If you haven’t received a personal response to your email, comment, or post, please accept this mass “thank you” because I’m having a bit of a hard time getting to everybody. Still kind of tired and still a bit under the weather, but trying to putter on.
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 41—Friends, Family, and Foes
“I need to speak to a certain young lady.”
I’m talking to Jason while we wait for Butterfly to finish her weekly de-stressing massage. She went to see Ace today and came back a little spent. I don’t know what the content of the conversation was, but she needs that massage in the worst way. I dare not tell her that her ankles are starting to swell.
“Oh?” Jason asks, with raised eyebrows.
“It’s not a social call and it won’t be pretty,” I continue. “It may be in a public place, but I need for no one to know that’s it me or that I was even in the area.” His expression changes.
“Wilson?” he asks. I nod.
“Wilson.” I confirm.
“When do you want to do this?”
“When she’s alone and we know exactly where she’s going to be,” I tell him.
“I got you covered, Boss,” he says. “It may take a few days’ surveillance.”
“That’s fine,” I tell him. “If she tries anything before then, drop her ass on sight.” He nods.
So, the reason why we are waiting for Butterfly to finish her massage is because Chuck has asked us to convene in the common area downstairs. Jason gave him his parents’ contact information a few days ago and he’s been remiss to call them. He’s so uncertain about their intentions and how they feel about him, especially since he’s been trying to contact them all these years. The not knowing is really eating away at him, though. He shared with us just after the security meeting that it was like agony of Prometheus waiting for the eagle to eat his liver every day. What a gruesome analogy!
Butterfly comes floating out of her massage looking fresh as a bunny and as beautiful as ever. She’s wearing this beautiful long-sleeved wrap around maxi dress that looks like the sky, and her leg pokes out of it every time she takes a step.
“You’re trying to kill me here,” I say in her ear as she walks into my embrace.
“That doesn’t sound like a good thing,” she says with a half-smirk. I kiss her cheek.
“You look lovely and you smell delicious,” I tell her.
“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” she says coyly. I look down at her feet and see that she’s wearing slides—kitten heels. She hates kitten heels.
“I like the shoes,” I try to comfort her. They really are beautiful against her legs. She sighs.
“It begins,” she says, sadly, looking down at her foot as she points it out to the side. “My ankles are swelling.” I nod.
“Okay, that means that we need to keep you off your feet as much as possible.” I kiss her cheek. “I could carry you.” She smiles.
“You’re very sweet, Christian,” she says, returning the kiss to my cheek. “I’ll be fine, baby. Let’s focus on the task at hand. Chuck is going to need us.” I nod and take her hand. After kissing her knuckles, we walk to the elevator.
“Take your time, Chuck,” I tell him once we’re all sitting in the common area on the lower level. “You don’t have to rush.”
“I know,” he says, watching the phone like it’s going to dial itself or give him all the answers. Finally, he takes a deep breath and, while clinging to Keri’s hand, he dials the number, puts the phone on speaker and sits it on the table. It rings twice before a man picks up the line.
“Hello?” Chuck doesn’t speak for a moment. I think he’s lost his nerve. “Hello?”
“D…” He chokes, then clears his voice. “Dad?” There’s silence for a moment.
“Joe?” the man says, and my chest tightens for a moment. Chuck closes his eyes, then announces,
“It’s Chuck, Dad.” The line is silent for several more moments before a broken but bellowing voice rings,
“Chuckie? Chuckie, is that you? Is that really you? Maddie, it’s Chuckie!” he yells to someone in the background. “Chuckie’s on the phone! Chuckie, are you there?” Chuck chokes laughter through his tears.
“Yeah, Dad, I’m here,” he says weakly.
“Oh, Chuckie, it’s been so long. It’s so good… we thought… oh, Chuckie, we thought…” Mr. Davenport is weeping on the line.
“Nelson, what’s wrong?” I hear a woman say on the line. There’s some rustling and then her voice rings through, “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom,” Chuck says to his mother after over a decade.
“Joseph, what’s wrong with your voice? And what’s wrong with your father?”
“It’s not Joseph Mom it’s Chuck,” he says in one breath. There’s silence again and then a gasp.
“Oh my God!” she shrieks. “Oh my God, Chuckie! Chuckie, you’re alive! Oh my God, he’s really alive… Nelson!” His parents are nearly hysterical on the phone. This is one reunion that I wish could have been done in person, but for Chuck’s sake, I know why I couldn’t be.
“Mom, listen to me, please,” Chuck begs. His mother is weeping uncontrollably and there’s rustling on the line again before Mr. Davenport comes back.
“I’m here, Son,” he says, his voice shaky.
“Dad, I really need to see you guys. A lot has happened. My life has changed so much. I can’t begin to tell you everything. I live in Washington now…”
“Yeah, the guy who called us… he said you got a job out there, a bodyguard or something. I didn’t think it was real…”
“Yes, I went into personal protection after my tour was finished. There’s a lot I need to tell you, Dad. I really need to see you. I can’t travel right now, but I’ll fly you guys out here if you want…”
“There’s no need, Son. We’ll catch the next available flight out. We’ll be there as soon as the next bird can get us there. You just tell us where to be and we’ll get there.” I think everybody is surprised now. Joseph made it seem like they were strapped for cash.
“Dad, are you sure?”
“Yes, son, we’re sure. Wild horses couldn’t keep us away! We’ll be in the air as soon as… as soon as I can stop your mom from crying.” I almost want to laugh. Chuck does. “This is your number on the caller ID, son?”
“Yeah, Dad, that’s me,” Chuck squeaks.
“I’ll save it in my phone. As soon as I have our arrangements, I’ll call you and let you know. Washington… Seattle, right?”
“Yeah, Dad, Seattle,” Chuck says.
“The next bird, son. I’ll call you right back.”
“Okay.” There’s silence for a while again.
“It sure is good to hear your voice, Chuckie,” Mr. Davenport says.
“It’s good to hear yours, too, Dad,” Chuck chokes.
“Bye, Chuckie… for now.”
“Bye, Dad.” He ends the call and just stares at the phone for several moments. “Dammit!” He says, sobbing once more. “This bitch-boy crying shit has got to stop!”
