, unable to say too much as he’s with Ana, but with clear instructions as to how he is to proceed.

I have no idea what is wrong with Ana, but I know she must be feeling bad if she’s asked Sawyer to take her home, because she never normally makes a fuss.  So I'm worried.

Perhaps she’s feeling faint and ill because she hasn’t eaten. That seems likely, knowing Ana. I’ll have to force her to rest and eat properly to take care of herself now she’s pregnant.  She needs me. I should never have let things come to this. I have to look after her.

But I worry it could be something more serious. Perhaps she’s started bleeding. Perhaps she’s having a miscarriage brought on by stress. She could be losing the baby. Our baby. And I'm surprised by how upset this makes me. You’d think I’d be happy at the thought of nature taking care of this unplanned pregnancy. But I'm not. How confusing.

Then a really nasty thought goes through my mind. Perhaps Ana’s done something really stupid because of my horrified reaction to the pregnancy. Perhaps she’s felt obliged to take something to bring on an abortion, and it’s making her ill.

But I quickly rule this out.  Ana was adamant she was having this baby whatever I said, so why would she have a sudden change of heart? She wouldn’t get rid of our baby, however inconvenient this pregnancy is. And I realize I'm glad, that I actually respect her for taking a stand against me, for standing up for our baby. That’s what a loving parent is meant to do. That’s what she told me and she was right.  I understand that now. 

So we have to sort things out between us. I have to grow up and be a man about this. I have to step up to the plate and take my responsibility seriously, even if I have no idea how.

The flight is only short but seems to take forever. All I want is to be with Ana, to find out what’s wrong with her, get her fixed, make things right,  do whatever it takes.

But then, just as we touchdown in Seattle and are back in contact, things take another twist. 

