Well, 99.99% of you liked the Bling Playroom Scene. That’s good enough for me. You can’t please everybody.
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 82—Grey House of Confessions
I ache all over. I can’t explain what kind of love potion was loose in this house last night. I had to leave Val and Elliot’s room because I know some kind of sexual activity was happening on the other side of that door. Then, I go in search of Christian and when he finally gets a hold of me, I am used, fucked, and sucked to the very end of my goddamn wits! It’s Tuesday and I know I’m supposed to be doing something today, but I can’t even get out of the damn bed.
We spent part of the night in our playroom bed; that much I know, because I fell asleep after that last orgasm and don’t remember much thereafter. Somehow, though, I’m in our bedroom, snuggled under the comforter and there’s a fire in the fireplace. It’s burning down now, so he must have set it sometime last night. I see that he has conveniently removed the alarm clock as well, so I don’t even know what time it is.
Last night was magical. My Dom was insatiable and the experience of being draped in all those jewels… I saw myself like I had never seen myself before. I truly felt like the goddess he always says that I am—not because I was wearing all that expensive jewelry, although that certainly didn’t hurt the cause, but because when I looked in the mirror, this extremely beautiful woman was looking back at me. If that’s what Christian sees all the time when he sees me, it’s no wonder he can’t keep his hands off me. Hell, I couldn’t keep my hands off myself!
Everything he did to me was exquisite. Every touch was divine and exciting—when I sucked the sweetness from his dick; when he came in my mouth after fucking my tits; each time he worshipped my core with his tongue; the tender, maddening stroke of his fingers while he tormented my nipples; when he finally made love to me after bringing me to orgasm over and over again…
When he was eating me while I was bound to the frame, it was the hungriest, most delicious and luscious mouth fuck he had ever given me… dare I say, even better than the French kiss. The French kiss was all stimulation, round about then centered on the clit. No… this time, with my leg held in the air and my core completely at his mercy, my Dom feasted and fucked me masterfully with his tongue. He was all over and inside my pussy until I didn’t know my goddamn name. I had to safeword to make him stop and he immediately tended to me like the loving and attentive Dom that he is.
I stretch luxuriously in our bed, still in no hurry to leave the cocoon he has obviously tucked me into. I guess I should get out of the bed, but I’m so comfortable. Maybe just a few more minutes…
I’m awakened by his voice and tender kisses on my eyes and face.
“Hmm?” I answer, reluctantly tearing myself away from a beautiful dream where I was lying in his arms on a hammock and the sun was shining and big, white, billowy clouds were in the sky. Cliché, I know, but that’s what I was dreaming.
The reality is better, though.
“You need to get out of bed, baby. You have to eat something.” He kisses me tenderly on the lips, then again, and again. I reluctantly bring my eyes into focus and he’s wearing a jet-black suit with a crisp pink shirt and pink silk tie.
Pink… my man is wearing pink… and he’s making it look good.
“Do I get breakfast in bed?” I coo. Christian chuckles softly.
“No, but if you’re still too tired, I’ll have one of the staff bring you lunch.” My eyes shoot open.
“Lunch?” I exclaim. “Wha… but you’re…”
“It’s one o’clock, baby. I came home for lunch to make sure that you were okay and out of bed. I’ll have to get back to the office soon.”
“Why did you let me sleep so long?” I ask sluggishly. “The clock is gone… and my babies… and I think I was supposed to go into the Center today…”
“You needed the rest,” he said, stroking my face. “I kept you up nearly all night. The twins are fine—I checked on them before I came in here. I moved the clock because I knew that you would jump out of bed when you saw what time it was. I called Mom and told her that you had a rough night and asked Marilyn if she could handle any of today’s tasks until you awoke. There are no fires, floods, or hurricanes, Mrs. Grey. I don’t want you dashing out of the bed like a Jack in the box, okay?”
Gee, I wonder why it’s so easy to submit to him…
He takes off his jacket and starts to undo his tie.
“I thought you said you had to get back to work,” I protest gently.
“I do, but you were shattered last night, so we had to skip your bath.” He removes the ruby cuff links from his shirt and put them on the nightstand before rolling up his sleeves. He’s almost in uniform, but his shirt is pink. My heart races anyway.
“Come here.” His voice is deep and sensual and my body glides across the bed towards him all on its own volition. Before I know it, I’m in his arms and he’s carrying me to the bathroom and the marble tub. He places me inside of the milk bubble bath and I immediately sink into comfort. He leaves the room for several minutes and allows me to soak my aching muscles in the tub. A little while later, he’s back and sitting on the side of the tub, tending to me.
“You know you drive men crazy, don’t you?” he says as he begins to clean my skin with the freshwater sponge. I open my eyes and look at him, waiting for an explanation. “I had already planned to come home to get you out of bed, but I have something else to tell you.”
“What?” I inquire.
“Today’s meeting was with security. You’re pretty much up to date on that process and everyone already knew your authority before the announcement. So, there really was no need for you to be there this morning except maybe informational purposes. I can schedule another meeting for you if you like…”
“That’s not necessary. Everybody knows who I am,” I interrupt. He nods.
“The new guards for the twins will be on site next week,” he continues. “You’ll meet them before then and be able to discuss your schedule and how you want things to go. They’ll answer directly to Chuck, then to Taylor as first in command.”
“Oh, I bet Chuck likes that,” I interject. He laughs.
“He does, especially with the ribbing they tried to give him when he came back to work. His main concern is your safety, though, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem with the rest of the staff as long as they’re all on the same page. We have, however, learned something that gives us cause for concern.”
“And what’s that?” I assume this will be what prompted the “drive men crazy” comment.
“You know that Cholometes is on our watch list.” Oh, fuck, I should have known. Edward’s dead; somebody else had to take his place.
“Yes,” I sigh, waiting for the shoe to drop.
“Don’t worry—he hasn’t contacted us. It’s just…” Christian pauses as he continues to clean my body. “He’s seeing someone.” I furrow my brow.
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” I ask, bemused.
“Normally, I would say yes, but not so much this time. Do you remember when we dug into David’s past and we found Camilla Johansen?” Okay, now I’m confused.
“Yeeees,” I say, drawing the word out in expectation.
“Remember how we discovered that she could be your twin?” I frown deeply.
“Yes…” I don’t like where this is going.
“Well, you and Camilla have a third doppelganger, and Cholometes has found her,” he confirms.
Shit shit shit!
