Since my training got pushed back two weeks, I took a moment to edit an already written chapter to help you all with any possible withdrawal symptoms. I don’t know when the next one will be, but I’ll try to dash in from time to time. Once again, if you want to stay on top of what’s happening, click here and follow the directions (if you choose). Otherwise, you’re not going to know and as much as I love you (flutters eyelashes), I’m going to ignore redundant questions. 😉
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 44—Holiday Surprises
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I heard you correctly.”
Christian is grasping his chin and looking at the floor, his other hand on his hip. He’s trying to process the information that I just walked in and shared with him—that Courtney is back at Helping Hands and I’m trying to help her find her way again… after Christmas, that is. I knew that I would have to tell him, because she’s on the watch list, and her being at Helping Hands is a bit of a security violation.
“I didn’t want to do it…” I begin meekly.
“Then why did you?” he shoots, glaring at me with sharp, angry gray eyes, both hands on his hips now.
“Because she looked like hell and your mother begged me,” I reply in my own defense. He rolls his eyes and sighs, exacerbated.
“Fuck!” he exclaims turning away from me. Those were my sentiments exactly. “Do you realize…?” He trails off and begins to pace. “Shit!” Oh, he’s mad—not fire-breathing mad, but he’s mad.
“The entire security team is on high alert because of that woman!” he says. “She’s been noted and listed as a potentially dangerous threat, and now…”
He trails off again. He can’t even finish a sentence. I very rarely see him like this. I think it best to just keep quiet and stay out of his way.
“I cornered the woman in the ladies’ room, for God’s sake!”
I don’t think he’s talking to me anymore. He’s just talking to himself, fussing at no one in particular that I dare let this woman back in my life after what she’s done. Heaven knows I don’t want to defend her. I didn’t even want to help her. I don’t know why I gave in. I think I just wanted to leave and get on with my holiday.
My holiday… what a gas…
“And now, she’s running loose in Helping Hands where she can do anything she wants while no one is looking…”
I hadn’t thought of that. What if all of this is some elaborate plan to set some kind of trap and get back at me? God, I hope not, because I’m not going to be running around the Center looking for booby traps. I don’t want anybody else to get hurt because of me, though. Is she capable of something like that?
I don’t really pay close attention to him after that. I’m a little concerned now that maybe I’ve made the wrong decision. I only talked to her because Grace convinced me, and even then I still didn’t want to help her. Now, I have to take the berating from my husband of allowing the enemy back into the nest after all of the precautions we’ve taken to protect ourselves against her. It’s kind of like the situation with Brian except that I didn’t initiate or okay the visit—Grace did, and she’s the director of the Center. I just agreed to help her at the prompting of the director of the Center. Oh, God, my head hurts…
I raise my head to my husband. My hand is in my hair and I don’t even remember putting it there. My scar, it… I don’t know, nothing’s wrong with it now, but I think it was aching or something. My free arm is curled protectively around my babies. He’s staring at me, frowning. I don’t like the look, so I stand up straight. What did I do now?
“You…” he shakes his head and drops his eyes from mine. “You should go to the kitchen.” The kitchen? That’s random! “Gail’s looking for you there.”
So that’s it? You have a temper tantrum about this and then I’m dismissed? I don’t get to say anything? Maybe he knows I really don’t have anything that I can say.
“We can talk about this later… if that’s okay with you,” he adds, his voice softer, but still clearly displeased. At least I wasn’t dismissed. If that’s okay with you… yeah, that means something.
“Okay,” I say, more like mutter, and walk away from him.
I pause in the dining room and dial Grey House.
“Merry Christmas, Grey Holdings Incorporated,” the gentleman answers.
“Alex Welch, please,” I say as professionally as I can. I sound more like a mouse.
“May I say who is calling, ma’am?” If you must…
“Anastasia Grey,” I respond. There’s a momentary pause.
“One moment, Mrs. Grey.” I can almost see the whole “patriot act” thing I went through when I first tried to get in to see Christian unfolding at the front desk right now. Sure enough, another voice comes on the line.
“Mrs. Grey, forgive the inconvenience, but can you please verify your code name?”
“My code name?” I ask, bemused.
“Yes, ma’am, you GEH security code name.” Yep, patriot act.
“Well, I don’t know that I have a security code name, but Jason calls me ‘Her Highness.’ It was supposed to be a joke…”
“Thank you, ma’am. One moment.” And the line is quiet. Oh, my God, my code name is really “Her Highness.”
“Welch,” he answers the phone moments later.
“’Her Highness?’” I whine as quietly as I can. “You people really call me ‘Her Highness?’”
“Mrs. Grey?” he asks, bemused. They didn’t even tell him that it was me on the phone?
“Oh, God,” I lament, “Security probably thinks I’m a pampered, flaming bitch.”
“No… they don’t. They know it’s a joke. It just… fit,” he says as an explanation. My nerves are shot and I rub my scar again. It irritates me a bit at times like these. The doctor said that it might… or just for no reason at all… “Is everything alright, ma’am?”
“Oh, God, please call me Ana. I don’t think I can take much more today.” I don’t recognize my own voice.
“Okay… Ana… What’s wrong?” His voice is so kind that I almost want to cry. I explain to him the best that I can what I did with Courtney and how well the situation went over with Christian.
“So now, she’s wandering around Helping Hands for the next two days looking for some way to be useful, but as far as Christian sees it—and hell, I don’t even know—she could be setting up a bomb somewhere in the joint. I don’t how the protocol works in this situation, but I know that Grey House is somehow or another facilitating the security for Helping Hands.”
“That’s correct, Mrs. Grey… Ana,” he says.
“Is there some kind of way that you could put a couple of extra guys down there to make sure that she’s not poisoning the food or sabotaging the gas lines or something dramatic to get back at me?” The line is quiet for a moment. Do I sound crazy?
“Yes… yes, that can be arranged, but it’s really not necessary.”
“It’s not?” I ask. “Why not?”
“She has a tail, Ana,” he says. A tail? She has a tail?
“Does Christian know that?” I ask, bemused.
“It’s usually protocol with new threats, but with everything going on—with the Davenports in town and all—he may have forgotten. I’ll still put a couple of guys down at Helping Hands, though. It might be a good idea with the holidays and families being split up and all. Would you like for me to cc you on Courtney Wilson’s daily reports?” Do I want that much information?
“Yes, please,” I say, before I lose my nerve. “Thanks for not thinking I’m crazy.” He chuckles.
