Raising Grey: Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

I have to admit that I was surprised to see so many people express a tone of disappointment in Ana’s feelings. I’ve had times and events in my life where I had to get up every day and push myself just to get to the next minute—where I felt like the world was just going to gobble me up, and I couldn’t talk about it. Talking about it gave it life and I was just trying to deal with it so that I could have the strength to open my eyes the next day. I really thought most people would be able to relate to that… to that feeling of, “My God! What else can go wrong in my life? The minute I sit down and get comfortable, something else happens.” I guess I’m the only one, or at least in very lean company. It’s sad that I appear to be one of the seemingly very few that can empathize with that, but I guess it’s a good thing that the vast majority apparently hasn’t had that experience.

So, this is my second to last prewritten chapter, but the Muse is finally stirring a bit, so I wouldn’t worry about the future.

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 42—Unbreak My Heart

ANASTASIA

I spend more time venting and crying with my friends, trying to release the anguish and the hopelessness I feel about the situation. I cry and cry and cry with my best friends holding me for I don’t even know how long. I’m exhausted when it’s all done and glad that Christian didn’t walk in on the display. I’m broken from the self-pity and mourning by the two-way coming to life and telling me that one or both of my children have stirred.

“I’ll go,” Val offers as she stands from the sofa.

“No, I’ll go,” I say, standing behind her and drying my eyes with my sleeve before Al gives me a handkerchief. Those two little bundles of love are the light and joy of my life. Right now, I don’t want to miss a moment with them… even if some evil monster is waiting in the wings to snatch them away from me.

“I’ll come with you, then,” she says with a smile before looking at Al.

“I’ll clean up and put the leftovers away,” he says, his brow furrowed as he examines me. “I’m worried about you, Jewel,” he adds. I smile sadly, my eyes tender from crying.

“I’ll live, Al,” I reply before leaving the parlor.

I’m glad that Keri and Gail didn’t get to the nursery before I did. I really didn’t want to enter into the room to inquiring minds about my obviously red and puffy eyes. We walk in and both children are unsettled. Val gestures me to Minnie’s crib while she goes to Mikey.

“Hey, little man,” I hear her say. “What’s all that noise?” She lifts him out of his crib and quickly checks his diaper before taking him to his changing table. I do the same with Minnie, cooing at her and taking comfort in her beautiful cherubic face with my blue eyes staring back at me under a mop of Christian’s red hair. I had noticed that just in the last month or so, both my children gained their eye color, and Minnie definitely has my eyes while Mikey sports his father’s under my deep mahogany hair. Minnie is happy to get that soiled diaper off her bottom and I let her skin air out a bit before putting another on her.

“Mmm,” Val says, “I love changing diapers.” I grimace as I look over at her and she laughs. “Not the dirty diaper part,” she says. “The part where they’re all clean and you get to use the powder and stuff and they have that new baby smell.” It causes me to chuckle and I welcome the warmth of laughter. As I’m closing Minnie’s onesie, Gail and Keri enter with fresh warmed bottles for the babies. Val throws a look at me and I keep my back to the door. Reading my actions, she takes over.

“Take a break, ladies,” she says, sweetly, heading them off at the door. “We’ve got this watch.”

“Oh,” Gail says in surprise. “You’re fine?”

“Sure,” Val says confidently, “but thanks for the vittles!” The ladies all laugh good-naturedly before Gail adds, “Okay, call us through the two-way if you need us.”

Not wanting to seem rude, I look slightly over my shoulder without revealing my face to them and say, “Thanks, guys,” as normally as I can and attempt to throw them off by concentrating on cooing at my baby. “Is that Mommy’s precious girl? Yes, you are…”

It works.

When Keri and Gail clear the room, I sigh in relief that I didn’t have to convince more people in my life that I’m okay when, in fact, I’m not.

“Thanks,” I say to Val, lifting Minnie into my arms and setting up shop in the window seat with my baby and a bottle since I just had wine. The window seat is what I’m accustomed to, now.

“Don’t mention it,” she says, sitting in Mikey’s rocker and testing his bottle before giving it to him. “Why don’t you come and sit in the rocker? It might help to break old habits.” I look down at my nursing daughter.

“Maybe next time,” I tell her. “I don’t want to disturb Young Miss when she’s eating,” I lie. The truth is that the seat gives me some form of familiarity and comfort now that I’m no longer watching the bridge. I just don’t feel like explaining that to everyone. It would be like telling them that the cliff where I fell is now my favorite spot. It was once, but now, I’ll just be reminded that I could have fallen to my death on a drunken binge.

Val distracts me from my own problems by telling me more about her and Elliot’s Caribbean cruise. I wasn’t surprised that the cruise took them to St. Maarten but not to Anguilla. The boat would probably be larger than the island. She told me about Harrison’s Cave and the beautiful 17th-Century plantation houses and it made me long for our trip to Anguilla. I definitely need a vacation right now to cleanse my body and soul of what’s going on in my life. We had to postpone our Italian vacation, probably until next year since we plan to stay for quite some time. I can’t lie, though. A cruise to anywhere for a week or two would be right up my alley right now.

There’s a tap at the door and Val and I look at each other. It’s one of the men, we already know, but Christian would have just walked in. So, it has to be Al or Elliot. Jason and Chuck would already know that their women are not in the nursery. The door opens and sure enough, there’s my best friend, but behind him is my husband—my tall, beautiful, muscular husband… the cause and cure for my distress all wrapped into one.

“Hey, ladies,” Al says. “How’s it going?” His bad attempt at nonchalance coupled with Christian’s deeply examining gaze on me lets me know that these two gentlemen have been talking… about me. Al is only concerned about me and I love him for it, so I sigh in resignation.

“Better,” I say, unable to hide the crack in my voice from my earlier crying. Christian is obviously uncomfortable looking at me, and I think it’s the window seat. It has definite connotations, and he and Val would much rather that I not sit in it. He stops at the rocker on his way over to me.

“How are you feeling, Val?” he says, placing his hand on her shoulder. She smiles up at him.

“Good,” she nods. “The vacation was fantastic—just what I needed.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he says to her, genuinely. “You look very well.”

“Thank you,” she says, sincerely and they both turn their eyes to Mikey.

“Hey, Mikey,” Christian says. “Have you been taking good care of these ladies?” Mikey squirms and coos as if in response to his father’s question. Christian gently strokes his hair and turns his attention to me. He walks over to the window seat where Minnie and I sit, Minnie gazing dreamily up at me after being fed and changed. That look would make me move mountains for her. Christian looks intently at me before turning his attention to his daughter.

“Hey, Mouse,” he says, softly, stroking his daughter’s hair like he just did his son’s. He looks longingly at her for a moment before kissing her forehead. Then he gazes at me and does the same, stroking my cheeks where tears stained earlier. He examines me wordlessly before saying, “Al, can you take over? I’d like to talk to my wife.”

“Absolutely,” Al says. “Give me that bundle of pinkness!”

“Oh, no,” Val chides. “You take our godson. I want a little time with our goddaughter. I haven’t seen them in a month!”

“Fine by me,” Al says, relieving Val of Mikey before she comes over and takes Minnie from my arms. I ache a bit when she leaves my grasp but follow Christian out of the room nonetheless as he leads me by the hand. When we get to the hallway and he closes the door, he embraces me solidly and kisses me deeply, catching me totally by surprise. I gasp at the longing, giving nature of the kiss, my hands falling lazily at my sides as his hand flattens against my back, pressing me firmly into his body. My head lulls back and I let him have my lips, my mouth, my tongue—feeding me while he feasts on my kisses. I don’t know if I’m breathing or not, but I bask in the warmth and safety of his arms, the tenderness yet firmness and possessiveness of his kiss… giving and taking at the same time. When our lips part, I can feel the breath between us. I keep my eyes closed to commit the moment to memory—for cold nights when…

“You know how much I love you, don’t you?” he says, his lips only brushing mine.

“Yes,” I breathe, my eyes still closed, drunk and a bit wobbly from his kiss and his presence.

“Good,” he breathes, taking my lips again.

After an intense, but quick impromptu make-out session in the hallway, Christian leads me to our room. I moved back in a few days ago, realizing that it didn’t really make much sense to sleep in the guest room anymore. I still have problems getting to sleep, but it’s getting better. It’s especially easy when Christian finds that I can’t rest and finds some way to worship my body until I’m tuckered out. I can really see that he’s trying. I wish I could just settle into the comfort.

Instead of stopping at the bedroom, he leads me right into my bathroom and lifts me up onto the marble vanity. He turns on the cold water and retrieves a clean washcloth. After wetting the washcloth and wringing most of the water out of it, he stands in front of me, lifts my chin and begins to sponge my cheeks.

Can’t hide anything from Mr. Grey.

I close my eyes and the cool cloth moves to my eyelids. The relief on the swollen orbs is immediate. I hear him moistening the cloth again and this time, he holds my head all the way back and places a compress over my eyes. A few moments later, a second cloth is sponging my cheeks, my jaw, and my neck again.

“Your cheeks are still tear-stained,” he says softly, “and your eyes are red and puffy. You look tired.” I don’t respond. I just sit on the vanity and let the protector and caregiver have his way, savoring these moments and committing them to my mental Rolodex. He let me sit there for several minutes—or at least it felt that way—replacing the compress one time, and letting the cold water soothe the ache from my eyes as he gently sponges my face with the other washcloth. He stops at my lips and sponges them gently. He’s now caressing my lips with his fingertips and the cloth and my breath catches. He adds gentle kisses to the mix and I melt at the sensation. My senses are all hyper-focused on my lips and his lips and his fingers when his mouth softly covers mine again, molding gently into them and against them.

Somehow, I feel this is not enough for him.

His arms move to my waist then quickly up my body, lifting my arms and placing them demanding over his shoulders. I immediately take my cue and wrap my arms around his neck, thrusting my hands into his hair. He gasps into my mouth and wraps his arms around me again, curling his body around mine while taking and giving feverish kisses. My body is alight again as he holds me and kisses me, melding into me and devouring me and I wrap my legs around his hips. He pulls my shirt out of my jeans and caresses the skin on my stomach and back.

My back… the garden.

I blaze like fresh, new embers as my body fires with arousal. My breath quickens and his tongue leisurely and sensuously explores my mouth until I feel that I can’t take it anymore. He pulls back from me and gazes into my eyes. Seeing whatever it is that he needs to see, he lifts me from the vanity, my body still wrapped around him, and takes me to our bed.

Lying me down on my back, he removes my hands from his neck and places them on the bed, holding them down in both of his while he kisses me. I can barely stand it; I’m suddenly so goddamn needy again. His lips travel from my lips to my neck while his hands slide down my arms to the buttons at my breast. I leave my hands by the side of my head. I keep my eyes closed as his lips follow his fingers, unbuttoning my shirt, down my breast, my torso, my belly.

Christian…

That familiar yearning swells up in me and I can hardly breathe. I want him to make it right—take away this feeling of fear and sadness… make it like it once was between us… please, make it like it was…

He unhooks the clasp of my bra between my breasts and pushes the cups aside, gently cupping my breasts while he kisses the mounds. His tenderness is driving me mad. I’m almost dysfunctional with need.

He kisses along the waistband of my jeans as he opens the button and unzips my pants, kissing along the waistband of the hip-hugger panties underneath. I bite my lip to keep from making a sound, taking deep breaths to control my passion and my body. There’s a bit of movement on the bed, and then he pushes his hands into my jeans, grasping the waistband and pulling them and my panties off at the same time, pushing my ballet flats off my feet before my pants and underwear pass my ankles.

There’s a pause for a few moments, but when he climbs back up to me, I feel his skin against mine—his whole body. He’s naked. I feel his erection against my thigh as he lifts me from the bed, kissing me deliciously while pushing my bra and shirt off my shoulders. He lays me back on the bed, his face never more than a breath from mine. He kisses me again as his hands run down my body, caressing my sides and hips until he reaches my thighs.

He pulls them up, roughly opening me to him, his rock-hard erection pressing into my stomach. God, I want him so badly. I need to feel him, need to put another moment in the reservoir—another cherished time… please… hurry.

