Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 37—Bad Boys

The last chapter brought some mixed reviews, several people totally forgetting Ana’s reasons for wanting to join a country club. I’m not sure if it’s because people read so many stories that they lose track of the premise of my story OR they compare my story with someone else’s and totally lose the thrust. Nonetheless, I can only hope that if this is the case that people go back and read the story and reacquaint themselves with the characters so that they don’t lose touch with the storyline and the characters’ intentions.

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 37—Bad Boys

ANASTASIA

So apparently he got that call from whomever he made it the moment I left Harbor Club—just as we suspected. This is not going to be a fight. I refuse to allow this to be a fight. I just don’t have the strength for it. I just don’t…

“That’s my intention, yes,” I reply.

“I never thought the country club set was your cup of tea,” he says.

“Well, after talking to Adelaide, I see a lot of benefits to being a member of a country club,” I tell him matter-of-factly. “It’s a wonderful networking environment. It’s like a fraternity for adults. The resources that you find just among club members are phenomenal! I had no idea!”

“Anastasia, I know everybody—people in every industry. Whatever any situation needs, I have the resources and connections.”

“That’s right,” I say flatly. “You have the resources. You have the connections. I can most often get a lot done because I’m Mrs. Christian Grey, but as Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director of Helping Hands, I can’t get much done without you or Grace. I’m window dressing, Christian, and that’s not what I was meant to be!” He examines me for a moment.

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” he says after the pause. I drop my head.

“I didn’t either,” I respond, breaking eye contact and looking back down at my desk. I feel more like the “little woman” now than I ever did, and I’m trying so hard not to fall into that stereotype. Even as big as a whale, I’ve got to be effective. True, I’m going to deliver in less than two months. Most likely, I’ll be delivering in six weeks, but a lot can happen in six weeks.

“This is a really big decision, Butterfly,” he chides, gently. “Country clubs usually don’t want just one of us. They want us both. Why didn’t you consult with me about this before you made this decision?” He’s not angry that I can tell. He just appears to be looking for answers. I have answers for him. I can do that…

“Because you would have said ‘no’ again.” The words are out of my mouth before I can catch them. Strangely, I don’t regret it… much. I didn’t want to say that, though. Like I said, I’m not trying to start a fight, but that’s why I didn’t say anything to him. Had I continued to seek membership after he’d said “no,” then I would have been deliberately defying him—and we all know what happens when I do that.

“I don’t say ‘no’ on everything, Anastasia,” he protests.

“No, not everything… but lately, it seems like if it matters to me, you do,” I can’t find a way to say it without sounding confrontational.

“Are we talking about the radio spots?” he asks. I nod. “With everything that’s gone on, you still think that would have been a good idea?”

“We’ll never know, Christian,” I say in a controlled tone. “I could have been in front of a microphone laying on the Anastasia Steele charm and drumming up donations for Helping Hands while you were somewhere nearby, throwing the evil eye at the producer and threatening to buy his legacy instead of in the office suffering any of the catastrophes that befell you over the last two weeks or so.” I lean back in my seat, trying to get comfortable, but having a hell of a time now that the other two people in my body are demanding more space.

“Maybe the things that happened would have happened anyway, I don’t know, but I have a purpose to fulfill and I’m going to do it,” I finish.

“I bet Mom’s in seventh heaven with you around,” he says, matter-of-factly. I shrug. Yeah, and Courtney’s in seventh hell. “I still wish you had talked to me first. I don’t like finding these things out second hand,” he scolds again. I sigh.

“Christian…” I begin, unable to hide the petulance in my voice.

“… And I could have told you not to waste your time with Harbor Club. They were started during a time when a woman’s place was solely in the kitchen or on the boss’s lap, and they’ve evolved into an Old Boys’ Club for the most part. I would have gladly steered you away from that place had I known you were headed in that direction.”

My brow furrows. I knew he would get a call from them most likely, but this isn’t quite how I expected this portion of the conversation to go. Is he saying that I shouldn’t have wasted my time with Harbor Club, or I shouldn’t have wasted my time with any club? My silence and, no doubt, my bemused expression were his cue that he probably shouldn’t leave the conversation hanging where it is.

“I got a call from a business associate of mine—no one of any great importance, just someone that I know in the industry… one of the Old Boys and a long-standing member of Harbor Club. I think he’s a proprietary member, in fact. Anyway, he said that you had met with the general manager and that you may have been less than impressed with the facilities. He was hoping that he could get me to come down to the club and spend a little time to see if he could persuade me to persuade you into a change of heart.” This doesn’t surprise me.

“Long story short, I just told him that I would talk to you and we would let them know if they were one of our choices…” which is exactly what I told them. “Harbor Club is struggling because their tactics don’t work anymore. Their original membership is faithful, but dying off and so is their legacy. To that end, they’re not able to secure new membership. This is one of the reasons why I wish you would consult with me before you started visiting country clubs. You would do better to start with Bear Creek or Broadmoor.”

Okay, now I’m really stunned. Am I mistaken or did my antisocial, control freak husband just give me his approval for us to join a country club?

“Huh?” is the only thing I can say.

“Why are you so surprised? What was your plan—to ambush me?”

“Quite frankly, yes,” I respond pointedly. “I was going to do my research and bring you the best choices and solid reasoning why I felt that we should join. If you shot me down, I was hoping that I could find some clubs that would accept me on my own and if not, in the process, I was hoping that I would make a few friends and contacts—draw people to me based simply on the idea that I’m looking at the country clubs. It’s already started, so I know that I’ll be able to network that. Once I’ve built a solid foundation of a few useful women, if you decided to ixnay the idea or drag it out too long like I know that you could, then I would garner the sympathy of the women in my newfound circle that my husband feels that it’s not a good time to join a country club. I would tell them sincerely that I value the relationships that I have built with them and hope that they won’t end because I’m not a member of a specific club. My hope is that the thought of losing my acquaintance once they’ve gained it will maintain my standing as needed with the foundation group. I would then be invited to functions and affairs on that merit where I would then be able to make a name for myself and build my own network instead of constantly riding the coattails of Mr. Christian Grey.” Now his eyebrows furrow.

“Is that what this is all about, Baby?” he asks, expecting. I drop my eyes to my baby mountain.

“Yes,” I say, without raising my eyes to his again. I don’t want to see disappointment or anger… I just don’t want to deal with it.

“I was wondering why you used the phrase Anastasia Steele charm.” And now he sounds bruised. I look up at him and I’m right. I twist my lips at him and shake my head. I don’t even have the energy to be angry.

“Christian, when are you going to see that this particular thing is not about you?” I say with no malice. “It’s not about not wanting to be Mrs. Grey. It’s about wanting to be Anastasia.” I can’t explain this to him anymore. Hell, I can’t explain it to myself. Over the last two days, I’ve been having an “Elephant Girl” crisis, so I can’t explain to him why I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, too. All the thoughts are so overwhelming and it seems so simple, that he’s such a smart man that he should just be able to clearly see what I’m trying to tell him and I don’t understand why he can’t. The idea of having to walk him through this and the idea of possibly having another fight fills me with anguish and dread. All of the screaming thoughts swim around and culminate in a single tear that rolls down my cheek and lands on the baby mountain, staining my dress. The three-second funnel produces a single thought that I speak without raising my head:

“I just want people to see me instead of always seeing me standing behind you.”

A few moments pass before I hear him rise and walk over to me. He sits on the edge of my desk and takes my hand from my stomach. Bringing it to his lips, he kisses my knuckles gently. With his free hand, he wipes my tear with his thumb and lifts my chin so that my eyes reach his.

“You shine on your own, Baby. You just don’t see it,” he says, before kissing me softly on my lips. “Start with Bear Creek and Broadmoor. Ask Addie about her club. I think Mom and Dad belong to one, too. Let me know what you come up with.” Should I tell him that I’ve already visited Broadmoor? “I’m going to check on dinner. It should be ready by now. Do you want me to bring you some tea or something if not?” I shake my head.

“No, I’ll be up soon,” I say. I feel the rush coming. He nods and kisses me on the cheek.

“Are you okay?” he asks. I nod. He pauses before he leaves, closing the door behind him. I wait for a few moments before I drop my head on the desk and weep. I have no idea why I’m crying, but once the flood gates have been opened lately, I just have to let them flow. I don’t know if these are tears of confusion, sorrow frustration, or relief, but they just flow, and I just let them. Get them all out before I go upstairs to dinner. I’ve got to regain control somehow because this is getting ridiculous.


 

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly was quiet at dinner last night… too quiet. She was in deep contemplation, I could tell. She finished her meal and turned in early, saying that she was extremely exhausted and needed to get into the Center this morning to conduct a tour of the facilities. It’s one of the requirements of state certification and accreditation and she wants to make sure that everything is in place before the delegates arrive to tour the facilities. She was up and dressed before me and although I didn’t see her in her office, she hasn’t said goodbye yet, so I don’t think she’s left for the day.

I think I surprised her when I agreed to us joining a country club last night. I’ll admit that it’s not something that’s on the top of my list of priorities as I still prefer to keep my private life private. However, as a couple, our lives have changed significantly and Ana is the catalyst of that change. She has made us… different. I can’t continue to be the miser that I once was because I’ve married a social butterfly and I can’t keep her in a cage.

Black eyeI finally take a chance and look in the mirror today. Most of the bruising on my face is gone except for the eye that was swollen shut. Now there’s some deep red bruising under the eye and that’s pretty much the end of it. A few more ice packs and a couple more days of Gail’s tea and you won’t even know that I’ve been in a fight. My teeth aren’t even tender anymore, after only two days, but that could be the pain killers. Either way, things are really looking up.

Or so I thought…

I’m examining the list of names of people whose heads will roll at that Mercer Island insane asylum we were originally transported to last week when the intercom at my desk beeps to notify me of two-way communications.

“Yes?”

“Are you alone, sir?” Jason voice inquires through the speaker. Well, if I weren’t, that would certainly arouse suspicion.

“Yes, I am. Why do you ask?”

“Sir, we’ve got a situation out here at the front gate. You’re either going to need to come out here and handle it, or we’re going to need to bring it to you.” I need to handle it? Why the hell do I have security if I need to handle something at the front gate?

“What the hell is going on, Jason? Why can’t you handle it?”

“Cholometes, Boss. He’s here.” He’s here? At my home?

“What the fuck is he doing here? He’s on the proscribed list! Get him the fuck out of here.”

“I can do that, Sir, but he has already guaranteed me that it’s going to take half our staff, a lot of noise and a lot of undue attention. There will more than likely be cameras here faster than we can blink and what’s worse is that there would be no way to keep the situation away from Her Highness and this fucker knows that.”

“Temper, temper, Taylor,” I hear Cholometes say.

“Don’t address me, you fucking worm,” I hear Jason retort. “You’re a clear and present danger, an immediate threat, and you’re making my goddamn job harder. We have the same tactical training and I know a few things that you don’t, so don’t fucking test me!”

Whoa! Jason is pissed, and I’m sure if he could get away with it, he’d leave that man for dead right where he stands. He’s right, though. The paparazzi is never far away just waiting for something to happen, and a brawl at the front gate of Grey Crossing with someone being forcibly removed, served up, and ready to talk is perfect front page fodder. We’d never get any peace from the never-ending hell he could stir up. On top of that, the unwanted fanfare—for lack of a better word—would probably send my wife’s blood pressure through the goddamn roof.

For that same reason, I can’t meet his ass at the goddamn gate. It would look like a fucking drug drop, but what’s to stop him from unleashing hell if I allow him into my home?

Possible hell that can be contained inside the house versus certain hell at the front gate in the public eye. Butterfly’s blood pressure. What a choice.

I could sneak him around the back into the study, see what the hell he wants and get his ass out of here. No matter what I do, this will not turn out well.

“I don’t want him here. I don’t want him showing up at my home whenever he feels like it,” I say. “I won’t have him holding me hostage with threats and tidbits anymore. I don’t fucking care.”

“You won’t see me again after we finish this,” he says. He can hear me? Good.

“Your word doesn’t mean shit to me!” I say. “Your second threw in the towel which means I wasn’t supposed to hear from you now, you worthless, lying piece of shit. Yet, you’re on my property threatening disquiet. I should have you arrested and let that make the news!” I hiss.

“You don’t want to do that, Boss,” Jason says.

“Yeah, you should listen to him, Boss,” Cholometes taunts.

“One more smart ass comment out of you and you won’t be able to talk for a week and I don’t care who you call once you regain the ability to speak.” Jason’s voice is controlled and vicious and I can only assume by the obvious silence that Cholometes must have reconsidered trying his hand.

I know what Jason is referring to. Cholometes has too much on us for us to set him loose on a police station. We have stuff on him, too, but tempting the hands of fate is something that we don’t want to do.

“You have ten minutes,” I hiss. “After this, I swear on my life if I see you anywhere near me, my family, or my home, I will shoot you with a Bazooka!” Nothing. “Bring him around the back—through the barbecue kitchen. Make sure that Butterfly is not in her office, the parlor, or anywhere nearby when you bring him in. I don’t want him seeing her or talking to her. She’s made it quite clear that he’s dead to her.”

“Yes sir.” Jason ends the call and no doubt, begins the death march.

I don’t want him here. I don’t fucking want him here. Why didn’t I just tell them to make him leave? Shit, what the fuck is wrong with me? This man is nothing but headache and trouble. Why didn’t I just tell security to get him the fuck off my property? He’s bad news. He’s nothing but bad, bad news. This is going to end badly. I know it is!

He’s escorted into my study by three members of security and Jason is tucked away very nearby. He’s not standing as tall as I’m accustomed to seeing him and he’s laboring a bit in his movement. He’s still in pain. I may still be sporting a bit of my bruising, which is quickly healing thanks to Gail’s tea. Even my gums aren’t as sore as when they first wired my teeth together two days ago. Amazingly, they barely bother me at all, but a week later, he’s still hurting.

“I’m surprised you agreed to see me,” he comments.

“I’m surprised you came,” I respond, dryly. “Why are you here?”

“I promised that this would be the last that you would see of me, and it will, but first we have some unfinished business. I’m coming to collect on our wager,” he says confidently. I frown.

“Excuse me?” I scoff. “Were we in the same fight? Last I checked, Jason wasn’t the one who signaled my surrender!”

“The way I see it, I won that fight. I haven’t been off work for several days—you have. Our deal was that if I won that fight, you would buy me a house anywhere I wanted to live, even if it was next door to you.” This guy is unbelievable.

“You can barely walk,” I observe. I’ve seen some delusional fuckers in my life but this one takes the cake! “So you bruised the façade, which is almost all healed up and knocked a couple of teeth loose, which are pretty again…” I flash my perfect winning smile at him, “still all mine, by the way. You’re in so much pain, you can’t even straighten your back! If a good, stiff wind comes by, you look like you’ll crumble at my feet, yet you have the audacity to be standing here—oh, I’m sorry—leaning here declaring victory?” I ask incredulously.

“You couldn’t even show your face in public for a whole week, Grey,” he taunts. “So you got a couple of solid body blows. So what? I put you out of commission! Your multibillion-dollar empire had to run without its golden boy. Why? Because you were too embarrassed to show people what I did to you!”

It’s at this moment that I realize I’m arguing with the schoolyard bully. He takes pleasure in antagonizing and he’s never going to stop. It was a huge mistake letting him in here and Butterfly is going to have my balls in a sling if she finds out. It’s time to get him out of here, but not before one last nail in the coffin.

“You’re right,” I concede. “You didn’t have to hide your face for several days. Even though Welch threw in your towel so that I could stop beating the hell out you while you were curled up helplessly on the floor, you didn’t have to spend an entire day and night in the hospital recuperating. Oh, you spent some time in observation as I understand it, but you weren’t blinded and helpless. You’re absolutely correct, I lost—but I didn’t lose the fight. When evenly matched, you’re not a better fighter and you didn’t beat me up, because I beat your ass and that can’t be disputed. I lost because my beautiful wife stayed up all night and didn’t get any sleep because she was so worried about me; because the only way that I could sleep was nestled between her bosom and her baby bump while she partially sat up in bed. I lost because my beautiful wife’s blood pressure skyrocketed the next day because I collapsed at her feet. I lost because my beautiful wife spent the night in the hospital at risk of losing our children and is still on permanent watch until the babies are born.”

I pause for a moment and watch his pupils constrict as I describe what his actions did to Butterfly, not what they did to me. I can take a beating, Sport, but in your efforts to deface me, did you really consider what it would do to Ana? Now it’s time for the death blow. Finish him!

“In short, I didn’t lose because of what you did to me, Brian. I lost because of what you did to Ana. So I concede that victory to you without exception or protest, because if I had this to do all over again—seeing the results of what happened to my life-mate because of it—I would walk away. I would let you say and do whatever you wanted from now to eternity to protect her from this. So, go ahead. Bask in your victory, and every time you look at your property, you’ll remember what you did to Ana. So where do you want your house, because I will keep my word.”

“You most certainly will not!” I turn to see a very angry, pregnant woman come marching into the room. I hear a change in her voice, one that I haven’t heard in a while. I hear that gentle authority underneath a controlled and angry exterior. Oh, shit…

My Domme is here.

I swallow hard. I don’t know how to react right now. I don’t know how I feel about Cholometes seeing this—seeing us—but right now, it doesn’t matter. I have to take cues from her, from my Mistress, or I’m certain that I’ll regret it.

Cholometes and I both stand silent, a bit awestruck, as she strides into the room. She’s wearing a striped dress that fits from neck to knee and a pair of strappy high-heeled sandals. Her hair is pulled back with her bang hanging to the side and swooped back into a mile-long ponytail. She looks completely luscious with her full breasts, round hips and baby bump on full display—covered, but deliciously showcased in this sexy cotton dress. She sashays into the room with the confidence and majesty of a queen, and I have to stop myself from falling to my knees in front of her. She throws a look at me to let me know exactly who I’m dealing with. I fight not to hold my head down in front of Cholometes, but after that gaze I’m careful not to make eye contact with her without permission.

Yes, Mistress… anything you want, Mistress.

“You’re seriously standing in my home expecting a prize for what you did to him?” she says with a menacing calm. “It’s not enough that you caused us both mental and physical anguish? It’s not enough that I’m at risk of losing my babies over this? You still want more? You’re an even bigger monster than I thought.”

Oh, she’s playing this man like a violin. She has shifted from controlled Domme to battered and bruised love interest, horrified by the acts of her suitor.

“That wasn’t my intention, Ana,” he responds, his voice small.

“No? What was your intention, then?” she asks, putting her hands on her round hips and accentuating her beautiful shape. God, give me strength. I had almost forgotten what it was like to have her dominate me, and I’m nearly panting with this display. I got just a small taste of it the other night, but nothing like the power and authority that she’s emanating at this moment.

“I’ll admit that I did take my frustrations out on him. I did want to hurt him and I did want to send a message, but I swear to God that I never meant to hurt you or cause harm to your babies.” Mistress scoffs angrily.

“You’re kidding, right?” she says with no mirth. “I made it clear to you months ago that anything you do to that man, you do to me! I was damn near hysterical when I made you stand in my living room at Escala and swear to me that you would protect him, and what did you do? You pounded him in his face—several times! Yeah, you took a little trip in the ER. Some little doctor poked you in your sides and told you to go home and rest because he got more body blows on you than the law allows. We had to spend the night in the hospital because you hit him repeatedly in the most vulnerable part of his body with intention of deforming him. You were deliberately vicious and malicious and you know it. He lost his equilibrium, temporarily lost his sight, and you grossly disfigured him. After promising to protect him, you send him home in a state where he nearly had to be carried up the stairs and his face such a fright that his own mother winced when she saw it. You two can debate all you want who won that fight, but he’s right about one thing—I’m the biggest loser here! I’m the one who laid awake all night crying and reliving every blow he took to his face even though I wasn’t there. I’m the one who had to fight who had to fight with incompetent nursing staff while eight months pregnant in a high risk situation because of all this. I’m the one who had to pretend I was well so that we could be transported to a real hospital without incident. What’s more, on top of all of that, I’m the one who had to look at my beloved husband—bruised and beaten, trying to hide the pain, blinded and terrified and struggling with his speech. I’m the one who had to take care of him, put the eye drops in his eyes, and treat his wounds and you have the balls to stand here and look me in the eye and tell me that you didn’t mean to hurt me? What did you expect—for me to throw a fucking party?”

Please, Mistress. Please don’t get upset. Remember your blood pressure.

As if she felt my pleas, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath… and my Mistress returns.

“Ana, you have to know how much I care for you,” he says, a last ditch effort to win my Mistress’ affections, no doubt. “I know you love him. I understand that, but I love you, too, and I just don’t want to see you hurt by him.” He loves her. He told my wife—my mistress—that he loves her.

“Hurt by him!” she says appalled. “Christian has done nothing but protect and love me from the day we first proclaimed our feelings for one another, and you’re worried about me being hurt by him?”

“Like when he called the wedding off?” he retorts. Mistress freezes for a moment. “Didn’t think I knew about that, did you?” Mistress throws a diamond-and-platinum-clad left hand up to his face.

“Mrs. Grey!” she declares, jerking her hand violently in his face on each word. “Mrs. Christian Grey, you pathetic, obsessive, desperate, deaf idiot! Anastasia Rose Grey, you moron! Grey! That’s what it says on my driver’s license; that’s what it’ll say on my tombstone! Grey!” That’s not a nice visual.

“She was pregnant, Ana.” Mistress falls silent. Oh shit… Naomi. Now, he decides to bring up Naomi. Finish the story, asshole. She’ll think she was pregnant when she died!

“Who was pregnant?” she asks, waving her hands.

“Naomi.” Mistress immediately looks over her shoulder at me. That’s my cue.

“Cholometes came to my office to inform me that Naomi was pregnant last year two weeks after we split up. That’s what started the fight,” I say.

“Because she was pregnant?” she says, now on a fact-finding mission.

“No, because he just wanted something else to hold over my head,” I conclude. She pauses for a moment.

“You knew about this?” she asks me.

“No,” I reply. Cholometes scoffs. We both glance at him before Mistress turns her expecting glare back to me. “I didn’t know until he brought me the news last week.”

“You usually know everything about your…” She stops short from saying it. I don’t want him to think he has something else to hold over my head.

“He knows.” I glare at him. “Don’t you, Bri?” I hiss. He looks obviously uncomfortable as Mistress throws side glances at both of us. “Yes, I do usually know everything about my ex-submissives…” Her head jerks back to me. “… But I didn’t know this.” She turns slowly to Cholometes.

“You did the research. Where’s the kid?” she barks. Cholometes is taken aback and momentarily struck dumb while Mistress glares at him awaiting an answer. After what feels like an eternity of silence, she demands, “Well? If my children have a brother or sister out there, I want to know where they are!”

“She… lost the baby,” he mutters. Mistress folds her arms. She’s getting angrier by the second. Pressure, Mistress.

“Excuse me?” she asks incredulously.

“She had a miscarriage. That’s how I discovered the pregnancy.” Mistress does the angry bobble-head thing, her expression ending in gaping-mouthed disbelief.

“Pregnant two years ago and she had a miscarriage?” Cholometes doesn’t respond. “No baby? Nothing? No lost, wandering heir to the Grey fortune?” Still nothing. Mistress scoffs loudly, disgusted. “What the fuck good does this information do for me now? I didn’t even know the man, yet. What purpose could this possibly serve?”

“I… just thought you might have wanted to know,” he says hopefully. She examines him with an expression and emotion on her face that I can only describe as pure hatred. Her brow furrows deeply and her hatred is now mixed with confusion and disbelief.

“So this—ALL of this…” She’s waving her hands dramatically and frantically in the air… She’s loud and her blood pressure is obviously rising. “… The hospital stays, the brutal beating, my health and the risk to my babies, the stress and the worry, people could lose their jobs; his teeth are wired together, for fuck’s sake—all of this was because you wanted to hold some dead girl’s poor, dead baby from over a year ago over his head?”

Fucking hell. I mean it really is pathetic, but when she puts it like that… And again, Cholometes has no response.

