I can’t remember which comment somewhere said that I had a link that was going to the original story. I didn’t know what you were talking about at first, but I figured it out later. Thanks for pointing it out!
I just felt like a bonus chapter, so here ya go! I’ll email it out later.
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 4—Everyday People
I’m awakened with sweet kisses all over my face. I’m trying to open my eyes, but yesterday was emotionally trying from start to finish. First, Carrick’s brother shows up and acts like he wants to challenge the entire household to a goddamn duel! Then, that same asshole tries to get my husband arrested and since my husband already has a record, he was going to do jail time for sure. Next, I turn into a blubbering idiot because all this shit had to happen right around our anniversary and there’s nothing I can do about it, thereby proving that money can’t buy you happiness—not that I thought it could. To make that matter worse, Christian walks in on my sob-fest and Valerie promptly tells him why I’m crying while I was trying to convince him that it was just an emotional day. After that display, I fully expect to find that when we return to Grey Crossing, the Taj Mahal will have been relocated to my front lawn.
Finally, there’s Pops. He’s under no misconception of what’s happening. He’s fully ready to go. He’s suffered a lot and he’s just tired now. He talks about seeing Ruby again and the little boy that she miscarried… Carrick has never told any of us about that. I wonder if he even knows. I sat with him for a while before bedtime and he talked about how he wished his sons would come together before he died, so that he could see them all together one more time. He’s resolved that Freeman won’t do it. He had said that Freeman is bitter and unhappy. He’s been bitter for years and the family just chose not to fight him, but in the act of pacifying one son, he had ostracized another. His complacency almost meant that he could have died without seeing how well Carrick had done with his family. He said that he was happy to have come out and met us all, to see how successful and close we all are and to be a part of it if only for a little while.
He said that he felt like Mia was the daughter that he never had, and if he and Ruby were to have ever been blessed with a girl, he would have hoped she would have been just like Mia. He really loves Mia. She can be a bit overwhelming if you can’t tolerate her, but Pops thrived on her energy, even when she was making him drink those terrible health drinks. Her attitude and sunshine is contagious, and he wanted her around him all the time. Even now, she comes in after everyone is gone and some nights, she climbs into bed with him. He says that those are the nights that he sleeps the best. Just last night, she came in and laid down next to him while he and I were still talking. Ethan stood on the other side of the bed where Pops could see him, and Pops mustered up his breath to mutter to breathe a warning to him…
“You… take care… of my Mia… Don’t ever… hurt her… or be cross… with her… She’s a… gentle soul… and if you… mistreat her… it will… destroy her… and I… will destroy you.”
Whoa, Ethan. I’d take the warning of a dying man if I were you. I suspect he would come back and haunt you for hurting his Mia.
“I love her more than I can say, sir,” Ethan said to Pops with conviction. “I’ll never hurt her and I’ll kill the man who ever tries.” Pops nodded his approval at Ethan before turning to a teary-eyed Mia.
“You’ll make… a beautiful… bride,” he says, bringing a shaking hand to Mia’s cheek. “I wish… I could… be here… to see it… but… Ruby’s calling me… I’ll tell her… all about you… and we’ll… be lookin’ down… on you… when that man… makes you… an honest woman.”
Mia’s lip trembled, but she held her weeping in as she kissed her grandfather on the cheek, little dainty ladylike tears falling from her eyes.
“I love you, Grampa,” she said, her voice trembling.
“I love you… my sweet… sweet Mia.” He kissed her on the forehead and we finally left him to rest. When she was sure that she was far enough away from Pops’ door so that he couldn’t hear her, she collapsed into Ethan’s arms with heart-wrenching sobs. He scooped her into his arms and carried her up to the third floor to their room. I followed and went to our room and fell into an emotional, exhausted sleep.
Now, my husband’s soft lips are working their way across my jaw and down my neck. He groans into my skin as he kisses me and gently nips the skin as he moves along.
“Happy Anniversary, my love,” he says as his lips travel down my chest in my now open pajama shirt. Is he going to take me here? God, I want him to, but we’re in his parents’ house…
“Happy Anni… ah!” He sucks my nipple into his mouth and bites down gently on it, sending shocks all the way through me, straight down to my core. He continues to suck and bite on it until I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. He moves over to the other nipple as he snatches me up into his lap.
“Christian…” I breathe, the burning in my nipple matching the burning in my core. I’m straddling him, my thighs or either side of his as his hands slide down my back and into my pajama pants. He grips my bare ass hard, guiding my hips so that I grind against his steely erection. My head falls back and I thrust my hands into his hair as he rubs against me… higher… higher… higher I’m going as I feel his head and his shaft throbbing through his boxer briefs against my clit. I’m panting, rising to my orgasm, when he stills—holding me against him, no more movement. He kisses my lips gently, then again.
“Settle,” he says, his voice controlled like he wasn’t just throbbing like a madman against my pussy. I hate that he can do that. “I want you hot… all day. I’ve got surprises for you tonight.”
“All… all day?” I whimper, dismayed. He nods, looking me right in the eyes.
“Go shower. Don’t touch yourself. Mom is cooking for us, then I’m sending you out of this house for a while.”
“Sending me… what about the twins?” I protest.
“I’ve taken care of that,” he says. “So, pump if you need to, because you’ll be gone all day…” He kisses me with a wet open-mouthed kiss—short, but full of promise. “And all night.” I shiver when he says that and I can only nod.
“What should I wear?” I ask, trying to control my hormones. He thinks about it for a moment.
“Be comfortable,” he says. “Shorts.” I nod and smile. “Be quick. Mom is making us brunch.” I nod again. He kisses me again before releasing me and leaving the room.
Shorts. Comfortable. Okay.
I wait for a moment and stick my head out the door to make sure that he’s gone before I walk quietly down to Mia’s room. Her door is cracked, so I knock.
