Raising Grey: Chapter 24—Spontaneous Combustion

I haven’t emailed yet—I’ll email later. I have to get to work. 

I must say that the response to the last chapter was overwhelming and flattering and I thank you all so much for your encouragement. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it even though it was heart-wrenching for many of you. I only hope that I can continue to bring you quality entertainment and high-standard writing even when the plot and story may piss you off sometimes. 😉 I truly love you all!

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 24—Spontaneous Combustion

ANASTASIA 

“I will not talk to you about my husband, Grace,” I tell her unequivocally. “I will not get in between what’s going with you two; I won’t be pressured or guilt-tripped into speaking to him on your behalf; and what’s more, I resent the fact that you lied to my husband about what I said to you about Mia’s wedding list. I’ve never seen you as a self-serving individual and I don’t want to start seeing that now. So, whatever it is that you need to say to Christian, you need to find a way to say it yourself or get another messenger because clearly, my messages somehow get lost in translation!”

Grace is staring at me in disbelief. She came in this morning all fired up and ready to plead her case to me and have me appeal to Christian on her behalf. However, the moment the conversation took a turn in that direction, I stopped her with the speech that has her now standing in my office in awe. I had hell being nurse and doctor to my husband last night. He was on the brink of the precipice and couldn’t go into the office today due to a massive headache and lack of sleep brought on by the huge sense of betrayal that he’s feeling at her hands. So, if she thinks that I’m now going to present her plight to him after what she’s put him through already, she’s got another think coming.

“We have to work together,” I continue. “We have a bigger goal in sight here and I’m willing to overlook this entire thing with no malice and proceed with our goal if you’re willing to drop this situation right where it is and don’t involve me any further. Don’t make me choose sides, because the choice will be obvious.” She’s even more stunned than before if that’s possible.

“I… he… we… it…” She can’t even form a full sentence, but I can still see the wheels turning in her head looking for a way to present her case and I must nip this thing in the bud.

“Those are my terms, Grace, or I’m turning in my resignation.” Her eyes widen.

“You would do that?” she asks in horror, her voice just above a whisper.

“Surely you can see I cannot be torn between my husband and his mother,” I say with a slight desperation in my voice. At first, I see hurt in her eyes and then, to my surprise, understanding.

“Yes,” she says softly, “yes, I can see how that would be an impossible situation.” Her voice takes on a sobering tone. “You’re very valuable to the Center. I won’t pester you about Christian.” She turns to leave, clearly downtrodden. She stops and turns back to face me, but doesn’t raise her eyes to me. “I’m sorry… that I stretched… that I lied about what you said… I have no excuse…” She trails off.

“Thank you,” I say softly. “Apology accepted. Thank you,” I repeat. She raises her eyes to me.

“You will be at the wedding, right? I’m not overstepping by asking…” She trails off again.

“No, no, you’re not, and yes. As far as I know, we’ll be there,” I assure her.

“And Mia’s shower next Saturday?” she asks, hopeful. Shit, that’s next Saturday? It’s probably in my calendar along with get my teeth scraped.

“Yes, Grace, I’ll be at her shower.” She nods silently and leaves my office.

I slump down in my chair. That was painful. She has no idea what her behavior has unearthed, and I can’t even tell her. Last night was a nightmare… literally.

“No… no, don’t…”

Oh, dear God, please, tell me this is not what I think it is.

“No! Please… leave me alone… please…”

Shit! Fuck! Shit! Shit! Fucking hell! Shit! Shit! Shit!

I sigh heavily, trying to push away the sleep that gobbled me up the moment my husband fell into exhausted, drunken, sobbing-induced slumber. I turn over in our bed and gently place my hand on his chest. He groans in agony and rises like fire.

Fire…

I move my hand quickly and put it on his cheek, bringing my mouth close to his ear and risking injury from being this close during one of his violent dreams… dreams that he hasn’t had for—I don’t know, at least a year, probably more.

“Christian,” I say, softly, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “Can you hear me?”

“No! No, please… please, God, no…”

“Christian,” I say more firmly, “Christian, come to me.”

“Ana!” he coughs. “Ana!”

“Christian, please… come to me, baby.”

“God, Ana! Where… where are you?”

“I’m right here, baby. Come to me. Wake up!”

He sits straight up in bed and I have to leap out of the way to avoid getting an elbow in the eye. He’s out of breath and sweating profusely. He looks around the room like a scared rabbit, taking in his surroundings and most likely reassuring himself that he’s no longer in his nightmare. And the moment he’s certain…

“Fuuuuuck!”

His roar causes the room to tremble like an earthquake… or maybe it’s just me. He’s not afraid anymore. He’s pissed.

He throws the covers off and leaps out of bed leaving our room in nothing but his boxer briefs without a word to me.

I don’t know what he did after he got out of bed last night. I figured he needed to be alone or he would have stayed and talked to me. I’m sure that I know what happened. Grace and her shenanigans has shaken the sense of security that he had fallen into, and now, his old monsters have returned. As a psychiatrist, I know it’s deeper than that, but that’s the thrust of it. I was so tired last night—and kind of shaken by the whole thing—that I fell almost immediately back to sleep when he left the room. He was back in bed coiled around me when I awoke to come to the Center this morning.

I take out my phone and text him.

**How are you feeling? **

His response is almost immediate.

**Like shit. How much did I drink? **

**Only three, but it was the good stuff. Double shots… unless there was more later in the night. **

**That explains it. There was more. **

I ponder if I should tell him about the conversation I just had with his mother. I really don’t want to aggravate him or bring back any of the ghosts of last night, but I don’t want him to be ambushed either.

**Grace is probably going to try to contact you. **

There’s a pause before he responds.

**I would expect nothing less. **

Part of me wonders if that’s a shot or a compliment. The bigger part of me knows that it’s the former. His relationship with his mother is falling apart because of her blind selfishness. She’s going to lose the delicate grip that she has on her very troubled son if she doesn’t realize what her behavior is doing to that son.

And for some reason, I get the feeling that somehow, that will be my fault.

I replay last night in my head. It was so brutal. For the first time that I can remember, I had an actual session with my husband. He went totally patient on me and I had to become Dr. Steele… er, Grey. He shared things with me that he had never told me before. They were things that I could imagine just from what I had heard, but he had never told me. If he stayed with his mother’s body for four days, he witnessed the rigor mortis that starts in the face and moves to the other muscles of the body; the sheen that coats the skin after about three days; the initial bloating from the breakdown of the bodily organs; the discoloration of the skin and the foaming that comes from the mouth and the nose…

He doesn’t remember his mother’s face because the last thing that he saw of his mother was not his mother’s face—it was her deteriorating death mask, but he knew that was her body… so, that’s what his young mind chose to remember.

The psychological horror of everything he saw and felt only multiplied his physical horror, which is why he put all his faith and hope in Grace. His nightmares may have stemmed from what Anton Myrick did to him, but they continued and festered from the fear that Myrick would come back for him, and by the time he got into adulthood, he couldn’t shake them. They had become a part of his life.

When I think about the fact that when I came along, he said that I “chased the monsters away,” I get one more glimpse into the power of a truly profound love and how it can change a person’s life. I can also see why he was so broken about the betrayal that he feels from his mother right now… and why the nightmares have returned.

She may not have been able to chase away the monsters, but she physically protected him and he knows that. She took him away from the squalor and she brought him to safety. Then, she moved him further away from the possibility of the squalor finding him and gave him as much of a normal life as she could—love, protection, a home, a family, food…

The piano…

He felt that his mental imperfections were his crosses to bear, but had she not come along, he wouldn’t have survived. Hence, she was his champion. And now, his champion is becoming his oppressor, and it’s breaking his heart and causing his old monsters to return. She has unwittingly opened the gates of hell, and he’s losing his mother… again. I know my husband. He’ll walk away before he witnesses that, before he experiences that, and she’ll lose him forever… and I can’t even tell her.

I can’t tell her because I won’t get in the middle of this.

I can’t tell her because I won’t betray my husband’s trust.

I can’t tell her because of doctor/patient confidentiality.

If she doesn’t figure this out on her own, she’s going to lose her son.

“You okay?”

My face must look a fright, because Courtney has surprised me and is looking at me like I’m about to keel over or something.

“Just toiling with a difficult situation,” I admit. “What’s up?” She comes further into my office.

“Two things. I just wanted to tell you. First, my financial aid was approved.” She does a little victory dance and I do a silent “rah rah cheer” for her. “And two, the royal Mia is here somewhere looking for you, so I’m going to disappear for a while. I have my phone…” She waves her phone at me. “So, if you need me…” I nod.

“Duly noted.” Before I can get the words out of my mouth, Mia comes breezing into the room.

“And that’s my cue. Later, gator.” With that, Courtney breezes past Mia without a word just as quickly and effortlessly as Mia breezed into the room. Mia can’t hide her tiny bit of shock and awe at Courtney’s impassivity toward her. What did she expect. She treats the girl like a non-person every time she sees her—she even referred to her as such. You have to expect that someone will one day stop putting up with your shit. Nonetheless, Mia quickly turns her attention to me.

“Anakins, trying to get a final count for my shower and you didn’t RSVP. Are you coming?” I frown.

“Shouldn’t your bridesmaids or somebody be doing this?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I suppose,” she says. “I’ve never thrown a wedding before. I don’t know how this goes.”

“Apparently, neither do they,” I say in disgust. “Have you planned your own wedding shower? The entire thing?” She nods.

“Yeah,” she says, and it’s more of a question than an answer.

“Those tricks didn’t do anything?” I ask. “They didn’t pay for anything? The venue? Nothing?”

“It’s going to be at Mom and Dad’s house,” she says. I roll my eyes.

“Are they at least going to come and decorate?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“We’re paying someone to do that.”

“Shower games? Hostesses? Cleanup? Are those cows doing anything?” I ask in awe. She shrugs.

“They’re bridesmaids,” she says with a shrug. I shake my head. And you talk about Courtney!

“No offense, Mia, but you’ve got some really shitty bridesmaids,” I say, looking at my laptop. “Yes, I just told your mother, I’ll be at your shower…” eating food and having fun with those lazy ass cows you call bridesmaids.

“Oh, good. Do you know if Val is coming?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t asked,” I reply. “The four of us have been like ships passing in the night with everybody being so busy.” My phone starts to sing “Dr. Sax” in my purse and I begin to fish it out.

“Well, I’ll just give her a call and see if she’ll make it. I know she and Elliot are finally planning their honeymoon. Did she tell you they’re going on a cruise?” I don’t recognize the number, but decide to take the call anyway.

“Excuse me one second, Mia.” I swipe the screen. “Hello?”

“You are not going to believe what we just found out! My asshole father must be a goddamn double agent or something!”

It’s Lanie… and she’s pissed. This must be a new number for her.

“Well, do tell,” I press.

“He’s being audited. Did you know he’s being audited? Yeah, he’s being audited… at the same time that Mom is filing for a divorce. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to hide your assets when you’re being subjected to an IRS audit and to discovery from a divorce at the same time!” She’s talking so fast, I just have to keep up and interject when I can.

“He’s hiding assets?” I ask. Mia has taken a seat in front of my desk, but raises her head at my statement.

Hiding isn’t even an appropriate word for it!” she seethes. “That asshole had enough loot hidden to start a whole new life in another fucking country! He said he was tucking it away for retirement as a surprise for Mom! She was fucking surprised alright.”

“So… what happens now? Will she get half of these secret assets?”

“We don’t know yet. They have to finish the audit first to see if he reported capital gains and such. If not, he could lose everything having to pay back taxes and he may have to do jail time for tax evasion… not that that would be a bad thing,” she hisses.

“So, what did they find?” I ask.

“We knew about the cabin in Houghton Lake. They found real estate in the Cayman Islands, the Hamptons, and Mexico; three offshore bank accounts; three investment accounts besides the one that Mom knew about… oh, and Daddy has a girlfriend.” My eyes widen.

“A girlfriend!?” I declare in shock. “He has a girlfriend?”

“Who has a girlfriend?” Mia inquires. I hold up my hand to silence her.

“A pretty young thing ten years his junior riding around in a 2014 Lincoln MKZ that he’s still making the payments on. They found her because of the car.” My mouth falls open in horror.

“Who has a girlfriend?” Mia asks again. I throw a glare at her that demands that she shut the fuck up or face my wrath.

“My mother is devastated,” she adds, somberly. “I’ve never wanted to kill my father before, but right now, I want to kill him. I fucking want to kill him, Ana. Discovery’s only just started. There’s no telling what else we’re going to find. At this rate, we may find out that he has another whole fucking family out there.”

“I’m so sorry, Lanie…”

“Who’s Lanie?” Mia asks. Of all the rude…

“Mia, can you please excuse me?” I say angrily, gesturing to the door. Her mouth flies open, but I just glare at her and keep my arm and hand extended to the door. Get the hell out of my office, you uncouth cow! She has the nerve to look affronted as she stands and stomps her spoiled ass out the room. I’m certain that the body snatchers have temporarily invaded Mia and Grace’s bodies and they will both be back to normal once this dumb wedding is over.

“I’m sorry about that, Lanie. Your cousin is planning her wedding and quite frankly, she’s being an insufferable, stuck-up, bratty little bitch right now.”

“Ah, yes. We’ve gotten our invites. I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it. We’ll have to see what kind of spirits Mom and Burtie are in at that time.”

“Of course,” I reply. “This has been an extremely trying time for everyone…” Suddenly, Carrick comes to mind. I wonder how he’s been doing with his wife flying over the cuckoo’s nest with this wedding and he did, after all, lose his father only about a month ago. “How is Nell holding up under all of this… and Burt? I mean, under the circumstances and all?”

“I’m a little concerned about Mom. She’s losing weight and she seems depressed, but she won’t see a doctor. Burt’s getting settled in okay, I think. He’s made an appointment with a plastic surgeon about his face and his teeth—part of his bone structure in his face is damaged or something like that. He explained it to me, but I didn’t pay it much attention, because it was making my stomach turn. He’s made a couple of friends—Leo’s cousin seems to like him a lot. Burtie’s a little standoffish, though. You know, he’s still in his feelings about this whole thing with our father…”

“It’s normal,” I tell her. “It will pass with time.”

We talk a few minutes more about Nell and I suggest convincing her to talk to someone, even if they have to find someone who makes house calls. She’s suffering from the typical stages of grief and separation. I’m not too worried about Burtie. He seems to be adjusting as well as someone can be in his situation, but he should be talking to someone, too. Lanie, overall, seems very happy with her life—just concerned about her family and their well-being, and ready to send her selfish, asshole, philandering father to meet his maker.

When I end the call with Lanie, my mind wanders back to Carrick. How is he holding up in light of all the shit going on around him? I know life goes on, but his wife is locked in this Wonderland of Crazy with his daughter, and his brother is—no doubt—leaning on his new love and helping with the girls… Who’s looking out for Carrick? I dial his number.

“Hello?” He sounds tired.

“Carrick?”

“Yes?”

“Hi. It’s Ana.” There’s a short pause.

“Oh. Hello, Ana. How are you, dear? Is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything’s fine. I was just… calling to see how you were.” There’s another pause.

“Did Grace say something to you?” Huh?

“Uh… no. Should she have?” I pry. He sighs.

“No… no, she shouldn’t have.” Shit. Shit shit shit. I’ve stepped in some shit shit shit and I can’t step out now. Fuck, how do I handle this? Tell him why I called…

“I was just calling to check on you, Carrick,” I say, honestly. “It’s been… wild times lately, for lack of a better word.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” he murmurs… and I think I wasn’t supposed to hear it. “I’m fine, dear.” I pause.

“No… you’re not,” I retort softly. “And you’re family, and I can’t just ignore that and I’m sorry. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it, I won’t force you, but you just lost your father and it’s still very new. There are a lot of feelings that you’re fighting with and everything’s not sorted yet… and along comes this wedding…”

“This goddamn wedding!” he bites out and I already know that he regrets saying it the moment it comes out of his mouth. We’re both silent for a moment.

“Would you like to meet me for lunch, Carrick?” I can see the wheels turning even though I can’t physically see him. “Are you in court? Do you have appointments?”

“Um… no. Not anymore. I saw my only appointment this morning. I was… just going through some legal briefs… trying to go through some legal briefs.”

“Are you still in your office? I can meet you downtown somewhere…”

“I don’t really feel like being in public, Ana,” he protests.

“My office isn’t far from yours,” I suggest. “I can meet you there. It’s quiet and private… and comfortable. We won’t be disturbed and I can order us some lunch.” He sighs again.

“It all sounds so sordid,” he laughs weakly, “an afternoon rendezvous with a young, attractive doctor in her quiet office downtown…” I laugh, too.

“Only this young, attractive doctor is your daughter-in-law and mother of your grandchildren… and very concerned about you right now,” I add somberly. He pauses.

“Daughter,” he corrects me. “She’s my daughter… and yes, I would love to join you for lunch…” I almost want to cry at the sentiment. I give him the address and arrange to meet him in an hour. I summon Marilyn.