“You worthless bag of flesh!” she spits. OUCH, that hurt! “You haven’t learned a damn thing from this experience, have you? Why did you think I would want to know something like that? Why would I possibly want to know something like that? What—did you think that little of me? Did you think that I was so petty that I would care that I wasn’t carrying Christian Grey’s first child? I’ve always been prepared that some desperate woman is going to show up with a child that she’s been hiding from him. I thought you knew me better than that, Brian! Have you forgotten my story? Have you forgotten that I’m tainted goods? That I was pregnant before, too—that these are not the first occupants of this here condo?”

She’s gesturing madly to her stomach and our children. She’s talking about the rape and the baby she lost and even though she’s standing here as my Mistress, I have to resist the urge to grab her and shake her and declare that she is not tainted goods!

“Ana…” Cholometes begins.

“Shut up!” she commands! He silences immediately. He’s obeying my Domme. This situation is quickly getting out of hand. “You have nothing else to say that I want to hear… ever!” This is about to get heated and I need backup or I may end up in the hospital again. I quickly pull out my phone and shoot off a text to Jason, shoving it back in my pocket before Mistress sees me.

**Get in here now***

“No more talking from you, now, you listen,” she commands again. I swear he looks a bit weak in the knees at her tone of voice. He’s as ready to take position two right now as I am. “I’m going to let you in on a little information that you probably already know, since you know every goddamn thing else. Fifty percent of what he owns belongs to me, sixty-five if we part. If he buys you property—if he so much as buys you a ballpoint pen—I will sue you and him for ownership of whatever he purchases for you.” He stifles a gasp.

“Why are you so shocked, Brian?” she asks coolly. “Did you expect me to condone this little transaction? This wasn’t business, this was personal. That means it completely affects me.”

She walks over to him and stands in his face. She has her back to me, but she’s breaths away from him. He looks down into her face with… what? I can’t explain…

Oh, fuck! I know that look! He’s frozen. His lips are parted and he’s trying not to pant. His hands are cupped at his sides and he couldn’t move if he wanted to. He’s in full sub mode afforded an opportunity most submissives don’t get—to look into the eyes of their Domme… my Domme… my Mistress. She could control with a word him right now. Stop, Mistress! Please, stop! If you’re trying to make him go away, this won’t do it. He’s even more intrigued now.

“The fact that you’re expecting a prize for this is just beyond me, but I’m not concerned with it anymore. Unless you hold a contract that says he owes you a house, you can forget it, buddy. Now, wherever you found the guts to come to my house, drop them at the gate on your way out, because you won’t be needing them anymore. I meant it when I said that I never want to see you again and I certainly don’t want you contaminating my home. What you did to me and my family is irreparable and unforgivable, and if you say that you didn’t mean to do it, then you should have thought about that before you did it. If you come to my home ever again, I will have you arrested for trespassing.” She turns to leave and sees Jason standing in the door, who made it to my study in record time.

“Get him out of my house, now!” she hisses and Jason nods. She turns back to Cholometes.

“I knew somebody like you once,” she says, standing there with her arms to her side in the door of my study, draped in an aura of regality. “Two people in fact. They were both just as delusional as you are—still are, I think. Both of them are spending the better part of the rest of their lives in prison. One had an accomplice. He’s dead, now. Don’t end up like them… just in case you get any not-so-bright ideas!” Good God almighty. Her voice is soft, almost soothing, but her words cut like Laertes’ poisoned sword.

“Anastasia… I would never…” he begins.

“Save it!” she snaps. “You’re the enemy now. I don’t trust you anymore. When I see you coming, you mean me no good. If you’re ever coming for me, if you’re ever seeking revenge on my family which means you’re seeking it on me, have the decency to come at me in the open. Don’t sneak around corners or come at me with information or blackmail me or ambush me. Just come at me head on and empty both barrels! Put me out of my misery—don’t make me suffer this way! Even criminals are spared cruel and unusual punishment!”

Cholometes is struck completely dumb, an awestruck expression on his face and not a good one. Mistress turns her glare to me.

“I’ll deal with you later,” she threatens before she carries that beautiful body out of the room. Her words hang in the air after she leaves, a promise of what is to come.

Three men stand staring at the door my Mistress just exited—silent. You can’t even hear us breathing, that is until Colostomy tries to quietly release his breath. Jason and I both turn to him, expecting. Balls in your court, asshole.

“I…” He’s nearly choking on his words. He’s not emotional, but he’s rattled—clearly rattled. “I won’t bother you and your family anymore.” He shakily pushes the words out of his chest before brushing past Jason and out of my study. Jason frowns at me and I return his frown with an impassive gaze. I’m still verklempt from the display from my Mistress. He falls in behind Cholometes to show him to the door and I finally release the breath that I’ve been holding all this time.


 

ANASTASIA

I blindly watch the scenery passing by outside the window of the Audi as we cross the bridge on the I-90. The water is usually very soothing to me, but not today. Today, I’m livid and quite inconsolable. I want to hit something. I want to have one of those sparring sessions with a heavy bag that leave me limp, useless, and breathless. Yet another reason why I want to hurry up and have my children already. I’m too pissed off to even cry.

How the fuck did that asshole get into my house? Christian had to let him in—Christian and his band of Merry fucking Men. Nobody gets into Grey Crossing without their permission. Nobody even gets onto the goddamn grounds without them knowing. He’s supposed to be on the proscribed list! He wasn’t even supposed to get past the fucking gate. How the hell did he get into the house?

They had to sneak him in. I know they did. They had to conspire and sneak that fucker into my goddamn house. After everything he’s already put us through, these genius idiots somehow thought it was a good idea to let this asshole into my goddamn home. Am I the only one with an ounce of sense in this equation? Seriously, my husband had to have his teeth wired together! This is just unbelievable to me. Then to find out that all of this stemmed from the fact that this worthless piece of shit ignited this whole thing from a perfectly useless piece of information that would have done no good or harm even to absolutely no one—no one anywhere dead or alive! The woman is dead. The baby is gone! There’s no proof whatsoever that the baby was even Christian’s! His only purpose was to cause problems and doubt and issues in my marriage.

Oh, I could just fucking kill him right now!

And Christian! Ugh, Christian! You fucking fell for it! You and your macho, bravado, Master of the Universe, control in all things, bring a boardroom to its knees, never let ‘em see you sweat attitude… You completely lost your cool because of the threat of the rumor of a baby from a prior relationship with a girl who isn’t even alive anymore because your biggest rival for my affections—who, by the way, doesn’t stand a snowball’s fucking chance in hell of getting close to me—could maybe have something else that he could hold over your head… again. What about when that’s done? There’s going to be something else, and something else, and something else. You’re a billionaire with a lot of rivals for a lot of things—romantic, business, just plain don’t like your looks. This is never going to end.

We’ve had this conversation. There’s always going to be somebody waiting in the rafters with some kind of ticking time bomb waiting to explode all over our perfect little lives. There’s always going to be a boogey man around the corner or a monster under the bed. The key to staying sane throughout this journey is that we don’t allow them to win. Yet, my master and protector did just that and let this sucker disturb our peace with this pointless endeavor that served only to land us both in the hospital and disrupt our lives.

My master and protector… so quick to punish me when I do something to jeopardize my health or safety.

I need to stay away from the house today. I’m angry and acting out of anger is never good. I’m glad I don’t feel like crying, though. Lord knows, I’ve had enough of that shit.

*-*

“Is everything alright, Ana?” Grace asks when I come back into my office after the tour with the state board officials.

“Yes, everything’s fine. Why do you ask?” I may have been a bit enthusiastic about my tasks today to keep my mind off the situation at home. The last thing I want is to talk to my mother-in-law about her son and his asinine adventures as a wayward control freak.

“You just seem a bit out of sorts today,” she observes. Just a bit?

“Did I say something wrong?” I didn’t screw up the tour, did I?

“Oh, no. You were very thorough. I would say that our certification should be a shoo-in after this. I must say, you were quite enthusiastic with making sure all of our bases were covered. I think the representatives were quite impressed.”

“Well, a lot of people have worked very hard to bring this to fruition,” I say, which is true. “A lot of work and preparation has gone into making sure that we’ve brought the building up to code and that we have the appropriate people on staff. With the proper accreditation, we can get state funding in addition to the fundraising that we currently do. That can open so many doors for us. I just want to make sure that everything falls into place.”

“No one has worked as tirelessly as you in such a short amount of time,” she says. “I just wonder if you may want to consider slowing down a bit.” I chuckle at her.

“That will come soon enough, Grace,” I say, taking a seat at my desk. “I’ll be grounded for while once the twins are born and then I’ll have to regroup all over again.”

“Yes, but you’re going to need to rest before the twins get here,” she chides. “Once they’re here, trust me, you’re going to have your hands full. One baby is lot of work. You’re going to have two.”

“Yes, but I’ll have help, too,” I remind her. She smiles at me.

“Trust me. Take a break before the babies are born. You’ll thank me for it,” she says with a knowing smirk. “So how’s Courtney-watch going? I know it’s early, but I haven’t seen her today.”

“That’s because unless she’s hiding somewhere, she’s not here,” I say, looking at my watch. “She’s not ambitious enough to find a task to do on her own or go in search of somewhere to be useful. I was going to file a few notes about today’s tour and check in with Marilyn to see if she has located her…” Almost as if I summoned her, Marilyn comes into my office with her iPad in hand.

“No sign of her. Nobody’s seen her or heard from her,” she says. I check my watch. It’s nearly 3pm.

“Were you posted at the door at 1:00 like I asked?”

“From one to two, just like you said,” she says. “Security was on watch when I left to look around and see if I could find her and Felix said she never showed up.” I sigh and call Addie.

“Hey, Ana,” she answers. “Is my granddaughter misbehaving again?”

“I don’t know. She’s not here,” I respond.

“Not there?” she says after a beat. “She left here at noon saying that she was going to the Center.”

“Well, she still hasn’t gotten here. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, please make sure she’s okay and nothing has happened to her,” I say calmly. “It’s only been a couple of hours. I was doing a tour with some representatives from the state licensing board. I had Marilyn waiting at the door for her for an hour, so it’s not like she could slip by. Any ideas where she might be?”

“She could be anywhere,” Addie says calmly, “and while you want to give her the benefit of the doubt, I’m certain that she’s somewhere she shouldn’t be since she should be there with you!” I don’t have time for this. I’m already dealing with issues of my own; I’m not going to deal with this spoiled little girl. I sigh heavily.

“Suspend her debit and credit cards and turn off her cell phone. If she’s in trouble, the police will call you. If she’s not, she’ll be home in an hour—maybe two.” I wait for Addie’s response.

“Cut right to the chase,” she says. “And the trust fund?”

“Ten thousand down and one month added for every hour from this moment that it takes her to contact you; fifty thousand extra if she lies to you; six months more if she gives you lip.” She whistles.

“You’re pretty brutal,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“I think I’m being generous,” I say, flatly. “I haven’t resorted to monthly stipends, yet, and those can go down to an hourly wage.” She hisses.

“I’d hate to get on your bad side,” Addie says.

“So we’re in agreement?”

“We are. No doubt, your disgruntled student will be there tomorrow.”

“No doubt. Let’s plan to have lunch within the next couple of weeks. Correspond with Marilyn—of course, she knows my schedule better than I do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to discuss some progress. If not, a new, more stringent strategy…”

“Or a plane ticket back east.” I get the feeling that this is Ms. Courtney’s last chance.

“Decisions, decisions,” I say. “I’ll let you know if she shows up.”

“I won’t hold my breath,” Addie says. “I’ll talk to you later.” We end the call and I look up at Marilyn and Grace’s questioning eyes.

“Well, it looks like Courtney has decided not to grace us with her presence today,” I inform them.

“Well, that’s obvious, but where is she?” Marilyn asks.

“Addie doesn’t know,” I reply. “She’s certain she’s out up to no good, though, so she’s cutting off her credit cards and her cell phone service to sniff her out.”

“What was that about the ten thousand and the fifty thousand?” Grace asks. I’m pretty sure she already knows, though.

“Her trust fund,” I say. “I’ve been holding it hostage so to speak to ensure her cooperation since it’s the only thing that makes her behave. I don’t know what made her think she could ditch today and she wouldn’t pay for it—figuratively and literally—but she’s about to find out.” I make some notes on my calendar and sync with my iPad and Marilyn’s.

“Mare, please call and make sure that we’re on schedule for the deliveries and the grocery line of credit for Radcliffs. Make sure the stores call before they make the deliveries. One of the deliveries was refused and I think they may have had the wrong address.”

“I think not, Bosslady,” Marilyn says. “I got a call from the baby boutique this morning. They said that their delivery was refused, too. I double-checked the address and it’s correct. They said that some guy told them that they didn’t order it and refused to accept the delivery.” I frown.

“So what did they do with the baby items?” I ask.

“I had them reroute them to Grey Crossing until we could figure out what was going on. I called Chance and told him to expect them. I didn’t want to bother you with it until the tours were complete.” I nod.

“You did right,” I said, dialing Thelma Radcliff’s number. I get the message that the phone has been disconnected. “Great, now we can’t even call before we make deliveries.” My hand goes to my scar. It irritates me a bit these days when I’m irritated. “We may need a plan B. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I don’t want to send deliveries out there if they’re being refused. Maybe her husband thinks the items are actually being delivered to the wrong place and he doesn’t want to be responsible for the goods if they are.” I sigh. “Call the vendors and find out who can hold the deliveries until after the weekend. Christian and I will be visiting them on Sunday and we’ll straighten the whole thing out.”

“Anyone who insists on making the delivery?” she asks.

“I’m sure that no one will, but if they do, reroute the delivery to Grey Crossing—unless it’s furniture. If it’s furniture, get a refund. We’ll take our business elsewhere.” She nods.

“You got it, Bosslady.”

“I’ll be in the dorms if you need me,” I say, rising from my desk. “Grace, would you like to join me?”

“Sure,” she says, falling in step behind me.

We check in on the families in the dorms, making sure that they are comfortable and that they feel safe at the center. We always keep track of if any of them have heard from violent spouses or significant others, although that’s not why every family is here. Some of them have just fallen on hard times. I’m happy to discover that one of our families—a mother and her three sons—have transitioned on to a new apartment. She has secured employment and the family is doing very well. We’ve expanded the dorm space a bit, so we have room for more families. Everyone works together to keep the area clean and tidy, and some of the mothers that are still looking for work will even help out around the center and will offer to babysit while others have job interviews. We’ll have licensed day care once all of our permits are approved, which I’m sure will be in no time, or at least I hope so. It’s something that I would like to see come together before the babies are born and I have to take my maternity leave.

My tasks are now all complete for the day and I must turn my attention back to home and my insubordinate husband. I’m not angry anymore, but I’m still highly displeased. I feel like he takes leave of his senses when it comes to Brian and we can’t have that keep happening. One day, this cock-strut-pissing-contest these two keep having could end up being very dangerous. He promised me that he wouldn’t take undo chances and he broke that promise to get a piece of Brian. After the pain and distress Brian caused us, he let that snake in our house… and for what? I still don’t know. Do my wishes and pleas mean nothing to him? Are my words ineffectual?

We’ll just see about that.

I stop by my office and make a quick call. I need some things and they’re going to take some discretion that I don’t have being shadowed everywhere I go. Christian and his Merry Men!

“Ben, I need to go to Escala,” I tell him when I get into the car. He turns around to look at me, his eyes questioning and I already know what he’s thinking.

“Ben, listen carefully,” I begin, my voice clipped. “I am making a stop at an address that I own. I would like to pick up some things. I’ll be meeting someone there who will be bringing these things to me. I’ll be home soon enough, and my husband will very soon know who that someone is. In the meantime, if there are no fires, floods, or hurricanes, I would appreciate it if we could just for once eliminate the lights and sirens that accompany reporting my every move to my husband and your boss—or am I the only one from whom our security staff is privy to keep secrets, like allowing someone from the proscribed list into my home?”

My tone and impatience catches him off guard and his instant loss of color alerts me that he was one of the Merry Men in on the Brian Smuggle.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, and without another word, he turns around and starts the car.

Escala seems so cold and empty. Nothing is missing that I can see. Everything is still here. All of the furniture at the mansion is new, but there’s no warmth here. There’s no life, it seems. Even when I go back to my condo, it feels a little warm and homey—kind of foreign because I haven’t been there for a while, but certainly not cold. Escala feels… I don’t know, commercial, for lack of a better word.

I go to our bedroom and get a large tote bag. I go to the utility room behind the stairs and retrieve the keys that I know are there. After ascending the stairs, I unlock the door to the first room on the right. Everything is just how we left it—a bit dusty, but still intact. I select the items that I need and load them into the tote bag before closing and locking the door behind me. When I return the key to utility room, I notice that one very large item is missing.

“Ben,” I say, coming back to the great room. “Do you know where Christian’s piano is?”

“He had it moved to the mansion, this afternoon, in fact,” he answers. Boy, talk about timing.

“Is that why you were looking at me strangely?” I ask.

“Some, yes, but you were partially correct. I did want to call Jason. Still do.” I think he’s asking for permission. Well, I’m not giving it to him.

“We won’t be much longer,” I tell him, placing my tote on the sofa and looking at my phone. Just as I’m about to text my expected guest, my phone rings.

“Hello.”

“Dahling, can you come and get me? The Queen’s Guard won’t let me pass.”

“Hand him the phone please.” A few moments later, “Front desk.”

“Marc, it’s Mrs. Grey. Please let him up.”

“Passcode, please, Mrs. Grey.” I have to give it to him since he didn’t call the landline. We came through the garage, so he didn’t see us come in.

“Zero nine one two two five,” I say confirming the code.

“Thank you Mrs. Grey.” A few moments later. “See you in a sec.”

“In a minute.” I end the call. “You’ll be out of your misery soon, Ben.” A minute or so later, there’s a knock at the door. I walk to the door and open it.

“Michel, it’s been ages,” I say, reaching my hands out to him.

“Stacy, you’re with child! How did I not know this?” he says, stepping in and giving me air kisses.

“My best-kept secret I guess, and it’s children,” I say, rubbing my baby bump. “Please come in.” He steps in rolling a travel bag behind him. “Is all of that for me?”

“Yes, Dahling. Freshly packaged and ready to use. It’s easier to travel this way. Prying eyes, you know.”

“Oh boy, do I know. What do I owe you?” I ask, reaching for my purse.

“Oh, no, no, no,” he says, holding up his hand. “We’re much more civilized than that. I’ll email you the invoice, Dahling. You pay it on my website. You can use your card or a PayPal pseudonym, whichever works for you.” I smile.

“You’re a doll for coming through on such short notice, Michel. Thank you,” I say sincerely.

“Anytime my dear. How did your last… situation work out?” he asks.

“Like a charm. I plan on employing those tactics again. We’ll have to see how that works out.” He sighs dramatically.

“Oh, how I wish I could stick around for the dirty deets, but I have to go. Cupid needs help all over the city. Now listen, once those beautiful buns are born, we’re going to have to have lunch or tea or something and you’re going to have to show me those wedding pictures. I’m still so miffed that I wasn’t invited!”

“Well, you know how that is,” I say, waving him off. “We won’t even get into the fight that was the wedding list.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” he says, giving me more air kisses and heading for the door. “Love you mean it!” he yells before heading to the elevator.

“Love you more!” I wave after him. Once he’s gone, I grab the tote with the remainder of my necessary items in it and head for the door, rolling the travel bag behind me.

“I should check that,” Ben says, gesturing to my travel bag.

“Not on your life,” I say, walking out the door and summoning the elevator.

*-*

I was able to get into the house and up to the bedroom without being discovered. I know that Mr. Grey won’t come looking for me until I call for him. I’m sure of it. He doesn’t know what to expect. He has a good idea, but I’m certain that he’s not ready for what I have in mind.

I empty the items from the tote and travel bags, cleaning what needs to be cleaned and opening what needs to be opened discarding the packaging and arranging items as I plan to utilize them—my first items, clothing and toiletries.

I take a long, delicious shower, gently cleansing every inch of my body with a vanilla and cinnamon body wash. It smells so good that I almost want to kiss myself. I know the fragrance will drive my poor husband out of his mind. I’m counting on it.

I dry off and cover my skin with the vanilla and cinnamon lotion that accompanies the body wash. It smells even better than the soap. It’s doing wonders to get me in the perfect mood. When I step into the boy shorts, stockings, and stilettos, I feel so sexy… I haven’t felt this sexy in months! I slide into my lingerie—long, black, sheer, and barely there. A deep burgundy stain adorns my lips as I saunter into my sitting room and double-check the items I have arranged there on the mantle and the ottoman. I have specific plans for the large chair and maybe even the floor. I haven’t decided about the bedroom yet.

I go to my dressing room and take one final look at myself, clad in black from head to toe save my burgundy-stained lips. My negligee drapes over my stomach and my hips are round and inviting, my breasts swollen and plump, my nipples dark and protruding from the thin fabric. I look fertile and ripe, luscious. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sensuous in my entire life. I don’t know what it is, but I’m glad it’s here. I go back to the sitting room and turn the lights down to a gentle glow.

“Activate two-way communications.” Beep. “Locate Christian Grey.”

“Yes?” His voice sounds surprised, like I may have been interrupting him.

“Mr. Grey, I need to see you in the bedroom,” I command and wait for his answer. Five, four, three, two, one. “Mr. Grey?” I repeat, impatiently.

“On my way!” he replies, nearly panting. I can’t tell what happens next, but I hear Jason call his name and he has obviously forgotten to deactivate the two-way. Jason is questioning him about what’s going on and what he’s going to do about my obvious unhappy mood.

“I don’t know, but the longer I keep her waiting…” Mr. Grey says, beseeching Jason to allow him to leave.

“Go, man, go,” I hear Jason taunt, and not thirty seconds later, I hear eager feet pattering up the staircase.

Run, Forrest, run…forrestgump


 

A/N: “Laertes poisoned sword”—in the fight scene at the end of Hamlet, Laertes and Hamlet are supposed to be having a friendly display-type duel—like fencing—but King Claudius convinces Laertes to dip his sword in poison, which is ironic because Laertes, Hamlet, and Claudius all end up being cut by the sword and dying.

“Band of Merry Men”—the Merry Men were the outlaws who followed Robin Hood. For those who don’t know, Robin Hood was an outlaw in English literature (around the 14th or 15th century Middle Ages) who lived in the woods. Very skilled with a bow and a sword, he and his band of Merry Men robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

“Run, Forrest, run.”—Jenny from Forrest Gump. When the boys used to chase him home from school, Jenny used to call after him “Run, Forrest, run!” so that they wouldn’t catch him.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 36—Business as Usual?

Hello my darlings. Sorry about the delay, but the hell never seems to end in real life. If you were supposed to receive an email from my mailing list with this update, but didn’t (not from the website, from the mailing list) I got notification that about seven emails “bounced.” That means that I can’t email to you unless you verify that I have the correct email. So hit me up and let me know if you’re not receiving emails.

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 36—Business as Usual?

CHRISTIAN

“Gail, Elliot is sending some of his guys over to knock out the wall in the pantry…”

“Christian! Seriously?” she gasps. “A little less notice next time?” I put my hands up in surrender.

“I know. I know. I’m sorry. The best place for your office turns out to be a hollow between the laundry room and the pantry. If we don’t want construction possibly bumping up against the birth of the babies, they’ve got to knock that wall out as soon as possible…”

“… For an office that I don’t even need!” she protests. I put my hands on her arms.

“Gail, believe me. You don’t think you’ll need it now, but trust me, you’ll need it!” She sighs and shakes her head.

“Dammit, Christian!” she says, flailing her hands like she doesn’t know what to do with them.

“Tell me what the biggest issue is,” I say, not knowing what the problem is right now. She turns a horrified expression to me.

“Oh! Absolutely nothing, Master Grey!” she says sarcastically. “Except for the tiny little issue of the food!”

Oh, shit!

“Have you seen the size of that pantry?” she continues. “I’ve only just gotten it to the point where it’s only semi-organized, and now I have to rip it apart again… in an hour or so… and find somewhere to put the food!” Oh, boy. We didn’t consider this when we looked at the blueprints.

