A BIT OF A SPOILER ALERT–As I was editing this chapter (which turned out to be a bitch because my formatting is fucked up, which I’m sure you’ll be able to see) I had to laugh to myself because I just typed a response to “Why is CG always made out to be the bad guy. Then there is an entire section in the chapter about it that I had completely forgotten about until I came back to edit this chapter. Truly ROTFLMAO!
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 fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 52—Blood and Water
My initial fitting went as well as can be expected. Three very temperamental designers had to sit and listen to my vision and then hear where each of their designs came into play. I realize that a creation is one’s baby and no one wants to see their baby desecrated, but I know that what I want can be done with a few simple alterations and a whole lot of compromise. I let them hash it out for a while, arguing about how a certain stitch defines their design and that the lace that worked with one dress will be completely wrong for another and on and on and on…
“Gentlemen,” I finally break in with my soft voice. “Please, if none of you want to destroy your designs with the ideas of another, I completely understand. I’ll just have to find someone else that can do it for me. It will be nothing like the originals, but I understand how each of you must feel about compromising on your idea of perfection.”
“No, no, Miss!” Neal pipes in. He’s the least well-known of the three. “I am sure that we can come to a… compromise on what you want.”
“I certainly hope so. I mean, I really didn’t think it would be so hard to take one person’s lace, overlay it on another person’s design and pull it all together with the third person’s sash. I mean, isn’t that all we’re really doing here, or will my idea truly destroy your designs? I really don’t want to do that and I’ll be more than happy to rethink the idea before I dare insult any of you brilliant gentlemen.” My voice is dripping with sincerity and contrition. “Maybe I was being a bit too ambitious in my vision…”
“Absolutely not, Ms. Steele!” Demetrio exclaims. “Your vision is exquisite. We just have to… confer to see what is the best way to bring it to life for your big day. I can assure you, we will have you the envy of brides across the world! Won’t be, boys?”
“Oh yes! Yes! Your vision is breathtaking, Ma’am!” Jesse chimes in. Of the three, he would be number two and Demetrio is the most well-known. “You will forgive our bickering. This is simply how designers… work things out, yes?” He nods to the others for back-up.
“Oh yes, yes, Miss. We will have many more spats before your gorgeous creation is complete, but don’t you worry. It will be exactly to your specifications.” I jump up and down and clap my hands like a foolish schoolgirl.
“Oh, good!” I gush. “I was so worried that I would have to go with that Vera Wang dress after all.” That did it. Tammy covers her mouth to hide her smirk as these three animated men spring to life grabbing tape-measure, muslin, chalk, and straight-pins.
“Oh, that will never do!” Demetrio declares. “This frame is way too petite and delicate for a Vera Wang. Though she has splendid creations, you are more of a one of a kind lady—a beautiful doll that deserves to be revealed on her wedding day rather than showcasing a wedding dress, yes?” That is exactly what I thought when I saw Wang’s dresses. They are outstanding, but I felt more like I would be modeling the dress on my day than wearing a beautiful dress that complimented me and made me feel beautiful.
“I think you understand now,” I say, my voice cracking just a bit. The men fall silent and Neal takes my hand.
“Yes, Miss. We understand. We can do it, can’t we, Boys?” He turns to the others and they both nod, agreeing with him with enthusiasm. Crisis averted.
Al, Tammy, and I spend the rest of the afternoon picking up the bridesmaid’s gifts and something for Mandy and Grace. I couldn’t get Al’s gift while he was with me so it will just have to wait. I suddenly feel a but melancholy because most of these things are things that a girl would do with her mother. I guess I will have to divert to Mandy’s knowledge when it’s time for me to have my baby.
That night, I write in my Carla Journal for hours. It doesn’t make me feel any better.
The week was pretty uneventful. We went to the Reverend on Monday and told him about the prenuptial agreement and that we had come to a compromise when it came down to corporeal punishment. He noted my obvious discomfort when talking about the prenup and he wanted to delve, but I refused. I told him that I wasn’t convinced that we needed the prenup and that it made me uncomfortable, but that Christian told me to trust him and I do, so that’s that. He still insisted that we talk about it some more so that there would be no ill feelings. I told him that we will approach the topic again when it’s time to sign the agreement, but not before and only to the degree that there needed to be discussion.
Christian was concerned that I was harboring some ill feelings when we left counseling on Monday. I admitted to him that I still don’t understand the need for us to sign an agreement concerning who gets what when we split. It feels like a bad omen to me and I don’t like thinking about, so I won’t. We have told the good reverend all that he needs to know and the only other time that we need to discuss it is when we sign it. If the need ever comes up again after that, it means that we are splitting up and my life will be over anyway, so the money won’t mean a damn thing to me either way at that point.
He made love to me all night.
I took my journal to Ace on Friday and admitted to him that it wasn’t working. He helped me come to the decision that it was time to confront my mother. I wouldn’t want to see her too close to my wedding and he agrees that it’s time to have it out once and for all without the animosity. I have never really heard her side of why she is the way that she is, not that it would matter, but I do need some closure. I tell him that I will call her and arrange to bring her to Seattle as there is no way in hell that I’m going to Green Valley, speaking of which…
She was cleared of any wrongdoing in terms of tampering with evidence or hindering an investigation, mainly because her two accomplices are dead and there is no one to accuse her. So with the lack of evidence, she’s in the clear. The damage is pretty much done now, though. The media don’t really believe a thing that she’s says now that there is proof that she and Stephen took money from Whitshit. You can’t really explain away taking several hundred thousand dollars from the father of the man currently in jail for beating your teenage daughter damn near to death, now can you?
Saturday turns out to be a great day. Christian said he was going with Dad to watch some game until I reminded him that we were doing the final menu tasting at Thornewood. He seemed so disappointed, so I suggested that Dad and Mandy come with us. Dad was surprisingly excited to join us and Mandy was equally as enthusiastic. Normally, you have to provide your own caterer to come to Thornewood. However, Tammy worked with the innkeeper to have all of that sorted for us and all we had to do was choose the menu. Christian has one Audi SUV custom fit with middle-row backward facing seats for just such an occasion. The long ride gave me and Mandy plenty of time to talk about her baby shower in three weeks while Dad and Christian bonded over sports without either of us having to talk over our shoulder.
“Daddy,” I say with trepidation, “I’m inviting Carla to Seattle in a couple of weeks.”
The SUV falls silent. Even Chuck and Ben go quiet in the front seat.
“What brought this on?” Daddy asks, a little chilly. I clear my throat.
