Raising Dr. Grey: Chapter 28—Dr. Grace

The feature picture has nothing to do with the story. I just wanted to share. I live in Las Vegas, so I won’t get snow for Christmas unless I’m willing to travel to Mt. Charleston for it… which I’m not. So, Falala thought I should have my snow for Christmas and she sent me these. They are the most intricate snowflakes I’ve ever seen—cut from one piece of paper! One was a little damaged when I received it and they are all so fragile and I didn’t want them to be damaged further. So I straightened it out as much as I could, then I laminated them all to preserve them from further damage, but I can’t for the life of me see how someone could get a pair of scissors to do something so intricate! Look at the butterflies and the ladies! These are exquisite! Thank you, Falala! And Merry Christmas, everyone!

This is a work or 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 here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

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 28—Dr. Grace

CHRISTIAN

“What can possibly be taking so long?”

My father is pacing the circle around the tables in the ER waiting room. We’ve been here for an hour with no update on my mother and right now, I don’t know how to feel. We were all planning to ambush… talk to her tomorrow about her behavior and how it’s affecting everyone and now this. I don’t know how to process this information.

According to Mia, Mom cut her arm… but not her arm, closer to her wrist… in the kitchen, cooking. Mom cooks sometimes… on very special occasions. This was Mia’s shower, but if I know my mother, she had staff to handle that. Why was she in the kitchen cooking?

I scan the waiting room, most of the faces people I don’t know. In the far corner, Mia sits with her arms wrapped around herself like she’s cold. She has cried until her mascara and make-up have run all over her face and onto the collar of her blouse. Ethan has his arm around her, guarding her like an eagle, watching her closely as if he expects her to crumble at any second.

Elliot is sitting across from me, staring blankly in front of him as if he’s expecting the answer to some cosmic question to fall from the sky and wipe the bewildered look off his face. Valerie is holding his hand, gently tracing circles in his skin.

Uncle Herman and Luma are both sitting next to Dad’s empty chair. They’re whispering to each other about God only knows, but both wearing the same concerned look. They’re probably thinking the same thing I am as I sit in this chair.

What’s going to happen if Mom doesn’t make it?

I need some answers right now. We’ve been sitting here forever, and no one can give us anything? Absolutely nothing? This is ridiculous. I stand from my seat and head back to the nurse’s station and just as I’m about to unleash CEO hell on the poor recipient behind the desk, the doors leading to the trauma center open and my wife walks out. She looks like 110 pounds of fresh hell… and she’s wearing scrubs. Why the hell is she wearing scrubs? Before I can catch myself, I run to her and grasp her arms. I need answers. We all need answers.

“Why… why are you…?” She puts her hands on my chest and I’m immediately silenced.

“Because I was covered in your mother’s blood,” she says softly. I swallow hard. Covered in my mother’s blood. I won’t lose it.

“What’s going on?” I ask. “What’s happening?” She looks past me and over my shoulder. I see Dad heading towards us, nearly tripping over his feet. She walks past me, but doesn’t get two feet before Dad grabs her the same way I did.

“Gracie,” he says breathily. “Tell me about Gracie. What’s happening?”

Butterfly takes a deep breath to steady herself, and I watch as the family slowly begins to descend upon her, only allowing Dad to talk.

“She’s… in the OR now,” she says, her voice unable to hide the tremor. “She lost… a lot of blood and they’re stitching her up.”

“The OR?” Dad asks horrified. “Why is she in the OR? I thought this was just a cut.”

“It was a very deep cut… with a very sharp knife…” I know my wife. There’s something she’s not saying. I want to shake her and make her tell us what she’s leaving out, but she already looks pretty shaken and stirred, so I know that won’t help any.

“And?” Dad presses. “What’s the bottom line? Is she going to be alright?” Butterfly sighs.

“That’s all they’ve told me, Carrick,” she says, quietly. “We have to wait for the doctor…” Butterfly’s words trail off as her eyes have now focused on something over my father’s shoulder. I try to see what she’s looking at, but all I see is random people in the waiting room. My wife fixes a deep frown on her face, breaks free of my father’s earnest grasp and questioning gaze, and marches determinedly into the waiting room. It’s about two seconds too late when I realize that she’s about to face off with an overly giddy woman pointing her iPhone at us.

“Wait until I post it on Facebook!” I hear the woman say just as Butterfly approaches. She’s so busy bragging to her friend about capturing our tragedy for posterity with the intent of plastering this horrifying moment on social media that she doesn’t even notice Judgement Day staring her down in the form of one angry ass Butterfly.

“Are you entertained?” my wife says, getting right in the woman’s face. The woman is clearly horrified, but doesn’t have the conviction to stop recording on her video phone. “People are dying in here and you’re hoping for something that’ll get you a hundred likes on social media? You want something to post on Facebook? Post this!”

Butterfly snatches the phone from the woman’s hand and hurls it to the floor until it shatters into several pieces. Chuck immediately goes about the business of gathering the pieces while Jason, Ben, and Chance appear to be scanning the room.

“You broke my phone!” the woman exclaims.

“Fucking sue me!” Butterfly yells. “What are you hoping to catch? A dead body? A fainting spell? A crying fit? What? Why are you here? Did you break a nail? Your hair won’t start?” The woman glares at Butterfly.

“My son is very sick!” she says indignantly.

“And yet, you still found time to sit out here and record someone else’s tragedy,” Butterfly snaps. “Where’s your son? Were you going to show him that video so that he could how you passed the time while he’s lying wherever he is suffering from whatever he’s suffering from? How would you feel if, for some unknown reason, they told you that your son was knocking on death’s door and someone shoved a camera in your face right at that crucial moment?” Her voice is sobering, and the woman’s expression softens a bit at the thought.

“Do you see that man?” Butterfly points to Dad, who looks like he’s been through all seven of Dante’s circles. “He’s waiting to hear about the fate of his wife. Do you think he wants your fucking camera in his face when he finds out, whatever it may be? Would you?”

“Dr. Ana!”

A small but powerful voice pulls the attention of everyone in earshot—except Butterfly. She’s still glaring at the Facebook photographer. A woman tinier than my wife—if that’s even possible—weaves through the crowd of Greys and walks over to Butterfly, placing her hand on my wife’s arm.

“Dr. Ana, we have a private waiting room for you and your family,” she says softly to my wife. Butterfly closes her eyes to compose herself, but looks no calmer when she opens them and focuses them on the small woman.

“Thank you, Quinn,” she says in a voice that I don’t recognize at all. I swear, something from the Exorcist has possessed my wife and she’s fighting to keep her head from doing that Linda Blair spinning thing. The small woman grasps her wrist.

“Follow me,” she says, her voice soft, nodding like she’s coaxing a wild animal—which she is… a tiger, to be exact. Butterfly breathes deeply again and falls in step behind Quinn.

“Somebody pay her for her fucking phone,” she says as she walks back into the Trauma doors she had exited a few moments ago. Dad falls in line behind her with the rest of my family following him. I nod at Jason to follow Butterfly’s orders and clean up the mess while I bring up the rear.

We’re led to a private waiting room on the OR floor—quiet, more secluded. Butterfly was busy while she was back here with Mom.

“Any news?” she asks Quinn when we get to the room.

“None yet,” Quinn says morosely. “But this is good…”

Good? Good fucking how?

“You saw,” she continues, trying not to talk too loudly. “You know how bad it was. If there was bad news, we would have heard by now.” Butterfly nods.

“Her family,” she says. “I can’t keep them in the dark.”

“Tell them what you must. Tell them what you know. A doctor will be here soon. Remember, we love Dr. Grace…”

“What the hell is going on?” Elliot snaps. “You’re doing all this whispering and we don’t know shit!” Butterfly rolls her eyes and nods, sending Quinn out of the waiting room. She sighs and turns to face the family.

“They’re still working on Grace,” she says. “The last I know, they were stitching her up and giving her blood. She lost a lot of blood…”

“Stop being fucking PC and tell us what’s going on with my mother!” Elliot barks.

“I am!” Butterfly snaps back at him. “I got to her in the kitchen and I rode with her in the ambulance. I was able to keep the bleeding down, but I couldn’t stop it! She lost a lot of blood… a lot of blood! Most of it all over me!”

“So glad you had an opportunity to freshen up and change while the rest of us were waiting in hell for news about Mom!” Elliot hisses. Butterfly immediately goes into fight mode.

“Elliot!” Valerie exclaims, trying to calm her husband, but it’s too late.

“Well, maybe you would have been satisfied had I foregone the wardrobe change and blood removal and strolled into the waiting room covered in Grace’s blood like the gym scene from Carrie! Would that have satisfied you, Sir Elliot?”

“Don’t be so dramatic, Dr. Grey. It’s not a good look on you!” Elliot retorts.

“Elliot, that’s enough!” I hiss. I understand his stress, but he’s lashing out at the wrong person.

“I’ll just bet it is!” Elliot retorts, turning around on me. “Heaven forbid anything disrupts your clean little orderly life. You’ve been sitting like a damn statue and why? Because Mom wanted to invite somebody to the wedding and you didn’t want to play in the sandbox with ‘em!” Now, he’s just being vicious, but he’s on a roll. “Dad gets up and walks out on her. You stop talking to her because you’re acting like that same bruised little boy who can’t get over his abandonment issues…”

God, my brother has never been so wrong in his life. Abandonment is the very least, if it ever was any, of my issues.

“And Mrs. Perfect here refuses to go to the shower if Mom’s present, so Mia cuts her out of the wedding planning!”

“Wha…?” Mia doesn’t even get the entire word out of her mouth.

“Oh, I know the whole story. I knew that Val wasn’t going if Ana wasn’t going and Ana wasn’t going because she was pissed! You didn’t want anything to ruin your little shower, so Mom got cut out of the plans! Her Highness indeed! It’s no wonder she tried to kill herself!” I look over at Butterfly and the angry, horrified look on her face lets me know that Elliot is way off the mark and no doubt, way out of line.

… Although, he verbalized what we were all thinking. Did Mom try to kill herself?

“You’ve got some fucking nerve, Elliot Grey!” Mia barks. “Mom’s running around doing God only knows what God only know why and the only reason I found out is because I took the reins for my own wedding. And while we’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on, she’s lying to Christian, ignoring Dad, lashing out at Ana, and ordering belly dancers for my goddamn reception!”

“Belly dancers?” Ethan mumbles. His eyes communicate that he wants nothing to do with that particular event.

“Meanwhile,” Mia continues unfazed, “you get to sit comfortably in Switzerland because you’re not interacting with her except to tell her that you love her, and you’re not getting involved.” She says the last part of the sentence with childlike disdain. Elliot is silenced for a moment. “So, don’t you dare sit there in judgment of those of us who have had to deal with whatever is going on with Mom while all you’ve done is sit on the sidelines and listen to the play-by-play while offering an occasional commentary. This is not a spectator sport! We’ve been down in the mud and the grass dealing with this shit with Mom and we’ve got the bruises to prove it! You don’t get to stand on your observation pedestal and broadcast judgement when you won’t even get in the game!  You won’t even bother to get your hands dirty, so you don’t have that right—big brother!”

“Did Gracie really try to kill herself?”

Nobody hears the question except me. I look over and see my father looking blankly in front of him, the words still hanging from his lips. More words of anger are flying from Elliot’s mouth and I think from Mia’s mouth. Val and Ethan have gotten involved trying to calm their significant others. Luma and Herman are saying something, too, though not as animatedly as everyone else. My vision has focused on my father, who seems to have transported to another plane of some kind.

The thought had crossed my mind, but I didn’t entertain it long with my mother being a doctor and all. A cut on the arm could be quite detrimental, but even I know it’s not fatal. A cut on the wrist—if done the exact right way—could be fatal, but it’s rarely ever done the right way. Mom’s a doctor; she would know this. So, I just keep thinking accident, but being the husband of a doctor, I now can’t shake the voice in my head that’s screaming that this could have been a call for help.

“This! Is not! Helping!” Butterfly screams. The room suddenly falls silent and we all turn to her, heaving heavily with her fists clenched standing in the middle of the room. Her face is as red as a fresh tomato and she looks like a tiny, pink, angry care bear. I want to go hug her, but I’m afraid she’ll bite me.

“I won’t try to explain the dynamics of this situation right now because none of you will be able to see it. All I’ll say is we need to pull our shit together and figure out what needs to be done for Grace and then, you can have your ‘Who-shot-John’ party later!”

As if ice water doused the entire room, cooler heads immediately begin to prevail and the explosive tempers prevalent in the Grey family—biological and adopted—are tamed immediate by a tiny, angry care bear.

“Ana?” Dad says. He doesn’t say anything else, and I’m certain that everyone is only more than willing at this moment to lean to my wife’s expertise. She takes in a deep breath and releases it.

“Eliminate anything medical as quickly as possible,” she says. “CAT scan, MRIs, EEG. You’re her husband and next of kin. You can order these things immediately. They adore her here, so if you impress upon them the importance of rushing these results, they’ll rush them.” Dad nods.

“Then what?” he asks. She puts her hand on his arm.

“One thing at a time, Carrick,” she says. “The sooner we can get these results, the sooner we can decide on a next course of action.” He nods again and falls into a seat nearby.

“I don’t think… I can’t…” His breathing is becoming labored. “Gracie has never been sick… not really. It’s always been…” He drops his head in his hands. I walk over and put my hand on his shoulder.

“We’re here, Dad,” I tell him. “We’ll get through this. We’ll have some bumps, but we’ll get through this.” I can see his shoulders shaking and I know that he’s crying. Mia comes over and kneels between Dad’s legs, coiling herself around his body. Although her face is badly tearstained, she allows my father to wrap himself around her, his face disappearing in the crook of her neck as he weeps bitterly. Elliot tries to rise out of his seat, but all the fight has left him, and his eternal soft heart becomes evident once more. Unable to find the strength to rise, he tries to sink back into his chair, but misses the seat entirely, falling to the floor in a useless mound of tears. Valerie covers his body with hers like a mother duck protecting her young, and he succumbs to his sobs as well.

I can only think of the angel—the angel that came to the hospital and rescued me when I didn’t want anyone to touch me; the angel who took me away from the squalor and abuse and brought me to the big house with the echoes and the piano. I was afraid that I was losing my angel. Now, I could lose my angel for good.

“Mr. Grey?”

A strange voice causes us to turn to the door. A distinguished-looking man in gray scrubs is standing there with a chart in his hand. It must be the doctor.

“Yes?” Dad stands. We all know which Mr. Grey he’s referring to.

“Grace is out of surgery,” he begins. “She lost a lot of blood and went into shock. Once we were able to get the bleeding under control, we sutured her cut, which was very deep and replaced her blood volume. Our biggest concern during surgery was that her blood pressure kept dropping, but luckily, she’s not on any aspirin regimen. So, her blood was thinned…”

He’s going on and on about arteries and the dangers of blah blah wah wah wah and I don’t know if Dad is even following him, but my eyes are glazing over and I have to stop him.

“How is my mother?” I ask impatiently. Get to the damn point. Explain all this other shit later.

“She’s fine… but she’s resting. She may not wake for several hours. She’s had quite the ordeal.”

“But she will wake,” Mia asks, or states, I should say. It’s not a question.

“Yes,” the doctor replies. “She will wake.”

The room breathes a collective sigh.

“Mr. Grey?” the doctor says. “A word?” Dad nods and turns to my wife.

“Ana?” I don’t think he’s going to do anything without my wife’s counsel. I don’t think he has the strength. The doctor eyes her curiously.

“Do you work here?” he asks.

“I’m a doctor, but no, I don’t. One of your staff was kind enough to lend these to me since my own clothes are… terribly soiled with blood.” She spits the last part out as if the words burn her throat, and the disdain doesn’t get past me, but I still don’t look at my brother. In socked feet, my wife follows my Dad and the doctor out of the waiting room.

Mom’s going to be okay. Our family is falling the fuck apart, but Mom is going to be okay.

I look back at the room. Val is taking care of Elliot and Ethan has his arms firmly around Mia. Luma and Uncle Herman has settled into quiet conversation. I guess I should go see what became of the skirmish in the waiting room before we came back to Trauma. I leave the private waiting room to see my Dad down the hall, leaning on the wall and my wife with her arms folded as the distinguished doctor talks to them both, his hands on his hips.

“Excuse me,” I say to the nurse at the nurses’ station.

“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she replies, her smile wide. Oh, great, another one.

“I need to go and check in with my security in the main waiting room. How will I get back in without a hassle?”

“Just have the front desk nurse buzz you in. If she gives you any hassle, tell her who you are and that you’re in Waiting Room C with your family. She can call the Trauma Station to verify.” I return the smile.

“Thank you.” I walk out to the main waiting room, which has significantly less people than before. Jason rises when he sees me.

“Sir,” he says.

“She’s fine,” I tell him. “Sleeping. Our little problem?”

“Not a problem anymore,” he says.

“How so?”

“I convinced her to let the whole thing go,” he replies.

“How, Jason?” I press. He pulls me away from prying eyes and ears.

“I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.” I love when he says that. There’s always a story attached. “I told her that she had one recourse, and that was to sue Her Highness. If she took the recourse, you and Her Highness have about a hundred recourses that you could take. By the time her one recourse was even heard, she would be unemployed, unemployable, and homeless and before she was ever paid, you would most likely appeal the decision until her grandchildren had grandchildren. So, it would be to her advantage to take the money I offered her and shut the hell up rather than piss off a man whose arms can reach to places that God can’t.” I roll my eyes.

“That last part was a bit much, don’t you think?” I say. He shrugs.

“It worked. I got her name and address, even her son’s name.”

“How much did you give her?” He shrugs.

“Couple thousand, I think,” he says. “Whatever was in my wallet—more than a G, but less than three.” I twist my lip.

“That was a cheap payoff,” I say, reaching for my wallet. He puts his hand up.

“Not here, sir,” he says. “People have seen enough money fly around and there’s still no guarantee that nobody’ll talk to the press.” I nod.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be here,” I say.

“The ladies don’t look really comfortable. I sent Chuck to get them a change of clothes—plus he had the parts to Polly Polaroid’s phone, so I sent him away so she couldn’t ask for it back. We’ve got her whole damn life on her sim card.”

“That was smart,” I tell him. I give him a few more instructions, including information to give to Mac in case our cover is mysteriously blown and someone blabs that they Greys are in the hospital again. After a longer-than-expected debrief, the nurse buzzes me back in without incident.

The hallway where Dad and Butterfly were standing is empty now, so I go back to the waiting room and peek inside. Val is the only one who acknowledges me. I mouth to her, “Where’s Dad?” She shrugs. I back out of the room since neither of them are there and head back to the nurse’s desk with the simpering nurse.

“Excuse me,” I say, garnering her attention.

“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she says, a little too sweetly once again. I try not to act irritated.

“My father was standing over there talking to a doctor a moment ago. My wife was standing with them. Did you see where they went?” Her face falls a bit.

“I saw a man standing there with Dr. Schultz and an intern,” she begins.

“Pink scrubs?” I ask. She nods.

“Yes,” she says uncertainly.

“That wasn’t an intern. That was my wife. Which way did they go?” Her firm stiffens.

“The man and Dr. Schultz when down that hallway,” she points further down the hallway where Dad and Butterfly was previously standing. I look back to her, waiting for the rest of the story. “I didn’t see which way the intern went.” Her voice is very snotty, and I don’t bother correcting her. She’s really not worth my time right now. I turn around and just as I’m about to ask someone else for help, I see a familiar face in a small package.

“Excuse me,” I call out to the little woman in pink. “Quinn, right?”

“Yes, sir?” she says, her eyes wide.

“Have you seen my wife?” I ask. She looks from left to right.

“She was here just a minute ago…” She walks over to the nurse’s station and the same nurse that I was just speaking to. “Jazz, did you see where Dr. Ana went?”

“Dr. who?” Jazz replies, raising her eyes to Quinn in a condescending manner.

“Dr. Ana. She was just standing over there with Mr. Grey and Dr. Schultz.”

“I only saw Dr. Schultz and an intern,” she says, her voice is now this whiney valley-girl sound like we’re taking up her time, and if she’s calls my wife an intern one more time…

“That wasn’t an intern,” Quinn corrects her. “That was Dr. Ana—Anastasia Grey? Dr. Grace’s daughter-in-law? How could you not know that?” Jazz shrugs non-committal and Quinn rolls her eyes. “Which way did they go?”

“Dr. Schultz took Mr. Grey that way. The intern went that way.” There it was.

“She doesn’t hear very well, does she?” I ask Quinn. Jazz raises her eyes to me.

“I hear just fine,” she snaps, “and I see even better.” I have no idea why she added that last part.

“Jeez, Jazz, what bug crawled up your butt?” Quinn asks, confused.

“Well, either she has a hearing problem, or the problem is with my wife, because I’ve lost count of how many times she’s been told that my wife is not an intern. Yet, she insists to referring to her as such.” I’m staring at Jazz like she’s some kind of exotic animal. She glares right back at me. Gone is the simpering little nurse from moments ago. “My wife has told me before about women who have been jealous of her without even meeting her. This is my first time seeing it for myself.”

“I’m not jealous of your wife!” Jazz hisses.

“You coulda fooled me,” I reply.

“That makes two of us,” Quinn replies, glaring at Jazz. “Come on, Mr. Grey. We’ll find her.”

I follow Quinn down the hall and she tells me that Dr. Schultz has most likely taken Dad to see Mom. Since Mom’s not awake yet, he’ll be the only one allowed to see her right now. We check the intern sleeping rooms, but there’s no sign of Butterfly. We check the lounges and even the locker rooms and it’s like she’s disappeared without a trace.

“There’s one other place,” she says, and she leads me down a back staircase and outside to a large balcony. There’s a lot of other staff out there, smoking or just taking a break. At the end is my wife, looking out over the city and the night sky. Her hair is in a long braid down her back and various strands of it are whipping around her face. I hadn’t even noticed that it was night yet, and my wife is standing out here in hospital socks and no coat.

“You’re going to freeze to death,” I say, coming up behind her. She doesn’t flinch. I take my coat off and drape it over her shoulders. She looks like a teenager with my oversized leather bomber jacket hanging off her shoulders. “Besides the obvious, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t feel like being the scapegoat again,” she says. “I’m just tired of being the fucking bad guy! Even when I haven’t done anything to deserve it—especially when I haven’t done anything to deserve it!” She wraps her arms around her like I saw Mia’s wrapped earlier. It’s a defense mechanism—protection from the world. “Do people think that because I understand the human mind and human emotions so well that I don’t have any feelings of my own?” she says aloud. “I’m fucking tired of being required to understand other people’s feelings, but they don’t give a shit about mine.” Her small hands pop up from under my jacket and wipe her face.

“I was terrified that Grace was going to die,” she says, her tears flowing freely. “There was blood everywhere… everywhere! If I didn’t think some psycho would fish them out of the trash, I would have thrown those clothes away by now, including the shoes. I’ll never wear any of that shit again.”

She wipes her face again and I can now see that she’s crying. At least I now know why she’s walking around in socked feet.

“I can say this now that I know she’ll be okay, but I didn’t know how bad the cut was or where the blood was coming from. She’s a doctor and she was running it under cold water, like a cut on your finger.” She laughs tragically. “I still don’t know what the fuck was going on. We had eaten so much at that damn shower and were well on our way to champagne-drunk. There was no way we were eating anything else, so why in the hell was she chopping melons?” I’d like an answer to that one myself.

“What did she say?”

“We never got an answer for why she was chopping melons. She only said that she was distracted when Kate walked by and that’s when she cut herself…”

“Kate?” I stop her. “As in Katherine Kavanaugh?” She nods. “Mia invited Katherine fucking Kavanaugh knowing that Valerie was going to be at the shower? Has she lost her fucking mind?”

“No, no, she didn’t invite Kate. Kate crashed the shower and we threw her out. Right after she left, Mrs. Johnson came running out to the garden to tell us what was going on with Grace. She said that she was caught off guard by seeing Kate and that’s when she cut herself.” I shake my head.

“Shit, if she was distracted by Kate, she probably gave her arm a good fucking whack. Mom hates that woman. It’s a wonder she didn’t amputate her damn hand.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that. I was… distracted by the blood.” She covers her face again. “There was so much of it. I mean, I know the cut has to be like way deep and bilateral in terms of the veins that need to be cut in order to cause death, but there was so… much… blood…” She’s choking on her words. “I’m wondering if she did cut deep enough to hit both veins, now.”

“Well, we don’t have to worry about it now,” I say, trying to change the subject.

“No, you don’t get it,” she interrupts. “There was a lot of blood… a lot of blood. It was all over the kitchen, all over the ambulance, all over the trauma-room cot and floor, all over me…” She trails off and covers her face again. “It was everywhere and all I could think was, ‘God, please don’t let her die. How could anyone live after losing this much blood?’ I was running through my med school classes trying to calculate how much blood is in the human body and Grace’s height and body weight while estimating how much blood was lost… the entire time, I’m applying pressure to the wound and the brachial artery to slow the blood flow, but it just keeps coming and coming…” Her voice cracks as she recalls the moments that she was trying to save my mother.

“I took a shower in the staff locker room after they kicked me out of the trauma room. Grace had lost consciousness and finally let go of my hand…” She looks down at her hands as if they’re still covered in blood. Her next words tell me that in her mind, they are.

“I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and the blood just wouldn’t stop. The water was red running off of me and it just wouldn’t go clear. It was even in my hair.” She reaches back for her braid as if she could see the blood in the dark. “I don’t know how it got in my hair, but it was in my hair. I really was Carrie at the prom.” She covers her face and weeps quietly. I embrace her from behind and hold her in my arms as she cries.

“You’re going to need to talk to Ace about this soon,” I tell her. She nods with no rebuttal, and I know it’s serious. I cuddle her close to me and lean my mouth on her head, kissing her hair.

There, there, now, baby, I’m here.

She cries for a little while longer and I reach in my pocket and give her my handkerchief. She cleans her face and assures me that she’ll be okay, taking several deep breaths to compose herself. You’ll forgive me if I keep an eye on you nonetheless.

“Excuse me.” We both turn to the sound of the female voice coming from our right. There are about five people standing with the young woman, male and female, different races and ages.

“Yes?” I ask cautiously.

“I’m sorry to intrude, but we know who you are, and we just want you to know… We all love Dr. Grace so much and we promise to take really, really good care of her.”

The others stand around her looking, as if she’s the designated spokesperson. A few more people join the conversation, asking about Dr. Grace and if she’s okay. The “spokesperson” simply says that she’s been admitted and that they should check in on her when they get a chance. Butterfly sighs and drops her head and I address the growing crowd.

“Thank you all so much,” I tell her. “It means a lot to me and my family, and I know it’ll mean the world to my mom.” She smiles and nods while various others give a gesture of acknowledgement. As they move away, I hear one ask, “That’s Dr. Grace’s son?” Wow, someone in Seattle who doesn’t know who I am. It’s sort of refreshing.

“Let’s go inside, baby,” I say to Butterfly. “I don’t want you to catch cold out here in your socks.” She nods and I put my arm around her and allows me to guide her back inside.

When we get to the door of Waiting Room C, I see Jazz still sitting at the main nurse’s station with her gaze down.

“Come with me for a moment,” I say, guiding my wife to the nurse’s desk. Jazz doesn’t raise her head at first, but then acknowledges our presence with a stoic expression.

Dr. Steele-Grey, this is Jazz… at least that’s what Quinn called her,” I say to my wife.

“Hello,” she says, her tone as uncertain as her gaze.

“Hello,” Jazz replies coolly.

“Doctor,” I repeat. “Not intern.” Butterfly’s uncertain gaze turns to me.

“I think they might wear the same scrubs, dear,” she says, her brow furrowed.

“That’s an honest mistake,” I admit, “except Quinn and I told her about four times that you were not an intern. Yet, she insisted that on referring to you as such. So, I just thought I’d let her meet you in person and refer to you as such in your face to see how that goes over.” I look from Butterfly to the nurse and back. Butterfly, in turn, looks from me to the nurse and back to me before the penny drops. She scoffs and dismisses the situation by fiercely waving off the nurse with both hands and walking back to the private waiting room. I turn back to Jazz.

“You know, I thought for a moment that we would get away with not having to deal with anything like this from any member of the staff during this visit, since we’re here for Dr. Grace and all, but thanks for making sure we got the full treatment once again.” I smile and wink at her before going into the waiting room.

I walk in to see my wife sitting with her legs crossed lotus-style in the chair, my jacket swallowing her small frame, her head down. She looks small—not just small like I know she’s a bite-sized morsel, but small in spirit, like she would disappear right now if she could. She doesn’t seem to notice that she’s the center of attention—that all three couples in the room are staring at her like she might grow another head or self-destruct or something. I want to light into my brother for his colorful remarks about her earlier, but as I’m moving further into the room, my progress is halted by Jason and Chuck cautiously entering the waiting room.

“Sorry to intrude,” Jason apologizes. “We thought the ladies might want to change into something more comfortable.”

Valerie and Mia perk a bit at the thought of shedding the afternoon party dresses, but Butterfly doesn’t respond. While Jason hands bags of what I assume are clothing and personals to Mia and Valerie, Butterfly sits statue still in her seat with her legs crossed and her head down. Chuck walks over to the front of her and has to call her name twice to get her attention. When she raises her head and eyes to him, she looks tired.

“A change of clothes,” he says, handing her one of the duffle bags he’s carrying. She looks up at him and turns her attention to the bag. She’s digging through it like she’s looking for buried treasure. When she finds a pair of sneakers, she digs them out and begins to put them on.

“I’ll just take the shoes,” she says, her voice flat.

“Baby, I know you’d rather not walk around in those scrubs,” I say.

“I’m fine,” she says, her voice still flat. “I’ve had a shower, remember?” She examines the clothes he brought her. “They’re leggings. See if Mia or Val wants them.”

“We brought clothes for them, too,” Chuck informs her.

“Good. Fine,” she says, lacing her shoe. I throw a glare at Elliot, who is looking remorsefully at my wife.

“I’m sorry, Montana,” he says. She doesn’t react. She turns her attention to lacing her second shoe. “Montana, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“I heard you Elliot can we just let it go.” She says it all in one breath with no emotion. She briefly observes the other duffle bag Chuck is carrying. “Is that my breast pump?”

“Yeah…” Before the word is out of his mouth, she relieves him of the bag and quickly shuffles out of the waiting room with my jacket still over her shoulders. I’m trying to contain my anger, but I can’t anymore. I turn around to face my brother.

“Ethan, can you please take my sister and Valerie out of here? Uncle Herman, you might want to take Luma away, too. I need to paint a very vivid picture for my dear brother,” I say between my teeth.

“If the picture you’re painting has to do with Mom, we’ve seen the worst of it. We were there,” Mia says, her voice sharp. I get the feeling that she just doesn’t want to miss me tearing into Elliot. Luma and Uncle Herman don’t move either, and Valerie’s expression makes it clear that she’s not leaving Elliot’s side.

Fine, have it your way.

“If you’re about to tear into me, Bro, I don’t want to hear it,” Elliot warns.

“Oh, but you’re going to. See, I had to listen to you spout shit about me and my wife and neither of us had a rebuttal, but I have something to say to you now.”

“He said he was sorry, Christian,” Valerie interjects. I turn a softened gaze to her.

“Valerie, I love you. I do, but this is between me and my brother.” Valerie swallows hard, but nods once. Elliot rises from his seat.

“I’m not going to sit here and listen to this shit,” he says.

“Well, at least you got a fucking warning. You just threw your opinions at us and we had to sit still for that shit! And now, so will you! Now, sit your ass back down in that chair before I sit you in it!” Elliot closes the space between us.

“Oh, you will, huh?” he taunts. “That kickboxing shit go to your head, little brother? You feelin’ lucky?” I don’t have time for this face-off bravado shit right now.

“I don’t know, Elliot,” I say, my voice sober, “but if you don’t sit your arrogant ass back down in that seat right now, one of us is going to end up in the hospital with Mom, and I guess we’ll just have to see which one.”

I focus determined gray eyes to my brother’s piercing blues. He stands off with me for a moment, but then he takes his seat again. I don’t believe for one second that he sat down because he’s afraid. I believe that he could see in my eyes that one of us was definitely going down. He didn’t want it to be him, and he didn’t want to have to explain to Dad if it was me.

“Our sister and our wives were enjoying a lovely afternoon of food and festivities among whom I already know was a bunch of catty women. Yet, as my wife explains it, they were still having a good time when lo and behold, the party is crashed by your wannabe-baby-momma Katherine Kavanaugh.”

Elliot’s face pales and he turns his attention to Valerie. Before she has a chance to respond, I interject again.

“Don’t worry, it is again my understanding that she didn’t get the opportunity to accost your wife. Am I correct?” I address the last part to Valerie. She nods.

“Yes, you’re right. She didn’t say anything to me,” Valerie confirms.

“Because, as I also understand it, my wife assisted in getting her the fuck out of the party. Did I misunderstand that?” I ask. Mia shakes her head and Chuck interjects.

“She had a short altercation with Katherine Kavanaugh as she was ordering me to escort her off the premises,” he says. “If she refused to leave, I was to carry her out.” His voice is sharp and professional.

“Thank you for confirming that, Chuck,” I say, turning back to my brother. “My security escorted Kavanaugh off the premises…” I turn back to Chuck for confirmation and he nods. “Very shortly after You-Are-Not-The-Father Kate’s exit, the cook came running outside and grabbed my wife—why my wife, I’m not really sure…”

“She was the closest,” Ethan adds. “We were both still standing close to the house when Mrs. Johnson ran out… I crashed the shower shortly after Kate did, totally unplanned.” I nod.

“So, whatever the circumstances, my wife comes in and sees our mother bleeding in the sink. She’s got precious little time to ascertain what’s going on because Mom’s arm is bleeding and she’s holding it under running water. So, my wife is watching what she thinks is my mother bleed out down the sink, her blood mixed with water.”

Valerie gasps quietly and put her fingertips over her lips. Hey, I told you to leave.

