THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 13—Happy New Year!
Butterfly has really done an excellent job coordinating this wedding/party. The guests have all made their way across the lobby and over to the Cielo Club which has been decorated in white and silver for the wedding with just enough glitz for the New Years Eve party. There are seven tables set up including the bride and groom’s table and each table holds four to six people. The party has 35 guests with no hope of what Butterfly calls “do-drops” as you don’t get in if you are not on the guest list.
The walls of the club are draped in sheer white fabric that immediately softens the look of the room. The ambient lighting gives the feel of a full moon on a clear night. Dramatic curtains made of hundreds of silver chains separate the area where the ceremony will take place and a single chandelier hangs above illuminates the area almost like a spotlight. Iridescent crystal beads that compliment the deliberately mismatched crystal chandeliers are hung plentifully around the room.
The tables are draped in alternating silver or white linens and the chairs have white covers with silver sashes. The centerpieces are three-tiered silver serving trays or four-tier glass cake stands with various mismatched elegant silver and white ornaments and one or two other items thrown in like little painted birds or fruit.
Various buffet tables are set with jingle bell candle settings and intricate color-coordinated hors d’oeuvres and desserts in white and silver with various additions of chocolate. Silver beads are spread on various areas of the table and they almost look edible. I am assured by one of the catering staff that they are not.
The cake table has three or four large textured white bottles on each end that act as vases, containing small sprigs, leaves, and branches painted silver. Hmmm… branches. Butterfly told me about the super-nova that occurred when the decorator kept insisting on branches while she and Amanda feverishly told her that this idea was unacceptable. I can only assume that they must have compromised on these small ones as they do compliment the room quite nicely.
There are two cakes on the cake table flanking a pyramid of small white take-home boxes with festive silver decorations. One of the cakes is a small plain white cake with four alternating small and larger tiers while the second cake is a bit larger—brown and white, three-tiered, intricately decorated with flowers and a cake topper that is a miniature ice bucket full of ice and a bottle of champagne. The second tier has various New Years Eve fondue decorations on it while the bottom tier sports the words “Ride Together Forever.” This cake has “Ray” written all over it, much like the cases of Budweiser behind the bar.
It appears that under Butterfly’s instruction, nothing has been forgotten—and she did all of this while dealing with the Green Valley issues and Melanie’s revelation, her own breakdown and her impetuous friends, and planning Maxine’s wedding as well. God, I can’t wait to marry her!
The paparazzi has not caught on that there is a wedding at Escala this evening, so we will hopefully be able to get everyone in, partied up, and out before there is any discovery. Amanda and Ray have agreed to allow us to make a statement once they are off on their honeymoon. Usually if you give them what they want, they will leave you alone. Also, once the word gets out that there was a wedding at Escala—and the word will get out—we will definitely have to reveal who was wed or Ana and I will never get any peace.
“Okay, everyone, please take your seats. We are about to get started,” Butterfly announces. I take a seat at the closest table to the front, where Butterfly has placed us along with Elliot, Valerie, Allen and James. Once everyone has taken their seats, the silver chain curtains are opened and draped back by two staff members and Ray and Brian stand in front with the judge. Butterfly takes her seat next to me just as the DJ starts to play Percy Sledge, When A Man Loves A Woman and Amanda’s maid of honor, Sheila, makes her way to the front. As Amanda moves towards Ray, I watch his expression. It can only be described as pure joy. She is floating elegantly towards him delicately holding a bouquet of white peonies with painted white-gray leaves in front of her. The photographer discreetly captures pictures of her simple, elegant dress just before she makes her way to the front.
Butterfly grasps my hand as they gaze at one another while the song continues to play. I squeeze her hand as I can only imagine the many emotions that must be going through her at this point. It was all just a plan before this moment and now, her father is actually getting married. Tears flow down her face as she watches Amanda and Ray exchange traditional vows. I look over at Lexia who looks like she’s smelling something bad and then over at Brian who was gazing wistfully at Butterfly until he caught my glare. I need this guy out of here soon before I forget that this is supposed to be a joyous occasion.
I turn back to the ceremony just in time to see the judge pronounce them man and wife. Ray takes Amanda’s face in his hands and gives her the most reverential kiss that I have ever witnessed. I thought that their wedding was a bit nontraditional, but seeing this kiss let’s me know that he truly loves this woman. As the judge announces Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Steele, the DJ begins to play Smokey Robinson, Ooo Baby Baby. I thought that was an odd song since it’s so sad and talks about breaking up, but Butterfly told me that they chose this song because it is the song that they danced to on their first date. Sheila and Brian step back as Amanda and Ray immediately lead the first dance. She is gazing into his eyes and now her tears fall as she and Ray glide across the floor. The DJ announces for us to join in after the first verse is played. I take Butterfly’s hand and lead her to the dance floor.
“Are you okay, Baby?” I ask as she tries to wipe away her tears. She nods silently, but the tears keep falling. “Are those happy tears or sad tears?” Her body starts to shake and I know that she can’t answer. I assume that they are a combination of both and I pull her close to my body and sway with her, both to comfort her and to hide her from prying eyes and let her get it out. I spread my hands protectively over her back and press her against me, resting my head on hers. I’m relieved when the DJ immediately plays If This World Were Mine. It gives Butterfly a few more moments to compose herself. Somewhere in the middle of the song, she finally stops crying. I raise her head to mine and use my handkerchief to dry her tears.
“Better?” I ask softly. She nods.
“Better,” she responds weakly.
“It really was a beautiful ceremony, Butterfly. You really did a good job pulling everything together,” I commend her.
“I had a lot of help,” she says with a weak smile, pressing her cheek into my chest.
“They really do love each other.”
“I know.” She lets out one of those shuddering breaths and I gently rub her back.
“He’s moving to Kent. That’s so much closer than Montesano,” I say, trying to find something that will comfort her right now. She looks up at me.
“You’re such a wonderful man, Christian,” she says softly. I’m taken aback a bit by her compliment.
