So, it’s been a while. I’ve lost a few readers and gained a few more. Such is life. Okay, two quick issues to address before we get on with our story.
While I was away, I received a comment or three while people were reading. One of them was some girl or person chastising me for something I hadn’t even written yet! I don’t remember their name because I deleted it already—I just know that it started with a “J,” but it was something about the babymoon being code for some traumatic thing that was supposed to happen to our couple and all I could think was “Could you fucking let me write the goddamn story before you take off on me about it???”
I can honestly say that this is the first time since I started writing this story three years ago that someone has chastised me for something I DIDN’T EVEN WRITE YET! Talk about arrogance! I mean, damn! I understand seeing patterns in someone’s writing style and maybe being able to see what might be forthcoming, but to check someone for something that hasn’t even been presented yet??? That’s like the police arresting someone on the street and saying, “You’re going to murder someone next year, so we’ll just lock you up right now to avoid the problem.”
This wasn’t an opinion—this was someone actually chastising me, because they said something like “can’t you let them have some peace” or some shit like that. So for that person that left that smarmy ass comment and I really hope you’re reading this, you chastise children—you don’t chastise me! The next time you feel the need, take your ass up off my page and don’t come back. I won’t miss you!
(God, it felt good getting that off my chest!)
Now, the other thing… I want to thank everyone who has supported me through email and on social media throughout this VERY TRYING TIME of my life. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. If you have added me on Facebook and I have not accepted your request, please be sure that there is A PICTURE ON YOUR PROFILE. There has been too much going on with hacking and while I would like to see that a person has some kind of Facebook history, if you are new to Facebook, I know that is not possible. So you will have to at least have a picture on your profile or I won’t add you. I have also had some issues with Nigerian men (no joke) wanting to “meet nice girl and talk and make friend” and I just don’t have time for that.
So now, we’re going to move on with the story you’ve been waiting for where I give my characters peace or torment them or whatever the fuck I want to do to them.
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 47—All That Glitters
My husband is terrified. I don’t think I can ever remember a time when he was terrified before. I could see it in his eyes—hollow and gray and frightened. As if he could possibly envelope my entire body with his, he did last night. He covered nearly every part of my skin, protectively cocooning the babies and me while we slept… well, while they slept. I didn’t sleep much at all, what with the nighttime wrestling match in my belly and my ever-present, 110-degree husband wrapped around me.
I was distracted the entire day at the Center. I couldn’t focus at all. The only thing I could think about was this guy and the Mafia and someone possibly coming to Helping Hands to hurt me because of this bastard Anton Myrick. It seems like the minute we put out one fire, another one is right behind it. I didn’t pay much attention to Courtney as she seems to be doing fine on her own, thank God. Whatever lesson she needs to learn, I hope that she’s learning it because I really couldn’t focus on her today anyway.
Chuck’s parents are still here and have decided to stay at Chuck’s house in Bainbridge for a while to reconnect with him, which makes Joseph none too happy. He wasn’t invited to stay and had to be literally kicked out of the Fairmont Olympic when the Davenports checked out and housekeeping discovered him still in the room. He attempted to weasel his way into Chuck’s house, but was met with unequivocal denial from all concerned parties and now as far as we know, he’s staying in some dive somewhere as he refuses to go back to South Dakota. We are, of course, staying tuned for further developments.
Al is finalizing the paperwork to liquidate as much of David’s assets as possible and have the proceeds donated to Helping Hands. The business will be operated and managed by GEH with whatever profits that are not necessary for operating expenses or any necessary expansions to also be donated to Helping Hands. Employees will enjoy the same benefits as GEH employees—which means that their measly health, dental, and vision packages will be expanded and will also include paid holidays, vacations, and sick days as well as tuition reimbursement, 401K, long-term disability, life insurance, and many other benefits and coverages that the cheap ass bastard didn’t offer them. How he kept people working for him, I’ll never know. I guess everyone needs a job somewhere.
It’s now late afternoon and I don’t remember doing anything productive whatsoever with my day. It’s like it all went by me in a blur of what the fuck is happening in my life. My husband—who only 18 months ago was trying to convince me not to carry my guns—is now armed and dangerous and just last night told me to be sure to stay “locked and loaded.” Most of the day, I found myself seriously considering a thigh strap with a .22.
“So, you said that you wanted to discuss this new bout of shrinking?” Ace asks as I’m sitting in his office for my session on Friday.
“I didn’t even know that I was doing it,” I confess. “I wish Christian had said something to me before he called you.”
“He didn’t know how to approach the issue,” he says. “You have to be delicate with these things, especially with your injury and with your condition. I’d like to talk about what happened that day if you don’t mind covering that.” I sigh. I shake my head. “You don’t want to cover that?”
“No, it’s not that…” I just have so much shit on my mind, I don’t know what to talk about today. “I was trying to help this girl… or her grandparents…”
“Courtney, I remember,” he says.
“Yes, and you remember that she threatened me…”
“Well, she came back.” He frowns.
“She threatened you again?”
“No, she begged me to help her… or Grace begged me to help her. They both did. I didn’t commit to anything at first. I just told her to get out of my sight and go do something and then I went home.” He makes that “ew” face where you stretch the skin of your bottom lip and chin across your jaw.
“Yeah, that was Christian’s reaction, only a lot more verbal,” I lament.
“Okay,” he says, expecting, dragging the word out on the end.
“He was more confused and frustrated than angry. He was in disbelief. He wasn’t yelling or anything, just… flabbergasted.”
“And that’s when you shrank,” he points out.
“I didn’t see it as shrinking,” I reply. “My head was hurting and I was just rubbing the site of my scar.” He nods.
“Um-hmm. How often does that site hurt?” I frown. I have to think about it.
“Um, a few times… um…” How often does it hurt? I don’t know.
“Before the discussion with Christian, when was the last time you realized it was hurting?” Again I have to think really hard. I don’t really know. It’s not like I keep a journal of it, though after this, that might not be a bad idea. I think the last time I remember feeling the pain was…
“Monday… when I kicked Courtney out of my office. My blood pressure was up; I was very angry.”
“And the time before that? Do you remember?”
“If you’re trying to find out if it hurts when I’m agitated, yes, it does,” I tell him. “The doctor said that would be a possibility.”
“Okay, and I don’t doubt that that’s true. Your aggravated state could very well cause an increase in blood flow to the area. Let me start by saying that I’m not discounting what you’re feeling, but I’d bet money on it that if there was a test that could be performed, you would find that some of what you’re feeling is most likely phantom pain. If that’s the case, that could be contributing to your shrinking.”
My shoulders fall. Oh, this is just ducky. I’m fighting enough emotional issues to fend off the shrinking. Now, he’s telling me that I most likely have a physical trigger. I go back to my original tell and my hand flies to my forehead.
“What am I supposed to do about that?” I whine. “I didn’t even know that I was shrinking until you and Christian said something about it. I never know when I’m shrinking. He usually tells me immediately. It took him three days this time.” That’s why he ended the conversation so abruptly and sent me off to the kitchen. I’m only just now realizing that.
