Raising Grey: Chapter 64—For Everything, There is A Season

FYI—when we were younger, much younger, my husband and I used to fuck like bunnies all night, then get up the next day and fight about something like the Capulets and the Montagues. We did this regularly and I didn’t even know that we were doing it until he brought it to my attention.

It happens.
Don’t worry.
We survived.

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 64—For Everything, There is A Season

CHRISTIAN

I breathe in the steam from the shower for about twenty minutes. I feel like I’m going to catch fucking pneumonia. Running in the cold never bothered me before, but today I feel like my chest is going to explode. I better be more careful from now on.

I’ve never been so happy to find a T-shirt, turtleneck, and cable-knit sweater in my garment bag. I’m not sure why all three were packed in the bag for an overnight trip, but I don them all to warm my body.

“Hello. Mr. Grey,” the woman who opened the door for me greets. “Can I get you something?”

“A cup of coffee, please,” I say, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.

“How do you take it?” she asks.

“Black,” I reply. She nods and takes a cup from the cupboard. I shiver as I wait for her to fill the cup. I can’t seem to shake this chill even after a shower fifteen degrees hotter than Hades. She puts the cup in front of me and I cozy my hands around it, trying to shake the chill.

“You have big hands,” she says, staring at my hands dwarfing the coffee.

“It’s a small cup,” I reply. She raises her eyes to me and twists her lips.

“Why don’t I get you a mug?” she says and turns away to get a larger cup of coffee. I take a sip of the small cup and it’s scalding. It feels heavenly. It’s like my insides have frozen. It wasn’t even that cold outside.

She places the mug in front of me and I realize that I’ve already finished more than half of the first cup. Instead, I grab the large mug with both hands.

“Thank you…” I pause for her name.

“Mrs. Evans,” she says with a smile. I nod.

“Thank you, Mrs. Evans. I really appreciate it.”

“You might need some rest, young man,” she scolds. “How long were you out there?”

“I don’t know,” I admit. “I didn’t time it, but I didn’t think it was that long.”

“Well, your body appears to disagree with you,” she says. “Why don’t you go and sit by the fire. Brunch will be ready soon.” I nod and take the wonderful, steaming hot coffee to the living room. I look out the glass wall at my wife. She’s now looking at her phone and scrolling through something. Hopefully, she’s in a better mood than she was—we were—last night. I’m too weak to fight.

I tap on the glass and she raises her gaze to me. I do the “come here” motion with my hand, and I look more like a kid gesturing to his friends down the street to come and play.

She looks back at her phone and turns it off—I think—before she stands to come inside. I sit on the sofa facing the fireplace. The warmth doesn’t appear to be reaching me, but I take comfort in the scalding coffee and allow it to warm my chest going down.

Just the sound of the outside coming in when my wife opens the door makes me cold again and I shiver visibly. She walks over and stands in front of me. At first, she looks like she’s ready to do battle, but her expression changes almost instantly.

“You don’t look so good,” she says, her voice etched with concern.

“Thanks,” I reply, gulping more of my coffee, and shivering.

“What’s going on?” she asks while removing her coat.

“I don’t know. I was fine when I woke up, then I went for a run and now I feel like shit.”

“What did you wear when you went running?”

“The same thing I always wear—sweats, a T-shirt, a hoodie…”

“Well, apparently the weather didn’t think you wore enough, because you’re shivering.” She takes a seat on the sofa next to me. We sit there in silence for several moments and I’m the first to address the elephant in the room before I lose all my strength.

“You were short and snotty with me. I don’t like it and I didn’t deserve it.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry about that,” she says dismissively. “I wish I knew why I behaved that way. I’m not even sure what happened anymore.” I sigh. It seems so small now, but it was the biggest thing in the world yesterday.

“What were you doing out there on the patio?” I ask.

“Last night or this morning?” she inquires.

“Both.” She sighs.

“Last night… I don’t know. I just wanted to be away from it.”

“What’s it?” I ask.

“The party, the people… you,” she replies solemnly. I glare at her. “When you’re not happy with me, your displeasure is tangible,” she says. “It almost makes me understand why you went to Madrid… almost. There needed to be some distance between us if your discontent was as intense as I imagine it was. Heaven forbid we ever break up. I’d have to move to the other side of the world.” I roll my eyes.

“It’s not that bad,” I protest.

“It is that bad,” she says. “If it ever came to that, I’d have to go somewhere and wait until you approached me… if you approached me. I couldn’t approach you.”

Well, that smarts.

“Elliot said somebody came onto you last night,” I say. Her hand moves to her head.

“God, he saw that?” she says.

“Yes, and he cursed me out for not seeing it,” I say as I take another gulp of coffee to warm myself.

“Yeah, well,” she says, now rubbing her scar. She’s definitely not comfortable talking about this.

“Was he the only one?” I ask with a cough.

“Yes, there was only one,” she replies a little irritated. “Three less than you.”

She saw that, too, huh?

“What’s his name?” I ask.

“We didn’t get that far,” she replies.

“What? No snazzy pick-up line?” I prod before I drink more coffee.

“I didn’t remember anything except that he thought I was here alone,” she retorts. “When I showed him my wedding ring, he said something about never letting me out of his sight if I was his, and then he left me alone.” She folds her arms. She apparently didn’t like that.

“So, besides meditating, what were you doing out there this morning?” I ask, wanting to derail the subject.

“Journaling,” she says, and I frown.

“You were on your phone,” I point out.

“Yeah, my journals are going virtual,” she says. “The volumes behind my desk are nearly full. I don’t need pages; I need gigabytes.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Grey, but I thought you could use this,” Mrs. Evans interrupts as she brings me a tray with some consommé and crackers on it. “Something not too heavy in case you still want to eat brunch with the family.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Evans,” I say, looking lovingly at the steam rising from the consommé. I hate to let everyone down, but I think this is all I’m going to be able to stomach.

“Mrs. Grey, can I get you anything?” she asks my wife.

“That coffee looks good,” Butterfly says. “I’ll wait for brunch to eat.”

I drink my consommé and eat my crackers in relative silence. Butterfly stares at the fire as she drinks her coffee, occasionally looking over at me. I let the warmth envelop me from the inside out. The chill is finally dropping and I’m starting to feel cozy…

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” I hear Butterfly say. “Jason is here.”

I open my eyes and my head feels like lead. I’m wrapped tight in a throw and I feel like it’s 150 degrees in here. Sure the hell beats freezing.

“It’s time to go home,” she says. “I’m putting you in quarantine.”

“It’s just a cold,” I complain, my throat scratchy.

“You don’t know that,” Butterfly replies matter-of-factly. “You’re weak and shivering. You go from hot to cold to hot, and you slept through brunch.”

“I slept through brunch?” I lament. I wanted some of whatever Mrs. Evans was making. “Why didn’t you wake me?” I ask as I struggle to sit up.

“I tried. You just grunted and curled into a ball. Oh, and you owe Val a throw pillow. You’ve drooled all over that one.”

I look down where I was sleeping and sure enough, the pillow is half-covered with slime.

“Destroy that thing,” I say, grossed out by the sight.

“I intend to,” she replies. “That’s a $500 pillow, by the way.” I reach into my pocket and pull out a handful of bills. Val reaches for them, but Elliot heads her off.

“Naw, bro,” he says, catching his wife’s hand. “Put the infected currency away. I’ll get another pillow.” I shrug and put the money back in my pocket. I’m too weak to get offended.

“But I’m hungry,” I whine.

“And it begins,” Val laughs.

“I know, right?” Butterfly concurs.

“What begins?” I huff.

“Don’t worry about it. Val, what’s left that he can take to go?”

“I’ve got you, Mrs. Grey,” Mrs. Evans says, and starts scurrying around the kitchen. Jason walks in with my coat.

“I’ve got the bags in the car and the heat is on, so he’ll be good and warm,” he says, holding my coat open. I stand, and the room starts spinning.

“Whoa!” I hear Jason say, but he’s not the one who catches me. I open my eyes and my tiny wife has her arms around me.

“Just a cold my eye,” she says, looking at me with concern. Jesus, I hope she doesn’t catch whatever this is that I have.

My knees are weak, but thankfully, they’re still holding me up… somewhat. This is a good thing as I have no idea how this little woman—literally—is supporting 185 pounds of mostly muscle.

“Your Highness let me…” Jason protests.

“I’ve got him,” she says effortlessly. “Get his coat on him.”

They’re dressing me like a helpless toddler. Stand up, Grey! You’re stronger than this!

I try to stand upright while Jason helps me on with my coat. It’s taking every bit of strength that I have not to crumble over. Jesus, the air is thin up here…

“Come on, Superman,” Butterfly jests as she reaches for me again.

“Really, Ana,” Jason says. “Let me. The rain froze over and it’s slippery out there.” Butterfly throws an accusing gaze at me.

“You ran in the freezing rain?” she scolds.

“It wasn’t raining when I ran,” I excuse. Was it…? “You were out there journaling. You know it wasn’t raining,” I add, more to convince myself than her. She shakes her head.

“Get him to the car, please, Jason,” she says.

“Here, Mrs. Grey.” Mrs. Evans gives my wife a thermo bag. “A breakfast bagel and some soup. And here’s more coffee.” She hands her a travel mug.

“Thank you, Mrs. Evans. You’ve been too kind.” Mrs. Evans smiles.

“Get him to bed, dear,” she says. “They think they’re invincible at that age.”

“Until they get sick,” Butterfly counters, “then they turn into babies.”

Not me…

*-*

I feel miserable.

The soup didn’t help. The coffee didn’t help. Even my warm bed and these horrible flannel pajamas aren’t helping. Where did she find these things? I don’t even own a pair of flannel pajamas.

“I wanna take these off,” I whine. “They’re not comfortable.”

“But they’ll keep you warm,” Butterfly retorts. “Still not feeling any better?”

“No, and this wretched grandpa sleepwear isn’t helping!” She laughs at me. And I don’t like it.

“Well, you’re going to have to deal with it for a while,” she says. No, I won’t. As soon as I can move, I’m coming out of these things. “Would you like for me to turn on the television?”

“No. I want my laptop and my phone,” I say. She shakes her head.

“Nope. No work. Television, sleep, and food. Those are your options.” I frown at her.

“You gotta be kiddin’!” I hiss. “I have three deals set to close tomorrow; the team is going to be back in Detroit in…” I look at my arm and my watch is gone. “Where the fuck is my watch?” Butterfly folds her arms.

“Television, sleep, and food,” she repeats. “You wanna try me?”

“Butterfly, you can’t do this,” I complain. “I’ve got a multi-billion-dollar company to run…” and I’m miserable as fuck, but I’ll be even more miserable if I don’t know what’s happening at my company. She sighs.

“It’s Sunday, Christian,” she says. “Nothing is happening at your multi-billion-dollar company today.”

“Something is always happening at my company,” I protest. “If I don’t leave those people instructions, there’s no telling what’s going to happen!”

“What did you do when we were in Paris? And Greece? The company didn’t explode!”

“Because I left instructions! And I checked in! You know that!” I defend. She sighs.

“Christian Grey, if you’re sick longer than you have to be because you won’t rest and recuperate, I swear I’m moving out of this room and someone else can take care of your ass.”

“I won’t be sick longer, but I’ll be irritable and crabby as fuck if I don’t get my computer and my phone!” She raises her brow at me.

“Is that a threat?” she inquires.

“No, that’s a statement of pure, unmitigated fact! And a definite promise. And if you want to test that theory, keep them away from me. I won’t be responsible at all for my actions.” I don’t blink when I say the words. I know I’ll be crazy and untamable if she doesn’t get me my electronics and soon. So, what will it be, Mrs. Grey?

“You’re insufferable,” she says as she leaves the room. I hope that means that she’s going to get my phone and laptop or I’m going to harass everybody in this house until I get them.


ANASTASIA

So, he goes out in the rain and makes himself sick and apparently, I’m the one who has to pay for it.

I just want him to get one day of total rest—one day, and he’s giving me hell about his tethers. That place will do just fine without him, but he’s trying to convince me that the one day—a Sunday—that he doesn’t communicate with them, a meteor is going to fall out of the sky and obliterate Grey House.

