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. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 22—Thankful Again
After an extremely blissful sleep, I stretch to get the blood flowing to my extremities. I open my eyes and—due to Christian’s light-eliminating drapes—I can’t quite focus. I rub them gently to see if I’m truly seeing what I think I’m seeing. I’m facing my husband; he’s sound asleep with his arm around me as usual… and he’s smiling! I don’t ever remember him smiling in his sleep since the day we met! Ever!
I just watch him and wonder what he’s thinking about. One thing never changes, though. He can always sense when I’m watching him. Sleepy gray eyes open to capture mine and I don’t bother trying to hide my Grey-gazing.
“Where are we?” he asks sweetly.
“In bed,” I reply. He closes his eyes and opens them again.
“So we are,” he says, still half asleep. He curls his arms tighter around me, pulling me closer to him and somehow fitting us together like a puzzle. I feel warm and secure in his arms… and protected. An air of contentment is flowing off of him and he kisses me on my cheek. “Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” he breathes, brushing his lips over my jawline.
“Good morning,” I purr, loving the early morning attention. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too,” he replies, still planting soft, chaste kisses on my cheek.
“What were you dreaming about?” I ask. He moans… well, a gentle hum is more like it.
“A little girl and a little boy,” he says, between kisses, “playing out back at the beach, splashing in the water.” His kisses soften, moving closer to my mouth. “And a beautiful woman laughing and playing with them. It’s a wonderful sight.”
‘It sounds like it,” I say, closing my eyes as his gentle pecks become open-mouthed kisses on my chin and neck. “And where are you?”
“Sitting on the rocks,” he says, the soft and wet kisses now reaching my lips. “Watching and laughing along with this beautiful scene,” kiss, kiss, “and thinking what a lucky man I am.”
“You are?” I breathe, trying not to turn this tender moment into a sexfest. He’s driving me crazy with just these small gestures and the happiness that I feel in his kiss and hear in his voice as he describes his dream.
“I am,” he says, sincerely, but sensually. “And just when the little girl says ‘Daddy, come play,’ the beautiful woman turns around and gives me the most breathtaking smile I’ve ever seen.” His kisses are getting deeper. “And I open my eyes and she’s lying next to me, with that same beautiful look in her eyes, stealing my heart away.”
He kisses me deeper, not harder—just longer and more passionate. When he pulls his face away from mine, he lifts my leg over his hip and I feel him slide effortlessly into me. When did he take off his PJ’s?
“Ah, Christian?” I whine, taken completely off guard.
“Yes, baby?” he says, placing his hand in the small of my back and holding me against him as he slides sensually in and out of me. Was I going to say something? I’m bursting with warmth and pleasure, so much… I close my eyes and try to breathe, absorbing all of his emotion. My chest is heavy, like I’m not getting enough air.
“You look so sensual,” he says, his face breaths away from mine. “You’re glorious!” he adds, moving his other hand up to the back of my neck, ensnaring my entire body. I’m trapped in his embrace, safe in his arms, surrounded by his love…
“Christian…” What wanton creature was that? Her voice sounds almost ethereal. I can hear her breathing inside my ears. It can’t be me… can it?
He’s barely moving, loving me deep and slow, filling me but only pulling out enough for me to feel the fullness. His movements are slow and methodical, concentrating on one space, one sensation. I’m rising fast… so fast. No part of our bodies is separated. I tighten my leg around his hip, urging him to move faster… harder…
“No, baby,” he chides gently. “Relax… relax and let me love you…” So I do. I relax my legs, my muscles, every part of me and surrender myself to him. My body is mush and the feeling is so exquisite that I can’t even moan. I can only hold my mouth open and breathe, my arms trapped between our bodies as he owns this moment.
“Open your eyes, baby,” he says softly. “Let me see you…” I sleepily open my eyes and gaze at my husband. He’s in total control, watching me closely like he’s gauging my reactions. His pupils dilate, but his movements never change; his expression doesn’t falter.
“I loved you before I was created,” he says, nipping gently at my chin, “and I will love you long after my demise.” Oh my God, where did he pull that from? I feel like I’m going to implode!
“You are everything beautiful and wonderful and perfect in my life… every cell of me needs every cell of you,” he whispers. Okay, I’m definitely going to implode. What do you say to that? How about nothing? How about you just let him keep talking and making you feel like the most priceless creature on the planet?
“Mon Dieu…” I breathe, preparing myself to be torn inside out. His stroke never changes, nor does his facial expression, even though I can feel him getting harder inside of me.
“You’re exquisite, my love, breathtaking and astounding… and you’re mine. I’m unworthy and blessed because you belong to me.”
“Ah… Christian…” my love, my soul… my beloved husband… how do I tell you…?
“Ssshhh,” he soothes as if he’s reading my thoughts. “You are mine… and I am yours… completely yours…”
Yes, Christian. I am yours. I belong to you—wholly and completely—and you, my love, are mine.
A warming tingling feeling begins in my back where he’s holding me against him. He plants open-mouthed kisses on my neck and collarbone. His tongue caresses the skin under my chin, around my jaw and near my ear. When he gently sucks my earlobe into his mouth, then bites down, grazing it with his teeth, I see flashes of light behind my eyelids and that tingling in my back becomes bursts of fire like skyrockets exploding through my body. I tense involuntarily, clinging to his T-shirt and trembling uncontrollably. I take in three large gasps of air, but this orgasm—this feeling of a thousand tiny pleasure fingers raking all over my body—has snatched my breath away and I can’t make a sound. He buries his face in my neck and I feel his eyes squeeze shut tight as his body stiffens and he pulls me hard against him.
“Ana!” It’s a desperate, breathy whisper and I feel him throbbing as he empties inside of me. Oh God, it’s sparks me again—if I ever came down—and tiny bursts of pleasure sweep through my body again as my husband rides out his orgasm. Oh my God, what was that? That was the most draining and yet invigorating orgasm I’ve ever had in my life. What in the world has gotten into my husband?
I almost just want to go back to sleep after that, but there’s too much to oversee to make sure everything goes well today and I don’t have Marilyn to help me. Christian made getting started easier, though. He gently carried me to the shower and made sure that every crevice was clean. He washed and conditioned these super-long tresses before lovingly combing out the tangles and putting it into a looped ponytail for me. We have a plan for our dinner attire and everyone has been instructed to dress casually, so while we are setting things up for the day, I’ll be wearing sweats and a T-shirt and change into dinner attire later. Seeing that I am opting for something comfy and not-to-special, Christian gets one of the sporty scarves from my collection and wraps it craftily around my head covering the short-hair spot and allowing my ponytail to fall out in the back.
