Thank you all for your well wishes for my family and for my son and his new wife as they begin their life journey.
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 27—Handle with Care
I take a moment to admire my butterfly fish in the Atlantis aquarium. I have to admit that I’m glad that Christian had the aquariums installed, particularly this one. It’s my refuge when I want to escape whatever demons or issues may be chasing me. No one bothers me when I’m down here except Christian, and even then, only when necessary. I named my fish Marty, after the zebra from Madagascar. I found out that there actually is a butterfly with similar markings as my butterfly fish, and it’s called the Zebra Heliconia. Of course, these days, my mind wanders mostly to Disney and other cartoons, and the first thing that came to mind is Chris Rock’s voice and that crazy zebra. Thus, Marty was born… or named, I should say.
I think she knows that she’s my favorite, because she’s so calm when I first spot her. But if I stand here for a while, boy does she begin to perform! Swimming in and out of the ruins, coming over the glass and literally waving her tail like a dog. I’ve heard that fish only have a three-second memory span, but certain studies have shown that the memory span of a fish is more like five months. Marty proves that point, because I’m certain that she knows who I am—or she at least has some idea. I spend a few more moments with Marty before I head back towards my office.
I’m just about to clear the opening from the entertainment room to the community bar and I hear Chuck and an unknown male voice. After just a few moments, I ascertain that the voice is Chuck’s AA sponsor. From what I can tell, Chuck had contacted him to try to get him to make Keri understand why he couldn’t take the meds. Unfortunately for Chuck, his plan backfired, because the sponsor tells him that it’s okay for him to take the meds and that he was surprised that Chuck had gone this long without taking them.
I want to interrupt them, but I also want to hear what the sponsor says about the meds. Having never been in his position, I’m fairly certain—but I don’t know for sure—that Chuck’s fears are unfounded. I normally wouldn’t eavesdrop on such a private conversation, but this time I feel it’s necessary. I find out from the small portion of overheard conversation that I was right all along.
“Time isn’t the only thing that heals your wounds, Charles,” his sponsor says. “Being of sound mind, able to relax, and free of pain is also critical to your recovery. You obviously have a great support system here, but you have no idea how much you’re hindering your progress by sitting here in needless pain.”
Chuck mumbles some kind of protest, but his sponsor cuts him off.
“There are some pretty strong painkillers out there, but for what you went through, ibuprofen 800 is the lightest thing that they could possibly give you short of an aspirin. They gave it to you because you have nothing in your system and it’s likely to give you an incredible amount of relief because your system is clean. Of all the gateway drugs there are, ibuprofen is not even close. You’re hurting for no good reason and you’re hurting the people around you because they have to watch this—again, for no good reason. I don’t know if this is some kind of macho bullshit to test your pain threshold, but dammit, you need to take those pills.” That’s all I need to hear. I take a few steps away from the doorway, then walk back loudly to make my presence known.
“Hey,” I say upon seeing Chuck. I frown at his appearance. He looks awful. “Chuck, what’s wrong?” I ask without acknowledging our guest.
“Nothing,” he grunts, in obvious pain. “Ana, this is Kevin. He’s… a friend of mine.” I extend my hand to Kevin.
“Anastasia Grey,” I say with a smile. He returns the smile and a shake with a “nice to meet you,” and I turn back to Chuck. “Where’s Keri?”
“She’s around somewhere,” he says, still struggling with pain. I sigh heavily and shake my head.
“And you’re in pain,” I say, finitely. He raises his eyes to me as if I’ve let the cat out of the bag. “You can’t hide it anymore, Chuck. It’s written all over your face. And from the looks of things, it’s getting worse, not better.” He says nothing and moves his eyes from mine. Now, I’m getting angry.
“For Christ’s sake! Take the damn medicine!” I hiss before ceremoniously marching out of the room toward my office. What a hard-headed asshole! When I get to my office, I can see someone sitting in my parlor. That’s strange… Nobody usually sits in my parlor without me. As I move closer to the door, I see the back of a head—beautiful locs cascading down her shoulders. As I get closers, I see blank eyes staring at a fireplace with no fire.
“I can get a fire started if you like,” I say to Keri. She nearly jumps out of her skin and I immediately regret interrupting her quiet time.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” I apologize.
“It’s allight,” she says, recovering quickly. “I was just tinking.” She turns back to the fireplace and she’s actually staring at nothing.
“Are you okay?” she sighs.
“I just nehded ah moment to mahself,” she replies. This doesn’t sound good.
“What’s the matter?” She turns glassy eyes to me.
“Chatlez in so much pehn,” she confesses on the brink of tears. “It’s wuhse, Anah. It’s wuhse now tan it twas befoh. I don know why, but it’s wuhse! Him sittin’ dere huttin’ and him won take de pills and I can’t keep watchin’ dis!” You can hear the island in her very heavy when she starts to get upset. “I jes had to get aweh from it foh ah moment.”
“Did you guys have a fight?” I ask. Part of me is hoping that they did, because if Keri gets fed up, maybe then Chuck will listen.
“Noh, I jes nehded to be out of his space foh ah minutt,” she replies, dropping her head. “I’ve been sittin’ heh tinkin’ about me kids back home.” Her kids? She didn’t tell me she had kids! Why is she here and her kids are back home? I get quiet and my brow furrows.
She’s a teacher, you idiot.
Oh… yeah, those kids.
“Would you like to call someone?” I ask, feeling a little foolish and a lot helpless. Keri smiles.
“Noh,” she replies. “Noh one will be able ta tell me what going on wit all me kids. Besides, dat ovahseas call vety expensive. Believe me, I knoh!” Isn’t she sweet? She’s currently staying in a mansion bigger than most hotels and she’s worried about the cost of a phone call. I chuckle a bit.
“Don’t ever worry about cost with me,” I say, resting my hand on her shoulder. “One of the worries that the Greys simply do not have is money.”