“Activate two-way communications!” I yell into the air.

“I’d like to know who thought up this plan of action!” Gail huffs, walking into the pantry. “How am I supposed to clear out all this food in an hour?”

“Jason?” I call like a drowning man, thrusting my hand into my hair.

“Sir?”

“Kitchen!”

“Yes, sir.”

“And who exactly do you expect to move all of this stuff?” she gripes coming out of the pantry, “because if you’re expecting me to do it, you’re sorely mistaken! There’s enough food in there to fill a small grocery!”

It seems like it takes forever for Jason to get to the kitchen and Gail is ranting the entire time! I think I have a few more gray hairs. Jason stands next to me frowning and looking between me and his ranting wife.

“Wha…?” He’s at a loss for words.

“The spices alone are going to take a week to pack!” She’s still ranting and I don’t even know what she was talking about from the time I called Jason to this moment. Various members of the staff have gathered in the kitchen, but none of them dare engage her. What have I done?

“I told Gail that Elliot’s guys were coming to knock out a wall or two of the pantry,” I say, slowly. He’s frowning at me. He hasn’t gotten the full thrust of what I’m telling him yet. “… This afternoon.” I see three heads rubberneck in my direction from the staff members now watching Gail’s frantic tantrum.

“You… what?” Jason says, soberly.

“Oh, no, don’t act like I came to this decision on my own! I had two other accomplices here!” I protest.

“You didn’t tell me they were knocking out walls today!” Jason defends. Way to throw me under the bus, Jason.

“You knew about this?” Gail barks at her husband.

“I knew about the office,” he concurs.

“You knew about the construction!” I roll that bus right back at him. “I told you they were coming! I told you to inform security because I had an appointment at the dentist…” I look at my watch. “… Which I’ll probably be late for!” Jason narrows his eyes at me.

“You told me they were making preparations; you didn’t tell…” He stops mid-sentence and pulls out his phone. “I need as many of the guys as you can get in here. I need some serious manual labor…”

“You’re gonna need more than manual fucking labor. I need someplace to put the goddamn food!” Gail barks, and back into the pantry she goes. Jason stares at the pantry door for a moment without blinking.

“Never mind,” he says into the phone and ends the call before he turns to me. Never mind? What great idea has he come up with? “You need a plan B… now,” he says, calmly.

“What?” I ask bemused.

“We need to leave in about twenty minutes if you want to get to the dentist on time and my wife is cursing. My wife never curses. I don’t know what’s going on with this whole pantry thing. Have you ever been in there?” I shrug.

“I saw it once when we looked at the house, but I didn’t really commit it to memory,” I respond.

“Maybe we should go in there,” he says.

“It’s just a pantry, Jason,” I protest.

“My wife is cursing!” he reiterates. “My wife does not curse. I can count on one hand the times my wife has cursed since I’ve known her. Whatever is going on in that damn pantry, it’s not that big to us, but it is to her!”

I sigh. This is ridiculous. She doesn’t even want the damn office. I’m ready to call the whole thing off.

“Fine,” I say, walking to the pantry for this exercise in futility.

Fucking. Hell.

Slanted produce bins in front with fresh fruits and vegetables, including fresh herbs growing in aluminum buckets. Jarred preserves, oils, rice, legumes, bushels, bottles and baskets of organic God only knows what and shelf after shelf of floor-to-ceiling painstakingly organized dry and canned goods as far back as the eye can see.

“You ever see that movie Sleeping With The Enemy?” I say, thinking of Julia Roberts’ OCD husband who had to have every label in the cabinets in alphabetical order and facing forward.

“Not funny,” Jason hisses. “We need a plan B.”

“We need a plan B,” I concur. My brain is running through spaces in the house that don’t require knocking out a wall. I can’t risk having this same kind of blow-up with Butterfly about the aquarium or something. Maybe working at the counter isn’t such a bad idea, it’s just that she’s going to be right in the middle of all of the activity when things are happening in the kitchen. Jesus, maybe we could just put a desk in the damn pantry…

Then it hits me.

“The dining room,” I say. Jason frowns.

“You want to put her in the dining room? She’ll have to move every time we have a meal,” he protests.

“Not that one, the little one—the round one with all the windows… we never use it.” He’s pondering the idea.

“Didn’t Her Highness says something about having cozy meals in that room?” he says.

“And how many have we had?” I retort. He’s silent. “If she wants cozy meals, we have a sitting room off our bedroom where we can have a cozy meal surrounded by moonlight naked! Trust me, when she finds out how Gail reacted to tearing down that wall in that pantry, she’ll be glad to give up that informal dining room.” Jason’s scoffs a bit.

“I’ll let you handle that,” he says.

“Oh, that’ll be easy,” I tell him. “She can either give up the informal dining room or Gail can stay at the counter in the kitchen.” Jason shrugs.

“I think my wife will like those options.”

“I honestly think my wife will opt for the formal dining room without griping,” I say.

“I’d like to take a wager on that,” Jason says.

“Oh, no,” I say, “you remember what happened the last time you made a wager on something that my wife did!” I warn. He grimaces. “Mm-hmm. Tell your wife that she doesn’t have to lose her pantry.” He immediately turns his attention away from me.

“Oh, Love…”

*-*

According to the dentist, I’m lucky that my teeth weren’t knocked completely out in the fight. The fact that I went to the hospital and literally didn’t eat solid food for the first 48 hours actually did me some good. The fact that I didn’t come to the dentist sooner—not so good. I had to have my teeth splinted together to keep them from falling out. That was fun! Normally, that’s something that has to be scheduled for a return visit, but I had already waited long enough to give him cause for concern, so he performed the procedure for me right then. Luckily for me, the splint is a polymer that goes on the inside of my teeth instead of the outside like braces. It holds them all together, binding the loose ones to the stable ones, thereby making them all stable.

And it hurts like hell.

I also have to sleep with one of those God awful mouth guard-looking things to protect me from myself in the middle of the night. Butterfly is going to find this whole contraption so attractive. Oh, the lisp is even harder to control, now, because there’s this thing on the inside of my teeth. So I have to just keep talking and talking and talking—even to myself—until I conquer this thing again as I refuse to walk around talking with this damn lisp.

I promised to stop by to see Pops before Moms gets home. When I walk into the house with the greenish-yellow-blackish-bluish face, Leona almost burst into tears. I can tell that she has to control the urge to throw her arms around me. She wants to keep waiting on me and I actually have to tell her to leave me alone with my grandfather. We talk for most of the afternoon, during which time I have to explain to him what happened to my face. When I’m done telling him the story, he tells me a similar story when he beat the snot out of a kid who was picking on his high school sweetheart—who wasn’t Dad’s mom, by the way. She came later, but Pops took a real beating that day and gave as much as he took. So he completely understood why I had to put the paws to Cholometes.

“Sometimes, all we have is our honor, Christian,” he says. “That’s what separates the men from the boys, and the gentlemen from the scallywags.”

“Well said, Pops,” I tell him, “well said.”

We talk for I don’t know how much longer before Jason tells me that it’s getting to be time for us to leave. I look at my watch and realize that my mother can possibly be walking in anytime in the next hour or so. I say goodbye to my grandfather and leave with Jason.

“I have some news, sir,” Jason says as we get into the car.

“What is it?” I ask, swallowing two of the painkillers the dentist gave me.

“Alex found Chuck’s parents.” It actually hurts to frown.

“Oh? Has he spoken to them yet?”

“No, sir. He’s waiting for instructions from me on how to proceed and I’m a little stumped.” My phone buzzes with a notification of a water wall that I was observing earlier. I quickly forward the picture to Butterfly with two more and a quick email asking for her opinion. My email to her is much more playful and flirty than I actually feel.

“Tell him to forward the information to you and proceed exactly as Chuck told you to. Don’t get involved—business as usual. You’re only contacting them as his boss to inform them that he has requested that they be added as his next of kin in case of his demise. Keep it as informal as possible. There is the likelihood that they will decline if the relationship is as strained as it appears. At that time, he can name you or Keri or even us as his next of kin and we’ll make sure that he’s taken care of.” He sighs heavily.

“I sure as hell don’t feel like dealing with this,” he says. “That Joseph is some fucking piece of work, man. If his parents are anything like him…” He trails off and starts the car.

“Yeah, I know,” I say as I try to ignore the pain in my mouth. I attempt to meditate for a moment while the car cruises from Bellevue towards Mercer Island. It works for a while until I feel my blackberry vibrating in my pocket again. It’s Butterfly. She’s sent me a picture of a fireplace… for the rooms behind the wall! Surely she knows that we don’t have enough ventilation in those spaces for a fireplace! I send an email back to her pointing out her malfeasance and the fact that there’s no way those spaces could accommodate a fireplace! I find myself getting way too irritated to continue this or any conversation because my mouth is in way too much pain and these pain killers are not working fast enough.

“Take this, Jason,” I say, handing my blackberry to him over the seat. He looks at it, then at me through the rearview mirror.

“Sir?” he asks incredulously.

“Take it!” I hiss. “I can’t tolerate it right now!” He takes it without another word.

“Yes, sir.” It buzzes before he puts it in his inside pocket. “Her Highness is texting.”

“She wants to talk about a fireplace. I’ll talk to her later,” I respond as I lay my head on the headrest and try to think comforting thoughts.

My head and mouth aren’t throbbing quite so much when we arrive back at Grey Crossing. It’s just after 5pm and Butterfly hasn’t made it home yet. I go straight to my den, stretch out on the sofa, and enjoy the silence.

“How do you feel, Sir?”

Jason’s cautious voice wakes me and I realize that I slipped off into a short nap. I look at my watch. It’s 5:30. Only about twenty minutes. I feel worlds better. He must not have known I was sleeping or he never would have disturbed me.

“Less like pygmies are dancing on my temples and incisors,” I tell him as I move to a sitting position. There is what is known as a pregnant pause for a moment. “What is it?”

“I’ve contacted Chuck’s parents,” he begins. “I didn’t speak to them. I left them a message—very short and professional. I only said that I was Charles’ employer and that he would like for them to be listed as his next of kin in case of extreme emergency and I left my contact information.”

“Well, that’s about all you can do, Jason,” I say. He doesn’t respond. “There’s more.”

“I haven’t told Chuck yet,” he says, “and to be honest, I don’t want to tell him alone.”

“Why not?” I say, frowning deeply.

“He gets all weepy when you start talking about his parents and his family!” This fucker is whining! “I don’t feel like handling that alone, man! I need some more testosterone in the room.”

“Yeah, because you’re turning into a pussy,” I declare.

“Whatever. Are you coming or what?”

“Sure, Jasonia,” I say as I stand from the sofa.

“Fuck you, man,” he replies, turning around and walking out of my den.

*-*

“How long ago did you leave the message?” Chuck asks, carefully eyeing his and Keri’s entwined fingers.

“About twenty minutes,” Jason says.

“And they’re in South Dakota?” Chuck presses. Jason nods.

“They own a house in Rapid City… since just after you went to rehab. To be honest, I don’t know what could be happening that they could need money. Rapid City is one of the best places to live in the state.”

“I don’t either,” he says without raising his head, “but apparently they do since they sent my barracuda brother out here to do their bidding.” He still sounds more hurt than angry, but yes, a little angry.

“You still have us, Chuck,” I say as an attempt at consolation. He raises his eyes for the first time since we came into the apartment. “You know, just in case.” He nods.

“I know,” he says. “Well, enough of this melancholy shit. Wanna see what I can do?” Jason and I look at each other.

“Sure,” Jason says. Chuck nods at Keri and she disappears into another room.

“Now, I have to take this slow, so be patient with me,” he says. What the hell is this man about to do? He locks the wheels on his wheelchair as Keri returns with a pair of metal crutches.

Oh, shit.

“Ready, baby?” he asks Keri.

“Reaty, Chatles,” she replies. He hoists himself out of the chair, using his arm strength, his good leg, and Keri for support. It takes a while, but he’s careful and meticulous. When he is balancing on the good leg, she positions the crutches under each arm and pushes the chair away. She stands nearby as he situates the crutches properly under his arms to help support his weight, then releases a breath once he can rest from balancing on one foot.

“Tada!” he says a bit breathlessly. Keri is standing nearby, smiling from ear to ear beaming with pride. “I know it’s not much…”

“Are you kidding?” Jason says. “It’s great, man! With the injuries you sustained and you just started taking your pain pills a week ago… you’re not overdoing it, are you?”

“Naw. The doctor said I should really start moving around and getting out of the chair. I should have been doing it before now, but… well, you know.” He drops his head to keep from finishing the thought.

“You shud seet, nah, Chatles,” Keri warns. “Not too moch too soon.” He nods and allows her to help him shift his weight from the crutches back to the arms of the wheelchair before he labors to take a seat.

“I’m really impressed, Chuck,” I tell him.

“Thanks,” he replies. “I’ll be glad when I can get back to work. I’m starting to get a bit of cabin fever. Not that I don’t love being here with my gorgeous girlfriend, but a guy like me, I’ve got to get out.”

“In due time, Tiger,” Jason teases, “in due time.”

“How’s Ben doing?” he asks. “I don’t get much feedback from Ana except that he’s not me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” I look over at Jason and the look on his face tells me that there’s clearly something that I don’t know.

“Well,” I begin, “Butterfly’s less-than-stellar experience at the Mercer hospital lets me know that somebody dropped the ball and since I’m not firing anybody yet, I’m assuming that Mr. Taylor has taken care of the situation, or that I will hear about it at a later time.” I throw a pointed look at Jason.

“I’m taking care of it, Sir,” he says succinctly.

“And the hospital staff?”

“In the works as we speak, sir,” he further confirms. “You and Her Highness will be glad to know that heads will certainly roll and pipers will be paid when this is all over.” I nod.

“Good. That’s what I want to hear. And from now on, make every possible effort to ensure that in an emergency, my wife and I are taken only to Seattle General Hospital.” Jason chuckles.

“Sir, Her Highness nearly made us swear a blood oath to that fact!” he informs me. That’s my Butterfly. Speaking of Her Highness…

“Where’s my phone?” I ask Jason.

“You lost your phone?” Chuck asks, doing a dramatic double-take.

“No, I gave it to Jason.” His puzzled glare turns to Jason, who reaches into his inside pocket.

“I know, right?” he says to Chuck as he hands me my blackberry.

“Did hell freeze over?” Chuck asks.

“I was in pain,” I say as I thumb through my emails, noting one response from Butterfly about the fireplaces.

“You couldn’t even talk and you still kept your blackberry… twice!” Chuck protests. “What kind of pain made you give up your phone?”

“My teeth are wired together,” I tell him without raising my eyes from my blackberry. The fireplaces are electric—and she’s scolding me for not knowing that she wouldn’t suggest real ones. “The painkillers were taking too long to kick in. It felt like Beelzebub and his minions were playing Chopsticks with pitchforks on my gums… the long version!”

“That’s not a good visual,” Jason says, and although I don’t see him, I know he winced. Butterfly has sent a picture that I would otherwise find quite interesting, but right now, I surprisingly find it a bit unnerving. It’s a bondage frame for the playroom. I hadn’t thought about anything for the playroom recently, not since… not since I spanked her. It’s obvious that we will want to continue our lifestyle; it’s just that I haven’t been able to reconcile the bruising on her butt after that last exercise. I didn’t really push it out of my mind—it just hasn’t been in the forefront of my thoughts and we never really talked about it. Well, we did. She told me that she understood why she received the punishment and she tagged me spot on that I needed her to safeword once I saw that bruising. I apologized to her sleeping frame because she made it clear that she didn’t need an apology, but I still needed to apologize to her. I talked in great detail to Dr. Baker about how I was feeling after the punishment, but not to Butterfly. As a result, I have a lot of unreconciled emotions floating around about the incident. Did she talk to Ace about it? She never mentioned it again and we don’t act strangely around each other, so why do I feel the way I feel right now upon considering furnishings for the new playroom?

“Earth to Christian,” Jason says, and I realize that I was in the middle of a conversation with two other people. I raise my head distractedly.

“What?” I say, my voice sharper than I intend.

“Damn, where were you?” Chuck asks as Keri re-enters the room. I didn’t even know she had left.

“Butterfly’s ribbing me for not knowing these fireplaces were electric. I got a little engrossed in the email.” It’s half true. “How the fuck was I supposed to know they were electric? They look real.”

“A fireplace had you that mesmerized?” Jason says in disbelief.

“No, her email did, you soon-to-be-unemployed asshole,” I quip. Jason throws his hands up in mock surrender.

“Well, you’re just going to be a bundle of joy and laughter, aren’t you?” he responds. I glare at him. “There’s no pain like mouth pain,” he laments. Nope, and I’ve got four more weeks of it. Fuck this macho shit—I need pain killers on an IV! There’s nothing in the world like this pain and I’m not trying to endure this shit for anybody.

“Well, my work here is done. I’ll see you assholes at dinner.” I turn to leave and hear Chuck’s final lament before I breach the doorway.

“He’s going to be a bear.”

You’ve got that right.

I don’t have time to rearrange my thoughts when I come into the entertainment room and find Butterfly gazing at her aquarium. That’s usually not a good sign.

“Bad day?” I say, approaching with caution. She turns to me briefly, then back to the aquarium.

“Just trying to release some bad vibes,” she says. “Gail’s in a mood.” Oh hell, I forgot about Gail.

“Um, yeah. About that office…” She turns her gaze back to me. “Would you mind terribly losing the informal dining room?” I ask. “The perfect space for Gail’s office would have been a hollow we located between the pantry and the laundry room. It would have meant emptying the pantry to have a wall knocked out… today!” Butterfly’s eyes immediately widen. “It was like Hiroshima. Whatever you see now is considerably tamer than what Jason and I had to contend with this afternoon.”

“You told that woman that she had to empty the pantry?” she asks in calm disbelief. “Have you seen the pantry? It’s like a goddamn general store in there—a well-stocked general store.”

“I’ve seen it now,” I tell her, “but not before today, no, I hadn’t seen it.”

“And just how well did that woman hand you your balls today?” she asks, her voice still calm.

“Enough for me not to be afraid to ask if you would mind terribly losing the informal dining room,” I repeat. “It’s ideally placed, the lighting is great, we don’t have to worry about the ventilation issues, we don’t have to rush with construction before the babies are born…”

“You don’t have to convince me, we never use it,” she says, repeating what I said earlier. “If it makes everyone’s life easier, I say go for it. How does Gail feel about it?”

“You know she had to warm up to the idea of an office anyway, but as long as we don’t fuck with her pantry, I think she’d use one of the patios if that was the last available space.” Butterfly nod and turns back to the aquarium.

“Then it’s settled,” she says, folding her arms over her baby bump. I close the space between us.

“So what has you in a mood?” I ask quietly. She turns indecisive blue eyes to me.

“Where do I begin?” she sighs.

“Wherever you want.”

“First of all, I feel like I’ve been pregnant for five damn years! I’m ready to have these babies already.” She reaches under her hair and rubs her head where her scar is.

“Is it hurting?” I ask, concerned. She frowns.

“What, the babies?” she asks, bemused.

“No, your head,” I say, pointing to my own head. She subconsciously snatches her hand away from her head and I’m only just realizing that this has become another tell. She has no idea she was rubbing the scar.

“No, it’s not hurting,” she says dismissively. I examine her for a moment, then choose my words carefully.

“Next week, Christmas will be here. Then, we’ll be celebrating the new year. Before you know it, Valentine’s Day will be here. By the time we are celebrating our love on our first Valentine’s Day in our new home, our children will be here.” She raises impatient eyes to me. “I know it feels like forever, and I wish I could empathize with you, but I have no idea what you’re going through. All I can say is that I’m just as impatient for them to be a part of our lives as you are and that you already know that I’ll be by your side every step of the way. I’ll try to make things as easy as possible and hopefully I won’t get in your way too much.” Her resolve breaks a bit and she almost wants to smile. I can’t even imagine how tiring and exhausting this must be for her. I’ll give her a nice foot rub after dinner.

“I spent the afternoon with Courtney Wilson today.” I frown. Courtney Wilson?

“Adelaide and Fred’s granddaughter?” I ask. She nods. The same classless female that came on to her at the Affair? “Why in the world did you do that?”

“Because she’s a spoiled, entitled, amoral little brat and I’m trying to teach her some kind of values before she’s set loose on the world!” she snaps back. “I have control of how, when, and if she’ll get her trust fund while she spends a yet-to-be-determined amount of time with me at Helping Hands.” At first, I’m stunned. Then, I’m amused.

“That’s brilliant!” I exclaim. “Whose idea was that?”

“It was a collaboration,” she says a bit dismissively.

“I take it Courtney wasn’t part of this collaboration,” I observe.

“Of course not! She showed up in an angora sweater and Jimmy Choos. She was trying to convince her grandmother that she didn’t need to be there before her feet were even past the threshold all the way. Helping Hands has to replace nearly an entire set of dishes because she deliberately broke them to keep from having to work, not to mention that she’s rude and elitist to everyone she comes in contact with, including some of these frightened and battered mothers. The only thing that makes her fall in line is threatening her trust fund, and I just don’t think there’s any hope for someone like that. She’s rotten to the core—not just surface-rotten, rotten all the way down to her soul. I may have thought there might have been some shred of possibility of a transformation until I heard about the whole shoplifting thing with Mia…”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. That was her,” I recall. “We had to keep her and Mia separate for the entire summer and for several years thereafter. We were afraid Mia would kill her if we didn’t.”

“That bad?” Butterfly asks. I scoff.

“Mia is the most adorable, annoying little kitten you’ll ever meet until she gets around Courtney. If you ever see those two together, grab some popcorn and a drink and take a seat, because you’re about to see a show.”

“Really?” Butterfly says with a giggle.

“Really,” I confirm. “She becomes vicious and seething. Her words cut; it’s like she’s in the presence of pure evil and she has no other choice but to make it known to all parties in the room. Courtney’s just lucky that Mia wasn’t at the table when she came sashaying by at the affair.”

“Mmm. Well, Addie wants me to try, but I have to say that I don’t have any hope for this girl. I think I lean to the side of optimism too often when it comes down to human nature and I often find myself disappointed.” She taps on the glass and as if summoned, a black and white fish comes to the front of the aquarium.

She’s the fucking pied piper.

“You can only do what you can do, Butterfly,” I tell her. “Look at me. You turned my whole life around.”

“Our relationship is different. It wasn’t based on a payoff. It’s based on a lifetime.” Her hand caresses her scar again.

“Please don’t stress too much about this,” I beseech her. “This girl is not worth it. If she turns out to be a lost cause, make that observation early and let it go. I know you want to save the world. It’s in your nature, but some people just can’t be saved.” She sighs.

“I know,” she says, her voice laced with defeat. “Hey, why didn’t you respond to my last email?”


 

ANASTASIA

“Actually, I just got your last email a few minutes ago.” I look at him skeptically. “Jason had my phone.” Okay, I believe that… not!

“Jason had your phone.” It’s a statement, not a question. He nods.

“I didn’t feel like talking or concentrating or anything,” he says, flatly.

“Why not?” He bears his teeth at me. That’s the best way that I can put it. It’s not a smile; he just bears his teeth at me. I’m lost.

“What is it?” I ask.

“The fact that you have to ask means that he did a good job,” he says. “My teeth are wired together.”

“You mean, like braces?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says, “exactly like braces except there’s a polymer over wire behind my teeth instead of in front of my teeth.” I reach for his cheek and he flinches away from me.

Um… okay.

“I’m sorry. It’s a reflex. It hurts like hell. That’s why Jason had my phone.” I nod.

“How long is it going to take? How long will it hurt like this?” I ask.

“I’m told it’ll hurt considerably for the first 24 hours, considerably less after that.” I’m having flashbacks of when he had the flu. My God, he was unbearable. Now, he’s going to be in pain. Oy!

“Did it help with your speech? You sound better.”

“Lots of practice,” he says. “If I don’t pay really close attention to what I’m saying, I’ll sound like Daffy Duck… probably look like him, too.”

