11 June 2013

Chapter 63 - Bedtime Stories



Nurse Nora and I don’t exactly see eye to eye. She doesn't understand  that I don’t want to leave Ana for a second now that she’s awake, not even when she needs to have her catheter removed so she can pee. 

I don’t see why Ana feels shy about me being there because I know every part of her body intimately, better than she does herself, but I reluctantly bow to her stubborn insistence that I leave the room, just for a couple of minutes.

Taylor and Sawyer are both in the waiting room, both refusing to leave until there’s news about my wife. I guess they feel guilty this happened to Ana on their watch, and both are seriously pissed that she didn't see fit to confide in the team about what was going down. 

Sawyer in particular, as he’s her designated personal protection officer and who she should have turned to. It’s an affront to the guy’s professional pride, but I think it goes deeper than that.

They both jump up from their seats in the waiting room when I put my head round the door.

“Mrs. Grey is awake.”

“How is she, sir?” Taylor asks.

“She seems okay. Weak as a kitten, but just as annoyingly stubborn as ever.” I manage a small smile, the first in days. Sawyer closes his eyes and seems to be offering up a prayer, while Taylor heaves a huge sigh of relief as he scrubs his hands over his face. Both men look like shit.

“Anything we can do? Anything we can get for Mrs. Grey?” Taylor asks. He’s been keeping me supplied with food while I've been keeping my bedside vigil, probably under Gail’s instructions. I haven’t even noticed what he’s brought, just using the food as fuel to keep me going so I can look after Ana.

“I’ll let you know. I have to get back now.”

When I walk back in the room, despite Nurse Nora’s protests I’m certainly not allowing Ana to struggle to the bathroom - she's so weak she could easily collapse and hurt herself further. So I carefully pick her up from the bed, relishing holding her again, but worried by how light she feels. She’s clearly lost weight again.

Despite her protests, I insist she leaves the bathroom door open while she takes her pee, as she can barely hold herself up to sit on the toilet. I carry her back to the bed when she’s done, not wanting to let her go but knowing I have to. At least by her stubbornness and insistence on managing on her own I know I really have got my Ana back.

As the nurse checks her blood pressure, I ask how she feels, worried that she must be in a lot of pain from her injuries. She has a cracked skull for fuck’s sake.

“Confused. Achy. Hungry.”

Ana’s hungry?

She says she wants soup. Knowing Ana, I’m guessing she hasn’t eaten properly in days, even before she was knocked unconscious. I ignore Nurse Nora’s protest that we need the doctor’s approval before she can eat. If my wife says she wants soup, she’ll fucking well have soup, and no stupid interfering nurse is going to stop me getting it for her.

I get my cell out and speed dial  Taylor.

“Ana wants chicken soup.”

“I’m right on it, sir.”

“Good, thank you.”

While Ana sips the glass of water the nurse fetches her, she  anxiously asks about Mia, whether Hyde really did have her. I don’t want to go into all the details of that right now when she’s only just come round, so I just briefly explain the role Elizabeth Morgan played in taking Mia, but reassure her that my sister is fine, all things considered.

But I struggle to contain my frustration and anger at the fact that Ana didn't tell me what was happening, that she felt she had to deal with it all on her own. She should have told me, no matter what the state of play between us. This was far too risky and dangerous a situation for her to have left me out of things. I’m her husband, it’s my role to protect her. Shame you didn't remember that before, Grey, instead of kicking off like a mindless teenager.

“He said he’d kill her if I told anyone. I couldn’t take that risk.” Ana tries to explain her recklessness.

The thought of how close it came to both Ana and Mia getting killed is so frightening that I can hardly bear to contemplate it.

“I have died a thousand deaths since Thursday.”

“What day is it?”

“It’s almost Saturday. You’ve been unconscious for more than twenty four hours.”

It feels like a life time.

“And Jack and Elizabeth?”

“In police custody. Although Hyde is here under guard.  They had to remove the bullet you left in him. I don’t know where in this hospital he is, fortunately, or I’d probably kill him myself.”

As Ana’s memories resurface and she starts reliving her terrifying ordeal, she pales and a shudder runs through her body.

“Hey, you’re safe now.” I lean across the bed to fold her in my arms, to try and reassure her. She must have been so scared and so frightened, and I wish again for the thousandth time that she’d felt able to turn to me.

“Christian, I'm so sorry.” She starts weeping as I try to comfort her. “What I said. I was never going to leave you.”

“Hush, baby. I know.”

“You do?”

“I worked it out. Eventually. Honestly, Ana, what were you thinking?”

And finally we begin talking, but just as the subject of the baby comes up, we’re interrupted as Dr Bartley comes in to examine Ana.

I stand back and take the opportunity to make a few quick calls to update everyone with the good news that Ana has finally come round. First I call my dad and ask him to let all our family know. Then I call Ana’s mom, who bursts into tears and is too overcome to talk much, which is a blessing. Then I call Kate, who has also been bugging me for news, even calling by briefly at one point, unable to believe that her supposedly quiet little friend actually shot Hyde. Lastly I leave a message with the nurses looking after Ray to let him know the good news.

All the while I’m watching Doctor Bartley intently, noting that she seems very thorough, glad that Mom rates her highly. When she’s done, she says Ana will hopefully be well enough to be discharged in the morning, which is very welcome news. I can't wait to get her back home with me, where she belongs.

Then Taylor arrives with food for Ana from the Fairmont Olympic, and the doctor confirms she’s all good to have it.

“Welcome back, Mrs. Grey,” Taylor says.

“Hello, Taylor. Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome, ma’am.” I think he’s relieved to see for himself that Ana’s awake and responsive.

Ana’s eyes light up when she  sees the flask of chicken soup and fresh bread roll the Olympic have come up with.

“This is great, Taylor,” she smiles at him.

When he asks if there is anything else he can get, she looks over at me.

“Just some clean clothes for Christian,” she says, wrinkling her nose in apparent disgust at my appearance.  

“Yes, ma’am,” Taylor smiles back at Ana. Taylor smiling? Right now I think he’d do anything for her. The Ana effect.

“How long have you been wearing that shirt?” she asks me.

“Since Thursday morning,” I admit. The last thing on my mind while Ana’s been unconscious has been my appearance, but I guess my shirt is kind of disgusting now I look at it.

Once Taylor leaves, I pour some of the steaming hot chicken soup out of the thermos flask and watch as she eats ravenously in a way I’ve never seen before.  I like this. I like seeing her with a good appetite for a change.

While she eats, Ana wants me to fill her in about what happened. I’d rather she just concentrated on her soup, but I think she’s so hungry I can talk without distracting her too much, so I tell her how I worked out what was going on, how I realized something was seriously wrong.

“It was never about the money. How could you even think that? It’s never been about your fucking money!” she insists vehemently as she glares at me, obviously pissed, her sharp words causing her to wince in pain.

“Mind your language. Calm down and eat.”

“That hurt me more than anything, Christian. Almost as much as you seeing that woman.”

I’ve hurt Ana so much, and I regret that more than I can ever explain.

“I know, and I'm sorry. More than you know. Please. Eat. While your soup is still hot.” She needs to finish the soup. It worries me that she’s lost so much weight recently.

She urges me to continue explaining how I worked out what was going on.  If I ever needed reminding that it’s not the money Ana is interested in, the fact that she still refers to the hostage money as my money, and I have to remind her yet again that it’s our money, serves as proof.

Once she’s finished every last bit of her soup and roll, the nurse appears again with some pain relief that she assures her won't affect the baby. Then she insists it’s time for Ana to rest, as she looks at me pointedly.

“You’re going?” Ana panics.

Is she kidding?

“If you think for one moment I'm going to let you out of my sight, Mrs. Grey, you are very much mistaken.” 

I never want to leave her side again.

The nurse fusses about with Ana’s pillows to make her more comfortable, gives me a black look and then marches out of the room.

“I don’t think Nurse Nora approves of me.” The woman obviously has control issues of her own, but when it comes to Ana’s welfare, no one is going to order me around.

“You need rest, too, Christian. Go home. You look exhausted.”

I can't deny I’m totally done in, but no way am I going anywhere without Ana.  I’m not going home unless she’s coming with me. Until then, wherever she is, that’s where I'm going to be.

“I'm not leaving you. I’ll doze in this armchair.”

“Sleep with me.”  Ana invites me to share her bed.

That’s what I really long to do more than anything, but I mustn't. She’s injured.

“No. I can't.”

“Why not?”

“I don't want to hurt you.”

“You  won't hurt me. Please, Christian.”

It’s so tempting, so very tempting. The thought of lying in bed with my Ana and holding her in my arms is what I've been dreaming of for days now. But she’s a hospital patient. I can’t, can I?

“You have an IV.”

“Christian. Please.”

She lifts up the blankets, trying to lure me in. The special bond between us is always there, always driving the need for physical contact between us. It’s what we both crave. 

I can't resist any longer. I give in to the temptation.

“Fuck it.”

I slip off my shoes and socks, and then very carefully slide in beside Ana. I gently wrap my arms around her as she lays her head on my chest. I feel contentment washing through me and I finally begin to relax. This is how we’re meant to be. This is where Ana belongs, safely wrapped up in my arms. I kiss her hair and steal a fix of her wonderful scent. As always, it instantly calms me better than any drug or sedative. She heals me, she is my cure, my therapy.

“I don’t think Nurse Nora will be very happy with this arrangement,” I whisper. But I don’t give a fuck. This is what’s right for us, and I know Ana feels the same.