“Well, Chuck, you’re about to see your parents after more than a decade and they thought you were dead. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the bitch-boy crying shit just started.” He does the crying-laughing thing again.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” he says through his tears.
“So far,” I tell him. “Wait until they get here.”
I have no idea why I just want to spend the evening making Butterfly come, but she gently tells me to let her rest as she has come so many times in the last two days that not only would her clit be a little desensitized to the pleasure, but it would also be a bit sore from the overstimulation. She also shares with me about the meltdown that poor Keri had yesterday because Chuck was trying to fuck her brains out. I laugh heartily and tell her that it must be something in the air and simply opt to massage her swollen ankles and feet and caress her beautiful curves and plump body while we indulge in an evening of Disney classics reclined in the luxurious bed-chairs in the theater room. Tonight’s features will be Fantasia and Snow White and The Seven Dwarves.
After one night in purgatory without my Butterfly, each morning I awake with her in my arms and my nose in her hair is paradise. I inhale deeply, still smelling a hint of vanilla and cinnamon on her skin and pulling her close to me. Mmm, it’s delightful. I snuggle into her warmth and comfort and feel our children stretch inside of her. She groans a bit as they move and I know that it’s a bit uncomfortable for her. I rub her stomach gently, putting more pressure on the point where there is the most activity—my way of chiding my children and telling them to settle down. It usually works.
“Better?” I ask as it appears our little acrobats seem to be calming a bit.
“Better,” she says sleepily as she rolls over onto her back and stretches. She opens sleepy eyes to me and I’m lost in my future. I cover her mouth with mine and use my tongue to caress hers. Mmm, she tastes so good. I feel warmth travel through my body almost immediately and culminate in my groin. Shit! She turns to face me and grasps my face, deepening the kiss. Hell, is my little soldier still irritated? I don’t care. I think she’s still tender, but I need to feel her touch. I take her hand and rub it against my groin.
“Christian…” she protests into my mouth.
“I just need you to touch me,” I breathe huskily, pushing into her hand. “I don’t need to come. I just need you to touch me.” I’m kissing her again as she grasps my erection and testicles firmly outside of my pajamas and boxer briefs, causing me to moan deep in my chest.
“Baby, you feel so good,” I whisper as I pull her closer to me, absorbing her warmth, her fragrance and her essence, consuming her kisses. We fit together when we’re side-by-side. Somehow, the children move aside and we can get close—like a puzzle. Her kisses become hungry—earnest, and she pushes her hand inside my boxers. I feel her skin against me, her palm grinding against my erection while her fingers cup and manipulate my balls. Yes!
I groan into her mouth. Fuck, her hand feels so good. I slide one arm underneath and wrap both arms around her. I fuck her hand—just a bit, I won’t come. She whimpers into my mouth and almost breaks me down. I gather her little gown in my fists and feel it rise off her ass. Cupping her bare ass, I grind into her hand and now I want to come. I really want to come.
“Christian,” she breathes against my lips, “I was wrong,” she pants. “I need you to fuck me. How is…?”
“I don’t care!” I growl. I move her hand and in record time, my erection is freed from my bottoms, her leg is over my hip, and Greystone is sinking deep into his happy place.
She gasps twice, loud and hard, like she’s been waiting her whole life for this.
“Slowly! Gently!” she gasps, clinging to my T-shirt. Her head is thrown back on the bed. I screw my eyes shut as she wraps around me. She doesn’t get it. I have to move slowly. If I move with any quickness, I’m coming in two strokes. I lay my head in her bosom and pull her close to me, very close, my hands on her bare back. She’s soft and wet and warm and tight and hot and oh my God!
“Christian, please…” she whimpers, tightening her leg around me. I push into her—gently, like she wants—and withdraw… starting a long, slow rhythm. I hold her against me, moving nothing but my hips to push my erection in and out of her core. Fuck, she’s so tight! How is she so tight?
“Christian!” she breathes, then swallows. Pulling my hair hard, she jerks my head back and thrusts her tongue into my mouth, ravaging my lips. She spurns my libido so drastically that I slam my hand against her ass instinctively, roughly grabbing the cheek and bringing her only slightly on top of me so that I can glide deeper into her. She jumps and coos into my mouth and her reaction coupled with the sting on my hand lets me know that was the right move.
She is so fucking hot.
“Fuck! Do it again!” she growls, her fingers tightening in my hair. Goddammit! Don’t thrust! Don’t thrust! My hand lands hard on her ass again and I squeeze possessively, immobilizing her, pushing her hips against me. The only movement she is allotted is the shiver of pleasure that reverberates through her body and she groans into my mouth as she assaults me with hot, delicious, passionate kisses.
Fuck, baby. You taste like sunshine and blue skies.
My dick is burning with endless pleasure as I slide in and out of her core. Her body is shaking as one of my hands has moved and is now holding her thigh against my hip while the other possessively presses against the Garden, preventing her escape. She’s pulling ferociously on my hair and our tongues are dancing a wild, wet and luscious tango while our bodies grind out a fire sure to consume Tiger Mountain Forest. Each of us feverishly composes a symphony and the recital culminates to a thunderous finale as we cling to each other, each one panting and violently attempting to devour the other.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” I confess, unable to hold my eruption any longer, my forehead exploding in pain and fireworks as I attempt to prevent my orgasm.
“Come! Come!” she pants wildly as I feel her tighten around me, spurning my release. I take deep breaths of sweet freedom as pleasure envelops my entire body and sprays endlessly from my dick. She moans deeply with each spray, as if she can feel the same pleasure that I do. When the muscle stops squeezing ejaculate from willing testicles through the divining rod pulsing inside her, her walls slow their vibrations and her body falls limp against mine and the bed and she keens quietly with each breath. I reverently kiss her entire face, her shoulders, the exposed part of her chest, silently thanking her for being the beautiful, sexy, lustful goddess that she is.
“Come,” I whisper against her skin. “Let me clean you.”
I slide out of her to both our protest and roll off the bed. I help her out bed and lead her to my en suite.
“Do you need to use the restroom?” I ask and she nods. I gesture to the toilet and go over to the shower to give her a bit of privacy. I turn on the shower to allow it to get warm and strip off my T-shirt, pajama pants, and boxer briefs. She comes up behind me and touches my back. Mmm, I love the feel of her skin. I turn around and take her hand.