“Oh, this is bad,” I say aloud. “I thought he was moving on. We haven’t heard from him in months and now I know why.” I shake my head. “Do you know anything about this girl?”
“No, not yet,” Christian says, moving to clean my legs.
“Find out as much as you can. See if she’s changed anything, particularly in the last year—her hair color, profession, style of dress, friendships. Find out how long he’s known her. Any information you can get.” He frowns now.
“You sound like me; you’re sniffing on something.” I sigh as he massages my feet and I almost lose my thought.
“If he has a type and he’s just going after that type, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if he’s trying to replace me—trying to find me in someone else—there’s going to be hell to pay on the day that he rolls over, takes a good look, and realizes that’s not me lying next to him.” Christian shakes his head.
“I was afraid of that. I didn’t know how to approach you with it and you not think I was just being plain old Neanderthal me,” he says. I shake my head.
“No, you’re right on this one. He could be a ticking time bomb. I turned him down hard. He knows there’s no chance in hell he’s going to be able to get next to me and he’s my father’s best friend. I’ll ask Daddy what he knows if anything. Does anyone have a picture of this girl?”
“We do, but she’s not really our concern. He is.”
“She is now… and she should be. Christian, you can’t be that naïve.” He didn’t like that description.
“And why, pray tell, would I be considered naïve?” His hand travels up the inside of my thigh and I know that it’s a warning, but I stand—or sit—firm.
“Because that girl could end up dead somewhere,” I say flatly. His hand stops traveling. “If he’s trying to make Ana #2, he’s unstable. If he’s displeased with her performance at all, there’s no telling what he could do.” He stares at me impassively for a moment.
“I really hate it when you’re this right,” he says, drying his hands. “Get your sexy ass out of that tub. I need to dress and feed you before I get back to work.”
Knowing me so well, he dresses me in a pair of my genie pants and a crop top, then watches in wonder as I apply the belly-wrap. I’ll only be wearing them for maybe another week or so, because they’ve completely served their purpose. We enjoy a late lunch before my husband has to make his way back to the office. I touch bases with Mare to be sure that nothing too important has gone undone and she assures me that everything is under control. The real work doesn’t begin until next week when we’ll have to bang out appearances and some things that need to be done at the Center. I’ve been lost in New Mother Land with a few exceptions—Edward’s dirty business, the trips the GEH to introduce me as owner of the company; Elena’s trial—the work at the Center has fallen by the wayside and I need to get back into the swing of things really soon. My gorgeous husband kisses me sweetly and heads back to work around three with the promise that he’ll be home no later than seven.
After checking in on the children, I go in and spend some time with Val. I’m dying to question her about my previous conclusions about her and Elliot yesterday. She confirmed that there was a sexual exchange and began to explain when I voiced my concern about her weakened state.
“Honestly,” she said, “I wanted him to… because it feels like it’s been so long and my body needs it so badly, but he thinks I’m too weak for intercourse and if I’m honest, I am. So, he… gave me a 68.”
“He gave you a 68?” I ask. She nods.
“He’ll cash in on his when I’m better,” she says with a wink. I laugh heartily.
“Well, that sounds like a plan,” I tell her. “Have you already gone for your treatment today?” She nods.
“Before lunch,” she says. “They like to ruin my day early. I say let’s just get it over with.”
“So how do you feel?”
“Okay for now, but give it a minute. I’ll be useless by dinner time,” she laments. “In the meantime, I need girl talk—real girl talk. We’ve missed out on months of it. I need juicy details and dirty secrets and frivolous sex talk that you wouldn’t have with anyone else except our favorite Queen.” I know she means Al. “So, fill me up, because I’m dying for some bonding.” There’s nothing I would deny her now and quite frankly, there’s a lot I want to tell her.
“Christian and I are into BDSM,” I blurt out in a low voice. She gasps.
“I knew that! I knew that!” She points and accusing finger at me with wide eyes and a huge cat-caught-the-canary smile. “You wouldn’t tell me, but I knew!” My mouth falls open.
“I knew there was a closet freak in you, Steele. I always knew,” she says in a knowing tone. “Ever since you dragged me with you to that fetish club in college, I knew. School assignment—yeah, right.”
“It was a school assignment,” I protest, “for my human sexuality class. I have to embrace all lifestyles in my profession. I can’t afford to be biased or prejudiced.”
“Well, you were all in that night, gawking and nearly salivating. I can certainly see the attraction to it with a man like Christian. The chemistry that you two have produces enough energy to light a fucking city… but David…” She shivers at the thought and quite frankly, so do I. “I guess I see why it was so hard to leave him.” I shake my head and look down.
“No… no. Not with Edward. We didn’t practice the lifestyle. I never even explored it until Christian, although there must have been some masochism in me to allow Edward to treat me the way that I did.” I look at the door. “Christian is a very discreet man, Val. You’re the only one who knows who hasn’t signed a non-disclosure agreement.”
“Al doesn’t know?” Her mouth falls open.
“He’s knows,” I tell her, “but he works for Christian. He’s signed an NDA.”
“Do you want me to sign an NDA?” she asks without malice, very willing to keep my secret. I shake my head.
“No, I wasn’t implying that. I trust you. I just wanted you to know that it needs to be discreet.” She smiles.
“Says the woman who took a loser who fucked over me into the woods only to be found wandering naked the next morning in the dead of winter,” she says. “Your secret’s safe with me, Steele… although I’m glad to know you didn’t practice that shit with David. And I’ve seen you naked, so I know he’s not abusing you. So, tell me, what’s your favorite position?” She crosses her fingers and hangs on my words like a starving woman about to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. I rise and close the door.
“Lifestyle or vanilla?” she frowns.
“Regular sex,” I clarify.
“Both!” she says excitedly. I sigh.
“Oh, God, it’s so hard to choose,” I say pondering the thought. “It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but there are two vanilla that immediately come to mind…”
I describe for her when Christian sits me on his lap and holds me against his body, driving into me from behind. His dick is so damn big that it feels like he’s right in front of me, fucking me deep. I keep the “big dick” part to myself, but she puts two-and-two together since that’s a position that you can’t really accomplish without the right equipment, not to mention she got an eyeful of him that first Thanksgiving when she, Elliot, and Taylor all walked in on us. Although I like when he cups my tits in that position, I like it more when he wraps his arms around me—or one arm while holding my hip steady. He’s right in my ear, making sex noises or kissing and biting my neck and back and driving me wild. It’s the perfect combination of primal sensual lust and possession because he takes total control of me and he’s good at what he does. I feel protected—truly his, in that position and my orgasms are always cosmic.