Ana starts to giggle but then stops abruptly.

“Don’t make me laugh. It hurts. “

“Oh, but I love that sound. I'm sorry, baby, so, so sorry.” 

I kiss her hair again and inhale her scent deeply. I'm sorry for everything. All the hurt and anger, all the pain and misunderstanding that my behavior has caused. My beloved Ana. How could I have let things get to this? Everything that has happened to her is directly related to me, it’s all my fault. I have to make things right with her.

She gently places her hand over my heart, and then I place mine on top of hers to hold it there. Only Ana can touch me this way. Only her.  She holds my heart in her hand to keep it safe.



“Why did you go and see that woman?”

Fuck.

The Elena issue is already resurfacing . Ana can't let it go. It hasn’t gone away, but I can't face dealing with all that shit right now. Ana needs to rest; this is not the time to open up our discussion about that emotional subject.

“Oh, Ana. You want to discuss that now? Can’t we drop this? I regret it, okay?”  

I regret losing my temper and shouting at her when she told me she was pregnant. I regret storming off. I regret regressing into an adolescent and being drawn back to Elena. I regret agreeing to go for a drink with her. I regret getting mindlessly drunk. So many stupid regrets. But I'm so tired, so very tired that I can't face talking all this through right now.

“I need to know.” Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.

“I’ll tell you tomorrow. Oh, and Detective Clark wants to talk to you. Just routine. Now go to sleep.”

She heaves a huge sigh as I kiss her hair again. Being with Ana like this after everything we’ve been through feels like pure heaven. I was so scared I might not get a chance to be with her again. Now I finally feel able to relax after all the tension and worry of the last few days. As always, Ana’s presence calms me in a way that nothing else ever does. I feel myself drifting as Ana talks to me, something about Jack….

~~~


I wake as dawn breaks, sending rays of sunshine into the room. I feel refreshed and revived because I’ve slept deeply. It takes a few seconds for me to recollect where I am. I look down at Ana, still sleeping in my arms, warm and soft, living and breathing. She’s here with me. I haven’t lost her.


I’ll do whatever it takes to make things right between us. But now I'm very aware that I haven’t had a shower in days. I must stink to high heaven. As much as I don’t want to leave Ana, I must take a shower and get cleaned up before she wakes.

I check my cell that’s still in my pants pocket, and realize it was that buzzing that woke me up. It’s Taylor, texting to let me know he’s got some clean clothes for me, and that he’s organized a private room for me to shower and get changed in so I don’t disturb Ana. He suggested booking a suite at the Olympic, but although it’s only about a fifteen minute drive away, I can't bear to be that far from Ana, not now I’ve finally got her back. I need to be as near as possible to her.

I glance down at my wife. She looks so young and innocent as she sleeps, her dark lashes curled on her cheek. But as I notice the bruise developing on her cheek from where Hyde hit her, I have to control my rage.

But this rage is also directed at myself for allowing this to happen to the most precious thing in my life. I’ve let Ana down. I’ve let our baby down too. All because of my selfishness and uncontrolled temper. It’s unforgivable of me, and I must do better to deserve this chance I've been given, because let’s face it, how many more chances is Ana going to give me?

She mumbles in her sleep as I gently ease myself away from her, but doesn’t wake, so I hurry off to get cleaned up.

~~~

“Ana!”

She’s not in the bed when I return, and I can't see her, but just as I feel the panic building, she calls out,“I’m in the bathroom.”

She’s obviously feeling better after her night’s sleep, just as I do. Reconnecting with Ana has made a whole world of difference to the state of my mind.

Ana comes out of the bathroom and gets back into bed. Not leaving her diet to the vagaries of the hospital catering service,  I’ve had Taylor get her breakfast from The Olympic, because I’m determined she’s going to eat properly again, starting this morning.  But much to my delight, I don't have to nag her to eat. Instead she immediately attacks the food as if she’s starving hungry, while I sit on the edge of the bed to watch her.

“What?” she asks as she sees my fascination.

“I like to watch you eat. How are you feeling?”

“Better,” she mumbles with her mouth full.

“I've never seen you eat like this,” I smile.

“It’s because I'm pregnant, Christian.” She looks at me apprehensively, I guess waiting for me to lose my cool and kick off again. Not going to happen.

“If I knew getting you knocked up was going to make you eat, I might have done it earlier.” I try to make light of things to cover the panic I feel at the prospect of becoming a father.

“Christian Grey!” 

“Don’t stop eating.”

“Christian, we need to talk about this.”

“What’s there to say? We’re going to be parents.” I shrug, trying to convey an aura of calmness I don’t feel, but I can’t fool Ana.  She crawls down the bed towards me and takes my hands.

“You’re scared. I get it,” she whispers, as she looks me straight in the eye. “I am, too. That’s normal.”

“What kind of a father could I possibly be?”  I have no idea how to do this, and our child deserves so much better.

“Oh, Christian. One that tries his best. That’s all any of us can do.”

“Ana - I don’t know if I can…”

“Of course you can. You’re loving, you’re fun, you're strong, you’ll set boundaries. Our child will want for nothing.”

Ana has far more confidence in my ability to be a father than I do. But she’s saying all the same things as Mom and Dad. What do they see in me that I don’t?

“Yes, it would have been ideal to have waited. To have longer just the two of us. But we’ll be three of us, and we’ll all grow up together. We’ll be a family. Our own family. And your child will love you unconditionally, like I do.” 

She has tears in her eyes as she tries to convince me. She makes it all sound possible, that she truly believes in me. But how can I be a good father when I’ve had such a black heart for so long?

“Oh Ana, I thought I’d lost you. Then I thought I’d lost you again. Seeing you lying on the ground, pale and cold and unconscious - it was all my worst fears realized. And now here you are - brave and strong… giving me hope. Loving me after all that I've done.”

“Yes, I do love you, Christian, desperately. I always will.”

I take her sweet, beautiful face between my hands, and wipe away the tears that are trickling down her cheeks. What have I done to deserve her? She really does love me,  I can see it shining out from those wonderful powder blue eyes of hers. I have to give her what she needs from me. I have to find a way to do this. I have to be the man she deserves.

“I love you, too,” I whisper as I gently kiss her soft lips. “I’ll try to be a good father.”

“You’ll try, and you’ll succeed. And let’s face it; you don’t have much choice in the matter, because Blip and I are not going anywhere.”

“Blip?

“Blip.”

So typical of Ana to come up with something unique and unusual.

“I had the name Junior in my head.”

“Junior it is, then.”

Junior seems kind of boring now.

“But I like Blip.”  Our little Blip.

Much as I'm enjoying kissing my wife and getting up close with her, I don’t want her breakfast getting cold. I think Taylor has a special arrangement with the staff over at the Olympic, he’s been over so many times the last couple of days. I think he's been glad for something positive to do, rather than sit around helplessly waiting.

“You know, Blip might be a girl,” Ana comments as she makes short work of the pancakes.

Christ almighty. I’ve been assuming the baby’s a boy, and I was having enough trouble getting my head around that. A girl? What the fuck would I know about raising a daughter? But I can't freak out about it in front of Ana. Not again. I have to cope with this possibility.

“Two women, eh?” I try to joke.

“Do you have a preference?”

“Preference?”

“Boy or girl.”

“Healthy will do. Now eat.”

Look, I’m having a hard time getting used to the whole baby thing, never mind details like what sex it’s going to be.

I distract her from any more baby talk while she eats by reading her The Seattle Times version of my sister’s kidnapping, and then some other articles. It seems to relax her anyhow, which is all disrupted when Detective Clark arrives to question Ana. 

For fuck’s sake - I know he has a job to do, but couldn’t he give Ana a bit more time to recover? But he’s persistent, and I guess the sooner he gets what he wants, the sooner he’ll leave her alone.

It’s hard listening to the filthy things Hyde said to Ana, and all the details of what he did to her. Not only did he backhand her across her face, he went on to viciously kick her while she was lying helpless on the ground. 



I can feel her shaking as she talks, so I hold her hand tightly the whole time. I'm glad she shot him, and when I mutter I wish she’d aimed higher,  Clark agrees with me. After seeing the contents of his USB flash drives that were found, we know he’s one sick fucker who deserved everything he got and more.

“Might have done womankind a service if Mrs. Grey had,” Clark comments.

“You won't let him out on bail again, will you?” Ana asks anxiously, and Clark says he doesn't think it likely.