“Order lunch to my office downtown,” I tell her as I gather my things. “Let’s go make sure it’s not overrun with dust bunnies. I have an emergent appointment.”

*-*

“I’ve never been to your office before. It’s nice,” Carrick says as he enters the room. “You actually have the proverbial couch.

“I do,” I laugh, “but I rarely ever used it. Someone laid on it as a joke once. Another time, someone was overwhelmed and passed out, but the whole ‘lying down’ thing, it’s usually pretty uncomfortable for people.” I gesture to the table in my office where Marilyn has set up lunch of fajitas and kebabs with salads and soups from my favorite spot.

“I figure we would just have a conversation over a light lunch, and…” I go to my bar and pull out a bottle of Scotch I procured on my way in. “I brought along a little libation in case you need a gentleman’s lunch.” He chuckles.

“I don’t have a driver, young lady,” he scolds.

“But I do,” I remind him. “Two, in fact, and a personal assistant.” I gesture to the chair for him to have a seat.

“Ladies first,” he says, as he pulls out my chair. I nod and take my seat. He walks over to his seat, but puts his hands on the back of it and holds his head down. I just sit for a moment and silently watch him. He looks  like he’s trying to make a decision if he wants to sit or not.

“I miss my father,” he says, his voice soft. “I feel so many different things right now—regret and anger and… sometimes, I just feel sick, just sick to my stomach like my stomach is eating itself. I’ve had to hand some of my cases off to partners in the firm to assure that my clients will get the best representation.” He starts pacing the office. “We lost so much time… so much time, and I find out it’s all because of that fucker Freeman…”

He says the last two words between his teeth.

“I’ve never wished harm on anyone, really, especially my own flesh and blood, but that asshole…” His fists are clenched and shaking, and when he realizes, he released his fists and flexes his fingers.

“And then there’s my wife,” he says, “she’s out of control. I don’t know what she’s trying to do. I’ve tried to ignore this… ridiculous, ostentatious, ludicrously absurd production that she’s passing off as our daughter’s wedding, but I can’t. This is insane! You have no idea what outrageous crap I’ve vetoed! She wanted to have 500 bottles of Cristal laced with gold leaf. Why? Why in God’s name would you want that? A couple of bottles for the new bride and groom on their wedding night, maybe—but the whole goddamn reception?”

He’s getting angrier and angrier by the second. Looking at him now and remembering what my husband looked like last night, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t related by blood.

“The movie screen of the historical theater will be put to good use, because the guests will be entertained by a genuine reel-to-reel movie of the life of the bride. I’m sure the groom is in there somewhere, but I can guarantee you that it will mostly be Mia. You don’t want to know what that cost! Oh! And you and Christian had the decency to have your wedding where only a private lane was blocked from public view. Do you have any idea the hassle involved in blocking off one city street, let alone twelve?”

Twelve? Why the hell did they have to block off twelve city streets?

As if reading my mind, Carrick fishes out his phone, swipes the screen, and pulls up a map within moments. It’s like he keeps it saved so that he can look at it on command. He hands me his phone and shows me a satellite map of the area surrounding the Paramount Theater with twelve bold yellow lines indicating twelve surrounding streets.

“She wanted us to block the entrance to the freeway!” he declares in disbelief. “I’m surprised they gave us 9th!”

I sit there staring gape-mouthed at a picture where twelve streets in downtown Seattle are going to be blocked on a Saturday afternoon. Fuck! And I thought Christian knew people!

“That isn’t the beginning of it,” he declares. “Her list of wedding band choices read like a rock concert—Michael Buble, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, some kids name Some Direction… I’ve never heard of them, but I heard they’re hard to get…”

One Direction, and you’d probably never get them.

“If these people do weddings, they’re not going to do her wedding. Who the hell does she think we are, the Kardashians???”

Apparently.

“You had Wayne Brady. She’d have Elvis is she thought she could bring him back from the grave. You had a castle and private drive. She books a theater to hold a thousand, packs it to the walls, and shuts down downtown Seattle! You guys left in a classic Bentley. She’d have Mia and Ethan leave in a helicopter if she could. Oh, wait! That won’t work! Christian can fly a helicopter!” I shake my head.

“Wait… is… that what all this is about?” I ask, confused. All this driving everybody crazy, over-the-top ridiculousness is because she’s trying to outdo mine and Christian’s wedding? Carrick waves his hands and shakes his head.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t know what it’s about. I can’t make sense of any of this shit!” he hisses. I fall silent again and give him the floor. “I’m still fighting visions of my father’s casket going into that incinerator, and I have to convince my wife that exotic animals are not appropriate for the historical theater!”

Angry tears burn a trek down his cheek as he appears to cling to decorum by a thread. There’s no one that he can turn to. I know that he hasn’t spoken to Elliot or Christian—at least not since the barbeque—and Herman is probably in the same condition as Carrick, but he has Luma. I don’t know about Stanley, and Freeman is a no-go. Grace is supposed to be his pillar right now, and she’s gone over the edge.

I quietly make my way to the bar and retrieve the Scotch and tumblers I brought, pouring a shot in the glass. I walk over to Carrick and tap him on the shoulder. He sighs and looks at me and I hand the glass to him. He takes it and takes a gentleman’s sip of the Scotch, making that same relieved face that Christian made last night when he gulped down double-shots of Brandy.

“Have you tried to tell Grace how this is making you feel in relation to Pops’ death?” He was all set to answer, but I think that last part changed the game. He has told her how this ridiculous wedding is making him feel, but not in relation to his father’s passing. He shakes his head in dismay.

“I can’t talk to her anymore,” he says. “When she sees me coming, she gets this look on her face that I can’t stand. She automatically thinks I’m going to veto something else for the wedding, and she armors up. It’s eating me up inside that I can’t talk to her about this. I miss my dad so much and I feel shitty in so many ways that I didn’t have more time with him, that I missed so many years with him. I haven’t felt this bad since Mom died, but when that happened, me and my brothers held each other together… and Dad. Now… I fucking feel like I’m losing my mind.”

It finally hits me—what Christian was trying to explain to me about Grace’s reputation. It’s exposure. She probably doesn’t know half of the people she’s inviting to this wedding. She has to maintain her exposure… but that shouldn’t be the purpose of your daughter’s wedding. You want to maintain your exposure, you have a party. You don’t need a reason, just have a party. I personally think it’s pretty cruel to use your daughter’s wedding as a networking event… maybe for a chosen few people, okay; but for the whole of Washington society? And this soon after Pops’ death? Fuck, no! This should be a time for family to get together and celebrate life and love, even more now than ever, not some kind of social role call to make Grace look good. What’s more is that Mia loves the attention and the glam so much that she probably doesn’t even know that she’s being used.

And Grace has no idea that she’s not only alienating her son, but she’s probably also causing irreparable damage to her husband.

“I’m thinking about leaving,” he says, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“You… what?” He raises sad eyes to me.

“If I’m alone, I might as well be alone,” he shoots. “I’m thinking about moving out and going to a hotel.” I sigh heavily.

“Carrick,” I breathe, “that’s so… final.

“It doesn’t have to be,” he interjects, looking down into his Scotch.

“But it can be,” I retort. “The implications of moving out of your home, the effects on the family, the relationship…” He laughs, though there’s no mirth in his chuckle.

“Grace stopped caring a long time ago about the effects on the family,” he says, throwing back the Scotch. “I may not say anything, but I know exactly what’s going on with her and Christian. She comes into my study last night, all broken down and weepy, talking about how Christian might be slipping back into his shell again…”

At least she recognizes that part.

“I asked her why and she said it’s because he couldn’t bury the hatchet with what happened between him and the judge.”

Oops, I spoke to soon.

“I don’t think she knows that I know just about every single thing that happened from the moment he was arrested to the moment you showed up at my house…” Damn, I didn’t know that. “I nearly got a play-by-play of the whole ordeal and although I don’t know the very intimate details, I can most likely pinpoint the very moment he wanted to date you. It was right after you threatened to turn that report in and right before you quit.”

He’s right. Christian has told me so much himself. I nod in agreement.

“So, I know for sure that if my son is going back into a shell, that asshole is not the reason—and if my currently overly dramatic and self-centered wife came to my study last night crying about it, then she most likely is!”

He reaches for his empty glass and I quickly pour him another double shot. No judgement here, Carrick. He starts this drink with a sip like he did the first, then pushes his hand through his hair. Geez, it’s like I’m watching my husband in his frustration.

“The entire time I’m listening to her cry and ramble on about our son, concerned about his possible plight, but totally missing the mark on why he’s headed in this direction, I’m watching and hearing any hope of her seeing or understanding how I feel right now just spiral down the toilet. I’m starting to resent her and I don’t want that, because I love her—but if I have to deal with this pain alone, then I can’t deal with it in the same house with her, because she’s ignoring what I feel and it’s tearing me apart.”

“I wish I had an answer for you, Carrick,” I say sympathetically. “I know it’s no substitute for your wife, but you don’t have to suffer alone. You know that you have your sons… and me and Valerie. I can’t speak for Mia with everything that’s going on right now, but… you’re not alone, Carrick.”

I put my hand on his shoulder and he chokes out a sob. I move to pour him another drink since he has emptied his glass, but he cover the mouth of the tumbler and shakes his head. He knows his limits and won’t drink anymore. I put the Scotch down and slide my arms around his waist, laying my head on his back like I would do for my dad. He covers my hands with his—large like my husband’s, like my father’s—and his body shakes with painful sobs.

*-*

My heart is heavy when I return to Center after not having eaten anything. I couldn’t. There’s a terrible lump in my stomach. I walk slowly to my office and fall down in my chair, dreading the task that I have ahead of me, but determined to fulfill a promise that I made to my father-in-law… surrogate father. I sigh heavily and wait. She should be here any second.

I’m preparing myself for what’s going to happen as I place my purse in the drawer and open my laptop. Shock? Disbelief? Shame? Denial? I stretch my neck and try to relax, but nothing is helping. My head is pounding and I’m trying to talk this headache down, trying to convince myself to put this off until later, but this can’t wait. She has to know now.

“Ana?” Grace sticks her head into my office door. “Marilyn said you needed to talk to me.” I rub my eyes.

“Yes, Grace, I do. Can you come in and sit down for a moment?” I gesture to the seat in front of my desk. She enters my office.

“Is this about Christian?” she asks, taking a seat.

“No… Grace… this… is about Carrick.” She frowns.

“Carrick?” She sits up immediately. “What’s wrong with Carrick? Is he hurt? What’s going on?” she asks frantically.

“No, no… not physically, anyway,” I clarify. Her frown deepens.

“What do you mean?” she asks, her voice confused and a little irritated. “What is this about?”

“I spoke to Carrick earlier today…” I begin.

“About?” she says, and her accusatory tone doesn’t get past me. Okay, tread carefully, Ana.

“Just to see how things were going,” I reply. It’s the truth. She folds her arms, and I see the walls going up.

“I see,” she says, “and how are things going?”

“Apparently, not very well,” I retort, trying not to resent her connotations, whatever they may be.

“Um-hmm,” she grumbles, “so you can talk to his father about Christian, but you can’t talk to me,” she states. My brow furrows.

“This isn’t about Christian!” I nearly hiss. “I called Carrick to see how he was doing. That’s what you do with family, with people you love. You check on them; you see how they’re doing; you make sure they’re okay. He did lose his father a month ago, after all!”

She shrinks into a chair a bit after that declaration, but only a bit. It’s too late, though. The beast is loose, and she’s pissed.

“You have bigger problems on your hands than Christian, Grace. Carrick is in a bad way, and you’re not seeing it.” And just like that, her back is up again.

“Excuse me?” she says, completely defensive.

“Your husband is suffering right now. He needs you. He needs you to be there for him, to comfort him, and you’re terribly preoccupied.” She stands and straightens her back, glaring at me now.

“Young lady, I appreciate your education and experience, but I’ve been with my husband probably as long as you’ve been alive… longer, in fact, and I really don’t need you to tell me how to handle my marriage.”

Her voice is crisp and sharp and her blue eyes are piercing. Of all the reactions I expected, this was not one of them. She’s appalled. And offended. She feels that I have no right whatsoever to be saying what I’m saying right now, even though I spent the last two hours in my previously abandoned office letting her husband cry on my shoulder and trying—and failing, I think—to convince him not to move out of their home.

“If I’m not allowed to talk to you about your husband, then you’re not allowed to talk to me about mine,” she concludes viciously. I draw back from her hostility and she stands her ground as if I’m an intruder and she must fend me off. I’m offended to the deepest part of my soul and I finally see the monster that everyone else is seeing that has replaced the Grace that I’ve always known. I take in a deep breath and armor up, since I must.

“That’s fine,” I say, in my firm Dr. Grey voice. “But I’m going to tell you one thing that I promised him that I would. Not very long ago, your husband lost his father, and right now, he’s suffering… a lot… and alone! And if you keep ignoring it, that’s just where you may end up!

I slam my laptop closed and rip the drawer open that holds my purse. I’m so pissed right now, I can barely breathe.

“Why did…” she begins.

“Oh, no!” I growl, fumbling to put my purse on my shoulders. “You’re right! You’re not allowed to talk to me about my husband, so I’m not allowed to talk to you about yours! Go talk to your husband, that is, if you want to keep him!”

I snatch my laptop from my desk, sending random items from my desk sailing into the chair and onto the floor around it as I storm out of my office and to the nursery. This is one of those moments that I’m glad we outfitted Marilyn’s car with child car seats for just such an emergency.

“Get the children home as soon as you can,” I instruct Keri. “Marilyn will help you!” Keri’s eyes widen.

“Okeh,” she says, and nothing else. I swipe my screen and call Chuck.

“I’m leaving… now!”


CHRISTIAN

“What the hell happened?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but she is pissed! She’s broken every traffic law between the Center and the bridge; we’ve both gotten speeding tickets and she’s headed your way. I just thought you should know.” Chuck informs me. I sigh.

“Okay, I’ll be ready,” I say as I end the call. What the hell happened today? Did my mother decide to pester her for answers about me and she snapped? This situation has got to give and soon! Before I stand from my desk, the phone rings again.

“Sir, this is Riggs at the front gate. Your father is here.”

My father? Why is my father here?

“Um… let him in, of course,” I say.

“Yes, sir,” and he ends the call. Again, the moment that call ends, the phone buzzes again, and my wife’s face appears.

“Hello, Butterfly,” I say as I answer the phone.

“Not that I would expect a repeat of the Elliot situation, but I’m going to breach doctor/patient privilege in favor of maintaining marital harmony in case the paparazzi’s telephoto lenses caught a picture or someone’s cellphone was overactive this afternoon.” No hello, no tears, no nothing, just straight to the point.

“Ooookay.”

“I met with your father today at my office downtown… alone.” That would probably explain why he’s here. “That’s all I’m saying about the matter. You can’t say anything about it; you can’t mention it; you can’t even reference it unless he says something to you. Not only is it a huge betrayal of trust, but I could also lose my license. Do you understand?”  She’s right about that. She’s taking a big chance revealing this, but I can understand why she wouldn’t want to chance what happened between us before.

“Understood… Is he okay?”

“That’s all I’m saying on the matter.”

“Sorry,” I say quickly, “I’m just… concerned about my dad.”

“I understand,” she says, and nothing else. “I have to go. I’m driving.”

“Um, okay.” And she ends the call. This is going to be one hell of a night. I don’t move for fear that the phone is going to ring again. It doesn’t, but the next worst thing happens. My father enters my study… with a suitcase. The look of horror on my face can’t be mistaken.

“Dad?” I say, my eyes wide.

“Son,” he says, his voice soft. He doesn’t look bad, per se, but he looks like he hasn’t slept.

“What’s going on?”

“I’m not really sure,” he says as he places his suitcase on the floor.

*-*

I’m in the Twilight Zone and my mother has been replaced by an android. She has Mia under her spell, captivated by pretty, shiny things while everyone in her general vicinity is going mad. We haven’t heard anything from Ethan and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s tied up in a basement somewhere.

Butterfly immediately comes home and disappears for a moment. Once I get my father situated, I find her in the workout room, wailing away at poor Chuck’s hands. Though they’re protected by punching matts, he winces with every blow, and I can tell that he has had enough. It’s dangerous interrupting them, as we can’t do the whole tag-team thing that we did when we discovered that David was exercising his right to a speedy trial smack in the middle of our Greek honeymoon, but I thank God for small blessings as the interruption takes some of the fire out of my wife so that when she begins to wail on me once I relieve Chuck, it’s not so bad and doesn’t last too long. I try not to get too horny when I see all that power bursting out of the little, muscular body with the round hips and incredibly toned ass wrapped in spandex, but it’s extremely difficult.

“Do you want to take about it?” I ask as she leans on her knees to catch her breath.

“Your mother,” she puffs. “I’m sorry… but she’s insane… she’s totally… out of control…” She pants and wipes the sweat dripping into her eyes. I take one of the towels from the linen closet and hand it to her.