We sit and talk for I don’t know how long about anything except Chuck, and Keri starts to lighten up a bit. The sun has just disappeared over the horizon, and I light a fire to keep us cozy. We talk more about Anguilla and the customs there, how a lot of them are different than the customs in the States, but they are still similar in a lot of ways. I’m very comfortable having Keri around. She has a good spirit and I feel like I can trust her. It almost takes the sting out of losing Valerie’s friendship—almost. Too bad she’ll have to go back to Anguilla, but I’ll be sure to keep in touch when she leaves.
“You must beh soh excited foh de bebbies,” she says. “Not long now, right?”
“Not long now,” I tell her. “They might even be born before you have to go home.”
“I hope soh,” she says. “Not in a huwwy to have childjen of mah own, but I love bebbies. Dey so sweet and innocent and I love to watch dem groh.” She gets a faraway look in her eyes. “Most of mah kids, I have dem since dey staht school. Dey in tird, fort grade now. I like to watch dem groh.” She smiles widely when she talks about home. I have finally gotten her to relax when I hear the two-way come alive. Great… somebody’s looking for me.
“Yes?” I call into the air.
“Oh. Ana.” It’s Chuck. Yes, Ana, you called, right? “I was looking Keri. Is she with you?” Oh, that’s right. There are two people in this room. Keri must have been entered into the security system. I look over at her and she rolls her eyes, but doesn’t answer. She’s really coming to the end of her rope with this thing. Last week when we got home on Friday, she would have run to his side. Today, she won’t even answer him on the intercom.
“Yes, she’s here with me,” I respond. “I’m cleared to go back to Helping Hands tomorrow and Marilyn’s taking care of some other things for me, so Keri’s here helping me sort some things out.” He’s quiet for a moment. We’ve been in here for quite a while and I know that he’s not accustomed to not seeing her for long periods of time.
“Oh. Okay,” he finally responds. He sounds like a disappointed child. “I’m… going to the kitchen to find a snack or… something.” Keri simply says nothing. She’s obviously being worn down by this whole thing.
“Okay. Did you need something, Chuck?” I ask him.
“No, I’m fine. I just wanted to know where she was. I’m going to go find something to snack on.”
“Keri, did you want to say anything?” I ask.
“No, I’m fine,” Keri says quietly. Chuck ends with a final “Okay” and that’s it. I’m wondering what’s going to happen next. The fact that she doesn’t run to his side, even after he’s looking for her says a lot. They’re usually inseparable.
“I don’t knoh how much longuh I can take dis tohment!” she whispers sharply. “He could end his pehn todeh… todeh! And he won do it!” I don’t know what to say. I’ve talked to him about taking the pain meds. Keri asks him daily to take them. Christian has gone so far as to get into an argument with him. Jason knows Chuck’s history, so I don’t know how much he has talked to him. He was even talking to his sponsor today who was not only telling him that meds are not only harmless, but probably necessary for his recovery. I tend to believe that he may be right considering the fact that Chuck’s pain is getting worse for no apparent reason.
We hide out and talk for just a little while longer, but we both realize that we can’t hide forever, so I eventually convince her to locate Chuck and just to try to be strong. The only thing is I don’t know how much strength you’re supposed to display when you continuously have to watch someone suffer.
I am only too thrilled to be going back to Helping Hands on Tuesday morning. Christian allowed me to sleep in, no doubt hoping that I would forget. It was fine, though, because I usually go in the afternoons anyway—after I saw my patients. So, since I’m doing baby steps, the afternoon is still a good idea. I immerge in a Ripe cable-knit gray turtleneck maternity sweater paired with a black, knee-length maternity skirt by 7 for All Mankind. Jessica Simpson knee high Joline black wedge boots complete my ensemble and I’m ready to go.
I join Marilyn down in my office for a quick review of the day before we leave. There’s a lot I need to be brought up to date on, so my plans are pretty much in limbo until I take a look at what’s happened since I’ve been away. I grab my gray wrap maternity coat and we head for the door. As I pass Atlantis, I stop in for a moment to look in at Marty. Marilyn taps me on my shoulder and brings my attention to Keri sitting alone outside on the sectional in the covered lounge by the pool area. It’s cold out there! Granted, she has a little protection on the covered lounge, but it’s still cold out there. She doesn’t react when I open the door.
“Keri?” I say walking over to her. She raises tired eyes to me. She doesn’t look like she slept much last night.
“Oh, Anah,” she says, exhaustion evident in her voice, “Hi.”
“What are you doing out here? Did you and Chuck fight?” She shakes her head and closes her coat around her.
“It’s de sehm ting, Anah,” she says, weary and defeated. “Ev’yday it’s de sehm ting.” She gives no further explanation, and I know it’s those damn meds again. I don’t even want to address this shit anymore. I take her hand and nearly yank her off the sofa… sitting out here in the goddamn cold!
“Come with me,” I order her.
“Wheh ah we going?” she asks, nearly running behind me to keep up with my angry steps. The elevator opens and I pull her inside with Marilyn close behind.
“I’m getting you out of this house… again!” I say as the elevator opens on the main floor. I hear no protest from her, but I can feel her hesitance. So, I go to the kitchen where I know I will find Gail.
“Two things,” I begin when I get there. “First, choose one of the libraries downstairs. We’re going to convert it into an office for you. You’re the house manager now and that’s going to involve more details running a house of this size. It’s only going to get busier when the twins get here.” Gail’s eyebrows furrow in bemusement.
“Um, thanks, but… I like working up here on the counter. I’m closer to the kitchen, which seems to be the center of the house. Once the twins get here, the libraries are pretty far away from the nursery.” I twist my lips.
“Good point. You can work where you want, but your office will be one of the libraries until we can look at the blueprints of the mansion and find somewhere in the house to build it closer to the center—fair enough?” She nods.
“Good, now, second. I need you babysit Chuck for the afternoon. Keri is going to Helping Hands with me. She needs to get out of this house and away from the situation for a while.”
“Got it,” Gail says without hesitation or protest. She’s on the same page as I am with Mr. I-Won’t-Take-My-Meds downstairs. I understand that he doesn’t want to do anything that’s going to cause him to relapse. I can understand his fear and trepidation, even though I can’t imagine what it’s like to suffer from an addiction. However, when everybody—everybody… your friends, your lover, your doctor, your sponsor—can all see your pain and tell you that it’s okay to take your pills and you still refuse, now you’re just being stubborn, selfish, and stupid. So be it, but I’m getting Keri the hell out of here.