Welch is hot on the trail of whoever it was that posted bail to allow Hyde to carry out his sick attack on my family. It’s too early to be sure, but we already have our suspicions, and if they turn out to be true, it’ll just confirm everything that’s happened to Ana is a direct consequence of my past catching up with me.
~~~

I’m so relieved when Dr Singh gives Ana the all clear to go home. Finally, she’ll be back where she belongs. I’ll be watching her like a hawk to make sure she doesn't have any kind of a relapse.

I grab a quick word with the doctor as she leaves.

“Something you wanted to know, Mr. Grey?”

“I just wanted to check with you. Once my wife has fully recovered from her injuries….” What I’m about to ask is not something I feel able to run past my mom, but I need to know where I stand on this important issue, because there are so many rumors about pregnant women, and I know fuck all about pregnancy.

“Yes?”

“Will it be okay for us to resume sexual relations? Only when she feels totally ready, of course.”

“Yes, Mr. Grey, that’s fine,” Doctor Singh smiles.

That’s a weight off my mind. Ana’s only temporarily off limits. No reason for us to abstain just because she’s pregnant. Things are looking up.

We call in to see Ray on our way out, and knowing how furious he is with her, I leave them alone. I'm perfectly fine with the fact that my father-in-law will no doubt be doing the whole heavy-handed father routine on Ana for her reckless and irresponsible behavior, and he doesn't even know about the pregnancy yet. His words will serve as reinforcement of my views, as well as those of Taylor and Sawyer.

While I wait outside, I get a call from Welch. He’s been following up some leads about Hyde in Detroit, figuring there has to be some relevance to the fact that we both come from that city. After first inquiring how Ana is, he gets to the point of his call.

“Mr. Grey, I’ve uncovered some important intel here in Detroit that throws new light on Hyde’s motives for targeting you and your family.”

“Really? What kind of intel?”

“I’d prefer to discuss it with you in person. It’s rather complicated and…”

“And what?”

“It’s highly personal. I’m heading back to Seattle this afternoon, so whenever you’re free for a meeting…”

“As soon as you get back, come and see me straight away. I’ll be at Escala with Mrs. Grey.”

I hate being kept in the dark about anything, but especially about something as important as this. What kind of shit has he uncovered that he doesn’t feel able to discuss over the phone?

I can't help myself; I brood about this in the car on the way back, as I listen to Ana on her cell trying to calm her mom down, ending by promising we’ll visit soon.

She senses my change of mood.

“What’s wrong?”

I tell her that Welch is coming over with some new information, although I have no intention of her being worried unnecessarily until I know exactly what’s going on.

When we get back to Escala I know shielding her is the right decision, because Ana suddenly goes into shock as we step into the elevator. Now that she’s back in the safety of our home, it suddenly hits her how close she came to getting killed. Her courageous actions were fueled by adrenaline at the time, but now she starts shaking.

“Hey, you’re home. You’re safe.” I wrap my arms around her and kiss her as she starts sobbing uncontrollably.

As we reach the apartment, I pick her up and carry her through to our bathroom, thinking a cleansing and soothing bath or shower will help.  She opts for a shower, but still can't stop crying. I hope this is good, that it’s cathartic to let her cry as she needs to let it all out, but it's hard seeing her like this, and I keep reassuring her that she’s safe, that the baby’s safe too. I'm not going to let anything bad happen to either of them.

“I’m sorry, Christian. Just sorry for everything. For making you worry, for risking everything - for the things I said.” The words just come tumbling out of her mouth in a rush.

“Hush, baby, please.” I kiss her forehead. “ I'm sorry. It takes two to tango, Ana. Well, that’s what my mom always says. I said things and did things I'm not proud of.” I acted so badly, and I want to put things right just as much as she does. So that’s a good start. "Let’s get you undressed.”

We stand together in the shower, and I hold her tightly against me and just let her cry as the hot water cascades over both of us to wash away our troubles. We’re together, and that’s all that matters right now. We have a lot to figure out, but we can work at it. We have to, because it’s not just us is it? We have to act like the adults we are, rather than the stupid juvenile adolescents we have been.

Finally Ana seems all cried out. I carefully wash her and take the opportunity to examine the actual physical evidence of what that fucker did to her.  I kiss each of the cuts, bruises and grazes that he inflicted on her. It’s even worse than I imagined, because it’s not just her head and ribs that have been injured. There are bruises on her shoulder, knees and hip, grazes on her elbows and wrists. She must be aching and sore all over. I wish I’d killed Hyde when I had the chance for what he’s done to my beautiful, fragile Ana.

“Oh, baby,” I groan. She didn't deserve any of this shit. If anyone should have been beaten up, it should have been me, not her.

“I’m okay,” she whispers as she pulls my head down to kiss my lips. Then she starts teasing me with her tongue, and I know instantly where this could lead.

“No. Let’s get you clean.” I pull back. Sex is not on the agenda right now, not with her injured like this, no matter that it’s been days since we made love and I miss her like crazy.

Ana pouts at me in the cute way she has.

“Clean. Not dirty,” I insist, ignoring the treacherous stirring that her touch always creates.

“I like dirty.”

“Me, too, Mrs. Grey. But not now, not here.”

I distract myself by washing her hair. Right now it’s a good job I have immense self control to draw on. But having spoken to the doctor, I'm reassured that there’ll be time enough to resume our love life when she has fully recovered, and not before.

~~~

“I still don’t understand why Elizabeth was involved with Jack,” Ana muses as she dries her hair after our marathon shower.

“I do, “ I mutter.

I look up to catch Ana staring as she takes in my naked body.

“Enjoying the view?” No harm in her looking. I like the fact that she enjoys my body, that it pleases her, even though it can't lead anywhere. It proves we still have that magnetism between us, the ever present sizzling chemistry that helps to bind us together, and I find it reassuring after everything that's happened between us. You've still got it, Grey.

“How do you know?”

“That you're enjoying the view?”

“No, about Elizabeth.” 

“Detective Clark hinted at it.”

Ana’s expression makes it plain she’s not going to be fobbed off. I decide to tell her just enough to satisfy her curiosity.

“Hyde had videos. Videos of all of them. On several USB flash drives."

Ana frowns.

“Videos of him fucking her and fucking all his PAs,” I elaborate.

The penny drops. That would have been her if I hadn't stepped in to put a stop to her trip to New York with Hyde. I was right to take control, however much she protested at the time.

“Exactly. Blackmail material. He likes it rough.”

Just like you, Grey. What was it you always told women? ‘I don’t make love. I fuck - hard’. You’re no better than Hyde, are you? He kept videos - you kept photos. You’ve just managed to cover it up better than him, but you’re both perverted sick pieces of shit.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“You aren’t anything like him.”

My wife has an uncanny knack of reading my mind.

“You’re not,” she insists.

“We’re cut from the same cloth.”

My birth mother was a druggie, his was a drunk. My birth father must have been the kind of man who used prostitutes. His died in a bar brawl. We both had troubled teenage years and got into trouble, but I was lucky -  my adoptive parents hushed up my fighting and brawling, so I didn't end up in juvie like Hyde. Then I had Elena to steer me off that path. But Hyde’s clearly intelligent and somehow managed to turn himself around and get an education, I’ll give him that. 

So we both fought our way out of the shit. But we both still carry the baggage.

“No, you’re not. You both have troubled pasts and you were both born in Detroit. That’s it, Christian.”

“Ana, your faith in me is touching, especially in light of the last few days. We’ll know more when Welch is here.”

“Christian…”

“Enough.” I kiss her to stop her going on about this anymore. “And don’t pout. Come, Let me dry your hair.”

~~~

It takes all my will power to resist Ana as she continues to make it very clear she wants sex with me.  And I can't deny that I really want sex with her. But I’ve seen the bruises, and it is not going to happen, and I have Doctor Singh’s words to back up my insistence that she needs to rest in bed.  I'm officially authorized to order her around, much to my immense satisfaction. At least this is one aspect of things I don’t mind in the least.

I head off to the kitchen to heat up one of the meals Gail left for us. I think she must have spent the entire time Ana was in hospital cooking. I guess it was her way of coping with the worry, so now we’re really well stocked up.

I select some chicken stew that I know Ana usually enjoys. Following the precise instructions that Gail has left, even a catering novice like me can master heating it up in the microwave. Once it’s ready, I bring a tray into our bedroom so we eat together as I sit on the bed with her. It’s kind of cozy being so relaxed and informal as we eat, and I'm happy to see Ana still has a great appetite as she manages to clear a large plateful of stew.

“That was very well heated,” she smirks at me. Well, Mrs. Grey, I can at least manage to press a few buttons even if I can't actually cook.

Just as I hoped, the food has made Ana very sleepy, and she can barely keep her eyes open.

“You look tired.”

“I am.”

“Good. Sleep. I have some work to do. I’ll do it in here if that’s okay with you.” I don’t want to leave her side. I want to be able to see her.

 Ana just nods as she falls into a deep sleep. Her body is forcing her to rest. Good.

Now hopefully she will be totally out of it when Welch arrives to explain what he found out in Detroit, and then I can decide how much I'm prepared to tell Ana.

~~~

Welch is Taylor’s ex CO, and just like him he’s a quietly spoken man with an air of authority about him. He’s the best in the business and that’s why I rely so heavily on his expertise. He’s a few years older than Taylor, tall, broad, still sporting a buzz cut, and with piercing hazel eyes that miss nothing.

We sit to discuss his findings in the lounge area outside my bedroom.  I position myself so I can still see Ana fast asleep in our bed - I've left the door slightly ajar - I don’t feel happy and I can't relax unless I can actually see her.

“So your trip to Detroit was productive?” I get straight to the point. I want to know what he’s turned up.

Welch was going on a hunch that it was too much of a coincidence that both Hyde and myself came from that city. I’m a great believer in hunches, in listening to your gut instinct when it tells you things just don’t seem right.

“Yes, Mr. Grey, it was. From past experience, I’ve found it often pays dividends to go right back to the beginning, to look into a subject’s background and upbringing. It’s often the case that some small and seemingly insignificant event from childhood can bring on an obsession. In this case, Hyde seems to have developed an obsession with your family, accompanied by a quest for revenge.”

“But Hyde has no connection with my family…. does he?”

“Not directly no. He does, however, have a connection with you.”

“With me?”

“You were both taken into the care of Michigan State. You were both placed in a foster home.”

“Foster home? No, you’re mistaken. My parents adopted me when I was four….”