And not for the better.

~~~

I get a call from Troy Whelan, the bank manager who looks after my accounts. I don’t like the man, but he handles my accounts efficiently, so I tolerate him.

“Mr. Grey. I just need to run a security check by you,” he says nervously.

“Now is not a good time. I have important business to attend to.” I try to get rid of him. I’m not interested in his stupid security checks.

“Of course, I appreciate that you are a very busy man, Mr. Grey. It’s just that we have a lady here in the bank claiming to be Mrs. Grey, requesting a withdrawal of  five million dollars.”

Suddenly he has my full attention.

“The initial ID she produced was out of date, so now she’s produced an Amex credit card and a check book, but they could easily be stolen. It’s all highly irregular, especially as the lady in question seems rather agitated, in a hurry, and was very reluctant for me to call you.  However, with such a large sum of money at stake, I  thought it best to check with you.”

I'm speechless. I thought Ana was at the apartment, ill. What the fuck is going on? Is this actually her at the bank, or an imposter?

“Describe this person to me.”

“Let me see. She’s young, probably early twenties, I’d say.  She’s slim, has long brown hair, and she’s wearing jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Oh, and she’s carrying a blue duffel bag.”

My heart sinks. This sounds like Ana. This can mean only one thing. She’s leaving me. She needs the money because she’s running. That’s why she didn't want the manager to call me.

“Put me through to speak to her.”

“So you do think it’s possible this lady is your wife?”

“If I speak to her I can verify that can’t I?”

“But if it is Mrs. Grey, she was quite specific that she didn't want to speak to you.”

“So, Mr. Whelan, rather than let me confirm the identity of this person, you are prepared to give away five million dollars of my money to someone who may look like my wife, but who could well be an impostor?” I snarl. I have to speak to Anastasia and find out what is going on.

“N..no.. of course not Mr. Grey. I’ll put the call through to her. Just one moment.”

So many thoughts are going through my mind at this moment. Is Ana really leaving me?

Have I pushed her to her limits because of my behavior when she told me she was pregnant? 

Is this really the end of my marriage?

My whole world is dissolving, falling apart. How could I have let this happen?

“Hi,” Ana murmurs in a shaky voice. So it is her, no question.

“You’re leaving me?” I only just manage to utter the words.

“No… yes,” she whispers so quietly that I can barely hear her.

No, no, no, this cannot be happening. I can't lose her. I’ve been such an idiot the way I've been acting. What was I thinking in taking such a risk? Anastasia is my life. I can't be without her. I am nothing without her. I’m just an empty, lifeless shell.

“Ana, I …” but I can't get any words out. They’re stuck in my throat, as I fight to catch my breath. Is it possible to have heart failure from a few words spoken down a phone line? It feels as if my heart is literally breaking apart.

“Christian, please. Don’t,” she sobs.

“You’re going?” Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.

“Yes.” No, no, no.

“But why the cash? Was it always the money?”

I can't believe I was wrong about Ana all along, but who knows? Perhaps my love for her has blinded me. I'm in total shock, so I can't think straight. All I know is I might as well be put down and out of my miserable existence right now if Ana leaves me. Life will not be worth living any more.

“No,” she whispers vehemently.

“Is five million enough?”

“Yes.”

“And the baby?” Our baby.

“I’ll take care of the baby.”

“This is what you want?” You promised you would never leave, but I’ve driven you away.

“Yes.”

“Take it all.”

I don’t want it. There’s no point to any of it, to anything if I don’t have Ana.  I wanted to share everything with her.

“Christian. It’s for you. For your family. Please. Don’t,” she sobs down the phone.

I have no idea what she’s talking about. For my family?

“Take it all, Anastasia.”

“Christian…”

“I’ll always love you.” Even though I drove you away because I didn’t deserve you.

I can't listen to any more, so I finish the call and then Whelan is back on the line.

“Give my wife whatever she wants.”

“This is all highly irregular. As I explained to Mrs. Grey, we normally ask for some notice for withdrawals of such large sums of money. And although we do hold the cash reserve for the entire Pacific Northwest, such a large withdrawal would  leave us very short.”

“I don’t fucking care how you do it, but if you don’t give my wife the five million dollars she wants immediately, I will close all my accounts and take my business elsewhere. Then you can explain to your superiors how your ineptitude lost them their main client. I am authorizing you to liquidate five million dollars of my assets to cover it, so just fucking well do as I ask,” I yell at the stupid man.

“Y... yes... of course, Mr. Grey.”

I slam down the phone. While I've been talking, Taylor has also been on his cell, no doubt finding out from Sawyer how my wife managed to evade him to reach the bank.  Now he looks at me as I just sit there.

I'm a broken man. My world has just come crashing down around me. I feel as if a sword has been driven right through my heart. It’s excruciatingly painful and I can barely breathe.

“Sir, I'm guessing you already know that Mrs. Grey gave Luke the slip. He’s tracked her car to the bank and followed her there…”

I just nod.

“But I've also just received some other intel that you need to be aware of that I think might have a bearing on events.”

I look at him, trying to focus my attention away from the fact that there is now no point to my existence any more.

“I’ve just learnt from Welch that Hyde was granted bail.”

I snap out of my state of shock.

“Hyde? But how is that possible? Who stood bail for him?”

Taylor shakes his head.

“We have no idea, sir. But now I'm thinking that Mrs. Grey’s actions are very out of character, wouldn’t you say? Especially bearing in mind her … condition.  So I’m left wondering if there is another explanation for her unusual behavior.”

I think I see where Taylor’s heading with this. I see a tiny glimmer of hope that perhaps things are not how they seem, that perhaps Ana is not leaving me. Is it possible that Ana’s being blackmailed by Hyde in some way? Is that what she needs the money for? Shit.

“Yes, maybe Taylor, because something my wife just said didn't make any sense.”

Perhaps Hyde is threatening her in some way, and she feels unable to turn to me or the security team because of the way I've been acting, so maybe she thinks she has to deal with this on her own? Is that what she meant when she said ‘It’s for you. For your family.’?

Hope beats in my heart all of a sudden.  Ana’s never been interested in my money, I know this to be true. And even if she was after my money, why wouldn’t she just go through the courts, knowing there is no prenup in place? Five million dollars is nothing, it's peanuts compared to what she would get with a proper divorce settlement. No, this is all wrong. It doesn’t add up. It has to be something to do with Hyde.

I call Ana’s cell to see if I can find out from her what’s going on. But the call goes to voicemail, and I leave a message telling her to call me back, knowing she’s not going to.

Next I call Sawyer, having been informed by Taylor that he’s followed Ana to the bank.

“Have you located Mrs. Grey?”

“Yes, sir. She’s just come out of the manager’s office, but now that she’s seen me, she’s retreated back in there.”

“Stay where you are. Do not let her leave without following. Do not fucking lose her again,” I yell at him. I’ll get to the bottom of how she evaded him later. Right now we have more pressing matters to worry about. We need to get to Ana.

Once again Taylor has read my mind. He’s correctly assumed we’re heading for the bank  as we jump into the Audi SUV that we left at the airfield this morning.

“It should take us about ten minutes to get there, but I’ll track Mrs. Grey’s phone in case she leaves in the meantime.” He can use the on board computer - this situation is exactly why I always insist on having all the latest equipment in our vehicles.

“I don’t care how many red lights you jump, just get us the fuck there.”

But before we can get to the bank, the tracking system shows that Ana’s cell phone is on the move, although her Saab is not. She must be in another vehicle. Sawyer reports that she has not left via the main entrance of the bank, so we figure she must have left via a back entrance somehow.  This subterfuge on her part just increases our suspicions that she’s under threat in some way.

“I just don’t understand why the fuck Mrs. Grey is taking such a risk with her personal safety when she knows that’s the job of her security detail,” Taylor growls in frustration. “She deceived Luke by telling him she was unwell and distracting him before she sneaked off. Why didn't she just confide in him so he could do his job?”

“I don’t understand her actions any better than you, Taylor. But right now we just have to concentrate on finding her, whatever the explanation for her actions. Tell Sawyer to follow as well - until we have the situation under control, we need all the backup we can muster.”

“He’s already following, he’s just a short way behind us, sir. Looks like Mrs. Grey is heading out of Seattle, up into the hills to the east.”

Taylor is a skilled high speed driver of course, so we make good progress to catch Ana up. Then it appears that she’s stopped - possibly she has reached her destination.

We turn the corner into South Irving Street.

“This area is where Barney reported CCTV evidence of the white van, so we think this is possibly where Hyde was basing himself previously. It’s all coming together. It has to be him.  It has to be Hyde that Mrs. Grey is meeting up with,” Taylor deduces.

“What the fuck is my wife playing at, meeting up with that sleazeball all by herself?” I growl in frustration.

It’s a deserted street with empty derelict buildings. A perfect hide out.

Then we spot a black Dodge SUV parked incongruously in the empty parking lot of a disused building. That has to be the car Ana’s arrived in.

And then we hear a gun shot.

All thoughts of a discrete approach are gone, as we race into the car park and leap out of the car, closely followed by Sawyer.

The first person I see is Elizabeth Morgan, Head of Personnel at SIP. Why?
Next I see the fucker Hyde on the ground, screaming as he clutches at his leg which appears to be bleeding. He’s been shot?

But then my eyes are drawn to the lifeless body lying on the cold concrete.

It’s Ana.

“Ana! ANA!”

I race over to her, fearing my worst nightmares have come true. It looks as if she could be dead.

I throw myself down to kneel next to her, while Taylor makes for Hyde, and Sawyer for Elizabeth, who must presumably be his accomplice. We don’t know who has the gun yet, so we have no idea who actually fired the shot we heard.

“Ana, can you hear me?”  Not knowing what her injuries are, I don’t dare move her in any way, so I just take her hand. Shit. It feels so cold and lifeless, just like ice.

She doesn't respond to me. Is she dead? Has he killed her? I frantically scan her body looking for evidence of any gunshot wounds or blood, but I can’t see anything. Taylor comes over to join me.

“The two perps have been secured and no longer pose a threat, so it’s best to leave the gun where it is. The police will want it as evidence,” he nods at a gun on the ground near Ana. “From what Hyde’s saying, Mrs. Grey shot the fucker and now he’s squealing like an injured pig. He’s not going anywhere.”

Ana shot Hyde? I look at the gun and realize it could be the one I took from Leila that’s been in my desk drawer. Did she take it from there because she knew she was going to be in danger? So why, why, why didn't she tell me, Taylor or Sawyer what was going on? Why did she foolishly risk her life, and the life of our unborn baby?

Taylor checks Ana’s pulse - he’s fully trained in emergency first response, as is Sawyer. All my security team are, for exactly this kind of situation.

“She's breathing normally and has a good steady pulse. She doesn’t appear to be bleeding from any obvious gunshot wound.”

Behind me Luke Sawyer is calling for assistance on his cell.  I listen to him calmly listing the casualties to the emergency medical dispatcher.

“One female, unconscious but breathing, possible head injury. One male, conscious with a gunshot wound to the leg, bleeding but under control…."

“Never mind about that fucker,” I glance over to where he’s lying on the ground groaning loudly. “Ana should have shot him dead.”

Elizabeth is sitting on the ground near the van with her hands secured behind her back. What her role in all this is I have no idea right now, but clearly Sawyer's rightly decided not to take any chances with her.

Taylor is carefully examining Ana’s face and head.

“What do you think is wrong with her? Why is she unconscious?” I quiz him anxiously.

“I can’t be sure, but from this red mark on her cheek, and the graze on her temple, I’d guess she’s been hit across the face and perhaps cracked her head on the floor when she fell. There may well be internal injuries that are not immediately apparent, so it’s best we don’t attempt to move her. We just need that fucking ambulance - Luke, did the dispatcher give any indication of ETA?”
Internal injuries? Does that mean she could lose the baby?

“They’re on their way. They said five minutes.”

That fucker hit my wife. He has done this to her. I literally see red as uncontrollable rage floods through me.

I snatch the gun up from the ground where it must have fallen from Ana’s hand. I’m up on my feet and pointing the gun at Hyde as I walk towards him. 

I’m going to kill him.

“That gold digging whore only got what was coming to her, Grey,” Hyde taunts me. So even now, lying injured on the floor, he’s still a mean mouthed piece of shit.

“No! Mr. Grey, put the gun down,” Taylor yells when he realizes my intention.

“I’m going to fucking well finish off what Ana started,” I snarl. 

Hyde doesn't deserve to breathe the same air as Ana, to be on the same planet as her. He deserves to descend down into the pit of hell where he belongs.

But suddenly there is a vice like grip around my wrist as I’m overpowered by Taylor and Sawyer.

“He’s not worth the trouble. Let the cops deal with him. Right now you need to focus on your wife, on Ana. She needs you by her side, not locked up in jail on a murder charge.”  Taylor speaks quietly but insistently in my ear to calm me down and talk some sense into me.

I glance over at my beloved, precious wife, lying there so still and cold on the ground, and I know he’s right. Ana needs me now more than ever. I can't risk having to abandon her. Taylor takes the gun from my hand as he senses the fight has gone out of me.

“It’s okay. I’ve got a grip. You can both unhand me now.” I shrug off their hold.

They tentatively let go, not taking their wary eyes off me until they’re sure I’m not about to lunge at Hyde again.

Then we hear the sirens as half a dozen assorted police cars and ambulances suddenly converge on the scene, and all hell breaks loose as police officers and paramedics start swarming everywhere.