“My turn,” I say, kissing her palm before I go to relieve myself. When I return, she’s already in the shower, letting the water run over her body. God, she’s beautiful. The last time we were in this shower together…
Time to replace that memory.
I step in the shower with her and kiss her shoulder. My wife… my beautiful, fragile wife. Well, sometimes fragile. I wet the bath sponge and fill it with shower gel. When I’ve worked it into a lather, I kiss every part of her body before I gently scrub it with the bath sponge—her shoulders, her chest, her breasts, her arms, her hands, her torso, her stomach, her back, her butt, her thighs, her calves, her ankles, her feet, her shins, her knees, her hips, her pelvis, and right back to her swollen, pulsing clit until she begs me to stop. She’s breathless and wanton and sated when I rinse the soap from her body and she has to lean on me as I wash and condition her hair. I quickly clean my own body and hair and rinse them clean before making sure the conditioner is out of hers so that we can leave the shower together. Her legs are a little wobbly from our escapade, so I wrap myself in a towel and her in a bath sheet before I carry her to her dressing room to pick her attire for the day.
“What would my lady Anastasia like to wear?” I ask after thoroughly drying her beautiful skin. She giggles sweetly and sends a flush of warmth through my body.
“You choose,” she says, softly. I smile and kiss her on the nose. Going over to her wardrobe and mindful that we will have company today after breakfast and that she has an appointment later this afternoon, I choose a red tartan turtleneck mini-dress with a long red cardigan—simple and cute, and it makes my maternal goddess look dainty. After I adorn her in comfortable underwear and nice, warm tights, I help her into her dress and cardigan and she is pleased with the combination. A stable pair of thick-heeled three-inch red, leather Nicolette knee boots with a full-length zipper makes her very happy as she has the stability of the thick heel and support on her ankles without the stiletto or having to completely give up her high-heels. We will find her more boots like these to finish out her pregnancy.
I have no idea how she manages this gorgeous swooping thing she does with her hair these days to cover the spot where the scar is, so I just watch admirably as she puts her hair in a messy bun, pulls a little out on the side and swoops it easily up with the rest, securing it with some little hair pin. A pair of black and gold hoops, some black beads, and a red, black and gold art-deco bracelet later, and she’s ready to take on the world.
“You look stunning, Lady Anastasia,” I say, kissing her gently on the lips.
“Thanks to you, Sir Christian,” she says after a girlish giggle.
“Easy nuh, Choonks. You wotty yuhself to dett!”
Keri tries to calm her boyfriend as he sits bouncing his good leg nervously in the wheelchair. His cast has been changed out to a more lightweight one to help him move around more, but he’s still primarily in the wheelchair. Good or bad, this reunion will be too emotional to chance on crutches. The rest of us—Jason, Gail, Butterfly, and I—wait patiently with him in the living room for the arrival of his parents. Their plane arrived at SeaTac this morning and after breakfast and getting settled in at the Fairmont Olympic, they phoned Chuck to say they would be right over.
We don’t have to wait long. The moment the doorbell rings, Butterfly and I rise to meet them in the grand entry as we know that Windsor will have the door open and will be relieving them of their coats in no time flat. I’ve never had a butler before and I never really paid attention to my parents’ staff except to ignore Leona, but I find myself wondering how we ever functioned without him.
I’ve always wondered where certain children get their genes. Although Chuck and Joseph favor their father very much, they’re both better than six feet tall while Mr. and Mrs. Davenport couldn’t be taller than five eight. I extend my hand to him.
“Mr. Davenport?” I ask. He takes my hand and shakes firmly. Chuck’s eyes look back at me from a slightly older, more rugged face.
“Nelson,” he says. “This is my wife, Madeline.” The small blonde holds her husband’s elbow and smiles warmly at us.
“Hello,” she says, sweetly. I nod and smile.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both. I’m Christian Grey and this is my wife, Anastasia.” Mrs. Davenport beams at Butterfly.
“Anastasia,” she says, “what a beautiful name.”
“Thank you,” Butterfly says, “but please, call me Ana.” She opens her arms and gestures to the living room. “I’m sure you don’t want to wait any longer. Please…” I gesture that way as well and the Davenports head in that direction. When they reach the top of the stairs to the living room, Chuck looks up and sees his parents for the first time in over ten years. Mrs. Davenport gasps and her fingertips fly to her lips, both arms trembling and her breath coming in short. They stare at each other for several moments while the room is suspended in silence. Mr. Davenport finally puts his hand in the small of his wife’s back.
“Go, Momma,” he says softly in her ear. “Go.”
Mrs. Davenport’s breath catches in her throat before she scurries down the stairs to Chuck’s side. She takes his face in her hands like he was ten years old.
“My boy!” she weeps. “My beautiful boy! My beautiful boy! My beautiful boy!” She can’t say anything else. Chuck’s face screws into a grimace and he begins to weep. They are caught in a sobbing embrace while his mother repeats the phrase over and over again, stroking his hair and rubbing his back. Mr. Davenport smiles softly and enters the living room, taking notice of the other occupants. Jason stands and proffers his hand.
“Mr. Davenport?” he says very lowly, “I’m Jason Taylor. We spoke on the phone.”
He looks at Jason, then at his wife and son still locked in an emotional, sobbing embrace, then back at Taylor. He purses his lips tightly, then grabs Jason’s hand with his right hand and his arm with his left.
“Thank you, sir,” he chokes over his emotion. “Thank you. Thank you…” He swallows, attempting not to break down completely. Jason covers their clasps hands with his other hand.
“It was my pleasure, Mr. Davenport,” Jason says, reverently. Mr. Davenport nods.
“Nelson, please,” he says, trying to force a smile over his emotion. Jason nods once and gestures to Gail.
“Nelson, this is my wife, Gail,” he says. Mr. Davenport turns his attention to Gail and gently takes her outstretched hand after releasing Jason’s.
“Gail, lovely to meet you. Real stand-up guy you have here.” She looks up at Jason.
“I know,” she says with an adoring smile before turning back to Mr. Davenport. “Thank you, sir… Real stand-up son you have there.” He smiles sadly at her.