“So, I’ve heard,” I say, but she keeps talking like she didn’t hear me. In fact, I don’t think she did.

“Mia’s wedding… did you know she was… trying to have flamingos… walking around the crowd?” I raise my eyebrow.

“I did not,” I answer honestly. She nods frantically as she wipes her forehead.

“And she expects English boy bands… to forego million-dollar tours… to become wedding singers!” I jerk my head back!

“Excuse me?” I declare.

“Oh… that’s not the worst of it! Did you know that half of downtown is going to be blocked… on a Saturday afternoon for that wedding?” Her breath is returning.

“She can’t block downtown,” I tell her. I’ve tried

“Oh, yeah. She can. I’ve seen the map… and I’ve already said too much.” She turns around and cracks open a bottle of water, emptying most of it before she takes a breath. This must have been her session with Dad.

“No, you haven’t. I would have seen or heard it anyway,” I tell her. Dad must have some connections that I don’t.

“I’ll be working at home for a while,” she says, matter-of-factly while drying her face. I don’t ask why. I already know.

“You’ll probably need some things from the office,” I tell her.

“Marilyn can get them,” she says, bottoming out her water. “I’ll send her tomorrow.” I raise my eyebrow at her.

“The football game.” She pauses, then her hand goes to her forehead.

“Fuck! I totally forgot! That’s all Dad’s been talking about. How could I forget? He’s been texting ever since I told him about the tickets—how the hell could I let that slip my mind?” She shakes her head and dries her neck.

“Well, um… I hope you won’t mind company,” I tell her. She looks up at me.

“I thought this was just for me and Dad,” she says, slight disappointment marring her face.

“It… it is… it still can be if you mind, but…” I show her four tickets, closer to the game, but still on the fifty. “… I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if me and Dad joined you. If it’s a problem, you and Ray can take two of these and me and Dad can take your old seats…”

“No, no… Christian, of course, not!” she interrupts me, covering my hand with the four tickets in it. “I think it’ll be nice us taking our dads to the game,” she says with a genuine smile. “They like each other and I think we’ll have a great time.” I sigh a little. I didn’t want to Shanghai their father-daughter time, but I needed something to help Dad relax a bit. This whole situation is really taking a toll on him, which reminds me.

“Um, by the way…” Before I can get another word out, my brother comes barreling in with terrible timing, as always.

“Christian, what the fuck? Dad’s staying here?” Elliot blurts out as he bursts into the workout room. Butterfly whirls around and glares at me. I, in turn, glare at my brother.

“Thanks, Elliot,” I growl. He puts his hands on his hips.

“Well, excuse me for my lack of tact, but apparently, I’m the last to know that my father and mother are breaking up!” he snaps.

“Apparently, you’re not the last to know!” Butterfly retorts, looking expectantly at me.

“Well, if that’s what he told you, then you’re the first to know, because that’s not what he told me,” I defend.

“Well, what else could it be?” Elliot rejoinders. “He’s in the guest room next to me and my wife looking like someone shot his favorite dog and Mom sure as hell ain’t here!” I sigh.

“Elliot, you really need to talk to Dad, but as far as I can tell, he just needs a break.”

“A break?” he snaps. “You don’t take a break from your marriage!”

“You do when your wife is acting like she’s lost her damn mind and no one else matters!” I bark back. “Mom is completely certifiable! She’s lied on me once and to me twice. One of the times she lied to me, it was about my wife and all of this happened within a week’s time. Our dad just lost his dad and she’s completely ignoring his feelings. He’s got no one else to turn to and that’s why he’s here. Every time he tries to talk to her about it, she treats him like he’s bothering her and he’s falling apart. She’s my mother and I love her, but I will not allow her to treat my father like a piece of used tissue because she too busy trying to make Mia’s wedding the circus that she couldn’t make ours!”

My brother is stunned into silence and my wife’s blue eyes are fixed on mine, realization clear in her gaze. She examines me for a moment, then Elliot before she quietly leaves the room. Elliot stands there, looking at me, caught in obvious indecision. Whose side does he take—Mom’s or Dad’s?

“It’s terrible place for the kids to be,” I tell him, trying to empathize with his position, but there’s no indecision for me. I’ve witnessed her selfishness first-hand and I can only imagine what Dad has had to deal with.

“I won’t lie to Mom,” he states finitely.

“I’m not asking you to,” I tell him. “I won’t lie to her either, but I won’t allow her to bully or guilt trip Dad. He needs her to listen, to understand his pain and how he’s feeling. If she can’t do that, then she’s not allowed to antagonize him.” He frowns deeply.

“You would keep Mom from seeing Dad?” he accuses.

“I’ve had to make the decision over the last 24 hours to protect myself from my mother. If I have to protect my father from her, too, then I will.”

“Protect…” he barks. “You’re not making any goddamn sense!”

“Listen to my words for a minute and not your damn feelings!” I yell back! “My mother lied on me to the man that almost put me in jail two years ago to save his election!” Elliot’s head snaps back.

“What!” he yelps.

“Yes!” I confirm. “That same judge that tried to throw me in jail to make an example of me when that drunk driver almost killed me? She told him and his wife that I demanded that they be uninvited from Mia’s wedding just so that she could save face when I did no fucking such thing! She also told me that my wife told her to turn over Mia’s wedding list so that I could hack it up and tell her who couldn’t come! Imagine what kind of discord that could have caused in my marriage had I believed her! She’s shutting down half of downtown; she’s making crazy demands; and now my father—who is still mourning the loss of his father—can’t even grieve in peace because she’s turned into a bona-fide Momzilla of the Bride!” Elliot shakes his head.

“Come on, Christian,” he says, the fight leaving his voice. “It can’t be that bad.”

“It is that bad. It’s exactly that bad. It’s worse. She and Mia are in this together and she has the reigns. You tell me how bad it is.” He shakes his head and runs his hand over his buzz cut.

“I know how she can get, but… Dad moved out…” he says, in disbelief.

“Only for a moment from what he’s told me,” I assure him. “She’s trying to dictate the course of Mia’s wedding in a way that will make up for not being able to dictate the course of ours, and she’s alienating everyone in the process. Butterfly left the center today and left our children there to get the hell away from her!”

Elliot’s eyes widen and his shoulders fall. I don’t know exactly what that means to him, but apparently, it got through.

“Shit,” he says in a sing-songy manner, “that bad, huh?”

“That bad,” I say, nodding. He sighs and rubs his neck.

“I guess I better go talk to the old man. I… didn’t give him a chance to explain.” I put my hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll go with you,” I tell him.

*-*

Dad does his best to explain to Elliot over dinner how badly Mom is driving him crazy, but he’s so weary that he can barely get his dinner down before he excuses himself to turn in for the night. My brother and I and our wives sit at the dining table over coffee discussing the possible outcomes of the situation. We know that Mom and Dad aren’t going to end up in divorce, but we all agree that without outside intervention, the damage to the relationship could be irreparable—maybe not leading to its demise, but possibly leading to them not being able to regain the connection they had before. Valerie and Elliot believe that family intervention will be enough while Butterfly and I both feel like professional counseling is the way to go.

“You both are just saying that because of who you are,” Valerie says. “You’ve had good results with therapists, which is great, and so has Steele… and she is a therapist, but I really think they would benefit more from having the support of the family in this matter.”

“And they will have the support of the family,” Butterfly counters, “but the dynamics of the issue between them is far too complex for a simple family discussion. The cuts run too deep…”

“That’s why we have you, Montana,” Elliot retorts. “Not only do you have the benefit of being able to offer the support of the family, but you’re also a professional and can provide the expertise that they’ll need to get through the issues.”

“It’s not that simple, Elliot,” I tell him. “There’s more to it than that and I’m sure you know it.”

“I’m invested personally, Elliot,” Butterfly says. “I wouldn’t be a good fit for this situation.” He pauses and examines her.

“Oh, I see,” he says. “It’s not that you wouldn’t be a good fit. You’re letting your personal feelings get involved and you just won’t do it.” His voice is accusing and I don’t like it.

“Careful, brother,” I warn. Butterfly places her hand on mine.

“No, Christian, it’s fine.” She turns her attention to my brother. “You’re exactly right, Elliot.” He’s a bit taken aback by her honesty and quite frankly, I am, too. “I am a consummate professional, and this situation is the exact reason why surgeons are not allowed to operate on family members. Once we are emotionally involved, our professionalism takes a hit. As long as it didn’t directly involve me, as long as it didn’t directly affect me, I could be an impartial listener. I could provide professional advice and guidance, just as I have with other members of your family.”

She flashes a knowing look at Elliot and his back straightens. He has no idea just how many members of the Grey Family Butterfly has counseled.

“That all changed today,” she continues. “I tried to talk to Grace. I tried to tell her—with Carrick’s permission—that a storm was coming. I didn’t know just how big the storm was; I thought that it could someday develop into this, but not that it had already gotten here. Grace unequivocally and unceremoniously shut me down, citing that I was not allowed to discuss her husband with her because I refused to collaborate with her to get my husband to cooperate with her wishes. Needless to say, I’m highly offended, because I feel that it’s childish and manipulative. As a result, I’ll be staying away from the Center for a few days because I don’t want to be disrespectful to your mother. Bearing that in mind, I’m going to respect her demands, and I won’t discuss her husband with her. Anything that I can offer at this point will be laced with personal feelings and therefore, ineffectual. Now, I apologize if that’s not a good enough explanation for you, but it’ll have to do.”

My wife entwines her fingers on the table in front of her in that businesslike, Dr. Grey manner and awaits the backlash. Elliot stares at her for a few moments more before flashing his gaze to me.

“You don’t win many arguments with her, do you?” he says, matter-of-factly. I don’t even flinch.

“It’s about 50-50,” I tell him. Butterfly turns to me.

“How very diplomatic of you, Mr. Grey,” she says, her voice still professional and crisp. I shrug one shoulder.

“It’s the truth,” I reply.

“How do I respond to that?” Elliot retorts. “It’s perfectly logical, delivered with no malice… I can’t even argue, but I want to help my parents. So, what do I do?”

“Encourage them to seek professional counseling,” Butterfly tells him. “Tell them how this situation is affecting you and the family.”

“What situation?” Elliot says. “I still only have one side of the story.”

“No, you don’t, El,” Valerie interjects. “You have several sides of the story, and all sides say that your mom is out of control, but you haven’t heard your mom’s yet. So, it’s hard for you to accept.” He drops his head.

“I can’t just… take everybody’s word for it without talking to Mom,” he says, sadly. “I don’t want it to seem like we’re ganging up on her.”

“And nobody’s expecting you to do that,” Valerie says, “but know that everyone is giving you their personal account of what they have experienced with Grace. Ana’s telling you what happened between her and Grace. Christian gave you his account. Carrick is telling you what he’s going through. Even you and I have had personal experience with how she can be right before we got married. We would probably still be haggling over linen colors today if Ana hadn’t intervened.”

My brother raises his eyes to Butterfly, then to his wife, then drops them to the table again.

“And we’re not ganging up on her,” Valerie continues, “but that’s not to say that she’s not going to feel that way. Nonetheless, she still needs to know how her behavior is affecting her family… then she can make the decision if she’s going to do something about it.” He sighs.

“Oh, dear God, she can’t be this dense,” Elliot laments.

“She’s not dense. If she is, she’s being deliberately obtuse,” I correct him. “It’s voluntary blindness, and you and I both know that she can turn that on and off on a whim. She and Mia are on the same wavelength, so there’s no one to put her in check. Dad’s not 100%, so when he tried, he failed and is now crumbling by the wayside. It’s nearly 8pm and Mom hasn’t even called to see if we’ve heard from Dad. Does he normally keep these hours?

“I know she hasn’t called him, because if she did, he may not answer, so she would call here in a fit. If he did answer, she’d know he was here—then her doctor mind would go to work. Butterfly left pissed a few hours ago, so she’s not going to call her. Our last conversation was tense, to say the very least, so I would be a fallback position, if that. So, you would be the magic contact, my friend.”

“Could he have left her a note?” Butterfly asks. I shrug.

“It’s possible, but even if he had, she’d still be…” Before I can finish my sentence, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I roll my eyes and dig it out. I look at the screen and show it to my wife. I swipe the screen and answer it.

“Hello?”

“Christian, what in God’s name is going on?” I sigh.

“Hi, Meelo.”

“Don’t Hi Meelo me!” she says, her voice firm. “Mom’s over her sobbing like a toddler! She’s got a crumpled piece of paper in her hand and she told me to call you! Dad’s not here and she won’t tell me what’s happening! What in the world is going on?” And, of course, my mother is still being manipulative.

“Mia, can I get you to be objective for two minutes, because I really need it right now,” I say just as firmly.

“Yes, Christian, just tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m putting you on speaker.” I put the phone on speaker and set in on the table. “Are you there?”

“Yes.”

“I’m here with Elliot, Valerie, and Anastasia and I’m going to repeat exactly what you just told me…” I repeat my mother’s reaction to and description of finding my father’s letter. Valerie groans and drops her head into her hands.

“Waaaait, wait, wait a minute,” Butterfly says. “Let me get this straight. That’s her I hear blubbering in the background and she hasn’t given you any information? She told you to call Christian so that Christian could tell you what was going on?” Butterfly is clearly perturbed. Mia pauses for a moment.

“Yeah,” she says, slowly, picking up on Butterfly’s obvious irritation. Butterfly throws her hands up.

That is the last person left that she’s able to manipulate and look what she’s doing? That’s it. I’m done. She’s beyond hope!” Butterfly folds her arms and sits back in her seat. I know shutting down when I see it.

“Mia, Dad’s here,” I tell her.

“What is he doing there?” she asks.

“Near as I can tell, he’s mourning his father, because he can’t do it at home.” She’s silent at home.

“Christian, you’re not making sense,” Mia says.

“This whole damn thing is not making any sense, Mia, and none of us really want to get you involved because this is your wedding, but Mom is out of control…”

I tell Mia everything that happened from the lie about Butterfly up to and including Dad showing up on my doorstep. Butterfly includes the attempt to guilt-trip her into arguing my mother’s case to me and the ceremonious shutdown when she tried to present Dad’s concerns. Elliot tells his sister that nothing has happened so far with him and his mother, but makes it clear that he won’t be a chess piece in this game that his mother appears to be playing and that he would gladly stand on the sidelines and let it play out before he gets involved. Valerie only confirms that she intends to stand by her husband.

“Well, this has been very enlightening,” she says, her voice uncertain. “For the record, I didn’t know shit about flamingos, you guys, okay?”

“If that’s the case, Mia, then you need to talk to her, because I have a feeling that she’s going unchecked on a lot of things and there’s no telling who she’s alienating and not just her family. Her husband isn’t at home, for God’s sake,” I say.

“And then, she tells me to call you like a common messenger girl…” She trails off, irritation lacing her voice. “Thanks, Cwis. I’ll talk to you guys, later.”

“Meelo,” I catch her before she ends the call. “Dad’s sleeping.”

“I get it,” she says, and ends the call. I look at my brother and our wives.

“Let’s see what happens,” I say as my phone beeps, signaling the disconnect.


A/N: So, it appears that the Greys must form a unified front against one of their own… the family matriarch, no less. How will this turn out?

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

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Raising Grey: Chapter 23—Doors That Should Remain Closed

One of my faithful readers posted this comment on Facebook about the last chapter:

I love how there is such a fine line between his ability to be the old dominant and how hard he’s trying to balance that as dominant/husband.”

I’m glad that someone saw that. My response to her was, “That’s what I try to portray. People think that because he’s been a Dom for so long, he should have this down pat—he should be perfect. But he’s not. First of all, he doesn’t exercise his dominance every weekend like he used to. Second, when he was a Dom before, he was a sadist. Now, he’s trying to balance being a Dominant and his ever-present need for control with being a husband and a lover. Apparently, he’s not getting that right fast enough for some people.”

***SPOILER ALERT***
They get some playroom/playtime scenes just right—eroticism, passion, just the right amount of dominance or punishment. Some of them, they screw up; others they get ghastly wrong. Do you think that’s an accident? Would you really keep reading this story if it was always, “Playroom! Great time! Back to life…?” I got bored just writing that sentence. So, here’s a head’s up. The moment Christian and Ana get playtime, punishments, and marriage completely perfect and there are no more mistakes to be made, I’ll stop writing this story, because there will be no more story to tell.  

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 23—Doors That Should Remain Closed

ANASTASIA

Prime time. We’re going to do a full-length prime-time special interview about our lives. What’s more is that we’re looking for a national network as opposed to a local network and we’ve already gotten seven takers in less than twelve hours. Jesus Christ.

My husband thinks it’s a good idea to feed the beast. I’m not so sure. I still don’t get what it is about us that’s so damn fascinating. There are so many other rich couples who have been richer for longer and married for longer. Maybe that’s what it is—it’s the novelty, the newness… although I can’t see how it could be that, either, because we’re not that new.