“That’s correct.  As you know, your mother was the receiving doctor on duty at the Child Protection Center of  Michigan's Children's Hospital when you were taken there, after you were found alone when your mother  passed away in unfortunate circumstances.  Your parents applied to adopt you straight away, but although they were already approved because they had adopted your brother, the law required them to wait for two months. The  authorities had to establish whether there were any living relatives who wanted to claim you, because their claim would have taken precedence.”

“I don’t remember any of this …”

How is this possible? Surely I should know my own background? But I never wanted to talk about any of the details with my parents when they tried to get me to open up, preferring instead to shut it all out. Except I couldn’t, the shit always came back to haunt me in my nightmares, night after terrifying night.

“It was only after the two months were up, and no relatives had come forward that your parents were allowed to go ahead with the adoption and have you live with them.”

“So for those two months…?”

“For those two months, you were placed in a state approved foster home, with a Mr. and Mrs. Collier. It turns out this was the same foster home where Jack Hyde was also placed. You lived under the same roof as him at that time.”

I’m shocked beyond words, and just watch as Welch reaches into his brief case to produce some documents, which turn out to be two old photographs that he’s managed to dig up.

“But I have no recollection of that at all. I remember meeting my mom and dad. And before that I remember the crack whore… ” my voice dies away at the memory of her. 

She was so pretty with her long brown hair… but she never stopped him, did she? He was always the one in control,  she just stood by to let him thrash you with his belt time after time, because you were an annoying inconvenience to him. And she let him use you as his own personal ash tray, remember? She let him totally dominate her life - and yours.

“It’s really not that surprising, Mr. Grey. You were a deeply traumatized young child, one who had suffered terrible neglect and abuse,” he quietly points out, as he looks at me with what I hope is compassion rather than pity. I'm guessing as part of his investigation he’s read all the reports on my case, and they wouldn’t have made for easy reading.

I look at the photos he’s placed on the coffee table in front of us.  He’s done well, and a detached part of me is impressed. The rest of me is reeling at the discovery that a crucial part of my life is totally missing from my memory.

The first photo is of a shabby house with a yellow front door and a large gabled window in the roof. It has a porch and a small front yard. It’s a perfectly normal, average type of house. I’m guessing this is the Collier’s place.

The second photo is of a family. A man and his wife, dressed in very plain ordinary clothes, nothing fancy, both look to be in their forties.  She’s blonde, the man has a buzz cut, and they’re both smiling.  They look nice, normal, very un-crackwhore like. Also in the photo is a sullen teenage girl, and identical twin boys of about twelve. Then there’s a younger boy, who’s probably about eight or nine with reddish blonde hair, and hiding behind him is a copper haired, wide eyed, scared looking little boy clutching a dirty blanket. My blankie. Fuck. I realize that’s me.

If I didn't believe Welch before, I have no option now he’s shown me this irrefutable evidence. But I have no recollection of this period in my life whatsoever. How can that be?

“That’s Jack Hyde. He was four years older than you,” Welch points to the boy in the picture with the reddish blonde hair. “I got these pictures from Jessica, the daughter of the Colliers that I managed to track down. She's the teenage girl in the picture. Sadly both her parents have passed away now. She told me they fostered many children over the years, but that she remembered you, and very kindly dug out these pictures. It was your nightmares that stuck in her mind. Said she’d never heard anything like your screaming before or since.”

“Okay, so you’ve proved that Hyde and I have a connection. But why has he targeted my family now, after all this time?”

“Jealousy. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. You were adopted into a very loving and affluent family. He wasn’t.”

“But why now?”

“From what Barney’s established , the searches on your family didn't start until a week or so after Mrs. Grey, or Miss Steele as she was then, began her job at SIP.  When he started digging up information about her and came up with you, he must have made the connection and realized that you were the same Christian he’d shared that foster home with. And that’s when he started plotting his revenge for what he sees as them choosing you over him.”

“But it wasn't like that at all…” I protest.

“Of course it wasn’t. But he appears to have a chip on his shoulder all the same.  It seems he blamed them for rejecting him. He was never adopted, instead spending his time being bounced around from one foster home to another, because he was always difficult and never settled anywhere. Inevitably he got into trouble with the law and ended up in juvie as we already know, but because he was a determined and very intelligent young man, he managed to get himself a decent education to make something of himself. But clearly he still harbors a lot of anger and resentment from the past, which manifested itself as a campaign against you and your family.”

I glance up and look through the bedroom door at Ana still sleeping peacefully, thank fuck.  So if she hadn't gone to work as Hyde’s assistant at  SIP, would he have figured out that Christian Grey, the successful billionaire was that same scared little Christian he’d shared a foster home with for a few weeks all those years ago? He really is a sick and twisted fucker to hold onto that kind of resentment for so many years. Yes, because you turned out so well yourself, didn't you Grey? Don’t forget you share the same sexual depravities as him. You like it rough too. You’re no better than him.

“I’ve given you a lot to think about, Mr. Grey, and I don’t wish to intrude on Mrs. Grey’s recuperation, so I’ll take my leave. But I hope you understand why I didn't think it appropriate to apprise you of this information over the phone.”

“Yes… of course. I… err…  appreciate you coming over here, Welch,”  I say distractedly. 

Once he’s left I go and sit on the chair in our bedroom so I can watch Ana while I try to make sense of everything Welch has just told me. She seems to sense my return because now she wakes.

“What’s wrong?” She snaps awake, sitting up abruptly and then tries to hide her wince because her bruised ribs must be hurting.

She knows me so well, and I’m still so shocked and confused by what Welch has just told me that I don’t even try to deny there's something wrong.

As I start to fill her in, she shuffles over and pulls the duvet back, inviting me into bed beside her, and this time I don’t hesitate to join her. I need her next to me.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to me. I have an epiphany. I'm not alone any more. I can talk about all this shit with Ana. She can help me make sense of it. I don’t need to hide this from her. It’s part of me, part of who I am. She’s my wife. She loves me. I should be sharing everything with her. I nearly lost her because I shut her out, and caused her to shut me out.

So I open up and tell her everything Welch just told me. I curl up with her in our bed as she runs her fingers through my hair in the comforting way that I love. Only Ana’s touch can do this for me.  She’s an angel sent to me. It feels so good to have someone to share all my worries with, and it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s all part of a loving marriage.

Ana listens quietly and then suggests I speak to my mom and dad to see if they can help me to fill in the blanks. I hug her for her thoughtfulness, for wanting to include them.

I show Ana the photographs.  She stifles a sob when she recognizes the pathetic looking scared little boy in the picture. Because she cares about me. Because she empathizes with my pain.

She asks if Jack’s in the picture, and as I point to him, she suddenly works it out.

“When Jack called to tell me he had Mia, he said if things had been different, it could have been him.”

I close my eyes and shudder. So Welch is right. All Hyde’s malevolent plotting against me and my family stems from those few weeks in foster care.

Ana persists with her suggestion that we call my parents, even though I don’t want to bother them. But as she begs me to think again, I realize I've always shut them out over the years, never asking for their help if I can possibly avoid it. Maybe I should let them in as well, if Ana thinks it’s the right thing to do, and she seems certain it is.  So I agree to call them. But I'm not having her go out anywhere, not yet, and as it’s Saturday night I expect they’ll be out at some function and won't be free to come over anyway.

“Call them. This news has obviously upset you. They might be able to shed some light,” she insists.

Fuck it. What harm can it do?

“Okay.” I pick up the phone and make the call as Ana wraps her arms around me and rests her head on my chest.

I'm surprised when my dad answers. So they’re home at least.

“Christian. I was about to call to see how Ana is.”

“Ana’s good. We’re home. Welch has just left. He found Hyde's connection.”

“Really? What did he come up with?”

“The foster home in Detroit.”

“Your time with Mr. and Mrs. Collier? He thinks that’s the missing link? That was just before we adopted you of course.” So he knows what Welch is talking about.

“I don’t remember any of that.”

“Would you like us to fill you in with everything we know? Would that help?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll head right on over then.”

“You will?”

“Of course. That’s what we here for, son. To help in any way we can. See you shortly.”

“Great.”

“They’re on their way,” I tell Ana, rather bemused. Dad hasn't hesitated for a second with his offer to help, in  fact he seemed eager.

“Good. I should get dressed.”

“Don’t go.” Not yet. Being like this with her feels so perfect right now, and I just want to prolong the moment for a while.