“Come in,” she replies. I walk in and she’s just putting some earrings on. “Hey, Anakins. Whatcha need?”
“Shorts,” I say with a shrug. “My best friend blabbed that I was sad about our anniversary, so my husband is sending me away for the day.”
“Yeah, I know,” she says, finishing with her jewelry and turning to me. “I’m helping out with the twins.” I smile at her.
“Thanks, Mia. I really appreciate this.”
“No worries. It’s good practice for when Ethan and I are ready, and I love spending time with those babies—once we get Minnie calmed down from the teething pain.” I frown.
“Yeah, it’s a bit much for her, but your mom’s miracle concoction is just that—a damn miracle!” We both laugh for a moment and then she looks me up and down. “Shorts—hmm… cute or comfortable?”
“Both,” I reply.
“You know I don’t have the ass you do. Boobs, yeah, ass, no.” I twist my lips.
“Anything gym short-ish that we can dress up?” I ask. “They stretch.” She puts up a finger and opens her mouth as if she has just made a miraculous discovery.
“I got it. I’ve got the perfect thing!” She disappears into her closet. I knew to ask her because she had to leave half of her wardrobe behind when she and Ethan moved into the new apartment. She comes back out with this adorable two-piece runner’s set with a long-sleeved hoodie jacket.
“Oh, that’s perfect,” I say, taking the set from her. Tiny little gym shorts that will just cover my ass and a matching jacket. “Sports bra or T-shirt?” I ask. She goes back into the closet and pulls out the cutest pink T-shirt. It’ll fit me, but I’m definitely going to have to pump so that the girls don’t leak.
“You’re going to give my husband a heart attack,” I say, looking at the darling little shirt that’s sure to accentuate my assets, with a logo across the boobs that says, “I’m So Om Nom Nom.” Come to think of it, he deserves it after working me up and leaving me hanging. I’m not going to be the only one all hot and bothered all day.
I take a shower and pump my milk. I wear a thong since these shorts are sinfully short and I don’t want any panty lines. I thought about a demi-bra, but this shirt is screaming “support those girls or there’s going to be a problem.” I put the outfit on with a comfortable pair of sneakers as I’m certain that I won’t get out of the house in heels with these on. Not feeling much like fussing with my hair, I put it in a messy bun and finish the look off with simple hoop earrings and lip gloss. I poke my head in to check on the twins before going downstairs to the dining room.
“I. Am going. To kill. Mia,” my husband says, gawking at me when I enter the room. I know what I look like—hot, but not trashy. I’ve finally been able to tone my hips and ass since the twins were born, but they are really toned… round and firm and beautiful, and I love them. So, I know my husband is having a cow right now.
“What did I do?” Mia exclaims from the other side of the table where she sits with Ethan.
“You said shorts,” I say innocently. “I don’t have shorts here. Should I change?”
I catch a glimpse of Val snickering out the corner of my eye and Elliot is shaking his head.
“Don’t worry, Mia,” he says. “With Montana in that outfit, he’ll keel over before the day is done just thinking about it. He won’t have time to get to you.”
I know Christian wants to say “yes” because I’m sexy as hell and I won’t be with him all day, but he doesn’t want to come off as Tarzan, beating his chest and making me go change. So, instead, he just says, “Bring your sexy ass over here, woman.”
I smile coyly at him at walk across the dining room with my hands clasped in front of me. His pupils dilate as I cross the room to him and he’s practically salivating.
“Yep, keel over dead,” Elliot teases.
Christian has me sitting so close to him throughout brunch that we might as well be sitting in the same chair. We’re feeding each other fruit and stuffed French toast and maple sausage while conversation carries on around the table like we’re not food-fucking each other right now. Once coffee starts to go around, the conversation floats around to Pops.
“So… I’m going to sign the house over to Freeman and Stan once… well, you know, once Dad is gone,” Herman says. Luma squeezes his hand. She’s been by his side the entire time this ordeal has been going on. “Do you have a problem with that, Rick?” Carrick shakes his head.
“I never wanted the house,” he says. “Does it even have the value that it had before? I know it’s in the historical district, but… it’s still Detroit.” Herman nods.
“They’re building the city back up,” he says. “There were some hard times for a while with that asshat Kwame Kilpatrick and all the shit that followed once he was arrested. It was downhill for the city after that. But the new downtown is revitalizing the city, so property values may go back up. I think that’s what Freeman is counting on. The house is paid off so he’s hoping to make some money off the property.”
“Well, no,” Carrick says, “he can have it. It’s not like I plan to go back to Detroit for anything.” There’s a long pause. “Do you?” Herman raises his head and looks at Carrick.
“Do I what?” Herman asks.
“Plan to go back,” he says. “I mean… to Detroit.” Herman’s brow furrows. I look at him just in time to see him look at his and Luma’s joined hands.
“Well, I want to go see my kids, but if it’s all the same to you, I was thinking that I might want to stay in Seattle,” Herman says. Carrick sighs audibly.
“It’s all the same to me, brother,” he says with a wide smile on his face. He and his brother share a moment silently between him before Carrick says, “I just don’t understand why Freeman has to be so bitter.”
“Yes, you do, Rick,” Herman says. “He’s always like this.”
“Not always,” Carrick says, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Yeah, Rick, he was,” Herman says. “You two are the middle boys, and Freeman was determined not to fall into the ‘oldest, youngest, middle’ stereotype…” I frown.
“Stereotype?” Christian asks for clarification. Herman turns to him.
“The oldest is the bully, the youngest is spoiled, the middle is abused or forgotten,” he says.
“I never heard of that,” Ethan interjects.
“Me, either,” Val says. I, however, am familiar with this dynamic. I’ve had more middle children as patients than I want to count.