“My puhse!” she protests.
“You won’t need it,” I tell her, still dragging her to the front door. “You’ll be with me, I’ll buy you lunch, and if you go down there to get it, you’ll tip him off.”
“We won tehl’im?” she asks.
“No, we won tehl’im!” I say, mimicking her accent and causing her to giggle. I’ve slowed down my pace by the time we get to the front door, so we just walk out hand in hand. Ben is waiting in the portico with one of the Audis. His eyes light up when he sees Keri.
“Put it on a leash, Ben!” I order, remember his stare-fest at Chuck’s house while Keri was doing yoga. He immediately drops his head and opens the door for us. I let Keri get in first and slide into the backseat with her so that Casanova Lawrence can see me glaring at him in the mirror. I’m angry with Chuck right now, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to feed his girlfriend to the dogs!
“Oh, Ana, it’s so good to have you back.” Niecy gives me a sincere hug when I walk into Helping Hands. She’s one of the relief workers in the shelter portion of the center. “You look really well. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling very well, Niecy,” I say with a smile. “Just glad to be back. It seems like ages since I’ve been here. There’s a lot of activity, more than I remember. What’s going on?”
“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t been here,” she says. “There’s been a lot of changes. Improvements, that is. I’m surprised that Grace didn’t bring you up to speed.”
“We haven’t had time to talk about the center,” I tell her honestly as we start to walk to the offices. There are a lot of people here! I really want to know what all is happening. “I was only released from the hospital just before Thanksgiving and I was anxious to host this year, so there wasn’t much time for anything else.” She nods.
“I got it. My parents came into town for Thanksgiving and as much as I love them, I couldn’t wait until they left.” We laugh and I only just realize that Keri’s just looking around in awe.
“Oh, where are my manners? Niecy, this is my friend, Keri. She’s staying with me for a while and I wanted to show her where I spend my days. Keri, this is Niecy. I can’t really explain what she does here except to say that… she’s pretty much Superwoman because she does everything.” Niecy giggles at my description before turning to Keri.
“Hi, Keri,” she says, proffering her hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.” Keri takes her hand and smiles widely.
“It’s vety nice to meet you, too,” she says. Niecy gasps, still holding Keri’s hand.
“Your accent is lovely,” she says. “May I ask where you’re from?”
“Btitish Vuhgin Islands,” Keri says, proudly. “Anguilla, neah St. Maahteen.”
“I’ve never heard of Anguilla, but I’ve always wanted to go to St. Martin,” Niecy says. “I bet it’s beautiful there.”
“Oh, it’s vety beautiful,” Keri proclaims. “It’s home to me, but you should go sometime… enjoy de island hospitality.”
“Thank you. Hopefully I will soon,” Niecy smiles. “Now, as for you, Dr. Grey, let’s get you settled in so that I can bring you up to speed…”
So apparently, the rush of donations that came from my impromptu interview turned into an exponential phenomenon while I was in the hospital. People were giving en masse when they discovered that I was in a coma from being T-boned after coming from the volunteering at the center. It was like a fundraiser on steroids. I can’t say that I’m happy that I was in the accident, but I’m thrilled that something this good came from something so horrible.
Several people greet and hug me on my way to my office. I can see some of the changes along the way. It looks like we were able to set up more classes for adult education and tutoring. I see a room with smaller children and I don’t know if it’s daycare, a reading circle, or some kind of kindergarten or preschool. The funding must be insane if we’ve actually expanded into pre-K education! I’m very shocked to find that when I get to my office, my desk is currently occupied.
“Ethan?” I ask, bemused. He raises his head.
“Ana!” he says with a smile, standing and coming towards me with his arms outstretched. “You’re back. Had I known you were coming in today, I would have had this all cleared away.” He hugs me gently.
“What are you doing here? What’s going on?” I’m still completely confused. Was he standing in for me?
“Grace asked for my help,” he says, releasing the embrace and going back to my desk to type some things into his laptop. “The donations were coming so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them. She needed help managing the influx and outflow of cash. When you guys got the big donation, it was in one lump sum so it was easier to manage. Now, it’s coming from everywhere! If you weren’t a celebrity before, you sure are now!” I had no idea. It looks like we won’t have to do any fundraising for a while, but a few of those appearances that I mentioned may actually become a reality.
“Well, don’t rush in getting up,” I tell him. “I’m going to have Niecy show me what these donations have done so far and whenever you’re ready, I’d like to get an idea of what we’re looking at financially so I can see what our prospects are. Have you already reviewed the information with Grace?”
“No, actually your timing is perfect. Our meeting is set for about an hour. That’s why I commandeered your office.”
“Good, so I’ll see you in an hour. Grace’s office?” He nods. I return his nod and leave the office with Niecy and Keri.
There is so much going on. We are trying to get the licensing for a possible day care center and pre-school. Until then, the children that I saw are just a play group that sometimes becomes a reading circle headed by a few of the relief workers and some newly-acquired volunteers. Grace uses Christian’s security resources to do background checks on the volunteers and workers before she allows them to work with the children.
As the Center was already crisis intervention and has now taken on the process on a larger scale, Grace has also employed one of GEH’s security companies to beef-up security around the grounds and the center. While I was out, one of those Damon Johnson types showed up demanding to see his wife, and the police had to be called. We had always considered this a possibility, but it wasn’t a problem before now. With the newfound publicity, the need for more security—trained to handle aggressive assailants—has become a necessity. Just this moment, I decide that I’m going to hold self-defense classes for women after I have the twins.
In the hour before the meeting, I learn that we are currently hiring to fill positions involved in offering services for job placement, counselors and life coaching, outside counseling, clothing and food services, and residential assistance. We have more space in the dorms now as more rooms have been converted to living quarters. We have now opened all of the space in the Center and all of the rooms will be utilized for some purpose or another. I can see other things in preparation, but you can’t quite tell what they are, yet. Keri stays in the room with the children when she offers to read to a group of them for a while. Most likely, it helps to fill the void of her not being able to be with her own children in Anguilla. I double-back with Niecy to Grace’s office for the meeting with her and Ethan.