“How did you learn to do that?” I ask, admiring my headdress.
“A little birdie showed me,” he says. I look at him skeptically. “YouTube,” he admits and kisses my nose. I’m truly moved by his gesture and I kiss him gently on the cheek.
“That’s incredibly sweet,” I say, unable to hide my admiration.
“Anything for my Butterfly,” he replies, cradling my chin. “Let’s go get things started before I take you back to bed.” I blink coyly.
“Yes, Mr. Grey.” He smiles and takes my hand, leading me to the elevator.
Al is always the first to arrive, but I’m pleased to see that he and James have arrived to join us for breakfast. Christian asked him to come early knowing that Marilyn wouldn’t be here and that I would most likely need some help. I’m so glad to see my best friend. He looks fantastic… refreshed, even. He’s certainly a sight for sore eyes.
“Have you seen the whole house?” I ask him after he hugs me warmly.
“I’ve seen some of it. Luckily, we’ve got four days, because I have a feeling that’s how long it’s going to take me to see the whole thing. Oh, but the facade is divine!”
“Wait until you see the rest. It’s like a dream,” I tell him as I lead him to my office. “I never thought I would ever, ever live anywhere like this in my whole life. It’s so perfect and I’m still learning my way around. There are a few rooms missing, so to speak, but Christian and I will tackle those once the babies are born.” Al nods and looks conspiratorially back down the hall from where we came. “What’s going on, Allen?” I ask once we get into the office.
“I’m so glad we’re alone. I thought I would burst if I didn’t tell you soon.” He thrusts his hand out to me and there I see the most beautiful diamond and platinum ring. I gasp.
“Al,” I breathe, snatching his hand to get a closer look at this gorgeous creation. “Did you get married?”
“No,” he answers nearly bubbling over. “We’re engaged. We’re getting married next spring!” He’s almost jumping out of his skin.
“Oh, Allen! I’m so happy for you!” I say, nearly moved to tears. “What brought this on?”
“You did, Jewel.” Me? How did I bring this on? “He said that he’s watched Christian over these last few months and how he did everything in his power to keep his family safe and happy; that even with all of his money, he couldn’t prevent tragedy from falling upon him. He watched Christian run from city to city and state to state trying to protect the things and people closest to him and when it all came down to it, nothing he did could have saved you from the accident. Just when it looked like he was getting to the bottom of things, another monster reared its ugly head and he almost lost you. James said that—at the risk of sounding cliché—it made him realize how short and precious life is. You hear it every day, that things can change in an instant and just like that, what you have can be gone or someone that you love can be snatched from you.” He sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk and I sit in the other one facing him.
“I thought you were a goner, Jewel,” he says, his voice cracking. “I didn’t recognize you when I saw you. It was…” He has to take a moment to compose himself. “Your entire face was bandaged except for one eye and it was swollen shut. They said your ear was…” He starts to weep. I take his hand in both of mine.
“I’m okay, now, Al,” I say softly. “It was a close call and I know it could have been catastrophic, but it wasn’t. I’m here and I’m fine. My brain is still a little corked, but I didn’t kick the bucket and I didn’t lose my babies. I’d say we won this one, huh?” He nods, still weeping.
“The ‘could-have-been,’ Jewel,” he sobs. “I don’t know what I would have done. I know it’s selfish and we should have been thinking of Christian. He never left that room… not once, but I couldn’t think of him. I could only think of myself and how I would possibly go on without my split-apart.” And now, I’m crying, too. It is a harrowing thought. I don’t know how I would go on without him either. I love Christian. With all my heart, I love him, but I would feel like a part of me was missing forever if something happened to Allen.
“I understand,” I whisper through my tears, clinging to his hand. There’s nothing else I can say.
“That woman—the one who hit you, Naomi—I’m glad she’s dead.” I raise my head and look at him, eyes wide. “I know it’s a horrible thing to say, and one day, I’ll ask for forgiveness… but not today,” he weeps. “Not today.”
“Ssshh,” I soothe him through my own tears. “This is supposed to be a happy time for you. You’re supposed to be giving me good news,” I scold gently. He nods and pulls a handkerchief from his pocket. He’s never carried handkerchiefs before. I guess Christian’s influence is rubbing off on him.
“I know,” he says fighting to compose himself. He takes several deep breaths. “I’m glad you didn’t die, Jewel,” he says as he dries his tears. “I would have found that woman. I swear to God, I would have found her.”
“I know,” I say, squeezing his free hand. “I’m not glad that she’s dead per se, but let’s just say that I’m not mourning her passing.” I pull one of Christian’s handkerchiefs out of my bra and wipe my face.
“James just came home last night and dropped down in front of me on both knees. I was sitting on the bed organizing what we were packing for this weekend. He just blurted it out. He said he wanted to marry me. That he was in love with me.”
“What did you say then?” I ask.
“I said, ‘no.’” You said what? My expression must have asked every question my mind was thinking. “I was sure that he was just being overly emotional and that he was going to regret the situation later. Of course, I want to marry him, but I don’t want it to be some spur-of-the-moment, ‘I’m scared’ thing. That’s when he showed me the ring.” He’s getting weepy again, but quickly composes himself. “He told me everything that he was thinking when you were in the coma. The one thing that kept going through his head, he said, was that he kept asking himself if he could live with me not being his if something like that happened to me tomorrow. He said he didn’t want to wait another second and I had to convince him not to go to City Hall tomorrow.”
“Why not?” I ask. What’s stopping you?
“Well, for one thing, City Hall is not open tomorrow,” he laughs. “But for another, I don’t want anything dramatic, but I don’t want it to be that informal. Something small, but not cold… and I can’t do it without my Jewel.” And the tears start to fall again. “Besides being my best friend and soulmate, you’re the whole reason this happened, and not because of the accident. Because you convinced him to tell me how he felt in the first place, and you convinced me not to be afraid of my feelings, and you held me together when I thought he was leaving me for Jose. He and Christian are pretty close, too, and I think he would want Christian there. So… there you have it.” I smile through my tears and clean my cheeks again.
“I guess we have another wedding to plan, huh?” I laugh.
“I guess so. It looks like the entire Scooby Gang is going to be married soon, huh?” he says and I immediately think of Elliot and Val.
“Well,” I say, changing my train of thought, “Marilyn and Gary have gone to Portland to introduce Gary to the family, but Mare assures me that there are no wedding bells in the immediate future.”