“You have one hour,” I say as I hand him his phone and computer.

“One hour?” he laments.

“Make the best of it,” I say as I walk out of the room, miffed that I capitulated to his demands. I can’t cut him completely off. He’d probably die, but if I give him too much corporate rope, he’ll hang himself.

I look across the hall at the nursery. I need some baby time in the worst way. I reach for the doorknob and just as I’m about to turn it, common sense prevails. My husband is sick with I don’t know what and I’ve been around him all day. All I need to do is give cooties to my two little ones and my heart would officially be broken.

I move my hand away from the door and almost on cue, the two way comes to life.

“Ana,” I say sadly, and my babies begin to coo through the speakers. My heart is already breaking from not being able to hold them. I stand there and listen to them for a while. It’s like they’re having a conversation with each other. I stand there against the wall and sigh. God, I want my babies…

“Ana?”

Gail’s voice interrupts my baby time. She and Keri are standing in the hallway staring at me. I clear my throat and try to pull myself together.

“You and Keri will have to do your best to stay away from me, or to have as little contact with me as possible,” I warn. “The babies and Christian will be on quarantine. They all have to stay in their rooms until this thing with Christian blows over.” Gail and Keri look at each other and back at me.

“There’s no need to put the babies on quarantine, Ana,” Gail says. “As long as Christian stays in the room, the risk of infection is minimal at best.

“But I’m not on quarantine,” I say, “and I’m going to be in contact with Christian. I’m not taking any chances with my 10-month old babies. If they were older, I’d consider this cruel and unusual and we’d find a different solution. Right now, they’re just getting started. Make the room fun for them…” I want to cry. The thought of not seeing my babies until Christian is better…

“Ana,” Gail says, rubbing my arm and sensing my angst, “why don’t you call the pediatrician? Or Dr. Grey? See what the best course of action is before you deprive yourself of seeing your babies.” I nod and quickly wipe a tear away. I don’t know how she hit that nail on the head, but she did.

“Until I talk to them, please keep my babies in the nursery,” I say, my voice cracking. Gail nods, and she and Keri walk into Nirvana to care for my two little angels.

I take out my phone and sit down at the top of the stairs. I had planned to spend the day with the twins until Christian got sick. Now, of course, those plans have changed. I open my Journey app and start journaling.

November 14, 2014

Second entry of the day. No sign of the Boogeyman but I’m feeling shitty anyway. My brilliant husband went running in the rain this morning and has caught some kind of mutant cold that has knocked him on his ass in a matter of hours. Now, I have to tend to him and his whining—which has already begun—and I can’t hold my babies. I want to sock him in the nose for being so careless and at the same time, I want to cuddle him until he feels better. I didn’t prepare myself to be away from my babies, so my heart is heavy and I’m trying not to break down into a useless ball of mush…

I keep writing until I feel a little better and before I know it, Gail and Keri are coming out of the nursery. I raise my head to get a report on how the twins are doing.

“They’re sleeping,” Gail says with a sympathetic smile. “Have you been sitting here this entire time?”

“Yes,” I reply, maudlin. “I lost track of time.” I close my Journey app and notice that two hours have passed… and not a peep from my bedroom.

“Have you talked to Mrs. Grey yet?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No, but no matter what she says, I still need to know how serious this thing is with Christian before I come into contact with the babies.”

“Anah, if Ah meh,” Keri interjects, “bebbies catch cold all de time. Deh be fine if yah wan ta hold dem. Trest meh, Ah know.” I smile at her.

“Thank you, Keri. I’ll talk to Grace and… we’ll see.” I won’t risk infecting my babies. I walk pass them to the bedroom to relieve my husband of his electronics. When I open the door, I see that there’s no need. The phone is lying uselessly next to his hand, the screen black. The computer screen is asleep from no activity for several minutes.

And my husband is snoring like a trucker. I put his phone on the nightstand. He stirs when I move his laptop from his lap.

“That wasn’t an hour,” he grumbles.

“I gave you two,” I correct him. “Lie down.” He adjusts himself so that he’s not sitting up anymore, and I tuck the covers under his neck. “You know, if you wanted sympathy, you didn’t have to catch your death of cold to get it.”

“Shut up,” he replies in utter misery. “You’re the one who slept outside—how did I catch the cold?”

“I don’t know,” I say, “but stay away from the babies.”

“I can’t even get out of bed. I doubt that I’ll be messing with the babies.”

“Good, because if they get sick, I’ll murder you.” I blow a kiss across the room to him before leaving.

*-*

“It’s positive.”

Of course, I’ve decided to work from home on Monday. I’m certain that no one will be able to handle my husband if I leave, so I’m grounded until he’s better. I didn’t get much sleep last night worrying about him and missing my twins, so even though I’m taking zinc drops, vitamin c, and loading my body with immunity boosters and Airborne to prevent catching Christian’s bug, I’m still a bit groggy and see a nap in my near future. All these preventive measures will be futile if I’m exhausted.

And now a weeping Marilyn has just dropped another bomb on me.

“The pregnancy test?” I ask. “You took it?”

She nods, barely able to respond. This is not good news, no matter how happy Gary might be.

Gary!

“Have you told Gary yet?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I just took the test this morning,” she sobs. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Well, the first thing you need to do is see a doctor. You need to know how far along you are,” I say. I sit on the ottoman facing her and take her hands. “Breathe, Mare,” I say trying to get her to calm herself. “You’re going to hyperventilate if you don’t calm down.” She tries to breathe slowly. It helps only a little.

“It’s not the end of the world, Mare,” I say gently. “You’ve got decisions that you have to make, but I promise, the sun will still rise tomorrow.”

“This is a disaster,” she says. “We’re always careful! How did this happen?” I shrug.

“Nothing is 100%,” I tell her. “There’s always a chance no matter what you do.” She sighs and sniffles. “Do you have an OB/GYN?” I ask. She nods. “Well, you need to call them… now. You’ve stalled in taking your test. You can’t afford to stall anymore, whatever you decide.” Still sniffling, she takes out her phone and swipes the screen. I go back over to my desk to give her some privacy. When I look at my phone, there’s a text from Harmony.

**The quit deed is final. That’s one less thing to worry about. **

I breathe a sigh of relief. At least she doesn’t have to worry about her “brothers and sisters” overrunning the house or trying to put her out once Tina is gone. I had no idea how soon that theory was going to be put to the test.

The next day, Marilyn goes to the OB/GYN… and Tina passes away. Harmony calls me hysterical and I can only make out that Tina is gone.

“Shit!” Christian says, throwing the covers off himself and swinging his legs out of bed.

“Christian!” I scold, and he turns to me after he stands.

“Baby, I love you. I feel worlds better than I did two days ago, but I can’t stay in this bed anymore, especially not now.”

I examine him carefully. His color has come back, and I’ve been pumping him full of immunity boosters, fruits and vegetables, and antioxidants. He’s not wobbly or groggy and he doesn’t have a stuffy nose or fever. Without waiting for my approval, he walks around the bed and heads for his dressing room. I hope he doesn’t think I’m going to allow him to leave this house! When he comes out of the dressing room in jeans and a sweatshirt, I stand in front of him with my lips pursed and my arms folded.

I’ll put you down, Mr. Grey.

“I know that look,” he says firmly. “One of us has to go to the Franklin mansion. It can be you or it can be me, but one of us has to go!”

“I’ll go,” I reply just as firmly. “Don’t go spreading your germs all over the house. This room, your office, your den, bathrooms. I’m not certain you’re not contagious and I meant what I said about my babies.”

“Dammit, Ana,” he complains.

“I haven’t seen my babies in three days trying to keep from transferring your germs to them!” I say pointing my finger at him. I’m crabby and irritable without them and I will cut you! He stares at me for a moment.

“Fine. Office, bathroom, bedroom, den. Now, get out of here.”

*-*

“She’s as we expected she would be, ma’am,” Windsor says after he lets me in. “She hasn’t left Ms. Tina’s room.”

“Was Harmony with her when she died?” I ask, removing my coat and handing it to him. He shakes his head.

“Ms. Tina passed very peacefully in her sleep,” he says. “Harmony found her this morning.” Oh, dear God. Windsor takes me to Tina’s door and I can hear Harmony weeping inside. I open the door slowly and it’s like I’ve stepped into a time warp—large, old, beautiful pieces of vintage furniture from a time long gone… and a small woman face down strewn across a very large bed, mourning. I walk over to the bed, sit on the edge and put my hand on her back.

“I’m so sorry, Harmony,” I say to her shaking, weeping form.

“She’s gone,” she sobs. “She was the only person in my whole life who loved me… who truly loved me… and now she’s gone. What am I going to do?” she wails. I sigh.

“She’d want you to move on and live a good life,” I say. “She’d want you to find happiness and love. She’d want to look down on you and know that she did a good job raising you. I know this is an unbearable pain, and you’re going to be really sad for a while… but don’t be sad for too long.”

“That’s just what she said,” she sobs. “Did you guys get this stuff from a book?” she adds with tearful mirth.

“In my case, probably… I’m a shrink, remember?” She forces a tearful snort. “In Tina’s case, she was no stranger to loss. She lost her husband, one of her children… She knew what it meant to have to carry on. But I’m sure that you gave her as much peace and serenity as she could have in her last days, Harmony. And she made sure that you would be okay when she was gone.”

“I know what you’re trying to do,” she says, “but my momma is gone. She left me. She didn’t have a choice, but she left me. I’m all alone. There’s nobody left who loves me, and pretty soon, her wretched offspring are going to be knocking on my damn door with their hands out. Do you know those assholes have accused me of colluding with Carl to get my hands on her house? Like I fucking care about this house? My momma’s gone, for God’s sake!” She buries her face in the covers, which no doubt still carry Tina’s fragrance, and weeps bitterly. I step out into the hallway and call Christian.

“How is she?” he asks.

“It’s bad,” I tell him. “It’s really bad. How airtight is a quit claim? I’ve never done one.”

“It’s filed with the Register of Deeds. It’s final—Harmony owns that house. Why do you ask?”

“Her siblings twice removed are accusing her of colluding with the attorney to finagle the house from Tina before she died.”

“Well, unfortunately for them, even if she had done that, it’s still final. That’s how cults end up so wealthy. They get people to sign over their assets and there’s nothing that can be done once the signature is on the paper. They’re just pissed that they couldn’t get to Tina before the documents were all signed. I talked to Dad and Carl was filing the will with probate as soon as he heard time of death had been established. He had only just gotten finalized copies of the deed. Jason has more security details on the way to the mansion if they aren’t there already. Her siblings won’t be able to get within a mile of her unless she wants them to. I suggest that you have Windsor or one of the other staff screen her phone calls for a while. I know she’s a mess.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I lament. “She thinks there’s no one else in the world that loves her.” I sigh. Christian falls silent. “Baby, are you there?”

“I need to tell you something,” he says, “and I’m only telling you because I think it’ll help Harmony.”

“What is it?”

“After we swept the house of all the bugs and got rid of Roger, Harmony came on to me…”

“What??” I exclaim. Why the hell didn’t he tell me this sooner? All that we’ve done for her…

“Listen to me, Butterfly, before you get upset,” he says. “She has a problem. She didn’t overtly come on to me. She just turned on the flirt a little heavily. When I assured her that it would go absolutely nowhere, she was humiliated—not because I turned her down, but because she immediately recognized what she was doing. With me, it was hero worship, but with other men, it’s the quest for the love and attention that she never got. To my knowledge, she started seeing a therapist about it last week, and she made me swear not to tell you, not only because she didn’t want to jeopardize the relationship that she was building with you, but also because she knows that she has a problem and she’s getting help for it. I agreed not to tell you on the condition that she never did that shit again, but in this case, I think you need to know because she might need our help.

The jealous wife in me is clawing angrily at the walls, but the psychiatrist in me sees exactly what’s going on. And quite frankly, with the Boogeyman having the hold on me that he has… had…? Whatever… with the Boogeyman looming, I can partially understand why he didn’t want to tell me. The truth is that I can see why she’s not a threat… and why she’s really going to need our help.

“Butterfly?” Christian says when I don’t respond.