He slides his arms under mine until he’s cupping my shoulders in either hand, then he nestles his erection between my legs, between my lips. God, he feels so good. I throw my head back as his lips find the valley of my breasts and he grinds the length of his shaft up and down along my lips, my labia, my clit…

Oh, my God… Oh, my God, this is torture.

Neither of us says anything or makes a sound. He just continues to drag his length up and down as he kisses wherever his mouth can reach. When he clamps down on a nipple, then teases it with his tongue, I feel my orgasm building, knocking at the door in no time flat. Just as I think it’s about to blow, he stops and rises off of me a bit. He looks hungrily into my eyes and pushes my legs open farther with his body. Simultaneously, he takes both of my hands and plants them above my head, my arms bent with his fingers entwined in mine, while raising his hips to position the head of his long hard cock at my vaginal opening.

He pauses for a minute, holding my gaze while his hips are suspended in the air. Without warning, he thrusts all the way into me, balls deep, pulling my hands down at the same time for leverage. A searing pain rips through me like I’m losing my virginity all over again, but it’s quickly replaced with the pleasure that left my loins only moments ago. He trembles at the first drive into me, both of us still managing to remain silent through what was obviously a very powerful feeling in our nether-regions. Three strokes later and I’m gasping through my orgasm as Christian pushes slowly and deeply into me, kissing my cheek, my neck, the corners of my mouth.

I’m whimpering out the aftershocks as he settles his weight onto me and begins to make love to me, holding my hands down and pushing into me, his full body lying over mine, his skin rubbing against me as if he needs as much of it to touch as possible. His mouth covers mine and he bestows upon me the most delicious, succulent kisses my soul can take. I’m lost in him and he’s owning me, pushing himself into me—mind, body, and soul. I relish in the feeling, absorbing every stroke and every emotion—the hot, hardness of his dick; the meticulous concentration in his stroke; the possessiveness of him holding my hands down; the luscious kisses that give and take from my lips. It’s only minutes after the first orgasm that the second one begins to creep into my loins. The onslaught of sensations overwhelms my senses and my second orgasm burns against his cock once more, this time leaving lots of juices to coat his erection.

He finally releases my lips and I can feel his gaze on me even though my eyes are closed.

Open your eyes.

I think I heard it, but I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I open my eyes, my gaze no doubt swimming in satisfaction from my prior two orgasms.

You’re so beautiful.

Again, not sure if I heard it, but I see it in his eyes and feel it in his delicious grind. I feel myself rising again and wonder how many times I can come in quick succession. God, it feels so good, and this one decides to give lubrication before it strikes.

“Oh, God, baby,” he says softly in my ear, “your so wet… so hungry for me…”

“Yes, Christian,” I breathe as my third orgasm quickly creeps up on me, “only you.” He raises his eyes to me, never losing his rhythm.

“Say it again,” he whispers.

“Yes… Christian…” I gasp as the feeling crawls through my thighs and up my pelvis, “only you.”

“Again… please…” His stroke deepens, and my pelvis threatens to implode. I throw my head back in sweet agony as it approaches quickly… almost… almost…

“Only… Christian… only you…” He groans, sweet and deep, his face buried in my neck, pushing me so high, so deep, my God…

“Please…” he beseeches me deep from his chest, “… again!”

I can’t withstand it any more.

“Ho… ho…” I try to speak as my third orgasm crashes down on me. I grip his fingers tight to force the words out of my mouth. “Ho… honly… y-you…Christian… only… only you… only you!” I cry out as my orgasm rips through me again, bringing passion and relief that I didn’t feel with the first two. My back arches and my hands tighten as I helplessly repeat the last two words through a climax blasting through my extremities and leaving me helpless to its wrath.

“Jesus!” he bites out as I feel him stiffen and empty hard, throbbing, and thick into me. His teeth grit and the same noise comes from his throat as he presses hard into me, unable to move through his paralyzing orgasm. He squeezes my hands until it feels like the blood flow stops and I lay there, allowing him to use me as the vessel that he needs right now and savoring every moment of it—his weight pressing down on me; his hands painfully gripping mine; his breath caught and held in his chest as his body is pulled taut, stretched like a rubber band and helpless until his passion releases him.

“Jesus… Jesus, Jesus…” he gasps as the orgasm finally releases his muscles. He showers my neck with kisses as he catches his breath, his cock still throbbing inside me, my core still throbbing around him.

“I didn’t…” he begins as he gently massages my hands. “Did I…?”

“No, no,” I silence him as he continues to catch his breath. He still kisses me as he moves to roll me on top of him.

“No, please,” I beg, wanting to feel his weight on me a little longer. He looks down into my eyes and I gaze back at him, beseeching him not to move. He lies back down on top of me, one hand cradling my cheek, the other still holding my hand over my head while he kisses my exposed cheek softly.

“And only you, my love,” he says softly, between kisses. “Only ever you…”

*-*

“This wasn’t my intention when I pulled you away from our children,” he says, caressing my stomach gently in our post-orgasmic haze.

“No?” I say, turning my gaze to him. He shakes his head.

“I really did want to talk… really do,” he replies, “but I saw you in the window and at first, I just wanted to get you out of there. Then, when the light hit your face, I knew that you had been crying. Al told me that you were upset, and he told me why, but he didn’t tell me that you were crying. I just wanted to wash your face and get rid of the puffiness in your eyes… but most of all, I just don’t want you to cry anymore.”

That’s not likely, dear. The fates are even using you against me right now. That’s why I’m internalizing every good moment, every precious and tender moment, every sensual moment, so that I don’t lose my mind when they decide to attack again.

“Jason and Gail want to have another… session with us, if you’re up to it. They were waiting in the den when I came to get you. They’re most likely off doing something else by now. Do you want to talk or would you rather not?” I sigh. Again, I know he means well, but right now, I don’t see that talking will help me.

“Sure,” I concede, wanting to appease him. I move to get up and he stops me.

“Not yet,” he says. “Just a few more minutes.” Fine by me.

“Okay,” I say softly, relaxing into his touch.

As agreed, a few minutes later, we rise and get back into our clothes. He takes me by the hand and leads me to the elevator. He stands behind me with his arms protectively wrapped around me while we ride to the ground floor. We go to his den, intent on calling Gail and Jason, only to find them tangled in each other’s arms, kissing passionately on the sofa. Though they are fully dressed, the distinct smell of sex hangs in the air. Christian stands there frowning for a moment and I’m in stunned awe. They didn’t even hear us come in. Christian clears his throat and although Gail jumps a bit, Jason just looks over at Christian.

“You better not have fucked on my piano,” he says, leading me into the room and examining his piano for—I don’t know, ass marks?

“No, we didn’t fuck on your precious piano,” Jason says. Gail hides her face while I stifle a laugh. “I won’t bother asking what took you so long. You look fresh as a bunny.”

“You should talk,” Christian says, satisfied that there was no coitus on his baby grand. “Don’t fuck in my den, Jason.”

You should talk,” Jason retorts. “Is there any room in this house you haven’t fucked in?”

“Yes, there is, and that’s beside the point,” Christian replies. “I fuck in my den. You don’t fuck in my den!”

“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” Gail says, after her face has turned fifty shades of red from pastel to crimson. “We got in a quickie while we were waiting we’re sorry it won’t happen again!” She spit it all out in one breath without raising her eyes to me or Christian and I’m fighting with all my might not to break out in hilarious laughter. I’m immune to this. Among other things, last year, I walked right in on these Neanderthals settling a bet on whether or not Christian and I were upstairs fucking. I remember leaving Chuck with a visual he’ll never forget. I also won’t embarrass her with the time that I was shoved under Christian’s desk pleasuring him when Jason walked in unannounced and it was my disembodied voice that convinced him to leave. I’m not modest about our sex life, but apparently, Gail is modest about hers.

“You should take a page from your wife’s book about humility, Mr. Taylor,” Christian says. “Thank you, Gail. It’s quite alright. Butterfly and I did take a while. We apologize.” She nods quickly, obviously anxious to change the topic. “As requested, we are here, though a bit detained.”

Gail straightens her clothes and sits up on the sofa. Jason sits up, too, and zeroes right in on me.

“You don’t talk much anymore, Your Highness,” he says, examining me. “Are you afraid that you’ll say too much?”

I shrug. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t talking. I just don’t have much to say.

“I… uh, it’s not intentional. I just don’t have much to say.”

“That’s not the Ana I know,” he says. “The Ana I knew before this whole mess was outspoken and had a lot to say. You’ve turned into a bit of a mute and you’ve missed four appointments with your therapist.” My eyes widen, and I glare at him.

“Are you keeping tabs on me?” I accuse. He looks at me with a surprised, horrified look on his face.

“Um, yah, that’s my job!” he retorts. “I knew what you were doing even when we weren’t here.” He gestures to himself. “Head of personal security? Everybody reports to me? Chuck, Ben, Chance, Rebe, Tate, Lurch… they all report to me?” He’s saying this waiting for me to catch the hint on how ridiculous my question was, which I do… I shrug and shake my head, murmuring my apologies.

“Accepted, but you still haven’t answered my question,” he says. “You haven’t seen Ace and you haven’t seen Dr. Baker,” he points an accusing finger at Christian. “What’s going on?” I turn my gaze to Christian. He hasn’t seen Dr. Baker?

“I see Dr. Baker on an as-needed basis, not regularly,” he defends.

“You don’t think it’s needed?” he asks.

“She can’t help me in terms of my marriage,” he protests. “Butterfly feels that she has a completely distorted view of what’s going on with her and that affects what advice she can give me about our relationship.”

“But what about what’s going on with you?” Jason asks him. Christian frowns.

“What do you mean?” he retorts.

“You thought your wife was cheating on you. You cut her off and ran away to the other side of the world without giving her the chance to explain. You don’t think that’s a problem on your part, like for instance, your trust issues? Your ability to give the woman you love the benefit of the doubt? Being able to control your anger reflex and ‘snap’ response?”

“I’m dealing with those things,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “I admitted that it was the wrong thing to do…”

“But it doesn’t stop it from happening again,” Jason says, interrupting his excuse. I hold my head down and wait for him to tear into me. I didn’t have to wait long.

“And you,” he begins. Here it goes. “You were seeing your therapist weekly before any of this happened. You shocked him so much that he showed up at the door! What gives?” I shrug again, noncommittal.

“I haven’t found the words,” I say, honestly. “I’d be wasting his time and mine.”

“So, you’re just going to sit here and let this thing tear you apart day by day where we can all see it,” he says. “You think I’m the only one who’s noticed that you’ve changed? You are a force of nature, Ana. You have the ability to move mountains with the flap of your little Butterfly wings, but lately, you’ve been as mute as a church mouse and as affective as a drizzle. You’re not talking to anyone, not even your therapist, and you as a mental health professional don’t see this as a problem?”

I don’t know how to answer him. The feelings that I have right now, nobody can fix, and talking about them just lays them out on plane for everyone to see and makes me feel like shit. When I don’t answer, Jason turns back to Christian.

“You say that you don’t need your therapist,” he begins. “What do you say about her not seeing hers? Is everything honky-dory between you guys?”

“I wouldn’t say honky-dory,” Christian admits. “I know she’s holding something back.”

Holding something back… you all want me to release? Fine, I’ll release…


CHRISTIAN

“Things aren’t terrible, but I can still feel a little distance between us,” I say honestly.

“Ana?” Jason prods, “What do you say to that?” She doesn’t raise her eyes.

“I would never want to leave him or anything like that, but…” She trails off.

But? There’s a but?

“But what, Ana?” Gail presses. “You have to be honest or you’ll never move forward.” She sighs and drops her head.

“I’m scared,” she says, softly, barely audible. “I’m afraid that as soon as I let my guard down and try to be happy, something horrible is going to happen. I never would have thought for a moment that something like this would happen between my husband and me. I thought our bond was unbreakable and unshakeable and could withstand anything. I thought that no matter what, no one would ever come between us—that when and if that crucial moment ever presented itself, we would both know that there was no room for anyone else and there was no way that someone would be able to work their way into our space. But when the time did come, I was wrong…”

“How were you wrong?” Jason asks. “That someone did work their way into your space?”