“Thank you,” I say bemused. “You make me better.”
“No, I think it was always there… You just may not have known it yet,” she responds. I gently stroke her cheek.
“Well, you are a remarkable woman,” I say and she snickers a bit.
“I’m not so special,” she replies.
“How can you say that? You’re everything special! You bring out the best in just about everyone you meet. You are quite extraordinary, Ms. Steele and don’t you forget it.” It’s important to me that she knows that I’m not just saying that. She looks at me with those bottomless, guileless, ocean-blue eyes.
“God, I love you so much,” she says just above a whisper. Her voice does something to me that makes me want to make love to her right here in the middle of the dance floor. I close my eyes and put my forehead on hers.
“Ana…” I breathe her name and I feel her melt against me as I hear the melody of a third song play, but I am barely coherent. I am intoxicated in Butterfly—in her love and her essence. I need to make her my wife and I need to do it soon. I know that it can’t be before February as the moment she gets a chance to take a breath, she will be knee-deep in planning Maxine and Philip’s wedding which is a much larger event than this one. I won’t put that pressure on her, but I can’t wait much longer and I need to get this ball rolling as soon as I can.
“I need to go and clean myself up, okay?” she says, pulling herself away from me and introducing the unwanted space between us.
“Okay, Butterfly,” I touch her cheek and kiss her lips softly. “I love you, too, Baby.” She smiles sweetly and walks to the door, not letting my hand go until the last moment. She turns around and blows a kiss to me while mouthing “right back.” I must be smiling like an idiot and Elliot does not let the opportunity pass to rib me mercilessly.
“Bro, give it a break. Your cheeks are going to crack,” he ribs. I look at my brother who has come up behind me.
“She’s the one, Man,” I tell him as I watch the door she just exited.
“You’re saying that like I don’t already know it,” Elliot says, taking a swallow of his gin and tonic. I put my hand in my pocket.
“No, Elliot. She’s the one. The one the one,” I say. His blue eyes are sharp now.
“You mean the vows, Bro?” he asks and I nod. “Are you sure you’re not just caught up in all of this wedding shit?” I shake my head.
“I’ve been feeling this way for a while… almost since the day that I met her.” I walk over to the bar. “Shot of bourbon,” I tell the bartender.
“Well, what are you waiting for, then?” he says. I sigh.
“We have so much going on, Elliot. There’s a lot that we have to settle before we can take that step.”
“Like what?” he asks incredulously.
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the last 30 years, Big Brother, but I’ve got this little issue with my emotions. I’ve been seeing a therapist about it…”
“You mean Flynn? If that motherfucker hasn’t helped you after all this time…”
“No, I fired Flynn. We’re seeing someone else… together.”
“Well, it’s about damn time!” Elliot takes another swallow of his drink. “Man, he helped you for a little while with the real heavy shit, but after a while, nothing was happening. Progress just seemed to stop—and unlike the rest of the family, I knew about the women.” I glare at him. How could he have possibly known about the women!? “Keep your shirt on, Man. I didn’t know about the heavy stuff until you confessed at the house, but I never pegged you for a cross-dresser and I saw all of those clothes in your guest room. I never understood why your women didn’t sleep in the same room with you, but now it all makes sense.”
“Fuck, why didn’t you ever say anything?” I sneer.
“What was I supposed to say? ‘Yo, Christian, what’s up with you and these strange relationships?’ And who was I to say anything? I was engaged to Dragon Lady!” I involuntarily laugh at his statement.
“This is true.”
“So, Man. You’re always going to have some kind of emotional issue. It’s part of life. Why are you really waiting?” Ugh! Elliot has always known me better than anyone.
“We’ve got this thing with Green Valley that we need to put to rest. Ana is more emotionally fragile than I am right now. Then everybody is getting engaged and married around us. I don’t want her to think I am just jumping on the bandwagon.”
“That’s the real reason,” he points at me. “You’re putting your and her life on hold because you don’t want her to think that you’re trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.'” Ouch! That smarts.
“That’s only part of it,” I say honestly. “She really, really does have a lot on her plate right now, Elliot—a whole lot. I don’t want our engagement to be associated with this time in her life.”
“Have you ever thought that might be just what she needs—to be able to get on with her life and have something to look forward to, the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak?” No, I hadn’t even considered that.
“Elliot, I need to be very careful. I need to be sure that I’m not doing this selfishly and then justifying it with my perception of Ana’s needs. Do you get what I’m saying?” Elliot gazes at me.
“If you know that, then you’re definitely ready. The only way to know if Ana is ready is to ask her, and it’s got to be right.”
“I know. That’s why I don’t want to ask her in the midst of all of these weddings and engagements, and like I said—she is really, really fragile right now. I’m not just saying that. She is really fragile.” I am having immediate flashbacks of Butterfly weeping on the dance floor.
“Okay, so we know that you can’t ask her tomorrow, but we do know that it’s going to have to be soon. So… do you need some help?” Do I need help with women? No! Of course the fuck I don’t! Do I?
“What’s to know? Pick the right moment, pick a ring, and ask her to marry me, right?”
“Oh, yeah, you’ll need help. Knowing Ana, you’ll need a lot of it.”
Elliot and I sit at the bar talking until it’s nearly time for the late reception dinner. Ana is just walking back in and it seems like she had been gone forever.
“Baby, what took you so long. I was starting to get worried.” I kiss her on the cheek.
“I tried to clean myself up in the bathroom down here, but I needed a little more work. So I went back up to the apartment. I went to wash my face and the whole dress was a casualty.” She did a good job. She looks all fresh-faced and you wouldn’t even know that she had been weeping earlier in the evening. She has changed her dress and she is now wearing a taupe satin dress with spaghetti straps, a structured bodice and a plunging neckline… very plunging… not tacky, but sexy as hell. She’s still wearing the Louboutin Dos Noeud Back-Bow d’Orsay black leather peep-toe stilettos that she has been wearing all evening. If that Brian fucker was gawking at her before, he’s going to be absolutely spellbound now.