“In just a few moments, she’s asking Mom what happened while trying to calculate total-body blood content in relation to Mom’s weight—which she’s also trying to guess—all while attempting to stop the massive blood flow so our mother doesn’t bleed out on the kitchen floor! She’s standing outside in socks tearfully trying to explain to me in medical jargon that goes over my head how she’s trying to pressure a main artery with one hand, grasping Mom’s arm to plug a gaping wound with the other while Mom tells her that she damn near amputated a limb because she lost concentration on what she was doing when she saw Kate running through her house!”

My brother’s mouth is gaping as he gets the first real play-by-play of what happened at our parents’ house. Mia’s right. He’s never present for any fucking thing. He only gets the play-by-play when it’s over. Then he goes spouting off his mouth like he knows what the fuck he’s talking about.

“The EMTs show up and the entire time they’re trying to work on our mother, she won’t release Ana’s hand! You know—Mrs. Perfect?”

Elliot shifts in his seat and suddenly looks very uncomfortable. Valerie’s body language looks a little distant, indicating to me that my brother is on his fucking own in this one.

“Our mother continues to bleed all over my wife—you know, the cute little thing who likes to wear the designer clothes? Yeah, she’s covered in blood now, from head to toe, hair included, when they reach the trauma room. That’s when our mother releases my wife’s arm, but only because she lost consciousness from the blood loss. Even then, they have to put my wife out of the room because she refuses to leave… still covered in blood.”

Elliot remains speechless for the explanation.

“I tried to get her to stop talking about it, telling her that it was all over now, but her explanation was, ‘You don’t get it. There was a lot of blood, all over the kitchen, the ambulance, the trauma-room bed and floor, and all over me and all I could think was, “God, please don’t let her die. How could anyone live after losing this much blood?’ All she wanted was to stop the bleeding, but her words were that it just kept ‘coming and coming.’”

Elliot is still silent, so I keep going.

“So, once they put her out of the trauma room, one of the nurses takes her to the showers so that she can wash off the blood and she talks about standing there forever trying to get the shit out of her goddamn hair and how the water is eternally red and won’t go clear.” I then begin to look for her clothes because I know that she said she didn’t pitch them yet. I see a white plastic hospital bag under the seat along with a small personal items pouch. I know that must be her things, so I snatch the plastic bag from its hiding place.

“She’s standing in the shower trying to wash our mother’s blood off her, trying to prepare herself to come out and talk to us about what happened—and when she did, the first thing she had to do was smash some bitch’s fucking phone for trying to post this shit on Facebook. And your response to this was to slam her for, as you say, freshening up?”

I pause for a moment and allow the silence to wrap around the room.

“My wife is traumatized to the point where she’s quite possibly making extra appointments with her therapist as we speak, and you gave her shit because she took a shower and changed clothes so that she didn’t present herself to you looking like this!”

I reach into the bag and snatch my wife’s once-white dress out, now covered and crinkled with our mother’s dried blood. Mia wasn’t as strong as she thought. She releases a small screech and starts to cry again. Valerie looks like she’s going to hurl, and I think Luma does, but I’m not sure because she’s out of the waiting room in seconds. I continue to stare at Elliot, who’s now looking a little green himself.

“This used to be a really sexy number, Lelliot, and she looked really good in it. Now, it’s shit. Why? Because she wore this through the trauma in the kitchen, through the ambulance ride, into the trauma room until our mother finally released her hand and lost consciousness, and they still had to put my wife out of the room. So, I’m sure you can probably see why ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t mean do-diddily-shit right now!” I glare at him for a few more moments before I put the dress back in the bag and hand it to Chuck.

“Make sure none of her personal effects are in there—jewelry, valuables, anything like that—and then get the fuck rid of that bag. Not on these premises, but get the fuck rid of that bag.” He nods and takes the bag from me. “Where’s her purse? I haven’t seen it since she’s been here.”

“She left it at your mother’s house,” he says. “I picked it up when we went to get clothes for Mia. It’s in that duffle bag with her clean clothes.

“Good man,” I say. I don’t look back at my brother. There’s quite enough animosity and drama flying around right now. I just leave the damn room again and go in search of my wife, the same question swimming over and over in my head.

Will this situation destroy my family?


ANASTASIA

Quinn showed me to one of the intern sleeping rooms and I sequestered myself so that I could pump my milk. Once my breasts were light, my head became heavy, and I fell into a coma-like sleep.

I feel someone gently rousing me from sleep. I slept like the dead and now it’s morning. The sleep didn’t help, though. My head still feels like lead.

“Hey,” my husband says softly. “It’s a good thing I saw Quinn before she left at the end of her shift or I may have never found you.”

I try to sit up, but my head is banging like thunder. My last meal was champagne… and tears. Either I’m hung over, waterlogged from the seemingly endless crying, or both. My head is killing me.

“I need… water… and ibuprofen,” I squeak. My throat is so dry that it feels like needles are poking the inside of it. I don’t bother trying to swallow or clear my throat.

“Water I can do,” he says, presenting a bottle of water from the floor. “Ibuprofen, we may have to find.” I empty the bottle completely, hoping that the cool elixir will give my throat and head a little relief. I slept in a bed all night. I never rolled over once. I have no idea of Grace’s condition. The Greys most likely spent the night in chairs, on sofas, and if they were lucky, on cots. Elliot probably thinks I’m Satan right now.

“Dad’s looking for you,” Christian says. “He needs a little guidance.”

“Where is he?” I ask.

“In the waiting room,” he replies. I roll my eyes. I don’t want to seem insensitive, but do I have to go back in there? I sigh deeply and sit up, fishing around on the floor for my shoes. Christian kneels down and locates my shoes, putting each one on my feet and tying them for me.

“Do you want to stop and get some coffee?” he asks, concerned. At first, I want to decline. I want to tell him that the very last thing I need is watered-down, disgusting hospital coffee, but I know that he needs to take care of me in any way that he can—whether it’s because I look vulnerable or because of how I took care of Grace.

“Yes, please,” I say, weakly, “that would be nice.”

He wraps me in his jacket and we take the elevator down to the hospital cafeteria. I am delighted beyond measure to discover that there’s a Starbucks inside the cafeteria. Pike Place Roast black and a blueberry/honey muffin—I have to sit down and eat this, and my husband insists. I drink my coffee happily, allowing the hot brew to nearly scorch my tongue and soothe my soul as it flows through my chest and rejuvenates my body. The “fuzzy” slowly begins to leave my head as my husband goes off to retrieve some painkillers for my headache.

Carrick needs guidance. What’s happened? I won’t be the bad guy this time. I’ll help him make whatever decision he needs to make, then I’ll have Chuck just take me home if I have to. I’ll be the bad guy from my bed with my favorite flannel nightshirt and an afternoon marathon of Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Eat Pray Love. I gently thrust my hands in my hair and attempt to massage the ache from yesterday away—along with the utter disdain I saw on Elliot’s face and heard in his voice. Some things you just can’t shake, you know? And “I’m sorry” doesn’t go very far when I’m still fighting images of my beautiful white dress crimson red and completely ruined… and why.

God, there was so much blood…

“I was told that you might need these.”

I look up and Carrick is standing in front of me carrying a single dosage pack of ibuprofen. I take the pack, open it and swallow both pills with a mouthful of coffee.

“Thank you,” I say, my voice still a little scratchy.

“May I?” he asks, gesturing to the seat in front of me. He looks as if he’s showered and changed clothes, but not like he’s gotten any rest.

“Please,” I croak. He takes a seat and looks me over.

“You look like hell, Ana,” he says.

“Thanks,” I reply dryly.

“You know what I mean,” he says, sounding like a chastising father. I shrug.

“Such is life,” I reply. He’s not falling apart, so I know Grace isn’t dead. But…

“They’re keeping her for a 72-hour hold,” he says without looking at me. I cock my head at him.

“A suicide watch?” I ask incredulously. “What brought you to that conclusion?”

“Can you tell me, 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my wife didn’t try to commit suicide yesterday?” I look down at my muffin and pick at the paper.

“No,” I admit. “No, I can’t.” He nods.

“Then I made the right decision,” he says firmly, sitting back in his seat. “Grace has completely come undone in the last several weeks and I’m beyond the point where I can say that this is just wedding syndrome. She had full reign with Mia’s wedding and she knew it. She could make it as spectacular as she wanted, and she didn’t need to go all out with fire-eaters, water-walkers, and boy bands—but she did! Largess, we expected. She went completely, unreasonably insane. Then, there’s the fact that she was systematically alienating everyone around her and we have no idea why. I don’t know how she managed to remain so loved here at the hospital.”

“Well, you’ve made this decision, so I guess there’s no reason for us to stick around the hospital now, is there?” He shakes his head.

“Everybody’s still here, but they’ll most likely leave by lunch. I think they’re all trying to absorb the situation. Elliot’s not speaking to me now.” He brushes his hand over his face.

“Oh, dear Lord, you’re kidding,” I lament.

“I don’t know what’s going through that kid’s head right now, and quite frankly, I don’t care. He’s got all his faculties about him and he didn’t try to cut his arm off yesterday. So, right now, his little hurt feelings have to take a back seat.” Carrick runs his hand through his hair.

“May I ask if you discussed this with your children before you made the decision?” I ask cautiously.

“I did,” he confirms. “Elliot was outnumbered. Mia wants what’s best for Gracie and if that means having her stay in the hospital where the staff adore her for three days while they run intensive tests to see what’s wrong with her, then Mia’s all for it. Christian, as you know, is the highly logical one. He’s of the belief that if we can’t pinpoint what’s wrong with his mother, then she should stay where she would at least be safe and monitored for the next three days and be able to talk to an impartial third party about what’s going on. All Elliot can see is that his mother in the psyche ward.” I roll my eyes.

“It’s not like that,” I tell him. “It’s not like you see in the movies—the picture that he’s probably painting. She’s not up there with people walking around talking to themselves and having violent episodes and walking imaginary cats on leashes. She’s in the area with others who may be on observation; people who may be lightly medicated or being prepared to be released.”

“I know this, and so does Gracie.” My eyebrows rise.

“You discussed this with her?” I ask. He nods.

“I don’t believe my wife is crazy,” he says, “but something’s wrong and we have to find out what it is. Gracie contends that she didn’t try to kill herself, but agreed to the 72-hour hold if it will help us get to the bottom of what’s going on. Elliot didn’t like that explanation because I’m the only one who got to talk to her and he thinks I coerced her.” I shake my head.

“Doesn’t he know you better?” I ask softly. “Does he really think you’ll do something like that?”

“He’ll get over it,” Carrick says firmly. “I’ve never tolerated him acting like an entitled little brat and I’m not going to start condoning it now. Grace may be his mother, but she’s my wife! I love her, and I need to know what’s going on with her. When Valerie was ill, nobody could get within ten feet of her without his permission. He, of all people, should understand how I’m feeling right now.

“Does he think I’m doing this for kicks? To punish her or something? She could have died! I know what everybody’s saying—she didn’t cut deep enough; she didn’t cut in the right place, but I saw your dress…”

“You saw my dress?” I ask horrified.

“We all saw your dress,” he says dismissively. “If your dress looked like that and she bled from the time she cut herself until the time she passed out here in the hospital, there’s nothing that any of you can say to me to convince me that she couldn’t have bled to death.”

I don’t try to convince him otherwise. Even with my medical training, I was calculating blood volume while trying to stop her bleeding. He’s fighting so hard to be strong. He doesn’t have time to coddle Elliot and hold himself together, too.

“So,” he says after a long sigh, “I need to know what they should be looking for—if I should suggest anything. I don’t want this time to be wasted. When she comes out of here, I want us to have answers… or at least be closer to an answer… and not just more questions.” I nod.

“They’re going to talk to her,” I tell him, “a lot. They’re going to delve into anything and everything that’s happened as far back as they can go in the time that they have. As loved as she is in this place, they may get all the way back to her childhood.” I mean it as a joke, but everyone that has seen us so far has made sure that we know how much they love her. “When it comes down to the physical, tell them to leave no stone unturned. Blood tests, tumors, chemical imbalances, anything. They may even want to look for early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia, anything that might explain the sudden change in mood and personality.” Carrick nods.

“I’ll tell her doctor,” he says, popping his neck. “I’m going to tell Christian to take you home, now.” I sit up straight.

“I don’t have to leave,” I protest. “I can stay as long as you need me…”

“You’ve had the longest twenty-four hours of all of us, dear girl,” Carrick says. “It’s time you went home, saw your babies, and got some real rest. I’m going to shoo everyone else out of here, too. There’s nothing more we can do here right now. We might as well go home and regroup. It’ll do us all some good, including my son who seems to think this entire thing is about him.” I twist my lips.

I hope we pull through this okay. This is one of the closest-knit families I’ve ever known. Seeing them fall apart is causing me more pain than I can express.


A/N: Switzerland is neutral territory. So, Mia’s telling Elliot that while he’s comfortably staying out of everything and passing judgment, everybody else is in the thick of things with Grace either at the receiving end of her irrational behavior or watching in horrified awed and wondering what the hell is going on.

I may have referenced Carrie before, but it’s a 1976 movie about a bullied, telepathic teen with a psychopathic mother who was asked to the prom by someone with good intentions. It ended up in a cruel scheme to get her on stage as prom queen and dump a bucket of pig’s blood all over her.  

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 8

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 it find 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 necessarilyy CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Chapter 8

GOLDEN

He’s here.

I tried to forget him.

I tried to walk away and leave him behind and now, he’s here.

I’m hearing the voice of my teacher in my head… the same voice I hear every time I’m about to initiate a new prospect.

Make. Him. Want. You.

He already wants me. He wants me so badly, he can’t fucking see straight. He a Dominant—a full-on Dominant—shackled to a winch in my goddamn ceiling because he wants me that badly. He’s hoping I’ll give in one of these days and let him fuck me. Dream on, Grey. This pussy is off limits, but that dick… oh, I’m gonna make that dick mine.

I’ve felt it through his pants, and I know it’s large. I’ve felt the way he grinds and the way he moves his hips, and I know he knows what to do with it… but I know what to do with it, too. He has no idea what he’s done.

The fact that he’s a Dominant means that he’s never really given his body over to anyone before. I know that most good Doms have done a small stint as a submissive before, but I can tell that Mr. Trevelyan-Grey—Trey—didn’t really get into it. He’s still curious what Chopper means. I think that’s what I’ll call him from now on, especially in here. Right now, I have a package to unwrap.

His chest is beautiful and impressive. He’s gorgeous, and if I were to let him in, he would destroy everything I’ve built, everything I’ve become. Elena knew exactly what she was doing when she turned him loose on me. Had he succeeded in his task, he would have destroyed me for life.

But…

He’s in my net, now, and it’s time to play.

I uncover the mirror on the wall directly in front of him. This is so that I can see his reactions when I’m behind him.

I gently touch his chest and he jumps. That’s right, Chopper. Be afraid. You should be. I caress the sinews of his muscles, then each of his nipples. He tries not to react, but I hear the infinitesimal catch of his breath in his throat. It’s okay, Chopper, they all resist at first. That’s what makes it more fun…

But you’re going to wish you chose a different safeword.

I walk around him, examining his back, running my fingers over his muscles and his spine, then around the waistband of his boxer briefs. The first time I do a scene with anyone, I remove their pants and underwear. I want to see that dick pop out in all its glory. That’s why I get undressed in front of them. I’ve had no children, so my breasts are still perfectly perky. I work the hell out of my ass, so I know I’ve got a dancer’s butt. I wear a silk, satin, or chemise nightie that’s deliberately too small, so that my nipples can protrude, and my ass can stick out. Then, I blindfold them while the image is still fresh in their minds so that it’s what they’re still thinking about while I touch and undress them.

My hands only ghost over their bodies, adding to the suspense of what will happen next, and when I get to the disrobing…

I slowly undo the button of his jeans and unzip the zipper. I don’t touch any part of his body yet. I pull the denim from the loosest part of the leg and let it fall down to his ankles. His boxer briefs bulge with his arousal and his abs flex with anticipation. He works out… a lot. He’s fucking beautiful. I lick my lips at the sight of him and now, it’s time to touch him.

I slide my hands over his ass and the boxer briefs and his glutes tighten in surprise. He’s not accustomed to anybody touching him, I see. This is going to be so much fun.

I slip my fingers into the waistband of his boxer briefs and pull them down over his ass so that the elastic band deliberately pulls his dick down and it pops back up when it’s released.

Mary Sweet Mother of Jesus.

How the hell did he get all that in those jeans?

I can tell he’s not even in his full glory yet and this thing looks like it can give a girl a forensic gynecological inspection! This piece of meat is goddamn glorious, and I may not fuck it tonight, but I bet you I’m going to kiss it!

I can tell by his breathing that the anticipation is killing him and I’m getting off on his desperation so much that I can’t help but prolong the agony just a little longer. I push his boxer briefs down to meet his jeans and admire the muscles in his finely-toned legs. His orgasms are going to be violent things of beauty. As if there were any doubt, I’m going to have to chain him down. I push his clothes down to his right ankle.

“Step,” I instruct him. When he lifts his foot, I remove his pants and boxers. The moment he puts the foot down, I restrain his ankle in a leather cuff attached to the floor near his foot. I hear him gasp. He wasn’t expecting it.

“There’s one for the left foot, too, Chopper,” I warn, “and it’s a little further out.”

He pops his neck like he’s preparing for a prize fight, which he really is. This is a battle of wills, and we both know it. We’re both Dominants, and we’re trying to see which of us is going to give in first. I know I can make him heel, because he already wants me. He’s a man; he has that magic stick; he’s seen me nearly naked; he’s at my mercy; and I know what to do with his body.

I’m going to win this one, Grey.

I push his clothes down to his left ankle and instruct him to step out of them again. This time, I have to tell him to spread his legs wider so that I can attach the other ankle cuff.

And now I have him eagle-spread in my dungeon.

I walk over to the wall and retrieve the whip I was fondling earlier. I also retrieve a condom and a open a new, remote-controlled bullet-type vibrator from my armoire.

“This is going to be new to you,” I warn. “I won’t expect you to be silent.” He takes a deep breath.

“What should I call you?” he says, his voice still controlled.

“I prefer ‘Mistress,’” I say. “I don’t know how you feel about that, so you can call me whatever you like, as long as you’re not disrespectful.” Don’t call me “Bitch” or I will hurt you.

“I’ll call you ‘Mistress,’” he concedes, “out of respect.”

“Very well,” I say. I lick my palm and grab his dick, caressing it firmly. He gasps, surprised once more as he licks his lips at the sensation. I feel him slightly stiffen in my hand and I watch his body respond as I stroke him—the change in his breathing, the tightening of his ab and thigh muscles, the subtle bite of his bottom lip. I quickly tear the condom open with my teeth and place the pack in my mouth, removing the rubber with my free hand. I dexterously roll the condom on while I’m stroking him so that he doesn’t know until I’m inserting the vibrator that he’s even wearing a condom. I situate the condom right at his frenulum before I move to the side of him.

I pause for a moment to give him a second to wonder what’s going on. Then, I start the vibrator at its lowest setting. His dick juts forward and he grunts, the chains above him rattling as his body jerks. His head falls back, but he quickly recovers, his thigh muscles tightening again.

Good. He’s resisting. That’s barely a hummer, Chopper.

I move behind him and uncoil my whip. I can’t go full Domme with him or he’ll safeword on the first strike. I whirl the whip in the air to take some of the pressure out of the blow and bring it down on his shoulder.

And he leaps.

“Fuck!” he exclaims. I expected that. I whirl my whip again and repeat the gesture on the other shoulder.

“Fuck! Fuck!” he grunts. Can’t let it rest. It’s worse if I do.

I whack him again on his right shoulder and two quick whacks on his left. He grunts and the veins in his arms begin to protrude. I repeat the double-strike on his right shoulder and his hands start reaching. Finding the chains attached to his wrist restraints, he grips them tightly and holds on. I step back so that my next blows land on his back instead of his shoulders. He cries out this time, and his breathing quickens. I raise my eyes to the mirror.

His erection is slipping. I adjust the remote to the next setting and his body jerks again. He groans, and his glutes tighten once more as I watch his dick begin to stiffen. Just as he’s getting into the pleasure of the vibration, I strike his back again.

“Fuuuck!” he cries out, gripping the chains once more. His breathing sounds like growling now and I know that he can’t decipher the pleasure from the pain. That’s what I’m going for. I strike his back again, and again, and he jerks with each blow, unable to cry out this time because his dick is so damn hard. I have to watch him. If I’m not careful, he’ll come in seconds, and we’re just getting started.

I bring the vibrator down to a pulse, still at its second setting, and continue to work his back. He’s squirming and cursing, and now sweating, his dick jutting forward in aroused confusion as I whip him and stimulate him at the same time. When I’ve striped his back and shoulders to a nice shade of pink and peach for a beginner, I place my braided whip back on the rack and retrieve my leather paddle. Your ass can take more, Chopper. This is going to hurt.

I stand in front of him for a moment and watch his dick pulsing in the condom. He’s so ready. He’s feeling nothing right now save the occasional pulse of the vibrator, but in a moment, I’m going to set his ass on fire while simultaneously setting his dick aflame. Again, I have to temper the right amount of pleasure with the right amount of pain. Too much of either and this show will be over quite quickly.

I usually like the element of surprise, but he’s not seasoned enough to get a paddle on the ass out of nowhere. So, instead, I begin to pat him on his cheeks with the leather softly and his dick actually gets harder. I think his mind is beginning to blur the line between the pleasure and the pain, kind of like a woman being spanked while she’s coming or getting a nice nipple tweak while being fucked from behind.

I intensify the strikes, side to side at first instead of right on the meat of his ass. The sides are more receptive to gentler strikes so that when I really wallop the ass cheek, it’s not quite so painful… painful, but not quite so painful. He hisses as I slap the sides of his cheeks and hisses louder as I change the pulsing sensation of the vibrator back to a continuous hum. Once I’ve evened out the pain with the pleasure of the vibration of the bullet, I increase the setting on the vibrator and let loose on the ass.

“Shiiiiiitt!” he cries at the first wallop. I ignore his protest and let him have it again. He clenches his cheeks, causing his dick to jut forward in the air. I smack him again, hard and flat on his buns of steel. He can take it and I know he can. The muscles in his back hulk up and he growls out his pain. I lick the small of his back a few times and watch him squirm from that sensation before I whack him several more times, setting that ass on fire as promised and watching that dick respond in kind.

“Fuck! It burns! Golden!”

I drop the paddle and stop immediately. He’s growling, squirming against the vibrator and I have to bring the setting down.

“Talk to me,” I say.

“I’m fine… I’m fine…” he pants.

“You safeworded,” I protest.

“No! I didn’t… I wasn’t…” I shake my head and twist my lips.

“I told you to choose another safeword,” I chastise.

“I’m fine… Keep going… Red… use ‘red…’” he pants. They all use red at first.

“Good choice,” I say, resetting the vibrator and picking up my paddle. “And next time, it’s Mistress!

Whack!

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”

*-*

Well, I have to give Chopper credit. He’s been hanging from those chains for a good 30 minutes. He’s been whipped, paddled, and flogged. That vibrator’s been on his frenulum at every setting except maximum pulse, maximum throb, and maximum vibration, and he hasn’t tapped out. He’s taken a solid beginner session from beginning to end and part of an intermediate without coming and I’m impressed. I think I may have underestimated him. What’s more, I think I may have gone too easy on him.

He’s very verbal, so if I ever get him in this situation again, I’m going to make him shut the hell up and punish him if he doesn’t. He obviously loves the intensity, but I had to find that out, first, since he’s a Dominant and most Doms are not pain whores. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily a pain whore, but he seems to be fonder of the agony/ecstasy aspect of BDSM than I’ve seen most Doms.

Nonetheless…

I’ve kept myself from that dick long enough.

He’s holding on to those chains for dear life now—sweating, swearing and panting like he’s chasing a thief who just stole money from him. I stop the vibrator and remove the condom, vibrator and all. He gasps when I free his cock from the rubber and quite frankly, so do I. It’s all pink and pretty and fat and the head is all smooth and shiny and soft…

I fall to my knees in front of him. God, it’s so beautiful. He’s still blindfolded, but when I look up at him, chained to my ceiling with his hair all wet and spiky and gorgeous, he looks like a fucking working of art bent over me with his dick at full attention and screaming for release. His body expands with each breath he takes and the feeling of awe that comes over me is indescribable. I wish he could see me kneeling in front of him about to take his power stick in my mouth and for a brief moment, I lose myself in wanting to please him… wanting to see him come so hard that his body shakes and the light shining above his head right now actually bursts through his chest and makes him translucent with pleasure.

I imagine him grabbing my head and thrusting into my mouth as his gray eyes pierce into mine. He pulls my hair and groans deeply as his abs roll and his thighs tremble. His dick throbs violently as his semen spills onto my lips and runs down my face, my mouth too full retain his massive ejaculation…

“Golden… my God… Golden…”

Snap the fuck out of it.

Yes, he’s fucking beautiful. Yes, his dick is big and it’s beautiful, too. Yes, you’re about to suck the fuck out of it, but snap the fuck out of that fantasy shit and get busy.

Mama’s got a brand-new toy.

As much as I want to latch onto that dick and suck for dear life, right now, the only thing I can think of is tasting it… just for the sake of tasting it… so I do.

I wrap both hands around the base of it to keep it jutting out in my face, and I take my tongue and run it around and over the soft head… and the rim… and the cap… and I take it gently in my mouth and clean it… then repeat… over… and over again.



        TREY

That soft, wet, hot mouth on the head of my dick after that damn vibrator has driven me to the end of my fucking wits… I can’t take much more of this shit. This is inhumane!

I thought Joyce could give head! Joyce who??

I withstood as much as I could for what felt like forever as she whipped me and spanked me and beat me and tortured me, all while my dick was trapped in that goddamn prophylactic next to what I know was a bullet! A goddamn bullet! The thing I use on fucking clits! She drove me up the fucking wall with a goddamn bullet! This woman is a fucking genius!

The entire time, I’m seeing this juicy fucking ass in my head wrapped in black lace and those fucking melons poking out in my face… I don’t know how the fuck I kept from blowing my goddamn load at least a dozen times.

Now, she’s got her mouth on my shit. I want this woman so bad that I can smell her. I can feel her, see her, and taste her when she’s not around. I’ve turned other women into her for months and now, she’s got her lips on my dick. I ain’t gonna make it. I fucking ain’t gonna make it.

I can’t even move. She’s not stimulating me enough to come. It’s the visual I’m building in my head and the fact that my senses and nerve endings are all on 100 right now…

She’s on her knees looking up at me. Her tits are bulging out of that gold negligee that she’s wearing that’s not covering her round, bubble ass at all. I thrust my hands into her hair as I’m looking down at her and she’s licking my head over and over again. She sucks it into her mouth and I groan at the sensation, because it’s enough to fire my balls up again, just not enough to make them blow.

Come on, baby, I need to come. I’ve been holding out. I can’t hold out no more…

She smiles up at me and starts to lick my balls. Fuck, it feels so good, I can’t fucking breath. She laughs and takes my balls into her mouth again. Fuck! Fuck! That’s intense! Damn, baby, whatchu doin’? Fuck!

Thwap!

“Son of a…!”

I’m in darkness now with visions of Golden still in my head. Yes, there’s some intense shit going on with my balls right now, but I was jolted from that wonderful daydream by a piercing fucking pain on my goddamn chest.

Thwap!

And there is goes again! What kind of fucking, sadistic, shit is this?

Process, Grey! Fuck. You’re in a goddamn dungeon. What the fuck is going on?

Well, hell, it’s hard to fucking process! There’s some crazy… wild… fucking awesome shit going on with my balls…

Thwap!

“Grrrrrrr!” I growl. Think! What the fuck is that? Hard… small and hard… concentrated…

Thwap!

“Aaawwhaawhhhawww fuck!”

And now it hit my nipple.

Thwap! Thwap!

Crop! It’s a fucking crop.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck… she’s fucking going to kill me. I’m going to die like this. That talented ass tongue has moved to my balls and she’s licking those things like she’s hoping to get vanilla icing off of them.

“Fucking hell…” I breathe, and when she whacks me with the crop this time, the sensation goes straight to the ball she’s rolling around in her mouth. She stimulates those damn things so much that I want to cry, and every time she hits me with that damn crop, I think I’m going to come. I’ve slipped officially over into Crazy Ville, until…

She grants me reprieve from that fabulous fucking mouth and plops my balls into her hand from her hot lips. At least, I thought she was granting me a reprieve. She sets that damn vibrator on “earthquake,” plops it up between my balls and holds them together on top of that thing. I feel like I’m in the goddamn spin cycle of a fucking washing machine.

But that’s not all.

She’s back to tasting my dick, like she was before—licking and sucking the head and the ball of nerves that I edge with… the frenulum… only, she’s not licking and sucking all softly and gently like she was before. Oh, no, no, no, she’s pulling this head in with more purpose, and that tongue is flicking that bundle of nerves so fervorously that if there was a wall behind me, I’d be crawling up it… restraints and all.

But that’s not all.

Every few seconds…

Thwap! Thwap! Thwap! Thwap!

Right the fuck on the skin of my chest.

She. Is. Cruel.

Insanely. Divinely. Hellishly. Exquisitely. Magnificently. Cruel.

This cold-blooded vixen has my balls cupped in one hand holding a vibrator between them, alternating between sucking my head and wildly licking my frenulum while whacking my chest over and over with the tip of a riding crop—hard. Every blow is making my dick pulse to the degree that I anticipate the hit of the crop even while she’s sucking my dick! Who does that? She’s sucking my dick! Fuck the crop—suck my dick! But right now, my brain can’t separate the two. She could do anything she wanted to me right now, and I’d let her… just to see how it feels.

And now I understand—in the haze of erotic delirium, I understand it all.

I understand why there are no hard limits.

I understand why these suckers pay and gift her insanely in the hope of being able to have a scene with her.

I understand why they’re not subs.

And even though I already knew, I totally understand why Elena could never be her.

I’m suffering now. The bullet between my balls provides massive stimulation, but somehow, it’s halting my orgasm. The denial is agonizing. My balls and dick are aching to come. I groan… I can’t take much more of the stimulation without release. It’s pure fucking agony. I’m completely at her mercy and I can’t take it anymore. I’ll do anything… anything…

“Mistress… please…”

It’s out of my mouth before I even know what I’ve said.

She drops the crop and grabs my dick, stroking it hard and slow, and her tongue goes wild. It’s more than I can stand.

My back starts to ache, and I feel the vibrator dislodge from between my testicles—thank God! Something else is going on, though, because I can still feel the “earthquake” against my balls. Almost immediately, I feel them begin to swell, tighten, and pebble, and I know that explosion is imminent.

“Ah… Ga… oh, fuck…”

I feel her tongue lapping madly at the skin of my tightening nuts and since I still feel the earthquake down there, I can only assume that the vibrator must be in her mouth—fucking genius!

“Uh…! Ah…!”

Both hands work masterfully on my shaft and head while her earthquake driven mouth and tongue deliciously licks and devours my aching, eager balls.

“Aaaaahhhh! Aahh! Ahhh! Aaaaaahhhhh!”

It’s painful. It’s fucking painful. As my nuts begin to explode, she spits the earthquake generator into her hand and rubs it continuously against my poor, unloading balls while her hot mouth moves up and down that wildly pulsing vein, her tongue licking madly at the frenulum each time her mouth reaches the top of my dick. I’m certain that I’m shooting brain matter out of my cock right now.

The way that she’s licking and caressing the frenulum with her lips and tongue, I know that my cum is all over her mouth and cheeks even though I can’t see it. The thought makes me come harder, my body jerking madly at her slightest command and I can no longer be civilized. I hear animal grunts escaping from my chest as my dick throbs and bursts in pain and pleasure. The orgasm lasts for so long and is so intense that I collapse in my bonds, helpless and spent.

I don’t know how much time passes, but I know my weak arm—the one that was in a cast a few weeks ago—hurts like hell! I’m not breathing as heavily as I was when I came, and I don’t know if I wish she had called that fucker to help get me down from here or if I’m glad he didn’t see me this way, because I’m probably a goddamn mess.

Well… maybe not… maybe Golden is.

“You’ll need to sit. There’s a chair behind you.”

I hear a winch and my body begins to lower. I straighten my legs as much as I can to get some balance. As the winch lowers my arms, I feel her release one of the cuffs from my ankles. With enough slack on the chains on my wrists, I grab the chain attached to my strongest arm and use it as leverage to straighten my body. The arm with the bone that just healed aches like fuck, but only because I haven’t strengthened it enough to do anything even slightly related to endurance…

And that’s exactly what the fuck this was, an exercise in endurance.

I release a sigh of sweet relief—somewhat—when my butt hits the leather chair. My ass is sore from the paddling, but I swear if I hadn’t already come so hard, my dick would be throbbing with arousal from the sensation of the pain. She releases my other foot from the restraint on the floor, but I still feel the cuff on my ankle. She does the same with the cuffs and the chains from the ceiling, and my hands lay helpless on my thighs. Fuck, I could sleep like a goddamn baby now.

“That’s it, Mr. Grey,” she says, and I feel her remove the blindfold from behind me. My chin is still in my chest and I can’t raise my head just yet. I hear her stiletto heels click across the floor and then ascend the stairs. I hear the door open, but I don’t hear it close.

That’s it? She’s going to leave me here like this? I can barely fucking move!

I’ll just sit here for a moment, with my thumping dick and my thumping ass… Fuck, my ass is thumping like crazy! Even more than my dick! She beat the hell outta me. How did I not feel this burn while she was beating me?

Oh, yeah, I did feel it. I safeworded… kind of…

After a few minutes, I raise my head and it feels like lead. I slowly stretch my legs and my arms, then take in a deep, cleansing breath. I pop my spine one vertebrae at a time and turn my attention to my sore arm. It hurts like hell. I’m going to need a painkiller for this. I hate taking those damn things.

I undo the cuffs on my wrists and ankles and drop them to the floor before locating my briefs and jeans. She’s placed them with the rest of my clothes on the valet, so I get dressed as quickly as my aching arm, butt, and back will allow then proceed to ascend the stairs.