“Talk to your neurologist about the pain in the scar and when it happens. Is it ever random?” I shake my head.
“Not that I can remember,” I reply, discouraged.
“Again, it could definitely be an increase in blood flow and I could be all wrong about this, but it could be a blessing in disguise, Ana. By all means, talk to your doctor to make sure there are no physical concerns with the discomfort you’re feeling. In terms of the shrinking, try to use this as a signal that this unhealthy behavior may be on its way. It can actually help you consciously avoid doing it. You would be able to employ the coping techniques that you had been using before to keep from shrinking, even if that means letting the person or situation know that you need a time-out so that you can regroup and come back with a clearer head.”
“Isn’t that the same as running?” I ask, my brow furrowed.
“No, it’s very different,” he retorts. “Your time out is the same as Christian’s counting. It’s a method of taking a moment to regain control. Bad things happen when we lose control of situations—we make bad decisions; quit jobs; lose relationships; people get hurt; people die. When you take a moment to step away—breathe and clear your thoughts—then you handle situations more rationally. You process information more logically. It’s not running away at all. It’s actually good emotional and mental management.”
I nod. It makes sense. I’ve told my own patients many times about time-outs, but I figured it was different since I have an issue with running. The doctor did say that I would experience some discomfort in the site of the stitches, and I do. I’ll talk to him about my concerns; I certainly don’t want to ignore any possible warning signs, but Ace is right. This is an excellent opportunity to identify this behavior before it happens and nip it in the bud, especially since I thought I had already nipped it and it appears to have returned.
“I hadn’t considered that, but since you put it that way, it makes perfect sense,” I say, every cell in my body feeling ultimate relief, at least in that one situation. “Courtney’s changed,” I say. “I don’t mean to change gears so quickly, but since the last situation seems all but solved except to talk to Dr. Hill about any possible health concerns, I just figure we might as well move on.”
“Um, okay, then let’s,” he says with a shrug. “Do you really think she’s changed?” I nod.
“Something has,” I respond. “I don’t know if it’s genuine, if it’s permanent, or what, but there’s a change. She won’t let me call her grandmother. She’s at the Center all the time—before I get there, after I leave… I’ll dismiss her and I look up and she’s run off to another part of the Center doing some other task. She doesn’t know that I know and if she’s doing it for recognition, she’s not doing it for my recognition. I thought it might have been for Grace’s, but with the Center being so close to certification, she’s got her hands full and she’s certainly not looking at Little Miss Melon Girl.”
“You’re still calling her that?” Ace laughs. I chuckle with him.
“Not really. It just pops out sometimes.”
“Could she be living at the Center?” he asks. I shake my head.
“I suspected and I actually checked that, but no, she’s not. I get a report of the residents every day and she’s not on it. I have to check on them regularly to see how they’re progressing and to make sure that they aren’t making the Center their home. You know, Helping Hands is a stop on the path to reestablishing yourself, not a permanent residence. So we have to make sure that everyone is still moving forward. So far, so good, but no—Courtney’s not one of those people unless someone has conveniently kept her out of my sight and that would be very nearly impossible to do.”
“But not totally impossible,” he presses.
“I suppose not, but they would have to have the cooperation of Grace, the security staff, the dining staff, half the support staff, everyone would have to be sworn to secrecy… There are too many people loyal to me in that place for something like that to be kept from me.”
“But it could,” he says. I sigh. What is he getting at?
“Yes, it could, but it’s not likely,” I tell him, my voice rising a bit in frustration. “Do you realize the level of betrayal that would have to occur for that girl to be staying at Helping Hands without my knowledge? She threatened me, so she’s on a watch list. That means that my security paid with my money would have to know that she’s staying there and not tell me. Grace, who begged me to take her under my wing again, would have to know that she’s staying there and not tell me. People who work under me and next to me every day would have to know that she’s staying there and not tell me. Even the residents who may not be aware of the particulars of our relationship would somehow have to be involved in the deception so that they wouldn’t let something slip that she’s a resident, too. My husband and I had to go toe-to-toe with one of our residents’ husband and she, at the very least, would not be coerced into keeping a secret like this from me…”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” Ace apologizes, his hands raised in ultimate surrender. “I wasn’t trying to imply that this was some kind of conspiracy. I was just offering a possible explanation of why she’s always there. I didn’t realize that it would have to be such an intricate ordeal for her to stay. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean any harm by it.” My hand goes to my throbbing scar, rubbing it to seek some relief.
“I know you didn’t,” I say with a defeated sigh. “I see conspiracies everywhere. I still haven’t completely gotten over the previous attacks on us and attempts on our lives, which at this point are beginning to be too many to name. My position at the center puts me at risk with disgruntled husbands and significant others; Courtney went ‘boo’ and I got all verklempt; Chuck’s brother is back in town. He flew in on Christmas after his parents wouldn’t return his calls.” And there’s the “ew” face again.
“Okay, help me out a bit. I knew that Chuck’s parents thought he was dead, but what happened after that?” Oh shit…
“Dammit! Things have been happening so quickly, I thought you already knew…”
I take the next several minutes to bring him up to date on all that is the life of Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey. Shrinking and throbbing scars are the least of my worries. We’ve got this damn Meet-and-Greet tonight which I would rather chew glass than attend, and I have to worry about if the Detroit cartel is going to have a sniper planted on the roof across the street! This close to delivery, I now have to be concerned about too many things that can go bump in the night, and quite frankly, I’m tired.
“Anastasia, it’s time for a break,” Ace says definitively. “Your last vacation was your honeymoon, and any decompressing effects it could have had were negated by the fact that it was cut short and the reason it was cut short. In the six months since, you have been emotionally and physically battered and tormented and in about a month, you are about to give birth to twins. I don’t know what Christian and your schedules look like, but I’m telling you as your psychiatrist and as a professional, you. Need. A break. Now! You’re going to explode if you don’t—or have a nervous breakdown. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that Grace even approached you about taking Courtney on since she’s well aware of the history and considering your condition.”
“Her intentions were good,” I try to defend.
“Well, then she should have taken her on.”
“She has a history with Courtney, too. It reaches back further and a bit deeper than mine.” Ace throws his hands up in disgust.
“Further illustrating my confusion,” he declares. “You are my patient. You’ve had a more traumatic year than any of the patients I see. That’s more information than I should share with you, but at this point, I don’t care. You are not going to be another shark’s tooth!”
Okay, he’s serious. I had better pay attention.
“If I see you next week, I want you to tell me that you’re planning your vacation for the next week or so, when you’re leaving, and when you will be back. Hopefully, I won’t see you next week because you’ll already be on that vacation, and you’ll be calling me to cancel your appointment. If I don’t hear from you in the next seven days that you’re going on vacation, I’m calling your husband.” I frown at him.
“You can lose your license for that,” I warn.