Maybe they’re all just waiting for the breakdown, waiting to see when the other shoe will drop, I don’t know. He’s very preoccupied with the intentions and interference of his ex-subs, but it’s more than just them. It’s the Judd Rossiters and the crazy paparazzi, the ratings whores and whomever else seems to want a piece of the Greys. Brian seems to have breezed in and out of town without incident, but I’m still not so sure that he can be trusted either.

And then there’s the licensing boards.

The medical ethics board has gone completely radio silent when it comes to my accusations. They haven’t addressed them in the public forum or in terms of my complaints and requests for a formal investigation. It appears that the only way that I will get any kind of light shown into the ethics of how they treated me is to file suit against them. After talking to Al, that means that I would have to prove some kind of injury besides my humiliation, such as defamation of character—which I can’t—so I’m seriously considering taking the “Christian Grey” avenue on this one and seeing what strings can be pulled, because I can’t be the first person this has happened to and I’m certain that I won’t be the last.

As for the accreditation board, I believe that Ms. Felton has a hand in writing our responses personally. The letters have now taken on the tone of scolding and although they’re sighed by someone else altogether, I get the feeling that I’m sparring with the Head Bitch herself:

While we can appreciate your impatience, these matters take meticulous consideration and will not be rushed even for the most prestigious citizens of Washington…

We have received all fifteen of your prior correspondences and still maintain that we must be thorough in the licensing process to be certain that all institutions meet the requirements set forth by the state…

As you are requesting to be entrusted with the safety and shaping of the minds of infants and pre-school-age children, you must know that the guidelines for accreditation are much more rigorous than that of a primary or secondary academy…

Blah blah blah more bullshit wait bitches you should have made me assistant director then you wouldn’t be dealing with this shit right now blah blah blah fuck you joke’s on you your ass is mine rot in hell and so on and so forth…

I can only handle one catastrophe at a time. I’m already trying to deal with the pressure of an impending prime-time interview and whatever fallout may come from “sicing” Christian Grey on the Medical Ethics Board, should I decide to go that route. I don’t know that I can deal with Gloria Felton and her fucking pissing contest! We’re already going to miss out on any funding and any programs that we could have participated in during the fall school year when I was certain that we had this whole thing locked down last spring. I’m losing my fucking patience here! I make the decision that Ms. Felton has actually gotten sixteen letters from us, and she will only get twenty before I threaten to take some serious action on her ass. She has a boss, too, and I won’t sit still for this shit. Twenty letters, coupled with her smartastic responses, has to be enough to get some action from somewhere.

I learn to my great surprise that Christian has returned Mia’s list to her with only one elimination—Hammerstone. I regret not taking a look at it myself and crossing off the fucking daughters, but that would have been impossible since the bitches are bridesmaids. I swear, Mia is truly two altogether different people sometimes. When I first met her, she was sweet and considerate, bubbly and kind, protective of her family to the point of violence. I see that side of her quite often—if Christian is, could be, or has been hurt in any way; at the garden party when Kate tripped Val; when the ugly step-sisters were talking shit about me at Miana’s last year. She can truly be one of the most selfless people and fearless defenders I’ve ever seen.

And then, there’s this other side… this catty, spoiled, petty, uncontrolled debutante brat who’s worse than Courtney ever was. It’s like a switch is flipped and she becomes someone else completely. Even though I was hysterically drunk, I still wonder how the fuck those girls got on Christian’s boat—our boat—and where the hell was Mia? I know that we can be blind to our own imperfections, but how is it that she can see a character flaw so clearly in someone else, but she can’t see it in herself? And how the hell does Ethan deal with that shit? Maybe being around Kate was good practice for him and he just doesn’t see it.

And Grace! Good God, Grace! She’s the biggest enigma of them all. She does this huge, selfless thing with her life—she’s an emergency-room pediatrician! She’s on-call at the hospital when babies get the worst owies, and when she’s not spending her time at the hospital, she’s at the Center helping battered women and broken families put their lives back together. Then, in her spare time, she’s on the committees of several charities. I don’t even know how she finds the time to do all that! And yet, she’s still able to be this self-centered, maniacal, tunneled-visioned socialite who’s more concerned about her station, image, and reputation than she is about her children’s wishes. I can halfway understand Mia being an attention hog because she’s young, but Grace?

Every opportunity she sees, she tries to steal the spotlight and make it about her. I’m surprised that she hasn’t showed up at some of the radio shows and did the interviews herself! I’m still not over the infant coming-out party! I mean, I’m over it—I don’t hold a grudge—but I still never got the concept! Jesus, is she expecting Minnie to have a debutante party? Do I want Minnie to have a debutante party? I think not!

That’s going to be another fight.

I raise my head from my desk to see the door to my study open and bottle of that heavenly Soaring Eagle Cabernet being thrust inside with a monogramed white handkerchief hanging from it. I shake my head as I remove my glasses and rub my tired eyes. My husband’s head pokes cautiously into the door as if to see if the coast is clear.

“Are you still angry with me?” he asks as he enters with two large-bowl wine glasses in hand.

“I was never angry, Christian,” I say, a bit wearily, “I was just… uncertain, maybe a little confused. It’s a feeling that I don’t like.” He pulls one of the chairs closer to the front of my desk.

“I’m sorry,” he says, placing the glasses and the wine on the desk.

“So you’ve said,” I reply with no malice. He examines me for a moment, then begins to uncork the bottle. He pours a fair amount into one glass and hands it to me. I take a healthy sip and allow it to coat my tongue and then my throat as I take a deep breath and let it out, the alcohol soothing my senses.

“Twelve offers,” he says, pouring himself a glass, “coast to coast.” I sigh.

“Twelve.” I can’t help the lamenting in my voice.

“You don’t sound pleased,” he says, bringing his glass to his mouth.

“I don’t see the point,” I admit.

“There’s a method to my madness,” he says. “You can’t see it now because I think you’re a bit too raw about the whole thing, but you will. I’ll explain it to you, but not right now.” He’s right. I couldn’t see reason in this idea if Freud, Plato, and Socrates themselves all came back from the graves and explained it in great detail at this moment. I’m kind of stuck in a “why are people in general so fucked up” moment right now. I take another sip of my wine.

“There are some decisions that we need to make, though,” he continues.

“Such as?” I ask.

“Who we’ll do the interview with; where will it take place; what questions we’ll answer; when…”

“Whoa, whoa, slow down,” I say before gulping back the rest of my wine and trying to clear my head. “You are going to have to give me some kind of idea of the purpose of this interview or I’m not going to have any idea what questions we should answer or anything else.” He raises an eyebrow at me, then immediately pours more wine into my glass. I know this is going to be a serious conversation when he sits back in the chair like this is a business meeting and crosses his legs, so I sip my wine and prepare myself.

“Among other things, we need to send a message,” he begins. “There’s this curiosity, this fascination with us—our relationship and our lifestyle—and it’s getting to the point of getting dangerous. Being me has always had its hazards as has being married to me, but it’s getting ridiculous. Where I thought time would diminish the splendor that is us, it seems to only have enhanced it. Judd Rossiter, he just an asshole. I think he would have done the same thing no matter what woman was sitting in that seat, but the fact that it was you makes the situation more sensational.

“There are people all over the place who still feel like you were a gold-digger. No matter what you say, no matter how you try to convince them otherwise, that’s still the picture that’s in their heads. I’m almost certain that’s part of the issue with your treatment by the medical board. Yes, every accusation of sexual misconduct has to be taken seriously, but do they treat every doctor that way that has to come before the board… or even every female doctor? If they had, don’t you think you would have heard something about it by now being in the medical profession?”

Unfortunately, that makes a lot of sense. I sip more of the ethereal elixir to ease the pain of this most recent cut. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the situation was personal and not just a bunch of blowhards in another boys’ club looking down on a woman who dare breach their profession.

“The fact that we are who we are means that in feast or famine, we can’t just have a normal life,” he continues, his voice even. “Your father gets arrested, my grandfather dies, you’re in a coma fighting for your life—and the press is there every time like President Obama is about to make some huge announcement. We can’t stop people from taking pictures of us on our boat or stealing kisses at the zoo with their cell phones, but we have to make it such that the pictures are old news. Yes, people will always want to know when something happens, but at some point, our every move must stop being so fascinating. And then there’s the ex-submissives and the people who seem to have a bone to pick with me…”

I knew this was coming.

“So, now, I’ve talked to two of my ex-submissives and they both had the same thing to say…” Wha… wait… back up.

“What? Two?” His lip forms a straight line.

“You. Couldn’t. Possibly. Think that woman was going to do that to you on the air and I wasn’t going to confront her,” he says, his voice firm. I raise my hands in surrender before reaching for my medicine again.

“A little warning next time?” I say, swallowing the rest of the wine and lamenting the bottom of the glass. He doesn’t fill it this time.

“Duly noted,” he says. “As I was saying, Ashanda—whose real name is Sarah Bradley, by the way—pretty much said the same thing Charity said, though not so eloquently, and she gave you the answer while you were in the interview… but there’s more to it. Yes, these women want to know how you broke the code. What did you do to achieve the unachievable? But what’s more, they’re thinking, ‘The shell has been broken; now I can get in… if I can just get close or if I can just get rid of her.’”

Well, there’s a frightening thought. I reach for my glass again, dismayed that it’s still empty. I look at my husband and, after a pause, he pours what’s left of the wine into my glass. It’s not much, so I finish it quickly.

“They think I’m just any other man now, Anastasia,” he continues. “I carry the same allure that I had before without the protective shell—you broke that. So, now, they think they can all come in and infiltrate, by any means necessary.”

That’s the exact impression Ashanda… Sarah… that cable bitch gave me. I knew she was an ex-sub—I knew immediately—but I had no doubt whatsoever that she would mount my man while I watched if given the chance. All she needed was opportunity.

And Greta… fucking Greta. I want to know where that bitch is right now. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of her and I still feel like I haven’t taken enough out of her ass for stealing my goddamn gun.

And didn’t I say I wanted to have a heavy bag installed in the gym? Why the fuck didn’t I do that already?

“Ana?”

Oh, fuck, was he still talking?

“Are you drunk, my love?” he inquires.

“Probably a little, but right now, I’m pissed,” I admit.

“Okay, talk to me,” he says, unfazed.

“There’s really nothing to say,” I declare, jolting from my seat. “It’s the same story. It’s the same thing. No use in asking why at this point. They want a story, let’s fucking give them one. I don’t want to leave my babies, so I’m not flying to New York or some shit and I don’t care if Barbara Walters calls. We do the interview here—on location.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re drunk,” he says.

“Yes, I am, a little, but you better listen,” I reinforce, ignoring the increasing fuzziness in my head. “On location—here, Grey House, and the gun range.” His eyes grow large.

“The gun range?” he asks.

“Yes, the gun range. You’ve seen me shoot and I know my father taught you. We want to send a message, this will send one loud and fucking clear.” He raises his eyebrow at me.

“I’m not sure any interviewer is going to go for that, but we’ll try,” he says.

“Don’t patronize me, Christian. I’m very serious,” I warn.

“Oh, I can tell. We’ll run it by Mac and see what she thinks.”

I should have known better than to expect unconditional surrender. That the best I can ask for.

“You really want people traipsing through our home?” he asks.

“That was your idea first, remember? And they’ll only get what we choose to show them,” I respond. “We won’t get away with not introducing the twins, and you know that, so at least they’ll be comfortable and we’ll do it on our own terms.” His gray eyes pierce at me and I know he hadn’t considered the thought of the children being part of this exposé. “It’s our family, Christian, get used to it. They’re as much news as we are and we have to control what gets released. I won’t have my children walking around in ridiculous costumes and masks like Blanket and Paris Jackson. Something’s got to give.” He sighs heavily.

“What the fuck have I signed up for?” he laments.

*-*

I’m drinking ginger tea and nursing a small hangover after falling into a coma-like, wine-induced sleep last night. I’ve awakened to Google alerts of Judd Loser talking to whatever down-in-the-dirt gossip rag that will listen to him about me, my father, the restraining order, Christian, and any piece of bullshit and nonsense he can throw out there. Unfortunately, since he’s talking about how all this stuff relates to him, we can’t legally silence him. He has the right to speak. Personally, I’d like to put my foot in his mouth and make him shut the hell up.

“Are you staying in today?” my husband asks when he enters the dining room at breakfast and sees my face.

“I had intended on going into the Center, sending a 17th letter to the licensing board, but I guess I can do that from here. I’m not feeling very well and this isn’t helping.” I hand him my iPad so that he can see the many Google alerts I have on the goings-on of one Judd Rossiter. His brow furrows and his lips form a straight line. I can see the wheels turning. “There’s nothing you can do, Christian, I’ve already asked Al. He’s within his rights to say the things that he’s saying as long as he doesn’t slander or threaten us.”

“There’s always something I can do, my dear,” he says before going to the kitchen and pouring himself some coffee. “He’s calling you an attention seeker. That’s rich.” He sips his coffee just as Marilyn comes breezing into the room.

“Good morning, Bosslady,” she chirps.

“Must you yell?” I complain, holding my head. “And why are you so fucking chipper?” She examines me carefully.

“Somebody had a bad night,” she says matter-of-factly.

“Somebody else had a great one,” I retort.

554e4e5e57a11c7d7e9377b5b9c440e6“I did, in fact,” she says shamelessly and extends her right hand to me. On her third finger is a beautiful ring in white gold with diamonds shaped like a heart. The ring forms an arrow around her finger that shoots through the heart. She’s grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

“It’s a promise ring. Gary gave it to me last night at dinner.”

“Oh, I’m such a bitch,” I say, rising from my seat and embracing her warmly.

“You can be sometimes, but I still love you, Bosslady,” she says with mirth. I release her and take her hand again, examining the ring more closely.

“It’s really beautiful, Mare,” I say, sincerely. She nods.

“It’s perfect. It looks like it took time and thought… and it says that he loves me.” She smiles sweetly. I return her smile.

“He does,” I confirm. “In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him like this. Thank you for making my friend happy.”

“He makes me happy, too,” she says, admiring her ring. Christian comes over and looks down at Marilyn’s hand.

“Hmm, Rogers and Hollands. That one’s usually in sterling silver, but he went with the white gold, custom. Man’s got good taste.” I glare at him.

“How could you possibly know all that?” I question. He just looks at me as if to say, “Did you really just ask me that?” I just shake my head.

“Yes, she had a rough night—near-repeat of the wine-drunk incident of ’12. I’m sure she’ll fill you in. Take care of her.” He turns to me and kisses me on the cheek. “Call me if you need me.” I nod as he leaves the dining room.

“Repeat of the wine-drunk incident? Do I even want to know?” Marilyn asks.

“You have to,” I say as I lead the way to the elevator. “What’s my schedule look like today? Did I have anything at the Center?” She shakes her head.

“Same stuff,” she says. “You still have people clamoring for interviews if you’re interested.”

“No need,” I say as the doors open to the lower level. “Mr. Grey has decided that we’re doing an interview together… and the event will be televised… on prime-time… nationally.” Her eyes widen.

“Seriously?” she says in an amazed whisper. “What brought this on?”

“Among other things, Ashanda… whatever the hell her last name is. Her real name is Sarah Bradley. That’s all I’m allowed to disclose at this time.”

“Ah, another blast from Mr. Grey’s past,” she says, looking at her iPad as we enter my office. I turn and glare at her.

“What do you know about it?” I ask.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, Bosslady,” she says. “I’m right on top of most if not all of the occurrences in your life. I can easily put two and two together on some of them even if I don’t know all the details… and trust me, I don’t need to know them all. I just need to know enough to do my job properly and be a friend when you need it.” I sigh.

“I’d die without you,” I say, falling into my chair.

“No, you wouldn’t, but life would be much less interesting,” she says, winking at me. I roll my eyes.

“Get a heavy bag installed in the gym, please,” I add as I open my laptop.


CHRISTIAN

I’m starting to feel like Jimmy Conway from Goodfellas. When you have to make things happen, you just have to make them happen. I’ve tried to get a gag order on this asshole and he’s talking more now than he was before. I spent the entire ride into the office going over this blowhard’s latest declarations from the rooftops and the more I read, the more he’s pissing me the fuck off. I try not to let my money go to my head, but when you’re as rich as I am, you’re not very fond of the word No.

“I need Rossiter to shut the fuck up,” I say to Jason when we get to the office. “We’re about to go primetime with intimate details of our lives. He can’t be in the bleachers spouting this bullshit to any bottom-dwelling scandal sheet while we’re opening up to the world.”

“What do you want?” he says. I raise my eyebrows at him.

“Do you need me to spell this out for you?” I ask. “We’re taking all the legal avenues that we can and nothing’s working. Do whatever you must.” I’m done being Mr. Nice Guy. I’m tired of taking the high road every chance I get only to have somebody come along and roll over me and my family with a semi-truck. I’ll continue to be an upstanding citizen as long as the law works in my favor, but when it starts to fight against me, I’m fighting back.

“Should we start with a message or balls to the wall?” he asks, his tone changing. That’s what I’m looking for.