Mr. Belvedere is standing at the top of the stairs when I get there, his hands clasped in front of him. Fuck! How long has he been here? Was he standing there the entire time? I glare at him, but he returns an impassive gaze.

“Is there anything you need?” he asks, his voice even. “Are you hungry? Do you need medical attention? A drink? Would you like to bathe or rest?”

Yeah, I need a Jack IV right now! This is fucking surreal. This is what happens when the dungeon monitors carry those poor souls from the exhibition rooms. They’re not submissives, so she doesn’t see to their aftercare, I guess.

“I’d like to see her. Where is she?” He gestures to the doorway.

“In the parlor,” he says, and nothing else. What’s his story? What has he seen? Fucking Navy Seal that’s now a glorified butler. What’s the deal? I nod once. I know the way.

I follow the sound of a deep baseline to the open door of her parlor where she sits on the sofa with her legs crossed at the knees, a golden martini in her hand. Her head bobs to the music, a slow, melodic, beat, but morose words—a rapper talking about death, crying, mistrust, and losing friends. I observe her for a while from the open door, her eyes fixed in front of her like she’s absorbing the music for the first time.

When the song ends, she takes a sip of her drink and another one begins. Her eyes are fixed ahead of her again. It’s the same rapper, another melancholy song talking about life going on. It’s sounds like he’s predicting his own death, and she looks like she’s in a bubble—in another place altogether. Is this how she feels when she completes a scene?

She’s truly beautiful. I could just stand here and watch her for hours, but the songs… they say more about her than anything I’ve seen or heard to this point. Another one plays—same rapper—and his words still sound hopeless to me, yet hopeful at the same time. The chorus is another young man singing the refrain from “Broken Wings.” It hardly seems like the two songs fit together…

And it hardly seems like Golden should be listening to this kind of music… for lots of reasons.

“I didn’t take you for a hip hop fan,” I admit as I enter the room. I almost feel like an interloper on her private time. She turns her gaze to me.

“Not hip-hop,” she says. “Just Tupac.” She sips her drink and places it on the table in front of her. “Sit,” she says, gesturing to a nearby chair. I swallow.

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d… rather stand.” I’m more comfortable on my feet… and my ass hurts. She raises an eyebrow, then shrugs.

“Very well,” she says. I move further into the room.

“Tupac?” I ask.

“Tupac Shakur,” she says. “He was a rapper, an artist, and a revolutionary. He was very misunderstood. I can empathize.”

“Was?” I ask. “What happened to him?”

“He was murdered at the age of 25,” she informs me. “It was highly publicized, but if you weren’t into the hip-hop scene or rap music, you probably wouldn’t know. I was very young when he died. I really didn’t get into his music until after his death, but a lot of it speaks to me.”

“It’s very morose,” I say. “Does he always talk about dying?” She scoffs softly.

“He did a lot around the time of his death,” she replies. “He saw it coming. He was just preparing himself… and the rest of us. But no, not all of his music is about death. Most of it is about life—about things that happen and about struggle, fun, sex, dancing, thug life… you should listen to it sometimes. Do some research on who he is. You might be surprised.”

“Was,” I correct her. She raises her brow at me. “Who he was. He’s dead, now.” The edge of her mouth rises in a knowing smirk.

“Is,” she reconfirms, retrieving her drink. “An hour ago, you didn’t know who he was. Sometime, at some point in your life, you’re going to mention him to someone, too—even if only in passing and because of that, he’ll never die.” She sips her drink and places it back on the table. “Now, you didn’t stick around to discuss my taste in music.”

No, I didn’t. So, how do we broach this very awkward topic?

“Your thoughts, Mr. Grey?” she proposes. Okay, that’s one way.

“It was…” I trail off. The truth is that it was fucking magnificent, but do I want to admit that? Do I want to say that out loud? To her? Do I really want to give her that kind of power over me? “How many of them fall for that?” I say, trying to maintain a modicum of control. She smiles a devious, knowing smile.

“They all do… Mr. Grey,” she taunts. “That’s what I offer and that’s what they want. That’s what they love, and if doesn’t interest you, feel free to leave. It wouldn’t be the first time in life that reality didn’t live up to the fantasy.” Oh, how wrong you are.

“Shouldn’t I pay you for the scene?” I comment, still attempting to control the situation. She chuckles softly.

“I’m not a prostitute, Grey,” she says, her voice controlled. “Now that you’ve tasted what I do, I can tell you how this goes. People don’t pay me, they gift me. I get whatever they feel I deserve to allow them the opportunity to experience what I have to offer again. If you feel like this was a simple nut, then take it… my gift to you. Like I said, it won’t be the first time it’s happened. But those people that you see in the exhibition rooms, or standing and sitting at my tables, even that beautiful flaxen-haired pussy you fucked the first night you saw me—those people don’t fawn all over me because they just want a good nut. The blonde didn’t even want to come, remember?”

She’s right. I remember that. The blonde just wanted to play.

“At the risk of being sacrilegious, I’m like an entity that they want to keep around and they hope to stay in my favor. So, they bring me tribute, and it comes in different forms. Even the clubs do it—they have a table ready even on nights that I don’t show up. I don’t know if anybody else uses those poles, but they’re never occupied when I walk in the club. No club that I frequent is lacking clientele, and yet there’s always an exhibition room available when I want one. I don’t pay anybody anything. I don’t even pay for my memberships or drinks, but I’ve yet to be turned away from any club in town.”

“And is that what you expect me to do?” I say distastefully. “Offer you tribute?” She shakes her head and chuckles again.

“I don’t expect you to do anything,” she says softly, sitting back on the sofa, stretching her arms out. “I’m surprised you even came here tonight. You knew I wouldn’t let you fuck me or touch me, and I think this is the most talking we’ve ever done. You know the rules, Grey. You knew them before you got here, but I never expect anything. I know better than that.”

What is this fucking power that she wields? I don’t even know how to explain it. I’m trying to hold on to any bit of control that I have left in this situation and she’s ticking it away bit by bit with her tiny little fingernail.

Who the fuck am I kidding? I’m certainly not kidding her. I never had control—from the moment I saw her, I never had control… and she knows it. She may not know just how much control she actually had over me all that time, but she knew I didn’t have control. Even when I thought I had control, I didn’t have it. I was sending her gifts—tribute, as she calls it—before she even serviced me. I turned other women into her when I couldn’t have her and I never stopped thinking about her for months!

“Have you… followed the news?” I ask cautiously.

“What news in particular?” she asks.

“About Elena,” I respond. “Her salons… they’re going out of business. And she attacked me.” She raises an eyebrow.

“I thought that was just gossip rag fodder,” she says. I shake my head.

“No, it’s true,” I say, rubbing my aching arm.

“So… you two were lovers,” she says, her brow furrowing.

“No,” I correct her. “No, that part wasn’t true.” Should I tell her that we used to fuck a very long time ago? No, too much information. “No, she came unglued because I wouldn’t help her dispel the rumors being circulated about the unsanitary condition of her salons and she threw a potted plant at me. The pot shattered and broke my arm, so I’m pressing charges.”

“She broke your arm.” It’s a statement, not a question. “Wow, that’s drastic.”

“It’s no more drastic than shooting at someone, Golden,” I say, firmly. Her brown eyes pierce at me, but I don’t break my gaze. “She… told me what happened,” I add. “Elena—she told me what happened with that other guy. I apologize. I’d had too much to drink that night and I wasn’t myself.” I turn my gaze away from her before she has time to answer. “She was at the club one night and she was gloating. You know how she loves to gloat,” I scoff. “Anyway, I think you had told her about what happened, and she was concerned, so she came clean with what she knew.”

“Was this before or after you dry-humped me?”

I turn around to her stoic expression. She wasn’t pleased with that outcome, I can tell. She came, but she wasn’t pleased.

“I don’t know,” I admit. “After, I think… I don’t remember. It’s been a long time.” I pause and wait for her to respond. When there is none, I continue.

“She had been taunting me, dangling the challenge in my face every chance she got. It was all a game for her. There was no risk involved. She just manipulates the pieces and sits back to watch the show, but for me…” Do I tell her how involved I became? Do I tell her that winning her, that claiming that prize became a damn near obsession for a moment? That just about every damn thing I did for months was all about her? About somehow being near her or getting close to her and as soon as I took steps to completely forget about her, I see her in the club tonight?

Who am I fooling… again? I was chasing big asses because of her!

“What about you?” she says, interrupting my thoughts. “Wasn’t it a game for you, too? What was at stake for you?”

You could destroy me. I know that. Don’t you?

“My life, for one thing,” I retort. “You pulled a gun on me, Golden. You shot at me. Anything could have happened to that night. She knew that. Even you knew that. I didn’t.”

An unknown emotion flashes across her face and she takes her drink from the table again.

“You should know that money, power, and good looks do not make you immune, Mr. Grey,” she says. Her voice is a little shaken, but only a fraction. “When a woman says ‘no,’ she means ‘no,’ and anything you do after that makes you fair game. I grew up in a rough neighborhood with a black cop as a father. The last part of my teenage years and all my college years, I spent taking care of myself. Contrary to the appearance, I am nobody’s delicate flower, by any means. But no matter what the circumstance, you don’t push yourself on a woman when she tells you not to. You didn’t need Elena to tell you about my past for you to know that you were crossing a line!” She finishes her drink and places the empty glass a little too firmly back on the end table.

“Well, let’s see what I know about you so far,” I say, leaning on the back of a lounge chair. “You kick ass in the board room, you kick ass in the playroom, you’re in possession of a firearm that you’re apparently not afraid to use, and you’re highly influenced by rap music by an immortal revolutionary who predicted his own death. There are many words I would use to describe you, Ms. Olivet, but ‘delicate flower’ doesn’t come to mind.”

I think my speech threw her off a bit, which is what I was hoping for.

“It’s not my practice to push myself on a woman, especially when they say ‘no,’” I continue, my voice softening. “I was clearly out of line, and I’ve apologized. I’m lucky that night didn’t turn out worse for me and if it had, I would have no one to blame but myself.”

Her glare softens a bit at my confession.

“However, the fact remains that Blondie knew this was a part of your history, and she didn’t forewarn me. Had she done so, I would have exercised a bit more… wisdom in every decision I made that night. Hell, probably in every decision that I made with you from the very beginning. Nonetheless, she pushed you at me like an unattainable prized trophy and I foolishly pursued you like a predeveloped Cro-Magnon man and the result… Well, let’s just say that she and I are no longer friends and I haven’t seen her in any of the clubs, including Crimson.” She raises her head.

“Including Crimson?” she asks. I shrug.

“I stopped frequenting Crimson very shortly after I noticed that you did. My understanding is that she stopped frequenting Crimson very shortly after I did.” She raises her brow again and stands. She takes her martini glass from the end table and places it back on the bar.

“Hm,” she says, and nothing else. There’s a long silence between us for several moments, and it appears that we have run out of things to talk about. I sigh heavily and stand up straight.

“I guess I’ll be going then,” I say, straightening my jacket and heading towards the open door. She says nothing as I proceed to leave, and I have every intention of exiting that doorway and not looking back, but my mouth opens before I get to the door and my feet won’t listen to my brain when it tells them to cross the threshold.

“I’d… like to see you again,” my treacherous mouth says. I hear nothing behind me for several moments and settle in myself that I must have blown it.

“In that case…”

Her soft voice is so close to my back that it startles me, and I jump when I look over my shoulder to find her standing there holding a business card. I take it and examine it. It’s gold with a golden apple off to the right and only two pieces of information on it…

A name and a number.

“I guess I’ll see you ‘round, Chopper.” She raises brown eyes to me and awaits my response. Chopper.

“See you ‘round,” I say, my feet suddenly able to move forward and proceed through the doorway.



GOLDEN

“Make. Him. Want. You.

“Be inaccessible. Be everything he wants and nothing he can have.

“Make him dream about you when you’re not there; crave you when you’re not around.

“Do things to him that no other woman alive would ever do.

“Dare to cross boundaries that others fear; use your knowledge to your advantage.

“He doesn’t know what he wants; he doesn’t know what he likes, and you can’t ask him. You must show him.

“He wants pleasure, yet he fears pain. One cannot exist without the other.

“Bruise him. Scar him. Leave your mark on him. Leave him panting, worthless, and weak.

“He’ll be more faithful than any husband; more loyal than any friend or family; more generous than any benefactor.

“And he’ll dote on you forever.”

That was her mantra. She taught it to me. She repeated it every day, several times a day until it was branded into my memory. Lanette never let me forget that no matter how much you may want, admire, or even love one of them, you must maintain power and distance. For me, that means keeping a part of myself to myself—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Will I ever give that part of myself away? Maybe… I don’t know, but for right now, it’s mine. It’s what makes me Golden, and I’m keeping it to myself.

When I hear the throaty roar of Trey’s sportscar grumble down the street, I go over my vintage princess phone. So, Elena hasn’t been at Crimson, huh? I smile openly and dial the number.

“Hello?” Her voice sounds almost haggardly.

“Hello, Elena, and how have you been?” I ask in my usual stoic voice.

“Just fine, Ana, and you?” she lies.

“Busy. I haven’t been at Crimson in quite some time and I was just wondering how things were going down there. I was thinking about stopping by.” Bait the hook.

“Oh, the scene’s been quite dead. I haven’t been there myself much lately,” she says, clearing her throat.

“Oh, really?” I continue. “That doesn’t sound like you at all. I would have thought you would have been basking in the attention with me gone.” Can’t be too sweet. She’s sure to smell a rat.

“A dead scene is a dead scene, dear,” she hisses. “I guess anyone can live out glory days in a ‘has-been’ venue.” Was that a shot?

“You would know,” I retort, welcoming the sparing from the dying spirit. “Strange, I haven’t seen you at any of the other clubs either.”

“Like I said, a dead scene is a dead scene,” she repeats.

“Oh, yeah, good one, Blondie. Insinuate that anywhere you’re not is dead… when you’re not anywhere right now. By the way, how’s business?” She falls silent for a moment. Gotcha, bitch.

“I was like you once,” she says. “I was sitting on top of the mountain thinking the world was mine. I had that same cocky attitude that you do. You look at me now and you laugh. You see what I once was, and you see what I am now, and you think it won’t happen to you, but it will. It will happen to you, Ana. You’ll lose your splendor just like I did. You’ll lose your beauty, your youth, your mystery. You’ll fall from grace—some new kid with some new gimmick is going to come and steal your thunder and you’ll be left with nothing, and when you do, you’ll remember this conversation. You’ll remember the day you scoffed at me!” I shake my head.

“Oh, Elena,” I sigh, “I’m not scoffing at you, but I do feel sorry for you. I don’t expect to do this when I’m 90. I don’t even expect to do this when I’m 50. I expect to do this until I don’t want to do it anymore. And then, maybe I’ll keep practicing law or maybe I’ll write books. Maybe I’ll teach other Dommes. Maybe I’ll open a club. Maybe I’ll move to the country or maybe I’ll travel. Maybe I’ll start a charity. The possibilities are endless, but I’ll tell you what I won’t do. I won’t follow some young upstart around discouraging her about her techniques. Whatever her fetish, her gimmick, her methods, whatever floats her boat, whatever works for her, congratulations. There are plenty of clients, submissives, prospects out there for all of us, but you couldn’t stand the fact that one too many was looking at me instead of you and that’s what destroyed you.

“You crossed one of the richest, most powerful men in town in an attempt to dethrone me from a seat that you never even had. I’m not the next big gimmick, Elena! I’m a brutal, sexy sadist who doesn’t fuck, with a particular clientele. I didn’t come to the clubs looking for clients, Blondie. My clients came to the club looking for me! You were so blinded by the glamour and the sparkle that you didn’t even notice that I wasn’t taking anything away from you.

“You were always looking for a new toy, the next beauty while I was content in satisfying the same anonymous prospects. Yes, I stole a spotlight and grabbed attention every now and again, but never once did I steal a sub or a client. You stole one of mine, but did I ever steal one of yours?”

I allow the truth to hang in the air for a moment as the line falls silent. The truth of the matter is that all her conniving comes down to this moment. Had she not constructed this non-existent rivalry between us in her head, she never would have thrust Trey at me in the first place and she never would have destroyed whatever friendship she and Trey had. Their trust wouldn’t have been destroyed and she never would have had reason to attack him in his office. Hence, her problems all stemmed from her delusion that I was her competition in the first place. We never had the same playing field or the same pieces. We weren’t even playing the same game. We were just operating in the same place—like office space.

“I will tell you this, though,” I add, once I feel the truth has marinated long enough. “You were successful in one thing.”

“And what’s that?” she hisses.

“Trey just left here. You should probably know that we’re going to try things out… on our terms.” She gasps loudly.

“You’re fucking kidding me!” she roars.

“No, I’m not,” I say, matter-of-factly. “I’m a sadist, Elena, and I don’t fuck, and nothing’s changed. So, not only did I get your little toy that you dangled in front of my face, but I’m still Golden—still on that scene that you say is dead. I don’t mind telling you that because I know that after that incident in Trey’s office with the potted plant and the pending charges against you now, that if you breathe a word of this to him or anybody else, he will fucking annihilate you and I’ll be there to decimate the remains when he’s done!”

“You goddamn bitch!” she screams. “You were in on this with him, weren’t you? The whole time? Fuck, how could I be so stupid?” What the hell?

“In on… what the fuck are you talking about?” I demand.

“Don’t you play dumb with me, you cunt!” she yells. “I’ve lost everything! And now, Linc is threatening to leave me, too. Are you fucking happy now, you treacherous little whore?”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, you crazy bitch, but you better stop calling me these goddamn names!” I bark. She laughs loudly.

“I don’t know why I didn’t see it before!” she cackles. “It’s perfect! Get me out the way. You’ve got the scene. You two have each other. It’s perfect. Fucking perfect!” She’s laughing maniacally now. She’s gone. She’s totally fucking gone.

“Okay, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but you have totally lost your mind,” I say.

“Oh, you know exactly what’s going on,” she accuses sinisterly, “and one day, you’re going to fucking get yours. You just wait and see. It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow, but one day—one day—you’re fucking going to get yours, Golden!” Oh, I don’t like the sound of that. I don’t like the sound of that at all.

“Well, you know exactly where to find me, bitch,” I growl. “And I’m not gone fuckin’ hide. But let me make one thing perfectly clear. I have no idea what’s going on in that bleach-damaged brain of yours or what the fuck you’re going on about, but I consider you a mortal fucking enemy from this point on and if I see you coming, I’m making it known to you and anybody listening that I will take every possible precaution to protect myself and that includes shooting first and asking questions later. Is any of this getting through to those peroxide-poached brain-cells of yours, Blondie?”

There’s another moment of silence, and I know that my declaration has broken through whatever nonsense has been bombarding her brain throughout this conversation.

“Oh, don’t you fucking worry! If I never see your gilded ass again as long as I live, it’ll be too soon for me!” she spits.

“Good. We understand each other. And know this, Blondie. I’m not avoiding any of my stomping grounds for you. So, when you see me coming, I suggest you go the other direction.”

“Don’t you fucking threaten me, you little twerp!” she shoots.

“That’s not a fucking threat, you old bat! That’s a goddamn promise!” I warn. I slam the receiver down and press the call button for Blake. I know he’s probably cleaning the dungeon. What the hell is Elena talking about? In on what? What did Trey do to her? Exactly why did she throw that potted plant at him? Do I have a right to ask for the details? I don’t think I have a choice, because whatever it is, she thinks I’m in on it and I need to be prepared.

“Yes, Mistress?” Blake says. I sigh heavily and turn to face him.

“I need Beckwick’s services starting tomorrow.” He frowns.

“Grey?” he asks. “I can…”

“No,” I interrupt him. “Elena Lincoln.” His shock is tangible.

“Lincoln?” his voice rises. I nod.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” I say, gesturing him into the parlor. He walks over to the bar where I’m standing about to pour another drink. “She’s gotten into some kind of altercation with Trey… Grey—she threw a potted plant at him and broke his arm.” Blake grimaces.

“Ooo!” he groans, making a face. I take a drink of my vodka.

“Yeah—now, whatever’s going on with them, she thinks I have something to do with it.”

“How do you know?” he asks.

“I just got off the phone with her,” I say. “She had been pushing Trey—Grey at me ever since I met him. It got so bad that I stopped frequenting one of the clubs—after the gun incident?” Blake nods. “Apparently, he stopped frequently the club, too. During that time, something happened and Elena stopped, too. Something happened with her businesses and… I don’t know, I think she asked him for help and he turned her down.”

“What happened to her businesses?” Blake asks.

“Grey said rumors of unsanitary conditions. I’m not sure how you can help someone with something like that.” Blake shrugs.

“Neither am I, except find the source maybe,” he says.

“That won’t help much either,” I say. “I mean, if you investigate and they find that the rumors aren’t true, that should be enough, so the rumors must have been true…”

“Not necessarily, Mistress,” he corrects me. “Depending on the situation, unclean conditions are enough to make someone not want to come to your establishment. Think about it—dirty tools, unclean towels, rodents and pests, reused chemicals…” I immediately get the heebie-jeebies. He gestures at me. “See? A rumor can be devastating, even if it’s proven to be untrue.”

“Maybe that’s what she was talking about,” I observe. “I saw the gossip rags and it mentioned their disagreement. It was painted to be a lover’s quarrel and I just glossed over it since I wasn’t speaking to either of them, but now… whatever’s going on, she thinks I’m part of it. She went fucking ballistic when she found out that Trey and I are going to see each other again.” He raises his brow.

“You are?” he says. I sigh.

“You need to care for me, Blake, and I need you to care for me. Other men need something else.”

“I get the feeling that he wants more than he’s letting on,” Blake warns.

“You may be right, my friend, but he’ll only get what I give him.” I turn back to my drink. “Beckwick. Starting tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mistress,” he says and heads for the door. “Mistress?” I turn to face him.

“Please, be careful. I can’t lose you, too.” I sigh and nod. Without another word, he leaves the parlor.

I pick up the remote to my sound system and press play, allowing a more upbeat Tupac song to remind me that I’ve secured another prospect in Trey. He’s a beautiful specimen, but he doesn’t come without his problems. He already brings secrets and baggage with him, although Elena was my baggage before he even got there. He only complicated the matter. The truth is that if she’s delusional enough to think that I was in on whatever’s happening to her right now, it would have manifested itself later anyway.

Did Trey really do something to her, though? How do I go about asking him?

I can’t focus on that right now. Right now, I want to focus on breaking that beautiful body down, on taming that Dominant spirit and making him heel. It won’t be difficult—I just need to find his sweet spot. That’s going to be so much fun…

So much fun…

I roll my hips and pop my ass to one of my favorite songs, remembering the feel of Trey’s favorite body part in my mouth and the sound of his voice, calling me Mistress and begging me to let him come…

How do you want it?
How do you feel?
Comin’ up as a nigga in the cash game
I’m livin’ in the fast lane, I’m for real…


A/N: With all due respect, I have to give credit where credit is due. When Ana says, “Mary Sweet Mother of Jesus, how did he get all that in those jeans?” that’s a variation of a line from a song called, “Walk” by Morris Day.

Tupac Soundtrack—
So Many Tears
Life Goes On
Until The End Of Time
How Do You Want It

“Mr. Belvedere” was the butler from a sitcom in the late ’80 with the same name. 

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 27—Tipping Point

This is a work or 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 here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

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 27—Tipping Point

CHRISTIAN

We had one semi-quiet day at home with the weekend looming over us. Valerie is on the fence about going to Mia’s shower on Saturday without Ana although my sister has assured my wife that she will be welcome even if they have to change venues for the shower. This has yet to be confirmed according to my wife, and she has no intention of groveling for the privilege of attending an event she’d rather not anyway—not because of my sister, of course, but because of the other women who will be in attendance.

The beautiful temperatures earlier in the week lulled us into a false sense of security. It’s Friday, and we had hoped to enjoy some of the last of the warmer temperatures of summer with the twins in the backyard today. However, it turned out to be a bit cooler than we anticipated, so we kept the festivities inside. Somewhere around lunchtime, my phone starts buzzing like mad in my pocket. It’s a number that I don’t recognize, so I let it go to voice mail, intent on answering it later since I’m spending time with my wife and children. Apparently, whomever this is trying to get in touch with me has other plans.

“I’ll be right back,” I say to Butterfly. I head to the elevator and answer the call. Whoever the fuck this is will certainly get a piece of my mind.

“Grey.”

“You son of a bitch! Is this how you play?” His voice is frantic. It only takes a moment, but I figure out who it is immediately. Even though I know who it is, I play dumb.

“Who the fuck is this?” I hiss into the phone.

“You know the hell this is, you bastard!” he barks. Shit, what did Alex do?

“No, I don’t know who the hell this is, you asshole, and I’m hanging up now!”

“Don’t you dare hang up on me! I’ll call off the goddamn ticket patrol if you just bring her back!” Bring her back? What the hell? Now, I’m really lost. What did Alex do—kidnap his damn wife?

“Who. The hell. Is this. And what. The fuck. Are you talking about?” I say, perturbed and still playing dumb. Well, not necessarily playing, because I really don’t know what the fuck is going on. I step off the elevator and walk over to the bar, taking a seat on one of the stools.

“Hammerstone, you piece of shit!” he hisses. “My wife!” he barks. Oh, God, Alex really did do something to his wife. Fuck, this is crazy. When I said any means, I didn’t mean these means. Stay cool, Grey.

“Speak. English,” I growl. “You’re the reason my people are getting tickets for sneezing?” I say, ignoring that he pretty much just told me that his wife is missing.

“I don’t give a fuck about those fucking tickets!” he declares. “I said I’ll call them off if you bring her the fuck back.”

“I don’t give a fuck about whatever the fuck is going on with you and your goddamn wife!” I yell back into the phone, equally irritated… for any ears that might be listening. “All I fucking care about is the fact that my people have been getting tickets for bad hair days and you’re telling me that’s because of you? You’re that fucking salty about not being able to come to my sister’s wedding? It’s a goddamn wedding, man! At least one is happening every fucking Saturday in Seattle! Find another fucking wedding! You got real problems! Real fucking problems!” Another academy award winning performance. I hear him sigh again. If I didn’t know better, I would think the good judge is at his wits end. Then again, I would be too, if my wife were missing. I’ve got to get to the bottom of this soon.

“Grey,” he says, his voice low and controlled, “my wife is at her wits end.”

What? Has there been a call for ransom?

“And?” I reply callously. “What does that have to do with me?”

“You’ve got to bring her back,” he continues. “Janise is losing her damn mind without that fucking dog.”

Wait a minute… what?

“Huh?” I say, truly unable to fake my surprise anymore. “Who the fuck is Janise? And what dog are you babbling about?” He sighs again.

“You don’t have to pretend like you don’t know!” he hisses loudly. “Janise is my wife and you’ve got her dog! I’ll call off the tickets. I’ve already done it. Now, bring back the damn dog!” I look at the phone like it just bit me.

“This. Is about. A dog?” I say in surprise. Hammerstone is silent when I put the phone back to my ear. “This is about a damn dog?” I repeat, my surprise more evident. Jason comes out of his apartment at just the right moment and decide to address the question to him. “A dog?” I ask again. Jason looks at me confused.

“Sir?” he asks.

“A damn dog? This call is about a damn dog?” With only a moment’s hesitation, Jason nods and Hammerstone explodes.

“Cut the shit, Grey, and bring back my damn Löwchen!” he barks into the phone.

“You named the dog Löwchen?” I ask, sarcastically.

“It’s a breed, you fuck, now bring back my damn dog or I’ll make your fucking life miserable.”

“You’re calling me begging about a fucking dog and you’re talking about making my life miserable? Think about that for a second,” I say coolly and await his response.

“Just give the goddamn dog back!” he yells.

“You found Neveah?” I hear a frantic female voice say.

“Shut up, Janise!” he hisses at his wife. “And you can forget going to that goddamn wedding! We’re never speaking to those fuckers again!”

“What? What do you mean? The Greys have something to do with this? I’m calling Grace right this second!”

“Call that bitch and you can go move in with them!” he declares loudly. “Not a word! Not one fucking word, do you hear me?” The line is quiet for several moments before he comes back. “Bring me my goddamn dog,” he says, his voice calm and menacing. I chuckle in his ear.

“Call off your ticket brigade and make the ones we’ve already gotten go away… all of them, every single one, including the one my wife got last week. I want proof. Back the fuck up off me and I’ll see what I can do about getting my men on your dog,” I reply. Admit nothing.

“That’s right, Grey. Keep it PC, just bring back my fucking dog,” he reiterates.

“You just mind what I said,” I reinforce, “back up off me or a dog may be the least of your worries. Take that however you want.” I end the call and look over at Jason, incredulously. “A dog?” Jason shrugs. I quickly dial Alex on Facetime. I don’t give a fuck at this point who’s listening.

“You took his dog?” I say, in disbelief, almost unable to speak through my laughter. “This man just called me in pure turmoil… about a dog?”

“Know your opponent,” Alex says matter-of-factly. “His wife loves that dog. She treats that dog better than she treats her children, although they’re not children anymore. She’s a fickle, materialistic old bat… who loves her dog. So, she can choose the wedding or her damn dog.”

“How did he know it was me?” I ask, still laughing.

“We’ve sent pictures.” I freeze.

“Evidence??” I ask. Alex scoffs.

“You know me better than that. Untraceable,” he confirms.

“That still doesn’t explain how he knows it was me,” I state.

“In the last picture, the dog was wearing a wedding dress.” I stop and let that sink in… right before I burst out laughing so hard that my stomach aches and I have to lean on a bar stool to keep from falling over.

“Brilliant,” I manage to say. “Fucking brilliant!”

“So, what now, sir?” Alex asks, unable to hide his joy of my satisfaction.

“Wait for confirmation that he’s had the existing tickets expunged, then wait a couple more days to see if the tickets stop. Once they do, send the dog back… wearing the wedding dress. Send some kind of subtle message that this ain’t over if he still wants to play.” I’m trying to be serious, but I’m still chuckling as I speak.

“Consider it done, sir,” he says as he ends the call. I’m yowling when I close that Facetime window. I swear, I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard since Butterfly beat Elena’s ass half-naked in my apartment.

A dog… a goddamn damn… fucking priceless!


ANASTASIA

No sooner my husband disappears down the elevator that my phone starts buzzing in my pocket. I pull it out to see Courtney’s number pop up on the screen. My three-second funnel is in full effect now. She’s at Helping Hands right now; I know she is. She’s most likely calling me for some catastrophe that they’re having and I’m not coming in there while Grace is acting like a raving lunatic. At the same time, she’s staying in my condo and I can’t afford to ignore her call, because something could be wrong on that front—nor would I really want to ignore Courtney’s call because that would be downright rude.

Into the three-second funnel goes all these damn options and scenarios and every possible outcome and out pops…

“Hello?”

“Hi, um, Ana.” Her voice is nervous and trepidatious. This is not the nature of our relationship and I’m immediately on notice.

“Hey, Courtney. What’s up?”

“Um, I’m sorry to bother you, but Miss Grace asked me to call and find out if… um, if you’ve quit.”

Wow, really? She’s put Courtney in the middle of this? I sure the hell hope she’s given this girl a raise for having to shovel her shit.

“Wow, Courtney, I’m so sorry about this. Listen, just tell her that you weren’t able to reach me, okay?”

“Well, I would do that, but she’s standing right here in front of me and… she’s knows that I’m talking to you.”

What the fuck?

“Is that so? So, basically, you were bullied into calling me, right?” I ask.

“Um, I… well…”

“No need to respond to that, darling. Put me on speaker and don’t say a word.” When I hear the background change, I start talking. “Courtney, I am very sorry that you’ve gotten dragged into a situation that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Unfortunately, I have no response for you to give to Grace. The reason I have no response for you to give to Grace is because I am not a child—I am an adult, and when I have something to say to another adult, I will say it directly to that other adult and not send a message through a third party like middle-schoolers passing notes in class. Miss Grace had some pretty strong words for me the last time that she spoke to me, so I’m finding it remarkable that she doesn’t have the gumption to say what she has to say to me now. Nonetheless, make no mistake, when I decide to relinquish my position and responsibilities at Helping Hands, she’ll be the first to know! Oh, and Courtney?”

“Yes, Ana?”

“Know that if you or anyone else is ever put in this third-party, messenger girl position ever again, I won’t answer any questions at all. That takes the responsibility off you having to worry about your job security because someone else has suddenly lost the desire or nerve to speak up for themselves. Now, you let me know if you need me for anything else and you have a good day, dear.”

I end the call with no other words. I should be upset, but I’m not. I’ve quickly grown weary of Grace’s childish antics and I’ll be happy to offer my sincerest apologies if we discover that she—like Val—is suffering from a malady beyond her control. But she’s a doctor and she saw what happened to her daughter-in-law and still won’t go get help to find out. As far as she’s concerned, she’s just being a bitch and we just have to deal with it, so c’est la vie.

“That didn’t sound good,” Gail says coming from the kitchen. I shake my head and stand.

“This situation with Grace is going to get worse before it gets better,” I tell her. “Christian and the family are meeting on Sunday. They’re giving her one week to sit down and talk rationally about what’s going on and what can be done about it before they start taking drastic measures.” Gail sighs.

“After what happened to Valerie, she can’t see that something might be terribly wrong?”

“If you’re talking about my tumor, no,” Val says coming into the kitchen and interrupting my conversation. “The best I can tell you is that it’s like a movie playing in front of your face. You’re watching it, but you really have no control over it.” I suddenly feel very self-conscious that Val walked in on this conversation.

“Val, we weren’t talking about you behind your back,” I begin.

“I know. You were talking about Grace,” she says, going to the refrigerator and retrieving one of her health drinks. “Elliot and I are both on the fence with this one. Grace seems more cognizant of her actions than I was, but that doesn’t mean anything. It hits people in different ways, so…” She shrugs as she takes a large swallow of her health drink. “I think, though, that we should probably be looking at other ailments.”