“I’ve seen crazy, Ana. You’re far from it,” he says, kindly before we end the call. I sigh heavily. Christian’s still angry with me, but at least I don’t have to worry about Courtney blowing up Helping Hands. Where was I going? Oh, the kitchen. I take a deep breath and turn to face whatever catastrophe awaits me in there.
I’m standing in stunned amazement as my kitchen is filled with women—Gail, Ms. Solomon, and other members of the staff; Keri and Mrs. Davenport; Grace, Mia, Mandy, Maxie, and of course, Marilyn. They’re all wearing a different goofy Christmas apron and my chef’s apron is sitting on a stool near the kitchen island, which is loaded with baking supplies.
“Christian told me about your Christmas Eve cookie tradition,” Gail begins, “and how you were disappointed that you wouldn’t be able to do it this year with you being so close to delivery.”
“So we got our heads together and conspired to have a Christmas Cookie Bake, just us girls,” Grace adds. “We’ve got the basics for gingerbread, butter cookies, sugar cookies, lemon bars, and chocolate-chip-pecan cookies, but you’ll have to share your recipe and guide us.”
I stand there stunned for a moment. This is the sweetest thing ever. I really thought I would have to give up my cookie tradition this year, but it looks like I won’t have to after all.
“Ana?” Mia says, concerned. “Say something.” Maybe this is why she was at Helping Hands this morning before she was sidetracked by cursing out Courtney.
I walk over to the stool, obviously reserved for me a pick up my apron. It’s been forever since I’ve worn it. I put it over my head and Grace ties it loosely behind me. I’m baking my cookies for Christmas Eve.
“Than…” I’m unable to get the words out of my mouth before I choke on a big ball of emotion boiling up in my chest and bursting out of my throat in mournful sobs. I can’t control them; they just keep coming and coming and coming. Gail is the one who envelops me in her arms and no one else moves while just sob a river. I’m too full. I’m just too full. There’s too much in the fountain and it’s overflowing. Something has to come out at some point.
Several minutes later, I’m still crying, trying to compose myself and nobody has moved. Recognizing my efforts, Gail asks for a glass of ice water and a cold, wet washcloth. I clean my face as much as I can and try to stop the tears from falling. I drink down the first glass of ice water and half of a second, realizing that this year’s tradition will be without my Cabernet Sauvignon. Ah, comment tragique! Unable to explain the reasons for my crying spell, I thank the ladies for being so kind and selfless, request that soulful Christmas carols be piped through the mansion’s communications systems and once the serenade has started, announce that the bake-off will now commence!
I cannot believe this woman! We have fashioned an entire security operation around the fact that the Melon-Bitch threatened her, and now my wife has invited her back into the flock and she’s currently running freely around Anastasia’s place of business. Fucking hell. I can’t believe my ears when she tells me this. So what her grandparents want to send her back to Kentucky? Let them! That will be one less problem that we have to worry about! No, my wife with the heart of gold and the Beretta in her purse lets this conniving female back into her good graces.
I don’t know whether to be disgusted or angry, and while I’m trying to decide which emotion is more prevalent, I look over at my wife and she looks… weird, for lack of a better word. She has one hand thrust in her hair where her bald spot is—quickly disappearing, I might add—and the other arm clutched over the babies.
“Anastasia!” I say, more out of surprise than anything. She jerks up and looks at me. What the hell was she doing? That can’t be comfortable. She was all crunched up and hunched over like she was going to…
I just stare at her for a moment, and she stares right back.
“You…” Don’t confront her. It’s only going to make it worse. I’ll clean this up. I’ll find a way to clean this up. “You should go to the kitchen. Gail is looking for you there.”
She’s confused now. I’m sure that I would be, too, but this conversation is better held at a different time, especially with these new circumstances I’ve just discovered. Go on, Butterfly. Go have some fun. I’ll clean this up. “We can talk about this later… if that’s okay with you.” All of this, but not now. Go enjoy Christmas Eve. She’s still confused, but finally relents.
“Okay,” she says softly, like a scolded child and scurries away, further confirming my fears. Shit. Shit. Shit. So many fires to put out and now there are two more logs on the flame. I run my hands through my hair and call Nelson.
“How’s it going?” I ask him.
“Joe smells a rat,” he replies. “He’s threatening to get on the first thing smoking and fly out to Seattle. He’s going to ruin everything if he shows up.” Unfortunately, it’s a free country and I can’t stop the asshole from showing up.
“What do you suggest we do?” I ask. “Any other unwanted element, I would handle differently, but this is your son.”
“I know,” Nelson replies. “I’m not trying to choose one over the other, Christian, but this has to be perfect for Chuckie. He’s been through so much and we’ve lost so much time. I can’t let Joe ruin this. I can’t and I won’t.”
“If you say the word, I can make it as hard as possible for Joe to get to Seattle, but I won’t do it without your permission.” The line is quiet for a long time.
“How do you choose between your sons?” he laments.
“You didn’t make this choice, Nelson,” I tell him. “Joseph did. Joseph chose for you and for your entire family when he chose to hide Chuck’s attempts to contact you for so many years. He didn’t think about how it would affect you, your wife, your family, or Chuck. He was only thinking of himself—his anger and his own selfish motives. This is one time… one time that you want something to be perfect for Chuck and for the rest of the family. Joe doesn’t want to be a part of that; he just wants to know what’s going on now that you know that Chuck is alive. Call him. Placate him. Let him know that you’ve discovered that your son is alive after nearly fifteen years and you want to spend Christmas with him with the hope of trying to catch up on some of the years that you lost and you’ll talk to Joe after the holiday. That’ll have to do and if it doesn’t, let me know if you think he’ll still try to do something he shouldn’t and I’ll do my best to keep him out of Seattle.”
“You won’t have him arrested or anything, will you?” he asks. No, but just short of it if I have to.
“I’ll try not to, but I’ll see what can be done to keep him out of Seattle… and out of touch with Chuck.” There’s another pause.
“I’ll call him… and I’ll call you back.” Nelson ends the call and I know he’s calling Joseph. I don’t need his confirmation. I already know that Joseph will try to get to Seattle if he hasn’t already. I have to call in immediate back-up.
“Welch, it’s Christmas Eve for Christ’s sake.”
“And?” he says. “You called.” I sigh.
“Is there any way to keep someone from flying if they’re not already on a plane?”