The second vanilla position would be missionary, when he melds into me and entwines his fingers with mine, kissing me gently or nipping at my skin somewhere; our noses touching softly or him whispering some soft words of love to me; my legs wrapped around his hips and him grinding into me so deeply, digging into my core until it burns. It feels like our souls unite and we’re one person more in those moments than during any other time when we make love. It’s literally a breathtaking experience.
“Wow, Ana,” Val says, her voice breathy as she swallows hard. “I feel like a damn voyeur. That’s hot as hell… and that’s just missionary.”
“Elliot doesn’t make you feel like that?” I ask with a frown. She smiles.
“Believe it or not, Elliot makes me feel like that with doggy-style,” she says. My eyes grow wide.
“Doggy-style??” I whisper loudly. Doggy-style is hot, not tender! But she nods.
“Yes,” she says, wistfully. “He doesn’t thrust hard into me or go wild when we’re in that position. He caresses my hips and waist and back—very softly. He moves with slow, deliberate strokes and tells me how beautiful I am; how my body and skin calls to him. He prolongs the pleasure, moving slower and slower as we both rise and when he’s getting close, he brings his body close to mine so that I can feel his skin. He’s usually sweating and he hooks his arms under mine and holds onto my shoulders, still driving into me and saying sweet things to me.” She’s being transported to one of those moments right now and her eyes glaze over.
“When he’s about to come, I feel his body tighten. He holds me closer and his breathing changes. His sounds become… helpless, like there’s no way he could resist or stop what’s coming. I usually have to hold on to something, because his deep thrusts and trembling… and those sounds…” She puts her hand over her chest. “It all usually pushes me right over the edge and I’m completely blinded.” She holds her head down and swallows. “He usually just crumples over me in his orgasm. This strong, muscular man becomes a mountain of goo when he releases inside of me and we roll over onto the bed in that position. He has to hold me for hours after that and we usually just fall asleep.”
Sounds like missionary last night with Christian. Now, I feel like the voyeur.
“I love him, Ana,” she breathes. “I love him so much. I can’t even describe…” She trails off. “I mean it’s not just the sex… but, God, the sex!” she exclaims quietly. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life!”
“His dick knows the difference,” I say. She frowns.
“When we first got together, Christian talked about how sex with me was so different. Look at the man—he’s fucking gorgeous. He’s a billionaire and he practices this taboo lifestyle that’s the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There are beautiful women falling at his feet and losing their minds. They would do anything for him. The wedding planner… the one you referred me to? She was an ex-submissive of his. Remember how gorgeous she was?”
“Yeeeeaah,” Val says in surprise.
“They were all like that, and there were plenty. Yet, when he got with me, he tried to convince me that I was the best he ever had and I didn’t believe him. I’m not into the hardcore shit that they were into… that he may have been accustomed to. He told me that it wasn’t about that because most of our coupling is and was vanilla, but I was still the best… because his dick knows the difference.
“You two are in love. All the great looking guys and girls and fabulous sex and one-night stands all disappear in a puff of smoke when you connect with someone on an emotional and cellular level. He loves you deeply and you love him, and when you two become one, you not only feel it in your sex, you feel it in your heart… your entire body. That’s why it’s the best for you than you’ve ever felt… and that’s why he crumples over you when he comes. His dick knows the difference.” I see a shiver run through Val at my explanation and the thought Elliot’s dick knowing the difference.
“I have to do something, Ana, and I need your help,” she says. “I have to do it today. I know it’s late, but I have to do it today. I have to make a call and I need you to run a really important errand for me. Can you do that… please?” She sounds desperate and I know whatever it is, it can’t wait another day.
“Yes,” I say without hesitation. “Anything you need. What do you want me to do?”
Sharice Melbourne has been in the business of finding excellent quality, high level executives for the past fifteen years. She’s the same person that I utilized to find Rosalind all those years ago. So, she’s very surprised to be meeting with me this afternoon to discuss finding an executive vice-president.
“I had no idea that you were having problems with Ros,” she says, taking one of the seats in front of my desk when I return to the office after my lunch date with Butterfly. “I have to say, she’s going to be impossible to replace.”
“I’m not trying to replace her,” I clarify. “At least that’s not my intention. It’s come to light that she may be taking on more than she can really handle with my not being in the office as much. I’m more of a family man as you know and because of that, she’s having to take on the lion’s share of the work. I’m thinking more along the lines of a third in command, not a replacement, but someone with the capability to take the reins in my or Ros’ absence. Because I’m gone at a moment’s notice, my second in command is taking on a lot of responsibility and I have reason to believe that she’s wanting to spend more time with her wife as well. She’s also given an indication that she’s resentful of the current circumstances.
“I have no desire to replace her. However, I do need a highly-qualified executive with impeccable references that can fill in the blanks where the two of us may be unavailable as well as take over for Ros, if necessary.”
“I thought you said you weren’t trying to replace her,” Melbourne says.
“I’m not, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t become displeased and leave. Our discussion was just yesterday and her demeanor has already changed. I need to be prepared for every eventuality. I don’t mind interviewing someone who is already employed elsewhere if you feel that they will meet my needs and are willing to part with their current employer without a lot of fanfare and mess. Of course, I can’t impress upon you the importance of discretion in this matter.”
“I assume that you mean I shouldn’t speak to Ros, either,” Melbourne clarifies. I don’t say anything. “Mr. Grey, I won’t begin to tell you how to run your business, but you’re asking me to bring a third party between two sharks… and you’re just going to spring this on her?”
“I understand and appreciate your concern, but no. I’ll discuss this with her before any decisions are made. I expect for her to be part of the interview and decision-making process. I just don’t want to spring this on her without even having a decent candidate in mind. Don’t you think that would be an unnecessary exercise in stress? You may not even find anyone to my liking.” She scoffs.
“You know better than that,” she chides, taking out her iPad and entering something on the screen. “I always find the brightest and best. If they’re out there, they come to me. Man, or woman?”
“Person—someone who can take orders, but take the reins, too. They need to understand that I don’t intend to get rid of Ros, so they’ll often be answering directly to her. Anyone with any kind of coup in mind need not apply and should a wolf get past the gates, they better have nothing to lose and I do mean nothing. Oh, and they had better be ready for quite the scrutinizing eye, because they’ll be interviewing with Mrs. Grey as well.” Her head snaps up in surprise. That got her attention.