“I realize that I need closure on a few things before I can move on with my life,” I tell him. I hold my head down. “It hurt so much that she wasn’t there for me when I needed her the most. You know that I always loved Mom. I just want to know what happened to her.”
“You haven’t called her ‘Mom’ for years,” he says bemused.
“I’m not calling her ‘Mom’ now, either,” I tell him. “I said that I always loved Mom. I want to ask Carla what happened to her.” He examines me for a moment.
“I’ve asked that question many times myself, Sunflower,” he says finally, before taking Mandy’s hand. “I didn’t need the answer to move on with my life, but I can see why you would.” I choke back tears that I don’t want to cry. “Hey, Sunflower, don’t cry. This is supposed to be a happy time. You’re planning your wedding.” I nod feverishly, but lose the fight to hold back my tears.
“Other girls pick out their dresses with their moms and talk about special things like the wedding night,” I sob. “Why did she have to turn out to be such a bitch?” Christian cuddles me in his arms as much as the individual seats will allow him and everyone is silent again for a few moments.
“I didn’t have my mom,” Mandy says softly. I raise my head and look at her. She’s right. She didn’t have her mom. She didn’t even have her bitchy sister. “We do the best we can with what we have. I didn’t have my mom, but I have a wonderful husband, a baby on the way… and I had you.” She smiles warmly at me. “Remember when you put that decorator in her place—the one who insisted that I needed dead trees in my wedding?” she laughs and I burst into laughter through my tears.
“She… still threw a… few branches in, you know,” I say, sniffling.
“I know. I didn’t miss it. It was beautiful anyway, and I have you to thank for that. So I had you, Ana… and you have me.” Okay, now I’m a bawling mess. I cover my face, weeping while Mandy squeezes my knee.
“Will you… please… come with me… to my… next… dress fitting?” I blubber out through my tears.
“I’d be honored,” I hear her say and I nod, my face still covered.
“Thank you,” I blubber. I feel Christian shove his handkerchief into my hand and I use it to clean up as much as I can before removing my hands.
“There, there, now, Annie. No more tears. You don’t want to go to your tasting with puffy eyes, do you?” Daddy comforts me. I sniff and try to clean my face and stop crying.
“Uuugh!” Mandy groans an exhausted sounding groan. “I’m carrying a football player!” she says, rubbing her stomach.
“Does the baby move a lot?” I ask, forgetting my prior sadness.
“Oh, God, yes. I think it’s getting to be cramped quarters in there,” she says. “It moves almost all night long and I don’t get any sleep lately. I have to nap during the day whenever I get a chance.”
“He or she is preparing you for their arrival,” I say. “You won’t get much sleep, then either.”
“Oh, I know, but I’m looking forward to it…” and just like that, my sadness is forgotten.
We get to Thornewood and Snuffin’s Catering has set up a tasting for us in the great hall. The food is magnificent! We had the hardest time choosing what dishes were best, but we finally decided on a variety so that people could choose what they want–marinated flank steak, grilled on site, carved & topped with warm parmesan-basil butter sauce; breast of chicken Marsala with mushrooms & artichoke hearts; sesame ginger northwest king salmon filets; caprese salad on a bamboo skewer; rice pilaf with toasted almonds; orange ginger glazed Julienne carrots; bow tie pasta with smoked chicken & sautéed mushrooms in a delicious pesto cream sauce; sautéed green beans almondine; sliced fresh, seasonal melons, Hawaiian pineapple, red flame grapes and red, ripe strawberries; romaine & iceberg lettuce salad with scallions, sliced cucumbers, black olives and creamy Italian dressing; and an array of domestic & imported cheeses served with baguettesand crackers , french scissor rolls, multigrain rolls and diamond rolls and whipped sweet butter. We have truly covered something for every taste.
Once we had tasted just about every delicious thing on the menu, Thornewood treated us to an exquisite bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate finalizing our wedding plans. Besides making sure everyone is sober and present on the wedding day, we only have little things left to do for our big day. Christian and I are going home and plan our honeymoon and get a good night’s sleep before joining the Greys for brunch tomorrow.
We walk into Escala to a big box on the breakfast bar. Christian always approaches boxes with caution. He calls Jason’s cell before coming completely into the apartment and once Jason assures him that the contents are safe, he opens the box and removes a bottle of wine—a stylish black bottle corked under a red wax seal.
“He found 12 bottles,” he says with wonder. “I can’t believe he found 12 bottles.”
“Twelve bottles of what, Christian?” I ask. He turns the bottle around so that I can see the white label with an eagle spread full winged. Screaming Eagle, the bottle says. Should this mean something to me? I look at Christian and shrug.
“Liquid silk?” he reminds me. “Better than Canlis?” I gasp loudly.
“You mean that delicious creation from Napa Valley that tasted like grapes crushed by angels?” I say breathy. He laughs heartily at my expression.
“Yes, that would be it,” he chuckles.
“Oh please, let’s open a bottle while we decide where we are going on our honeymoon,” I ask with my hands clasped like I am praying. His smile widens.
“By all means,” he says, going to retrieve wine glasses.
The bottle is nearly empty and I am quite giggly by the time we put our five remaining choices in a paper bag and shake it up.
“My Butterfly, reach in and tell me where I am taking you for our first days as man and wife.” I get all giggly again and reach into the bag to pull out our location. I would have loved going anywhere with Christian, but I am bubbling over with excitement at the final random choice.
“Athens, Greece,” I say with a huge smile.
“Mmmm,” Christian purrs. “Romance on the Greek Islands.” He sips his Cabernet. “Maybe we’ll conceive our first child there.” His voice is so full of lust that I feel my skin flush from head to toe.
“Maybe,” I say softly, gazing at him on the other side of the sofa while shakily finishing my wine and placing my glass on the coffee table, trying to calm my horny nerves. It’s of no use. It’s like he can smell it. I might as well have a marching band burst through the door and a banner pop out of my head that read, “She’s gotta have it!” He slides seductively over the sofa to my side.
“I secretly wished you would pick Athens. I so want to show you the Parthenon…” he places a gentle kiss on my lips, “amongst other things.”
“You do?” I ask, breathy, tilting my head slightly to give him better access to my mouth. Oh, he tastes so good.
“Mm-hmm,” he says, kissing the corner of my mouth. “The Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill, Zeus Temple…” He continues naming places as his lips gently travel across my cheek, back to my ear and down my neck. I close my eyes, luxuriating in his soft, seductive kisses. I slowly reach up and caress his hair willing him not to stop. The wine has me a little tipsy and a lot in the mood.
“Tell me more,” I whisper, throwing my head back and exposing myself to him completely. He closes his mouth over my throat, licking and sucking gently and eliciting a small moan from me.