“Okay,” she agrees as she snuggles into me again.

~~~

Trust Mia to turn things into a welcome home party with my whole family plus Kate and her brother turning up. Not what I had planned at all, but Ana doesn’t seem to mind as she enlists Mia to start organizing food for everyone, and at least it gives me a chance to talk to my parents in private in my study.

“Darling, I’m so glad you called us,” Mom says as she hugs me.

“It was Ana’s idea. She practically insisted actually.”

“Well, I'm glad you listened to her. She’s a very smart young woman. We’re more than happy to help you figure this out in any way we can,” Dad smiles.

They confirm everything Welch told me as they look at the photos he brought.  Just like Ana, Mom has tears in her eyes as she touches the photo that has the sad little boy that was me in it.

“My poor boy. You were so skinny and small for your age, and we were desperate to adopt you as soon as possible, but we had no option but to comply with the law and wait for two months,” Mom explains. “So we checked out the Colliers, and were reassured when we found they were very experienced foster parents. They came highly recommended, and turned out to be very decent people.  I know they did their best to take care of you while all the paperwork was going through.”

“I just find it strange that I have no recollection at all of that period of my life. Why can't I remember it?”

“It was a very confusing and difficult time for you, Christian. It’s little wonder that you’ve lost some of the memories. I just wish more of the painful memories had been blocked instead.”

“I guess. Can you tell me anything about the Colliers to see if it jogs some memories?”

“I think Mrs. Collier was a good cook who did her best to start feeding you up, because you already seemed to have grown by the time we got you living with us,” Dad offers.

“And she tried to get you into a solid bedtime routine to make you feel more settled and try to prevent your nightmares. I remember her telling me how you loved her reading to you at bedtime,” Mom says.

I close my eyes and concentrate on a faint stirring of some distant memory. Apple pie. Meatloaf.  Macaroni and cheese. A cheery woman asking if I wanted more food. Was that Mrs. Collier? I frown because this is so frustrating. It’s on the very edge of my memory, but I can't quite grab it and bring it into focus.

“Just give it some time, Christian. Maybe it’ll come back to you; maybe it won't. No point in trying to force things,” Mom says gently. “So, how is Ana now?”

“Recovering. Don’t worry, I’ll personally be taking care of her and making sure she gets plenty of rest.”

“And are you talking again now?” Mom asks.

“Yeah, we are. Still got some things we need to iron out…but we’re getting there,” I smile.

“Good. Communication is the key. No secrets. Be honest and trust Ana, because she has very good instincts. Even if she was reckless, she was also very brave and we can't thank her enough for what she did for your sister.”

“Mia seems back to her normal self,” I comment wryly. Mia was her usual over the top self this evening when she walked in and gave Ana a great big hug, totally forgetting about her injuries.

“She’s mad at Hyde and his accomplice, but I think that’s perfectly understandable and quite healthy actually. You know Mia; never one to bottle things up. She just comes right out with how she’s feeling. ” Unlike me, they mean.

“Well, I think I’d best go check my wife isn’t overdoing things. Thanks for coming over anyway.”

“We’re just delighted you finally felt able to ask for our help. And don’t let this missing piece of your past worry you too much, Christian. Most people can't remember many events from when they were four years old.”

Mom can tell I'm still freaked out by this missing section of my life. I thought I knew everything and now it turns out I don’t. Maybe this whole disastrous mess could have been avoided if I’d recognized Hyde sooner. I employ the best staff using the highest spec, latest equipment, and yet despite all the checks we ran on Hyde, this connection never showed up before, and that makes me feel vulnerable. 

What else could we have missed? What else is waiting to crawl out of the woodwork?

~~~

Thanks to Mom’s insisting they leave at a relatively early hour, my family don’t overstay their welcome, and it’s not that late when Ana and I are snuggling up in bed together and talking some more.

“Fuck!”

 Something’s just fallen into place. A memory I didn't even know I had until this moment.

“What?”

“Baby Bird. Mrs. Collier used to call me Baby Bird.”

“That makes sense?” Ana frowns.

“The note. The ransom note that fucker left. It went something like ‘Do you know who I am? Because I know who you are, Baby Bird.”

Ana’s looking at me as if I'm mad.

“It’s from a kid’s book. Christ. The Colliers had it. It was called… Are You My Mother? Shit. I loved that book.”



Understanding dawns on her face.

“Mrs. Collier used to read it to me.” I remember now. She was nice and smiley. I never let her touch me of course, but I do remember how kind her eyes were.  “Christ. He knew … that fucker knew.”





“Will you tell the police?”

“Yes. I will. Christ knows what Clark will do with that information.” Perhaps he won't think it an odd piece of intel; perhaps his mother used to read him that book too. What a bizarre thing for Hyde to have picked up on.

Ana is obviously feeling much more like her old self, because she ignores me when I try to thank her for catering for all my family at short notice - she’s too busy trying to get me interested in sex. Of course I'm always interested, but I'm determined to wait until she’s fully recovered from all her injuries, which I know are still causing her pain even though she’s trying to pretend they don’t.

I know what will totally distract her. I’d already decided that after everything that’s happened between us, I don’t want to risk any further misunderstandings or arguments. Communication and honesty, that’s what my mom said are key to a happy marriage.

So it’s time Ana heard the whole story about how Elena and I started, right from the very beginning. It’s not going to be easy, but I want to share everything. And I don’t think what I'm about to tell her can be any worse than what she’s already been imagining.

“Baby, you’ve been through enough. Besides, I have a bedtime story for you. You wanted to know…” I close my eyes and take a deep breath, as Ana stares wide eyed at me, shocked and surprised by where I’m headed.

“Picture this, an adolescent boy looking to earn some extra money so he can continue his secret drinking habit.”

I shift to lie on my side so we’re facing each other.  This is far too important a revelation to risk missing her reaction.

“So I was in the backyard at the Lincolns’ clearing some rubbish and trash from the extension Mr. Lincoln had just added to their place…”

I explain it all to her as I recall that hot summer day way back when I was that angry fifteen year old, totally pissed off with the world, convinced that nobody understood me, and that nobody ever would.

How Elena brought me some lemonade, and as we made small talk, I acted like a typical cocky teenager and made some smart-ass remark. Elena responded by slapping my face - really hard. I remember being totally shocked, because my parents had never hit me, ever. It fucking well hurt, but before I could react, Elena grabbed my face and gave me a full on sexy kiss, the first kiss like that I’d ever experienced. 

The contrast of the pain and then the pleasure, the hard slap and then her soft lips, totally mesmerized me. Then she slapped my face again, but this time the stinging pain seemed almost pleasurable, and I gained an instant hard on.

I don’t tell Ana the finer details, it’s more than she needs to know, but I'm sure she gets the picture.  

“Do you want to hear this?” I check before continuing, because I can see Ana ’s concentrating those blue eyes so hard on me, as if she’s trying to get her head around the picture I'm painting.

“Only if you want to tell me,” she whispers in a tiny pale pink voice.

Now I've started, I want to get it all out. No point in only telling half the tale. So I continue, telling her how after slapping me, Elena carried on as if nothing had happened, just asking me to come back the next day. I couldn’t wait to see her again, because I wanted to experience some more of the intriguing pain/pleasure combination this hot older woman was teasing me with.

And that’s how it all started. That’s how Elena took control of me. She was nothing like the silly little girls at school. She was a proper woman, the real thing, and she seemed to know what I needed better than I did. She knew the only kind of touch I could accept was a brutal, harsh touch, which she counteracted with immense sexual pleasure. 

She blurred the lines for me. Everything became merged - pain and pleasure and sexual release.

Elena was an extremely skillful sexual tutor, and also a very demanding Mistress, and that’s how she brought me into line. Unquestionably the sex we had was mind blowing for an inexperienced horny teenager like me. I couldn’t think about anything else except what Elena told me I had to do to earn her rewards. 

Nothing had worked until then, despite my parents best efforts, despite having all kinds of therapy. But now I knuckled down and started studying. I stopped fighting, because I didn't need that kind of release, that kind of physical contact any more. I would do anything Elena told me. Anything.

I know Ana must be shocked, but she just listens without interrupting, which I appreciate. Ana didn't know me then, the kind of  messed up kid I was. I'm hoping she understands my explanation within the context of how I was then, so she will maybe see how at that time it seemed so right with Elena, however it looks to her and Mom now.  Over the years my relationship with Elena seemed perfect to me; she took all my shit away, took control, let me breathe. Even after our affair was over, my world stayed in focus, thanks to the controls she set in place for me. 

That was until I met my future wife - one Anastasia Rose Steele.

I look at my Ana’s beautiful face, staring at me so intently. I tuck a stray lock of her silky hair behind her ear, as I explain how meeting her turned my world on its head and made me realize how cold and empty my life was. Elena had built on and developed my experience that touch meant pain, and I was okay with that because I felt it was what I deserved. I was unlovable, or so I thought.  

“If you grow up with a wholly negative self-image, thinking you’re some kind of reject, an unlovable savage, you think you deserve to be beaten. Ana, it’s much easier to wear your pain on the outside…

Elena’s touch was the touch of a whip or a cane or even just her hand, but it was a harsh slapping hand, not a tender, caressing hand. It took Ana to show me that touching can be loving and wonderful. Ana has taught me so much by introducing me to love. Elena always maintained that love didn't exist, that it was a foolish notion perpetuated by dreamers. Pure cold, clinical, physical satisfaction was all that mattered, according to her.



“She channeled my anger. Mostly inward - I realize that now. Dr Flynn’s been on and on about this for some time. It was only recently that I saw our relationship for what it was. You know… on my birthday.”

When Elena thought she knew best and arrogantly stated that Ana wasn’t right for me, when she had no concept of the pure healing love that Ana had breathed into my life. For the first time, I began to see her through other people’s eyes, and it made me question her judgment. Flynn’s always maintained she manipulated me because of her own personal issues, her abusive upbringing and her unhappy marriage.

“For her that side of our relationship was about sex and control and a lonely woman finding some kind of comfort with her boy toy.”

“But you like control,” Ana whispers, confused.

I can't deny that she’s right. Of course I like control. I always have, and I always will. It’s my personality, the way I’m made, and my childhood only reinforced these traits. I am a Dom by nature, but now I manage to temper my natural inclinations because of my love for Ana. I can't deny that I don’t always find it easy, but I know marrying Ana was the best decision I ever made, bar none.

I explain to Ana how Elena worked out that I’d fallen hard for her, and it scared her so much that she encouraged me to follow her down to Georgia and open up about my extreme lifestyle, thinking that would scare her off. Of course it did bring things to a head between us, but not to the conclusion that Elena anticipated.

