Raising Grey: Chapter 51—When Sly Calls

I’m going to answer a couple of questions really quickly about Brian and Shawna. Brian does love Shawna—as Shawna, not as Ana, Jr. However, him bringing Shawna to Ray’s house at that time was totally a “Nah nah nah nah nah, you’ve been replaced” moment. Either he was hoping to see Ana, because Ana and Ray were coming from the court, or he was hoping that Ray would tell Ana how much Shawna looked like her. He had no reason to think Christian would do it when Christian first found out.

Also (clears throat) in my defense, y’all know I’m the queen of the cliffy, but those last two chapters were not intended to end on cliffies. I had to cut the story somewhere based on word count and the only place to do it was at the cliff… so I’m sorry (giggle giggle).

I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things. Many of you already know that I had a death close to me and had to fly back to Detroit. Very much still reeling from the effects of the trip—mentally and physically. Felt every bit of the emotional strain my characters feel when they travel to that place and trust me—I took my laptop with me, but they were bone silent from the moment I landed until the time I left out of there. None of the Butterfly Saga juices were flowing at all until I was at the airport in COLUMBUS, OHIO on a two-hour delay. Then, I was able to do a little editing, but nothing more. So, here’s chapter 51. I hope it was worth the wait. 

Before we get started, I want to thank you all for hanging in here with me—seriously, through sickness and health, death, drama, moving, job changes, loving the characters, hating the characters, you’ve been right there with me. I appreciate it very much. Really, I do.

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

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 51—When Sly Calls

When Sly calls, the profit speaks
When Sly calls, the secret leaks
The sky falls, the dice are tossed
The war is won, the battle’s lost

When Sly calls, it’s thirteen takes
When Sly calls, the summer breaks
The sky falls, the rain begins
And on the box some Leon spins
To insulate me from the icy aftershock I feel each time
That Sly calls.
~~Michael Franks, When Sly Calls (Don’t Touch That Phone), 1983

ANASTASIA

“Grace! What have you done?”

I get to the Center on Tuesday morning and I can hardly believe my eyes. Grace’s office has undergone quite the extreme makeover in five days. I can hardly believe it’s the same space.

“How did you pull this off in the little bit of time that I wasn’t here?” I ask. “It’s exquisite.”

“It was quite simple,” she says. “My space is smaller than yours, but I like that. It wasn’t as much of an overhaul as your office. Wallpaper; we changed out the light fixture; the floor is tongue-and-groove, and I just picked my furniture out of a catalogue and voila! Instant new office.”

“It makes me feel so fickle for toiling over colors and styles and textures,” I whine.

“You were looking for a specific look for a specific reason, and you’re going to get it. Your office is transforming into a virtual oasis. I wanted something more daring, more in-your-face, and that’s what I got. Don’t second-guess; it’s going to serve the exact purpose you need.”

She’s right. What’s left of my furniture and the rest of my accessories should arrive today and my Zen office at work should be complete before I leave. Marilyn will have to help me get my files and personal things organized, and I’m sure that will take all afternoon, but once that’s done, my space will be all set.

Grace’s office, on the other hand, is already set.

A statement in black and white with gold accents, Grace’s office screams “sophisticated professional.” There’s no doubt that this is the boss’s space. Black textured wallpaper with repeating geometric white—or pale gold—designs are a vivid contrast against wide snow-white baseboards, a snow-white ceiling, and white accessories. Large gold frames hold small, simple black and white pictures surrounded by white matting creating dramatic artwork that accents the color scheme. Spherical gold lamps with white shades mimic a spherical light fixture in the ceiling. The lamps sit symmetrically on either end of a black credenza against the back wall which holds and hides the printer, fax, files and various necessary supplies behind black lattice doors.

On the wall between the lamps is a small, round mirror in a large black frame with gold piping and resting on the credenza under the mirror is what looks like just the bust of an ancient buddha—although I could be wrong about the statue—strategically placed on books used as a podium. The design is simple… and genius!

A simple black desk with three gray marble inlaid panels sits on a deliberately misshapen white area rug. Two large leather chairs with silver trim tacks face the desk while a black leather desk chair—also with silver tacks—sits behind the desk. A small glass and gold cocktail table is placed between the two large leather chairs and the oversized window, also painted white to contrast against the black wallpaper, is covered with simple black wooden blinds.

And that’s the whole office.

It’s on quite the opposite spectrum of my large, two-room, earth-toned in search of Zen oasis. I’m beginning to feel like I may have overdone it, but I’m going to listen to Grace and not second-guess myself. I had a concept in mind and I should at least attempt to achieve it before I start shooting it down.

This was truly a long time coming for us both. We sank so much money into modernizing the rest of the areas in the Center to make them not only functional, but comfortable and inviting, that we completely avoided our own workspaces. It wasn’t until I looked around the room and realized that it looked like an office at a detention center rather than a space where someone would want to come and talk and pour out their fears and problems that I understood why even I was so confused in this place.

As my furniture and accessories continue to stream in and I slowly begin to see my office take shape, my fears are calmed as I see my vision coming to life. I was sidetracked by the sleek lines and bold direction of Grace’s office and completely forgot my intention for this space.

Make no mistake—creating a Zen office space is no easy task. You want the room to have the feeling of relaxation, where someone can come and pour their heart out of they need to, or just be able to come in and sit down and shoot the breeze. You want to have a place of solace, where peace and nature meet functional and professional. That’s where the problem lies, because I need a combination of both to be functional in this space while reshaping my life and mind to the place I need to be able to handle the changes in my life.

So…

My office really has become two distinct areas.

I have more room and more flexibility to play with at home whereas here, I only have this space. The office space will be delineated from the gray Zen sitting area by a “wall” of bamboo. However, the pale yellow wasn’t giving me the vibe that I wanted when I stopped by yesterday morning to see the progress. So, I made the swift executive decision to change it to a soft tan with an imitation raised stone accent wall and offered a bonus if it was done fast and right.

They had it finished by day’s end yesterday.

And I love the result. It’s earthier than the yellow and the accent wall is perfect opposite the bamboo “wall” and the gray textured wallpaper on the other side of the office and against the tongue-and-groove bamboo floor.

I went for the minimalist tan furniture in this space, something that makes the space functional but takes advantage of the new openness of the office. I was never at a loss for natural light, but the gray, metal desk and older black leather chair with worn bookshelves and an area rug from the prehistoric era screamed that we were on a budget. Not only that, but the meddling department head and her sidekick investigator who made my life hell are no longer a concern for how money is being spent. So, I don’t have to account for the funds used to deck out my office… even though I’m spending my own money.

The furniture is already set, but I want to adjust a few things to suit me better and I have a lot of little boxes that need to be unpacked. I need to get my files, books, supplies and necessities organized in the credenza, bookshelves and small cabinets…

And where’s Marilyn? She’s usually here by now.

I start by turning my desk around. It’s fairly large with lots of surface space, but it’s nothing more than four legs and a top with a computer stand attachment that I’ll most likely use for books or a speaker or a salt lamp or something since I don’t have a computer tower.

“What are you doing?” Courtney asks from the doorway.

“Arranging my office. Have you seen Marilyn?” She shakes her head.

“Not this morning… Chuck!” she yells down the hallway.

“Yeah?” I hear him call back, accompanied by the sound of his soles clicking quickly down the hallway.

“Slow down, killer, nothin’s on fire,” she says. His steps pause but resume more slowly. “Your boss is in here moving furniture and if she sprains a fingernail or something, Mr. Moneybags is going to be looking for blood. So, can we get her some help?”

Sprains a fingernail…

“You’re such a bitch,” I say to her and Chuck laughs.

“And yet, you still love me,” she says imitating awe before turning back to Chuck. “Help for the princess please?” she reinforces.

“I’m not a princess,” I declare haughtily while brushing off my desk. “I’m a Butterfly.” Courtney dramatically covers her chest and gasps.

“My apologies!” she exclaims. “Assistance for the Butterfly, sir, which is much more significant and delicate than a princess!” she says sarcastically. Chuck shakes his head.

“Give me two minutes,” he says pointing to me, “and don’t move anything else.”

“Sir, yes sir!” I say with a salute. He rolls his eyes and disappears from the doorway. I turn my attention back to Courtney. “Well, since you halted my progress, come on in here and help me organize some of this shit.”

Courtney helps me begin to organize while Chuck and two other gentlemen that he enlists adjust the furniture the way that I want. As it turns out, Chuck is very good at hanging artwork and I have several pictures—some Zen settings and butterflies—that he proceeds to arrange and hang for me. Courtney and I go about the business of opening several boxes of décor including Feng Shui crystals, carved hands holding sodalite and citrine clusters, and Himalayan salt lamps.

There are two bookshelves in my office. One will be reserved for books and whatnot, the other will be filled with the Zen and Feng Shui décor I’ve picked out, along with any other items I acquire, like the bonsai trees that are forthcoming. There are also jade plants and ficus plants scattered around the room along with some clustered bamboo here and there.

We get most of the décor situated and start to clean up the packaging now overtaking my office when Marilyn comes rushing into the room. She doesn’t look like she’s gotten much sleep—and it’s not the I got fucked all night look that she’s sporting.

“I’m…” she begins, pauses, and starts again. “I’m sorry… I’m late,” she says. I know something’s wrong, but I don’t want to out her in front of a room full of people.

“Is everything alright? Are you alright?” I ask, trying not to be too probing. She shakes her head, then nods, trying to wave me off.

“I’m… I’m just late,” she says, not making eye-contact with me. She’s never been late—not once, in all the years that she’s worked for me.

I don’t want to pry, but I‘m gonna… just not in front of all these people.

“We’re just starting to clean up, then I was going to get to unpacking and organizing my files and things.” Marilyn nods.

“I’ll start that,” she says. “Just let me look around a bit… get a feel for things.”

“Okay,” I say, and she begins to examine the area. Courtney throws me a “what the hell” look and I just shrug. I’m going to ask what the deal is, just not in front of everyone.

We get what seems like a million little boxes, packing peanuts, Styrofoam, plastic, and bubble wrap, all cleaned up and out to the dumpster and Marilyn has gotten my books, files, and supplies organized in no time flat. She knows how I like for things to be and it was easy for her to put each thing it its place. She even rearranged a ficus plant or two because she knows that bonsai trees are on the way. I thank everyone for their help and discreetly shoo them out of the room. Marilyn falls into one of the chairs in the sitting area.

“I like the bamboo wall,” she says, pulling her hair out of her face. “Was that a last-minute decision?” I nod.

“Yeah, along with the color-change and the imitation stone,” I say, taking the seat to her right. My Zen area really feels Zen. It makes you want to kick back and sip iced tea or something, and the soothing sound of the water flowing in the Chakra fountain lulls you into comfort and peace.

“Oh… okay, that’s what’s different. It was yellow before.”

“Yep,” I say, trying not to push. She sighs.

“So, I guess I’m going to be your first discussion in your new office,” she says. I don’t reply. “I’m late.”

“We’ve established that,” I say. “You can’t be this distracted about being late. You look like you haven’t gotten any sleep.”

“That’s because I haven’t,” she says matter-of-factly.

“So, you’re late because you haven’t gotten any sleep?” I ask. “It happens, Mare. You’re not chronically tardy. Hell, I don’t even remember the last time you took a sick day.” She laughs mirthlessly.

“No, Ana,” she says. “I’m late because I didn’t get any sleep. I didn’t get any sleep because I’m late.”

I’m frowning. It appears the we have a horse pulling a cart with another horse behind it.

“I’m confused,” I admit. Marilyn leans forward and puts her elbows on her knees.

“I’m late, Ana,” she says clearly. “Not tardy, late… like a week late.”

A week late? What the fuck? A week late for what?

Like a water balloon splatting in your face, I finally get what she’s talking about.

1-11

“Oh, shit!” I whisper. “Wow… um, okay. So… um… what does this mean?”

“I don’t know,” she says, falling back in her chair again. “Like you said, I’ve never been late. Twelve years, and you could set Big Ben by my cycle and now…” She scrubs her eyes.

“Have you talked to Gary?” She nods.

“He’s ecstatic at the very idea of a baby,” she says, but her tone and the fact that she’s not making eye-contact with me speaks volumes.

“But you’re not,” I observe. A single tear falls from her eye.

“I’m 25, Ana,” she says, her voice cracking. “I know this is the prime age for women to start having children, but I don’t even know if I want that. I want to do so much and see so much. Even though I can’t see my life without Gary, we never talked about happily ever after and raising kids. And even if we were to have that conversation, I certainly didn’t want it to happen this soon. We’re so young…”

The Bitch is shaking her head. She has things that she wants to say, but I’m telling her to shut the hell up. It’s truly time for Shrink Ana.

“Could this be a mistake?” I ask. “Stress or something? What kind of contraception do you use?”

“I’m not under any stress,” she answers. “We use birth control pills and condoms. And I’d bet my last dime this isn’t a mistake. I know my body. I know something’s not right.”

This truly seems like a tragedy for Marilyn. Her tears, her defeated body language, her totally broken tone all indicate that this is probably the last thing that she wants in her life right now.

And Gary’s over the moon about it.

“So… I guess you need to decide what you’re going to do about the situation,” I say gingerly. “I mean… have you taken a pregnancy test?”

“Ana,” she sighs, “I can guarantee you that’s just a formality.”

“Women are late all the time for any number of reasons,” I try to soothe.

“I’m pregnant,” she says. “I don’t know how far, but I’m pregnant. I’m not paranoid. I’m not jumping the gun. I’m willing to bet right now that if I pissed on a stick, it would change colors.” I sigh.

“So, why haven’t you pissed on a stick yet?” I ask. She rolls her eyes.

“Foolish procrastination,” she replies, “like if I don’t see a positive pregnancy test, I don’t have to deal with it yet; like I can pretend it’s not true…”

Foolish procrastination is right.

“And you don’t need me to point out the dangers of make believe right now, right?” I say, somewhat scolding. She glares at me. “I’m just saying,” I defend. “You’ve got a decision to make, Mare, and procrastinating is going to make it harder.”

She simply shakes her head and drops her gaze to her fidgeting hands.

“You don’t want to have a baby right now.” It’s a statement, not a question. Marilyn shakes her head. I open my phone and start the voice recorder. Like it or not, this is a session, sweetie. “Tell me all the reasons why…”

Marilyn begins to tearfully rattle off all the reasons she doesn’t want to have a baby right now. She has lots of things that she wants to do that she can’t do with a “kid on her hip.” She loves Gary but, like she said, they never talked about forever and she doesn’t want to end up a single parent raising a child. She’s not ready for any of the mental, physical, or emotional implications associated with being a mother. She never even considered if she wanted to have children because she has so many other plans. All her reasons are solid reasons for not wanting to have a baby, except…

“Have you considered adoption?” I ask, and I know it’s a mistake the moment I say it because even if she had, Gary wouldn’t agree to it. Then, there’s the implications of what this all means for their relationship.

“You’re kidding, right?” she snaps. “Put my body through that for nine months nurture and care for something inside of me for nine whole months to give it away have we met?” And I’ve clearly pissed her off. She said that without even taking a breath. “Are you going to try to shove some pro-life shit down my throat?”

Now, I’m a little pissed.

“I don’t know how to take that, Marilyn,” I retort. “I realize that you’re in a confusing place right now and I’m not trying to make it worse, but the fact that I had my twins because I was ready, I’m married, and it’s a good time for me does not make my decision pro-life shit!” I say those words a little more harshly than I intend, and it somewhat snaps her out of her temporary anger. I take a deep breath before I continue.

“I am 100% in favor of a woman making a decision about what she’s going to do with her body,” I say, my voice softening, “but while you’re in this state of mind, be careful not to throw spears at someone that aren’t necessary. You have a very tough decision ahead of you and I am not the enemy.” There’s silence between us for a moment.

“Now, let’s get back on track. You’ve given me several solid reasons why you don’t want to have a baby right now. Yet, you clearly haven’t made the cut and dried decision to go through with a termination or you would have gotten some sleep last night. So, tell me, what are the factors that are pushing you in the other direction? Her eyes fill with tears again.

“Killing a baby, to begin with,” she says. I could have the medical versus moral conversation with her about the fetus just being a glob of cells at the moment versus the life begins at conception theory. However, I don’t think that would be helpful right now. We’re having a whole ass case in Henderson based on that second concept and my pregnancy with that monster Cody Whitmore, even though I would have gotten an abortion one way or another if I found out that I was pregnant with that bastard’s spawn.

Marilyn tells me about her highly religious parents and her upbringing; the fact that she’s carrying a life inside of her and that she was taught that God is the only one who has control over life and death. This theory conflicts with what she has learned from her secular experiences—that it is her body first and she has the option to decide what she’s going to do with it. Does she ignore “God’s Will” and terminate the pregnancy, or does she follow through with her teachings and have the child, knowing that she’s not ready for one?

And then there’s Gary.

What will this do to their relationship? She loves him, and she knows that he wants to keep the baby. Most of the night was spent mulling over the situation with him looking at or touching her stomach more than once. She could have the baby, but she would be having it more for him than for herself. What kind of mother would that make her? Could she learn to love the baby, or would she be resentful towards the child because she was forced to have it against her will in order to keep her man? And what happens if they break up? There’s the whole custody thing and having to care for a child she really wasn’t sure she wanted to keep in the first place.

I don’t want to sway her in one direction or the other, but the choice seems pretty clear to me.

“I want you to hear something,” I tell her as I end the voice recording. I begin to play it back, trying to find the correct location of our conversation.

“You recorded me??” she asks horrified. I raise my glare to her.

“Stop acting new, Marilyn,” I retort. “You know damn well that I record all my sessions, and this is a session. I’m your friend, but you clearly need my professional help. Now shut up and listen.”