“You really look so much better than you did before, Christian,” I tell him. “I know you haven’t looked in the mirror, but a lot of the bruising has gone down and your skin tone has even improved slightly since this morning—except that eye, I’m afraid. The swelling has subsided, but I think you’re just going to have to let the coloring run its course.” I reach up to touch it he winces and withdraws. I’m a little taken aback by the gesture. I know it’s a reflex because of the pain he’s experiencing, but I can’t help the slight pang of rejection that I feel at his reaction and I pull my hand back.

“I’m… sorry, Butterfly,” he begins.”

“I know,” I nod, dismissively, waving him off. “It’s the pain. What did they give you for it?” I ask, directing the conversation away from my quickly diminishing feelings. It’s childish, really. He’s not rejecting me; he’s just in pain… and I’m too damn emotional. Fucking pregnancy hormones!

“Vicodin,” he says softly. “Only for the first two days, and I should only need them for one. Ibuprofen as needed after that.” I nod and force a smile.

“That’s good. How are you feeling now?” Focus on him. Keep the focus on him.

“Not too bad,” he says. “The Vicodin kicked in about an hour ago. I can still feel the residual pain because my gums ache, but it’s nothing like it was before.”

“So what’s next?” Why do I feel like crying? It wasn’t that serious, really! This is ridiculous!

“I go back in a month and the dentist checks to see if the teeth have reset themselves. If not, he’ll check again after eight weeks and then six months. Since I don’t have gum disease, he’s not concerned about them setting again as long as I don’t take any more hits to the jaw.” I nod. I’ve got to put some distance between us or I’m going to be a waterfall soon.

“That’s good, Christian. I’m going to go up and get some tea. Can I get you something while I’m in the kitchen?” He pauses for a moment, trying to feel me out. Dammit, not now. “Christian?”

“No,” he says finally. “No, I’m fine, I don’t need anything.”

“Okay,” I say with a tight smile before I escape to the elevator. Once I’m inside, I release a heavy sigh along with the tears that were threatening to fall when I was standing there with Christian. No use in going to the kitchen right now. There are too many people there to ask me what’s wrong. I take the elevator to the second floor and walk to our bedroom.

Several minutes later, I’m standing half-naked—in bra and panties—in front of the full-wall mirrors in my dressing room. Ten-ton Ana stares back at me from every angle. I rub my baby mountain and it seems that I’m just getting bigger and bigger every day. I’ve been pregnant for like ever and my due date is what? Valentine’s Day. I’m not even going to be able to bake my cookies on Christmas Eve. The thought suddenly depresses me and I cover my face and weep.

Weepy, whiny, crying Ana. Boy, I’ll be glad when she’s gone.
You’re being too hard on yourself, you know. It’s the hormones; you can’t help it.
I know that, but I don’t have to like it. This is really becoming ridiculous.

I remember the first time the Bitch talked to me. I thought I was crazy. I knew I was crazy. We all are, to some extent, but me more than others… and I’m a shrink. Unfortunately, with the voice she’s taken, I can’t help but yearn and wish that I had a mother like other women do during times like this. I understand how Mandy felt carrying Harry now. I think I’ll call her later. I don’t know if my father’s friend is still staying with them, but I’ll call her anyway.

I’m having a hard time trying to pick something to wear for the rest of the evening as I can’t stop the steady flow of tears streaming from my eyes. The children have mostly settled during this part of the pregnancy as they are now in cramped quarters and their movements are more succinct—more turning and stretching as opposed to jungle gyms and soccer games. I try on about five different outfits, sick to death of yoga pants. I settle on a gray T-shirt dress that clings to my body—totally out of season with an extremely indecent split up my thigh… well, it wasn’t indecent when I bought it. Christian won’t look in the mirror and I won’t step on a scale… a luxury that will be snatched away from me when I go to the doctor on Thursday. Ain’t we a pair.

It makes me cry harder.

After I squeeze my way-too-big body into this way-too-small dress, I only end up covering the thing with an oversized cowl-neck sweater. I’m still weeping as I try to find a headband to tame my hair. Geez, you would think somebody died!

“Baby?” His concerned voice wrings more emotion from me, and another volley of tears starts anew. Dammit! “I’m sorry…”

“It’s not you!” I wail, uncontrolled. I can only think right now that I want him to hold me, but he can’t even put his arms around me like he used to. I have to poke my butt out to embrace him. I can’t get one of those tight, firm, Christian Grey “you’re my everything’ hugs for another two months because I’m just too fucking fat!

“Talk to me, baby,” he says, kneeling on the floor in front of me, but I can’t. I don’t know what to tell him. Your mouth was hurting and you wouldn’t let me touch your face so it started the tears and now the floodgates are open because I’m as big as Montana?

That’s about it, isn’t it?
In a nutshell, but I’m not telling him that.

“I’m emotional,” I tell him truthfully, “I can’t make it stop.”

“What can I do?”

“I don’t know,” I whine.

Instinctively, he lifts me in his arms like I’m weightless. My brain is screaming, “Put me down before you break your back!” Yet, he carries me effortlessly, like a handkerchief, into our sitting room. He sits in the large chair that faces the windows and situates me on his lap. He curls me into his chest and wraps his arms around my back and the babies.

“Let it out, Butterfly,” he says, soothing, rubbing my back… and the waterfall flows. This time, it flows because he’s so loving and caring and I’m so lucky to have him. After only a few more minutes, I’ve cried myself out and we sit there in silence—the only sound being my occasional shuddering breath. After several moments, his caramel voice breaks the silence.

“Activate two-way communications.” Beep. “Locate Gail Taylor.”

“Yes?” She still sounds perturbed.

“Mrs. Grey isn’t feeling well,” he says, unmoved by her terseness. “Please bring some ginger tea to the sitting room off the master suite.”

“Oh!” Her terse tone is immediately replaced with concern. “Okay.” I swear it seems like that woman teleported because only moments later, she’s in the room with tea. I don’t want tea right now. I want to stay here nestled in my husband’s chest. I can hear her preparing the tea, but I don’t open my eyes.

“Thank you, Gail. Just leave it there… and please, have dinner brought to the sitting room. We’ll dine here tonight.” He’s so thoughtful.

“Yes, sir,” she says, her voice laced with that concern I know only too well before she leaves the room.

*-*

I fell asleep before dinner arrived last night, but Christian woke me and fed me before letting me go right back to sleep. We were still fully dressed when I awoke this morning and my head felt like lead, so I took a shower as warm as I could stand it—warmer than usual, but not too warm for the babies—and let the warmer water caress the fogginess and pain from my head. It was very refreshing. That’s another thing I can’t wait for once these babies are born. I’m going to take the hottest swim in that marble bathtub my body can stand.

After a quiet breakfast and having to repeatedly assure my husband that I was past my emotional breakdown from last night—for now, that is—Marilyn and I set out to begin our day. Our first stop involves a tour of the Harbor Club. It’s a luncheon club located in Seattle’s financial district on the top floor of the Norton Building. The club opened in the mid-1900’s during the dawn of the Mad Men era. While this time has been romanticized by some as the blooming of fashion and culture of the mid-century with beatniks, loud music, and Lucky Strike cigarettes in every hand, this era was also a time of casual or blatant sexism, immense racism and bigotry, and rampant adultery with the textbook executive/secretary relationships. To that end, the fabulous view of Mt. Rainier had very little effect on me as did the historical significance of the landmark business deals sealed within the club’s walls, the stunning décor, or the fact that Craig—the club’s general manager—tried to sell me on the frequent family and social events sponsored by Harbor Club.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not holding it against the club that it blossomed during the heyday of sexism, bigotry, and adultery. I do, however, feel like the ideologies of the founders may still be evident in the club’s current philosophy. What was prevalent to me was the absence of an inviting atmosphere for young or professional or influential women as I toured the facility.

While the space is very elegantly furnished, it’s more geared towards businessmen—i.e. the Mad Men executive. Even now, every room leans towards more masculine furnishings with a hint of unisex flavor. To add to that, current members present are mostly male meeting for mid-morning coffee or some other informal or preliminary conference. The occasional female sits with her male counterpart as either an assistant of some sort, a companion that was more of an onlooker to the proceedings, or in one case, an obvious offering to seal the deal. How barbaric! I tried to pretend that I didn’t know that’s what was going on, but you really couldn’t miss it.

I had already made my decision upon seeing that exchange, but Craig’s proud announcement that the club offers a regular businessman’s lunch and his beaming pride that there was even an impressive walk-in humidor clinched it for me. Why? Because he had an extremely incurable case of the stutters when I asked if there were similar accommodations for ladies who lunch or a spa retreat or even an exclusive parlor for afternoon tea. I thanked him for the tour and his time and told him that I would be in touch after I toured the other clubs in the Seattle area. He tried to pin me down to a time frame for my decision and I couldn’t help feeling like he—like many of the men while I was touring the facility—only saw me as the little woman who came to take a look at the big country club.

“Mr. McCrone,” I begin, “Harbor Club is only the second club I’ve visited and I’ll be going to a third this afternoon and a fourth later this week. As you’ve noticed, my assistant has been taking thorough notes about your facilities and its accommodations, but I’m nowhere near making a final decision on which club I’ll be choosing to join as I have at least twenty more to visit.”

I know Marilyn said make each one feel like they’re on the top of the list, but for me, Harbor Club is at the bottom, and the last thing this pretentious asshole is going to do is rush me.

“Will Mr. Grey be making this decision… with you?” I smile widely and very pretty.

“Please be assured that should Harbor Club make the very short list of finalists once my tours are complete; you’ll be the first to know.” I proffer my hand to him. He takes it like a wet fish, so I squeeze like a fighter. He’s caught off guard and I can see it in his eyes. “Your club is very impressive,” I say sweetly, my voice totally contrary to the death grip his hand is getting right now.

“Thank you, Mrs. Grey,” he says, his voice showing the tiniest bit of strain.

“Dr.,” I correct him. “Steele-Grey.” I hold his hand until he corrects himself.

“Dr. Steele-Grey,” he says. I nod once and slowly release his hand.

“Until and if we meet again, Mr. McCrone,” I say with a smile and turn away.

“Ten will get you twenty that he’s calling somebody that’s calling Christian right now,” I say when Marilyn, Ben, and I clear the door of the club.

“You can count on it,” Marilyn says as we walk to the car.

Ten minutes later, we find ourselves in the exclusive community of Broadmoor. Our visit to Broadmoor is much more pleasant and when I say exclusive, I mean exclusive! Their membership is diverse, but Broadmoor is actually a residential community with a golf course inside. Membership requires a member sponsor and clubhouse has a dress code—jeans or denim of any kind is prohibited.

“Do you already have a sponsor, Dr. Steele-Grey?” Ilene Claiborne asks as she and her assistant, Marco Williams, begin to show us around the club.

“I’m afraid not,” I confess. “It appears we may have overlooked that small bit of vital information in our preliminary research,” I add, throwing a pointed look at Marilyn. She raises her eyes from her iPad and mouths “Wait for it.”

“No worries, Dr. Steele-Grey,” Ms. Claiborne says. “I’m certain that should you decide that you and Broadmoor are a right fit, we’ll have no problem whatsoever finding you and your family a sponsor.” I smile at her warmth.

“Thank you, and please call me Ana. That hyphenated name is going to become very cumbersome after a while.”

“Okay, Ana. Ilene,” she says, returning my smile.

Broadmoor prides itself on its golfing history and its sense of community. Marco banters on about the many professional golf tournaments that have been hosted on Broadmoor’s greens, particularly proud that Arnold Palmer has been famed to have played on the course. Having absolutely no interest in golf myself, I have to apologize to him that his conversation is going completely over my head, but commend him on his knowledge and the fact even under a blanket of snow I can tell that this is quite a beautiful and impressive golf course. He smiles and nods, but I can see he looks a bit deflated.

“Marco, can you tell me, is golfing good for fitness? I mean, to me, it just looks like swinging a club.” I make a haphazard motion with my hands. Marco perks up again.

“Oh, yes ma’am,” he says, coming to life again. “Not many people know it, but golfing is more of a workout than you think. First, there’s the cardiovascular benefit because there’s a lot of walking involved. Walking up the hills and down the valleys assists in toning of different muscles, so there’s strength training involved. Of course, we have caddies, but if you opt occasionally to carry your golf bag, that will also assist in your workout. The twisting and swinging also help with your balance and flexibility, and focusing on your drive helps with concentration.”

He says it all at one time, like he’s been waiting for someone to ask him that question. At first, I was trying to placate him, because I felt like I took the wind out of his sails. Now, I’m standing here completely stunned. I look at Marilyn and bark at Marco.

“Wow!” I say in honest amazement. “Do you golf, Marco?” He straightens his back.

“Yes, ma’am, I do,” he says, proudly.

“A lot?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Is that your only form of workout?”

“Yes, ma’am, in season. I use the club fitness center in the winter.” I lean in to Ilene and point to Marco.

“You should put that in your pamphlet!” I tell her conspiratorially, but not quietly. They both laugh good-naturedly, and Marco beams with pride. Crisis averted.

We tour the fitness center, various formal and casual dining facilities, the clubhouse and ballroom, and three terraces with views of the greens, the Cascade Mountains, and Lake Washington. I joke with Ilene that if I knew in which direction I was looking, I might be able to see my house across the lake from here. The membership is very diverse—male and female, family friendly, all ages and ethnicities. I feel more at home in this atmosphere, much more so than at Harbor Club, and I know that Craig fucker was just itching to get us in there—more specifically, Christian.

Broadmoor has a stricter vetting process for non-proprietary member hopefuls and those who don’t own property in the community, which is why the club is so exclusive. It’s another reason why those wanting membership require the endorsement of two sponsors. I’m certain that we wouldn’t have any problem getting sponsors or passing the vetting process. I leave Broadmoor with a lot of information in my briefcase and a more secure feeling that this would be one of the clubs on my short list of finalists.

Courtney was less trouble today when we got to Helping Hands. I’ve decided that she needs to rotate what she does instead of just one thing. So today, she would be reading to the children and helping with the tutoring. I didn’t really expect her to teach anybody anything, especially since we don’t have our certifications yet. She was just helping out in the classroom and such. I knew that it was going to be harder than she thought because a lot of these children are troubled. Some of them are loud, some are afraid, others are chatty and others are quiet. It’s a veritable mish-mosh in there and she’s required to stay in there all afternoon and assist the staff as needed.  Nobody came to get me to tell me that she wasn’t doing what she was told for the entire afternoon, but she looked like hell when I came back to get her at the end of the day.

*-*

Oh, God, I’m aching to feel normal again. I want to see my feet and straighten my back and dance and box and sit in a hot tub and eat a burger and drink wine…

Wine… oh my God, wine!

I’m going to spend a whole day pumping breast milk so that I can spend another whole doing nothing but eating tiramisu, ground chuck cheeseburgers with sharp cheddar cheese, and drinking bottle after bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon!

I walk away from Atlantis where I’ve been standing for the last few minutes watching Marty give a command performance of one of her best ballets before I head back to my office. As I’m passing the community area headed towards my office, I hear a scolding voice off in the guest quarters. It’s Chuck. Is he arguing with Keri? Oh Lord. If he is, should I get involved or should I keep walking? I move a little closer to confirm my suspicions.

“That was a basic mistake, man. What was that? You fresh out of training or what?” he scolds. Well, it’s not Keri.

“Chuck, you know I know protocol, but I was trying not yo rock the boat, okay?” That’s Ben. “I thought that if I just did what these fuckers said and waited in the waiting room, it was only a few feet away. I could be there if she needed me—which I was right there when she called.” He’s right about that part. “If I had been arrested, nobody would have been there if she needed help. This was a strange hospital; these people didn’t know who we were. They were ball-busters. Real fucking ball-busters.”

“They’re going to travel the world,” Chuck says calmly. “If Christian doesn’t fire you, you’re going to be a lot of places where they are not going to know who you are. You always, always stand your ground!”

“I know that now,” Ben says, defeated. “I wasn’t that far away, man.”

“But you weren’t at the door,” Chuck scolds. “Don’t let that shit happen again.” There’s silence and I can only assume that Ben is nodding. “Do you have any idea how much jewelry that woman owns?”

“Oh, hell, not this again,” Ben laments. This is about my rings.

“Do you want this gig or no, because we can assign somebody else to her if it’s too much for you.” I don’t hear Ben’s answer. Am I too much for him? Am I a bitch? Should I ask Christian if Jason can be assigned to me until the babies are born and he can take Chance? “I can’t hear you, man.”

“Of course, she’s not too much for me!” Ben snaps. “I just heard all this from Jason already…”

“And now you’re hearing it from me!” Chuck snaps. “That’s not just my boss we’re talking about, that’s my friend! I almost died protecting her! I could have lost everything! Now, because of her—because of them—I’m able to get things back together. Every good thing happening in my life is either directly or indirectly because of her, and I’ll be goddamned if she’s caused any hurt, harm, pain, or discomfort because you’re not paying attention or can’t follow protocol!”

He’s mad. He’s fire-breathing mad. This isn’t about the hospital. This isn’t about my rings. He’s having flashbacks of Harris.

“Her rings were in the safe, Chuck. I watched them open it, take them out and give them to me.”

“They weren’t supposed to be in the goddamn safe!” he hisses. “If Christian is not sitting next to her with those rings on her finger, then they are supposed to be in his possession or your possession—nowhere else. There are more zeroes on those rings than you’ll ever see and she owns just about every diamond Chanel ever made. You’ve got the Billion-Dollar-Baby here when it comes down to net worth and she’s priceless every other way. Can you handle it or not?”

“I respect you, Chuck, but you’re not my boss…”

“But she is my charge. Can. You handle it. Or not?” he repeats.

“Yes,” Ben says curtly, “I can handle it.” There’s a brief pause.

“I swear to God, Benjamin… on my life,” Chuck says, his voice strained, “if anything happens to her…” he trails off. There’s silence again, for a longer period this time.

“I got it, Chuck,” Ben says, his voice softened. I sigh and walk to the hallway towards my office. As I bend the corner, I hear the familiar sound of dress shoes on a tile floor coming in my direction. I turn around to see Ben passing the bar headed toward the entertainment area.

“Ben…” I call his name to stop him before he gets out of sight. He turns around, a bit stunned and surprised to see me. My hands are resting on my stomach and I examine him, trying to relay understanding without pity.

“I know—” I sigh. I can’t figure out what I want to say to him. I don’t want him to know that I was listening, but it’s too late for that now. “You did the best you could… under the circumstances.”

Hazel eyes stare at me for a moment before his shoulders relax and he nods.

“Thank you,” he says, just above a whisper. It was something that he needed to hear.

“You’re welcome,” I say softly. He nods again and continues through the entertainment room, most likely to the elevator. I walk down the hall to my office.

I don’t know what I want to do. I’m still feeling the “God-I-wish-these-babies-would-be-born-already” blues. I check my iPad and see that I have notifications from Marilyn that most of the items that I have ordered for the Radcliffs is ready and all that needs to be scheduled is the grocery delivery and account. I send an appointment to my husband to confirm our visit to the Radcliffs on Sunday to make sure everything is delivered and available before Christmas.

Christmas.

We’re having Christmas at the Greys again this year—Grey Manor, that is. No fancy New Year’s Eve party this time. Everybody has families and no one’s getting married. I send off an email to Al.

To: Allen Forsythe
Re: New Year’s Eve
Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 18:47
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

Hey Al,

Any plans for New Year’s Eve? I’m thinking Food and Libations—an all-nighter at Grey Crossing. Let my hair down once more before the soccer players get here. What do you think?

Ana

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

F& L—I’d love to lazy around with my friends and talk shit all night and forget about all the crap that happened this year; all the crazy things that turned my life upside down and caused me to completely forget about just plain Ana Steele. Did I really know what I was getting into when I agreed to become Mrs. Grey? When I agreed to become a mother? When I agreed to give up my simple, boring life as a psychologist with the crazy, unhelpable people at the community center? Would I do it all again had I known that I would be faced with all this confusion and mayhem?

I rub my scar. Of course, I would. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have Christian… or the beans. God, we haven’t called them “beans” in so long. They were “soccer players,” and now, they’re just “my children” or “my babies.” I could fit my clothes when they were still “beans.”

And I’ve come full circle… back to lamenting about hamburgers, Cabernet, and bullshitting in my condo with my friends. And my email pings.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: New Year’s Eve
Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 18:59
From: Allen Forsythe

Hi Jewel,

No plans for New Year’s but to veg out in front of the TV and watch the ball drop in Times Square. F&L slumber party sounds great! Let me know the deets.

Al
XOXO

Allen Forsythe, Chief Legal Officer, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

Well, that was pretty easy. I forward the email to Gary, Maxie and Phil and CC Christian and Marilyn. I also invite Mia and Ethan. Just as I hit send, Christian enters the doors adjoining our offices.

“Hi,” he says, closing the doors behind him.

“Hi,” I respond. “I just sent you an email. I didn’t know you were over there. I thought you might have been out.”

“I was on a call,” he says, taking a seat in the chair in front of my desk. “You were quiet. I didn’t know you had come in. You okay?” I rub my scar again.

“Yes, I’m fine.” It’s only a half-tale.

“What was the email about?”

“I sent you two things actually. I sent an appointment to see the Radcliffs on Sunday—our Adopt-A-Family. I talked to the wife and just made arrangements to have some much needed things ordered and delivered by Friday—some to their house and some here. We can take them over this weekend. The other was about Food and Libations on New Year’s Eve. I may have jumped the gun by planning it before asking you, but I just thought about it went for it. I hope you didn’t have any other plans for us.” He shakes his head.

“No, no other plans,” he says. “At least it’s not a wedding. We couldn’t pull that off in two weeks.

“No, we couldn’t,” I say, rubbing my scar again. After a few more moments of silence, he asks,

“So, you want to join a country club?”


 

A/N: I won’t assume everyone knows, so I’ll explain. On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan became the first city to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when the US Air Force dropped the atomic bomb “Little Boy” on the city, causing the immediate or eventual deaths of approximately 170,000 people and the destruction of nearly 80% of the city. Some people still maintain that the bombing was a direct response to the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese four years prior. Pearl Harbor marked America’s entry into World War II as we had not declared war and weren’t in the fight until that attack. The Mushroom Cloud over Hiroshima was nearly the end of World War II, and this is the event to which Christian is referring when he says that telling Gail that she would have to clear the pantry in a couple of hours was like “Hiroshima.”

Harbor Club and Broadmoor are actual clubs. My historical information is correct, but I’ve taken some creative license with my current descriptions as Harbor Club is closed now and Broadmoor is actually that exclusive that you can’t get much inside information.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 35—Broken Fences, Faces, and People

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 35—Broken Fences, Faces, and People

CHRISTIAN

I don’t think anyone particularly wanted to face the day on Sunday after the emotionally taxing day that was Saturday. Nonetheless, we all gather for breakfast to make sure that everyone is still alive and well. Chuck surprises us all by asking Jason to get in touch with his parents for him. As he and Joseph are officially no longer speaking and Chuck now knows that his parents are still alive, someone will have to be listed as his next of kin. He informs Jason to tell his parents what happened and what’s going on just like he told Joseph. Chuck can’t go through the whole thing again that he went through with Joseph. The disappointment and rejection were too much for him and he can’t take it anymore. He just wants them to know that they will be notified to dispose of Chuck’s remains if something happens to him. Jason solemnly accepts the task.

Jason and I later collaborate on blueprints for Butterfly so that she can decide where to place Gail’s office. Gail has ceded the task to Butterfly after having discussed that the most functional location would be somewhere near the kitchen, yet close to stairs and elevators so that she can get to the children quickly once her job duties change. I call Butterfly down to my office after she has indulged in a nice long nap and bring her into the collaboration.

We can’t seem to agree on what would be a suitable space for a home manager’s office. To me, anything less than 500 square feet would be stifling. According to Gail’s instructions, anything more than 250 square feet is extravagant. Two hundred and fifty square feet! What the fuck can you put in two hundred square feet?

“I was willing to work at the kitchen counter,” she had said. “The office was Ana’s idea.”

And there you have it. My wife thinks like me and feels that an office is necessary… Gail doesn’t. There has to be a compromise, so 200 square feet it is.