“Rationalizing,” I admit aloud. “Bottom line, she’s in really bad shape and from what you just said, it can only get worse. She feels like she’s totally alone in this and I feel like someone needs to be here with her 24/7, but she doesn’t have any friends like that. She wasn’t able to forge any relationships, and before you suggest it, it won’t be me. I care about her… I really do and what you told me doesn’t change that, but we don’t have that kind of relationship, either.”

“I’ll talk to Mom—maybe she knows someone. Can… you talk to Harmony?”

“Of course, I can!” I snap. “I told you what you said doesn’t make a difference. It’s classic transference, and if she’s seeing someone about it, then she’s recognizing the problem. The trick is going to be making sure that she keeps seeing someone about it because now, she’s had this huge loss and she’s very likely to slip into a black hole!”

“Okay, okay, I just… with everything that happened with Westwick… and the aftermath…”

“I know, I know,” I interrupt. “That was a… somewhat different situation, but please, let’s not rehash that.” I’m waving my hand at no one to try to shoo away the memories of Liam and that entire situation.

“Well, I found out that Tina already made her final arrangements, so that’s one less thing she has to worry about,” he says, quickly changing the subject. Good tact, Mr. Grey.

“I’ll try to discuss that with her, but it may be too much for today,” I acknowledge. “I’m going to get back in here and check on her.” He’s silent again. “Is there something else you have to tell me?”

“No… no there’s nothing else,” he confirms.

“I’m not mad, Christian,” I confirm. “I wish you had told me sooner, but I understand why you didn’t.”

“I’m feeling kinda shitty,” he admits.

“Why, because you didn’t tell me?” I told you that I understand…

“That, and… I’m kind of understanding why you didn’t tell me about Westwick right away.” I sigh heavily.

“Please let’s not do this,” I beseech, rubbing my scar and begging him to drop it.

“Okay, okay, I won’t dwell on it…”

“Thank you,” I say, cutting him off before he even finishes his sentence. “I’m hanging up now. I gotta go…”

“I love you,” he says, cutting me off this time.

“I love you, too,” I say before ending the call. I go back into the room, and Harmony has clearly cried herself into exhaustion and is asleep on her mother’s bed. I leave the room and close the door.

I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. She has no one—absolutely no one to help her through this. In all the times that I’ve done grief counseling, they’ve always had some kind of support system. It’s obvious that Harmony has no one. Nothing.

“Windsor, please keep an eye on her,” I tell him as Chuck helps me on with my coat. “I’ll be back tomorrow to check on her but call me if she appears to be spiraling at all.”

“I will, Mrs. Grey,” he says as he closes the door behind us. Walking to the car, I realize that I’m going to be Harmony’s support system. I trust Christian with her and her with Christian. I would just feel better not waving that carrot in her face when she’s this vulnerable… and the jealous wife is still peaking around the corner just a bit even though the shrink is knocking her upside the head every time she tries to get the upper hand.

I can’t help it. I’m human.

I take out my phone and dial a number. I’m going to need some help with this task.

“Hey, Ana, what’s up?”

“Hey, Courtney, are you busy?

*-*

I spend some time at the Center powwowing with Courtney and coming up with a schedule where she and I will be the foundation of Harmony’s support system. She and Harmony are both studying social work, so it’s actually workable experience for them both. I don’t want to say good experience, because it’s definitely not a good experience for Harmony.

Later that afternoon, I have a short and not-so-sweet talk with Marilyn.

“A little over ten weeks, we estimate,” she says of her visit to the OB/GYN. I sigh.

“Well, at least you know for sure now,” I say.

“I knew for sure before,” she says. “I was in denial hoping that some great solution was going to fall out of the sky even though I knew better.”

“So… what does Gary say?”

“I haven’t told Gary yet,” she confesses. I’m sure that a look of pure horror “graces” my face. “I just got back from the doctor, for Christ’s sake…”

“But you took your test yesterday!” I point out. “Why haven’t you told him yet?”

“Because I need it to sink in, okay?” she nearly squeals at me, and I realize that I’m drilling the poor girl.

“Okay,” I say, skeptically, but agreeing to drop the subject. “I don’t think I’ll be in the office much this week.”

“Why not?” she asks.

“Christian caught some kind of bug this weekend, so I need to keep an eye on him and also, Tina Franklin passed away.”

“Oh, God, really?” Marilyn says, deflated. “How’s Harmony doing?”

“Not well at all,” I confirm. “She has no support system and I expect for Tina’s children who have been completely MIA to this point to descend upon her any second. I’m going to have to be her support system, and she and Courtney have built a bit of a rapport, so I’m enlisting her services as well. I’ll most likely be there for most of the week as needed. To that end, you can choose to come here or go there or even to work remotely from home if you like. It’s up to you, just let me know.”

“Sure,” she says. “Is there anything I can do?” I shrug.

“I don’t even know what I can do right now,” I admit. “I’ve never dealt with anyone who didn’t have any support system. I mean, I can draw on my own experiences when I was a kid after the Green Valley attack, but this is so much different. Just… keep your phone handy. Whenever I need some magic, I always call you, so… do the same thing you always do.” She smiles.

“Sure thing, Bosslady.”

I’m completely drained and slightly more than depressed when I get home. The day has completely sapped all my energy and almost my will to live. I’ve checked in with Windsor and Harmony has stayed in her mother’s room crying and sleeping all day. I figure I’ll let her do that for today, but tomorrow, she’s going to have to start coming out of that shell and prepare for her mother’s final arrangements—and for her great-aunts and uncles/siblings to make their appearance.

It gets dark so early and I’m so tired. Actually, I’m not tired. It’s just that nothing has happened today to give me any energy. I normally go to the kitchen to get something to eat or drink, but right now, I’m drawn to my bedroom. To check on Christian? Maybe a hot bath? I don’t know. I wander aimlessly to the stairs and after ascending half-way, I see my husband on the second-floor landing.

“You’re looking fit,” I say and touch his forehead.

“I’m fine,” he says, softly. “No fever. I even got a little cardio in today.” I frown.

“Take it easy, Christian…” I warn.

“Cardio is good to build the immune system and help sweat out some of the toxins. Trust me, I’m fine.” He leads me to my bedroom door. “Now, I want you to go and take a hot shower, put on some clean, comfortable clothes, and go. See. Your children.”

“Christian, I can’t,” I protest. “You’re probably very contagious and I don’t want to make the babies sick.”

“This is why you’re taking a hot shower to be safe,” he says. “There’s hand sanitizer everywhere and if it makes you feel better, wear a mask, but I know what kind of day you’ve had, and I know that you need to see your children. I talked to Mom and she says that as long as you don’t feel anything coming on, the twins should be fine.”

“I don’t want to take any chances,” I whine.

“And in the meantime, you’re miserable,” he points out. “I thought you were going to kill me when I got out of bed this morning, and now I know why.” He takes my hands.

“Baby, our children are going to catch colds, and flu, and chicken pox, and heaven only knows what other childhood diseases, ailments, and injuries. So, let’s not make ourselves suffer when there’s nothing to worry about. Yes, I may transmit some germs to them, so I’m going to stay out of the nursery until I know that I’m well. You’re not sick. Go shower, clean clothes, sanitize your hands, and go spend some time with your babies. Remember, if you haven’t seen them in three days, they haven’t seen you either.”

God, I’ve been so concerned about not infecting them, it hadn’t occurred to me that we all may be suffering from a bit of separation anxiety. I sigh heavily.

“Go,” he says. “Hot shower—now.”

I don’t argue anymore. I go into my bathroom and step out of my clothes. I set my shower for as hot as I can stand it and get inside, scrubbing my body down like I’m about to perform surgery. I scrub my hair, my ears, under my nails… I even gargle with antiseptic mouthwash, just in case. After I don fresh clothes from my dressing room, I sanitize my hands all the way up to my elbows, then approach the nursery door. I’m still not certain about this, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I open the door and my nannies are playing with my children. Gail sees me enter and smiles widely.

“Well, hello,” she says, and looks down at Mikey. “Look who’s here. It’s Mommy!”

Mikey garbles some intelligible babbling sound, but I can’t tell what it is, nor do I care, because when he holds his arms out to me, all is right in the world.

“How’s Mommy’s precious boy?” I say, taking my son in my arms. He puts his hands on my face and gnaws on my jaw, baby slobber now dripping down my cheek. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.

“Oh!” Keri says, holding a wiggling Minnie. “Leettle Mees is nawt lahking da fack dat she nawt gettin’ de attention. We gonnah hat ta rectify da situation, Mah!” I giggle at the idea that my children are already exhibiting a bit of sibling rivalry. I take Mikey with me and sit in the window seat.

“Bring her to me,” I say. Keri comes over to the window seat and sits with me to assist in wrangling my children. Minnie is crawling across the seat and pulling herself up on my shoulder while Mikey continues with the baby-slobber-kisses. Christian was right—I may have needed some baby time in the worst way, but my babies need Mommy time, too.

The children are finally asleep after about an hour of playtime and I’m headed back to the bedroom to change my baby-drool shirt when I notice that there’s ambient lighting in the room. I open the door and find candles lit on every safe surface.

“What is this?” I say to myself, since Christian is nowhere in the room. I walk in and see my favorite vintage nightshirt lying on the bed. I want to eat… I don’t want to go to bed. I’m starving.

Almost in response to my complaints, my husband comes into the bedroom with a tray of food.

“I thought I was going to have to rescue you from the children,” he says, placing the tray on the nightstand. “Don’t worry, I was prepared to use the two-way. You’re still dressed,” he says examining me. “Get comfortable, your dinner’s getting cold.” He leaves out of the room and I’m a bit stunned.

Hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Change clothes!

I strip naked out of my comfort wear and slide into my nightshirt. I go into my en suite and run a brush through my hair a few times, dabbing a bit of citrus essential oil behind my ears. When I get back to the bedroom, Christian has returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

“What’s the occasion?” I ask, turning off the light to the en suite. I notice that he has a bottle of the yummy red we found in Napa.

“Nothing special,” he says, his pupils dilating as he examines me. “Well, besides you.” He reaches out to me and leads me to the bed. I climb on and he reveals a perfectly cooked filet mignon in mushroom sauce, asparagus spears with butter and garlic and fluffy, whipped mashed potatoes. The steak is so tender, I can cut it with my fork.

“Oh, God, this is delicious,” I say, savoring the flavor of the best cut of beef I think I’ve ever tasted in my life.

“Get comfortable,” he says. “I know it’s been a shitty day. How’s Harmony holding up?”

That’s when it hits me. He’s feeling guilty about what happened with Harmony, maybe even about not telling me. There’s really no need, but I’ve discovered that when Christian kicks himself about something, he really kicks himself. Me trying to reassure him that everything is okay would only make things worse. Besides, I’m getting the benefit of his guilty conscience.

“As badly as can be expected,” I answer honestly. “She’s going to need a close eye, so I’m coming up with some solutions for that.”

“Solutions like what?” he asks, filling a glass and handing it to me.

“Well, she’s going to have to mourn, but there’s too much to handle for her to wallow too deeply in the depths of despair.” I sip the wine and close my eyes. Dear God, that’s good.

“I did tell you that Tina made all of her own arrangements, didn’t I?” he asks, filling his own glass. I nod while taking a bite of an asparagus spear.

“Yes, but the siblings, the house, notifying people…”

We discuss Harmony situation for several more minutes while I finish my dinner. Christian tells me about talking to his father and Carl and trying to get Tina’s affairs as much in order as possible without disturbing the distraught Harmony. He also talks about what’s happening in Detroit—beginning to distribute Burt and Ruthie’s things among the family. He tells me that he emailed me a list of the things that hadn’t been claimed yet with instructions to look at the stuff and let me know if there’s anything that I wanted.

“You gave me enough rubies to open a jewelry store!” I exclaim. “What else could I possibly want?”

“Just take a look at the inventory,” he says. “There’s a lot of stuff—plenty to go around. Anything that the family doesn’t claim may very well rot in storage here in one of my warehouses.” I sigh.

“Well, that would be very sad,” I say, finishing my meal and savoring my wine. “Let the family decide what they want first. I’ll see what’s left.”

“You are the family, Butterfly,” he says firmly.