“She thought I needed all the trappings of the lifestyle I enjoyed. It enabled me to keep everyone at arm’s length, gave me control, and kept me detached, or so I thought. I'm sure you’ve worked out why.”

“Your birth mom?”

“I didn't want to be hurt again. And then you left me. And I was a mess.”

It’s so painful to think about that time. I thought I’d built up such an impenetrable wall around me, and yet this stubborn, defiant, little brown haired girl had managed to break through. So when she left, those walls just crumbled down to leave me totally helpless and defenseless. It was sheer agony, but it was like a version of electrotherapy that kick started my emotions and started thawing out my heart. It was exactly what I needed even though it was one of the hardest things I've had to endure.

But I’m such an idiot, that even after being given another chance, I screwed up so badly when Ana told me she was pregnant. I try to explain to her why I acted the way I did. I tell her exactly what happened when I walked out that evening, how I tried to see Flynn but ended up with Elena. How I talked to her but that I didn't tell her about the baby.  How she made a pass at me. How shocked I was, and how I was repulsed. How I told Elena that I loved Ana, I love my wife. How she backed off and how we said our final goodbyes.

Ana is speechless, but she knows I'm telling her the whole truth, that nothing is being held back now.

“Did you kiss?”

“No! I couldn’t bear to be that close to her.” Only Ana. No one else. Only her.

I explain how I carried on drinking because I was too ashamed to come home, knowing I’d behaved so badly. How I thought about Junior, how I’d feel if  someone like Elena treated our child that way. How I hated that thought, how it made me feel sick. 

I think Ana finally believes me when I say it’s over for good between Elena and me, that I have broken off all contact with her. There is no going back now.

 Ana apologizes for being so angry with me the next day.

“Baby, I understand angry,” I sigh. “You see, Ana, I want you to myself. I don’t want to share you. What we have, I’ve never had before. I want to be the center of your universe, for a while at least.”

“You are. That’s not going to change.”

“Ana, that’s just not true. How can it be?” The baby will demand all her attention, and I just have to accept the situation.

Ana knows what I'm saying is true, and her eyes brim with tears as she says again that she’s sorry.

“No, Ana, no. Don’t be sorry. You’ll have someone else to love as well. And you're right. That’s how it should be.”

“Blip will love you, too. You’ll be the center of Blip’s - Junior’s world. Children love their parents unconditionally, Christian. That’s how they come into the world. Programmed to love. All babies … even you. Think about that children’s book you liked when you were small. You still wanted your mom. You loved her.”

“No,” I whisper. I did not love the crack whore. That isn’t possible.

“Yes. You did. Of course you did. It wasn’t an option. That’s why you’re so hurt.” Ana sobs. “That’s why you’re able to love me. Forgive her. She had her own world of pain to deal with. She was a shitty mother, and yet you loved her.”

How does Ana know all this stuff?  When she explains things they make sense. I allow myself to think about the crack whore - my birth mother - to try and conjure up a positive memory about her.

“I used to brush her hair. She was pretty.”

“One look at you and no one would doubt that.”

“She was a shitty mother,” I whisper, and Ana nods. “I'm scared I’ll be a shitty father.”  I close my eyes as I confess my deepest fear. That I’ll be just like the crack whore, that I’ll follow the example my shitty mother set, because those are the genes I inherited from her.

“Christian, do you think for one minute I’d let you be a shitty father?”  She strokes my face as she smiles at me.

I gaze into those eyes again, and I see total trust and sincerity shining out at me. I have Ana to set me on the right path and knock me into shape. She’s so strong, so good, so pure. She won't let me be anything but a good father to our child, even if I don’t know how to do it.

“No. I don’t think you would. God, you're so strong, Mrs. Grey. I love you so much.” I kiss her forehead. “I didn't know I could.”

But I do. I love her with all of my soul, with all of my heart and with every fiber of my being. And somehow I know things will be okay with this baby, and that somehow, with Ana’s guidance, I will be able to cope.

And that’s the end of our bedtime story….


I don’t own any of the Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters therein. They belong to E L James. I’m just borrowing them for fun and not for profit. Please refer to the Legal’s page for further details. This work is not to be copied or reproduced in any way without permission. 



116 comments:

  1. Thank you so much! Can't wait to continue on with this journey. Yosu have my unconditional support.

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  2. Thank you sooo much for another chapter can't wait for the next one Hope it never finish love your work so much ������

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  3. really like all the pictures you presented, even though some of them were used in earlier chapters. I was fine with the fact that you stayed with the storyline, but filled in gaps. I hope you enjoyed your short trip.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Nancy. Eagle eyed as ever :)

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    2. Yes, I love the filled in gaps, the characters are even more real. Thank you ChristianGrey50Shades.

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  4. BTW....these are the best "scribblings" I could ever have found on the internet! Keep scribbling away.

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  5. Great job! I look forward to your other writings

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  6. Wow that was beautiful. So touching.
    Gah I know the story's coming to an end, but I will miss this blog so much. It's been something to look forward to for the past year and I've enjoyed it every bit as much as I enjoyed the original books.
    Thank you so much.
    Mrs P

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  7. one more and that's it???? why does it have to end?? :( ... I'll miss having my updates of this FF ;) ♥

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    1. There maybe a few bonus chapters and one shots if you are all very good :)

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    2. "if we are all very good" ?????

      what is that all about...we've been good and still waiting for Santa Claus!

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  8. This is a great chapter. Thank you! A PDF version would be so great. You're amazing. I could read your insight into Christian over and over.

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  9. Omg... i love the way you describe cristisn's point of view. You are an awesome writtet. I cannot wait to
    read your book.
    lucy maya

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  10. Please continue with Grace....thank you for all your hard work

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  11. Fantastic cheaper. Can't wait to read your book too, you have so many fans. X

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  12. What a great chapter, I really like the detail you take in Taylors pov and Welchs as well. So sad this will be finishing as I have loved all the chapters, again well written looking forward to the last one :(:(
    Chez

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  13. Awsome...great...awwinspiring...lol

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  14. I love this! I don't want it to end!!!! I can't wait to read your book!! I know it will be amazing!!

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  15. I just had to read... ..now I csn get on with work. Fantastic chapter again totally love your work

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  16. Thankyou for this tender side of our hero. He's getting there,bless him. I,m looking forward to Grace's pov of being a grandmother. I hope your "scriblings" will include some thoughts on that theme. Then of course there's Elliotts & Kates wedding. Mia falling in love etc etc Oh you haven't nearly finished scribbling yet.
    Thankyou for making my day with your great writing:-Dx

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    1. Grace getting her hands on her grandchild will be a joy to write I think :)

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  17. It is such a shame this story is coming to an end...! I really love the way you have revelled Christian's point of view. I love the work you've done here! ;-)

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  18. I can't believe it's nearing the end of this fabulous story. As usual, you have pulled me into the story, so much so that I feel i've actually been a fly on the wall of all the chapters, & I'm anxiously waiting for the last one. Love your writing & looking forward to the release of your book, and of course the continuation of your other blogs. Very happy to have found you. Thanks

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  19. WOW!!!! This chapter is just...WOW!!! :) I'm feeling the happiness flow through my body having read this chapter but that's just because you're such an amazing writer!!! Keep scribbiling away PLEASEEE :)... I'm really looking forward for your next update in this blog...not just because it is the final chapter (am not sad it is over, as you say..you will keep posting more things about our beloved CG) but because I'm waiting really, really exited for your new book to come(I have it now on my to read list on Goodreads)... and all the journey ahead of us and that's is because now that I have read your work I now for a fact that you're a great writer...and I just loove your sense of humor and the thorough commitment that you put in your stories and I know Starr Fated it is just the beginig of many books to read and surely I will be following as well in all the social media account of you as new author and you alredy have me as one of your loyal fans as the many you have gain through all your hard work... So, hope to heard from you really soon :)

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    1. Thanks - I must get to grips with Goodreads, I haven't really figured it out as yet...

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  20. Bloody hell what n amazing chapter I've had a good cry the raw emotion of Christian's pov his new relationship with his mom and dad I love Christian even more now can't wait for your novel I'm gonna be gutted waiting for the last chapter knowing its the last you are so talented don't waste it thankyou for allowing us the privilege of reading your work star fated will be the beginning of a truly rich future for you I wish you every success with all of your work your proof reading sub heather xxxxx

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    1. Thanks Heather. I hope you'll enjoy 'Starr Fated' :)

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  21. Thank you for yet another great chapter. But what happen to the part where Christian was having a nightmare while sleeping next to Ana on the hospital bed? I was actually looking forward to that part. Can't wait for the final chapter!! Jane Kincaid XXX

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    1. I took the line that Christian doesn't remember any bad dreams because he doesn't actually wake at that time. I think his mumbled words were something like 'only Ana' so I guess he might have been dreaming about Elena touching him, rather than his child hood beatings. Just my take :)

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  22. Thank you for sharing your talent. Count me among your many fans who will be ready to 1-click Starr Fated when it is released. Best wishes for continued success. LC

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  23. OMG what a great chapter I love the way you have captured Christians pov wonderfully. I can't wait to read the last chapter it will be sad but looking forward to read graces pov and your journey too. Once again thank you very much xx

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    1. Yes very sad for the final chapter of meet fifty shades continued but l very much look forward to the forthcoming work ‘Starr Fated’. which l know will be amazing!!. Lets make sure we all follow and support the next chapter in our very loved writer life with “Starr Fated"

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    2. Thanks - your support means a lot to me :)

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  24. Yea! Thanks for the birthday greetings of a new chapter, and this one in particular, you couldn't have timed it better. I of course expected it to be good and yet you exceeded my expectations- how do you do that? Specifically, I loved the way you handled the Hyde/ Grey connection - in the process of stalking Ana, Jack stumbles on his own connection with Christian. Loved that the Colliers introduced him to Mac and Cheese, which I would imagine would have been served by the tub-ful in any foster home. (The meatloaf/mac and cheese/ apple pie reference made me smile. I recently hosted a dinner party with the theme of "comfort food" and that was my exact menu!). Anyway it is quite a feat to take a story that everyone knows back and forth, breathe new life to it, while adding new stuff that doesn't piss off the purists. Congrats, and I look forward to reading anything new you deem to write. Thanks again!