~~~


In the back of the ambulance on the way to the Northwest hospital, I call my mom. I really want her there, because I know she’ll make sure nothing gets missed, and ensure that Ana gets only the best care.

“Mom? Are you at the hospital?”

“Yes, Christian. Why, whatever’s the matter?”

“It’s Ana. She’s been hurt and we’re on our way in the ambulance. Can you meet us in the ER?”

“Yes, of course, but what do you mean Ana’s hurt? Is she okay?”

“I… I don’t know how bad it is, Mom. She’s unconscious.”

“Oh Christian! What on earth happened?”

“I’ll fill you in with the details at the hospital, if you can meet us there?”
“Yes, yes, of course. I’ll be there waiting,” Mom assures me, and I feel some relief knowing I can trust her judgment on what will be best for Ana.

The paramedics are running checks on Ana the whole time we’re travelling, with the sirens blaring.

“You’re her husband?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Does your wife have any allergies or medical conditions that we need to be aware of?”

“No allergies, but medical condition - she’s pregnant.”

“I see. How many weeks?”


“I’m not sure. We only just found out, so she’s in the very early stages. Four or five weeks maybe.” 

It's hard to work out how far along she is, because I assumed she missed her period as a side effect of the shot, not because she was pregnant.  But is she still pregnant? If that fucker has murdered our baby as well as injuring Ana, I will find some way to get to him, and there is no way on this earth that Taylor or Sawyer will be able to hold me back.

“I’ll add that to her notes to make sure the incoming team are made aware so that her pregnancy is taken into account for any medication or procedures she may require.”

“How is she?” I ask anxiously.

“She’s stable and her vitals are all good. We’ll know more once they’ve run all the tests when she’s been admitted.”

I feel so helpless as I reach out and take her hand in mine.

“Please forgive me, Ana. Please come back to me.  I love you so much,” I whisper as I kiss her hand and then hold it against my cheek. 

Dan McAllister’s  wise words about never letting the sun go down on an argument come back to haunt me. 

What if I never get to tell her how sorry I am? What if I never get the chance to ask for her forgiveness? 

I’ve been such an idiot.



Once we arrive, Mom’s by my side as a team of doctors and nurses start working on Ana. Reluctantly I stand back to give them access.

“Just let them get on with what they need to do, Christian. Trust me, they are the experts. Do you honestly think I’d let anyone but the best near my daughter-in-law?” Mom asks.

She pulls me to one side as I watch a nurse cutting off Ana’s clothes so they can examine her properly, and remove her jewelry for safe keeping.

“Not her wedding ring. We never take our wedding rings off,” I insist, so they place some tape over her wedding band.

“Are you going to tell me what’s been going on?” Mom asks.

“It seems that Hyde, the f... the man who tried to kidnap her before, somehow managed to get released on bail, and we think he was blackmailing or threatening Ana in some way. We think she was meeting up with him to hand over the money; somehow he ended up being shot and Ana ended up unconscious.

“But I thought she had her own designated protection officer…”

“She does, but for some reason she saw fit to deal with this on her own, and managed to give Sawyer the slip. I’m not exactly sure what happened because I was away in Portland on business when this all kicked off. We’re still trying to piece it together.”

Mom looks at me shrewdly. She can tell there’s more to this than I'm letting on, but she wisely doesn't press the point right now.

I feel very uneasy when Ana is taken away for a whole raft of tests because I don’t want to let her out of my sight, but I know it’s vital for them to assess the extent of her injuries and work out why she’s still unconscious. At least Mom has been allowed to go down with her.

As I restlessly wait for her to return, Taylor seeks me out.

“How is Mrs. Grey?”

“Gone for tests. We’ll know more once we get the results. But she’s stable.”

“Well that sounds positive, sir. I... er... I’m not sure if  this is a good time, but I thought you would want to know there have been some developments.”

“Developments?”

“Yes, sir. Elizabeth Morgan has been very forthcoming. It seems that under Hyde’s instructions, she abducted your sister Mia as she was leaving her gym earlier today. Hyde used her as a hostage, demanding five million dollars ransom money, threatening to harm her if your wife didn't comply with his orders, and that she was to tell no one what she was doing.”

Mia? That fucker had taken my baby sister? But how? Of course, Dad had given in to Mia about not needing a CPO, because he thought Hyde was safely locked away in custody. Surely whoever stood bail for him must have known he was a threat to me, to my family?

“He actually had Mia?”

“Yes. The police found Miss Grey in one of the derelict houses where he’s been hiding out. She’s been drugged, but has no other apparent injuries. They’re bringing her in for a full examination. Your father has been apprised of the situation and is on his way in. He thought it best if he was the one to inform your mother.”

Shit. I didn't think it was possible, but Hyde is even more twisted and sick than I thought. This is why Barney found research about my family on his computer hard drive. He must have somehow been watching closely to know that Mia no longer had her CPO, and that she’d be at the gym. 

Ana acted the way she did to protect my baby sister. That’s what she was trying to tell me when she said she was doing it for me, for my family. That’s why she put her own life at risk. Stupid. Brave. Reckless. Courageous. My wife is all of these things and more.

But before I can think any more about this, there is a flurry of activity as Ana is brought back. I wait impatiently as the nurses settle her back in.

Mom is smiling, so I'm guessing the results were positive. I heave a huge sigh of relief.


“The scan showed no serious problems. I’ll let Doctor Bartley go through all the details, but Ana should be fine. And Christian, I read her medical notes. So I know… I know she’s pregnant.” 

She beams at me, clearly thrilled and ecstatic at the prospect of becoming a grandmother. That’s if Ana is still pregnant. That’s if Hyde hasn’t killed our baby.

I try to look like a happy expectant father is supposed to look, but by Mom’s expression, I fail miserably.

“Oh Christian! I take it this wasn’t a planned pregnancy?”

“No, it wasn’t. Ana forgot to get her shot.”

“I see. So no doubt this has come as a bit of a shock for you both?”

“You could say that.”

Just then my dad comes rushing in.

“I was in court, so I only just heard. How is Ana?”

“Unconscious but stable. The results of the CT and EEG were all positive; no signs of any major problems,” Mom starts to fills him in, but before she can elaborate any further, he takes her to one side.