“Mrs. Grey.” It’s a statement, not a question. I give her nothing else. Do what I say and don’t ask questions. The only reason why I added that bit of information is because I don’t want some opportunistic female sauntering in here thinking she’s going to get past me and Ros. When she gets no response from me, she looks back down at her iPad.
How soon do you think you’d be able to get interviews ready?” I ask.
“Two weeks. That will give me time to do some vetting.” I nod. GEH won’t explode in two weeks.
“That’s fine. Now at the risk of being rude, Ms. Melbourne, I need you to leave now. I don’t want Ros to see you prematurely and start planning a coup of her own. Can I trust you to inform me if she contacts you?”
“No, Mr. Grey, you can’t,” she says, matter-of-factly. I raise my eyes from the papers on my desk to her.
“You asked me to exercise discretion and confidentiality, which is a request you didn’t need to make. I exercise those principles with all my clients, Ros included. So, no, Mr. Grey, I will not inform you if she contacts me,” she says, putting her iPad back in her messenger bag.
“You know, I could take my business elsewhere,” I say, employing one of the most elementary negotiating tactics in business.
“You could,” she says, unmoved, “but you won’t, because you know I’m the best. That’s why you came to me in the first place. And even if you choose to, I still won’t tell you, so I suggest that you tell Rosalind what’s going on yourself—sooner, rather than later.” She stands and extends her hand to me.
“As a businessman, I’m appalled,” I say, standing. “As a client, I’m impressed.” I shake her proffered hand.
“Appalled by what?” she asks, standing up straight.
“I don’t lose negotiations,” I admit.
“I’d hardly call that negotiating,” she says, placing her messenger bag on her shoulder. “It was a badly placed threat that luckily, you and I know was full of shit.” I raise an eyebrow at her—yet another woman who respects me, but doesn’t revere me. I guess I really shouldn’t care. I shake my head and look back down at the papers on my desk. “Consider it your personal vetting process. You know that I won’t breach Ros’ confidentiality to you, so I obviously won’t breach yours to her.”
“But you know I’m just trying to keep her from leaving,” I protest. “I want to make sure that she knows that she’s still valuable to me.”
“While I appreciate that, confidentiality is still imperative. Not all employers feel the same way that you do. Upon hearing that one of their key, high-level executives want to fly the coop, they often employ coercion or intimidation tactics. I won’t be a part of that. If you want her to know how valuable she is, make sure you tell her and treat her that way.” I sigh.
“When you put it that way… I guess I understand.” Melbourne nods and leaves the office, promising to get back with me in two weeks with prospects for the position. Once she’s gone, I look at the pictures of Cholometes and his Ana lookalike.
Fuck. She looks more like Butterfly than Camilla does. But of course, David was looking for a Camilla lookalike when he groomed Butterfly.
They look happy together. I sure hope that he’s not impressing his hopes for a life with Butterfly on this obvious imposter. I truly hope Butterfly is wrong about that analysis. That man knows how to make bodies disappear.
I set the pictures aside and look at the stacks on my desk. Three mergers in the works due to close by month’s end… and Thomlinson. Since Farwell didn’t want to see its open-ended contracts with GEH suddenly come to a close, they long since declined the deal with Thomlinson. The moment I heard the news, I put my propaganda machine to work whispering sweet nothings into the right ears about Fairlane and if he’s going to rescue a struggling company with that landfall of cash he got from GEH since he coerced an old, faithful friend to turn his back on a very lucrative deal with the same company because of sour grapes. He got what he asked for—sacks and sacks of cash. He exercised extreme bad faith by poisoning the company before he turned it over to me. In the process, he sold his son up the river so that not only did he not get any of the cash settlement from the sale, but now, he’s also out of a job. When all was said and done and his underhanded tactics were met with brutal business sense and self-preservation techniques by the injured party, he responded with retaliatory tactics, defaming one of the biggest M&A firms in the business. Talk about David and Goliath.
Fairlane’s credibility will now come into serious question, assuming he has any of it left after this move. He has lofty ambitions, but the problem is that he’s under the impression that since his company is gone, he has nothing else to lose. Everybody has something to lose, and it’s time to show him just how much he has on the line.
There’s a knock at my door. A very quiet one, and I wonder why Andrea didn’t buzz me to let me know someone was in the lobby. If they were a threat, they wouldn’t have knocked.
“Come in,” I say. Andrea breaches to threshold, her face a bit ashen. “What’s wrong?’
“I… um… just got a call from security. Ros ran into Ms. Melbourne downstairs while she was leaving.”
“Shit!” I hiss. “Did anybody hear what was said?” She shakes her head.
“I don’t think so. They were talking in whispered tones. She was white as a ghost.”
Shit, shit, shit! This is not how I wanted this to go down
“Call her office.” Andrea walks right over to my desk and calls Ros’ desk.
“Hi, Boris. Is Ms. Bailey available?” She says the word so casually, not like my whole plan is about to fall apart. “Oh. Well, Mr. Grey would like to talk to her. What time will she be back?” She’s not back yet. Perfect! I gesture to Andrea to hand me the phone. She stops and hands me the phone.
“Boris, any idea where she went?” I ask as nonchalantly as I can, the fact that I’m talking to him at all an indication of the urgency.
“To lunch, I think, sir.” Boris has a smooth voice with a slight Russian accent. I’ve seen women swoon over his natural good looks and the accent doesn’t hurt, but you can tell that he has practiced his English so that the accent doesn’t interfere with his communication.
“This late?” I ask. There’s a brief pause that I think I wasn’t supposed to hear—that Allen training at work again.
“She was waiting for you to return before she left, sir.” I catch the jab, but I don’t let him know that. Yet more evidence that today’s meeting with Melbourne was necessary—for more reasons than one—but right now, I need damage control.
“That’s why I’m calling,” I inform her. “Tell her to come to my office when she gets back. My afternoon is free and there’s something I need to run by her. I think I’ve found a solution to our problem.”
“Problem, Mr. Grey?” Boris presses. “Should I enlighten her of the content of the conversation or will she already know?” He’s fishing. Ros has spoken to him about our… situation. When and if she leaves, he’ll be going with her out of sheer loyalty.
“Oh, trust me, she’ll know. She brought the issue to my attention,” I tell him with no further information.
“Oh, in that case, can I tell her what it’s referring?” I look over at Andrea, who shrugs as she can’t hear his end of the conversation. Who the fuck does this motherfucker think he is? If you want that fast track to another job I can give it to you.
“Have I missed something?” I hiss at him. “Are you seeking employment?” I hear his breath catch on the other line.