“Such as?” I press.

“Depression? Early onset Alzheimer’s?”

Alzheimer’s. Fuck, I hadn’t even thought about that.

“Her behavior seems a bit drastic for early onset Alzheimer’s, but who am I to say that? I have no experience with it,” I say with a shrug. Val reaches into her pocket and pulls out her phone. Looking at the screen, she sighs.

“What?” I ask.

“It’s Mia,” she says. “I’ve kind of been avoiding her call. I don’t want to go to that shower without you. It’s going to be a nightmare.”

“Well, I’ve told her my terms and she hasn’t gotten back with me yet, so…” Speak of the devil… The moment Val’s phone stops ringing, my phone rings next and, of course, it’s Mia.

“Can’t hide forever,” I say, swipe the screen. “Hey, Mia.”

“Anakins, is Val there?”

“Yeah, I’m sure she’s here somewhere. What’s up?” I say, making a face at Val.

“The cow isn’t answering her phone!” she says in the petulant child voice. I roll my eyes.

“She doesn’t carry it around with her all the time. It’s probably in one room and she’s in another.” She sighs.

“Well, just so you guys know, I didn’t fall down and bump my head. I know she won’t come to my shower without you, so are you coming?” Get right to the point, why don’t you. I make a gesture like I’m choking myself with one hand and Val covers her mouth to keep from bursting out in laughter.

“Mia, I told you, your Mom…”

“Yeah, so, Mom’s off wedding duty, so like I said, I expect for you to be at my shower tomorrow.” My eyes widen. What?

“Excuse me? Grace is off wedding duty?” I repeat. Val’s eyes mimic mine.

“Yes, and I’ve met with the wedding planner and kiboshed half that shit she had going on.” Oh, fuck. Now, I know my name is Mudd.

“Please tell me you’re joking,” I lament.

“Ana, there were belly dancers,” she says.

“Belly dancers?” I exclaim. “Why?”

“I have no idea,” she says. “There’s no reason whatsoever in the world that I can imagine that she would fathom that I would want belly dancers at my wedding. Half-naked women gyrating in front of my new husband? Seriously? Whose grand fucking idea was that? You wouldn’t believe the shit that she had Dad paying for and we can’t even get refunds on most of this crap. Did you know that she has half of downtown blocked?”

“Yes, I did,” I inform her. “But Mia, how did she have all this going on and you not know?”

“Most of this she kept hidden from me!” she exclaimed. “Yeah, I’ll admit, I got caught up in the splendor of a lot of it. I mean, it’s my wedding—it’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole. But then she kept saying things like, ‘Oh, I have this wonderful surprise for you,’ and ‘This is going to be the event of the century,’ and ‘Every mother wants to give her daughter a wedding that she’ll never forget,’ and every time she said something like that, all I kept seeing was sparkles and stars. I didn’t see pink flamingos and goddamn belly dancers!”

Suddenly, Mia sounds as if she has grown up; like she’s the parent and Grace is the child.

“Well, there’s still the tiny issue of that being Grace’s home. You need to know that I had a few choice words for your mother today,” I inform her.

“And what else is new?” she says. “What happened?” I explain the Courtney call to her and she sighs. “Well, here’s the thing. I’m not going to let my mom ruin my day for me. I don’t plan on getting married again, so I don’t plan on any other wedding showers. So, there won’t be any do-overs. If she can tolerate the pretentious posers that she invites to this house for charity meetings at least once a month, she can tolerate the woman that her son fell in love with and that she chose as assistant director for her charity for an afternoon!”

Whoa! Mia has done a complete one-eighty! I’m not sure exactly what happened, but she is all about business and not apologizing for it.

“Okay,” I say with uncertainty, “but I have to tell you. The moment Grace becomes belligerent or unkind to me, I’m leaving.”

“The moment Mom becomes belligerent or unkind to you, I’m leaving, because it’ll become blatantly clear that she doesn’t care about my happiness on that day. She only cares about herself.” Apparently, the princess has spoken. I throw a knowing look at my friend.

“In that case, Val and I will see you tomorrow.”

*-*

“I guess no one believes in being fashionably late anymore,” Val comments as we round the drive at Grey Manor. There are at least twelve cars parked here already—late model sporty numbers, most of them, and here I come with my high-priced, luxury, Mom-mobile. The valet rushes to my door to open it for me and Chuck is right behind him, having come up from the Audi behind us.

“Mrs. Grey, you look ravishing,” he says as he eyes me hungrily. I give him a suspicious smirk from behind my Jackie-O’s.

“Thank you,” I reply skeptically as he hitches one eyebrow at me. Chuck clears his throat from behind the guy and he steps away to allow me to exit the car.

“Park the cars, Skippy,” Chuck warns. “Flirt with the single women and try to avoid the wealthy wives with jealous, possessive, billionaire husbands that can ruin your life, okay?”

The young guy narrows his eyes at Chuck as Chuck ushers me away from the car. Val laughs and retrieves our gifts for Mia before we walk to the front door. I can’t blame the poor kid. I’m wearing an extremely figure-flattering sleeveless, cream mini-dress with a revealing v-split at the thigh. I’ve complemented it with a large gold cuff choker necklace and a draping forearm bracelet and a pair of sky-high stilettos—the kind that my husband says make my legs go on for miles. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance.

“God, Chuck, did you have to cut him down like that?” I ask quietly with a little mirth. Chuck shrugs.

“I told you, you’re like my kid sister… and that was disrespectful. He was eyeing you up like the next item on the menu.” I smile. It makes me feel good that we’re so close and his protectiveness doesn’t come solely from a sense of duty.

“And you say my husband is possessive,” I tease as we walk towards the house.

Another unfamiliar face opens the door for us and I realize that Grace and Mia must have hired additional staff for today’s festivities. Moving on into the great room, there’s a momentary gasp, then silence, and then a groan or two from various occupants of the room. I’m a little puzzled by the reception until Val leans in and informs me,

“Ah, the collective sound of disappointment.” I turn a quizzical eye on her and she mouths, “no Grey boys.”

“Oh,” I whisper quietly as we proceed to join the party. Silly us, getting their hopes up only for them to see li’l ole Chuck.

“Oh, God, I’m so glad you guys came,” Mia says, making her way to us and taking one of each of our hands. “I was so afraid you were going to change your minds.”

“No, we’re here as promised,” I say with a smile.

“Well, sit. Join the festivities. The games and such should be starting shortly.” She kisses us both on the cheek and takes her seat again. Val and I each take a glass of champagne and find a seat. We smile at various people, but are mostly greeted by fake half-smirks or nothing at all. Most of the girls are the lot that Val kicked off my yacht. Oh, joy! Just as I settle into my seat for an afternoon of Haterade, the cattiness begins.

“And the queen gold digger has arrived,” I hear one of the cats say just loud enough for the others to hear, and they all share a giggle.

“Okay,” Mia says, rising from the sofa and clanging her engagement ring to her champagne glass. “Your attention—everybody’s attention here, please.” A hush gradually falls over her party. “I have just realized a great malfeasance on my part. I have made a huge assumption for quite some time and I am about to correct that.” She walks over to me and Val.

“This is Valerie Grey, and this is Anastasia Grey. These are my sisters because they are married to my brothers. I have never introduced them as my sisters—I just assumed that you knew, but now I understand that you had no way of knowing. So, allow me to clarify that right now.” She gestures to Val, then to me, then to herself as she says, “Grey, Grey, Grey, and this is Grey Manor. When you enter Grey Manor, you are required to treat any Grey woman with the same respect that you would treat me or my mother. Having said that, allow me to present you with your options.

“You have two choices. You can put those high-priced, boarding school educations to good use, plaster a smile on those veneer-coated capped teeth and those chemical waxed faces, present yourselves like the high-class debutantes that you were taught to be, drink my expensive champagne, eat my expensive food, play these fun games, win some expensive prizes, get my expensive parting gifts, then return in a few weeks and enjoy my extravagant bachelorette party and participate in my even more extravagant wedding. However, all of this would require that you treat my sisters with the decorum and respect that you would treat me, my mother, or any Grey. Your other option would be to continue to behave like the uncivilized cunts that you’re behaving like right now and get the hell out of my sight and don’t come back. Which will it be, Lily?”

Mia folds her arms and looks squarely at the culprit who apparently was the ringleader for the ridicule. Oh. Lily. I’ve heard about her. I just haven’t committed her face to memory enough to care. Maybe I should do that now.

“I’ll behave,” Lily says begrudgingly.

“Good,” Mia says. “You can start by apologizing to Ana. You’re always atrocious to her when you see her.” Lily rolls her eyes.

“Sorry,” she spits like a petulant child. Mia scoffs.

“Oh, you can do much better than that,” Mia scolds. “I’d tell you to act as if Christian were watching you, but if you do it too well, she might deck you.” Lily’s shoulders fall in defeat and she sighs.

“I’m very sor…”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Mia interrupts, “eye to eye.” Lily rolls her eyes again and then makes eye contact with me.

“I’m very sorry that I called you out of your name,” she states. I really don’t care for the apology and I didn’t really want it, but I appreciate what Mia did.

“Apology accepted,” I say, and Lily returns to her seat.

“And what about the rest of you cows?” Mia says, turning on the rest of her party. “I’m getting married in a few weeks with or without you. I didn’t take kindly the last time somebody ridiculed one of my sisters and I’m not taking kindly to it now.”

Various members of the party utter various apologies and forms of “I’m sorry,” to which I don’t bother to respond.

“I guess that’ll have to do,” Mia acquiesces. “Don’t make them feel like shit and don’t ostracize them for the rest of the afternoon. I’ll be paying attention.” She releases a sigh. “Now, you bitches have effectively ruined my shower. What are you going to do about it?” One of the girls stands from one of the sofas and grabs Mia’s arm.

“You know we love you, bitch. Come on, let’s have some fun,” and she drags her off to the dining room. Val and I look at each other as a cluster of the girls follow. One of them looks back at us and comes over to us. She twists her lips in that what can I say kind of way, hooks arms with me and says, “Come on, let’s go eat expensive food and drink expensive champagne.” I grab Val’s hand and the three of us follow the cackling cluster to the dining room.

After Mia’s speech, we move the party to the garden and we’re having a surprisingly good time at the shower. When they’re not acting like spiteful, jealous cunts, these girls can actually be a lot of fun. The expensive champagne is flowing and the party games are a downright riot. I find out a bit more about Ethan than I think I ever wanted to know and poor Mia has turned several shades of embarrassed on nearly every revelation. The food just keeps coming, and we’re having a marvelous time. Grace hasn’t made an appearance, which I find very strange. I know that she’s been nixed from wedding duty, but I didn’t think that meant she couldn’t attend the shower at all.

Our good time is interrupted when we see one definite uninvited guest begin to make her way across the finely manicured lawn. I’m thinking that I must have had too much champagne because I’m certain she shouldn’t be here. The closer she gets, the more I feel like I must be hallucinating. The exclamation from my friend to the right of me lets me know that my vision is perfect.

“No fucking way!”

Val’s voice is deep and menacing, drawing the attention of the rest of the party to the figure walking across the grass. She must be out of her mind showing up here!

“Isn’t that Kate Kavanaugh?” one of the girls says. “You invited Katherine Kavanaugh? I thought you didn’t like her.” I turn to see Mia scowling in Kate’s direction.

“I don’t,” she replies, “and I didn’t.” She stands and begins to walk towards Kate. I go with her because I’m certain that Mia might just kill her, and if she comes anywhere near Val, Val will pulverize her, and Elliot will finish the job.

“Stop right there,” Mia warns. “I can guarantee you it’ll be way too dangerous for you if you come any further. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I…” Kate pauses. Now there’s a first. Katherine Kavanaugh at a loss for words.

“Spit it out, I don’t have all day and you’re interrupting my shower.” Kate looks down at the box that she’s carrying and hands it to Mia. It’s beautifully wrapped in blue paper with a pretty silver ribbon and bow.

“I don’t want your gift, Kate. However, I would like to know why you’re even here.” She clears her throat.

“I just… I’ve been horrible to your family and… I want to say I’m sorry. You’re going to be a part of my family soon and… our family is so fucked up and I just want to try to make things better.”

Mia stands gaped-mouthed at her and I must admit I’m a bit shocked, too, but I say nothing. I’m only here to keep Mia from lunging at the girl.

“Did you know that we have other siblings?” she says, her voice a tragic laugh. Hmm, I wonder how that came out. “A sister and brother, I think. A brother definitely.”

Mia is a still as a statue, dumbfounded by the intruder in her home. I’m afraid that she’s going to snap.

“Mia?” I say softly.

“Have you lost your mind?” Mia says immediately, my voice some kind of alarm clock from her trance. “You came to my parents’ house and crashed my bridal shower under the impression that we would hug and be sisters because I’m about to marry your brother? And what do you come telling me—that you’ve got two siblings somewhere? Like that’s supposed to make a bit of difference to me? Which is it—debutante give up a baby for adoption so that she didn’t roll down the aisle at graduation or whorish father had some kids stashed away that you guys are just finding out about?”

“The latter.”

We all turn our heads to the deep voice that just revealed the cause for Kate’s most recent family reunion to see an extremely angry Ethan walking across the lawn. “What the fuck are you doing here, Kate?”

“I… I was trying to make… Our family is shit, Ethan! It’s falling apart! It’s terrible! I was trying to find… I was… trying to make amends!”

“Make amends!” Mia nearly roars. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Make amends for what, exactly—for the shitty way you treated me the moment you thought your name was going to be Grey? Oh, wait, maybe it was for cheating on my brother after he put a ring on your finger that you clearly didn’t want or deserve. No, no, that can’t be it. Oh, I know! Could it be for publicly humiliating him and trying to pin a baby on him that you knew didn’t belong to him? Oh, hold up! I got it—it was when you tripped his wife—a cancer survivor—at a garden party at the country club, then stood there laughing as she took a face plant in the grass. Am I getting warm yet, Kavanaugh? Please, enlighten me—for which of your endless malfeasances will you be seeking absolution today?”

Kate looks like she’s going to cry and I’m feeling physically ill at the display. No sooner I think the words, Mia speaks them.

“Get her the fuck out of my parents’ house—now!” Mia demands.

“You heard her, Kate,” Ethan growls. “Get the fuck out before you embarrass yourself and the family even more than you already have.”

“My God, people! Have none of you ever made mistakes in your life?” Kate cries.

“Not as many as you, I suspect,” Val says from her seat before taking a sip of her champagne.

“You’re all heartless and cruel!” Kate sobs. Mia laughs at her dismay.

“This coming from the queen of cold and heartless!” she taunts. “You actually teased me and my brother for having terms of endearment, you cold-blooded cum-sucker, and now you have the nerve to come here spitting insults and looking for sympathy?” Mia glares at a speechless and tear-logged Kate before throwing her hands up and turning back to her party. She’s had her say, and now it’s time for Ms. Kavanaugh to find her way to the door.

“Mia, wait! I didn’t mean…” Kate’s path is halted by Chuck, who steps in front of her and glares directly in her face. Kate glares back at him with that indignant “he’s the help” look on her eyes.

“Chuck,” I begin, “my sister-in-law clearly stated that she wanted this person the fuck out her parents’ house. Did you hear that?”

“I did, ma’am,” he says, without taking his eyes off Kate.

“That means that at this point, she’s trespassing. Can you please make sure that she finds her way to the door?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says as he closes the space between them and gestures towards the house. “Ms. Kavanaugh.” She turns her hateful gaze to me.

“You’re such a bitch!” she hisses through her tears.

“Takes one to know one,” I say without emotion. “You should probably leave. Trespassing is severely frowned upon in Washington, and he now has reason to forcibly remove you if you don’t leave on your own volition, la chienne.” She does that appalled gasping thing she did when we first met and turns to Ethan.

“You’d let him do that to me?” she asks her brother, and she sounds genuinely hurt.

“I’d help him,” he replies stoically. Kate’s lip trembles and her shoulder fall. For the first time since I’ve known her, she looks utterly defeated. She doesn’t bother with any smart remarks or throwing any harsh looks my way. She takes in a deep breath and stares at her brother for long moments, and just when Chuck is about to step in and urge her to leave again, she turns and silently begins the long walk towards the French doors. Chuck falls in step behind her, and Ethan doesn’t even turn around to watch her walk away.

“What made you come?” I ask him. “Did you know she was coming?” He shakes his head, looking angrily at the ground.

“I just came to crash the shower,” he says, “have a little fun with my Kitten. I didn’t know she was going to crash it, too. I didn’t think she had the nerve to show her face in this house.”

“Yeah, she’s got a lotta nerve,” I confirm. It almost makes him laugh. “You’ve got siblings?” He nods.

“My father’s a whore,” he says. “You do the math. We’ve probably got siblings he doesn’t even know about.” We both look over at Mia, who’s ready to go absolutely nuclear. I’m about the head in that direction when Ethan draws my attention elsewhere.

“Uh… Ana?”

I turn to the sound of his voice and I see Mrs. Johnson running across the lawn from the house like a wild woman. She recognizes me and stops, grabbing my arm frantically.

“Please! Come!” she says, completely out of breath.

“What is it?” I ask, moving to fall in step behind her.

“It’s Dr. Grey. Come quickly!” In moments, the three of us are sprinting back to the house. That old woman can move, even out of breath! We burst through the French doors and into the kitchen where Grace stands surrounded by members of the staff while others scramble around the kitchen completely out of sorts. They’re all looking down at something and I hear water running.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” I ask.

“She’s bleeding!” someone declares.

“Who’s bleeding?” I demand as I push my way through the crowd to see what’s happened. It’s Grace. Her forearm is cut haphazardly, but dangerously close to her wrist and she and about 150 other people are running the cut under cold water. Okay, maybe it’s not 150 people, but there’s a fucking lot of them over here and not one of them knows what they’re doing…

… Including—it appears—the good doctor.

“Oh, God! No! Stop!” I damn near elbow everybody out of my way and snatch Grace’s arm from the water. “What are you trying to do—kill her?” I grab the nearest cloth I can find, which is a hand towel, and bunch it over the cut. It’s pretty bad—a huge, jagged cut that looks incredibly painful. “How did this happen?” I demand.

“She was cutting fruit for the drinks,” one of the staff say.

“Why was she in here cutting fruit?” I bark. All this fucking staff and you assholes still need help?

“She wanted to,” Mrs. Johnson interjects. “We told her that we could handle it, but she wanted to help…”

She was removed from wedding duty. She wanted to help. Dammit. The towel is soaking through quickly with her blood, so I find the pressure point in the bend of her elbow and press to slow the blood flow.

“Water, Grace?” I scold gently. “Were you trying to bleed out?”

“It was an accident!” she exclaims frantically. “I was cutting melons… then I saw Kate… I wasn’t paying attention…” I can understand why seeing Kate would cause her to lose concentration, but why was she in here cutting melons? She’s got all this staff and… it just doesn’t make sense. At that moment, Mia bursts into the room with Val running in behind her.

“Oh, my God, Mom, what’s going on?” Mia nearly shrieks. Ethan is by her side in moments. He knows that he needs to keep her away from Grace or she’ll really freak out.

“There was an accident,” he says, his voice soothing. “Ana’s got it under control.”

Mia clearly doesn’t believe him, but I turn my attention back to Grace’s arm, her blood now all over my white dress.

“Grace, what are you doing?” I say more to myself than to her, trying to pay attention to the cut and apply pressure to the wound and the pressure point in her elbow. She grabs my wrist with her uninjured hand, causing me to look up at her. Her blue eyes are wet, panic stricken, and full of fear. Her hands are shaking and her gaze begs me to hear her.

“I don’t know,” she says, her voice small and shaking. She looks like a helpless toddler asking for her mommy, like she has absolutely no control over the situation.

“Has someone called the paramedics?” I ask, my gaze never leaving Grace’s.

“Yes. I did. They should be here any minute.” The voice is unfamiliar, but I just need to hear the words.

“I’m here, Grace,” I say firmly. “I’m here.” Her shaking becomes violent, but she nods. I look over at Ethan and Mia. Poor Mia. Her shower is ruined and she’s caught in the middle of so much shit right now. I spot Val on the phone and I immediately know who she’s talking to.

“Tell them not to come here,” I tell her. She raises her gaze to me. “Tell them that the paramedics are en route and they’ll only get in the way. Tell them to stand by and as soon as we know what hospital she’s going to, we’ll tell them.” Val nods and keeps talking. I turn my gaze back to Grace. She’s getting weaker.

“What’s your blood type?” I ask, trying to stay calm.

“A… A positive.”

“Are you allergic to anything?” She shakes her head.

“Is there anything I should know? Advanced directives? Living Will?” Mia weeps heavily at my line of questioning, but I have to ask before she loses consciousness. She shakes her head.

“No… heroic measures… Cary knows…” She’s starting to fade. No heroic measures… fuck.

“You’ll need blood, Grace,” I warn.

“That’s… that’s fine… Cary…” Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Paramedics rush in and take over, quickly bandaging her arm and putting in an IV. I tell them what I know, but get out of their way so that they can work. They have Grace IV-ed, bandaged, and on the stretcher in less than five minutes, which is good since she’s losing consciousness.

“Listen,” I tell the paramedics. “She has to go Seattle General. There are just too many reasons that I can’t get into, but she has to go to Seattle General. Is that possible?” He looks at his colleague, then back at me.

“We’d be cutting it close,” he says. “We can’t be responsible if…”

“Can you physically do it without her dying?” I ask.

“Just barely,” he says. I sigh and look at Grace. She nods.

“Then let’s go right fucking now,” I say. I try to let them take her, but she won’t let go of my hand.

“Just come on,” the paramedic says.

“Seattle Gen!” I yell out as Grace and the paramedics drag me to the ambulance.

I swear that paramedic did a 15-minute drive in six minutes, but that was enough time for Grace to slip in and out of consciousness twice. She’s upset and the EMT tells me to do my best to keep her calm, so I try, but she’s too busy apologizing—for what, I’m not sure, and I’m praying to God that she didn’t do this on purpose. Did she feel that helpless? That depressed? Things like this don’t just happen out of nowhere. How did we not see this coming?

When we get to the hospital, they take us in through the ambulance entrance. Grace is still holding my hand, and she won’t let go. Neither will I. When they get her into one of the private areas and start to examine her, she loses consciousness again and releases my hand. At that point, the doctors and nurses take the opportunity to shoo me out of the room and closed the door while they get to work on Grace. I stand there in the middle of the emergency room for a moment, watching her through the window. They quickly assess the cut and start a skin bonding process to stop the bleeding. A-positive blood is put on an immediate infusion as they cut her clothes off. She’s pale from the blood loss and her body is shaking. She’s going into shock.

“Is that Dr. Grace?”

It’s not until I hear the voice that I realize one of the nurses—a tiny thing—has come out of the room and is talking to me. I purse my lips together, trying to maintain myself, and nod.

“Are you… Anastasia?” she asks. I move to nod again, but when I drop my head, I see my dress. It’s completely ruined, covered in my mother-in-law’s blood. I look at my hands—more blood. More blood… on my hands. Oh, God… oh, God, I think I’m going to be sick.

I can’t stop the blood-curdling wail that comes from my stomach. I truly don’t know what I’ll do if Grace didn’t come out of this okay. All the implications of this—the entire family would beat themselves down for years to come if she doesn’t pull through this okay. My stomach hurts so badly that I nearly curl into a ball on the floor, wailing. The tiny nurse who was standing next to me curls her body over mine and lets me cry, right there in the middle of the floor. I only cry for a few moments, because the Grey men will need an explanation, and no one really knows what happened but me. I uncoil myself from the floor, trying to control my sobs.

“She’ll be alright, Ana,” the nurse says. “She got here in time. We’ll take care of her, and so many of us love her. I promise you, we’ll take the best care of her that we can.”

I nod, but her words afford me very little comfort. I’m hoping to God that we didn’t push Grace to this. I look at my hands and my clothes and I break down crying again. The tiny nurse takes my hand and leads me down the hallway. I follow her blindly and she takes me—still sobbing—into a locker room. She leads me to the back where the showers are.

“Get undressed,” she says and hands me a plastic bag. “Put your clothes in here. Put your jewelry on top… except your rings. Get the blood off of you. I’ll have something that you can change into when you’re finished.” I blindly follow her instructions and strip out of my clothes and large pieces of jewelry. I allow the water to run over me and watch the red fluid run down the drain. More and more red fluid… so much red fluid that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end. It’s everywhere—in my nails, on my hands, in my hair, in my rings… I have to scrub for nearly 30 minutes before the water is finally clear. I put the bloodstained clothes and shoes in the plastic bag, intent on tossing the whole damn thing at my earliest convenience, and clean my jewelry in the sink. Tiny nurse comes back into the locker room.

“Here,” she says, handing me some pink scrubs. “I couldn’t find shoes, I’m sorry, but these will protect your feet from the cold floor, unless you want to wear your stilettos.”

No, I won’t be wearing the stilettos, so I dress in the hospital scrubs and the hospital socks with the treads on the bottom. These treads are cute little feet. It’s enough to bring my adrenaline down for a moment. She gives me a small velvety pouch and I put my jewelry inside.

“How do you know who I am?” I ask, sitting on one of the wooden benches between the lockers after I put the footies on. I look up at her and her head is cocked to the side with a knowing smirk on her face. I raise one hand and shake my head.

“Forget I asked the question,” I say. “As you know, it’s been a trying day.” She sits down next to me.

“Do you need a minute?” she asks. Honestly, I do, but I’ll only cry some more, and I don’t want to be alone. Besides, I have to go talk to my husband and his family about what’s going on.

“You know I’m a doctor, right?” I ask the nurse.

“Yeah,” she says softly.

“Can I ask you a question that I’m probably not supposed to ask?” She raises an eyebrow at me.

“You can ask, but I won’t guarantee that I’ll answer it,” she replies. Fair enough.

“Has Grace been okay at work?” I ask. “I’m not asking about her performance. I’m asking about her demeanor. Has she been herself, or has she been short-tempered? Distracted or depressed, maybe?” The nurse examines me carefully, then straightens her back.

“I’m not sure I should answer that,” she says firmly and professionally. I smile at her.

“That’s okay,” I say softly. “You just did.” I drop my face in my hands and sigh heavily. There’s a long silence in the room for a moment.

“We all love Dr. Grace very much,” she says, breaking the silence. “She’s like a surrogate mom to me. My mom is back east and Dr. Grace is so sweet to me. She’s like our family…” She trails off and when I look over at her, she’s wringing her hands. “We don’t want anything bad to happen to her. We’ll do everything we can to keep anything bad from happening to her.”

I know what she’s saying, but I have to put her on the right track. They can’t lie or do anything to protect Grace from the truth. She obviously needs help.

“What’s your name?” She rolls her eyes and I can see the beginning of tears.

“Quinn,” she says. “I hate my name. It’s a boy’s name. My mom loved the name—she said it sounded distinguished and she wanted me to have a distinguished name. I don’t think so, but I won’t change it because I love her so much and she loves the name… and I’m rambling. I ramble when I’m nervous.” She stops talking abruptly and goes back to wringing her hands. I put my hand over both of hers.

“The very first day I met Grace, she was kind and hospitable, gracious, professional, fiercely defensive of her family, and most of all, honest. I’ve seen some changes in her in the past weeks, which means that something is wrong. I love her, too, very much. I’m sure her entire family is in the waiting room right now, and they love her, too. But something is wrong. If we want to get our Grace back, if we want to keep her around, we have to find out what it is. It’s a horrible way for her to get here, but now that she’s here, we can.” Quinn raises her eyes to me.

“I’m not asking the hospital to do anything unethical,” I interject. “All I’m asking… begging… is don’t prevent the natural course of care.”

She blinks several times until the tears trek down her cheek, then quickly wipe them away. She holds her head down and nods.

“I’ll be talking to Carrick and I’ll be advising him along the way. Let everyone know that I’m a doctor and I love her as much as you do—probably more.” She raises her eyes to me again, and I don’t take it back. “She’s like family to you… she is my family.” Quinn nods again, cleans her face and stands.

“We… should probably go see if we can get an update,” she says. I stand with her and we leave the locker room with me carrying my bag of bloody clothes and small bag of accessories.

We make our way back to the room where Grace was brought in and there’s someone cleaning the blood from the floor—but no Grace.

“Where’s Dr. Grace?” Quinn asks the woman in the room.

“She’s in OR 5. That gash was pretty deep. It’s taking more than a few stitches to fix it.” She keeps cleaning like we just asked her what the fucking weather was.

“This is her daughter-in-law, Dr. Grey,” Quinn says through her teeth, “Christian Grey’s wife?” The girl stops mopping and looks closely at me.

“Oh!” she says with realization. “What are you doing back here? She can’t be back here!” she says, her voice panicked.

“She came in with Grace!” Quinn informs her firmly. “Her clothes look worse than those bandages,” she adds, pointing to bloody bandages all over the floor. “And did you not hear me? Dr. Grey?” She reiterates the “doctor” part. The “cleaning” girl sighs heavily. I don’t know if she drew the short straw or she’s really on the cleaning staff, but she’s wearing pink scrubs, too.

“Dr. Grey,” she says calmly, “she in the operating room getting her laceration sutured. As you can see, she needed blood, so it wasn’t something that we could effectively do in the ER. You should know that we’ll take the best care of Dr. Grace, and we’ll give you an update as soon as we get one, but we don’t have anything right now.” I know that whoever she is, she can’t give me much more than that, and she’s probably already given me more than she should have.

“Thank you,” I say sincerely. “I appreciate the information.” I need to filter what I give Christian and the family. If I give them this feedback with no further information, Christian will definitely become the proverbial bull in a China shop. I turn away, examining my scrubs for signs of blood. None. Good. I have to give my family an update.

“I know that I’ve imposed on your kindness quite a bit,” I tell Quinn, “but you probably want to find someone from hospital administration and let them know that Grace Grey’s entire family is in the ER waiting room, and that’s probably not a good thing.”

“Oh,” Quinn says, breathily, her brow furrowed. “Yeah… no… probably not.” I nod. I look at the double doors leading out to the waiting room as if they are the elevator doors from Final Destination 2 right before Nora loses her head. Good God, what am I supposed to tell Christian? And Carrick? And Elliot? And Mia? I don’t want to lie to them and I have no idea how long I’ve been back here or what’s even filtered out to them by now. This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do… I don’t know, maybe. Why am I debating this right now?

I’m stalling. I’m stalling and hoping that someone is going to swoop up behind me and rescue me from having to face them with no real update, but that’s not going to happen and it’s cruel to make them wait.

I take a deep breath and exit the doors headed to the waiting room.


A/N: la chienne—bitch (literally “the bitch”)

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

Raising Grey: Chapter 26—The Real Monsters

This is a work or 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 here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

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 26—The Real Monsters

CHRISTIAN

Breathe.

Fucking breathe.

Fucking motherfucking breathe, for God’s sake.

You did have the shit beaten out of this asshole.

It is your fault that your children are getting death threats on social media.

Yes, you wanted to send a message to this asshole to shut the fuck up and now he will.

Now, fucking breathe.

I’m squeezing my desk chair so goddamn hard that the cow that produced the fucking leather is screaming right now. My head feels like it’s going to explode. None of these fanatical, blowhard locos on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest, or Goggle+ are brave, angry, or even ambitious enough to get anywhere near my babies, but the outpouring of support that this contemptable degenerate is receiving for his deplorable behavior towards my wife and family is making my blood boil. If they want to see me become a heartless, cold-blooded, callous, money-slinging elitist, then that’s what the fuck they’ll get! My staff has already gotten over 25,000 social media profiles frozen for posting death threats towards my children, and they ain’t seen nothing yet!

“Boss…”

“Give me a minute!” I hiss, still trying to calm myself.

“I understand, Boss, but I need you to release that chair before you break some skin. Her Highness will have my ass if I allow you to hurt yourself.”

That did it.

I busted my phone.

I busted my phone with Butterfly on the line.

Shit. She probably thinks I’m destroying my office right now.

I take several deep breaths and start counting.

Fucking motherfucking shit fucking hell. When it fucking rains it pours.

I’m going to fucking sue this man until he doesn’t have socks to wear.

I’m going to sue the stations that broadcasted his stories.

I’m going to sue the anchors and DJ’s that interviewed him.

I’m going to sue bloggers that post articles about him.

I’m going to sue women who talk about him at bridge parties.

I’m going to sue little kids who talk about him on the playground.

I’m going to sue babies who dream about him in their cribs.

When I get to somewhere around 3,965 or something like that, I realize that I probably can’t prove that babies dream about him in their cribs, so I scratch that one.

“I need another phone,” I grumble.

“Already on the way,” Jason says.

“Has anyone talked to my wife?” I ask.

“I texted her when we got to the office,” he says. I nod. I need to talk to her. I don’t know what I said to her before I broke the phone.

“Give me a minute,” I say. He nods and leaves the office. I don’t know when I calmed myself enough to take a seat, but I sit there for a moment before I pick up the receiver and dial the number.

“Christian?” Her sweet voice is worried.

“Hey, Butterfly,” I sigh.

“Are you okay?” I shake my head.

“I will be,” I answer truthfully. She’s silent for a moment.

“They want answers, you know,” she says. I nod.

“I know,” I reply. “They’ll get them when we do the interview. I’ve announced that there’s a gag order, so they know that there’s only so much that can be said. We can’t really talk about it.”

“Well, that’ll help,” she replies. “I’m going in to Helping Hands tomorrow. I need to get some things done… and I can’t hide forever.” I sigh.

“I know. It’s not your fight anyway. Dad will face her when he’s ready. He just needs some time to deal with some things. Hell, he hasn’t even dealt with Pops’ passing yet…” I trail off. There’s just too much shit going on at once. “I’ll be home soon. I’m just waiting for my phone.”

“I’ll be waiting, baby. I love you. I’m proud of you. You did good… except maybe for that whole sperm thing.” I laugh.

“Yeah, maybe I went a little overboard with that,” I confess. “I love you, too, Butterfly. See you soon.”

*-*

“Sorry about the gaggle of reporters outside your office, but I had to come in,” I tell the doctor.