Luckily, we discover a large enough hollow between the pantry and the laundry room that would serve as an office for Gail. I’m concerned about the lack of ventilation and natural light, so I’ll get with Elliot and see what can be done about that. As the babies will be here in less than two months, we don’t want remodeling going on when they arrive. So this has to be done quickly.

Everyone pretty much goes to their corners for the rest of Sunday afternoon, except for Jason who collaborates with Welch to find Chuck’s parents. I have to say that I don’t envy him that task. If Chuck’s parents are anything like his brother, I don’t even want to meet these people.

“Mom told me you looked like you’d been in one of those brawls you used to get into when you were a teenager. Aren’t you a little old for that, Bro?” Elliot scolds when I call him on Monday morning to discuss the office.

“Not for this,” I tell him, still fighting a bit to hide my lisp. My lip isn’t swollen anymore thanks to Gail’s tea, but my face is still a fright with the bruising and my teeth are still a bit loose. I actually have an appointment with the dentist this afternoon to see if there’s any permanent damage. Thank God he didn’t hear me when I had the lisp or I would have never lived it down. I really don’t want to go through the whole thing again. I didn’t even explain to Mom why I look like this.

“You know you got to tell me what happened…”

“No, I don’t,” I interrupt him. “I don’t want to have this conversation. I was fighting for my wife and that’s all I’m going to tell you. Now about this office…”

“Did somebody say something about her ass?” he presses.

“Elliot!” I yell into the phone.

“Alright, alright. You don’t have to yell,” he finally concedes. “Where do you want this office?”

“Thank you,” I hiss. “Near the kitchen. We’ve found a space between the pantry and laundry room. Gail and Butterfly say it’s big enough, but it looks pretty small to me, so you would have to come and look at it.”

“Near the kitchen—any load-bearing walls?”

“Now how the hell would I know that?” I ask him.

“I know. My bad. I’ll come over and look at the blueprints. As a matter of fact…” I hear him shuffling around a bit, then more shuffling, then more shuffling and he’s back on the phone again. “Are you talking about that space that starts behind the wall in Q-17?” I scan the blueprints on my desk.

“No, it’s M-21,” I correct him.

“Shit, I know that, I was just testing you, Dude. You brought the blueprints to work?”

“I’m not at work.”

“You’re not at work.” It’s a statement, not a question. “On a Monday morning…”

“I look like hell, so I’m working from home. Don’t ask me anymore questions.” The skin around my eye is actually starting to look this yellow-greenish sort of black bruising color. I’d scare old ladies and children if they saw me. As it is, I don’t know how I’ll get to the dentist without making a scene.

“This office is for Gail?” he asks. I think he’s being an asshole because I said don’t ask any more questions.

“Yes,” I nearly hiss.

“What’s she going to be doing in it?”

“She’s going to be the home manager and the nanny.” Elliot whistles.

“How is she going to do both of those?” he asks.

“Less home manager, more nanny,” I say. “That’s why we have a staff.”

“As you should,” he says. “That’s a lotta house!”

“I know, Elliot. That’s why we have the staff.”

“And she’s going to manage them… and be your nanny.” When he puts it like that, it does seem like a lot. Gail hasn’t indicated that she couldn’t handle it, but we’ll just have to see.

“Is the office going to present a problem?” I ask.

“Not that I can see,” he says. “There are no load bearing walls, which is a miracle in that Greek temple you live in! Man, all those damn columns were a fucking nightmare during the remodel! There are no windows in that area, though. It’s going to be stuffy as fuck if we don’t pipe the ventilation system through there.”

“Yeah, we were concerned about that, too. Can you do it?”

“Yeah, I can do it,” he says.

“How long will it take?”

“About three weeks.” That’s cutting it kind of close.

“How soon can you start?” I ask. “The babies are due in exactly eight weeks and you know they’ll most likely come early. Even if you start this week, I know you won’t be doing anything next week because it’s Christmas, which most likely puts us right in danger of bumping into B-day,” I point out.

“I’ll send Felix and Irv over this afternoon to start taking some measurements and see if we can get the wall knocked out if that’s okay with you. Getting that wall knocked out and getting the spaced taped off is going to be the biggest part of it. Then we have to get the electricians in there to get it wired. Ana’s already got some of my guys coming in on Wednesday to look at one of your downstairs libraries to rewire for her PA.” Yeah, she mentioned something about that to me yesterday. “We’ll see how many birds we can kill with one stone. I’ll see if Ray can get in tomorrow to look at the ventilation system and see how big a job that’s going to be.”

“Ray?” I ask, surprised. “Ray Ray? You mean my father-in-law Ray?” The line is quiet.

“Yes,” Elliot says in a sing-songy voice, like this is something I’m supposed to know. “Ray and I work on a lot of projects together, ever since he got that project with the city last year,” he informs me. “Quiet as it’s kept, I knew Ray before I knew Ana… not long before I knew Ana, but before I knew Ana.” Well, what do you know?

“How did I not know this?” I say, frowning.

“You didn’t ask,” Elliot answers. “We were actually bidding on some of the same contracts. When I beat him out of a few and he beat me out of a few, we discovered that we have complimenting skills. He only has the basic construction skills while I have the advanced—master builder. He, on the other hand, has the masonry and carpentry specialties and he’s certified in HVAC, which is why I’m going to have him come by tomorrow and see how hard it’s going to be to get some heat and air into that little cubbyhole.”

“Cubbyhole is right,” I concur. “Why didn’t you guys ever tell the family that you were working together? We never would have thought to ask. How long have you known you were working with Ana’s father?”

“Since last Thanksgiving,” he says, “we just didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s not, is it?”

“No,” I reply, “probably more of a novelty if anything. So listen, I have an appointment this afternoon, so I won’t be here from about two until maybe three thirty. If you’re not coming with the guys that are supposed to be knocking walls out, make sure security knows who they are. You’ve been here enough times to know the drill.”

“Yeah, I know what to do,” he confirms. “I’ll talk to you after the guys give me some numbers.”

“Will do.” I end the call with him just as I see Butterfly and Marilyn come into her office through the aquarium. I never get enough of watching her move. I gaze on her for a few moments before she disappears out of sight of the aquarium. I call Andrea on my desk phone.

“Who do I have on the books today, Andrea?”

“Nothing critical, sir,” she responds. “You have the department heads and the two status meetings. There is that Meet-And-Greet later in the week with the Fairlanes…” I could care less about the Fairlanes right now, but skipping out on a Meet-And-Greet is bad form.

“Have all non-essential meetings proceed without me this week and cc me on all meeting minutes within 24 hours. I look like I’ve been hit by a fucking bus,” I inform her.

“Yes, sir.”

“Reschedule all critical meetings for next week or ASAP thereafter, including that damn Meet-And-Greet. I’ll see if I can coerce my pregnant wife to come along for added effect.”

“That should work in your favor, sir,” she chirps. “It actually gives new companies a sense of security knowing that the new owner is a family man.”

“Sometimes,” I tell her, “other times, they see right through it… that I’m parading my hot, pregnant wife around like a trophy. That hothead Georgie Jr is sure to think that’s exactly what I’m doing.” She clears her throat.

“I’ll reschedule them for next week, sir.” I can see through that change of topic.

“What is it, Andrea?”

“Well, no offense, sir, but… isn’t that what you’re doing? I mean, sort of using Ana to gain an emotional advantage?”

“Well… yeah, maybe a little, but he works for me now, so he’s not allowed to say that, and if he does, I’ll put him out on his ear.”

“Sir, you can’t do that…” I’m silent for a moment.

“Have we met?” and now she’s silent for a moment.

“I stand corrected,” she says. “Ros has asked for an hour.”

“Tell her to call the house conference line as soon as she’s ready.”

“Understood.”

“Anything else?”

“If anyone insists that they must meet with you today or this week and can’t reschedule? You know they’ll be at least one.”

“Let me know who they are and I’ll determine if that’s the case. Then we’ll do a conference call if necessary.”

“Will do. I think that’s all for now, sir. Conference phone or blackberry for emergencies?”

“Blackberry.”

“Yes, sir. Called away, unavailable until next week?”

“Good enough. No additional information. Everyone who needs additional details already has them.”

“Very well, sir.” I end the call and look over the projections for Fairlane again. I make a special note of these frivolous employees that were hidden under maintenance expense and wonder to myself if any of them will have the nerve to show up at the Meet-And-Greet. I think I’ll have Andrea come along as well and shadow me with a list of the employees so that she can subtly alert me to the people who may be trying to secure a position that will most likely be eliminated after the new year.

I click on another file that I don’t think I’ve had to open in months—Project Free Butterfly. I don’t think I’ve actively been in this file since I left Green Valley, right before the kidnapping. The information flow and flow of events happened so quickly that I never had time to examine the file. I was always updated by word of mouth from Allen or that asshole AG or even the press. I set out to ruin the people that hurt my Butterfly, but these people have truly been their own worst enemy.  Once Whitmore’s house of cards came tumbling down, a good measure of Green Valley’s elite and some surrounding areas came tumbling with it. He was really small-time in the big scheme of things, thank God. He very well could have had some attachments to organized crime. As it turns out, he was a celebrity only in his own mind. He was only puffed up to his own delusions—no bigger or more important than any other businessman in Green Valley. He just spent his money like he was super-important and presented himself as such. In terms of real influence, he was nobody.

Once the dominoes began to fall, he was nothing more than the hustler. He was the money mover—the one everybody came to. In the end, he was the one who brought everybody down. From my computer, I can watch as small fortunes and life savings of people who had dealings with Whitmore are frozen, dwindled away or investigated—people who may or may not have even had anything to do with what happened to Butterfly. I feel bad for those who got caught in the crossfire, but not if they were involved in illegal activity. This is what it gains you. Speaking of which…

“So, I got the information that you wanted on those foreign officials,” Ros says when she calls me on the conference line.

“What do you have?”

“Check your email. As you can see, you’re looking at some mid-level officials in these countries. These are not really the people that can make or break you in terms of power, but legally and publicity…”

“I get it,” I say as I open the file that she’s sent me. She’s right. If the information had gotten any higher than this in any of these governments, they wouldn’t be contacting me. They would already have legal proceedings initiated to prosecute me. These are most likely the crooked politicians who watch manifests and make passports disappear so that it’s easier to traffic more prime candidates as opposed to immigrants or refugees seeking political asylum. If you ever heard of Americans getting lost in foreign countries or being arrested then coming up missing in the system somewhere, these are usually the culprits that are responsible for them ending up as part of some crooked, amoral rich asshole’s harem in some obscure corner of the world… much like that movie Taken.

“Did Welch help you with this?” I ask.

“Somewhat. He didn’t know why I was asking.”

“Why didn’t you tell him?”

“I didn’t know if you wanted me to,” she responds. “You told me to find out who the squeaky wheels were. You didn’t tell me to ask Alex.” I guess I did, didn’t I?

“You do know that Alex knows everything there is to know about me and my company, don’t you?” I confess. “He even knows some things that you don’t.”

Ouch,” she says, and I don’t know if she’s really bruised or just kidding.

“That’s his job, Ros. It’s the nature of the beast,” I tell her. “You know that you’re irreplaceable in your own way, but so is he.”

“Yeah, yeah, tell me anything,” Ros says, now mocking injury. “So now what?”

“Well, this is where it gets tricky,” I tell her. “This is where the boys are separated from the men…”

“… And the girls from the women.” She’s always been a bit of a feminist.

“Do you see any women on this list, Ros?” Silence. “There’s a specific reason for that. Women often have a hard time exploiting and objectifying people…” A vision of the Pedophile immediately comes to mind. “Well, at least to this kind of extreme,” I correct myself. “The brothels, massage parlors, sweat houses—you may have found some women in those kinds of things. The hard core trafficking—sexual slavery, hard labor—you’re not going to find many women, if any.”

“Well, Sir, I know you’re about to go on your fact-finding mission. Don’t be surprised if you find a few vaginas when you turn over those rocks,” she says matter-of-factly. I think she’s a bit slighted.

“Ros, surely you’re not taking this personally,” I say a bit bemused.

“No, should I be?” she responds flatly, and that’s my cue to end this topic. The last thing I have time for right now is to stroke her ego about whether a woman can be as ruthless as a man when I already know the answer. There’s a crazy blonde bitch in jail right now that’s proof positive that a woman can be more dangerous than a man any day, but in this instance, I doubt I’ll find too many women.

“Well, I’d love to continue this lovely conversation, but you’ve given me another project that needs my attention.”

“And now, I’m being dismissed.” And a bit catty.

“Yes, Ros, you are. Thank you for the information. Have a good day.” I end the call. I appreciate that she’s one of the people that won’t take my shit. However, she does need to remember which of us is the boss. I email the list over to Welch and call him.

“How much information can you get me on foreign officials?” I ask him.

“Depends on what you need,” he says.

“I need weak spots, good weak spots, and I need them fast—preferably before my children are born,” I say. “I have a few low level and a couple of mid to possibly high level government officials in countries where those mysterious subsidiaries were carrying on questionable practices. Apparently, in some areas, they get a cut of the traffic. In other areas, you have to grease their palms to keep their mouths shut. Either way, when the traffic stops, you have to grease it some more to keep them from blowing the whistle on you.”

“Oh, that,” he says with little concern.

“Oh, that?” I say, appalled. “You knew about this all along?”

“I hate to tell you this, sir, but this kind of thing happens all the time. I just didn’t know GEH was involved in any of it.”

“Yeah, neither did I!” I exclaim.

“There’s a very easy way to take care of this, sir, but it may cost you…”

“I’m not paying these people anything!” I declare. “They’re the worst kinds of criminals and if I could turn them all in without destroying my company, I’d do it in a minute!”

“No, you’re not going to be paying them anything, but you’re going to be paying somebody to help clean this up,” he informs me.

“Oh. Well, that I can pay,” I concede.

“And I can guarantee you that whatever you know, it goes deeper. So, give me what you know and I’ll get back to you…”

“I’ve already emailed you a list. What do you mean you’ll get back to me?” I ask.

“You don’t get your hands in this, sir. You let other people take care of this. This is why you hired me. Now, you have to let me do my job. Do you trust me?”

“Of course, I do.” I trust him with my life, much like I trust Jason. I just don’t like being left out of the loop.

“Then, you have to let me handle this. Know that it’s going to cost you, but it’ll go away soon enough.”

“You may need to talk to Ros,” I say.

“Why?”

“I didn’t know how to handle this, so I put her on finding out who we needed to speak to. Like you said, I didn’t know how deep this goes.” I hear him sigh. “Is she in danger, Welch?”

“I don’t think so, but she is your second in command, so we’ll just have to play it by ear and see whose cage she’s rattled getting her information. I’ll let you know what I find out. I was wondering why she was asking me questions about Bosnian government. Now I know.”

“Apparently, someone approached her in some way and she brought it to me. So technically, she was involved before I was.”

“So whoever it was already knows that she’s your second in command. I’ll talk to her.”

“You… might want to wait until after lunch.” There’s a pause.

“Why?”

“Because I pissed her off. Her panties are all in a wad because I said that we most likely won’t find too many women at the head of these rings.” He sighs again.

“Why would you purposely antagonize a liberal femme? Are you deliberately trying to make this hard for me? You’re right, of course. You’re not going to find any women at the head of the ring, but not for the reasons that you most likely told her. You won’t find them at the head because of the glass ceiling—because the men won’t let them in. The women in most of these countries have bigger hairier ones than some of these men, so you better watch your mouth, Mr. CEO.”

“Not you, too,” I lament. “Can we please just get down to business.  My teeth are starting to hurt.”

“Your teeth are hurting?” he says, surprised.

“Yeah, I’ve got to see the dentist today about these loose teeth.”

“Oh, that.” Yes, that. If I ever see Cholometes again, I swear to God, I’m going to hit him in the mouth with a fucking hammer. “Well, you’re going to be a bear, so I’m going to let you go.”

“Good idea. Keep me posted.”

Sure thing.” I end the call and run my hands through my hair. I don’t often get the feeling like I just want to go back to bed, but right now. I could just snuggle up with my Butterfly and stay in bed all day. I go over to the aquarium and look through to see what she’s up to. There’s a woman in the office with her. She’s not one of our staff. At first, they’re just talking. Then, she applies a blood pressure cuff and I realize that this is the home nurse that has come to check on my wife. It’s everything that I can do to keep from rushing in there and asking her how Butterfly is doing, but I stay put.

I watch their movements intently, attempting to garner what information I can about the visit from their body language. I know that Butterfly will tell me if there are any problems, but I’m still impatient to know that everything is okay. I realize that my cover is blown when the nurse removes the cuff from Ana’s arm and turns her head sharply in my direction, meeting my gray gaze head on. I’m under no misconception that my beautiful wife alerted her to my presence and she had to turn and see for herself. A man glaring through an aquarium? That’s preposterous! Except that it’s not. Butterfly gestures to me to come into the office, and I gladly oblige.

“Why didn’t you just come in?” She teases when I enter the door that adjoins our offices.

“I didn’t want to interrupt,” I say, honestly. “I didn’t want you to think I was hovering…”

“So you just gaze longingly through the aquarium.” It’s a statement, not a question. I twist my lips.

Yep, pretty much…

She just shakes her head and starts talking to the nurse again.

“Brandy, will you please tell my husband that I’m fine?” she says to the nurse. The young black nurse looks up at me then back down at her watch.

“He’s very distracting, I’ll tell you that,” she says after obviously taking Butterfly’s pulse and entering something into her iPad, most likely my wife’s vital statistics. “You’re surrounded by pretty men. You know that, right?” Brandy says to my wife.

“They never let me forget,” my wife says with mirth.

“Hey!” I protest. “I don’t know about these other pretty men, but I don’t walk around boasting my good looks.”

“You don’t have to boast them, Christian. They boast themselves.”

Mm-hmm,” Brandy says, without looking away from her iPad. At Butterfly’s silence, she responds, “Don’t look at me. You said it.” She raises her eyes defiantly to meet Butterfly’s glare. “How’s Winkin’ and Blinkin’?” she continues, not allowing the glare and uncomfortable silence to phase her.

“Active,” Butterfly tells her, “It’s like a wrestling match in there. I think the soccer players are changing sports.”

“That’s normal,” she says, still tapping on her iPad before raising her eyes to Butterfly again. “It’s cramped quarters in there and getting tighter by the day. You might feel less precise kicking and more ‘rumble jumble’ the closer you get to delivery.”

“Does that mean everything is okay?” I ask as she still hasn’t confirmed what Butterfly said when I walked into the room.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” she says with a deliberately over-exaggerated flutter of her eyelashes. I just roll my eyes.

“You know, I don’t know how you see any pretty under all this black, yellow, purple, and green that is my face.”

“That’s just bruising. It doesn’t hide the pretty,” she says, matter-of-factly. Frank little thing, isn’t she? “Looks like you got the bad end of a fight, though.”

“You could say that,” I reply, observing Butterfly’s hardening expression.

“Let me listen to your heart and lungs and we’ll be all done. Do you mind raising your shirt? It’s easier if I do this on your back.”

“Sure,” Butterfly says, never moving her gaze from mine and lifting her shirt. Brandy puts her stethoscope back in her ears and moves behind Butterfly.

“Wow!” she exclaims. Butterfly and I are both alarmed. What the hell? “I’m sorry,” she says, “I was just… I didn’t… that’s beautiful!” Butterfly frowns and looks over her shoulder at the nurse.

“What?” she asks, puzzled.

“Your art! It’s gorgeous. Did you get it all done at once or in stages?” Brandy asks. Butterfly looks at me bemused.

“The garden,” I say softly. She thinks for a moment before realization dawns.

“Oh!” she says, finally. “All at once… more or less…” I know she’s thinking about the first three letters of the gothic word on her back, and I so want to ask Brandy to just drop it. However, I can tell by her closely examining the work that she finally sees what Butterfly means by “more or less.”

“I see,” she says, softly. “Well, it’s very beautiful,” she reinforces, then changes the subject quickly. “Deep breaths for me, please…”

And just like that we’re out of the danger zone.

“So, everything looks fine so far,” Brandy says after her examination is over. “Your blood pressure is slightly elevated, but no higher than your average eight-month-pregnant woman, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just avoid anything too stressful.” She’s tapping away at her iPad again. “You’ve got an appointment with Dr. Culley on Thursday, right?”

“Yes,” Butterfly responds.

“So I won’t come on Wednesday. It seems a bit redundant. Has she already talked to you about expressing colostrum?”

“Briefly. She was going to go into detail on my next visit.”

“Good. She’ll let you know when it’s the ideal time to start.” She’s quiet again for a moment, tapping at her iPad. “I think that’s about it for us today, Ana—pretty routine, as you can see.” Butterfly nods and straightens her clothes. “Any questions for me?”

“Nope. As you said, it’s pretty routine. Thanks, Brandy,” she says, extending her hand. Brandy shakes gently.

“No problem. Now I get to check out the scenery while I leave.” She winks conspiratorially at Butterfly, eliciting a small giggle from her. “Take it easy, Ana.”

“You too, now, and thanks again.” Brandy nods and follows Windsor out of Butterfly’s office. Butterfly sighs and immediately turns her attention to some papers on her desk. I walk to the front of her desk and wait in vain for her to raise her eyes to me.

“You forgot about the garden, didn’t you?” I ask gently when she doesn’t look at me.

“Briefly, yes,” she admits. “That’s just how it is sometimes.” She shrugs puts a few items in her briefcase. Lately, she looks so much more businesslike when she leaves the house. I take notice of her attire, including the high-heeled shoes.

“Isn’t it about time to retire the sexy stilettos, baby?” I protest. “It’s not that I don’t love to see your mile-long legs in them; it’s just that the further along you get, I’m worried about possible spills and swelling and such.”

“Christian,” she says, “I was basically born in stilettos. Don’t worry about me. Besides, I always carry a pair of flats just in case my feet suddenly become the size of bowling balls—not to mention, it’s winter in Seattle. I always have a pair of boots to handle the snow. Is that okay with Sir?” she asks, sarcastically fluttering her eyebrows.

“Don’t test me, woman,” I warn. “The doctor said no strenuous activity, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get creative.” She twists her lips at me, then gives me a gentle peck.

“Goodbye, Christian. I’ll be home for dinner,” she says with a wave. Now, that’s a change. She’s going off to work and I’m staying home… figures.


 

ANASTASIA

Marilyn and I meet at the Apple store so that I can pick up my new iPad and she can choose her MacBook and docking station. I’m partial to a regular Windows laptop, but Mare prefers all things Apple, so MacBook it is. We arrange to have them delivered and installed at Grey Crossing. The staff is already moving the existing furniture out of the library as there won’t be much change except for a desk and some storage and seating and some additional wiring requirements.

We get to Helping Hands with plenty of time to spare and Addie and Courtney arrive promptly at 1:00pm as planned. Addie gives her rebellious little granddaughter instructions to do whatever I instruct her to do and she promptly begins to protest.

“Grandmother, this is so unnecessary. I don’t see the purpose of this exercise. I’m an adult. I really don’t need this.”

“Yes,” Addie says, “you are an adult with no direction and no purpose but to wait around and collect your trust fund. One day, that money is going to run out, and then what? What will you do—pray that someone else will take care of you? No, you need more than that out of life. You need to understand that life is more than just a dollar sign and I think this is just the experience for you.” Courtney drops her head and clasps her hands in front of her.

“Yes, Grandmother,” she says, with fake contrition. I shake my head infinitesimally because I already know what kind of day this is going to be, but I’m already armed and ready. So, bring me your best, little Ms. Debutante.

“Ana, dear,” she leans in and kisses me on the cheek, “I’ll see you later.”

“Addie,” I give her a cordial hug, “drive carefully.” She walks out of my office and the mood shifts immediately. Even though I advised sensible clothing, Ms. Courtney shows up in a pair of 7 For All Mankind contour crackle leather-like skinny jeans, a white angora sweater, and a pair of gray Jimmy Choo pebble Mendez high-heeled ankle boots.

“I see you didn’t take my advice about dressing sensibly,” I say, examining Courtney’s choice of attire. The little trick actually scoffs at me.