“I know,” he says, his voice almost gone. Butterfly squeezes my arm and I look down to see tears streaming down her lovely face. I wipe them away with my thumbs.
“Don’t you cry, too, now,” I say softly as I kiss her nose. She smiles at me as I tuck her hand into my elbow and help her down the stairs and back to her seat. Keri has relinquished her seat next to Chuck so that Mrs. Davenport could sit and weep with her son, but the sobbing is now down to controlled sniffles as she clings to the arm of his wheelchair while his father now clings to him a manly version of the same reunion of moments ago. Ms. Solomon quietly comes in with the coffee service and agrees to return in a few moments to serve.
“You look good, son,” Mr. Davenport says once everyone has composed themselves. “Fit… well, except for the chair, of course.” Chuck nods.
“I’m a little flabby right now, Dad,” he says. “I haven’t been able to exercise, but I’m up and down. I start therapy in a couple of weeks and then I’ll be out of this thing for good.” Mr. Davenport nods.
“That’s good, son. That’s good to hear.”
“There’s so much I have to tell you guys,” he says. He reaches his hand out to Keri. Her eyes grow large, but she walks over to him without hesitation. “This is my girlfriend, Keri,” Chuck says immediately, erasing any doubt about Keri’s identity. Mrs. Davenport gasps and touches her lips with her fingers. Keri is clearly a bit uncomfortable with the gesture and quite frankly, so am I.
“Chuckie,” Mrs. Davenport says, not taking her eyes off of Keri, “she’s stunning!”
A collective sigh of relief can be heard throughout the room. Keri’s look of concern immediately changes to a beaming and sincere smile. “You’re beautiful,” she says directly to Keri.
“Tank you, ma’am,” Keri says, shyly, causing another gasp from Mrs. Davenport.
“Oh, my, where are you from?” she asks.
“Anguilla, ma’am,” Keri says, “Btitish Vuhgin Islands.”
“How exotic!” she coos. “Chuckie…” she teases her son playfully causing him to blush. Mr. Davenport’s coy expression indicates that he approves of Chuck’s choice as well. He relinquishes his seat next to Chuck and takes another seat nearby, allowing Keri to sit next to her beau, and the family is all smiles.
“Keri, along with everybody you see in this room, have been my lifeline,” Chuck begins. “They’ve been my other family. They’ve helped to keep me alive, to keep me sober, to keep me sane… Individually or collectively, each person here is an integral part of my survival.”
All of the women lose the battle to fight their tears and like the good little girl scout, Ms. Solomon is back with boxes of tissue and to serve the coffee.
“We can’t thank you all enough for being there for our Chuckie,” Mr. Davenport says. “I just wish we could have been there. We’ve lost so much time.”
“That’s not your fault, Dad,” Chuck says.
“We should have tried harder,” his father retorts, convicted. Tried harder…?
“You tried?” Chuck says, voicing my thoughts. “You tried to find me?”
“Hindsight being 20/20, I don’t think we did, Chuckie,” Mr. Davenport laments sitting back in his seat. “We left the task to Joe. He told us the trail came up dry. He even told us that he talked to the police and they told him that if you weren’t contacting us that you were either dead or homeless and unless a body popped up, there was no way to find you.” He takes his coffee from Ms. Solomon. “When Mr. Taylor… Jason… told us that you were in the military for a while, that’s when we knew. We knew Joe had lied to us because there was no way that you would have been missing for all that time, we file a missing person’s report, and they couldn’t find you in the service. There’s no way.” Chuck shakes his head.
“I went into the military right after rehab,” he says. “I sent letters to you guys at the address at Stahelin and I never got a response. I thought everybody hated me and I couldn’t go back to living the way I was. I needed structure and discipline, so… I went to the service.”
“We had no idea,” Mrs. Davenport says. “We didn’t even know you were in rehab.” He raises his head, shocked at first, then drops it again.
“He really is Satan,” I hear Jason say, referring to Joseph, loud enough for us to hear, but not the Davenports.
“Tell me about it,” Butterfly concurs before taking a sip of her ginger tea.
“I have to ask you guys something,” Chuck says, moving forward in his chair. “Did you guys know that Joseph came to see me last week?” They look at each other astonished.
“He was here?” Mrs. Davenport asks incredulously. “Why didn’t he tell us?”
“Oh, boy,” I say without lowering my voice. Here we go…
“I need a real seat. Get me out of this thing.” We all watch in amazement as Keri springs into action. She effortlessly locks the wheels of the wheelchair, raises the footrests, grabs Chuck’s crutches and has him out of that wheelchair in 90 seconds flat. Jason has to scramble to get a real chair behind him so that he can sit down. He sighs contentedly. Keri whispers something to Butterfly and she reaches behind her and hands a pillow to Keri. I reach behind me and put my pillow behind Butterfly.
“Easy nuh,” Keri says, as she kneels and puts the pillow near his foot.
“I’m okay, baby. I don’t need that,” he protests.
“Don be givin’ meh noh poblem nuh, put de pillee unda yee foot!” Mrs. Davenport is a bit shocked, but Gail and Butterfly burst out laughing almost immediately and I can’t help but wonder if the fellas of the Crossing have been left out of a private joke.
“Yes, ma’am!” Chuck says and obediently lifts his foot. Keri fluffs the pillow and he places his foot on it.
“Dere. Don dat feel bettah nuh?” she says sweetly.
“Yes, baby, it does,” he says returning her smile, and now Mrs. Davenport chuckles.
“Do you plan on marrying this girl, Chuckie?” she asks. Ah, the question of the century. The entire room falls silent. Chuck and Keri look at one another with melancholy smiles. They’ve had this conversation.
“I don’t know, Mom. I guess it’s always a possibility, but not just now.” Keri is still smiling softly as is Chuck, but they are giving nothing away. He sighs heavily and gets the conversation back on track. “Mom, Dad, Joe has always known where I was. He knew I was in rehab. He knew I was in the service. He knew that I was here. He’s been listed as my next of kin for years—all this time. When I wrote you guys and I didn’t get a response, I thought you were dead. Joseph stopped talking to me, so his purpose was to claim my body or make my final arrangements… or pull the plug. When I got into the accident, Jason contacted them just like he contacted you, but we didn’t know if you guys were even alive until Joseph showed up here.