“Uh-huh,” he nods, without skipping a beat. This is definitely cause for pause.
“You would… jeopardize your license over this?” I ask, surprised.
“I would,” he replies. “I would do everything in my power to prevent a catastrophe that I can clearly see coming than to ignore all the signs or sweep them under the rug and end up with another souvenir, even if it’s only mental.” His eyes flash a mixture of hazel and green, piercing, and I can see that he is recalling his unsuccessful Stoley. I nod.
“Okay,” I concede. “We have a vacation planned… a babymoon. He’s just waiting for my word. This weekend is a definite no-go, but I’ll tell him that I’d like to go next weekend.” Ace sighs, visibly relieved that I am taking his advice.
“Okay,” he nods. “Doctor’s orders. Tell him I said so.” I nod and stand, moving towards the door. I have no idea if our time is up, but it’s pretty clear that this session is over.
“Ace?” I say before walking out of the door. He raises his head to look at me. “It’s really not that bad. I’ll take the vacation because I agree with you that I need it, but I’m not the shark’s tooth.” He just stares at me for a moment.
“Prove it.” That’s all he says. I nod and leave his office.
“I don’t know how you do it, but you are stunning, Mrs. Grey.” Christian kisses me behind the ear as I step into his office at Grey House. He apparently had something that needed to be discussed with security—probably this whole Detroit Cartel thing—and needed to stay at the office instead of coming back to the Crossing. He asked me to bring one of his dinner suits and a tie of my choosing. I chose a black bespoke Henry Poole suit with a deep cut vest and even though the vest calls for a bow tie, I scoffed at tradition and chose a long black tie to go with the suit.
“Interesting choice, Mrs. Grey,” he says, examining the suit and tie. “I may have to forego the waistcoat for the tie, though.”
“Just… try it on, for me,” I say, coyly. He smiles and kisses me sweetly on the cheek before going to the bathroom to change. I walk around his desk and imagine briefly what it would feel like to sit in his seat and rule the world every day. Even though I already know that it’s there, it always tickles me to see my picture staring right at his seat of power to the immediate right of his computer. “I’ve decided when I’d like to take my babymoon.”
“Oh?” he calls from the bathroom, the door still open. “When?”
“Next weekend.” There’s a moment of silence, then he emerges in the shirt and slacks from the dinner suit. Good God, this man changes like Superman! Faster than a speeding bullet…
“That’s actually good timing,” he says as he snaps his cufflinks into place.
“Good timing for what?” I ask. He examines his cuff links for a moment, then looks back up at me.
“Everything,” he says, matter-of-factly. “Just after the new year and right before the babies are born—let’s face it, Butterfly. We’re running out of time.” He raises his eyebrows at me before hurriedly going back to the bathroom. Why do I feel like there’s more to that answer than that? “What made you decide on this weekend?” He calls from the bathroom.
“Ace,” I reply. He emerges again, tying his tie in a Windsor knot.
“Ace?” he asks frowning. I nod. “How so?”
“He was willing to risk his license if I didn’t agree to take a vacation.” Christian stops tying his tie and stares at me, waiting for the rest of the explanation. “He was going to call you and tell you about our session.”
“We talk about your treatment all the time,” he says, bemused, turning to the mirror behind his bar and finishing his Windsor knot.
“Most often, that’s with my permission or you initiate the call to him for advice or if there’s an emergency. By law, he’s not allowed to discuss my treatment with you otherwise, unless he feels like it’s a life or death situation. Apparently, he does.” Christian glares at me in the mirror.
“He had a Stoley.” There’s that bemused look again. “You remember—my only success story from the group meetings, widower, couldn’t sleep, was going to kill himself…”
“Oh, yeah! The 1965 bottle of Remy Martin.” I cock my head at him.
“That’s how you remember Stoley?” I ask appalled.
“It’s kind of hard to forget,” he says with a shrug. I roll my eyes and shake my head. When I make eye-contact with him again, he has that look in his eye.
“Oh, save it, Grey,” I say, waving him off. “One of the most significant events in my career and you only remember the expensive alcohol. I’m entitled to an eye roll.” He chuckles to himself and goes back to the bathroom.
“You still haven’t told me how Ace thought this was life or death for you. I would really like to know,” he says, returning with his shoes.
“Like I was saying, he had a Stoley, but his wasn’t a success story. His guy ended up going to Africa or someplace, killing a great white, and taking the actual shark’s tooth. He gave the tooth to Ace as a souvenir and convinced him that it was fossilized. He revealed the truth to Ace in a suicide note that Ace received after the guy was already gone.” Christian’s “ew” face is a bit more horrifying than Ace’s.
“Fucking hell,” he says, almost under his breath as he heads towards the bathroom again.
“Indeed,” I reply. “He’s afraid I’ll be another shark’s tooth.” Christian whirls around to face me.
“What the hell did you say to that man to make him think you were going to kill yourself?” he demands.
“I don’t know,” I yelp defensively. “I told him I didn’t think the situation was that serious at all. He said ‘prove it,’ which is why I want to take my babymoon. And this…” I’m pointing at him now. “…Is why I didn’t want him to tell you.”
“Well, it’s a bit of a moot point now, isn’t it?” he says, proceeding into the bathroom to get his waistcoat and suit jacket. I shake my head again and hold it down, determined not to reach for my scar and mess up my hair. I won’t do the shrinking either. Instead, I put my hands on my neck and massage the pressure points behind my ears a bit, counting backwards from ten and imagining a peaceful babbling brook.
I hear his voice when I get to three.
“Hmm?” I say, raising my head and eyes to meet his gaze.
“Yeah,” I say, unable to hide my weariness. “I just really need that vacation.” He comes over to me and gently forces me down into his desk chair.
“Is Ace right?” he asks, taking my hand and sitting on the desk in front of me. I won’t cry. I’ll answer his question, but I won’t cry.
“About the vacation, yes; about the shark’s tooth, no. It’s not that bad, but let’s face it, Christian. It’s been a really fucked-up year.” My voice cracks on the last word. “Even my honeymoon…” I trail off. He pulls me out of the seat and into his arms.
“Ssh, ssh, ssh, none of that,” he says. “We’ll leave Friday and we’ll decide how long we want to stay from there, okay?” I nod. Taking my face in his hands, he kisses me gently on the lips.
“Now, come on. I want to showcase my beautiful wife to my newly acquired subsidiary.” He smiles widely and it warms me through to my soul. I was right—it’s unconventional, but the long tie looks really good with the deep-cut vest. He takes my hand and leads me to the elevator.
The third-floor ballroom is wall-to-wall with Christian’s latest acquisition. Everyone is dressed in their “Sunday best,” and no one dressed too ostentatiously. Vickie’s choices for me were perfect for the evening—at least they would have been, in different company. I’m soon to find out that nothing I wore this evening would have been acceptable.