“No,” she says. “Liam never worked his way into our space. My eyes may have been stricken with what I saw, but that man never made it to my heart. Hell, he barely made it to my mind until he was in my sight or unless I was pissed about his presence. He never stood a chance. There was no room for him. So, what? He’s attractive. He’s not the first attractive man I’ve ever seen, and he won’t be the last. Have you met my therapist? My best friend’s husband? My brother-in-law? All attractive men that made me do a double-take when I first met them, but I never ended up in their arms or in their beds.

“When that man made a move on me, I stopped him. I did not see my husband and I stopped him. I didn’t have my arms around him pulling him in for a kiss—I stopped him. And the reward I got was that my husband left me for two and a half weeks and didn’t speak to me. The truth is that I can beat myself over the head for what I could have done differently over and over again, but it won’t mean anything. It won’t do anything. I didn’t meet this man at a hotel or even make a date for dinner. He invited me out to lunch and I turned him down for just this reason… for the speculation it could have caused. I can pick this situation apart more than I already have, and you know what I’ll get from it? The same thing that I already got…

“Don’t step wrong, Ana.
“Look straight ahead, Ana. Don’t look left or right…
“Don’t get comfortable, Ana. The moment you do, all hell is going to break loose.”

“You’re sounding a bit like the martyr, Ana,” Jason says. Butterfly laughs ironically and does a disbelieving nod.

“Of course, I do,” she says, defeat and resignation lacing her voice.

“Don’t discount her feelings, Jason,” Gail defends. “She has a right to her feelings.” Jason turns to look at his wife and back at Butterfly.

“You’re right,” he says. “I’m sorry. Maybe you can help me understand what it is that you’re feeling.” That’s pretty insightful. Butterfly looks up at him with a sad smile.

“I can understand why you feel that way, because if I wasn’t sitting in this body—in this life and mind, experiencing this shit first hand—I would feel the same way. This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to talk about it… none of it. It won’t make a difference.”

“Please, Ana,” Gail presses. “Tell us.” Butterfly shakes her head.

“Every time I got comfortable, something happened,” she says, still smiling. “Every time I thought I was going to be happy and I could sit back and take a breath and relax, something happened. Every single time! I’m a walking tragedy,” she says with a laugh. I don’t see what’s funny, but I think she may be going a little hysterical.

“It can’t be every time, Ana,” Jason protests. She laughs again, this time, with tears threatening her eyes.

“No?” she says, still sporting a wide smile and threatening to cry at the same time. “Let’s review, shall we?

“Right when I thought my mom and dad were happy, my mom suddenly became dissatisfied and left my dad. It only got worse—she ripped us apart deliberately, so set on hurting him for not being what she thought he should be that she didn’t care that she was destroying me, too.

“I was miserable at first, but I coped with it until I was able to settle comfortably into obscurity. Then what happens? The most popular boy in school pays attention to me and I was foolish enough to believe that he liked me… until he raped me. We all know how that turned out.

“Yes, I wanted to die, but I didn’t. Then Daddy came and got me, took me away from the horrible nightmare that I was living and nursed me back to health for a few months. I was right at the promise of tranquility—it was right there in arm’s reach—and they came and snatched me back to hell.

“I finally escape—finally escape—come back to Washington and start my life back over again… from scratch… all on my own. During that time, I meet this guy. He treats me like a princess. The cutest, most considerate guy I had met to that point and what happens? He turns out to be the goddamn spawn of Satan! My already shredded heart was put through such hell that it took years—years—for me to let anybody near me.

“Enter Christian Grey. After a tumultuous beginning, we fall in love only for me to find out that he has a psycho, stalker, pedophile ex-lover and—oh, yeah, Satan’s spawn is hanging in the bleachers waiting for his chance to attack!

“Crazy pedophile wreaking total havoc on our relationship and me and Mr. Grey have a brief falling out. The moment I come to my senses about the cause of the fallout, Satan’s Spawn kidnaps me and his fucking psycho sidekick damn near beats me half to death while I’m cuffed to a bed.

“I’m rescued! Yay, right? Only we go to Anguilla and shit happens where I lose my mind there, too—more than once!

“So, we get back and announce our relationship to the world, and the crazy blonde pedophile continues to wreak total fucking havoc on our lives for months… restraining orders; crashing my father’s wedding; kissing my boyfriend; trying to kill Jason; trying to kill Christian; trying to kill me…”

This is playing out like a goddamn Greek tragedy. If I hadn’t been present for most of it, I’d swear she was exaggerating.

“In between there somehow, I apparently mistakenly thought my wedding was called off and escaped to Montana, rethinking my entire purpose in life, only to return to the whole aforementioned murder-death-kill scenario.

“Oh, and let’s not forget Mommie Dearest!”

Yes, let’s not forget her.

“Once we finally do get married, halfway through our honeymoon, Satan’s Spawn pulls a hole card and we have to come back and I discover the most joyous revelation of my life after vomiting on the prosecuting attorney and passing out on the goddamn stand.”

At least she didn’t mention me having a spy at her bachelorette party.

“Then comes the hacker and the fundraiser fiasco, and immediately after we put those things to rest, I get T-boned by a fucking ex-sub who almost kills me and Chuck! Nearly a year later, I still don’t have all my memories back.

“After more hiccups than I care to count, I finally bring two healthy babies into the world, a joyous occasion that was overshadowed a few months later by Val’s tumor and Pop’s unfortunate passing—not things that directly happened to me, but deserve inclusion due to the fact that a) when Pops’ died, my husband turned into an emotional infant and locked me out of the bedroom that we shared, b) I sat for days wondering if my best girlfriend was going to die after we had treated each other like shit for months and c) they were both cause to postpone our Italian vacation.

“A few months later, I find that all my hard work for Helping Hands is being questioned by a spiteful, vindictive bitch with an ax to grind and then, the last thing… the very last thing I ever thought could happen happened! I feared that maybe one day, my husband would seek something that I wouldn’t be able to give him and might look for it in the company of another, but I never, ever thought that another man would come between us. It was never on my radar, not even in the furthest recesses of my mind. And then…” She holds her head down and shrugs, shaking her head and still chuckling sadly.

“I know I’ve forgotten something, but I think you get the idea,” she adds, still laughing tragically. “I. Am a walking. Fucking. Tragedy. I’m the goddamn damsel that’s always getting tied to the fucking railroad tracks in those badly made, corny, black-and-white silent films. And what a horrible thing to happen—being tied to the railroad tracks and seeing your demise coming at you full speed and hoping and praying that someone’s going to save you because you can’t save yourself. And trust me, the train has run me over more times than I’ve been rescued, yet there I am… dismembered on the railroad tracks, trying to put myself back together again. Those attacks and accidents weren’t even merciful enough to kill me… just scar me forever—physically, mentally, and emotionally—then set me back in this ragtag, patchworked body with my ragtag patchworked heart and my ragtag patchworked mind to fight another day.”

She laughs again, but by now, tears are streaming nonstop down her cheeks. She shakes her head and drops it before she adds, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Now she’s quoting scriptures? This is really getting bad.

“Ana, can’t you see that this is exactly why you need to talk to Ace?” Gail tells her, leaning in like it’s a one-on-one conversation. “You can’t stop bad things from happening. You might be right, the fates may be cruel, and they may be waiting for things to get great so that they can drop another test on you, but you can’t spend your life waiting for that. You can’t do that to yourself… or your children. What kind of freedoms can they have if you’re always waiting for them to get run over by a bus?”

Butterfly sighs, now fully weeping while listening to Gail.

“I lived in mourning for many years after God gave me a wonderful man and then decided to take him back. We have no children and now, I can’t bear any children of my own. Lo, and behold, another wonderful man happened into my life.” She looks over at Jason.

“He was the worse person for me,” she laughs. “We work together; he has a dangerous job… but those damn fates…” She looks back down at her hands before she raises her eyes to Butterfly.

“He was almost killed, and I thought that destiny was going to punish me again, but he wasn’t. He came back to me and even though it happened in a pretty cruel way, he even brought me a daughter.”

Jason’s gaze softens, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more love in his eyes… except on their wedding day in Anguilla.

“And then you welcomed me into your family—even against the wishes of my employer…” I drop my head and twist my lips. She’s right. I didn’t want to blur any lines between me and my staff, but Butterfly had different plans from the very beginning. “…And you had two beautiful babies, and I get to help raise them. So, I didn’t get to bear any children of my own, but I sure as hell have a family.

“One thing that I learned from losing my Douglas and living in mourning for all those years before I found my Jason, gained a beautiful daughter, and a beautiful family is that yes, bad times are always going to happen for as long as you’re alive. But think about it really hard… The bad times don’t follow the good times. The good times follow the bad.”

Butterfly raises her eyes to Gail, her lip trembling. She swallows hard.

“I want to believe that so badly,” she says. “It would make all of this so much easier to bear… I just can’t see how to get past this huge, crashing abyss I feel in my soul.”

“I just want us to get back to being us,” I say, disappointed, “but… from what you’re saying, that might not happen.” She shrugs, smiling sadly.

“I love you too much to lie to you,” she confesses. “Give it time. You never know. Maybe I’ll see what Gail is saying. I’ll go back to Ace and maybe… maybe I’ll get comfortable enough to forget this feeling of impending doom.”

It’s not until this moment that I fully realize what my leaving really did to her. It shook her foundation in everything she believed in. Maybe there was too much of her inner security wrapped up in me, but didn’t I make it that way? Didn’t I make her the most important thing in my life, bumping heads with her several times on matters of her security, safety, and well-being? I’m Christian Grey—self-proclaimed possessive and controlling asshole. I must have everything important to me encased in this protective bubble so that I know that it’s safe. She was in that bubble—figuratively and literally—and that’s what she became accustomed to. I took care of her life, her body, and her heart, and she expected me to keep doing that…

And then, one day, I didn’t.

I left her out there in the elements without any shelter and she had to fend for herself against the foul weather. As a result, she got a really good look at just how bad the hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, blizzards, avalanches, sandstorms, wind and hail could really be. Every bad thing that ever happened to her all came back at     once and all the progress that she had made in all of her therapy sessions went down the drain. A lot, if not all, of her safety and progress was directly linked to me and I took it away in one fell swoop…

I was the one who opened the door to finally finding out what happened in Green Valley.

I was the one who swooped in with my whirly-bird and rescued her from the clutches of the bad guys.

I was the one who held her as she cried when she cut ties with her mother.

I was the one who stood by her side and fought her friends when she was catatonic for several days.

I was the one who was there for twelve days when she was in a coma and waiting when she woke up, even though she didn’t know who I was.

Then, she turned around looking for that safety net at a very crucial moment in our relationship, and I wasn’t there… I was gone… and she fell, and she might still be falling.

I’ll make it up to you, baby. I swear I will.

“I guess I just have to work harder at showing you that everything’s not impending doom,” I say, matter-of-factly, “at making sure that you know that I realize that I wasn’t there when you fell and I’m really sorry for that; letting you know that I know I’ve shaken your trust to the very core and it may take me the rest of my life to get it back, but I’ll fight that long if it means that in the end, you know that I’ll never let you fall again. I don’t care how long it takes… I love you and I want you to trust me again, trust us again, trust life and love again. I’ll do any and everything to restore that trust. It may take a really long time, but I don’t care. You won’t have to forget that impending doom, because I’m going to chase it away. I’m going to spend every day of my life chasing it away until you trust again. I made a horrible mistake, Anastasia. I ran when I should have listened. As a result, everything we’ve built has been destroyed. Please, forgive me. Please, please, forgive me.”

“Not… everything,” she says, her voice small. I raise my eyes to look at her. “I still love you… with all my heart…”

“But you don’t trust me,” I say. “That is everything, but I’m not giving up hope. I’ll do everything I can to make you trust me again.”