“Troy, Delphi, Sparta…” Each location results in another kiss as he lays me down on the sofa and begins to travel down my chest to the valley between my breast. His hand moves to the hem of my skirt, pushing it up slowly.
“I’ve always wanted to see Troy,” I breathe, almost unable to control my passion any further.
“Now, you’ll get your chance,” he says as he simultaneously finds my wet spot and thrusts his fingers inside while biting my aching nipple through my blouse.
It’s a beautiful May Sunday in Seattle as we speed down I-90 in Christian’s RS7. The top is down and I am wearing a scarf and my signature Jackie-O glasses like a 50’s fashion queen while the wind whips Christian’s hair wildly, making him look as sexy as ever in his Aviator glasses. He’s wearing a linen shirt and casual tan slacks and I complete my retro look with a white above-the-knee tea dress covered in butterflies and a pair of black suede Love 100 embellished Louboutin towering heels pumps. Security is following us in one of the Audi SUVs.
“Christian, so many?” Carrick asks when we arrive at their Bellevue estate. “Is someone after you, Son?” Christian looks back at the SUV.
“No, Dad. Lawrence is one of my personal security and Davenport is Ana’s. Jason is just doing more ride-alongs so that he’s not completely rusty when he comes back to work,” Christian clarifies.
“Oh,” Carrick nods. “Will that be soon?”
“He’s looking to be released from therapy at the end of this month, beginning of next month at the latest.”
“Well, good. I’m sure you’ll be happy to have things back to normal,” Carrick says with a smile leading us into the house. “Elliot and Valerie are already here.” Christian frowns.
“Elliot’s early? He’s never early.” Carrick shrugs.
“He says that he has something to share, but he wants to wait until the entire family is here.”
Oh, wow. Did he propose to Valerie? I wouldn’t be surprised. With all the wedding stuff going on and that spiteful bitch showing up trying to ruin everything, he might have been bitten by the “settle down” bug. Of course, if they had gotten engaged, Valerie would have told me. Then again, maybe not. I’ve been kind of standoffish with details about my relationship. Why would she want to confide in me right now?
I make a bee-line for her the moment we enter the house.
“Is everything okay?” I ask, looking inconspicuously at her left hand and seeing no ring there.
“Everything’s fine. Why do you ask?” she frowns.
“Carrick says Elliot wants to share something with the family. I thought maybe… you’re not pregnant, are you?” Valerie laughs.
“No, Steele, I’m not pregnant, and stop pumping me for information. You’ll have to wait until Mia and Ethan gets here.” She smiles. I elbow her in the side.
“Oh, you’re no fun,” I tease before we chuckle together.
“Ana, you look darling!” Grace says coming from the kitchen with a coffee service.
“Thank you, Grace,” I reply, hugging her after she sets the tray on the coffee table. “Did the table deliveries ever show up? I swear someone needs to be fired if they didn’t…”
“Yes, they did and they were correct and no work today. I just want to spend time with my family today,” she replies with a smile. She and I serve the coffee as Mia and Ethan make a muted entrance.
“We’re here,” Mia says, her voice somber. The room falls silent and Grace moves quickly to her daughter.
“Oh, good,” Grace says. “Hello, Sweetheart,” she says, giving Mia a tight hug.
“Hi, Mom,” Mia says, returning her mother’s embrace. She releases Mia and moves to Ethan.
“Hello, Ethan,” she says, hugging him as well. “Did you bring your appetite?”
“Yes Ma’am,” he says, stiffly returning her hug. “Thank you, I’m quite hungry.”
“Good, good, well come in, you two,” she says, gesturing them to the great room. Christian releases my hand and stands.
“Hey, Ethan, how are you?” Christian extends his hand to Ethan, who acts a bit stunned at the gesture.
“Hi, Christian. I’m fine,” he replies, accepting Christian’s hand and shaking firmly.
“Did everything work out okay? With your transaction?” he asks Ethan. He sounds genuinely concerned. Ethan frowns, then his face lightens.
“Oh. Yes, it went fine for the most part. We’ll talk more later,” he answers. Mia is looking from her brother to her fiancé, bemused. Christian doesn’t offer any information and neither does Ethan. “Meelo,” he says greeting his sister.
“Cwis,” she responds, still looking skeptical.
“Well, come in and sit down. I have something to tell you all,” Elliot says while rising from his seat.
“Yes, what is this secret that had to wait until everyone was here?” Grace asks, handing coffee to Carrick while Mia and Ethan take a seat. Elliot takes a breath.
“I got the results of the paternity test back yesterday.”
All movement stops. You can’t even hear anyone breathing.
“Well?” Carrick says impatiently after a long silence.
“I haven’t opened them yet,” he says. “I wanted my family around me while I opened them. That includes you, Ethan. You’re going to be marrying my baby sister, so like it or not, you’re part of this family.” Ethan’s lips form a tight line and it’s clear to see that he’s fighting back a smile. I don’t think he knows whose side to be on right now. I can honestly say that I’m glad I’m not him.
“Well, don’t make us wait any longer, Elliot. Open the letter,” Grace insists. Elliot nods and turns to Valerie, who rises and stands next to him. He takes the official-looking envelope out of his pocket and rips it open.
“Date, paternity analysis, biological mother, come on come on come on!” He skims nervously through the jargon and mumbo-jumbo while we all wait anxiously for the test results. Finally, he reads aloud:
“Based on the results from the 15 genetic systems (loci) shown below, Elliot Trevelyan Grey is excluded from being the biological father of Kevin William Kavanaugh because they only share alleles at 6 of the 15 loci analyzed. A CPI greater than 100, representing a Probability of Paternity greater than 99%, is required in order to not exclude the alleged father from being the biological father. The CPI is approximately 0 for this case, resulting in an approximate 0.0% Probability of Paternity for this case.”
We are all quiet for a moment, waiting for Elliot’s reaction. He turns to Valerie and envelops her in the tightest embrace I think I have ever seen. Christian reaches over and grabs my hand. I look over and smile at him.
“Well, what’s all the silence for?” Elliot says, releasing Valerie. “Let’s break out the champagne! I’m done with that bitch forever. No offense, Ethan. Sorry, Mom.”
Ethan says “None taken,” and Grace says “Don’t worry about it” at the same time. Now we really feel like celebrating.
“I’m sure I have some Bollinger or Moet that we can chill quickly,” Carrick says.
“No need, Cary. I have bottles chilling for Mimosas. We can use those,” Grace says happily.
“Breaking your ‘no drinking’ rule, Elliot?” Christian says playfully.