“I can’t say that I get many local celebrities, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. So, Mr. Grey, when is the last time you’ve gotten your eyes checked?” I shrug.

“Maybe three or four years ago, I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “But now, they seem tired all the time and I’m squinting a lot.”

“All the time, or at particular times?” the doctor asks.

“Mainly when I’m reading or looking at my computer,” I tell him.

“Do you have problems driving? Watching television? Seeing long distances?” I shake my head.

“Not that I’m aware of.” He nods.

“It appears that what’s happening to your eyes is completely normal for someone who reads a lot and spends a lot of time looking at a computer screen. It’s also the natural aging process of the eye. Let’s do an eye exam and a couple of routine tests and see what we find.”

About an hour and a half later, Butterfly has chosen two pairs of lightweight glasses for me—thin frames, nothing dramatic, with scratch-resistant lenses and that non-glare computer coating. She teases me at first, but then confirms that I look sexy in them. We can barely get out of the eye-doctor to get back to the car with the reporters blocking the way. This is the first time I think I’ve ever seen my wife refuse to engage the press. Rossiter has thankfully been mum, no doubt honoring the gag order since he was informed that breaking it would be considered contempt of court and coupled with an outstanding protection order against him, he’d most likely be looking at jail time. Ah, sweet silence.

He should have just kept his mouth shut in the first place and he wouldn’t have had to worry about any of this.

“So, I was thinking,” I begin once we get settled in the car and on our way, “Danika Farrell had a good platform and so did Raynell Stanton. Did you get a look at… oh, hell, what’s her name?” The name is on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t pull it out right now.

“None of the guys appealed to you?” she asks as she outlines the empty baby seat with her finger. We thought it best to leave the children at home with all the commotion surrounding us right now. I shake my head.

“The ones that showed any real promise seemed to have ulterior motives. Maybe I’m just overreacting under the circumstances…” I trail off.

“No, you’re not,” she confirms. “I wondered if you picked up on that or if I was just being paranoid. They often made me feel… uncomfortable. I usually don’t trust women, but I got the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to trust the men more.” She shrugs. “I liked Maria Sanchez. I was both surprised and pleased that she was interested.”

“That’s the one,” I say. “I should have remembered. She has the same name as that tennis player. Yeah, she seemed pretty professional. You want to set up a meeting?” Butterfly nods.

“A phone meeting? She’s in New York, isn’t she?”

“I’ll have Mac call her and find out what she wants to do,” I say. “Who should we have as back-up in case Sanchez falls through?”

“The other two that you mentioned,” Butterfly suggests. “Raynell Stanton and Danika Farrell. Set up meetings with all of them. No use putting all our eggs in one basket.” I nod.

“Good thinking.”

I call into the office and have Mac set the meetings with the various broadcast journalists while Butterfly calls home to check on our children. As we end our respective calls, we drop her and Chuck off at Helping Hands with one of the Audi SUVs and head to Grey House—with at least two paparazzi in tow.


ANASTASIA

“Oh, my God, you wouldn’t believe what’s been going on around here since you’ve been gone.”

Jessie grabs me the moment she sees me walking down the hall and ushers me into the kitchen. I was technically only gone for two days—Friday and Monday—but apparently, it was an eternity for the staff at Helping Hands… and it appears more than that.

“Grace is going nuts,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to put it. She’s been snapping at people. She’s short with everybody. People just kind of part or hide when she shows up. They can tell by the sound of her shoes when she’s coming down the hall. She comes through like a hurricane and she leaves destruction behind her. She’s never been like this and I’ve been here for years! She’s irritable, crabby, angry—she’s upset with the world. She looks like she’s sick or not getting any sleep. She’s short and snappy with everybody. She’s a real bitch.” I frown hard.

“Jessie! Is that really necessary?” I snap.

“Yes, Ana, it is!” she says, her tone desperate. “It’s even worse than that. She…” She stops talking mid-sentence and pauses. “She’s coming.” I have to listen really carefully, but I finally hear the faint click of determined heels off in the distance. Damn, how did she hear that? Suddenly, there’s nobody in the kitchen but me and Jessie. There was a flurry of activity in here a minute ago and now… nobody. I look at Jessie who gives me a look of impending doom right before a tsunami of hell breezes through the room.

The angry clicking heels stop suddenly and I turn around to see the snarling face of who I think is Grace Trevelyan Grey scowling at me.

“Well,” she begins, “I’m so glad you decided to join us,” she shoots at me before glancing around the kitchen. “Where is everyone? Lunch should be ready in fifteen.”

“Lunch won’t be late, ma’am,” Jessie assures, and says nothing else.

“Or cold, I hope,” Grace adds. She stares at Jessie, awaiting confirmation.

“Or cold,” Jessie adds, after a pause.

“Good.” Grace turns a spiteful gaze to me. “You should probably let her work. I don’t pay her to stand here and socialize.” With that, she turns and marches out of the kitchen and down the hall, her heels banging a punishing tattoo on the linoleum. I turn an incredulous gaze to Jessie who only sighs and looks at me as if to say, “I told you.” She takes a ladle from a hook above her head and taps it twice on an aluminum table behind her… and people begin to appear from nowhere.

They have a goddamn signal.

“Get lunch served guys, pronto,” she says gently, “and make sure it’s not late… or cold.” She turns back to me.

“What the fuck?” I breathe.

“Like I said, that’s not all.” She pulls me into the small office off the kitchen and closes the door.

“I don’t know if or when John’s coming back,” she says as she takes a seat behind her small desk.

“What? Why?” I ask.

“His boy is in a real bad way,” she says. “It’s not pneumonia and they don’t know what it is. They’re running test after test, but they can’t figure it out. They don’t know if he’s going to make it.”

Christian hasn’t mentioned anything. I wonder if he even knows.

“That means with you not here, there hasn’t been a counselor here for the last few days. Saturday, two of the families got into a fight.”

“Oh, shit.” My hand flies to my mouth.

“Grace tried to resolve the issue with all the tact that you just saw. It didn’t go over well. You couldn’t have done anything, because you’re not here on Saturday anyway. She’s not usually here on Saturday, either, but this Saturday, she was.”

Because Carrick was at our house and she probably didn’t want to be home alone.

“Anyway, one of the families left—a mother and her two kids. She went back to her abusive husband. She ended up in the hospital the same night. The kids are with Social Services.”

“Oh, my God.” I drop my head in my hands and groan. “Who was it?”

“Patty Moore.” I sigh. Patty hadn’t been here long.

“Is she okay?”

“We don’t know. We haven’t gotten any updates.” I nod.

“Thanks for telling me.” I stand and leave her office. A lump forms in my throat as I walk down to my office. Grace was so nasty to me a moment ago… nasty to Jessie. John’s son is sick—he could be dying, we don’t know. One of our residents went back to her abusive husband and was put in the hospital… and Grace seems like she’s about to self-destruct. This is more than just selfish behavior over a damn wedding. What the fuck is going on with this woman?

I stop at my office door and look at the papers on my desk. Instead of going inside, I continue down the hall to Grace’s office. Her door is closed. It’s never closed. I knock, but she doesn’t answer. I knock again and she still doesn’t answer. I didn’t hear the angry clicking of her heels coming back down the hallway, so I try the doorknob and it opens. There she is at her desk, banging away at her keyboard.

“A closed door usually means that someone doesn’t want to be disturbed,” she snaps.

“A closed door for you is very unusual, so I wanted to be sure that you were okay,” I retort. She scoffs.

“There’s a switch,” she shoots and it’s like a snowball just whizzed pass my face.

“Where did that come from?” I ask, appalled. She raises an impatient gaze to me.

“Do I look like I really want to want to play this game with you?” she says accusing. And now, I’m getting angry.

“What game?” I snap.

“My husband goes to talk to you one afternoon and that night, he leaves me,” she accuses. “I try to talk to you that same day about my son—your husband—and you won’t talk to me about him, and now, neither will he. He’s all over the news and I have no idea what’s going on. There’s this whole unified front going on and right in the middle of everything… is you. And now here you are, showing up the day after a press conference all ‘concerned’ about me.”

She does the finger quotes around the word concerned, and her voice is so accusatory and so condescending that I’m struck completely dumb. I have absolutely no comeback. I stand there gaping at this alien creature unable to address her in any way. I have no other recourse but to walk out the door that I just walked into and go blindly down the hall to my office. I feel like I just stepped into an alternate universe where black is white and good is bad and monkeys are trucks. I don’t know how long I stand there looking at the stack of papers on my desk, my messenger bag still on my shoulder before I realize that Grace has followed me to my office.

Her mouth is moving but I can’t hear what she’s saying. I only know that she’s angry. Now, I focus… I focus on her words…

“I don’t know or understand how you supposedly helped so many families and yet, you tore mine apart! I used to think that you were the best thing that ever happened to Christian. Now, I see that I might have been wrong about that!”

She turns around and the angry march of her heels click back to her office before the door slams again.

Did she just say that? Did she really just say that to me?

Suddenly, my head is clear as a bell and I know what I need to do. I need to get the hell out of here.

*-*

I’ve been sitting at my desk in my study for quite some time now staring at my phone. I made Chuck swear not to call Christian once we got home. I’m safe at the house; nothing’s wrong, and there’s no need to tell him that I’m not at Helping Hands. I’ll cross that bridge whenever I need to get to it, but I just can’t cross it now.

However, there’s one bridge that I have to cross whether I want to or not. I don’t want to cross it, but I owe it to her not to put it off. I swipe my screen and dial the number.

“Anakins, hi.”

“Hi… Mia… Listen, I’m really very sorry, but I’m going to have to pass on your bridal shower.” There’s a pause.

“What? Why?” I sigh.

“Out of respect for Grace. I really don’t think she wants me there.”

“What in the world would make you think that?” she squeals. “Mom loves you! Of course, she would want you here.”

“She… we…” I don’t know how to tell her this, so I just spit it out. “She said some really horrible things to me today. She thinks it’s my fault that Carrick moved out and she told me that she doesn’t think I’m right for Christian. I think she would find it quite offensive if I was in her home and I don’t want to offend her, so I’m sorry. I can’t come.” Mia makes this angry growling noise.

“I’m getting to the bottom of this right now!” she declares angrily and I immediately panic.

“Mia… please. I beg you. As my sister, I beg you… please don’t mention this to Christian… or Carrick… please… I beg you…” I’m on the verge of tears. I’m so desperate, I’ll weep if I must. She sighs.

“I won’t,” she vows, “I won’t mention this to my brother or my father, but you will be present at my bridal shower if I have to hold it at different location. Do you understand?” I nod as if she can see me. “Ana, do you understand me?”

“Yes!” I squeak, unable to retain my tears.

“I’ll get to the bottom of this. I promise you, okay?” she says, her voice urgent.

“Okay,” I breathe.

“I’ll call you soon,” she says, and ends the call. I grip the phone to my chest and weep. I don’t know if it’s sorrow or adrenaline, but I’m weeping—coughing, weeping, ugly tears all over the papers on my desk. What papers are on my desk? Letter #19 to the licensing board? Some invitation to a party somewhere? An appointment I was supposed to keep? Unopened mail?

“Ana?”

Fuck!

“Ana, what the fuck?”

When did he get here? What’s he doing here? Why isn’t he at Grey House? Who snitched? Goddammit, Chuck!

“What the hell? What’s going on with the women in my family?” My husband falls to his knees next to me and puts his hand on my back. Women. It was Mia then. Dammit, she swore she wasn’t going to say anything! She promised me! That makes me cry harder.

“Ana, talk to me, please,” Christian beseeches. I throw myself into his arms and sob like the world is ending. “Anastasia, please…”

“I broke your family!” I wail into his shoulder. “I was… only… trying to… help… and I… broke… your family!”

“You did not break my family! For fuck’s sake, Ana… Dad!”

I can’t say anything else. I can’t even control my tears. This is a fucking mess—a ginormous, fucking mess and I admit it, I can’t fix it. My husband lifts me from my desk chair and I feel him carrying me—to where, I don’t know, but I feel myself floating while water and grief flow freely from my eyes.

“What’s this?” I hear Carrick’s voice ask a few moments later.

“I don’t know,” Christian declares angrily. “My wife seems to think she broke my family!”

“Where is this coming from?” Carrick questions, and I still can’t answer.

“Chuck!” Christian bellows. Goddammit! Call the Spanish Inquisition, why don’t you? What time is it anyway? Chuck appears and sees me crying, then realizes the cat is out of the bag. “What the hell happened today?”

“I don’t know,” Chuck replies.

“How long have you been back?” He looks at his watch.

“About five hours.” Five hours? That means it’s about seven o’clock.

“Five hours? Why didn’t somebody tell me?” Christian barks.

“Because nothing was wrong,” Chuck answers. “She wanted to come home. She wasn’t sick. She wanted to come home. She was safe. Nothing was wrong.”

“She’s crying!” Christian snaps.

“She wasn’t crying when we got home,” Chuck says.

“You’re dismissed,” Christian says, waving him off. “You’re no help.” Chuck shrugs and walks away. So, it was just time for Christian to come home. Mia hasn’t told him anything. I just did.

Le sigh.

“Ana, what’s going on? Why do you think you broke my family?”

I’ve cried myself into exhaustion and now, both Grey men need answers. I don’t know how to say what I need to say without making Grace look like the bad guy, but the truth is that Grace is the bad guy and the last time that we ignored behavior like this, somebody had a tumor.

I take a deep breath and try to compose my emotions.

“You’ve moved out of your home. Have you ever done that before?” Carrick stares at me for several moments, then shakes his head.

“You’re not speaking to your mother. Ever since you’ve found your words, you’ve never alienated yourself from your mother. Am I right?” Christian frowns and nods.

“I just called Mia and told her that I won’t be able to attend her bridal shower. The reason—because I saw Grace today, and she feels that I’m reason you moved out and you’re not speaking to her. She told me that she once felt that I was the best thing that ever happened to you and now she thinks she was wrong.”

Christian and Carrick look at each other in confusion and back at me.

“The staff at Helping Hands are walking on eggshells. That woman is a terror. At first, I thought she was angry and cantankerous because her husband moved out, but it’s much more than that. Something’s wrong. Something’s ghastly wrong. She needs to talk to someone. She needs to see someone. She needs to find out what’s wrong. The last time we ignored this, Valerie had a tumor.”

Carrick’s face pales and he falls back in his seat.

“Do you think… do you think she has a tumor?” he asks.

“I have no idea what’s going on, Carrick,” I confess, “I only know that something’s not right and it’s not just this wedding. This is not Grace. I’m so certain of it that I’m not returning to Helping Hands.”

“What?” Christian exclaims incredulously.

“If she doesn’t get some help, if she doesn’t see someone, I’m not returning to Helping Hands. I’m willing to submit my resignation if that’s what she wants.”

“Anastasia, that’s so extreme…” Carrick begins.

“I watched my friend… my sister… dwindle away before my very eyes for months. She degraded me; she insulted me; she did and said every cruel and horrible thing to me that she could, refused to get help and the entire time, she was dying! I’m not going to sit by and watch that happen to Grace. Something is wrong. It may not be fatal, but something is wrong. If she wants to alienate everybody that loves her, that’s fine, but I’m not going to sit by and watch it.” I take a deep breath and resolve myself to my possible fate.

“Christian and I have another project that we have to focus on right now. Once that’s done, I’ll look into other causes, if I must, but if she doesn’t get help, I’m done with Helping Hands.”

I push my hands through my hair, stand from the sofa and walk to the stairs to go to my room, leaving my father-in-law and my husband to ponder my words.

Once again, time has passed and I don’t know how much. I’ve been swinging contentedly on the water swing in the backyard in a warm, cozy sweater enjoying the silence and the starry sky when I see a shadowy figure approach and take a seat in the grass in front of me. I can’t really see his face, but I can make out the shape of that body anywhere.

“How do you get into that thing without getting your feet wet?” he asks.

“There’s a trick to it,” I reply. The truth is that there’s a large rock just at the surface of the water and another one at the water’s edge. On a hot, summer day, it doesn’t matter. On a cool night, you just step carefully.

“Dad and Mia are having a war counsel,” he says. I try to focus on him in the dark.

“Not you? Elliot?” I ask. I can see him shaking his head.

“Not yet,” he says. “Dad’s trying to get a feel for Mom’s behavior since he’s been gone. We’re kind of at a loss on how to proceed with this…” I know what that means. I sigh.

“Sometimes it is such a pain in the butt being responsible for every damn body,” I gripe.

“I know, baby,” he says. “I totally understand, but you’re the professional. You understand so much more than we do, and we’re fish out of water here… and this is my mom.” I frown.

“Christian, how can you tell me to be understanding while you’re being standoffish?” I ask. I don’t need light to see the look of realization that spreads across his face.

“That’s… a good point,” he admits. Yeah… really! “I’m sorry. I hadn’t considered… We’ll figure something out.”

“I’m not saying that I won’t help. I’m just saying that while you’re petitioning me to assist and you know this is difficult with what she’s said to me and my history with Val, just… consider your own behavior in this, okay?” I can see him nodding.

“Duly noted.” He wraps his arms around his knees. “Jason nearly got a ticket on the way home today, but his radar detector went off and tipped him off. The cop flipped his lights on and everything, but couldn’t get a read on his radar as we passed, so he had to abandon the endeavor. Something’s definitely going on with Seattle PD. Jason’s got some of his contacts on the inside looking into things. We’ll have some answers tomorrow for sure.”

“Why in the world is Seattle PD targeting us?” He shakes his head and shrugs.

“I don’t know. Maybe Rossiter has some friends in high places?” I shake my head.

“If that were the case, he would have had you and some of the staff arrested for that attack—or at least pulled in for questioning.” He shrugs.

“I don’t know then. We’ll just have to wait and see.” I close my sweater around me. It’s getting chilly.

“We should probably get you inside. It’s getting a little late,” Christian says. It really doesn’t matter. I have nowhere to be tomorrow because I sure as hell am not going into Helping Hands, but I know he wants me out of the night air. I reach out my hand to him and he stands, taking my hand and helping me navigate the stones to keep from falling into the lake. I’m instantly warm when he pulls me into his embrace.

“On top of everything else, she walks on water,” he jests.

“Yes, she’s amazing, isn’t she?” I reply. He gazes down at me and I can see his beautiful grey eyes clearly in the moonlight now. They’re full of love and concern.

“I love my mother, but I won’t allow her to bully you,” he says soberly. I nod.

“I know,” I say softly. “There’s something going on. It could very well be emotional and I don’t want everybody jumping the gun, but it’s something. The family needs to get to the bottom of it.”

“You’re right and we will,” he says, kissing me gently on the cheek. When he pulls his face back to mine, his lips brush my mouth before morphing into a yearning kiss, and the warmth between us ignites to something more.

“God, I’m hungry for you damn near all the time,” he breathes against my lips.

“Ditto,” I pant when our mouths part, taking in a deep breath to steady myself. He sighs as he kisses the corner of my mouth, then places his forehead on mine.

“Okay?” he asks. I nod slightly.

“Okay.” He puts one arm around me and we walk back to the house.

“You’re right. Something’s up. She’s completely unreasonable!” Carrick barks the minute we walk into the family room.

“What happened?” Christian asks. Carrick has removed his jacket and tie and is pacing around the family room in his vest and dress shirt. For the first time since I’ve known him, his hair has the JBF look like Christian’s!

“The conversation that I just had with her was something out of the Twilight Zone!” he declares. “It went from your wedding to Dad’s death to our prenuptial agreement. I completely forgot that we had a prenup!” He throws his hands up in the air on the word “forgot” and now, he’s not making any sense at all.

“Wait a minute!” Christian yelps. “How the hell did the conversation get around to your prenup?”

“I have no flippin’ idea!” Carrick yells. “There was no reason on God’s green earth for her to dig that out of Tarnation. I have absolutely no clue where that came from.”

“Were you talking about Mia and Ethan’s wedding?” Christian probes. “Do they have a prenup? Is that what it is?”

“Son, the conversation never even got to Mia’s wedding,” Carrick informs him. Christian frowns.

“You said you were talking about a wedding…”

“I said your wedding!” Carrick corrects him.

Our wedding?” I chime in. “What does our wedding have to do with any of this?” Carrick looks at me, then at Christian, then down at the floor.

“You might as well say it, Dad, because whatever it is, I’m just going to tell her later,” Christian says. Carrick sighs and sits on the sofa. I sit next to him and Christian sits on the ottoman in front of him.

“Grace was so supportive of me through Dad’s death,” he begins. “From the moment we got the news through his passing, the arrangements, the service… the cremation was the worst. I thought I wouldn’t make it. Herman, Stan, and I decided to do it on our own, but the moment Stan pushed the button and Dad went into the incinerator, we all fell apart. We immediately knew that it was a bad idea to do this without our women.”

He chokes the last word out and wrings his hands while recalling his final goodbye to his father.

“We held onto each other so tightly in the back of that limo on the way back to the house that the blood stopped circulating in my hands. I needed my Gracie, and when I got home…” He trails off and clears his throat.

“Two weeks. Two weeks almost to the day, Grace was my rock. She helped to hold me together, to get back to work and get things back to normal and then… she changed. She became unapproachable. I couldn’t touch her; I couldn’t talk to her; she didn’t want to be around me… I thought it was just the stress of the wedding, but it got exponentially worse by the day! Little things would set her off and when I tried to talk to her, it was like a demon has possessed my wife and a snarling, hissing cat was standing at the gate threatening to scratch my eyes out if I dared to come near her.”

Tears form in Carrick’s eyes. This is part of the story he hasn’t shared with me. We haven’t gotten this far in our talks.

“I… started to feel… I don’t know, depressed, I think. I missed my Dad and I missed my wife. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. I’m the man of the family. I’m supposed to be the strong one…”

A common misconception of most traditional male figures is that they’re not supposed have moments of weakness… ever! As a result, a lot of them end up taking it out on their spouses and significant others, becoming oppressive and abusive in an attempt to regain the supremacy they feel they’ve lost. Carrick, on the other hand, was sinking into a dark hole and had to find an escape—which he found here at our house.

“She couldn’t see that I was choking—suffocating in my own grief. I ache for more time with my father. I feel robbed… horribly cheated out of years and years of memories with a man that I loved and respected and it’s consuming me from the inside out, and the only person that I could share those feelings with…” He trails off and scrubs his eyes before the tears fall.

“So, I had to leave. I could only deal with one disappointment at a time and, God help me, the pain I’m feeling about my father runs deeper than my wife’s selfishness, so I have to deal with that first. Grace, on the other hand…” He sighs heavily. “Grace is seeing the situation through an entirely different set of glasses. I can’t explain to you what she’s seeing because I don’t understand the logic in what she’s seeing. She’s somehow linking everything to you…” He points to me, “… because you’re married to our son and I talked to you the day that I moved out. You’re the common denominator and she can’t see her own error in any of this.  When Mia and I tried to talk to her, there was that snarling cat at the gate again.” I roll my eyes.

“Once again, meet Ana, the root of all evil,” I lament. Christian squeezes my knee to comfort me.

“Did you try to suggest that she talk to somebody, Dad?” Christian asks. “Her behavior is bordering on irrational.”

“I didn’t dare,” he says, “and she’s beyond ‘bordering,’ son. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not an egg short a dozen where I can have her committed for observation, but someone’s certainly tiptoeing around the henhouse!” I want to laugh at the analogy, but this is certainly no laughing matter.

“So, what do we do?” I ask, “Wait until she alienates everyone in her life and then take action? Because I’m telling you, she’s not going to have a staff at Helping Hands in a minute.”

“I don’t know that there’s anything we can do,” Carrick says. “I can force her to see a doctor until she sees that something is wrong and I don’t see that happening, or until or unless she does something to hurt herself or someone else and let’s hope to God that doesn’t happen!”

“No, I don’t see that happening,” I chime in. “I guess… we just wait,” I resolve. Carrick nods. “That reminds me, you need to call John,” I say to Christian. He turns his gaze to me.

“John who?” he asks.

“Flynn?” I reply. How many “Johns” to you know that I know? Boy, that doesn’t sound right.

“Okay… why? Or, why now, I should say?” he asks.

“Something’s wrong with his son. It doesn’t look good,” I reply.

“John Flynn? The psychiatrist?” Carrick asks. “What’s wrong with his boy?” I shrug.

“I don’t have any details,” I confess. “I just know that he hasn’t been at Helping Hands for quite some time and they thought he had pneumonia, but now, they’re saying it’s something else, but they don’t know what it is.”

“Oh, that’s doesn’t sound good,” Carrick says.

“I’m afraid not,” I agree. Christian looks at his watch.

“It’s late, now. I’ll call him tomorrow,” he says. We both look at Carrick. He looks so forlorn. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Is there anything that we can do?” I ask. He looks over at me without making eye contact.

“You’re already doing it, dear girl,” he says sadly. “There’s nothing we can do about this right now but keep a watchful eye on things. I’ll say this, though. If this goes on for much longer, I’ll have to move into a hotel…”

“You’ll do not such thing!” I interrupt.

“Dad, you can’t move into a hotel, for a lot of reason. For one, you won’t get any peace. The press will eat this up. And two, it doesn’t… you just can’t move into a hotel. I have a mansion… and a luxury yacht. Hell, you have a luxury yacht—you can’t move into a hotel!”

“Okay, okay, son, I get it,” Carrick acquiesces, “but we can’t go on like this indefinitely. As long as I stay here, this is Enemy Central.”

“You’re damn straight we can’t stay like this indefinitely. Somehow, Mom has to get her shit together,” Christian confirms. “She can’t blame my wife her for lying on her to me or for lying on me to Hammerstone and his wife. Her priorities are all fucked up and if she’s bringing up my wedding in any conversation, it’s because she didn’t have control over it and she’s still pissed about it. Am I right?”

Carrick’s silence and the guilty glance that he flashes at me confirms that my husband has hit the nail on the head.

“I thought so. So, here’s the deal, Dad. Mia’s bridal shower is Saturday, so I won’t hijack that day or my sister’s festivities. But I’m calling a family meeting on Sunday afternoon—me, you, Mia, and Elliot. Mom has one week to sit down and talk to us about whatever the hell is going on like she has some sense, or I’m going to see what we can do about forcing her to get some kind of help. I watched my brother fall apart dealing with the woman that he loves and the sickness that she had all by himself because she had pushed everyone away from her since nobody knew what was going on. I’m not saying that this is the same thing that’s going on with Mom, but I’m not going to sit by and watch and wait to find out.”

Carrick looks incredulously at his son before resolution falls over his face.

“You’re right,” he says. “This is not my Grace. I don’t know who or what this is, but it’s not my Grace. I can tell you that it’s not as drastic as what I saw with Valerie, though.” They both turn to me. I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I’m sensitive. I’m on the receiving end of unwarranted bullshit as I was with Val. It’s likes asking someone the difference between stubbing the fuck out of your baby toe and accidentally hitting you finger with a hammer. They both hurt like hell, but which one hurts the most?” Carrick nods.

“One week, Dad,” Christian says. “We’ll discuss it more on Sunday. I just don’t want you taking this all on your shoulders by yourself.” Carrick stands.

“I think I’ll turn in. This day has been quite enough for me.” Christian nods.

“Goodnight, Dad.” I watch as Carrick disappears out of the family room.

“This is hard on him,” I observe.

“It’s hard on all of us,” Christian says, his head falling into his hands. “My mom’s going fucking loony and none of us knows why.” He rubs his eyes and I want to comfort him but right now, I don’t know how.

“In other news,” he begins, sitting up straight and quickly changing the topic, “have you seen the three video conferences that we have next Tuesday with our potential broadcast journalists?”

“Oh?” I lean in. He nods, pulling out his phone.

“Andrea sent the information to Marilyn who was supposed to inform you or add it to your schedule.” He starts thumbing through his blackberry and I pull out my phone. Sure enough, there they are. Three video conferences with Raynell Stanton, Danika Farrell, and Maria Sanchez.

“Do they know they’re auditioning?” I ask. He nods.

“They do,” he confirms. “Mac has given them the preliminary details of what we want and they’re all chomping at the bit to get the interview.” That makes me happy. We’ve had enough bad publicity with the press—ex-submissives, blowhard assholes, sacrificial lambs, ratings whores…

“So, where will we be having the video conferences?” I ask.

“To be determined,” he answers. “Grey House, maybe. We’ll see. We’ll decide by tomorrow, my brain hurts.”

“That means it’s bedtime,” I say as I take my husband’s hand, coaxing him from the ottoman and lead him to elevator.


CHRISTIAN

I only speak briefly to John as he and his wife are trying to get some rest while taking turns sitting with their son. From what they know, he had gone on vacation with his family back to England for the summer and had caught a cold which quickly progressed into what they had thought was the flu. Over time, the boy had gotten sicker and sicker and upon returning home to the states, what they thought was the flu became a viral infection and required hospitalization. Now, unfortunately, the doctors are unable to tell John and Rian exactly what’s wrong with their son at all. Rian is beside herself with worry and John doesn’t know what to do as his son appears to just get worse and worse as the days go by. I’ve offered my assistance in any way that he needs it—financial, specialists, clinical trials, whatever may be needed to help his with his son’s recovery. He thanked me and promised to keep me posted.

Capito’s detailed spreadsheets aren’t looking any better than his compiled spreadsheets. Even though these glasses have significantly improved my eyesight, nothing I see on these reports and financials improve my opinion about this company. Something just doesn’t add up, and if he thinks I’m going to spend a penny on this company without a detail breakdown of what the hell is going on, he’s got another think coming. There’s a knock at my office door and I know who it is. Only one person knocks.

“Come in,” I beckon.

“You’re not going to like this,” Jason says as he crosses my office and places a stack of citations on my desk.

“Seven tickets in seven days, sir—nine if you include Chuck and Her Highness, but she was really speeding. Nonetheless, somebody’s pissed, and now I know who that somebody is.”

“Who?” I grumble.

“Got a certain wedding coming up and a certain someone who was uninvited from the festivities?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I hiss. “Goddamn Hammerstone?” He shakes his head.

“I wish I was,” he says. “My guys on the inside tell me that he has every vehicle registered to GEH tagged for sweeps. When I say sweeps, I mean it’s worse than checkpoints and exponentially worse than end-of-month quotas.”

Fuck. Tickets. He’s going to drown me in tickets until somebody’s license gets suspended or my fleet gets impounded, all because his fucking wife can’t come to the fucking ball. I’m really starting to resent my mother more and more, and regretting cutting off communication less and less. This is exactly what I was talking about with the shit that she pulls that reaches out in all directions and she doesn’t give a fuck where shit lands, even if it lands on my fucking head.

“This man is going to be the goddamn death of me,” I lament. “Why the hell can’t people just leave me the fuck alone?” I mumble.

“Maybe you should just let his wife come to the wedding,” Jason says. Surely, you jest.

“And lead him to believe that he can strongarm me into doing whatever the fuck he wants from this point forward? Not on your goddamn life!”

“Well, you’re going to need to do something fast, because there’s a little stipulation that goes along with being on the GEH security team. If you get two moving violations within ninety days, you’re grounded for a year. That means that you can’t drive any GEH vehicles, which means that you are limited to stationary assignments and ride-alongs. There ain’t a lot of money in that.”

“What do you mean there ain’t a lot of money in that?” I bark. “I pay my staff well, including the desk staff.”

“Yes, you do, but I’ve worked for you for quite some time. I make a handsome salary including hazard pay. When I was out of commission because that blonde bitch shot me in the shoulder, I nearly lost my mind. If you ever forced me into a desk job, I’d quit.” I shake my head. I can hardly believe we’re even having this conversation.

“Get Alex in here,” I tell him. He nods and leaves my office. If this fucker wants to fight dirty, then it’s dirty he’ll get. I don’t like this guy that I’m being forced to become. For the most part, I’ve played by the rules. I’ve bent a few here and there—called in a few favors, even strong-armed a bit when necessary, but I’ve never been that break his kneecaps, burn his house down, I want his family dead, sleepin’ with the fishes, kiss my pinkie ring kind of guy.

The worst I’ve ever done to anyone is blackball them… that is, until Dodd and the hackers… and Judd Rossiter. Even those treacherous lawyers who tried to ass-rape me with my prenup—yeah, they saw their fortunes snatched away and now, none of them can even get jobs as civic teachers in the contiguous United States. I closed a few businesses, ruined some reputations, ended a career or two, but people are starting to make things so big and so personal that I have to pull out bigger guns. You’ve got the whole damn police force making it so that I can’t travel around the city because I won’t consent to you attending a fucking party?

Seriously?

Unsolved murders, muggings, rapes, burglaries, assaults—one Judd Rossiter included—innumerable crimes being committed as we speak, and you’ve turned Seattle PD into your own personal army of meter maids?

It’s shit like this that make me go to extremes. I don’t want the world to bend to my will. I only want what’s mine and the freedom to enjoy what’s mine—that’s all. Everything I have, I earned, including my goddamn arrogance. I don’t like behaving like a fucking mafioso, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to just lay down and allow people to fuck me in the ass. Nope, not gonna happen.

“Sir.” Alex walks into my office and I realize that the few moments that I assumed I was sulking must have been much, much longer than I thought.

“Hammerstone,” I tell him. “Judge Marvin Hammerstone. It’s personal. He’s got the entire police fucking force waiting for my staff to clip a fingernail on a street corner because my sister uninvited him and his prima donna wife from her wedding. He’s using legal channels to force a personal agenda and I want you to get to him by any means necessary!” Alex raises his eyes.

“Any means?” he says. I nod.

“Any means,” I confirm, “And I want him to know that it’s me without being able to prove that it’s me.” Alex nods.

“That might be tricky,” he says.

“I don’t want anybody hurt,” I tell him, “but I want that fucker uncomfortable as hell.”

“Uncomfortable won’t be hard. What level of discomfort are we talking?”

“One that will render a swift and sure response,” I reply.

“Where is Mrs. Grey?” he asks. I frown.

“I don’t want my wife involved in this!” I command.

“I’m just asking,” he retorts. “I have to cover all my bases.”