“There’s a lot of ways to keep someone from flying,” he replies, “but what did you have in mind?” I explain the situation to him. “Oh. Well, the easiest way to do that would be to have him arrested.”
“I thought of that, but his father really doesn’t want that,” I say.
“Well, the other thing is the mistaken identity/no-fly-list thing. That could at least ground him until after Christmas, but not much longer.”
“That’s all we need. How about phone communication?” I ask. “We don’t want him harassing Chuck or spilling the beans if he gets wind of what’s going on.”
“Those are pretty easy fixes,” he says. “His number can be blocked from Chuck’s phone if Chuck hasn’t blocked it already, but that doesn’t stop him from calling from another phone or from blocking his own number to call.”
“Scrambling his signal so that he can’t make a call?” I suggest.
“That’s doable, but I really suggest getting Chuck’s phone if you can.” Ugh! That’s not going to be an easy task.
“I’ll try. I do have a secret weapon here,” I say. “Listen, put a few more guys at Helping Hands over the holidays. I just want to make sure that nothing unexpected happens.”
“Unexpected as in Courtney Wilson?” he asks. I frown. How does he know?
“Something you need to tell me?”
“Not really, I mean nothing of any real concern except that Ana beat you to it.” Ana? How the hell did Ana beat me to it? I just saw her not twenty minutes ago, before I talked to Nelson. Did she call Welch before she left Helping Hands and not tell me?
“When did you speak to Ana?” I ask.
“About five minutes ago, maybe,” he says. “She told me that Wilson was back down at Helping Hands for the next couple of days and that she was worried that Wilson might try to sabotage something or blow the place up. I thought she was going to cry.”
Oh, boy, that’s all I need, a crying Ana on Christmas Eve. Thank God I headed that off with the Great Cookie Bake.
“I told her that a few extra guys down there is a good idea since some lonely husbands and significant others with possible PPO’s in place may try to show up because it’s Christmas. I told her not to worry about Wilson either as she has an operative assigned to watch her and everybody on staff is assigned to watch her when she’s inside Helping Hands.” I should have thought of that before I went all mercurial on Butterfly. Of course, the Melon Bitch has a tail. “Did Courtney do something, sir?”
“No, I did,” I sigh. I can just see the wheels turning in Welch’s head right now. “Please let me know as soon as you get the thing squared away with Joseph Davenport and the no-fly thing. I don’t want him anywhere near Seattle until after Christmas…” Hopefully never. “What about other modes of transportation?”
“One sec,” he says and I hear him typing. I’m impatient and I want to know what he’s doing. “Well, it’s a 16-hour drive straight through if he can rent a car. That’s with taking the shortest route, no traffic, no inclement weather, and knowing exactly where he wants to end up. None of those are a possibility except for the fact that he might be able to get a car depending on how persistent he is and what kind of resources he has available to him.”
“I’m told he’s broke,” I say.
“How can he get a plane, then?” he asks. Good question.
“Apparently, he has something available to him. Best case scenario, if he gets that car?”
“I wouldn’t worry about that car,” he says. “No matter what car he rents, even if he were to rent one right now, there’s no way he’s going to make a non-stop 16-hour drive through the mountains in the snow. That 16-hour drive just became more likely overnight, which means he’s lucky if he gets here tomorrow afternoon sometime. Unless his parents have told him that the festivities are at the Fairmont, he’s expecting quality time to be at your house. What do you think would happen if he showed up at the Grey Crossing on Christmas Day?”
“Duly noted. Train? Bus?” He’s typing again.
“He could get a bus for cheap, but it’s still not cause for concern. He couldn’t get a ticket out until tomorrow and he wouldn’t be in Seattle until sometime on the 27th—two transfers in Montana, and he still probably doesn’t know that he needs to be at the Fairmont and not the Crossing. As for the train…” he’s typing again, “… Wow. Amtrak doesn’t go through South Dakota…”
“You’re shitting me!” I ask.
“Nope. Amtrak runs through 47 U.S states and the District of Columbia as well as four Canadian provinces. South Dakota is not one of them. If he wants to catch a train, he’d have to grab one in one of the neighboring states. His best bet would be to get some kind of ground transport to North Dakota and pick up the Amtrak from Minot. Even then, he’s still looking at more than a day’s travel. I think we just need to keep this guy out of the sky if he isn’t already up there.” Let’s hope he’s not already up there.
“Do what you have to do to keep him off a plane. I’m about to go and get Chuck’s phone.”
“Already on it,” he says before we end the call. I make my way through the living room and dining room towards the kitchen and I expect to hear giggling women. Instead, I hear weeping—muffled, but mournful weeping. I stick my head around the corner to see a powwow of women clustered around my distraught wife, her face buried in Gail’s neck, and she’s sobbing like someone died.
Fucking hell. She’s supposed to be laughing and baking Christmas cookies!
I’m frowning, helplessly watching Gail’s bemused expression, no doubt attempting to ascertain what’s wrong with Butterfly. When she catches a glimpse of me, her eyes are almost begging for answers, but I have none—none that would help, anyway. I shrug and shake my head, mimicking my best confused look to avoid the wrath of several women now comforting my sobbing wife. What am I supposed to say? I’m probably the last person she needs to talk to right now… but I do have another mission that I desperately need to accomplish.
I manage through lip movements and gestures to tell Gail that I need Keri. She’s able to get Keri’s attention and direct her to me, but not without alerting three or four other women in the room—one of which is my mother. Oh, hell. Please, for once, just stay in the kitchen, Mom. She looks like she wants to come and say something to me, but upon seeing Keri walk in my direction, she just stays with the other women… thank God!
“Keri, what’s going on?” I ask quietly once I get her in the dining room.
“I don’t noh,” she says. “She come in, she put ohn heh ehpon, and she btake down weepin’! She been weepin’ foh a lon time.”
“How long?” I ask.
“Lotta minitts!” she says, her voice rising on the last word. “She seem like she gwine stohp, den she staht weepin’ agin. She got a lawt on heh haht,” she says, nodding hard like she’s informing me of something that I don’t know. Butterfly is all heart, so of course, she’s carrying a lot on it. That’s why I love her so much.
“Keri, I need a favor from you,” I say, softly. I have another task, but my heart is in the kitchen with Butterfly.
“Meh?” she asks bemused. I nod.
“I need you to get Chuck’s phone,” I say. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a blackberry. I look down at it. Standard GEH issue. “Chuck?” I ask. She nods.