“I couldn’t believe that my own parents wouldn’t care if I was dead or alive,” he continues. “I woke up and the only person there was Keri, and she flew here all the way from Anguilla. She got a three-month visa and put her life on hold to come and be by my side, but my own family…” He trails off and sighs. “When Joseph showed up, it was weeks after the accident. I could have been dead already, but he took a chance. When he got here, he took shots at everybody for me to Keri to Ana… Nobody was off limits. Ana cut him off right in the middle of a racial slur.”
Mrs. Davenport gasps and covers her mouth. The color leaves her face and I can only assume that she’s embarrassed that this is her son that we’re talking about. She looks over at Keri with apologetic eyes.
“It’s allight, Misses Dahvenpolt,” Keri says.
“Maddie,” she says softly, smiling at Keri and rubbing her hand. Chuck continues.
“I wanted to know if you guys knew that he came here because he said that he was coming on your behalf. He said that you needed money, but he wouldn’t tell me why. I refused him and told him that you guys needed to contact me about what you needed and I would help you and he went berserk.”
“He said what!?” Mr. Davenport roars, rising from his seat. Butterfly nearly jumps out of her skin. I quickly wrap my arms around her and she’s shaking. I’ve got you, baby. He’s not angry with you. Mrs. Davenport is equally awestruck, staring at Chuck like he just spoke some foreign language. He frowns and looks from his father to his mother and back to his father.
“That’s why I asked if you were sure you could afford your plane tickets,” he defends. “He made it sound like you were losing your house or buried under horrible medical bills or something, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was! When I turned him down and told him to have you guys call me, he insulted everything about me—my accomplishments, my life, my family, my home, my job, my sobriety, everything! He made it sound like none of you wanted anything at all to do with me; that you all knew exactly where I was all the time and you just didn’t care; that the only thing you wanted was money and that if I wasn’t going to give it to you, that you didn’t have any use for me.
“When I discovered that you guys were actually alive, I had Jason and our corporate head of security track you down. I guess because Joseph had hidden us from each other all these years, he thought he could continue to do it because he didn’t know what resources I had available to me. When I knew for sure that you guys were alive, I looked for you myself. When I found you and I discovered that you were happy that I was alive, I was going to send for you. I thought you were broke!”
“We’re not broke! Joe is broke!” Mrs. Davenport exclaims.
“What?” I ask, before I realize that I’m not necessarily part of the conversation.
“Yes, Joe is virtually penniless,” she says. “He lost everything in the divorce and he lives like a poor bachelor. He’s living in some little place above a restaurant or something in Spearfish. The kids can’t even come and see him. Sunny has to bring the kids to our house to visit.”
“I’ll be damned!” Mr. Davenport exclaims quietly. “I’ll be goddamned.”
“Nelson, what it is?” his wife says.
“Last week,” he says, raising his eyes to his wife. “The out-of-town interview, Maddie? You kept asking him who does an interview on Saturday.” She frowns and shakes her head.
“Oh!” she says after realization dawns. “Yeah. He kept evading the question. We gave him the money to go. Then he just said it didn’t go well…”
“He was here last Saturday,” Chuck confirms. “Saturday afternoon. He pissed me off so bad, I had to call my sponsor.”
“Your sponsor?” Mrs. Davenport asks.
“AA, Mom,” he says.
“You don’t drink at all?” she asks. He shakes his head.
“Not even socially.”
“Not even a beer?” his father asks. He shakes his head again.
“Not even a beer,” he says to his father. Mr. Davenport puts his hand on Chuck’s arm.
“Seeing Joseph made you want to drink again?” he asks. Chuck drops his head and sighs.
“All the feelings…” His voice cracks and he clears his throat. “I felt abandoned all back over again. I felt alone. He gave me… he gave me hope… and he snatched it away again it was worse than before.” He said the last part all in one breath. “For a brief moment, I remembered how alcohol made me forget everything and I needed a drink. I really. Needed. A drink!” He’s taking deep breaths like he’s trying to focus, trying not to slip into that same state of mind he was in a week ago today after he spoke to his brother.
“I was sinking—fast! The abyss was swallowing me up. But Christian told me that I wasn’t alone, that he… that they all had my back…” His voice is cracking again. “I knew I couldn’t let go. I knew I couldn’t go back. I wanted to be strong, but I needed some help so I called my sponsor.”
“How long, son?” his father asks. Chuck’s brow furrows. He doesn’t understand the question. “How long since your last drink?” Chuck gazes at his father for several seconds and swallows hard.
“Joe’s wedding,” he finally says.
Mr. Davenport’s lips form a thin line and he stands up straight, his fists clenched at his side and rage emanating from his pores. His wife looks at him with concern as he turns to me.
“Can you ask your guy to bring me my coat, please?” he says. I frown.
“I’ll get it,” Jason says, walking into the grand entry.
“Nelson?” Mrs. Davenport says.
“It’s alright, Momma,” he says. “Everything’s alright.” Chuck and his mother examine his father as Jason and Windsor return with Mr. Davenport’s coat. He fishes into his pocket and locates his cell phone.
“Thank you, sir,” he says to Windsor, turning his attention to his phone. Windsor looks to me and I nod, dismissing him. We all remain silent, waiting to see what Mr. Davenport is doing and his intentions become crystal clear with the next words out of his mouth after he touches the face of his phone a few times.
“Hey Joe, you got a minute?… Yeah, there’s somebody here that I need you to speak to really quick. One sec, okay?” He hands the phone to Chuck without another word.
“Hey Joseph,” Chuck says coolly. “I bet you really wish I was dead now, don’t you?” He says nothing else and hands the phone back to his parents.
“What ya know there, Joe?” Mr. Davenport says. After a pause, “I’m sure you do. I’m sure you’ve got quite a bit of explaining you’d like to do, but I can’t talk right now. I’ve got about thirteen years of catching up to do with my dead son!” He angrily ends the call and turns back to Chuck.
“I want to hear everything, Chuckie,” he says, “every little thing, whatever you have time to tell me and whatever you don’t have time to tell me, we’ll catch up later. I want to hear what you’ve been doing with your life, who you’ve met, where you’ve been, what you’ve seen… Do you have any children? Have you been married? Tell us everything, Chuckie. Everything!”