“I don’t know about you, Mrs. Grey, but where I come from, this is sensible,” she sneers. I fold my arms. So you’re going to be rebellious. You have no idea who you’re dealing with, little girl.

“Very well,” I say with a smirk. “Follow me.” I stand up and walk pass her towards the kitchen. She just stands there. “Are you waiting for a taxi?” She folds her arms defiantly. “Should I just call your grandmother back and tell her to come and get you?” At the threat of calling her grandmother, she rolls her eyes and falls in line behind me. Lunchtime is just wrapping up and it’s time to clean down the kitchen and start preparing for dinner. Perfect timing for an extra set of hands.

“Jessie, I’ve brought you some help,” I call to the kitchen supervisor. She’s a hard worker and a no-nonsense kind of woman, just the person I need to help keep an eye on this little pampered brat. She looks over at Courtney and raises an eyebrow at her as if to say, “What do you expect me to do with that?”

“Oh, you must be kidding?” Courtney scoffs.

“No, I’m not,” I say, impassively.

“I won’t cook in this outfit,” she protests.

“You were the one who said it was sensible,” I retort, shoving an apron in her chest, “and don’t worry. You won’t be cooking.”

“I don’t do manual labor either.”

“Everybody here does manual labor, including me. Get used to it.” I turn my attention back to Jessie. “Use her in whatever capacity you need her. She’s all yours until I come back to get her.” I look at Courtney. “You do exactly what she tells you to do. She reports directly to me and I report to Addie. Any questions?”

“Are you usually such a bitch?” she snarls.

“No, most of the time, I’m worse, aren’t I, Jessie?”

“Hideous,” Jessie pipes in without missing a beat.

“Well, I’d hate to meet her, because you’re a real fucking pill right now,” she retorts.

“Keep it up and you will, Sunshine,” I hiss. “Would you like to see just how miserable I can make your life?” I glare into her eyes and wait for her rebuttal. She thinks better of retaliation and takes a few steps away from me. “Give her hell,” I say in a low voice to Jessie. “I want that outfit completely unwearable by the end of the day. I’ll throw in a day at Dreamclinic for the whole kitchen staff if one of those shoes loses a heel.”

“Consider it done,” Jessie says.

Unfortunately, Jessie and I both realize that it’s not as easy as we thought it would be to break in Little Ms. Debutante as she successfully manages to avoid any work for the first thirty minutes of the afternoon. She’s lazy and refuses to do anything that she’s told. Only immediate threats of calling her grandmother seem to work, but the moment she’s out of your sight and comfortable, she’s just as uncooperative and rebellious as ever. According to Jessie, she is doing less than nothing and when she is doing something, she’s breaking dishes on purpose, she’s smart-mouthed, sitting around looking at the other workers, more in the way than anything. I’m not going to fight with this girl, nor will I play cat-and-mouse with her. I meant what I said at the country club. She disgusts me, and I will not allow her to waste my time.

“It begins,” I tell Addie after I dial her number.

“That was fast. What’s happening?”

“Absolutely nothing. She’s mouthing off at the staff. She’s more in the way than anything. I’ve got her in the kitchen—she’s probably rinsing glasses and chopping potatoes and she can’t even do that. I made sure that the staff knows that this is her first time doing anything, so I know that they’re not making her do anything strenuous, especially since she’s in there dressed like Lady Diana!” I hear Addie sigh.

“I knew this would happen. Okay, give me a few minutes.” She ends the call and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Courtney storms into my office.

“You called my grandmother?” she spits. “’Ana’s telling me you’re not doing what you’re told. Don’t make me have to come up there,’” she reads her grandmother’s text to me. “What am I, twelve?”

“I don’t know, are you?” I spit back at her. “Adults know how to act in public. Adults know how to take direction and do what they’re told. The staff is telling me that you’re belligerent and you’re having a problem with simple directions. So you tell me, are you twelve? Do I need to call your Dwanmaw because you’re going to have a hissy-fit every time someone tells you to do something? Do I need to sit a potty chair next to you, too? Trust me, I can treat you like a toddler if that’s what you want!”

“I don’t want to be here anyway!” she hisses. “This was your idea to get close to my grandmother—take me on like I’m some fucking charity case.”

“Fine, then call your grandmother and tell her to come and get you. I’ve already told you that I think you’re a lost cause and you’re not worth my damn time.”

“Do I present too much of a challenge for you, Mrs. Grey?” she sneers. “Afraid I might rub off on your little battered mommies?” And now I’m pissed.

“You’re not a challenge to me at all, little girl. I could give a fuck less if you gain anything from this very valuable experience that could change your life, but one thing is for damn sure. You will respect me and you will respect everyone in this place while you’re here. So you watch your tongue, you mindless, foul-mouthed little wretch, because if you think I can’t make your life a living fucking hell, you go ahead and try me!”

I have closed the space between us and before I know it, my animal instincts have kicked in and I’m ready to pounce on this uncouth little rogue—ironically calling her foul-mouthed while I cursing at her like a sailor. I suddenly remember that there are three of me and I can’t become vigilante all over this entitled, ignorant reprobate, so I return to my seat with a final warning.

“I’m not going to sit here and try to make you do what you need to do. This is going to be a learning experience for you whether you cooperate or not and you. Will. Learn!” I hiss.

“What exactly is your problem with me?” she asks, examining me through narrowed eyes. “I would have thought that you would have been flattered an attractive young woman found you desirable, but you act like I committed some kind of crime. I know I’m not the first person who has ever come on to you. Is it because I’m gay?” She can’t be serious.

“Oh, no, I have no problem at all with you being gay. What I do have a problem with is you not understanding what boundaries are. What I have a problem with is you expecting me to be so stupid that I would believe that you drank so much champagne at a red carpet charity event that it actually affected your judgment. I don’t know what you may know about me, but what you should know is that I’ve had a hard and fucked up life. What life didn’t teach me, school did. I’m a shrink—not much gets past me, especially about human nature. You are too old to be acting so flippantly in public—especially in the circles in which your grandparents circulate. You don’t understand how lucky you are, so this little exercise is to try to help you understand that.

“You’re no better than any of these people around you. The only difference is that you were born into money, and you have grandparents that take care of you. You’re not that much younger than I am, yet look at you and look at me. I had my degree and was a year into my internship by the time I was your age. Nobody gave me anything; I worked for it. You’ve got a big, fat trust fund waiting for you. So as far as you’re concerned, you don’t have to do anything. You can just sit and wait until it matures and then collect the money and live happily ever after, right? My guess is with the way that you’re acting now, you won’t see a penny of that money.” I turn away from her and I can just feel her scowling at me.

“So until you inherit your millions, or however much it may be, you will be a student at the Seattle School of Mrs. Grey.” Her eyes grow wide. “Hopefully, during your tenure, you’ll learn how to behave in a manner that will not embarrass your grandparents once you inherit your trust fund. You stand to inherit in about a year and a half?” She glares at me. “That’s not a rhetorical question!” I hiss. She nods, her gaze defiant. “One word from me and that year and a half can become two… or four… or never!” Her eyes grow large again.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” she exclaims.

“Don’t you wish,” I reply calmly. “That total amount can lose a couple of zeroes. I’ve already suggested that the lump sum becomes a monthly stipend.”

“A monthly stipend?” she asks horrified.

“Yes, a monthly stipend. You see, when your livelihood is in the hands of someone else, then your demeanor should reflect that. You shouldn’t be rewarded for bad behavior. So each month, you should have to earn your trust fund. You should be grateful for what you’re being given, instead of acting like a spoiled, entitled, little brat who can behave in any inappropriate manner she wishes.”

“Says the pampered billionaire’s wife!” she hisses. I just smile.

“I had my own before I met Christian and if he leaves, I’ll still have my own. You want to be able to say that, too—not because Grandma and Grandpa are lining your pockets, but because you made something of yourself. So, you can be mad at me all you want, but I’m not the one whose future is in the palm of someone else’s hands. Now, shall we begin again, or do you want to make another smarmy comment so that I can call Adelaide and tell her to add another six months to your due date?” Her face falls and she purses her lips. “I bet you wish you had never come on to me now, don’t you?” She narrows her eyes.

“I thought you would be nice. I guess looks can be deceiving,” she says sardonically.

“No, you thought I would be easy, and you’re right. Looks can be very deceiving. At first glance, you look like a very cultured young lady, so I guess we were both fooled.” I stand and walk pass her to the door. “You’ve wasted enough of my time and dinner needs to be served. Now bring your ass or get the fuck out. The choice is yours.”

“You really don’t…”

“I didn’t say speak!” I snap loudly, causing Ben to stick his head around the corner and survey the situation. “I said ‘bring your ass or get the fuck out…’ now!” I’m counting and if I get to ten, the twins and I are dragging this irritating little bitch out by her hair. I glare at her motionless through to seven before she finally finds the will to put one foot in front of the other. To the door or to the kitchen—it doesn’t matter to me, but I’m done playing with this little poodle.

“Pick up the damn apron,” I nearly growl through my teeth when we get to the kitchen.

“You don’t have to talk to me that way,” she says a bit subdued.

“You’re speaking again,” I warn. She glares at me and the room falls silent. “You can leave at any time,” I reinforce, “but I’m done playing these power games because I don’t have shit to prove to you.” I give her the same narrowed-eye look she gave me earlier and wait for her to retrieve her apron. All eyes are on us now, waiting to see if she will follow directions. She slowly takes the apron and slides it over her head. I wait while she ties it around her waist.

“Now, get over there and do what Jessie tells you to do and don’t let me have to come down here again.” She walks indignantly over to where Jessie is standing. I nod at Jessie and she nods back.

“You can’t work with your arms folded,” I hear Jessie say. I look over my shoulder and see Little Miss Melon drop her arms and await instruction before I walk out of the kitchen. Ben looks at me waiting for the sign that everything is okay. I nod, and he returns to whatever post he has chosen for the afternoon.

I’m back in my office reading my emails when I stumble across one from my loving husband labeled “Quality Items.”

What has he done?

I pull out my iPhone and open my email program.

To: Anastasia Grey
Re: Quality Items
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:21
From: Christian Grey

My Beloved Wife,

I couldn’t get you and those sexy shoes off my mind when you left, so I thought I would occupy it with more thoughts of something pleasing. Tell me what you think.

Your devoted husband,
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 I click on the attachment he has sent. He has sent three ideas for quietly trickling water effects—fountains and water walls for the Connection Room. Each one would be perfect for the space. I smile while thinking about connecting with him again in our finished room, not that much more needs to go into the space. I think of something else that I would like to see in that space and in the adjoining room.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Quality Items Indeed
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:30
From: Anastasia Grey

My Darling Husband,

What a wonderful break from my day. The idea of the water is quite comforting and would make an excellent addition to our space. I look forward to the moments we will share in that room. In fact, I have an idea of my own that I would like to share with you. Your opinion is highly appreciated.

Anxiously anticipating your response,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands

wm-bi-47-backlit-lvngrm-2I attach a picture of a fire element that I found online a few days ago and await his response.

To: Anastasia Grey
Re: Concerned…?
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:42
From: Christian Grey

Dearest,

While I love the idea of a fireplace in our space, don’t you think that may be unwise? There’s no natural ventilation in the room, which means a possible fire hazard with no oxygen control or ability to air out a smoky area.

Concerned for his lovely wife’s well-being (and his own),
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 I have to chuckle to myself a bit. I can’t believe that he didn’t think I already knew that. I also can’t believe that I knew about some new technology before he did. It tickles me a bit.

To: Christian Grey
Re: I Thought You Knew Me Better
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:54
From: Anastasia Grey

Christian Grey!

I was certain that you knew that surely I wouldn’t put either of our lives in jeopardy! This is the newest technology in electric fireplaces, my love—LED lighting, in fact, that produces lifelike fire effects over logs or even crystals. It must have been better than I thought to have fooled the great Christian Grey. That model has the amber and yellow cast flames. I was thinking of something more appropriate for our other intimate area. I’d like your opinion on these items, please.

Again, awaiting your response and hoping you have a more open mind,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands

maxresdefaultI send him a YouTube video of the description of the electric fireplace—this one has a base of crystals and I chose it specifically because the crystals and the “flames” can turn completely blue… like the new walls in the playroom. I’ve also attached a picture of deeper blue crystals showcased in an electric fireplace in an attempt to capture the blue of the walls. More importantly, I attached a picture of a bondage frame that could be attached to the ceiling and pulled down at will by a handle to mimic the carabiners in the old room. The frame even has a leather cross embedded in it to double as our St. Andrews Cross, but much less bulky and imposing.

I wait for several minutes for his response once I send the email to him. He’s had plenty of time to watch the video. It was only four minutes long and at least fifteen have passed. Just as I’m about to type another email, Grace knocks on my open door, startling me to death and causing me to scramble and close my email program. I don’t know why. I really don’t have anything to hide. Besides, I’m talking to my husband… or was.

“I’m sorry, Dear. I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologizes.

“Oh, it’s no big deal,” I tell her. “I’m a bundle of baby nerves these days.”

“I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything.”

“Nope. Just bouncing some ideas off Christian,” I tell her.

“How is my pugnacious son?” she asks, a bit of an edge in her voice.

“Apparently busy. He hasn’t responded to me yet,” I lament refreshing the screen and hoping for a new email. Nothing.

“Is it something I could help you with?” she asks. Oh, Grace, you’d probably faint dead out if you knew what we were discussing… or not discussing, now.

“No,” I answer. “This little thing requires my husband’s expertise, and apparently, something else has his attention at this moment.” I minimize my email program.

“Well, I didn’t really want anything. I was just coming to ask you—is that Courtney Wilson in the kitchen?” Oh, shit, I had forgotten all about Courtney. I look at my watch. It’s after 4:30. Yes, they’re setting up for dinner soon.

“Yes, it is,” I reply. “Addie and I had lunch last week, and we both feel that Courtney would benefit from being here at the Center and working around people who don’t have it as easy as she does. She’s basically had everything handed to her thus far and she doesn’t really understand just how lucky she is. She has this horrible sense of entitlement, and it’s going to be her demise if it’s not reigned in very soon.” Grace grimaces.

“Well, good luck with that, because she’s been that way for at least as long as I can remember knowing her,” she says. I frown.

“What is she, like, 24? That couldn’t have been very long, could it?”

“She’s something like that and it’s been at least 10 years,” she replies. “She’s been a bad seed ever since she was a child. That’s why her parents sent her here in the first place. They thought she was misbehaving because she was around a bad element. It turns out that she was the bad element.”

“Well, I can see how that would be so, but how did you find out?” Grace comes in and takes a seat.

“Mia is the embodiment of a social butterfly—the good time girl, but in a fun way. There’s never a dull moment around her. Everybody knows her, and everybody knows what to expect from her. So imagine my surprise when I got a call from Nordstrom’s that Mia had been shoplifting.”

I frown. Mia? Shoplifting?  I can’t imagine that Mia I couldn’t have anything her heart desired, so why would she be shoplifting?

“I was asking the same questions your eyes are asking right now. Rather than jump to conclusions, Carrick and I just went down to the department store to hear what was going on and to retrieve our daughter. We were regulars there—on a first name basis with security. When we got there, we found Addie and Fred and a crying Courtney vehemently trying to convince her grandparents that this gaudy silver shirt, retrieved from Mia’s backpack, was something that Mia had squirreled away and not something that Courtney had slightly slipped into her backpack. Mia was standing there, basically silent and observing the entire display. Now I know my daughter. Her father is an attorney and she wasn’t going to say a word until he got there. When we arrived, she proceeded to tell us how this shirt was something that Courtney wanted, not something that she wanted and she was not going to admit to taking the shirt because she had no idea that it was in her backpack.”

“How old was she when this happened?” Grace ponders the incident for a while.

“Fifteen, maybe,” she says. “Courtney had just gotten here; hadn’t been here a week.”

“What happened next?”

“Carrick spoke to Mia very officially. He told her that shoplifting was a very serious crime and that she could be arrested, but that she does have the right not to incriminate herself. I’ll never forget my daughter’s response. She said, ‘I know, Daddy, but I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not going to confess to a crime that I didn’t commit.’  Courtney is in the corner wailing, trying to get her grandparents to take her home because she claimed that she had nothing to do with this. Fred almost insisted that they leave until the guard informed us that he had requested the security tapes from the afternoon.” I raise my eyebrows.

“Really?” I say.

“Yes, really. One of the clerks vaguely remembered Courtney admiring the shirt. However, the shirt was found in Mia’s backpack. This puts both girls in question. If they were required to review the tapes, it would have become a police investigation and both girls would have been required to be held in custody until the tapes had been viewed. Courtney turned white.” I lean back in my seat and fold my arms.

“Cary asked if Courtney had something that she wanted to tell us and she just fell quiet. He looked back at Mia who said, ‘If I have to go to jail, then I have to go to jail, but I didn’t do this, and I won’t confess to something that I didn’t do.’ She never looked at Courtney once. She knew Courtney had put the shirt in her backpack and she wasn’t going to say it. I had had enough of it. I wasn’t going to stand by and allow this little delinquent to expose my daughter to an experience that she clearly did not need. I let Addie, Fred, and Courtney know in no uncertain terms that if my daughter spent one moment inside of a jail cell for something that she didn’t do that the moment Ms. Courtney got out of kiddie jail, they would do best to send her back to whatever hick town she came from.

“It was almost the end of our friendship, because they were intent on protecting Courtney and I was intent on protecting Mia. The difference is that they were trying to give Courtney the benefit of the doubt, but they didn’t really know her. I had raised Mia from a baby. I knew her quite well, and if she wanted that horrid looking piece of material, she would have bought it. Cary further drove that point home by asking Mia where her Amex was. She reached into her backpack—the same backpack carrying the horrid shirt, I might add—and pulled out her Amex. When Courtney was asked to produce her money, she didn’t have any. She had spent it all.

“Cary told Fred that he was going to have some big problems on his hands if our teenage daughter had to go to holding cell because his granddaughter tried to frame her for shoplifting. Fred turned to Courtney and told her that he was only asking her one time if she did this and she fessed up.”

“That’s all it took?” I ask. Grace snickers.

“Don’t be fooled, Ana, she’s very smart. She’s manipulative and conniving. I don’t know if she plays ignorant because I don’t spend any time around her, but there’s nothing stupid about that girl—arrogant, but not stupid. She knows exactly what she’s doing at every moment, and the walls were closing in on her. She didn’t have any other choice. Mia had her Amex; Courtney had no money; there was a clerk that saw her admiring the shirt. The security tapes were on the way; we were threatening her grandparents; and they were both likely headed to a holding cell. Her objective was to get out of that building, but that was out of the question now. If she got out, she was scot free, and that’s why she was wailing like she was in physical pain. We were a lot of people in a very small room, and she was hoping that the sound of her cries would have irritated us so much that we would have just let her go. Had we been dealing with anybody but my daughter, she might have won that battle, but this was my Mia we were talking about. She could have screamed until her voice was gone and my ears were bleeding. She wasn’t leaving that room until we got to the bottom of things.” She sighs heavily.

“So that was the end of that?” I ask.

original_gemstone-friendship-bracelets“Pretty much,” she says. “We didn’t speak to them for a while, but we pretty much buried the hatchet on that one. We just took Mia home—I don’t even know what happened to that girl, but Mia had one last message for Ms. Courtney. Mia had to pass her as we were walking out of the room. Well, Mia’s was wearing this cute little bracelet. It was gold-toned with pink and burgundy beads and three charms on it. Mia grabs the thing and snatches it off her wrist. Beads go flying everywhere. She has a handful of beads along with the charms and she launches them dramatically at Courtney!”

“No!” I gasp, wondering if any of the trinkets hit Addie or Fred or if they all struck their intended target.

“Yes! Oh, she was all dramatic about her crying, like the things had hit her in the eye or something. I don’t know if they really did. It turns out that it was some sort of friendship bracelet. Mia just stood there scowling at her for a moment before we left them there.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Her first impression on the Greys and she almost gets their youngest child thrown in jail. This is classic, truly classic.

“So… would you like to go with me to check on her?” I ask. She smiles conspiratorially.

“Sure,” she says rising from her seat. We walk down the long hallway and around to the kitchen. The transformation to dinner service is well underway and I can’t find Courtney for the life of me. I see Mare on a stool in the corner, comfortably sitting with her legs crossed and tapping into her iPad. She raises he her head when she sees me and smiles and waves at me. I shrug in an attempt to ask where the hell Courtney is. She points to a figure that I wouldn’t have pegged for Courtney if you paid me. Although she’s still sporting her apron, she looks like she’s wearing a wife-beater, and her hair on top of her head in some kind of messy bun. Grace and I walk over to where Marilyn is sitting to get the debriefing on this particular situation.

“What’s going on?” I say, unable to hide my mirth.

“Well,” Mare begins, keeping her voice low, “apparently fuzzy angora and dish water don’t mix very well. I’m not certain where the sweater is now.”

crocs-verdes-png“Is she wearing Crocs?” Grace asks. I look down at her feet.

“Yes, she is,” Mare says. She points to the Jimmy Choos on the floor next to her stool. “They left the plates that she broke earlier for her to clean up. Jessie’s a real piece of work. She actually hid some of the pieces—under the sinks, behind the stoves—it was a not so fun game of Where’s Waldo. I’m not 100% sure what happened to the shoes. I just know that she was on her knees at some point and when she got back to her feet, a few seconds later she was on her butt. Jimmy Choos went flying into the air, shoes went this way, heels went that way, and that’s all she wrote. Enter Crocs, and there you have it. Those pants are no good either.”

“Really?” I say, with a little too much enthusiasm. Mare looks over at me.

“Cheer down, Bosslady,” she teases, and I realize that I am taking a bit too much joy in this your woman’s calamity. “Apparently that sateen, crackle, pleather, skinny-shit changes color in water, so it looks really bad right now.” I chuckle to myself. I have to say that I’m pleased. Even Grace has that she who laughs last look on her face.

“Oh, and don’t worry. I heard you earlier. I’ve already ordered those complimentary massages at Dreamclinic.” She smiles at me.

And that’s why I keep her around.


 

A/N: She (he) who laughs last laughs best.

The bondage cross that I described earlier is the one from the FSOG movie. I couldn’t find a good picture of the cross by itself, so you just have to picture it in your head. 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 34—What Was That You Said About Family?

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 34—What Was That You Said About Family?

ANASTASIA

I have no intention of convincing Daddy to remain friends with Brian. I honestly don’t care either way. However, as long as they have been friends, I know that Daddy would miss his presence if he lost Brian’s friendship. So I don’t press him either way.

I can tell that he feels better after our conversation and that makes me feel good. I never held him responsible for the Brian’s actions. It’s not his fault that his friend is an asshole. I just didn’t want him spouting off the man’s attributes after he pummeled my husband’s face. I understand that a fight is a fight, but now you have to deal with the fallout of that fight just like we do. I’m certain that he didn’t expect me to turn my back on him and never speak to him again, but I have no idea how he expected any reaction whatsoever in his favor.

“Christian, where can I get a set of blueprints for the house?” I ask him while he’s sitting in his office, no doubt reading emails and corresponding with Andrea or Ros or Welch or somebody at Grey House. He looks up at me questioning.

“Why do you need blueprintth for the houth?” he asks. His lisp is not so bad now—just the “s’s” still sound pretty bad, but even they sound better than yesterday.

“Because I want to get a feel for how much space is hidden behind these walls,” I tell him honestly. “I know that we have a lot of hidden rooms, like the previous owner was preparing for Armageddon or something! Anyway, I want to see what space can be opened up and converted into an office for Gail.” He does the sideways nod.

“Why don’t you tell me where thee might want the offithe and I’ll make it happen,” he says. I put my hands on my hips—as much as I can put my hands on my hips.

“Why is it that every time I ask someone about the house, you guys act like I’m asking for the Di Vinci Code?” I ask him. He frowns.

“What do you mean? When elthe did you athk about the houthe?”

“You see?” I say, pointing up at him and literally stomping my foot. “That! That’s what I’m talking about. You completely evaded my question and went right to when I asked about the house. What’s the deal here?”