“There’s so much to get you caught up on, Ana,” Grace begins when I come into the office. “We’re aiming to be licensed as a daycare and learning center. This means that we’ll be able to begin a Head-Start and preschool program.” She shows me the blueprints of the rooms that will most likely be used for that purpose. She has already begun some of the minor renovations on the space, but nothing bigger yet. “I put a suggestion box in what will soon be the dining room and asked the clients what they would like to see at the center. We got a lot of ideas and we hope to bring many of them to life.”
She proceeds to share the ideas with me, and I have to admit that a lot of them are very good. Grace has been quite the busy little bee since I’ve been away. Ethan goes over the verified donations with us, which go well into six digits. Quite frankly, that’s pretty freaking awesome for a month!
Our meeting runs well into the late afternoon when I realize that Keri is here with me and hasn’t eaten lunch yet! I go in search of her and find her right where I left her—still entertaining the children. I watch her from a distance just beyond the door. She is wonderful with children. She’s quite the natural. She’s currently on the floor playing with building blocks with some of the smaller kids. They are lost in their own little world of fantasy and make-believe.
I look a few feet to the left and there’s Ben, standing against the wall staring wistfully at Keri. I see an immediate problem with this scenario. Chuck is not going to be ill forever and if he sees Ben staring at his woman like that, there’s going to be a huge issue—and I do mean huge. However, I have another problem right now. Ben is my current PPO. Why is he standing in there with Keri? Did he know where I was all this time? Did he know that I was safe or did he just assume? I quietly move away from the door and go in search of Ethan. I need a little help teaching my lust-struck security a bit of a lesson.
“Why do you want me to do that?” Ethan asks when I tell him my plan.
“Less than a month ago, someone tried to kill me. The only reason she didn’t succeed is because the man who this guy is filling in for threw himself in front of a speeding car to protect me. Although I should, I don’t expect Ben to be as diligent as Chuck because we don’t have that type of relationship yet, but he should at least know where the fuck I am when I’m not at home—not just the building, but exactly where I am. So just give me a minute or two and just go in there and ask, ‘Hey, where’s Ana,’ okay?”
“Okay,” Ethan says in that uncertain tone. I pat him on the shoulder and head off towards the dorms.
“Ana, I haven’t seen you in ages!” Helen embraces me warmly when I get to the dorms. I don’t think I’ve seen Helen since before I got married.
“How have you been?” I ask when she releases me.
“Well, my mom’s been sick, so I had to cut my time down here at the center.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that,” I tell her. She nods and starts walking.
“Thank you. She’s in hospice now, so… you know how that is.” I immediately think about Pops.
“I can imagine.” We’re quiet for a moment.
“So, I know you haven’t seen the dorms yet. We’ve only got a few more rooms ready so far, but they’ve really come in handy with the other services Grace wants to offer…”
She shows me around to the newest rooms and introduces me to a couple of the relief workers hired while I was out. Grace is going to expand the shelter services to not only house women and families escaping domestic violence, but also displaced women and children just trying to get on their feet again. I think it’s a wonderful idea. You don’t want to be at your last resort to be able to get some help. Sometimes, you might be at that point in your life where you just need a little push—just a bit of a hand up, not necessarily a handout. That’s what this program will offer. I’ve toured the new rooms that are going to be used for that purpose and Helen has filled me in on some of the additional services that we’ll be offering. Helping Hands is transforming right before my eyes and I better get prepared for it.
Just as we are moving into one of the community living areas, my phone vibrates. I look at it and it’s Chuck. I guess it couldn’t last forever. I excuse myself from Helen and answer my phone.
“Anastasia Grey.” There’s a pause. “Hello?”
“You honestly didn’t know it was me?” he asks. I pause, too.
“Chuck?” I say feigning surprise. “No, I didn’t know it was you. I didn’t look at the phone. I just swiped it and answered. What’s up?”
“Nothing. I’m just trying to locate my girlfriend.”
“Well, she’s here somewhere. The last I checked, she was in the reading circle with the children. I had a meeting with Ethan and Grace before I came over to check out the dorms…”
“Ethan?” he questions. “He’s volunteering, too?”
“No, there’s been a massive influx of donations since my interview, and the fact that I’ve been in the hospital made them grow even more.”
“Really?” he truly sounds interested.
“Yes,” I say. “The dorms are expanding to allow for lodging for women and children who just need some help getting back on their feet. We’re trying to get licensing for daycare and food services. There’s going to be counseling and placement…”
“So all of that space that’s been dormant all this time on the east side of the building is going to be used now.” He’s been paying attention. I’m impressed.
“Yes!” I tell him. “There’s so much that we can do with it now that we’re trying to decide what’s the best use of the space.”
“You know that big room in the center with all the windows that looks out onto the courtyard? That would be perfect for the daycare center,” he says. “If the funding allows for it, you can turn the courtyard into a park/play area kind of thing.” I’m nodding while he’s talking.
“Good thinking. I wonder if there’s a door on that room that leads to the courtyard…”
“Yes, there is. That’s what made me think of it.” Again, I’m impressed.
“How do you know all this?” I ask.
“It’s my job to know all this,” he says. “Empty space in a building that big is a nightmare. People can hide in there because no one uses those rooms on a regular basis. Empty space with an exterior access door is even worse.”
“But the ‘exterior access’ only goes to the courtyard,” I protest.
“Still, an opportunist would find a way.”
“Under that assumption, wouldn’t it mean that room probably wouldn’t be a good idea for kids?”
“On the contrary, unless they are the specific target, children are usually a great deterrent for a would-be assailant—not to mention, they are wonderful alarms.” I laugh inwardly thinking of mugger or something trying to sneak into the courtyard door and being greeted by a gaggle of frightened, screaming toddlers.
“Chuck, when you’re here with me, how do you handle my whereabouts?” I ask, seriously.