“Joe keept cawlin’,” she begins. “Choonks no look good when Joe cawl. I don like it. I tek de phone. I tehl him I noh wan him tawk to Joe. Joe evil soul!” she says with conviction as she pounds her chest. “Black down heyah. If I wuz dif’rent womahn, believe inna de science, I call de obeah man! Him a go put guzum pon im! Den ‘im leave Chooks alone!”
I have no idea what this woman just said, but she just scared the shit out of me and you can best believe that I won’t be fucking with Choonks.
“May I have his phone please?” I hold my hand out and she gives it to me without hesitation. “Did he talk to Joe at all?” She shakes her head.
“Heh look at de phone and see Joe’s numbah. So heh jus deny de call, but Joe keept cawlin’ and cawlin’. Heh almost ansah de phone, but I get to it fuhst. ‘Noh!’ I say. ‘Noh Joe!’ I tuhn de phone off an I puttit in mah pockitt. Choonks jus’ smile,” she chuckles and I smile with her.
“If Chuck asks where his phone is, let him know that I’m taking care of Joe,” I say crisply. She nods knowingly.
“Tank you, Chtistian,” she says. “We tek cayeh of Anah,” she says with a smile before turning back to the kitchen. I look around the corner at the cluster of women around my beautiful frail wife again. She appears to have stopped crying, but she still looks so weak and emotional. I lean my head against the door frame. I just want to run in there and hug her and hold her and put her in a little box and protect her from the world… I guess more than one of us is regressing today. I watch longingly as the women are attentive to her—bringing her water and washing her face, making sure that she’s okay. I sigh quietly. Things have just been so damn wild in our lives. I’d love to take her away somewhere, just the two of us, but I know how likely that’s going to be in the coming months.
I watch my wife command a crowd like she always does, requesting old Christmas songs and giving directions on how the lemon bars and sugar cookies should be made. It’s only when I catch my mother smiling at me and silently shooing me away from my hiding place that I realize that I’ve been standing here staring at my Butterfly. I roll my eyes and tear myself away from the sight of her finally happy and preparing her Christmas Eve cookies.
I take the long way up to the second floor past our bedroom to the elevators and turn on Chuck’s phone. Before I step on, Chuck’s phone lights up with 12 messages and more texts than anyone would really care to read. I violate his privacy and check to see that they are all from Joe—all 27 of them. A quick scan shows that some of them are pages long while others are two to four-word expletives to get his point across…
** Fuck you! **
** Fucking asshole. **
** You’re worthless! **
** Kiss my ass! **
** Go to hell. **
As I’m reading the messages from this faceless coward, my own phone rings. Coincidentally, it’s Nelson.
“Yes?” I answer.
“Do what you have to do,” he says. I pause.
“He knows?” I ask.
“No, but he’ll come and cause trouble anyway. Don’t let him ruin this for Chuckie… please…”
“Is he still on the ground?”
“He’s still in South Dakota, but probably not for long.” That’s what you think.
“Don’t give it a second thought, Nelson,” I tell him. “Get the family settled in. I’ll be by the hotel later to see if everything is in place and if anyone needs anything.”
“Thank you, Christian. This means so much to me and my wife. I can’t begin to tell you…”
“Enough of that, Nelson. Enjoy your family. I’ll see you soon.” We end the call. I look at Chuck’s phone again and it buzzes with another derogatory message. I tap the message to return the call.
“So you’ve stopped hiding, huh, you spineless weasel?” His voice is venomous. He’s full of hatred and all things wicked and I can feel his demonic spirit wafting through the phone. I have to make this quick before his putrid hatred seeps into me.
“You are a wretched, evil, soulless worm. I thought I was heartless, but you’ve got me beat. How someone could do what you’ve done to your own flesh and blood and still manage to exist among normal human beings is beyond me.”
“Grey?” he says, bemused. “He’s got you fighting his battles now?”
“It must be really lonely in that horrible cage you call a body,” I say, disregarding his last words. “How does it feel, Joe? How does it feel to know that after all of your conniving and your lies that your parents would rather spend Christmas over a thousand miles away from home with the son that you kept from them for nearly fifteen years than to spend it in the same state with you?” The line is silent for a while.
“They’ll see,” he says, and he almost sounds like a wounded little boy. “He hasn’t changed. He’s all cleaned up and shiny like a new penny, but he’s still the same old drunk. They’ll see. He’ll show his true colors.” And you’re hell bent on trying to make him do that, I see.
“Stay away from Seattle, Joe,” I tell him calmly. “For your own good, keep your ass in your own state until after Christmas, or I swear to God, you’re going to regret it.” He laughs loudly into the phone.
“You’re a riot, man!” he says, loudly. “You can’t stop me from seeing my brother even if he is a low-life drunk.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong,” I say impassively. “He’s not your brother anymore. He’s dead to you, remember? He’s my family now, and nobody fucks with my family!” I hiss the last part into the phone. “Stay the fuck out of Seattle and stay the fuck away from my family or you’ll wish you never met me.” He laughs again.
“I can go wherever the hell I want and you can’t stop me!” he barks.
“Air and opportunity, Joe. Air and opportunity.” Bring it, you soulless bastard.
“I’m not afraid of you!” he declares. Famous last words.
“You should be,” I say, before ending the call. I take the liberty to block the number from Chuck’s phone and turn it off again. That’s not the last we’ve heard from Joe, I’m sure. His arrogance and lack of contrition for what he put his parents through, let alone what he put the family through, is making me want to beat the living shit out of him with my bare hands. I run my hands through my hair and take the elevator down to the ground floor. I walk to my study and close the door, contemplating if I really want to make this last call. I know that I have to, but making this confession is really the last thing that I want to do. I sigh and dial the number.
“Ace. Hi, it’s Christian Grey.”
“Christian… Hi. It’s… Christmas Eve. Is Ana okay?” I sigh heavily.
“I’m sorry,” I begin. “I didn’t mean to bother you on the holiday on your cell, it’s just…” God this is harder than I thought.
“Is it her memory?” he asks. “Is it slipping?” I shake my head.
“No… I don’t know.” I sigh heavily. “We’ve got a development, Ace… a big one, and I don’t know what to do.” The line is silent.
“Just… tell me what’s going on, Christian. You’re starting to scare me.” You should be scared. I close my eyes and take a breath before I spit it out.