“They’re both young,” he says. “They have plenty of time. They may even decide that they want someone else.”
“This is true,” I concur.
“Then there’s Valerie and Elliot.” I don’t raise my head. “She’ll always be part of the original Scooby Gang, even though right now she’s acting like a lion with a violent ass infestation of fleas.” Eeeeewwww! That is such a horrible visual.
“Al! Good fuck, that’s awful!”
“Do you have a better description?” I shrug. No, I don’t. “Will we be graced with her presence today?”
“Fortunately not,” I respond. “Unfortunately, that means that Elliot won’t be here either.”
“How does Christian feel about that?”
“None too happy, and I don’t know if he’s told the rest of his family… or if Elliot has, but I won’t be the bearer of that bad news.”
“I hear ya,” he says. He looks down at his ring again. “It’s really very beautiful.”
“Yes, it is,” I agree. “I’ve never seen an engagement ring for a man, but I would have to say the setting is perfect…” Before I finish my thought, the intercom buzzes. “Yes?”
“Mrs. Grey, breakfast is ready. Would please meet us in the dining room and feed my beautiful wife and children?” His voice makes me melt. “Oh, and I guess you can bring my freeloading head of legal with you, too.” Al laughs loudly.
“You love me and you know it!” Al retorts.
“We’re on our way, darling,” I say with a smile. Al and I stand. I link my arm in his.
“Congratulations, Yin,” I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you.”
“Thank you, Yang, and I love you, too.” He puts his hand over mine and escorts me to breakfast.
Chuck and Keri are already at the table and Keri is positively glowing! She looks rested and refreshed, and Chuck looks like the cat who caught the canary. I wonder if everyone had the same morning Christian and I had… or if Chuck gave in last night and took the pain meds, finally allowing poor Keri to get some rest. There’s no sign of discomfort from him and quite a bit of canoodling between the two of them, so I would say that it’s probably both.
“Good morning, everyone,” I chirp when Al and I enter the dining room. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Well, you’re in a particularly good mood today,” Gail points out as she places a platter of some delectable looking egg creation on the table.
“It’s a beautiful day. It’s my first Thanksgiving in my new home. My family and friends are all going to be here. I’m happy and lucky to be alive… I am just so ready for new beginnings and great things.” I squeeze Al’s arm. He pats my hand and smiles before taking the chair that his fiancé has pulled out for him.
“That’s certainly a healthy outlook on life,” Jason says.
“I wholeheartedly agree.” I walk over to James and kiss him on the cheek. “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good visit.”
“Too long,” he says in that caramel-smooth voice, flashing that smile that made me forget he was gay when we first met.
“You worked tirelessly during the hacker situation. I know my husband couldn’t have done it without you. He might still be looking for that asshole right now if it weren’t for you. Thank you.”
“He paid me well,” he jests, but not. I know that Christian paid him handsomely for his work. “He’s become a friend—a reluctant friend and I can understand why, but a friend nonetheless. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t offered some kind of assistance… and Allie would have never given me a moment’s peace.” He smiles. “Did he tell you? I know he told you.”
“He did,” I smile. “Congratulations.”
“What are you two conspiring over there? I’m ready to eat!” Jason interrupts us and we all sit down to Thanksgiving breakfast.
Now I don’t know how we are supposed to function after this meal or how we’re supposed to attack the mammoth endeavor that is Thanksgiving dinner. We had egg and cheese frittata, fried rice discs under over easy eggs and Canadian bacon—a breakfast stack, they called it; bacon and leek quiche; banana-coconut pancakes; tornado hash browns; buttermilk biscuits; glazed maple walnut kringle; chocolate-cheesecake muffins; and blackberry buttermilk smoothies. I told Gail that I want something this decadent for my first breakfast after I have my babies. I already hate hospital food and I’m sure that I won’t want whatever selection they have for breakfast after all that pushing.
Like the best friend that he is, Al runs around the house helping me make sure that everything is perfect. Keri helps, too, which I really appreciate since she’s a guest, but I know that she really wants something to do besides sitting around worrying about Chuck. I’m concerned that with all this room and all these people and all this help, I’m still going to forget something…
Are all of the mini-fridges stocked enough?
Do we have enough alcohol and beverages for everyone’s taste?
Have we made the correct accommodations for Pops with his illness and mobility issues?
Will everyone be comfortable in the rooms that we’ve chosen?
Nobody told me until today that the boat resort will be security central for the holidays. So at the last minute, I’m trying to make sure that the sleeping accommodations out there are acceptable as well as enough food for those who will be working on Thanksgiving or required to stay overnight. I know that Jason has a “security central” in one of the many hidden rooms in the mansion—and I know that there are many—but this is going to be the meeting place, check-in location, shift-change and break area, football hub, etc., so I want it to be as comfortable as possible.
Most of everything that needs to be done is in my head, so Allen makes sure that I don’t run around like a headless chicken. There will be no lunch today since breakfast was massive and dinner will be served at four, but there are plenty of snacks, covered trays, and hors d’oeuvres if anyone gets hungry.
I also spend this time getting to know Keri a little better. It turns out that she’s an only child and her mother passed away several years ago. She does have cousins, aunts, and uncles, but her relationship with her father is strained at best. He wasn’t present when her mother passed and hasn’t been a constant in her life since she was a child. She’s a teacher at one of the private schools in Anguilla. The island is so small, it makes me wonder just how many schools Anguilla has.
She’s of British citizenship since Anguilla is one of the British Overseas Territories. She’s here under the visa waiver program and she can stay for up to 90 days before she has to return to Anguilla. She wants to stay until Chuck’s leg heals and he can walk around on his own, which should be just over the two-month mark, at which time he should already be in physical therapy. It’s watching the pain that gets to her. It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s only been three weeks and he’s still hurting a lot. He broke both bones in his leg, so he can’t support any weight on it whatsoever. Because one bone often helps to support the other, it may take longer to heal, which means more pain. That collapsed lung and the broken ribs are probably the worst since he’s not in any kind of immobilization apparatus and still has to breathe deeply to promote the healing of his lung. The pain from the ribs will most likely last longer than the pain in his leg. I couldn’t imagine any of this recuperation without the assistance of pain meds, and I’ve learned that my assumption this morning was still incorrect. He flat out refuses to take them.