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“I mean, like, you knew about parts of this building that I didn’t know about until today. When I was seeing patients, there were two ways into my office and you always sat guard at one of them while Mare had her eyes on me all day…”
“You’re not seeing patients anymore?” he asks.
“No, I closed my practice last week.”
“How did I not know that?” I can hear his frown.
“You’re off-duty. You would have found out when you’re back.”
“I need to know these things before I’m back on duty so that I can prepare for contingencies.” That’s why I miss having him around.
“Okay, I’ll keep that in mind. We’re getting off the topic, though. My point is that it was easy to track me in my building. How did you keep up with me in this place?”
“Lots of things,” he says. “I know your patterns. I know that you’ll only be in one of a few places at any given time—your office, Grace’s office, the community room, or the teaching room. If you went to another part of the building, I found another post…”
“You have posts?” I ask. Who gave him posts?
“Okay, if you’re in a building that big, unless you plan on putting a guard in every room, security has to be able to cover a lot of space at once. When you and Grace shared an office, the area right by the break room was a perfect spot to hang out. When you were in the community room, I was either there or by Hank’s desk…” Hank is the night guard posted near the back door. “When your office moved to the other end of the hallway or if you were in the teaching room, I was in the teaching room or loitering somewhere nearby.
“I’d love for you to think I’m omnipresent, but I also had other eyes. For instance, when you went off into the dorms, I knew those women were in delicate positions and they didn’t want some strange man wandering around even if he was your security. So I posted myself outside those doors and down the hall a little bit. You know, they should have another guard or something down there—concealed carry preferably. There’s nothing to stop some lunatic from getting in there if he wants to get to his wife and kids.”
“There is,” I say as an afterthought, then add, “Grace has hired one of Christian’s companies to do security.”
“Where is this line of questioning coming from?” he asks.
“Nothing. I just wanted to know,” I tell him. “When I moved, you moved, and I was just wondering how you did it.”
“It’s my job, Ana. It’s that simple. Is Ben not doing what he’s supposed to do?” I sigh. You have no idea what Ben is doing, Chuck.
“It’s just weird trying to get used to someone else. Like I said, he’s not you…” and lately, you’re not you either. I want to argue at him about those damn pain pills again, but I know it’s futile. “I gotta go. I have to see a man about a horse. I’ll tell Keri to give you a call as soon as I get back around to the community room. We’ll be home soon. I’ve got to feed her.”
“Feed her?” he asks.
“Yeah, I got so caught up with the meeting and all the changes going on here and she got so caught up with the kids that we both forgot about food… but I ate before I left. She didn’t.”
“Yeah, she gets like that sometimes,” he says.
“Have you seen her around kids?” I ask.
“No, I haven’t had the chance.”
“She is so in her element,” I tell him. “It’s like she goes into her own little world and she actually becomes one of them. It’s something to see.”
“Yeah, I can imagine.” His voice gets a little wistful. I hear Ben off in the distance asking someone if they’ve seen me. It only took him all of half an hour to find me. The place isn’t even big enough for it to take that long.
“Okay, really, I have to go. Man. Horse. You know…” I jest.
“Yeah. Listen, don’t bother her. I’ll just see you guys when you get back, okay?”
“Okay,” I say as Ben turns the corner into the dorm community room. “We’ll see you later.” We end the call.
“Was this Where’s Waldo?” Ben asks, when he has my attention. I frown.
“You couldn’t tell me that you were going off into the dorms so that I could know where you were?” he asks, affronted. Oh, no the hell he is not giving me attitude.
“So basically,” I begin, keeping my voice controlled for the moment, “when I’m ready to move around, I have to come and tell you?”
“I’m not saying that you have to check in with me, but it would be nice to know where you are,” he reinforces, his tone somewhat scolding. That’s it. To hell with control. He’s gotten a bit too comfortable in a short period of time and has forgotten that—first and foremost—no matter how friendly I am, you have a job to do. All this time, I’ve been trying to put him in the place of Chuck and even though I keep saying that he’s not Chuck, it’s only at this moment that I truly realize that he is not Chuck and he never will be.
“Oh! My apologies, Mr. Lawrence,” I say, rising from my seat and folding my arms. “I didn’t know that it was my job to know where you were during the course of the day. I thought it was the other way around.” My voice is sharp. I have now become Dr. Steele—yes, Dr. Steele; that firm, ball-busting bitch that kicks “Just call me Ana” to the fucking curb. Dr. Grey is nicer than her, so Grey has to sit this one out. He notices the change in my tone immediately.
“Okay, maybe that came out the wrong way,” he says. “Let’s forget that I said that…”
“No, let’s not,” I retort. If he’s busy following a piece of ass around, just like Harris did when he lost David, that puts me at risk. To that end, Mr. Lawrence and I need to have a serious chat. “You see, I did know where you were, and I went about the business of doing my job, which is the business of this charity and this center. True, I may not be getting paid for it, but it’s still my job. While I was busy doing my job, you should have been doing your job—which is watching my back. Instead, you were busy watching Chuck’s girlfriend’s ass.”
Realization dawns and his face changes. Yeah, you want to come at me with both guns? Let me show you what a real double barrel feels like.
“Let me tell you just how serious this is for me. I’ve asked you more than once to stay away from my friend’s girlfriend. You look at her like you want to mount her right where she’s standing and if she saw you gawking at her like that, she would most likely feel quite uncomfortable. I can’t make you stop—you’re a man, she’s a woman. You’ll have to take that up with Chuck, but I won’t hesitate to tell you that I feel very personally about this issue because that man saved my life!” I hiss the last few words hard and quick as this is the last I plan to say about it.
“The bigger issue is that while you were in there Keri-gazing, you had no idea where I was. The last man who lost sight of his charge was fired for it, blamed me, assisted in my kidnapping and brutally beat me. We all know what happened to him.” Ben’s expression changes as does his stance. He’s less relaxed and his back is straight. I’ve got his attention.
“Am I saying that you’re going to get fired and die like Harris? No, but I am saying that my safety should be your number one concern and I need to know that’s where your head is.”
“You’re right,” he says, looking me square in the eye. “I’m very sorry. I had no idea where you were and that’s completely unacceptable. I hope you’ll forgive my carelessness. It won’t happen again.”