“I am not letting you out of my sight,” I say, grabbing her hand and pulling her quickly against me.
“Careful, Bro. Don’t mount her right here at the bar.” I completely forgot that he was standing there. Yeah, we need to join in the festivities.
When I lead Ana back to the center of the party, Ray and Amanda are accepting congratulations from several of the guests. Amanda looks a bit perturbed and her sister is standing nearby—that would explain it.
“Ana! Where do you go?” Amanda nearly runs to Ana when she is in view.
“I’m sorry!” Ana exclaims. “I turned into a weepy, blubbering mess and totally ruined my dress, so I had to go change.” She hugs Mandy. “Welcome to the family. You’re stuck with us now,” she says with a smile.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Amanda returned smile is genuine and heartwarming.
“Hmm… had I known there would be wardrobe changes, I would have brought another outfit.” The voice is coming from Lexia, Amanda’s attention-hungry, overdressed, crabby-ass sister. Butterfly turns on her in an instant. In a very controlled voice, she says,
“That would have been very impressive considering that the dress that you’re wearing probably cost more than the bride’s, the maid of honor’s, and the daughter of the groom’s dresses combined. Did no one ever tell you that it’s bad form to try to show up the bride at her own wedding?” Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Shut up Little Sister Person, it will only get worse from here.
“I was only wearing what I had in my closet!” she spits, trying to defend herself. Butterfly scoffs at her, cackling a couple of times.
“Lexia, I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I know who Peter Pilotto is and I’m sure that you were counting on that to some degree. I know that dress just got off the runway and you didn’t just have it in your closet. I know that you paid a pretty penny for the dress and a prettier penny to have it ready by New Years Eve. What I don’t know is why. This wasn’t a red carpet event. This is a small, intimate affair that is your sister’s wedding. What are you trying to prove?” I see Hamilton inching up to the gathering while Butterfly quietly calls Little Sister Person to task. Noticing that she is the center of attention in this tiny part of the gathering—and not in a good way—Little Sister Person shrinks a bit.
“I just wanted to look nice,” she says, resigned.
“Oh, that is such bullshit.” We are all surprised to see that voice coming from Amanda. “You wanted to steal my moment. You’ve been trying to steal it from the moment you arrived, and I know it. The only problem is that this isn’t your show. These people are my people—real people, not those country-club, stuck-up, blue-haired bats that you and Mom hang around. Mom didn’t care one bit to come to my wedding because she’s got you to give her a play-by-play and you’ve been making sideways comments the entire night. Simple though it may be, you are not going to ruin my wedding, so shut the hell up or fucking leave!” Whoa! You have upset the bride. You have officially broken wedding rule #1.
“I think you need to leave,” I say to Lexia. “You are clearly upsetting Amanda and I won’t have it in my home.” Hamilton reaches for Lexia’s arm.
“No! Look… I’m sorry. I’ll behave myself. I promise,” Lexia says softly, looking at me. I shake my head.
“Don’t tell me, tell her.” I point to Amanda. Yes, I’m going to make you grovel to your sister in front of all of these people in your Peter Pilotto original.
“Mandy, I’m sorry,” she says softly.
“You’re sorry for what?” Amanda asks. She wants her pound of flesh and she deserves it, plus some.
“I’m sorry for making terrible remarks and trying to ruin your wedding,” she says.
“And…?” Apparently, wasn’t good enough.
“For trying to get the attention on your day,” she adds.
“And…?” Keep going, Little Sister Person.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to say.” She drops her head contritely, but Amanda is unfazed.
“Let me help you.” Amanda steps away from Ray to confront her sister. More guests are now looking in our direction to see what’s going on. “I’m sorry that I wore a $1500 designer dress to your wedding when you told me it was an intimate affair—I know who Peter Pilotto is, too!” Lexia’s eyes get large.
“I’m sorry about the dress,” she says, her voice sounding like a mouse.
“I’m sorry I insulted your husband before I even knew him!” Amanda continues. Ray’s interest is piqued now.
“Wha…?” he says, no doubt wanting to know what that exchange was all about.
“I’m sorry for insulting Ray,” Lexia says, more humiliated than before, but Amanda is not finished yet.
“I’m sorry for disrespecting Ana when she’s been nothing but kind, loving, and accepting of my sister. I’m sorry for insulting Sheila’s dress even though I knew it was what you wanted. I’m sorry for trying to make you feel bad about Mom when I knew that she wouldn’t come anyway. I’m sorry for being a little teacher’s-pet-Mommy’s-favorite-blabbermouth and going back and telling her everything that happened tonight. Most of all, I’m sorry for being a self-centered, treacherous bitch! I think that about covers it!” I think we are all stunned into silence. Tears are flowing down Lexia’s face. We all look from Amanda to Lexia to see what is going to happen next. To our surprise, Lexia nods.
“Yes,” she whispers. “I’m sorry for all of those things.”
“Good!” Amanda says. She has never once raised her voice, but her tone with her sister is still commanding. “You can stay then, but I swear Lexia, one more thing—one more thing—and I will bounce you and Peter out on your ass, and I do mean your ass! Is that clear?”
“Yes… it’s very clear,” Lexia says, duly chastised, before going back to her seat for dinner. Amanda looks from face to face of the stunned people standing around her.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to act that way,” she apologizes.
“Don’t you dare apologize!” Butterfly scolds. “This is your party. You make the rules.”
“Here, here,” I chime in.
“She caused all that trouble in the small amount of time she’s been here?” Ray asks, throwing a murderous look over at Lexia who is sitting at the table still looking down.
“Well, most of it. She’s been a treacherous bitch since she could speak!” Amanda says. It breaks the ice somewhat and a few of us laugh.
“I can’t believe you two came from the same person,” Butterfly states.
“You haven’t met my mother. I’m the black sheep,” she says, shaking her head. “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not trying to mend or build those relationships anymore. I’m 35 years old and they still treat me like shit.” A single tear falls from Amanda’s eye. Butterfly takes her hand.