“Okay, duly noted, but I can guarantee that the rest of them didn’t get a priceless treasure trove of rubies.” He raises his brow.

“Good point. Look at the stuff anyway, okay?” he says, softly. I roll my eyes.

“Okay,” I cede.

“You better be glad I don’t spank you for that,” he warns.

“You’re not well. You can’t spank me,” I say.

“Mom came over and checked me out,” he retorts. “She says I should be right as rain by tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” I ask. “That’s only a couple of days. You were damn near dead on Sunday.”

“The average cold is only supposed to hang on for a few days, Butterfly,” he says. “The only reason it would hang around longer is if you don’t take care of yourself or you overdo it. You damn near chained me to the bed for two days and you shoved nearly every green, fibrous thing in my face that you could find. I thought I would sprout leaves! I got better care from you than I would have gotten had I gone to the hospital. Besides, Mom says I never held on to a cold more than three days in my whole life, even as a child, and this time is no different. I’m giving it the three days as usual, and Mom has agreed to check on me again tomorrow morning, but I’m up and Adam once she gives me the all clear—no back talk.”

I know I’d be wasting my time even if I tried, so I don’t bother. I also deduce from his description that his current doting may be partially due to the fact that I was so attentive to him and adamant about his care over the last two days.

“Did you cook?” I jest, sipping my wine.

“Not this time,” he smiles, “but in the interest of keeping my promise to you, I ate in my den and had your dinner delivered to the elevator so as not to spread my germs to the rest of the household. I did, however, spend some time in the gym after which the disinfecting squad damn near-cleaned the whole damn thing. That place is more sterile than an operating room!”

I scoff a laugh. I can only assume that Gail must have said something to the staff about my concern for the babies and everyone has gone into anti-germ mode.

“Dinner was delicious. Thank you,” I say sweetly. His “You’re welcome” and the gaze that accompanies it is full of desire and promise, but I’m still not sure about our faces being that close together. He moves closer to me and his hand travels across the skin of my calf, up my leg, behind my knee, up my inner thigh… I feel goosebumps rising on my flesh and my nipples are getting stiff under my nightshirt, which doesn’t get past my husband.

“Oh, that’s so pretty,” he croons, using his free hand to fondle a nipple outside of my nightshirt. Oh, dear God in heaven, it’s driving me crazy.

He abandons my aching nipple and takes the nearly empty wine glass from my hand. He continues to torment the sensitive skin between my thighs as he places the glass on the nightstand. He adjusts two pillows on the headboard behind me without moving his hands from my legs.

“Lie back,” he instructs me, his voice barely above a whisper. I instinctively do what he says, moving down on the bed, my body propped up only slightly.

Jesus, if he brings his face anywhere near mine, I’m definitely not going anywhere near my twins, but right now, I don’t think I care. My entire body is alight with need, fueled by the fact that this has been a fucking emotionally taxing day!

His hands move higher between my thighs and his fingers ghost over my outer lips. His mouth closes over my nightshirt and nipple, his teeth gently nipping the tender flesh. Ecstasy shoots up my spine straight to my scalp giving me a head rush. Dear God, I want this man so badly.

His finger slides inside me, circling in my inner walls while his mouth moves to the other nipple, teasing and tormenting it like he did the first.

“Ah!” I breathe as I close my eyes. I’m so hot that it’s painful. His lips move down my body outside of the nightshirt. I swear with the heat coming from his mouth, the damn thing might as well not be there, and I’m so wet that I can hear the moisture as his finger moves inside me. It’s almost embarrassing… if it wasn’t so damn hot.

“You are so fucking ready,” he groans. “I want to fuck you. I want to taste your tongue and kiss you until our mouths are both numb, but I know the recovery time is when a patient is the most contagious and you’ve been lucky enough not to catch my germs even though you’ve been the only person within 10 feet of me for the past 48 hours, so I won’t push my luck. But I will taste you. So, if you’re going to catch a cold in your pussy, so be it, but I’m about to eat you until I’ve had my fill.”

Good God, I’m about to explode.

He slides down my body and nestles himself between my legs. He has me positioned so that I can watch him while he feasts on me, and it’s driving me out of my fucking mind. Throwing one last hungry look at me, his head dips between my spread legs. He kisses my outer lips gently and runs his tongue over my hot clit before taking it into his mouth. My back arches to give him more access and his hands reach up and cup my breasts.

“Christian…” I purr sensually, thrusting my hands into his hair and losing myself in passion.

*-*

“I tried to prepare myself for it,” she says. “I knew it would be hard, but I kept telling myself to stay strong and I would be okay, but when it happened…”

I’m back at the Franklin mansion on Wednesday morning to check on Harmony. Of course, she’s not doing much better than she was yesterday—it’s too soon—but she has some business to take care of that no one else can do, decisions that have to be made. So, unfortunately, she has to get herself in gear.

The girl is completely waterlogged. I don’t know how I’m going to convince her to get it together to start taking care of her business. Not only that, but if Tina’s biological children show up and she’s looking like this, they’re going to roll over her like an 18-wheeler.

“Harmony,” I begin, trying to find my words, “I know that you want to mourn, and that’s okay, but there’s so much that has to be done.”

“My mother just died!” she snaps.

“I know,” I remind her. “Is she still at the morgue? Has the funeral home picked her up? When do you plan to have the service?” She lifts her head from her mother’s bed and gazes at me.

“Oh… yeah…” she says sadly. “I guess that does all fall on me, doesn’t it?” I nod as I rub her arm.

“Yes, dear, it does… but I’m here for you, and Courtney’s going to come and help out, too. We need to get you some food, though. I’m sure you haven’t eaten. Why don’t you go take a shower, freshen up, and we’ll come up with a game plan, okay.” She nods sadly.

“Thank you, Ana,” she says. She drags herself off the bed and goes through a door that connects the rooms. I sigh heavily. This is going to be a long and tedious process.

While Harmony is in the shower, I summon Windsor to make her something to eat then go downstairs to talk to the security team.

“Who’s in charge here?” I ask.

“Mr. Taylor, ma’am,” one of the guards says.

“Who does he have in charge when he’s not around?” I prod.

“The supervising guard on shift,” he says. “It’s different for each shift, but right now, it’s Filmore.”

“How can I get in touch with Mr. Filmore?” He holds up one finger.

“One moment, ma’am.” He puts his wrist to his mouth. “Seager to Filmore… Mrs. Grey wants to talk to you, sir. She’s in the foyer… 10-4.” He moves his hand from his face. “He’ll be here in just a moment, ma’am.”

“Thank you,” I say, going back to the dining room to wait for Filmore. We’ll need a plan of action for when Tina’s children show up. Death turns human beings into horrible monsters and from what I’ve seen, they were horrible before Tina died.

“Mrs. Grey,” I hear from the foyer behind me. “I’m Stacey Filmore,” he introduces himself as he enters the dining room.

“Yes, Mr. Filmore, everything’s fine. I’m sure you know by now that Tina Franklin has passed away. We expect to be overrun any second by her greedy children.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m aware of that,” he says.

“We can’t very well keep them from speaking to Harmony unless she requests it, but we can keep them from picking the house dry. Is there some kind of protocol that Jason has in place for when they show up?”

“Pretty much just to keep them out of the house and to take our cues from Ms. Franklin,” he says.

“Well, we’re going to need a little more than that…”

By the time we’re done, I’m wired with my own head and earpiece to call for assistance and Harmony will be, too. There are simple signals, codewords, and separate marching orders in case of extreme emergency. Jason will be briefed on the changes made to protocol and any adjustments that he suggests to the plan of action will of course, be welcome.

Courtney shows up just after Harmony has finished her shower, and I’m pleased to know that the two girls have previously formed a bond while working together at the Center. This is a welcome surprise as Harmony is going to need all the support that she can get right now.

“You look a whole lot better,” I tell her once she has freshened herself. “You’re going to be fitted with an earpiece so that you can summon security in case of emergency… while…”

“While the vultures are near,” she finishes. I nod.

“We’re on the same page,” I say.

“I guess I’ll have to make arrangements for my own security soon,” she sighs.

“Don’t worry about that right now,” I comfort. “Baby steps. Courtney, take her to the kitchen and see if Windsor has had anything prepared for her to eat.” Courtney nods and puts her arm around Harmony’s shoulders.

“C’mon, Money,” she says, “let’s see if we can fatten you up a bit.”

“We’ve had this conversation, Court,” Harmony says.

“Eh, we’ll still try,” Courtney says, and they disappear through the foyer.

What conversation?

That’s a fire for a later time. I wonder if Christian has flown the coup yet? My clit begins to throb thinking about how he licked and sucked and fingered me to two insanely cosmic orgasms last night. Focus, Grey, focus!

I pull out my cell and dial Marilyn’s number.

“How are things?” I ask. “Any fires, floods, or hurricanes that I need to tend to?”

“No, nothing,” she says, blandly. “I’ve been going through your family tree trying to check things out, but there are no hits on anything. I hate to tell you, but I think your bio-dad’s family may have written you off when you became a Steele.” I twist my lips.

“Don’t spend too much more time on it,” I tell her. “If they want to get in touch, they now know that I’m alive. It’s not like I need any of them anyway.” This whole situation with Harmony has shown me one very important thing if nothing else. Blood does not make family. Love does.

“Will do,” she says. “I don’t really have the strength to deal with rejection.”

“How goes your other situation?” I ask. She sighs.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” she says.

“Have you at least told Gary?” I pry.

“Yes, I told Gary,” she says, impatiently. “I mentioned terminating the pregnancy—not even that I was making that decision, just that it was one of the options—and he went ballistic!” she exclaims. “He won’t even discuss it. It’s like he’s completely taking my options away. This is my body.”

“Remember that conversation we had about how many people this decision would affect?” I remind her. “Ultimately, you’re right. It’s your body and it’s your decision, but I’m sorry to tell you that you’re not going to come out of this unscathed.

“Obviously,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I respect that,” I tell her, “but you do need to make a decision…”

“Ana, I’m only going to say this once, so I need you to hear me,” she says. “I know the clock is ticking and that I have to make a decision soon so that I can make whatever preparations that need to be made. However, I reserve the right not to talk about this and talk about this and talk about this. All concerned and respected parties will be notified once I make my decision, okay?” I twist my lips.

“You won’t hear another word about it from me,” I vow.


A/N: 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.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking 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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Do You Need To Talk?

Hello BronzeGoddessvillers,

It used to be BronzeGoddessvillians, but that sounded like you were all my minions for evildoing, so I changed it (there’s that squirrel again… I digress).

My story deals a lot with mental issues, anxiety, depression, even suicide (Edward David, although he just did it because he was a coward), postpartum issues, menopause, etc. I’m very happy to see that people connect with one another on these issues, but I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t realize it was so rampant. I, too, have felt like I was in this little bubble and I just had to deal with it.

Seeing all of the posts from the last chapter, I felt like I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just ignore the fact that there were so many of my readers having the same problems that I was. My first impulse was to create some kind of support group. The only problem was that support groups need some kind of platform—like Facebook—and not everybody is on Facebook, not to mention that there is absoposilutelytively NO TIME in my schedule to monitor a group or expand social media to that effect.

But I still couldn’t ignore the issue.

A lot of people comment on my story and not everyone is dealing with mental illness or some kind of issue like that, so unfortunately, not everyone wants to read those comments. However, I know first hand that people need to have someplace where they can talk about this, and you guys seem to feel comfortable talking over here… AND APPARENTLY THERE’S A LOT OF US… SERIOUSLY! 

So, this is our thread.

This thread is specifically for those of us who wish to discuss those issues we are going through and those who are sympathetic to our plight. This way, if someone sees a comment, issue, or question in this thread or along these lines that they don’t want to get involved in, they don’t have to, but those who want to partake in this mini-support-thread can please feel free to do so.

THREE RULES:

NUMBER ONE: This is not just about mental illness. I’ve discovered that my readers have been dealing with chemotherapy, dialysis, horrible divorce, my husband died, my family’s nuts, I want to come out of the closet, fill in the blank. You got something on your chest, let’s talk.

NUMBER TWO: This is not just for women. I know that I have some male readers even though they may not be that verbal all the time. Come on over, kick of your shoes, pull up a seat, and let it go.