“She’s at home,” I respond.

“Good. I would suggest that you go home, too… and stay put for a few days.” I raise my eyebrows. He has something planned already.

“My wife, too?” I ask.

“If possible,” he says. “With the Rossiter thing on full blast, it’s perfect timing—paparazzi banging down your door, wanting answers about the lawsuit, whispers about Mr. Grey moving out…” I raise my eyebrows.

“There are whispers about my father?” I ask. He nods.

“There are,” he says. “Underground sources report seeing your father leaving from and returning to your house for at least the last three days. They can’t get concrete evidence or pictures because it’s early when he leaves and late when he returns, but the buzzards are circling.” I sigh and rub my face.

“Why didn’t my PR team tell me this?” I groan.

“Because my sources are very underground and highly unconfirmed,” he says.

“Well, they’ve just been confirmed,” I grunt. “My dad’s been at my house since Friday because my mom’s losing her motherfucking mind. My mom is the direct reason my fleet is getting these tickets. My mom is the direct reason my wife is home in the middle of the goddamn day instead of somewhere helping people, which is what she loves to do. In fact, I would say that my mom is probably the direct or indirect reason for about seventy-five percent of the conundrums going on in my life right now.” I shove the files that I was working on into my briefcase and close my laptop, placing it into my laptop case. I push the button to summon Jason to my office.

“Do we have any fleet vehicles not registered to GEH?” I ask.

“We have the Mayday cars,” he replies. I frown.

“The Mayday cars?” I ask. He nods.

“Three sets of three cars registered to three shell companies that you own that aren’t linked to GEH in anyway. These companies have no purpose whatsoever but to own these vehicles, and they are exactly what they sound like…”

“Getaway cars,” I finish.

“Exactly,” Alex confirms. “Basic-looking Ford Explorers in various colors with tinted, bullet-proof windows placed in three areas around the city—here, Escala, and a location very near your home in Mercer.”

“Basic-looking?” I press.

“There are extra features in case we find ourselves in a catastrophic or combat situation.”

“Jesus,” I whisper. “Why didn’t I know about this?”

“There was just no reason to tell you before now,” he responds. “There really was no reason to tell you now, except that you asked.” I shake my head as if to shake off a bad thought. Jason returns to my office.

“Sir?”

“Get one of the Mayday cars to get us home, and another to chauffer my father until further notice.” He looks over at Alex who does a half nod and shrug.

“Yes, sir.” Jason pulls out his phone and starts typing.

“Ground the fleet for now—no cut in pay. That includes anybody who’s already been grounded. Let them know what’s going on so that we don’t lose any good men.”

“We won’t lose any,” Jason assures me as he continues to type into his phone. I pull out my phone and punch out a text to Dad.

**The jig is up. Somebody’s let the cat out of the bag. I’ll be sending a car for you. Details later. **

“All this because my mother’s having some kind of nervous breakdown or tumor or some shit,” I murmur.

“What was that?” Jason says, his fingers paused over his phone.

“Nothing,” I say, snatching my suit jacket from the back of my chair. “Come on, Jason,” I say. “Let’s see if you can earn another ticket. Break the fucking sound barrier.”

“Um, sir?” Alex stops me. “Try not to get tickets in the Fords.” I curse under my breath.

“Get me home to my fucking wife.”

*-*

I spend the afternoon buried deep inside my wife, so deep in fact that she has to beg me to stop so that she can rest. As she falls into an exhaustion induced, coma-like sleep, I stand on the balcony off our bedroom gazing out at the lake. My frustration with this entire situation is beyond measure. My mother is acting as if she’s taking complete leave of her senses. Mia’s wedding has become an atrociously, horrible, beyond ostentatious display of grotesque gaudier that can’t be matched on seven continents and now I discover that my mother is doing this because she couldn’t control what happened with my wedding. My wedding was fucking insane—a goddamn castle, a classic Bentley, Wayne Brady sang in person for God’s sake. Hundreds of people, restricted airspace… fuck, Mom, I wasn’t trying to be on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I just wanted my bride to be happy. She only asked for two things, the castle and the Bentley… oh, and to not have half of Seattle in attendance. Maybe three things…

Jesus, this is insane. Maybe Alex is right. Maybe I should just let Hammerstone’s wife come to the wedding…

No, I can’t. I can’t give in. This is seriously about principle at this point. This fucker… this fucker tried to ruin my life and now, he’s trying to control it again. No. No, whatever Alex has planned for him, full steam ahead. This is one time I wish I knew in advance. I wish I could be there in person when the plan is executed so I could see his fucking face.

And my mother. My ever-loving mother. She’s on an insane spending, alienate-your-husband-and-family, I’m-losing-my-goddamn-mind spree because she didn’t have control of my fucking wedding. Yes, deep down in my soul, I know it’s more than that, but that’s a big part of it. That’s a big fucking part of it. That’s the fucking driving force behind it, the reason that she can’t see that my dad is falling apart about not having more time with his dad. I have no idea what set her off, but she’s completely gone bonkers about this total over-the-over-the-over-the-top wedding that will rival anything anyone has seen in the western hemisphere, even if it destroys our family in the process.

I walk back into our bedroom and look at my sleeping wife. We fucked all afternoon and evening, straight through dinner and now, she’s sleeping like a damn rock. She looks so content and peaceful, her hair sprayed out all over the pillow, the blanket just over her luscious tits. My wife, the mother of my children… I love her so much.

I quietly creep out of our room and sneak over to the nursery to check on Minnie and Mickey. They’re sleeping through the night now, so once they’ve had their nighttime feeding, it’s lights out until morning. I take the stairs down to the first level and quietly sneak to the kitchen to find some leftovers from dinner or something, anything to curb my hunger. Our refrigerator is always full of too much food to make a choice, so I just commandeer the makings of a sandwich and start building. Once I’m done, I cut it in half and take a healthy bite. Fuck, I’m so hungry, it tastes like steak.

“How about making one of those for me?”

I look up and see my brother standing in the doorway.

“No, but you can make one for yourself,” I say, taking my plate and moving to one of the stools at the breakfast bar. He takes my place and begins to build a sandwich of his own.

“So,” he says as he piles salami onto his creation, “Mom’s acting screwy, huh?” I bite into my sandwich and nod.

“Who did you talk to?” I ask with my mouth full.

“Mia,” he says, smearing mustard on his sandwich and reaching for the mayo. “She told me that she and Dad tried to talk to Mom and, well, she pretty much wasn’t hearing it. Did you know that Mia’s not aware of half the shit going on in her wedding?” I raise my eyes to Elliot.

“No, I didn’t know that.” He nods.

“Mia told me that vendors were calling her to get confirmation for shit that she had no idea was going on.”

“Such as?” I press.

“Dude, I didn’t commit that shit to memory,” he says. “She was talking and all I could think was that I was happy that me and my wife had a small, short ceremony. We’ll do our celebrating on our cruise.” He takes a healthy bite of his sandwich, which looks twice the size of mine and begins to put the fixings away. “You want a drink?”

“Fruit punch,” I nod, taking another bite of my sandwich. “I never understood how you could eat so much and never gain any weight. I know your job is physical, but it’s not that physical.”

“The fuck you say!” Elliot gripes, handing me a bottle of fruit punch. “All that lifting and tugging and shit I do all damn day long will beat out that kickboxing shit you do any day, bro.”

“Whatever,” I say waving him off.

“Yeah, whatever,” he repeats. “Any time you want to put it to the test, you just let me know, squirt,” he jests while putting the rest of the food away. He takes a seat and there’s silence for a while as we both enjoy our sandwiches.

“Christian? Do you think Mom has a tumor? Cuz… I don’t know if I can take that again.” I raise my eyes to my brother and he’s just looking at me, half of the sandwich suspended in the air waiting for my answer before he takes a bite.

I lie.

“No, bro, I don’t think she has a tumor.” He nods and takes another bite of his sandwich. He just needed to hear me say it at that moment and I know that’s what he needed.

The truth is, I don’t know what’s wrong with our mother. I don’t know if she’s crazy, if she has a tumor, or if she’s just being selfish. But I know that something is wrong, and we’re going to have to find out what it is very soon.


A/N: 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 7

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 7

Eric Dane

TREY

I’m as loose as a fucking noodle these days. Changing my taste was the best decision I’ve ever made. I never paid attention to just how many juicy fucking asses there are in the lifestyle and believe me, they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors! I’ve been having the time of my life and truly making up for lost time over the last two weeks, and this neglected dick has come hot and hard with the aid of two—or four—juicy bubbles many times.

Thoughts of Golden still occasionally creep in, especially if I see someone that looks like her or an ass that reminds me of her… or if I’m coming really hard and some sub is doing something really kinky to me. Yeah… I still think of her sometimes, but with all this ass around, it ain’t so torturous!

Who the fuck am I kidding? Tonight, it’s torturous as hell, which is why I’ve arranged for Sparkle to meet me at Club Syndrome for a scene. Sparkle… yeah, right. I wonder where she saw Golden? Her gimmick is sparkles. Sequins, mostly, and she doesn’t even come close. She’s going to get the Caramel treatment tonight. I’ve instructed her to dress in gold lingerie, then I’m going to bind her, beat the hell out of her, then fuck her senseless.

I arrive at the club dressed in my usual gear—black jeans and T-shirt with my Italian leather jacket and hiking boots. I make my way to the bar and order a shot of Jack, neat. I take a moment to focus on the music and the still of the crowd and hear a familiar song… too familiar. Shit, I’m hearing that shit everywhere now. While I impatiently await my drink, I scan the room curiously and who the fuck do I see curled masterfully around the pole, blonde tresses splayed out in the air like a magic fan.

It couldn’t be. It fucking couldn’t be!

I watch with narrowed eyes as she finishes her routine, too fucking angry to be aroused. I try to get away from this bitch and now… she’s here?

The same silence falls over this room when she coils down the pole as it did at Crimson, and I’m livid that she controls the fucking crowd everywhere she goes. She exits the stage as usual and I push through the crowd until I reach her, snatching her arms back in both hands.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I demand through clenched teeth. “Are you stalking me?”

She’s alarmed at first, but then her face turns to stone.

“Get.
“Your fucking.
“Hands.
“Off.
“Me.”

I’m snapped out of my anger immediately by her cold and meticulous tone and placement of her words. I drop my hands from her arms and she glares at me for a moment with captivating golden, cat-eye contacts. Without a word, she saunters past me like we were just talking about the weather and walks over to a table. Just like at the Crimson, she throws back a double-shot of vodka, unwraps a golden lollipop and sucks it into her mouth. Then she sits at her table and watches the crowd. I don’t know if she’s watching the dancers or watching me.

I’m frozen in place for several minutes, eyes narrowed, just watching her work that damn lollipop. After a while, one of the dungeon monitors comes over and whispers something in her ear. She effortlessly slides out of the booth and begins to walk towards the back of the club. I watch her disappear into a door behind a very large dungeon monitor and I quickly rush to an unoccupied observation room, locking the door behind me.

I’m just in time for the show to begin.

When the lights come up, she’s facing… me!

She’s in the two-way mirror and I swear she’s looking dead at me. It’s a chilling feeling. She has a whip in each hand—a brown and gold leather dog whip with a two-tongued quirt in her right and a brown leather one-tail with a five-tailed stinger in her left. She’s staring me down—I know she is—with those fucking golden cat-eyes. I’m paying more attention to her attire now, and she’s wearing another embellished golden corset that makes her tits sit up and burst out so much that she’s risking a nip slip if she sneezes. A gold latex mini-skirt is wrapped around her beautiful hips, and her legs and thighs are confined in a pair of stiletto peep-toe boots that look like a tower of golden bracelets spanning up her thighs. Her ass is even bigger than I remember—bigger than any of the bubble butts I’ve gripped in the last two weeks.

Fuck! How can that be?

gunslingers-page-hollandShe just stands that gazing at me, challenging me, with her legs parted like she’s ready to fire—like the old time western gunfighters… only much fucking sexier. Each of her whips hang ready in her hands, the tips lying deceivingly useless on the floor. I know she can’t see me through the two-way mirror, but I swear she’s glaring right at me. She faces off with me for an eternity before she slowly turns to face her unfortunate—or fortunate—victim.

He’s bound the same way that I had Joyce strapped up the night Golden watched me… the only night Golden watched me, as far as I know—but his thighs are in large leather swings holding his legs open and supporting most of his weight. His wrists are in leather cuffs and all four extremities are held up by chains encased in leather attached to the ceiling. He has some golden metal apparatus hanging out of his mouth, but I can’t make out what it is.

She stands about three to four feet behind him and strikes him with one of her whips, and then the other—softly, like in a brushing motion. She continues to do this and it seems a little boring… for about thirty seconds. Then, her slow, soft, brushing motions become harder and faster—masterful, alternating, unrelenting circular blows on this poor guy’s back that are meant to bring the blood and color to the surface, inflicting enough pain to induce subspace if necessary without breaking the skin.

Her sub is grunting and jerking in his binds, struggling in his swing as a sheen of sweat appears on his skin. When she’s satisfied that he’s had enough, she leisurely casts her whips to the side and admires his bruises, nearly purring at her handy work as he gasps for air around this metal… thing in his mouth. Even from here, with his thigh blocking his cock, I can see that he’s semi-erect.

She strolls around his body, her hand dragging slowly down his bound leg and her hips grinding from side to side in an exaggerated walk. I swear to God, I’m not imagining it… her ass is bigger than I remember! And my dick is rock fucking hard!

Her hand drags slowly down the inside of the lucky submissive’s leg and thigh until she reaches his crotch.

“Mmmm… Almost there, Sampson,” she purrs. Sampson. That explains the long hair and ripped bod… and reinforced bounds. At her command, he releases the metal object from his mouth into her hand. I still can’t make out what the hell it is except that whatever was in his mouth was cone-shaped and it looked to be attached to a claw or something. Golden goes to the wall and cranks the handle of a winch, causing her submissive’s legs to widen even further, giving full view of his stiffening cock and causing him to grunt in discomfort. She ignores his guttural protests and strides over to a table beside him. I can see her attaching something to the golden apparatus in her hand, but I still can’t see what it is.

She walks back around to the front of her subject and runs her hand from the top of his chest all the way down to his groin where she takes his cock in her hand and begins to stroke it. His breath is heavy as he begins to harden even more in her hand.

“Are you ready for me, Sampson?” she croons in a voice that shoots straight to my dick, and she might as well have been talking to me.

“Yes, Mistress,” he chokes, so aroused that he can barely breathe, his impressive muscle tone displaying in every sinew of his body. She takes the apparatus and slides it down over his semi-erect dick. It’s only now that I can see that the top portion of the apparatus is a cock ring and the claw is a testicle restraint. As he grunts, squirms, wiggles and groans while her hand disappears, I discover that the “cone” is some kind of butt plug.

The thrill and satisfaction on her face and she positions this thing on her subject and watches the reaction of his dick is a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold. I sometimes watch her body language, her technique when she’s with her submissives. I always watch their reactions, sometimes living vicariously through what they may be feeling. I rarely watch her expressions—rarely try to gauge what she’s really feeling, besides satisfaction when she’s sitting on some poor guy’s face… or lucky guy, I should say. Watching her fondle this guy’s shaft as she positions this obvious pain/torture device and the look on her face tells me more than any words possibly could.

She has a thing for dicks. Not men, dicks… so why no fucking? How can you have a thing for dicks and not want to fuck them?

She’s a goddamn master with her hands, stroking his dick and cupping his balls through this cage, pushing that fucking butt plug into his ass, fucking every part of his groin and pelvis the entire time while he hangs helpless in these fucking restraints. He’s so fucking ripped that he looks as if he could tear himself out of them at any time, but I know that he can’t. I know that no matter how he writhes and flexes and jerks, he can’t escape those bounds… or her hands…

And she’s loving every minute of it.

She’s studying his face and his reactions as she fondles his genitalia, strokes his dick with just the right pressure, runs her fingertips over his frenulum, pushes the butt plug into his ass or torments the skin on his testicles. He groans that familiar sound that we make when we’re aroused, when we’re rising to the point of ejaculation—our breathing changes and our hips thrust faster, only he can’t thrust. His thigh muscles can only flex and contract, shine with the sweat of imitating a good fuck in a tight pussy as her hand caresses his dick and that butt plug rubs against the pleasure muscle in his ass that will make him shoot his load. He groans in his chest, signaling that it won’t be long now… and she stops and steps away from him.

As if he expects the gesture, he breathes deeply to control his frustration and impending ejaculation. His hips appear to be thrusting, but they’re not. He’s bound too securely. It’s the flexing of his incredibly toned thighs and the throbbing of his intensely erect dick. This fucker is hot even by my standards, and I’m not attracted to men in the slightest. I can imagine the women on the main floor are salivating and the men are glued to the window—some of them shamelessly stroking their dicks through their pants.

I won’t even fucking touch mine.

I have a clear view of his erect member now, even from behind his thigh. It’s seeping with precum and begging for release and he’s breathing hard like a caged animal, the ends of his long, dark hair now curled with moisture. She returns to him with what appears to be a miniature flogging crop or paddle of some kind, which she holds in one hand, smacking the other with it.

“I have your favorite toy here, Sampson,” she says, softly. “Do you want it?”

Her submissive opens his eyes and looks at her.

“Yes… Mistress,” he breathes.

“How badly do you want it, Sampson?” she teases.

“So much… please, Mistress… so badly…” he beseeches.

“Will you give me five?” she says softly. I see him swallow hard.

“Yes, Mistress,” he whispers. “I’ll give you five.” Five what? Five orgasms? He got it like that? She smiles fiendishly and we’re about to find out. She moves over to the small table next to him and makes an adjustment or two, then flips a switch and his thighs tighten again. He groans and his breath skips, then quickens.

“Relax, Sampson, or it will be over way too soon,” she coaches as she caresses his chest. He breathes deeply as she rubs her hand up and down his chest and then to his dick. He groans as she strokes his cock and I realize that he’s hooked to an e-stim machine. Each stroke is sending jolts through his dick that can be quite painful, unless you like that sort of thing. He squeezes his eyes shut and his entire body tenses as she plays with his stiffening member. In a matter of moments, his body begins to tremble and the veins pop out in his thighs. She steps back from him and watch his member throb madly and a very small amount of semen squirts from the slit of his head. He’s panting frantically and trembling almost uncontrollably in his restraints, his chains rattling and screaming his torment.

“That was a fast one, Sampson,” she chides. “Are you sure you can do this?”

Ruined orgasms?? She’s giving him five ruined orgasms?? Like that?? I’m not sure I can watch this!

“Yes!” Sampson pants. “Yes, Mistress… I… I can do it!”

“You’re so brave,” she praises. “That pleases me… but you have to maintain longer. That one was very fast.”

“Y…” He swallows. “Ye… yes, Mistress!” This. Shit. Is torture. And she’s a fucking master at it! She adjusts the machine again, and this time, she walks behind him. He tries once more to control his breathing, and I realize that this is a technique of his. This is how he likes to play. He likes his limits tested. The farther he can go, the more he enjoys it. Mirrored nails scrape from his shoulders down his back and he shivers at the surprise. She repeats the gesture and he relaxes a bit. She reaches over to the table again and now she retrieves what looks like a probe. I’m almost afraid that she’s going to put it in his ass, but I know the butt plug is already there, so that’s out. Instead, she begins to run the probe and up and down his back.

And he’s trembling again.

His breathing is erratic, but he’s trying to control it nonetheless. His fists clench and his eyes squeeze shut once more. He groans as she continues to stroke his back with probe and they fight for control of his body, her pushing his limits and him hanging on by a delicate thread.

After several tense moments, she stops her torturous massage and he has a moment to catch his breath. He takes in several gasps of precious air as she reaches around his body and caresses his thighs. Apparently satisfied with what she feels, she steps back once more and begins her massage, and he’s thrown immediately back onto the cliff from which he came. With no time to prepare for the assault, his dick immediately thickens and pinkens, his thighs tense and he cries out in agony. She releases him immediately from his stimulation, just in time to get a reward of a small squirt of interrupted semen from the head of his penis.

He groans in frustration this time, a mournful sound, his head down and his chin in his chest. The chains are too laden with his anguished body to protest as he pants like his has run as marathon… but he hasn’t tapped out yet, and she won’t relent. She’s behind him again, caressing his body with her hands and saying something in his ear that only he can hear. He nods as she speaks to him and her hands rub his thighs, then his hips, then the meat of his buttocks, the entire time he’s breathing, trying to maintain his control—until she gets to his butt. Then his breathing is erratic again.

I don’t know what she’s doing, but he’s trembling again, holding his breath. Then, again after several moments, one hand appears around his stomach and the other disappears and he’s trembling again. His body stiffens, his thighs tense, and his head falls back on her shoulder, his eyes squeezed shut. That’s when I realize…

She’s fucking him with that e-stim butt plug.

He’s groaning now. He’s going to come. His dick is pink and angry and she’s not going to stop. It would be cruel if she stops. I can see the skin of his balls straining against the teeth of that cage. I fully expect to see fairytale creatures to run out of his dick when he finally blasts. That mournful groan begins in his throat again, and Golden does the unthinkable.

She stops.

Both her hands appear around Sampson’s body and land on his chiseled stomach, his pulsing dick bobbing madly between his legs—glistening with promise and precum and grimacing with angry veins, but no fairytale creatures, not even a hint of ruin semen this time.

“Very good, Sampson!” she praises. Very good? You damn demon! How dare you put this man through this kind of fucking torment! This is insane! His dick is now some kind of crimson-colored-barbequed-smoked-sausage hue and if I’m counting correctly, he must endure two more of these things before you allow him to come! How long has he been in there? I’m afraid to look at my fucking watch—but I can’t turn away!

“I’m so proud of you, Sampson,” she purrs, as she circles his body. “What shall I subject you to next?”

God, she such a fucking sadist.

She’s behind him again with her whips, doing the same pattern that she did in the beginning, only this time, she occasionally brings the whip across his ass and the sensation causes a reaction in his dick. Once again, the blood has been brought to the surface of his skin and she concentrates her strikes on his ass.

Thwap!

Thwap! Thwap!

His dick jerks with each strike.

Thwap! Thwap! Thwap!

He grunts on the third strike and once again, his thighs clench, and I resent the fact that I can tell when this poor sucker is about to come.

Thwap! Thwap!

There’s the struggle and then the groan. Next, is the precum offering glistening at the tip of his head… and there it is.

But, she doesn’t stop.

Thwap! Thwap! Thwap!

And of course, there’s the inevitable squirt of please-Mistress-let-me cum that makes her stop whatever activity is bringing him torturous pleasure. I can only imagine that his entire body is one big pleasure/pain nerve begging to explode, and this is how she keeps them coming back. She takes them to the very edge of anything they’ve ever known and then she keeps pulling them back… but it’s not like she didn’t ask him before she started.

I’ve never seen anything so fucking cruel in my life… or so fucking hot.

“That was a pretty big squirt, Sampson,” she scolds.

“I… I tried, Mistress… I didn’t…give all…” he grovels.

“We’ll see,” she says, as she walks around to the front of him and grabs his swollen dick. “We’ll see.”

He exhales sharply as she strokes him slowly from base to tip, allowing her hand to course off the skin of the head in a torturous caress. I squirm myself when she does it and she’s not even touching me. She hasn’t given him a chance to calm from his near miss. He’s still highly aroused, and she’s giving him the equivalent of the finishing hand job… and she repeats the motion… slowly… torturously. He tenses and groans, and I squirm in my seat, mentally begging her to stop. She strokes again, her fingertips tormenting that swollen vein on the underside of the penis, all the way up to the nerves of frenulum, and over the sensitive rim and skin of the head. He shivers and gasps again, and I nearly crawl up in my fucking seat, my dick straining so hard against my fucking zipper that it hurts.

His dick extends to her, begging her to grab it again, squeeze it, stroke it, make it come. It’s jutting out, unforgiving and red—hot, imperfect, and wrinkled… and she just stares at it, before she caresses it again, tracing its imperfect veins as if following the trails of a roadmap. She’s momentarily fascinated with the object before she remembers her purpose and once again, strokes the member and elicits a mournful groan from its owner. Again, he takes the I’m-gonna-come position and squeezes his eyes shut, this time, a small whimpering coming from his chest. The last stimulation must have been too much for him, and Golden knows it. She tilts her head and examines him. She knows her subject. One more stroke, and he’s going to give her the offering he’s been working towards all night. She looks down at her masterpiece, and small amounts of semen is seeping from the head. Another ruined orgasm.

That’s five.

“Well, Sampson, I say you’ve done very well,” she says as she walks over to the table and adjusts the controls. Sampson’s body relaxes and I can only assume that she has deactivated the e-stim machine. “Are you ready for your favorite toy?”

His favorite toy? I would say he’s had enough. His head lulls back. He’s panting and out of breath, exhausted and sweating. His hair is drenched, curled from root to tip and he surprises the fuck out of me when he says,

“Yes, Mistress.”

I lean my elbows on my knees. I can’t believe what the fuck I just heard.

She picks up that mini-crop, pulls her arm back and smacks it hard across his thigh. He leaps and his chains protest the contact. She repeats the gesture on his calf, and he leaps again, his chains rattling once more. She smacks him again on the inside of the opposite calf, the inside of the opposite thigh, then whack right on his dick.

“Fuck!” I yelp, covering my mouth at the same time to muffle the sound. Sampson wasn’t quite so successful. His exclamation of pain could probably be heard over Puget Sound. That erection he had a moment ago has shriveled down to nothing and I am now questioning how the fuck this is his favorite toy.

That question answered in a matter of moments.

This sadistic golden goddess takes hold of that golden cage and butt plug and starts manipulating it once more. At the same time, she takes the mini-crop and starts doing that super-fast spanking fluttering mockingbird wing thing on his dick.

Of course. Who the fuck can withstand that shit? You’ve got a butt plug masterfully working the gland that makes you bust a nut; you got a cage and a hand massaging your fucking balls; you got a cock-ring at the base of your dick intensifying a fucking forced blast that been ruined five goddamn times; you got a mini-crop fluttering on your dick and that bundle of nerves right underneath the tip of your head that only needs the rhythm of a good wind to make you come; and all this shit is being imposed upon you by a hot-ass bitch with great tits on display and a big ass draped in gold and a skirt short enough that you can smell her pussy.

Yeah, any man can resist that shit, right?

I sit back and wait for the explosion as poor Sampson croons and squirms and rocks and his dick swells at Golden’s mercy. She’s not even paying attention to him. She’s paying total attention to his dick. I have no doubt that the entire club is watching Sampson, listening to his amorous song as he leans back in his restraints and gives his body over to Golden and this massive orgasm that’s about to overtake him. I, however, am watching Golden.

I finally see what makes her tick. She doesn’t need to fuck. She likes the control. She likes to have them in her hand. She likes knowing that she can have you in her hand. She wants to know that she can captivate and hold you, but she doesn’t want anyone to captivate and hold her.

“I choose.”

That’s why.

Sampson’s sounds are no longer mournful. Passionate groans escape his throat followed by soulful cries as his orgasm bursts from his dick, causing Golden to gasp in amazement for a moment before she catches herself and milks his penis while he moans out his satisfaction. There’s an eerie silence for a moment once the scene is over as Sampson catches his breath and Golden admires her handiwork. Then, Golden stands and I realize…

The scene’s not over.

Golden goes back to the table and starts the e-stim machine again before going back to Sampson.

“How are we doing?” she asks.

“Fine… Mistress,” he pants. Good God, this man is a machine. I don’t think I can watch much more of this. She takes a small controller in her hand and pushes a button on the handle. Sampson’s entire body jerks, causing Golden to smile as she walks around to the front of him again and examines him.

“Ooo, those balls are so swollen, Sampson,” she coos. “I thought you just came. Do you want to come again?” She gives him another jolt with the controller in her hand and his body jerks again as he grunts in agony.

“Yes,” he chokes, “yes… please… Mistress…”

“Mmm, yes, I think you do,” she purrs.

The next several minutes is a combination of e-stim wands on his dick and torso with the butt plug still on his prostate, but surprisingly, the thing that got him hard again was the gold five-tail on his chest. I don’t know if the sensation of being whipped did it for him, watching her whip him did it, or both, but I know what happened next did it for all of us.

Golden got a good old-fashioned wand and put a masturbator on it, then slid that masturbator on his dick and left it there. She then sat in the observation chair across from her subject and made herself comfortable. He frowns at first.

“Sampson,” she says, softly. “Watch me.” His body jerks as she pushes the buttons on her remotes and his e-stim devices come to life as well as the wand attached to the masturbator on his erect dick. He gasps as he adjusts to the stimulation, but he’s not ready for her next move.

And neither am I.

She throws her legs over the arm of the chair and reveals a naked and shaved pussy. I. Am fucking. Drooling. And so is poor Sampson.

“Mistress…” he breathes.

“Watch me,” she whispers as she puts her finger in her mouth and wets it, then sticks it into that sweet and, no doubt, tight little pussy.

“Fuck me,” I whisper to myself and poor Sampson gasps as he licks his lips, his breath getting totally away from him and his dick springing to life harder and faster than it was before, so much so that I can hear the masturbator buzzing around him now.

“Do you like it?” she asks softly.

“Yes,” I reply, without thinking, then I realize… she ain’t talking to me.

“Yes, Mistress,” Sampson breaths, squirming against the masturbator, his dick jutting erect inside of it.

“I like it, too,” she says, eyeing his hard dick and finger herself harder, occasionally bringing her fingertip out to fondle her clit.

I will not grab my dick… but I get off to this sight many times after this!

I can’t even see Sampson anymore. I just see Golden—leaning back in that chair, her eyes transfixed on the sight in front of her, fucking herself with her hand. Her leg is thrown over the arm of the chair and her pussy is wet. She occasionally licks her lips and she’s breathing hard, her chest rising and falling barely contained in her bustier. Her hand moves wild and fast over her clit and in and out of her core and her breathing quickens.

“Come for me,” she breathes. “Come for me, Sampson.”

From across the room, a deep, tortured groan reminds me that I was watching a scene, and Sampson comes hard for a second time with the aid of the e-stim prostate massage and a buzzing masturbator attached to his dick. His head falls back, his eyes squeeze shut, and he tenses and cries out in agony as his body jerks wildly. Golden’s cry of passion draws my attention immediately to her and I watch as she arches in her own orgasm while watching Sampson burst into his.

She looks fucking exquisite… and I am entranced. My gaze stays on her until she rides out her orgasm and falls spent and content into the seat, panting and pushing her hair from her face.

And the lights go down.

I have to regroup from that shit. That was one of the most intense things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt like I was in the damn room, like I was in there with Golden… feeling her body and having those orgasms and making her come… And now I’m spent. Hell, I didn’t even come.

And didn’t I come here to meet a fucking sub? Goddammit!

I stand and straighten my clothes to leave the observation room, but when I open the door, I see her. Fuck, she’s standing right down the hall looking fresh as a bunny—with him! With Sampson! He’s standing there in a robe talking to her like he didn’t just come six or seven times! How the fuck long was I sitting here?

I push the door closed, but leave it cracked just enough to see them. She says something to him, but I can’t hear her.

“You were magnificent, as always… my Mistress,” he says with a heavy accent that I can’t place and kisses her gently behind the ear, a gesture of clear and pure admiration. “Until next time… Inamorata.” He stretches the last word and rolls the “r.” I roll my eyes. She gives him a sweet smile and a soft caress on his cheek before proceeding toward the front of the club and he toward the back. As she sashays past the door of the observation room I’m occupying, she pushes the door hard so that it smacks me in the face. My first instinct is to call her a bitch, but I can’t be angry that she had me pegged. I just rub my nose and wait until she passes before I exit the room. I don’t bother going to her table when I leave the room. Instead, I just leave the club.

*-*

I find myself parked on her block, just down the street from her house. She hasn’t arrived from the club yet and I’m not sure why the fuck I’m even here. She won’t let me near her and I’m not so sure that I even want to be near her. But watching her at the club tonight was… different. She was challenging me, but what the fuck it so different about that?

She challenged me in the Cross negotiations six months ago. I got exactly what I wanted for exactly the price I wanted to pay, and for some reason, I still feel like I capitulated somehow.

She challenged me every time I stuck my dick in Caramel… every time I rammed that pussy or that ass from behind, sinking my fingers into the meat of her thigh and thinking about the time I gripped Golden’s thigh against her wall and came in my pants like a fucking teenager who couldn’t hold his load.

She challenged me every time I thought about going to Crimson just to get a glimpse of her, but didn’t, because I wanted to avoid her… needed to avoid her… only to find out that she was avoiding Crimson, too. Why was she avoiding Crimson? Did I affect her the same way that she affected me? She wanted to avoid me…

But she challenged me tonight. She knew that I was in that observation room. She faced off with me the moment the lights rose. She looked me dead in the eye as if that mirror wasn’t even there and she didn’t even blink. She’s fearless, but she’s obviously not impenetrable. So, what’s her deal… and why am I here?

The Town Car passes me and pulls up in front of Golden’s house. The driver exits and walks around to the rear passenger door. Golden pours out of the vehicle in a shimmering, shoulder-to-toe, soft gold faux fur coat to protect her from the elements. Where someone else would look garish and brassy in the seemingly gaudy creation, Golden looks elegant and classy, emitting an effortless grace as she stands on the sidewalk looking at… me…

Again… she’s looking directly at me.

flat800x800075f-u2It really irritates me the way that she can read me that way. I know the Town Car drove right by me, but it’s not like I’m sitting right in front of her house. I’m down the block, for God’s sake—not far down the block, but down the block. My car doesn’t have Christian Grey flashing in big yellow letters on it or that damn red arrow pointing over me that says, “He is here,” and yet there she is, staring right at me like I’m under a fucking spotlight with a goddamn beacon around my neck! My hands grip the steering wheel in frustration as I glare right back at her ass, pissed as fuck that she just turned right around and nonchalantly stared right in my face with those insufferable golden contacts. I fucking hate for people to be able to figure me out so easily. What the hell is it about…

Tap tap tap tap tap!