I get to the part where she begins to talk about the reasons that she doesn’t feel like now is the right time to have a baby—the plans that she has, the things she wants to do, uncertainty about the future and her feelings about being a mother. I stop the playback.

“Everything I heard right there is all about you—what you want, how you feel, what you’re thinking about the future, your body. Now, listen to this one.”

With a little effort, I locate the portion of the recording where we discuss not having the baby and the repercussions of that decision.

“Listen to what you’re saying,” I say as the recording ends. “You’re talking about how your parents would feel, how Gary would feel—how he kept cooing at your stomach and that you felt like you would be having the baby for him. The only feelings you identify is probable love and likely resentment. I’m not trying to make your decision for you, but that doesn’t sound like a woman who’s ready to have a child to me.”

“God,” she breathes, “I sound so selfish…”

“And guess what, Mare? It’s okay to be selfish. We’re talking about your future, your life, and how you’re choosing to spend it. If you feel that you’re going to be okay having a child and being a mom, then that’s your choice. But… if you feel that you’re not going to be okay with that decision, that being a parent right now is not for you, that’s your choice, too. No matter which decision you make, it’s going to have to be selfish but consider this.

“When you didn’t know that you were being recorded and you rattled off how you really felt, one of those decisions was all about you, how this would affect your life. The other was all about somebody else—what other people would think of you, how your decision would affect someone else. That will certainly foster resentment in the future. You’re going to sit back and dream about all the things you could’ve done—even things you had no intention of doing whatsoever—will all be that baby’s fault because you could’ve done it before you became a mom.

“I’m going to leave you with final thoughts, because like I said, I’m not trying to sway you in one direction or the other. I’m simply giving you the facts. One, everything you do will have consequences. If you decide to keep the baby, you’re going to have consequences attached to that decision. If you decide to terminate the pregnancy, you’re going to have consequences related to that decision as well. You’re going to have to decide which of those consequences you’re willing to deal with.

Second, you can’t live your life trying to satisfy someone else. Yes, you’re going to have to consider other people’s feelings, but all parties involved including you must realize that you are not the only parties involved.

“And third, make no mistake, Marilyn. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. Pregnancy is seven to nine months of hell on your body and mind with a few highlights thrown in. When it’s all said and done, if you decide that you’re ready to be a mom and you go into it with your whole heart, it’ll be worth it. If not, every single little adverse thing that happens to you will be Gary’s fault or that baby’s fault and trust me. When you can’t see your feet, you need help sitting and standing, and breathing sometimes becomes a task, a cloudy day will seem like an adverse thing.” She drops her head in her hands.

“You didn’t help, Ana,” she laments.

“Yes, Marilyn, I did,” I challenge. “I gave you some insight that you didn’t have before and I put your feelings in front of you—in your face in black and white. I just didn’t give you a cut-and-dried answer. You’re the only one who has that. Now, go take a damn pregnancy test. Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, I can manage a pregnancy test on my own,” she pouts. “Jesus, this is just so fucking much…” There’s a knock at my door that interrupts our session. Marilyn rises from her seat and dries her face.

“Good,” she sighs. “I’ve really had enough of this conversation for today.” She goes to the door and swings it open before I can stop her.

“Hi,” someone says from the other side. “I’m… looking for Anastasia. Am I interrupting?”

“No, you’ve come to the right place and you’re not interrupting. You are…?” Marilyn pauses.

“Harmony,” she says. “Harmony Franklin. I was supposed to call, but I was in the area, so…” She trails off. I rise from my chair and go to the door.

“Harmony,” I say, recognizing her from Mia’s wedding. “Tina’s daughter, right?” She smiles.

“Uh, yeah,” she says, smiling. “I was hoping… we could chat.”

“Certainly,” I say. “Come in.” Marilyn opens the door and gestures Harmony inside.

“I’m, uh, going to…” Marilyn gestures outside the door, trying to make a getaway.

“No problem, Mare,” I say letting her off the hook. “We’ll talk later?” She nods and gives me the okay sign before leaving. I turn my attention to Harmony.

“Please, have a seat,” I tell her, gesturing to the sitting area.

“It’s lovely in here,” she says, taking a seat.

“I just redid it,” I tell her. “It looked like a warden’s office before. I used my own money, so we wouldn’t put any financial stress on the Center.”

“It’s very… Zen,” she says. I chuckle.

“That’s what I was going for,” I say. “So, Harmony, let’s chat.”  Harmony sighs.

“Mom is on hospice,” she says, sadly. I gasp.

“I’m sorry, Harmony,” I reply. She shakes her head.

“She prepared me,” she says. “We knew it was coming. I’m trying to be strong, but…” She turns her head away and wipes away a tear. I reach over and take her hand.

“Is there anything I can do?” I say. She nods quickly.

“Give me a task,” she says, her voice cracking. “I’m in school and this stuff is second nature to me. I’ve already quit my job because I thought school was going to be harder than it is. That was only the case because of my asshole husband, which is another problem…”

Her husband is still a problem while she’s in school and taking care of her dying mother?

“Anyway, we just got the news today that… things have taken a turn for the very worst. Mom knows it’s all downhill from here, so she made me swear that I would fill my time and not sit and watch her die.” Her voice cracks even more. I frown.

“Okay,” I say.

“The thing is… I can keep part of that promise. I can find something to fill my time, but I’m not deserting my mother. No matter what she says, I’ll be damned if I let her die alone.” My heart smiles inside and breaks at the same time. I don’t really like Carla, but I don’t want to sit and watch her die, either.

“So, how do you plan to balance this?” I say. “You may know your course work very well, but it’s going to be hard enough trying to concentrate while you’re caring for your ailing mother. You want another task?”

“Nothing too strenuous,” she says. “I don’t want an internship, like Courtney. I think that may be too much for me right now…”

“Well, Courtney’s not an intern,” I correct her. “She just kind of does what she can do around here. She’s a Jane of All Trades, so to speak. If you’d like to come and volunteer, get some insight while you’re here, of course we don’t mind, and when you’re ready for an internship, we can work that out, too. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. Tina’s going to need you right now, and it’s imperative that you make sure that she understands how important it is to you to be by her side during this time. She’ll resist at first, but don’t give up, okay?”

Harmony sniffles a few times and wipes her eyes. I hand her a few tissues from my new tissue box. I bought it at first because it matched the décor—a wooden China box. Now I see I’m probably going to need it. Two people bawling like babies in the last twenty minutes… and the office just got finished!

“Harmony, do you mind me prying a bit?” I ask. She dries her eyes.

“I don’t mind,” she says. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to.” I frown.

“The rest of the family doesn’t talk to you?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“They’re all too busy with their lives,” she says. “Then, when Mom dies, they’ll all be at the reading of the will with their smelling salts and their handkerchiefs waiting to see what their cut of her estate is.” She shakes her head. “I don’t even care about the money, the property, none of it. The only thing I care about is how my lousy husband is behaving with all this.”

“That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you,” I say. “You said that your husband is a problem. I thought you two were divorced.”

Getting divorced,” she says. “He got wind that I came home after I left him to take care of my ailing mother. So, he’s holding up the divorce and waiting for her to die so that he can get half of my share of her inheritance.” My eyes widen.

“You can’t be serious!” I exclaim. She nods.

“I wish I wasn’t,” she reinforces. “It’s not that I want to keep the money for myself. Believe me when I tell you that it’s not important to me—I’d rather have Mom, but he doesn’t deserve any of it.”

And now, I’m sitting here wondering if there’s any way to prevent him from getting it.

“What does your attorney say?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m in the process of getting a new attorney,” she says. “I discovered after I filed for divorce that my attorney and my husband had history—history that clearly made this case a conflict of interest for him, but he failed to tell me. As such, my husband has known every single move I’ve made since I filed for divorce.” I shake my head.

“My best friend might be able to help you,” I tell her. “I’ll ask him. He’s GEH’s corporate attorney, but he was my best friend first.” She shrugs.

“Ana, I’m ready to let the guy have whatever he wants as long as it’ll get him out of my life.” I wag a finger at her.

“Don’t say that out loud,” I say. “If there’s a legal way around this, Al will find it…” and if there isn’t, I’ll consult my husband. I can’t stand it when unscrupulous men take advantage of women in vulnerable positions—or vice versa for that matter. My mind immediately goes to the fucking Pedophile and a gorgeous but misguided 15-year-old Christian Grey.

But I digress.

“My other question, if you don’t mind me asking, is about Tina. Honestly, I was just wondering about… the age factor. She seems a bit advanced in years to have a twenty-something-year-old daughter.” Harmony laughs faintly.

“You wouldn’t be the first person to ask that question,” she says. “It’s a long story, but I’ve perfected the short version. The quick and dirty—I’m adopted. The small detail—I am blood. Mom is biologically my great-grandmother. My bio-mom—piece of shit that she is—was looking for a way to secure the Franklin name. Her intention was to trap my dad—slacker that he is. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. He wanted nothing to do with her, or me at the time.

“She held out hope that he would see the err of his ways once I was born, but he didn’t. She got her wish with the blood test proving that he was my father, but she wanted more than that, and she didn’t want a baby. So, I got dropped off at the ER just before my first birthday and the Baby Moses Law kicked in. When the powers that be sought out dear old Dad, he went to G-Ma since his mother had since passed away and the maternal grandmother obviously didn’t give a fuck either.

“Long story short, Mom pulled me out of the system before they had the chance to ship me to parts unknown and here I am. Unfortunately, I had “Mommy and Daddy didn’t want me” issues because even though Mom is the kindest and most loving woman you’ll ever meet in your life, bio-Dad wasn’t discreet enough to let sleeping dogs lie and let the cat out of the bag at a family gathering in one of his drunken stupors when I was eight years old.” She shrugs.

“I was a kid, but I wasn’t stupid. My mother was over 70 years old. It didn’t take rocket science to figure it out, but I didn’t need the gory details before I even turned 10.” She sighs. “I made a few bad decisions as a teenager—nothing really horrendous, but enough to cause Mom more than a little grief. In trying to understand why my mother, father, and grandmother didn’t want me, I was constantly looking for love in all the wrong places and eventually fell into the clutches of my estranged husband… who I now discover wants nothing more than a piece of the Franklin rock. Thank God I didn’t have any kids with that bastard.

“All this time, he thought Franklin money was my money. It’s not—it’s Mom’s money. She dictates where that money goes, and she saw through him the minute she met him. I was just fine with her stipulation that he prove that he could take care of me before she releases any of her money to me because I thought I loved him and I thought he loved me. As time progressed and he realized that he wasn’t getting any of that money, he became a real asshole. He wouldn’t touch me, he cheated on me, he belittled me…

“When I moved back home with Mom, he filed for divorce and asked for spousal support. The judge laughed in his face. Not only were we not married long enough for him to make such a demand, but also the money that he was trying to lay claim to wasn’t even mine and never came into play in our relationship. If anything, he’d owe me spousal support had enough time passed because Mom was paying my way through college… I wasn’t even working. So, he and his ridiculous request were both kicked to the curb. As a result, he keeps delaying the proceedings with hopes that Mom will kick over and I’ll get some money that he can lay claim to once she’s gone.” I nod.

“I’ll talk to Al today, see if there’s anything that can be done since we know this is what he’s doing.” I stand from my chair. “In the meantime, I can show you around if you like and you can see what we do. Then you can decide what you’d like to do while you’re here.”

Harmony smiles, stands, and falls in step with me. I show her around the community spaces, where we plan on having our classes, and the nursery where I check in on my babies before I head to the dorms to introduce her to some of the families there.

The day feels like it was never going to end. First, Marilyn and her pregnancy dilemma and now Harmony having to deal with Tina’s impending passing and her rat-bastard of a greedy, conniving ass husband. Al was only too thrilled to talk to her when I explain the situation to him. He’s no divorce attorney, so he has to look into how the law works in this particular situation. He’s fairly certain that there’s something in asset law that protects her, but I’m afraid that the law may be too slow with a resolution with Tina in hospice and so close to death’s door.

I’m so beat down when I get home that I send my babies off with the nannies for their evening feeding and head to my bathroom and a soak in my luscious marble tub. I grab the first bath soap I see and discover upon filling the tub that it’s vanilla cinnamon. No matter—I just need to soak. I drop my clothes right there on the floor and sink into the tub before it has even finished filling.


CHRISTIAN

“Christian! Are you crazy?” Jason declares, throwing all decorum out the window.

“No, Jason, I’m not,” I reply. “I’m in no hurry to die, but I don’t fear death. What I’m not going to do is get in the car with this man so that he can do what he wants, then drop me in parts unknown where my wife can’t even find or identify me. I don’t know why he’s here, but if he wants to shoot me, he has to do it right here in public.”

Aragon examines me and crosses his hands in front of him.

“You’ve got guts, Mr. Grey,” he says. “My employer could have used someone like you in his organization… before you made your billions, that is. But you’re also quite paranoid. I’m only here to talk.”

“You could have called,” I retort. “You didn’t have to come across the country. Did you find that asshole?” I ask, referring to Myrick.

“Not yet, but we will,” he says confidently.

“Then, I don’t see that we have anything to discuss,” I say.

“Oh, but we do, Mr. Grey. If I could have but a moment of your time…”

“Then say what you have to say and leave,” I reply. “I’m already late getting home to my family and I’m certain that I’ll have little if any interest in anything that you have to say unless you’re here to tell me that fucker is dead.” He clears his throat.

“Concise and to the point, I see,” he says, closing a bit of the space between us, his goon close behind him. “Mr. Grey, if I was looking to cause you any harm, the deed would’ve been done by now, and neither that bulletproof vest or that gun that you have stashed inside its holster would have saved you.”

This fucking son-of-a… I know that I should feel some kind of alarm or something dealing with this guy as he fucking followed me all the way back from Michigan, but for some reason, I’m just not afraid of him right now—him or his boss who likes to send severed private parts to loved ones.

“I see that your business isn’t important enough for you to speak your piece. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m leaving.” I turn to go back into the building and see that Alex has joined our entourage, and he looks none too pleased with the development.

“Should I follow you to your home, Mr. Grey?” Aragon interjects as I reach for the door. “Would you be more comfortable discussing the matter there?” Oh, this fucker has real balls. I’m getting angrier and angrier by the second and although I can tell that Jason is trying to tell me something with his eyes, I whirl back around on this fucker.

“Mr. Aragon are you deliberately trying to piss me off?” I ask. “Because that’s all your tactic is doing at the present and nothing to sway me to speak to you.”

“I’m not concerned about pissing you off, Mr. Grey,” he replies calmly. “My only intent is to speak to you, and I won’t be doing it here on the sidewalk. We can do this in my vehicle or in your living room. The choice is yours.” Jason leans in to my ear before I can respond.

“First floor conference room,” he says. Home turf and every possible failsafe imaginable.

“I have a third option, and only at the coaxing of my security team,” I say. “The conference room on this floor of my building. It’s that, or you can follow me home and explain to the Seattle Police why you’re following me. I really don’t care which. Take it or leave it.”

I have a feeling that Aragon and his boss aren’t the slightest bit concerned about the local police, but they would much rather avoid the attention nonetheless. Aragon purses his lips. His business is built on fear and respect and at the moment, I feel neither. I want to know why the fuck he’s at my business giving me ultimatums about speaking to him or he’ll show up at my doorstep. He nods once.

“Lead the way, Mr. Grey.” Without hesitation, I turn around and walk into the building. I don’t look left or right as I stride into the conference room with my security flanking me all around. Since he’s fully aware of the bulletproof vest and gun on my person, I remove my coat and jacket and throw it across the chair—I’m burning the fuck up in this shit.

“Would you mind removing your armor, Mr. Grey?” Aragon says. “It gives an air of mistrust and it’s kind of rude.” He takes a seat at the far end of the conference table. I scoff at him.

“You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve,” I reply. “You come to my business uninvited at the end of the workday and threaten that if I don’t take a ride with you, you’ll show up at my damn doorstep with my family, and you’ve got the gall to talk about mistrust and being rude? I don’t trust you for shit and I don’t give a fuck about being rude. You and your guy have a clear shot between my eyes. State your business.”

His jaw twitches and I can see that he’s getting irritated with me. I’m done sparring with him—say what you have to say. I want you out of here in the worst way.

“Temper can be a deadly thing, Mr. Grey,” he cautions. I don’t respond. I stand there looking at him like I’m waiting for him to get to the point… because I am.

“You should take a seat, Mr. Grey. It will make the atmosphere less tense.”

I still don’t respond, and I don’t move to sit. Get to the point, Skippy.

“You make conducting business very difficult,” he says.

“Is that what you came here to say?” I ask succinctly.

“I would be glad to tell you the purpose of my business if you would kindly take a seat,” he coerces.

“Is that what you came here to tell me?” I ask again. No more discussion, Aragon. Get to the point.

“I have an important message for you and you’re making it extremely difficult for me to deliver it.” And that’s strike three.

“Please get Seattle Police on the line,” I say to the guard standing closest to me as I reach for my jacket. “Let them know that I’m on my way home and I’m being followed by a late model black Mercedes and give them the license plate number.” I put my jacket on and reach for my coat.

“Yes, sir,” he says as he heads for the door,

“That won’t be necessary,” Aragon says firmly. The guard turns around and Jason signals him. He stands by the door. Aragon clears his throat. Having lost the position of power he never had from the beginning of this meeting, he shifts the focus to Sunset.

“My employer would like me to relay to you that the next time you feel so inclined to visit Detroit, you let him know in advance,” he says. I slowly turn my gaze to Alex and Jason.

“Is he serious?” I say, bemused. Neither gentleman reacts. I turn back to Aragon.

“No,” I say flatly. “Anything else?” His brow furrows.

“I urge you to exercise caution in your reply, Mr. Grey,” Aragon warns. “Mr. Russo does not take kindly to rejection.”