NUMBER THREE: This is the most important one…

THIS IS A JUDGMENT-FREE ZONE! If I see anyone saying anything cruel, mean, judgemental, or disparaging to anyone or about any plight in this thread or using this thread to take any kind of cheap shots, I will give you “das boot” faster than you can finish typing your comment. 

Let’s see if we can use this thread to uplift one another, and those who don’t wish to take part, it’s okay. I totally understand. If you felt before like you didn’t have a voice, we want to hear your voice here.

Welcome to the Band-Aid Thread.

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 63—Out of Alignment

So, you’re getting two chapters because neither of these could really stand alone without an interruption in flow. For those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving.

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 63—Alignment Shift

ANASTASIA

We’ve both come fantastically, but my husband’s hard dick is bobbing in my face right now, and if I can get a repeat of what I just got, I’m all for it! I gently wrap my lips around the head of his cock and lick. He hisses loudly.

“I haven’t picked a card yet,” he protests.

“Then hurry up and pick one,” I chastise. I can feel him frantically reaching over to get a card.

“Slide down and ride that dick,” he says, his voice raspy. “Reverse cowgirl.”

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He puts the card face-up on the floor near his hip so that I can see it. I slide down his body and take his dick in my hand. I guide his head to my opening, still tender and pulsing a bit from my orgasm, and slide down onto him.

“Ssssssssssss! Aw, shit!” he hisses as his fingers caress my hips. I begin to move back and forth over his dick and his fingers never tighten. They only slide with my hips.

“That’s it, baby,” he says, his voice a harsh whisper. “Just like that… ride that dick… fuck that cock…”

He doesn’t move. He just lets me ride and I can feel him getting harder and fatter inside of me as he exclaims several expletives throughout the five minutes. When the timer goes off, he doesn’t make a move.

“Pick a card,” I taunt, still fucking his growing dick.

“Fuck!” he hisses and reaches for another card.

“Stop… stop for a minute,” he begs, “I need to think.” I stop rolling my hips and he’s damn near breathless on the floor. “I don’t know how we’re going to do this one.” He shows me the card and it’s The Sitting V. You normally need a counter or table to pull this one off. I look over at the loveseat and see the highest point in the room that won’t leave me with a bruised or impaled ass.

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“The arm of the loveseat?” I say.

“We’ll give it a try,” he says, slapping my ass, signaling me to get up.

Yeah… no.

We tried everything to get that position right. What’s supposed to happen is that my but is on the edge of a counter, my legs over his shoulders and my hands behind his neck. He supports my back and he just fucks me that way. We tried. We really tried, but he’s too tall to stand and too short to kneel to get the position right. We even tried crouching, but he couldn’t get an angle where his knees didn’t hit the side of the sofa. By the time we try every unsuccessful variation of this position, we’re caught in fits of uncontrollable giggles and realize that we had never set the timer. We throw in the towel on The Sitting V and pick another card.

The T-Position

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“Now we’re talking,” Christian croons as he pulls me from the loveseat back onto the floor. “Lie back,” he instructs me. When I do, he slides between my legs on his side—perpendicular—and lifts my leg over his hip. While I’m trying to figure out how this is going to work, he pushes my other leg away from him so that they’re spread open wider but he’s not lying on my leg. Then he slides into me.

Holy. Cow. Batman.

“There it is,” he says as he begins that masterful stroke that has me rising in a matter of seconds. “Now, we’re back on track.”

He bends his knee so that my leg drapes over his thigh and now, he’s not only free to move his hips, but his hand is also free to caress me as he’s doing this perfect sideways thrust into my core. He’s caressing my thighs and my stomach, kissing my skin wherever his lips and tongue can reach, and I nearly can’t stand it.

I can’t even think of a French exclamation, and I really need one right now.

I open my mouth to get some fair into my lungs and look down at my husband. He’s gazing at me all victoriously, a half-smirk on his face as his body rolls into mine over and over in a perfect water wave, his dick sliding so deliciously in and out of me causing the perfect amount of friction. I reach up and grab my breasts and close my eyes, lost in the perfection of this position that we’ve never tried before. When I open them again, my husband’s expression has changed. He’s still gazing at me, but he’s licking and biting his lips and grasping my leg hard.

“You look so fucking hot,” he says as he plunges into me, his stroke now deeper and seeking his own pleasure while fueling mine.

“Christian!” I breathe, “please…”

“Please, what?” he hisses, grinding and rolling and thrusting his hips into mine, the task seeming harder and harder for him. Yeah, please, what? I don’t know. I groan and fall back onto the floor, welcoming the delicious burn in my core and allowing him to push me higher and higher as he grunts with each thrust.

DING!

I blindly reach for the scattered cards and pull one. I can’t even see it through my passion-induced haze, so I just shove it in Christian’s face. He reaches over and grabs a handful of cards then, wrapping his arms around me, he rises effortlessly from the floor and carries me to the loveseat—with his dick still inside of me. He sits down with me on top, straddling him and just begins to fuck me. I wrap my arms around his neck and ride along with him. His hands are all over me—my back, my ass, my hair—he’s kissing me passionately and loving me deeply. I try to give him back what he’s giving me, running my fingers through his hair, caressing his cheek and chest, kissing him deeply. When his arms slide around my waist, I know that we’re both in passion and chasing the orgasm again. We both groan when the timer goes off and Christian pulls a card from the small stack next to us.

“We’ll change the timer to ten minutes, okay?” he breathes, his voice thick with arousal. I nod and wait anxiously for him to show me the next card.

“Somebody somewhere likes us,” he says, showing me the card. It’s Standing Sex. And again, he lifts me effortlessly and stands to his feet, continuing his stroke right where he left off. Now, we’re both fighting an orgasm and this round has to last ten minutes. I wrap my arms around him and just enjoy the ride.

“Don’t come. Feel the pleasure,” I coach myself inwardly. My body is bursting with sensation all over and I want to come so badly, but I simply can’t let it end yet. It feels too damn good. I know my husband is having the same thoughts and his stamina is much stronger than mine, but he feels so good inside of me that I release a mournful groan that has his knees wobbling and causes him to nearly lose the fight.

“Damn, baby, you’re too fucking sexy!” he exclaims, his face buried in my neck as he pounds into me.

“So are you,” I breathe. “You’re so big and you feel so good…”

“Fuuuuuuuck!” he groans loudly, and I feel him still and pulsing inside me. I thought he came, but he only stops momentarily and starts to thrust again, harder and deeper. The inner coach is somewhere taking a break and I feel myself rising higher and higher…

DING!

“Fuck, that shit was close,” Christian confesses breathily. He sits back on the loveseat with me on his lap and pulls another card.

“And it’s about to get closer,” he says as he shows me another card.

Doggy style.

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Fuck!

I rise off of him and get into position on my knees over the loveseat.

“Fuck, baby,” he says, looking down at me, “I think this is about to be a wrap.”

“I tend to agree with you,” I say.

He falls into position behind me and slides easily inside me.

“Fucking hell!” he says, grabbing my hips and thrusting hard into me three or four times. Oh, shit! I’m startled when he stops, takes a few deep breaths, then begins to move in a long, slow stroke.

Oh, hell. Mr. Grey is going to draw this out.

I try to get my mind ready for the onslaught of pleasure that’s about to come over me, but nothing could have prepared me. His slow stroke intensifies when his grip tightens on my hip and one hand flattens on my back. I open my mouth again to get air in, but I can feel the dew forming on my skin. It won’t be long now.

“Baby, fuck,” he groans, and his whole body is over mine, his hips thrusting his cock deliciously into me. My labored breathing becomes whimpers with each thrust and my body is aching to come now. I don’t want to fight it anymore, but my stubborn brain won’t let go. He licks the dew off my back and his hand grasps my shoulder while the other is flat on the loveseat next to mine, supporting his weight.

“Oh, God,” I protest when he licks my skin again, finishing with an open-mouthed kiss on my back. I shiver and release a breath, begging my sweating body to let go so that I can come.

“Fuck, I need you,” he growls. “I need you so much.” His hand dives into my hair and he roughly twists my head to the side. I cry out from the surprise more than the pain and he slams a bruising kiss onto my lips, his tongue plunging into my mouth. I almost collapse on my arms as my body shivers and aches. He begins to moan shamelessly into my mouth and my body signals that if he releases, I can let go.

“Oh, fuck, no, no, not yet!” he chastises aloud as his dick pulses inside of me. Again, I think he comes, but much to my dismay, he doesn’t. There’s no insane wetness to indicate his ejaculation and only moments later, he’s thrusting into me again. “Fuck, so close… so fucking close.”

“If you let go, I’ll let go,” I breathe, not willing to tap out yet.

“No… no… not yet… too fucking good…” he pants as he continues to thrust into me. I moan inwardly. I want to come so badly, I could cry, but my stubborn brain won’t let my body release before he does, and his body is fighting the feeling because it’s too good.

“Fuck, baby, my dick is burning,” he confesses as he reaches around and pulls my nipple, still drilling into me.

“Oh, God, Christian!’ I protest as I fight to hold myself up against him. I close my eyes as his teeth sink gently into the meat of my shoulder. I shiver with delight, feeling my breast fall into and fill his large hand. He alternates between cupping it and gently caressing it to pulling my nipple until it’s taut and aroused.

DING!

Goddammit to hell, that was the longest ten minutes ever fucking known to man, and I don’t protest when he doesn’t stop fucking me. I can’t take it anymore. I need to come again… seriously!

“This is the last one,” he groans. “I need to come inside you.”

“Okay,” I pant, breathlessly.

“You pull,” he commands, still fucking me and pulling on my nipple. I nod and reach for the cards on the loveseat. When I pull the card for the next position, I know it’s going to be a problem…

Yab-yum.

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That’s our connection position, and this has the potential to be dynamic… or disastrous. I’m spent and aching for an orgasm and can’t be responsible for what comes of attempting this feat, but nonetheless, we agree to try it.

I thought the position would be awkward sexually, but my husband has a goddamn Olympic-length dick. So, when he sits lotus-style with his back against the loveseat, I sit in his lap facing him with my arms and legs around him. He guides his cock to my core and they have no problem finding their counterpart. It’s not the deepest penetration that we’ve had, but it feels good… really good… in more ways than one.

The intimacy that I feel is amazing! Yes, my core is still on fire and in a secondary kind of way, I can still feel the pleasure of my husband inside of me… loving me, but something else is going on.

His fingertips caress my arm very softly, then my neck. Silver-gray eyes never leave mine. My hands slowly slide from his shoulders to his chest, my fingers spread far apart. I feel like that’s where they need to be. His arms slide around me, and his hands move to my upper back. He holds me close to him… not too close, but close… close enough to look into my eyes, close enough to breathe the same air…

And we begin to rock.

We rock and rock until we become acutely aware of the physical as well as the spiritual friction between us. The room fades away. Everything fades away for a moment except the sound of his voice…

You’re beautiful. You’re my life. I couldn’t survive without you.

You’re in my soul… in my blood… everything in me is you…

I live and breathe for you, only for you, my love…

I will take care of you…

I will love you for the rest of my days…

I don’t know where I am, and I only feel heat. I only see light. Heat and light. Well, more like warmth… warmth all over. I feel like some of my life’s energy is leaving me, and it’s scaring me.

Christian… please… help me…

I’ve got you, baby.

I want to wail, but I can’t, and I don’t know why—why I want to or why I can’t. I’m frozen somewhere outside myself and it’s scaring me to death.

Christian…

Butterfly… I’ve got you…

The explosion is cosmic—in my chest, in my head, all over me. Light blinds me completely, and I can even see it behind my closed eyelids. My body is trembling wildly, painfully, and I can’t stop it. Dear God, please make it stop…

This burst of… I don’t know, energy, maybe… is wracking my body. I feel like I’m in a room of nothing but blinding light, but I’m not alone. There’s a warmth wrapped around me, loving me, consoling me, and I don’t want to leave. I don’t know how long it lasts, but it seems like eternity. Slowly, very slowly, the light starts to fade. I can barely make out where I am. I hear crying.