“Start with a message,” I say. “Let him know how bad it can get if he doesn’t shut the fuck up.” Jason nods and leaves the room. I go over to the desk and dial up to PR.

“McIntyre,” she answers.

“My wife has decided the locations of our prime-time interview—Grey Crossing, here, and the gun range. What do you think of that?”

“What? The gun range? Why the hell does she want to go to the gun range?” she asks in horror.

“It may have been something I said,” I reply.

“What in God’s name did you say to that woman that would prompt her to want to do part of an intimate family interview at the gun range?” she inquires.

“Oh, things about my exes and wanting to see who I am now that I’m a kinder, gentler Christian and possibly sending a message to a few folks about a few things… After the Ashanda Beasley thing, we may need to pull out the big guns—literally!”

“You’re kidding, right?” she declares in disbelief. “You can’t do that! You’re a prominent member of the community! That’s insane! ‘Guntucky comes to Seattle.’ There’s no way…”

“Well, you get to tell her, then,” I say. “I told her that I would run it past you. If you say it’s a bad idea, you have to explain to her why we can’t do it.”

“Gladly!” she says and ends the call without another word. My publicist just hung up on me. She’s about to have it out with my wife. I have a feeling that I don’t want to have any part of that conversation.

*-*

Something about this is just not right. I’ve spent most of the morning and the better part of the afternoon—the time that I wasn’t in meetings—going over the data for Capito Industrias, a company in Madrid that seems ripe for acquisition. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a viable, prosperous company. The numbers seem solid—there’s no financial trouble according to the initial financials. The owner is a young man, around my age, so he’s not looking to retire and live out his golden years. I don’t see new technologies in the works that may call for an additional influx of capital or even a high debt ratio that might require a bailout. So… why sell? Why now? What am I missing?

I’m certain that I’ll find my answer in detailed financial statements that break down the profits and losses per operation and subsidiary, as the company as a whole seems more than capable of holding its own. My eyes are getting tired and the numbers are all beginning to run together. I’m beginning to think I may need to go to the eye doctor, but I’m too damn vain to wear glasses. I lean back in my seat to rest my eyes for a moment. Of course, the whole interview situation comes to mind and it occurs to me that I haven’t heard back from Mac about her conversation with Butterfly. The longer I sit here with my eyes closed, the better they feel and the more I convince myself that I don’t need glasses. My victory dance is interrupted by my buzzing phone in my pocket and I have to squint to see a number that I don’t recognize.

“Grey,” I answer.

“Yes, Christian… Mr. Grey… do you have a moment?” the voice says. He’s trying to sound firm, but there’s a hint of trepidation in his voice.

“Who is this?” I ask.

“It’s, um… Marvin. Marvin Hammerstone.”

I pause for a moment because clearly, I’m hearing things.

“Excuse me, who?” I ask. This must be a joke.

“It’s Marvin Hammerstone… Judge Marvin Ham…”

“I know who the fuck you are how did you get this number and why are you calling me?” I say all in one breath. I hear a heavy sigh.

“I’m a judge. I can get anybody’s number,” he replies with no malice.

“In that case, I hope you’re calling me in an official capacity, considering that you’re a judge and all and you used your official resources to obtain my private cell phone number even though you and I have no official business,” I state matter-of-factly.

“No, this is a personal matter,” he says, as if I didn’t already know.

“You and I have even less personal business, Hammerstone,” I retort. “I have no reason whatsoever to be speaking to you.”

“I won’t take up much of your time…”

“You won’t take up any of my time,” I correct him.

“If you would just allow me to get a few words out…” he says, trailing off and clearly frustrated. Eh, why not? This could be fun.

“State your business and make it quick,” I retort. I hear him take another deep breath before he speaks.

“I promised my wife that I would call you and try to appeal to you on her behalf,” he begins. “She was looking forward to attending Mia Grey’s wedding very much, and now she’s quite brokenhearted that the invitation has been rescinded. I didn’t make the connection when she first told me about the wedding, but now that she has accepted the invitation, she’s feeling heavily shunned that she will be missing the ‘social event of the century,’ as she put it.”

He pauses for a moment, apparently expecting me to weigh in on the matter, I think. He gets nothing. I don’t care that his wife has her knickers in a wad because she won’t get to “hobnob with the snobs” at my sister’s wedding. When I don’t respond, he continues.

“She pressed further to discover that you didn’t want me in attendance and demanded that we be stricken from the list…” Oh, thanks, Mom.

“Not that I really care what you think, but that’s not what happened,” I correct him. “I told my sister that if the judge who used my misfortune as a stepping stone to strengthen his political platform would be in attendance at her wedding, then I wouldn’t be. I didn’t demand anything, Marvin. I just suppose my sister would rather have her brother present at her nuptials than a judge that she doesn’t even know and his wife who simply doesn’t want to miss out on the ‘social event of the century.’ Whatever tale my mother spun for your wife to placate her, well, I can’t be held responsible for that,” I add coolly.

“Whatever the logistics, Grey, the bottom line is that we were uninvited from the wedding at your behest. My wife is aware of this, and it’s been absolute utter hell dealing with her ever since she first got the news. I know you don’t owe me anything…”

“That’s an understatement,” I interject. He sighs.

“But I’m asking if just this once, we can set aside our differences or come to some mutual understanding for just one evening. We most likely won’t even bump into each other at the wedding. It’s being held at the historical theater—I’m certain that we can avoid each other’s company in a venue that size if my presence would disturb you that much… and I certainly have no problem being civil should our paths cross. What do you say, Grey?”

It’s a perfectly logical argument. There will be people in attendance that I probably won’t see all night… but they ain’t Hammerstone.  

“Differences?” I repeat, appalled. “Differences? You tried to put me jail because I decked the drunk driver who totaled my car, tried to kill me, then tried to say it was my fault, and you call that differences? You tried to make an example of me because of a knee-jerk reaction, not because I had seven vodka tonics for lunch! Yet you want me to let ‘bygones be bygones’ because your wife’s little feelings are hurt since she can’t hang out with the cool kids. You tried to make me look like a menace to society because it was an election year and you wanted to look good. The hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners, Judge Marvin Hammerstone—punisher of evil billionaires and protector of killer drunk drivers everywhere! Well, congratulations, judge, you got your wish. Now, you’re taking up my valuable and precious time and I don’t wish to talk to you anymore.” He can sense that I’m about to end the call.

“Grey, just wait a second!” he says quickly, his voice panicked. God, he sounds desperate. She must be really giving him hell… or she’s got something on him and is telling him to make this happen by any means necessary. This is even better than I thought. “Look, you want an apology, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was too concerned with my campaign and getting elected, I’ll admit that. You want revenge, you got it. You got me over a real barrel here, Grey. I’ll owe you big time. I’ll even make that pesky conviction go away.”  I literally laugh in his ear.

“You’re kidding, right?” I say, pretending to attempt to hide my mirth. “Have you been paying attention, Marvin? Exactly how has that assault conviction hurt me in the last two years? Anything that little conviction can do to me, I can buy my way around it… legally. I was even able to get a CCW last year. So, why the hell would I care if it’s still on my record? It gives me a little character. I’m not perfect. ‘I lost my temper because a drunk asshole almost killed me and then tried to blame me for it.’ I’ve never been squeaky clean, Hammerstone, and I never will be, but try to find something on me and you’ll come up empty-handed. I don’t give a fuck about a misdemeanor assault conviction! What the hell does that mean to me? Bask in your victory over the big, bad rich man, Hammerstone. How does it feel? You need to tell the little wifey to get over it. My sister can invite anyone she wants to her wedding and reception, but if you’re there, I’m not coming. And it appears that she wants me there more than she wants you.”

“Come on, Grey, what do I have to do?” He’s really begging now and I’m so curious to know what’s at stake and why this is so important to him, but hearing him beg is enough for me. “You just don’t get it. My wife has to be at that wedding! I’ll do anything that will give you vindication. Anything!” Ah, the magic word.

“Oh, I’ve already gotten vindication,” I retort. “Because of you and your self-serving tactics, I met my loving wife. I now have two beautiful children and a full, wonderful life. So, thanks, Your Honor, you really did me a solid without even trying… but I still don’t want to break bread with you and especially not at my sister’s wedding! So, if your wife’s happiness is dependent on me giving permission for you to attend that wedding, prepare her for bad news. Don’t call me again. We have nothing else to discuss.”

I end the call and put the phone on my desk. Then I call up to PR on my desk phone.

“Public Relation, Josh Shaler speaking.”

“Joshua, hi. Where’s Mac?” I ask.

“She left sometime this morning. I think she went to talk to Ana. I haven’t heard from her since.” Good grief, what happened?

“Well, my wife hasn’t called me, so I would say that there haven’t been any major catastrophes, so I guess I’ll just wa…” Before I get the words out of my mouth, a knock at the door interrupts my thoughts and Mac enters very shortly thereafter. She does not look happy. “Never mind. She just walked into my office.” I end the call and turn my attention to Mac. “Mac?” I say cautiously.

“So… you’re doing the interview on location… at the mansion, here… and the gun range.”

I take it she didn’t win that fight.

*-*

This has been a long fucking day and I’m ready to go home in the worst way. I still never got to the bottom of why Capito wants to sell. At least the answer isn’t in the financials. I’ve sent a request to the company’s CFO for the detailed financials from the last three years so that I can examine them for trends and compare them to the master statements. I’m all for buying a solid company with no problems if someone just wants to sell, but I’ve learned the hard way that all that glitters is definitely not gold.

I’m shutting down my laptop and putting some files in my briefcase when my phone buzzes in my pocket again. I fully expect to see my wife’s face when I pull the phone from my pocket, but to my surprise, it’s my mother. I haven’t spoken to her since I hung up on her that day after telling her that I wouldn’t be attending Mia’s wedding. I’ve talked to Mia, but not Mom. I sit back down at my desk and answer the phone.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Christian. How are you?” she says.

“I’m fine, Mom, how are you?”

“I’m fine. Did Ana tell you that I wanted you to call me?”

“Yes, she did. I’m sorry I didn’t call. Things got a little crazy and I just didn’t get around to it.” It’s the truth. It didn’t cross my mind with everything else that’s been going on. She’s silent for a moment, then of course, she gets to the real reason for her call.

“I didn’t know that Marvin was… Well, I didn’t know anything about the accident until Ana told me,” she begins. “Janise and I have been friends for a really long time, even before she and Marvin met. It would really mean a lot to me if you would reconsider…”

“Mom, I’m not having dinner with that man,” I interrupt her. “That’s all I have to say on the matter.”

“He actually called to see if you would consent to allowing Janise to attend without him. You won’t have to see him and my friendship with Janise can remain unscathed.”

Unscathed? Did she just use that word? She threw me under the bus—her own son—so that her friendship with Janise can remain unscathed and now she’s trying to appeal to me to save it? Seriously?

This is your mother, Christian. This is your mother.

“Mia turned her entire list over to me and I only made one request. I didn’t even bother counting all the hundreds of names on that list—I only made one request, just one. Don’t invite the man who tried to put me in jail. I didn’t ask for anyone else to be removed from the guest list and quite frankly, I’m not trying to make anything easier for that fucker since he had no intention of making anything easier for me when he threatened to throw me in jail.”

“Christian!” she says in that appalled mother tone. “Language! And I’m not asking a favor for him. I’m asking for me and a dear friend of mine…” Like Elena was a dear friend of yours.

Why the hell did my mind go there?

“Well, which is it, Mom?” I accuse. “You told me that he called to see if I would consent to allow Janise to attend with him. Now, you’re saying the favor’s not for him. What’s more is right before he called you, he called me and I told him that I wouldn’t consent to his wife coming to the wedding. So, now he’s going to tell my mommy on me? Is that it? You’re getting a little carried away with your lies, Mom.”

“What?” she nearly shrieks into the phone. “How dare you speak to me like that!” And that’s it. The conversation has just taken a nosedive and can no longer be productive, not that it ever was.

“I’ve had about enough, Mom,” I say soberly. “You told that man’s wife that I demanded that they be scratched from the list when I did no such thing. You told me that my wife said I would hack up Mia’s guest list and that was a blatant lie, too. Now, you just told me that you weren’t do a favor for Hammerstone when moments before, you admitted that he called you to ask if his wife could attend without him. I love you, Mom, and I’ve just gotten to a point where I can be open and affectionate with people. Don’t make me shut down.” I hear her gasp on the phone.

“You would do that to me, Christian?” she asks in that voice.

“And there it is,” I say, somewhat defeated. “In situations like this, it’s always about you. It’s never about anyone else. You’re not always this way, but when you are, you’re unbearable. Did you really know why I was a recluse, Mother?” I say, reverting back to the name that I had used with her for so many years. “Did you really know why I didn’t socialize or come to events or anything? It’s because I wanted to protect myself. It was bad enough that I didn’t trust anybody, but the wealthier I became, the more proverbial guns were aimed at me. If I stayed out of the way—concealed, hidden, private—I was less of a target. I never thought I’d be a target for my own mother, though.”

“Christian… you can’t seriously feel that way,” she says, her voice cracking, but I don’t feel any sympathy.

“Sadly, Mother, I do. But don’t worry, it’s not just me. It’s Ana; it’s Elliot and Valerie; even Ethan and Mia. She doesn’t see it because she loves this whole circus thing, but you’re inviting people to her wedding that she doesn’t even know and you’re doing that for whom… for Mia? Keep telling yourself that. Maybe you’ll believe it soon, but the truth is that you’re pushing your own agenda at our expense and we’re being forced to stand up to you.

“You lied to me about my wife, and you don’t see anything wrong with that. Then you turn right around and lie on me to the wife of a man that you know I despise so that you can save face, and you don’t see anything wrong with that, either. And you continue to lie whenever and however it suits you, indiscriminately. How many more lies have you told?

“I’ve never seen this side of you, Mother, and I don’t like it. Correction, I’ve seen it with any event of any importance that has happened in our lives since my wedding and I don’t like one bit. Maybe it was always there and I just didn’t know it because I wasn’t around… I wasn’t involved in family social events like I am now… Maybe I need to do that again…”

“Christian, please, don’t…” my mother beseeches, her voice pleading like I don’t ever remember before.

“I can’t take this anymore, Mom,” I say, going back to the term of endearment I’d adopted for her since Butterfly broke down my walls. “I don’t like this Grace. I don’t know this Grace. The Grace that I’ve known—the one that rescued me from squalor and starvation…”

The words burn in my throat as I remember—vividly—sitting on an exam table, screaming inside while the doctors and nurses touched me. They were only trying to help me, but it was torture. I wanted my mommy, and she was gone. She was cold and dead and I still remember her body when they took me out of that apartment, even if now, I can’t remember her face. But there was an angel there, and she was so nice to me. She looked at me, and I knew that somehow, everything would be okay.

“Christian?” my mother’s voice breaks through my thoughts.

“The Grace I knew was kind, giving, and considerate,” I choke. “She heard me when I couldn’t talk and she saved children from the boogey man even when she couldn’t save me. She sat with me and let me sniffle; she heard my screams when I couldn’t say a word. She brought home little helpless girls with drug addictions and night terrors that could be saved…”

My chest is burning from the thought of Mia screaming in the night at nothing, then waking—shaken and not knowing what was happening and sometimes, not knowing where she was. I helped to save her even when nobody could save me.

“My wife chased away my monsters, but the angel Grace did everything she could to save me from them. Every day, she went to the hospital and put broken kids back together, then she came home and took care of me. She went to the ‘Hands’ place and saved other Mommies and kids from the boogey man even if my mommy couldn’t be saved.”

“Christian…” My mother’s voice is soft and broken, but I can’t help her. I miss my angel Grace, and I don’t like this person in her place. I can’t deal with this person in her place. I won’t.

“I gotta go, Mom,” I choke, my voice cracking. “I’ll ta… I gotta go.” I end the call and put my head down on my desk, fighting hard to chase the demons away that threaten to break free and invade my peace once more.

*-*

I’ve tamed the monsters a bit and my mood has calmed considerably by the time I reach the Crossing, but I’m still in desperate need of my wife. She’s not in the usual places, so I head down to her office and find her sitting in the community room with Sophie. They don’t appear to be discussing anything serious, but I really hate to disturb them. Sophie takes one look at me and it appears I don’t have to.

“I’m… um… going to go and see if Momma Gail has some snacks,” she says with a smile to Butterfly and makes a hasty getaway. I try to play it cool. I really do, but all I can do is sink to my knees and embrace her, laying my head in her soft bosom. I can tell she’s a bit taken aback, but she just strokes my hair in that comforting way that makes everything better.

“Are you okay?” she asks softly. I nod.

“It’s been a rough day,” I admit, snuggling deeper into her chest and looking for that eternal comfort.

“How so?” she asks.

“You first. Mac looked a little beat down when she got back to the office.”

“Beat down? I didn’t beat her down,” she defends.

“Well, she was certainly more subdued than I’ve ever seen her,” I say, my voice low. “What did you say to her?”

“No.” That’s all she gives me.

“No, what?”

“No. That’s what I said.”