The theory is that the oldest comes first and has Mom and Dad—depending on the family—all to themselves. Then, the second child comes along and the first child has to share the attention, often getting bumped aside since there’s now a new “baby” of the family. However, when the third child is born, the dynamic changes. There’s yet another baby in the family to take Mom and Dad’s attention away from the first two. The oldest has now most likely grown out of the attention-needing phase and has either become protector or bully. The baby is coddled and the middle child either forgotten or abused.
“Well, there are kids in our neighborhood who lived it, so if it’s not true, then someone somewhere believed it was. Anyway, Freeman and Rick are second and third born. Freem could’ve done without you, until Stan was born a couple of years later. Then, you were his best friend.”
“So, I guess I don’t get it,” Mia says, frowning. “Freeman didn’t like Dad until another kid was born?” Herman nods.
“I knew Mom and Dad were going to have more kids. They prepared me for it from the moment I could talk, telling me that I was going to be a big brother, so I expected it. When Freeman was born, it was no surprise. I guess Freem didn’t get the preparation that I got, because when Rick was born, he became the most miserable little bastard you ever met in your life. He stayed that way for two years until Stan was born. Then, there needed to be a unified front against the enemy… the enemy being Stan. Stan was oblivious to the whole thing. I saw it. It didn’t bother me much, but I saw it. I was just happy Freem wasn’t such a miserable bastard anymore.
“He latched onto Rick like a leech when Rick was two years old. He was that manipulative at four. He orchestrated this friendship where the rest of us—even Mom and Dad—were on the outside looking in.” Carrick frowns.
“I never got that feeling,” he said. “I always thought we were just… close.”
“In your eyes, you probably were,” Herman says. “In his eyes, it was the two of you against the world. Only it wasn’t the two of you against the world anymore when you went and married Grace. He always thought the brothers would get married in order of birth, so he would get married before you. When you got married first, you deserted him. You jumped ship, and the fact that you married money made it even worse.”
“That’s just ridiculous!” Carrick interjects. “We lived in a big house in one of the best parts of the city at the time. We didn’t want for anything. Christmases were insane; we didn’t have to wear hand-me-down clothes, even though most of the kids we knew were doing just that. Hell, some of them even wore our hand-me-downs. We lived a great life. We were not poor! What was or is his huge aversion to money?” Herman sighs.
“You ever watch The Little Rascals, Rick?” he asks after a pause. Carrick frowns.
“Yeah, haven’t we all?”
“Not all of us,” Elliot pipes in. My husband throws a look at him and Elliot shrugs. “I haven’t seen it,” Elliot replies in a what did I do tone. Herman continues.
“Well, for those of you who don’t know, Alfalfa was the neighborhood ‘crooner’ in love with Darla, the neighborhood sweetheart—the proverbial girl next door. Waldo was the rich kid who went to their school, also with his sights set on Darla. There was a constant battle between Alfalfa and Waldo for Darla affections, and she played right up to them both.”
“I always thought Darla was a trifling little tramp, but I felt bad saying that about a kid who was all of eight or nine years old,” I say to no one in particular.
“Well, as you know, in the end, Alfalfa always won Darla’s affections. Not so in the real story. Freem’s ‘Darla’ stayed with him for three years until they graduated high school. Freeman went straight into the factory after high school. He wanted that factory money and Dad got him right in. That’s a really good living for a man with a family, but for a single man, that’s a mint!
“’Darla,’ or Rachel in this case, went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor right after prom and ‘Waldo,’ a guy named Kevin Higgins, followed her. With no ‘Alfalfa’ to interfere, Kevin charmed the pants off Freem’s girl… literally. Freem stopped hearing from her. She wouldn’t contact him when she came home from school. She was never in her dorm or anywhere to be found when he went up to see her.
“She came home for Christmas in her junior year and Kevin came back with her. Freem showed up demanding answers, and she finally told him the truth about her and Kevin. The next year, when Rachel and Kevin came back for summer vacation, they were married at Kevin’s parents’ estate in Novi—no long engagement, just ‘marry me,’ ‘okay,’ and they did it. Freeman waited for that girl for three more years after graduation hoping that she would come back and when she did, she had a husband and that husband came from money.
“Freeman was convinced that it was the money that won her over, not that the two of them were spending time with each other and just fell for each other in Freeman’s absence—which is most likely what happened. Rachel was faithful to him in high school and Freeman couldn’t believe that for reasons of love and love alone, she went to Kevin and not him. Freeman had saved up so much living with Dad and having no expenses that he couldn’t even see that he was pretty well-off on his own. He lives in a huge house in the suburbs. His kids go to the best schools; his wife drives the best car. He’s living a little beyond his means to still try to show Rachel what she missed after twenty years, but he’ll never forgive her for leaving him for money.
“When Rick married before he did, and married into money, he had the worst fit I had ever seen. A line was drawn in the sand, not because we were upset with Rick, but because Freeman was still living at home with Dad and Stan, Mom was dying, and we were just trying to keep the peace. After Mom passed and you married Gracie, Freeman wrote you off. You were oblivious to the situation with Rachel because he didn’t want to tell you. Stan was oblivious to everything because he was young and it didn’t roll down to him. But I saw it all—my brother has been a self-serving bastard since the age of four when he started priming you as part of the ‘us against them’ party. You never fell into it, although you and Freeman were really close, but he didn’t see that. You were his wingman; you would always have his back.
“Along comes this young beautiful blonde—with money—and Freeman’s left out in the cold again… for money. It couldn’t be the fact that you loved her, like Rachel did Kevin. They’re still married, by the way—two kids, a lovely home, and very happy as far as I know. You all saw for yourself that Freem married, too, and he’s got two kids, but he still doesn’t forgive the money. As far as he’s concerned, you betrayed him just like Rachel did.” Carrick shakes his head.
“All these years,” he says. “All these years, I’ve been wondering why he hated me so much. This is so unbelievably ridiculous that I can’t even wrap my mind around it. He thought that I would turn my back on my family for money?” Herman shook his head.