Christian guides me through the crowd, my hand tucked protectively in his elbow, as he is greeted by various gentlemen in suits. I’m introduced to several gentlemen and the women I assume are their wives as “Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, my wife and part-owner of Grey Enterprises Holdings.” This brought an air of respect from most of the gentlemen who met me… most. However, the women were obviously not impressed. In fact, they seemed a bit resentful. Every last one of them greeted me like Kate did the first day that I met her. By the time I got to the fifth or sixth one of them treating me this way, I just greeted them with an insincere smile and a nod.
I’m not even sure how long this continues, but it seems to go on forever until Christian finally steered us towards our seats.
“How do your cheeks feel?” he asks after he assures that I’m comfortable in my seat.
“I know my wife. Are they aching yet?” I look up into his gray eyes and know that I’m unable to hide anything from him so I may as well not even try.
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I admit.
“If it’s any consolation, you’re charming the pants off of these men… literally,” he adds.
“Noooo,” I say, whining a bit. “That’s not any consolation. These women already hate me for reasons unknown. The fact that their men are all twitterpated isn’t going to make it any better!” Christian lets out a loud chuckle, then covers his mouth. I slap him on the arm. “Stop making fun of me!” I whine again, louder than I intended.
“I’m sorry, the Bambi reference caught me off guard,” he says, still laughing. I elbow him playfully in the side, causing him to release a slight giggle almost like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I fold my arms and turn away from him mocking injury only to discover that we have a small audience. I make eye-contact with the few women enjoying the show—some in adoration of my gorgeous husband, others in pure contempt—before turning back to my husband.
“Don’t look now, but I think we’re the floor show,” I whisper to him. He inconspicuously glances around the room like he’s looking for someone, then leans back into me.
“I think you’re right,” he says. “I’m trying to get a feel for these people. Unfortunately, I’m not going to get a good read on them while I have my beautifully distracting wife on my arm. After dinner, we might have to split up—divide and conquer.” I sigh and nod.
“I definitely know that this is business before pleasure, Mr. Grey. By all means, do what must be done.” He kisses me on the cheek.
“Thank you for understanding.” I squeeze his hand and smile.
“You got something against red meat, Grey?” a guy at our table asks once desert is served. He’s been gruff and a bit rude at times all through dinner—nothing overt, though Christian has thrown more than a few threatening glances in his direction.
“No, I like a good steak just fine, George. My wife, on the other hand, is having a bit of a problem with it since her pregnancy.” Christian retorts.
“That’s Fairlane. Only my friends call me George. I guess it’s a good thing no one really wanted steak, huh? No use in putting the little woman out for 200 guests, right?” he quips.
“Georgie, stop it!” The gentleman to George’s immediate right quietly attempts to silence him, but it’s too late. I’m glaring at him with daggers in my eyes as I utterly hate that reference and Christian is well aware of that. I feel his demeanor change next to me.
“Well, first of all, George,” he begins without altering his original tone, “Your father is here tonight…” He gestures to the gentleman who attempted to silence George earlier. “… So he will be Mr. Fairlane. You will be George… unless you prefer that I call you Junior.” His glare dares George to rebut. He does not.
“Second, your head of PR—who is here tonight—has an allergy to shellfish. So you saw no crab, lobster, shrimp or any shellfish ingredients or components on tonight’s menu. Additionally, members of your accounting, IT, and R&D teams all have allergies to nuts—so nothing has been prepared with peanut oil or any nuts whatsoever. Finally, George, your wife…” He gestures to the woman sitting next to Mr. Fairlane, Sr. “… Is allergic to fresh flowers. So these beautiful centerpieces are all fake.” George’s face falls like a duly chastised child. He straightens his tie and takes a drink of whatever is in his cocktail glass. “So, yes, while 200 guests might have been put out for my wife in her delicate condition, they may have also suffered a bit of inconvenience for a few other members of our party, wouldn’t you say?”
George is brooding, glaring at Christian and trying to find a comeback that stabs as much as the ones that were just thrust at him, but my husband wasn’t finished.
“One more thing,” he continues. “My wife detests the term ‘little woman’ as do I, so I will thank you never to use that term when referring to her ever again.”
“You’re getting a little testy, there, aren’t you, Grey?” George says, attempting to belittle my husband. “No harm meant by the phrase. How many of us haven’t called the wife ‘the little woman?’” he adds, trying to garner support from the other men at the table and getting none.
“How you refer to your wife has nothing to do with me,” Christian retorts, his voice still controlled. “My wife, however, is not to be referred to as ‘the little woman.’”
“You got that right,” I hear from one of the women to my left. The statement wasn’t loud enough for the table to hear it, but I turn just in time to see two women giggling among themselves at their little private joke. Oh, fuck, seriously?
“You will refer to my wife as Mrs. or Dr. Grey, or Ana or Anastasia if she gives you permission,” he adds.
“Oh, but you can call me George?” he questions. Christian turns slightly to face him.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to prove right now, but I don’t need to make any displays of who wears the pants in this particular situation, and you know what I mean.” This is the first time my husband’s voice has changed and I see the guns loading.
Stand down, Georgie. Stand down.
“Mr. Fairlane, let’s make something perfectly clear. I’m not one for drawing battle lines before the ink is dry on the paper, but I can if that’s what you choose.”
The table has fallen deadly silent. Even the giggling women next to me are dumbstruck. Dessert forks hang suspended in the air while everyone waits for Georgie Fairlane Jr., to decide if we will be enjoying rich chocolate, caramel, or vanilla confections or if we’ll have ringside seats to the “Rumble at Grey House.” Tossing his napkin on the table, George decides that he would much rather take his anger to the terrace with the other smokers than to attempt to go a round or three with Christian Grey.
“Grey, I apologize,” George’s father begins when his son leaves the table.
“Don’t,” Christian says, and behind his cool demeanor, I can tell that he’s counting. He closes his eyes for a moment and when they open, his impassive gaze is back, but I know better. He’s murderous right now. “We’re all adults here. I’ve bought many companies before. I know how this goes. We’ll just have to see in the end,” he says, taking a deep breath and letting it out.
“I guess so,” Fairlane Sr., says, his voice betraying nothing. “I’ll… um, go see how he’s doing.” Christian nods and Fairlane escapes in search of his son. It only takes a few moments for everyone else to excuse themselves and escape from the table as well. Christian’s calm demeanor shatters a bit when they’re all gone and he throws his napkin violently onto the table. I reach over and touch his hand and he calms immediately.
“They’re already poisoned,” he says. “I don’t know how far it is and the only way for me to find out is to start working the room.”
“Do what you have to do,” I tell him. I feel the very unwelcome vibe myself and my husband has just bought this company full of Brutuses and Judases and must discover just how deep the shit river runs. He kisses me on the cheek before he stands and buttons his jacket. I can see him preparing for battle as he makes his way to another table, standing like the general that he is and capturing his audience. I watch as the women gaze upon him salaciously and some of the men eye him speculatively—hanging on every word—while others could easily kill him dead with a glance.