“I exercise caution in all things, Mr. Aragon, but one thing that never motivates me is fear. I know that your boss is a very powerful man, and I won’t begin to pretend to wield the same level of power that he does, but I don’t kowtow to threats—ever. If he was so resourceful to know that I was in Detroit, he can be just as resourceful and find out why. However, I am an international business man, and I will not now nor will I ever ask for permission to travel or check in with someone because I’m going to be visiting a town they live in. I’m not on parole, I’m not a part of the syndicate, and I don’t partake in any illegal activities… usually.” I add that part after remembering that I actively kidnapped three men last year and I’m still not aware of their current whereabouts, nor do I care.

“You can tell your boss that whatever microchip he has secretly planted in my skull or whatever Big Brother technology he’s using to track my movements, he can continue to use those. I don’t punch a timeclock and I’m not about to start clearing checkpoints for him.” Now Aragon stands.

“I must implore you, Mr. Grey. Mr. Russo will not be pleased with your response. He’s not a man that you want to make an enemy. In fact, he can be a valuable ally for you,” he adds. “He’s very good at making problems… disappear.” I just bet he is.

“No offense to your boss, but the only problem I’m really interested in him making disappear is that thorn in our mutual sides, and only if your boss sees him first because I will not hesitate to send that man to meet his fucking maker immediately upon identification.” He straightens his jacket.

“Just as he can be a valuable ally, he can also be a formidable adversary,” he warns. I cross my arms.

“I have no ought with your boss, but I owe him nothing, and I’m not going to gain clearance every time I want to come to Detroit.”

“It’s a matter of respect, Mr. Grey,” he insists.

“It’s a way to make me bow, Mr. Aragon, and we all know that,” I correct him. “I’m not in Detroit often because I can’t stand that place or what it represents in my life. However, when I must visit, I will not ask your boss’s permission to enter my hometown. I’m not a mafia boss; this is not a turf war; and I’m not invading his territory. You may say that this is a matter of respect for your boss, but for me, it’s a matter of dignity. If you’re watching me that closely, you know that I was only there to tie up loose ends for my deceased family, and if your boss expects me to kowtow to him for that, like I said, shoot me now.”

I’m done, and I don my coat to show that this conversation is effectively over. Aragon glares at me and walks to the door.

“I’ll relay your message to my employer,” he says, it’s clearly a warning.

“You do that,” I retort, “and I’ll get my affairs in order…” Aragon glares at me, bemused. “Just in case,” I add. He rolls his eyes and leaves the room. Jason immediately starts talking into his earpiece.

“Have you had your eye on the parking structure all this time?… Good, do a scan of all the vehicles. Start with the Fords. Let me know when three of them are clear.” He turns to me. “Jesus, Christian, you gotta be careful dealing with men like that,” Jason warns and Alex nods.

“I was careful,” I inform them, “I just wasn’t a worm, and I’m not going to be, ever. Once you find yourself indebted to or under the thumb of a man like that, you’ll never get out.”

“You were fucking daring him to take you out!” he retorts. “You have a family to be concerned about,” Jason continues.

“Yep, and if he touches my family, I swear to God that I will bring his empire down brick by brick, even if I have to use my dying breath to do it. Now, do you have any more cautions for me or can we go home?”

“Not until we clear the cars,” Jason says. “People who cross men like that end up dead in gutters, Christian,” he insists.

“Or having body parts mailed to their loved ones,” Alex reinforces. And yet, with all his power and resources, he can’t find the one man who could bring down his entire empire and put him in jail for the rest of his life. Excuse me if I don’t share your fear and anxiety.

“Well, then we’ll keep our eyes open and hope that doesn’t happen. In the meantime, I refuse to kowtow to this asshole—not because this is a power play and I’m the great Christian Grey, but because I’m an adult and I won’t ask for anyone’s permission to travel where I damn well please unless it’s a matter of national security. Now, you have voiced your concerns and they are duly noted. This conversation is over.”

“Christian…” Jason begins, and I throw a look at him that indicates that if he says another word about this situation, he might lose his job. He puts his hands up in surrender and silently leaves the room. Alex doesn’t bother continuing the conversation.

“Stay with the boss until it’s safe to leave,” he tells the two guards left behind, who nod at him just as he’s leaving the room.

*-*

I smell cinnamon… and something sugary. Vanilla, I think.

Jason made me leave the vest and the Glock behind when we left Grey House so as not to frighten Butterfly when I arrived home. It was a terrible fit anyway. A good shot could have hit me in the liver and ended it all.

I toss my coat, jacket, and vest into my dressing room and undo my tie. Having commandeered a snifter of brandy before coming upstairs, I take a seat in my wife’s sitting room in the dark and look out the French doors over the lake.

I’m not afraid to die, but I don’t want anything to happen to my wife and children either. That asshole threatened to come to my home and all I could think of was to prevent him from doing that by any means necessary. If the threat of police intervention didn’t work, I was ready for a full-on shoot-out if necessary.

Now, the thought of the entire thing is sobering.

I’m still not afraid, and I’m sure that I won’t kowtow to his kind, but I must consider my wife and kids. I take a healthy sip of the brandy and allow it to burn a trek down my throat. I was being sarcastic when I said that I would get my affairs in order, but do I really want to be breathing my last? I take another swallow of the brandy… then another…

“Christian?”

I turn to see my wife wrapped in a bath blanket, her hair tied up in a bun to keep it from getting wet. Her voice is truly like music right now and the sight of her soothes and excites me at the same time. I rise from my seat and stalk over to her.

“Are you alright?” she asks as I close the space between us.

“I am now,” I reply, my voice husky as I slide one arm around her waist and pull her to me, closing my lips over hers. She groans softly, and I drop the brandy snifter, unaware that there’s still brandy in the glass. It doesn’t break, but brandy spills on the floor and splashes about a bit. She turns to see what fell.

“Leave it,” I command, my voice thick with my need for her as I take her lips once more, probing her mouth with my tongue and undoing my belt and fly at the same time. I back her into our bedroom and lift her onto the bed. Making quick work of everything but my shirt, I remove her towel and crawl into the bed over her.

I’m starving for her, the thought of losing her fueling my need to feel her, to bury myself inside of her until I can think of nothing else. I want to taste her, but I feel as if I don’t have time. My cock is so swollen, so hard, hot, and hungry for her…

I climb on top of her and roll us over with her on top so that her legs fall open on either side of my hips. I spread them wider and my shaft finds its way right to my happy place without any coaxing. She gasps as I breach the opening of her core, her skin still wet from her bath. Fuck, she smells delicious and I could just climb right up into her… which is exactly what I try to do.

I use my legs and my hips to push up into her, slowly and deeply. I groan with each deep stroke and she seems not to know what to do with her hands. I stretch her right arm up by the side of my head and reach across her back with my left hand and grab her left hand, pulling it behind her and pinning her flat to my body.

I’ve got you now.

She whimpers as I taste the skin of her cheek and neck, squeezing her thigh with my right hand and holding it up onto my hip so that I can push as far into her as my cock will go in this position. The friction is so hot and so tight, and my dick is so fucking engorged that I can barely get it halfway into her tight little core, but fuck, that deep, slow stroke is so intense that it even feels good only halfway.

“God! Christian!” she whispers, her body at my mercy. I release her thigh and thrust my hand into her hair, guiding her mouth to mine. She moans low and deep as I love her, kissing her sensually so that she feels it everywhere.

I release her hand and put my hand on her neck, my fingers splayed across her cheek and holding her against me. Her breath quickens, and she turns her head, my mouth now at her ear, but her hand seems a bit wild behind her again. So, I use my right hand to press her left arm down onto her back, simultaneously pressing her pelvis further down onto my cock as I thrust slowly up unto her.

“Mmmmmm,” I moan involuntarily into her ear as I get deeper penetration onto my hard, raging dick. I feel her shiver a bit, so I repeat the move… and again… and again… so fucking good…

I feel her right hand grabbing the sheets over my head; her pussy beginning to produce that arousal that coats my dick. If I release her hand, it’s going wild again. So, I stretch it out and entwine my fingers in hers, bringing it down behind her thigh and using it for leverage to pin her against me and push up into her again.

I didn’t need to.

With her arousal coating my dick, I’m able to slide deeper into her. I hold her neck firmly, my mouth still at her ear and each time I groan my pleasure, she tilts her hips ever so slightly to match my stroke. Fuck it’s intense and so, so good. I’m concentrating for several minutes on how good she feels on top of me, around me, against me, my dick sliding slowly over and over again into and out of her sweet, hot crevice…

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

It’s a sexy, feminine, primal keen from deep in her chest. She stiffens on top of me as her core pulses around me, and I continue the slow, deep stroke that brought her to orgasm. I couple the strokes with luscious licks and nibbles of her ear, making sensual sounds that are sure to go right to her core. She trembles a bit, her keens sounding a little like weeps.

She’s tender, and I want to stop and let her rest… but I can’t. She feels too good, and my soul needs to be exorcised from the visions of this day.

I roll over on top of her, looking into her deep blue orgasm-stricken eyes as she catches her breath. Still inside of her, I stroke her only intermittently. I bring my face close to hers and stroke, even more slowly, deeper and gentler than before. She puffs out a small breath with each stroke, her hands flat on the bed next to her, looking up at me with her eyes filled with love.

It’s just what I need.

With one hand cupping the top of her head and the other steadying myself on the bed, I thrust into her, so slowly, over and over, never taking my eyes from hers, never closing them, getting lost in the cool blue that rushes over my body and brings me comfort and pleasure.

“Baby,” I whisper, and her legs fall open wider. I use this opportunity to nestle deeper between her legs. God, so deep… so good.

That move allows me to go balls deep so that now each stroke sucks my whole cock inside of her and the curl of my hips gives her clit maximum stimulation. We continue to stare into each other’s eyes while our bodies wring the most immeasurable continuous pleasure from one another.

When I see that sheen of sweat, hear her breath begin to pant, feel her body start to stiffen and see her eyes darken to that unmistakable royal blue, I quicken my stroke only slightly. I’m unable to control myself and her reactions are making me hot and hard and helpless. She whimpers again and again, with each stroke and grind of my hips, and I’m getting harder and thicker, my balls so tight that they hurt.

When her mating cry rips from her chest this time like a shrill yowl coupled with primal growl, I’m nearly shocked from my stroke, but her lustful blue eyes, swollen lips, and sweat drenched face pull me right back in. The sexy sight before me, sexy sound in my ears, and wildly clenching muscles around my dick shoves me violently over the edge and I thrust hard into my wife, releasing out a fearsome cry, every bit of stress, anxiety, and worry draining from my body.

My body is not my own at this moment. It belongs to her. I collapse on top of her, kissing her lips and neck in love and reverence, releasing all the concerns of the day as I sink into her aura and we both drift off into sated sleep.


A/N: Baby Moses Law—Safe-Haven laws practiced in all 50 states that allows a mother who doesn’t want her baby to drop the baby off at a hospital, police station, or fire station and surrender parental rights without the fear of prosecution for child abandonment. They were written to help curtail abortions and because mothers—particularly very young mothers—were killing their unwanted babies or leaving them in unsafe situations, like child trafficking or just throwing them in dumpsters… alive!

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

 

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Raising Grey: RunTellAna!

RunTellAna!

I actually had to do a post about this because there was just no addressing it any other way. I really love when people get into conversations about what they think is going to happen and what direction the story is going in, but this is one that I had to address really quick. Now, don’t think I’m mad at anybody! This is informational purposes only. 😉

John and Christian—John is Christian’s friend. Christian had a conversation with his friend about his situation. John joked about “not starting the clock,” but John stopped being Christian’s psychiatrist two stories ago. When I have a conversation with my friends, I don’t run and tell my husband every time I have a conversation with my friends, nor am I required to, just like he doesn’t do that for me.

“But Lynn, John’s interference caused them a whole lot of problems back in Paging and Mending. Should Christian be talking to him at all? And shouldn’t he tell Ana before she finds out some other way?”

How? Who’s going to tell her? John’s in England for at least a year and Ana and John don’t talk. How is she going to find out? Also, if it was that big a problem, don’t you think it would have been an even bigger problem at their wedding? Ana doesn’t hate the man or else she never would have told Christian to call him. She would have left that to Grace.

“But Lynn, you didn’t answer the first question—interference? Problems? Ana going nuts?

Ana never told Christian to fire John. Christian came at Ana with what he interpreted John said. That’s what pissed her off (Granted, John left a lot to the interpretation). Their vastly varying methods of psychiatric practice left a hugely bitter taste in her mouth, but Christian fired John because he didn’t like how John left the conversation open for a wide interpretation, not because Ana said that he had to. If Christian had decided to continue to see John as his psychiatrist, Ana couldn’t do anything about that. That was his choice.

I’m going to answer a question that I see often. Every time Christian talks to someone that makes people think, “Hmm, should he be talking to that person?” I see, “Is he going to tell Ana? He better tell Ana! Is he going to tell her?”

The answer is, “No.”

Christian is not going to “runtellAna” every little thing that happens, because the success of their marriage is not dependent on her knowing every single solitary detail of his life. If I knew every single tiny detail of my husband’s life, who he talks to, about what, yada yada yada, I wouldn’t have enough time to live my own life! Who has that kind of mental real estate? I’d lose my marbles!

When things are important and Ana needs to know, Christian makes sure that she knows—in his own time. Anybody remember the hacker situation? She was clueless—and pissed—and what did he tell her? “You just have to trust me.” He didn’t tell her a thing until he was ready, and even then, he still didn’t tell her everything.

I’m kind of going on a tangent, but what I’m trying to say is that everything that happens in the story is not a “Secrets and Lies” plot and everything that happens to them doesn’t originate from a “Secrets and Lies” plot, because it always seems to come back to that. Some things, they need to communicate and tell each other (i.e. Liam). Everything? NO! They don’t need to tell each other everything unless something is going to be detrimental to their life, health, family, relationship, etc. “I had a two-hour conversation with my friend about his life and my life” is not detrimental unless John told him to leave his wife and we’re assuming that he didn’t do that.

My husband and I have been together for nearly 20 years. He knows what to keep to himself, as do I. Every little thing, every little conversation does not need to be discussed. Couples who have been together for years and years know that I’m right.

And please, don’t post comments that tell that universal lie:

“My husband (wife/significant other) and I have absolutely no secrets! We tell each everything!” (Yes, I’m making the “snooty face” and “snooty voice” while I type that)

Yeah… no.

No matter how hard you try to convince me of that, know in advance that I’m not going to respond—but I am going to sit here laughing at you while secretly judging you and calling you a liar, or I’m just going to assume that you don’t have enough life/relationship experience yet to know that sometimes, unless it’s detrimental, you keep your mouth shut to keep the peace. I do, however, reserve the right to post a hilariously laughing gif as a response if I feel the need to do so.

Every time some little bug gets up my butt, I don’t need to “runtellDaddy.” It’ll crawl out eventually and I usually discover that it’s not worth the effort.

My husband’s an attractive man. Every time somebody gets a little flirty with him, as long as he puts them in their place, he doesn’t have to “runtellme.” I don’t “runtellDaddy” every time somebody says something or shows interest in me. I tell them that I’m married and send them on their way.

So, just to answer the question—no, Christian ain’t gonna “runtellAna” and Ana ain’t gonna “runtellChristian” every time something happens.

Raising Grey: Chapter 50—Unexpected Guests

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

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 50—Unexpected Guests

ANASTASIA

Sakes alive, she looks just like me. I think she’s even younger than I am! Same haircut, blueish-greenish-gray eyes, similar build—before I had my babies, that is… what the fuck?

“Whoa,” Daddy says, under his breath. I’m sure he’s having the same thought I am. This shit is creeping me out and I really don’t know how to handle it. I don’t really care who Brian fucks, but did he have to go get my twin? She looks even more like me than I look like Shannon… and I really look like Shannon.

“I know,” I hear Maxie’s voice say from behind me. I turn around to look at her. “It’s uncanny. I started talking to her when I got here, thinking she was you.”

“And how did she take that?” I ask.

“She laughed it off and just went on about her day. I’m sure he’s told her that she looks like you and who you are.” I twist my lips.

“It takes some getting used to, that there’s someone else in the world that looks so much like me.”

“No, she looks like you used to look,” Maxie corrects.

“You said yourself that you struck up a conversation with her thinking she was me,” I protest.

“That’s because I know how you used to look and I could have mistaken her for the old you, but anybody who knows you now knows that’s not you. You’re a mother, you’ve got some wisdom and it shows. She seems nice and all, but she doesn’t have that sophistication that oozes off of you, and it’s not the money, Honey. You’ve been that way since I’ve known you. So, from a distance, she might pass for college Ana, but up close, nope. When I tapped her on the shoulder and she turned around, I knew it was mistaken identity.” I laugh.

“Often imitated, never duplicated,” I murmur.

“Indeed,” Maxie says, giving me a high-five. We share a few moments of our private joke before Christian joins us again.

“So, what’s the joke?” he says. “I want to laugh, too.” I turn around to look at him and see Brian over his shoulder. He was making his way over to me but pauses and decides on a detour when he sees that Christian gets to me first.

“We were talking about possessive husbands who like to cockblock ex-wannabe-suitors midstride,” I tease.

“He’s got to get through me if he wants to get anywhere near you,” Christian says. “The last time we spoke, he said he was happy with that Ana Lookalike that he brought to your father’s house and to leave him alone. And I have, so now, he can leave you alone.” I raise my brow.

“It’s not that serious, Christian. I really don’t care.”

“I do,” he says. “I have no doubt that he wakes up and when he rolls over and looks into her face, he sees you. One day, he’s going to look at that woman and not see you, and I don’t know what he’s going to do when that happens. In the meantime…” He puts both arms possessively around my waist, “… My girl said she wanted a party. I couldn’t think of a better reason to celebrate.”