“Not that you would… you did,” Herman says. “In his eyes, you chose the dollar. A lot of times, we thought to contact you and it just fell by the wayside because it was such a huge fight. And that was our fault—Dad, Stan, and me—but we never felt like you deserted us. Freem was just a force to be reckoned with that we didn’t want to battle. When we got the invitation to the wedding, Dad had just had enough. He said that you’re his son, too, and he wasn’t going to allow Freeman to steal another minute away from him. I think he knew then that his days were numbered and he wasn’t letting Freem dictate what was going to happen to him or whether he could see his son or not. So, Freeman’s current animosity isn’t towards you anymore. It’s more of a transference of what he can’t show to Dad.”
“That’s not possible,” Carrick says. “Freeman hates me… not Dad.”
“He doesn’t hate Dad, but he’s mad at Dad, even more now that Dad’s here. Trust me, it’s not you, Rick. It’s Dad.” Carrick frowns.
“Well, I know he’s mad at me because of Dad…” Carrick says, still trying to understand.
“No,” Herman says, “he’s mad at Dad. He tried to keep Dad from coming out here for the wedding. He threatened to have him declared mentally incompetent until I reminded him that I was Dad’s power of attorney and trustee over his estate. He’s been trying to get Dad back to Detroit since the day after the wedding. When I told him that Dad and I were staying, he flipped his lid. Then I suggested sending Dad back, but I wasn’t coming. I never would have done that, but I wanted to see his reaction. You know what he did? He sent me a request to change power of attorney and a manila envelope full of nursing home brochures. He was going to put my father in a nursing home if I didn’t come back to take care of him. That’s the last contact I had with Freeman before Dad’s health deteriorated, and that was right after New Year’s.
“Freeman is really upset right now because there’s no one on his side. And he’s really pissed at Dad because of what Dad said to him that day he showed up and because he knew you guys were fighting.”
“What did he say?” Carrick asks. Herman pulls out his phone and thumbs through it, placing it on the desk and swiping something on the screen. He puts the phone on the desk and we hear Pops’ voice.
“You need… to let it… go. You… need to… make peace… with your… brother… Life… is too… short to be… fighting and… mad… all the time… Don’t you… get tired… of being… angry… all the time… Freeman?”
“I just want what’s best for you, Dad,” Freeman’s voice says over the phone. Pops coughs a bit, but it’s not until I hear the next words that I realize that he was trying to laugh.
“I love you… Freeman… I want… you to know… that… but you… never did… anything… unless… it was… what… was best… for you.”
Uncle Herman picks up the phone and swipes the screen.
“That’s it,” he says. “That’s all of it. Shortly after that, he came down and got into the fight with Christian… if you can call it that,” Uncle Herman laughs. Yeah, I call it dumb ass crossed the wrong Neanderthal and saw his fucking life flash before his eyes. Christian scoffs.
“Yeah,” he interjects, “One minute, he’s all ‘you feelin’ froggy, kid?’” He did a horrible imitation of Freeman’s voice. “The next minute, he’s ‘officer save me—that caveman could have killed me.’” There’s an uncomfortable laugh around the table.
“What made you record that?” Carrick says to Herman.
“I saw where the conversation was going,” Herman said. “Freeman came up the stairs looking like he has just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson in his heyday. Dad looked at him and tried to ask what happened. Freem called you a hothead and said that you instigated the whole thing…”
“Of course, he did,” Carrick said, shaking his head. Herman nods.
“Dad didn’t buy it,” he continues. “He bought that you had beaten the hell outta Freem, but not that you instigated the fight. He asked Freeman what he said and Freeman denied saying anything to you. That’s when I started opening my phone and told Dad that Freeman called your children bastards and you came at him with a hard right.”
“Oh, dear,” Grace says, sipping her coffee. Herman shrugs.
“I wasn’t going to have him badmouthing Rick when he wasn’t there to defend himself. Anyway, he dug a hole for himself because he mumbled that they would never be Greys and that’s when Dad told him that he needed to stop being mad all the time.” Herman sighs. “So now, he gets to carry the burden of knowing that the last time he saw Freeman, his son left angry at him because he’s too big of an asshole to think of anyone but himself!” Herman spit those last words out just as I hear a slight commotion behind me.
“Um, hello everyone… bad timing?” I turn around to see my best friend standing in the doorway. It almost seems like forever since I’ve seen Al and I can’t help but go to him and wrap my arms around him.
“Hi, Al,” I whisper in his ear.
“Hey, Jewel,” he says, bringing his arms around my waist.
“What are you doing here?” I ask.
“We’re taking you out for a day of fun!” Al says, trying to make his voice sound more chipper than the solemn mood that has settled over Grey Manor.
“We?” I question.
“Me and Val. We’re going to go have some fun like we did when we were teenagers and forget about being adults for a while.”
That’s when I realize that the short suit is perfect, because I truly look ten years younger and not like a mother of twins. I nod before I release my embrace.
“I could use a little fun,” I say with a sad smile. I turn around to face my husband. “What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me,” he says. “I’ll catch up with you later.” He rises out of his seat and puts his arms around me, shamelessly putting groping my ass—a cheek in each hand. “Have some fun and I’ll see you this evening.” He kisses me softly, and then again.
“Okay, okay, no making out in front of parental units. Damn!” Elliot hisses, just as Val gives him a sweet kiss. I rip myself away from my sexy ass husband and follow my friends out of the Manor.
Christian arranged covert security for the day and I don’t even bother to look for them. So, with Val and Al on my arm, we go straight to the mall. The first place we hit is Accessory Palace. Val and I used to spend hours in here when we were in college. Val finds two big bows with ponytail holders on them, promptly buys them and puts my hair in two “anime girl” ridiculously long ponytails. I swear I look like I should be in high school!
Determined not to give away my identity, Val pays for our accessories, which includes a costume “key” to go on my earring like Janet Jackson wore in the “Control” video. We couldn’t resist finding a store with lollipops and taking several shots and selfies of us posing like naughty schoolgirls.