Like a sound floating towards you as if you’re coming out of a dream, I hear murmurings and giggles behind me. Without turning around, I have to focus my attention on what I’m hearing as opposed to watching my gorgeous husband work the room.
“I suppose she’s too good interact with the common folk,” one woman says.
“I hear his mistress torpedoed her car and when he found out, he paid the woman off to leave town,” another one says.
“I heard something completely different,” a third piped in. “I heard he put a hit out on her because she made him sign a prenup where she gets everything if they divorce.”
“Yes, and she had to get pregnant because that way he couldn’t just leave her with nothing. That was in the prenup, too.”
“I guess all that glitters isn’t gold, huh? I used to be so jealous of her, living in that big house. It turns out that it’s all a fraud…”
I can’t listen to any more of this. I stand and take my cranberry spritzer and decide to make my way around the room as well. I might as well see just how bad the poison really is, because if it’s as bad as what I’ve just heard, we’ve just bought a rotten peach.
As I wander around the room, watching groups of people converse casually among each other, I notice that the moment I get close, the chatter stops. If I happen to pass a group of women, there’s a giggle behind me. Every. Single. Time. So apparently, I or we are the talk of the Meet-and-Greet, and not in a good way. In an attempt to test my theory, I walk right up to a group of chattering women and introduce myself.
“Yes, we know who you are,” one woman says rather coldly and no one bothers to reciprocate the introduction.
“Are you all enjoying yourselves?” I ask in an attempt to be cordial.
“As much as can be expected,” another one quips.
“Are these events usually not enjoyable? This is my first one,” I reply.
“Oh?” the first woman says. “Mr. Grey is famous for attending his social events. Doesn’t he invite you?” Her words bite and my usual tiger responses appear to be evading me at the moment.
“Yes, he does,” I reply in a controlled voice, “I mean to say that this is the first Meet-and-Greet I’ve attended of one of the companies that we’ve acquired.”
“Hmm, interesting,” the second one says, sipping her wine. A third stands by quietly, sipping her wine and observing the exchange with distracted disinterest. I suddenly feel like the elephant in the room. Literally. The silence is deafening as I search for something to say to these disagreeable, snippy bitches, but the first one solves that problem for me.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to refresh my drink.” She turns ceremoniously away from me and walks in a direction nowhere near towards the bar.
“Wait, I’ll come with you,” her second says, and leaves with no excuses whatsoever. The third simply falls in line like she’s attached by a leash.
And I’m standing there in the middle of the floor like an idiot.
I swallow hard and make a mad dash for the restroom. I hear the murmurings as I leave the ballroom and I can’t get out of there fast enough. Once again, I’m Carrie at the prom, only I don’t have the satisfaction of burning the gym down.
Thankfully, the restroom is empty when I get there and I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. If I splash water on my face, Christian will immediately know that something is wrong and want to leave. I can’t let him do that. He has to stay and handle his business. I go into one of the stalls and just sit there for a moment, taking in deep breaths and trying to calm myself. I’ve composed myself just enough to go back out there and find a quiet corner when I hear the door open and suddenly I’m not alone.
“She looks like a giant red beach ball!” one woman says. “What ever possessed her to wear that dress?”
“I don’t know, but he looks like a million bucks and she looks like shit,” another says.
“Try a billion,” a third one pipes in. “He is hotness breathing and she’s… frumpy and fat and… they can’t still be fucking. How can he possibly find her pussy under all that?”
“I was still fucking when I was pregnant,” someone says.
“Were you that big?” someone else asks.
“Not by a longshot,” came the reply. “Their bed probably looks like a seesaw… if he even still sleeps in it.”
“Mr. Sex On Legs? Shit. That man is getting fucked and sucked somewhere else every night. I can guarantee it…”
Any other time, I would burst out of the stall and tell these bitchy, jealous, catty ass women where they could shove their theories and rumors, but right now, I can’t find the strength. I can’t find the ability to tell them how wrong they are about my husband. Instead, I sit in that stall like the coward that I am with my feet pressed against the door so no one can see my shoes for the eternity that they stay in the bathroom trying to avoid me, not knowing that I’m front and center for their entire conversation. Finally, one of them says something about her boyfriend looking for her soon and the others chime in that they should probably go and find their significant others. After a few seconds or minutes or hours—who knows—of mindless chatter, they finally file out of the bathroom.
I sit there for a few more seconds, too hurt yet too numb to cry. Once I’m certain that enough time has passed for them to leave the restroom area, I open the door and leave.
I just can’t do it. I can’t smile and be cordial around these people anymore, especially the women. I don’t know if they are the wives of the employees or if they are the employees; all I know is that this is an extremely hostile takeover and these people want nothing to do with Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated. I already feel like I weigh a ton and these women are brutal and cruel about my appearance. I won’t let them see me break down, but I’m not sure that I can avoid it. I raise my head and see Ben standing against the wall not far away.
“I was beginning to wonder if you fell in,” he says.
“Ben, please let Jason know that I’m going up to Christian’s office.” His brow furrows.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“Christian has to stay and see this thing through, so please be sure not to tell him unless he asks for me… and if he does, I’ll come back.” I avoid his question. I don’t want to tell him why I’m running… yes, running.
“Just… just give me a minute. I’ll go with you…”
“No!” I protest. “If Christian sees you gone, then he’ll know that I’m gone and I don’t want that.”
“This is a really big building,” he says. “Even though I know where you’ll be, it’s like losing you in the city. Let me go with you. I’ll stay in the lobby; you can go into the office.” He’s a bit desperate. “Please, Ana.” I look up at him and nod reluctantly.
“Tell him not to tell Christian. I mean it!” I say firmly. He nods and steps to a corner, talking into his earpiece. My hand is under my hair, massaging my scar in moments. I felt so pretty when I left the house and now, I feel like a big red whale. I just want to disappear.
“Mrs. Grey, are you alright?” A female voice nearby startles me from my thoughts and I realize that I’m probably doing some form of shrinking that may look very strange to someone who doesn’t know what it is. I raise my head to see three women examining me with concern.
“Oh! Yes, I’m fine, thank you,” I say, my voice shaking and lacking the conviction of my words. Who are these women? Everybody hates me, now suddenly there’s concern for my well-being?
“Do you need a seat?” one of them asks. “Some water?”
“No… no… that’s really very kind of you, but I’m okay. It’s just…” It’s just that I’m surrounded by catty, hateful women and disgruntled men and the hate is choking me to death and I can’t stand it anymore! “It’s just… probably the hormones…” I choke. Ben comes to rescue me right on time.
“Thank you, ladies,” he says, not to arouse suspicion. “Mrs. Grey, we’ve found somewhere for you to rest. This way, please.” He gestures me towards the express elevator to Christian’s office.
“Thank you,” I whisper-choke through my impending tears. He ushers me to the elevators as quickly as the twins will let us move and manages to get the doors closed before I choke out a sob.