“Aw, hell, I forgot about that. No champagne for me, Dad,” Elliot says. Carrick’s face falls. Elliot is really serious about controlling his drinking. I have to say that I’m proud of him.
“Elliot,” Carrick says, “this is a special occasion. I’m sure one glass won’t hurt.” Elliot considers the offer.
“I’m driving, though, Dad,” Elliot protests. “You’ll be here for hours, Son. One glass of champagne will have worn off by then.” Elliot smiles at the gentle coaxing from his father.
“Okay, Dad,” he relents, “one glass.”
The room actually erupts in cheers as champagne is served. Once everyone has a glass, Elliot clears his throat to get our attention.
“I want to thank you all for standing by me during this trying time. I know that if Kevin had turned out to be mine, you would have shown him all of the love and affection that you have shown me. Hopefully, I and this beautiful woman,” he pulls Valerie close to him, “will make you two grandparents one day… but not yet, Mom.” He raises his glass and we all laugh again at his lightheartedness. “Valerie, thank you for staying by my side throughout this ordeal. I knew from the beginning that you were one of a kind. Now I’m sure of it… not that I needed further convincing.” She laughs softly. “I love you, Val.”
“I love you, too, El,” she says gazing lovingly into his eyes before they share a tender kiss.
“Okay, let’s eat! I’m starving,” Elliot announces.
“Here, here!” Carrick says as we move the celebration to the dining room for brunch.
We are all happily digging into a delicious brunch, talking about wedding plans and work and whatever comes up when Mia asks Ethan, “so what is this transaction you two were talking about? I was afraid to bring you around my family again and here you two have been chatting it up behind my back.” I take another bite of my delicious eggs Florentine and wait for them to answer the question.
“Well, I’ve collected my trust fund from my father and… I’ve cut him off.” The table falls silent again.
“Cut him off? What do you mean by ‘cut him off?’” Valerie asks.
“I mean that I don’t want anything else to do with him. I’ve watched him for years. I know the man that he is and I don’t want to be anything like him. I don’t even want his name.”
“You’re changing your name?” Elliot asks and Ethan nods. “Why?”
“I don’t want to be associated with him. At first, he was all for it. Now he’s asking me to reconsider.”
“You truly may want to reconsider, Ethan,” Carrick interjects. Ethan turns a questioning eye to him. “Hear me out, Son. You’ve made a name for yourself—your own name. No matter how much of that may have been due to the fact that you are a Kavanaugh, the fact that anyone in the financial world knows who Ethan Kavanaugh is has very little to do with William Kavanaugh or Kavanaugh Media. If you want to distance yourself from your father and his bad reputation, that’s fine, but don’t throw all of your hard work and goodwill away because he’s a philandering fool.” Carrick takes another sip of his mimosa after nodding once to Ethan.
“But how do I do that? Everybody who is anybody knows that I’m William Kavanaugh’s son, and with this crazy crap that Kate just pulled, ‘Kavanaugh’ will be synonymous with ‘trash.’ I don’t see that I have a choice.”
“Actually, you do,” Christian says. “You can continue being good at what you do and riding on your good name and not your father’s name. It’s no secret what your father gets up to, but no one blames Eliza for his indiscretions. They won’t blame you either. Katherine has her own cross to bear. That cross is not yours either. Changing your name is not going to prevent people from knowing who you are—or were. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot to get back at your dad and don’t be afraid to capitalize on being Ethan Kavanaugh. I say it’s the least you can get out of the ordeal you have been through being that man’s son.” Christian leans forward before continuing.
“I won’t tell you that being Ethan Kavanaugh is going to easy. You are still going to have to deal with some of the stigma of being William Kavanaugh’s son whether you change your name or not. It’s all in how you handle it. I don’t think you should change your name, Ethan. Distance yourself from your father, but calling yourself Ethan James or Ethan Mitchell or Ethan Whatever is not going to change who you are, and neither is calling yourself Ethan Kavanaugh.”
Ethan is clearly mulling the idea around a bit and Mia is looking at Christian like she doesn’t know who he is.
“No offense, Christian, but when did you become so pro-Ethan?” Mia asks quizzically.
“When was I ever anti-Ethan, Mia?” he answers sharply. She looks chastised.
“Well, you weren’t very warm the last time he was here. I just thought…”
“Yes, Mia, you thought, and you’ve hurt my feelings once with what you thought, so please, don’t make the mistake again.” He is curt with his words and Mia looks crestfallen. I actually feel a bit sorry for her.
“Christian!” Grace chides gently. He glances to his mother, then back to Mia. Everyone is silent for a moment and Mia looks like she might cry. Christian stands from the table and, without excusing himself, goes off in the direction of the great room. I sit there for a moment, absorbing the silence, before I excuse myself and take off behind him. When I get to the great room, he’s not there. I feel a little like the day he went off to be alone in the Tree-house and I couldn’t find him. I head towards the French doors thinking to head in that direction first when I hear the melancholy chords of a piano.
There he is.
I follow the music to his mother’s library and find him churning out a tune that sounds like it should be upbeat, but the undertones indicate that it’s something quite sad. The song turns out to be a bit short and by the time I join him at the piano, he is playing the last bars of it. When he finishes his tune, he rests his hands in his lap.
“Why am I always the bad guy?” he asks softly. I’m taken aback by the question.
“Christian, what do you mean by that?” I ask confused. He brushes his hands wildly over his face.
“Cops treat me like shit. When you were kidnapped, the first thing they wanted to know was if I had something to do with it. My car was rear-ended by a drunk driver and they treated me like shit. I go to Green Valley to support you while you gave your statement, and the DA treated me like shit. I was almost murdered in my own office, and they treated me like shit. I try to protect a boy from his psychotic father and they want to arrest me.”
“Christian, just because some cops are assholes doesn’t mean you’re the bad guy…”
“It’s not just them, Anastasia,” he cuts me off. Anastasia. This is serious. “Your friends have treated me like scum twice now without paying any attention to my side of the story. I’m made out to be the villain every time I buy a company or close down an unprofitable business. Kavanaugh has pens and claws out ready to stab me at a moment’s notice, and I’m not even the one who fucked his daughter. Even that Pedophile’s aunt has blamed me for her misfortune when this was all Elena’s doing to begin with.”
“Surely, you’re not using her as an example!” I exclaim.
“Don’t you see? She’s one of many! Any one of my ex-subs will tell you that I ruined their lives by not giving them what they wanted. My sister thinks I would batter her boyfriend because of something that his sister did, even you…”
Me?! I glare at him horrified. What did I do?