“If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. We’re your family now, okay?” She says softly. Amanda nods and breaks down just a bit. Butterfly takes her in her arms.
“Excuse me,” Ray says and walks over to Lexia, who slowly raises her head to look him. “She couldn’t tell you, but I can. I want you to leave. You upset my wife on her wedding day and I will not have that. Get your things and go.” Lexia gapes at Ray for a moment but he stares her down. Without a word, Lexia rises from her chair and quietly walks out of the club. As Ray makes his way over to his wife, I tell Butterfly, “I’ll be right back.” She nods at me and I follow Lexia out of the door.
I catch her just after she has retrieved her coat and Hamilton is escorting her from the premises. “Excuse, Ms. Herring or whatever your name is.” She turns around and is surprised to see me standing behind her.
“One word of this—to anyone—and I will make your life a miserable fucking hell. Do you understand?” Her eyes are large and she clearly can’t believe that I said this to her. “You can nod if you can’t form words,” I spit. She is still dumbfounded. “Let me try to put this another way. That woman that you just embarrassed at her own wedding is married to the father of the woman that I love—the very center of my universe. So if you embarrass Amanda or Ray, then you cause pain to my girlfriend. If you cause pain to my girlfriend, I will rip out your soul. If you don’t believe me, try me… please. Is that any clearer for you?” I hiss.
“Y-yes, Mr. Grey. I-I won’t say anything,” she stammers.
“Good. Have a good night.” I watch as Hamilton escorts her from the building and as I turn to go back to the club, I see a petite frame in a black suit duck into the men’s room.
It couldn’t be…
I know that I shouldn’t do this without security present, but I don’t want to cause any more of a commotion than I have already seen at Ray and Amanda’s wedding. I go into the men’s room. The fact that no one is in here proves that my eyes didn’t deceive me. If there’s a urinal open, men don’t often use stalls. I lean against the counter and fold my arms.
“Are you going to stay in there all night?” I ask. A few moments pass and the stall opens. She comes out wearing a Tom Ford men’s suit and hat, but her red lipstick is still caked on as usual.
“You’re pretty smart and pretty stupid at the same time,” I tell her. “Men don’t use stalls unless utterly necessary, so you knew you wouldn’t be spotted in here—smart. Your ass never could follow directions which must be why you consistently keep putting yourself in this situation. Why are you here?”
“I need help, Christian,” she says.
“Yes, you do, but I can’t give it to you. So again I ask, why are you here?”
“The kind of help that I need, you can give it to me.” She sounds broken, more broken than I have ever heard before.
“I can’t—won’t—give you anything,” I tell her. “I don’t care what happens to you. I really don’t.”
“Christian, I love you so much,” she pleads. “I know that I went about things—everything—the wrong way. I would do anything to get you back. Anything!”
“You never had me! That’s what you don’t get. I thought I felt something for you once upon a time. I was wrong! Anything that we ever had, that we ever could have had, was a lie. Why can’t you get that through your head?”
“I can’t accept that I will never have you again! I won’t accept that you never loved me! You did, I know you did! You would do anything for me. Your whole life was to make me happy—to please me—until she came along. She poisoned you against me and I won’t let her get away with it. If it’s the last thing that I do, I swear that I won’t let her get away with it!” She is rambling like a maniac. This is truly one sick bitch.
“You are some special kind of crazy, do you know that?” I say calmly. “I’ve been in therapy my whole life and even though I refused to admit it before now, I always knew that the first part of solving your problems is admitting that you have problems. You can never admit it. You can never admit that you did anything wrong. For that, I feel sorry for you, but only because that means that you will never find redemption. I am so lucky I let you go, got you out of my life. God only knows where I would be if I had continued with you.” I turn to leave. I’m talking to the same wall that I’ve always been and I don’t expect it to change.
“Christian, please!” she wails like she’s in pain and it causes me to stop and turn around. “I don’t have much time left.” What the…?
“What do you mean you don’t have much time left?” What fresh new hell is she about to thrust upon me this time?
“I’ve lost everything. I don’t have any money left. I’ve been living with and off of my submissives. I only have a few subs left to contract as most of them have found other… agents. My remaining submissives are dropping like flies. After everything I have done for them, they all leave me when the money runs out!” I laugh at her statement.
“That’s the nature of the game, Elena! They are in it for the pain… and the prizes. What good is the pain without the prize?” Now she laughs at me.
“You are her sub and she’s not giving you prizes!” she spits at me.
“She’s the prize.” I correct her. “She’s more than I have ever dreamed of. If I lost my entire fortune, as long as I had her, I would still be the wealthiest man alive!”
“You’re talking like an idiot!” she scoffs. I fold my arms again.
“Those are big words coming from a woman dressed in a man’s suit hiding in the men’s restroom,” I laugh. Her face falls.
“It’s the only way that I could possibly hope to see you. Please, Christian. Please forgive me. I didn’t know that I loved you so much until I lost you. Now I can’t function without you. I don’t know what to do. I’m sick and miserable and none of my subs are making me happy anymore. Please, Christian. I will be your sub, your slave, your lover. I will do anything you ask of me, please, Christian. I beg of you, please… please, take me back.”
Oh, this woman is truly delusional. Nothing that you say to her gets through to her. No amount of explaining reaches her. She just can’t hear you. Well, let’s try this…
She glares at me like she can’t believe what I just said to her.
“No?” she screams. “No?” Wow… something finally got through. “How can you possibly not want me? We were amazing together, don’t you remember?” I get in her face.
“What I remember is that a few months ago, you tried to ruin everything that I had. Do you remember that?” I hiss. “Do you remember when you tried to ruin my relationship? My family? Me? That’s what I remember and that’s what I’ll always remember about you—that, and the fact that you molested me and countless other children and you tried to molest my brother. That is your only legacy in my mind!” I am glaring into her frightened eyes and before I know it, she throws her arms around my neck and presses her lips hard against mine.