It’s easy to see that Keri is exhausted. Chuck was involuntarily medicated while in the hospital because he was unconscious. When he awoke, he was still on the meds begrudgingly because of prior needed surgical procedures. Once he was coherent enough to turn them down, he refused them, and he’s been in pain ever since. It’s affecting her tremendously because you just can’t turn off your feelings and ignore the pain when someone that you love is hurting. She has to sit and watch him hurt, and again, I can’t imagine seeing Christian in pain and unable to make it go away. I moved back to my condo that first year that he got the flu and he couldn’t take it. The flu!
I think this weekend is actually going to be good for her. We will be eating great food over the next several days, doing some extensive shopping tomorrow and the spa tomorrow afternoon. She and Chuck will get to spend some quality time with each other on Saturday night as many of us will be going to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. There will be a lot of bonding time as they are guests of ours for the next several weeks and Chuck is not here as an employee. I can only hope that this will help lighten the load that she’s bearing.
It’s very early afternoon when it appears that everything is as organized as it’s going to get. We have snacked a bit to keep from eating too much and we have kept moving to get the digestive system flowing. Our weekend guests will be arriving soon, so we make sure that Al and James are settled in their room before Christian and I go to change our clothes.
“Christian, has anyone mentioned to your parents that Elliot is not joining us?” I ask as I slip into a comfortable pair of white maternity skinny jeans. Christian sighs.
“Elliot told her that he would rather keep the peace than spoil anyone’s holiday. Thanksgiving is at my house, so…” He shrugs. “Even if it were somewhere else, they certainly couldn’t expect for my new wife to uninvite herself from Thanksgiving.”
“I so hate that this is happening,” I lament. “It just doesn’t make any sense. I’m remembering some of what happened on my birthday, but there must be something that I’m missing because I can’t seem to think of anything that would cause us to fall out this severely.”
“No, you’re not missing anything, Butterfly,” he says as he slides into a pair of white jeans. “We all witnessed the meltdown, and I’m told that several people witnessed the initial confrontation. She’s just acting completely unreasonable and no one actually knows why.”
“How did Grace and Carrick take it—Elliot’s absence, I mean?” I ask, pulling on my black T-shirt.
“He told me that Dad was pretty quiet—which means he was pissed—but Mom went nuclear. Mia doesn’t know that he’s not going to be here because he just told us, so I imagine that’s going to be another meltdown. I’m not looking forward to that.” I put on some clean socks and my white skippies while Christian just slides into a pair of deck shoes. We’re ready except for my hair.
“I hope people will just relax and have fun today, in spite of the discord that seems to be floating in the air.”
“Well, there’s no discord here, Mrs. Grey,” he says as he unties my head scarf. He leads me to my dressing room and sits me at my vanity. He runs his finger through my hair and gently massages my scalp. He arranges my hair in the long, flowy “Cher” style I wore last Christmas and holds my hair down over the short spot with a sporty black and white striped headband.
“You’re so perfect,” he says, kissing my nose.
“So are you, Mr. Grey,” I say, wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing tight while laying my head on his chest. “So are you.”
“Oh my God, you two look adorable!” My mother says when we greet her and my father at the front door. Ana and I are dressed like the Bobbsey Twins, both in black T-shirts and white jeans. Ana’s shirt has a heart right over her stomach with the word “bump” written inside it. My shirt has big block letters right across the chest that read “The Man Behind The Bump.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I tell her, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m so glad that you’re here.” Her eyes grow large.
“What is it, son? What’s wrong?” I smile.
“Nothing’s wrong, Mom. I’m just glad you’re here. You too, Dad,” I say extending my hand to my father.
“Glad to be here, Christian. This is quite a place you have here,” he says, looking around the grand entry.
“Yes, it is,” Butterfly chimes in. “I live here and I’m still trying to get the lay of the land myself.”
“Well, just from what I’m seeing, it really is absolutely stunning.”
“Thanks, Mom. Look, there’s lots and lots of house to see. I’ll have Windsor show you guys to your rooms and then you can roam around until your heart’s content.” I look over at my grandfather, who is now in a motorized wheelchair. I know this means that his health is deteriorating and he’s going to need a kidney sooner rather than later. I lean down to his chair.
“Hi Pops,” I greet him, with a smile.
“Christian!” Pops exclaims. “This is really something!”
“I’ll say!” Uncle Herman chimes in. “You’ve got great taste!”
“Yeah, it’s a statement in ‘everything your heart desires,’ but only the best for my girl.” Butterfly blushes. I gesture to the butler to come and get their bags. “Windsor, please show my parents to guest room one upstairs. Show my uncle and grandfather to guest suite three downstairs.” Windsor nods and gathers my family’s things.
“Please follow me, Mr. and Mrs. Grey, sirs,” he gestures to my father and grandfather.
“You guys have the larger suite on the lower level. It’s the only one with two bedrooms. As you can see, this place is huge, so we have a voice activated intercom system in case of emergencies. We got you an adjustable bed, Pops,” I tell him. “You’ll be very comfortable.”
“Christian, you shouldn’t have gone through the trouble,” Pops says.
“It was no trouble, and you’ll thank me for it later.” I smile. “Windsor is going to take you around to the elevator and show you to your rooms.”
“Elevator!” Mom says in surprise.
“Again, very large house, very pregnant and fragile wife. There are actually two elevators.”
“I’m not that fragile,” Butterfly protests, hitting me on the arm. I rub the spot where she hit me in mock pain.
“Okay, okay,” I whine to everyone’s amusement. “Windsor, why don’t you show my parents to their room and I’ll take my grandfather and uncle downstairs.”
“Yes, sir. Please follow me,” he says to my parents.
Uncle Herman and Pops are even more fascinated by the splendor of the house as we take them on a mini-tour of the rooms we travel through to get to the guest suite. I discover that my grandfather is a water spirit like my wife, and he is stunned into silence by the Grecian aquarium in the entertaining room. Uncle Herman leans in close to me.
“If Dad comes up missing, you’ll know where to find him,” he says, pointing to the aquarium. I chuckle quietly.
“You like it?” Butterfly asks quietly, standing next to Pops.
“It’s breathtaking,” Pops responds, gazing at that fish as if he would dream to be one of them.
“It’s my favorite,” Butterfly adds, turning to gaze at the fish herself. Pops looks up at her.
“You have more than one?” he asks like a seven-year-old in wonder.
“Yes,” she smiles down at him. “I have another wall aquarium in my spa, and there’s a smaller one in the wall that connects Christian’s and my office. I promise to show them to you later.”
“Why later? They can show me the bed anytime. I want to see the fishes now!” Fishes… oh, good Lord. Butterfly laughs that genuine enchanted laugh that makes both me and my uncle gaze at her. Why is my uncle gazing at my wife?