“You thought that I wanted to use corporeal punishment on our children as an extension of the lifestyle. I’m not using that against you, but Baby, it’s the first thing that you thought about me. That says more about me than it ever says about you.” He covers his face again. “And the prenup…” He doesn’t say anything else. I climb into his lap and force him to look at me—which is hard to do on a piano bench, by the way.
“Christian, you know why I felt that way. We talked about this. You can’t keep carrying that around with you. And the prenup, you told me to trust you, so I do. If I had anything to do with you feeling this way, please forgive me. You’re not the bad guy. You’re actually a very good guy. I’ve seen you help so many people since I’ve known you—our Adopt-A-Family, The Whiteheads, Luma and the girls. You have a very kind heart. It’s just that you are so intense and people don’t know how to take that sometimes. That doesn’t make you the bad guy.” He chuckles in a disbelieving tone.
“Tell that to Mia,” he says softly. He wraps his arms around me and holds me close, burying his face in my neck. I hold him there for a moment, gently stroking his hair while he takes several deep breaths. It’s not until I feel the moisture on my neck that I realize that he’s crying. I’m a little horrified.
“Christian, please… Don’t cry,” I say, cradling his head close to my breast.
“I’m fine,” he says, his voice a little shaky before he raises his head and fishes into his pocket for a handkerchief. He dries his eyes and wipes his nose before shoving the handkerchief back into his pocket. “Go on, I’ll be along in a minute.” I look at him curiously. “I just need a few moments.”
I rise from his lap and he is still holding my hand. He brings my hand to his lips and presses a gentle kiss to my fingers.
“I’ll be there in just a moment,” he says again. I look at him uncertain, then leave him in his mother’s library closing the door behind me. I hear the piano begin to play again. The chords are soft, slow, simple…
…and very painful.
I can’t place the song until I listen for a moment. Then, I realize that he’s playing Mad World. It’s a short song, so I listen for a while and he starts it again. I look at the door for a moment, then walk away and leave him with his thoughts.
My feet guide me back to the dining room with the rest of the family where I hear Mia defending herself and Ethan against the presumed attack she thought Ethan would get from Christian. Ethan tells her that he and Christian had spoken earlier last week and although they weren’t the best of friends, they had pretty much talked very civilly and discussed some very important matters. Mia continues to defend her suspicions and I just sip my mimosa. My spirit is back in the library with my fiancé who just sent me away so that he could be alone with his melancholy.
My mind drifts back to wine country. We were so into each other and none of this stuff even mattered. We weren’t worried about babies with questionable paternity or whether Ethan would be a Kavanaugh or a Johnson. We certainly weren’t concerned about who thought Christian was a bad guy. My mind always seems to drift back to wine country lately when I need to escape. My fiancé is a magnificent lover and he makes me feel so special. Even though the trip was my surprise, he made me feel like the most beautiful and special woman alive the entire weekend. I hope I’m never able to shake that feeling of love and closeness that we shared.
Suddenly, I want to go home. It’s not the running thing—it’s the wanting to be alone with Christian thing, wanting to show him how wonderful he is and how much he means to me, even though he feels like nothing right now. I can’t leave him like this. I have to go back to him.
“Ana, is Christian coming back?” Grace’s voice breaks into my thoughts and it takes me a moment to register her words. Is Christian coming back? I don’t answer her. I just stare at her for a moment, then at Mia before dropping my head. I don’t know what to say to any of them. I need to go back to Christian. He needs me.
Before anyone has a chance to ask, I walk quickly out of the dining room again and back to the library. He’s still there, still playing Mad World. I go inside and close the door behind me. I walk over to the piano seat and sit next to him again. He finishes the song, then drops his hands into his lap. I take his face in my hands and force him to look at me.
“You a good man,” I say softly. “You’re one of the best men that I know. Please, please, believe me.” I gaze into his eyes and pray that he feels what I’m saying. He envelops me in his arms again and I hold him close to me, cradling his head. “Please believe me,” I beg again.
“I’m trying,” he whispers. “It’s hard.”
“I know. You have to stop paying attention to the bad all the time, Baby. Try to focus on the good. You do so much good for so many people. Please try to remember that.”
“I will,” he breathes. “I was hoping that you would come back.”
“I couldn’t leave you alone. You needed me, and I need you.” I pull his head back and look in his eyes. “I want to go home.” He examines me, reserved.
“I wanted to announce that the Faces of Abuse PSA is being released on Friday,” he says sadly. I smile warmly at him.
“You just did,” I say before hugging him hard to me again. “Oh, Christian, I’m so proud of you.”
“You helped,” he says with a soft chuckle.
“You pulled it all together.” I release him and take his face in my hands. “You’re a good man.” He looks at me and nods.
“I’m a good man,” he repeats, lacking the conviction of his words, but trying nonetheless. I nod and kiss his lips. “My good man,” I say, leaning my forehead against his. “We’ll tell everyone tomorrow. Let’s go home.”
“I don’t want to leave without saying ‘goodbye.’” He drops his head. I don’t want him exposed to even a small bit of the conversation that I walked in on a moment ago.
“You go out to the SUV. I’ll say our goodbyes. Let one of the detail drive the convertible.” He looks at me, then nods. He’s taken all that he can take for one day. He walks out of the library and turns in the direction of the foyer instead of the dining room. When I hear the front door open and close, I go to the great room and gather our things before going to the dining room.
“I had every right to say what I said, Mom. I wasn’t trying to offend him, but the world does not revolve around Christian Grey!”
“Mia, no one is arguing with you, but you shouldn’t have said that to him. You really didn’t have a reason to say that,” Carrick says. “I’m sorry, Grace, but she didn’t.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy, but I won’t be afraid to defend Ethan….”
“Against what? Christian was only encouraging him to keep his name. Last week, you ran out of the dining room like you thought Ethan was being choked on the lawn only to find them having a civil conversation. You jump to conclusions, Mia–and the fact that you scolded him for speaking his mind didn’t make it any better, Grace.” Mia scoffs at the chiding while Grace simple fidgets with her napkin. No, Christian definitely didn’t need to see this.
“Christian and I are leaving now,” I say, finally making my presence known. Grace raises her head and looks at me.
“So soon?” she asks. “We haven’t even had dessert, yet.”
“He’s… not in the mood for dessert and to be honest, neither am I,” I say, my voice chillier than I intended.
“Ana, what’s going on? Where’s Christian?” Elliot asks. I point to the door briefly with my thumb.
“He’s already gone,” I say looking at no one in particular.
“Gone?” Grace says, rising from her chair. “He left without saying anything?”
“I told him that I would say our goodbyes,” I reply.