Next, we play nine holes of indoor miniature golf on a course in the mall that actually glows like cosmic bowling! I’m not really one for miniature golf, but it turns out to be a lot of fun. My white sneakers light up with the lighting effects and Al jokes about how it won’t be hard to find me on the course. Val wins, still not sure that I didn’t let her win. Al bitches about the whole game since he finishes 37 under par, which he only got because if you got six strokes and you still didn’t get the ball in, we gave it to you at six. Al got six strokes 4 times! I was 18 under par to Val’s 10, and I really didn’t let her win. One of Al’s complaints was correct. A lot of the “holes” had a little lift around the outside of the rim. So, if you didn’t hit the ball just right, it would roll to the hole and look like it’s going in, but instead, roll down the outside of the rim and back down the hill. I figured that out around the third hole and adjusted my stroke, so he doesn’t have an excuse… sore loser.
Before we leave the mall, we spend some time at Gameworks. Now, could Ana just play some games quietly and have fun? No! Ana had to go all out and play the games that would draw attention to herself, like the dancing game where your feet have to move at the speed of light causing your ass to jiggle and your boobs to bounce. I don’t know how long I stay on that game working up a sweat before I realize I’ve drawn a crowd—not because I’m so good at this, but because my ass is jiggling and my boobs are bouncing. I have a good laugh at my own expense, then get off the machine before I cause some poor pubescent boy to nut himself.
Val and I then challenge each other to air hockey, which I most certainly did not let her win and what happens? More pubescent and not-so-pubescent gawkers. Why? Two beautiful women bending over an air hockey table battling it out to the death and giggling maniacally. You tell me.
After several games where I win several tickets, we wrap our arcade trip up with an interactive video game called “Police 911,” where you step inside this little frame that reads your body movements and puts you in the game. So, if you physically move to take cover and keep from getting shot, the screen moves with you in first person. Needless to say, I drew a crowd on this game, too, because I played for quite some time on two tokens while listening to things like, “She can protect and serve me anytime,” and “She’s going to beat my high score,” and “Damn, that bitch can shoot.” Shortly after the last comment, I give my last “life” to a kid standing near the game and we leave the arcade, not necessarily because of the comment, but because it was time and I wanted to do something less physical.
Now, I’ve lived in the Seattle area on and off for the better part of nearly thirty years and I’ve never seen or even heard of what my friends called “The Gum Wall.” It’s exactly what it sounds like—it’s a wall in an alley near Post Street covered in already-chewed gum, and my friends thought that this was something that should be on my bucket list. This wall actually draws tourists who will add to it, take pictures in front of it, and even touch it. The truly brave among them—or truly stupid, depending on your perspective—will even lick it. It’s disgusting!
Going to the Space Needle was more my cup of tea. Even though I had been several times before, riding up that elevator and going to the observatory never loses its splendor for me. It’s like a party in the observatory and I always get butterflies in my stomach riding to the top in the elevator. I always loved the observation deck and even the butterfly ride up to it…
Seeing Mt. Rainer off in the distance and listening to the elevator operator tell us that it’s one of five active volcanoes in Washington and the highest point of the state…
Looking over Elliot Bay and seeing my condo, wondering if I should sublet it or just sell it or keep it in case I need an escape…
Just letting the wind and the breeze blow through my pigtails and erase all manner of worry and stress as I gaze out over the Pacific…
“Chocolate’s mom called.”
I look over my shoulder at Al and frown. His husband, James, has very little to say about his family, but none of them were invited to their wedding a few months ago.
“Really?” I ask curiously. “What’s up?”
“She wants him to come home for the Fourth of July,” he says, looking over the ocean with his binoculars. That was another sore spot for James that I knew about. He went home to Arizona for Thanksgiving, taking Al with him. The reception was less than warm, to put it kindly, and he has no desire to return. He was part of the Faces of Abuse PSA that we did last year and although I don’t know—or can’t remember—the particulars, I know it has something to do with his childhood and him realizing at an early age that he didn’t like girls.
“Are… you guys going?” I ask. Al shakes his head.
“Not likely,” he says, “but it’s put him in a foul mood. I’m expecting some kind of scene later when I get home.” I raise an eyebrow.
“Scene as in having a fight making a scene or scene as in wrist restraints and riding crops?”
“The latter,” he says, a small smile playing with his lips. “I shouldn’t be happy about it. It’s coming at the expense of him being upset about his family, but I can’t help it. He’s a natural at this! If I didn’t know better, I would swear he’s done it before.”
“Have you asked him?” I say, walking around the observation deck. He nods.
“He says he hasn’t, but after you and I talked and we dabbled, we met with that guy you told us about—Michel—and his boyfriend. They helped us along and now Chocolate is king, let me tell you!” Al momentarily gets a lusty, glassy look in his eye and once his pupils dilate, I snap my fingers.
“Yo, Forsythe, step away from the playroom,” I say quietly. His blinking and slight head shake lets me know that he had indeed wandered to some area involving a spreader bar or a St. Andrew’s Cross.
“That’s Fleming-Forsythe to you, Missy,” he hisses, while sticking out his tongue at me. I like the fact that he and James took each other’s last name without having to make too many changes to legal documents. Al is Fleming-Forsythe, putting James’ last name before his, so that if a document still says Forsythe, it’s still legal. In turn, James is Forsythe-Fleming for the same reason.
“Come on, you two. We’ve got ice-cream and pampering to do,” Val says, pulling our conversation away from the lifestyle and back onto the day ahead of us. Christian and I could definitely use some playroom time. He’s wound tight as hell and I just don’t feel like myself these days after everything that’s been going on in the last couple of months.