“Ana!” He grasps me by the arms to help me keep my balance and hands me his handkerchief out of his inside pocket. “What’s going on? If the boss sees you like this, heads will roll—starting with mine, because I have no idea what’s happening.”
“People are horrible, Ben,” I choke, unable to hold back the tears any longer. “They’re saying terrible, nasty things about me, about my husband, our marriage. There was a fucking pow-wow in the bathroom and I was stuck in the damn stall!” I cover my mouth with his handkerchief.
“Was it those women that we just saw?” I shake my head.
“No,” I say. “I don’t think so.” I clean my face as I don’t want to break down completely. “It really wouldn’t matter, though. They all hate me. They hate us and they’re not ashamed to say so—maybe to Christian, but not to me.”
“What did they say? Who said it?” he probes.
“I don’t know who said it, Ben,” I say, flustered. “It’s widespread. The way they look at me—they stop talking when I try to mingle. If I just stand there and sip on a cranberry spritzer and say nothing to no one, I can hear it in the conversations. They make sure that I hear it. They add cracks about my size and my difficulty walking and sitting and standing for good measure among their peers, like none of them have had any children before!”
My stomach does a flip-flop as the elevator coasts to a stop at the top floor and I grab it protectively. I still haven’t gotten used to that feeling. Ben is in immediate panic.
“Are you okay?” he asks, steadying me again as the doors open to the empty lobby outside of Christian’s office.
“Yeah, it’s elevator flip-flop thingy,” I say as he helps me off the elevator. I walk quietly to Christian’s office.
“I’ll be right here,” he says from behind me and I just wave.
He’s had some changes done since the last time I was here. I don’t think he ever finished that room behind the office that was supposed to be temporary living quarters. Too bad, I could have used a nap right now. At least the sofa is still here. I sit on the sofa and, against all the rules of decorum, put my shoes up on the cushion. If I take them off, it will be murder trying to get them back on. I thumb through my phone and spend some time going through my emails. After I don’t know how much time, I find myself looking for Maxie’s number.
** Are you awake? **
It’s nearly midnight and I don’t know if she’s asleep or awake.
** Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Mindy won’t settle. **
Sucks for her. Great for me.
** Can I call you? **
After a pause,
** Sure. **
I press the phone button next to the contact and dial her number.
“I thought you were at the Meet-n-Greet thing at Grey House. It’s over already?” she says when she answers the phone.
“Don’t I wish,” I say, my voice still weak. “Maxie, how did you get past feeling this crappy in your last month? Everything is wrong! Nothing fits. Everything makes me look like a beach ball. I can’t move. I feel like I weigh a ton. I don’t even know how Christian still has sex with me!” I sigh. I was already feeling shitty, and this affair—for lack of a better word—doesn’t make matters any better. That catty and unkind words of these women have brought all of my insecurities front and center, even the possibility of Christian seeking “solace” elsewhere if I get too big or become unable to satisfy his needs—like in the six months following delivery. “These people are horrible, Maxine. They want nothing to do with GEH. We are the enemy and they want to make sure that we know it.”
“Really?” she gasps.
“Really. It’s more terrible than you can even imagine. I don’t think I ever want to go to one of these things in my life ever again…” I give her a basic rundown of my night.
Where the hell is my wife?
I know I said that I needed to feel the room out with these assholes, but I didn’t expect for her to disappear completely. I’ve heard enough, though. I know exactly what I’m dealing with and I need to spend some time in not-so-hostile company—meaning my beautiful Mrs. Grey… if I can find her.
“Jason,” I wave him over to me and he crosses the ballroom in my direction. “Where the hell is my wife.”
“I was ordered, and I do mean ordered, not to tell you that she left the party quite some time ago. She’s upstairs in your office.”
“Is she alright?” I ask concerned.
“I think so. I think she was just tired. Ben said that if you needed her to come back down, she would come back down, but that she didn’t want you disturbed because you were working.”
“Dammit, Jason, you should have told me!” I say, rushing through the crowd towards the ballroom doors.
“Again, sir, I was ordered…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I dismiss his statement and head for the express elevator.
I’m standing just outside my cracked office door, listening in on Butterfly’s conversation with Maxine. The women have been absolutely horrible to her under any circumstances, but in her condition and having to watch her blood pressure—oh, I am fucking livid. Some-motherfucking-body is going to pay for this shit!
“They don’t want us here. If they don’t want the world-renowned management team of GEH to put their failing fucking company back together again, I say that we become the monsters that they’ve already made us out to be.”
She might be on to something. Making an unsuccessful company successful again is a collaborative effort. From what I’ve seen and heard over the course of the evening and from what I’m hearing from my wife, Fairlane Jr., or Sr., has already spread the poison pill through their employees and throughout the company. They would apparently rather see the company fail under anybody’s hands but Fairlane. Someone should have told them that if you plan to use the poison pill technique, you swallow the poison pill before a takeover, not after—and you definitely don’t do it with a mogul like me who will chop up your life’s work and sell it like parts of a stolen car.
I hope the money feels good in your pocket, Fairlane, because that’s all you’ll have left of your legacy.
I hear her end the call with Maxine and go into the restroom. I undo my tie and step into the office to wait for her. I try not to go overboard when someone mistreats my wife, but I can’t help it. In two days, two separate incidents, someone has tried to push my buttons when it comes down to this woman. They just don’t seem to understand what she means to me. I would die for her. I would kill for her. Why do people insist on testing me?
When she emerges from the restroom, I can tell she has refreshed her make-up and is probably planning to give it another go at the party. Oh, we’ll be giving it another go, alright, but you’ve suffered enough, my love.
“Baby,” I say, smiling widely and sincerely and holding my hand out to her. “You scared me. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she says, her voice uncertain.
“I was looking for you and Jason said you weren’t feeling well. Why didn’t you tell me?” I won’t force her into saying these people made her feel like shit because I plan on undoing all of that before the night is over.
“This is your job, Christian,” she says, relaxing a bit, “you can’t just skip out because the ‘little woman’ isn’t feeling good,” she says a bit sarcastically, employing that term. Oh, yes I can, but I’ve got other plans first.
“We’ve established that term is a no-no,” I scold gently.
“Yes, we have,” she replies with a small sigh.
‘Well, we won’t stay much longer. There’s just a few more things that need to be done and then we’re going home, okay?” She smiles a compliant smile.
“Okay.” Don’t worry, Baby, I’ve got you. I tuck her arm into my elbow.
“You stay with me, okay?” I say, and she nods.
We ride down the elevator in silence with Lawrence standing in front of us. I unbutton the first two buttons of my shirt and slide my tie off through my collar before shoving it into my pocket. It’s time for me to see that look in my woman’s eye that makes every man in the room wish he were me, and for me to make every woman in the room wish they were her.