“Oh, this is just ridiculous!” Mia stands up and starts walking towards the door. I text Chuck as fast as I can.
**Get Christian out of here now. Leave the RS7. I’ll catch up with you. **
Seconds after I hit send, I hear the Audi SUV roaring past the house and out of the driveway. Carrick now stands from his seat and looks at me.
“What is going on here?” Mia says, storming back into the room. I’m torn between my respect for this family and what I had to witness from my usually hard-as-a-rock fiancé. My feelings for Christian wins I take a deep breath.
“Do any of you have any idea how much that man is dealing with right now?” I exclaim, my fists shaking. The room falls silent. That got their attention. “There’s always somebody out to get him!” I continue. “He doesn’t announce it on billboards, but he’s fighting some old or new adversary every day! Somebody wants something from him or accuses him of something or is trying to bring him down. He’s trying so hard to help so many people and himself, and he’s met with suspicion everywhere he goes. In light of what has happened, he’s not allowed to feel the slightest bit of caution when it comes down to someone hurting his family?” I look directly at Mia when I ask that question. She’s just staring at me, dumbfounded, and no one else has a word to say either.
“Crazy bitches shooting at him, cops treating him like shit, psycho butlers coming out of the woodwork claiming to be his brother…” I drop my head and cover my mouth to choke down the tears that are bubbling up, but it’s of no use. They start falling and I can’t stop them.
“Ana…” Carrick begins and I just hold up my hand to silence him. I don’t want to say anything else.
“Good night,” I choke, though it’s barely early evening, and scurry out of the dining room and out the front door. The RS7 is right there at the front door and Ben is in the driver’s seat. I scramble into the car.
“Catch them,” I say, sharply. He looks over at me, starts the car, drops a gear and goes speeding off down the road. I don’t know if anyone followed me out of the house because I am texting Christian.
**Are you okay? **
His response comes back quickly.
**Yes. Are you okay? **
No, I’m not, but I won’t tell him that. I dry my eyes quickly and respond.
**I just need you. Where are you all now?**
**We’re crossing the bridge. **
Fuck, how fast is Chuck driving?
**Tell Chuck to slow down. I want you in one piece. **
**I will if you tell Lawrence to slow down. **
Damn, he’s good.
**How did you know? **
**I know you. **
“Slow down, Ben,” I tell him. Ben looks over at me again and drops to the speed limit, but it doesn’t matter because we are almost caught up to the SUV and will probably be home in no time. I send one more text.
**I’ll see you when we get home. **
**Good girl. **
Several minutes later, we pull up to the parking garage at Escala and I am nearly running to the elevator. I punch in the code for the penthouse and the damn thing seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. When the doors open, Chuck meets me in the foyer. It’s only now that I realize I have left Ben in the parking structure.
“He’s fine. Go on in. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Chuck says, stepping into the elevator as I step off. I rush the front doors and he’s standing near the wall of glass, looking out over the city. He turns to look at me and starts to walk slowly over to me. When he reaches me, he puts his hand on my cheek.
“You’ve been crying,” he says softly. I lean into his hand.
“I’m fine,” I tell him. “We just… need to be alone.” He examines my face then nods. I take his hand and lead him to the sofa. I start the fire, then take a bottle of Kistler’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from the wine cooler. Grabbing two wine glasses from the kitchen, I join him in the great room. I select a jazz playlist from the new Bose sound system he had installed and pour us each a glass of the golden elixir. I get on my knees on the sofa next to him and hand him a glass.
“Mmm, delicious,” he says, looking over at me. “How do you know just what I need?” I shrug coyly.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I try to read you and… I don’t want anyone to hurt you.” He sets his wine glass on the coffee table and takes my face in both of his hands. He kisses me softly again and again.
“You’ll protect me even from my family,” he says, his gray eyes piercing right through me as he gazes into mine. My breath catches in my throat and I can only nod at him. He takes my glass from my hand and sets it on the coffee table next to his. “Can I kiss you?” he breathes, his hands on either side of me holding my waist.
“Yes,” I squeak, barely able to get my voice out. The electricity between us is so powerful, I can hardly breathe. He brings his lips to mine and brushes my mouth gently.
“No,” he whispers, “can I kiss you… like I kissed you in Anguilla at the pool?” Oh! He’s talking about that breathless, hot, sexy…
“Yes!” I pant. He slides his arms around me. One hand slides to my nape while the other roams possessively to my back as he takes me over his knees and kisses me with the passion of 1000 souls.
I wanted to make love to her, I really did, but it just wasn’t the time. I needed her close to me—to feel her, kiss her, and absorb her—not to fuck her. I’m watching her sleep and dreading that it’s Monday because that means that we have a meeting with the good Reverend this afternoon. That usually means that we’re going to delve into something that needs examining and that my Butterfly is going to leave feeling upset about something.
I kiss her on the temples, caressing her cheeks and her chest. I’ve been awake most of the night just watching her and taking comfort in the fact that she has been lying next to me. She sent me away from my family when she knew that talking to them was not the best idea. I love her so much for that. I know of no one that would take on the Family Grey to protect me, and she did. I will have to face them soon enough, but she made sure that I didn’t have to do it while I was falling apart.
I can’t wait to call her my wife.
“Baby, wake up,” I tell her, kissing her on her temples and her cheeks. “It’s morning, Beautiful. It’s time to wake up.” She slowly uncoils her body and I try to remember that I want to cherish her and not fuck her.
“How are you feeling?” she asks sleepily.
“I feel wonderful,” I tell her. “Every day that I wake up next to you is a good day.” She looks up at me, her eyes filled with love.
“Then it will be a good day every day for the rest of your life, Mr. Grey,” she says softly.
“I look forward to it, Mrs. Grey,” I reply, my voice husky. She gasps, then sighs.
“I love the sound of that,” she says.
“Soon, Mrs. Grey. Very soon.” I kiss her deeply until I feel it in my soul and I know that she feels it, too. “We have to get up, Baby.”
“I know,” she says reluctantly before kissing me again.
I’m sitting at my desk going over the particulars of a deal I have been working on when my cell phone rings. I answer it without looking at it.
“Christian, hello. How are you feeling this morning?” I sigh heavily. It’s too early in the morning for this conversation.
“Fine, Dad, and how are you?”
“A little curious. Would you like to tell me what was the purpose of your leaving yesterday?”
“No, Dad, I wouldn’t,” I reply, and that’s all I have to say about it.
“Hmm, okay. Well, your mother was very upset and Mia wasn’t too happy either.”
“Really?” I answer, not feigning the slightest bit of interest.