I don’t open my eyes, but I’m now conscious of where I am. I’m sitting in my husband’s lap with my legs wrapped around him. My arms are pressed against his chest, my head back. We’re both drenched in sweat, hair dripping, sitting in the middle of the sitting room floor. My breathing is wild and gaspy and tears are streaming down my face, but the only sound I’m making are the gasps from taking in large amounts of air. My husband’s arms are clasped tight around me like a vice and his face is lying on my chest. He’s weeping. It’s his cries that I hear. I feel his sex pulsing inside of mine and the feeling is magical. I don’t want to move. I don’t want it to end. But the crying…

It’s obvious that we connected while we were having sex… or making love, I should say. Didn’t we do this once before? I don’t remember, but if we did, it was nothing like this. To say that it was powerful would be an understatement. To say that it was earth-shattering would be too cliché. There are no words for what just happened, no words at all.

*-*

“I heard you talking,” he says. “You were saying such… wonderful things… Everything you said, I feel about you.”

“I heard you talking,” I confess. “You were saying…” I swallow hard as I fight to focus. “I wasn’t talking,” I breathe.

“Neither was I,” he says. I’m afraid, but I can tell that he feels no fear. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s going on with us?” I say, my voice shaking.

“Only the best and most intense love known to man,” he says, brushing my hair from my face. “I never thought anything like this was possible in my life, definitely not for me.”

“I’ve never felt or known anything like this… ever,” I admit. “I’m afraid that…” I trail off.

“That what, baby?” he asks.

“That if one of us dies, the other won’t survive,” I finish.

“I already know that,” he admits, “so don’t die.”

We sleep in very late the next morning, saving our appetites for the housewarming party that was sprung on us somewhat last minute. Unlike many gatherings before, this will not merely be family and close friends. Many of Val’s former co-workers will be there as well as some of Elliot’s staff—along with their significant others. Val says that many people asked about her and just wanted to check on her, so she thought showing off her new home was a good way for them to see just how well she’s doing—friends and haters alike. Elliot proclaimed that he wanted a few of the slackers to see “how it’s really done” and he and only the best of the best did the work on his house.

I don’t know anybody there except the family and I’m certainly not trying to impress anyone, so I just don my Freddy jeans and a black oversized cashmere turtleneck sweater. Me being me, I anchor the simple ensemble with Valentino black leather stiletto boots with bow embellishments up the back. No fancy jewelry needed—just my wedding and engagement rings, and my hair is in a messy loosened side braid. Christian is similarly dressed in a pair of black jeans, a white cashmere sweater and black suede ankle boots. I’m going to be helping Val as much as she’ll let me, so we pack an overnight bag with plans to stay until tomorrow.

When we get to my sister and brother-in-law’s home, I admit that I expected the outside to be grander than it is. It looks like a big yellow box and I’m thinking to myself, “Why didn’t they do something more to this?” Elliot is an architect, so… why the massive understatement?

949942852ac3d3397dc9295fe5d61cf9“It’s yellow,” I say to Christian a bit dismayed as we drive up the driveway.

“Yep, that it is,” he says matter-of-factly.

“And it’s stucco,” I continue, my distaste evident. My husband’s extended silence causes me to look over at him.

“You might want to get it all out now,” he says. I frown.

“Get all what out?” I ask.

“Your criticisms,” he states.

“I’m not criticizing!” I declare.

“You don’t have to convince me,” he says, “but if you go into this woman’s house with that tone, she’s likely to put you out. I would.” My mouth falls open.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask affronted.

“No offense, Butterfly, but did I stutter?” he asks. “You haven’t even gotten out of the car yet; you haven’t rang the doorbell or greeted anybody, and the first two things you say about the house are critical.”

“I wasn’t being critical,” I excuse. “I was just making observations.” He twists his lips and stares at me.

“Okay,” he says and proceeds to open the door.

“Don’t placate me, Christian…” I begin, and he turns around and cuts me off with a finger pointed at me.

“I’m not going to fight with you,” he says flatly with no malice, “least of all, about this. We’re here for a housewarming party at my brother’s house—your sister’s house. We’re going to go inside, eat some food, hang out with our family and friends and enjoy ourselves. And we’re not going to argue about the yellow house. Comprende?”

I narrow my eyes at him and say nothing. He opens the door and exits the car.

“I speak French, not Spanish,” I say when he turns back to me.

“And yet, you understood what I said,” he points out as he extends his hand to help me out of the car. I glare up at him and scramble out of the car without accepting his hand. The pause behind me can be heard across Lake Washington. After hearing nothing but my heels clicking on the concrete for several seconds, I hear the door slam behind me.

He’s mad.

Can you blame him? He called you out for acting like the quintessential snob and you get all pissy about it.

I don’t need this shit from you… or him. I didn’t do anything wrong.

“How’d I know you’d be the first one here?” Val says when she opens the door. “You even beat the Queen.”

“Well, I’m closer than he is,” I say, breezing into the room and undoing my coat while kissing her on the cheek.

“Wow, chilly,” she says.

“It’s not that cold,” I say, handing my outerwear to a gentleman standing there waiting for it. “You’ve got staff,” I smile.

“Besides a temporary cook, just for today,” she replies, “and I wasn’t talking about the weather.” My brow furrows and hers rises expectantly. We have an entire wordless conversation where I ask what the hell she’s talking about, then she asks what’s with the chilly attitude, what’s going on. I end the conversation by waving her off.

“Show me the house,” I say. She raises her brow again.

“Don’t you want to wait for Christian? We can show it to you both at the same time,” she points out. I shrug.

“Doesn’t matter,” I say as I walk into the house.

“You drinking?” she asks, and I nod. She uncorks a bottle of Cabernet from the kitchen wine rack. We talk a bit about the portion of the house that I can see from here. The vestibule opens right into the kitchen and dining room with the living room actually facing the back of the house and Lake Washington, much like ours. The living room and dining room are all glass walls and doors. Three sets of double doors make up the far wall that faces Lake Washington, and two more sets make up the westward facing wall along with large plate glass panes. A large patio wraps around the back and side of the house showcased by the glass walls.

The kitchen is a chef’s kitchen with stained oak cabinets and high-end appliances, including a five-burner stove in the island of the breakfast bar. Of course, the living room has a gorgeous natural gas fireplace and I’m already drawn to sit in one of the comfy oversized chairs and stare out at the lake for hours, forgetting my troubles like snippy husbands who become all sensitive about yellow stucco houses.

“I’m taking gourmet cooking classes,” Val says, interrupting my thoughts and placing a glass of wine in front of me. “Maybe you can help me out with some pointers and recipes.”

“Absolutely!” I beam. “Did you cook anything for the party today?” She shakes her head.

“No, I wanted the food to actually be edible,” she jests. “Besides, I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been a little dizzy lately, but that’s to be expected after brain surgery.” I frown.

“You don’t think…” I trail off. If there’s any possibility that her cancer is returning, I want her to get a jump on it the moment it rears its ugly head. I will not lose my sister.

“I don’t know,” she laments, “but I don’t think so. There’s been no hint of Meg in any of my cat scans…”

Meg?” I say, bemused.

“My tumor,” she says. My face is the picture of horror.

“You named your tumor?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says. “I gave it an identity—a dark intruder that needed to be kicked out of my body. She’s an unwanted passenger and I’m kicking her off the bus. It’s a way of taking control of an uncontrollable situation. You diminish the power of the tumor by giving it a name. You’re the doctor, here, Steele. You should read up on this. It’s a very common practice.” I shake my head.

“I’ll take your word for it,” I say. “There are too many facets of medicine for me to be able to cover them all. Oncology and the philosophies that surround it are way too much for me, but if there’s anything that I need to know to be supportive to you, please tell me.”

“Just ask me every so often how Meg is doing,” she says. “If I tell you that she’s still on vacation, we’re good. If I ever say that she’s making an appearance, then it’s time to put our war clothes on.” I nod.

“So… what now? What about Elliot?”

“Oh, dear God, he was ready to take me to the ER,” she replies. “It’s just a little dizziness. It comes with the territory, but I totally understand his concern, especially since I unconsciously hid Meg for something like six months or so. To that end, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.”

“Do you really want to wait that long?” I ask. “What if Meg really has made another appearance?”

“Then a couple of days really won’t matter, Sis,” she replies. “I need to see my neurologist first, tell him what’s going on, and take the proper steps. If it turns out that Meg is rearing her ugly head, then I’ll go back to the oncologist and we’ll come up with a plan of action. It’s that simple. Now, please, let’s not dwell on it. I want you to tell me how lovely my house is—don’t make me fish for compliments, and if you don’t like it, lie.” She concludes that portion of the conversation with a smile. Just as the conversation changes, Elliot comes into the kitchen.

“I heard the doorbell,” he begins. “Where’s Christian?” Before I could formulate a lie as to why I’m present without my loving husband, Christian comes into the house with our overnight bags. Geez, there were just two bags and his laptop. What took so damn long?

“Dude, what were you doing out there? Did you guys come in separate cars?” Elliot asks the question for me.

“Nope,” my husband quips. “Just separate minds.” He drops our bags on the floor

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

“Oookay,” Elliot says. “Well, I’ve got just the thing for you,” he adds, taking Christian’s coat and handing it to one of the staff. “My very own man-cave stocked with food and refreshments—even beer for those who want to partake. Martin, can you take those bags to the big guest room, please?” He says to the same gentleman who took Christian’s coat. “Come, brother, let the woman fawn over the house whilst we go grunt and scratch ourselves.”

“Lead the way, Bro,” Christian responds, putting his arm around Elliot’s shoulder and, without even looking in my direction, disappears to parts unknown with him. I twist my lips. It’s going to be like that for the evening, is it? I turn to Val

“Well, I guess you can show me the house now.”

*-*

Five bedrooms and five bathrooms in two separate living quarters; nearly 4000 square feet and the lakeside of the house on all floor boasts glass walls or large windows.

In addition to the open great-room-living area, there are three bedrooms on the first floor—the third has been converted to a small home office—a laundry room, and a wine closet. The master bedroom has a view of the lake and the other two rooms are on the east side of the house and only slightly more modest. The master bedroom and second bedroom both have en suites and walk-in closets. There’s also a powder room on the main floor.

It’s listed as a two-story home, because the front of the house is two stories. However, there are three floors as the back of the house reveals that the main story is actually a sublevel.

The second floor is a mother-in-law apartment boasting two terraces on the lakeside of the house and one larger terrace on the east side of the house. It has a separate entrance from outside that opens into another great room—living room, dining room, and kitchen—with more modest furnishings than the main floor. You can access one of the terraces from the dining area of this room, which also boasts a glass wall, as well as a powder room with a shower. Both the upstairs and downstairs kitchens have granite countertops.

The two upstairs bedrooms are connected by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom. The larger terrace can be accessed from one bedroom while the smaller can be accessed from the other.

The third floor is the man cave, Elliot’s workout space, and a small area for storage. It also accesses the full party terrace. We didn’t go up there.

From the front of the house, you can see the 800-square-foot garage and six-car parking spaces inside the security gate. A trail to the right leads to a jungle patio much like ours and a cement water fountain. The trail continues through beautiful landscaping and concludes at a 60-foot dock and a whole lot of private waterfront, which will most likely just be for viewing and swimming since Elliot has no desire to own a boat.

The house is really beautiful and quite spacious on the inside—nothing like my house of course. Then again, not everybody can, nor do they want to, live in the obscenely ginormous brick house with the swinging wrought iron gates that is Grey Crossing. It’s hard not to compare other houses to the magnificent edifice that I call home, but I guess I better stop doing that.

Val tells me that the house is condo, so they only purchased the house from the studs in. The Home Owners’ Association is responsible for the outside and the grounds. I didn’t even know that you could buy houses that way—I thought you could only buy condos that way… you know, apartments. I ask why she didn’t just buy a house, and she says that they want to build their own, so until they can do that, this location will do nicely.

Just as I’m singing the praises of Val and Elliot’s home and its amenities, careful to leave out the yellow stucco, her guests begin to arrive. Of course, Allen and James arrive first after Christian and me. Grace and Carrick aren’t too far behind. After them, many of Val’s former coworkers join the party followed by some of Elliot’s employees. When Maxie and Phil show up followed by Mia and Ethan, Val gives me the unpleasant task of going to the man cave to retrieve our husbands, her excuse being that this is the only part of the house that I haven’t seen. I roll my eyes and do as I’m told.