“Ana’s shrinking again…”
Dinner will be late today as the women have spent most of the afternoon in the Great Cookie Bake. Ana’s mood has improved dramatically, but I can only tell from a distance. The women wouldn’t let me anywhere near the kitchen while the Cookie Bake was in progress. Someone should have told them that I’m the taste-tester and that the pecan-chocolate-chip were mine—all twelve dozen of them—but I guess they didn’t get the memo because most of them went into care packages for the families at Helping Hands, and into goodie bags for a certain family reunion that shall go unmentioned until tomorrow and to various locales that Butterfly usually gives cookies away. I only got to squirrel away a measly two dozen and almost had to arm-wrestle Jason for those!
Before dinner commences, I decide to go over to the Fairmont Olympic to make sure that everything will be ready for tomorrow. The staff starts scrambling and looking busier than necessary when I’m on the premises. I don’t really care about all the preparations, as long as the end result is right. It reminds me of this movie I saw once where this kid was in foster care his whole life because his mother had him in prison. It was a hard life for him, but he grew up and went to the Navy and then decided to find his family. He found his father’s family and he even found his mother. Though his mother wasn’t doing too well and his father had passed away, his father’s family was huge. They had a huge dinner and welcomed him with open arms. It was what he had dreamed of his entire life.
I can imagine Chuck being surprised to see his family again, all gathered in Seattle and on Skype screens to welcome him back into the fold.
I was able to meet two of his aunts and a few of his cousins as they were just coming from dinner. More of his family will be coming in tonight and it looks to be a wonderful turnout in the Garden tomorrow. Butterfly and I along with Gail and Jason will bring Chuck and Keri here right before lunch tomorrow and be present when he sees the rest of the family for the first time in nearly fifteen years. We’ll stay for a moment, then Butterfly and I will go to my parents’ and Gail and Jason will be visiting Gail’s sister. Lawrence and Williams will be on duty with us.
“It’s a really wonderful thing you’re doing for Chuckie, Mr. Grey,” Chuck’s aunt Marie says. “The family is so excited about all of this. It’s unbelievable to find out that he’s been alive all this time. It’s just so sad… the circumstances…”
“I know,” I say, thinking about the reason we’re all here in the first place. “But let’s try not to think about that and remember that we’re just happy that he’s okay and about how thrilled he’s going to be to see you all tomorrow.” She smiles widely.
“Your wife is a very lucky woman,” she says sincerely. “I wish you all so much happiness on the upcoming birth of your babies.” I return her smile.
“I’m the lucky one, but thank you… very much.”
After making sure everything is set, Jason and I make it back to the Crossing just in time to kiss Mom and Mia goodbye and say Goodnight to the rest of the ladies before we sit down for dinner. Butterfly helped with the meal—pork loin, asparagus, and she made those damn cheesy potatoes that make you homicidal. Chuck thinks he’s just spending the day with his parents tomorrow and he’s asking Keri if she’s going to be too bored. As she has no idea about the surprise either, she assures him that she adores spending time with his mother and that she will be fine tomorrow. She has even bought a new dress that she wants to wear, so Chuck has vowed to dress up as well. That was easy.
Butterfly appears to get lost in thought every now and then, but besides that, she seems just fine for the most part. Good food and good friends wrap up somewhere around 10pm and each couple steals away for private Christmas Eve celebrations.
“I’m sorry that I won’t be up for Santa Baby this year,” Butterfly says with a sultry little smile, “but maybe next year.”
“There’s always Easter and that sexy ass butt-plug tail,” I say suggestively, raising my eyebrows and she giggles. “Do they have those things in different colors?” I ask playfully.
“I’m sure they do,” she smiles back. “We’ll just have to see.”
We’re in the family room again with a roaring fire and A Christmas Carol on mute on the television. We have larger-than-life Christmas trees in several rooms of the house, but this is the one that has the wrapped presents underneath.
“It’s that time, Mrs. Grey,” I say. “Which of my presents do I get to open tonight?”
“That one,” she says, pointing to a large square box, “with the velour wrapping.” I retrieve the package that she’s referring to.
“Oooo, fancy,” I tease, coming back over to the sofa and sitting on the floor near her. She smiles quaintly, but seems to get a little nervous. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she says, not convincing at all. What’s in this box?
“I’m sure I’ll love it, Butterfly,” I say, trying to put her fears to rest. She forces a smile that actually looks painful and starts to wring her hands a bit. I think I better just open the box. I take my time with the wrapping because you can’t just tear it off. Whatever this is, the presentation is apparently part of the splendor. Once the box is freed from its satin ribbon and velour wrapping, I open it to reveal an obviously expensive threefold portfolio. I raise my eyes to Butterfly who is visibly wringing her hands now.
“O… open it,” she says. Put her out of her misery, Grey. I take the portfolio out of the box and open it…
… And my breath is snatched out of my body.
The first thing I see is my wife’s swollen bare belly, cradled top and bottom by both of her hands. She’s naked—I think—except for a white shirt. The picture, taken in black and white, is cropped so that you can’t see her face and only to the ends of her thighs just above her knees, but her beautiful mahogany locks fall in large barrel curls over her breasts. She’s sitting up in a bed, cradled in pillows, and you can see enough of her mouth to know that she’s turning away from the camera. It’s an extremely intimate shot, and I know why she’s wringing her hands, but I can’t focus on that. I can only focus on the fact that I can barely find the words or the breath to tell her how exquisite this picture is.
I raise my eyes adoringly to her. Timid blue eyes look back at admiring gray and I look back down at the picture. I outline her lips, her hand, and her swollen belly with my fingertip—almost able to feel her delicate skin on mine. I touch my finger to my lips and my eyes sting a bit. This moment… this beautiful, priceless moment… captured on film…
“There’s more…” Her soft voice only slightly breaks the trance that I’m in with this breathtaking photograph, but I manage to rip my eyes from it and move the first picture to the side while attempting to steel myself for the next.