I love the fact that we’re just having an average day like we used to before I became Anastasia Grey. I miss doing simple things like going to the Marketplace and the aquarium, even going to kick Luc’s ass at some Krav Maga or doing yoga in one of the local studios. The fact that I’m dressed like a damn teenager and I don’t have a horde of security around me turned out to be one of the best disguises in the world. I’m hiding in plain view and all I had to do was dress and act like a normal person.
Fortunately—and unfortunately—our cover is blown when we walk into a Baskin & Robbins to get two-scoop waffle cones. The clerk serving us ice-cream recognizes me immediately under those pigtails and ridiculously large and goofy sunglasses that I wore as part of my disguise, not my normal Jackie-o’s. It was fortunate because we were going straight from here to Miana’s to pamper and primp, so our entire day couldn’t be ruined by the paps. It was unfortunate because if we didn’t hurry and get the hell out of here and stop taking pictures with the misled, start-struck ice-cream clerk, the rest of our day would soon be ruined by the paps. Luckily, we slipped out before any cameras showed up.
Val’s last spa day was my disastrous birthday weekend last year, so she took full advantage of the facials and massages and body wraps for the rest of the afternoon. I was plucked, scrubbed, polished, buffed, kneaded, and threaded within an inch of my life before Franco shows up with this gorgeous red creation for me.
“Mr. Grey demanded that you be wearing this when your treatments are finished,” he says. I already feel so pretty—my hair falling down over my shoulders in bountiful, soft waves; flawless model makeup gracing my cheeks and lips; and now Franco brings me this stunning ensemble that informs me that the night will surely be as memorable as the day. It’s a basic red hourglass tunic dress the falls just below the knees, but grommet-inset leather starts at the shoulder, crosses the breast, and ends at the other hip. Leather laces are threaded through the grommets to hold the dress together so that if you untie the laces, the dress can be as demure or as raunchy and you want it to be. There’s a cute pair of strappy sandals with 4-inch heels along with two Cartier boxes that, no doubt, carry at least $100,000 worth of jewelry. My breast pump has also miraculously materialized, so I plan to take full advantage of that having not seen my children all day.
“Mrs. Grey?” I turn to see another of Miana’s employees standing there with another garment bag, only she’s not looking at me. She’s looking at Val. I clear my throat and get Val’s attention.
“I’m not the only Mrs. Grey in the room anymore,” I tell her, gesturing to the lady standing next to her. Val turns and her brows furrow, then raise to her bangs.
“Wha…? It’s not my anniversary,” she says, bemused.
“Apparently we’re going together open the bag!” I say all in one breath. Val opens the garment bag to find a cold-shoulder purple mini that has a draping top and a fitted skirt. She has a matching pair of purple Louboutin stilettos and three accompanying Cartier boxes.
“Wow… I guess we are,” she says, giggling like a schoolgirl.
“She knew about Flynn. She knew about my guns. She had way too many details from after her mole was gone. How? She knows about you dismantling businesses. You still own the salons, so she couldn’t be talking about that. It has to be the miscellaneous subsidiaries or something else.”
My wife’s words from the Pedophile’s trial play back in my head. I’ve since had Alex and Barney working on locating any other possible leaks in our system and nothing has come up. I’ve also had them screening every employee who has come and gone for the last three years and the well is still dry. I can’t take another fucking hacker situation, that’s for damn sure. That shit seemed to drag on for-fucking-ever and when it was finally finished, I had no damn closure—just more unanswered questions. I still don’t know where the fuck the crack whore’s pimp is. For all I know, he could be somewhere perusing through my files as we speak. But Barney and Alex say that’s not possible. There are no footprints anywhere.
Alex has given me another theory, though. Myrick, Jr., infiltrated all of my files, even my phone when he leaked the ultrasound pictures of the twins. We had no idea that he was lurking around in the system until last fall, but he had his eye on me and Butterfly since at least the Thanksgiving of the year before. That’s when he was able to get Butterfly’s keys and make copies—while we were staying at the Manor over Thanksgiving weekend. We know that he was working with Lincoln, which is how she got the keys anyway, or at least how she got the gun.
The key to this mystery is going to be in finding out who the accomplice was that actually went into Butterfly’s apartment. Whoever that was, I’m sure that they have more information on the topic, but we don’t even know where to start. Then again…
“You want what?” Alex asks.
“Every video from every camera from every angle from Cristalla Condos from February 23th and 24th of last year. I want an account of every person that was in that building those two days. If a door opened in that building over those two days, I want to know where that person started and where they ended up. If there is anyone who doesn’t have a definitive destination, that’s where we’ll start investigating.” There’s silence on the line.
“Why did no one think of this last year when it happened?” he asks.
“Because we’re idiots,” I say. “We’d been lulled into a false sense of security all the way up to the point where that man hacked into my computer systems. Get started. I’m going to want to see the results and the videos and Butterfly may need to see them, too. We may be able to identify someone.”
“Yes, sir.” I end the call and shoot off an email to Andrea and CC Ros that I will be in the office tomorrow after all. I have two important issues on my agenda. The first is to find out how I can get my uncle, Stanley, here to say goodbye to Pops. He seems like a decent enough guy—nothing like his brother, Freeman. He just needs additional means to get here and at this point, there’s no time to waste.
The second is to welcome the third in command that we hired when I discovered that Pops was dying and I knew that I would need to spend more time with my family. His name is Lorenz Fineman, and according to his background check, he has held three high-level executive positions in the last 15 years. Each company has recognized vast net profits while he was on the board and he has never been asked to leave an organization. He only moves on when he feels like he’s given the company all that he can really give them.
He has a wife and three children in private schools and a home in The Highlands, so he’s a stable family man. He’s in his mid-thirties—not much older than me. Even though GEH is well-established and needs no help in the growth department, he understands the concept of needing more capable hands in executive leadership so that each member is able to invest in family life without leaving the company teetering on one leg. He interviewed well with all of us and Ros feels like he’ll be a good fit. Butterfly profiled him a bit from a personality point of view and decided he appears to be truthful and solid in all that he says and that if he is hiding something, we’ll have to wait him out.