“Yes, really. I think they deserve some kind of explanation, Son.”
“Well, I don’t have one for them, at least not right now. Was that the only reason you called, because I’ve got a busy day ahead of me.” I’m not having this conversation right now and certainly not on the phone.
“Mia is concerned that you’re going to treat her like you treated Elliot.”
“Oh, for the love of God!” I exclaim. “Do you know that she was just as cold to me when Ana left as Elliot was, if not colder? Does she think of anyone but herself, ever?” I feel myself getting angrier and angrier.
“Yes, Christian, she does. She thought of you when we had to pry her fingers from the crazy woman’s hair last year,” he says curtly. I sigh.
“Dad, if you’re calling me to sing Mia’s attributes and to chastise me once again for being a horrible son and a terrible brother, I’m hanging up now.”
“Christian!” Dad’s voice is higher than normal. “I never said anything like that.” He sounds surprised. I forgot, I had that conversation with Butterfly, not my father. I’m quiet now. I don’t quite know how to clean this up, so I just remain silent. Noting my obvious discomfort, he changes the subject. “Speaking of that crazy woman, I was also calling to tell you that she accepted the plea—25 years on all counts.”
“She did?” Holy fuck!
“Yes, she did. So there will be no trial in that case, but she is still pleading some kind of mental compromise on the attempted murder charges.”
“Yes, I am aware of that,” I say flatly. I’ve been keeping an eye on her “defense” and she has none except for some quack that says that she has some made-up disorder. No witnesses for the defense, no character witnesses, nothing—just her and her quack.
“I thought I would tell you since this particular thing may or may not make the news. Her murder trial is much more sensational than this.”
“I would agree.” Anything else, Father?
“Morgan and Shane are both doing very well in school now. I thought you might like to know.” Yes, I would like to know that.
“Thank you. That is definitely good news.” Butterfly’s words come back to me at this moment: You’re not the bad guy. You’re actually a very good guy. I’ve seen you help so many people since I’ve known you… You have a very kind heart.
“The Faces PSA will drop on Saturday morning. I’m having a release party on Friday night. I’ll get you the details,” I tell him. I don’t want to talk anymore.
“Okay, I’ll tell your mother and your sister and brother.”
“Okay. I have to go now, Dad.”
“Christian?” He pauses to make sure that I’m listening. “I’ve never thought you were a horrible son or brother. I’m sure Mia doesn’t think that either.”
“Okay, Dad. I really have to go. I’ve got a meeting,” I lie.
“I love you, Son,” he says as a last ditch effort.
“I love you, too, Dad,” I reply, something that is much easier to do since I’ve met Butterfly. I end the call and take a deep breath. Morgan and Shane are back in school. That is really good news. Morgan was really a sinking mess when I met him and I didn’t know what was going to become of Shane. Now, they are out of that woman’s clutches and they are thriving.
Yes, Dad, Mia does think I’m a horrible brother. She doesn’t think of anyone else except Mia and as much as I love her, she’s self-centered and thinks that the world revolves around her. Even though I was speaking civilly to her fiancé, she still thought I was going to beat him up and was still sarcastic towards me. So excuse me if I don’t buy your bid that she doesn’t think I’m a horrible brother. I call McIntyre to set up the publicity schedule for after the PSA drops.
“Welcome back, Ana, Christian.” The good reverend seems to be a bit too chipper to see us this evening. “Let’s get to it. There are some extremely crucial questions remaining that I’d like to cover tonight.”
I can tell from Butterfly’s face that she has come to dread these meetings as much as I have. Her spirits take a nosedive and it looks like she’s just not in the mood.
“Reverend Martin, may I have a moment alone with my fiancée?” I ask him. He looks at me, then at Ana, then nods and leaves the office. I turn to her and take her hand.
“Baby, I know that these have been some rough sessions, some things that we haven’t covered at all in our relationship. Let’s make a promise right now, just for tonight, that whatever comes out—whatever we have to discuss or discover—we won’t jump to any conclusions and we won’t leave here angry. We’ll be open and honest and discuss our feelings and we won’t let anything drag on. We’ll work out whatever we are discussing right here and then I want to take you out to dinner and wash away whatever bad feelings may remain when we are done. Can we agree on that? One hour of hashing away at what we need to cover and then no more beating around the topic—does that sound good to you?”
She looks up at me and her beautiful blue eyes are filled with some unnamed emotion.
“Yes, Christian. That sounds very good to me,” she says, her voice small. I bring her hands to my lips and kiss them softly.
“I’ll go get the reverend and we’ll get on with it,” I say and she nods.
I go to the door and let Reverend Martin know that we are ready. True to his word, he sits down and goes right into the meat of things. We first discussed what each of us expected from each other in terms of emotional support during times of change—like exciting times, depressed times, periods of illness or job loss. We both said pretty much the same thing, that we are very supportive of each other during these times, except when one of us were the cause of those feelings. It’s those times that we need to work on and we are well aware of that issue. It’s something that won’t be fixed overnight, but we are dealing with it. The good reverend seemed very satisfied with that answer.
“I would have been very worried if either of you had said that you were completely supportive of each other,” he admitted. “No couple is completely supportive because, as you pointed out, there are times when one of you is responsible for the other’s feelings of depression. I’ve been married for 13 years and my wife and I are still working on that one. So, I’d say you have a very healthy view of this particular issue. Now, I’d like to know how the two of you plan to cope with the need for drastic change. There will come a time in your lives where one or both of will reach a point where you may want to change careers or buy another house or even move to a different location. Many times, it’s called a midlife crisis. What are your plans for handling this?”
I look at Butterfly and she looks at me. We both shake our heads at each other as this is something I don’t think either of us have thought about.
“Well, I’m going through something like that now,” Butterfly admits. I raise my eyebrows at her. What is she talking about? She looks back at me. “Lightening my workload, changing my schedule, doing more at the center…” she clarifies. I raise my eyes in realization.
“Oh! Yeah. Is that what he means?” I turn to the Reverend. “Is that what you mean?”
“Well, I don’t know. Exactly what’s going on?” he asks. Butterfly explains her life change to him and all of the reasons that she’s doing it. He nods. “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. There’s a couple of things I want to address here, though. Christian, how did you take Ana’s decision to cut down her hours and focus on other things?”
“Well, I’ll be honest and say that I was happy that she was making the changes to focus more on our relationship and on her treatment and mending, but also because it was something that she wanted to do,” I reply. “She made this decision all by herself and she chose how she wanted to handle things. She didn’t have any prompting from me, but she completely has my support. She doesn’t have to work at all if she doesn’t want to. I can walk away from my work right now and we would still live out our lives in the lap of luxury. However, if she wants to work, I don’t have a problem with it. She’s a damn good therapist with a heart of gold. I wouldn’t dare request that she doesn’t do what she loves. I just want her to be happy. That makes me happy.” She squeezes my hand and doesn’t raise her head.