I look around the room at the wonderful “baby shower” set-up that’s going on—the only babies in attendance being mine, passed from person to person and testing the whole stranger theory. So far, so good—no fires, floods, hurricanes or baby sirens. Christian even brought our staff, who are preparing what looks like a fabulous steak lunch—exactly what Daddy wanted after the proceedings—and awesome hors d’oeuvres for before lunch.

“You did this all in a few hours?” I ask. He nods. “In the middle of a Monday afternoon, you got everybody to skip work and come here?”

“Are you kidding?” Maxie says. “We wouldn’t miss this.”

“Yeah,” Phil says joining the conversation behind his wife. “This has been such a long time coming. When Christian called, I suddenly got a stomach thing and had to leave work,” he laughs.

“Christian called?” I say, looking at my husband and back to Phil, who nods.

“He activated the contingency,” he adds.

“Without me?” Al says, also coming over and joining in the conversation.

“You were a bit detained, Mr. Forsythe-Fleming,” Christian excuses.

“I don’t want to hear it!” Al says flippantly. “God, I hate not being part of the conspiracy.”

“Steele,” Val chimes in with Elliot following her. “You got a little sister you never told me about?”

“Yeah, what’s up with Ana, Jr.?” Phil asks. “I thought I was seeing double for a minute… until I got a good look at her.” Maxie throws a knowing look at me and I wave her off.

“I certainly hope not,” I say with a shrug. It’s so damn unnerving to see so many people that look like me. Hell, my mother doesn’t even look like me—or I should say I don’t look like her. All I got was her hair… and her eyes, I think. God, I can’t even remember what color my mother’s eyes are. The siren wail of my son crying snaps me from my introspection.

“Don’t look now, but…” Phil points to Ana, Jr. and a screaming squirming Mikey in her arms, with her futilely attempting to calm him.

“Christian…” I say, my voice beseeching.

“Don’t worry, I got it,” he says. I watch as Christian makes his way over to Brian and… his girl. Mikey is feverishly reaching for his father on sight. Christian coos at Mikey, trying to calm him before rescuing him from the imposter—or maybe before rescuing the imposter from him—but Mikey can’t be calmed until he’s in Christian’s arms. Even while lying on Christian’s chest, he quietly babble-cries his protest of being handed to that woman. Good God, what the hell? It’s not that bad, Mikey.

“What is with all that performing?” I say to my son as Christian joins us, rubbing Mikey’s back and causing him to calm a bit. I see Brian out of my peripheral and, surprisingly, he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at Christian.

That’s a first.

Ana Jr., on the other hand, is looking a bit slighted.

“What is her name?” I whisper. He pauses.

“Sha…” he pauses again. “Shawna.”

“You had to think about it?” I ask, rubbing Mikey’s hair as he continues to whimper a bit.

“I don’t think about her much,” he says matter-of-factly. “Why would I let her name occupy mental real estate?” I nod. “Why did you want to know?”

“Because I keep calling her Ana, Jr., and it’s creeping me out. Her boyfriend didn’t bother introducing her to anybody. Who does that? And why are they even here? Did you invite them?” Christian shakes his head.

“My guess is that he heard about it from Ray,” Christian says. “I can understand him wanting to be here, but I have no idea why he brought her.” I raise my brow.

“She makes you uncomfortable,” I say.

 

“She makes me very uncomfortable,” he cedes.

“Why? Because she looks like me?”

“No, because of the implications of her looking like you. She looks so much like you that the Paparazzi could get a picture of her from a distance and think it’s you. So, here’s hoping that she’s as clean cut as she appears, because she could be trouble. She lives in the same state, for God’s sake.”

And suddenly, I’m wet.

“Oh, no,” I squeak. Christian looks over Mikey’s mop of hair and back at me.

“Crying baby,” I say, pointing to my leaking breasts. I hear Mandy laugh.

“I see you pointing at the food factory,” she says. “You need a shirt?”

“Yes, please, but duty calls first,” I say, pointing at my leaky jugs.

“Um, I don’t think…” Mandy does a circular gesture around her boobs, signaling that I’m probably going to be out of luck in the bra department.

“You got a sweatshirt?” I ask, and she nods. “I’ll be fine.”

We’re having this entire conversation in a room full of people. Ah, motherhood.

“I’ll take him,” I say, reaching for Mikey. Christian whines a bit at the thought of releasing him to me.

“Do you have milk in those?” I chastise, pointing at his pecks. He pouts and gently lifts Mikey off his shoulder. Mikey protests a bit but reaches out his grubby little hands when he sees that he’s being handed to me.

Then he quiets right down.

“I feel a bit slighted,” Christian complains.

“Oh, hush. He came to you first, and I have an advantage. Like I said, you don’t have milk in those things.” I stand on my tippy-toes and plant a quick kiss on his lips.

“Be right back after I feed our children,” I say.

“Okay, Butterfly.” I look around for Minnie and see that Gail has her and one of the diaper bags and she’s waiting for me.

“I’ll come with you,” Maxie says.

“Me, too,” Val chirps in, and I know they want to talk shit about Shawna. We all follow Mandy.

“I’ll have to set you up in our bedroom,” she says. “Harry’s asleep and not due to wake for another hour, but the commotion in the living room will wake him soon enough.” I nod. She has a small sitting area set up in their bedroom and I take a seat in one of the chairs while Gail settles into the other one and gets a bottle ready for Minnie. No sooner I open my shirt and Mikey is greedily pulling at my bra. He knows what’s under there.

“Settle down, you little monster,” I jest, quickly situating my nipple in his mouth. He hungrily slurps his lunch and I know that even though my boobs are full, they’ll both be empty in no time. “Geez, you’re worse than your father.”

“Too much information, Steele,” Val says. “Are you saying that he still indulges in the nipple even though you’re breastfeeding? I mean… does he drink it?” I now have the attention of every woman in the room.

“Like you said, Val, too much information,” I say, diverting the conversation from my boobs. Mandy laughs and hands me a large, clean sweatshirt.

“I’ll see you out there,” she says as she leaves the room. I turn back to Mikey who looks up at me with large, grateful gray eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I say as I sit back in the seat.

“So, how long have you known about Ana, Jr.?” Val says. I shrug.

“Her name is Shawna—please stop calling her Ana, Jr. That shit is creeping me out,” I beseech them. “I seem to remember Christian saying something about her a while back, but you know my memory sucks and I only hold on to what’s important, so unfortunately, I don’t remember anything if he did tell me about her. But damn—this is some creepy Twilight Zone shit.”

“I’ll say,” Gail mumbles, and I think we weren’t supposed to hear her.

“Mikey sure as hell knew the difference,” I say looking down at my son. “He was having none of that shit when someone put him in her arms.”

“Didn’t that guy used to have a thing for you?” Maxie asks. “I seem to remember discussion about a terrible fight between him and Christian that landed them both in the hospital. Is this the same guy?”

“Same guy,” I say with a nod, trying not to show my discomfort.

“Don’t you think it’s a little… unsettling that he found someone that looks just like you? Not unsettling because she looks like you, but the fact that he found someone that looks just like you…”

“They’re both unsettling,” I reply. “Christian’s right. If he’s trying to recreate me in her, he’s in for a rude awakening because no two people are that much alike naturally. And I’ve already been through this with one psycho. I was chosen because I looked like someone else, so if she’s chosen because she looks like me…” I trail off.

“I take it nobody’s tried to talk to her,” Val asks.

“Nobody from my camp that I know of,” I respond. “If I know Christian, he’s said something to Brian and he’s just watching from afar. Why would he bring her here? To my father’s house? We’re celebrating my adoption. I barely want him here. Why would he think to bring her?”

“For moral support?” Maxie says.

“To show you that’s he’s moved on?” Val adds.

“Has he?” I squeak. “The girl is my goddamn twin! Is it really moving on if the person that you’re with looks just like the one that you left behind… supposedly?”

“Well,” Val interjects, “look at me. El’s my type. Most of the guys that I’ve dated pretty much look like him. All hot blondes, all pretty well-to-do and none owned sport cars. Maybe I’m not the best authority on this.”

“Yeah, same features, but none of the guys you’ve dated looked exactly alike, at least not while I’ve known you.” She shrugs.

“Yeah, there is that,” she concedes. I shake my head.

“He and Ray don’t see each other much. He probably just wanted his friend to meet his girl,” Maxie says, still playing devil’s advocate.

“This is my adoption,” I say, breaking Mikey’s suction on my now empty breast. Gail rises on cue. “He had to know I would be here. What did he expect—for me to say, ‘Hey, Dad, thanks for signing the papers. Bye now?’”

Gail swaps babies with me while I’m talking and begins to pat Mikey to get him to give up a burp while Minnie latches onto my other bulging tit.

“I know Christian didn’t tell him,” I continue, “so Daddy had to. It would have been awkward enough with just him showing up, but he brought a damn doppelganger to my adoption celebration!”

“Okay, so, just so I’m clear, are you upset that he’s here, that he brought a girl, or that the girl looks like you?” Val asks, bemused.

“The fact that he’s here and that he brought a girl that looks like me,” I answer. “The last time I saw that man, he thought it was a good idea to beat my husband until he literally couldn’t see and had to have his teeth fused. Believe me when I tell you that I couldn’t care less what that man does with his dick or who he does it with, but I do want to know what he’s trying to prove by bring that girl to my adoption.”

“I’m still not sure why you’re so upset,” Val says. “I can understand being perturbed by the whole thing, but you’re really pissed.”

“That’s because you’re missing two key words here. I keep saying them, but you keep missing them. My. Adoption. If it seems like I’m taking this personally, goddammit, I am! This is my celebration with my daddy. I can begrudgingly accept him showing up because he’s Daddy’s friend. I can’t and won’t condone him bringing an Ana-lookalike-doppelganger here during this time. The moment he discovered that this was going to be a party and not an intimate setting for him to introduce Daddy to his girlfriend, he should have excused himself and set a time for them to get together. He stayed because he knew it would unnerve me and it would unnerve Christian. I can shake my head and disapprove and judge how healthy or unhealthy his choice of woman is from afar. But when you invite yourself and her to my celebration and throw her in our faces knowing how we would react—yes, I’m pissed about that!”

Everyone in the room falls silent for a moment.

“Well, when you put it like that…” Val says and trails off. Finally! She gets it! This was a calculated move on that jerk’s part and nothing she can say can convince me otherwise.

“So, what now?” Maxie asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I have nothing to say to either of them. I don’t believe for one second that she walked into this blind, so she’s just as guilty as he is as far as I’m concerned. Then she has the nerve to try to hold my damn baby…” I trail off angrily. I don’t know what’s irritating me so badly about the situation. All I know is that I wish they would both just leave.

It’s time to change the subject.

“Are you getting settled into the office okay?” I ask Maxie. She raises her brow at me.

“I had never been to your office,” she says. “I had no idea how ‘pimped out’ it was!” I laugh.

“It’s not pimped out. You’re just accustomed to the offices at the family center,” I tell her.

“Well, it’s pimped out to me. We never decided on rent.” I shrug.

“I don’t know what to charge a friend. Make me an offer.” She twists her lips.

“A beautiful office near downtown and you don’t know what to charge?” she asks.

“ A wonderful friend and mentor who was my therapist for many years and several times kept me from leaping off the proverbial cliff? No, I don’t,” I reply matter-of-factly. She makes that face where you tighten your chin.

“Well, since you put it that way,” she says, “I do some research on the rents in the area.”

“Good, then cut it in half.” She twists her lips at me. “Family and friends discount,” I add.

“Fine,” she says begrudgingly.

*-*

Once Minnie and Mikey have been fed, burped, changed and put down for a nap, the girls rejoin the party as I sneak off to the laundry room to wash my blouse and bra. God, my tits feel so much better now that they’re empty! Jesus, these jugs are getting out of hand!

As I’m about to step out of the laundry room, I hear voices and peak out to see who’s there. Brian and Shawna are having a not-so-pleasant conversation in the hallway that leads from the kitchen to the laundry room.

Shit. Trapped.

“They hate me!” Shawna says, her voice low and sharp. “They all hate me. Even the baby hates me! Did you see how he screamed? Babies love me, and he screamed!”

“They don’t hate you, Sha,” Brian says. “They just don’t know you…”

“I don’t want to know any of them!” she retorts. “They’re all ‘one big happy,’ and I’m some intruder that comes in looking like their diamond child. Most of them started talking to me thinking I was her. One guy turned fifty shades of pale when he discovered that he was talking to the wrong person! Why did you bring me here?”

“Because you’re an important part of my life and I wanted you to meet Ray, who’s also an important part of my life.”

“Why did we have to come today?” she whines. “Why couldn’t we come up on the weekend or something?”

“Believe it or not, I was trying to avoid running into the family!” he defends. “Who the hell would expect the whole damn clan to be here on a goddamn Monday morning?”

I can tell that he was talking more to himself than to Shawna when he asked the question.

“It’s an adoption, Bri,” Shawna says, pointing out the obvious. “It’s a family affair.”

“Yeah, but I know Ray. I know they probably had lunch or something planned just for him and his daughter. Then he would come back here, or even go to work, and Mandy would have called him and told him that we were here. Then he would have come back and we all would have relaxed and chewed the fat. But of course, Grey…”

He trails off. Oh, no. Don’t act like it’s my husband’s fault that you brought the Counterfeit Contessa here and we didn’t welcome her with open arms.

“When can we leave?” she pouts. “Ray and Amanda are the only ones who have been nice to me. Everybody else is looking at me like an alien—when they’re not mistaking me for her. Unlike the rest of the female population of Washington, I have no desire to be Anastasia Grey!”

Well! Don’t get all hissy about it. You’re in my father’s house, and nobody’s stopping you from leaving.

“I don’t want to be rude,” Brian says, matter-of-factly. “We’ll leave right after lunch. Can you tolerate that?” I hear her sigh loudly.

“When we get home, I’m cutting my hair and dyeing it red!” Shawna declares.

“Baby, you could shave it bald. I wouldn’t care. I’d still love you,” Brian says. I roll my eyes. Oh, good grief. It would be cute… if it were anybody else.

“Stop being sweet,” she pouts. “I’m still not comfortable here at all.”

“I know, baby. I’m sorry,” and he sounds sincere. I wait for a minute or two after there’s silence in the hallway to poke my head out.

The coast is clear. Thank God!

I go into the kitchen with Ms. Solomon and the staff, doing the final preparations on the meal.

“Can I help?” I ask. The room falls silent for a moment, then Ms. Solomon engages.

“Mrs. Grey, this is your lunch… you and your father…”

“I’d be eternally grateful if you would allow me to help with something—anything, instead of going through that door right now.” She raises her eyes.

“She’s unnerving, isn’t she?” Ms. Solomon asks, and I don’t even try to deny it.

“More than you can imagine,” I say, commandeering Mandy’s apron and waiting for instructions. Ms. Solomon hands me a knife.

“There’s nothing left to do but the salad,” she says, pointing to a huge mountain of vegetables.

“Thank you,” I reply, “Leave it to me…”

By the time I’m done, I’ve created three beautiful salads in about fifteen minutes… one Greek, one Caesar, and one antipasto.

“You’ve been holding out on me!” Ms. Solomon says. “I had no idea you had this kind of skill. And that knife! The staff was afraid to come near you!” I laugh.

“Before we had a staff, I had that gourmet kitchen built for me,” I confess.

“Nothing left to do but serve,” she says. I sigh.

“I’ll take the salads out and go sit down,” I say. I take two of the large salads and one of the other servers grabs the third. When we enter the dining room, Christian immediately spots me.

“Lunch is ready,” I announce, placing the two large salads in the middle of Mandy’s formal dining table.

“That’s where you got off to,” Christian says, leading the charge into the dining room. “I didn’t even see you go in there.”

“Nobody did,” I say, keeping my eyes on the salad while arranging them on the table. “I just wanted to help out.” Christian looks knowingly at me. “I hope you don’t mind, Mandy. I borrowed your apron.”

“Not at all, whatever makes you feel happy,” she replies. The staff begins to fill the table with the hot food and sets everything up buffet style since there’s really no formal seating. Everyone begins to dig in and I, for some reason, am still organizing things on the table—removing dishes as they’re emptied and helping the staff refill platters with more food, helping with drinks…

“You really should sit. This is your celebration after all.”

I turn to see that nearly everyone has left the table and is sitting somewhere with a plate of food—everyone except me, that is, and the voice that’s telling me to sit is Brian’s.

“I will,” I say, even more feverishly cleaning and adjusting things on the table. “In the meantime, go, eat.” Shoo, for Christ’s sake. You’re making this awkward enough just being here.

“I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you,” he says, still trying to make small talk. “Ray is very happy. He was like a kid at Christmas when you suggested it.” Oh, dear Lord.

“Yeah, I’m happy, too. It should’ve happened years ago,” I reply, trying not to be rude.

“Has your mother called?” he continues. “How does she feel about it?” Just as I’m about to respond…

“Wrong woman,” Christian says, appearing behind me. Brian raises his eyes.

“You’re awfully paranoid, aren’t you, Christian?” Brian says.

“No, I’m not,” Christian replies. “You told me to stay out of your business, and I have. This…” He puts his hand on my shoulder, “… is not your business. This is mine. Yours is over there.” He points to Shawna, tucked away in a corner talking to Mandy. “I just thought you might have gotten them confused.”

“You’re still stuck on that?” Brian taunts.

“Is everything okay, guys?” Daddy asks, noting the tension between Brian and Christian even though there are no raised voices.

“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine,” Christian says. “We were just discussing the uncanny resemblance between our significant others.”

Oh, shit. There’s the fucking gauntlet. The room falls silent, and there’s that mouse pissing on cotton.