What the fuck!?
I pry her arms from my neck and push her hard away from me until she slams against the wall. The shove doesn’t even phase her and she lunges for me again. Instinctively, I go into defense mode and slap the taste out of her mouth! She wails and falls over from the force of the hit, looking up at me while holding her face. I shake my head at her and leave her there on the restroom floor.
I walk directly to the front desk and tell the clerk to call the police. He is glaring at me.
“Is there something wrong with the instructions that I just gave you?” I bark at him.
“Um, no sir, but… Why am I calling the police?” I point to the men’s room.
“There is a woman in the men’s room. She is not a resident. I and my girlfriend have a standing protection order against her and I want to make a police report that she is here.”
“Um… okay, sir.” He picks up the phone. “Sir, do you know that you’re wearing lipstick?”
Lipstick? I touch my lips and sure enough, that bitch has left her blood red lipstick on my lips. I see the clerk looking over my shoulder and I look back to see Elena smirking and cleaning up her smudged lipstick from her lips. Sick bitch.
“Did you see her?” I ask the clerk.
“Yes, Sir, I did.”
“Well, call the police, please.” I pull my handkerchief out of my pocket to clean my face, but I realize that I am too late. Standing off to the side looking me square in my eye—lipstick and all—is Butterfly. I don’t know how long she’s been standing there, but I know she had to see Elena leave. I move to say something to her and she dashes back around the corner, no doubt headed back to the club before I get the chance to explain.
“Fuck!” I exclaim. I look at the fucker at the desk. Couldn’t he had told me this shit sooner? “Call. The fucking. Police.” I growl at him. His eyes grow large and he can’t dial fast enough.
I have just about completed giving my police report when Elliot and Allen come out to the lobby.
“What’s going on, Chris?” Allen says as he and Elliot make their way to the counter.
“Elena was here.” That’s all I say.
“Oh… and how did that work out?” Elliot says. I hold up my finger.
“Do you gentlemen need anything else from me?” I ask.
“No sir. You know this will just go on file since we weren’t able to catch her,” One of the officers tells me.
“Yes, I know, but I do want it on file.”
“Then I think we’re done, Sir,” he says, closing his notebook.
“Thank you, Gentlemen.” They nod and leave as I turn to Allen and Elliot.
“I saw her duck into the men’s room in a man’s suit and I didn’t know for sure if it was her. I made the mistake of following her in there.”
“Why didn’t you come and get one of us?” Allen asks.
“Because I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted her off the premises.” I run my hands through my hair. “We had words. She begged me to take her back. When I refused, she kissed me. I slapped her and left her on the men’s room floor. I came out here to make a report. She came out of the bathroom just in time for Butterfly to see her coming out of the bathroom and me standing here at the counter with her lipstick smeared all over my face!” I throw another glare at the desk clerk who was at first engrossed in our conversation and is now holding his head down out of sight.
Boy, do I miss Marc.
“Oooohh, that explains it,” Elliot says.
“Well, Butterfly has become quite the social butterfly. She’s dancing with everyone on every song and she has probably had two drinks since you have been out here. It’s nearly midnight and you have been gone for quite some time. When I asked where you were, her only response was ‘in the lobby.’ When I asked if you were okay, she said ‘I don’t know, why don’t you go check and see?’ Not knowing what to expect when I got here, I grabbed your hunky brother and here we are.”
Shit! Butterfly is mad. I run my hands through my hair again and we all walk back to the party. Sure enough, there she is on the dance floor with… Brian. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and Elliot steps in front of me.
“Okay, settle down, Christian. She has been dancing with everyone, and they’re not bumping and grinding. It’s just a simple dance.” He’s right. It’s just a dance, but it’s a slow dance. They are not bumping and grinding, but they are close. I pay attention to the song playing as I watch my Butterfly dance with another man.
To all your friends you’re delirious,
So consumed in all your doom.
Trying hard to fill the emptiness.
The pieces gone, left the puzzle undone.
Is that the way it is?
My anger is slowly being replaced by sorrow as I watch them talking and friendly on the dance floor. This is a man that I know wants my woman, and right now, he has his hands on her—and I can’t do anything about it.
You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring you down… oh no
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring you down, oh, no
So don’t you bring me down today…
I used to like this song. Now, I’ll never listen to it again.
It seems like it takes forever for the song to end. I hurriedly make my way to the dance floor, and to Butterfly.
“Do you mind if I dance with my girlfriend?” I say to the fucker, trying hard to hold back my ire.
“Sure. Be my guest,” he says with a smirk as he kisses Butterfly’s hand and backs away. I take Butterfly in my arms but she puts some distance between us.
“You know that I didn’t kiss her,” is the first thing that I say. She looks up at me, a chill in her eye. I can tell that she has been drinking and her anger may even be multiplied by the alcohol. I try again. “You know that I didn’t kiss her,” I repeat. Her gaze softens fractionally.
“I know that you didn’t kiss her voluntarily. I just don’t like the fact that Elena got her lips on you at all,” she confesses.
“Then why are you so pissed at me?” I ask.
“I’m not pissed at you. I’m just pissed that she touched my man!” she spit. There is silence for a moment and then she asked, “What took you so long to get back?”
“I was making a police report,” I respond. She twists her lips.
“Oh. Okay.” We danced the rest of the song in silence and when I went to kiss her, she turned her cheek to me. My stomach actually lurched when my lips hit her cheek. I look down and her and she doesn’t raise her eyes to me. I’ll never listen to Just My Imagination again, either.
After the New Year’s toast, the fireworks, three more attempts to get Butterfly to kiss me and finally a mechanical kiss at midnight, and sending Ray and Amanda off for four days in the Poconos, I sit at the bar nursing another double of bourbon. Most of the people who were only related to Ray or Amanda are leaving now, and the Brian fucker decides to come over to let me know that he is leaving—after he conspicuously kisses my girl on the cheek. I’ll put him at about the same age as Amanda, maybe just a couple of years older—definitely nowhere near Ray’s age.