I suddenly ache inside. That pull—that connection that we’ve always had suddenly feels stronger than it ever has, and I feel that if she doesn’t come to me now, I just may pass out. She leaps from her seat and launches herself into my arms. She’s as light as a feather and as heavy as lead at the same time and it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me as I hold her to me with all the inner strength I can muster.

“I don’t know…” her small voice begins, her face buried in my neck.

“Sssh,” I soothe, rubbing her back and holding her close to me. “I do…”

*-*

I’m sitting at the breakfast bar resting my face in my hands and watching Gail put the finishing touches on an exquisite homemade seven-layer German chocolate cake. Only moments after our emotionally taxing discussion, Butterfly excused herself and went to take a nap before dinner. I immediately felt that hopeless feeling again and only wanted to make things right in her life… when I suddenly made a horrendous discovery.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I lament right after she leaves the den. Gail and Jason look at each other and back at me.

“Fuck! It is,” Jason responds, slapping his hand to his forehead. “We fucking forgot. How could we fucking forget?”

“Look at everything that’s been going on,” Gail interjects. “My birthday would be the last thing I would be thinking about in the midst of all this shit!”

“I’ll bet that’s not how Butterfly feels,” I say, pulling out my phone to see if Al is still in the house.

“Yep,” he says when he answers the phone.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I say into the phone.

“Yep,” he says, with no surprise. I roll my eyes.

“You didn’t think to remind me of this when we talked?” The line is silent.

“Are you serious?” he asks. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re her goddamn husband and you forgot her fucking birthday? Now you wanna blame me? Seriously?” Oh, shit, I’ve pissed the man off.

 “Look, I’m sorry. There’s a lot going on, okay?” I apologize.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he replies.

“Did she mention anything while you all were visiting?”

“Not a word,” he says. “I think it’s the furthest thing from her mind.” Like Gail said.

“Are you still here?” I ask.

“Yes, but she just went up to bed. I think she’s down for the night…”

“No, she’s not. She’s taking a nap. Come to my den. I need your help…”

I used to sit in the kitchen and watch my mother like this on those few occasions when she would make something special. She was a very busy doctor and she didn’t get to cook much until we got older. She spent as much time with us as possible when we were kids instead of in the kitchen. She’s the reason that I don’t want my children raised solely by nannies. My mom was the best, and even though I may not have acted like she was the world to me, she really was. There was this one time when she made this chocolate cake for me from scratch. It was just for me, and I remember how special she made me feel making that cake just for me…

“I need you to do me a huge favor and I don’t want you to laugh at me.” Gail’s eyes widen as she puts the cake spatula down on the counter and turns her attention to me.

“Okay,” she says, waiting for my request. I sigh heavily and spit it out.

“I want you to teach me how to cook a nice meal for my wife,” I say finally. “I’m not trying to be a master chef. I just want to cook her a nice meal and I’m afraid that if I try to do it alone, I’ll burn the house down.”

I raise my head to look at her and she’s glaring at me like she’s just seen a ghost. I try to understand that this is a strange request but give me a fucking break here. I’m trying to do something nice for the woman I love.

“You want to cook?” she finally says, astonished. I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, already afraid that this will be an impossible task. Gail sighs.

“It takes patience, Christian,” she says. “You’re not a very patient man.”

“I at least want to try,” I say. “I just want to do something nice for her. I buy her shit all the time. This will be different, something I can do myself. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal—I know that would take forever, but something nice… and edible.” A small smile plays with Gail’s lips.

“We’ll try,” she says. “When do you want to do this? You all are always home at the same time, unless you don’t care if she knows.”

“No, it has to be a surprise,” I tell her. She nods.

“Sophie has been asking to learn to cook a few dishes. You’re in luck, we’ve only just started. I can kill two birds with one stone if you don’t mind a teenager in your cooking class.” I sigh again. I don’t care who’s in the cooking class as long as she agrees to help me… and Butterfly doesn’t find out.

“Thank you,” I breathe. “I’ll come home early, when Sophie is getting off school. We’ll work out some form of communication so that I’ll know if Butterfly is at home…”

Just like that, Gail becomes my co-conspirator.

Having unlimited resources affords you the luxury of not only being able to put together a birthday party in only two hours, but also to be able to secure the perfect gift that’s not only thoughtful and somewhat extravagant to the average person, but also utterly necessary. As luck would have it—bad luck, that is—I’m the only person in the inner sanctum that forgot it was Butterfly’s birthday. Everyone else had presents at the ready and was only looking for a good time to “engage,” so to speak. So, when Al activated the contingency and managed to get Butterfly’s closest friends to the Crossing on short notice, everyone came bearing gifts. Mine is an Australian cruise that we’ll be taking in December, no excuses or postponing.

At 7pm sharp, I send Val to rouse my Butterfly from her slumber and bring her to the dining room. As much as I’ve promised that birthdays will no longer be a day of angst for my wife, this one was nearly ruined again—this time, because of me. Three birthdays this woman has spent with me and not one of them have gone off without a hitch. Oy vey!

After fifteen minutes have passed and still no sign of my wife, I begin to worry until I see a beautiful vision in sunshine yellow bend the corner around one of the large columns.

“Surprise!” everyone yells. The gathering is small, not everyone that I would have hoped but enough of our closest friends and family.

“Wha…?” Butterfly is stunned. An impromptu Food and Libations with the Scooby Gang and plus ones, the extended family from the Crossing, and my parents made it, too. A small table is set up with the gifts and the German Chocolate cake made by Gail and decorated with large chocolate flowers and the words “Happy Birthday Mommy.” The twins sleep in their Pack-n-Plays on either side of the table, guarding the cake and gifts from possible interlopers. Little Mindy occasionally peeks into the Pack-n-Plays under her mother’s watchful eye. Little Harry had just been put down to sleep and as I am told, has been battling a small cold. So, even though Ray is here, Mandy and Ana’s little brother couldn’t make it.

“I couldn’t let her come down when she first awoke,” Val apologizes. “She looked like she had been attacked by wolves. She never would have forgiven me.” I walk over to my sweet, stunned bride and put my hands on her forearms.

“I want to say that we had this elaborate plan, but we didn’t. We all just wanted you to know how much we love you.” She looks around the table at her friends and the family we could gather before she throws her arms around me and buries her face in my neck.

“I totally forgot,” she breathes in soft sobs. “I love you, too.”

*-*

She had a wonderful time. She spent the evening listening to what was going on in everyone else’s life since it was already known that the last month of her life had been a complete disaster. Having spent most of the summer taking care of Val, then being there for me and my family when Pops died, followed almost immediately by Mia’s wedding then yet another event that we’ll come up with some horrible nickname for, there hasn’t been any time to connect with her friends on the frivolous and fun level that friends should.

After two years together, Marilyn and Gary have decided to move in together. There are still no wedding bells on the near horizon, but they’re both so busy that they don’t spend nights apart at all and, according to them, it makes no sense to pay rent in two places when they most often only stay in one.

So… Courtney and Vickie are a real-life couple. Yeah, that’s news to me. I wouldn’t have been surprised that they were fucking around, but a couple… yeah, I’m surprised. Courtney’s going to school for social work, which is a real shocker to me since she was truly a lost cause a year ago as far as I was concerned. But, I have to admit—Aunt Tina, Mom, and Butterfly were right. She has changed significantly. I don’t think her grandparents would even recognize her now.

Valerie and Elliot will be moving into their house next weekend. The house is ready, but they didn’t want to come straight home and then have to prepare for packing and moving. Valerie’s things are all in storage since she let her apartment go right after her diagnosis and Elliot’s refusal to let her out of his sight. Elliot still has his apartment, but he’s going to be shedding most of his bachelor gear—as is my understanding—for new furnishings in the new house. They should be ready for a housewarming in a few weeks.

Maxine announces that she has decided to open her own practice. She feels that it’s time that she offers her services in a different arena without being under someone else’s payroll. Butterfly encourages her to do that and jokes that she will come and see Maxine should she find herself in need of a job again. A scoff and a dirty look come from both my mother and me to the party’s amusement. Butterfly also informs her friend that she owns an office building downtown with empty office space. I had completely forgotten that I had gifted Butterfly’s office downtown to her and there is currently space for rent. So, Maxine now has the new location of her practice.

There’s no sex tonight. The day was just too heavy, even with the successful joviality at the end of the evening. Butterfly and I watch Disney movies in the family room with the twins in their Pack-n-Plays. She finally falls asleep somewhere after their midnight feeding and I lay in bed with her in my arms staring at the ceiling, thinking how close I came to losing it all over a terrible misunderstanding.

My wife could have died when she fell off that cliff. Chuck saved her life yet again. She may never recover from this impending doom syndrome. I can see it in her eyes. She used to be such a free spirit and now, she’s approaching everything with a level of emotional caution that’s clearly visible to everyone around her. She’s agreed to start seeing Ace again. I’ll give Dr. Baker a call, too. Somebody’s got to help us out of this situation in which we’ve found ourselves or we’ll never be able to get ourselves back.

Having laid awake next to my wife for about three hours with no hope of falling asleep, I slide out of bed and go to my old faithful companion in hopes of calming my nerves enough to find slumber. I stop at the bar in the entertainment room and pour myself a brandy, then stop in my office to get my voice recorder before escaping to my den and my baby grand.

I never know how to verbalize my feelings, which is why I ran my cowardly, selfish ass to Madrid instead of staying here and communicating with my wife. I thought I had come so far during the time that we’ve been together. I’ve come a long way, granted, but not nearly as far as I need to if I can come this close to losing her because of this. I start the voice recorder and just start playing. At first, I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’m playing, or why I’m recording… but I do. I just keep playing, keep recording… and keep singing.

You look at me and I begin to melt, just like the snow when a ray of sun is felt…

She’s so broken, and I broke her. Just like she always does, she put on a good face for the rest of the world, but deep inside, she’s fragile and afraid. Somehow, I—or something else—always exploits that fear and that vulnerability. I have to make sure that she knows that I’ll never be the one to do that to her again. I have to know that I’ll never do that to her again. She can’t take it. She won’t survive going through this too many more times.

And now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the Grey…

Yeah, I know that’s not the Grey the song meant, but that’s how I feel—lost without her and so found when she’s near me. Song after song flows from my soul, my fingers, and my mouth. I don’t really know the purpose. I just sing and play what I’m feeling, what I need her to feel.

And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while…

How I could have thought that for one second her thoughts and heart would stray to someone else is beyond me. Even now, playing the probable kiss over and over in my head, I no longer see her gazing in his eyes. I no longer see him closing in to touch his lips to hers. I only see her hand on his chest, pushing him away, fending him off from our bubble, our life and our love…

I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life…

I have to get her back… back to the sassy Dr. Steele that I met in that community center, the woman who calls me Grey when she’s cross with me, the woman who cries adrenaline tears when she’s pissed and wants someone to pay for whatever has her feeling that way instead of shrinking into sofas or in fetal positions on the floor—not for myself, but for her… and yes, for me, too…

If ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one…

She has to know that I love her, what she means to me, what she’ll always mean to me. She has to know that, yes, there will be some bad times—some shadows and some tears, we can’t avoid them—but I’ll always be there to love her and hold her, to make sure that she’ll never feel the way she feels right now ever, ever again. God, I love you, Butterfly. I love you so much. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that I love you and I’ll never let you down like this again… never again…

I never knew what my life was for, but now that you’re here, I know for sure…

I have died every day waiting for you, Darlin’ don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years…

You make me feel so brand new and I want to spend my life with you…

All of me loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…


A/N: Ana’s quote about sudden destruction comes from the Bible: I Thessalonians 5:3

Here are the songs that are referenced in Christian’s midnight serenade.