“Why don’t we move this reunion to the family room?” Butterfly suggests. “It’s so much more comfortable and less formal. You can kick off your shoes and put your feet up, we can get some music going, have some snacks and some soft drinks…”
“We don’t want to put you through any trouble,” Mrs. Davenport protests.
“Are you kidding?” Butterfly chuckles. “This is cause for celebration. Chuck is very special to us. I assure you, it’s no trouble whatsoever—that is, if Chuck doesn’t mind.” Chuck smiles widely.
“Chuck would like that very much,” he says genuinely. Butterfly smiles back.
“Then it’s settled,” Butterfly says as I help her from the sofa.
“Excellent!” Gail says, leaping from her seat. “I’ll rally the troops and we’ll whip up some munchies in no time.” She kisses Jason sweetly and scurries off to the kitchen. Mrs. Davenport’s brow furrows.
“She works here, too?” she asks. I scratch my head.
“Uh… yeah. See…” How do I explain this?
“We’re a strange little 21st Century family,” Butterfly begins. “Gail started off as Christian’s housekeeper and cook when he lived alone in a penthouse downtown. Jason was and still is his head of personal security. Jason and Gail fell in love. Enter me!” She raises her hand. “Gail and I became friends, much to my then-boyfriend’s dismay. Chuck became my personal security and we became friends simply because of all the time we spend together Jason and Christian’s relationship blossomed, so they discovered that they were best friends it helps that Jason saved Christian’s life and Christian was best man at Jason and Gail’s wedding and Jason was best man at Christian and my wedding so everybody moved here with us, although Chuck only wants to stay temporarily until his leg heals since he already has his own house and Gail is now house manager and we hired more staff so that she could be nanny and she didn’t have to do the cooking anymore but she still does the cooking because she likes it…”
Now, that’s not really how she’s talking, but that’s pretty much how it sounds to the untrained ear. Poor Mr. and Mrs. Davenport probably got lost somewhere around “Gail and I became friends” and they, along with Keri, are suffering from a case of MEGO. I put my hands on my wife’s shoulders and she halts her explanations.
“We discovered that when you spend a lot of time with people, it doesn’t matter if they’re on your payroll. You still tend to develop lasting relationships,” I say finitely.
“Too much information?” Butterfly asks, looking over her shoulder at me.
“Way too much,” I say, kissing her hair.”
“Very profound, Boss,” Jason says, raising his eyebrow in that knowing way. Yeah, I know, Mr. Employer/Employee Line is getting all sappy.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re fired,” I say.
“Sure,” he says with a smirk.
“Follow the rambler,” Butterfly says, waving her hand in the air and leading the way to the family room.
So after several hours of relaxing and talking, it’s painstakingly obvious that Nelson and Maddie never sent Joseph to talk to Chuck. They didn’t know where he was. Joseph had them convinced that Chuck was a burnt-out alcoholic that was either living on the street or in and out of rehab. They never got his letters. They didn’t know that he was trying to reach them. Joseph always headed them off. Joseph led them to believe that he didn’t know where Chuck was. If they had been in need of help or money, it wouldn’t have been the first thing they asked when they found him. The first thing they would have asked was, “How are you? How have you been? Are you alright? How has your life been? Are you married? Do we have any grandchildren?” Those kinds of questions, which were of course the questions that they asked, not, “Hey, we hear you hit it big, we need some money.”
As it turns out, everybody calls him Chuckie because they love him and it’s a term of endearment—everybody, that is, except for Joseph. He took a term of endearment and corrupted it, referring to Chucky as the evil doll from the movie Child’s Play. This explains why Chuck became damn near violent when his brother called him Chucky, but never reacted when his parents called him Chuckie.
Chuck does his best to recount his life after rehab—the reasons he went to the service and the tours overseas. He tells his parents that it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t easy. He explains that working for us is very fulfilling and admits that it can be dangerous sometimes. It takes both of us to explain the accident that left me in a coma and Chuck in a wheelchair.
“He saved your life?” Maddie asks me with glassy eyes. I nod.
“And you’re carrying twins?” I wrap my arms around my stomach and nod, smiling softly.
“And the babies are okay?” Christian slides his arm around me as I continue to nod, now becoming emotional.
“He saved us all,” I say, my voice cracking. “He’s a remarkable and decent man, and I’ll never be able to repay him as long as I live.”
“We’ll never be able to repay him,” Christian adds. “This is my whole life right here and he kept them safe at great personal risk. We’ve weighed the odds and there were other options, but he put himself directly in the line of fire to make sure that my family was safe. I don’t have the words, ma’am. No disrespect intended, but he’s part of our family, too, now.”
She smiles widely through her tears as she clasps her hands together tightly and gazes lovingly at her son.
“Oh, Chuckie,” she gushes, “I’m so proud of you! I’m so glad you’re okay!” Chuck unsuccessfully attempts to fight his tears.
“I have to tell you ‘I’m sorry,’ Mom…” he begins.
“Mom, I have to,” he beseeches. “I should have led with that. It’s part of my recovery. You, too, Dad.” She looks at him and nods, squeezing his hand.
“Later, son, okay? Not at this moment. We’ll let you do it, later. Is that okay?” she pleads sweetly. He looks at her and concedes her moment. She wraps her arms around him, weeping bitterly the tears of a mother who has finally found her long lost son.
“I love you, Chuckie,” she sobs. “I love you so much!”
“I love you, too, Mom,” he chokes. Nelson pinches his lips tightly together, his chin trembling slightly. He walks over to Chuck and squeezes his shoulder.
“Good deal, son!” he says gruffly, his voice scratchy in his throat betraying unshed tears. He’s obviously a man of very few words, but of the few words he could have chosen, these were the best as they pull the reluctant tears from Chuck’s eyes that start to stream down his cheeks. I smile tightly, wiping the tears from my own eyes. Marilyn appears in the doorway of the kitchen, signaling to me that it’s time for my dreaded lunch with Addie. I sigh heavily that I have to leave this sweet reunion to go talk to this woman about her shrew, harpy ass granddaughter, but it has to be done. I gesture to Christian to follow me to the kitchen.