“You really want to do this now, Grey?” Brian threatens.

“I’m not doing anything, Brian,” Christian says. “We struck a deal, and you’re breaking it right now. You said stay away from you and stay out of your business and I am. The same goes for you… she’s over there,” he repeats pointing to Shawna.

You can see the fury rising in Brian’s face. Christian hasn’t really done anything wrong, but you can clearly see that Brian feels violated by the announcement.

“You did that deliberately to make my girlfriend uncomfortable,” Brian accuses.

“Are you blind?” Christian asks. “That poor girl was uncomfortable when Mikey started screaming in her arms. I simply thought you just may have mistaken my wife for her since you have absolutely no business with my wife, so I was just pointing you in the right direction.” Brian’s face is getting redder and redder by the second and his ears look like they’re just going to melt off his head. That’s when Elliot steps into the conversation.

“Look, dude,” Elliot says, “I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about you and I don’t mean you any offense, but it’s the elephant in the room, man. Ask her, half of us started talking to her thinking she was Montana. She’s a beautiful girl, but she looks like Montana.”

Brian frowns at Elliot, probably because he doesn’t know who the hell Montana is, but you can tell that he’s still furious and wants his pint of flesh. So, he turns around and looks at my father.

“Do you know about his lifestyle?” Brian says aloud to my father. “Do you know what they do—what he does to your daughter?”

What the fuck?? This is the same shit that happened that day years ago at the Greys—the same fucking shit! It’s Elena Lincoln all back over again. I’m horrified.

“Yes, Brian, I do know,” my father says, stone-faced. “My daughter told me awhile back. She tells me everything.” Well, maybe not everything, but he knows about this. Brian’s eyes widen and Daddy sighs.

“You’re my friend, Brian, and I miss you terribly, but it wasn’t your place to make that announcement in front of a room full of people. Christian didn’t do anything foul. He didn’t reveal any of your secrets or expose you in any way. He made a statement of fact… she looks like my daughter.”

Brian deflates immediately, and Shawna looks completely mortified.

“You’re right,” Brian says, his voice somber. “I’m sorry.” He looks over at me and Christian. “Really, I’m sorry.”

Christian squeezes my arms and I just drop my gaze.

“I knew about your feelings for my daughter long before you told me about them, but I thought it was just a crush. The fact that you know this much about her private life tells me that it’s much more than that,” Daddy accuses.

“It was,” Brian admits. “I wanted to be sure that she was safe, that she wasn’t doing anything against her will… that she was happy… and yes, at one point, I wanted her for myself, but that’s not the case anymore.”

“Isn’t it?” Daddy accuses, gesturing to Shawna, who shrinks a bit. I can see her in my mind’s eye making an appointment with a hairdresser before they even leave Seattle. She’ll be a ginger in no time.

“No, Ray, it’s not, I swear,” Brian says. “I’ll admit that I was initially drawn to Shawna because of her physical appearance, but that’s because she’s my type. And she already knows that she reminded me of Ana when I first met her—I was completely open and honest with her about that. But these two women are only physically similar. They couldn’t be more different. I love Shawna because of the woman that she is, not because of how much like Ana she looks. Believe me, Ray, had I known that it was going to be a big family party, I would have planned my visit differently—showed up later maybe…”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Daddy says, and Brian freezes. “I want to catch up with you. I want to get to know Shawna better, but now isn’t the time. Whatever the current situation is between you and my daughter and her husband, you all don’t mix well together. It’s bad news when you’re all in the same room. Why don’t you go back to your hotel and we can all meet for dinner—just like old times, just… with our ladies, okay?” Brian smiles.

“That’s sounds great,” he says to my father. They shake hands and hug. Shawna has abandoned her conversation and her lunch and joined Brian. When Daddy and Brian release, Daddy leans down and kisses Shawna chastely on the cheek while holding her forearms, causing her to sink a bit in relief, and Brian turns to me and Christian, his lips forming a thin line.

I feel like Christian now. I just want him to leave us alone, forever. If you’re happy with Shawna, be happy with Shawna, and just leave us alone.

Instead, he makes his way over to us. Christian immediately grasps my arms with both hands.

“I really am sorry,” Brian says to me as he approaches us. I turn my head. Jesus, I don’t even know what to say to this man. “Really, man, I am,” he adds.

“We heard you,” Christian says, his voice crisp. Brian lingers for a few moments more before walking back over to Shawna and Daddy. They exchange words that I can’t hear. Then he kisses Mandy on the cheek, exchanging words with her as well before taking Shawna’s hand and leading her to the door. I turn around and face Christian.

“He’s going to retaliate,” I say, dismally.

“I don’t think so,” he replies. “He knows that if he hurts me, he’ll hurt you, Ray, our children… He’s a selfish bastard, but I really don’t think he wants to do that.” I sigh and lay my head on his chest as he wraps his arms around me.

“I hope you’re right,” I respond.

Time stands still for a moment or two, or five, or ninety, as I contemplate what could be in store for my family at the hands of a slighted Brian Cholometes. I watch in somewhat suspended animation as Christian makes his way over to Daddy and they have a conversation, no doubt about what just transpired. I wrap my arms around my body, using my hands to try to warm myself from the chill that has come over me. I don’t even see Maxie when she comes over to me.

“Jesus, Ana, what was that all about?” I turn an uncertain gaze to her. I don’t know what to tell her, but I know what I’m not telling her. Her brown furrows.

“What was Brian talking about?” she asks, her voice serious. “What did he mean by what he does to your daughter?

And there’s the Maxine that showed up at my house with the court order to have me committed when I was catatonic. Oh, hell no—no time for weakness now. I pull myself up to my full height, ready to face off with my friend if I must.

“I’m. Not. Talking about it,” I say, my voice controlled. “It’s my personal business, and the fact that he blurted it out without my permission doesn’t mean that I have to disclose it to anybody.” Maxie examines me for a moment.

“Duly noted,” she says coolly. “Can I please just ask you one question?”

“I can’t guarantee I’m going to answer it,” I reply.

“You’re not being hurt or abused, are you?” she asks. “You’re not doing anything against your will?”

“That’s two questions, and I’ll answer them both. Absolutely not. Father of my children, husband, money, good looks—none of that matters. I would never stay in a position like that. I work at a battered women’s shelter, for God’s sake!” Maxie nods quickly.

“I know. I know. I know Christian wouldn’t hurt you like that. He loves you too much. It’s just… you’re my friend and I get kind of blind to logic when… you know what I mean.” My defense mechanism releases and my guard drops back to normal. I touch her arm.

“Yes, Maxie, I know what you mean,” I reply, softly.

“Besides,” she adds, “your Marine dad would have killed him by now. If it’s okay with Ray, I guess it should be okay with me.”

And just like that, the mood lightens.

I try to enjoy the rest of the celebration, playing silly games with my father and family, eating the good food prepared by my staff. Grace excuses herself and goes back to Helping Hands right after lunch and the rest of the party starts to dwindle as the afternoon moves on. I wanted to see what kind of progress there was on my office but decide against it.

When it’s time to go, Gail and Keri go to gather the twins and I get a little bit of playtime with my little brother who finally decided to join us. When he grows weary of his big sister, I go to retrieve my bra and shirt from the laundry. Once I’ve changed and dropped Mandy’s sweatshirt into the hamper, I swipe the screen on my phone. I know his number is the same, so I text him.

**We won’t bother you. We’ll leave you alone, I promise. Please, leave us alone. **

I press my phone to my chest, sending up a silent prayer that nothing befalls me and my family because Brian feels slighted. I never wanted him. I never even led him on. I feel that I shouldn’t have come to him when I needed help. I never should have let him in or given him any opportunity to be a part of my life at all. While I’m lost in my lamenting, I get a text that puts my fears to rest.

**Okay. Be happy. **


CHRISTIAN

Hearing that Cholometes intends to leave my family alone last night was music to my fucking ears. I don’t have to be in the guy’s business; he’s not that important to me. My only concern is that he doesn’t sneak in when I’m not looking and launch an attack on my wife. Because he doesn’t matter, I’ll stay out of his business. Because I don’t trust him, I’m still keeping an eye on him.

My wife was remiss to tell me that she had texted him after the “Seeing Double Scandal” at her father’s house, and I could see why. There are just too many ways that situation could have played out, especially after that semi-threatening email he sent to her after his last visit. That fell dead in the water, thank God, but I still can’t help but feel like there was an ulterior motive for him bringing that Ana Twin to Ray’s house.

So, I’m keeping an eye on him.

The time difference in England made it impossible to know what time was good to call John. So, I decided to forego my morning run to get in touch with him.

“I loved it there. Now, not so much. It’s not like my son is Typhoid Mary. They know what this is… America just didn’t know what it was at first, and now, they do.”

“I understand how you feel, John, but leaving the country completely? Is that smart? What about your citizenship and that of your family?”

“It’s a bit of a mess with the visas unless we want to relinquish our U.S. citizenship. I’m sure that Rhian doesn’t want that. I could honestly go either way. England is my home, so I don’t have the same trouble with immigration that they do, and I was never naturalized, so I didn’t give up my English citizenship.” I frown.

“You’ve been here all this time on a visa?” I ask.

“They wanted me to denounce my English citizenship. I wouldn’t do it,” he replies.

“So, what you’re saying is that your family would live indefinitely on visas there in England like you did here.”

“It depends on what we decide to do, but yes. As long as Rhian can prove that she won’t be a financial burden, they can all stay here indefinitely as long as we renew their visas. And to be honest, the school system here is looking better than the US. The children get more physical activity during the day. They look forward to going to school… I’m just quite disenchanted with the States at the moment, Christian. I’ve decided that we’re going to stay here right now for at least a year. I hate to leave Grace and my patients in such a bad position, but as you know, family comes first.”

“You don’t have to explain that to me, John,” I assure him. “You’ve just given me and my family a reason to visit England.” He chuckles.

“How’s married life treating you?” he probes. “You’re not my patient anymore, so I’m no longer privy to these little intimate details.” I sigh.

“It’s an experience,” I admit. “Some days, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. Other days, I sit back and wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into. And the twins…!” I trail off.

“Oh, yes! Marriage and fatherhood all in the same year! I forgot about that,” he declares.

“I certainly didn’t!” I exclaim. “I watched my wife scold my daughter for the first time this weekend and it was fucking torture! She literally threatened my life if I interfered!”

“She threatened your life?” John laughs shamelessly. “Tell me that’s a joke!”

“It’s not!” I confirm. “I tried to comfort my child and she told me to leave her alone or she would kill me!” John laughs loudly and freely into the phone. “I’m so glad you’re enjoying this.”

“In my professional opinion,” he chuckles, “you and Ana sound like you’re right on track with this marriage/parenthood thing.” I sigh.

“I don’t know,” I admit. “We’ve had some pretty big bumps as of late.” John’s laughter fades.

“Anything you wish to discuss?” John asks. “Not as your shrink—as your friend who happens to be a shrink.” I sigh again. How would Butterfly feel about this? The truth is that I need all the help I can get, and he is my friend. Differing viewpoints may actually help, and if I can’t get a handle on my role in Butterfly’s mood changes and developments, I’m going to consult Ace for some additional guidance.

“You don’t mind?” I ask, cautiously. I did fire the man after all.

“Like I said, we’re friends. I won’t even start the clock on you…”

I talk to John for two full hours, spilling my guts about every little thing that’s bothering me, every little kink in the armor that is our marriage—my massive fuck-ups; the whole broken trust issue between me and Butterfly; my wife’s bipolar-type reactions to bad situations… one moment she’s all Zen and the next moment it’s the apocalypse. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m coming or going. We switch roles at the drop of a dime where she has to hold everything together and I’m falling apart—like Detroit—or I have to be the pillar and she’s falling off into the pit of oblivion—like Sunday and the viewing session.

Luckily for me, John wore the friend hat more than he wore the shrink hat, although he did wear the shrink hat. I needed them both. Jason fills one of those roles while Dr. Baker fills the other, but I really needed them both to help me get back on track with what I need to do to constructively and effectively deal with the varying situations involving my wife and myself. It’s ironic that I called to check on John trying to help him and he ended up helping me.

I send my beautiful wife and our adorable children off to Helping Hands while I head into the office to catch up on whatever I may have missed on this super-long weekend. Capito is trying to discredit me among businesses in Madrid, so I assume that the government or someone higher up may be getting a cut of his human trafficking operation since nothing has been done about it yet. Maybe a different approach is needed…

“What has come from the Capito situation?” I ask Alex. “He’s spreading false propaganda about me abroad and I need it nipped. I have some business deals in the works in Madrid and I don’t need him pissing on them if it can be avoided.”

“It can be avoided. Let me make some calls and see what progress there is. These things take time, unfortunately, but I’m sure there are some fires I can light,” Alex responds.

“Good, the sooner, the better.” I end the call and proceed through the massive amount of emails that have accumulated over the last few days. It’s amazing to me that one person can accumulate hundreds of emails per day. Even with my sorting function, I still have to try to review each email to see if there’s something that went to junk mail that shouldn’t have.

“Sir…” Andrea’s disembodied voice from the intercom interrupts my review just after noon.

“Yes?’

“I have Terry Smalls on line three. He’s in charge of organizing the items in your grandfather’s storage facility in Detroit. He insists on speaking to you now. He says it’s urgent.” Oh, fuck. What’s in the goddamn storage facility?

“Thanks, Andrea.” I pick up the call on three. “Grey.”

“Mr. Grey, this is Terry Smalls, sir. I’m managing the team that’s organizing the contents of your grandfather’s storage unit.”

“Yes, Mr. Smalls, what can I do for you?” I ask.

“I just want to apprise you of a couple of developments, the first of which is that each box has a label that indicates its contents can be identified by a log on file in the management office. None of us are authorized to access any records in the management office, so I was wondering if you could make a call and tell them that I can take a look at that log. It would cut our work time loading, unloading, and at the warehouse more than in half and it will also alert us ahead of time if there’s anything particularly fragile in any of the boxes.” I nod.

“Excellent news. I’ll have my uncle call the storage facility as soon as possible. We may be spared from opening many of those boxes before we ship them back to Seattle.” Some of them may not have to be shipped at all if Uncle Herman decides to allow Uncle Stan to keep some of it, which I know that he will.

“You said a couple of developments. Are there more?”

“One more, sir. As we started to remove the higher levels of boxes, we realized that they’re stacked to the ceiling, but they’re only three layers deep. The storage facility isn’t full of boxes.”

“Well, that’s good news,” I say. “It wasn’t as full as we thought it was.”

“No, it’s full, it’s just not full of boxes.” I frown.

“What do you mean?” I press.

“Well, after the boxes, there’s some furniture—real antique valuable stuff… and a car.” Huh?

“You mean, model cars, right?” He must be talking about the model set that Pops was giving to Dad.

“Um, no sir, I mean a car—an automobile, a classic Mustang from what I can see.”

“What?” I exclaim. “What kind of condition is it in?”

“Well, it’s under a tarp, but if the tires and the part of the bumper that I can see is any indication, it’s been restored.” Fuck me.

“A classic Mustang. Fuck…” I hear someone call Terry’s name in the background.

“I’m on the phone with the boss!” he shouts back to whomever is calling him.

“Then you might want to tell him to hold on and come look at this. We might have some more news for him.” Shit, what the hell now?

I hear rustling and jingling, like the clatter of keys.

“You’re shitting me,” I hear Smalls say.

“Smalls?” I call out, but he doesn’t answer. I hear wind and movement, like he’s walking. “Smalls?” Still no answer. Guess I’ll just have to wait. A few moments later, he comes back on the line.

“We may have another… Oh, hell.”

“Um, that’s not a good sound, Smalls,” I warn.

“Sir, if your Uncle has the authority to speak to the management here, please tell him to find out exactly how many storage bins your grandfather has. We found at least two more.” Oh, dear God.

“Two… are they full?” I ask. I listen as I hear the sound of a rolling door opening.

“More antique furniture, sir, really high-end stuff from what I can tell… and yes, this one is full. We have to figure out where the third one is, but it would help if we had authority to speak in detail to management.” I sigh.

“I’m on it. Tell your guys to take a break or something and let me call my uncle. Give me your direct number.” I end the call with Smalls and immediately call Uncle Herman.

“Christian, hey. How’s the move going?” he answers.

“That’s why I’m calling you, Uncle,” I begin. “It appears that there’s more than one storage bin down there…”

“I knew it!” he interrupts. “I knew it! Unless he got rid of a whole lot, I knew all of Dad’s stuff couldn’t fit in that one storage bin.”

“Well, there are two more that we know of, and my people have only found one… and Uncle Herman, there’s a car in the first one.” Silence.

“A car?!” he exclaims. “You mean like a real life, living, breathing automobile?” Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but…

“According to my staff, we were looking at a few rows of stacked boxes hiding a restored classic Mustang.”

“Shit… he did it. I didn’t think he would do it, but he did,” Uncle Herman says.

“Who did what?” I ask.

“My dad wanted a classic Mustang,” he says. “I knew he had been looking at one that was in the process of being restored years ago, but I didn’t know that he bought it.” I nod as if he could see me.

“Well, he bought it, and it’s in that storage facility. My people found a second—lots of antique furniture—and mentioned that there’s a third. I don’t know how they located keys, I didn’t get that far. My guy also says that there’s some kind of itemized list filed with management, but that he doesn’t have access to it, so he needs you to call them and see if he can get a copy of it.”

“Well, they already have my authority on file down there. I faxed them my documents yesterday. I’ll give them a call. What’s your guy’s name?”

“Terry Smalls.” Once I give him Terry’s number, I call Terry back.

“Terry Smalls here,” he answers.