On the Wings of Love—Jeffrey Osborne
Kiss From A Rose—Seal
Just The Way You Are—Bruno Mars
I Knew I Loved You—Savage Garden
Back At One—Brian McKnight
Spend My Life With You—Eric Benet ft. Tamia
A Thousand Years—Christina Perri
Let’s Stay Together—Al Green
All Of Me—John Legend 

Other songs that were on the recording, not mentioned in the chapter:
Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You—George Benson, Glenn Medeiros, Westlife… take your pick
I Will Be Right Here Waiting for you—Richard Marx
Thinking Out Loud—Ed Sheeran
Because You Loved Me—Celine Dion

Not sure if anyone cares, but years ago, I used to watch a sitcom called The Facts of Life. One of the characters—Tootie—wrote and performed a dramatic reading that I never really understood until I became an adult and people were always expecting something of me. When my Muse deserted me (and believe me, y’all, she deserted me—I thought I was going to be wrapping up the Butterfly Saga), Tootie’s dramatic reading came to me. To me, it translated into, “You can’t expect for me to just keep churning out shit when you need it and just take what I can get when you’re ready to give it to me.” 

These last few chapters, my Muse took a beating… and she shut the fuck down. 

Now I know people may look at this and say, “We can’t say what we want to say or she’s going to stop writing.” That’s not necessarily true, but people do need to understand that creativity is a lot of hard work, and I’m feeling what’s being said. As many times as I’ve tried to explain things logically, my Muse—as is anybody’s—is as “at will” as they come. She was like, “I don’t have to explain shit! and took the fuck off. 

For those who think she’s overly sensitive, do me a quick favor. Start from chapter 37, and don’t read anything else but the comments(suspicion started in chapter 33; the “embers” started in chapter 37; the blaze started in chapter 38) . Start from the first comment in chapter 37 to the last comment in chapter 41. Read it first with an open mind, then picture that this was a piece of clay that you worked on months ago for several weeks, and these people are talking about your piece of clay. No matter how thick your skin is, no creative soul can walk away from that unscathed. 

If you’re interested in Tootie’s dramatic reading, it starts at the 15:45 mark and it’s only about a minute long. 

I’m done. I apologize for subjecting you all to my diatribe. I’ve actually lost readers for that. 

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

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last in the menu our you can click HERE.

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 41—Comfort is an Illusion

So… someone in the question thread asked me (or I should say, they asked Jason) why he and Ana didn’t talk more since Christian is, after all, his best friend. In short, Jason replied that although he and Christian are best friends, Christian is still his boss and Ana is Christian’s wife, not Jason’s. As such, he’s not obligated to maintain their relationship. I kind of wish that the person who posted that question had waited until after I posted this chapter. As I said before, this storyline was written late last year sometime and none of it has been changed except the insertion of Mia’s wedding. After reading this chapter, you’ll see that Jason chooses his battles when he feels that it’s appropriate to intervene.

The Muse is slowly working her way back, but it’s a very slow walk. I’m working a lot of hours and I will only post when I can. 

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…

Raising Grey: Chapter 41—Comfort is an Illusion

CHRISTIAN

“Ace handed me a new asshole,” I tell Jason later that evening in my den when he asks how things are going with me and Butterfly. “He thinks we’re going to lose our marriage if we don’t get this together soon.”

“He said that?” Jason says with a frown. I shake my head.

“Not verbatim, but in so many words, yeah. There was no mistaking his meaning. I’m not sure he’s willing to talk to us as a couple and Butterfly won’t talk to Dr. Baker. I don’t have the time or the energy to break in a marriage counselor. Maybe we should go to Reverend Martin…”

“No offense, Boss, but he knows nothing about your lifestyle and you really don’t want to try to explain that to a man of the cloth.” I nod, dismayed.

“You may be right, but when we discussed how we would handle this situation if it ever arose, it was him that we talked to. I did exactly the opposite of what I said I would do. I said I would talk to her about the situation and I didn’t. I didn’t give her a chance to explain her side of it; I just shut her out, and I said that I wouldn’t do that, either. Yes, she went to Montana on me and left me without any word, but we weren’t married, yet. We didn’t have a family—children that depend on us. There were no vows and promises at the time that we have in place now.”

“Why did you run away, Boss?” Jason asks. “You never told me. I followed you blindly, because it’s my job to keep you safe, but I never knew why.” I sigh, remembering that night… remembering what I saw and the fact that I had completely forgotten what I had heard… or part of what I had heard, until I recalled it while talking to Ace.

“Let’s go, Jason,” I huff, getting into the front seat of the Audi and slamming the door behind me.

“Is everything alright?” he asks.

“Drive!” I bark, never turning to face him. I’m breathing fire. I’m so angry that I could put my fist through the windshield, so I keep them clenched and in my lap. She told me to leave. She told me to leave, not the asshole that was touching her and leaning in to kiss her. ME! Fine, I’m fucking leaving!

“Get Steven on the line. If you can’t get Steven, get someone else, but we need a pilot. Tonight. To Madrid.”

“What?” he asks, almost in horror as we’re stopped at a red light. I turn a searing, angry glare at him.

“Do you have a problem with that instruction?” I demand. After examining me, he turns back to the windshield and grips the steering wheel.

“No, sir,” he says, impassively as the car proceeds down the road towards Grey Crossing.

I saw her. I saw how she looked at him. I could see that same longing that she has when she looks at me, when we’re sharing our special moments. She’s attracted to him and she was about to kiss him… or let him kiss her… until I walked in.

I do everything in my power to swallow the bile that building in my stomach and throat. I replace the feeling of loss and despair with the anger and betrayal that’s burning in my heart and mind. Fuck it. Jason can pack and inform his wife that we’re leaving. I’ll buy whatever the fuck I need in Madrid.

“She wanted him,” I say, still replaying the scene in my head. “Maybe not enough to leave me… maybe not enough to break up our home… obviously not enough to pursue him, but she was attracted to him, enough for a moment of pause.”

“She wanted who?” Jason asks.

“The inspector,” I tell him matter-of-factly. “Liam. The night we left, I walked into the Center to find them about to kiss. She told me to leave. I was about to rip him apart, and she told me to leave. So… I left.” I run my hands through my hair. “I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand the thought. This wasn’t unfounded like when I thought something was going on with Elliot. I’m not making this up and it’s not my petty jealously, controlling tendencies, or possessiveness that’s speaking here. I saw this with my own eyes…”

“Activate two-way communications,” Jason interrupts me. “Locate Gail Taylor.”

“Yes?”

“Love, is Her Highness with you?”

Yes,” she says after a pause.

“I need the two of you to come to the man den. Your Highness, I respect you immensely, but if you resist, I’ll come up there and carry you down here kicking and screaming then tie you to a chair when you get here.” Whoa! What the…? After another short pause.

“We’re on our way,” Gail says.

“See you in a minute. End two-way communications.”

“Jason…” I begin to protest.

“You can’t talk to her therapist and you can’t talk to yours. My wife and I each have more experience than both of you combined. If you can’t talk to them, you’ll talk to us,” he says. “Yes, you’re my boss, I respect that. Please don’t forget that, but you’re also my friend, and we’re not in Madrid anymore. This woman is your lifeline and you are hers. She came into your life, shook everything up and brought out a man I never thought I’d see. I’ll be damned if I sit idly by and watch you lose all of that! My wife and I have probably spoken more in the last three days about your marriage than the two of you have in the last three weeks. It’s time to get to the bottom of this… now!

Well, nothing much else to be said there.

It seems like it takes an eternity, but after some time, Butterfly and Gail enter the den. Butterfly has resorted to the wheelchair that we kept around when Valerie was living with us. I look bemused from her to Gail.

“The crutches were hurting too much,” Gail says, “and she couldn’t carry the children.”

“No more speaking for her, Love,” Jason tells his wife. “From this moment on, if she has something to say, she needs to say it herself.” Ana looks at Jason as if to ask, “Who the fuck does he think he is?” When there’s no reverence or reaction, she turns her wheelchair around and heads for the door.

“I will chase you, Anastasia,” Jason warns, “and I will catch you.” The chair stops, and she turns around.

“So, you’re just going to make me do something that I don’t want to do?” she seethes, her voice full of venom.

“Your husband feels that you wanted another man,” Jason blurts out. “He feels that had he not walked into the room, you would have strayed outside of your marriage. He walked in as this man was touching you, just as this man was about to kiss you. You don’t think this requires some discussion? Do you really think you’re blameless in this?”

“I tried to tell him!” she wails. “I tried to talk to him!”

“Well, tell him now!” Jason retorts.

“It’s too late,” she says, dropping her voice and her head.

“Oh?” Jason says unmoved. “So, I should just call Allen now and tell him to draw up the divorce papers?” Butterfly’s head shoots up, horrified, like someone just informed her of a death or a horrible tragedy. “Tell. Him!” Jason commands. She stares at him for several moments, then turns her gaze to me.

“Yes, I was attracted to him,” she chokes out, “but I told him several times that I would not pursue anything with him. His advances were harmless at first, but questionable enough for me to let him know that I. Am. Mrs. Christian. Grey!” Tears are flowing freely down her cheeks and her words are burning out of her throat like molten steel, flowing over the room—over me—and searing my skin, for more reasons than one. “Yes, I was emotional and passionate at the time that he almost kissed me, but not passionate for him, and I stopped him!”

“How could someone else work their way into your heart like that?” I ask, impassively.

“He didn’t work his way into my heart!” she retorts.

“Your mind, then!” I retaliate, and she can’t respond. “There was enough room for someone else to work their way into your mind, to get close enough—intimate enough—to be in a position where they had to be stopped before your lips met. How. Does that. Happen?” My voice is sharp, and now, I’m a man scorned, and I want answers.

“I don’t know,” she chokes. “I didn’t invite it. I didn’t want it. I stayed away from him; I avoided being alone with him. Any time he tried to suggest something, I cut him off.”

“You don’t see how that’s a problem?” I ask her. “Everything you’re saying right now is just an indication that there was a problem brewing. He apparently made you feel as if he wanted more than a professional relationship. You admit that you were attracted to him. Why didn’t you cut communication completely?”

“He was the inspector! I couldn’t…”

“You could have done something,” I retort, cutting off her escape route. “You could have told my mother how you felt, about your fears, refused to be alone with him at all. There was something that was going on that made you continue with the status quo. You were content in knowing that you resisted his advances, yet you consistently put yourself in a position where you could continue to get them. You’re trying to convince me and maybe even yourself that you didn’t want him, that you didn’t want anything to do with him, that you did everything you could to avoid something like this. But somehow or another, you end up on a sofa after hours in a room alone with this man about to kiss.” My voice is accusing, convicting, unforgiving. I deserve to know why this happened and I won’t take any excuses. “Was I not enough for you?” I ask. She gasps and glares at me, eyes wide.

“Why would you ask me something like that?” she asks, horrified.

“Because I need to know!” I nearly yell. “I need to know how this happened! Never in my life have I not been enough for any woman that I’ve ever dealt with and I need to know how this happened with my wife! I fight off beautiful women almost every day. I shun their advances and push them away because I want my wife. No woman has gotten close enough to kiss me except that batty bitch who attacked me at your father’s wedding and I slapped the taste out of her mouth when she did. No other woman but you can willingly get that close into my personal space and I need to know how another man got that close into yours!” She thrusts her hand into her hair and begins to rub her scar, but I won’t be deterred. “Do you want him?”

“No!” she screams. “I don’t want him! I didn’t want him then and I don’t want him now.”

“You said he was attractive…”

“Just because I find someone attractive doesn’t mean that I want them!” she retorts. “I find many women attractive and God knows I don’t want them!”

“I haven’t caught you in a tender moment with any women,” I shoot back. She chokes out a defeated scoff and shakes her head. She’s beginning to shut down and I’m no closer to an answer to why this happened than I was before. She found him attractive. Does that mean that I have to worry about her falling into a vulnerable kissing situation with every man that she finds attractive? I stand up a walk over to my piano. She’s kept as much distance between us as possible since she first came into the room. A few more feet won’t make a difference.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” I say to Jason, my back to Butterfly. “I’m a horrible cad for running off to Madrid because I couldn’t deal with this. I’ll take that. I won’t deny it. Now, I’m back. I want to know what forced my wife into a vulnerable situation and I can’t get that answer.”

“Is there anything I could say right now that would make you feel any better?” Her voice is broken behind me, but I don’t turn around. “What answer could possibly give you the closure that you’re looking for? If I told you that I looked into his blue eyes and I wanted what I saw, would that be enough?”