“I have to go,” I tell him sadly. “Extend my apologies for me. Pressing, less pleasant matters to attend to.”
“Okay, baby.” He kisses my cheek. “Did you get a chance to tour Bear Creek or Broadmoor yet?”
“Broadmoor, yes. I didn’t get a chance to see Bear Creek, yet.”
“Did you like Broadmoor?” he asks.
“Go with Broadmoor,” he says, “or did you want to go see the others first?” I raise my eyebrows.
“No, if you’re a proponent for Broadmoor, then Broadmoor it is!” I confirm quietly. “We’ll need sponsors.” He chuckles sardonically.
“We’ll get sponsors,” he says. “In fact, we’ll be able to choose our sponsors.”
“Really?” I ask.
“Really.” He winks at me. “This is your ball. I’ll let you run with it. You let me know if you need me?” He knows I need this. He knows that I need to be front and center on this. I stand on my toes and kiss him deeply.
“I love you, Mr. Grey,” I say, with a smile.
“I love you, too, Mrs. Grey.” He caresses my cheek before I turn and leave with Marilyn.
“Addie, I can’t do it,” I say sadly after we are seated in the club and the waiter has brought our drinks. She frowns.
“What do you mean?” she asks. Over lunch, I explain to Addie every tactic I’ve attempted with her granddaughter and the outcome, or I should say the flaming failure, of each.
“Everything I’ve heard about her is bad and everything I’ve seen of her is bad. She even threatened me. I’ve put my hands on her money and I believe that she’ll make me go away if she can. I’ve already voiced my concerns to my husband.”
“Ana, it can’t be that serious,” she replies appalled.
“Her words to me were ‘I know people, Bitch.’ How serious is that to you? She leaned in on my desk and told me to leave her the fuck alone, and that’s what I’m willing to do.” I look down and shake my head, scoffing at myself. “I was thinking that I was going to take this troubled soul and expose her to real world circumstances so that she could see…” I trail off. “I don’t know, I was expecting some ‘after-school-special connection/transformation and the one that learned the real lesson was me, because that’s just not how it works in the real world.”
“So, you’re giving up on her.” It’s a statement, not a question. I raise my eyes to her.
“She’s already given up on herself!” I snap back. “You can’t mold clay that’s already set! She doesn’t see anything wrong with how she is. She’s just fine being the snaky, classless debutante with a bad reputation too low to even be considered a social climber. Whatever legacy you have will die when you do—which is what she’s waiting for—unless you have some other plans for part of your wealth that will allow your legacy to live on.” Her head snaps back and her eyes grow large.
“That’s pretty harsh, don’t you think?” she hisses at me. “I’ll admit that she’s a more than bit misled, but you’re throwing judgments out there that are completely unfounded! Who are you to draw these types of conclusions after only knowing her for a week?” and now, she’s getting angry with me.
“And you’ve known her for ten years, which is why you asked me to take her under my wing after I had already told you that I didn’t want to do it!” Realization dawns as she suddenly remembers that conversation. Our exchange has been sharp up to this point, but has not gotten loud… yet. “And on the contrary, Mrs. Wilson, as a medical, mental health professional, I do my very best not to throw judgments or draw conclusions on anybody, because that’s very dangerous ground. I can assure you that anything that I am saying to you is based on information that is not filtered from my interpretation, but came straight from your granddaughter’s mouth!” She turns piercing, dagger eyes to me.
“What are you talking about?” Now her voice is getting loud, garnering the attention of the ladies at the next table. I don’t care. If you want them to know about your melon-clad lost cause of a granddaughter, it doesn’t make me any difference.
“Oh, surely you know,” I say in a conspiratorial tone. She throws a menacing glance at the onlookers who have all but abandoned their lunch to listen to our conversation. They catch her glance and immediately turn their attention back to their salmon fillet and chicken salad. Addie turns her attention back to me. “She’s biding her time to collect her trust fund. After that, she hopes to land a rich husband, even though she would prefer to land a rich wife. If that’s successful—or unsuccessful—she’s then just going to wait for you to die so that she can collect her inheritance from you.”
Addie’s brown eyes are still piercing, but her expression becomes more impassive.
“She said that?” she asks with a menacing calm.
“Again, her exact words were, ‘I won’t have anything to worry about anyway. My grandparents won’t leave me penniless.’”
“She could have been talking about her trust fund.” Her voice is controlled and I can hear that she’s a bit hurt by this revelation. Unfortunately, I believe that even though Addie is cooperating with this whole plan to turn her granddaughter around, she’s in a bit of denial, too.
“She was not,” I say gently. “This was her answer when I asked her what she planned to do when the money from the trust fund runs out. I mentioned that you and Fred wouldn’t live forever.” Again, her face doesn’t change, but her eyes become a bit glassy. She takes her napkin from her lap and dabs the corners of her mouth.
“Well,” she says, pushing her chair away from the table, “this has been very enlightening. I hope you don’t mind, but I won’t be able to stay to finish lunch. Please excuse me.” She stands from the table and rushes out. I frown, looking at Marilyn and now at the whispering ladies at the next table. We’re at her country club and she just left us in the room. We watch as she says something to the waiter before she dashes out the door.
“Get ready for the walk of shame, Mare,” I say to her as the waiter comes over to our table.
“Ladies, Mrs. Wilson has informed me that she was unavoidably called away and will be unable to continue her lunch with you. However, as her guests, she has asked that I make sure that you have everything that you need to enjoy your meal. Would you like more ginger tea, Mrs. Grey?”
Oh! Well, now, I’m very pleasantly surprised.
“Yes, please, that would be lovely,” I respond.
“Another lemonade for you, Ms. Caldwell?” Marilyn is taken aback.
“Yes, thank you,” she says with a wide smile. He nods and leaves to retrieve out drinks.
“Nobody calls ‘Ms. Caldwell!’” she gushes when he’s out of earshot. I’m pleased that we weren’t ceremoniously escorted off the premises, but now I feel a bit sorry for Addie and I have no idea what’s in store for her ungrateful granddaughter.