I make my way to the third-floor man cave—indeed! What a space this is. What happens if Val needs him and she’s all the way on the first floor? Does she send a messenger pigeon?

56238bd948e82c525d10a559c1148b31The first thing I see is a sign declaring the rules of the man cave, referring to things like scratching, belching, farting, and bacon—which are all allowed in the man cave. I enter the room and see my husband and his brother yelling at a large-screen television, and I know they’ve found a football game.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” I say, and they both rubberneck to me like they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

“Val sent me to retrieve you,” I add. “Most of your guests have arrived.” Elliot stands and frowns.

“Why did she send you all the way up here?” he asks. “She could have used the intercom.”

Interco…? I know why her sneaky ass sent me up here, but I don’t let on.

“She said she wanted me to see the man cave,” I confess, knowing that wasn’t her real motive. “It’s quite impressive, Elliot.”

“Thanks, Montana,” he says, smiling as he walks by me. “Stay put, bro. I’ll see if I can rescue any other unfortunate fellows. If I don’t come back, you’ll know that I was unsuccessful in my mission.” And away he goes. Christian sits on the sofa still watching the game without acknowledging my presence at all.

“So, you’re just going to ignore me?” I bark. He turns to me.

“Oh! Now, you’re speaking to me?” he asks incredulously.

“I was never not speaking to you, Christian,” I snap impatiently.

“You coulda fooled me,” he says, standing from the sofa. “Just like you, I don’t like being ignored, Anastasia, but you’re the one who threw down that gauntlet. I don’t know what’s wrong, but whatever it is, you need to get it in order.”

“There is no ‘right or wrong’ here…” I begin.

“Yes, there is, and you know it,” he says matter-of-factly, and then he glares at me as if he’s waiting for something. When I don’t respond, he turns away from me and starts to leave.

Say something, you twit! You’re acting like a spoiled, entitled, socialite bitch and I don’t like you very much right now.

“Christian I’m sorry!” I call out before he gets to the door. He stops and turns around.

“For what?” he asks. Oh, geez.

“For talking about the house that way and acting like a snob,” I reply. He twists his lips and shakes his head before turning to leave again. What? I said I was sorry!

“Christian!” I call out to him again. He spins around and closes the space between us in a few long strides.

“I don’t give a fuck what you said about this house!” he hisses quietly in my face. “The yellow stucco is ugly, but we don’t have to live here. What pissed me off is the way you treated me. You attacked me for simply telling you not to offend them in their own home. Then you snubbed me when you got out of the car like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. When your feelings of anger or displeasure are justified against me, I deal with them—that’s all I can do, but when you act like this…” He looks at me and points at various parts of me with disdain. “… This catty little thing that I can’t even find the words to describe, you can do this by yourself, because I’ll have no part of it.”

He doesn’t wait for me to respond. He marches out of the room and quietly closes the door behind him.

What am I supposed to do with that? I didn’t deliberately… but… shit.

And now, the Bitch is quiet. No sassy comments, no gloating, no unwanted advice… I guess she’s having no part of it either.

I go back down to the party, certain that Elliot was unsuccessful in “rescuing other unfortunate fellows.” I won’t be a stick in the mud. I’ll help Val entertain and I’ll have a good time. Hopefully, Christian will too.

Her friends seem nice for the most part. More than one of them have made comments about my husband or even tried to put the moves on him, but I keep the green-eyed monster at bay, determined not to make a fool of myself or to march over into a crowd of mixed strangers and “piss” all over my man—especially since it appears that he doesn’t want me to. I don’t know if, at this point, he’s ignoring me or I’m ignoring him. I know I’m avoiding him… I’m giving him his space.

After a while, I get my answer. I hadn’t noticed, but one or two of the single guys have been eyeing me all night. When one blatantly makes his move, I inform him that I’m married and that my husband is in attendance. When he asks who my husband is, I point to Christian who still isn’t making eye-contact with me.

“That’s your husband?” he asks incredulously. “He hasn’t said one word to you all night!”

“How would you know?” I ask affronted.

“I been watchin’, baby,” he says. “I been waitin’ for somebody to make a move or stake a claim and nobody did, so…” He shrugs. “I don’t mean to offend you, but with an ass like that and those sky-high fuck-me boots, I wouldn’t let you out of my sight.” He shrugs again and walks away.

I look over at my husband again who appears to be holding court with about six attentive listeners, male and female, and not even throwing a glance at me. He normally goes Neanderthal when somebody approaches me or tries to put the moves on me. This time, he didn’t even blink. I don’t even think he noticed.

I go to the kitchen and pour myself another glass of wine. I empty the glass just as quickly as I filled it, then pour another and empty that one, too. And suddenly, I’m exhausted. I’ve been smiling and laughing and conversing and being hostess #2 so that my beloved sister doesn’t overdo it, and now, I want to collapse somewhere and rest—alone. All by myself. In peace.

I look around and no one notices that I’ve left the party. Even my beloved sister is occupied with her previous coworkers. She looks very happy. Good. I quietly open the door to the patio and slip outside.

I welcome the cool air, and the silence. With the lights inside, nobody’s likely to see me out here. Solitude. I have to say that I’m glad to have it. I don’t know how long I’ve been smiling at people and making merry, but I’ve had enough. I sit on the chaise which luckily has an afghan thrown over it and snuggle in looking out at the water—the only thing that has never let me down. If I didn’t want to ruin my heels or freeze to death in the water, I’d walk across the grass, take off my boots, and put my feet in it. My blue savior…

A stranger noticed that my husband was ignoring me, but only because he was watching me all night waiting for his chance to make a move. Nonetheless, a stranger noticed that my husband was ignoring me. When I realized that, I suddenly felt like everyone in the room knew that he was ignoring me. I know that’s not true, but that could be why those who felt so brave as to approach him did so. They thought he was unattached.

A chill runs through me. I’m so fucking tired of feeling this way in some way or another—like something in my life always has to fucking be fixed! Give me a goddamn break!

But this does have to be fixed. I’m just too damn tired to fix it now.

Looking at the water now makes me think of Anguilla, the good and the bad. The promises we made to each other; the passionate love we made; me feeling like I wouldn’t be able to handle intense scenes; the first appearance of the nightmares; Christian screaming at me for answering his phone; all that goddamn candy; standing in the water and feeling it cleanse me…

Somehow, my mind drifts all the way back to when we met. God, I hated that guy, he was the most arrogant, spiteful, conceited son-of-a-bitch I’d ever met in my life. God, what an asshole! How someone could be so cold and unfeeling…

“You planning to jump in?”

Val’s voice jolts me out of my inner musings.

“Jesus, Val, you scared the shit outta me!” I scold.

“You didn’t hear me come outside?” she asks. I look behind me into the house, and it’s almost empty. How long have I been out here?

“You’re trying to kill yourself out here, huh?” she says, holding my coat out to me.

“I’m wrapped in an afghan,” I defend, taking my coat. “I’m not completely unprotected.”

“True, but I bet the coat feels better,” she says, and I have to agree with her when I wrap myself in its warmth. I pull my gloves out of the pockets and cover my hands, thankful for that warmth as well.

“Don’t forget your scarf,” she says handing it to me and I wrap it around my neck. We’re interrupted by one of her serving staff coming onto the patio with warm drinks—spiced lattes. They’re delicious, and very welcome.

“Now, tell me what’s going on,” she says. I raise my gaze to her, nearly begging her not to make me reveal the cause of my absconding, but she’s not going to relent.

“Sometimes, I just need a few moments to myself, that’s all,” I tell her, and it’s the truth. “I told you that Jason helped me realize that I’m suffering from PTSD…” She nods. “Well, there are moments when I need to talk it out, and then there are moments when I just need to sit in a quiet place.”

“So, is that what’s going on?” she prods. “You’re having a bout of your PTSD?”

“No,” the word is out of my mouth before I even have the chance to formulate a lie. “Your house is gorgeous. It really is, but that yellow stucco is horrendous. And when we drove up to the house and I saw that yellow stucco, my mouth and brain disconnected. I swear, I didn’t say anything horrible about the house, but my tone was enough to let Christian know that I was not pleased with the yellow stucco.”

“Is that what this is about?” Val says, unable to hide her mirth. “You two are bickering over the ugly yellow stucco?”

“Well, yes and no,” I reply. “He told me not to come in here insulting your house because you might throw me out. Then he said that if it were him, he’d throw me out, too—and I took offense to that. I can’t remember what all happened after that, but the situation just went south and… here I am. I’m just hoping that the situation will blow over and tomorrow, we’ll just be back to normal.

“It seems like I spend so much time exploring my feelings and looking out for everybody else’s. I filled the pages of three journals already—do you have any idea how much writing that is? And when I start to feel the angst of my situation, I’ll talk to anyone who’ll listen…”

Yes, I know,” she interjects, somewhat absent-mindedly. I raise my gaze to her again.

“Does it bother you?” I ask, disheartened. She’s probably heard the lion’s share of my troubles over the last week.

“Are you kidding?” she exclaims. “No! Of course not! Seriously, Steele?” and I think I may have offended her just now. Great… but I can’t focus on it at this moment.

“Day after day after day of rolling over my feelings, trying to be mindful of others so that I don’t say or do the wrong thing, and then nine times out of ten, the wrong thing flies out my mouth anyway. My shrink threw me out of his office yesterday. Did I tell you that?”

“No!” she says in horror. “Why did he do that?”

“Because I probably did the same thing to him that I just did to Christian,” I admit. “If my feelings are all a-scramble, apparently I mindlessly say and do things that alienate people from me.” I sigh and take a sip of the warming coffee, the only inner warmth I’ll probably feel for the rest of the night.

“Well, I only knew something was wrong because I know you,” she says. “You were the picture of decorum at the party tonight. Everybody really liked you.”

“I don’t think they would let on if they didn’t,” I say with a sad smile.

“I would know if they didn’t,” she reassures me. “I know these people.” I sip my coffee again.

“Wait a minute… You called it ‘ugly yellow stucco.’ You think it’s ugly, too?” I ask bemused.

“Well… it wouldn’t have been my first choice,” she replies. I roll my eyes.

“Then why don’t you change it?” I ask in horror. “You live here now!”

“Because like I told you, it’s condo!” she replies, restating the obvious. “I have full reign of the inside of the house, but the outside—nope. I can’t change the stucco, and the HOA requires that the houses all be some kind of uniform related color. The only other options I have are white, tan, or some other dreadful neutral color, so I’ll spare myself the expense and spend my money on the inside. Besides, yellow is the color of sunshine and I’ve psyched myself out to believe that it’s a beautiful blend with the trees when they’re green and with the blue water all year long.”

“Isn’t it exhausting looking on the bright side of the street all the time?” I accuse wearily.

“I have to, Steele. I’m a cancer survivor. I coulda been dead. For me, being alive, living and loving El, having all my family and friends over today to view my beautiful house… that is the bright side of the street.”


CHRISTIAN

The party is over. I’ve surprisingly made a few connections with people at Val’s job. I had no intention of networking, but when they found out who I was, it was inevitable—and surprisingly productive.

I lost track of my wife early in the evening, which is a bit of a good thing. I simply did not have time or energy for her childish behavior. When the party starts to thin, and Elliot suggests going back to the man cave, I jump at the opportunity.

“Well, this was an interesting night,” Elliot says, drinking his soda.

“Besides the obvious, how so?” I ask.

“Well, it depends on what you’re considering ‘obvious,’” he says. “For instance, when you say ‘obvious,’ do you mean the fact that you and Montana didn’t stay in the same area for 30 seconds? Or are you referring to the fact that when the company whore was hitting on you, she didn’t climb over furniture to scratch her eyes out? Or was it more obvious that you didn’t turn into Tarzan when that guy was hitting on her?” My brow furrows. Some guy was hitting on my wife? “And I take it by that expression that the last bit of information wasn’t so obvious.”

“Who was hitting on her?” I ask. Elliot shakes his head.

“What should concern you more is that I was entertaining and watching approximately 50 people today and I knew that you weren’t speaking to your wife. She was so friendly to everybody except you that you would have thought this was her housewarming. What the fuck, man? Is the honeymoon over.” I roll my eyes.