Now, I turn around to her tear-stained face. Is that what happened?

“If I tell you that in a moment of weakness, I just wanted to see what it felt like to kiss another man, would that give you closure?”

Are these hypotheticals or is this the answer to my question?

“Or if I said that I sat there hungry and tired after combing through all my hard work trying to find a way to make the impossible possible and when he spoke to me after I had thought he was long gone for the day, that I did sit down and have a civil conversation with him; that somewhere in the course of that conversation, he closed the space between us and he touched my face. And yes, he’s an attractive man, and for more than a moment, I was a deer stuck in headlights, not sure if he was really closing in on me, or if I was imagining it. And yes, even though he has some of the most striking blue eyes I’ve ever seen in my life, that they are captivating, but I stopped him anyway, because even though they are quite hypnotizing, they. Are not. Gray.”

Her voice is even now, her tears betraying the impassive tone.

“He’s attractive. His purpose at the Center made me resent him, but that didn’t make him any less fun to look at.”

What the fuck?

“And even though he’s very easy on the eyes, he. Is not. My husband.”

I swallow as I glare at her. I don’t know how to take what she’s saying. There’s nothing wrong with our relationship. There were no cracks for anyone to get in, but somehow, someone almost did, and I’m no closer to knowing why it happened except striking blue eyes. This gives me absolutely no comfort. I put my hands on my hips and turn away.

“If my truths aren’t enough to give you closure, Mr. Grey, I don’t know what to tell you, because that’s all I’ve got.”

The room is silent for several moments. I let her words roll over in my head and realize that I just have to accept what she gave me. I don’t like it, but I have to accept it. Can I deal with it, though? She didn’t kiss him… they didn’t kiss. There was no infidelity. She admits that she was attracted to him—she gave me that truth, but that in her heart, she didn’t want him. So, there wasn’t even any emotional infidelity. But can I deal with the fact that a set of blue eyes allowed him to get that close to her?

My mind immediately goes back to our conversation with Reverend Martin before we were married and what she said about affairs and infidelity…

“Any affair is a deal-breaker. Sexual affairs are tragic and crushing and I have no idea how I would ever recover knowing that he was with another woman. Affairs of the heart are much, much worse. That means that he can see himself with someone else besides me and that means that there’s no place for me anymore. If he allows someone else into his heart, in the place where I should be, then he has allowed someone else into our home and I can’t live with that. If he has to let her go because of me, even though he still loves me, he will resent me for it and he can’t live with that. So, cheating is an instant divorce in my book.”

He didn’t get to her heart, so… this doesn’t count? If he had kissed her, if she had let him kiss her, would this count? What did I say when he asked me that question? I have to think hard…

“I don’t know… I could never do that to Butterfly, but if she did it to me, I’m not so sure that I could walk away so easily. I’ve never suffered from infidelity like she has. From what she explains to me, it was mental torture. It was more than just this guy having another girlfriend. He flaunted his affairs and he made her feel like shit. When it was all said and done, she basically had to lock him out of her home and her life and she still wanted him back. I can’t see putting her through something like that. It’s inhumane. I would hope that she would never want to do that to me, but I don’t know how I would handle it if she did.”

Still, no infidelity… just those infernal fucking blue eyes that reeled her in. I remember we told the Reverend that we would talk about how we would handle someone else intruding into our relationship, but if I remember correctly, we never did. We did make one commitment that day that we didn’t stick to…

“Talk to your partner when you feel drawn to someone else—if you feel a connection with someone as a colleague or erotically. This will build the bond between the two of you instead of allowing you to build the bond with someone outside of your relationship. Can the two of you commit to that?”

She never came to me and told me that she was drawn to this guy. If she had, this may never have happened. We might have been able to catch it—to curtail it before it got this far.

“Christian, you’re a million miles away,” Jason says, bringing me back to the here and now. I might as well say what I’m thinking. Silence hasn’t gotten us anywhere so far.

“I was just thinking about the promises that we made to each other before we got married,” I say, firmly, “that we would talk about possible attraction to someone outside of our relationship so that we could nip it in the bud.”

“We also said that we wouldn’t run out on each other anymore,” she retorts.

“I’ve taken responsibility for running out you,” I say, whirling around on her. “It was wrong, but I did it. I couldn’t handle it and I’ve admitted that. All I’ve gotten from you are striking blue eyes and a deer caught in headlights!”

She raises a piercing blue glare at me, then speaks with a deep-seated anger that I don’t think I’ve ever heard from her.

“Fine!” she spits angrily. “I was attracted to another man and I didn’t tell you! I wasn’t looking for it and I didn’t welcome it, but I didn’t dislike it as much as I should’ve. I should have come right home and told you what was going on the moment I saw that there was a problem, and I didn’t! I was afraid! I was afraid of what you would think and of what I was feeling. I felt the same way you did—that nothing was wrong in our relationship and that there should be no room for any man anywhere to affect me, to get into my mind, but here was one, and I couldn’t explain it away. I knew I loved you, and I didn’t want him, but I couldn’t. Explain it. Away. So, instead of coming to you like I promised I would, I tried to deal with it myself, and it turned into a goddamn disaster. It’s my fault! It’s all my fault! And I take responsibility for it. I was attracted to him, I should have talked to you and I didn’t. It was a bad call—my bad call, and I’m sorry!”

The words echo through the room and bounce off the deadening silence that has now wrapped around the four of us. She glares at me for a moment and the whites of her eyes have turned a fire red. I don’t know if it’s anger or the fact that she hasn’t stopped crying almost since she’s been in this room. Those words had to be ripped out of her like a rotten tooth with no anesthetic. She drops her eyes quickly and she appears to be shaking.

I look at Gail, concerned, and she reaches for Butterfly. The moment Gail touches her arm, Butterfly flinches violently—her head, her hair, everything shaking wildly like something burned her as she snatches her arm away from Gail. Gail frowns and raises a furrowed brow to me as Butterfly holds her head down and covers her mouth in contemplation. She’s done talking.

“He’s not perfect,” Jason says to Butterfly. “He’s never going to be perfect, and obviously, you aren’t either. You two need to understand that about each other and stop holding each other to this unrealistic level of expectation. Give each other room to fuck up and grow. It’s going to happen. You can’t stop it. The only way to prevent mistakes is to die! But you two—every time something happens, you run to your corners. You’re married now! You have two other little lives depending on you. You can’t do that anymore! You need a moment or two or a weekend to yourself to get your thoughts together, that’s fine. Running to Madrid and cutting your wife off, hiding out in Montana, indefinite periods of the silent treatment, temper tantrums—that shit is unacceptable. How do you expect to survive ‘for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, ‘til death do us part’ if you keep running around acting like a couple of bruised teenagers?”

Butterfly holds her head down as I watch her reaction to Jason’s words while weighing my own. She still won’t speak, and she’s focused on another plain completely. She’s looking with unseeing eyes though I’m fairly certain that everything she’s hearing is going into a mental Rolodex.

“Your therapist may want to tiptoe around you and be politically correct, but I don’t. I live with you. I’ve lived with him for damn near ten years. I’ve seen every phase he’s gone through and I can tell within thirty seconds after seeing him in the morning what kind of day it’s going to be. You tried to go back to that curmudgeonly bastard after she moved to Montana, but I knew it wouldn’t last. I knew that if she hadn’t come back to you, we would have been back in Montana dragging her back here by her hair until you convinced her that you loved her, and you married her because she can no more live without you than you can live without her. So how about we cut this shit out and get to what’s really important?”

Still no word from Butterfly. She hasn’t even flinched.

“I think we’ve done about all we can do tonight, Jason,” I tell him, noting that my wife has completely shut down after her confession. He looks from me to her and back to me again.

“I think you’re right,” he says, standing from his seat. Taking her cue, Butterfly turns the chair around and fumbles with the door handle a bit. Gail finally opens the door for her and in her frustration, she catapults herself from the chair and up onto her good foot, inadvertently pushing the chair into the back of the sofa. Without turning around, she hobbles out of the room, violently and quickly limping out of sight. Gail takes off after her to prevent her from hurting herself. Jason and I stand in somewhat stunned silence as they disappear quietly down the hall.

“Believe it or not, that was very productive,” Jason says. I raise skeptical eyes to him. “You guys were able to get out what you had been feeling, what you had been holding in all this time. That’s a huge start, man.” I nod reluctantly. Logically, I know he’s right, but I wish somebody would explain that to my heart.

“If you don’t mind, Jason, I’m going to take a moment or two and allow myself to feel what I’m feeling right now. She should have come to me, and she didn’t. No matter how angry or hurt she is right now, she was wrong. That burning anger that you saw just now was because she had to admit that she was wrong. Yes, I left, but this could have all been avoided if she had just come to me before it got to this point. I know my wife, and if she had come to me and talked to me about being attracted to that man, he never would’ve have gotten within a foot of her. But she had the cushion of me not knowing. I was the furthest thing from her mind when she was sitting on the sofa with that man until the very last minute, and all of the pain and anger that she’s feeling right now is her own conviction eating her up. I don’t want to take that pain away from her. She needs to feel it. She needs to understand. I feel betrayed. No, she wasn’t unfaithful, but I still feel betrayed and I have to get over it. So right now, at this moment, I’m going to take some time to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling.”

I turn away from him, effectively dismissing him from my presence. Once he’s gone, I sit down at the piano and fondle the keys. I allow my fingers to take on a mind of their own and bang out a piece or two that aptly portray how I feel right now.

*-*

It’s about three in the morning and Gail and Keri are caring for the twins. Before I left, they were sleeping through the night. I wonder what happened? Did my leaving cause that much of a disturbance?

I lay in our bed, alone, as Butterfly is still sleeping in the guest room. Like many nights before, I can’t sleep. I ache, and I know that we can’t leave things like this. Even if she doesn’t want me to touch her, I need to be near her.

I climb out of bed and walk down to the guest room where she’s sleeping. The door is slightly ajar, and I let myself in. I find her in bed, where I expected, and she’s crying… softly, but her entire body shakes as she weeps. I watch for a moment—how long, I don’t know, but she shakes and cries the entire time I’m standing there.

How many nights did she do this while I was gone? How long has she been crying tonight?

Our talk tonight was brutal, and while I regret nothing that was said, my mind immediately goes to the days after the fundraiser fiasco, when she locked herself in the guestroom and mourned… when I found her here at the Crossing, broken and hurt after having slept at the construction site all night, pregnant with our babies.

I crawl into bed behind her. Her weeping doesn’t falter. I force one arm underneath her. Wrapping the other around her body, I cradle her tightly to me, laying my head on her back and closing my eyes as she sobs.

“I love you,” I whisper, desperately. “I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you…”

I love you despite myself… even when I hate you, I love you… even when I’m being an asshole, I love you… even when I’m lost and betrayed and pretending that you don’t exist, I love you… I love you more than life and breath, more than anything… I love you with every cell of my body… every fiber of my being… I love you down to the basest, lowest, deepest part of me… I love you… I love you… I love you… I love you…

Her breathing catches momentarily and she chokes on one of her sobs as I will her to feel how desperate I am for her; how the thought of being without her is the culmination of all my worst fears and nightmares; how this whole situation made me so crazy… makes me so crazy… that I just don’t know what to do…

Light shines through the bay window as I open my eyes. I’ve slept like the dead for the first time in weeks and my arm is asleep. Butterfly’s limp body lies cradled in my arms just like she was when she cried herself to sleep… at least, I think she cried herself to sleep. I pull her closer to me and inhale the scent of her hair. The scent is amazingly comforting. I take what pleasure I can in lying here, being near her, holding her…

Several minutes into my Butterfly meditation, she wakes. I can tell the moment she wakes, because her aura changes immediately. She doesn’t stiffen; she just changes. I close my eyes and my heart laments the slow destruction of our relationship, of the trust we had.

“Let me kiss your lips,” I whisper in her ear. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t respond. “Please…” I beseech her. “Please, let me kiss your lips…”

Even though there’s no response, I can tell when she surrenders to my request. I lay her on her back and stay on the bed next to her. I examine her swollen, tear-stained face and her expression is unreadable. She closes her eyes as I bring my lips to hers. She doesn’t reciprocate the kiss, but I don’t think I care. Her lips are so soft and I just want to feel them against mine.