“It was quite the party, Christian. I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” he says.
“I’m sure you did,” I respond. No use in pleasantries. I know that you want my woman and I don’t like you. The only reason why I’m not ringing your neck or I haven’t bounced you out on your ass is because I know that she would be pissed… or even more pissed, I should say.
“I see. In that case, I just want you to know that if you fuck up, I’ll be right there to pick up the pieces and I won’t let her get a away this time.” I look up at him and he matches my glare.
“From what I can tell, you had your shot before I came along and she apparently didn’t want you.” I take another swallow of my drink.
“Well, we don’t know that because I didn’t try. She was getting over that psycho fucker who ended up kidnapping her… on your watch… but that’s another story. Nonetheless, I wanted to give her room to get over him and the minute that she did, you were there. I took my time, moved too slow, I admit it—but I won’t let it happen again. When I get my chance, I will have her and I won’t let her go.” I want to deck this fucker. What makes him think that he can say this shit to me where I live? I stand up and face him.
“You won’t get the chance because I don’t intend to let her go either, Mr. Colostomy.” Okay, I think I need to stop drinking. The alcohol is getting to me. He laughs.
“That’s very original. Did you think of that all by yourself? Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? That’s so juvenile, but that’s okay. Just lets me know about where you stand right now. Don’t slip, Grey… on second thought, please slip. I’ll be watching. Have a good night.” With that he was gone. There was no use in telling him that the alcohol made me fuck up his name. Colostomy was not a shot at him. It was just the murmurings of a slightly inebriated man. It didn’t matter, though. Both situations are equally humiliating. I’ll get the last laugh when Butterfly and I are married… if we get married…
Hell, she doesn’t even want to kiss me right now.
“She’s clearly not happy to be here. Why did she come?” I ask Mandy after we have gotten her calm and sitting down, wrapped in Daddy’s arms.
“It’s this sadistic thing with her my mother. It’s been that way ever since I could remember. It was like emotional torment was a game to them. Now she just came to rub in my face that her dress was prettier than mine, her husband is younger than mine, she’s got more money than me… you name it. She’s just a wicked bitch!”
I keep the conversation going while I am watching the door, waiting for Christian. Several minutes go by and still no Christian. Hamilton has come back a long time ago stating that she had escorted Lexia out of the building but Christian was still in the lobby.
“I better go see what’s keeping my boyfriend. I’ll be right back.” I walk out of the club and across the marble floors towards the front desk. Just as I am nearing the front, I hear Christian’s raised voice. Oh good Lord, what happened now? I step around the wall that leads to the front desk and he is pointing behind him and simultaneously reaching in his inside pocket. I look in the direction that he’s pointing… and it’s her! The stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell! She’s coming from the men’s room of all places, wearing a man’s suit, smoothing her hair and her clothes, smiling and cleaning her smudged lipstick.
The men’s room? What the hell was she doing in the men’s room. At that moment, Christian—my boyfriend—turns around and his face is smudged with blood red lipstick. Fuck! They kissed! They fucking kissed! I don’t know how long I stood there stunned before I ducked back around the corner. I let the wall hold me up for a while.
He was wearing her lipstick.
You know that he didn’t kiss her.
I know what I saw! I saw the lipstick!
There’s no way in hell he would voluntarily kiss that woman and you know it!
I can’t listen to logic right now. My heart is in my throat and my father’s wedding is going on right now. What’s more is that he didn’t even come after me. I have to put him—this—out of my mind right now. I have to go and host my father’s wedding. I put on my happy face and go back to the party. I discovered that the happy face is much easier to maintain after a couple of margaritas and a shot of Patron.
I am dancing my troubles away with everyone who will dance with me. Gary has been my dance partner of old but I could monopolize all of his time since he’s with Marilyn now. So the guys all passed me around and we had a really great time. Once the slow music started playing, everyone went back to their dates and I was left with my thoughts. The DJ is playing Beautiful by Christina Aguilera and as soon as the tune begins, there is a hand in front of me. It’s not Christian’s.
“May I?” Brian asks. I shrug. Why not? He leads me to the dance floor and we start to dance.
“You look down. Are you okay?” Do I tell him that I’m pissed with Christian?
“Yes. It’s been a very emotional day,” I respond.
“So… Grey, huh?” I look up at him and I can’t read the look in his eyes. Then again, my instincts are a bit alcohol-blurred right now.
“Yep, Grey,” I respond.
“How did that happen?” he asks. “Is that why he was doing a background check on you?”
“I don’t think so,” I say.
“You never asked?”
“Well, yeah, I did ask, but since I had background information on him, too, we started fighting and then… we kissed.” I remember Christian using that as a shot against him earlier. I didn’t mean to bring it up again.
“Yeah, I heard,” Brian said, flatly. “So that’s how it began?”
“No… not really. We had another fight after that and then he crashed my date… well, it wasn’t really a date. I was trying to let an asshole down easy and that didn’t work out well. Then Christian showed up and sent over this really expensive bottle of wine and I was too tipsy to drive and… do you really want to hear this?”
“I guess I do. I want to know where I messed up,” he laments.
“How Grey was able to win you and I wasn’t,” he clarifies.
“Brian…” I don’t want to hurt him. He’s such a good guy, but there’s so much history there. “You’re Daddy’s friend.”
“But I’m not as old as your father. I’m nowhere near as old as your father.”
“I know that, but…” I sigh. “You know that Daddy wouldn’t like it.”
“Why not? He fell in love with a woman 13 years his junior. There’s not even that many years between you and me.” You can’t argue with that logic. I won’t tell him that I thought the same thing when Daddy introduced me to Mandy.
“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it, and anyway, it’s a mute point now…”
“Is it?” Geez, I forgot I’m dealing with Brian here. I used to call him Special Forces Brian years ago. He can read anyone like a book. I gaze into his eyes. I don’t dare answer that question right now.