I nearly jump the fuck out of my skin at the close tapping on the window right next to my head. I turn to see a well-dressed man in black with a white shirt and black tie leaning down to my window. It’s her driver. I was so focused on her that I didn’t even see him approach the car. I lower the window and say nothing.

“Good evening, sir,” he says in a professional tone. “The lady would like to know if you intend to allow her to stand there until her toes are frostbitten.”

His words bite, delivered with the perfect amount of professionalism to make me grit my teeth, raise the window, and open my door. He takes two steps back, then proceeds to walk back towards the Town Car. I close the door to my car and fall in step a few feet behind him as he proceeds to Golden and helps her navigate the sidewalk in her stilettos until she reaches the light of her entry. They exchange words and he tips his head before turning to leave, taking a few steps in my direction.

“Good evening, sir,” he says again as he passes me, but doesn’t wait for a response. Golden is standing just inside her doorway now, her man… slave… sub… whatever he is, standing just off to the side. I sigh infinitesimally and follow her to the door.

*-*

“Why are you here, Trey?” she asks. There’s no confrontation in her voice.

“I don’t know,” I answer truthfully. I’m sitting on the same sofa where I gave her that damn necklace… where I nearly lost control—and my life—the day that bullet came whizzing past my head. I eyeball the wall across the room between the bar and the bookshelf where I pinned her soft body and came hard inside my pants against her hot pussy. I can still smell the arousal in her skin from that night. It was months ago and I can still smell it. That’s how I know she can destroy me. That’s why I know I should stay the fuck away from her. For my own self-preservation, I need to avoid this woman like the plague.

So, why the fuck can’t I just do that?

A fire crackles in the fireplace across from where we’re sitting, setting the atmosphere for a perfectly romantic night, yet I’ve put as much space between us on this sofa as possible. When she offered me a drink, I opted for soda so that I could keep a level head, but there’s nothing level-headed about being in this woman’s house at this time of night… hot and bothered and frustrated and I left my sub at the club. Bad form, Grey, very bad form.

“You have a real parlor,” I observe, even though this is my third time in this room. “Nobody younger than my mother has a parlor, and you have a real fucking parlor.” She raises her eyebrow. This statement has caught her off guard. It’s certainly not what she expected. She rises and goes back to the bar to refresh her drink. She changed from her Golden gear when she got home—making me wait again, of course—and now she’s wearing a soft azure chiffon floor length halter dress with a mini-length lining, nude stiletto sandal, and gold bracelets pushed halfway up her forearms. Her hair is in a sexy-as-hell messy ponytail and her makeup is dark and dramatic.

“It serves the purpose,” she says, as she walks back to the sofa and sits at the end with a fresh drink. And what purpose is that—tormenting the fuck out of men until you have them wound so goddamn tight that they don’t know whether they’re coming or going? I scoff tragically at my unasked question and turn my attention back to the fire. Why the fuck am I here?

“You want to figure me out,” she taunts. I don’t look at her.

“I don’t know that I do,” I reply. “I don’t know that I’ll like what I find.”

And I feel a disturbance in the force.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she says. Her voice is deceiving. It’s supposed to be controlled. At least that’s what she wants you to believe, but she’s perturbed. It’s even, no fluctuation or emotion—nothing to give her away… that’s what she wants you to think. What she doesn’t know is that I’m at my most vulnerable right now. Well, maybe she does know, but it wouldn’t matter. Nonetheless, when I’m here, I’m my most observant. I’m that trapped rat looking for every advantage, every weakness, trying to find a way out even when I know there is none; even when the cat has me by the tail, fangs open and I’m staring at her tonsils about to take that final trip down her throat to my doom, I can still see every molecule of every situation as clear as a bell… like at the moment of your death.

She’s a man-eater and she loves it. She knows where our power lies and she knows how to harness it. If she doesn’t know exactly how to harness it, she spends every moment trying to figure it out. That’s why she doesn’t fuck, because she can’t hide the dick. She has to see it. It’s her gauge. If it doesn’t respond the way that she wants, then she has to change her tactic. If she can make it throb, make it ache, make it hurt, make it cum without hiding it in that dark hole like every other average little pussy… well, that’s her power. That’s her mystery.

That’s what makes her Golden.

And she’s fucking good at it.

She has so many ways to make you suffer and make you squirm. I’m trying not to squirm just thinking about some of the things she does to those poor souls in the exhibition rooms. I sip my drink, suddenly wishing I had asked for something stronger.

Any tight, dark hole or right amount of friction anywhere can make you come, but it takes some real Jedi, psyche-yo-mind, transcendental, subspace, get-into-your-head other level shit for somebody to make you come like Niagara fucking Falls without even touching your dick, or by beating you, or by sending electric shock through your ass. Who the fuck would know that?

Why yes, Mistress, high voltage in my asshole is very stimulating. Thank you very much! How the fuck does that conversation come about?

“Mr. Grey, have I lost you?” she says, her voice firm. I don’t react outwardly, but I flinch a bit inside. I know her keen senses probably picked up on the reaction, but it doesn’t matter. Like I said, mouse by the tail, staring at the tonsils, final trip down her throat…

“Far from lost me, Golden,” I reply. I know full well where I am and where I stand, or where I sit. I’ve been pulled into your web—I’ve tasted, smelled, and touched you and after months of not seeing your face, hearing your voice, tasting your lips, smelling your skin, or coming against your body, I get one glimpse of you… one glimpse, and it’s like no time has passed… no fucking time at all.

I need a goddamn cigarette and I don’t even fucking smoke.

She’ll fucking destroy me.

She stands slowly, a predator stalking her prey. I should have looked at her. I should have faced-off with her to let her know that I wasn’t afraid. I’m not afraid… but I don’t look at her. I don’t turn my gaze to her, because I know she’s a man-eater. I fucking want her in a way that I can’t explain. I did everything I could to get her the fuck out of my mind, out of my system and nothing fucking worked!

I tried to buy her and that didn’t work.

I tried to charm her and that didn’t work.

I tried to seduce her and that didn’t work.

I tried to strongarm her and that didn’t work.

When all else failed, I fucking tried to forget her and even that didn’t work.

And now, here I am in her goddamn house… again. The last time I was here, I came in my fucking pants like a fucking pervert. What’s the best that can come from this trip… I get arrested?

“Follow me,” she says, and breezes past me. I raise my head as she throws the parlor doors open and walks out of them without even waiting for me. I stand from the sofa and nearly have to run to catch up with her. I follow her through the house to a door that she unlocks and proceeds through it. When I fall in behind her, I see a staircase. I follow her down into a dark space and stop before I get to the bottom of the stairs… it’s pitch black…

And then there was light.

A gentle golden hue is cast on a black and gold dungeon, masterfully equipped even better than my playroom, and I thought I fucking had everything! There are sex chairs and bondage toys in here the likes of which I’ve never even seen. I’m stunned by the intricate detail of the masterful toys and equipment in this room. This stuff cost a fortune and a lot of it is custom-made.

“My minor was human sexuality, Mr. Grey,” she says as she stalks around her dungeon. “I know ways to make men come that most people have never even heard of. What you see in that club is only a fraction of what I can do.” I frown.

“You studied to do this?” I ask. She chuckles.

“No,” she says, her voice deep as she eyes me through a modified St. Andrews Cross. “Curiosity made me study. I just wanted to learn more. I had a… hunger, you could say… a yearning that just needed to be fed.” She walks around the cross and fondles a flogger hanging from a bar of impact devices. “It’s a long story, but let’s just say… I know that I’m fun to watch. I make it so on purpose, but I’m quite the professional at what I do.”

I’m a fly caught in a spiderweb. There’s no use in me trying to play the suave, debonair Christian Grey in this setting. I am definitely the prey right now…

“So, what does this mean to me?” I say as firmly as I can. “I’m a Dominant… and so are you.”

“And yet, you’re here,” she says, her arms folded and her legs spread, “in my dungeon.” I finally do something to assert a standoff and turn my back on her, observing the various apparatuses in the dungeon.

“I know you can’t say much,” I say with my back to her, trying to figure out the modifications on the extra-large spanking bench she has in the corner, “but your submissive tonight, he seemed to take certain liberties…” like when he kissed you after the scene.

“He’s not a submissive,” she corrects me. “He’s a masochist. He gets off on bondage and pain. There’s a difference.” I raise my eyebrows.

“So… you don’t get off on the Dominance?” I ask.

“Of course, I do,” she says, matter-of-factly, “but Dominance just needs a subject. You’re a Dom, you know how this works,” she says, her voice scolding. She’s right. I do, which is why you and I are like oil and water, Golden. We’ll never mix, except…

“This is all very interesting, and I’m sure we could swap some very detailed stories and techniques, but neither of us is interested in that, I think,” I say, which is a lie. I could honestly sit in her presence and listen to her talk about anything… any goddamn thing at all. She could talk to me about the stock market, star constellations, the fucking origin of lint and I would sit and listen—captivated—just to watch her mouth move. But the longer I stay in her fucking presence, the further I fall down the rabbit hole and I want to devour this woman. My only hope is escape, right the fuck now.

“You once asked me how you could enjoy the pleasure of my time,” she begins. Yeah… I did. Where’s this going?

“You have my attention,” I say.

“You want the pleasure of my time?” she says, gesturing around her dungeon. “This is how you get it.”

My head snaps back in horror. She can’t be serious. Is she expecting me to be her submissive?

“I don’t gaze longingly into anyone’s eyes and have long conversations about the future or swap stories about what we have in common and I sure as hell don’t let somebody drill into me until their winky is good and wet and leave their little droppings all inside me! Fucking is elementary and it’s messy. It’s for hormonal teenagers, lovers, making babies, and prostitutes and none of those are on my agenda. Men turn their bodies over to me and I make them come so hard that they think they see God. Anybody can jack you off. Your own fist can make you nut. Not many people in the world can do what I do, can make you feel what I can make you feel. So, Mr. Grey, would you like a taste of what you’ve been gagging for?” I glare at her.

“I’m not a submissive,” I nearly growl.

“I didn’t say that you were!” she retorts sharply. “Do you think any of those fucks that I torture and make them come until they’re mindless do so because they think they’re submissives? They want to transcend—they want more, they need more than a mindless fuck and a ten-second squirt into a black hole. That’s why they come to me. That’s why no one else will do.”

“You’re some fucking piece of work!” I declare. “You drive men out of their goddamn minds and you do that shit on purpose! You’re the worst kind of tease. You’re the kind of woman who would turn a man into a fucking serial killer out of pure frustration!”

That calm exterior cracks and those brown eyes widen to the size of saucers. You could catch flies—no, scratch that—rabbits in her mouth right now. There’s only one word to describe this expression on her face right now. She is appalled!

“How dare you!” she retorts. “You know who am I and you know exactly what I do! I didn’t pursue you! I never pursued you! You pursued me! I never presented myself to be anything that I wasn’t! I never came looking for you and I never sent for you! You followed me! You summoned me! And now here you are in my dungeon! My playroom! I’m not in yours, Mr. Grey, you’re in mine and you have the audacity to cast judgment on me?”

Um… okay. I was not prepared for that. Everything that she just said is the God’s honest truth. She didn’t pursue me, I pursued her—even in other women, I pursued her. I pursued her body in other forms; I pursued her face in my dreams; I pursued her any way that I could have her because I’m fucking obsessed with her, and when I can’t have her the way that I want her, then I’m pissed at her and start blaming her for being hot and inaccessible.

“Fuck!” I hiss under my breath and turn away from her again. Now is the time to leave, Grey. There’s another dry fuck in your future—this time, against that St. Andrew’s Cross, if you don’t start making your way up those goddamn steps right now…

“I should leave,” I say, heading for the stairs.

“Maybe that’s best,” she concurs, her voice irritated. I turn my gaze to her.

“Why did you bring me down here?” I snap.

“Why did you come to my home?” she retorts.

“I asked you first!” I counter.

“I don’t play fair,” she exclaims, putting her hands on her hips. I glare at her.

“You won’t leave me alone,” I admit. “For six months, I did everything I could not to think about you. I went to the club looking for you. When it obvious that you weren’t there, I stopped looking. I tried to forget you, but it was no use. You don’t even belong to me. I’ve never even had you—not really, yet I still can’t get you out of my fucking mind. You tried to kill me, though you swear you didn’t. Forgive me if being on the receiving end of a near-miss deadly projectile object somewhat clouds my judgment, but I still. Couldn’t. Fucking. Forget you. I broke up with the closest thing I had to a girlfriend because of you. Six months,” I hiss at the floor, frustrated, thrusting my hand in my hair. “Six months, I fucked that girl thinking of you. That’s why the fuck I’m in your home.” When I look up at her, her gaze is impassive. I might as well have been talking to the guy upstairs. “Now, why am I down here?”

“I’ve answered that question already,” she says coolly.

“You have not!” I challenge.

“Oh, I have,” she counters, “I just answered it with a question. You’re down here because you came to my home.” She walks to the far end of the wall and turns around to face me.

“I brought you down here because you want to be here, you just don’t want to admit it. You’ve seen me in the clubs, several times. You’ve seen what I do. Yes, you’ve rubbed your dick against me and you’ve come against my body, but you’re a Dominant, just like I am, and never once have you seen me submit. Yet, you’re here—in my house. You were here waiting for me when I arrived. Why are you in my dungeon, Mr. Grey? Because you want to be. For whatever reason you want to be here, you’re here. You’re under no misconception that I’m going to submit to you. You don’t even know me that well, but you know me better than that, yet here you are. So, you tell me, Chopper, why are you down here?”

Chopper. There’s that name again. I still don’t know what the hell it means. It couldn’t be Charlie Tango—hardly anybody knows I fly that thing and she didn’t know that the first time she called me that name.

“I don’t appreciate coy nicknames, Goldie,” I hiss.

“You’ve been going by one since I’ve known you, Trey!” she hisses back.

“’Trey’ is part of my name,” I state.

“Which part?” she scoffs.

“Surname,” I nearly growl. “Trevelyan-Grey. I’m sure you checked me out after you nearly separated my soul from its mortal coil. Did that part get past you, counselor?” The corner of her mouth rises in a half-smirk.

“I never even looked at the background check,” she says smugly, crossing her arms. “Blake told me who you were, and I knew I’d be seeing you at negotiations the next day with Wilma. I didn’t expect the outcome of the following evening, but I had no intention of ever seeing you again. So, I guess the answer to your question is yes, that part did get past me.”

She stands there staring at me, that smug smirk still plastered on her face. I’m a rat in a cage and she knows it. The cage is open, and I can leave at any time, but she knows that I don’t want to go. She crosses her feet at the ankles and folds her arms. Her smirk is gone, and her gaze is fixed.

“Your move, Chopper,” she says, firmly. “I don’t have all night. The stairs are right there in front of you. Nobody’s keeping you here. Now I ask again, would you like a taste of what you’ve been gagging for all this time?”

I examine her carefully and everything in me is telling me to run… run as far away from this woman as I can get and don’t look back. But I tried that already. I stayed away from her for months, away from the club for months and she still permeated my thoughts and dreams. I tried to turn another woman into her and still walked right into her web again trying to run away to a different fetish club.

This is fucking suicide.

If I stay, if I let her dominate me, I get a glimpse into her world. If I’m successful, I might be able to get close to her—to break her down and eventually get what I want from her. If I fail, I’ll at least get a taste of what those poor suckers get in the clubs, the elixir that keeps them coming back for more. That alone is worth the experience, but…

“I’m not a submissive.”

“We’ve had this conversation,” she chastises. “Are you like Elena? Do you think the only enjoyment a submissive garners from your presence is the pain you inflict upon them? Is that why you do this? I’m a sadist; I admit that. I get a certain amount of pleasure out of the pain that I inflict, but that’s not the whole purpose. If it were, I wouldn’t be Golden. Is that your purpose, Grey?”

Shit. What is my purpose? I just don’t like being bored. I don’t like the messiness of relationships. I like control. I like dominance. And I like sex.

“You’re an Alpha Male,” she states. “I can see right through you. You’ve never even experienced the pleasure of pain because you’ve always been top dog. You’re not even afraid of it, you just… haven’t.” She waves her hand dismissively on the last word. “You probably had that minimum sub training in the beginning that we all had, but you don’t even remember it, do you?”

I examine her like an extra-terrestrial being. How could she possibly know me so well without knowing me? Did Elena talk to her? No… no, Elena didn’t have this kind of insight. I turn to face her and narrow my eyes.

“You’ve missed the best part,” she says, pushing off the wall without coming any closer to me. “You’ve missed the part where you transcend, where you leave yourself, where you don’t know where the orgasm starts because every sense in your body is heightened. You’ve missed the part that makes the submissive return without being paid to do it.”

She turns her back to me and begins to fondle a whip. It’s handmade, braided leather—golden, of course—one-tailed with a stinger. She truly loves what she does, and she loves the male body. I’ve seen it—she knows it like a musician knows his instrument; like an author knows his story; like an artist knows his painting.

Can I trust her?

“Hard limits…” I begin.

“There are no hard limits, Grey,” she interrupts me. “You don’t like something I’m doing, you safeword, I stop. That’s it. I push you. I test you. I learn you. You feel, and you enjoy.”

“How do I know…” What am I asking?

“Have you seen anyone leave my presence dissatisfied?” she asks, her voice certain. I almost detest her cockiness, but she’s right. I don’t have a choice but to trust her, or leave.

I don’t dare let on how nervous I am.

“How do we do this?” I ask.

“You get undressed,” she says, “everything except pants and underwear. You can put your things over there on the valet.”

I look to where she’s pointing and there’s a valet in the corner. I walk over to it like I’m headed for execution and begin to undress—jacket, t-shirt, boots, socks…

“The belt, too,” I hear her say, and I realize that she’s been watching me disrobe. I should feel some sort of pride. Instead, I feel objectified. Is this how my submissives feel?

I remove the belt and place it on the valet with my other items of clothing before I turn around to face her. My jeans slide down on my hips as I walk toward her without the assistance of my belt to hold them up. She examines me like an exotic animal as I approach.

“Come closer,” she commands when I stop walking just beyond the stairs. I follow her instructions feeling more and more like a submissive every second.

“Stop. Right there.” She seems to have backed into the shadows, but she emerges when I’m standing near the middle of her dungeon. Her heels click on the hard floor and she moves in extremely close to me, only breaths away from my face.

“Are you ready?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, my voice portraying a confidence I’m not feeling at the moment. She reaches over my head and I hear the rattle of chains as she produces a pair of leather cuffs.

“Your wrists,” she says. I present my hands to her and she fastens a leather cuff to each wrist. She goes over to the wall and pushes a button, and both my arms slowly rise over my head. When they’re extended almost as far as they can go, she releases the button. She turns around to face me and releases the ponytail from her hair. That one gesture almost has me salivating. She moves directly to the front of me again and reaches behind her neck, undoing the only button holding the azure blue creation to her body. When she drops her arms, it falls to the floor.

My eyes immediately fall on the most perfect natural round breasts I think I’ve ever seen. No wonder she bound my wrists first. I wouldn’t have been able to resist grabbing those beautiful mounds once they were revealed. She steps out of the dress, turns around and bends over to pick it up and good God almighty! There’s that ass I’ve fantasized about. It’s teasing me in these tiny, black, lace barely-there, fuck-my-ass panties and my dick is immediately hard.

Still in her high heels, she sashays her ass over to a small armoire across the room and hangs her dress inside, removing this tiny gold chemise negligee. She slides it over her body, her cheeks still poking out of the bottom. I can barely stand watching this, chained to the fucking ceiling and I can’t touch her. This is torture already. She turns around and glides back over to me.

“Choose a safeword,” she says.

“I’m not a sub,” I hiss.

“Choose a goddamn safeword!” she snaps back. I glare at her and choose my word.

“Golden.” Her eyes sharpen.

“Choose a different one,” she orders.

“You want a fucking safeword, that’s my fucking safeword!” I counter. She glares back at me.

“Fine,” she says through her teeth. She raises her hand from her side and presents a golden blindfold.

“Light’s out, Chopper,” she says, before I’m cast into darkness.gold-swirl-sleep-mask-sublimebirdy-1


A/N: Aint I a stinker?

Golden and Trey’s first scene will be in the next chapter. It’s to detailed to begin at that end of a chapter, so it has to be a chapter of its own. Sorry for the cliffie…

“a disturbance in the force”—that’s a little reference for you Star Wars fans, if there are any.

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

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

Raising Grey: Chapter 25—Actionable Behavior

This is a work or 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 here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

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 25—Actionable Behavior

CHRISTIAN

I had the foresight to retrieve my father’s phone right after the call from Mia. I had a feeling that my mother would try to pester him throughout the night. Even if she wanted to reconcile and apologize, my father deserved a good night’s sleep. I left a note on his nightstand that his phone would be on the wraparound desk in the hallway if he wanted it.

That’s where it stayed all night.

I’m almost afraid to join my family for breakfast. Nobody except Elliot is going into work today and I think we’re all just going to hide out at the mansion… hiding out from Mom. Last night’s call from Mia has everybody wanting to ask Dad what’s going on and I think the only person who has a clear picture of the situation besides Dad is Butterfly—and she’s mum, for good reason.

When I get to the table, Valerie and Elliot are already there. He’s not taking the day off because he wants to make sure their house is finished before Mia’s wedding since he and his wife will be taking a vacation. That blessed and hellish event is just about a month away, so he doesn’t want to let the grass grow under his feet.

“Our house is going to rival yours when it’s finished, Bro,” he says, shoveling eggs into his mouth. “We don’t have the space that you do, but the view is about the same—plus, you have the ‘go big or go home’ mentality. We just want classy and elegant.” I put my hand over my chest in mock insult.

“Was that a shot at me, big brother?” I ask. “Are you saying that I’m not classy and elegant?”

“Please,” Valerie interjects. “Of course, you’re classy and elegant, but our class and elegance is more like little impressive hills and prairies; your class and elegance is more like Mount Rushmore.” She raises an eyebrow at me as she sips her herbal tea. I shrug. I can’t argue with that logic.

“What can I say?” I reply as Gail places a large plate of pancakes in front of me. Oh, this looks like heaven. I couldn’t eat much yesterday and could only peck at dinner since I tried to pickle my insides the night before and into the early morning hours. Now, I’m fucking ravenous.

“What did I miss?” I hear Butterfly say as she makes her entrance. The pancakes taste like life and merry-go-rounds and happy endings, and I’m temporarily separated from the conversation going on at the table until I hear Butterfly mention Freeman’s name.

“What about Freeman?” I say, covering my full mouth as I speak.

“Apparently, he’s not so adverse to having money and being rich,” she says. My brow furrows.

“Oh?” I press, still chewing my food. She nods as she puts warm scrambled eggs and bacon on her plate from under the dome covers on the table.

“It appears that the discovery of his assets for the divorce are falling right in line with a very ill-placed audit,” she announces as she pours juice into a glass from a carafe. I scoff a laugh, drawing attention to myself, but I’m not really sure that I want the family to know that the audit was my idea. I mean, I’d rather the whole thing look like Karmic justice.

“Serves the fucker right,” I say, pretending to declare it under my breath while cutting more of the pillowy pancakes. “How the hell did that come about? And what does any of this have to do with being rich? Is he rich?” I shovel more food into my mouth and maintain eye-contact with my wife. I haven’t lied—I’m just seeing what she knows. She shrugs dismissively.

“He’s not rich like us,” she clarifies, “but from the assets he’s been hiding, he’s pretty fucking well off.”

“Who’s well off?” My Dad’s voice cuts through the room like thunder. We all momentarily look at him like a unicorn, hoping he doesn’t self-destruct, but Valerie is the first person to remind us that we need to act normal, even though having my father at our breakfast table without my mother is nothing close to normal.

“Ana was just telling us about the surprises your brother has been hiding,” she says, taking another sip of her tea.

“My brother?” he says, frowning. He takes the seat next to me and Gail brings fresh pancakes to the table. “God, those look good,” he says.

“Dig in,” I tell him. “Butterfly was just telling us about Freeman’s hidden assets.” Dad’s hand freezes as it hovers over the fresh stack of hot buttery pancakes.

“Hidden assets?” he asks, looking at Butterfly, who’s chomping away on crispy bacon and nodding.

“Apparently,” she begins after swallowing, “Your brother has been very smart with his investments over the years, such that he has much more squirreled away than Nell knew about, including houses and bank accounts abroad.” Dad’s eyebrows rise in suspicion as he puts two pancakes on his plate and pours syrup over them.

“Haven’t the proceedings just started?” he asks. “It takes forever to find something like that in discovery.”

“They didn’t find it in discovery,” I interject. “The asshole is being audited,” I nearly giggle.

“Audited?” Dad says in surprise.

“Yeah, at the same time that Nell’s attorney is in the discovery process,” Elliot adds. “That’s bad luck in spades.

“That’s not bad luck,” Dad says. “That’s Karma.”

“And she’s one beautiful bitch,” I add, then look over at my father. “Sorry, Dad.” Dad chuckles.

“This is one of those times where I have to agree with you, son,” he says, taking a mouthful of pancakes. “Oh, that’s really good,” he says, shamelessly talking with his mouth full.

“Well, it turns it out that’s not all he’s hiding,” Butterfly says, taking another bite of her breakfast.

“Oh?” Valerie questions. “What else?” Butterfly swallows before she says,

“A girlfriend.”

And my Dad nearly chokes.

I’m banging on his back to make sure nothing gets lodged in this throat, but he raises a hand to tell me that he’s fine. After taking a few healthy swallows of water, he turns to my wife.

“A what?” he asks, his voice a bit strained.

“A girlfriend,” she repeats. “He’s leasing a car—a Cadillac or something, I can’t remember right now—and she’s the one driving it around the metro Detroit area. That’s how they found her.”

“Fucking shit, really?” Elliot pipes in. Goddammit, this couldn’t have turned out better had I planted a woman to say she was fucking him!

“He really is a piece of work!” I exclaim, frowning. “Think about it—he’s so fucking sanctimonious about what everybody else is doing and he’s walking around doing this shit?”

“That’s Freeman,” Dad says, digging back into his breakfast. “He can quickly tell you what the hell you’re doing wrong, but can’t see his own flaws for shit.” I can tell Dad is getting bitter—he already spent the night in a bed not his own—so I quickly change the subject.

“So, what’s the plan for the day? It’s clear that everybody except our esteemed brother is hiding out…”

We talk about what we plan to do for the rest of the day. Life and business goes on and none of us plan on shirking our responsibilities. We’re just going to handle those responsibilities from the comfort of the Crossing. Dad will be using my den while Butterfly and I work from our respective offices. Valerie will be making some decorating decisions for their new home and as far as we know, business everywhere else will continue as usual.

At least, that’s what we thought.

“Sir,” Jason comes into the dining room somewhat on alert.

“What is it?” I ask him.

“Sir?” He then turns to my father. “Mr. Grey, your wife is here.”

I roll my eyes before I know it, and Dad wipes his mouth and tosses his napkin on the table. A collective sigh is heard ‘round the room as my father shakes his head. I take a deep breath. He knows that I can’t turn her away. He’ll have to do it, if that’s what he wants.

“Okay,” I say and nod to him. He nods back and leaves the room.

Breakfast is officially over.

“What do you want to do?” I ask him. He twists his lips.

“Can’t hide forever,” he replies.

“Apparently, not even for one night,” Elliot says. We both throw a look at him. He raises his hands in defense. “I’m just saying, okay?” he defends. “I get it, but still… give a guy a chance to cool off.”

“Apparently, you’ve forgotten New Year’s Eve,” Valerie chides gently. Realization comes to Elliot’s face.

“Touché,” he says, and kisses the back of her hand. “I don’t mean to eat and run, but you guys know I have to get to work.” He wipes his mouth and stands.

“Making a clean getaway?” Dad asks him.

“That, too,” he admits. “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, son.” Just as he thought he would escape, Mom comes rushing into the dining room like she’s trying to catch my father before he leaves. Elliot is trapped, facing off with my mom. She clearly hasn’t slept, even though she has tried to hide her tired eyes with makeup.

“Leaving so soon?” she says, her voice sad. Elliot puts his hand on her arm.

“I have to go to work, Mom,” he says sympathetically, “and even if I didn’t, I’d still be leaving. This is between you and Dad.” He kisses her on the cheek. “Love you, Mom.” He leaves before she can protest. Almost on cue, Butterfly, Valerie, and I all stand and proceed to leave the room.

“I guess I can really clear a room, huh?” Mom says, her voice bruised this time. I don’t have the strength to respond. She sent me into nightmares, for God’s sake. I had to have an emergency phone session with Dr. Baker yesterday. Butterfly, as I can see, is in no hurry to engage either. Once again, it’s Valerie to the rescue.

“We all love you, Grace,” she says diplomatically. “We love you both, but if Carrick wasn’t here right now, you wouldn’t be here either. It’s just like Elliot said—this is between the two of you, so the rest of us are going to leave.”

I don’t wait for the go ahead to leave. I quickly get the hell out of Dodge. Butterfly and I both head for the elevator to go downstairs while Valerie makes her way to the stairs back up to the room she and Elliot share. I think my wife and I both hold our breath until the elevator closes behind us before we shake our heads and look at each other.

“She doesn’t look too good,” Butterfly points out.

“She looks like Dad did when I saw him yesterday,” I say. I was trying not to sound like “Dad didn’t get any sleep and now it’s her turn,” but that’s how it came out anyway. Butterfly sighs.

“This is not a good place for the family,” she says.

“No, it’s not,” I say as the elevator doors open to the ground floor, “but at this point, only one person can change that.” She nods.

“You know where I’ll be,” she says resigned, before kissing me on the cheek and heading to her study.

*-*

As hard as I try, I don’t get much done during the course of the day. Dad came to talk to me after his conversation with Mom and apparently, it didn’t go very well. He says they didn’t argue, but he’s still going to be staying here for a while—how long, he didn’t say, and I’m not going to press him about it. I need a break from my mother, and apparently, my dad does, too, but I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I’m her son, not her husband. Me taking a break from her is a whole lot different from Dad doing it.

Dad has also apparently secured the services of one Dr. Grey, M.D. while he’s staying here. He hasn’t really talked to anybody about his grief… he was depending heavily on Mom for that and now, she’s a bit distracted. He didn’t want to dump on Uncle Herman and now, he has no one else and refuses to confide in a stranger. So, Butterfly, it is. I have to say that I think this football outing is coming right on time.

Speaking of which, nightfall finds the four of us along with two of our security detail—Chuck and Jason—comfortably on the fifty at CenturyLink Field. Jason has assured me that Rossiter will certainly not be in attendance at tonight’s festivities, so Butterfly and I and our fathers settle in to enjoy the game.

The Bears are hustling for sure and they’re certainly quite proud of themselves, but they’re celebrating way too early and don’t hustle enough.

Wilson put a damper on the Bears’ party with two rushing touchdowns and the first part of the game is a display of senseless slaughter—five possessions and the Seahawks score every time. The score is 31-0 by half-time, Seahawks favor. I’m wondering why the Bears even bothered to show up.

But the best play of the night has to be Cutler’s massive fuck up. The Bears’ quarterback is standing there like he’s waiting for a bus while his teammate is calling plays. So, once the ball is snapped to his ass, he’s surprised! What does he do? He sends the ball sailing through the air to the wide receiver, Josh Morgan, who’s shuffling around at the one-yard line. Easy touchdown, right?

Wrong!

Good ole Cutler wasn’t paying attention to the two Seahawks hovering around his wide receiver and when he shoots the ball down the field, Jeremy Lanes effortless leaps in front of the stunned Bear and picks off the pass for a Seahawks turnover.

And the crowd goes wild.

Dad and Ray leap to their feet, yelling like teenagers at Jeremy Lane’s interception right at the Bears’ two-yard line and the subsequent 42-yard run across field. That man does so many fake-outs during that stretch, all I could think was “Sweet Feet.” Even Butterfly got into the fun, screaming at the cornerback to run his “tight ass” up the field. I could get jealous, but why bother? It’s not like she’s leaving me for him. Either way, the Bears did everything they could to stop him, but were left dumbfounded when he leapt in front of Morgan waiting at the goal line for an easy touchdown, and took that pigskin damn near back into enemy territory. Morgan somewhat redeemed himself, taking Lane down at the 43-yard line, but did he have a choice? Either way, Bears fans are cursing all over the country tonight.

I should have known that we weren’t going to get out of that game unscathed, though. Somebody somewhere has a GPS on my colon or something, because if there’s a camera in the general vicinity of me and my wife, it will find us. And what fucking camera finds us?

The goddamn KissCam.

Butterfly just giggles and points to it. When I look up and see that we’re front and center on the CenturyLink Field Jumbotron, I realize that my fucking manhood and honor are at stake and on display for everybody to see. I grab my wife out of her seat, bend her over my lap, and plant a passionate kiss on her lips that has her clawing at my hair.

And once again the crowd goes wild.

After a lip lock that lasts for several moments, I pull away and gaze down into her eyes.

“Showoff,” she breathes.

“Whatever do you mean?” I ask, before closing in on her again. After a few more moments, the crowd begins to chant, and when I focus, I realize that they’re chanting, “Get a room.” I tear my lips away from my wife to see that we are still on the Jumbotron. I laugh out loud and peck her on the lips again, finally letting her up and sitting her back in her seat. The crowd is cheering once again, and I shamelessly stand up and take a couple of bows while my wife shakes her head and hides her face. Dad and Ray are both laughing at my poor wife’s discomfort, and I put my arm around her and kiss her on the cheek to comfort her. She playfully smacks at my chest, scolding my impishness.

And soon, we’re back to watching the game, if you can call it that. The Seahawks score a field goal in the third and the Bears prevent a shutout by scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter, losing the game with an embarrassing 34 to 6 final score. Dad and Ray rise to leave with the rest of the crowd, but Jason signals for us to wait.

“I called for backup,” he informs me. “With the Jumbotron display, I figure the press will probably be present, but we have to wait for a minute. The guys were detained.” I frown.

“Detained? By what?”

“By whom… the cops.” Now he’s got my attention.

“Why? What did they do?”