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    1. Happy Birthday, Mary!

      I confess I googled 'Detroit favorite food dishes' to try and make sure I picked the right sort of meals that Mrs. Collier would most likely have served up, so I'm glad you think I pitched it about right!

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  25. Well well done! I look forward to you other writings.
    Gwen ;)

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  26. Wow you are amazing you have nothing to be nervous of please look inside yourself and know you are a very talented writer and l wait in anticipation for ‘Starr Fated’ We all believe in you thats why we follow you not just because of the 50 shades but because you can write and you ROCK! So please have as much faith in your self as we your loyal followers do ♡ …..Laters baby Kym:)

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    1. Thanks Kym. I'd never have written my own book if I hadn't had such a positive experience with this blog, so I guess being thrown off Fanfic was a blessing in disguise.

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  27. It is amazing how much work you've put into this. You have done such a fantastic job. I look forward to possibly being able to re-read it as a pdf, which is so generous of you to consider. I know the story is almost finished, but I hope you do some outtakes of the pregnancy. I was disappointed there was so little info on that in the book. The opportunities for enjoyable control freakery & possessiveness are endless!

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    1. Oh trust me, there will be pregnancy control freakery a plenty :)It'll be such fun to write.

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  28. It is we who should thank you for sharing your immense talent penning this epic story. It was no easy task for you to adapt Christian's POV in such momumental effort. You did it to perfection, and never strayed from E L James' intent. I will always be your fan, and look forward to many more of your stories. Many thanks, and much success to you.

    Love & Hugs,
    Ellie T.

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    1. Thanks, Ellie. I can't believe I've been writing this for a whole year now.

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    2. Yeah! It's a whole year for us too,and we're gonna miss every word you wrote here.I have all your work in my laptop so I can reread it every time I want to. Thank you for that, and I wish I could meet you.

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  29. SO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT GOING TO CONTINUE THIS AFTER THA FINAL CHAPTER OR DO YOU PLAN ON PUTTING YOUR OWN THOUGHTS INTO THIS FANFICTION ??? PLEASE DOOOOOO. :( I'M LOST WITHOUT THIS BLOG.....

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  30. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are a wonderful writer and I am going to miss their story, one more chapter. I'll have to go back and re-read it from the beginning once its all done.

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  31. This was my favourite chapter of all because it contained original content that was only glossed over in the book. Like Ana, I wanted more. And your chapter provided it.

    It's so good to see Christian healing and evolving through her love. He's processing his emotions and his new situation. He's maturing and there was so much love in this chapter. It's good he hasn't lost his bossy streak though. He can't be tamed, only tempered.

    I love that you explained the Elena relationship. I never really understood it until I read your words. She basically conditioned him like a dog, and some of the outcomes were positive. But it was ultimately destructive and loveless.

    Thanks for all the time you've spend retelling the story from Christian's point of view. You've done a stellar job with his voice. I can't wait to read your book and the last chapter *sniff*. Glad to read this blog will keep on keepin' on. I'll eagerly read every word you write.

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    1. Great analogy with Elena - that's exactly what she did, trained and conditioned Christian like a young puppy dog to bring him to heel.

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  32. Another JenniferJune 11, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Incredible - as always! THE best blog on the internet - so glad I found you! I, too, will be lost without your telling of Christian's POV.

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  33. Beautiful chapter, so sad that there is only one chapter left. You have a fantastic way with these chapters and I can't wait to read more from others in the books.

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  34. Thank you for all your work on this Fanfiction. I even like it better than the original. Looking forward to see what your own work is about, I will be buying even if it isn’t what I fancy. :) You should be rewarded for the hard and brilliant work you delivered here. Thank you for sharing with us. Jannet Doe

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  35. Thank you for this chapter. Our Christian is really, hopelessly, deeply, forever in love with his Ana. And he knows it and cherishes it! Such a wonderful love story! You are a great writer, and I enjoy your insights into this controlling character. Look forward to read what your mind comes up with next!

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  36. As always great job! I loved that he had an epiphany that he needed to start opening up to Ana and his parents. I think it took a great weight off his shoulders. I'm sad this is coming to an end but I'm excited about the next adventure with you. Thanks ChristinaLG3

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  37. I cant remember how I found you now but so glad I did. Have been following CG POV since end of last year, and was getting really sad that it is coming to an end but now you have lifted my spirits as you will still be updating the blog. Really looking forward to reading your new book "Starr Fated" you are an amazing writer and I predict this will be the first of many. Linda xx

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  38. Thanks again. Fabulous as always. Eagerly awaiting Starr Fated.

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  39. The last 2 paragraphs have left a lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing your work with us and for the record,you are an amazing writer and I look forward to reading more of your work. Please don't be nervous because you are truly talented.

    Daisy

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  40. Awesome chapter as always, look forward to the next chapter, and everything else you write. I hope u keep us updated on the other blogs you write for FF and the book you are writing. I hope it goes well and i cant wait to read it!

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  41. That was great! I cant wait to read this last chapter, even though it will be bitter sweet. I also can't wait for your book to come out, looking forward to it.

    ~Brooke

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  42. Oh my! I can't wait for the next chapter! I'm a sucker for happy ending and loved to look into thier life after baby!! I will buy all your books! You are amazing! If you ever have the time, you should write from Taylor's POV! I'd be curious to see how you play him! Also, I look fwd to Grace updates! Really I just love all your writings!! Thank you for doing this!:-)

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  43. first ever comment.. and I have to say, I found this online by accident and I am so glad I did I have read them all and also told friends about them as well, so looking forward to the last chapter and your other work.. will deffo be getting ur book, thank you for sharing your talent with the world love from Scotland xx

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  44. I really enjoyed this. Thank you for this. I look forward to reading about Chritian's POV during Ana's pregnancy, birth of their son and beyond! I will definitely get your book!

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  45. One more chapter? That is it? Oh my...I have loved you sharing Christian's POV.....would love for you to expand on the story. Pick up where the books left off? You are so talented. Thank you for sharing with us. I will be lost without email updates for this story!!

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  46. I can't believe it is coming to an end. Will you keep these posted so I am come back and read them again a t a later date?

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  47. Why don´t you write some short stories or episodes of Anastasia and Christian future? Let our mind blow with some new stories!! Excuse my english !!

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  48. Hi!
    Congratulations! You are an amazing writer, thank you for sharing your talendo us.
    I look forward to reading your next work.
    His fan Paty Amorim
    Brazil

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  49. Last chapter that is so sad! I've become so addicted to this story. You really should go on writing it. The first time Christian sees Teddy and on. And a Taylor's POV would be amazing too. From the time he was hired and on from there. We can only begin to imagine all the he's has seen and gone through with Mr. Grey. And when he first buys close for Ana that would be an awesome story. Think about it pleaseeeeeeeeeeeee? Your doing an amazing job with the story my heart hurts just to think about it coming to an end. Amazing job!!!!

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  50. I have enjoyed your blog immensely. I will be as loyal to your new endeavor as I have been to this! Thanks for so many nights of great reading.

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  51. I'm always waiting for this post all the time

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  52. It was amazing darlin'
    I thought I left a comment, guess it didn't stick!
    I'm so proud of you and these chapters have been better than the original I feel. You have done us all proud and grown so much since chapter 1. So happy to of been on this journey with you and I will always support you <3

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  53. This chapter was really good. The only thing I was disappointed in was the fact that you didn't mention when they finally had vanilla after they went to see the house. I can't wait to read 'Starr Fated'.

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    1. Well, we didn't actually get to the point when they went to their new house, so more to come on that.

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    2. Sorry... I guess I'm just anxious about the last chapter. I'll be waiting patiently for the next couple of weeks. I have the entire blog to read again while I wait. Happy scribbling!!!!! :) -Sasha

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  54. That was such a nice chapter to read as we see Christian growing as a person, allowing his heart to fill with Ana's love for him and his love for Ana and Blip. You have done your readers proud over this last year although I am sad that it is coming to a close. I look forward to Starr Fated and to the alternate story line you mentioned. Brava! xxxooo

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  55. I couldn't wait for this chapter, and it was my favorite so far. There were so many insightful and touching moments. You hinted that there might be bonus chapters and one-shots if we're good, so I'll be on my best behavior!! ;-) This blog is the best out there, and it has become a part of my weekly routine. You are a talented writer, and I wish you success with "Starr Fated".
    Brenda in NYC

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  56. Desde el primer capítulo, me capturaste.
    Eres un escritor realmente bueno !!
    Este capítulo me encantó !
    Que Dios te bendiga y mucho éxito en todo lo que emprendas !!

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  57. ''Beautiful and touching'' I will miss those characters we love so dearly, your blog has been an excellent company, I look forward you write the short stories about them. Thanks for such excellent work. Please do not be far from us.