“That’s wonderful news. But there’s something else I have to tell you….

~~~


I let Dad tell Mom about Mia, while I go over to look at my wife, hoping there are signs she's coming round. But she's still unresponsive as she lies there in her hospital gown, with an IV drip in her arm and wired up to various monitors that are beeping and flashing.

Doctor Bartley approaches me.

“What did the tests show? How is my wife?”

“Her ribs are bruised, Mr. Grey, and she has a hairline fracture to her skull, but her vital signs are stable and strong.”

“Why is she still unconscious?”

“Mrs. Grey has had a major contusion to her head. But her brain activity is normal, and she has no cerebral swelling. She’ll wake when she’s ready. Just give her some time.”

“And the baby?” I can hardly bear to ask, but I have to know.

“The baby’s fine, Mr. Grey.” The doctor smiles.

“Oh thank God. Oh thank God.” 

A huge wave of relief sweeps over me. If anything had happened to the baby,  I know Ana would have been distraught.  And the weird thing is, so would I.

I would have felt so guilty for allowing something to happen to our child. I was so certain that I didn't want this baby, but somehow,  somewhere, some deep rooted instinct seems to have kicked in. I may not be ready to be a father, I may have no idea how to be that person, but our defenseless, innocent baby is undoubtedly deserving of my full protection. 

That’s what I am supposed to do. That’s my role. To look after my wife, and to look after our baby.

Once Ana has been moved to a private room, I spend the evening sitting by her bed, watching and willing her to wake up. No one can tell me when it will happen, or how long it’s going to take.

Ros calls, because she’s heard what’s happened.

“You’ll have to take over and handle everything, Ros. I can't leave Ana, not while she’s like this.”

Nothing else matters. Nothing. I’d give everything away in a heartbeat if it meant Ana would wake up and come back to me.

“Of course, Christian. That’s what I was calling to say. Andrea and I have everything under control with regard to the trip to Taiwan, so you just concentrate on Ana. Leave everything to us.”

I'm so thankful that I'm able to trust them, to allow me to switch off from work, safe in the knowledge that they will keep things running. I should be the one going to Taiwan, but right now I can't think about anything except Ana. Ros can handle it.

“Your wife will wake up when’s she’s ready,” everyone keeps telling me. But what if she doesn’t want to come back to me? What if she hates me for the way I’ve been behaving?

The hours pass, and I have no idea what the time is when Dad comes and sits with me - he’s returned to the hospital after taking Mia home with Mom. 

Luckily, she seems to be recovering well, and he tells me that Mom will be coming back at some point, but that one of them has to stay with Mia at all times for now.

“So, a little birdie tells me we’re going to be grandparents,” he whispers as he grins at me.

“Seems that way.”

Dad catches the scared look I'm trying to hide on my face.

“Oh, Christian, it’s going to be fine. You’ll see.”

“What the hell do I know about being a father? What kind of a parent am I going to be?”

“You’ll be a wonderful father. The best. I have no doubt about that at all.”

“Really? But I know nothing about babies and kids and all that shit.”

“I’ll let you into a little secret, son. No one really does until they have babies of their own, even if they think they do. And I can tell you right now, it’s a very steep learning curve. But you and Ana will figure it out together, and I know you’ll both make great parents. It might be a little sooner than you’d planned, but it means you’ll be young enough to be able to really enjoy your family.”

“Thanks, Dad. I guess I’m going to have to get used to the idea, because it seems Junior’s not going anywhere. They said the baby’s fine, despite what’s happened to Ana.”

“I’d say our first grandchild  is pretty tenacious, all things considered.”

He looks at me with a concerned expression.

“Christian,  maybe you should go home and get some rest. They’ll call you if Ana should wake…”

“I’m not leaving her.”

“Christian, you should sleep.”

“No, Dad. I want to be here when she wakes up.”

“I’ll sit with her. It’s the least I can do after she saved my daughter.”

“How’s Mia?”

“She’s groggy… scared and angry. It’ll be a few hours before the Rohypnol is completely out of her system.”

“Christ.”

“I know. I'm feeling seven kinds of foolish for relenting on her security. You warned me, but Mia is so stubborn. If it wasn’t for Ana here…”

“We all thought Hyde was out of the picture. And my crazy, stupid wife - why didn't she tell me?”

She should have been able to turn to me. I’ve let her down so badly. This is all my fault. I'm the stupid one.

“Christian, calm down. Ana’s a remarkable young woman. She was incredibly brave.”

“Brave and headstrong and stubborn and stupid.”

She could have got herself killed. It was a close call, both for her and for Mia. My wife and my sister. How would I have been able to carry on if anything had happened to either of them?

“Hey, don’t be so hard on her, or yourself, son. Look, if you're not going to let me sit with Ana so you can go home, I’d better get back to your mom. It’s after three in the morning, Christian. You really should try to sleep.”

“It’s fine, Dad. I’ll sleep here. I just can't bear to leave her.  I have to be here.”

I squeeze Ana’s hand, hoping for some sign, some slight response to tell me she’s still in there somewhere. But nothing.

Sometime after that, Ray appears beside me in a wheelchair. I’m grateful  my mom took it upon herself to go and see him as he was here in the hospital as a patient. She said she didn't tell him about the pregnancy, that he should hear this news from his daughter. Mom also said most people wait a while before telling everyone, until things have been checked out in a detailed scan at around twelve weeks - naturally she knows all about these things.

“What has my crazy daughter been up to, for crying out loud? Thinking a little girl like her could take on some lunatic asshole by herself?”

“I know, Ray. I’m mad as hell with her for sneaking off from her CPO like that. We all are.”

“If you don’t take her across your knee, I sure as hell will. What was she thinking?”

“Trust me, Ray, I might just do that.”

“Well, it might be what she needs to knock some sense into that silly head of hers.  I guess we just have to be thankful she can shoot straight.”

“I believe we have you to thank for that.” Like my parents, I’ve always been vehemently anti gun, but right now I'm really glad Ray taught Ana how to shoot.

“Well, being an army veteran, I've always kept a gun in the house, and I figured it was safer for Ana to understand how it worked and how to use it properly, rather than risk her playing around with it and getting hurt through ignorance.”

Wise old Ray.  

I get rid of Detective Clark as quickly as I can when he calls in sometime later. He can see for himself  that Ana is in no state to answer any of his questions. But at least he acknowledges that Hyde is one twisted son of a bitch.
He also lets slip that Hyde is here in the same hospital being treated for the gunshot wound to his leg. 

Part of me is sorely tempted to seek him out and finish him off, and I'm certain Ray would feel the same way if he knew. But as Taylor pointed out, I have no right giving in to my selfish desire for revenge and retribution, not when Ana needs me and is so dependent on me. 

At least I know my dad will be taking every possible step to ensure the law deals with him in the proper manner. Personally, I’d like to see Hyde hung drawn and quartered as they used to in medieval times. And I fully intend to get to the bottom of just who stood bail for him, and then take whatever action I deem appropriate.  Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Mom comes back to the hospital to see how Ana is doing.

“Why hasn’t she woken up yet?” I want to know.

“She will, darling. Her body just needs her to rest right now, to allow her to recover.”

“I just wish…I wish I could turn the clock back. I behaved so badly when she told me she was pregnant. I said some horrid things to her.”

“We all say things in the heat of the moment we don’t mean. I’m sure Ana understands that.”

“I accused her of getting pregnant on purpose.”

“Because she didn't keep the appointment for her contraceptive shot? Well maybe she had other things on her mind with everything that's happened to the poor girl lately, thanks to this lunatic man Hyde.  And don't forget her father was very ill in hospital last week.”

I just nod.

“But if Ana is already over five weeks pregnant,  it wouldn’t have made any difference even if she had kept her appointment. It seems to me the shot failed, or at least ran out earlier than it should have done. These things happen. No contraceptive is completely foolproof, or one hundred percent reliable.”

“I know. I’d pretty much worked that out for myself,” I sigh.

“So surely you talked this through with Ana?”

“No.”

“Why ever not, Christian?”

“We had a huge row and we weren’t talking.”

“What do you mean you weren’t talking?” Mom stares intently at me. “”What did you do?”

“Mom…”

“Christian! What did you do?”

“I was so angry…” I almost can't bring myself to admit what happened. I feel myself choking up because I’m so full of regret for my incredibly selfish actions. All I was thinking about was how I felt, when I should have been supporting Ana, not blaming her.

“Hey, things can't be that bad, surely?” Mom puts her arm round my shoulder to comfort me.

“I stormed off. You know, the way I used to when I was a teenager.” 

This used to happen on a regular basis whenever Mom, or more likely Dad, tried to bring me into line for some kind of unreasonable behavior. I’d react by shouting at them, storming out and slamming the door as I left. I'd hide out somewhere until I cooled down, often getting drunk to try and numb my anger. 

This was all pre Elena, of course. She put a stop to that kind of behavior. She brought me under control and gave me another outlet to channel my rage and frustration. She would not tolerate that kind of behavior, and so I learned self control, and then found I liked control in all areas of my life. But when Ana blew me away with her bombshell, all that control evaporated away and I reverted back to my old behavior.

“Where did you go?”