“Okay, Pops,” she says, adopting my name for my grandfather as she squeezes his hand. “My spa is in the same direction as your apartment. We’ll go our way and let the gentlemen get you guys settled. Do you two mind?” I look at Uncle Herman.
“No, but be warned. You’ll never be able to shake him now,” he says. Butterfly laughs.
“Well, that’s just fine by me,” she says, squeezing Pops’ hand again…
“So when did the wheelchair become a necessity?” I ask Uncle Herman when we’re alone in their suite. He sighs.
“About two weeks ago,” he says, “when Annie was in the hospital.” Annie? I don’t know if she’ll like that. I don’t know if I like that. Ray is the only one that calls her Annie. “You know he’s already elderly and frail, and the health issues just aren’t helping matters any. He’s getting weaker, Christian. He’s barely able to walk most days. He can get around if he needs to, but it’s getting harder and harder with each passing day.” He puts his face in his hands. “God, I miss Shannon.”
“Shannon?” I ask. He raises his head, his brow furrowed.
“Wow. I thought Annie would have told you by now.” And there he goes with that Annie shit again. He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. “Shannon is my ex-wife. I fucked that up big time. Whenever holidays come around, I think about her a lot.” He pulls a picture out of his wallet and hands it to me. “I really miss her.” I take the picture from his hand and it looks like an old picture of my very beautiful wife.
“Is this some kind of joke?” I say frowning. He shakes his head.
“No, son, it’s not,” he says, reaching into his wallet for another picture and handing it to me. It’s a picture of him in a tux standing next to—whoever this woman is, in a wedding dress.
“That’s my Shannon,” he says. “Annie caught me staring at her a while back and saw fit to put me in my place before you caught on. I assured her that it wasn’t what she thought—that she reminded me of Shannon and if she caught me looking, it’s only because I saw my wife in her.” I hand him back the pictures and he gazes at them with real pain in his eyes. “She loved the holidays… loves the holidays. Only now, she’s loving them with someone else.”
“You say that you fucked up. You cheated?” I ask. He nods.
“She never trusted me again and just like that, it was over.” He put the pictures back in his wallet. “No need to worry, though. Annie’s kind and sweet like Shannon, but she’s just a kid… and she’s not my Shannon, only her doppelganger.”
“Have you thought about getting out there again, seeing what’s on the market so to speak?” I ask him. He’s a good looking guy, like my father. He could find a nice, lonely widow somewhere that needs companionship, too. He laughs sadly.
“I’d only be looking for Shannon,” he admits. “No, son. I had my chance and I blew it. I don’t want anyone else now if I can’t have my Shannon. I’m an old man, and if God hasn’t seen fit to bless me with companionship by now, maybe it’s a sign that I just have to ride out this journey alone.”
“I don’t believe that, Uncle Herman,” I tell him. “I believe that life has opportunities for you as long as you’re alive. That’s how I made my fortune. That’s how I found my wife when I wasn’t even looking for her. I was a happy bachelor. I had encounters that lasted as long as I was interested, and then I let them go. A long-term relationship was the very last thing I wanted. Then, Hurricane Anastasia came through and blew me off my feet. She wouldn’t take any of my shit; she wouldn’t kowtow to me; she gave it to me straight. We hated each other! I wanted her to heel and she wanted me to go away.”
“You’re kidding!” he says in disbelief. “Heel how? She’s an adult.” Uh-oh… think fast, Grey. No use in telling him about the whole D/s thing.
“When I say jump, people jump. They don’t ask ‘how high,’ they just do it. Here’s this 5-foot-2, 5-foot-3 little doctor lady trying to tell me what I had to do and wouldn’t do what I asked. You see, I got into an accident. A drunk driver rear-ended me and ultimately totaled my car while I was sitting at a light. I was sitting at a light and he runs smack into a $65,000 sports car! Granted, it wasn’t the money. I can replace the car, but when the police showed up, he suddenly pretended to be hurt. He said I stopped short and caused the accident. Oh, I’ll just bet that I stopped so short at a stop light that you ran into my car so hard that you took out the entire rear end.” I shake my head. I’m getting angry again just thinking about it.
“I just lost it, Uncle Herman. Decked the guy right there in front of a cop.” Uncle Herman whistles.
“Not smart, son,” he laments.
“Not smart at all,” I concur. “I went before this hard-ass judge who threw the book at me. I still don’t know why he wanted to make an example of me. I’ll admit that I was wrong for hitting the guy, but this judge—and all of law enforcement, it appears—wants to punish me because I’m rich.”
“You’re an alpha male, Christian,” Uncle Herman says. “I knew it the first day I met you… at your wedding. Authority figures don’t always do well with alpha males.” I shake my head.
“That’s why I try to stay away from them, but it couldn’t be avoided this time.” He nods. “Anyway, I got community service—which I’m ashamed to say that I bought my way out of. I also got twelve group sessions of anger management, which the stubborn ass doctor wouldn’t let me out of.”
“Let me guess, the stubborn ass doctor is now your beautiful wife…”
“You get the picture. We were at each other’s throats for about two weeks, then two weeks after that, we were kissing in my office.” Uncle Herman laughs loudly.
“You don’t waste time, do you, son?” he asks. I shake my head.
“It was a bit of an accident… on both our parts. We had another meltdown soon after that and she quit group therapy.”
“She quit?” he asks, bemused. “You made her quit?” I shrug.
“I didn’t make her quit,” I defend. “She quit because she was disenchanted with the results of group therapy, but I don’t doubt that I was the catalyst.” He nods again. “Anyway, faced with the possibility that I would never see her again, I resorted to stalking her.”
“Oh, that’s really mature,” he teases.
“I was desperate,” I admit. “I thought she would be gone out of my life for good, so I had her followed for a while and talked to a few people before I crashed her date with her ex-boyfriend.”
“She had a boyfriend when you met?” Uncle Herman asks, appalled.
“No, he was an ex when we met, but apparently he ignored the memo,” I reply sarcastically. “Butterfly was trying to let him down easily because the guy wouldn’t go away. We got together that evening and we’ve been together ever since, but he turned psychotic. We just concluded a trial about four months ago where he got over twenty years for kidnapping her and causing her bodily harm.”
Uncle Herman and I talk for several more minutes before we realize that dinner will probably be served soon and we’re still sitting downstairs in the guest quarters. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m really upset that my grandfather won’t let me buy him a kidney. I know it’s illegal, but people do it all the time and Pops’ health is beginning to deteriorate quickly. I’ll try not to think about it this weekend, but next week, I’ve got to find out if there’s something more that can be done to help him.