She’s standing in this one—posing, obviously nude. The background is black and she is standing to the far right of the picture. Her body is covered with a very sheer blanket of fine blue material that she holds over her breasts and under her baby bump, the remainder of it cascades over her body and dragging the floor carelessly behind her like a train. Her outer leg is bent for the pose and you can see her skin through the fabric. Her face is cropped again, and only one or two escaped tresses graze her shoulder. The picture is pure and provocative at the same time, and I’m speechless once again. I can only release a short sigh, like it’s my last breath. My wife is so beautiful, so breathtaking, so exquisite…
The third picture makes me want to take her right where she is right at this very moment. Set on a white background, my wife is sitting in an expensive upholstered chair, her butt right on the edge. She’s wearing what appears to be a sheer, black, halter maxi-dress, but it falls open over the chair and cascades to the floor, revealing her entire baby bump and the rest of her body, hiding only her ass and breasts from the camera. Her feet are crossed in front of her, but she’s on her toes—a very sexy and demure showcase of her fabulous legs! She leans on one hand on the chair while the other rests on her baby bump. Her neck is revealed in this picture and like all the pictures before it, her face is cropped. It. Is. Stunning! And I have found a word for this one.
“Mine!” I say, hungrily, looking into her eyes and holding up the picture for her to see. She giggles sweetly and her tension immediately seeps from her body. When I drop my eyes to the see the next picture underneath, I can’t avoid the tear that escapes my eye. It’s a silhouette—a profile of just her torso down to half her hip on a white background. Dainty lace panties grace her hip while a lace gown drapes her body, her bare arm at her side and her hands cupped under our children. Curls cascade down her back and her face is once again cropped from the picture. Once again, I’m at a total loss of words.
“Christian?” Her voice sounds angelic. I never raise my eyes from the picture.
“How?” I breathe, my voice cracking. “How can you possibly make me love you… more than I already do?”
I gaze at the picture cradling it in my hands like the precious treasure that it is. They’re all captivating and stunning, but this one… I don’t know. This one is…
It’s the only word I can think of. It’s beyond heavenly, and ethereal seems too commonplace… so it must be spiritual. I look up at her and she’s weeping, too, covering her mouth so that her cries don’t resound through the room. I leave the portfolio and go to her, gathering her in my arms and cradling her in my chest, my tears falling into her hair. I don’t know why I’m crying. I’m not sad, it’s just really very touching and beautiful. My gift is going to suck donkey butt compared to this.
“There’s one more,” she says softly. Oh, shit, there’s more?
“I’m not sure I could take more, Butterfly,” I say, honestly. The last one was so… much!
“I wanted you to have one that you could put in your office… if you wanted.” In my office? I turn around and look at the last picture still sitting in the portfolio. No face again, but this one is wholesomely pure and innocent. She looks to be sitting in a window seat somewhere, wearing a red cotton dress with her legs crossed, cradling the babies as usual. Her hair is shorter—in tight curls—and her baby bump looks smaller. This picture looks like it may have been taken earlier in her pregnancy. She’s been planning this gift for months. And now that I look at it, all of the pictures appear to have different levels of firmness or roundness to her form.
“Are these… different stages?” I ask her. She’s nods shyly, gently wiping the tears from her cheeks.
“This was the oldest,” she says, pointing to the picture in the red dress. “Each one is about three weeks to a month apart. This is most recent.” She points to the one in the black halter, where she’s sexy and round and thick and oh so fuckable.
“Yeah!” I say, unable to hide my hungry growl. I like my wife’s curves. I’ve always been partial to petite women, but Ana’s thighs and hips… heaven help me! I’ll love her any way she looks, but her thickness is delicious.
“I’m going to miss this,” I say, grabbing her thigh and squeezing it firmly.
“Who says it’s going anywhere?” she says matter-of-factly. I raise my eyebrow.
“Don’t tease me, woman,” I warn, and she shivers a bit.
“You actually like this?” she asks surprised. I scoff.
“I love this, baby,” I reply, “but I’m biased, because I’ll love you however you look.” She twists her lips.
“You’re just saying that,” she says. I frown.
“You don’t believe me?” I say, a little stung. “You really don’t believe me?” She studies me for a moment before she answers.
“Yes,” she breathes, “I do.”
“Do you really?” Her first reaction smarted a bit. Surely she knows I’ll love her no matter what. She nods slowly.
“I do,” she says softly, convincing. Don’t scare me like that! I kiss her gently on her hand.
“Your gift is Prince Charming and mine’s going to be Quasimodo now,” I say, a bit forlorn.
“I highly doubt that,” she says. “Your gifts are always exquisite and well thought out, even the ones that you consider ‘small.’” She does the finger quotes on the word small. I sigh. Amazingly, my gift comes in a portfolio, too, but I still think it pales in comparison to the treasure that she’s given me.
“None of them show… your face. Why?” I ask, softly. “Concept?” Her smile fades.
“Partially,” she confesses, looking down at the pictures in my hand. “The idea was to capture the beauty of my body… of the pregnancy, to focus on the splendor of the event.”
“You succeeded,” I say breathily. I’ve never seen more captivating, heart-stopping photos in my life. Well, maybe some of our wedding photos are a very, very close second, but nothing compares to these. I look up at her and realize that there’s more. “What else?”
“My face isn’t in them because…” She pauses and begins to wring her hands again. “…You didn’t take them.”
It takes me a moment. I look at the pictures again. She didn’t want her face in the pictures because I didn’t take them? I don’t understand. I look back up at her for some sort of clue, yet she gives me none but the nervous ringing of her hands.
… The same wringing that she was doing before I opened the package.
Someone else saw my wife’s naked body, and she was certain that I would flip out when I saw the pictures—that I would overlook all this beauty and splendor and focus on the photographer. That’s my fault. I’m ashamed, but not. I want her to know that she’s mine, that I love and want and value and treasure her so much that I don’t want another man laying eyes on her or having her, desiring her or taking her from me; but that same possessiveness almost cost me the priceless, ageless gift that I’m holding now.
I crawl over to my beautiful Butterfly and crouch on my knees on the floor in front of her. Taking both of her hands in mine, I kiss her knuckles and brush her fingers against my cheek. No more wringing these delicate hands, pretty one.
“I don’t care who took the pictures,” I say, looking up into her trepidatious blue eyes. “I don’t know what to say. ‘Thank you’ is not enough. There isn’t a man in the world as lucky and blessed and happy as I am right now. You give me so much and I struggle to match your offerings…”
“Christian!” she says in shock. “How can you say that? You’ve given me more mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually than any one person that I’ve ever known—and that’s very hard for me to say, considering the person that Raymond Steele is.” She holds her head down, shaking it from side to side. “I could never compare the two of you, because I love you both so much in different ways. You’ve both given me so, so much. Daddy came along and gave me his name and his home, then you came along and gave me a name and a home of my own. Daddy showed me how a man should love, cherish, respect, and treat a woman—with both of his wives, and you came along and became that man for me. I’ve always hoped to live a comfortable life, but this?” Her eyes grow large as she runs them over the mansion and lands them back onto me.