“That’s all I ask,” I reply. “You’ve got a whole lot of cargo here that you’re responsible for. I depend on you to watch out for me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” And we’ve moved to ma’am. Actually, that’s fine with me if I’m sure that he’ll do what needs to be done.
“One other thing. My husband is your employer. By extension, I’m your employer. Don’t ever get so comfortable again that you think you can check me about anything. You can ask me a question and you can voice your concerns, but the only person allowed to check me is my husband and even he does so very carefully and only in context.” Take that however you want, but watch your tone with me, Ben!
“Yes, ma’am. Again, I apologize. I was out of line,” he says very formally. I nod.
“We’ll keep this between us. No one else needs to know.” He nods.
“Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
The ride home from the Center was much different than the ride in. Ben is as quiet as a zombie while the children have breathed new life into Keri. She’s animated and youthful and vibrant, nothing like the beaten woman I rescue from the pool area. When I went to fetch her before we left the center, she was holding someone’s baby. The child had to be just a few months old and just like she was with the toddlers and the blocks, her attention focused solely on this child. The mother had gone to the dorms to retrieve something and one of the relief workers assured her that Keri was trustworthy as she had been sitting with the children for most of the afternoon.
Keri was lost in the child’s eyes when I got there. She was singing some beautiful song about a dodo or something—it sounded a bit like French, but she had some other language mixed in there as well. As far as I could tell, the song was talking about a crab eating you, but it sounded so beautiful that the little baby girl listening was mesmerized the entire time that she sang to her. When I came to get her, she refused to leave until the mother returned. Even when the relief worker offered to take the baby, Keri declined.
“Noh!” she said, firmly. “She ttusted de chile to me. She will retuhn, I will give de chile back to heh.” I couldn’t argue with her. We sat for about ten more minutes waiting for the mother while Keri sang the dodo song. When Mom returned, the little angel was fast asleep.
“Keri, what was that song that you were singing to the baby?” she smiles.
“It is a song Mahmah sing to me when I was a bebbie… Dodo Titit. It chenged a lot troo de yehs. Some say it’s Haitian. Uddehs say Cteole. I just knoh Mahmah sing de song.
Dodo, ti titit manman l
Dodo, ti titit papa l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l…”
“I thought the song said something about crabs eating you,” I say. Keri laughs.
“You speak Haitian?” she laughs.
“I speak French,” I tell her. She nods.
“Ah, you hehd de Cteole. Mahmah say by de time she hehd de lullaby. Some wehds may be Haitian, some wehds may be Cteole, some wehds may be God only knows, but it put us to sleep, which is de only ting dat mattehs!” We laugh again. She’s so much fun when she’s not burdened down with the cares of Chuck.
“You seemed so at home with the children,” I say. She smiles.
“I used to bebbysit when I was a teenageh. I bebbysat most of de childjen I teach. Dat’s what make me want to teach. Deir so helpless. Dey need someone to care foh dem.” I see now that it’s not just a job for her, that she really cares about her kids.
“It must be hard to let go, like if they move away or go to another school.” Her lips flatten in contemplation.
“Yes, it can be deefecult, but you knoh change must come. Nuttin’ stays de same. Dey can’t be bebbies fohevah. Dat would not be good.” She sounds so matter-of-fact when she says this. I nod as she reminds me to cherish every moment with my babies as you don’t know how long you’re going to have. I rub my stomach gingerly.
“No, I suppose they can’t.”
I didn’t check on Butterfly today as I didn’t want to harass her on her first day back to work, so to speak. I’m a bit dismayed that she didn’t call me either, but she probably got caught up in whatever was going on at the center. When Jason and I get back to the house, we find Charles sitting in the family room flipping through channels. He doesn’t look like he’s in pain, so I wonder if he finally gave in and took the medicine.
“Hey, Chuck,” Jason says, questioning, “Had to get out of the suite?” Chuck nods.
“I’m waiting for Keri,” he replies. Keri? Where’s Keri? “She’s with Ana,” he says, answering my thoughts.
“Oh, she went to the center,” I say taking off my coat.
“As far as I can tell,” he says. As far as he can tell… what the hell happened here today?
“Did you guys have a fight?” Jason asks. Yes, inquiring minds want to know.
“No, we didn’t fight,” he says. “She just needed some fresh air.” His facial expression tells me that there’s more to that story, but I don’t press the case.
“Hopefully, we’ll be seeing them any second,” I say looking at my watch. It’s after 6pm. I was sure Butterfly would be home before me.
“Well, hello, gentlemen,” Gail says, coming out of the kitchen with Mariah and Celida. Now how did they get here before I did? I was sure that Luma and I left the office around the same time. Gail greets her husband with a kiss, eliciting a giggle from the girls.
“Luma’s here?” I ask.
“Not yet,” Gail replies. “She brought the girls over after school. She had some seminar that she wanted to attend after work and she asked if I could keep an eye on the girls. I didn’t think it would pose a problem…”
“Oh, no, it’s no problem. We might as well get used to it, right?” I say, smiling down to the girls who smile widely back up at me. “So, ladies, what’s for dinner?”
“Chicken pot pie,” Mariah exclaims. “Ms. Solavan let me help.”
“Ms. Solomon, Mariah,” Gail corrects her gently.
“Ms. Solmolan,” she says sweetly.
“So-lo-mon,” Gail says, bending down to her.
“So-lo-mon,” she repeats. Gail smiles.
“Very good,” she encourages and Mariah smiles.
“Did you help, too, Celida?” I ask. She nods and moves behind her sister a bit. She’s very withdrawn. She doesn’t talk unless she’s prompted by Mariah, and that’s going to be a problem in developing her social skills. I squat down to her level.
“Celida, are you afraid of me?” I ask her softly. She shakes her head, but still cowers a bit behind Mariah. “Can you come to me?” I ask. She doesn’t move.
“Go ahead, Celida,” Mariah encourages. Celida emerges from behind her sister and shyly walks over to me. I gently take her little hands.
“Do you remember my name?” I ask. She nods. “What is it?”