“Uh… n… no, sir,” he stutters, apparently searching for his words. I don’t need his fucking words. Ros is feeling hostility and has confided in her personal assistant. That hostility is now being projected at me from his assistant ass and I’m resisting the urge to go up to her office and get in his face.
“This fucker doesn’t know I’ll have his ass walked out of here before Ros gets back from lunch!” I say it away from the phone to Andrea, but loud enough for Boris to hear me. Andrea’s eyes widen, no doubt curious of what the hell Boris said on the line to elicit that response from me.
“No. Boris. You can not!” I say sharply into the phone. “What you can tell your boss is that her boss would like to see her when she gets back. Can you manage that?” My blood is boiling and I’m resisting the urge to go down to her office and wait in her outer lobby, glaring at him the entire time and daring him to breathe.
“Y… yes, sir. I’ll let…” I hang up the phone before his statement is complete. What the ever-loving fuck! I’m trying to be empathetic to her plight, but the hostility that Boris just showed me is a direct result of their conversations. Ros, of all people, should know that above anything else, the single most important thing to me is respect. Yet, her assistant felt comfortable enough to mouth off at me in that passive aggressive can I tell her what it’s concerning method. This meeting is going to go slightly different than I had planned, I fear.
I’m reading over the final proposal for the third merger on my desk by the time Ros has decided to grace me with her presence. Either she left the building and is truly just now getting back from lunch or she decided to just make me wait.
“You wanted to see me?” she says, her voice firm when she peeks into my office after Andrea announced her. I didn’t make her wait because I don’t have time for games and posturing. These department head meetings are coming right on time. While I still plan to balance my business obligations with my family life, I need to send the message that I still have my finger on the pulse of this business and I’m not taking shit from anybody.
“Have a seat,” I say, without raising my head.
“I’d rather stand, if you don’t mind,” she protests. I raise my eyes and glare at her.
“Have a seat, Ros,” I command, the voice coming out before I even know it had. Her lips part slightly and she takes in a sharp breath, almost infinitesimally, but she quickly takes a seat in one of the chairs in front of my desk. I take a deep breath and quickly count down from ten. I’ve had enough of the fucking disrespect in this joint.
“I had planned on this meeting going a little differently,” I begin, “but of course, the best laid plans…” I trail off.
“Boris said you threatened to fire him,” she says, filling the brief silence.
“Did he now?” I retort, my voice sharp and impatient. “Did he also tell you that he has apparently forgotten how to speak to his boss’s boss on the phone?” I retort. “He’s more comfortable and more disrespectful to me than a PA under my employ should be. Any idea why he would feel that way?” My thoughts immediately go to Marilyn, then I remember that she’s technically not under my employ and that she’s never been overtly disrespectful to me unless I throw it at her first.
“I… don’t know what you mean,” Ros says with a frown. I stand a walk to the window. I can’t sit either right now, and this is probably the least threatening position that I can give her.
“Our personal assistants know every detail about our business life, and some personal ones. Ana’s PA is attached to her at the hip and I can probably get more accurate information about my wife’s schedule and obligations from her personal assistant than I can from my wife. That being said, Marilyn most likely knows when my wife is pissed at me before I do. So, what I need to know is if Boris is projecting some emotions on me that I should be hearing from you… or have I already heard them?”
“I…” She frowns and pauses. “I don’t know what Boris said to you, but you know as well as anybody that I can fight my own battles.”
Fight her own…?
“I wasn’t aware that there was a battle here to be fought,” I say with no small amount of disdain. “You want to explain that?” Now, I’m folding my arms, a clearly defensive posture. I see her swallow from across the room.
“Maybe I didn’t word that correctly,” she begins. “What I meant to say was…”
“Coy doesn’t fit you, Ros,” I cut her off. “It never has and it never will.” I walk back to my desk. “I had a meeting with Sharice Melbourne today. I’m looking for an executive vice-president. If instead, I need to be looking to replace my senior vice-president, I need you to let me know now. I don’t like surprises and as unwanted as the situation may be, I’ll face it head on.” I stand and wait for her response.
“Exec…” she begins, but stops short. “I didn’t know the position was available… or even existed.”
“I’m creating it now,” I tell her. “I took our conversation yesterday very seriously. You apparently need some help handling things when I’m not here. I have a family now and things are going to change.” I say the last sentence definitively, indicating that I don’t care how many hissy fits she has—my family is still going to come first. I could close GEH today and live the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous on my investments alone! “So, again, I need to know. Do I just need an executive vice-president or do I need a senior and an executive?” Her brows furrow again before she takes the offensive.
“What makes you think I want to quit my job?” she asks firmly.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I reply just as firmly, “that meeting we had, your behavior and demeanor, and the fact that your PA feels like he can speak to me any way he wants and you apparently have no idea. You’re projecting hostility towards me onto him and he’s giving it to me with both barrels when I call. Don’t try to tell me that this is all in my imagination, because I know that it’s not.”
She’s at a loss for words, confirming that my suspicions are correct.
“First of all, I’m not being coy,” she defends haughtily, “but I won’t mince words with you. I meant what I said about the way things are going and my having to take the helm so much. Maybe my wording was wrong, but the sentiment is the same and I won’t take it back. I have a family, too, Christian. I may not have brand new babies at home, but Gwen is my family. I feel like you ignore my needs and what’s important to me because you’re the boss, and that’s not fair. Seeing Sharice made me think that maybe I should consider moving on since it appeared that you may have made the decision already. Of course, she wouldn’t give me any information, but I knew. That meeting came right on the heels of our conversation… I knew.”
“So… where do you stand with GEH? I need to know,” I press.
“You’re not firing me?” she asks, her voice weak. Oh, for fuck’s sake, have I been talking to myself all this time?
“Stop being such a girl, Ros,” I snap. “I was never firing you! I don’t do shit underhanded and you know that. You would have known first.” She fists her hands at her hips.
“What the hell does that girl comment mean?” she demands.
“You know exactly what it means!” I retort with no remorse. “You’re standing here acting all sensitive and girly,” I say in a mocking tone, “after jumping to conclusions without even asking me what was going on. That’s not your style and you know it. You give me what for when you know I’ve got it coming, even if you may go overboard. Then suddenly, you want to act all shy and retiring. That’s not the first time in the years that we’ve worked together that I’ve put you in your place for forgetting who I am and it won’t be the last. I don’t like repeating myself, but I’ve already had to do it more time than I want to in this conversation.” I count the points on my fingers.