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  58. This is such a beautifully written chapter. What you've been able to do with your writing is prove beyond a doubt that this is an amazing love story. . . not just "mommy porn" as it's so often called by critics. Your insight into Christian the man has been an incredible journey that I'm honored to have taken with you. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    I'm excited to read Starr Fated when it's available. Will you email those of us who follow this blog to let us know when we can read it? I'm hoping for a little sneak peek into it too! ;) Best of luck with your writing career. You're amazingly talented and your writing improves with each chapter.

    TX Teacher/Super Fan
    Linda

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    1. You can be sure I'll be letting everyone know when 'Starr Fated' is out, and the website will have teasers from the book. Just putting the final touches to it all :)

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  59. This was absolutely beautiful. I will miss your blog and all of these characters. Good luck with your writing and please keep in touch and let us know when we can start reading your new stories. Thank you so much for this awesome blog.

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  60. What a brilliant brilliant brilliant piece of writing! I loved reading it and you expanded on the original storyline so well. I've so loved reading your blog and will miss it desperately when it is finished! But I'm really excited about your new book. :). Cheers, Michelle

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  61. Absolutely excellent chapter. I'm very glad to be able to read Christian's POV, but sad that it will end soon. Take care of you.

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  62. I hate to aee this in,you are such a greay wrtier.. My hats off to you.

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  63. omg... I'm in love with your blong. it is beyond amazing. I can not wait till chapter 64. you rock!!!!!!!!!!!!thank you, I will wait for the next chapter =)

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  64. Just as I was when I read E L James, I'm sad that this is coming to an end. Can't wait to read more from your talented imagination! Love, love, love your writing!

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  65. Thank you once again for keeping your word and completing this. I have looked forward to each and every chapter. You are a very talented writer.

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  66. Love it. Can't wait to read your original work!

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  67. Thank you for writing this story from Christian's POV, I have enjoyed every word and every chapter. Such a shame that it is coming to and end, but I can still go back read all the chapters again lol. I think you have covered exactly the way Christian thought and acted. Like everyone else I look forward to the next chapter and thank you again.

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  68. I have throughly enjoyed all 63 chapters. I don't want it to end. You have done an amazing job telling it from Christian's POV. I look forward to reading more and support you totally in all your new endeavors. Thank You and best of wishes to you!

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  69. I enjoyed your blog, can't wait till you put up the last chapter. You did a great job with this story and I will see you in your other endeavours. Thank you.

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  70. I am so looking forward to the final chapter, but sad too that it is ending, but on a high note!! we have your work to look forward too now :)and really looking forward to it, and of course we will follow you on FB, I hate to think i was missing out on your great work.. Well done

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  71. Congratulations on 4 million page reads!

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    1. Wow. 4 million. Great way to celebrate the first anniversary of my blog :)

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  72. I just love reading your story. I've already read Fifty Shades Trilogy countless times. And you should know that I've already re-read this story 3 times. I loved Christian's POV. You know when I had finished reading Fifty Shades Freed... I was so sad... I felt like ' why it had to end? I wanna know more about my C.G baby'. Right now I'm feel that all over again... because this story is going to end soon. I'm eagerly waiting for the next chapter. Hey can't you continue this story. i really don't want this story to be end this soon. Please don't do this to me.. uhu uhu.. I'm gonna cry.

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  73. Please, When will the final chapter get posted? Not that I want it to end,it is so good. We have watched Christian grow from a hard selfish man with no empathy or insight to others feelings to a warm loving man who appreciates all the love that has been there for him all along. He has just been too fucked up to see it. Thankyou jeangb

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  74. Oh wow such a wonderful chapter,so full of emotion you had me in tears once again.Like others on here i absolutely love your writing,you write Christians story so perfectly.x x

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  75. Hello! First of all, I wanted to say Wow, you really are into CG's head! Very impressive. I read it all in like 3 days. ALl the chapters! haha. But I really wanted to know about the baby's day of birth, you know, from Christian's side. Are we gonna have it? PLEASEE! Love your stories! And of course I'm buying your book when it comes out!

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    1. That's why the last chapter is taking me so long - the baby story has to be good, doesn't it?

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  76. update update update

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  77. i can wait for the last part, please update , love the way you write. i am buying your book of course <3 all the best

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  78. I Cant Wait Anyy Longerrr!!! Please Update.. Want To Read Christians Last Chapter :) Love Fifty Shades.. My All Time Favourite Book <3

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  79. Please please please can we have a time frame for the next chapter the waiting is a killer , I'm so excited

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  80. Planning to update sometime this weekend :)

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    1. Thank you :D

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    2. the waiting is killing us all!! lol- and i will be out of internet connection for 2 days starting tomorrow. god help me! hope it comes out today *fingers crossed* Jane Kincaid XOXOXO

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  81. Cannot wait for the last update!!! I hope you keep telling their story through Christians point of View!!

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  82. Thank you so much for telling Christians side. This was awesome. I was always excited to read your new chapters and you never disappointed. :-)

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  83. Thank you very, very much for this extraordinary reading experience!

    Over the past 6-7 weeks, I read first E L James's original novels, watched the movie, and then, yearning to read the story from Christian's POV, I found and read your entire story, and finished it two days ago.

    You received so much praise from all your fans here that I don't really have much to add. Almost all has already been said. I can only agree with it all. It suffices to say that I don't think I will read any other version of this story avaliable on the net, beacuse I fear that would spoil the wonderful experience of reading your version. They can impossibly be better than your version. I will henceforth consider your version as the canonical Christians' POV version. Did you get any reaction from E L James about it?

    Reading many of the comments here, I also realize that I had a great advantage over your fans writing these comments: Beginning to read your story two years after its completion, I never had to wait for the next chapter, which I fully understand was very frustrating for them, since you write so marvellously well, but I could read all the chapter's whenever I wanted. On the other hand, this might have had some detrimental effect on my sleep :)

    I'm a 52 years old man from Sweden. It seems that very few of the fans of Fifty Shades are men. Almost all are women. The only exceptions I know of are Insubordination Freak (who seems to be a man at the avatar image) and myself. I never used to be interested in love stories, they used to bore me, but when the movie came, I decided to give it a chance. So I bought the first novel: "Fifty shades of Grey" and was hooked. I had to see the movie and buy and read the two remaining books. Then I wanted to read the story from Christian's POV, and I found your version. And I find both E L James's original version and your version both fantastic. I never read anything before which touched me so deeply: The strong emotions, the hot sex, the indomitable love between Ana and Christian, which makes it impossible for them to stay away from each other, etc. etc. This has shaken me completely.
    I used to be a quite callous person, but now it seems that reading this has led me to undergo a personality. I almost never used to cry before, now I get tearful at the slightest emotion. I have shed more tears over the last 6-7 weeks than in the previous 30 years.

    For example, like many others I cannot read the shower scene in your Chapter 38 without crying. It is soo captivating. Incredibly well written!

    Perhaps I have some similarities with Christian. He has an inner darkness which Ana lights up. I don't think I have an inner darkness, but I have an inner emptiness which needs to be filled. E L James and you have helped me in this process.
    You really write marvellously well. As an example, this is soo well put:
    "She needed me to unlock her sexuality. I needed her to unlock my heart."

    Also, I want to point out the Dr Flynn sessions, which I like very much.

    I am considering translating your version into Swedish. It's so good that somebody should do that. But I don't know if I can do it.

    Finally I have a thought. Christian is a fascinating person with his dark secrets and devaint way of life, and I understand that women can be attracted to such a man, especially if he is super rich and extremely handsome. But in my opinion, the most alarming feature of his personality is that he is his extreme control mania, with overprotection, stalking, etc. Do many women find such a control mania in some way attractive?

    Thank you again!

    Erland

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    1. Hi Erland - I don't have many male readers (Avatars can be misleading) so welcome, and I've no idea how many readers I have in Sweden. You came at a good time, you've been able to read the whole story, instead of waiting for a weekly update as many impatient readers had to!
      I have no idea whether E L James is aware of my blog, she is a very busy lady, but I'd like to think she'd approve of my take on Christian's mind set as of course I took my lead from her.
      Apart from the Spanish translation of my blog, which was undertaken voluntarily by two wonderful Spanish/Mexican ladies, a French, Portuguese and German version have also been attempted, but given up after a few chapters, as the folk concerned found it to be a mammoth task to take on. So these days I am very wary of raising expectations and allowing any other translations.
      As for your question as to whether women find a controlling/overprotective man attractive - I suppose to a degree it shows someone cares, and maybe it's better than being ignored. But other women would find it suffocating and intolerable, so each to their own!
      Anyhow, thanks for getting in touch, maybe you might like to read Grace's blog next - just click on the tab at the top.
      G.

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    2. Hi and thanks for your reply.
      I already read your Grace story. It's good but your Christian story is better.

      I suppose you're right about control. Some would prefer being controlled over being ignored. Still, I'm a little bit disapponted that E L James didn't really resolve Christian's control mania. If I would rewrite it, I would let Christian lose all his money in the end, perhaps by some misinvestment, thus forcing Christian and Ana to become an ordinary couple with 9-5 jobs. This way he loses his control.
      This would also appeal to me as a Scandinavian: we are an egalitarian people who don't like people to become too rich. :)

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  84. Bravo!

    That picture of Jamie actually fits now, beard and all, since Christian did have a beard at the hospital. Once they get to filming Freed (can't wait) he doesn't have to shave for that scene.

    Not sure if there were/are many readers from Finland, but you've got one here. I may even re-read everything from the beginning.

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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.