“I tried to go and see John Flynn, to talk things through, try and make sense of it all, but he was out at a parents' evening at school. So I just walked and walked, and eventually somehow found myself outside Elena’s salon. She was just locking up and… well, we ended up going for a drink together.”

“Christian! How could you? After everything… after what happened at your birthday party?” Mom is appalled and horrified.

“She said she wanted to apologize, and at that moment I just thought of her as an old friend I could talk to. But I didn't talk about me and Ana, well not about the unplanned pregnancy anyway. I didn't tell her anything about our personal life. But I did tell her marrying Ana was the best thing I ever did, and that I loved my wife very much indeed. I even told her Ana wanted a family, so finally she got the message that she had no place in my life anymore. After we parted ways, she sent a text telling me she understood, and that I’d make a great father. I carried on drinking and ended up blind drunk, so somehow Ana ended up seeing that text, and went ballistic. She thinks I betrayed her by seeing Elena and that I told her about the baby, even though I didn’t. That’s what the huge argument was about.”

I don’t tell my Mom about the pass Elena made at me. I know she would see red about it, and it would serve no purpose.

“You told me you’d cut all ties.”

“I know. But seeing her finally put it all in perspective for me. You know… with the child. For the first time I felt… what we did… it was wrong.”

“What she did, darling… Children will do that to you. Make you look at the world in a different light.”

“She finally got the message… and so did I… I hurt Ana,” I whisper.

Ana’s extreme reaction suddenly makes perfect sense as I ask myself how I would have felt if I’d thought she'd gone running straight to José Rodriguez for a shoulder to cry on about our marital problems, and told him about the baby.  I know I would have been uncontrollably mad - and incredibly hurt by such a betrayal. 

That was what was so scary about Ana - she seemed so calm, and controlled that morning, but it was just a front masking her fury. I get it now. She was so angry with me for apparently running to Elena that she couldn’t get past it. I get her anger now. I see where she was coming from. I couldn’t before. I guess I've never been very good at putting myself in other people’s shoes. All I've had to deal with are my own thoughts and feelings. Selfish with a capital S.

“We always hurt the ones we love, darling. You’ll have to tell her you’re sorry. And mean it and give her time.”

“She said she was leaving me.”

“Did you believe her?”

“At first, yes.”

“Darling, you always believe the worst of everyone, including yourself. You always have. Ana loves you very much, and it’s obvious you love her.”

“She was mad at me.”

“I’m sure she was. I'm pretty mad at you right now. I think you can only be truly mad at someone you really love.”

“I thought about it, and she’s shown me over and over how much she loves me… to the point of putting her own life in danger.”

She knew how much I cared about my baby sister, and she knew I would do anything to protect her.  So she felt she had to protect her for my sake. Because she loves me.

“Yes, she has, darling.”

“Oh, Mom, why won't she wake up? I nearly lost her.”

At the thought of what my life would be like without my Ana, I can't take any more. I feel so lost seeing her lying there lifeless, and I'm so scared she’s not going to wake up.  It’s just like my sick nightmare terrors.  Ana lying there still and lifeless. 

Just like the crack whore. I willed her to wake up, but she never did. 

What if it’s the same with Ana? What if the doctors are all wrong?

Mom engulfs me in her arms, as I start sobbing.

“Sshh now, everything will be just fine. Ana will come round soon. Then you two can begin working through this sorry mess you’ve gotten yourselves into. And you will, because I know you really love each other. Just learn from your mistakes to turn all this into something positive.”

“I couldn’t bear it if she….”

“Hush now, no more talk like that. You have everything to look forward to. A whole new wonderful future together, with your own family.”

“But I’m scared I won't know how to be a good father. I'm not ready for this.”

“Of course you’re scared, that’s only to be expected.  But just be yourself, Christian, because I know you have so much love to give. And is anyone ever really ready for a family until it actually happens? Do you know how lucky you are to have this precious gift of a baby, regardless of whether it was planned, or just a happy accident?”

I know Mom was desperate to have a family but that she was unable to conceive, so she sees this baby in a different light to me. She has always maintained that things turned out for the best because it meant she and dad adopted all us kids, but I can imagine that actually having a new born baby in the family will be extra special for her. So I'm glad this baby makes her happy. I just have to try and be happy about it myself.

“But I wanted to show Ana so much, take her to so many places. And she’s so young - she’s only just finished college and started her job. She’s very talented and I think she’s secretly quite ambitious. We’re both too young.”

“Biologically speaking, you and Ana are the perfect ages to have a baby. Believe me, so many couples think they can leave starting a family until later, only to find they have problems when time is not on their side. And it is possible to combine a career and raising a family. I should know, after all,” Mom smiles. 
“In a lot of ways Ana has a perfect job, because she can work from home a lot of the time to fit around the baby’s schedule. And don’t forget, you’re going to have grandparents nearby who will be only too happy to babysit for you anytime you want to go out. In fact, I think we shall be insisting on it.”

“Thanks, Mom. I guess you’re right.”

“And it’s not as if an unplanned pregnancy is going to cause you any financial hardship, is it? Ana is in the fortunate position of choosing if she wants to work or not. Either way, your child will want for nothing.”

Unlike the crack whore. Unlike me.

“It’s taken twenty four years for you to let me hold you like this,” Mom sighs, as she strokes my hair.

Mom’s closeness is so wonderfully comforting that I wonder why I could never let her do this before.

“I know, Mom. You’ve really helped me to put things a bit more into perspective. I’m glad we talked.”

“Me too, darling. I'm always here. I can't believe I'm going to be a grandmother.”

Finally Mom leaves, after trying her hardest to persuade me to go home and get some sleep. But I can't leave. Not when Ana has to wake up soon, doesn’t she?

“Oh, baby, please come back to me. I'm sorry. Sorry for everything. Just wake up. I miss you. I love you.”

I whisper the words over and over as my own special prayer while I continue willing her to wake up, kissing her hand and pressing it against my cheek. At least it does feel warmer now, so that’s a good sign, right? But I can't help anxiously watching the rise and fall of her chest to prove she's still breathing, now the nurses have removed all the monitors.

I feel so tired and drained as the hours drag by. I rest my head down on my arms on the bed and close my eyes for just a few seconds….

Suddenly I jerk awake because I swear I felt someone running their fingers through my hair in the exact way Ana does.

“Hi.”

Her tiny voice croaks at me as she blinks, and looks at me with those beautiful blue eyes that look far too big for her sweet little face.

She’s come back to me.

My Ana is finally awake.

My prayers have been answered.

I’ve been granted the chance to put things right, and I’m going to grab it with both hands.

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 Legal’s page for further details. This work is not to be copied or reproduced in any way without permission. 

145 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for this chapter. It was great!

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  2. loved it. thanks

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  3. AMAZING!!! Thank you for doing such a fantastic job. I'll be reading it again a few times!

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  4. Oh my goodness! You out did yourself on this chapter! I cried! Well done...as always! <3 :-)

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    1. It was really well written, thank you so much.

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  5. Thank you so much, I really enjoyed it! Helen Bradley.

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  6. Wow. That was wonderful. Absolutely beautiful. The end was really powerful and had me in tears.
    Your talent for filling in the gaps really came into its own in this chapter. What he thought, how he found out....I feel like I've waited a long time for that to fall into place. You've blown me away with this chapter.
    Thank you x

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  7. Thank you so very much! Just vunderful......sigh.

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    1. I loved this chapter I got a mental visual of Christian with a gun very disturbing but thank u so much you have made my day can't wait for the next chapter Laters baby ;)

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  8. Loved this chapter- actually, I loved all of it! Thank you so much for this labor of love!

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  9. You did a wonderful job! Looking forward to the next chapter.

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  10. Oh my god!!!! Worth the wait, thank u thank u!!!!!lobed it <3

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  11. Yay! So happy you're going to continue writing! Thank you

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  12. This was awesome the wait was worth it!

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  13. Thank you its very good.

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  14. OMG!!! This chapter was amazing, , I can not stop cry
    Thank you very much for the great work you're doing,
    Really was worth the wait, looking forward to the next chapter

    Greetings from Mexico

    Marilyn GH