“Stop acting all damn girly. It’s getting on my nerves.
“Either tender your resignation if that’s your intention or start coming up with what you’re looking for in an executive vice-president so we can both have some time with our families without having to worry about the castle coming under siege.
“Prepare to attend and participate in the interviews whether I’m hiring a second or a third in command. Mrs. Grey will be there, too.
“Have a talk with your personal assistant about what line of questioning—if any—is appropriate for your boss’s boss.” She frowns at the last request.
“Line of questioning?” she questions, her voice rising an octave or two in surprise. I raise an eyebrow at her.
“Apparently, he’s told you about what he considers my malfeasance, but not his. Ask him why I mentioned that his ass could be walked out of here before you got back from lunch and remind him that insubordination has a very wide breadth. That was the last time he will take that liberty with me, and if he acts as if he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, tell him to try it again.”
“It… might… help… if I knew… what the liberty was.” Her voice is cautious. Good. The meeting has had the effect that I hoped it would.
“Ask him,” I retort. “If you still have questions after you speak to him, by all means, let me know and I will clarify the situation in a sentence or two,” one of which will be to HR to process that fucker’s separation papers. She sighs.
“Yes, sir,” she says, resigned.
“And stop walking around here like somebody stole your goddamn puppy!” I snap. “You were out of line and you know it. I let you know, like I always do. You take it on the chin, straighten up and move on. Stop acting like you’re headed for the fucking gallows! You’re depressing me!” I walk over to my desk and start stacking the reports that I was examining. “Now, pick up your face and get the fuck out of my office.” She gasps.
“You’re a real asshole, you know that?” she comments flatly.
“Yeah, and you can be a real bitch, so what else is new?” I say without looking up from my desk. There’s a momentarily silence before she heads to the door. She’s deliberately waiting, so I raise my eyes to see her smirking at me, causing me to hide an involuntary chuckle.
Yeah, Ros is back.
“What did you do??” I nearly shriek at my unrecognizable brother when I get back to the Crossing that evening. He’s dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans and carrying a camouflage backpack. Elliot frowns at me.
“I went to the office to check things out. What do you mean what did I do? Is Val okay?”
“You know exactly what I mean!” I accuse, scrubbing my hand over his head.
“Oh, that,” he says flippantly. “Angel’s all hung up over her hair—or lack thereof—so I got a haircut to make her feel more comfortable. I would have shaved it bald, but I didn’t want to completely freak her out.”
He wasn’t that far from bald now. There wasn’t that much hair left. He has maybe a quarter inch of hair on his head, if that.
“Dude, you look like you’re twelve,” I laugh. “You got it baaaaaad.”
“Don’t make fun of me, Christian,” Elliot says, somberly. “You would have gladly given a limb if there was the slightest inclination that Montana wouldn’t wake up from that coma and the gesture would bring her back.” He’s right; I can’t deny it. “We’d be calling you some cruel nickname like ‘Hoppi’ or ‘Stump’ right now.”
“Okay, okay, so I’m not one to talk, but you still got it bad.” I move past him to head down to my office. Surprisingly, he follows me.
“Something on your mind, Bro?” I ask when we step into the elevator. He scrubs the newly-grown mini-beard he’s sporting these days.
“I didn’t know you could love another person this much, Christian,” he says. “I never dreamed… I never had this with anybody, not even the women who agreed to give me her hand in marriage.” He sighs.
“Okay, so we’re suffering from the same ailment. What’s the problem?” We exit off the elevator and give a wave to Keri and Chuck sitting in the community room downstairs. I’ve been meaning to ask him if Keri has gone to the doctor yet, but it’s only been a few days since she’s been here. Besides, I’ve got Elliot waiting for privacy so that we can continue our conversation, so one catastrophe at a time.
“I’m always afraid that she’s going to leave me or that I’m going to mess it up. Now, there’s this tumor—beating her body down. It’s killing me, man,” he admits once we’re out of earshot of Chuck and Keri. “I’m going to have to employ Montana’s assistance again. I know she’s helping Angel, so I won’t put her in any compromising positions. I just want to talk some things out… get some help handling things.” We go into my office and close the door.
“I’m no psychiatrist, but I nearly lost my wife six months ago. You can talk to me… I can empathize.” He raises his eyes to me, filled with gratitude. He nods slightly and removes his backpack, dropping it on the floor. When he sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk, I deduce that it’s a better idea that I sit closer to him than on the other side of my desk. I move to the chair next to him and loosen my tie.
“I’m lost,” he begins. “This is the first time in my life that I have absolutely no idea what comes next. Even with Kate, everything fell into place—I knew exactly what was coming. I loved her, I would marry her. She turned into a bitch, either she would have to straighten up or I would dump her. She fell in love with that Roger bastard, it was done. Everything was cut and dried. Not so with Val. I love her and I’m so fucking loopy and confused that I don’t know what to do from one day to the next. She turned into a bitch and I couldn’t leave her to save my life, no matter how many times I threatened. Even when I packed my things this last time to get her to go see the doctor and was sure that I would go through with it if she didn’t, I can’t see doing it. I was at my wits end and I still don’t think I would have left her. Now, she has this big, huge, ginormous, life-threatening thing going on and I feel so goddamn selfish.” I frown.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I pray every day—every day—for God not to take her away from me. I don’t pray to end her suffering; I don’t pray for Him to make her feel better… just don’t take her away from me. I know in order for her to stay here with me, she would have to be healed… but I don’t pray for the healing or even for relief. I just pray that He doesn’t take her away.” A single tear falls down his cheek and he quickly wipes it away.
“Believe me, I would take on her pain and suffering in a minute if I could. She’s so weak and so tired, and I hate seeing her this way. If I could take those damn radiation treatments for her and she be the one that gets well, I’d do it in a second. I can’t stand her suffering. But Christian, if I lost her, if she left me… I’d lose. My fucking. Mind.”
“And there’s your limb,” I say empathetically. “You’ve truly never felt this way before, and you don’t know what to do with it. You don’t know how to handle somebody else meaning more to you than yourself.” He nods, his head down and tears falling freely onto his jeans.
“That’s it exactly,” he says in a harsh whisper.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” I tell him. He scoffs a laugh. “If anything, it gets worse. Your love grows stronger and bigger every day, and you have to fight for reason when it comes to her… it’s the most terrifying, horrible, heart-wrenching, torturous, beautiful, fulfilling, ecstatic, life-affirming experience you’ll ever have.” He raises red, puffy eyes to me. “Grasp every moment with both hands and hold on for dear life.”