I close my eyes and breathe her in, gently brushing my lips across her tender skin. I caress her cheek gently and her breath catches ever so slightly. Her lips part only a little and I place my bottom lip in the opening so that I can gently kiss her top lip. This small bit of her—the tiny offering that she’s giving me—is Nirvana. I ached from the day I saw her with Westwick… the day I felt like I was no longer enough… and now, she’s lying next to me, giving me this small bit of her, and I’m feasting on the morsel like it’s my last meal.

She swallows, then slightly gasps like she can’t breathe, her lips parting to allow more air in, and I take full advantage. If she won’t let me touch her—won’t let me kiss her when this is all over, I’ll take whatever I can get right now. I slip my tongue into her mouth and taste the sweet, soft skin of the inside of her upper lip. She gasps again and I nibble gently and bite, then ghosting my tongue over the mark my teeth left. I’m hungry for her… I want to taste her… feel her… inside of me…

She gasps again and I feast on her reactions to me. I still affect her, she can’t deny it. God knows, she affects me. I kiss her lips over and over, moving to the corners of her mouth and back, caressing her cheeks, her hair, feasting on her lips, her flavor, tasting her breath. At first, I think I’m dreaming when her arms slide around my neck and her fingers into my hair. My body trembles at her touch and I sink into a delicious, passionate kiss—one that I had been waiting for… for weeks! I try and fail not to groan as sound may break the spell, but I feel like my heart will burst right out of my chest as her tongue tangles hungrily with mine.

Oh, baby…

I do everything I can to restrain myself, not to get carried away in the kiss, not to lose myself too soon, but it’s no use. My soul needs this woman and even her kiss is enough to send me over the proverbial edge.

I try to restrain myself, pulling myself back to look at her, to read her. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m looking for answers… and I find them in her eyes.

Yes, she was intrigued by him. Yes, she was attracted to him—but he never got this look, not this look that she’s giving me right now. This was not the look I saw in her eyes when she looked at him. She reserves this look for me… only me. It breaks down what’s left of my wall, all my defenses and every reason I ever thought she would want anyone else. I gasp this time and bury my tongue in her mouth, claiming her again…

Mine…
Mine!

As if reading my thoughts, feeling my soul, she matches my fervor, grabbing handfuls of my hair and meeting my tongue with lavish licks of her own. God, I want her, but I don’t even know what to do right now. I’m just drunk off her flavor, her passion, and I can barely function—so much so that I don’t even notice that my pajama pants are gone and she has flipped us over on the bed so that she’s on top. I’m breathless as I watch her pull her nightshirt over her head revealing her naked body.

“Butterfly…” I pant. “We don’t… have to… Ah!” I don’t have time to protest before she’s pushing herself down onto my aching erection. God, it feels like forever, and it’s taking a while for her to acclimate to my size. She throws her head back as she slowly takes me in and I swear that I almost lose it. I have one hand on her hip, the other on her body just below her breast. Fuck, she feels so good, but we’re moving too fast.

“Baby,” I breathe through the passion searing my pelvis and burning through my senses. “Wait… wait… we need…”

“No!” she whimpers and through my breathless pants, I realize that she’s crying. “No…” she chokes. “I need you to love me,” she weeps. “I need to know that you still love me… that you still want me…”

Fuck! Can’t you tell?

I cup her face in my hands and pull her down to me, kissing her deeply. I wrap my arms around her body, placing one hand at the small of her back, I push her against me, onto me. Opening my legs and bending my knees to pin her feet under my thighs, I stroke up into her, again and again, savoring the feeling of being inside of her once more, even though I feel like there’s a million things that we need to talk about and we shouldn’t be doing this right now, it’s the reassurance that she needs… and the connection that I need.

“I can’t hold out,” I warn, “I want you so much… I can’t…” Before I know it, I explode inside of her with a breathless whimper, gasping every breath as my ejaculation goes on and on—the fastest I’ve ever come, I swear, but when it’s finally over, my erection doesn’t wane and I continue to stroke inside of her.

Thank God… that could have been a disaster.

I move one hand to the back of her neck to hold her gaze steady to me.

“Do you see…” I begin, still breathless from my orgasm, but holding my stroke, “… how much I want you… how much… I need you?” She’s gasping and panting, now, supporting her weight on my shoulders even though I’m holding her close, drilling deep and steady into her. Still weeping, she nods helplessly as she fights for her breath. “Then show me…” I growl. “Show me how much you want me!”

She gasps through her tears, trying to pull away from me, but I have her well in my grasp as I drive into her. She surrenders, her body falling limp against mine as I own her, claim her, love her… Seconds later, she’s looking into my eyes and even through the tears, I can see the royal blue creep into her pupils.

That’s right, give it to me…

She stops crying, stops breathing, stops moving for several seconds, then releases a mournful keen from her chest—full of agony and passion and suffering and ecstasy as she tightens around my cock.

Let it go, Butterfly… let it go…

I bring her lips to mine, but I don’t cover her mouth or muffle her cries. I want to hear her… I want to feel what she’s been feeling and take her pain away. The clenching in her pelvis doesn’t stop and neither do her weeping cries of climax.

“Yes, baby,” I whisper against her lips as I taste her tears and continue to stroke through her orgasm, guiding her hips over mine. “That’s it, baby, let it go…” And finally, I hear the litany my heart has been waiting for…

“Christian…”

I can’t take it. I thrust my fingers into her hair, pull her face to mine and kiss her passionately as she continues to tremble through her orgasm. She tightens again, and I think we may have spawned a second one before the first ended. She whines deep in her chest and cries into my mouth as the tremors start anew. I hold her steady, still kissing her deeply as she comes again. When I feel the convulsions begin to wane, I release her lips and pull her face back, looking into her sleepy, glassy eyes as she fights to catch her breath while she weeps and recovers. I lay her head gently on my shoulder as I hold her close to me, close my eyes, and continue to make love to her.

“Beautiful girl,” I whisper, and she weeps and trembles on my shoulder, my second orgasm creeping quickly up my thighs. “I love you, beautiful girl…”

*-*

She wakes a few times during the morning once she fell back into slumber after we made love at the crack of dawn. Each time, I wake with her, our connection slowly coming back, but not completely. She still stiffens a bit at my initial touch, but I pull her close to me and kiss her shoulders and back. Almost instantly, she relaxes back into slumber. Once, she awoke talking about the dead or death or dying, I’m not sure, but it disturbed me so badly that I didn’t get back to sleep for a while.

She allows me bathe her today. She still can’t stand in the shower on her own, so she has to take baths for now. The protector is in full effect and I only want to take care of her. I bathe her carefully, cleaning her all over and gently handling her ankle so as not to aggravate her injury. While she’s in the tub, I retrieve one of my shirts… worn, one of the ones I purchased in Madrid. After drying her skin carefully, I wrap her in the way-too-large shirt and button it in front of her. She looks so small, so vulnerable. Her hair didn’t need washing, so it falls in large beautiful curls over her shoulders, not losing its body from the day before.

I carry her to the bed and lay her down. Her ankle looks better than it did yesterday… still a tiny bit swollen, but less than yesterday. I sit on the bed at her feet and put her injured foot in my lap. She flinches again, but I see that it’s in anticipation of me touching her ankle.

“I won’t hurt you,” I say softly, immediately realizing the irony of my statement. I don’t think it escapes Butterfly, because she breaks eye-contact with me and looks at her ankle. I gently bend the ankle and rotate the foot, testing the soundness of it and to get some better circulation going. She watches the ankle, not so cautiously as before as I gently rotate the ankle.

“Is that okay?” I ask her. She nods.

“Yes,” she says softly. We sit in silence for about three minutes as I rotate her ankle, paying close attention to her reactions. She’s very nervous, but I can tell that she’s trying to relax. I place her foot on the bed and retrieve the pillows from the window seat, elevating her foot just enough to be comfortable and affective. Facing her, I rub firm, but gentle circles on either side of her ankle. I assume this must be a pleasurable feeling because her eyes nearly roll back in her head during the massage. From this angle with her leg bent, I’m seeing a delicious view up the inside of her thighs. She’s been freshly shaved or waxed, and I was in such Nirvana feeling her wrapped around me last night that I didn’t really pay attention.

Massage, Grey. Massage.

I massage her ankle for a few more minutes, not wanting to overstimulate the tissue. I apply the cryotherapy wrap on her ankle and fasten it securely.

“Ready?” I ask before I turn it on. She nods and I hit the switch. She bites her lip at the first feeling of cold and squirms a bit on the bed.

Fuck!

“You okay?” I ask. She nods.

“It’s not as bad after the initial shock,” she says. “I’m kind of expecting it, now, so the relief starts a little faster.” I nod as I allow my fingers to trail up her calf to her knee. I hear her swallow as my eyes follow my fingers up her beautiful legs. When my fingers pass her knee and stroke her inner thigh, I feel her shiver. I raise my eyes to hers and she looks aroused and frightened at the same time.

Distance… I see distance… and all I want to do at this moment is close it.

I lean down to her and my lips follow the same trail that my fingers followed earlier—up the inside of her calf and around her knee. Her breathing hitches as I pass her knee and alternate inside each thigh…

Left…
Right…
Left…
Right…
Left…
Right…
Up…
Up…
Up…

The higher my lips go… the closer to her core I get… the faster her breathing gets, until she’s panting. I raise my eyes to look at her, and she’s looking back at me… nearly terrified.

“Do you want me to stop?” I ask, softly. She shakes her head.

“No,” she pants, her voice weak. “Don’t stop.” I’m torn between her words and her tone, her demeanor—but I go with her words. I gently kiss her outer lips and feel her shiver. When I run my tongue inside them and across her clit, the gasping moan of ecstasy that escapes her throat erases my doubt and fuels my hunger. I lick again, deeper and harder this time. She sinks into the bed and arches her back, like she’s just as hungry as I am.

She probably is…

I pull her body down to me by her hips so that her ankle stays elevated but her legs open. She gasps at the sudden jerk of her body, but writhes in pleasure again when I repeat the hungry lick of her clit. I throw her good leg over my shoulder and dig in. She tastes so good, it seems like I haven’t savored her flavor in months.

“Hoh, God!” she gasps in a hitch pitch. Her body is already convulsing. “Please… Christian, please.”

“What do you want, baby?” I ask into her clit.

“I want… I want… oh, God!” she cries out her orgasm as I suckle her deeply, her body writhing and thrashing as she attempts to keep the injured ankle still. She was too on the edge and that was way too fast. I blow on her clit and watch it pulse as her breathing regulates and the orgasm wanes. When she appears to have caught her breath, I close in on her clit again, sucking and licking and stroking her into a frenzy once more.

“Please… please…!” she beseeches me.

“I know, baby,” I reply in a husky, hungry voice. She’s panting again as I work her up again, crying out in passion and gripping the sheets.

Let go, Butterfly. Let me in.

“Oh. God, help me,” she breathes, and I don’t really know what to make of it. I bring my arms around her hips and clamp my hands onto her breasts over my shirt. I can feel her milk leaking slightly out of her nipple and it turns me on so much that I can barely think. Coupled with the smell and taste of her arousal, it’s causing me to lose my fucking mind. I groan into her pussy and she responds with a groan of her own.

“Oh, God, Christian,” she keens.

That’s it. Open up for me, baby. Let me in.

I hungrily manipulate her clit, sucking and licking, moving down to her core every few moments to collect her juices and back up to her clit again.

“Christian!” she squeals as she thrusts her hands into my hair. “Oh, my God!”

And she trembles out another orgasm… violently. When her clit is pulsing in my mouth and she has stopped shrieking, her body falls limp onto the bed with the exception of some gentle writhing.

“Please… please…” she keens. “Oh, God, please…”

I move my lips from her clit and gently kiss her inner thighs over and over again, her hands still tangled in my hair.