The doors open to the ballroom and the music and joviality that has taken over since the warden and his wife left. Don’t worry, you savages, you’ll have the opportunity to eat, drink, and be merry again once we’re gone—for next week, you die. But right now…
I walk through the crowd with my girl on my arm and go straight to the band, requesting two songs to be played. When the music dies and the band softly begins to play “The Way You Look Tonight,” I take my girl to the middle of the floor and take her hands in mine. We begin to sway and I put my forehead on hers and start humming along with the music. I can tell that she’s still in the moment with the catty women and the prying eyes, with all these other people watching us and hating us… but I need her to be in the moment with me.
“I remember the first time I saw you dance to this song,” I say softly in her ear. “It was a year and a half ago and you were dancing with someone else.” She looks up at me and frowns. She clearly doesn’t remember. “Some loser who was all broken up about something. But you held him so close and all I could think to myself was ‘please, don’t let that be her boyfriend.’”
She still doesn’t recall that night, and she may not recall, but she’s not thinking about the losers around us anymore.
“I could tell that you cared for him deeply, the way you held him and the way he clung to you. I didn’t even know you, yet, and I could feel my heart sinking into oblivion.” Her confusion is replaced with concern and sympathy as I tell her about the night I watched her dance with Allen at the New Orleans restaurant.
“You can’t imagine the relief I felt when another came in and took the guy off your hands. You went back to the bar and watched them proudly… and I just watched you.” Recollection slowly creeps across her face and I can pinpoint the exact moment where she remembers the night that I’m describing.
“You stood in front of the restaurant that night in a blue shirt and some white pants, and your hair was dancing on the wind. I watched you through the window… you were waiting for Allen’s car. It was like I was watching a starlet in a movie—inaccessible, someone you could only dream about—and the only thing I wanted more than anything was for you to be coming home with me.” She gasps quietly and her eyes widen.
“You were there,” she confirms softly. “James said he saw you, but… I didn’t know whether to believe him or not.”
“I was there,” I say just above a whisper. “I knew I loved you then. Wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me, but I did. I was a goner and there was no turning back.”
“Oh, Christian…” and there’s the look—the Helen of Troy look that could easily sink ships. I kiss her hands now clinging to mine and place them flat on my chest before cupping her face in mine.
“This heart beats only for you, Anastasia Grey,” I say, looking into her big blue orbs, “only you.” I lean down and close my lips over hers, drawing out a soft, chaste kiss. I gently rub my nose against hers without opening my eyes. This woman means everything to me, more than anything or anyone in this room… in this building. They can all kiss my ass for making her feel like anything less than the goddess that she is.
My goddess. My beautiful, beautiful goddess…
“I love you, Butterfly,” I breathe, almost unable to control the emotion bubbling up inside of me.
“Oh, Christian, I love you so much…” Her hands slide up my chest and around my neck into my hair. I wrap my arms around her, caressing her back and holding her and my family as close to me as I can. We sway until the music changes to the second song that I requested—“It Had to Be You.” She smiles up at me.
“The wedding… wine country.” I nod and smile back.
“What were their names? Timothy and…” My brow furrows trying to remember the bride.
“Maria,” Butterfly says. Yes, Maria. I turn her around like I did at the Family Affair, her back to my front. Part of me resents this turtleneck dress because I can’t kiss her neck, but that’s okay. There’s always the shell of her ear. I cradle our children in my arms and pull her as close to me as I can once more.
“We were dancing on the lawn,” I say gently nipping the shell of her ear. I feel her shiver.
“Christian…” she chides gently, placing her hands over mine caressing her stomach and our children.
“He said we were a good omen.” I kiss the skin behind and underneath her earlobe. She smells divine.
“He did,” she says, closing her eyes and opening her neck to me so that a bit of skin is exposed from underneath the turtleneck. I kiss and suck it quickly and nearly melt at the sound of her quiet moan.
“Put your hand in my hair,” I breathe into her ear. “I love your hands in my hair.” Her hand slowly and demurely rises to my head and she thrusts her fingers gently into my hair, her fingertips sinking to my scalp and her nails massaging the skin. I can’t suppress the groan that escapes and bury my face in the bend of her neck and shoulder, relishing the feeling of her fingers in my hair, her body close to mine, our children in my arms, and her smell in my nostrils.
Just when the song is over and I think I’ll have to relinquish my Butterfly so that the commoners can have the dance floor for whatever gyrations they may want to engage in, the band makes me a very happy man by striking up one last Sinatra classic for our moment on the floor. We have just a few more minutes to cuddle to “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and when this song is over, I take my beautiful bride to rest her feet as I know her ankles must be aching now. She’s positively glowing as she floats back to our table and takes her seat.
“That was a very… attractive dance, Mr. Grey,” some female voice says from behind me and a small bit of the glow leaves my Butterfly’s face. “Tell me, did you take lessons?”
Without turning around to face her, I answer, “Yes, I did, as a teenager, but how could I possibly step wrong with this gorgeous creature on my arm?” And the glow is back. “Tell me, gentlemen, this is my first child. Are they always this strikingly beautiful when they’re pregnant?”
The rocks of Gibraltar are now crumbling into the sea! This seemingly harmless question will no doubt be the catalyst for the silent treatment—or the not-so-silent treatment—all over Seattle tonight. Every man within the sound of my voice, including Fairlane, Jr., is either glaring at me with the deer-caught-in-headlights gaze or fighting not to look at his wife. Every woman within the sound of my voice is either glaring at her husband or holding her head down because she now remembers how it felt to be this pregnant—the crying spells that Butterfly often has; the ridiculous insecurities that I know she suffers from, because if she wasn’t so goddamn sexy she wouldn’t be pregnant in the first place; the aches and pains all over her body and the utter invasion of having to share the space with one other person, let alone two. If the women who had the audacity to try to belittle and degrade my wife in the bathroom are anywhere within the sound of my voice, they should really feel like shit right now.
“Oh, come on, don’t be coy, gentlemen. She’s stunning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman so beautiful in my life. I’m biased, I know,” I admit, gazing into my wife’s eyes, “but she’s doing this incredibly miraculous, selfless thing… giving up her body and her life as she knew it and nourishing our babies inside of her for almost a year. I’m such a selfish bastard, I can’t imagine doing something like that even for a week, let alone a year—and she still looks so exquisite. I don’t know how she does it.” I inject all of the admiration into my voice that I can and it’s reflected in Butterfly’s eyes.
“You do look stunning, Mrs. Grey,” another female voice from behind me says finally. “Have you had any work done?” Oh, this bitch. Butterfly frowns.
“Work?” Butterfly asks incredulously and bemused. She actually doesn’t know what this woman is asking her.
“Well, you’ve had some pretty harrowing things happen to you including the accident just over a month ago and you’re a fresh as a shiny new penny. You don’t even have any scars.” Her voice is haughty and a bit accusatory. I turn around and glare at this woman. She knows immediately that she has said the wrong thing and I can feel the heat radiating from my wife.
“Oh, would you like to see scars? Because I can show you scars,” Butterfly says, curtly but politely. I turn back to my wife.
“Baby, no…” I protest.