“How is it that what you just said makes absolutely no fucking sense at all, but I get it?” he says.
“Because we’re men,” I reply, “We love and we love hard, but we feel things differently than our ladies do. They feel hearts and flowers and butterflies and every so often, they turn into wildcats, hell bent on death and devastation to those who dare challenge them. Men… what we feel is powerful and destructive. Our emotions and reactions are ‘kick the door in and tear the walls down’ every time. Butterfly could have accomplished the same task… pick your feelings and thoughts apart and break them down, coming to the same conclusions after about half an hour. But I know exactly what you’re feeling,” I say, banging my fist against my chest gently, “so I can relate.” I stand to my feet and go over to the bookshelf that I use for a bar.
“I know you don’t indulge anymore, Bro, but I need a drink after that small inner trip down memory lane.”
“It doesn’t bother me. Go ahead,” he says as I fill a tumbler with two fingers of Japanese single malt whiskey and throw it back quickly. I contemplate having another, but decide against it since I don’t want to be falling all over myself.
“I never asked why you decided to stop drinking altogether,” I say. “It’s been, what, nearly a year now?”
“Our father had to put me on a punishment, Christian,” he laments. “When was the last time our father put you on a punishment?”
“When I dropped out of Harvard,” I answer without hesitation. “He didn’t speak to me for weeks. He barely wanted me to stay in his house! He and Mom used to argue all the time about me and whether or not I could stay. I agreed to start my business and if I failed, I would go back to Harvard. Dad wouldn’t hear it.”
“Yeah, but you found your way anyway and you proved them wrong,” Elliot retorts. “What’s more is that your behavior wasn’t destructive. It was just against what they wanted. I’m a grown man. When it gets to the point that my father has to discipline me for drinking, and my girlfriend had to call him… that’s too much. It stuck with me. I don’t need alcohol anyway.”
“But you never had any alcoholic or destructive tendencies,” I protest. “We all throw back a few too many once in a while. It’s not that I’m trying to get you to drink, but I do want you to look at things in the right perspective.” He nods again.
“I understand, Bro, but I have a question for you. We’re all alcoholics born alcoholics?” I sigh.
“No, I would say not,” I say with finality. He’s resolved to his decision and I won’t press it anymore. We talk for a little while longer, still sorting out his feelings when the two-way communications system comes to life.
“Yes?” I reply, waiting for a response. Nothing. I never got used to what Butterfly does, just yelling “Ana” into the air, but maybe that’s what the system is waiting for.
“Christian,” I say, trying the system once more. It just beeps again. I look over at Elliot, then point expecting. Maybe it’s looking for him. I did tell him to register with security before he took Valerie to her radiation treatments. Did they do it?
“Elliot?” he says, a question, not a response.
“El, can you come here for a minute, please?” Valerie’s frail, soft voice comes over the two-way communication system. Elliot springs to his feet.
“I’m on my way, Angel. Are you okay? Do you need something?” He sounds almost frantic. Calm down, man. That’s how we communicate in this mini-city. I just shake my head.
“I’m fine. I just need to see you up here for a minute,” she says.
“O—okay,” he says, uncertainly.
“Elliot, is Christian with you?” my wife’s voice floats melodiously through the system.
“Yeah, he’s here.”
“Can you tell him to come, too, please?” she says. I was just about to get some work done before dinner and prepare for tomorrow’s meeting with accounting and legal, and if there’s enough time, PR. But I know better than to deny my wife when she beckons. I remove my tie and nod at Elliot.
“He heard you. We’re on our way,” Elliot calls into the air.
“Thank you. End two-way communications,” and the system disconnects.
“Elliot,” I say as I remove my jacket and toss it over the chair with my tie, “don’t panic when Val summons you through the system. It doesn’t always mean there’s an emergency. This house is nearly 14,000 square feet. Other than cell phones, this is our primary source of communication. Butterfly has this thing wired as a high-tech baby monitor. The moment one of the children start to stir or cry, the two-way system pages her. Get used to it. It’s a part of life at Grey Crossing.” He nods, hesitantly.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to anything like that,” he says as we walk to the elevator. “Your house is bigger than Mom and Dad’s. They never had anything like this.”
“I’m not sure the technology was available when we were kids,” I tell him. “Plus, we have way more staff than Mom and Dad, and our safety wasn’t as delicate at the time as my wife and children.” Elliot twists his face.
“We sure as hell don’t have to worry about the Candyman getting to us in this fortress,” he says as we enter the elevator and he pushes the button for the second floor.
“Are you okay?” I ask Val while we wait for our men.
“I’m fine,” she replies. “A little anxious. I don’t know what he’ll say… or if he’ll just agree because I’m sick.”
“He never struck me as that type, Val,” I try to reassure her. “Just… set expectations before you say anything. Make sure that he knows that this is what you want, but you want the truth. A lie now and the truth later will only hurt you more.” She nods, then startles as she hears the door. Her mouth falls open and I can’t immediately see why as I’m standing on the other side of the door. I soon see the reason for her shocked expression.
Did he lose a bet or something?
I don’t know, but I can’t wait to hear this explanation.
“Elliot, what did you do?” Val asks, her gaze pinned to Elliot’s now nearly bald head.
“I… cut it,” he says, his voice full of trepidation. “I wanted you to see that the hair wasn’t important and as long as you’re bald, I’ll be bald… well, maybe not completely bald. I didn’t want to shave it all off because I didn’t know if it would freak you out.” Val’s hand flies to her mouth and she starts to weep. Elliot rushes to her side and sits on the bed.
“I’m sorry, Angel,” he says. “You don’t like it? It’ll grow back in no time…” Val shakes her head and swallows her sob.
“It’s beautiful,” she weeps as she runs her hand across the fuzz on Elliot’s head. “It’s soft and furry and I want to play in it.” Elliot laughs lightheartedly and wipes her tears from her cheeks with his thumbs.
“Should we leave?” Christian says quietly to me. I shake my head.
“No,” I tell him, pulling him to my side while I fumble with my phone.
“You said you needed me for something,” he presses.
“I do. Now, keep quiet for a minute.”
“Baby, I’ve got work I have to do…” he protests.
“Christian!” I hiss, harshly, but quietly as I snap my head in his direction. He puts his hands up in mock surrender. Satisfied, I fumble with my phone some more while Val composes herself. After a few moments, she’s ready to talk to Elliot.
“I… want to say something,” she begins, “but before I do, I have to ask that you be 100% truthful to me, even if you think the truth will hurt me.” Elliot’s face falls and he frowns deeply.