“You give me things that Daddy couldn’t give me though, Christian. You do things to my body, mind, and soul that no other man ever has, ever can, or ever will be able to do or make me feel.” Her fingers gently caress my hair above my ear, sending jolts of heat through my body. “You’re beautiful—a masterpiece formed straight from the hands of God, and you’re all mine.”
I rise to my knees so that my face meets hers, sultry blue eyes gazing into my salacious grays. Her fingers continue to gently caress my cheek, my ears, my neck, my hair… Sparks fire in my body as my hands glide over her hips. She parts her thighs and wraps her legs around me. Her lips brush my cheek and she kisses me just beneath my ear and softly nips my earlobe. I gasp at the sensation and strangely feel a tugging more in my chest than my groin. I pull her closer to me, enveloping my family in my arms.
“Soon, I’ll be able to see the greatest gift of all,” she whispers in my ear, “the two beautiful children that you have planted in me, allowed and trusted me to nurture all these months; given me the privilege to bring them into this world and love them and watch them grow… with you…”
“Baby, please…” She’s filling me with so much love that I honestly don’t think I can hold anymore. I close my eyes because I feel light-headed, and I feel her gentle lips caress my neck, my cheek, my chin, and finally, my lips. She tastes like sweet honey and I sink in allowing her to control the pace and intensity of the kiss. She pulls back, brushing her lips with mine and I feel bereft. I need her. I need more of her… now.
“You give me more than I can measure,” she says. “I am and forever will be the lucky one.”
With those words, we are locked in a kiss that transcends space and time. She is everything, and I love her beyond measure. If I could sink into her and become one person, I would be content to die there inside her being. There in the family room, she unbuttons my shirt and pushes it off my shoulders. I quickly undo the cufflinks while she thrust her hands back into my hair, hungrily kissing me once more. I relieve her of her sweater and bra and we sit there, skin to skin, both naked from the waist up caressing and kissing and working each other into a fevered frenzy. After an eternity—or a nanosecond—I pull a fraction away from her face.
“You haven’t opened your present yet, Mrs. Grey,” I breathe against her lips. She’s panting, hungry, gazing into my eyes. The fire flickers off her skin and sparkles in her irises and I can clearly read her desire, even this close.
“I’m opening it now,” she whispers, pulling my mouth back to hers.
So far, Christmas Eve has been marked with the continuing tradition of my wonderful cookie bake, Christmas songs, old Christmas movies, and a new tradition of earth-shattering sex! Last year, it was Santa Baby. This year, it was so much of us giving ourselves to each other that once we reached our pinnacles, we were both empty and spent as well as overflowing. I swear that the fire from the fireplace reached out and engulfed us both and we became phoenixes flying around observing the spectacle on some extraterrestrial plain, and when it was all over, Jason was waking us on Christmas morning tossing throws over us so that we could get our naked asses out of the middle of the family room floor.
I don’t even remember coming down.
Eventually, Christian gave me the gift he intended for me to open last night. It’s a babymoon scheduled for just after the new year. It’s a MamaLove retreat with so many activities for Mom, Mom and baby, and Mom and Dad that I’d never be able to go to them all. The retreat lasts from a weekend to seven days, however long we choose to stay. Christian assures me that everything is optional, but that he has been informed by several experts—his mother included—that I will need serious decompression and relaxation before the babies are born, and he wants to make sure that I get it. Just like I said, his gifts are always exquisite… and thoughtful.
We start Christmas morning with a magnificent Christmas brunch with the six usual suspects—myself and Christian, Gail and Jason, and Keri and Chuck. This morning we are also joined by Al and James. As James has vowed not to go back to Arizona again, we have invited him and Al to spend Christmas with us. Our magnificent meal consists of maple granola with fruit and nuts; ricotta, rosemary, and tomato mini quiche; eggnog coffee cake muffins; baked pumpkin cream cheese French toast; cinnamon crescent twists; tomato-cheddar strata with broccoli; maple-sage pork sausage; Belgian waffles; garlic potatoes; cardamom cake with coffee glaze; and pomegranate-apple cocktails as well as your choice of gourmet coffee. I splurged and chose a white coffee spiced with cinnamon and cardamom.
I am perfectly stuffed when we decide to go upstairs and change so that we can take Chuck to the Fairmont for what he thinks is a simple afternoon of gift exchange and later, dinner with his parents. I want to wear something somewhat dressy that will phase easily into dinner with the Greys, so I opt for a simple but classy black maternity halter maxi-dress with a chain-necklace collar. It has a racer-cut design with a front split and a zip back with cut out detail. My accessories consist of a black oversized vintage Chanel jet crystal cuff bracelet, Allen Schwartz gold embellished bangles on the other arm, butterfly stud earrings in rose gold and white with black diamonds, and a ridiculously expensive Hermes black Birkin tote with gold hardware—all Christmas gifts from Christian this year. The Birkin alone was five figures—more than twenty grand—which I think is utterly insane! We could have stocked the pantries of Helping Hands for a year with that money! Then my husband reminds me that we’re billionaires and that this is one of the trappings of wealth… being able to spend ridiculous money on things that we just want. He also reminds me that Grace wouldn’t accept the money anyway, so I should just enjoy my ridiculously expensive purse.
My ankles aren’t swollen today, so I opt for a pair of suede, lace-up peep-toe stiletto booties and slip into my long, rose fine-knit Dolman-sleeve cardigan for a pop of color against the black. My husband is dressed in an Armani shirt and slacks and a pair of dress shoes, probably Armani, too—very simple and tasteful… and hot. Then again, the man could make a potato sack look good.
“Mrs. Grey, you look divine, but I’m afraid those shoes won’t last through the day,” he warns, examining my stilettos.
“Well, I’m only going to wear them while they’re comfortable,” I reply. “If they start to hurt or bother me, I’ll take them off.”
“I don’t want you to take a spill and hurt yourself,” he scolds. I fist my hands at my hips.
“I haven’t forgotten how to walk, Christian!” I snap, slightly affronted. He puts his hands up in surrender.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” he acquiesces. “I was just concerned; I wasn’t trying to say that you couldn’t wear them.” I put my head down.
“I know,” I whine. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” I see his feet move closer to me and his finger under my chin. He lifts my eyes to his.