He looks at me for a moment, then chuckles a bit. What the fuck is so damn funny?

“I’m thorry, baby. You juth look tho cute thtanding there putting your little foot down,” he teases. You son of a… “There’th nothing with you wanting to know thomething about the houthe. It’th juth thtrange becauthe the houthe ith already built and renovated. Tho it’th kind of hard to figure out what you might want with blueprintth, that’th all.” He’s talking so fast with that goddamn lisp; I have to concentrate to understand him.

“Do you want paper, 2D digital, or 3D virtual blueprintth? The 3D virtual can be a little daunting if you’re not good with watching thingth from a firtht perthon perthpective. It can make you nautheouth, too. Come to think of it, paper or 2D ith a better idea.” Jesus Christ, he’s rambling. Christian never rambles, and rambling is not really good with a speech impediment—slight though it may be.

“Did you want to thee one floor in particular or all five levelth?” My eyes grow large.

“Five? I thought we only had three!” I exclaim. Just how much hidden space is there in this monstrosity?

“Well, technically, it ith three. But thome of the roomth are thomewhat on a mid-level.” He holds his hands at different levels to demonstrate. “Like the wraparound dethk ith kind of a mid-level…” He puts his hands down and sighs when I just stand there frowning at him.

“I’m making thith more complicated than it needth to be,” he confesses as he takes my hand. “I gueth I thould thow you thomething thince you’re going to thee it on the blueprintth anyway. Come with me.”

He leads me to our bedroom and into his dressing room. I nearly jump out of my skin when the shelves in front of me shift, revealing a passage or room behind them. He squeezes my hand and leads me inside. It’s a very small room, very pretty with ambient lighting, but it’s empty except for the built-in bench around the room. I look up at Christian, puzzled.

“I figured the prior ownerth uthed it for meditathion. I thought it could be our connecthion room.” It takes a moment for me to realize what he’s saying, then warmth flows all over me as I understand.

“Christian!” I breathe. “Why didn’t you want me to see it?” He runs his hands through his hair.

“It’th not that I didn’t want you to thee it, it’th juth…” He sighs again. Clinging to my hand once more, he leads me to the other side of the small room and pushes on the opposite wall. We walk into a much larger room with lots of lights and beautiful royal blue walls. This room is huge… also empty. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what this room will be. I swallow hard remembering the nights and heights of passion, pain, and pleasure in the Red Room, and now it’s blue…

“Playroom,” I breathe, apparently unable to hide my arousal. He looks down at me, then at my chest.

“Your nippleth are thowing,” he says seductively. I look down at his groin.

“And your dick is getting hard,” I say matter-of-factly. “Why didn’t you want me to know about the rooms?”

“I didn’t want to thpring them on you before you were ready. I wanted uth to decorate them together.” Hmmm…

“Well… that’s sweet, I guess,” I concede. “Don’t be so secretive. It makes it look like you’re hiding something and that’s not good. Does Jason know about them?” He shrugs.

“We haven’t had long, meaningful chatth about them, but he’th theen the blueprintth, tho I’m thure he knowth they’re here. Two thecret roomth off our bedroom—one of them fairly large… you knew right away.” Yeah, he knows.

“Blue?” I ask. He pauses for a moment.

“Your eyeth,” he replies. I’m momentarily speechless.

“Really?” I say in disbelief. I look around the room. “My eyes are never this blue.”

“Yeth, they are.” My head snaps around to him.

“When are my eyes ever this blue?” I ask. This is one of the deepest, most royal royal-blues I’ve ever seen. It’s not dark, it’s just very deep. I know my eyes get pretty glassy—kind of high blue when I’m angry, but when in the hell do my eyes get this damn blue?

“Right before you come.”

All of my skin flushes from head to toe. I suddenly feel hot… I mean really hot, like ten degrees hotter than I was a minute ago. How could he possibly place the exact color of my eyes at that exact moment… and then paint an entire room?

“How could you…” My words trail off. I immediately think of all the times that he made me open my eyes so that he could watch me come. I feel a sheen of sweat forming on my skin.

“I thought you knew,” he says closing the space between us. “I’m unapologetically obsessed with my wife.” What happened to his lisp? “I know everything about you, baby… every contour of your body, every aroma, everything.” His fingertips travel from my cheek down my neck and to the valley of my breasts, sending a shiver down my back. I’m panting with excitement. Not now, Christian. What are we going to do, fuck on the floor? He sighs impatiently and reaches into his pocket. After looking at his blackberry, he answers it.

“Yeth?” and the lisp is back. “Okay.” He ends the call. “Charleth brother hath arrived at the gate.” I take a few deep breaths. I know Chuck wants us all present when he greets his brother. I straighten my clothes and hair and look up at my husband.

“Let’s go then.” He gazes at me for a moment, shoves his phone back into his jeans, adjusts his dick, then does the “after you” gesture.

 

cody-walker-paul-walker-today-150513-tease_f02fbefb5cc7d77aca11a1a983e4311eOkay, this is kinda freaky. I walk into the dining room and swear that there are two Chucks in my house. The only thing that lets me know that Chuck is Chuck is that fact that Keri is sitting next to him and even she’s a bit stunned. Upon closer examination, I can tell them apart only if they are in a room together. Chuck has more rugged features than his brother—his face is narrower, more mature. Maybe it’s just more experience as I don’t know which is the older brother. I would guess it was Chuck, because his brother’s face is more square with that boyish charm look to it. His hair is a bit darker than Chuck’s, too… a little more red, I think… or brown. They’re both wearing crisp white T-shirts and denim bottoms, though Chuck is wearing oversized shorts to accommodate his cast while Joseph is wearing relaxed-fit jeans and sneakers.

“No, we’re not twins,” Chuck says, answering my next mental question. “Christian, Ana, this is my brother, Joseph Davenport. Joe, these are my employers and friends, Christian and Anastasia Grey.” Christian extends his hand to Joseph.

“It’s nice to meet you,” and the lisp is gone again. Joseph raises his eyebrows curiously while taking Christian’s proffered hand.

“Likewise,” he says. “You look like you got the raw end of a deal. I hope the other guy looks worse.” I can tell by the change in his expression that Christian’s handshake may have just gotten a little firmer.

“No, but I can bet he feels worse,” he says matter-of-factly. “I was defending my wife’s honor.” Joseph looks at me and I nod once.

“Well, that’s a good reason. I’d take a blow or three for my Sunny, and give a few more.” Christian graciously releases his hand, now that they understand each other. Christian pulls out a chair for me and I take a seat while he takes his usual seat at the head of the table.

“Can I get refreshments for everyone?” Ms. Solomon asks.

“Coffee, please,” Christian says. Keri and Chuck both nod that they’ll have coffee as well. Jason raises his hand that he’ll have nothing from his position standing just behind Chuck.

“I’ll have coffee, too, please,” Joseph says.

“Ginger tea,” I request.

“I hear that helps with the weight gain,” Joseph says. “Getting a jump on things?” His tone isn’t offensive, but what the fuck was that?

“No,” I say, slightly affronted. “I’m very athletic, so I’m not concerned about the weight gain. I just like ginger tea,” I answer curtly. He nods unaffected. I turn to Christian frowning, who is glaring at Joseph a bit impassively. He continues his conversation like he didn’t just say something offensive to the woman of the house, right after he threw a bit of a shot at the man of the house.

“This is quite the set-up you have here, Chuckie,” he continues, looking around and taking in his surroundings, including present company. “Do you really need this much back-up?” Chuck sits back in his wheelchair.

“First of all, you can call me Charles or you can call me Chuck, but don’t call me Chuckie. Second, I haven’t seen you in several years. All my attempts to contact you have failed and now, here you are—out of the blue, more than a month after I was injured and almost died and I know that you knew about it. So, yes, I do need a bit of reinforcements. Forgive me if I’m being a bit cautious.” Joseph raises his eyebrows again. He does that a lot. I think that’s his tell.

“Everybody calls you Chuckie,” he protests. “Mom and Dad call you Chuckie…”

“Mom and Dad don’t call me anything,” he corrects his brother. “My attempts to contact them have failed, too. I don’t even know where they are. At least you’re using the present tense, so I know that they’re still alive.” Joseph blanches at this statement. He’s in touch with their parents, apparently, so he had to know that they weren’t speaking. “Yes, everybody calls me Chuckie except you, and you know why.” Chuck just glares at his brother.

Joseph folds his hands on the table in front of him. It feels like a show of defiance, but not. Definitely not a sign of capitulation… maybe compromise.

“Fine, Chuck it is. You can’t possibly feel threatened here,” Joseph says, gesturing around himself. “It’s like Fort Knox. You damn near need a password to get in!”

“I know this,” Chuck replies calmly. “I’m one of the gatekeepers.” He pauses to let that last statement sink in. “Like I said, cautious, not threatened.”

“So… what, your friends let you in for a little R&R?” Joseph retorts. He speaks with no malice, but his words cut and I can’t avoid my scoff. I turn to Christian.

“Let him…?” I turn back to Joseph. “Chuck is our friend,” I say, trying not to hiss. “He’s like family. He saved my life. He’s welcome in our home always. He’s not some pet that we let off the leash sometimes!” He raises his hands defensively.

“Sor-ry,” he says, putting emphasis on the second syllable. “I wasn’t trying to offend anybody.” Yes, you were, but I’ll accept your half-assed apology anyway. “You do seem to be doing pretty well for yourself here, Chucki… Chuck.” Chuck narrows his eyes infinitesimally at his brother.

“Thank you, but I don’t live here,” he says. Joseph frowns.

“You don’t?”

“No, I don’t. I own a house on Bainbridge,” he says. Just as Joseph is about to respond, Ms. Solomon returns with a coffee service, another member of the staff right behind her with a platter of pastries. She quickly serves everyone coffee and tea for me with instructions to help themselves to pastries. After ensuring that no one wants anything else, they retire back to the kitchen.

“You got a big house, too?” Joseph asks while taking a pastry from the platter. Chuck sips his coffee.

“No, it’s just me. I don’t need a big house. It’s big enough, but why pay for rooms that I don’t need?”

“Keri here doesn’t live with you?”

“Keri’s just visiting. She and I are staying here with the Greys while I recover. Like I said, my place is not that big, so maneuvering a wheelchair is not that easy.”

“Maybe you should get a bigger place,” he says, taking a huge bite of the pastry.

“It’s not necessary,” Chuck retorts. “Like I said, not paying for rooms I don’t need.”

“What, you can’t afford it?” he says with a mouthful of pastry. “I bet the hazard pay alone could buy you a couple of houses.”

“That’s true, but it’s still wasted money. How’s Sunny?” Joseph swallows his pastry.

“We’re, um… we’ve separated.” Well, that doesn’t surprise me. I can barely stand to be in the room with you for a few minutes. I can’t imagine being married to your ass. How is it possible that these two have the same parents and Chuck is deemed the bad seed?

“Separated?” Chuck frowns. “How long?”

“A few years now…”

Christian and Jason watch with scrutiny and Keri and I with slight disinterest while Chuck and Joseph talk for several minutes about everything and nothing, carefully and obviously avoiding the topic of their parents. Joseph continues to take tiny—and not so tiny—jabs anywhere he can, including a crack about how hard it must be for Keri to manage her hair. It’s taking everything in me not to tell this man to get his uncouth, untrained, uncultured ass out of my house!

“Chuck, I need to talk to you and I really need to do it without the audience,” Joseph says, and now we get to the crust of the visit. I push my chair back, only too anxious to exit this man’s presence and let him have whatever conversation he needs to have with his brother. I put my hand on Christian’s shoulder as he almost appears to be in a trance as he glares at Joseph. He looks up at me and rises out of his seat.

“We’ll be in the family room, Chuck,” I say as information that we won’t be far away. He nods.

“I’ll be somewhere nearby,” Jason says. “Use the two-way if you need me.”

“Got it,” Chuck says. Before Christian and I leave, I see Keri make to rise from her seat, but Chuck gently grabs her wrist. Whatever Joseph has to say will have to be in the presence of Ms. Illidge. As Christian, Jason, and I exit the room, we can hear Joseph’s final demand for Keri to leave.

“Her, too,” he says, like he’s shooing away a dog.

“She stays,” Chuck states. “What do you need to talk about?”

Their conversation fades as we walk into the family room. Gail comes through with laundry headed towards the kitchen.

“You might want to take the elevator if you’re headed upstairs,” I tell her. “We have been shooed from the dining room because the Davenports are having a private conversation under the watchful eye of Ms. Illidge.” She pauses for a moment to absorb what I’m saying.

“Oooh,” she says in a drawn-out, knowing tone. “Well, I guess I should.”

“Let me take that for you, Love,” Jason says, relieving her of the basket. She turns to me as Jason walks to the elevator.

“He’s going to be a mess when she finally gets on that plane back to Anguilla.” Oy! I never thought of that. She is going to have to go back sooner or later and he’s become pretty dependent on her.

“She’s not leaving yet, though,” I say.

“No, her visa’s not up until February, but when it is…” she trails off and shrugs.

“Have they thought about getting married?” I ask her.

“I don’t know,” she replies. “They never mentioned it to me. I know that they care for each other, but I don’t think it’s gone that far.” She shrugs again and walks towards the elevator with her husband. I wonder if there is a way that we could get Keri to be able to…

“Okay. Mrs. Fix It, thtop the wheelth from turning,” Christian says, breaking my train of thought. I turn to look at him.

“What?” I ask.

“If he wants to marry her, he will. Don’t go prethuring that man into doing something that he’s not ready to do.”

“I wasn’t!” I really wasn’t. “I was just trying to think of a way that we might be able to help.”

“They haven’t asked uth for our help!”

“I know, and they probably never will!” I protest. Christian puts his hands on my arms and I know he’s about to speak to me very slowly in that way that you talk to a toddler when you want them to understand you.

“Butterfly, what you want to do ith very romantic, but thith woman hath a life in Anguilla. Thee hath not athked that her life be uprooted. Until and if thee does, we thtay out of it. Okay?” Fuck! I hate it when he goes against me and he makes perfect damn sense!

“Okay,” I say in my pouty voice, only I’m really pouting. Chuck is going to be devastated when Keri returns to Anguilla. He’ll most likely still be healing from his physical wounds and will then have some emotional wounds to mend.

“I know you mean well, but you have to let thith be,” he reinforces. I nod. “Now, how about thome Disney?” Yes, I can do Disney, and I know he’s capitulating to me to soften the blow of staying out of Chuck and Keri’s business.

“Okay. How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Turn the lithp on and off,” I say, mimicking his lisp.

“It takes work,” he says. “If I concentrate, I can talk without it. If I’m lathy, it’th back. Now, what do you want to watch?” I twist my lips.

“Hmm… I think… Beauty and the Beast. Yeah, I like the songs.” He twists his lips.

“Are you trying to tell me something, Mrs. Grey?” he says, still holding the remote as I take a seat on the sofa. I furrow my brow.

“No…” I say, uncertainly, “We can watch The Little Mermaid… I like those songs, too…”

Realizing his error, my husband chuckles good-naturedly and chooses Beauty and the Beast from the Disney On Demand selections. When the movie starts, he takes my hand and makes me stand from the sofa.

“What are you doing?” I ask. He takes a seat.

“I’m going to sit in my family room and pretend to watch Disney movies and neck with my hot wife while she sits on my lap. I plan to grope her soft breasts, grind my dick into her round ass, and kiss her delicious lipth until we both have a lithp.” Knowing that he’s sort of doing it on purpose makes me giggle.

“Mr. Grey, I don’t think your doctor would approve of that,” I say as I take a seat on his lap. He groans as he adjusts himself and me in a very precarious position.

“Well, he ain’t here, is he?” he growls deeply. He covers us with my favorite throw and wraps his arms around me, snuggling me onto his lap. “Your body is so soft, Mrs. Grey.”

“And yours is so hard, Mr. Grey,” I purr in his ear. I enjoy the fact that his chest and his thighs are so firm and his arms are so strong. I feel like he’ll always hold me up and never let me fall. His lips press gently against mine just as the narrator finishes telling the story about the enchanted castle. His hand cups my breast and my arm slides around his neck. I feel like a teenager necking on my parents’ sofa and hoping that they won’t walk in and catch me. His lips travel softly down my jaw and to my neck and his hand raises the hem of my shirt and brushes over the baby bump. One of the children greets us with a slight kick causing us both to chuckle.

“You think they want us to stop?” he asks, still kissing my neck.

“Do you intend to?” I ask breathily. He raises his head and looks at me.

“Not on your life.” His lips meet mine again and I tangle my fingers in his soft curls. I love Christian’s hair, and he loves when I play in it and pull it. His tongue begs entry into my mouth and I grant it, savoring his flavor and the sensual tango we fall into. His hands are everywhere and he moans into my mouth, his tongue exploring and teasing and causing me to rise and want him more even though I know I can’t have him here. His hands run along my hip, pushing me down onto his erection and causing him to moan. He rubs the outside of my thigh and then squeezes, pressing himself into me again. I know that he won’t come this way, but he’s enjoying the sensation and it’s making me hot. When he repeats the rub on the inside of my thigh on the outside of my yoga pants, I’m alight with sensation, on fire in his lap and trying not to wiggle. He tickles the tender meat and causes me to shiver, but when his fingers ghost the seam at my core, I buck involuntarily.

Shit! That was intense!

He does it again and my hips quiver. Fuck, Christian, stop! But he does just the opposite. His entire hand attacks the crevice, his thumb deeply massaging the seam over my lips outside my clit. A loud whimper escapes my throat and disappears into Christian’s mouth, covered by Belle singing about books and a boring French village. I’m squirming madly in his arms as his hand rubs over my pants and the friction warms me to a fever pitch. Just when I’m about to explode, he stops. I gasp in a loud breath as much as I can with his tongue in my mouth, but my reprieve is short-lived when he thrusts his hand down my pants and into my panties, two fingers into my core and his thumb now firmly massaging my wet, raw clit.

I want to cry out, but he has my mouth firmly locked with his, my body pressed against his. Oh God, he’s working me up quickly, faster, hotter, more intense than before. Of course, he knows my body, and right at that moment, he releases my mouth:

“Come. You know you want to. Come.”

He covers my lips again as I flow over his hand, convulsing in his arms and whimpering into his mouth. He continues until I’m keening, then wraps me in an embrace, gently kissing my neck while I try to catch my breath.


 

CHRISTIAN

She has no idea how much I love to make her come. I don’t even have to—of course, I like to, but I don’t have to all the time… as long as I can feel her juices slide down my fingers or my throat and taste them on my tongue, feel her shiver and gyrate in my arms, I’m a happy man. She thought I couldn’t match that color blue of her eyes. Of course you wouldn’t know that blue, Butterfly. You’ve never seen it. I, on the other hand, could pick it out in my sleep. It eclipses the entire iris and I’ve never seen anything like it. Every time we’re in that room, I plan to see her eyes that color… so why not the walls?

I kiss the delicate skin on her neck and chest as her breathing regulates. Her smell is exquisite when she’s hot. She’d drive any man mad with desire, and she’s mine. I’m wearing the battle scars now to prove that Cholometes is out of his mind, unfortunate ass fuck. I caress her back and only just now pay attention to the movie that we should be watching.

“You know, he really ith a little crathy,” I say to Butterfly.

“Most geniuses are,” she says, her voice weary. I look down at her and she raises sleepy blue eyes to me.

“Tho, you think he’th a geniuth, too?” I ask. She nods.

“Mm-hmm,” she says, weakly, “for his time. They said Einstein was insane.” She’s so sleepy.

“They did,” I concur, gently pecking her lips. “Are you going to sleep?”

“I don’t know… maybe…”

“I think you are,” I say, pecking her lips again. “That means this movie’s going to be a do-over.”

“Mmm-hmm, just don’t make me come next time so I can stay awake.” I chuckle and peck her lips again. Over the next few moments, I listen and I’m trying to see if I’m mistaken about what I’m hearing. Butterfly’s eyes shoot open, and I’m sure that I’m not.

Loud voices coming from the dining room.

“So much for a nap,” she says, throwing the blanket off of us and standing from my lap.

“At least their timing was right,” I say, straightening my clothes and adjusting my pants.

“I know, right?” Butterfly says, doing the same thing and smoothing her hair. I speed dial Jason as we make our way through the kitchen.

“Yes, sir?” he answers.

“Dining room. Now.” I end the call. When we get there, Keri has her hands on Charles’ shoulders literally holding him into the chair as he truly threatens to stand on his broken leg. He’s yelling at Joseph, who is hovering over him in his wheelchair.

“Gentlemen!” I yell, firmly, breaking their concentration. They both glare at me. “I don’t know what’s going on, but can you please refrain from trying to kill each other in my dining room!”

“Your overseer has spoken,” Joseph hisses. I frown deeply.

“Excuse me?” I retort.

“God, you are so full of shit, Joe,” Charles interjects. “You walked into a house the likes of which you’ve never seen in person before in your life, and because it had to do with me, it was still beneath you. You’ve insulted people you don’t even know who have more class in their split ends than you have in your whole goddamn body. You’re talking shit about everything you lay eyes on including the woman who loves me who flew across borders, seas, and oceans to take care of me while the woman who swore to honor and cherish you for the rest of your life can’t even stand to live in the same house with you.”

“And who’s fault is that?” he hisses.

“Oh, now I’m responsible for the break-up of your marriage and I haven’t seen you in twelve years? Save that shit for the next sucker. You’ve choked on that same bullshit for so many years that you’re starting to believe it yourself. You came across, what—five, six states? You walked in here and didn’t even ask me ‘hey Chuck, how ya feelin’? What happened? Will your leg heal? Gee, Chuck, you’re in a wheelchair. Will you walk again?’ No, you came in and just started talking about money and houses and the people I live with and the woman I love and now I know why. I still have no idea that my parents are actually alive or even where they are except for the fact that you asked for money that you say is for them.”

Oh, fuck. It always comes down to money. You’re dead until they know you’re attached to money in some way. Just as I’m thinking it, I hear it behind me.

“Oh, fuck.”

Jason has joined us and no doubt regrets telling this man anything about the condition of his brother. His intentions were pure, because we had no idea if Charles would make it and Joseph is the listed next of kin. However, all parties present now realize that this was a huge mistake.

“Well, you’ve ruined everybody’s life. Why not turn us all down now?” Joseph replies indignantly.

“Oh, shut the fuck up!” Charles retaliates. “If my parents want to talk to me and they need help, you tell them where to find me. Otherwise, you choke on your own garbage. I just had a damn-near fatal accident and my life is golden while yours is shit and you still have the nerve to stand there and look down on me. You’re really pathetic, Joseph, and we don’t have anything else to say to each other.”

“Oh, sure, no problem—and when I walk out that door, you’re going to feel sorry for yourself again and bury your face in a bottle of vodka like you always have.” Charles actually laughs.

“I’ve been clean for 15 years and I told you that—not a drop of alcohol and they had to damn near force feed me over-the-counter ibuprofen for my broken bones. I’m not going to spend another moment trying to convince your blind, deaf, dumb, and ignorant ass that I’m not the person that I used to be. A good friend told me that I should stop punishing myself for things that have already happened in my life that I can’t change. As part of my 12-step program, I had to apologize to you—which I did 12 years ago, and you still haven’t accepted my apology.

“If you can’t understand that I was a fucked-up kid doing fucked-up shit, but I’m not that fucked-up kid anymore, then I don’t give a fuck what you think. I’ve changed what I can change, but I’m not going to spend what time God has chosen to gift me in penance for something that I can’t change. The choice is yours, Joseph. We can bury the hatchet and get on with our lives, or as my next of kin until and if I ever get married, just make sure that I have a decent burial if I die before you.”

“Which you will,” Joseph says coolly. Charles’ face stiffens.

“You’re a real piece of work, you know that?” Charles says, his voice a bit tormented. “It was really stupid of me to believe that after all these years, you would come to Seattle just to see if I was okay. There had to be something else. I had hoped for just a second that I might have been wrong, but no, you’re still the same asshole.”

“Look who’s talking!” Joseph barks at Charles. “You put Mom and Dad through hell with your drinking and now you’ve got the nerve to sit on a high horse.”