“Smalls, my uncle is calling the management office now, so you may want to go on over there. I’ve given him your number as well in case he needs to talk to you. His name is Herman Grey. Keep me abreast of any further developments.” And speaking of developments…

“Sir…” Andrea’s voice interrupts me again.

“Smalls, I have to go. Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.” We end the call. “Yes, Andrea?”

“Sir, I have Antamonides Capito on the line. He’s quite perturbed and he’s being very insistent and belligerent.” That was fast.

“Is he now?” I say, showing little interest. “What line is he on?”

“Line one, sir.” She sounds exasperated.

“Thank you. Leave him there.”

“Sir?” Now, she’s bemused.

“Leave him there. See how long he holds. Let me know when he disconnects and if he calls back, put him on hold the moment you hear his voice.” There’s a pause.

“Yes, sir.”

I’ll talk to him… when I’m ready. This immediate call at nearly 11pm Madrid time means that Alex has hit a soft spot hard proving once again just how valuable he is. So, I’m going to let the asshole squirm for a bit. I hope he was fucking when he got the call.

I take my time reviewing two more acquisitions that we have on the table. I even have a meeting with Ros and Lorenz about our other Spanish deals while the fucker calls me five more times this afternoon. Ros questions what’s going on.

“Capito is trying to spread venom on my name with other companies in Madrid. I can’t just come out and say that he’s into illegal activities without endless repercussion… possible slander suits, dangerous consequences for myself and others—including quickly eliminating inventory, if you know what I mean…” Ros shivers.

“So, what has him calling like a desperate housewife searching for a wayward husband?” Lorenz asks.

“Our head of security has amazing connections,” I inform him. “Sometimes, you have to pluck a few cock feathers to show him that he’s still nothing more than a chicken.” Lorenz stifles a laugh and Ros just shakes her head.

And Capito calls again.

*-*

Ch 50 Capito

Antamonides Capito

“It’s the end of my day and I’m leaving my office to join my family. What do you want?”

Around five thirty when I’m ready to go home, I finally take Capito’s call, nearly four hours—and nine attempts—after his first call.

“You Americans think you are so smart, so invincible—your so-called power means nothing to Madrid!” he hisses into the line.

“Then why are you calling me?” I taunt. “It appears that we have nothing to discuss.”

“You know people in high places,” he replies. “I know people in high places, too.”

“And apparently, some of those people have been talking to you, haven’t they, Capito?”

“Do not push me, Mr. Grey. You do not know how far my reach is.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong,” I correct him, having gotten updated intelligence from Alex earlier this afternoon. I’ve got this fucker by the balls and he doesn’t even know it, but he’s about to.

“I know about your extracurricular activities, Mr. Capito, and I now know who your associates are. I know why you didn’t want to release and why you didn’t want me to visit Albien Textiles, and now you know why I chose not to do business with you. I tried to walk away quietly, but you threw down the gauntlet. My wealth is my reputation, and I refuse to let some small-time, wannabe thug dabbling in illegal activities of which he has no full comprehension start badmouthing me in the Madrid market because I wouldn’t play in his little sandbox!”

Capito is silent. I can almost hear the shock and awe on his face through the phone.

“I may not know who all you’re dancing with, Capito, but trust me—I’m familiar with your most prevalent bedfellows. And I know that a few extra dollars means nothing to them in comparison to the risk of exposure. Am I right?” More silence.

“Name your price,” he says flatly. Foolish little Spanish man…

“I don’t have a price, Capito, only a demand. Stay. The Fuck. Out of my affairs. And keep my name out of your mouth or you will find out just how powerful this American really is.”

“Sí, señor,” he says, after a pause.

“And in case you get any ideas, if anything befalls me or my family, I’m holding you personally responsible. I’ve already got documents and contingency plans in place in the event of my disappearance or sudden demise. If they’re implemented, there’s nowhere in the world that you would be able to hide from the authorities or your associates, including your panic cave in the Congo.” I hear him gasp.

“How did…?” He catches himself before he finishes his question. “Sí, señor.”

“You and I have no business, Capito. Walk away. Don’t speak of me again and don’t contact me again, unless you’re declaring war. And believe me, I’m prepared for it.” I end the call before he’s able to give me another “Sí, señor.”

I’m exhausted. Smalls informed me that they’re cataloguing all the antique furniture and he’ll contact me tomorrow with a detailed list to find out what we want to do with it. I’ll ask Butterfly if she wants anything, but I doubt it. I’m sure Uncle Herman will want to split it between the family members that want it—except Freeman. I close my laptop and rub my eyes. I don’t want to go to bed early tonight, but it may be in the cards for me. I’m beat.

Jason meets me in the lobby and as we’re heading to the parking garage, an official-looking gentleman standing by a black Mercedes parked in front of my building catches my attention. My brow furrows and I get Jason’s attention.

“What’s this?” I say gesturing to the front door. Jason looks, then speaks into his earpiece.

“Vic, J.R., come with me,” he says, and two of the security staff behind the desk rise. The three of them walk out the front door and Jason approaches the guard standing near the car. He doesn’t appear to be engaging Jason at all… which means that Jason isn’t who he’s looking for.

He’s looking for someone else… at this hour, probably me.

“Oh, dear God,” I say, stepping behind the wall near the information desk. I press a code into the wall and duck into a door there. Having practiced this many times, I’ve got this routine down to less than a minute. I remove my coat and jacket and quickly don a bullet-proof vest with a built-in holster. Since my Glock is in the locked glovebox, I retrieve one of the M9 Berettas from the security arsenal and quickly load a magazine in it. After putting it in the holster, I put my coat back on and walk out the front door.

“Sir!” Jason says in surprise when he hears the doors open. The guard at the car moves towards the door and every person on my staff reaches inside their coats. I stand still waiting to see who’s in the car. I’m stunned nearly to silence by who steps out the back seat.

“Mr. Grey,” he says, gesturing to the door. “Join me.” You have got to be fucking kidding me! Will this goddamn day never fucking end?

“Oh, hell, no!” I declare. “Shoot me now!”


A/N: Now, the question is… who the hell did Christian see?

I’m aware that the person that I chose to represent Capito is not Spanish, but that’s my choice—because I hated that guy in John Wick 2.

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 49—Finding Anastasia

My twelfth wedding anniversary was this past weekend, so posting was kind of the furthest thing from my mind.

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

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 49—Finding Anastasia

CHRISTIAN

My wife is walking to the theater room like a man walking to the gallows. I know that it’s going to take some time for her to overcome this whole impending doom thing, and she’s doing a great job of grabbing the bull by the horns with her meditation, yoga, dancing, and whatever else she’s doing to take control of it. But when that insecurity rears its ugly head, it’s really ugly… not in the sense that it’s unattractive, but in the sense that it makes my larger-than-life Butterfly appear weak, helpless, and powerless, and I don’t like that at all.

Gail and Ms. Solomon arrange refreshments while Maria attempts to explain what we’re going to see. She’s even gone so far as to have a program that outlines the order of the interview and what we can expect. She’s gone all out with full disclosure, even insuring that we’ll be left with a copy of what we see today, which is what the network plans to air—notwithstanding any changes that we request after the viewing.

Butterfly sits quietly in one of the luxury reclining theater seats, sipping a glass of cabernet sauvignon and daintily munching on popcorn, finger sandwiches, and crudité. She’s paying attention to everything that Maria is saying; she’s just not responding.

“So, things aren’t necessarily in chronological order,” Maria explains. “If you remember, the footage at the gun range was one of the last things we recorded, but it won’t be the very last thing in the segment, although it’s pretty close to chronological. I feel that I’ve put the segment together in a manner that represents both of you and presents you in the light that you wanted to be presented. In spite of what has occurred up to this point, I hope I haven’t let you down.”

Butterfly acknowledges her with an almost indistinct nod and turns her attention to the large screen. I can feel it emanating from her skin.

Shut up and let’s get on with it already.

The lights go down and the segment starts.

“By the way…” Oh, for Christ’s sake, lady, will you shut up before my wife bites your head off? “… We were approved for two hours.”

We both rubberneck over to her.

“We were?” I ask. “But I thought you said nobody got two hours… not even Obama or Bono.” She shrugs.

“The station manager loved the material. He couldn’t decide what to keep and what to cut, so… we got two hours.”

I’m impressed. Butterfly, not so much. I can’t imagine what’s going through her head right now.

The introduction starts with the gates opening at Grey Crossing, like some episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and I already don’t like it, but the interview quickly recovers by moving almost instantly away from the mansion to an upward pan of Grey House followed by a shot of my wife strolling through the halls like the boss that she is.

GEH looks magnificent on film. The headquarters has never gotten much airtime. Press conferences or news releases were always carefully planned and released on our terms, leaving most of the whole of the company out of the proverbial limelight—except for the numbers part of it all. People have often wondered why, with all my success, I haven’t gone public. This is why. I have total control of my company. Why would I hand that control over to someone else for money that I don’t need?

My beautiful wife looks just like a female mogul, roaming the halls, offices, and departments of our company. I’ve never seen her as majestic as she looks with the power of the House behind her. No wonder women are so jealous of her—and men are intimidated by her.

I’m extremely impressed with how the one-on-one interview with me and Maria turned out. It’s just what I was hoping for—the ruthless, but shrew businessman coupled with the papa-bear that would stop at nothing to protect his family.

I watch my wife’s expressions through various parts of the interview, especially when she describes who she was before me, how she changed when we got together, me being her ultimate protector. I feel pretty shitty having dropped the ball on that duty, leaving her in the uncertainty that she feels now.

I’m quite pleased with where they placed that asshole’s footage of my wife breastfeeding our children. She’s talking about the mothering instinct that’s not so natural to some women and how her main priority is and was to protect our children inside and outside the womb. You would have thought the filming was intentional just for this moment, instead of some grip boy pervert trying to get a shot of a nip-slip.

We both look pretty bad ass on the shooting range, and we all got a little chuckle out of Maria’s obvious inexperience with a firearm…

We all, that is, except Butterfly.

Her face is stone throughout most of the segment. Even portions that brought small chuckles and reactions from Mac. She’s watching this entire thing with a highly critical eye, and she’s not even enjoying it.

When the segment is over, I feel a collective sigh release in the theater room. I don’t hear it, but I feel it.

“I secured releases from everyone who was filmed when we were last here except from your nanny… Keri, I think is her name. Forgive me if I got that wrong,” Maria informs us.

“No, you got it right,” I say. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“So, what did you think?” Maria asks nervously. I turn to my wife; whose face still looks like marble.

“Butterfly?” I urge.

“The segment was good,” she says, her face stoic. “Concise, honest, thought-provoking. The placement of that idiot’s footage was quite timely. I was afraid of how that would be incorporated into the segment, but I’m satisfied. Nothing was overdone, which is something that I was afraid of. I would have liked to see more of the children, but I guess there’s only so much you can fit into a two-hour segment, and that was a lot of material. Overall, I’m satisfied with the ultimate outcome.”

Timely… concise… satisfied. My wife is choosing her words carefully, not at all saying that she liked or disliked anything in the interview apart from the fact that Minnie and Mikey didn’t get more screen time. This point doesn’t get by Maria, and her uncertainty is transparent.

“Is there anything that you didn’t like, Ana?” she asks. “Anything you want to remove or change? I can get some more footage of the children added if you want. I just didn’t want to overdo it…”

“No, it’s fine,” my wife interrupts. “The overall focus was Christian and me and that’s how it should be. Too much information about the children could be dangerous.” Maria nods in resignation.

“What about you, Christian?” she says, slightly crestfallen but trying not to show it, and for once, I have to be the diplomat in the situation. I’m not sure that I can do it, but here goes.

“I liked it,” I begin. “I think it portrays just what we wanted—Christian and Anastasia Grey as a whole and not just the crap that the press or the gossip rags want to show. It had that ‘here’s what it is, take it or leave it’ vibe, and I like that. I was afraid that it was going to be some plastered-over, painted and spit-shined depiction of us and I wouldn’t have liked that at all. When the segment started with the gates opening, I was worried, but you recovered very quickly…”

“I did that intentionally,” Maria interjects. “I know that people are expecting some ‘Robin Leach, Ana descending the stairs in a diamond-encrusted robe’ presentation. So, I had a little fun and let them think that’s what they’re getting.”

Of course, they did get some of that, but it was appropriately placed and not overused, so, I can’t complain.

“I had a feeling,” I say. “I’m just glad that wasn’t the entire focus of the interview. Yes, we have a beautiful home and yes, we have money, but the hope was to focus on the people and not necessarily the situation. I think you did that well. I particularly loved the parenting segment and where you put the forbidden footage.” Maria sighs.

“I was hoping that you would be happy with that… both of you,” she says. We look over at Butterfly who simply takes another sip of her Cabernet. Maria deflates a little. “When you gave me permission to use it, I had no idea where to put it at first. My questions were, ‘where do you insert a woman breastfeeding?’ Then I thought about it being the original natural process, second only to sex, and realized that it could have fit just about anywhere that we were talking about the woman that Ana is, but best fit when we were discussing motherhood.”

“Well good for you. It looks good,” I encourage. “I’ll have to admit that I see quite a bit of me but more of Ana.”

“That’s also intentional,” Maria says. “The camera loves Ana and the press and the public gobble up every little tidbit of her that they can get. It’s been that way ever since she’s been in the limelight. That’s not to say that the camera doesn’t love you, too, but public Christian Grey is a new flavor. The viewing audience has a delicate palate. If you dump it on them all at once, they quickly lose the taste for it. Even in what appears to be a relaxed setting, you’re a force of dominance…”

Quite the appropriate description.

“You can’t push that in somebody’s face too much. It comes off like an arrogant pissing dog. So, instead, I gave you that one power segment, then introduced a segment of Ana before bringing you both together again. From there, you were still very present, but she did most of the talking. Finally, you came in as the anchor. So, I started and ended with you, but Ana was the cream filling, so to speak. As a result, hopefully, a little more Ana and a little less Christian actually gives the segment just the right amount of balance.”

Mac is nodding introspectively, and I can see that she agrees with what Maria is saying.

“Well, I agree with my wife; it’s very precise, and I feel that it’s a good representation of us—a bit of a bite at some moments as well as the softer, human side of the Greys. I’m quite satisfied.” I look over at Butterfly who finally succumbs to compliment.

“Yes, Maria, it’s a good presentation. I like it,” she says. Maria’s face finally lifts a bit and she signals for the film operator—whoever is up there with Jason—to play the promos. If this is what Mrs. Miller saw, it truly wasn’t much. There are two separate promos and in either of them, you only see a fraction of the house—pieces of the grand entry, dining room, family room, and backyard. I guess that was enough for her to call Elliot… or call Gia who called Elliot. Anyway, the promos weren’t revealing at all—some pictures of Grey House and the two of us showing Maria around, no pictures of our children at all, and that was it. I can still understand why my wife wasn’t happy that the footage was shown before we consented, though. It could have been much worse.

Maria indicates that she has to get back to New York for shooting of portions of her show that will be this week and that she will call ahead to approve the immediate airing of the promos we approved. This was the warning that if we watch television, we’ll most likely see some of our promos as soon as today as the program will air in primetime a week from tomorrow. Butterfly rises from her chair, shakes Maria’s hand and thanks her for coming and for her good work before sitting back in her seat and drinking her Cabernet. I walk a bit with Maria and Mac to the theater room door.

“Don’t take it personally,” I tell Maria in a low voice. “My wife has recently been through something and it’s taking a bit of a toll on her. Hearing about the promos before we had approved the segment didn’t help.”

“Again, I am so sorry about that,” Maria grovels. “I have no excuse for it, but I hope it didn’t completely ruin the experience.”

“If she could find her words right now, she would tell you how much she liked it. I know that because I liked it and I’m very hard to please.” I finally get the wide smile from Maria that she’s been holding back.

“Thank you, Christian. I appreciate that. The last thing I want is for the two of you to be disappointed.”

“Come on, Maria. We’ll find Keri and get that last release signed for you,” Mac says. I gesture to Chuck sitting in the back of the theater and when he meets us in the middle of the aisle, I explain that the ladies need to find Keri and that Mac will most likely want to come back here when all is said and done.

“You’re feeling better?” I ask my wife when I take my seat next to her.

“A little,” she says. “The sky didn’t fall.” I know that’s a reference to her constant feeling of impending doom as well as the theory of Chicken Little that nothing’s really wrong, but she still expected the end of the world. I simply put my arm around her and sigh.

“When I found out that I was pregnant,” she begins, “I was afraid that I was carrying two little lives inside of me—two little blessings from God—that I would nurture inside of my body and bring into this realm just so that the world could gobble them up and destroy them. As time went on, I managed to fight those demons back even though it was hard, and things were still happening to prove my point rather than dispel it. Now, they’re here—they’ve made it into the world and they’re okay. And as time goes on, I see more and more that I was right the first time.

“People are untrustworthy and as a result, horrible things happen to other people. Even when you think you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do, somehow you slip up and do something wrong—you make the wrong decision, or you don’t take an action you should have or you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time and because of it, hell falls down on you like burning hot lava and sears your very soul.

“You go to one of your favorite places in the world to calm down and think things through and just as you’re leaving, your psycho ex-boyfriend shoots you full of drugs that should only be available to doctors and handcuffs you to a bed for four days.

“You take a left turn instead of a right which takes you a different route than you normally take, and a neurotically delusional ex-submissive T-bones your car most likely gunning for the Dom whom she felt scorned her… or maybe she was gunning for me, who knows?

“And instead of running to my husband and telling him about a situation that I erroneously thought I had under control or simply avoiding the situation altogether, he walks in and sees a man that I don’t want at all about to kiss me, and he leaves me for three weeks with no word—put an ocean, a few seas, and a continent between us.”

Shit… that hurt.