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  15. Excellent chapter, great job. You really have a knack for making your readers emotional cripples. ( that's a compliment!) The water-works started flowing big time. Couldn't even turn off the faucet! You have a way of putting love into each word you write. Very touching. Can't wait for the next chapter. Oh yes, love how you gave us some David Gandy candy at the beginning!

    Nan :D

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  16. oh my Lord!!!!!! this chapter was worth the waiting, thanks for uploading it, can't wait for the next one ;)

    lots of love ♥

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  17. Wounderfull!!!!!

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  18. Brilliant....jus brilliant as always

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  19. Brilliant!!! Tears and more tears :( It was so beautiful, thanks!

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  20. Oh I just cannot WAIT to see what you do with the birth of Ted! I'm also extremely excited for the scene when Christian tells Ana all about Elena and what happened. Thanks again for another chapter! :D -Rachel

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  21. You are an amazing writer, I absolutely loved this chapter. Thank you sooooo much.

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  22. OMG that was so worth waiting for, i couldnt stop crying it was so sad. you are awesome its going to be sad when the book ends i enjoy reading your chapters so much.
    thank you for all your effort you are a awesome writer.

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  23. This is without a doubt the best you have written so far. You have truly outdone yourself with this one, it had me in tears! I am not a patient person, but it was well worth the wait for this chapter to be this mind blowingly good! You are one beautifully,talented,and well written author. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for one of my best reads in a long while.

    From Olivia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - I'm afraid patience is always necessary to allow for the creative process to take it's natural course, but hopefully you think it's worth it in the end.

      Delete
    2. I agree Olivia`s POV, this chapter is`t very well written from my perspective, the waiting is nothing when you find out this is the result.

      In the original book I hated when Chris reacted so bad to the pregnancy news, but this way of understanding it is not such a bad news, and it`s not like he is going to be a bad father, even developing fatherhood feelings in such short time it`s great, that feelings were always in his heart, only he didn`t let them out before noticing he could have loss both Ana and baby Junior.

      The conversation with Carrick and with Grace was very beautiful and I loved that he came clean with his mom about the fight, Ana never told us how much did he told his mom about it, so it`s wonderful he felt the confident to tell her almost everything and ask them for advice in parenthood issues.

      I just loved this chapter and even more the news of getting more and more from this story.

      Congratulations baby!

      Mayrim

      Delete
  24. i'm speechless. u just made a record and wrote one of the best chapter and i still think that u r going to keep breaking your own record. can't wait for more....as always love it! :)

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  25. Fantastic as usual. What a Saturday morning treat!
    Julie M.

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  26. That was fantastic actually lying in bed crying!!!!! Great insight into Christians feelings and talks with his parents were so heartfelt

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  27. As delighted with this chapter as I have been with its predecessors. Please continue this story beyond where the original ends. Your characters are so alive.

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  28. I have no words, and that doesnt happen often, i felt so much emotion and the tears i shed while resding, i must reread this as i just read so fast, everything i wanted to know was answered, this was always going to be my favorite chapter and my expectations were set high, and you went beyond. You are a brillant writer......now the wait starts for your next magical piece - a huge thank you xx Lex from Oz

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  29. Wordless.
    I´ve been crying almost all the reading. Waiting was worth. What a pity the end is coming up!!! :(
    Brilliant as always.
    Thanks so much.

    Greetings from Spain.
    ANA

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  30. Oh God that was intense ! I cried with Christian again,I almost can feel his anguish and pain .Thank you and ♥♥♥ from Honduras.

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  31. 3.6 million hits don't lie. Honestly, I think you
    know CG better than EL James. Beautiful chapter.
    Gripped at my heart a few times! Thank you! :D

    -Alex

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  32. Absolutely amazing! You know Ana/CG so well. I'm glad you are going to write about the pregnancy/birth. I felt we lost out in the original books. Thank you!

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  33. Outstanding! Read it twice!!!

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  34. Oh yes, you have to continue. This is just simply the best ever. This was one of my favorite parts of book 2. ...and hearing this from Christian's POV makes it even more amazing. Thanks bunches. xo

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  35. OMG That was amazing this is the chapter ive been waiting for ever since you started writing you have made me giggle laugh and cry throughout but this one has really made me sob and you included the one sentence that is my all time favourite "Oh,Mom,why wont she wake up? I neally lost her." that brings tears to my eyes everytime i read it and ive read 18 times in all i cant thankyou enough for the way you have written this chapter and i will be reading it again before the night is out thankyou. Nina.

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  36. Great chapter - thank you
    so good to read from CG POV
    Moire

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  37. Congratulations .... congratulations ... it was beautiful and exciting!!!
    Paty

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  38. the one chapter ive been waiting 4 and it was fab , made me cry again Brilliant xxx

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  39. Simply marvellous! I love the way you show us Christian's point of view. Amazing.

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  40. You are such an amazing writer and I am SOOOO glad it's not over yet!!! I think you've done an amazing job showing us Christian's POV and I'm glad you decided to cover Ana's pregnancy and the birth! I don't ever want it to end, lol! All I can say is Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

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  41. Another winner as always your writing is superb...I am assuming a "row" is an English term for an argument

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes.......used many times in this work.

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry if any of you found the use of the word 'row' unfamiliar - I use an American dictionary/thesaurus when I write, and it gave the definition as 'quarrel, disagree, argue', so I thought I was all good here. Apparently not!

      Delete
    3. 'Row' is most fitting for Christians proper vernacular. Well done.

      Delete
    4. I was going to suggest "blow out" to replace "row". The one Britishism that was more jarring was "fob off". For that I was going to suggest "blow you off", as in "don't let Ana blow you off about dinner, Gail"

      Delete
    5. The original trilogy has 'Britishims' throughout the book because ELJ is English. I thought that Ana sounded more English that American.

      Delete
  42. That was a very powerful chapter... I loved seeing his feeling morph from total denial to acceptance to almost excitement. I am really going to miss this story when you are done. Thank you are all your hard work and talent.

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  43. Awesome!! Always wondered how he figured out that she wasn't running...hmm. SOOOO glad you're going to continue - will be fun to watch him move through the pregnancy and then into the delivery room. An out of body experience for every first time dad I've known - can't wait to hear how he handles it. Thanks for this - EL might have created CG but you have clearly brought him to life for us...

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  44. Thanks again you are doing fantastic job I know I am asking to much are you continue writing on Dr grace blog I hope you do ������

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be updating Grace's blog at some point, but only once I've worked on Christian's pov.

      Delete
    2. Thank you can't wait to read it , you are doing a fantastic job love every chapter you write thank soooooooooo much for giving us the pleasure to read it

      Delete
  45. Another JenniferMay 25, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    So so awesome! One of your very best chapters - loved it! Amazing and I'm sure now that I'm set to reread it, it will be amazing again!! Thank you so much for Christian's POV.

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  46. I didn't go to bed until I had read the chapter, so I was delighted to get it around midnight USA time. I was so tired I nearly fell asleep reading. It was absolutely perfect in every way!l You are a fantastic writer. You never cease to amaze and you answered more of my questions from the book. Fantastico!

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  47. I bow to you! You have my devotion for life. I give my support, my love and encouragement for your future in writing! I feel as though I'm saying my vows. hahahaha.

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  48. Great job on this chapter. I loved it and has me crying!!!