“No? Nothing else?”

“Nothing else,” she says. “She called and told me that we couldn’t do the interview at the gun range because we would look like backwoods vigilantes. I whole-heartedly disagree. I resent the fact that everybody who exercises their right to bear arms are immediately labeled as some backwoods crazy hicks from Deliverance. It’s not fair. And the more she talked, the more dug-in I became. It became imperative for me to show the world what this pretty little petite billionairess is made of. So, no matter what she said, I just said, ‘no.’ I vetoed every single rebuttal without explanation. The bottom line is that if I want to show up on television with a tooth blacked out, two high pigtails, and a plaid, tied flannel shirt like Daisy Duke, there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it. So… no.”

Wow. I guess I can see why Mac was a bit downtrodden. She’s accustomed to getting her way because she can easily break you down with logic and reason. Only this time, Butterfly wasn’t hearing logic or reason or anything else. She was dug in, and Mac met dug-in Butterfly… and lost.

“I need to make some changes,” I confess. I can feel her gaze on me.

“What kind of changes?” she asks.

“I think I need to distance myself from my mother for a while.” The pause isn’t only pregnant, as Allen would call it, it’s tangible.

“You what?” she asks in disbelief.

“She’s out of control,” I say calmly. “It’s not just the wedding. It’s her whole attitude. I can’t take it and I need to step back before I start to resent her. She and Hammerstone ganged up on me today…”

“Whoa whoa wait what?” she says all in one breath pulling me back to look at my face.

“Hammerstone got his uninvite to Mia’s wedding and apparently his wife is giving him fresh hell about it. So, he called me hoping for relief. Finding none, he decides to tell my mommy on me and then she calls me trying to pressure me to give in and at least allow his wife to attend the wedding. Remember when I told you that she lied on you about what you said about Mia’s guest list?” She nods. “Well, she told his wife that I demanded that they be removed from the list and that’s why they were uninvited when that’s not what happened. I just said that I wasn’t coming if they were.”

“Oh, dear God,” she groans, shaking her head. “She’s becoming impossible.”

“It’s worse,” I reveal. “She contradicted herself to me on the phone almost in the same breath. I don’t know that woman anymore. She’s becoming the epitome of what’s been toxic to me my whole life.” I pause. “She caused me to regress today.”

“Oh, my God!” Butterfly exclaims. “Are you okay??”

“I think so… I will be… I am right now,” I say, wrapping my arms around her and holding her tighter. “I might have to talk to Dr. Baker though. My feelings today were pretty vivid. I could see the same things I saw when I was a little boy in the hospital after the crack whore died. I hope I haven’t opened any doors that I’ve long since closed. What do you do when the person that you trusted above everyone else betrays that trust?” I shiver at the thought of my perfect savior being flawed just like everyone else. “I called her Mother.” Butterfly leans back and looks into my eyes.

“That’s not good,” she says. “You’re already distancing yourself.”

“I know,” I reply.

“Do you know why?” I shrug.

“Protection, I think,” I respond. “It’s a defense mechanism. Remove myself from the problem. It’s all I know to do. It’s all I’ve ever done when the issue’s bigger than me… until the issue isn’t bigger than me anymore.”

“That’s why you’ve been a recluse all these years,” she observes.

“It was easier to avoid people than to answer the ‘are you gay’ and ‘when are you getting married’ and ‘when are you bringing a girl home’ questions, especially since I was beating little brown-haired girls every weekend. How do you explain that?” I push myself off her lap, suddenly needing some distance, some movement. I’m restless. I undo my tie and snatch it from my neck.

I need a drink.

Noting my agitation, Butterfly goes to the bar and retrieves a decanter and a brandy snifter. She pours the amber liquid into the glass and pushes towards me. I down the whole thing without even tasting it, allowing the fluid to sear the back of my throat and my chest as it goes down.

I feel like a kid who has just learned that there’s no Santa Clause. I love my mother. I adore her—and this entire situation is burning my soul like this goddamn liquor is burning my fucking chest. She’s slowly robbing me of the one non-verbal safe-haven that I had… the one place that I could hide where I didn’t have to ask if I could go—besides under Mrs. Franklin’s porch for lemonade, that is.

Jesus… Mrs. Franklin… Aunt Tina. I haven’t thought about her in a long time. I wonder how she is these days? God, I am regressing.

I thrust my hands into my hair and squeeze my eyes shut. I feel like my head is going to explode. Breathe, Grey, breathe. I hear the clank of glass on glass and raise my head to see that more brandy is in the snifter. Is this what I need right now? Do I really need this?

Fuck, yes, I need this now!

I take the glass like the fluid is the antidote to some lethal poison—which it just may be at present—and down it once more, sighing heavily once the glass is empty, the alcohol burning a trek down my chest once more.

“Talk to me,” her voice says firmly. I’m leaning on the bar, my hands spread wide and my head down. It’s not my wife’s voice that I hear… it’s Dr. Grey.

“She saved me,” I say softly. “When I had no hope in anything… in anyone… in myself… in life… she saved me. She made me see the world differently—not a whole lot differently, but differently. She made me not feel so… lost… so alone. I still felt alone, but not so alone. Nobody else understood me, but I could connect to her…”

I’m not explaining this right. It was so much more than this. It was so much deeper. I remove my jacket and toss it on… something—a chair, something. I hear footsteps and I immediately fear discovery, so I begin walking, ducking into the first door that I see. I try to close the door behind me, but she’s hot on my heels, the decanter and the snifter still in her hands. She says nothing when she enters the room.

“Would you like to sit, or would you rather stand?” she says, her voice professional. I swallow hard.

“I’d… rather stand,” I say, my voice breathy. My head is a little cloudy now. The brandy is starting to take effect.

“Very well.” She enters the room and closes the door behind her. I realize that she has followed me into her parlor. I walk over to the fireplace and lean on the mantle, trying to collect my thoughts. “You said she saved you. You could connect to her…”

“It was more than that!” I blurt out. “She didn’t just save me; she was my savior! She was my messiah! She was my last and only representation that the world was someplace that I wanted to be at all when I felt that living was the last thing I wanted to do. I was a kid—too young to know anything about suicide, but all I could think about was leaving this place and ending it all and she was the only thing, the only thing, that made me not want to do that. As much as I adore Mia, as much of an impact as she had on me, Grace was the element that made me not want to leave this earth.”

There it is. I’ve said it. After 27 years, I’ve finally put it into words. The ugly truth…

“The crack whore left me… my mommy left me. I stayed with her body for four days. I don’t remember her face, but I remember her body. I’ve seen pictures of her face. I have a picture of her face, but I still don’t remember her face… but I remember her body. I remember her being cold—freezing fucking cold… and blue. First, she was warm… then she was cold. I tried to cover her with my blanket, but she was still cold, and now I know why I don’t remember her face.”

I close my eyes and rub them, trying to remove the image that I saw right before they found me… right before they took me away.

“I remember that her skin was shiny… and she was bigger… not a lot bigger, but bigger… and she looked sick… Something was coming out of her nose and mouth—something white and it looked like blood was mixed with it…”

I put my hands in my hair again and scratch my scalp, trying to release the pressure on my skull.

“I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something was wrong. I knew she was gone and she wasn’t coming back and I wanted her to please take me with her. I wanted her to please not leave me behind with this monster…” … with the man that put the firesticks on my skin…

“When the strangers came and took me away, I just knew he was going to come and get me. I just knew that if she was my mother, he was my father. I waited for years… I waited in terror for years for him to come and get me. That’s why the nightmares never went away… They were waiting for him… waiting for him to come back.”

It’s only now that I realize that I’m pacing the room, and only because my leg bumps the coffee table, which now holds yet another serving of brandy in the snifter. I take the snifter, but only hold it this time as I pace around the room.

“Every day, I waited. I waited for him to come and get me. I never got comfortable no matter where I was. For years, I didn’t talk to anybody. I didn’t make any friends. I didn’t get close. I didn’t let anybody in. I clung to the one person who showed me kindness… to Grace. They didn’t let her take me home immediately. I had to go to foster care for a while, but I don’t even remember those people. I don’t remember that place. I only remember Grace.

“I remember the house in Detroit with the big yard with the plum tree. I used to take a plum and put it in my drawer every night so I wouldn’t be hungry. Sometimes, when the nightmares woke me up, I ate my plum, went outside and got another one off the tree. Grace thought the neighborhood kids were picking them. If she ever knew that it was me, she never let on.”

I look down into the brandy glass, the fluid staring back at me beckoning me to take a sip.

“She was the reason I held on. She was the reason I didn’t let go. She was the reason I felt like things would get better even though most times, they just felt like they were getting worse. She was the reason I wanted to be and do more—not Elena and her whips and the sex… it was Grace. The sex and the lifestyle was motivation and drive to change, but not… reason. It didn’t give me the desire to change; it was a means to an end. Grace was that end—being a better son; being a better student; a better person, a better citizen, making her proud…”

My chest is tightening and the room feels like its spinning. It probably is with the amount of brandy that I’ve consumed, and I desperately want to drink what’s in my hand, but my vision is blurring and I’m thinking that it may not be the best idea.

Then I realize that it’s not the brandy blurring my vision.

“She was my savior!” I weep. “She gave me hope when I had none. I put her on a pedestal because she made me think she had no flaws—that she was this perfect angel who fixed broken children and saved lost souls and protected the weak and now…”

e65623ac380d0efb893cf9780ddb72afI’m back at the mantle, leaning on it and sobbing bitterly. I finally down the brandy in the snifter and throw the damn thing into the fireplace. I’m mourning and anguished and my legs turn to jelly beneath me and suddenly, I feel nothing but grief—total grief and despair over every possible thing that is, has, and can go wrong in my life. Blackness feels like it’s consuming me and I see the crack whore’s pimp and Pops’ death, Butterfly’s kidnapping and the Myricks hacking into my system and destroying my company, nuclear holocaust and my daughter growing up to become a stripper, the stock market crashing and the plagues of the Apocalypse… I’m that little boy all over again, huddled in the corner covering my eyes and praying for the monsters to leave and not eat me alive…

And then I feel her arms.

We’re on the floor between the table and the fireplace and her tiny body is coiled around mine. I’m sweating profusely and weeping uncontrollably and she’s kissing my forehead, holding me close to her, stroking my hair, rocking me, “ssshhhing” and saying soothing things.

“It’s okay…”
“I’m here now…”
“You’re safe…”
“You’re going to be fine…”

And again, I see the monsters hiss and retreat.

I’m exhausted… and maybe a little drunk… or a lot drunk, who knows… and I don’t know how I’m going to get up from this spot, not that I want to right now. The mournful sound of my crying is getting on my nerves now, so I stop, even though the tears continue to fall. I groan in misery and I can’t lift my head, so I just let it fall into her lap as she continues to soothe me. I don’t know how long I lie there in her lap, tears still falling, my wife and doctor caressing the ache from my head and soul when I remember something that I wanted to tell her.

“I may need glasses,” I slur, without raising my head.

“Mm,” she grunts.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“I think you’d look hot in glasses,” she says. “Do I get to pick them?”


A/N: Jimmy Conway— James Burke (born James Conway), also known as Jimmy the Gent, and The Irishman (July 5, 1931 – April 13, 1996)—gangster portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie The Goodfellas.

I’ve talked about the movie Deliverance before—dueling banjos, guys stuck in the wilderness, male rape, “squeal like a pig…” You’re going to have to Google that one.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 6

This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Chapter 6

602b4a7d8922ca2529a14d3a0119243a

GOLDEN

 

I can’t lie. It was hard not returning to Crimson for the first few weeks. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I wanted to see him. No one had ever pursued me so fervently—he could even verbally spar a bit like no one else would even dare. It was that power that I noticed in him that I allowed to break me down—not completely, but enough to let him get in even if only a little. Elena must be ecstatic that she has Crimson all to herself now. I haven’t seen her at any of the other clubs I frequent, not even once. I can operate in peace…

Without her…

Without him…

I was just fine before I met him, and I’ll be just fine once I get him out of my mind.

I’ve been sticking to meeting my clients at The Incubus, Temptation Station, and Club Syndrome. Those fuckers were so happy to see me back in those places that I might as well own the joints. This is what I’m accustomed to. I know word will get out that I’m frequenting these clubs… and he’ll probably come looking for me. I’ll just go to another club when that happens. I can’t risk running into him. Even the strongest of us must admit a weakness—and he very well could be mine. But I’ll never give him the chance to find out.

Blake has noticed a change in me and has shown some concern about it, particularly since I’ve been cooking more often. Cooking has always been one of my pastimes, I just stopped doing it as much when I found my… place in the lifestyle. Now, I feel the need to get back to my roots.

My roots. Fuck. I don’t have any roots.

Aunt Sheila taught me how to cook the only way I know how. I was too young to learn when Mom was alive… and Mom didn’t cook soul food.

It was so hard getting used to the food Aunt Sheila made when I first moved in with them. My uncle thought I was in mourning and that’s why I wouldn’t eat, but Aunt Sheila figured it out and started separating my food before she got heavy with the seasoning for the rest of the family. Gradually, she introduced more spices to my food. I hate to stereotype the Steeles—or myself, for that matter—when it comes to the “differences” in “white people food” versus “black people food,” but there was a difference. At least to me, there was, and Aunt Sheila understood immediately. I can’t help but wonder why she didn’t come for me… didn’t ask about me after I disappeared. My cousins saw me almost every day. Nobody cared what was going on with me? Where I was living? How I was living?

Cooking always brings these thoughts to mind. That, and the fact that my uncle is still harassing me to speak to him. Why? Why does he want to speak to me now?

I turn the fried chicken in the frying pan and check the potatoes boiling in a pot nearby. I always make enough food for an army, then eat one plate and send the rest home with Blake. He eats some of it and gives the rest to the homeless. He jokes that they’re very happy to see him coming in various tent cities and under the bridges and viaducts. Blake is a good man who has made a very big mistake, and he can’t let himself off the hook. He’s an impeccable dresser, a total gentleman, and one of the most tortured souls I’ve ever met.

Much more tortured than me.

I’m only dealing with disappointment and disillusionment. Yes, it’s on a massive scale, but that’s still all it is. Even the incident with Lester didn’t traumatize me—it just pissed me off. I wasn’t hurt or scarred… unless you count not allowing anyone to fuck me. It’s not that I don’t want to fuck. I just won’t give it up that easily. It doesn’t matter my fetish or how I choose to exercise it. That part of my body is sacred to me and it always has been. I dish it out the way that I want and nobody has the right to take it. I gave it away in college until I realized the power of holding it back.

It’s mine. I decide, and contrary to my last encounter with a certain copper hottie, I still choose.

I hear Tupac “Changes” playing on the counter and wipe my hands before I retrieve my cell phone. I don’t recognize the number and my first inclination is to let it go to voicemail, but why bother? If I don’t want to speak to whomever it is, I’ll just hang up. I swipe the screen.

“Hello?”

“Ana?” I don’t recognize the voice. It’s male and sounds somewhat familiar, but I can’t tell you who it is.

“Yes?” I reply.

“Ana… it’s Kevin.” I pause. Kevin. I still don’t know what to say to him after what happened in the gym.

“Hi, Kevin,” I say. What else there to say?

“I… just wanted to make sure you were okay. You haven’t been to the studio in three weeks. Even your friend Elena is wondering what happened to you.” I just bet the fuck she is.

“Well, I’m fine,” I tell him, “and she’s nosey, not concerned.” He’s silent for a while.

Well, I’m concerned.” I don’t reply. “I’d like to take you to dinner,” he says, finally.

“I don’t date,” I reply.

“Who said anything about dating?” he counters. “I said I want to take you to dinner.”

“And hope for a payout afterwards?” I ask, honestly. I made him come hard and I know for sure that he would like a repeat. He sighs.

“It was great, Ana. I won’t lie about that, but right now, all I’m asking for is a meal and conversation. Is that alright with you?”

What’s his game? I know he wants pussy. They all do, but I’ll take his food.

“I’ll meet you somewhere,” I finally agree. “Where and when?”

“You decide,” he says. I think about it for a minute.

“Simply Soulful,” I reply. He’s quiet for a moment.

“You sure?” he asks, uncertain.

“It’s where I grew up,” I tell him. I hear him scoff quietly.

“That explains a lot,” he comments. “Okay, Friday night at Simply Soulful, then.”

*-*

“We can go somewhere else, if you want,” Kevin says as we examine our menus. I know what he’s referring to—the table of sistahs sitting next to us glaring at me like I’ve violated the terms of the Geneva Convention.

“I’m fine,” I tell him. “You have no idea how accustomed I am to the Mad Woman Stare Down. I get it more than you know.” I leave the obvious descriptive word out on purpose to avoid a public scene that I know is forthcoming anyway and turn my attention back to my menu. One of the girls at the next table scoffs loudly.

“She must be a prostitute,” she says, loud enough for me to hear.

“Yo’ momma’s a prostitute,” I say, loud enough for her to hear me without taking my eye off the menu.

“You talkin’ to me?” she barks directly at me.