“Oh, no,” Butterfly says, matter-of-factly. “Which ones would you like to see? Would you like to see the scar where they had to sew my ear back on?” She gently touches her ear with her fingertips. “Or would you rather see the scar where I had brain surgery and lost my memory?” She gestures to her hair. “That one’s just here behind the cleverly swooping bang. The hair underneath hasn’t grown back, so if I lift it, you should be able to see the scar quite clearly.”
I hold my head down momentarily because I know what’s coming next and I can’t stop it.
“Or would you like to see the pièce de résistance…?” and here it comes… “… the brands on my back? You see, I have had work done there. Unfortunately, nothing can cover a burn, so I had the monstrosities incorporated into a beautiful tattoo so that I could live with them. Because those scars couldn’t be covered, when the situation that brought that tiny little event to light finally goes to trial, you’ll be able to see those scars in Exhibit A!” she hisses. It’s the first emotion she’s shown throughout the entire rant. I squeeze her hand and she quickly regains her composure.
“I’m sorry that I don’t have more to show you. It’s not that I don’t have more. It’s just that twelve years of mental and emotional scars caused by people’s continuous horrible cruelty, assumptions, lack of compassion, and insensitive comments that they brush off as beauty shop talk, social media gossip, ladies room chatter, and dinner table fodder really can’t be seen, now can they? So tell me, Ms. Whatever Your Name Is, where would you like to start?”
I do a quick scan of the listening area to see if I can get a feel of who may have made those comments about Butterfly in the restroom now that she’s let that cat out of the bag. I get nothing. McNally quickly pushes his chair from the table and stands.
“Mrs. Grey, Mr. Grey, I’m sorry. Melissa, let’s go.” He stands next to the big mouth cunt’s chair and she sits there like she doesn’t know what to do next.
“Now, Melissa!” he adds. With all eyes on her, Melissa rises from the table and she and McNally make a speedy exit.
“Sacrificial lamb,” Butterfly says almost inaudibly.
“Damn straight,” I confirm before turning back to her. “How are your ankles, Mrs. Grey?”
“I’m honestly afraid to find out,” she says. I raise my eyebrows to her.
“I don’t want you standing on them only to find out that they’ll buckle underneath you.” I position myself so that her legs can fit comfortably on my lap.
“Christian!” she protests quietly when she sees my intentions.
“It’s my party and our building,” I say firmly, and it silences her immediately. I unzip her booties and slide them one by one off her feet. She winces at the sensation—pain or relief, I don’t know, but her ankles are certainly swollen. “Yeah, those won’t be going back on.”
“How am I going to get to the car?” she asks. I raise an eyebrow at her again.
“Did you seriously just ask me that?” She puts her hands up in surrender.
“Sorry,” she says.
“Really, though, Mrs. Grey, you always look so darling when I’ve seen you—in the paper or, like now, in person. Do you have a stylist or do you do it all yourself?” Okay, that was a harmless enough question. I gently begin to stroke Butterfly’s ankles to get the circulation going. I hear the moan that she attempts to suppress before she answers the question.
“At first, it was just me, buying what I like and putting things together. Then, once my butt decided to take up two zip codes, I got a stylist.” The ladies laugh good-naturedly.
“Do you plan to breastfeed?” One blurts out. “I did and it helped a lot with the flattening of my stomach.” The men at the table are feeling a bit uncomfortable with this conversation, but I don’t care. If Butterfly doesn’t stop it, I won’t.
“Yes, I do,” she says. “I want the twins to get the best start in life that they can and I’ve learned that breastfeeding helps to build their immune system.”
“Yes, that’s true,” another one pipes in. “Check with your doctor to be sure, but if you’ve been active at all before and during your pregnancy—and it looks like you have—you can start light yoga four weeks after delivery if you haven’t had any complications.”
“Really?” Butterfly is all in, now. For twenty more minutes, she’s in her element while the men take turns making excuses to leave the table, but dare not stay away too long when they see that I remain planted there massaging my wife’s now not-so-swollen ankles. After a while, my Butterfly releases a yawn, and I know we are now into the wee hours of the morning. I have plans for this body and I don’t want her to be too sleepy for them, so it’s time for us to say “Goodnight.”
“Mrs. Grey, I saw that,” I say softly.
“Yes, I know,” she concedes. I nod to Jason and in moments, Lawrence is bringing our coats, which means Jason is getting the car. I slide into mine first before slowly helping Butterfly to her feet.
“Good?” I ask. She nods. I help her into her coat and button each button, making sure my baby is snug. I bend down and pick up her shoes. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re calling it a night. I guess business on Monday will be very interesting after the insight and enlightenment we’ve received this evening.” I smile my all-American smile, then look down at my all-American beauty. “Are we ready?”
“Quite,” she replies. I bend down until we are face to face and put my arm around her back.
“Assume the position, Mrs. Grey,” I say, not so quietly. Yeah, I do this all the time. She smiles and slides her arm around my neck. I cradle her legs behind the knees and lift her effortlessly off the floor. I hear ladies gasp all over the room.
“Your chariot awaits, Lady Anastasia,” I say.
“Let’s go home, Sir Christian,” she replies, her voice wistful, and suddenly, I want her right now. Ben leads us straight out of the ballroom, which is a good thing, because I can see very little through the ethereal haze that always seems to exude from my bride when she’s like this. The short ride down the elevator seems to take an eternity as I steal kisses from the irresistible delicacy in my arms. I can barely get her seatbelt fastened before I’m hungrily feasting on her lips in the back seat of the car, her hands fisting in my hair. We’re adamant about seatbelts since the accident, but this is one time that I wish these things were not here! I didn’t even notice Jason had raised the privacy glass until we get back to the Crossing.
I’m out of my seatbelt before Jason can get the car door open. Paying no attention to him, I rush around to Butterfly’s side and fling open her door. Delighted that she has released herself from the seatbelt, I gather her in my arms and rush to the door, dismayed that I have to find my key. The door opens and Windsor stands there like Peter at the Pearly Gates. Thank God! I have no idea why he’s awake this late, but God bless him! I place my wife on her feet and help her out of her coat before I realize that we left her shoes in the car.
Fuck it, we’ll get them tomorrow.
I take off my coat and hand them both to Windsor, telling him to go to bed and thanking him for being up so late. He nods and leaves us, and I’m feasting on my wife’s lips again.
You can’t fuck her here in the grand entry, Grey. Well, I could, but someone would very likely be shocked.
I gather her back into my arms again and up the curving staircase and away to our boudoir we go.
A/N: Brutus is a close friend of Julius Caesar, who assists in the conspiracy to kill him and ultimately actively takes part in his stabbing death in the Shakespearean play, Julius Caesar. (“Et tu, Brute?”)
Judas is the disciple that betrayed Jesus in the New Testament of The Bible, ultimately leading to His crucifixion (I assume nothing).
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Right now, my postings will be once every two weeks (every week if I can squeeze it in) until training is finally over and I can build my pre-written chapters back up.
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Love and handcuffs 🙂