I haven’t told Butterfly yet, but Joshua Shaler accepted the position as Mac’s assistant in the PR department with a few stipulations. Of course, he had to sign an NDA, but he’s somewhat working undercover. He’ll be behind the scenes, pulling the levers and working things out for us while Mac will be the front man… er, woman that presents GEH to the press as usual. He wants to remain freelance and we’ve been able to work that out. Without the appearance of not being biased, he would lose some of his connections and the ability to obtain information.
Joshua is one of those unconventional people with hidden talents and resources that you want to have on your team. He’s rare to find—like Allen—and when you have an opportunity to acquire that type of asset, you don’t let it slip through your fingers. He’s already proven to be worth his weight in platinum. Hell if I’m going to pretend that he’s not exactly what GEH needs.
I’m finalizing the plans for this evening when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I slide my finger across the screen to reveal a picture of my girl in that tight ass “Om Nom” shirt with schoolgirl pigtails in her hair and her luscious red lips wrapped around a fucking lollipop. My dick gets so hard so fast that I literally have to unzip my jeans to free it in an effort to relieve the ache. I’m fucking going to kill Allen Michael Fleming Forsythe and Valerie Whatever-Her-Middle-Name-Is Grey for putting me through this! That short set she wore when she left earlier was clinging to her ass like a second skin, just barely covering her ass cheeks—sexy enough to cover the goods and still leave a little to the imagination. I wanted to ravish her right there and then, and now, they torment me by sending me this and I can’t get my hands on her all day. Fucking hell!
Elliot is only too happy to assist with hijacking our women for a night on the town, complete with limousine service. I begged Mom and Mia to keep the twins for the night so that I can celebrate with my wife. Besides, if Pops died today, I wouldn’t want to be here for it and I wouldn’t want my wife to remember our anniversary as the day my grandfather died… nor would I. We need a break from this if just for a moment. Elliot agreed that he would take Valerie away from the situation for a day as well since she had gone through so much with her treatment right after they married and they never got a honeymoon. So, when I gave him my plans for a “normal people” evening to complete the “normal people” day that my girl was having, he was all in on surprising our girls for the night.
Well, maybe not-so-normal since we’ll be riding around in an Audi Q7 Limousine.
I called Butterfly’s stylist and my friend Victoria Stewart and promised to pay her at a premium to come up with something last minute for both our wives, which she did, thank God. When I explained to her what was going on and why it was so important for our wives to decompress, she was only too happy to help. She produced simple but stunning dresses and shoes for both women while Elliot and I made quick trips to Cartier to find appropriate accessories.
I’ve become fond of Valerie in the past few months. It’s quite obvious that she’s totally and completely smitten with my brother, but she’s a wonderful friend to my wife, too. I didn’t totally understand why Butterfly fell apart so violently after their “break-up” last October, but seeing her since the removal of her tumor—seeing the real Valerie shine through—I have to say that she’s one of the kindest, most selfless people that I know. This is the Valerie that held my hand last February when my then fiancée left me and escaped to Montana without a word. I only got a brief glimpse of her then, but I’ve seen her in full glory over the past several weeks.
Ever since she awoke from just after her surgery, she’s been more concerned with other people than she has with herself. Yes, she concentrated on her treatment and healing, but she’s been the empathetic ear, the solution finder, the shoulder to lean on—her outlook on life is carefree and happy and she’s been an amazing friend and sister-support-system to my wife when Valerie is the one that really needed the support in the first place. Had it not been for Valerie, I wouldn’t have known that Butterfly was feeling the way that she was about our anniversary. So, I’m only too happy for her and my brother to spend our special evening with us.
I’ve always appreciated the impact of a well-fitting black suit while my brother is usually a bit understated. So, while I don the black on black shirt and slacks and a black suit jacket with iridescent specks, Elliot sports a purple shirt that matches his wife’s dress along with some black slacks and a gray textured tie.
“I want to take her away,” Elliot says to me as we cruise down the I-5 headed for Miana’s. Elliot drove his truck to the Fairmont Olympic where he and Valerie will be spending the night and I had the limo pick him up to retrieve our wives. “We didn’t get a chance to take any kind of honeymoon because she was sick. Now, that she’s so much better, Pops is not doing too well. It seems insensitive to just say, ‘Hey, let’s take a trip after my grandfather dies.’” He takes a sip of sparkling apple cider out of crystal stemware from the bar.
“But in actuality, isn’t that what you’re doing?” I ask him. “And what’s so wrong about that? You want to take your wife on a well-deserved vacation and you don’t want to do it while Pops is on his death bed. I mean of course I don’t expect you to be pulling out to board a plane right after ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’ but life goes on, man. It’s okay to live it after someone passes on.” He shakes his head.
“I know, but it seems so wrong… like I’m just waiting for him to kick,” he says with a frown.
“I hate to tell you this, Lelliot, but we’re all waiting for him to kick,” I say solemnly. “It’s not because we want him to die. It’s because we’ve all uprooted our lives from what they were before in preparation for the inevitable. We’ll all go back to what was normal once he’s made his transition, as much as normal can be after you’ve lost someone that you love. It’s not because this is what we want. It’s because it’s inevitable.” I sit back in the plush leather seat of the limo and watch the scenery go by outside the window in front of me.
We’ve never had to deal with death this close to us… on this level. I immediately think about the crack whore and those feelings of helplessness when she lay cold and dead on the floor in the kitchen when the sun rose and set once… twice… three times… four times…
“What are you thinking about, Bro?” Elliot says, bringing me out of my daydream.
“I was going to say that we’ve never had to prepare for death this way… then I thought of your parents dying at the same time in that car accident…”
“Or your mom dying when you were four,” he adds. I nod.