“Thanks for coming with me on a Saturday, Mare,” I tell her when we get back to Grey Crossing late Saturday afternoon. “I know it was cowardice, but I just didn’t want to face Addie alone today, especially if she brought Courtney with her. Either way, I didn’t plan to mince my words, but you see how it went with no Courtney. I can only imagine what kind of performance I would have had to endure had she joined us.”
“Yes, I think it probably would have been best-actress material,” she concurs. “My office is finished—cozy and functional. I like it a lot, thanks for the space. Do you need me tomorrow for the visit to the Radcliffs or will you and Christian be able to handle it?”
“No, I think we’ll be fine,” I tell her. “Once we establish that it was us that was sending the items that were refused, it’ll only be a matter of having the deliveries rescheduled and sent back to them. We’ll coordinate that and Monday and we’ll have to find some way to get the things that were delivered here taken to their house, hopefully before the holidays. Oh! If we have any tours scheduled for any of the other country clubs, you can cancel them. Set a reminder to call Broadmoor on Monday and let them know that Mr. and Mrs. Grey will need sponsors.” She raises her eyebrows.
“Really?” she says. “Christian’s okay with that?”
“He suggested it!” I reveal. “He said Bear Creek or Broadmoor, and when I told him that we had toured Broadmoor and I liked it, he told to go for it and he put me in charge.”
“Wow. That’s fantastic!”
“I know, right? I’m really excited. So, make sure that they know that Mr. Grey and I will want to interview the couples that would like to sponsor us and that all candidates should be submitted to me through you and not Mr. Grey. Make that clear however you need to.”
“Shouldn’t that be the other way around—that the sponsor couples should be interviewing you?” she asks. I just cock my head at her and raise my eyebrows. “Right. Sorry. Momentary lapse.”
“Forgiven,” I say with a chuckle. “They’re going to try to go over my head and call Christian—well, maybe they won’t because they were really nice, but if you get the feeling that that might, please let them know that if they do, we’re going with Bear Creek.”
“Got it, Killer,” she says, typing into her iPad. I had already written off Harbor House or Harbor Club or Harbor Ass, whatever the hell they were called, but they etched that shit in stone when they called Christian. God, I’m so tired. I need to go lie down or something. I wonder if Chuck’s parents are still here?
“Go on home, Mare. You and Gary will be at Food and Libations on New Year’s Eve, won’t you?”
“Yep,” she says, sliding into her coat. “Text me if you need me.”
“Will do,” I say, stretching my back and considering what I want to do for the rest of the evening. I should take a nap, but I’ll see if we still have company first.
I’m on my way upstairs and just as I’m passing Atlantis, there’s Keri out on the covered lounge again. I sigh. Nope, not gonna do it. I open the door and immediately garner her attention.
“Now the last time I came out here to talk to you without a coat, I got in trouble, so why don’t you come in where it’s warm and let’s have a chat?” I tell her. I’ve had the coats removed right after my session with Ace last night, so I’m not venturing out there this time, nor do I want to. It really is cold! Keri obliges my wishes and comes inside, closing the French doors behind her. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, eve’yting is fine,” she says, looking at my aquarium. “Dat is Anguilla fish, yes?” she says, pointing at Marty.
“Yes,” I confirm. “The butterfly fish I saw when we were snorkeling.” I watch Marty with her for a moment.
“He tell his mudda eets a possibility he matty me,” she says, her arms folded over her sweater. I look over at her. “We talk about it while he sick, when he leg in de udda cast, but me have a life in Anguilla an he have a life heyah.” She stares into Atlantis. “Mah visa run out in Febuwety. De closah we get to dah deht, I die a leetle inside.”
She speaks so softly I can barely hear her words, like if she doesn’t say it out loud, it won’t come true. I know that feeling well.
“I luv him, Anah,” she says, a single tear falling down her cheek, “really much, but I can’t pick up mah life an leave. Anguilla is my… home.” She begins to weep. I wrap my arms around her and feel the pain in her chest as she covers her mouth and tries to muffle her cries. I let her cry it out for a while until her body stops shaking and she begins to wipe her tears on her sleeve. When she has composed herself for a moment and she can listen, I try to say what I can to comfort her.
“I can’t imagine having to make that choice—the man that I and the land that I love. Your children, your home, your life… But you’re here now. Love him now,” I say, holding her hands and looking into her eyes. “Love him now and let tomorrow take care of itself. There’s no use in worrying about it. Enjoy what time you have. Take pictures and make wonderful memories, and when it is time to go back home, you will tell all of your friends about the wonderful time you had in America with a wonderful man. You’ll remember all of those good times until you see him again. You’ll let them sustain you and you’ll keep them in your heart, because you’ll know that’s not the last time you’ll see him. You’ll talk to him and you’ll remember that you love him. That love will keep you strong until you can hold him in your arms. In the meantime, hold him now. Don’t shed anymore tears, not while you’re here. Take this time and only love him, okay?” She nods, hiccuping and trying to control her shuddering breaths.
“You ah vety smaht, Anah,” she says. I smile sadly.
“It didn’t come easily,” I reply. She puts her head down.
“I go tek a nap,” she says. “Chatles is still tahking to his mum and dad. If he look foh me…”
“I’ll tell him the emotion was a bit much for you.” I finish her sentence. She smiles a weak smile and heads off to their suite. I sigh heavily. I knew there would be a problem when it was time for her to leave, but I didn’t know that it would be this soon. Hearing Chuck say that the future holds a possibility of marriage for them brought home the reality to her that life decisions will have to be made in the not-so-distant future which will mean that she just may have to spend some extended time without her Choonks. If the thought of being away from him a month and a half from now does this to her now, what is actually being away from him going to do to her when she has to leave?
A/N: Greek mythology again… In the Trick of Mecone, Prometheus tricked Zeus into accepting an offering that resulted in mortals offering bones to the gods instead of meat. Zeus got pissed and hid fire from the mortals, but Prometheus stole it back and returned it to the mortals. In addition to having Pandora released on mankind (self-explanatory, I hope), Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock and an eagle came to eat his liver out every day. His liver regenerated daily because Prometheus was immortal. So, of course, this was intended to be an eternal punishment and the torment continued for 30 years until Hercules eventually comes along during one of his “trials” and kills the eagle, rescuing Prometheus.
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Love and handcuffs 🙂