“Do you mind if I dance with my girlfriend?” I am snapped out of my thoughts by Christian’s voice. Oh, he’s finally decided to join us, has he?
“Sure. Be my guest,” Brian says. He leans down and pulls my hand to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on my knuckles and giving me a look that says he knows that something is going on. Christian puts his arms around me, but I immediately see Elena in his arms and take a step away from him.
“You know that I didn’t kiss her.”
Then why did it take you so damn long to tell me that? Why didn’t you come around the corner and say, “Butterfly, I didn’t kiss her?”
“You know that I didn’t kiss her,” he says again after I don’t respond.
You know that he didn’t kiss her.
I know that he didn’t kiss her, but I saw her lipstick on his lips—lips that I kiss. I can’t get that damn picture out of my head. I look up at him.
“I know that you didn’t kiss her voluntarily. I just don’t like the fact that Elena got her lips on you at all.” There. I said it. The stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell had her lips where only my lips are supposed to be, and the thought makes me physically ill!
“Then why are you so pissed at me?” He questions.
“I’m not pissed at you. I’m just pissed that she touched my man!” My man, the bitch touched my man… kissed my man… and then had the nerve to smile at me as she was leaving… and you didn’t come after me! “What took you so long to get back?”
“I was making a police report.” That kept you from taking one minute to come to me to tell me that you didn’t kiss that bitch? The police weren’t even here yet!
“Oh. Okay.” Fine. The thoughts are crashing through my head and mixing with the margaritas and Patron as I’m trying to make sense of all of this. If I hadn’t seen the lipstick, would he have bothered to tell me that she kissed him? Why didn’t he come after me? Was he ashamed? Guilty? Afraid? Her lipstick was all over his mouth. Did she put her tongue in his mouth? Oh, I think I’m going to vomit.
The song is over and Christian leans in to kiss me. Oh, God. If he kisses me, I’m going to vomit for sure. I can still see her lipstick on his lips. I turn my cheek to him and he freezes. Oh shit, wrong move, Steele. I can’t even look at him. He drops his arms and walks off the dance floor, completely dejected. I feel the tears coming and I dash to the restroom before they get a chance to fall.
Nice move, Butterfly!
What was I supposed to do? Let him kiss me and vomit in his mouth?
I don’t know what you were supposed to do, but you sure could have handled it better than that!
Oh, give me a fucking break. I’m doing the best that I can here. That bitch kissed him. I can’t get that out of my head.
Yeah, I know…
You know? Then why the hell are you beating me down about this?
Because I know that we’ll be miserable without him and I don’t want to admit that it grosses me out too.
And there you have it. I officially don’t know what to do.
I get back to the party and Christian has slipped back into the role of host. He is laughing and talking to people, but only I know that smile is not reaching his eyes. I can’t avoid him. The whole party will know something is wrong and Eagle Eye Brian is watching our every move. No doubt, he has analyzed that dance and is plotting his attack as we speak. I walk in and stand next to him. This I can manage.
Then he pulls me close to him.
“Better now?” he asks quietly. I nod noticing that people are looking at us. He smiles and tries to kiss me again. I instinctively turn my cheek to him again and he kisses it like that’s what we meant to do.
“Not better now,” he says in my ear and pulls his face away from mine. He holds me for a few moments longer and then announces “Does anyone want anything from the bar?”
“Another beer for me, thanks,” Daddy says.
“You got it, Ray. Anyone else?” When everyone else declines, Christian smiles at me and releases me then goes off to the bar. Good. I can sit down.
“Ana, what’s going on?” Val sits down next to me. I frown at her.
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve been friends for years, Ana. I know your release dancing when I see it. What’s up?” I sigh.
“It’s all the emotion that goes along with this damn wedding,” I lie. “I think I’ll be glad when they are off on their honeymoon.”
“Are you sure that’s all?” she presses, and I nod. Hey, I’m still in my stilettos. I haven’t completely lost my mind. “Well, what are you going to do when Maxie’s wedding comes? Hell, you’re in that one.” I laugh insincerely.
“Maxie is not marrying my dad,” I begin, “and I can only hope that she doesn’t have a psycho sister that comes and tries to ruin the wedding.” I drop my head on the table and Val starts to rub my back. A few moments later, I hear his voice again.
“Are you okay?” I look up and Christian is squatting next to me. I don’t know what to tell him.
“I’ll be fine. Too much party, I think,” I lie again.
“Do you want to go upstairs?”
“Not before Dad and Mandy leave.”
“Okay.” He leans in to kiss me again and I freeze. He must have felt it because he just kissed me on the cheek and walked away.
“What was that about?” Val asks. Oh shit.
“You didn’t see it? Christian was coming one way and your dad’s best man was coming another way and they had a standoff for a moment.” Oh, God, tell me that didn’t just happen. This night is quickly going to hell. Where is midnight when you need it?
“Christian is pissing and Brian is trying to get in,” I answer honestly. I’m too damn tired to lie anymore.
“Oh, God. Does your dad know?”
“Nope, Dad is blissfully clueless” I say, sitting up in my chair.
“Well, don’t look now, but Pisser is on his way back.” Great.
“If you’re feeling up to it, I’d like for us to announce the honeymoon destination,” he says softly.
“Okay.” I take his hand and he helps me out of my seat. We quickly stand and announce that we are sending Daddy and Mandy on a four-day trip to a resort in the Pocono Mountains. My dad has always wanted to go and I thought this would be perfect. They could stay in and cuddle, go out and see the sights, go shopping, be tourists, and they are right outside of New York if they decide that they want to go there.
Of course, Christian goes to kiss me again, and I’m still not ready. I guess I never noticed how much we just kissed on a regular basis until I counted four attempts in the last hour. This time, he couldn’t hide the disappointment in his eyes from me, even though he hid it from everyone else.
At fifteen to midnight, we take our coats, glasses of champagne, and the little ice bucket timers that I got from Things Remembered and took the elevators up to the roof. We all set our timers and put them on the ground and at midnight, the roof was singing to the sound of thirty-four timers ringing in the New Year. We were all screaming “Happy New Year” and drinking our champagne.