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  49. I loved it. It made me see christian as a young and insecure boy and not as a tough millionaire man that he want people to see him (and i prefer him like this!). I read the hole chapter as if i was reading the story for the first time, you had me at the edge of my seat. You are a genius in putting yourself into christian´s mind. I will wait whatever it takes to the next chapter if it´s half good as this one. Thanks. :) A.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly it - as Ana says, Christian is her little lost boy a lot of the time isn't he?

      Delete
  50. Great way to start off a Saturday morning here in Chicago. Wow you did such a masterful job with this chapter. Such a great job weaving the EL James dialogue into your version. Loved the fact that the early paragraphs are Christian POV through and through, and he's still being a jerk. He doesn't work things out in his mind until after the worst happens. I was thinking there would have been a Flynn conversation in there somewhere but it is better that he works things out for himself. Also love that from Christian's POV they really didn't know what the hell was going on regarding Mia until after the fact. And the scenes with Grace were so touching. Thanks again for the gift of your writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did consider whether Christian would have a session with Flynn, but I agree that this was something he had to work out for himself. :)

      Delete
  51. I'm reading other's comments and all I can say is Bravo! I truly hope I get to meet you someday, if only to bow down at your feet.

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  52. I mean this chapter was simply..... AMAZING!!!!! As someone else said it's as if you know Christian better than E.L herself. I feel so torn because I want to say take all the time you need to write the next chapter but I already can't wait for it!!!

    Lamia

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  53. Very few writers/authors put tears in my eyes. I Cried. You are wonderful! Thank you so much. Cant wait for your own work.
    Kim

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  54. What an AMAZING chapter. You writing is just brilliant. I can't wait to read the next chapters xx

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  55. You did a great job with this chapter as well as all the ones before. Thank you

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  56. this was soooo worth waiting for..what a marvelous job you did explaining Christians feelings about the baby and he & Ana's argument..I should have had the tissues ready before I started reading it..tears were flowing as I was reading and went back and re-read the chapter..Please take your time on the next chapter and we will be waiting patiently :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used up a few tissues myself when I was writing the chapter!

      Delete
  57. Another wonderful chapter. Your writing is so beautiful and the way you filled in the gaps was just perfect.

    I know you have said this isn't the last and you will be covering the pregnacy but will you also be covering the conversations between Christian and Ana when she leaves the hospital? I would love to know what Welsh said about Jack Hyde when he was fostered with Christian and also the talk Christian has with his parents over that fact he had blocked it out for all those years?

    No matter what's in the next chapter or how long it takes, we'll all love it regardless. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. * Pregnancy

      Delete
    2. Until I actually write the chapter, I can't say for certain what will be included and what won't, but I don't intend to leave anything important out, so that's why it will take some time to write :)

      Delete
  58. I have really enjoyed your interpretation but think you have kept the best until now. I find the opening photograph provocative - where does it come from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure where the picture came from originally - perhaps another reader might be able to supply that info? I used it because I thought it depicted Christian's loneliness when Ana goes off to sleep in the spare bedroom.

      Delete
  59. Thank you for using a picture of Matt as CG!!!!!!

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  60. Great job on this chapter! not often does the things i read bring tears in my eyes, Great job, looking for to the next one!

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  61. Wow. This was just awesome. You never cease to amaze with your perfect writing. This is by far one of the best chapters - loved, loved, loved it. Thank you so much for this story. I'm so looking forward to the next chapter.

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  62. Wow! This is your best chapter so far! I know I will be reading it over and over! thank you! I cant wait for your book! Whats the status?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My book - 'Starr Fated' is complete but going through the editing process at the moment. I'll shortly be launching my author's website and Facebook page which will contain all the details and the proposed release date. I'll keep you all posted.

      Delete
  63. You are extremely talented....you brought me to tears....great job I appreciate what you do.

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  64. BEST.CHAPTER.EVER.! You brought forth from me every emotion possible with this chapter. I truly felt I was there and feeling ever emotion.

    I'm not sure you're able to see it but we can...just how far your writing has improved throughout this. This chapter is a prime example the way you wove the original words of the book seamlessly into Christian's POV. Congratulations on a brilliant chapter!

    TXTeacher/superfan
    Linda
    A+++ :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, teacher. I've certainly learned a lot through my blog, that's for sure :)

      Delete
  65. OH MY ROB ! What an amazing chapter, your talent is endless. I love Christian's POV. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  66. Hooorray! i'm so excited for the chapter where they're in the field and Ana is pregnant with their second child.
    I found your site May 2nd and made it to the end when you posted your last chapter on the tenth! Lot of sleepless nights. I'm so happy to have found your blog instead of the other hacks writing about infidelities in Christian and Ana's relationship, AS IF ;-). You have found Christians voice precisely! ugh, i've enjoyed reading your version so much, thank you. I cannot wait to read your own 'Starr Crossed' novel.
    I read a comment much earlier from another of your admirers and I think E. L. James would be hard pressed to write Christian's version any better than this. I just can't sing your praises loud enough, even skipping the chapters where Ray is hospitalized, I'll admit that i couldn't remember them in the original books so, good choice omitting them. Well done madame, oh, and all of the pictures of Ian Somerhalder... very nice; i can't watch vampire diaries without seeing Christian. You have brought so much perspective to light for me, as i couldn't correctly understand Ana's hatred for Elena through the original books, i'm just very happy/thankful/excited. I've been checking up on your site for new postings fervently since the 17th ...i will give you time, well i'll try. I have no doubt whatsoever that you will capture everything I had no idea I wished Christian was feeling ;)

    -Sina MuchTooObsessed

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no way I could ever contemplate writing anything about Christian or Ana cheating. Even when Ana asked if Christian slept with Elena, I'm sure she knew in her heart that he would never do that, it was another case of lashing out in the heat of the moment. This story is about love and romance as far as I'm concerned, as I think you and all my other blog readers would agree :)

      Delete
  67. You know,I never thought of that. Ellie probably waited too long to terminate and was receiving public assistance during her pregnancy and WIC after sweet Christian's birth as well. How insightful of you! That put to rest so many uncertainties in all our minds I am sure. According to the story, Christian always wondered why Ellie chose to have him and then keep him. Too bad she was selfish about it. Thank you for the update. xxoo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that's Christian's interpretation of his birth mother's motives isn't it? He couldn't possibly think that Ella might have wanted to keep him because she loved him, but that she just wasn't able to cope. I think in time that Grace and Ana might help to put a different slant on things though.

      Delete
  68. OMG I loved it and can't wait for the next chapter

    ~Annalee

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  69. I couldn't see my previous comment, so I thought I would write again to let you know that you are FAB!! Thanks so much for this chapter. I have been on tenterhooks since the last chapter, itching to read this latest one. It truly had me breathless, one of the best in the original book. However, it now takes on a whole new meaning for me. In fact due to your writing, I now see Christian in a whole different light from the original (which I love). However, I now am back on edge waiting for the next installment. Will this be the last? I'm kinda sad, oh well it just means I can go back & re-read them from the start. Thanks Again & Loads of Love from Fiona in OZ!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - until I write the next chapter, I'm not sure how long it will be, and whether it might need to be broken into two parts, or whether to maybe have an epilogue. So we'll see is all I can say :)

      Delete
  70. A round of applause for another excellent chapter. This was an important and emotional one. We can see Christian's sense of empathy developing. I don't want the story to end...how will I get a top-rate Fifty Shades fix without you and this blog??? :-)
    Brenda in NYC

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  71. BRAVO!!!!!! That's all I have to say....

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  72. There is a whole lot of love out here for you. Can't await for MORE!

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  73. Are you going to write the epilogue of freed too? I'd like to read that one in Christian's POV! And, this is so amazing!!!! You never disappoint. I'm glad I found this blog. <3