“And this,” she says, gesturing to the screen. “Grip boy records me without my permission hoping to see some tits, and then we hear through word of mouth that the promos were released before we approved them. I couldn’t even enjoy the premier because I sat here the entire time waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Jesus, I don’t know what to say. I want to come up with something that will make this all better, but I can’t. I see a single tear fall down her cheek, quickly followed by another.

“Butterfly…”

“You were my safe place,” she says, her voice squeaking. “Everything was okay in your arms, under your protection, and suddenly…” She trails off. What’s more alarming is that she’s speaking in past tense. I am your safe place, Butterfly.

“You’re only human,” she continues, her tears dictating her voice. “You’re not perfect, immortal, or impervious to pain or mistakes, but somehow… somehow…” Her voice trails off again. She raises her eyes to the ceiling and sighs heavily before quickly wiping her face with both her whole hands to remove as many tears as possible.

“It’s an uphill battle,” she says, “fighting the Boogeyman and trying not to let fear overtake me and become a complete recluse, but I’m fighting it. I see things more differently than I’ve ever seen them before in my life, and I just have to incorporate this new knowledge into my life without crumbling to the hand of doom. That’s the hard part. Wisdom is a terrible burden to bear.”

That sounds horrible. She’s slipping into the doom again. This is exactly what we don’t want. She’s moving backwards, away from progress.

“Baby, what can I do?” I ask, feeling completely rudderless. She shakes her head.

“I’ll be alright,” she says in that flat voice that I hate. It’s that quiet acceptance of hell. “I just… need a few moments to regroup. I’ll do some yoga and meditate.” She stands from the seat and heads to the door.

“Do you want me to come and meditate with you?” I ask. We haven’t meditated together in a couple of days. It might help. She turns sad eyes to me.

“Sometimes, you have to face your demons alone,” she replies. She looks at me for a moment, then walks out of the theater room.

Jesus, I feel like a stone has been tied around my neck and I just have to carry it around until she comes out of this. If that’s how I feel, I can only imagine what she’s feeling.

“I just saw Ana.” Mac’s voice startles the shit out of me. “She’s not doing very well.” I shake my head.

“My impromptu trip to Madrid did more damage that I ever thought possible,” I say, scrubbing my hands over my face. “I’ll be honest, even looking back on my anger, had I ever thought it would cause this much injury, I would have made a different decision.” Mac frowns.

“I thought you went to Madrid on a hunch,” she says, “that you got a bad feeling about something and had to go immediately. There’s more?”

“Yes, there’s more, but I’m not going to tell you about it because it’s irrelevant and won’t do any good. I will tell you that you’re right, though. I did get a bad feeling about something and I did go on a hunch—and I was right, which is why I pulled out of the deal. But I didn’t need to go as suddenly as I went, and that’s all I’ll say about that.”

I straighten in my seat, raising to my full height and changing the subject, indicating to Mac that this topic of conversation is closed.

“What about what Stanton said?” I ask. “Did I give enough to prove that she missed a golden opportunity?”

“Oh, dear God, do you have to ask?” Mac replies. “You gave just enough of the interview that she was looking for not to bore the audience, plus you gave crisp and valuable insight into your personal life that wasn’t syrupy sweet, overly ostentatious, or Desperate Housewives. She’s going to be sick when she sees this.”

“How do you know she’ll watch it?” I ask.

“It’s primetime Monday night Sweeps Week—of course, she’s going to watch it. She’s hoping to see it flop, so she’s going to watch it the entire way through, looking for exactly what she’s expecting to see, and trust me. You guys nailed it. Maria asked the tough questions and you two came back without flinching. You got the point across that you wanted to relay as well as giving a good, solid 10-15 minutes as to exactly why you are the brilliant entrepreneur, businessman, mastermind, savant, and guru that she claimed you were. Those statistics that you threw out there in a moment’s notice—28 industries, 419 subindustries, 165 countries… that shit was brilliant. Raynell fucked up and when she sees this interview, she’s going to know it. You got the grit that she was looking for plus the fantastic human-interest piece that you wanted… Stories like this—and on Sweeps Week—are the stuff that Barbara Walters is made of. She’s going to shit herself when this airs. She pissed on the golden ticket and she’s going to know it!”

Well, I take some small amount of comfort in that. Mac and I talk for a few minutes longer about the publicity that will be generated over the next week and how to handle it, including a “no comment” press release until after the segment airs. Jason and Chuck return to the theater room after showing Maria and her reel operator to the door.

“I have the copies of the interview and the promos, sir,” Jason says, handing me a very fancy looking silver flash drive. “It really was a good segment.” I nod, hardly pacified from my angst about my wife.

“Well, I’ll be going now,” Mac says, rising from her seat. “Thanks for the great grub and… call me if you guys need me.”

“Thanks, Mac,” I say without raising my head.

“I’ll show you out,” Chuck says as he escorts Mac from the theater room. I run my fingers through my hair and drop my head. There’s that stone around my neck again.

“Do you want to be left alone?” I forgot that Jason was still here. Now, he’s standing in front of me.

“I don’t know what to do,” I admit. “It’s like she’s bipolar. Just about anything could set her off. She was my rock in Detroit, Jason,” I say, turning my gaze to him as he takes a seat next to me. “She never complained about that cold room. She was right there when I needed her. She held me together when I thought I was going to fall apart. She was everything I needed and then some. She was supportive, passionate, even playful… but the moment the slightest bit of adversity comes her way, she loses her footing. True, she did everything throughout this viewing to hold it together, so she didn’t fall apart completely, but she was so withdrawn and detached… so aloof. If was hard to watch. It was a good segment…”

“Very good, boss,” Jason says. “She depicted you guys extremely well. She even turned a bad situation into a good one.” I nod.

“Exactly, but my wife was sitting there waiting for some horrible thing to come across the screen and never absorbed how great we looked—as a couple and a family… as a team. It was just what I wanted, and she still looks like the world is ending.” I drop my head into my hands.

“God, why didn’t I see this before?” I say, still holding my head while I’m shaking it. “My wife is and always has been mostly emotion and I… I, who can’t identify what I’m feeling half the time without help from my shrink or from her or from you… had to go all mega-Dom on her and disappear for three weeks without telling her where I was. This damage may be irreparable.” Jason sighs.

“Well, you got one thing right,” he says. “You did go mega-Dom on her.” I raise my eyes to him. “I may not be in the lifestyle, boss, but I had to learn something about it working for you, and that trip to Madrid wasn’t about you at all. It was about her. Somewhere during the course of that trip, you may have gotten all caught up in your feelings and decided that you felt betrayed or hurt or used or whatever feeling you want to put in there. But the entire time that you were downing shots at the bar, vomiting on the plane, wearing a toga during the descent, and running around Madrid in sweatpants, you were pissed. You convinced yourself that she was a villain and she deserved to be punished—and that’s what you did. You went mega-Dom and gave her the biggest punishment that you’ve ever given her. Emotional warfare is far more damaging than physical, and you punished her so badly that she punished herself.

“I’m not saying that she’s blameless in this. I know that’s not true and so does she. I’m just saying that this could have definitely been handled in a better way and now, she’s paying for it. What you did was the equivalent of ‘two wrongs don’t make a right;’ they only result in an even bigger wrong and in this case, it’s astronomical. She’s suffering a form of PTSD…”

“Oh, she’s not going to like the sound of that,” I protest. “She won’t even talk to Dr. Baker without coaxing because she said the same thing.”

“Well, she may not have been suffering it at that time, but this time, she is. She emotionally or physically separates herself from any situation that may cause her discomfort; then she sits in the corner and waits for Armageddon. That’s the same as a combat soldier who can’t tolerate fireworks, who’s set off by a ceiling fan thinking it’s a chopper blade; who wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and fighting ghosts who aren’t there; a victim of a serious accident who’s afraid to drive a car; a victim of sexual abuse who doesn’t trust the opposite sex. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. She can deny it all she wants, but that’s what she’s suffering.

“Is it irreparable? I don’t know. I’ve seen some victims of PTSD that never come out of it. I’ve seen some that just learn to live with it—that can function and control their triggers. Her behavior in Detroit gives me the idea that she has hope. It just depends on how deep her despair is and if she can control those feelings of doom. She’s going to have to find out exactly what triggers it and control those triggers. That’s the hard part, but you have to be patient and give her time… and space, when she needs it.” Did he hear her tell me that there was nothing I could do for her right now?

“Are you a part-time shrink, too?” I try to jest.

“No,” Jason says, “I’m a combat veteran. I suffer a bit of the old post-trauma myself. I just… know how to handle it.”  I gaze at him.

“I never knew that,” I reply soberly.

“I don’t publicize it,” he retorts. “If Her Highness denies that she’s suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress, she’s never going to be able to find an effective treatment plan. She knows that.”

“Well, Jason, I can’t tell her. When I tell you that it was disastrous the last time we approached that topic with Dr. Baker, I’m saying that the silent passive-aggressive blows in that room could have caused physical carnage in a different setting.” He sighs.

“I’ll try to find a decent time to talk to her about it, but it won’t be today. She’s already triggered, so she can’t hear me right now.” I twist my lips.

“You did some shrinking somewhere, Jason. Admit it.”

“Nope,” he denies, shaking his head. “Any intelligent person will learn everything they can about their illness, particularly mental illnesses. They can be deadlier than any physical illness around. I educated myself on triggers, coping techniques, symptoms, medications, things like that. I’m not a shrink, Christian. I’m just informed.”

“Quite,” I cede. “I’ll let you decide when the best time is to broach this topic with Her Highness. In the meantime, I need your help with another situation.”


ANASTASIA

I’ve lost it. I’ve completely lost hold on everything that I’ve been working on—all my Zen, all my chi, all my fucking self-control… right out the goddamn window.

Get it together, Grey. Get it the fuck together.

For the first time in my life, the Bitch sounds like me. I shudder and try to compose myself. I can’t lose it. I have to maintain control and balance.

I’m walking around the house aimlessly, not sure where I’m headed or what I’m trying to do. The meditation room won’t do it right now. I need more than meditation to shake this feeling. I need meditation on steroids!

Nothing happened. Nothing even happened. It was just the fact that Maria Sanchez seemed a bit careless with our footage and suddenly, the sky is falling again. I can’t function like this. I can’t constantly walk around being afraid to think or move or breathe.

Nothing actually went wrong. It just took the hint of something possibly not being quite right for me to slip into the anticipation of Armageddon.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Who is this wimpy bitch before me and what has she done with the fearless Anastasia Steele?

Anastasia Steele… why did I go all the way back to her?

I know why… because I’m trying to find that independence that I once had, that ability to call my own shots and tell it like it is without pulling punches or holding back. That same woman who told David the he would never have a chance and subsequently pulled a gun on him in the parking lot. Yeah, he kidnapped me, but when I was free, I kicked his motherfucking ass with the last bit of strength I had left.

That’s the girl I’m looking for—the same girl that faced off with the Pedophile and won every time, even after she stole my gun. Yeah, she shot Jason with it, but I beat her within an inch of her life after that.

And then there’s the girl who really let Grey have it—showed him just how displeased I was with his staring and his fucking, “Google me.” Yeah, I’d love for her to make an appearance.

How did I become so weak? How did I become so dependent that I couldn’t define myself without him? Made him everything in my life so that once he was gone, I was rudderless and had no identity?

It’s my fault. I made him “perfect.” I made him the answer to all my questions, prayers, and problems. I made him invincible and incapable of disappointment, so that when it happened, I nearly crumbled.

It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

Michel’s words come back to me…

“You two are going to be together for 100 years and sometime during that hundred years, you’re going to have a big breakup. It won’t be the end of the world. It’ll just feel like it. Don’t let it destroy you.” 

God, I hope this was the big breakup. I don’t think I can survive anything bigger than this.

All my wandering finds me in the spa room. I don’t know how I got here, but yes, this is the perfect place for me at the moment. I turn the lights on and the room looks like a haven, a nice, quiet haven. I immediately start the water running in the sunken spa. I sit on the bench in front of the wall aquarium, which easily holds twenty to thirty fish… or more. The only thing my mind can conjure right now is… who’s responsible for feeding these fish? I immediately think of that aquarium I bought with Edward… and how I couldn’t wait to get rid of that fucker once he was gone.

That of course leads me to my visit to the aquarium where he and his ex-security flunky kidnapped me.

“You’re a dirty fucking bastard, Edward,” I say aloud. “You were a wretched excuse for a human being. I’m glad you’re dead and I hope you burn in hell.”

The honesty of those statements is incredibly liberating. Fuck political correctness. For much of the time that I knew that man, he made my life a living hell even through the moments where I foolishly loved him. Now, when I find myself in my darkest moments, he comes back to taunt me—make me feel like I’m nothing or worse yet, make me feel afraid of the future. How the hell do you give a dead man that kind of power over you?

I stand from the bench and move to the shelf of bath salts. Sandalwood—yes. Evocative and soothing at the same time.

“Fuck you, Edward David,” I say as I sprinkle bath salts into the slightly steaming water, “and your little dog, too.”

That fucking keystone cop… No, not a keystone cop. I won’t insult keystone cops by comparing them to him. He was even more worthless than Edward—pissed off because he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do his job and then blames his termination on me. And manhandling me while I was cuffed and helpless—that was really fucking macho. Your plans for success were based on Edward needing to get me alone and when that didn’t pan out for you, you raid my credit cards. Brilliant, fucking brilliant.

And you have the nerve to haunt me, too.

“Fuck you, too, you miserable asshole,” I say aloud. “I hope Satan is fucking you in the ass with a red, hot dick every night.”

Jesus! That sounds horrible.

But I don’t care. It serves him right.

I swirl my hands around in the hot, aromatic water. It’s perfect. I strip, dropping my clothes on the floor next to the spa and descend the stairs into the hot water. It feels heavenly. As I settle into the water, I practice a meditation technique I saw in one of my studies.

I wiggle my toes, stretching them wide and feeling the tension release in each knuckle as the hot water caresses them. Once my toes feel loose and light, I stretch my feet like I’m doing one of my interpretive dances. I feel the release all the way to my ankles. I close my eyes and stretch further, flexing my calf muscles—first the right and then the left. It’s like tiny fingers working the stress out of my muscles, releasing all the tension and darkness into the water and washing it away from me.

Next, I flex my feet hard, causing my thigh and hamstring muscles to stretch. I imagine all the fear and anxiety rising to the top and dissipating in the continuous bubbles, floating off in the air to somehow return to the depths of hell from whence they came. My body is beginning to feel physically lighter. I tighten and flex my glutes, feeling the release all the way in my lower back.

I control my breathing the entire time, bringing good, healthy air in and releasing the bad, burdened air that had previously invaded my lungs. Fuck this silent reservation. If the Boogeyman wants me, come at me! I got something for you, and I’m not going out without a fight.

I roll my abs, flexing and tightening, imagining more of the darkness sliding out of my soul and off my body, imagining the fear releasing its death grip on my heart and mind, clearly seeing a shiny newness that leaves no room for doubt, anguish, painful uncertainty.

The pop of each vertebra is a celebration of the releasing of the weight of doom and when the final vertebra pops and I end the dance with a long roll of my shoulders, I feel the final monkey jump off my back. I stretch my arms and wiggle my fingers, basking in the feeling of being able to roll my neck around and from side to side without the hinderance of, “What the hell is coming at me now” following me or lurking on my left or my right, making me afraid to turn my head and look around me, to walk confidently into my future whatever it may hold.

The bubbles massage my sensitive breasts and I reach up to my nipples to protect them from the flow of the jets. Good God, they’re taut! I cover them, allowing them to still feel the heat of the water without the constant pressure and stimulation of the jets. Jesus, I can’t remember the last time they felt like this—dark pink and hard like little pebbles. I’m so fascinated by how they look that I start to massage them. No wonder Christian likes them so much… they’re beautiful.

Before I know it, the stimulation sends jolts of pleasure right down to my core. I’m suddenly very aroused by my own nipple play and the water is caressing me into comfort and seduction like you wouldn’t believe. I want to find Christian, but this caress… this massive release of trouble and anguish… the embrace of the warm, aromatic water…

Do you need him to come, too?

My hand slides from my breast and locates that sensitive bundle of nerves between my legs and I stroke… again… and again… and again. I pinch my nipple to remind myself of the sensation the brought me to this point.

“Ah,” I purr as pleasure shoots back and forth between the two manipulated points. I stroke myself harder, deeper, spreading my legs wider, the warm water adding to the sensation of my building orgasm.

“Ah… ah…” I croon, pinching my nipple and stroking my clit, over and over until…

I bite my lip and groan through my climax, feeling the final weight of uncertainty fall from my body. I take more deep, cleansing breaths as my body trembles through aftershocks and slowly melts into the comfort of satiation.

Why did I do that? I don’t regret it, but I can’t remember the last time I touched myself just for the sake of touching myself. At my condo? After Christian’s first kiss… or sometime around there. I touched myself after I had the babies, then Christian interrupted me and made me feel like shit without saying a word. True, he made me come so hard that night that I could barely say my name, but the way he looked at me… I remember never wanting to touch myself again.

So, I didn’t.

But this is my body. Yes, it’s his, too, but it’s mine first. Why do I need an excuse to make myself feel good? Why should I be ashamed? It’s not like I’m letting someone else touch me—I’m doing it myself. Jesus, have I completely lost all definition of Anastasia in the definition of AnaChris?

No matter. I’m on my way to finding myself again, to finding that tiger that he fell in love with and that I admired so much. She’s not gone, she’s just suppressed, and she needs to come back. I can still be Christian’s wife without totally losing myself and who I was in the process. No wonder I’m a fucking basket case. Yes, bad things are going to happen. They happen all the time. They’ve happened to me since I was a child… but I didn’t die. Shit, somebody tried to kill me—killed the baby that I was carrying—and I still didn’t die.