“Angel, if you’re asking me to hurt you, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” She nods.
“That’s good to know, but also know this. Saying something that you think I want to hear now only to discover that you were not being truthful and to find out the truth later will hurt me more. Swear to me that you will be truthful, even if it hurts.” Elliot drops his head.
“You’re asking a lot from me here,” he laments. “I don’t know how to willingly hurt you.”
“Well, if what happens next ultimately means that I’m going to be hurt, then I’ll either be hurt now or later, and I can’t forgive you for later… not with this. I’d rather just keep it to myself…”
“No, baby…” Elliot takes her gently in his arms. “Stress is not good for you. Don’t hold it in.”
“Then I need your word,” she says, her voice starting to tremble again. “Don’t say what you want me to hear… tell me the truth, or I’ll keep it to myself.” Elliot sighs heavily.
“I hope she knows how much he loves her,” Christian says quietly in my ear. I look up at him strangely and he mouths, “He’s gone… way gone!” If that’s the case, this should be a no-brainer.
“Promise me, Elliot,” Val presses. Yeah, promise her, Elliot. His swallow is audible.
“I… I promise. I’ll be 100% truthful,” he says finally. She pulls away from him and takes his hands.
“Thank you,” she whispers before taking the biggest breath ever and letting it out. I fumble with my phone once more. Here goes…
“El, at my very worst, you were there for me. When I thought I couldn’t love again, you showed me that I could. When I least expected to let someone into my heart, you knocked and walked in. When no one else was left and I had chased everyone else away, I looked up and you were there. When there’s no one else, there’s you. When there’s everyone else, there’s you. When everyone wanted to be there for me, you pushed them all back and let them know they had to come through you first. You are everything I could ever, ever want in a man, in a lover, in a friend, in a companion, and I would be content just to be with you for as long as you choose to be with me. I would cherish every single moment you choose to give me, but I swear on every healthy T-cell I have in my body…” They both laugh nervously at her joke, “… that you would make me the happiest woman alive if you would agree to become my husband and spend your life with me if you can tolerate me.” She swallows hard as tears begin to roll down her cheeks. “Elliot Grey, when I’m well again, would you please marry me?”
“You bet your sweet ass, I will.” The words are out of his mouth almost before she finishes her question. He takes her face in his hands and kisses her gently, but repeatedly. She reaches in her chest pocket and pulls out a ring box. Without even seeing it, he holds his hand out to her. She giggles girlishly as she opens the box, removes the ring that we chose this afternoon and had delivered before our men returned, and slides the ring onto his finger—a solid platinum band with a single inlaid diamond.
He holds his hand up in front of his face like the typical newly engaged girl and admires his ring, releasing a deep sigh and examining his hand fondly.
“You like it?” Valerie asks nervously.
“I love it,” he breathes, dropping his hand but never taking his eyes off the ring. His breathing is ragged, almost like he can’t catch his breath. He’s nervous… or disarmed. What’s wrong?
“Baby?” Val asks, concerned.
“I’m okay, Angel,” he says, turning to the nightstand and opening the second drawer. “It’s just… now…” He pulls something out and turns back to Val. “I don’t have to find a way to ask you to wear this.”
A collective gasp is heard across the room from its other three occupants as Elliot produces the oh-so-familiar Cartier box already open to reveal a simple platinum princess cut solitaire engagement ring.
Valerie covers her mouth with shaking hands, speechless as she gazes on the ring.
“If you don’t like it, we can change it. It’s just that I noticed you like simple jewelry and…”
Still unable to get her words out, Valerie whimpers and waves shaky hands at Elliot, holding her left hand—still trembling—out to him in a gesture that clearly means, “Shut up and put the damn ring on my finger!”
He slides the dainty platinum creation onto her finger, her hands so small from the chemo and radiation treatments that the ring is truly perfect for her. Anything larger would have made her look gaunt. She weeps freely and he gives her his handkerchief from his jean pocket. She tries to control her tears, but they only worsen as he gathers her in his arms and cradles her to his chest.
“Congratulations!” I say, unable to contain my glee anymore. “Al’s going to be so pissed that he wasn’t here, ha ha ha ha!” I tease. This immediately draws a laugh from Val, which was my intention.
“That cow gets to see everything,” she says through her tears, drying them as much as she can with Elliot’s handkerchief.
“Oh, I love you so much!” I say like a giddy schoolgirl, tossing my phone at Elliot and running to Val, embracing her warmly. “We really are going to be sisters! Get the fuck outta here!” We both burst into uncontrollable laughter, abating more of Valerie’s tears. “I’m so glad I didn’t miss it,” I say with a sweet smile.
“I glad you didn’t either,” she says. Just above a whisper. She looks over my shoulder and I realize that Christian has moved behind me. I step aside so that he can come to the side of her bed.
“Welcome to the family, Valerie,” he says, softly, as he places his hand on her scarf and gently kisses her forehead. She looks up at him with glassy eyes.
“Thank you,” she says, her voice cracking. He puts his hand under her chin and lifts her face to meet his gaze, cupping her face with his other hand.
“You stay with us as long as you need to,” he says. “You don’t worry about anything. Your main concern is to get well, get back on your feet, and then marry my brother. Everything else will take care of itself… or we’ll take care it.” He turns his gaze to Elliot, who gives him an acknowledging nod. Then he looks back to Val. “You understand?” A wide smile graces her face.
“Yes, Christian,” she whispers. “I understand.” She grasps his hand that is cupping her face and kisses his palm in gratitude as a lone tear falls down her cheek. “Thank you.” Christian puts a finger to his lip in a “shushing” manner.
“Don’t mention it,” he says. “You’re a Grey now… the paper is just a formality. We Greys stick together.” He kisses her on the temple and squeezes her hand before releasing her and turning to me. Elliot throws an equally grateful glance at him as Christian wraps his arm around my waist.
“You hear that, Angel,” he says sweetly. “You’re a Grey.”
A/N: I can’t remember if Ana ever told Val about her and Christian and the lifestyle before this, but I can’t seem to recall her doing so. If anyone can find in the story where she may have mentioned it to Val, let me know so that I can adjust this chapter accordingly. I’m reading through myself to see if I can find anything like that.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous was a show back in the 80’s and 90’s where host Robin Leach traipsed through the mansions and parties and vacations of the filthy rich to allow us poor common folk to live vicariously through the escapades and indulgences of the wealthy.
One more to go…
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