“Mr. Christian,” she says is a voice so small that I can barely hear her.
“One more time, I couldn’t hear you.”
“Mr. Christian,” she says only slightly louder. I nod and smile.
“That’s very good, Celida,” I tell her. “You have such a pretty voice. I like when you say my name. So when you see me, you can say, ‘hi, Mr. Christian,’ and that’ll make me smile, okay?” She nods and smiles happily.
“Okay,” she says, shedding a bit of her shyness.
“Very good,” I say, smiling back at her.
“Well!” I hear a familiar voice from across the room. “Do you see this, Keri? There’s a very pretty girl holding hands with my husband.” Celida giggles freely why Mariah takes the opportunity to be noticed.
“Hi, Ms. Ana!” Mariah says, waving wildly. Butterfly gasps, mocking surprise.
“And there’s another pretty girl in my kitchen!” she says, smiling widely. “Come, both of you pretty girls give me a big hug.” Both of them dash towards Butterfly, but Celida stops before leaving to whisper conspiratorially, “I’ll be back, Mr. Christian.” It pleases me that this is probably the most I’ve heard her say without being prompted.
Butterfly envelopes both girls in her arms and they are all smiles and giggles. “Oh, what a wonderful surprise. I have two of my favorite girls in the world here with me. Are you staying for dinner?”
“Yes!” they say in unison. Anyone who knows them would swear that they speak with the same voice.
“That makes me so happy,” Butterfly smiles.
“Come, now, ladies,” Gail prompts. “I need my helpers to help us set the table and get dinner out.”
“Okay!” they say in unison again. They each kiss Butterfly on opposite cheeks and run to Gail’s hand. As if she has remembered a horrible malfeasance, Celida stops short and looks at me—still squatting down to her level. She runs to my arms and kisses me quickly on the cheek before running back towards the pantry with Gail and Mariah.
I reach up and touch my cheek. It’s feels like a tiny little angel just sprinkled fairy dust in the spot.
“Christian?” I guess I contemplated a little too long as Butterfly’s voice brings me out of my stupor. I shake my head and stand.
“I don’t think a child has ever kissed me,” I say. She scoffs good-naturedly.
“Well, you might as well get used to it,” she chuckles. “You’re about to have a daughter.”
“Keri?” Charles emerges from the family room.
“Chatlez,” Keri say sweetly. “How do you feel?”
“Better now,” he says a bit wistfully. Oh man, he’s gone. Keri smiles and walks over to him. “I missed you.” She smiles wider at his sentiment and kisses him gently on the cheek. “Come, tell me about your day.” A look of pleasant surprise sweeps across her face.
“It was wondehful,” she begins as they walk—and roll—into the family room together. Jason and I share a knowing look and smirk before he disappears in the same direction, most likely down to his suite. I take Butterfly in my arms.
“Hello, beautiful,” I say before planting a kiss on her lips.
“Hello, yourself. Good day?”
“Blissfully uneventful and boring,” I tell her. “The same old mergers and acquisitions; a few status update meetings; no fires, floods, or hurricanes—that’s a good day.”
“Glad to hear it, Mr. Grey,” she says as we walk towards the elevator, my arm still around her.
“How was your day?” I ask.
“Busy!” she says. “An enormous amount of individual contributions has come in as a result of my calamity.” I frown.
“As a result of your calamity?” She nods. “I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
“Well, maybe I shouldn’t have put it that way. When people found out that I was in the hospital right after that little impromptu interview, they started sending in donations—so many that Grace recruited Ethan to help keep track of the incoming funds and the expenditures because her little spreadsheet wasn’t doing it anymore. There’s a lot going on and a lot more to be done.” Come to think of it, I do remember Jason showing me an article about people being concerned about her when she was in a coma.
“Really?” I’m somewhat surprised by people’s ability to actually become human. I knew there were donations, but not so many. “I was wondering where Mom got the money to hire security.”
“Now you know,” she says as we step inside the elevator. I push the button for the second floor and once the car begins to move, I feel the electricity of being in this confined space. When I look over at her, she’s gazing up at me through her eyelashes. I push her against the wall and kiss her hungrily, rising to an immediate erection. When did we last have sex? Before the weekend, I think. God, I need her now.
I’m glad there’s no one on the second floor when the door opens, because we are tearing at each other and Athena’s Spear is violently pulsing inside my pants. I stumble into our bedroom ready to rip every piece of clothing off of her.
“I need you!” I groan.
“No,” she protests. “Not now. We don’t have time. People are waiting for us for dinner…” It’s like a knife to my gut.
“Anaaaa?” I whine, taking her hand and placing it on my throbbing erection while I grab her ass with my other hand. She squeezes hard, causing me delicious torment. I groan deep and kiss her again as she rubs my aching shaft roughly through my pants. She undoes my fly and pushes her hand into my pants, heat and friction working me into untamed passion. Fuck, I’m dying here. She said “no,” but her hand is wrapped around my naked rod—skin to skin, nearly causing me to choke on air. It’s unbearable. It feels so good. She pulls my dick out of my pants and strokes, deep and hard, up and down, her hand relentlessly rolling around the head. I can’t help but stroke against it, panting hard as I feel my orgasm slowly start to creep up my legs. She uses my precum to lubricate my shaft and torture me further. It feels remarkable.
“Fuck! Baby!” I growl, as my head falls back, and now I realize that I’m against the wall. I don’t know how I got here, but I’m not complaining. My mouth is open and I’m panting. I’m so fucking horny, I’m going to blow right here!
“Ana!” I warn as I feel my hips and balls tightening. She softens her stroke and I’m able to take a few deep breaths. She skillfully undoes my belt and button with her free hand and my pants fall down to my ankles. She tightens her hand like before and pulls, licking the skin on my neck and pulling and pushing my poor little dick right back to the frenzy she left it in moments ago.
“Baby!” I gasp. “Baby!”
Right on cue, she drops down and takes my erection in her mouth, sucking hard and deep.
I don’t stand a chance.