“Hey,” he says softly. “None of that. This is a happy day, and you look absolutely breathtaking.” He plants a small kiss on my lips, causing me to blush and smile a bit. “I like this. It’s very pretty.” He caresses my “Elsa” braid as it flows over my shoulder.
“Thank you,” I say softly. He extends his elbow to me.
“Shall we go, Mrs. Grey?” he says with his award-winning 32-teeth blinding white smile. I take his arm and smile widely.
“We shall, Mr. Grey,” I reply and he leads me out of the room.
Maddie and Nelson are waiting in the lobby of the Fairmont when we arrive in the early afternoon. Al and James have gone on to Bellevue and will meet us there with the rest of the family, including Daddy, Mandy, and little Harry. Chuck is in great spirits as he and Keri walk through the lobby towards his parents. He insisted on just using his crutches today, vowing to take a seat if he gets too tired. The hotel staff has stashed away his wheelchair just in case to keep Keri from having a coronary. It would be a shame in this Bodycon round neck short sleeve bowknot black and white dress that she’s wearing with leather stilettos similar to mine. She really looks stunning. Not to be outdone, Chuck sports a blue designer suit and burgundy silk tie. His parents look just as dashing in formal dinner wear as they greet us with hugs and smiles.
“You’re looking extremely beautiful, today Keri,” Nelson says. “What are you doing hanging out with this mug?”
We laugh light-heartedly as Keri humbly thanks Nelson for the compliment and we head toward the elevators.
The Fairmont Olympic prides itself on its holiday decorations. I believe they have more Christmas trees in this place than we have in the mansion, and that says a lot because we have a lot of trees. The largest tree is in the lobby, of course. It’s quite beautiful and stands two stories tall. Various smaller trees grace the lobby as well, intricately decorated and displaying various placards describing sponsors, donors, or honorariums. Santa’s Workshop is just off to the right, complete with a life-sized Santa checking his list.
The elevator ride is quiet and once we reach the second floor, the noise from the Garden makes it clear that something is amiss.
“Is there a party going on up here?” Chuck asks.
“Of course, there is,” Nelson says. “It’s Christmas, Chuckie.” Chuck shrugs like it’s obvious and we continue to around the corner to the large ballroom known as the Garden. A large glass wall of 30-foot Palladian windows floods the room with gorgeous natural light while beautiful, lush tropical foliage and a running waterfall brings the outdoors indoors. The middle of the room is a parquet dance floor; several tables around the outside are filled with chattering guests.
Within a moment, a net is released from the ceiling and black and white balloons fall over the room while a larger than life banner unfurls to reveal the words “Welcome Back, Chuckie!” The room explodes in applause and a stunned Charles and even more stunned Keri don’t quite know how to react. The guests in the ballroom begin to make their way to the guest of honor, and recognition slowly grows over his face. He’s finally seeing his family.
“It’s Christmas, Chuckie,” Nelson says again. “Of course, there’s a party.”
Chuck smiles widely and embraces his father again before the mass of people converge upon him. I see him grab Keri’s hand quickly so as not to lose her in the crowd and the hugs and introductions begin. Christian quickly sweeps me out of the way as Jason does Gail so that we aren’t caught in the stampede. Chuck is in heaven. I can see his blue eyes sparkling all that way from here. He won’t get out of that crowd for several minutes, nor do I think he wants to.
“We better go,” I whisper to Christian. He looks down at me and nods. He waves to get Nelson’s attention, and he and Maddie join us away from the crowd.
“Can’t you stay for a while, maybe meet some of the family?” Nelson asks, and Maddie’s eyes beseech us as well.
“I wish we could,” he says, glancing over at Chuck. “He’s been really waiting for this. He almost gave up.” He looks back at Nelson. “My parents and grandfather are waiting for us. We’ll try to get back early if we can. Either way, either we or one of the staff will be back to get Chuck and Keri in the SUV when he’s ready to go. You’ll let him know?” Nelson nods.
“You’re a good man, Christian,” Nelson says, shaking his hand firmly. “A good friend to my son. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, sir,” Christian says, before putting his arm around me. “Our pleasure.” Nelson releases his hand and takes mine, kissing my knuckles like a true gentleman.
“Thank you,” he says with grateful blue eyes that look like Chuck’s and I smile.
“Anytime,” I reply, softly. He moves on to thank Jason and Gail and Maddie takes me in a warm, matronly embrace.
“I’m glad he saved your life,” she whispers in my ear before releasing me and gazing into my eyes. “I have a feeling the world is a better place with you in it.” I swallow hard, desperately fighting the tears welling in my eyes.
“That’s such a beautiful thing to say,” I squeak, my voice barely escaping my throat. She squeezes my arms and moves on to give Christian a hug. He’s still having a time hugging strangers, but he doesn’t fall all stiff and go into panic mode like he used to. He just bears it more now, like a pinch that you’re waiting to end, unless it’s someone he doesn’t mind like me or Mia or Grace or Luma… or kids. He seems to like it when children hug him. Their innocence gives him hope, I think.
We say our goodbyes and head to the door. Surely, Al and James have made it to the Greys by now and probably Mandy and Daddy, too. We had better get going.
His voice bellows through the ballroom like a bullhorn and everything stops. We turn to face Chuck, hobbling quickly and masterfully across the floor on his crutches towards us. He stops short right in front of Christian and shakes his hand firmly.
“Thank you,” he says with a wide smile. “I know it was you.” He doesn’t even try to deny it.
“You’re very welcome, Chuck,” Christian says, returning his shake and surprising us all by taking Chuck in a half embrace. “Thank you,” he says before releasing him a few seconds later, “and Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, man,” Chuck says, gripping his hand firmly for a few more moments before releasing it and turning to me. He takes me in a firm embrace. “I love you,” he says, his voice cracking, and now I’m a ball of mush.
“I love you, too, Chuck,” I whisper in his ear. When he releases me, I see that he’s crying, too, and neither of us try to stop the tears. He shows equal sentiment to Jason and Gail before he and his parents return to his family reunion.
“No crying for Lady Anastasia,” Christian says as he wipes the tears from my cheeks with the handkerchief from his pocket. “It’s Christmas.”
“I’m trying,” I say softly, composing myself for the long walk across the lobby.
“Come. Let’s go enjoy the rest of our day,” he says, tucking me under his arm and leading me back to the elevators.
A/N: The movie Christian is talking about with the kid in foster care is Antwone Fischer.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/
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Love and handcuffs 🙂