“That’s where you’re wrong!” Charles snaps. “I’m not on a high horse. I’m just finally living my life the way I want to live it without alcohol. I live well, I take care of myself, and I’m happy. I’ve met real, genuine friends who care about me. Real people, and if saving the life of someone as loyal and true as that woman standing behind you right now means that I have to throw myself in front of another moving car, then I’ll do it again in a minute without a second thought. I’m done kissing your ass. I’ve apologized already and if you don’t want it, then you throw it back, but I’m not letting you hold this shit over my head one more second.” Keri’s hand is still on Charles’ shoulder.

“Chatlez,” she says softly, “easy nuh.” It’s like someone has thrown a vat of cold water over Charles and he calms right down, nodding to her that he’s okay.

“So you get out here around these rich snobs and you don’t know your family anymore?” Rich snobs? What the fuck is he talking about? He’s been insulting from the moment he stepped into the house and he’s calling us names? “Then you’re sniffing around behind this island picka…”

“Don’t you dare!” Butterfly nearly shrieks. I wasn’t sure what he was about to say, but I have no doubt what was coming out of his mouth after her reaction. I put my arm around her waist to calm her. Your blood pressure, baby.

“You need to leave now,” I say, working hard to control my lisp.

“You don’t look like you’re in a position to make me do anything, sport!” Joseph shoots.

“He may not be, but I am,” Jason says, emerging from behind me.

“And me,” Lawrence appears from God only knows where with Williams behind him.

“I’ll take some of that,” Williams says, throwing his hat in the ring. Jason looks at his counterparts and back at Joseph.

“There’s about twenty-five of us on staff if you want to take us all on,” Jason says.

“It’ll take twenty-five of you to take me,” he replies haughtily.

“No, actually, it’ll just take me,” Jason retorts. “He’s a cocky little bastard, isn’t he?” Charles just sits in his chair with his head down. His disappointment is palpable. I feel very sorry for him at this moment.

“You’re the guy who called me,” Joseph says, recognizing Jason’s voice.

“Yes, I am, and I’ve been wanting to get my hands on you ever since I called you and told you that your brother was almost killed. I couldn’t believe that you could be so callous and so cold until I saw it with my own eyes. Now here you are, in all of your self-proclaimed haughtiness insulting people you don’t even know. I don’t know if you’re really brave, really ignorant, or both, but you need to turn around and start heading back the way you came for your own health and safety.” Joseph scoffs at my security.

“You don’t want none of this, tough guy,” he taunts.

“You talk big shit for somebody clearly at the disadvantage here,” Jason says. “I took a bullet nine months ago and I’m still at the top of my game. Do you think I’m afraid of you?”

Jason has closed the space between him and Joseph and is ready pounce, glaring at Charles’ brother with piercing blue eyes and daring him to make a move. I instinctively move Butterfly behind me and back her away from the scene possibly about to unfold. Jason is breaths away from Joseph’s face, waiting for him to make a move, but he just stands there glaring at Jason and pretending not to be intimidated by the mountain of man standing in front of him.

“Leave. Now. Or I’ll help you,” Jason says slowly, never moving his eyes from Joseph.

“You can’t…” Joseph begins.

“I said NOW!” Jason growls from his throat through his teeth in a voice I’ve never heard before. It sends a chill through me and it obviously does the same thing to Joseph. He thinks better of unleashing further anger from this bear and, with a roll of his eyes, turns to leave.

“Joseph!” Charles calls to him when he reaches the doorway. Joseph turns around to face his brother. Charles gazes upon him for a moment then says, “I love you, Joseph.” After a pause and no reply, he adds, “Dead now.” Joseph shrugs one shoulder.

“No skin off my back,” he says stoically and leaves the room with Jason, Lawrence, and Williams behind him. We’re all silent for a moment, then after a few minutes, Charles chokes back something in his throat before collapsing in bitter, soul-wrenching sobs. It’s difficult to watch. Keri tries to comfort him, and he cocoons himself in her arms as he laments the final loss of his brother. Butterfly dashes from behind me and kneels at his side. She gently touches his back and puts her hand on his knee. He immediately grabs her hand and squeezes like he’s trying to get his life’s blood from it, still weeping mournfully in Keri’s arms. I’ve never seen him like this and never thought I ever would. I make my way over to where everyone is comforting him.

“Charleth, ith there anything I can do?” I ask, feeling completely helpless. He cries deeper.

“No… no…” he weeps, his face still buried in Keri’s chest. Jason comes back into the room, shocked to see Charles in this condition. He looks at me, then at Lawrence and Williams, who have entered behind him. Lawrence nods and he and Williams leave the room. Jason tries more than once to wheel Charles out of the room, but he won’t release his angels. He just has to cry it out. This is the worst kind of pain. This is worse than death. This is old wounds that were once healed over as much as they could be now ripped open anew in the cruelest way possible.

Joseph showed up and gave Charles new hope. He thought that he had finally paid his penance, that his purgatory was finally over, but it wasn’t. It was all for money. It always comes down to money. Where Charles thought he would finally see reconciliation, he still sees ostracization. This asshole dangled a carrot in his face, a carrot that Charles obviously wanted so badly, then he snatched it away when he didn’t get what he wanted. No doubt, he would have welcomed Chuckie back into the family with open arms had Charles given him what he wanted. No money, no family. Show us the money, me love you long time. Way to pimp your family, Joe.

Now, he’s left in that state he was when he left rehab… with no family, and his girl returning to Anguilla in a couple of months. He’s going to need people more than ever now. I’ve felt that way more than once. I understand. Now that I’ve met his brother, I understand why he was so afraid to take his meds. He couldn’t risk going back. He can’t go back. No matter what, he can’t go back…

“Charleth…” He’s weeping too hard to hear me. I squat in front of him. “Charles,” I say clearly. He still doesn’t hear me. “Chuck!”

Everybody in the room is looking at me know, including a sniffling Chuck. I lean my elbows on my knees.

“We’ve got you, Chuck,” I tell him, “and you’ve got us. You’re not alone. We won’t leave you and we won’t let you down. We’ve got your back, man. All of us, we’ve got you. You’re going to be okay… okay?” He looks at me in disbelief, like he can’t comprehend what I’m saying. Jason put his hands on Chuck’s shoulders and I cover the hand that’s holding Butterfly’s.

We got you, man. We got your back. We’re your family. We got you covered.

He shivers and starts to cry again, then nods that he understands. We all stay where we are for a few moments.

“What do you need, Chuck?” Jason asks.

“A drink,” he mutters through his tears, and the room freezes again. “Don’t worry, I don’t want one. Jay, I left my phone downstairs. Would you go get it, please? I need to talk to Kevin, right now!”

“Two shakes, man, don’t move.” Chuck nods and Jason takes off in a sprint.

“Watt do you wan meh to do, Chatlez?” Keri asks, her voice pleading.

“Stay right where you are, beautiful,” he says, clinging to her.

“Excuse us, Chuck,” Butterfly say, “I need just a moment with my husband. We’ll be right back, okay?” Chuck nods. His sobs have subsided a bit, though his tears continue. Butterfly rises and takes my hand, leading me back towards the living room. When we are out of sight and earshot of everyone else, she throws her arms around me. I feel her warmth infusing into my body.

“About a year and a half ago, I met this man. He was arrogant and cold and cocky and closed off.” She releases me and looks into my eyes. “Somehow, we broke through that cold, horrible exterior and found a heart, lonely and afraid and needing to be loved… but that man still didn’t want to let anyone in. Slowly, but surely, he let more and more people in.” She does an outline of a heart on my chest. “It hasn’t been easy for him. He found the love of his life and his family. He found friendship that he kept and some that he thought were friends that he released.”

I never really thought she knew that. I let go of the Scooby Gang because they were her friends. I never turned my back on them, I just didn’t consider them my friends anymore.

“One thing that he was adamant about was making sure that the line was always drawn between the friends and the staff. Though I understood this, I knew that there was no way that you could spend several hours a day, every day with someone and not develop a friendship. He was very stubborn about this until he realized that the very person with whom he was trying to draw that line was his best friend. Now, he has extended that same courtesy to man that I have considered my friend and have grown to love as a brother even though he’s a member of the staff as well. That man has now recognized that both of those men are now our family because they saved our lives.”

“They’re bodyguards, baby,” I explain. “That’s what they do, that’s their job.”

“But that’s not why they did it,” she protests softly. “They protect us, they keep us from danger because that’s their job. They put themselves directly in harm’s way and saved our lives because they are our friends. Jason could have hit you low and knocked you out of the way of that bullet. You might have gotten grazed at best and he would have knocked the ever-loving wind out of you, but he wouldn’t have taken that bullet.”

I ponder her explanation for a moment. Fuck, she’s right. Had he hit me in the side with his whole body weight, I would have been winded and maybe grazed, but he wouldn’t have been hit. I never thought of that.

“When Chuck saw those headlights coming at us, if he had punched it instead of throwing his body at me, we would have still been hit, but the Audi would have been hit in the back seat instead of the front driver’s side. There would have been damage—I, most likely, still would have gone through the window, but Chuck would not have been T-boned head-on by that Chevy.”

Goddammit, she’s right again. He could have avoided getting hurt and Butterfly’s injuries may have been the same, but he didn’t take the chance. He covered her body instead to ensure that he took the brunt of the impact.

I drop my head at this realization. I was grateful for the result, not for the reasons behind the actions. These men sacrificed more than I will ever be able to repay and I didn’t even know it.

“You’re a wonderful man,” she says, embracing me, “and I love you. Thank you for being there for Chuck.” I just nod. I’m a little floored by what I’ve just learned and I’m trying to recoil from it.

“Butterfly, before we go back in there, I know who Joseph is unfortunately now, but who’s Kevin? Is this another brother that I need to know about?” She sighs.

“No. I’m not supposed to know it, but Kevin is his sponsor,” she replies. I nod. Almost like clockwork, a tall, skinny fortyish guy with a short black buzz cut is being let into the grand entry.

“Kevin,” Butterfly says, brushing past me to the grand entry. What did he do, fly? Does he live on Mercer Island, too? “I’m so glad you could come.”

“I got here as soon as I could. Anastasia, right?” he says, uncertainly.

“Yes, yes, please follow me.” She leads him back to the living room where I’m still standing. “This is Kevin, Chuck’s AA sponsor. Kevin, this is my husband, Christian Grey.”

“Mr. Grey,” Kevin says, proffering his hand to me.

“Christian, please,” I say, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Thank you, sir. His brother was here?” he asks, looking quickly back and forth from me to Butterfly.

“Yes, and it was a bloodbath,” she informs him. He sighs heavily and shakes his head.

“Please, take me to him.” The three of us walk back to the dining room where Keri and Chuck are still in the same position and Jason has taken a seat in the chair where I normally sit.

“Chuck?” Kevin’s voice is strong, authoritative when he calls Chuck’s name. Chuck raises blood red eyes to his sponsor.

“I need a drink, man. I need a drink!” He sounds desperate, like he’s begging for the urge to leave.

“Okay, okay, let’s talk about it. We need privacy. Everybody leave now.” Butterfly and I once again exit our own dining room with Jason close behind. We can tell that Chuck has tried to keep Keri behind again.

“She has to go, too, Charles,” Kevin says. “It needs to be me and you.”

“I’m not gone make it, man,” Chuck protests.

“Charles,” Kevin’s voice scolds. There’s no movement, so Butterfly goes back to the dining room.

“He has to do this on his own,” I hear Kevin’s voice reinforce. A few seconds later, Keri’s tortured voice tries to comfort him.

“I won goh fah, choonks,” she promises, “I sweah, I be wight heyah. I won goh anywheh, choonks.”

“Okay. Okay, baby,” Chuck’s strained voice responds.

Butterfly and I start Beauty and the Beast from the beginning and try to keep Keri occupied on the same sofa where I made her come maybe an hour or so earlier. We have a few moments where she forgets that her man is a few rooms away attempting to avoid tragedy, but more moments where she’s watching the doorway and waiting to see his wheelchair rolling through it. We actually finish the movie and start The Little Mermaid before Chuck and Kevin join us in the family room. We all stand and look at them, waiting for the verdict. Chuck looks positively weary.

“Crisis averted for now,” he says, his voice tired. “I’m okay.” Keri’s relief is palpable as she scrambles over to him and hugs him tight.

“You okay?” she asks him.

“Not completely,” he answers honestly, “but I will be.” She nods.

“Yes, it will be,” she says.

“I want to go clean up for dinner. Whatever they’re cooking, it smells great. I want to eat, then turn in early. I haven’t been this much of a whiny bitch since rehab—no offense, ladies.”

“None taken,” Butterfly says. Keri mouths a “thank you” to her and gets behind Chuck’s chair.

“Thanks, Kevin. I really appreciate it,” Chuck says as she wheels him to the elevator.

“No problem, Chuck. Always a phone call away, remember.” Chuck waves his hand as he and Keri disappear down the hall.

“Well, I think I’m going to clean up for dinner, too,” Butterfly says, throwing a knowing look at me. That’s right, you’ve been sitting here in wet panties for a few hours.

“Mr. Grey, Christian, would you mind showing me out please?” Kevin says to me. I know what that means.

“Jason, stick around for a moment if you don’t mind. Hopefully, this won’t take long,” I say.

“Yes, sir,” he says, taking a seat on the sofa. Butterfly disappears down the same hallway where Keri and Chuck went toward the elevator.

“Thanks for coming, Kevin,” I say as we walk to the grand entry and Windsor retrieves his coat. “He was really in a bad way.”

“Yes, he was. He hasn’t been that bad since he was right out of rehab. He’s not out of the woods, yet.” I sigh.

“I was afraid of that.” Kevin raises an eyebrow.

“Are you familiar with addiction and rehabilitation?” he asks.

“No, but I’m very familiar with abandonment and trust issues and the number that they do to your head. Depending on your coping mechanism, when you’re faced with those issues again, you tend to want to revert back to those bad habits as a way to anesthetize those feelings of hurt and betrayal. Although I wasn’t an alcoholic, liquor was one of my many unhealthy numbing tactics,” I admit. He nods.

“I think you’re more familiar than you think, Mr. Grey,” he says. “I pulled you aside because Chuck admits that he was well on his way to taking a drink tonight before Jason called me. Usually when someone else calls me, either my charge is in really bad shape or too ashamed to call me because they’ve already fallen off the wagon. So when Jason told me that he was calling for Chuck, I was expecting to find him face down with a bottle next to him. Once Anastasia was doing the talking and told me it was a bloodbath, I realized that there were two other people involved and I totally prepared myself for the worst. Then I got here and he’s clinging to Keri like a fucking lifeboat, and I’m like, ‘okay, there’s three… he had to take a drink.’ When he announced that he didn’t, but he wanted to, I have to tell you, I was completely shocked.” He pulls his gloves onto his hands and pulls out his keys.

“I wanted to get you alone to tell you that he really was going to take a drink not long after his brother left. He was ripped apart all back over again and he relived all of the feelings that made him drink in the first place all back over again just like you said. He said the thing that made him not do it, the one person that made him understand that he couldn’t touch the bottle again… was you.” My eyes widen.

“Me?” I ask bemused. Not the woman whose life he saved? Not the woman who was clinging to his arm like life? Not the man who threw out his brother out and threatened to kick his ass? Me? How me?

“He said that you said something to him that you had never said before. He said that he had seen a side of you that you never shown anybody and he couldn’t let you down. He said that you let him know that he could overcome this thing, but it was going to be hard as shit and that’s why he needed back up and he needed it fast. He said that if he had taken a drink, then fifteen years of work would have been in vain and he couldn’t let himself down that way, and he couldn’t let his new family down that way. You need to know that what a patient says to a sponsor is held in the strictest of confidence, and the fact that he gave me permission to tell you this means quite a bit. I’ve never seen him with this kind of support system. It makes me feel good, like he’s going to be okay.”

That’s a big responsibility to lay on someone’s lap, but I understand why he had to do it… and I’m glad that he did. I proffer my hand to him again.

“He is,” I assure him. “Thanks for everything.”

“Sure thing, Christian,” he says as he leaves and I close the door behind him. I walk back to the family room and Jason is still sitting on the sofa. I plop down next to him and take the first deep breath I’ve taken all day. I open my eyes and look at the ceiling.

“Butterfly says she asked someone else about the layout of the house. Was it you?”

“Yeah,” he responds,

“What did she want to know?” I ask.

“Where all the exits were,” he says. Oh, that. I nod. “And the fact that you didn’t find that strange lets me know that I was right not to ask what that was all about.” I wave him off.

“He’s really going to need our help,” I say.

“Yes, he is,” Jason confirms. “Did you mean what you said? Will you be there for him, too?”

“Yes, I did, and yes, I will,” I reply. “I don’t make it a habit of saying things that I don’t mean.”

“Well, you did say there was this whole employer/employee line thing…”

“Yeah, and how is that working out for you, smartass?” I interrupt him. He chuckles quietly.

“I want to ask you a question,” I say. “That day in my office, with the shooting, I was thinking. I know you couldn’t push me out of the way because the lack of inertia on your body would have made you a standing target…”

“Yeah, we talked about this,” he says bemused.

“I know, but if you had hit me low—like in the side—we might have both missed the bullet.”

“Maybe,” he says almost immediately, “or maybe it would have hit one of your not-so-vital organs like it did me. More likely what would have happened is that I would have given you a kidney shot that would have left you writhing in pain, which would have let the sick bitch know that you weren’t dead yet. So while I’m trying to recover, get up, and get to her, she would have gotten off another shot—most likely on me first to keep me from getting to her, then on you to finish the job. Then we would both be dead.”

“Yeah, but once she hit you, Butterfly took her down,” I protest.

“Well, that’s a contingency that I didn’t account for. I saw that little ball of fire when that woman was unarmed, but I didn’t know what to expect when she was carrying a gun. Somebody had to take a bullet.” Fuck, he’s saying it. He’s saying that he knew somebody had to be shot, so he decided that it had to be him. “It was as much self-preservation as it was self-sacrifice, sir. She hit me in the shoulder instead of killing me.”

“Yeah, if you say so. You didn’t know that she wouldn’t hit you in a vital organ.” He shrugs.

“It’s a calculated risk,” he says. I nod.

“My point exactly. You could have just stayed behind the wall. All of those explanations would have held up in court that you couldn’t save me without getting hurt yourself.” He does that half frown/half smirk.

“Yeah, there is that,” he says, non-committal. I shake my head. He had other options, but he took the one that put himself the most at risk to give me the best chance for survival.

“I’m going to check on Chuck,” I say and walk toward the elevator. Butterfly has hit the nail right on the head. He had another option, but he chose to put himself directly in harms way to save me.

“Hello, Chtistian,” Keri steps aside and invites me into the guest suite.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” I say as I enter.

“Not at all. He’s doing much bettah nah.”

“I’d like to speak to him for a few moments alone, if that’s okay with you,” I say.

“Ah, yes, dat’s fine. Tell Chatlez I goh upstehs. I see you in ah few minutts,” she says with a smile and leaves. I go back to the bedroom and the door is open. Chuck’s eyes aren’t red anymore. His hair is combed and he has changed into an ACDC T-shirt. His face looks a bit strained and I can tell that he’s holding his breath. That’s good. That means that his lungs are getting stronger and his ribs aren’t in as much pain as they were before. I wait for him to release the breath he’s holding before I knock on the door and disturb him. He turns to me.

“Hey,” he says, wheeling over to the door. “Come in.”

“I don’t want to interrupt you. You can finish if you want.”

“That was my last one,” he says. “I’m holding more air in my lungs. The doctor is going to be really pleased when he sees me again.”

“I’m sure he will,” I say. “Can I sit for a minute?” Chuck laughs.

“It’s your house, man,” he says. I have to chuckle myself at that.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” I reply. “I just wanted to ask you a question. The night of the accident—you could have minimized damage to yourself and the car if you had just punched the gas. Why didn’t you do that? I mean, the way I see it, Butterfly would have been hurt either way, but you could have spared yourself some serious injury by moving yourself out of the way of immediate impact. Did that ever occur to you?” He shrugs.

“Christian, I can’t lie to you. I saw the car coming and I thought immediately of Ana. I knew that car was going to hit us no matter what I did. I didn’t have time to analyze level of damage, point of impact, least amount of casualty, nothing. I had seconds to react… seconds! And all I could think of was ‘protect Ana.’ I’m sorry if I did the wrong thing…”

“No,” I say choking on my words a bit. “You did the exact right thing.” I swallow hard. “I meant what I said. We’ve got your back. We won’t let you down.”

“I know you did, Christian,” he says. “You don’t strike me as the kind of guy to say something in the heat of the moment, plus…” he trails off. I look up at him.

“Plus, what?” I ask.

“You’re calling me Chuck.” I nod.

“Yeah, there is that.” I rest my arms on my thighs and entwine my fingers. “We’re the same guy, Chuck. We’re both fighting every day for control over our monsters. Thank God, I’ve got help. I’ve got my Butterfly. She keeps the monsters at bay, and she does a damn good job of it. Just her presence gives me peace. You… you’ve got Keri… but…” I trail off.

“Yeah, but,” he concurs, without saying another word.

“Have you two considered something more permanent?” I ask. He twists his lips and rests his head on his hand in that way that Butterfly does when she’s contemplating something.

“I thought about it, but I would be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I would be doing it just to keep her in the States, not because I wanted to spend my life with her and that’s not fair. She’s got a life, she’s got a job, she’s got friends back in Anguilla. She would be leaving everything she knows. I can’t do that to her.”

“You don’t want to spend your life with her?”

“We don’t know,” he answers honestly. “We know that we want right now. We know that we want a long time—years, maybe. We don’t know that we want forever. We don’t know that we want her to leave her life in Anguilla and I definitely don’t want to leave the States. To that end, we just have to be diligent. We have to see each other as often as we can… and those passports are going to get a real workout.” He laughs nervously. “Although after my current medical leave is over, I don’t see me taking any time off any time soon.”

“You know we would always work something out for you to be able to see Keri,” I tell him.

“I know,” he says, “but when I’m off, Ben’s my stand-in. I get the feeling that Ana doesn’t really like him that much.” I frown.

“What gives you that idea?” I ask.

“She asks questions about what I do and how I do it. She constantly saying ‘he’s not you, he’s not you…’” He mimics Butterfly’s voice—badly, I must say.

“Do you think it’s anything to be concerned about?” He shakes his head.

“If it was, I’m sure she would tell me. I think it’s just the fact that you get accustomed to the way one person does things and then someone else comes along and does them differently, that’s all.” I can relate to that. I hate when Jason is sick or off for some reason, which rarely happens for that specific reason.

“Yeah, I get that, but don’t let that stop you. If you need the time, just ask.” He nods.

“We’ll be okay,” he assures me. “I’ll be okay, Christian.”

“That’s all I want,” I tell him. “I’m not getting soft, don’t get me wrong, but that woman upstairs called you her brother. The only other person she has ever referred to as her brother is Allen. That means you’re important to her, and that makes you important to me. If something happens to you, she’s not happy. If she’s not happy, I’m not happy and I want to be happy. Not only that, but she means the world to me—without doubt, unquestionably, the whole world. If it weren’t for you, she would be dead.” I hold my head down and try to compose myself. My wife… dead… hard limit. I said it in Anguilla, but it was hypothetical then. It was a real possibility only a month ago, and because of this man, it was not a reality.

“Christian…?”

“Because of you, she lived,” I choke. “Because of you, she’s here. You saved her life. I owe you the world.” I raise my eyes to his. “Please don’t take advantage of it.”

I feel weak. I’ve never felt this weak. Maybe I am getting soft, but he saved my Butterfly, my lifeline, my reason for living. He could ask anything of me and I wouldn’t deny him. I know that now. I’ve never been at anyone’s mercy like this except hers. God help me.

“I won’t, Christian,” he promises. “Remember, if you’re not happy, she’s not happy; and if she’s not happy…”

“Nobody’s happy,” we say at the same time.


 

A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

New characters are here https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey-characters/

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Love and handcuffs!
Lynn x