I’m shaking and twitching like a possessed man. She is drawing every bit of my seed out of me like a vampire sucking life’s blood. Instinctively, I grab her head and push so that I can further fuck her mouth. She responds by grabbing my ass, tightening her lips, and pushing me further down her throat. I cry out as my balls feel like they are erupting into orgasm again and ride out the pleasure she is ringing from me.
Her hand caresses the tightening and extremely sensitive skin on my testicles, not to mention her delicate finger stroking the muscle right at the base of my dick that is pulsing and squeezing and pushing the semen out of me. I’m holding my breath as she satiates me. I couldn’t breathe if I wanted to. When she’s certain that she’s swallowed every drop I can give, her lips stroke back up to the end of my dick, causing me to gasp loudly until she releases my tender head with a “pop.”
I’m panting like a thirsty puppy as she rises to her feet. My hands are on… something, closet door knob, a table—something. I don’t know. I just know that if they weren’t there, I’d be on the floor by now. She provocatively wipes her lips with her forefinger and thumb.
“Better?” she says sweetly. I can only nod, my breath still temporarily evading me. She chuckles a bit. “I’m going to brush my teeth. You freshen up and we’ll go back to dinner.” I nod again. I don’t even see her leave. I hear the water running in her bathroom and figure I had better get myself together. They’ve probably already started dinner without us.
I pull up my pants and go into my bathroom. Shit, she gives the best head I’ve ever had in my life! Then again, it could be that I love her and although now may not be the time to contemplate this, I can’t think of one of my prior subs—not one of them—that could suck a dick as well as my wife can. That’s saying a lot, because without being too vulgar, I can say that I’ve known some very talented ladies, but none of them holds a candle to Butterfly’s skills.
I splash a bit of cold water on my face as I’m sure that my skin is flushed and I probably look like a fresh beet! Once I dry my face, I check my clothes to make sure that no evidence or remnants are visible anywhere. All is well. When I come back into the bedroom, Butterfly has finished and is standing there waiting for me.
“Ready, Mr. Grey,” she says with a coy smile. I pull her against me and kiss her passionately, my tongue exploring her mouth and searching for possible remnants of my essence. She’s a little loopy when our lips part.
“After dinner, I’m going to eat that pussy so good, it’s going to make that astronomical blowjob seem like child’s play.” She gasps quietly and I’m sure that she knows I plan to make her come with the force of an erupting volcano. “Yes, Mrs. Grey, I’m quite ready.” She swallows hard and walks out of our bedroom toward the elevator. Yes, Butterfly, your mouth may make me weak from release, but my words can still make you squirm with anticipation.
To my surprise, when we step off the elevator, everyone is only just now starting to move toward the dining room. Pops and Uncle Herman have already made their way into the dining room with Gail and the girls. Jason and Charles are both still in the family room.
“See? I knew it. You owe me fifty bucks,” Charles says to Jason, holding his hand out.
“Shit!” Jason says. “I was sure I was gonna be right about this one.” I frown. What were they betting on? I look down at Butterfly, who looks back up at me, puzzled at first. Then, right before my eyes and in about three seconds, she goes through a variety of emotions. First, her cheeks flush, but only briefly. She’s embarrassed. Next, she frowns a bit, but only slightly. She’s a bit perturbed, further proven by the fact that her eyes narrow, but again, only for a second. She’s putting together what she saw and heard and most likely comes to the same conclusion that I do.
These assholes were betting that we were up there fucking.
She purses her lip, sucks her teeth, and her lips rise on one side in a devilish little smirk. Oh, shit. Something that she’s about to do is about to make somebody really uncomfortable. I thought these idiots knew to avoid her wrath, but apparently…
Butterfly does a sultry stroll right over to Charles’ wheelchair. Placing her hands on either armrest, she bends down right in his face. When he quite uncomfortable with the proximity, she purrs,
“You should probably give him back twenty-five.”
She stands up straight and puts her hands on her hips. Charles frowns at first and Butterfly’s gaze never leaves his. Suddenly, his eyes pierce and grow wide. In a move of perfect genius, Butterfly glares at him and simply sucks a bit of air through her teeth without moving another muscle.
And now, he gets it.
“Oh, TMI! Keep it, man,” he says, handing the $50 bill back to a howling Jason. Butterfly snatches the bill from his hand and shoves it down her shirt, most likely into her boobs, before turning to glare at Jason. He stops laughing immediately, failing miserably to hide his mirth.
“I’m going to have to have my eyeballs and brain scrubbed,” Charles comments. That’s what you get for betting on our damn sex life, but apparently, poor Charles doesn’t know when to quit.
“Get a really good picture of it, Chuck. In fact, let me help you. Remember the disappearing pancake in Anguilla?” Charles turns white. I don’t think any of us can forget the disappearing pancake, but I have to say that I’m pleased that she’s remembering small details.
“Oh, ew,” he mumbles and I try not to laugh out loud.
“I hope it ruins your dinner,” she says to him as she marches from the family room into the kitchen, pleased that she has left him thoroughly uncomfortable. Jason’s smirk is not as firm as it was when she began, either. Still firm, but not as firm.
“Why does that gross you out so much, man?” Jason asks. “That’s just a man and a woman doing what men and women do.”
“Because,” Charles begins, “that’s like him and… my sister!” Again, trying not to laugh out loud…
“But we were just talking about it a minute before they walked in the room!” Jason points out. Hello? I’m standing here—am I invisible?
“Yeah, but it’s different when she’s right here in my face!” Charles protests. Okay, enough of this conversation.
“Gentlemen,” I say extending my hand in an ushering motion. “Shall we join our women for dinner.”
“I think I’m gonna puke,” Charles says as he wheels himself toward the kitchen, Jason close behind. I’ve learned that while I like to work behind the scenes to get things done, Butterfly is an out-in-the-open humiliator. If you make her feel uncomfortable out in the open, she will strip you of your dignity right where you stand, hence that handful of reporters known as sacrificial lambs. That’s why she’s always one-upping someone and never finds herself on the backfoot. I think poor Charles may have forgotten that.
I laugh to myself and join everyone in the dining room for dinner.
A/N: If I failed to mention it, my new daughter is from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Listening to her talk makes it a whole lot easier to try to write Keri’s accent. 😉
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