“We still didn’t have an opportunity to prepare for death,” I say. “My mother OD’ed and your parents were snatched from you in a very untimely manner.” I throw back the rest of my champagne. “I was only saying that to say this. You can’t live in grief and Pops wouldn’t want you to. Once we make sure Dad is okay and Mom will have a handle on things—and Luma is comforting Uncle Herman—plan that trip. You and Valerie both need it.” He nods and sits back in his seat. Things were silent for a while before he started speaking again.
“You know, we’ve done some hiking and things—family trips and such, but we never really just hung out before,” he says. “Yeah, I’ve been a tagalong, like when you wanted to check out that club you bought a while back, but for us to hang out like we’re doing tonight, or for us just to hang out as bros, we don’t do that.”
“Maybe that needs to change,” I say to my brother, he smiles widely at me then nods.
A few minutes later, I call Franco to let him know that we’re arriving at Miana’s and that I and my brother are in a limo outside waiting for our wives. He promises me five more minutes before our wives will ascend from the salon, so Elliot and I step out of the limo to greet them when they exit the building. True to his word, Franco had our wives exiting the building in five minutes.
Have you ever had that moment where time stops and everything moves in slow motion… like the Baywatch babes running on the beach? Yeah… that happened.
I saw a flash of purple out the corner of my eye, but my sites were set on this vision in red floating towards me. Sleek and sexy, classy and demure with flirty, sexy sandals wrapped around those ankles… fuck, I chose the apparel and my mouth is watering as she walks toward me. I feel like I’m in a damn dream watching her walk toward me, her hair riding the wind behind her—total movie star quality. I have to take deep breaths, breathing shamelessly through my mouth while trying not to pant like a dog. Her beauty is leaving me light-headed and breathless.
She strides right up to me and pushes her hands under my jacket, flattening them on my chest. I’m startled by the contact, almost in disbelief that this gorgeous creature is real and now touching me, cherry-red lips beckoning me to kiss her.
“One day, Christian Grey,” she breathes dangerously close to my lips, “I’m going to find a way to match how indulging you are to me.”
“You’re doing a really good job already,” I croak, my throat constricted and my voice raspy while my fingertips sink into her hips.
“What is this jewelry?” she asks. “A hundred, a hundred twenty thousand?”
“I don’t know,” I say, lost in her beautiful blue eyes, and it’s the truth. “I just know what I like.” I know that she’s wearing the Etincelle De Cartier classic diamond cuff bracelet and the High Jewelry diamond earrings set in platinum, but ask me what they cost and I couldn’t tell you exactly—somewhere in the one-fifty to one-seventy-five area, I think. My hand travels from her hip to her long, slender neck. She tips her head back slightly to allow my gentle but firm caress.
“I wanted you to wear a collar, but then I wouldn’t be able to kiss your neck.”
“Yes, you could,” she breathes, her voice denying her arousal.
“I could, but it would be hindered. I like this better.” I lick her neck from the collar of her dress all the way up to her ear. She closes her eyes and her breath catches in her throat. I can’t help but sample those juicy, moist, cherry-red lips, which I do. She matches my kiss, her tongue caressing mine as her fingers flex on my chest. God, she’s delectable. I pull my lips from her and look into her bottomless blue eyes. I could devour her right here, but it’s probably not a good idea to do that on the sidewalk right before dusk.
“I hope you brought some back-up lipstick, because I plan to kiss that off of you in the next few minutes,” I warn.
“It’ll keep,” she says sweetly, breathlessly, “but I have.”
I fully expected some kind of “get a room” comment from my brother, but I look over at him and a similar scene is playing out about five feet away from us. Valerie has him pushed against the limo—decked in a purple number with gold Cartier accessories. Her hands are thrust in his hair and he has her trapped in a passionate embrace, their lips locked in an R-rated kiss while he pulls her body against him like he hasn’t seen her in weeks.
I know how you feel, Bro.
“We better go,” I choke, walking my wife towards the back door of the limo. I open it and she climbs inside, the motion jolting Valerie and Elliot from their kiss. Their faces only breaths from each other, they stare into the other’s eyes, still locked in their embrace and breathless.
“I missed you,” Elliot breathes.
“I missed you… too…” Valerie pants before gently kissing her husband again. She takes another deep breath and turns to me. I’m still standing here, holding the door for her. “Hi, Christian,” she says with a grin. I return her smile.
“Hi, Val,” I say. She pauses for a moment before getting into the Limo. Yes, I know, Val. She smiles widely and steps inside, Elliot right behind her. I get in with my family and we’re off to enjoy the evening.
A/N: Kwame Kilpatrick—this is a difficult story to tell, so I’ll just give the Reader’s Digest version. Kilpatrick was the mayor of Detroit. Right after I left Detroit in 2008, he was involved in several huge scandals—one of which dated back to 2003 and involved the murder of a 27-year-old stripper. Without recounting details with which I’m not completely familiar, he was charged with all kinds of criminal crap, pled to some of it, ended up losing his position as mayor of Detroit, yada, yada, yada. Needless to say, this brought all kinds of bad publicity to Detroit and I subsequently heard that families were leaving the city and that it was almost, if not completely, bankrupt. I got word that schools were closing and everything, and we all know that once schools start closing, the city is dying. I don’t know if one had anything to do with the other, but it happened.
While there are some big, beautiful houses still in Detroit’s historic Boston-Edison district, there are some that are really very run down as well. In addition, it’s a beautiful place, but it’s not the safest area to live. It’s like a suburb right in the middle of “not the safest place to live.” What Herman is alluding to is that while the historical district is still considered one of the premier areas of the city, that Kwame’s actions and the national negative publicity he brought to the city may have even affected the property values of that respected and coveted area.
THE PINTEREST LINK IS CORRECTED NOW. IT GOES TO THE NEW PAGE AND IT OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW BY ITSELF… SORRY ABOUT THAT!!
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