When we get back upstairs, Mia and Ethan have arrived and Mia is fawning all over Pops as usual. She’s very fond of him and I can tell that he really loves the attention. Luckily, dinner is not being served just yet. I hear little Harry off in the distance somewhere putting up a fuss, so I know that Ray and Mandy have arrived, and I have made it just in time to greet Luma, Mariah, and Celida. The girls actually look like they’ve grown a bit when I see them and Luma looks twenty years younger in jeans and a casual blouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her dressed in jeans!
I kiss her on the cheek and introduce her to Pops and Uncle Herman. She takes an immediate interest upon discovering that Pops is waiting for a kidney.
“How long have you been on the list?” she asks, sitting next to him with a cup of hot chocolate.
“It’s been quite some time,” Pops admits. “Over ten years.”
“That is a long time,” Luma says. “I had a coworker a few years back. She waited 12 years for a kidney, but she finally got one. She’s doing fine, now.” Pops smiles.
“You don’t say?” Pops says and Luma nods.
“So don’t give up hope, Mr. Grey,” she says, smiling and squeezing his hand. He returns her smile.
“I hadn’t planned to,” he says cheerfully. “Even if they ever tell me there is no hope, I’m going to smile on my way out.” Luma nods sadly. She’s seen so much loss in her time on this earth, I can’t imagine that she wants to talk about death now. “And call me ‘Burt,” Luma. Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Grey.’” Luma smiles and moves closer to him.
“So what kind of home care are you doing right now?” she asks. They’re conversation takes off and I look to my right just in time to see a very tall young man enter the family room.
“Wow,” Butterfly says when she sees Marlow. “You’ve gotten so tall. I mean, you were already tall, but… wow!” Marlow’s maudlin look transforms into a wide, sincere smile as he and Ana walk into a full embrace.
“You scared the shit out of me,” he says softly, but not softly enough.
“Marlow!” Marcia chides.
“Sorry, Mom,” he says, still bending over and cradling Butterfly. I’ve known from the beginning that he’s had a schoolboy crush on her, and right now, I can only imagine that he’s feeling some level of the same relief that I did knowing that she’s okay—probably even more so because she remembered him right away.
“It’s okay, Marcia,” Butterfly says, pulling Marlow back so that she can get a good look at him. “That’s just how we talk. It’s always been that way… though you shouldn’t use that language around your Mom and little sister.”
“I know,” he concedes. “Mr. Grey always tells me to be mindful my language around ladies, which means I should probably be more mindful around you, too.”
“Oh, don’t you change one bit for me,” Butterfly scolds, pulling him into another embrace. “I like you just the way you are.” He smiles a content smile as he hugs my wife. He’s very, very fond of Butterfly, and he was having a very hard time of it while she was in the coma. He wouldn’t even come to the hospital to see her. He kept saying that if she was going to die, he didn’t want his last memory of her to be that of her lying helpless in a hospital bed. He called to check on her at least twice a day and I had to put Jason on Marlow-watch. I was afraid that if something happened to her, all of the hard work that we had done to this point would have been for nothing. He has told me more than once that Ana is his only real friend. He likes and respects me, but he loves Butterfly—as an emotional mentor and a confidante. He would have been unsalvageable had she not regained consciousness.
“I was afraid that you wouldn’t remember me.”
“Oh, Marlow, you underestimate your impact on the average human being,” she laughs. “I could never forget you. I remember that I called you Little Mr. Angry when I first met you; told you that I would kick your ass and you said that I was strange.” Marlow frowns.
“No, you didn’t,” he protest. “You did say that you would kick my ass, but you didn’t call me ‘Little Mr. Angry.’” Butterfly purses her lips.
“Well, you didn’t hear that part,” she says conspiratorially. “I said it under my breath while you were staring out the window at nothing.” Marlow scoffs good-naturedly.
“Yeah, you remember me,” he says with a small chuckle.
“Hello, Maggie,” Butterfly says to the shy little girl standing behind her brother. “You look very pretty today.”
“Thank you, Miss Ana. Mommy said we could all wear jeans, so I wore these. They’re my favorite.” She shows Butterfly her very sparkly jeans.
“Well, I think they look very nice.”
“Thank you, Miss Ana. These are for you.” She hands Butterfly a small gift bag.
“Oh, you got me a gift. You shouldn’t have.” Butterfly looks in the bag and gasps. “Lindors!”
“Mommy says every lady likes Lindors!” Maggie announces proudly. Butterfly smiles widely.
“Your mommy is right. Thank you very much, Maggie.” She leans down and gives Maggie a kiss and a hug… and I see an immediate problem. Mariah and Celida both have crestfallen looks on their faces. Just when I’m about to discreetly bring the situation to Butterfly’s attention, Mariah and Celida conspire for a few seconds before Mariah takes Celida’s hand and they walk over to Butterfly.
“Excuse me, Miss Ana,” Mariah announces proudly. “We got you somethin’, too.”
“You did?” Butterfly raises an eyebrow. Celida nods and proudly presents a lollipop from her pocket. Butterfly giggles and puts her hands over her heart, noticing the significance of this gesture immediately. She kneels down and gathers the girls in both of her arms, hugging them warmly and kissing each of them on the cheek. She holds her hand out to Maggie, who joins this syrupy display.
“You are all so wonderful! Thank you so much for my sweets and thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving with me.” All three girls beam proudly. “Maggie, may I please share my chocolates with my other friends?” Mariah’s and Celida’s eye grow wide as Maggie nods enthusiastically. Butterfly looks to Luma for approval, who nods and smiles sweetly. Butterfly turns to the two little ladies who are nearly bouncing with anticipation.
“You can each choose one to eat for later. It’ll ruin your dinner if you eat it now, okay?” They nod and each choose a chocolate from the bag. “Be careful when you eat them. They’re truffles, and they’re veeeery creamy inside, so they can get a little messy.”
“Thank you, Miss Ana. Thank you, Maggie,” Mariah says, causing Maggie to beam further. Butterfly smiles and nods and, being the little director that she is, Mariah takes the lead again.
“I’m Mariah. This is Celida. She’s my sister. Everybody calls her CeCe.” Maggie is still a little shy, but waves and smiles at the girls even though they’re only about three feet apart. “We have to sit at the kids table, but it’s like a grown-up table. I’ve never seen a kids table like this.”