“You talkin’ to me?” I retort.

“You must want yo’ ass kicked!” she counters, rolling her head at me.

“Here it is. Get to kickin’,” I taunt with my arms open. That just pisses her off.

“White trash bitch!” she hisses.

“That ain’t what yo’ daddy said,” I throw back at her. One of her friends whimpers to hide a laugh while the other gasps loudly with a long intake of breath in complete shock.

“Say something else about my parents and I’ma kick yo’ motherfuckin’ ass!” she snaps at me.

“Something else about your parents,” I taunt. At first, it flies right over her head until her girls start snickering again. Then, she rises from her seat.

“Take it outside, Rayjene,” someone says from behind the counter. “You always startin’ some shit.” She narrows her eyes at me.

“I’ll see you outside,” she says.

“Gon’ out there and wait for me, bitch,” I tell her. She clenches her fists and storms out of the restaurant. Her two friends remain at the table glaring at me. I turn me attention back to my menu.

“What you gon’ do?” Kevin asks. I raise my eyes to him.

“She wants to beat my ass? She can wait right there until I’m finished eating. She’s a damn bully, and she thinks I’m going to back down because I’m white. Backing down from a bully because I was white is the very fucking thing that changed my life, and I’ll never back down from a bully again. I want to see her try to beat my ass, but not until I’ve had my meal.” I look down at my menu and wait for the waitress to come over.

I can feel the eyes at the next table boring into me. I don’t turn to them because I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of my attention. When the waitress comes to our table, I place my order.

“I want the combination catfish and chicken wings with macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and corn bread.” The waitress glares at me for a moment.

“Where does all that food go?” she asks.

“I work out a lot,” I answer honestly. “I grew up on this food—my dad’s family was black.” Kevin’s eyes pierce at me.

“You never told me that,” he says.

“You never asked,” I reply, handing the waitress the menu. She looks at Kevin.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” he says, handing her the menu.

“Anything to drink?” she asks.

“Do you have sweet tea?” I ask. She nods.

“I’ll have a Coke,” Kevin says. When she leaves the table, he turns his attention back to me. “You said, ‘was.’” I frown.

“What?”

“You said that your father’s family was black. What happened?” I clasp my hands on the table in front of me.

“Well, of course, they’re still black, but my father died when I was young. He and my mother were killed in a car accident, so I went to live with his brother and their family. We lived around here.” That’s all I say about the matter. He nods, but doesn’t press the issue.

“Why haven’t you been back to the studio?” he asks. I shrug.

“Didn’t feel like it, I guess,” I say pulling a napkin from the dispenser.

“Was it because of what happened?” he asks. I look up at him and only just realize how handsome he really is before dropping my eyes.

b7c18b3ba1ea9266bfcf1a1779dcd372“It was a mistake,” I say. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

“Then, why did it?” he presses.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t myself.” It’s the truth. Under normal circumstances, there’s no way in hell that would have happened, but right now, I have no good explanation for why it did.

“Yes, I know,” he says, frankly. When I raise my eyes to his, he raises his eyebrows challengingly. I can’t argue with him. He does know. He’s been flirting with me for months and I suddenly break down and give him a blowjob.

The waitress comes back with our drinks and the bill for the table next to ours, the one with the girls looking down my throat and hanging on my every word, so I stop talking. Kevin notices and turns conspicuously glaring at the girls at the next table. Once they note his displeasure, they quickly make their exit, taking their bill to the counter.

“Now maybe we can talk,” he says, taking a swallow of his soda. “I know what she does,” he adds. I raise my eyes to look at him.

“Hm?” I question.

“Your friend, Elena,” he says. “I know what she does.”

“How do you know?”

“She propositioned me once,” he replies. “You do the same thing?”

“I’m in the same arena,” I tell him, “but what she does and what I do is not even close.” He nods.

“I can imagine,” he says.

“I take it you declined,” I say. He looks at me puzzled. “Elena… you declined?” He sits back and sips his soda again.

“It’s not really my thing,” he answers. I nod.

“Yes, it’s an acquired taste,” I say, sipping my tea.

“Interesting choice of words,” he counters, never taking his eyes off me. “How is what you do different from what she does?” I sigh.

“You’d have to understand the lifestyle to understand the difference. It’s too hard to explain otherwise.”

“Educate me,” he says, leaning forward on the table and giving me his undivided attention. I chuckle and shake my head.

“It’s no use, Kevin,” I say. “People outside the lifestyle almost never understand the concept of what we do or why we do it. More than once, I’ve heard people refer to it as ‘a bunch of crazy white people beating each other,’ and they have no idea the diversity of people who practice, what all they engage in, why they practice, what they get from it…” I just shake my head. The dynamics of even a few facets of the BDSM lifestyle are just too intricate to cover with a civilian over catfish.

“I’m not asking you to give me a Ph.D. thesis on why you do what you do. I’m just asking for a little education on what it’s about.” He sips his soda again.

Okay, fine. I can try to give him a little information on the lifestyle without having him run away screaming.

“There are many aspects to the BDSM lifestyle,” I say quietly, “so many aspects that there are way too many to cover with you right now. I will tell you that they can range from kinky sexual fantasies to seemingly downright inhumane and brutal practices that would churn your stomach. No matter what the practice, the entire concept of the lifestyle is built on mutually satisfying activities that are considered safe, sane, and consensual… although some people—myself included—might question the sane part in some of the activities I’ve witnessed.” I stir my tea with my straw.

“Is that why what you do and what Elena does is so different?” I look up at him and he’s looking at me with genuine interest, like he’s hanging on my every word.

“No,” I say honestly. “The reason why what she does and what I do is so different is because she does what she does for her own enjoyment. I do what I do for mutual satisfaction. I get satisfaction from seeing the intense reaction of my… partners, while she gains satisfaction from total domination, if you can call it that. Anybody can teach a puppy how to speak and when to roll over. That what she does. That’s how she treats her pets.”

“And you?” he asks. “What makes you different? How do you treat your pets?”

“I don’t treat them like pets in the first place,” I say squarely and his eyebrows rise. “They’re people… with specific needs and desires… They’re singular and particular, and I pinpoint those needs. I enhance them, I satisfy them, and yes, I exploit them. As a result, they’re loyal. They come back to me, and each time, I read them, and I give them what they need. Often, it’s better than it was before, because I pay attention. I tweak my techniques based on how they respond and I aim to take them higher each time they come to me, and they thank me handsomely for it.” That gets his attention.

“They pay you,” he says, and it’s a statement, not a question.

“They give me gifts,” I correct him. “They come in many forms… jewelry, clothes, trips, favors, and yes… sometimes money.” I stir my tea again. “I don’t have a price, Kevin. I never have. I know my worth—in the courtroom and in the playroom. I don’t have a menu where I perform an act and you pay up. I take them on mind trips—bring them out of their bodies, make them transcend sensation more than they ever thought they could. In return, they give me what they feel is appropriate, and I can say that I’ve never been shortchanged. It’s an exchange that I’d never be able to explain to you. You would only understand it by experiencing it yourself… and no, that’s not an invitation.”

“I know it’s not,” he says matter-of-factly. “Like I said, it’s not really my thing. I’m not just saying that. I speak from experience.”

You could catch a fly in my mouth right now. What the fuck? Kevin is familiar with the lifestyle? I don’t get a chance to rebut as the waitress comes over with our food and begins to put the plates on the table.

“You need hot sauce?” she asks.

“Yes, please,” Kevin says.

“She alright?” she asks, gesturing to me. I shake the shock from my face and run my hands through my heart.

“Yes,” I say absently. “Mind blown. Sorry. Hot sauce, please.” She chuckles and shakes her head.

“Comin’ right up,” she says with a snicker. She leaves the table and quickly returns with a bottle of Frank’s RedHot sauce.

“Y’all let me know if you need anything else,” she says before leaving the table. I turn my attention back to Kevin.

“You practiced the lifestyle?” I ask, intrigued. He nods.

“Only for a little while,” he says, smashing his cornbread into his collard greens. My cousin Tracy used to eat them that way.

“Were you a Dominant or a submissive?” I ask. He looks off for a moment as if pondering the question.

“I think I might have been a little of both,” he says, mixing the greens and cornbread. “It was mostly kink for me, but there was some bondage involved… blindfolds and a little flogging.” He raises his eyes to me. “I’ll admit that I like a good, hard fuck, but the bondage and discipline thing just didn’t appeal to me as much as I thought it would, so…” He shrugs and shakes some hot sauce on his chicken and fish before offering it to me. I take it from him and shake a good amount over my chicken, fish, and greens.

“Yeah, you grew up in the hood,” he chuckles after swallowing a mouthful of his greens and cornbread mixture. “So, from the description, you’re more into the S&M part,” he says, nearly cleaning the meat from the ding of a wing with one swipe of his large lips.

Geez, man.

“Yes, I am,” I tell him, “as is Elena, only…” I sigh. “If you want a dog to keep doing what you want it to do, you give it treats. That’s why she has to pay her subs. If you’re satisfied with your service, you leave different types of gifts—like tips and praise. That’s why I’m so popular and she and I are so different.”

“You don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that you’re just sexy as fuck?” he says frankly.

“Well, you can’t do what I do without sex appeal,” I retort. “At least you can’t do it well. Seriously, Kevin, who wants to look at a dog while they’re coming to orgasm?”

“Point taken,” he says as I take a healthy bite of my fish.

“Mmm,” I say, groaning while I chew and swallow my food. “This is so good!”

“So, um, what’s with Elena?” he asks. “She acts like you guys are so close, but I knew before you told me so that you weren’t cool with her. What’s her deal?” I ponder the answer while a swallow another mouthful of my delicious food.

“Did you ever see the movie Bring It On?” I ask.

“Ironically, yes,” he says. “I have a thing for Gabrielle Union.” I nod.

“Do you remember the red-haired head cheerleader captain who graduated, but kept coming back to practice because she couldn’t fucking let go?”

Kevin almost chokes on his food and I can’t help but laugh.

“Um, she was named after gum or something,” he says after he takes a swallow of his soda.

1438977673-tumblr-m8ezu8jgia1rw5yn2o1-500“Big Red,” I say. He nods as he’s pointing at me, his mouth full of soda. “Yeah, that’s Elena. She needs to get the hell off the field and let go, but she keeps coming in trying to bump hips with me and move me out of the way when we’re not even playing the same game!”

“I’ll say,” he confirms, placing his soda on the table. “No offense, but it’s obvious y’all in two altogether different leagues.” I hold my hand up.

“My point exactly. So, trust me, there’s no concern there on her part. She’s picking your brain for information.”

“Well, I haven’t seen her for a couple of weeks now,” he says before shoveling more food in his mouth.

“That’s because she’s certain that I’m not coming back,” I tell him. “I haven’t been to the club that we normally frequent and I haven’t been to yoga, so she’s wondering what the hell is going on.”

“What the hell is going on?” he asks.

“I’m just going to different clubs,” I confirm.

“And different studios?” he asks and waits for an answer.

“You know why I wasn’t coming into the studio,” I confess. He nods.

“Um-hm. I know,” he says.

We carry on conversation about Elena and BDSM, why it wasn’t his cup of tea and why I like it, until we finish our dinner and the waitress asks if we want desert.

“I want some banana pudding,” Kevin says. I almost agree with him until I see something in the dessert choices that I haven’t had in years. It’s a recipe that I’ve never perfected, so I would rather not try it than to fuck it up.

“Ooo, gimme some of that sweet potato pie!” I say, damn near drooling in anticipation. The waitress smiles and goes to retrieve our dessert choices.

“You are a black woman trapped in a white woman’s body!” Kevin declares playfully.

“I take that as I compliment,” I say with a hearty laugh. When I look up, I see someone at the counter staring at me… so hard, in fact that our waitress is trying to get his attention to take his food and his eyes are trained on me.

Fuck. It’s Jake.

60e9e4e4257eb8c4e6a8ca904a641762Kevin turns around to see what has caused me to stop laughing and stare behind him. Jake snaps out of his trance when Kevin turns to look at him.

“You know him?” Kevin asks, turning his attention back to me. I shrug and look down at the table.

“Yeah… long time ago,” I say, somewhat flippantly. I know him, and I used to like him a lot, but I stole a candy bar from his family’s party store while a bunch of spiteful bitches busted up his dirt bike and he never spoke to me again after that. “Old childhood sweetheart,” I admit truthfully.

“Well, don’t look now, but…” and he trails off. I look up and Jake is on his way over to the table. What the hell? I mean, is that proper protocol… to crash someone’s date? True, we’re not on a date, but Jake doesn’t know that.

“Hey… Kev,” Jake says, speaking to Kevin first. Yeah, do that. Pretend like he’s the reason you came to our table. I fix my eyes on his, steeling my stare in a mixture of stoicism and disinterest. I was only disarmed for a moment, but I’m back.

“Hey, Jake. How’s finance?” Kevin asks. I hadn’t even noticed that Jake is wearing a matching gray vest and slacks with a black tie and white dress shirt. He looks like he just stepped out of the office and took off his jacket.

“It’s good, as usual,” he says, occasionally turning his brown eyes back to me. They’re cloudy around the edges, like a storm coming in through a sunset. “Ana,” he says, by way of greeting.

“Jake,” I reply, nothing more than he gives me.

“I thought you moved out of these parts,” he says, now ignoring Kevin.

“I did,” I say… and again, I give him nothing else.

“What brings you ‘round now?” he asks.

“Home cookin’,” I say. He stands there staring at me for a while and I have to admit. He’s just as good-looking now as he was all those years ago.

“Jake…” Kevin says, his tone a bit warning. Jake turns his attention back to Kevin.

“Sorry, man,” he says, before throwing another glance at me. “I guess I’ll see ya ‘round,” he says, still looking at me.

“Yeah, see ya,” Kevin says, his voice sharp. Jake looks from me to Kevin, then leaves the restaurant with his dinner. I look at Kevin in awe and jest.

“Alpha male much?” I tease, but Kevin’s face is still serious.

“He was outta line,” Kevin retorts seriously. “He didn’t know what was going on here. Yes, we’re having a friendly dinner, but he didn’t know that. That was rude!” I twist my lips and ponder. I was thinking the same thing when Jake walked over to our table.

“Yeah,” I say, “I have to agree with you on that one.” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “I guess I should apologize, too.”

“Naw,” he says, waving me off. “You were just trying to be polite.” I shrug.

“Pretty much,” I reply.

“You guys got history?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Not really,” I say. “I mean, he didn’t hit it or anything like that. He just reminds me of a time in my life that I’d much rather forget.”

“Is that why you do what you do?” he asks, showing the same interest he did before we were interrupted. “To forget?” I shake my head.

“No,” I reply. “I do what I do because I like it… a lot. I know people have a lot of different reasons why they do this, but I think mine is the best. I just really enjoy it.” He nods.

“I think yours is the best, too,” he says. Our waitress brings our dessert to the table along with our check.

“I hope y’all enjoyed your meal,” she says with a smile as she leaves the table. Kevin digs his spoon into his banana pudding as I sink my teeth into some of the yummiest sweet potato pie I’ve tasted in years.

“So… why don’t we do this?” he begins. “You come back to the studio and get your yoga on and we’ll use this conversation to squash all that awkwardness. Then, you let me take you out for a meal and some sweet ‘tae-ta pie once in a while and… that’ll be that?” He shovels another spoonful of banana pudding in his mouth and just like that… I think I’ve made a friend.

“That’s cool, Kevin,” I say, digging into my sweet tae-ta pie.

I guess the girl who wanted to kick my ass found better things to do with her Friday night than to wait around for me to finish my catfish, because she was gone once Kevin and I had left the restaurant. He saw me safely to my Range Rover, kissed me on my cheek, and waited for me to drive away before he got into his car. I have a feeling that he really was hoping for more from this dinner, but knew it would be impossible once he confirmed that I actively practiced in the lifestyle. At least he was a gentleman about it instead of trying to find a way to get around my wishes and still get into my panties…

… like a certain copper-haired god I’d much rather forget.

Blake is at the door when I get home and I can’t say that I’m surprised. With my uncertain schedule, he usually just stays at my house over the weekend in the quarters that I had built for him.

“You’re too good to me,” I say, when I walk in the door while he holds it open for me. He says nothing, and I pick up on his mood immediately. He probably thinks tonight was a date since I’m dressed like a civilian and coming home at a decent hour. I turn around and look at him. “Blake?”

He raises his gaze to me and his eyes say it all. Blake needs someone to need him and if I find love, he feels like I won’t need him anymore.

5086-javier-bardem-pb“Blake,” I say softly, “don’t you see how much I need you? Don’t you see how much I wouldn’t be able to function without you.” He smiles a small smile.

“Yes, Mistress,” he replies, his voice melancholy, “but it won’t always be that way.” I smile at him.

“We live in the real world,” I reply, touching his cheek gently, “and nothing last forever… but I need you now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.” His smile widens infinitesimally.

“Yes, Mistress.”

*-*

“Oh, for God’s sake, send him in.”