I still carry my guns in my purse and in my glovebox, and I walk around afraid that someone from Green Valley is going to sneak up behind me again. Please, walk up on me… please! I will take great joy in filling their asses full of lead.

David did some horrible shit to me and to other women, and he ultimately paid with his life. Why the hell am I still holding onto that one?

And Christian, my lover and my tormentor. One day—heaven forbid—he may just decide that I’m not enough for him anymore. Am I going to roll over and die if that happens? At the rate I’m going now, yes, I will. I’m going to curl up and shrivel away into nothingness without him.

No, I don’t want to lose him. Yes, I’ll be crushed if he leaves me. But right here, right now in this space and time, who am I? Who is Anastasia besides being Mrs. Christian Grey?

The question floats around in my head as I allow the comfort of afterglow, release, and liberation to soothe me as the warm water continues to caress my body.

*-*

“Baby wake up.”

Christian’s voice is cutting through my solace. Maybe cutting is the wrong word, but I was visioning… dreaming maybe… about clouds and flying and dancing, flowers and soft spring dresses… and twirling…

“Hmm?” I say groggily. He pushes the wet hair from my face.

“How long have you been in here?” he asks, his voice concerned. I shrug. I’m still in the spa… with the warm water.

“Uhuhuh,” I make the I don’t know sound while shrugging my shoulders, because I really don’t know how long I’ve been in the water, but long enough for the heat and massage to coax milk from my breast. Sure enough, when I sit up, they’re empty and light…

Just like the rest of me.

“Are you okay?” he asks, reaching his hand out to me to help me out of the spa. I take his hand and drag myself from the comfort of the warm bath. My body is a little heavier now, but it’s no doubt from the loss of that weightless feeling from the water, and from the fact that I’m totally pruney, which means…

“I’m fine, just a little waterlogged apparently.” I step out of the spa and walk over to the closet. Retrieving one of the terrycloth robes, I wrap myself in its warmth.

“You seem to be feeling a little better,” Christian says, handing me a towel. I take it and begin to dry my hair.

“I’m working on it,” I say, wrapping the towel around my head turban-style. “I’m working through some things. I guess we’ll see how it goes.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Oh, Christian. I love you so much, but therein lies the problem. Ace has been right all along. I have to start over from the beginning… finding me. And now that I have an idea what I’m looking for, the journey doesn’t seem so scary anymore… but it’s my journey. And no, he can’t be there every step of the way because he can’t take this journey for me. What’s more is that I need to know who I am outside of him. I need to exist in my own space and my own skin… and learn to coexist with him as well, not just exist because of him or for him.

None of this gloom and doom would have befallen me had I not fallen completely apart when he went to Madrid. Yes, it was tragic, and it was going to be painful no matter how balanced or together I was, but it wasn’t the end of the world and I fell completely apart. Just like we have to find our way back to us together, I have to find my way back to me on my own.

“Just be supportive and love me. That’s all I ask.” That’s all I really can ask.

“Now, why does that sound like a massive blow-off to me?” he laments.

“Well, because when the person you’re talking to doesn’t have a cut-and-dried answer for you, they can only give you what they know, and that’s what I know. I need you to love me and be supportive. Can you do that?”

“You know I can,” he says, closing the space between us and pulling me into his arms. “You know I do.”

“I feel like having a party,” I say later that evening as I lie on my back on the sofa in the family room. Minnie is lying on my chest, breathing evenly in her slumber and occasionally suckling her binky while I play in her copper curls. Christian’s brow furrows.

“What kind of party?” he asks while rubbing Mikey’s back and attempting to gently coax him to sleep. “Food and Libations?”

“I don’t know,” I say, because I really don’t know. “I’m just in the mood for a party.” I know it’s a ridiculous thing to blurt out of nowhere. In fact, I don’t even know where that came from.

“I… guess we’ll have to see what we can do, then,” he says, squeezing my foot and smiling.

*-*

“Rosie…”

I don’t know where I am. It’s gray, not necessarily gloomy, but maybe a bit maudlin… and I hear his voice.

“Rosie…”

I focus a bit and out of the rolling gray midst comes Edward… young and beautiful, like he was when I first met him. His expression is sad—nothing like the young, confident man with the GQ model looks that I met back in college. My heart leaps and a myriad of emotions run through me, some good and some bad. They all flow into the three second funnel and produce a single thought, as always. I pull myself up to my full height, square my shoulders and ask…

“Why are you here now? What do you want?”

As if it could, his face falls even more and he appears to get shorter—shorter than me, even.

“I’m sorry, Rosie,” he says, without making eye-contact with me. “I’m so sorry for the horrible way that I treated you…”

Why the hell is he coming to me now? Is it because I thought of him today? That has to be it. I fold my arms and twist my lips.

“You’re dead. There’s nothing you can do about it now. And I know that I’m dreaming, so why don’t you go back to wherever the hell you came from.” He sighs, and his clothes become more and more tattered by the second. Is that evil bastard that confronted me while Christian was gone about to present himself to me? Well, I’m ready for you, asshole. Bring it on!

“Hell is right,” he says, sadly. “I know it’s not you, but I see you every day. You torment me every day. You and Camilla and…” He trails off. “Mostly you. I don’t know why it’s mostly you. I didn’t do to you what I did to the others.

“It was worse,” I reply. I’m not minimizing the fact that he brutally beat those women, but I get the feeling that they got the beatings because they didn’t stay around for the emotional and mental warfare that he put me through for years. And even after we broke up, there was more warfare when he kidnapped me.

“You tormented me, mentally and emotionally, but Harris took care of the beating for you.”

Edward winces, the shirt and pants he was wearing now disintegrating from his body leaving something that looks somewhat like a tattered loincloth… more like a diaper.

“I don’t expect you to forgive me…”

“Ha!” I scoff. “Forgiveness! That’s a laugh! You’re a monster, Edward. I’m glad your dead. I once said I don’t know how I ever loved you, but I do. You tricked me. You tricked me just like you tried to trick me a minute ago, walking in here all beautiful and seemingly untarnished. You did your song and dance and you sold me this performance and this lie, and when the monster came out, it was too late. I was already in love—helpless and fooled into believing that this horrible creature had taken over my man and praying that one day, he would go away and bring my ‘Eddie’ back to me. But that was never going to happen, because my ‘Eddie’ was the façade and the monster was the real you all along. You did a bait and switch on me, only the version of you that you were offering was nothing like the version of you that you originally presented—nowhere near it. You sold me swampland and passed it off as resort property, and I didn’t know it until I was sinking and dying. No, I don’t forgive you. I’m glad you’re dead and you’re obviously rotting in hell, so I know that karma really does exist. Now, go back to eternal damnation and never darken my mind again. I bind you or I cast you out or whatever it is that I have to do or say to let you know that you are not welcome! Do not come back!”

Edward’s face becomes pale… no, not pale, blue… death blue. His skin sags on his bones and the sadness he emits is nearly unbearable. That sheet is around his neck again, the one he foolishly thought would end his suffering, and darkness begins to swallow him. I hear a horrible rumbling, like a growl, but I can’t make out any words.

“Yes, Master,” Edward’s voice says, now gravelly, like he’s drowning, and the darkness envelops him. Moments later, a vision appears like a movie floating inside the black clouds. It’s a room—like the Red Room, but morbid and dark, very uninviting. Edward appears before me, on his knees, not facing me, Thank God. His hands are bound behind him and his cuffs look like hot lava circulating around his wrists. His head is down and his ‘Master’ is nothing more that a darker-than-black midst in front of him. The horrible, rumbling, growling sound comes from the midst and it chills my very soul.

“Yes, Master,” Edward’s voice says again, and I see a long, narrow flame whip out and across his back. He cries out in pain as another flame reaches out and lifts his chin. He’s weeping like a child as he looks up at the past-midnight black midst, and I look around the room that he’s in…

What looks like a spanking bench is in the corner, but there are spikes all over the portion where you’re supposed to sit…

Another device looks like a helmet inside of a vice, no doubt meant to crush your skull…

Yet another gruesome looking device consists of two large chunks of wood with large spikes on the inside and an apparatus made to squeeze them together. I shudder to think what’s supposed to go in between them…

The more I examine the room, the more horrible torture devices I see.

Some kind of rolling device with a long handle fashioned with nails or barbs or something—it looks like a homemade gardening tool. There’s even a medieval rack and an iron maiden. This is a fucking torture chamber!

Another lick of fire down his back causes Edward to scream and brings my attention back to him. The rumbling grumble that comes from the horrible mist this time is clearly a laugh, and Edward crumbles to the ground in tormented tears.

Torture chamber… Red Room… licks of fire, like a whip… could it be?

Edward is Satan’s submissive!

As the meaning of this ghostly vision dawns on me, a horrible dog with snarling, bloody fangs comes from the black mist and starts viciously biting the bound and helpless Edward. Just as I’m about to turn away from the grisly display, the dog turns to me…

And I see Harris’s face.

He growls at me, then falls to the ground, gnawing angrily at his own paws, mangling them and yowling in pain the entire time. Jesus, what was I watching before I fell asleep? What kind of craziness is this?

“Forgive me, Rosie! Please, forgive me!”

And somehow, I get the feeling that my forgiveness is directly linked to the level of torment this asshole is suffering. I don’t know how, but I think I’m right. The very thought of it rips a cackling laughter from my chest.

The sound of my laughter is still echoing in my ears when I open my eyes. Apparently, the sound wasn’t enough to wake my husband. Thank God for that—I don’t even want to begin to try to explain that dream to him. I roll over and snuggle under the covers.

“I forgive you, Edward,” I say softly with a chuckle. “You can’t do anything else to me anymore, so I really don’t care what happens to you, but I’m not holding onto this shit anymore. Now, stay the fuck out of my dreams or I’ll come in there and get you myself, and Satan’s red-hot dick will be the least of your worries.”

Within moments, I’m asleep again, dreaming about clouds and music and flying…

*-*

“I have to say that this is a pretty remarkable case. I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never had one.”

Judge Purdy looks over our petition as she reviews our case. Al is as calm as ever, as am I, but Daddy looks like he’s about to burst.

“You seem nervous, Mr. Steele,” the judge says. Daddy shrugs.

“Maybe… just a bit. I’m… excited I guess. I’ve been waiting for this for a while. It’s just… way past time we did this, that’s all.” Daddy’s words tumble out completely unrehearsed, like he’s going through the supermarket and picking the words off the shelf as he sees them. I reach over and squeeze his hand, trying to calm him.

“Better late than never, right?” the judge says with a smile and Daddy calms right down. “Tell me, because it’s not part of the petition. Why did you wait so long? It won’t affect the decision. I’m just curious.” I look at Daddy and he nods, ceding to me to answer the judge’s question.

“My mother,” I say without hesitation. “It was a rocky and unstable relationship, to say the very least. My mother legally changed my name to Steele very shortly after I was born, but never gave my Daddy parental rights. Once she decided that she didn’t want to be married to him anymore, she went about the business of ripping away from him the daughter that she gave him and had built a relationship with him for over ten years. The decade that followed was torturous—for both of us. We kept in touch as we could, saw each other whenever we could, kept our relationship going the best we could. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I was able to come to him and fully rebuild our relationship. Even though we have the love and don’t really need the piece of paper to define our relationship, different things that have happened to me over the past few years have led to the conclusion that Daddy and I do need legal documentation to solidify our relationship to the rest of the world. It’s not about what people think; it’s just what’s necessary.” The judge nods.

“Very astute explanation, Mrs. Grey,” she says. You’ve answered my question and any follow-up I was thinking of. So, if no one objects, let’s get on with it.”

“In the Superior Court of the State of Washington and in the County of King; in the matter of the adoption of Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey by the petitioner, Raymond Steele, this cause coming on to be heard and being heard before myself, the Court, and from all the evidence presented in this proceeding, makes the following findings of fact and law:

“That all necessary parties are properly before the court and that notice of the adoption petition has been served on any person entitled to receive notice of this proceeding.

“That the adoptee is eighteen years of age or older and proper consent to the adoption has been given by her in writing and has been filed with this proceeding.

“That any other necessary consent has been obtained and any other necessary documents or judicial orders have been obtained and filed with the Court.

“That the adoptee was born in the State of Washington on the 18th day of October 1986.

“That this adoption is entered into freely and without duress or undue influence for the purpose of creating the relation of parent and child between the petitioner and the adoptee, and that the petitioner and the adoptee understand the consequences of the adoption.

“That the Decree of Adoption establishes the relationship of parent and child between the petitioner and the person being adopted. From the date of the signing of the Decree, the adoptee is entitled to inherit real and personal property by, through, and from the adoptive parent in accordance with the statutes on interstate succession and has the same legal status, including all legal rights and obligations of any kind whatsoever, as a child born the legitimate child of the adoptive parent.

“Please note that this Decree for Adoption does not terminate the parental rights of any living biological parents or sever the relationship of parent and child between the individual and the individual’s biological mother as you have requested not to do so.

“Now therefore, upon the foregoing finding as a matter of law, it is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed: that from the date of entry of this Decree, the adult is declared adopted for life by the petitioner and that said adult will continue to be known by the name of Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes.”

I think Daddy and I both hold our breath until she gets to the bottom of that document. She’s still reading, and I don’t hear a thing except “adopted for life.”

Daddy is officially my daddy!

“Congratulations to you both,” the judge adds. Daddy beams with immeasurable pride when Judge Purdy hands him the final adoption order.

“Thank you,” he exclaims. “Thank you, Your Honor. Thank you so much.” Daddy gathers me in his arms and I can feel him shaking. He’s not an emotional man, so I know he’s a bit overwhelmed right now. I squeeze him hard and sink into his chest, that strong man who has always been there for me—when circumstances allowed. No matter what came between us, my daddy never turned his back on me. We may have been kept apart by circumstances beyond our control, but he never deserted me. He came to get me after I was attacked and was prepared to finish raising me on his own until that woman and her walking moonshine still came and got me and ripped us apart again.

“I love you, Daddy,” I whisper, my voice cracking.

“I love you, too, Sunflower,” Daddy says, his voice thick with unshed tears.

“Okay, happy smiles, happy smiles. It’s picture time,” Judge Purdy says. It’s customary for new families to take a picture with the judge, so Daddy and I buck up and put on our best smiles for the camera. Al snaps a few pictures with his phone and with the judge’s phone as she wanted one for her wall. When he’s done, he’s thumbing through his phone and frowning again. I thank the judge for her services and we proceed to leave the courtroom.

“Is everything okay?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Check your phone, did you get a text from Christian?” I reach in my pocket and swipe my screen. Sure enough…

**Don’t be alarmed. I need you to come to your father’s house with Ray when the adoption is complete. **

And nothing else.

“Annie, I know we were supposed to do lunch, but Mandy just texted me. She’s says there’s nothing wrong, but that I need to come home,” Daddy says.

“I got a similar text, and I’m thinking Al did, too,” I respond and Al nods. “Meet at Dad’s?”

“Pretty much,” Al says, and I sigh.

“Let’s go see what’s going on.” Another catastrophe, no doubt… today of all days! I stiffen my back and prepare to face whatever it is.

I will not let this bring me down.
I will not let this bring me down.

I spend the time in the car meditating and trying to steel myself for whatever is about to happen at Daddy’s house. When Chuck turns the corner to my father’s street, I quickly realize that my fears are unfounded.

“He didn’t!” I laugh as we approach the house.

“Is that what I think it is?” Daddy exclaims while Chuck hides his chuckles and Al breaks out in shameless laughter.

“You should know,” I tease, a reference to an earlier time.

It's a girlOn my father’s lawn is the biggest pink stork announcement I’ve ever seen, even bigger than Harry’s! It has to be at least eight feet tall, wearing a pink cape with a pink Superman symbol on his chest. The sign simply says “Anastasia Rose” and it has today’s date on it.

“My husband is insane!” I declare. “When did he order that damn thing and how did he get it here so quickly?” Daddy is now laughing as we pull into the driveway behind Christian’s Audi—one of them, anyway. Mandy is in the door waving when we arrive, and I wonder just how long she’s been standing there. The porch is decorated with pink balloons and a banner that reads, “It’s a girl.”

“You guys are too much,” I say as I exit the car. I walk into Mandy’s arms and return her embrace

“I love you, dearly,” she says, “but still don’t call me ‘Mom.’” We laugh at the throwback to our first meeting.

“Maybe just once or twice,” I tease, pinching my fingers together in front of my eye. Mandy twists her lips in a half-smirk.

“Maybe… we’ll see,” she retorts. She releases me to kiss Daddy and I go to Christian’s arms.

“You’re too much,” I say to him, greeting him with a gentle kiss.

“What my girl wants, my girl gets,” he says. I furrow my brow. I didn’t want a pink stork. I like it and it’s cute, but I didn’t request it. He just smiles and ushers me into the house behind Mandy and Daddy.

“Surprise!”

The house is full. The salutation startles me so badly that I actually turn to run back out the house and I’m greeted by an equally stunned Al. He catches me in his arms—and against his chest—looking over my head at the crowd of people assembled.

The Scooby Gang, Gail and Keri with my precious babies, Grace and Carrick, Mia and Ethan, Marilyn, Elliot, a person or two from Helping Hands…

And Brian.

Brian was here with Christian? For how long? The house isn’t in a state of disarray—so I guess there was no brawling, but how did that happen?

Brian moves forward and grabs my father’s hand. They embrace for a long time, and Daddy closes his eyes. He has missed his friend. I feel a little guilty. Their relationship is strained because of me and I wish that I could change things…

And then I see her.


A/N: Don’t ask me where the hell “Satan’s Playroom” came from. I don’t know what kind of dark place I was in when I came up with that one. I even researched torture devices! I think somebody pissed me off that day…

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 ~~love and handcuffs