“Really?” Maggie is intrigued now. I guess she’s never seen a kids table that looks like a grown-up table either. Mariah nods hard.
“Uh-huh! It’s got glasses like the grown-up glasses, and pretty, pretty plates, and real napkins!” The girls are caught up in conversation about the kids table and Marlow watches over them protectively while Marcia and Butterfly chat about her due date and Christmas on the way. I note that Marlow has effortlessly slid into the role as the man of the house since Damon Johnson is no longer a part of their life. He’s very patient with his sister and quite protective of them both. Johnson is up for parole or release soon and he’s going to be quite surprised if he tries to bully his son again. Not only has he put on some weight and bulked-up from the skinny little kid that I once knew, but he’s also a bit taller and he’s a quick study on the self-defense and fitness classes my security team has been putting his through. I’ve done some mock sparring with him every now and then and he’s got some impressive moves.
“Who’s that?” I hear Mariah ask.
“That’s my brother, Marlow,” Maggie says. “He’s a boy, but you’ll like him. He’s cool.” I nearly sputter over my drink and Marlow’s mirth is unmistakable as he receives his sister’s seal of approval. He patiently watches over the three girls as they chat about everything and nothing and I just scan the room, now filled with our family and friends. I never would have thought that I would see myself here, in my own home, with a beautiful wife and two children on the way, entertaining on Thanksgiving. I’m one lucky sonofabitch.
“If you will all please go to the dining room, dinner will be served in a few moments,” one of the servers announces to the gaggle of people who are occupying my home. I feel very blessed having our family and friends here, but Elliot’s absence is still the elephant in the room and as much as I hate to admit it, I miss Valerie.
We have moved to the dining room and are enjoying assorted beverages while we are taking our seats and waiting for dinner to be served. Jason inconspicuously retrieves his phone from his pocket and after looking at the screen, he leans in and says something to Gail and then something to Christian, who nods at him before he excuses himself from the table. I make note of the exchange and hope that everything is alright. Christian doesn’t seem concerned as he turns his attention back to Carrick and Grace and continues whatever conversation he was having.
A few moments later, Jason still hasn’t returned, but our attention is drawn to the slight commotion in the hallway near the Grecian columns.
“Maybe it’s this way,” I hear a woman’s voice say. Who the hell is this woman wandering around my house?
“Mo-o-om?” And there appears to be an agitated teenager wandering with her. Around the corner pops this bleached blonde woman in pants way too tight and a pair of high-heeled boots that don’t seem to fit the occasion.
“Oh!” she says, feigning surprise. “We were waiting for Jason and… Sophie just wandered off.” Sophie! Of course. Jason’s daughter. I assume this phony dragging poor Sophie behind her arm and blaming the child for her nosiness is her mother and Jason’s ex-wife.
“Oh, come off it, Mom,” Sophie says, her voice full of disdain. “I’m nearly a teenager, I don’t wander.” She folds her arms and completely ignores her mother’s scolding looks. She turns to face the other diners just as Jason is coming back into the dining room. “Daddy!” she says, her expression changing immediately as she darts towards her father. He walks around the woman and throws his arms open just in time to catch Sophie as she launches herself into the air. He laughs a deep and content laugh as he embraces his daughter.
“Hello, Baby Boo,” he says, sweetly.
“Mom says I can stay for the weekend if that’s okay with you.” He raises his eyes to his ex-wife.
“She can?” he asks her.
“Of course, she can,” the phony blonde actress coos, no doubt attempting to gain points with everyone around the table. No one knows who you are, you little fake. Christian and I know of you well, so it won’t do any good for you to try to suck up to anybody here.
“See? I told you,” Sophie says happily while Jason slides her to the floor. Jason looks over at Christian, who looks over at me. I stand from my chair.
“Well, Sophie,” I say, walking over to her, “we’re going to have a lot of people over this weekend, but we have a really big house and plenty of room. I hope you don’t mind a lot of company.”
“Not at all,” Sophie beams. “It’ll be nice to have people around.” I don’t even attempt to interpret that statement. “You must be Mrs. Grey.” I smile.
“Yes, I am. What gave it away?” I ask teasing. She returns my smile.
“You’re pregnant,” she says. “Dad calls you ‘Her Highness.’ He really likes you.” I laugh aloud.
“I really like him, too. Between me and you, your dad’s a smart aleck.” I throw a look at Jason, then put my hands on Sophie’s shoulders. “Everyone,” I say, turning around to the inquiring minds around the dinner tables. “This is Sophie, Jason’s daughter. Sophie, this is everyone. You’ll get to know them over the weekend.” She waves shyly as everyone greets her with a hello or a hi. Marlow rises from his seat.
“Hi, Sophie,” he says, walking over to us. “I’m Marlow. We have to sit at the kids’ table. It’s okay, though. They’re not whiney and messy like other kids.”
“Cool.” Sophie says with a shrug and follows Marlow over to the kids’ table. Jason clears his throat loudly.
“I know, Mr. Taylor,” Marlow says in that tone that says Jason has spoken to him two or three hundred times.
“Da-a-ad,” Sophie whines, “he just took me to my seat. He’s not trying to marry me. What are you—ninth, tenth grade?” she asks Marlow before turning back to her father. “What does he want with a 12-year-old?” This young lady is wise beyond her years. I’m very familiar with that attitude.
“Mrs. Grey, you have a beautiful house here.” Why does this woman’s voice irritate me so? I don’t even know her.
“Thank you,” I say politely. “And thank you for allowing Sophie to join us for the weekend. I’m sure Jason and Gail will love being able to spend time with her.”
“Miss Gail!” Sophie squeals from behind me. “I’m sorry!” She leaps from her chair and dashes over to Gail, throwing her arms around her neck. Gail lights up when she hugs her and smiles sincerely.
“Hey, Pumpkin, it’s okay. This is a lot to take in, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Sophie says dreamily, looking around the dining room. “It’s really nice… and the kids table is like a grown-up table—with real glasses and everything. I’ve never sat at one that big!” She seems amazed.
“Well, isn’t that sweet?” Ms. Phony says and I almost want to gag. Jason walks over to her.
“Well, Shalane, we don’t want to keep you from your plans,” he says, gesturing towards the hallway to show her out.
“What’s your rush, Jason? I have plenty of time,” she answers in a snarky tone.
“His rush, Mrs. …” Christian begins while rising from the table. He pauses and waits for someone to fill in the blank.
“Deleroy,” Jason almost hisses.