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  74. I know you are working hard on the rest of this chapter and your book as well. I was wondering are going to update more chapters on Doctor Grace Trevelyan-Grey? I would love to read more of her pov as well....Great fan of your work....

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  75. I loved this chapter!! And I am so glad you are going to write about Ana's pregnancy and about the birth of their child!! Thank you so much!! You are freaking AWESOME!!!! :-D BTW when does your book come out??

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  76. Standing Ovation!!! I was having withdrawals... but it was worth the wait!

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  77. This touched me so much I cried, when Christian was talking about the terimanation of the baby. Thanks for going to write about ana's pregnancy and teddy's birth. You are amazing writer.. I just don't want you to ever stop telling thier story..

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  78. Fantastic! Your writing is so very touching and so very...great! Thank you for doing this, can't wait for the next chapter.

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  79. Such a great chapter,i love how you write from Christians pov,it's so good to have his take on what happened during this emotional time and the parts between him and Grace were really moving.Love your writing,looking forward to next chapter x x

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  80. Well you have made me cry again!!! Another amazing chapter, really well written, you have such talent!!! Patiently waiting for the next chapter! :)

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  81. Okay, so I have read this chapter 3X!!!!! I could go on and on about your writing like the folks above me have, but that would just be repeating something you know already. You have added things to this chapter that really start to define Christian and his love for Ana, the not removing of the wedding band, his insight (or lack of) as to how Ana feels about Elena. I think this goes back to him being 'obtuse.' haha! All in all, it was another brilliant installment and I am so glad you are going to talk about Ana's pregnancy and the birth of Teddy. Do we know how Teddy's name came about? We know that Ana had a fondness for Christian's grandfather, but.....
    Thanks again and I eagerly await the next installment. I am sure you are working on Grace's ideas as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Teddy aka Theodore did come from Christian's grandfather. (Grace's dad) Christian has asked Ana is they had a baby boy, would she consider naming him Theodore after his grandfather? So they ended up naming him, Theodore Raymond Grey....aka Teddy.....just an FYI ;=)

      Delete
    2. Where in the book did he ask that... I don't remember Elj covering Teddy's name in the book. I remembered they covered Phoebe's name only..

      Delete
  82. Okay, so I just finished reading and have tears running down my cheeks and a knot in my throat! I LOVE LOVE LOVED it!! The next chapter will be torture to wait for, but I can't wait!! No doubt it will be well worth the wait!

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  83. This Chapter totally brought out all emotions one has the luxury to have! I loved everything that you brought to this Chapter.......cannot wait until I'm reading the next one.........great writing..,

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  84. Great chapter! I'm crying. Cant wait for the next one.

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  85. When will the next chapter come out? Tomorrow? If not until next week it would be nice to know so I don't get my hopes up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, it won't be tomorrow. I'm still working on it at the moment, but at least it will be a really long chapter when it's finally done :)

      Delete
    2. Okay thanks! Good to know, keep up the awesome work!! Did u hear any news about the movie?? I haven't lol. But again I love ur work! And I'm positive your book will be awesome!!

      Delete
  86. Once again you made me very emotional I was crying so hard thank goodness I am home alone so I wont be teased !! You are a awesome writer with a very in-depth perspective of Christian I love how you tell his story . Thankyou I look forward the next chapter with anticipation :)

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  87. This is awesome(: Can't wait until you get the last bit out!

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  88. Love it as usual! I think your next project should be taylors POV :)

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  89. I loved this chapter I got a mental pic of Christian with a gun not cute but you still made my day cant wait for the next chapter Laters :)

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  90. Hello! I just want to ask if you're also writing the epilogue of fifty shades freed? I really really want to read that in Christian's POV. By the way, have you ever read Bared To You and Reflected in You (crossfire series)? I hope you can also write that in Gideon's (male protagonist) POV.
    Thanks
    ~Maria

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  91. As always another great Chapter, can't wait for the next one to come out. You really make us look at the book in Christians point of view and it's great. THANKS

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  92. You are an amazing writer....I am crying over this chapter...again and again...this is my 4x reading it...I love you so much and i can't wait until you write the next few chapters...Thank you

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  93. Another good Christian POV from an amazing writer is http://eminethe1st.blogspot.ca These are my absolute two favorites. I just figured if anyone hasn't come across this one yet and while they wait for the next chapter she is at the same spot as this one. Hers is at where he has just met up with Elena. Just figured I would suggest another amazing author. She has been working on her own series the Pella series and has posted the first 7 chapters before she publishes it and it also is amazing.

    Now onto this chapter! Loved it and can't wait for the next one! I just can't get enough of Christian POV I Like it way better than Ana's. I love doing Ana's too but Christian's is way better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no need to read another author. This is as AMAZING as it gets. Pls don't ask us to read another author....because I'm not going to bother.

      Delete
    2. I agree Nancy, I actually started to read that other blog....doesn't hold a candle....sorry but this is spot on :)

      Delete
  94. To Anonymous:

    I read the same two as you and love them both....thank you so very much for your great writing...I have truly enjoyed it.....

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  95. Wow. Brilliant adaptation. I agree that Christian is at heart a little boy that thanks to Ana's love is becoming a little less lost every day. In a larger sense any man who has sacrificed as much of himself to his business as Christian has is at heart a lost little boy. The shame is how many of them never find their own Ana. Look forward to your next chapter and will definitely buy your novel as soon as it's available.

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  96. As this seems will come to an end soon, is it possible to have a Taylor POV? I think, his thoughts would be a great thing to find out?

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  97. Brilliant, loved it. Well worth the wait! I am just sorry the story is near the end.....boo

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  98. when is the next chapter?! brilliant writing here :D xoxo

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  99. I have read this chapter a couple of times, never gets old and un-intensified. I feel quite sad your almost done with Christian's POV you have done a great job all through out, so if you can please (I BEG) consider doing some Taylor POV on some events?

    Thanks,
    Aijielle

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  100. When is the next chapter coming I'm having withdrawals

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah agreed I have no patience at all haha :)
      lucy q xx

      Delete
  101. please,please,please make it soon I too am getting withdrawals. love the blog

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  102. Please upload will it be this week... Was checking all day can't wait..

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  103. I'm sad it's coming to an end soon....

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  104. of all the fanfiction sites out there for Christian's POV, this is the one I have stuck with!!!!

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  105. I am so anxious for the next chapter I am now going back and reading it ALL again....WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS STORY??? We just don't want it to end, can't get enough of it...Thank You soooo much for this blog.

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  106. Ohhh Wow!! You have a way of making me cry lol, I have sooo enjoyed reading your side of the story, am going to be quite sad when it ends :( well done you !!!

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  107. PLEASE...PLEASE....PLEASE,we can't wait any longer !!
    we are addicts-next chapter please !

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  108. Hi ! I've just discovered your blog and I love it ! I love read Fifty Shades with Christian's point of view. I will read all the chapters little by little.
    me too I write story, but not a fanfiction of Fifty Shades. If you want to read it and share it's on http://elisaadamsauthor.wordpress.com/
    xoxo

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  109. awesome chapter i was sobbing like a little baby

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  110. I swear my eyes got all misty reading this...

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Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Be sure I read each and every one, even if I don't always reply individually.