“Please…” she whispers as she caresses my hair, her eyes closed as she rides a sated wave. Amazingly, I’m sated, too—tasting her and smelling her and watching her writhe through her satisfaction… I’m one happy camper right now. I place her leg back on the bed and gently kiss both thighs. I stand and walk to the head of the bed, sitting down to look at her face. She turns her head to face me.

“I’m going to get you some breakfast,” I tell her, brushing her hair out of her face, “and a dry shirt.”

She nods, wordlessly, her eyes sleepy. I smile and leave the room in search of sustenance for my wife.


ANASTASIA

I’m momentarily in sexually sated bliss—well, a little more than momentarily. My clit throbs from my last orgasm as Christian leaves the room. I had no idea that I was so much in need until he touched me. My body was alight when he held me and kissed me last night. When his lips first touched mine, I didn’t know how to react. I thought I was dreaming. Suddenly, I wanted him more than I wanted anything in my life! I was still emotionally conflicted, but I needed him to touch me, to want me. Last night, the physical attraction was so much that neither of us stood a chance against it. Today… this morning… after he cleaned me and cared for me, I saw my old Christian, the Christian that didn’t run off to Madrid and leave me for dead. But I’m so afraid to get comfortable… so afraid to let him in…

He was everything to me. I admit it. He has my whole heart and soul in his powerful hand and he can crush it like a bug at the slightest whim. Now, after this experience, I’m afraid that he will.

The comfort and ease I felt before is gone because when the bad went down and we were put to the test, we failed. Now, I’m scared that the entire house of cards is going to fall around us any minute.

More than one person has made reference to my running off to Montana and how I should understand Christian’s need to get away and rethink things. Even my own inner Bitch is trying to get me to understand the similarities… but I can’t.

The one person who supposedly knew where he went was gone with him.
The one person who knew where I went was still in Seattle.

I went over the state line.
He went across the goddamn ocean.

He left me here to care for our children alone with no hint whatsoever that he may or may not be coming back or what he might do.

He found me, came to me, and we talked.
I had no hope of finding him.

The only time I ever remember feeling as helpless as I did when he left me was when I was lying in that hospital bed after those fuckers killed my baby in Green Valley. Oh, I’ve had other moments of hopelessness, but not like that… not like this.

I have a bitter pill that I have to swallow and my only explanation for it is that I did something similar before, so I should understand what’s happening to me now. I ran off and went to Montana because I needed time to think things through. So now, I should understand that he ran off to Madrid because he needed time to think things through.

Only… he didn’t think things through. He was angry and he abandoned me. He went to Madrid and cut me off and forgot about me, so much so that his head of security and best friend didn’t think he needed to know that I fell off a damn cliff.

But no, little Ana needs to buck up and take her medicine. This was all your fault. You didn’t go to him the moment you realized that Liam may have had more on his mind than that damn inspection and it snowballed into what’s going on now. Never mind that all I had on my mind was that damn inspection. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and now, I do see that there were warning signs, but at the time, all I wanted was to get through that damn inspection and get our accreditation. I wasn’t concerned about Liam in that way because he wasn’t on my radar. Shame on me for not being more observant and proactive in making sure that a predator didn’t slip into the gates!

I shake my head. I was so secure in our relationship—in what I meant to him and what he meant to me. I was certain that my heart was safe in his hands, that my soul was safe. I knew that he would never deliberately hurt me, that I could trust him with anything. He would always protect me. He would always have my back. He would never let me fall. He accepted me with my fucked-up past and my screwed-up flaws…

He always worked to help me through my issues, to help make me a better person. I slept better at night because of it. I had no fear of the unknown or of the future because of it. I knew that he would always catch me if I fell… but I did fall… and he didn’t catch me… and now…

The Boogeyman is back.

He’s sneaking around corners waiting for me to step wrong so that he can ruin my entire life. What’s next? My father? My children? My life? He’s already wreaked havoc on my body, my mind, my peace, my sanity, and my marriage. He’s proven there’s nothing sacred. I’m surprised that I was able to even bring two healthy children into the world since the first one was beaten out of me and every horrible fucking thing seems to follow me! And why did I really live through that accident—so that Karma could toy with me and use me as her muse for the rest of my days? Should I sit and take inventory of every questionable decision I’ve ever made so that I can at least have a list of all the horrible things that are going to come back on me eventually?

Yes, poor little Ana… poor little fucked-up, screwed-up, always-messing-up Ana…

*-*

As Al promised, nothing else held up our final approval once Gloria Felton was out of the way, so our accreditation is no longer interim. We were fully accredited last Friday and there’s a lot to do to get the programs in place that we had planned on all this time. I set to work immediately on adult high school programs such as high school equivalency testing studies and preparation for ACT and SAT testing as well as adult literacy and language programs. Grace gets to work on securing more funding sources including federal grants. Keri and Marilyn focus on the day care center and early learning programs. Grace and I both agree that Keri should be put on the payroll for the amount of work that she does with the children. Gail has two jobs at our house and one that pays very well. I see no problem in Keri getting some kind of stipend for the work she does while the twins are asleep in the day care center.

We’re not really sure how we’re going to go about securing tutoring—whether it’s going to be peer-to-peer, volunteer, or professional. I was just banging out that idea when Liam happened into our lives and it fell by the wayside in the mayhem. Once I return to the Center on Monday and begin implementing all the plans we had discussed, the days somewhat run into each other. I’m determined to make the best of this situation and not focus on the shadows looming at me, threatening to devour me. Yes, I’m hiding—I admit it. I won’t even talk to Ace yet, partially because I’m ashamed that I seem to have digressed so badly from all our progress over the years and partially because I just don’t want to face it… again, not wanting to give this feeling any more life than it already has.

The good news is that my ankle gets stronger with the passing of days… and Christian is home before me every day this week. I don’t know if he’s cutting his days short or my days are getting longer, but he’s in the family room every time I come through the mudroom after I park my car. Most days, he’s there with the children. Other days, it’s just him. He always beckons me to sit down and tell him about my day, which I do, as much as I can. Most often, we end up watching something on television, especially if the twins are with us. I often fall asleep curled up in his arms, taking comfort in the moment, but still very nervous about the future.

“As much as we needed it, I hate that we were cut off from the world for so long,” Val says when she and Elliot return from their Caribbean getaway. “I had no idea you were going through this, babe. I never would have left you alone.”

“Which is exactly why I’m glad you were cut off from this,” I tell her. “You wouldn’t have been able to enjoy yourself and you needed it so badly.”

This is one of the rare times Christian has let me out of his site. It’s like he’s afraid I’m going to disintegrate or something, which if I’m honest, I am, too, sometimes.

“I wouldn’t have been able to talk about it anyway,” I admit. “I’m barely able to talk about it now. I haven’t even been to see Ace, so much so that he made a house call to make sure that I was okay.”

“I don’t want to push, but… I’ve only got a few details. You’re more than just my friend, now, Ana. You’re my sister… my real sister. We’re family.” I know she’s concerned and not just being nosy, and in light of what we’ve been through over the last year—the good and the bad—I’ve made a promise to value our time together and not keep things from her. She and Al are the closest things to siblings that I have.

“Do you mind if we have a chew fest or something and call Al over?” I ask her. “I haven’t told him either and being that you guys are the closest thing I have to family, I don’t want to leave him out.” I didn’t tell Daddy and I most likely won’t, but I need to tell Val and Al. Her eyes grow large at my revelation.

“You haven’t told Al?” she says in awe. I shake my head. “Oh, God, this is worse than I thought. You call the Queen, I’ll secure supplies. Where do you want to meet?”

“In my parlor…”

About half an hour later, we’re all in my parlor sitting on the floor in front of the fire with fruit and cheese, bruschetta, and some of my other favorite finger foods and two bottles of the Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon that Christian got for me from Napa.

“Good Lord, where did you guys find this nectar of the gods?” Al says as the Cabernet slides down his throat.

“Napa,” I tell him. “A wine trip we took last year.” I savor the flavor of one the best bottles of my favorite wine the I’ve ever had. It heats and cools me at the same time.

“So… Ana, at the risk of sounding impatient, what happened?” Val asks gently. I sigh.

“What have you heard?” I ask.

“Some ridiculous story about you jumping off a cliff because Christian went to Madrid for a business trip,” she says. I look at Al.

“That’s pretty much what I got, too, except I was here and I know that you fell. I’ll have to say that I was questioning because of your demeanor over the past weeks, so I didn’t know what to think. So, I would really appreciate it if you fill me in.”

“There really was a cliff involved?” Val says in horror. Al nods dismally. I bottom out my glass and refill it.

“I asked for you both because I really don’t like talking about this and I only want to say this once… and I really don’t want to pull it apart too much.” I take a deep breath and recount how no one knew that Christian had walked in on me and Liam about to kiss; that I asked Christian to leave because if he hadn’t, he would have killed Liam and since he already had a record of violence with the court, we needed to avoid that at all costs. I told them about the real reason for Christian’s escape to Madrid—to get away from me—and that he immediately cut me off the moment he left the Center. I recounted the days and nights I spent in Limbo and agonizing oblivion, certain that I had chased my husband away and lost my marriage. I explained the drunken cliff accident, which was no more than me losing my footing and was really made out to be more than it was but could have been worse since my drunk ass was on the side of the cliff.

I confessed to sleeping for nearly two days and waking on the floor with a throbbing ankle only to find that Christian had returned and was sitting in the chair in the guestroom watching me sleep. I confessed to not being able to let him touch me at first, his tenderness feeling like fire on my skin that first day, and shocking in the days to come. I was raw… too sensitive for him to just come back and fit himself into our life as it was before he left like a puzzle piece that just got misplaced on the carpet during assembly.

I tell them about the hard conversations we’ve had with Ace and with Gail and Jason, who have taken the role of our marriage counselors since neither of us can speak to our own therapists in that capacity. I reveal that to my knowledge, Jason was the only one in the camp who really knew where Christian was and he was with Christian, so that didn’t help, but he didn’t know why they were in Madrid except to check out the businesses there in a merger or something. Al admits that he knew, too, but he was bound by his employment NDA and couldn’t reveal anything.

“So, as you can see,” I conclude, “nobody anywhere had the full story, not even me and Christian. He didn’t want the full story because he had already drawn his conclusions. I couldn’t get the full story because he was hurt and angry and wouldn’t talk to me. Nobody else had the full story because Christian and I were both withholding key pieces of information. So, there you have it.” My brother and sister both sit speechless for a moment, but Val is the first to break the silence.

“How are you now?” she asks, sipping her wine. I bottom mine out again and pour another glass.

“Surviving,” I say, with not even enough inner conviction to convince myself. “I’m taking it one day at a time.” Val examines me carefully.

“I know you, Steele,” she says. “You’re expecting the worst.” I shrug.

“The worst always happens,” I say, my voice cracking. “It’s like I can’t escape it. As soon as I get comfortable…” I take another large drink of my wine. “I’m just… day by day right now.”

“You can’t live like that, Jewel,” Al chastises, “You’ll go crazy.”

“I don’t have a choice right now, Al,” I say. “I’m a shrink and I don’t know how to get past this feeling. Years and years of experience has shown me nothing but that the moment I get happy and comfortable, something bad happens.”

The verity of those words hit me like the cartoon boulder hitting the Coyote, and I down the rest of my wine and fling the large bowl glass into the lit fireplace before crumbling in unwelcome tears. I don’t want to feel this way any more than I want to think that my husband would hurt me again, but I can’t stop it. I can’t stop the feeling that karma or the universe or the Boogeyman or whatever the fuck is in control of this situation is standing by with a machete waiting for that moment when I’m most comfortable, most happy, and most content to whack said happiness into a million little pieces. To hell with the Sword of Damocles; I have the scythe of Death, the hammer of Thor, the Guns of Navarone, the fire of hell—from Dante’s sixth circle, by the way—and the blade of Michael Myers all posed and ready to attack the moment I dare to think “all is well.”

Al is right, I can’t continue to live like this, but at this moment, I can’t see anything else.


A/N: Humans are strange creatures… that is all.

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 ~~love and handcuffs