“Ms. Deleroy,” she says, throwing an adoring look at Christian. Um, hello? I’m standing here!
“I see.” I feel him move and stand just behind me. “Well, Ms. Deleroy, his rush is that as you can see, we’re about to have Thanksgiving dinner with our family.” He gestures to the tables full of people. “While we do appreciate you bringing Sophie by and even more appreciate you allowing her to spend the weekend with us, we would like to get back to our dinner.” He slides his hand around my waist and I have to concentrate on not snarling at this woman. She looks from me to Christian, clearly crestfallen.
“Oh…” she says, feigning regret… though that part might be real as she didn’t get invited to join us for dinner. “I’m sorry. Yes, I do actually have plans for the evening. So, Sophie darling, have a good time.”
“Yeah, Mom,” she says, still with her arm around Gail. Ms. Deleroy mutters some sort of exiting pleasantries as Jason escorts her out of the dining room and no doubt, out of the house.
“Gosh, she is so embarrassing,” Sophie declares in a low voice.
“That’s not a nice thing to say about your mom, Pumpkin,” Gail chides gently, “especially in front of strangers.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says softly. Gail points to her cheek and Sophie smiles, kissing Gail softly on the cheek.
“We won’t tell Jason,” Gail says softly and they giggle.
“Won’t tell Jason what?” he says, back from kicking Ms. Phony out in record time.
“If we told you, then I’d be breaking my word, now wouldn’t I?” Gail says with an innocent flutter of the eyelashes.
“Don’t you two gang up on me all weekend,” he warns and Gail and Sophie giggle. “I’m sorry, Christian,” he says, only loud enough for me and Christian to hear. “I was talking to Ben at the gate and she just walked inside.”
“No harm, no foul this time,” Christian responds. “She had already been allowed onto the grounds. Just keep an eye on her when she comes to pick up Sophie.”
Dinner is served on the three tables we procured for the weekend and, of course, Thanksgiving at Grey Crossing is nothing less than the bee’s knees! There are three huge glazed and lacquered roast turkeys and a larger variety of gourmet sides than I’ve ever seen in my life! Roasted broccoli with pickled shallots and peanuts; blistered green beans with tomato-almond pesto; roasted squash with crispy bulgur crumbs; crusted baked macaroni and cheese; and browned butter sweet potato casserole, just to name a few. There are Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs making their way around the tables and this is the first time in a long time that I’m missing wine.
Grace and Carrick take a little while to loosen up—no doubt unhappy that Elliot’s not here. Mia pouts verbally a few times that her other brother is not in attendance as well. I can’t help but feel responsible for that and, knowing me the way that he does, Christian throws a scolding look in my direction more than once when I start to sink a bit into the melancholy. I try not to concentrate on it too much.
“Are you okay, Ana dear?” Grace has caught me in one of those pouting moments. I nod and force a smile, but I still know that it’s my fault for the most part that Elliot is not in attendance. Even though I didn’t do anything to bring this on, it’s still largely because of me that he’s not here. And let’s face it…
I miss my friend.
“I’m pregnant, Grace,” I say softly as I wipe away a stray tear. “My emotions are all over the place right now, and I have to say that the magnitude of this day is quite overwhelming.” Grace holds my hand and smiles.
“I can imagine that it is, dear.” While she’s comforting me, our attention is drawn to Christian who is gently tapping his glass.
“I don’t mean to interrupt your meal, but I don’t know when I’ll get this clan together again and I just want to thank you all for joining Ana and me in our new home for our first Thanksgiving as man and wife.” He holds his head down for a moment. “That’s a real mouthful,” he admits. “Just thinking about everything in that sentence… getting this clan together—that’s a bit of a melancholy statement. This is the first time in 27 years that I haven’t had Thanksgiving dinner with my brother…” Grace scoffs a bit at this statement. You can tell that she was hoping it would go unnoticed, but it didn’t. She caught the attention of most of the people in the room.
“I’m sorry, Christian,” she says sincerely. “Please continue.” Christian’s lips form a flat line, but he continues.
“Elliot may not be here, but we have Pops and Uncle Herman,” he smiles at his grandfather, who returns his smile while Herman takes his hand. “We have our extended family—Luma and the two little princesses and the Whiteheads. We nearly lost two of our trusted staff this year—both seriously injured in the line of protecting us, but thankfully, they are still here with us. Quite frankly, I think you two were just trying to cash in on the hazard pay.” There’s a bit of laughter at that statement before he continues.
“Gail, we would be hopeless and hungry without you…”
“Hey!” I protest loudly, eliciting more laughter from the table. Christian mocks shushing me while he continues with his impromptu speech. “Keri, we’re very happy to have you here all the way from Anguilla.” Keri smiles coyly then squeezes Chuck’s hand. “And little Sophie, we’re very happy to have you, too.”
“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” she responds in the cutest little angel voice, causing coos from all around the table.
“Mom and Dad, Allen, James, Ray and Amanda and my baby brother-in-law… Mia and of course, Ethan, you already knew that you were part of the family when you proposed to my annoying little sister…”
“You still love me,” Mia pipes in proudly and her brother winks at her.
“Last, but certainly not least, my beautiful wife.” He turns his Grey gaze to me and I’m certain that I’m going to be crying before he’s done. “You’ve opened so many new worlds for me when I thought that I knew everything there is to know. You taught me love and hope and fear…” He chokes on the last word. I reach over and gently squeeze his hand. “I never knew that I could feel all the things that I’ve felt in these last 18 months. It’s such a short period of time, but it seems like it’s been forever, because I can’t remember what life was like without you. I thought I lost you…” It’s getting harder for him to talk. “Now, in a few short months, you’re going to make me a father…”
And now the tears start. Surprisingly, it’s not me, but Christian who is crying. I rise out of my seat and put my arms around him. He pulls me close to him, and kisses my hair.
“I love you, Butterfly,” he breathes, his voice cracking.
“I love you, Christian,” I reciprocate, clinging to my husband. We take a moment, standing here in front of family and friends to exchange our feelings and draw strength from each other. Once he’s able to speak again, he raises his glass to the room without releasing me.
“Thank you all so much for being here with us…” He looks down at me. “…And for not dying.” I smile up at him and he pecks me on the lips. “Happy Thanksgiving!” he announces raising his glass higher.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” is the collective response from our family and friends.
A/N: I’ve only listed a few of the dishes from Thanksgiving. To see all of the dishes from Thanksgiving Dinner at Grey Crossing, go on over to the Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/
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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Love and handcuffs 🙂