My uncle has been harassing me at my office every day for weeks and now, he’s at it again. Seventeen years… seventeen fucking years, absolutely nothing. Now, I face off against him in court and he just has to see me. After seventeen fucking years. What’s so goddamn important now?

He hasn’t changed a bit in seventeen years except that he was balding at the time and now, he’s completely bald. When he walks into my office, I stand from my desk and finally face off with this selfish fucker.

“Why. Are you. Harassing me?” I ask, my voice controlled.

“I’m not harassing you, Ana,” he answers calmly. “You’re my niece, and I’m just trying to talk to you.”

“No, I’m not,” I say firmly. “I’m not Daddy’s biological child, so you have no connection, no obligation to me. Daddy loved me. Daddy gave me his name and welcomed me into his family out of love, but you don’t have that obligation. It died with my father, and any obligation that would have passed down to you would have been passed down through love. You don’t have that, so you have no connection to me.”

“Goddammit, Ana…” he begins.

“What?” I hiss. “Does that bother you? Does that hurt you to hear? Love—do you have any idea of that concept, Uncle Richard?” I speak venomously. “Do you have any idea the capacity of love that it takes to welcome a child into your heart that doesn’t belong to you and give her your name? That’s the capacity of love my Daddy felt, and that’s the love he showed me every day until his very last breath. And when he left this earth, he took that love with him to heaven. So, don’t worry. I know how it feels, but that love and obligation died with my father. You haven’t broken any rules, Richard, only broken trust.” He looks down at the floor as if to gather his thoughts.

“I didn’t know what to do, Ana,” he says, “I was confused—really, and young…” Is he serious?

“Oh, God, please stop,” I say, putting both hands in the air and using them as a barrier between us. “Are you really here to plead your case why you left me out in the cold when you knew that I had no one and nowhere to go?” I ask incredulously. I glare at him for a moment, but don’t give him a chance to answer. “I was fifteen… I was fifteen fucking years old and my mommy and daddy were dead. I was a good kid, a really good kid, and you have no idea what I went through after you left me. And you have the nerve to stand here and try to explain it with that ‘I was young’ bullshit?”

As he stares at me now, all I can think of is the disgust in his eyes when he shook his head and walked out on me that day. That wasn’t inexperience in his eyes. That was disdain! I have no idea what was going through his mind at the time, but I know that he wanted to be anywhere but there… anywhere but with the little white girl his dead brother adopted…

“Was I not perfect enough, Uncle Richard?” I snap, my control disappearing. “Do you have any idea what happened to me after you walked out that day? Do you even care? Do you even know the whole story of what happened? Did you even bother to find out?” I laugh tragically. “God, I hope you didn’t, because if you did, and you still left me out in the cold…” I shake my head and roll my eyes. “Get out of my office.”

He gazes at me like he wants to say something, but he just stands there for several moments. A shroud falls over his face—something like defeat—and he turns and walks towards the door.

“Your aunt Sheila is dying,” he says, his hand on the doorknob poised to turn it. “We don’t know how much time is left. Breast cancer—very aggressive.” He turns his head to look at me. “Stage four.”

That’s not why he’s here. It’s just a piece of information he threw in there. I have no idea why he’s come and I really don’t care. And no offense to Aunt Sheila, but in seventeen years, she never came for me either. Nonetheless…

“You have my condolences,” I say flatly. “Now, leave.”

He drops his head, his shoulders rising and falling in a heavy sigh before he turns the door handle, opens the door and leaves my office.


mcsteamy-eric-dane-464227_267_400

TREY

Six weeks in a goddamn cast after that bitch hurled that fucking potted plant at me. Six goddamn weeks—I was too uncomfortable to even fuck properly.

That’s okay, though, because so was she.

After security cornered her ass at her car that day, I had them call the police. They had to… that bitch fractured my fucking arm. And I had her ass arrested for assault and yes, I’m pressing full charges. I don’t know what that pot was made of, but I swear to God it must have been cement. I’m still trying to figure out how the hell she lifted that damn thing off the ground!

The entire incident made the news, of course. She was portrayed as a scorned lover in some articles, a hysterical socialite at the end of her rope for losing her businesses in articles that got it right. I really didn’t care. She posted bail and now, she’s waiting for trial for second degree assault charges. I wonder what her precious Linc will have to say about that?

She might get off with probation since this is her first offense, but I’m hoping she does some time. It won’t be much—three to nine months for first offenses—but I still want her to do some time. If I hadn’t sacrificed my arm to protect my face, the bitch would have killed me or at the very least, I would have ended up a fucking vegetable. What is it with psychotic women trying to kill or maim me?

That, of course, brings my mind back to Golden. Back to Golden… who am I kidding? My mind was never off Golden. She’s all I fucking think about. The more I try to forget her, the more I think about her. I haven’t seen her in over six months—no word, no mention, not even a whisper in the club. Yes, I’ve returned. I’ve been to others around town, but I’ve occasionally returned to Crimson with hopes of just getting a glimpse of her. I’m a glutton for punishment.

When the day finally arrived to get this fucking cast off my arm, I almost wanted to celebrate. I had to go through a couple of weeks of physical therapy, but I really needed to start working out again. Working out meant that I get my strength back and I could wield a cane or a flogger again, grip a hip and fuck some poor pussy senseless.

That was my total intention—to get a hold of Caramel and fuck her within an inch of her life. She ruined that for me, though. Three weeks after the cast came off, Caramel showed up at Escala in a gold raincoat. I thought it was just coincidence, though I suspected that she knew she was a substitute despite all the time that we had been fucking. I knew that it wasn’t a coincidence when I ripped that fucking raincoat off and there was a golden negligee underneath.

She’s fucking with the fantasy. The fantasy is abstract, not direct. If I wanted something that trite and insignificant, I’d hire a fucking lookalike. It irritated the fuck out of me that she dared make this kind of statement to me, and I made sure that she knew it.

I never punished Caramel. She never got a flogger or a whip or a paddle because that wasn’t her purpose. That night would be no different. I wouldn’t dare mar that beautiful skin, but she was punished—sexually and emotionally.

I fucked her so hard and so many ways that I almost felt sorry for her. I wouldn’t let her put my dick in her mouth. To me, allowing her to suck my dick was a reward because it gave her power. I didn’t want her to have that power. She wasn’t as good as Joyce at it anyway.

No, I needed to bury my dick in that pussy and that ass in every way imaginable. I made her bounce hard on it, backwards and leaning over me until I was nearly ready to blow. Then I pushed her off of me while I watched my dick throb almost painfully until the orgasm fell away before I turned her over, locked her arms behind her at the elbows with my hand and fucked her doggie style to the brink of insanity again—repeating the process over and over and over until she’s damn near delirious. I don’t know if she fucking came or not. That night was all about me and my dick and making up for six weeks of fucking celibacy…

…And six months of never being able to get this woman out of my fucking mind…

…And one night of this silly little cunt thinking she had control.

Once I had enough of tormenting myself with pleasure and I was ready to come, I put her face down on the bed and I crouched over her. I lubed her up and fucked her hard and deep in that ass. I made her hold those cheeks open so that I could get my dick into that asshole all the way to the hilt. I fucked that ass like a goddamn wild man… no fucking mercy. It was outstanding! And when that insanely painful orgasm that had built up for weeks now intensified through hours of fucking and denial began to blast through my dick, I reached down and squeezed and caressed my balls roughly, forcing every bit of cum from my nuts as my fingers dug into her hips. I nearly howled through the blinding pleasure.

I collapsed breathlessly on top of her, pushing us both down into the bed as I continued to stroke my pulsing dick in short strokes into her ass, drawing out every fucking last moment and drop of this powerful climax. I don’t know if it was because I waited so goddamn long, her ass was so fucking tight, I built it up so much or I was angry and I took my aggression out on her, but that felt like the best, longest, and hardest nut of my goddamn life. As it waned, I rolled my hips around so that the walls of her ass rubbed against the wet skin of my dick to remind me how that shit felt moments prior. It was fucking amazing.

Now it’s over, and I lay here next to her, wanting nothing more than to get her the fuck out of my house.

I roll over with my back to her and relax into the pillow and the comforter.

“I won’t need you anymore, Caramel,” I say coldly. “You can leave, and don’t come back after this.”

I can feel her staring at me even though I’m not looking at her. She has to know why I’m doing this. She has to know she crossed a line. We had no commitment and no rules, but she had to know this was unacceptable. I feel her throw the covers off and get out of bed. Next, I can hear her gathering her things. I hear the door open and she pauses.

“Tammy!” she says harshly, tears lacing her voice. When I look over my shoulder at her, she’s only wearing her thong and she’s carrying her nightie, coat, and shoes, her large eyes trained angrily and sadly on mine. “My name is Tammy!”

I say nothing as she lingers a few moments more at the door before exiting without closing it behind her.

She knew what this was. She couldn’t expect more. When it’s over, it’s over. It’s that simple. It’s like that movie, Nine and a Half Weeks. When the thing was done, it was done. No matter who was hurt, it was over. If you caught feelings, wrap up your little broken heart and get the fuck out of my face. I’m not sorry that I’m not all tortured by her departure like Mickey Rourke’s character.

She was never the one torturing me in the first place.

*-*

“Hello, Christian.”

Well, I guess I should have expected this call. It took him long enough. Shit, the bitch could be dead by now for all he knew.

“Lincoln,” I say impassively. Elena’s absentee husband has finally contacted me. I’m wondering if he’s calling in a sad attempt to cock strut, or if he’s trying to pay me off to drop the charges on his wife.

“I hear you had my wife arrested,” he says coolly.

“You hear correctly,” I retort.

“May I ask why?” he says. Is he being fucking funny? Where the fuck has he been for the past several months—hiding under a goddamn rock?

“Google it,” I reply with the same coolness that he’s giving me.

“I’ve already heard what the press and the rags have to say,” he responds. “I want to hear your side of the story.”

My side? My side was plastered all over the newspaper when the ambulance took me from Grey House. Fuck this. I’m not feeding into this asshole.

“You’ll hear it in court, that is, if you can be bothered to stick around to see what’s happening with your beloved wife.”

“You and I both know that trials take forever, when you can just tell me what’s going on.” Boy, he’s really working with a pair.

“Then talk to the police,” I say impassively.

“The police can only tell me what happened, but they can’t tell me why.” Sucks to be you, then.

“If you have any other questions, contact my attorney.”

“Hiding behind a lawyer, Grey?” Linc taunts. “That’s not your style.” I won’t bother to ask him what he means by that because he’s trying to lure me into some bullshit. When I don’t bite, he continues with his bait. “What I don’t understand is why Elena was at your office that day in the first place.”

“Have you been gone that long, Linc?” I say. “Have you forgotten that we were once friends?”

“Were?” he continues.

“Yeah, having someone break your arm tends to put a bit of strain on the relationship.”

“So… you’re saying that before she broke your arm, you were still friends.” I see where he’s going. He’s trying to get answers from me that he can either use against her or that he hasn’t gotten from her yet. And I’ve had enough of his fucking game.

“Lincoln, why the fuck are you calling me?” I say, my voice sharp. “You should already know that I’m not telling you shit. So, if you want answers, you’re asking the wrong person. Ask your goddamn wife or talk to my attorney. I shouldn’t even be talking to you considering the fact that your little Misses tried to fucking kill me.” He chuckles.

“I’ve never heard of anybody dying from a broken arm,” he taunts.

“She threw that thing at my fucking head!” I hiss. “I blocked it with my arm or otherwise, that would have been my goddamn face… and I’m done talking to you.”

“Come on. What’s a chat among friends?” he counters insincerely.

“Nothing, except we’re not friends and we never have been. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business to tend to.”

“Just one more thing,” he presses. “Why did she throw a potted plant at you in the first place?” Fine, fucker. You want it, you got it.

“Oh, that one I’ll answer for you,” I say in my own taunting voice. “Her business failed… did she tell you that?” I pause for several moments and his silence tells me that she hadn’t told him that. “Yeah, the fall of Esclava, Salon to the rich and famous. That’s been all over local news. She came to ask me for help and when I refused, she got it into her demented head that somehow, I was the cause of her demise. While I’m trying to figure out how the fuck she came to this conclusion, she starts hurling shit, so I had the crazy broad arrested.”

“Careful, Grey,” he hisses threateningly. “It’s not a good idea to talk about my wife that way.”

“Then keep that psychotic bitch on a leash and stop harassing me!” I end the call before he has the change to retort. Linc should know better than to try to fucking cross me. What’s his major malfunction? I summon Taylor to my office.

“Sir,” he says as he crosses the threshold.

“Linc is back in town,” I tell him, “and he’s none too happy about the situation with his wife. Be on alert in case his ass forgets who the fuck I am, and feel free to send him a little reminder if necessary.”

“Yes, sir,” he says before leaving my office. Lincoln almost found out about me and Elena back when we were fucking. I’m sure he’s still suspicious, even though he never caught us or found any real proof. He sent me a warning in the form of an ill-placed rumor and the press knocking on my door asking about the nature of my relationship with the lumber king’s wife.

My response?

Three of his sawmills shut down in Germany and acquisitions of four of his U.S. operations—one debarking and bucking operation, two processing and seasoning plants, and one paper mill—all within twenty-four hours of his little stunt. His only hint that it was me, a black card delivered to his main offices with only the words, “Keep fucking with me.”

Linc is the last fucking thing I want to think about now. I let Caramel… Tammy go and now I need a new pastime. Joyce was boring me well before Car… Tam… fuck it, Caramel even came on the scene and nothing has changed. Good head can only get you so far in this world.

Elena did have a way of finding the tastiest little morsels. She’s how I ended up with Caramel in the first place. Now, she’s out of commission and anyone in her little coven right now will be desperate for a Dominant.

I don’t do desperate.

For the first time in years, I log onto my Fetlife profile. I need another new flavor, like Caramel. I’ve probably only fucked two black women in my life and I must say, I loved Caramel’s big ass. Pounding into her from behind was one of the hottest pleasures I can remember. That meat would slap hard against my dick while I dug my fingers into her skin for a good grip and held on while those cheeks wobbled and rolled and smacked. Fuck, I’m getting hard just thinking about it! And I sent her away…

I fucking had to. Every time I would have fucked her after that, I would have just resented her ass. It’s only now that I’m realizing that I don’t think I’m going to remember too much what she looks like. I think I’ve only looked at her face twice… once when I first fucked her, and again when I sent her away. Even now, all I can remember is that ass.

Big asses… nice, big, round asses. Maybe that should be my next type. I could definitely get into that.

I browse around Fetlife for a little while, but I’m sure that I won’t find what I’m looking for there. Hell, I didn’t really like trolling Fetlife even when I first got into the lifestyle. I don’t know what made me consider going on there now. I do have a newsletter of private and semi-parties sent to my alias’ email though. Maybe I can find my new flavor there. I get a little thrill just thinking about it. I’ve always looked for pretty girls—preferably petite, that could take a good beating. Now, I’m searching for thick girls no matter what nationality that can take a good fucking with a little Domination thrown in.

For the first time in a long time, I’m actually looking forward to something.


A/N: Tupac was a revolutionary just like his mother Afeni Shakur, but unfortunately, the only thing most of America saw was the “Thug” rapper. And I know someone somewhere is going to bring up that sexual assault conviction, but I’m personally only TOO AWARE of how the “Just-them” system can put the wrong person in the hot seat, so we ain’t going to even discuss that. Let’s just say that if I contend that you forced me to do something in a club that I didn’t want to do, I’m not going to end up in your fucking hotel room… but I digress. I won’t preach, but I will ask that if you get an opportunity, you look at or listen to the lyrics to “Changes,” and you’ll see that in the 21 years since his death, a lot still hasn’t changed. Ana chose Tupac as one of her heroes, one of her mentors, because of what he stood for. His music guided her through life and still does. Get to know him if you’re interested. You might be surprised.

I’m expecting to lose a few more readers after this…

“Changes” is on my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/, and the link to Tupac’s page is https://2paclegacy.net/ for anyone who may be interested.  

The
Hate
U
Give
Little
Infants
Fucks
Everybody
Inside my mind, couldn’t find a place to rest. Until I got that THUG LIFE tatted on my chest.” -2Pac

For those who may not know, the “descriptive” word that Ana was talking about was Mad BLACK Woman. It would take forever to explain, but in short, it’s a movie by Tyler Perry that started out as a play about a sister who was dealt a very raw deal by her man and she was pissed. Ultimately, the term ended up spreading across the whole of “sisterdom” and was applied to any black woman who was upset for any reason whatsoever, including black women who just acted out and had bad attitudes. Many brothers have often tagged it as the “Mad Black Woman Syndrome,” using it as their excuse for turning to other races as wives. There’s no shame in finding love in other races; but when they use this made-up syndrome as an excuse, it just creates more Mad Black Women. In the end, the “Mad Black Woman” was supposed to represent the Black Queen who was tired of being mistreated by her Black King, and the term just ended up getting a bad rap. 

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~~love and handcuffs