And then there’s the kiss.
He looks down at me and I lift my lips to him—no pucker, no tongue, just lips in this kiss. He pulls back from me with sad, glassy, white-gray eyes.
“Happy New Year,” he says, his voice laced with despair.
“Happy New Year,” I whisper, and I know that he’s hurting now. He tolerated it all night, but now, at this moment, he’s hurting. He breaks his gaze from mine and watches the fireworks show from the Space Needle. It’s truly spectacular, but my heart is heavy. I feel like shit for how I’ve made Christian feel tonight, but I still don’t know what to do.
When we get back down to the party, we all warm up with spiced apple cider. Christian has disappeared again, and I think that it might be best to leave him be. It’s getting close to time for Dad and Mandy to leave when the DJ announces, “The groom has asked to have a dance with his girl.”
I think that’s very sweet—one more dance with his wife before they are off on their trip. He starts to play My Girl by The Temptations and I am immediately whisked down memory lane to all of the times Daddy and I danced to this song. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look around and it’s my Daddy holding his hand out to me.
“I want to dance with my girl,” he says softly. My heart just melts. I launch myself into Daddy’s arms and weep as he spins me to the dance floor.
“I love you, Daddy,” I sob into his neck.
“I love you, too, Annie-Babe,” he says as he guides me along the floor. By the time he is done spinning and dipping me to our song, I feel a lot better and a little energized… until I see Christian standing off to the side with a sad smile, watching me dance with my father.
“He loves you, too, Annie. Don’t make him wait too long, okay?” What? Did Christian tell Daddy that I won’t kiss him? “You should tell him how you feel, that you’re ready to get married. He loves you very much.” I smile a relieved smile.
“Thank you, Daddy. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine, okay? You’ve got a new wife to take care of now and a baby on the way, and since you are closer, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me, now.”
“That’s sounds wonderful,” he says kissing me on the cheek. When the song ends, he kisses me again and goes over to Mandy.
“Thank you all for sharing our day with us. We will never forget it!” Mandy says as they wave and leave for their honeymoon. I start to say goodbye to our guests since it is after midnight and the bride and groom have left.
“So, he’s left you alone again, has he?” Damn it!
“You’re very perceptive. Have you been this perceptive all night?” I say, turning around to face Brian.
“Yes, I have,” he says with no mirth. “I could tell that you wanted to kill Lexia long before Mandy blew up at her. I could tell you were in terrible pain about something during the first dance although I didn’t know what. I could tell that something happened around 10:30 after the Sister from Hell was escorted out of here, that Grey was gone for about thirty minutes and that when he came back you were quite frosty to him and haven’t kissed him since. Even that little display on the roof didn’t fool me.” Damn, he is perceptive. “In fact…” he closes the space in between us, “… I’ve been perceptive ever since that last asshole broke your heart, and I’m going to be perceptive of this one, too.”
“He’s not an asshole, Brian,” I say softly.
“No? Then where is he?” I couldn’t answer that question.
“I love him… very much,” I say, not making eye-contact with Brian. I’m weak and emotionally fragile right now and I don’t want anything getting in the way of my judgment.
“I know you do, that’s why I’m not pressing you. I know that, more than anything, you are loyal even if someone doesn’t deserve your loyalty. I’m just saying that I slept this time and I missed my chance. I won’t do it again. If he hurts you, I’m going to step in and I’m going to be the Colonel Brandon to your Marianne Dashwood and chase all of the bad memories away.” Oh my God! Did he just make a reference to Sense and Sensibility? That was romantic as hell! Christian… Christian… Christian…
Brian bends down and kisses me softly and chastely on the cheek. “Until next time, Ana,” and he’s gone like a wind.
What the hell was that all about? I don’t even like Brian that way!
It’s the alcohol, Honey.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
It’s time to go upstairs.
You said a mouthful! Me and alcohol and public—without a chaperone—is definitely not a good mix!
A/N: So the only thing here that may need explaining is the Sense and Sensibility reference. Young Marianne Dashwood and the handsome John Willoughby fall in love. Just as he is about to propose to her (we think) he runs away to London with no explanation. All this time, Colonel Brandon – very well off and much older – is quite taken with Marianne but can only admire her from afar. Marianne and her sister later go to London with a family friend and Marianne sends several messages to John, which are ignored. She finally sees him at a party and is shunned by him as he appears to be there with a date. She leaves dejected and the next day receives a letter that he basically doesn’t want to see her again and that he is engaged. She falls into a deep depression and Colonel Brandon offers to escort her and her sister back home, as London holds no charm for them anymore. It should be noted that in another plot line, her sister is also suffering from a broken heart. Anyway, Brandon escorts Marianne and her sister back home, but they stop along the way to spend some time at the home of another woman who had been in London as well. The woman never stops talking for the whole ride and during the chatter, informs Marianne that Willoughby’s house can be seen from the top of their hill. Keep in mind that these are the rolling hills of late 18th-century England, so the top of the hill could have been two miles away. When no one was looking, Marianne takes off for the hill to stand nostalgically watching Willoughby’s house in the rain for God only knows how long. Colonel Brandon brings her back and she falls deathly ill. (This is the television version. In the book, she just falls ill because she is grieving and neglecting her health). As she gets well, Brandon is by her side the entire time, helping to nurse her and being her companion. She eventually falls in love with him and they get married, with Willoughby brokenhearted and watching from the shadows as he is still in love with Marianne. Not necessarily useless information, but hell, I just wanted to tell that little tale. You should read the book; it’s a classic and very good! 😉
If you are reading over here and on Fanfiction, I would prefer that you leave comments here from now on as I will be removing my work from Fanfiction.
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman
Smokey Robinson – Ooo Baby Baby
Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn – If This World Were Mine
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
The Temptations – Just My Imagination
The Temptations – My Girl
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Love and Handcuffs!