“Speeding,” he informs me. I twist my lips and he puts his hands up in surrender. “Sir, I’ve had this conversation with every member of our staff. According to Chance, he wasn’t going more than five over the limit. Nobody on our staff ever does. Ben is with him, and he confirms it. So, I don’t know if this is some rookie cop with a bug up his butt or some guy trying to make his quota, but we got a ticket.” I shake my head.

“Just pay the damn thing,” I say. I seem to remember us getting one the other day, but I think we had an emergency or something, I don’t know. Nonetheless, I’m not going to let a stupid fucking speeding ticket ruin our day. “Did you guys enjoy the game?”

“Boy, did I!” Dad says. “It was just what I needed! I haven’t seen a game that great in years. I don’t get to many live games anymore, you know.”

“Maybe we should look into some season tickets, Carrick,” Ray says. “The wife doesn’t want to see the games and I don’t get to see my friend Brian much anymore since I moved from Montesano…” and off our Dads go talking about the game and hoping to secure some season tickets if it’s not too late. I look at Butterfly, who is smiling at her father.

“I know he misses Brian,” she says, sadly. “They’ll always be friends, but it’s just not the same since…” and she trails off. I think she feels guilty for coming between her father and his best friend.

“That’s not your fault,” I tell her.

“Isn’t it?” she says, looking up at me. “I could have tried harder, done something to discourage him before the situation got completely out of hand. True, I didn’t encourage him—I didn’t make him think he had a chance. But I didn’t work hard enough at nipping that situation in the bud—at Daddy’s wedding, when I should have done it. I guess I thought… I hoped the situation would take care of itself.” She sighs heavily. “Nonetheless, it’s water under the bridge now.” She looks at Dad and Ray laughing heartily at some joke or something one has told the other, and she smiles.

“When one door closes, another one opens,” she says softly.

“Here’s hoping,” I confirm.

Ray joins us for dinner at the Crossing before going home to his wife and son and the rest of us turn in for the night. Saturday brings a whole new barrel of issues to face.

“Fucking hell,” I say to myself as I read the latest Google alerts on a certain asshole. I call Jason on his cell.

“Yes, sir?”

“Come to my study.”

“Yes, sir.” I end the call and scroll through Rossiter’s latest interview, if you can call it that. I don’t know if he just started talking shit in a bar or something or if he actually sat down with somebody, but this bit of news has pictures and everything. A few moments later, Jason comes into my office.

“Close the door,” I tell him. He closes the door behind him and crosses the space to my desk. I turn my laptop to face him. He looks stoically at the article where Rossiter details an altercation with Grey’s “goons” to keep him from the football game last night so that my wife and I could “suck face” all over the Jumbotron. This doesn’t look good at all and I need to act fast.

“Can he prove that anybody in my camp touched him?” I ask. Jason shakes his head.

“Nope,” he says. “You don’t want the details, but no, he can’t.” I nod.

“No, I don’t want details, but you’re certain that he can’t prove it—no hidden cameras, no forensic evidence…”

“Sir, he can’t prove it… at all. I can guarantee you, he knows why he was confronted, but he can’t tell you who confronted him.”

“Good.” I dial Allen.

“I take it this is about your friend, Judd,” he says when he answers the phone.

“You’re quick. First thing Monday morning,” I tell him. “I want a lawsuit filed against him for slander and for libel.”

“I had a feeling,” I hear him sigh. “Is he lying?”

“Do you know if he’s telling the truth?” I retort.

“I’m your attorney, Chris, I need to know,” he counters.

“If he was or wasn’t, I wouldn’t tell you over the phone.” He sighs.

“Does Jewel know?” I roll my eyes.

“Again, I’m not discussing this over the phone and I guess I should have just invited you to dinner. How’s five o’clock? Bring the husband.” He sighs again.

“Have my godchildren awake and ready for several sympathy hugs. I mean it.” He ends the call. I sigh.

“I need to tell my wife.” Jason nods and leaves the room. “Activate two-way communications.” Ding. “Locate Anastasia Grey.”

“Ana!” I hear water running.

“Mmm, what’s the likelihood I can join you?” The water stops running. Dammit.

“Nil, my love. I’m just getting out. What’s up?”

“How soon before you’re decent and bringing that sexy ass downstairs?”

“I don’t know, about an hour or so? I was going to grab the twins after I got dressed.”

“Let the nannies grab the twins. I need you to get dressed and come to the study. There’s something we need to discuss.” She’s quiet for a moment.

“Is everything okay?” she asks.

“We have a little development. It’s delicate, and I need you to come down so that I can bring you up to speed.”

“Understood. I’ll be down as soon as I’m dressed.” I know I had to choose my words wisely. The wrong choice of words would have led to a hundred questions. “Delicate” and “bring you up to speed” translated into “can’t tell you over the intercom” and “important business that you need to be aware of.”

“See you in a minute, baby,” I say, trying to keep the tone light. “End two-way communications.”

A few minutes later, Butterfly is sitting across from my desk, her mouth hanging open and eyes wide as I inform her of Rossiter’s accusations and what led to them.

“I don’t know what to say,” she says, standing from her seat and beginning to pace. “I mean, are these guerilla tactics really necessary?” I shrug.

“I got a restraining order against the guy, but I couldn’t get a gag order. We’re going to be doing a prime-time interview pretty soon. We can’t have him running off at the mouth. She looks at the picture again.

“Did they really rough him up that badly or is this picture retouched?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I told them to send a message, not beat the hell out of him. Maybe this was the message.” She sighs.

“Well, of course I won’t say anything, but I don’t know how I feel about this,” she confesses.

“I just wanted you to know, baby,” I tell her. “Allen and James are coming over for dinner. I’m filing suit against him for libel and slander.”

“But it’s not libel or slander,” she protests. “You did have him attacked.”

“But he can’t prove it, and until he can, he can’t go spouting that stuff off on national media. It’s damaging to my reputation and it’s putting the safety of my family at risk.” She shakes her head.

“You’re treading a thin line, here, Christian,” she warns. I come from behind the desk and gently grasp both her arms.

“Baby, when it comes to my family, I will tread whatever line is necessary. This man sat in a room and subjected you to a very unprofessional and uncomfortable situation and when he was called to task on it, he blamed you for it. Then, he’s been running his mouth to anybody who’ll listen and the first opportunity he got to corner you in public, he did, and subsequently attacked your father. He didn’t know that your father was a Marine and was going to whip his ass. As far as he knew, he was attacking an elderly man in public, and he had no problem doing that and continues to blame you for his behavior. We have a restraining order against his ass and he still won’t shut the fuck up. Tell me again what fine line I’m treading?” She looks up at me with uncertain blue eyes.

“When you put it that way…” she says, her voice trailing off.

“Look, baby, I know you’re being faced with a huge moral dilemma right now. I only told you because I want you to be informed and not to be ambushed by information. You don’t have to carry the burden of the morality of it. I will. Okay?” She looks up at me and sighs.

“No, we’re in this together. If the big ape can’t keep his goddamn mouth shut and his fucking hands to himself, then guerilla tactics it is. My morality is just going to have to deal with it.” I kiss her on the forehead and pull her into an embrace.

“That’s why I love you,” I tell her. “Not all the time, but sometimes, drastic measures are necessary.”

“I know, I know,” she says. “I may have to take some drastic measures of my own with this licensing thing.” I pull her back and examine her face.

“What do you mean?” She sighs.

“This Gloria Felton bitch,” she hisses. “Nearly twenty letters and this cunt won’t budge! And I know that she’s behind this, because I can tell by the personal tone in the responses. One of them even hinted at refusing to do personal favors even for Washington’s elite.” I roll my eyes.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” I shake my head.

“I wish I were,” she says. “What this cow doesn’t understand is that she’s hurting the community trying to get back at us. I know that I can easily buy my way into just about anything, Christian, but we’re trying to legitimately make a positive mark on the community while she’s clearly pushing a personal agenda.”

“Well, you know you have unlimited resources at your disposal to push back,” I remind her. She nods.

“I know. I just… I truly want to exhaust every avenue before I go steamrolling into the capitol ‘Grey style.’ It’s so important that our credibility remain intact so that we can be taken seriously. I will not allow Helping Hands to become another one of those socialite, token charities with no value. Although Grace seems to be suffering from a bout of temporary brain damage, she’s put a lot of work into this organization and I won’t let that go to waste.” I kiss her forehead again.

“You’re a good woman and a good person… but you say the word and I can have an investigation crawling up her ass in seconds.” Butterfly shakes her head.

“That’s fuel to her fire, Christian,” Butterfly protests. “She’ll just go public with accusations of expected privilege. That’s why I’m sending the letters. I’m building a case. I have all the documentation that we’ve done every single thing she’s required of us. It’s more than enough proof that she’s not only being unreasonable, but she’s harassing us.” I nod.

“How much longer are you going to wait before you do something?”

“Not much longer. I’ve only got a couple more letters before I get to twenty, and she doesn’t even know that her snazzy responses are just adding to my paper trail. I’ve compiled so much documentation, it reads like a volume of encyclopedias. I have a file drawer with nothing but this shit—not a file, a file drawer.

“Damn.” This is worse than I thought.

“We should have been accredited months ago, Christian. It’s getting out of hand.”

“Well, why don’t we go and snuggle with two little bundles of happiness to try to put us in a better mood? We’ll have plenty to talk about when Allen gets here.”

“I’m all for that,” she says, putting her arm around my waist as we walk towards the door.


ANASTASIA

“So, you did have him assaulted,” Al asks. We’ve convened to the outdoor patio after dinner to get as many particulars as possible. In attendance are James, my husband, Jason and Chuck, myself, and Al, of course.

“I don’t know the particulars and I don’t need to know, but I requested a message be sent to him and apparently, one was,” Christian responds. Al looks up at Jason, who nods.

“He may not need to know, but I do,” Al says. “Everything you tell me is privileged, but I need to know what I’m walking into. We’re filing a suit against this man for telling the truth.”

“We’re filing a suit against this man for defamation of character. I or no one on my team has been arrested. He doesn’t have any proof,” Christian protests. “Let him press charges if he has any proof. Otherwise, he needs to shut the fuck up. He should have shut the fuck up in the first place or he wouldn’t have been in this predicament.” Allen turns back to Jason.

“No way whatsoever he can legally link it to us. He couldn’t even identify who attacked him,” Jason says.

“The whole cloak-and-dagger attack? Burn the clothes when you’re done?” Al describes.

“Pretty much,” Jason confirms.

“Too much information,” Christian protests.

“Chris, get over it,” Al retorts sharply. “You don’t get to enjoy the comfort of anonymity and plausible deniability while I’m getting my arms elbow-deep in shit because of something you ordered! I’ll keep your ass clean, but your hands are going to get dirty, Mr. Grey!”

My friend is getting angry. I shift uncomfortably in my seat. He turns his attention to me.

“Did you know about this?” he asks.

“I just found out this morning,” I confess.

“And?” he prompts.

“And what?”

“How do you feel about it?”

“Conflicted,” I admit. “Do I like the fact that we’ve effectively resorted to uncivilized, goon-like behavior? No, but the guy is a fucking asshole. He’s gone unchecked for a month now, and the longer he goes on, the more brazen he becomes. He wanted attention for that horrible tattoo on his arm—he got it, and now he’s blaming me for the attention. We get a restraining order against him to keep him from physically attacking us in public, but he can say whatever he wants to say without consequence? About me? About my family? My children? Don’t I have a big enough target on my back without this blowhard uselessly flapping his lips and making my existence more difficult?”

The patio has fallen silent while I go on a rant about the headache and inconvenience this asshole’s presence and commentary has brought to my life. I didn’t really realize it until now, but I hate this fucker and I don’t care if Christian and Jason and the rest of the team take turns putting their foot in his ass every day if it will make him shut the fuck up.

“I lied,” I say, folding my arms and crossing my legs. “I’m not conflicted. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if that fuckturd keeps talking, I’ll go beat his ass myself!”

“Well,” Al says after a long silence, “I guess the Queen has spoken.”

“So… what? She doesn’t get a hard time, but I do?” my husband protests. I can see my best friend folding his arms in my peripheral.

You give her a hard time,” Al challenges. “Go ahead, I dare you. I double dare you.” I raise my eyes to my husband who turns his gaze to me and immediately raises his hands in surrender. “She didn’t ambush me; that’s why she’s not getting a hard time. I’m cuddling with my husband on what I think will be a lazy Saturday morning when I get a call from my esteemed leader telling me that I have a fire to put out from something that I’m discovering on one of the least reliable news sources in the entire state. And then the whole Mission Impossible of the situation tells me that it’s true and you’re sitting here like Sargent Schultz—‘I know nothing, I see nothing…’”

I burst into hysterical laughter as my friend imitates the character from Hogan’s Heroes who always turned a blind eye to bad activity when he was supposed to be guarding POWs. The situation was very much in need of levity at the time, but it very quickly takes on a serious tone again.

“My wife and I will most likely be doing an exposé interview within the next week or so,” Christian continues. “I need that suit filed first thing Monday morning and I need to be on somebody’s camera while coffee is brewing.” I roll my eyes.

“Good God, this is a fucking nightmare,” I lament.

“He’s got all weekend to plant his seeds,” Christian retorts. “On Monday morning, I’ve got to come back with something more than ‘nuh-uh!’”

“We’re doing a full-length, prime-time interview. The lawsuit will be filed, and the gag order will be in place—can’t we address it then?”

“No, we can’t,” Christian informs me. “My silence on this matter is the same as an admission of guilt. He gave me what I needed by going public with what happened. Somebody beat his ass—that’s obvious. He can’t prove that I had anything to do with it and he’s going on media and social media saying that I did it. The responses to his Twitter posts alone are enough to prove defamation of character. I got him! I’m going to let him yap all weekend long and give him enough rope to hang himself. Then, on Monday morning, I’m going to drop a bomb on his ass.”

“He’s right, Jewel,” Al says. “Judd has been nonstop on every medium that can support him, and people are coming back en masse calling Chris names and issuing threats. It’s nothing more than we seen before, but now, it’s directed. It’s someone who has had access to you guys. I may not be 100% in favor of these tactics, but the man is out of control. He caused his own problems, he keeps stirring the pot, and then he refuses to take responsibility for his actions. He’s got to be shut down one way or the other and while I would like for the methods to be completely legal…” He throws a look at my husband, “you gotta do what you gotta do.”

“You’re preaching to the choir here,” I say. “I’m just so tired of cameras. We were supposed to be doing one more interview…”

“Well, don’t worry. I’ll do this one alone. You can stay tucked safely in the comfort of our home and I’ll take care of the big bad wolf.”

“Sounds good to me,” I sigh.

*-*

We awake with the sun Monday morning, and Al is the first soul on the steps of the court house when the doors open. I’m preparing for a long day and just finishing my breakfast when a very flustered Marilyn comes marching into the dining room.

“What’s the matter?” I ask, my brow furrowed.

“We just got stopped by a cop on steroids!” she says, looking from me to Christian and back to me.

“We?” he asks.

“Me and Carol,” she says. “Well, Carol,” she corrects. “I was in front and she was following me. I look up and she’s slowing down, so I slow down, too. She pulls over, so I do, too. I open the door to go to her car and see what’s going on, and I see the cop walking up to her car. He sees me and bypasses Carol‘s car to get to mine. He tells me ‘Move along’ all snooty and shit. I’m like, ‘We’re together.’ He gets all nasty and tells me that I could be cited for obstruction, so I close the door, start my car, and pull forward about twenty feet. I’m on my phone calling Jason, because you guys told me not to go anywhere alone and before the call picks up, this asshole is banging on my window. I roll the window down and ask if he’s trying to break it. He demands to know who I’m calling and he’s screaming at me. So, I screamed back at him that I’m calling backup because he’s got my bodyguard detained and I’m not allowed to go anywhere without her and since he’s in no position to offer me a job for disobeying my employer, he should go on back there and do his, whatever it was. I don’t know what the fuck I said that scared the shit out of him, but he tells me to put the phone down and wait and that Carol would only be a minute. Then, he marches back to the car all ‘Bad Boys’ and a few minutes later, we’re back on our way. Before you ask, I think Carol got a ticket. I don’t know why, but she went to see Jason as soon as we got here.” Christian frowns.

“Were you speeding?” she twists her lips and turns to me.

“Bosslady, was I speeding?”

“Little Old Lady Caldwell here? No. She was probably going too slow.” Christian’s lip forms a thin line and he rubs his chin. “What is it?”

“Either I’m imagining things, or my people have been getting more tickets than usual,” he says. “It could be that time of the month or year and I’m just more in tune to it…”

“Boss…”

Jason interrupts Christian’s sentence with one word and a look. As my husband leaves the room with Jason, Marilyn takes his seat next to me and steals a piece of toast from the small stack on the table. She’s clearly bothered.

“What’s wrong?” I ask her.

“That cop,” she says, chomping on dry toast, “he was a real asshole. He was all, ‘move it along unless you want a ticket, too.’ At first, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t stop because I was trying to be difficult, Ana. I stopped because I needed another guard. He was downright panic-stricken when he saw me on my phone. I don’t know what the hell he thought was going on, but he scared the shit out of me the way he was banging on my window! I was like, ‘what…’”

Christian comes back into the dining room, his expression intense.

“The ticket was for driving too slow… two miles too slow, and I’m not crazy. Five tickets in five days.” He pauses and pulls his phone from his pocket.

“A ticket a day?” I say, frowning. He texts someone and raises his head to me.

“No, five tickets in five days. Not a ticket a day. One on Wednesday, three on Friday, and one so far this morning. This is not coincidence. Something’s wrong.”

“What do you think it is?” I ask. He shakes his head and looks at his phone again.

“I have no idea. Jason’s looking into it. We haven’t gotten five tickets in a year, let alone five in five days.” He taps a text into his phone again.

“Could it be quotas like you said? Or a gung-ho cop? Mare said the cop that stopped them was really cocky.” Christian shrugs.

“I don’t know. We have to see what Jason finds.” He swipes his phone and puts it to his ear. “Yeah?” He knows who that is. He didn’t answer with his usual, gruff, “Grey.” His face tightens like he just got bad news. Oh fuck, what is it? “Ballsy son of a bitch, isn’t he?” Do I even know what this is about? Marilyn and I both look at Christian, waiting to see what’s going to happen next. “Right here,” he says, after a pause, then takes his phone from his ear and swipes the screen. “You’re on speaker.”

“Jewel?” my best friend’s voice calls from the phone. I frown.

“Yeah?” I reply confused.

“Good. I just want as much of an audience as I can get.” There’s a short pause before he says, “No, you don’t hold the phone.”

“Faggot fucker,” a gruff voice says on the other line.

“You figure that out all on your own, you ugly asshole?” Al retorts. “Now, say what the fuck you want to say!” There’s another short pause before the barking starts.

“Grey, I don’t give a fuck what you think you’re doing with this shit, but you’re not gonna get away with it!”

Judd. Judd fucking Loser. What the fuck?

“I see you’ve met my attorney,” my husband says casually. “This encounter can only mean one thing. He must be serving you your summons and gag order as a result of your weekend activities.”

“You’re fuckin’ full of shit, you fucking asshole!” Loser barks. “You send your guys to rough me up, then you try to sue me for tellin’ the world what the fuck you did?” Christian laughs.

“You should know that all of my calls are recorded, but I’ll tell you this. I don’t know what kind of trouble you got yourself into, but I do know that you’re good at blaming other people for it—just like you blamed my wife for you sitting in a place of business with a pussy in her face; and then, you blamed me for you sexually harassing women at your job. Now, you’re conveniently blaming my staff for some beatdown you got at the hands of God knows who for God knows what. What happened, Rossiter? Did you get caught climbing out of bed with somebody’s wife?”

“Ha ha, keep talking, asshole. If you think it was bad before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I’m ‘bout to make your life a miserable fuckin’ hell—and I can get bodyguards, too!”

“You do that, Juddy-boy, but you should probably know that summons that my attorney served you for slander, libel, and defamation of character comes with a gag order. Violation of that gag order is contempt of court. Contempt of court carries fines and immediate jail time. Not only that, couple that with current and any future violation of a certain protection order, and you’re looking at definite jail time.” I hear silence on the line again.

“You think all that money gives you the right to do any fucking thing you want to anybody in the world, don’t you, you piece of shit?” he hisses. “You probably never made an honest dollar in your goddamn life!”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’ve got you, asshole. I’ve got you right where I want you, and I’m going to ride your ass all the way to the end. You wanted to be famous, you got it. You picked the wrong piece of shit to fuck with and I’m about to show you exactly what an honest dollar can do.”

“That’s enough of that,” Al says. “You’ve got a press conference in an hour in front of Grey House.”

“Gimme that!” I hear Judd bark. I hear a really short scuffle, then a grunt, another grunt, a muffled buzzing noise, then a thump.

“I said you don’t hold the fucking phone!” my best friend’s voice says from a little far away. “One hour, Grey House,” he says again, closer to the phone.

“Oookay,” Christian says, uncertain. “What just happened?”

“That asshole just tried to take my phone,” Al replies.

“And what did you do?” I ask. “Did you hit him?”

“No,” he responds. “I tased him. I’m not trying to fight that gorilla, but I’m leaving before he gets up.”

“Good idea,” Christian says. “I’ll see you at the office. Drive carefully.”

“I always do,” Al says.

“No. Really. Drive carefully.” Al is outside in the open air now.

“Any particular reason? Something I should know?”

“I’ll tell you when I see you. Just drive carefully.”

“Okay,” Al says before he ends the call. Christian looks at his phone.

“No doubt it’ll be live,” he says, before bending down to kiss me. “Just scan the channels. I’m sure you’ll see it.”

“I’m sure I will, too,” I sigh.

*-*

Somewhere around the 11:00 hour, Keri, Gail, and I are all in the family room with the twins in tow, all six televisions tuned in to news programs and channels—local and national. Marilyn and Chuck are also in attendance—Marilyn on her tablet and Chuck on his Mac, looking for possible webcasts.

“It’s like waiting for the announcement for nuclear war,” Gail says, her voice low. I shake my head.

“Well, it is a declaration of war, so to speak,” I tell her. “This thing has gotten way out of hand. I have no idea what this guy is trying to prove. What was the purpose of his gesture in the first place? All this just to get a rise out of me? And once he saw that this stagecoach was beginning to run out of control, something didn’t click in his head that he should probably cease and desist? What drives you to make the conscious decision to antagonize the wife of the richest man in the state? One of the richest men in the country? The world? What is this exercise all about?”

“Maybe he was hoping to push Christian to the point where he could get some kind of payout from him,” Gail says.

“Yeah,” Marilyn chimes in, “and instead, he finds himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. How does that feel, Skippy?”

“Showtime.” Chuck’s voice causes a silence to fall over the room and our heads all rise to the monitor in front of us. Chuck subsequently switches the other monitors not showing the headline to the same news channel—the headline being, “Christian Grey Responds to Judd Rossiter’s Allegations of Assault.” It must not be on the wire yet that he has filed a lawsuit against the asshole. Hold on to your pants, America.

There’s a picture of the front doors of Grey House, as I’m certain that my husband plans to escape inside once he’s made his statement to the press. A cluster of reporters stand around what looks to be a makeshift area for the press release. There’s no podium or anything—just a clear space with a few microphones on stands in a small half circle forming a small barrier. Different reporters are giving commentary on the different stations as we wait for my husband to immerge from wherever he plans to immerge and, of course, speculation is running wild about what he plans to say—from a full confession of attacking the asshole to an independent action on the part of someone on his security team with Christian disavowing any knowledge of the action. Nothing along the lines of, “Wasn’t me.” Boy, are they in for a surprise.

I’m nearly ready to piss my pants waiting for him to get on with this thing, but I’m certain that he’s getting some briefing and instructions from Vee. I know that without it, my husband is very likely to get on camera and say, “Fuck you, and fuck you, oh, and fuck you, too. I’ll see you all in court.” Vee is trying to help him say that a little more diplomatically… you know, without alienating the whole of Washington and every member of the press.

After what feels like a damn eternity, my husband finally exits the glass doors of Grey House along with his attorney and several members of his security staff. It looks like he’s changed clothes from what he was wearing when he left this morning. He’s now wearing a solid black suit tailored to fit him like he was sewn into it and a crisp, white linen shirt and a charcoal tie when at first, he was wearing a gray suit with a baby blue tie. Even his hair is tamer than I’ve ever seen it in my life. Part of me is asking, why did he change? The other part of me can clearly see the image he wants to portray, because that look is so sharp that he can cut someone with that suit.

His gaze is fixed and he doesn’t make eye contact with anyone as he makes his way to the cluster of microphones. He holds an unusually large manila envelope in his hand and stands silently, waiting for the crowd to hush as if he’s about to reveal the cure for cancer. When they do, he turns his attention to the envelope and reveals its contents. Cameras flash madly, but only for a second or two. My eyes widen and my mouth gapes and Gail gasps.

“Wahs datta pum-pum?” Keri asks, pointing at the screen. Chuck’s brow is furrowed as he clearly can’t believe what he just saw.

“Yep,” he says, “that was a pum-pum.” My husband just revealed a super-sized picture of Judd Rossiter’s bicep vagina tattoo. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified.

“Did you get it?” he asks the now silent crowd. “Did you see it or did you get a chance to blur that? I know that most of you are live. Those of you present, get a good look at it. Do you find it offensive that I have the audacity flash this on television? First thing in the morning while women and small children could be watching? Ladies in attendance, get a good at it. Should I put it away? Should I be considerate of your sensitivities of this display? I should be ashamed of myself for showing you this, right? I should have the decency to consider my audience before I display something like this, right?” He hands the photo to Allen who puts it back inside the envelope.

“Well, maybe one of you in attendance can explain to me why my wife doesn’t deserve that same respect. This entire thing—this whole three-ring circus—is because that is what stared her in the face in close proximity for two hours! I don’t know what he was trying to prove. I don’t know if he thought it was cute. I don’t know if he thought it was funny, but we’re just overreacting, right? It’s her money, right? It’s the fact that she’s wealthy—she’s supposed to get special treatment. Who is she to believe that she shouldn’t have to sit and look at a bare vagina staring at her on a man’s arm? She’s nobody special, right? How dare she think she deserves the common, basic respect of any other woman in the city!”

His undertone indicates that he’s getting a little agitated even though he maintains a statue-like cool. I should have gone in with him.

“Yet, many of you watching think that she should have just sat there and said nothing; that it’s her sense of privilege that made her speak up about the lewd display to which she was being subjected and not the fact that, as a lady, she didn’t deserve that; that even now, we should just shut up and let this man continue to slander and scandalize us every chance he gets simply because he refuses to take responsibility for his unprofessional and explicit behavior.

“You go on social media hiding behind screen names and profiles spouting threats, sanctimonious judgments, and pseudo-opinions about something you know absolutely nothing about, thinking that a dollar soothes all our ills and since we have so much money, we feel no pain—that we don’t feel the daggers that are thrown at us every single day by people who wish us harm simply because of who. We. Are.

“You praise this bully, this predator, this uncouth goon that you should want to keep far, far away from your wives, daughters and sisters. You fuel his fire and encourage his bad behavior, contributing to the theory that because he’s an everyday citizen he should be able to just flap his trap as much as he wants to and we rich folk should just sit back and roll around in our barrels of money and be happy with ourselves and shut the hell up. Well I say no. I say that we deserve to be treated like human beings no matter how many zeros are behind our net worth.

“How many of you have wives? How many of you would stand by and allow your wife to be disrespected, to be treated like a common piece of trash? Would you let some goon sit with this in your wife’s face for hours? How about you? Would you? How about you?”

He points to various people in the crowd as he asks each question.

“I didn’t think so… But I guess I should have, huh? If I had I wouldn’t be standing here accused of attacking some idiot over the weekend. I wish I had attacked him. I wish I could stand here and tell you that had the privilege of personally giving him those black and blue bruises he’s sporting right now for what he did to my wife and for what he continues to do to my family; for what he did to my father-in-law when he was just trying to enjoy a baseball game with his daughter; for the hundreds of death threats on the lives of my children that are being filtered through my office, my emails, my business website; for just generally being a pain in the ass… yes, I wish it was me! But no, I stand here being blamed for something I didn’t even get the pleasure of doing.”

Technically, it’s not a lie. He gave the order, but he didn’t touch him. My husband takes a breath to compose himself and continues.

“Upon discovering that I was being accused of attacking the man who has been the bane of my family’s existence for the last month, my legal team spent the weekend gathering necessary evidence and drafting legal documentation to file suit against Mr. Rossiter. This morning, a summons has been served on Judd Rossiter that I, my family, and my company are filing a lawsuit against him for slander, libel, and defamation of character for an undisclosed amount. A gag order has also been issued and served since this is now an open and ongoing case, and parties will be added to the lawsuit as evidence continues to be gathered—which means either he shuts his mouth or he’ll be in litigation for eternity!” He puts emphasis on the last word. Someone from the crowd just has to shoot a question at him before he gets a chance to say anything else.

“Mr. Grey, Mr. Rossiter never said you attacked him. He said that you had some of your ‘goons’ attack him. What do you say to that?” Christian clears his throat.

“Mr. Rossiter implicated me in his attack. And as a result, my children are being threatened. My family’s lives are in danger now because of what he’s saying, so please forgive me if I fail to get all the details exactly right, Mr. Reporter,” he retorts sarcastically.

“I’m sorry that my facts aren’t exactly up to par as you feel they should be, but I was having breakfast with my wife and my two infant children when I learned on a podcast on Saturday morning that I apparently attacked this man. I’m in the process of dealing with my own family catastrophes when I discover that apparently, I’m at the basis of somebody else’s! Maybe Mr. Rossiter should identify which of my ‘goons attacked’ him so that I can include them in the lawsuit!”

My husband’s eyes are piercing now and he has that look that dares another soul to speak. Another soul does not… yet.

“I’ve already filed a restraining order against this man because he attacked my father-in-law at a baseball game, and now this? I don’t know he’s pissed off now, but all of his woes don’t come at the hands of ‘Grey.’ I’m a businessman, not a common thug, and his defamatory remarks are a direct blow to my character and to my business image and I won’t stand for it. It’s one thing when he’s standing on a self-constructed, imaginary soapbox, spouting ill-conceived opinions about difficulties brought on by his own bad behavior. It’s quite another when he tears an upstanding citizen’s character down by accusing him of illegal activity with absolutely no proof.”

“But isn’t it true that you have an outstanding conviction against you for assault, Mr. Grey?” another reporter states proudly, like he’s pulled some kind of coup.

“Yes,” Christian replies without hesitation. “It’s true that two years ago, I assaulted the drunk driver who ran into my car, pushing me into oncoming traffic and nearly costing me my life. Yes, an officer was present, I was taken into custody, and required to do community service and take anger management classes. That’s a matter of public record.”

Just like that, Mr. Coup’s sails has been deflated.

“So, you’re saying that there’s no truth to Rossiter’s statements that you had him assaulted to shut him up?” someone else asks.

“I’m saying that if he has any proof whatsoever that I or anyone in my camp put their hands on him besides the incident at the baseball game when my father-in-law was defending himself and my team was protecting my wife, then he needs to produce it and it better be in court and not in the media, because I’m going to sue him so hard and so long that if he ejaculates into a condom, his sperm better have representation.”

Oh… that was pretty.

“My infant children are receiving death threats because he got into a barroom brawl or a lover’s quarrel or whatever trouble his big mouth got him into this weekend and now, he’s trying to blame it on me! Exactly how many enemies has this man made? He’s got sexual harassment charges crawling out of the woodwork, and that’s my fault, too, I hear. Apparently, I found various women in the Seattle area and planted them at his job right at the precise moment to say that he harassed, accosted, or acted inappropriately with them. Oh, I must have held him down while he got that tattoo of a woman’s crotch on his arm, too. That was really classy. This is absolutely absurd, and any medium, and news outlet, any high blog that chooses to spread this garbage should be ashamed of themselves, and from this moment on, I have a full legal team and a full research staff dedicated to nothing but sniffing out the libelous and slanderous perpetuation of this crap and taking it straight to litigation. I’ve got money to burn, and by the time I’ve dragged every rag through court for infringing on my family’s peace and safety this way, I will at least feel somewhat vindicated for our pain and suffering even if I lose!”

And there’s Papa Bear Grey again. The crowd falls silent as he marches away from the cluster of microphones, running his hand through his once-neatly-coifed hair, his restraint clearly holding on by a thread. Jason is by his side, shielding him from any other questions as it’s clear that if anyone comes near him, he’s going to snap. I want to go to him, but I know the paparazzi are everywhere and I wouldn’t get to the bridge, let alone to the front door of Grey House.

We all sit there silently for a moment as the reporters on the television clamor to try to get a final question in to my husband. I’m looking for my phone, but can’t seem to remember where I put it. He looked like he was going to blow any second. I know that look. He’s going to break something. He’s going to break something soon. I need to talk to him, to try to calm him… where the fuck is…

Gail slams my phone into my hand from wherever it was hiding and I quickly press the speed dial for my husband’s number. It seems to take forever to connect. The line finally picks up, but he doesn’t say anything.

“Breathe, baby,” I say.

“I can’t come home right now,” he growls. I know what he’s saying in that one sentence.

“I know,” I reply.

“There’s a lot to do,” he hisses.

“I know, baby,” I say, trying to soothe him.

“I… it… FU…” and the line goes dead. I sigh heavily. I already know what’s happened. Most likely, he’s in the elevator, and his phone has met the wall and is now on the floor in pieces. He had to break something… it was the phone. I sit there staring at my phone, waiting for it to ring. A text from Jason, something. Someone tell me that he’s okay.

It takes forever… fifteen infernal fucking minutes.

**He needs to settle. Andrea has already ordered another phone. It’ll be here by the end of business today. I’ll keep you posted. **

It’s from Jason. I have no idea what the hell was happening that it took him fifteen fucking minutes to text me. I want to ask a hundred questions, but I know that it won’t do any good, so I stick to a one-word response.

**Okay. **


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

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~~love and handcuffs