“Well, you’ve touched on my concerns with that answer. Money brings with it other types of problems. For example, what if she decided to stay home and do nothing—just let herself go?” I sigh heavily and look over at Butterfly.
“I would do everything in my power not to let that happen,” I say softly. She looks up at me and I can tell that she’s a bit hurt.
“You would have a problem with me if I let myself go?” she asks softly. I squeeze her hand.
“Butterfly, do you remember the question in our first session about spending too much time on your appearance?” I ask and she nods. “That’s how you look everyday, even when you don’t try. If you began to let yourself go, I would know that something was wrong. That’s not you, and that’s not what you want. That would mean that you are unhappy about something and I would have to find out what it was and help you through it. I fully understand that a woman may gain weight upon having children, but that doesn’t have to lead to letting yourself go. You would not be happy and we both know that.” She drops her head again.
“You’re right,” she breathes, “but…”
“No ‘buts,’” I interrupt her. “It wouldn’t change how I feel for you. It wouldn’t make me love you any less, but I would know that something is terribly wrong.” I think I’m going to squeeze her fingers off as I’ve squeezed her hands so many times this evening.
“Ana?” the reverend asks. She nods feverishly.
“That’s good for me,” she whispers, taking my one hand in both of hers and fighting back obvious tears.
“Do you want to stop?” he asks. She shakes her head.
“No, I’m fine,” she says, her voice shaky. I’m concerned about her now.
“Butterfly, did I say something wrong?” I ask cautiously.
“No,” she says. “I’m fine. Please, let’s keep going,” she coaxes.
The reverend continues asking questions about how we planned to spend the holidays; who we would confide in about problems with our relationship; if we expected our parents to live with us when they grew old; what our thoughts were in terms of spirituality and religion; and if our children will take part in rituals like baptisms or christenings. These were pretty mundane questions until he got to the questions about extramarital affairs. I could feel Butterfly freeze instantly. This, I know, is a deal-breaker for her. I would be crushed and destroyed if she had an affair, but I don’t know that I could leave her for it. She, on the other hand, has been through that humiliation before and simply could not endure it again.
“What would you consider an affair?” the reverend asks. “Would it be the act of actually having sex, anything physical at all, or does an emotional connection constitute an affair as well?” I can see the tears welling up in her eyes and I want to stop this line of questioning, but I know it’s as important as if not more important than anything we have discussed these past weeks.
“Any affair is a deal-breaker,” she says, confirming my suspicions. “Sexual affairs are tragic and crushing and I have no idea how I would ever recover knowing that he was with another woman. Affairs of the heart are much, much worse. That means that he can see himself with someone else besides me and that means that there’s no place for me anymore. If he allows someone else into his heart, in the place where I should be, then he has allowed someone else into our home and I can’t live with that. If he has to let her go because of me, even though he still loves me, he will resent me for it and he can’t live with that. So cheating is an instant divorce in my book.”
“That’s it? No compromise? No ’till death do us part?’” the reverend says accusingly. Butterfly looks up at him.
“I’m afraid not, Reverend,” she says, definitely. “I’ve been through that before—with someone who didn’t promise to love and honor me in front of God and family. It almost killed me. It changed me forever. I won’t stay with someone who will do that to me.” Her tears are flowing freely, now. Her voice is unwavering, but her tears drop off of her face in a constant stream.
“Christian?” he says, “how do you feel?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I could never do that to Butterfly, but if she did it to me, I’m not so sure that I could walk away so easily.” She chokes back a sob, and I continue. “I’ve never suffered from infidelity like she has. From what she explains to me, it was mental torture. It was more than just this guy having another girlfriend. He flaunted his affairs and he made her feel like shit. When it was all said and done, she basically had to lock him out of her home and her life and she still wanted him back. I can’t see putting her through something like that. It’s inhumane.” She’s silently weeping now. “I would hope that she would never want to do that to me, but I don’t know how I would handle it if she did.”
“I… wouldn’t…” she chokes out from her tears.
“It’s very easy to say that now, Ana, because you two are so much in love. However, you never know what the future will hold 10 years down the line when one of you is feeling neglected or restless. This is what I suggest. You need to commit to taking some time to talk about how you will handle feelings that may open the door to infidelity. Talk about that now, while the thought seems so abhorrent. This way, you will be able to refer back to this conversation when and if those feelings arise. Talk to your partner when you feel drawn to someone else—if you feel a connection with someone as a colleague or erotically. This will build the bond between the two of you instead of allowing you to build the bond with someone outside of your relationship. Can the two of you commit to that?”
“Yes,” I say as Butterfly nods. I understand that this is a real possibility for any couple somewhere down the line, but I just didn’t want to discuss this now. We will discuss it later, though. It is necessary. I am aching to hold Butterfly in my arms. I hate to see her cry.
“Don’t forget and don’t brush this off,” he warns. “This conversation could make or break your marriage down the line. Christian, did you know that infidelity was intolerable for Anastasia?”
“I did,” I say with a nod.
“And Ana, were you aware of Christian’s feeling about the topic?” She shrugs.
“It never occurred to me,” she says, her voice laden with her tears. “I can’t imagine wanting anyone but him, so I never thought about it.” That makes my heart leap. She can’t imagine wanting anyone but me. What if I become an asshole? Will she still feel that way about me?
“Why do you have these chairs so far apart?” I ask, although I think I was verbalizing my thoughts and not really asking the question. I look up and the reverend is smirking at me.
“Each party needs to be able to express their own thoughts and feelings, and not feed off of the feelings or emotions of the other. As you see, I never use the sofa because one person may be feeling a massive connection while the other needs to have some distance. When both parties need distance, it’s a sad sight to see them escape to either end of the sofa. Chairs allow for each person to be in their own space. The distance can be broken by just reaching out to touch each other, like the two of you have ever since I’ve been counseling you. You’ve made the best use of the space I have seen from my best couples. I commend you for that.” Shit, I can’t stand it anymore.
“Ana?” I say, bringing her attention to me. She looks up at me with red puffy eyes and, in a moment, she is curled up in my lap in my chair. I embrace her as she buries her face in my neck, breathing deeply and settling in.
No, Reverend, this is making the best use of the space.
A/N: Yes, I know the font changed, but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it without going straight HTML, and I just didn’t have time for that in my life…
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Love and Handcuffs!