“The honeymoon’s been over for a long time, Elliot, but it doesn’t mean that I love her any less.”

“Then what gives, man?” he confronts again. “You two are generally inseparable at things like this, so much that only an idiot—like Lily—would dare hit on either of you, let alone someone approach both of you. So, what’s up with that?”

I’m still miffed that someone hit on my wife and I didn’t know about it. Why didn’t he tell me when it happened? How many people hit on her tonight that Elliot didn’t see? I know the felines were in rare form clawing at me tonight. I damn near had to beat one off with a stick. That must have been the company whore that Elliot was talking about. How many hounds were sniffing after my wife?

“Look, man,” Elliot says after I pause for a little too long. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. In all honesty, it’s really none of my business anyway. But if your Butterfly means as much to you as my Angel does to me, you better get to the bottom of this instead of letting it fester and hoping that it goes away… just like that fucking tumor.” I rubberneck over to him.

“What?” I ask. “Is the tumor back.”

“No,” he snaps vehemently, “not that we know of, now stop trying to change the subject.”

He clearly doesn’t want to talk about that subject and I hope he was just speaking in retrospect and Valerie’s tumor isn’t coming back. That was a hard time for all of us.

“Tell me, man. Who was hitting on my wife?” I ask.

“I don’t know the guy,” he says. “He either works at Angel’s old job or he was somebody’s plus one. Whatever he said to Montana, he was dismissed pretty quickly, and then I didn’t see her for the rest of the night.” The rest of the night.

“What? Did she go off with the guy?” I ask before my brain can catch up to my mouth.

“What the fuck do you think?” Elliot barks angrily. “Do you think that your wife and the mother of your two children went off somewhere with a strange man at a party that she never met before? Because if you do, then there’s a whole lot more amiss than you’re letting on. And the fact that you had to ask that question means that this conversation is over, and you need to get up, go downstairs and find your fucking wife!”

Geez, and he’s mad. And he’s right. I don’t know what even made me consider the possibility that Butterfly would do something like that. I really feel like shit for thinking that. She’s still beating herself up for letting that Liam fucker get too close.

“What are you waiting for?” Elliot snaps. “Directions?”

“Keep your shirt on,” I retort. “I don’t think my wife went off with somebody else. I’m just pissed that someone approached my wife and it wasn’t brought to my attention sooner.”

“Yeah, save that anger for yourself, because if you had been paying attention, nobody would have had to tell you. You were heading that guy Brian off at her adoption party faster than he could get the words out his mouth. Now this guy makes a move, moves on, and your wife disappears, and you want to blame somebody else for that? Shut up talking to me and go find your wife.”

“I’m not blaming…”

“Shut up talking to me and go find your wife!” he snaps. God! Okay! Damn! I stand up and walk to the door heading downstairs.

When I get to the main floor, Valerie is in the kitchen with one of the remaining staff, and there’s no Butterfly.

“So, where’s my wife?” I ask somewhat impassively.

“Sulking,” Valerie says with a shrug. My brow furrows as I await elaboration, and she points to the glass wall on the other side of the living room. There on a chaise just outside the glass is a mop of mahogany hair. I can’t see anything else. I roll my eyes, shake my head and sigh.

Why does this woman always seem to escape to the coldest part of the world when she needs to be alone? It’s November, in Washington, at two in the morning. Why the fuck is she on the patio? And ten will get you twenty that she’s asleep out there. Elliot appears just at that moment.

“Our lodgings for the night, good sir and madam?” I request.

“Through there and at the end of the hallway,” Elliot says. “It’s the biggest room besides mine and Val’s.” I nod and head for one of the sets of double doors. When I step out onto the patio, I take in the sight of my tiny wife. She’s snuggled in her coat and scarf and wrapped in another blanket so tight and so small that I can barely make out a body under there. Either she’s fighting the cold with a vengeance…

Or she’s shrinking.

“What am I going to do with you?” I lament aloud. I lean down to the chaise and gather her in my arms, blanket and all. She doesn’t even stir—and she’s warm, so it’s not the cold. When I cross the threshold back into the house, Elliot is waiting to close the door behind me.

“Thanks for a great party, you guys,” I tell them. “We’ll see you in the morning.”

“Not too early,” Elliot says with a nod and a smile. I acknowledge his request and carry my shrinking wife to our temporary boudoir. When I lay her in the bed, she shrinks again—so small and so tight that I can’t get her coat off. I can either wake her to get her coat off or just let her sleep. So, I remove her boots and let her stay there before taking my duffel to the en suite for a shower.

Gentle sunrays wake me in the morning and I immediately know that I’m not in my own bed—and that I’m alone. I dress in my workout gear and sneakers and take off for a run. She’s somewhere in the house, I’m sure, and I’ll talk to her when I get back.

I run through all the things I need to be doing today as my feet pound the cold pavement. For me, Sunday is just a day to prepare for the week ahead—meetings to be had tomorrow and mergers to discuss; acquisitions to finalize…

Smalls and his team will be on their way back to Detroit today and everything in the storage units will have a home or a destination by end of business, Friday. Anything that remains will be shipped back here by my shipping department and housed in one of our numerous warehouses. If anyone wants something after it’s been shipped here to be stored, they may have to pay some kind of fee for waiting so long to claim it unless there’s a really good reason for it. There’s nearly two weeks to decide if they want something on the list, and it’s all free!

The bed was empty when I awoke, so that means that Butterfly was already up and about. I didn’t see her anywhere when I left the house, and Elliot and Valerie were still asleep—or at least they hadn’t emerged yet. I don’t know how far I ran, but when my chest starts to burn, I turn around and start the trip back. Good Lord, it feels like my heart is going to explode. It’s most likely from the exertion and the cold air pumping through my chest. When I get back to the house, I take a deep breath and that aforementioned cold air stabs me in the throat. Shit, I need to warm up.

Imagine my dismay when I discover that the house has automatic locking doors.

I walk through the jungle garden to the back of the house to see if one of the patio doors are open and there I find my wife—in the same place I retrieved her from last night. If I couldn’t tell by the change of clothes, I would have thought she slept out here. She looks calm and serene and her eyes are closed. I then realize that she’s meditating. I won’t disturb her.

I go back to the front of the house and knock, hoping that someone besides Butterfly will hear me. Luckily, the woman from the kitchen the night before opens the door and looks at me expecting.

“Yes?” she says.

“I’m… Christian Grey. Elliot’s brother… I locked myself out when I went for a run.”

Her brow furrows, the realization dawns.

“Oh, yes! I’m sorry. Please come in.” She steps aside and lets me in. I have to say, warmth has never felt so good.

“Thank you,” I say. I peek out onto the patio. Butterfly wasn’t disturbed. That’s good. I have time to go take a shower and put on some clean clothes before I talk to her.


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

Pictures of Val and Elliot’s house can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/val-and-elliots-house-in-kirkland/

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 62—Rewriting History

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 62—Rewriting History

ANASTASIA

I have something for you,” he says once we’re in the car and we’ve dismissed Chuck and Jason. My husband pulls out a plain black shopping bag. From that bag, he retrieves a plain black box. He opens the box to reveal a stunning diamond and ruby bracelet.

“Wow!” I exclaim. This isn’t just any bracelet. We’re talking two rows of solid rubies with a row of diamonds in between all set in…

“Platinum?” I ask as he fastens the bracelet on my arm.

“White gold,” he says, “14 karat.” I sigh.

“Okay,” I breathe. He raises his gaze to me.

“What?” he asks as he reaches into the bag.

“I… I know it’s nothing for you to do extravagant things for me but… these rubies… they had to cost a fortune!” I’m truly relieved that he didn’t spring for the platinum and opted for the white gold. He smiles and opens another box.

“Oh, dear God!” I gasp. He removes the necklace with a drop pendant.

“Also white gold,” he informs me as he leans forward and attaches the necklace around my neck. Yeah! White gold… and a whole lotta diamonds! And rubies!

“Christian…” I say, a bit uncertain.

“There’s one more,” he says as he opens a third box.

Victorian teardrop ruby earrings encircled with diamonds… set in white gold, or course. I’m nearly breathless as he puts the first earring in my ear.

“I’m sorry the pieces are a bit mix-matched.”

“Are you kidding?” I protest as he puts the second earring in my ear. “They’re breathtaking! Who the hell cares that they don’t match?” I touch the necklace that lies daintily between my breasts. I don’t even want to think about how much money I’m wearing right now… And I thought my Chanel collections were pricy!

“There’s a reason they don’t match, Butterfly,” he says solemnly as he sets the bags to the side and takes my hand. “Each one of these pieces… belonged to my grandmother.” I frown.

“Your grandmother?” I ask confused.

“They were gifts from Pops… to Ruby.”

I swallow hard. I’ve really lost my breath now. These were Ruby’s rubies… Jesus.

“Baby?”

I’m choking on tears that I’m trying not to shed. I know that I won’t smear this million-dollar make-up, but I still don’t want to cry… and yet…

“Oh… God…” I choke. “They’re… beautiful!”

My husband produces his handkerchief and gently dabs my eyes.

“I’m… so… proud… that you… want… me… to wear… th… them…”

“Breathe, baby,” he says as he pulls me into his chest. I take slow deep breaths and try to compose myself. These pieces are more valuable than anything I own, not only in monetary value, but also in sentimental value.

“A year ago today, I stepped off a plane with more questions than answers,” he begins when my crying has subsided a bit. “I walked through the airport and saw one of my arch-enemies standing there looking at me with sympathetic eyes. I knew immediately that my life had changed forever.”

Has he ever told me this story? I don’t think he has.

“I don’t remember the ride to the hospital. I just remember getting there and some guy trying to convince me to talk to Dr. Hill before I saw you. I remember that it was Jason that convinced him that I would probably act like a temper-tantrum throwing toddler if he didn’t take me to my wife.”

He sighs heavily, and I know this is hard for him to discuss, but I don’t interrupt him.

“Dr. Hill tried to warn me that you were banged up pretty badly and that you wouldn’t look like yourself. All I saw was my beautiful Butterfly.” He reaches up and wipes a tear from his cheek.

“We talked about different things. He told me how bad your injuries were, and he used a lot of doctor speak. All I could really remember were your advanced directives and how much time I had left with you.”

Advanced directives? My advanced directives are 60 days. My due date was longer than that… were they going to let my babies die?

“Dr. Hill was trying to talk to me about options… about keeping you alive for Minnie and Mikey even if you didn’t wake up on your own, but I was in no condition to discuss that. I just wanted my wife back.”

Well, at least that answers my question. It may be a moot point now, but nonetheless…

“I read to you,” he says. “I read The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves…

Yes! I vaguely remember, somewhere in the fog of my slumber, Christian being displeased about the fate of the Gingerbread Man!

“And then twelve days later, God heard my prayers. You came back to me… only… you didn’t.”

I raise my gaze to his and watch the pain return to his eyes as he recalls my short bout with amnesia.

“That was a hard day or two,” he says. “Dr. Hill put me out of your room and I tried to get him fired. I loved when you asked him if he had gotten his medical license on Sesame Street.”

We both laugh softly at that comment.

“I remember that,” I said. “I just couldn’t believe his tactics. If I need to remember the familiar, why would you take the familiar away? It was beyond my understanding.”

“Well, you really put him in his place,” he says, chuckling. It’s brings some much-needed levity to the situation.

“I’m only saying that to say this,” he continues, stroking my hair. “This may not be the appropriate thing in the eyes of someone on the outside looking in,” he says, “commemorating the day that your whole world was turned upside down, that the rug was nearly snatched from under you and you had no idea how you would make it another day under the circumstances.” He sighs heavily.

“When I walked into that room and saw you lying there—seemingly lifeless, bruised and broken with all those tubes and machines, my entire world shifted on its axis. My whole family, my whole being was in that bed fighting for their lives. I remember praying for the first time in my life during that ordeal. I don’t know if it’s the first time that I prayed, but it’s the first time I remember praying. I didn’t care how you came back to me as long as you came back to me. I remember feeling that I never was and would never be anything without you.

“You changed my life, Anastasia. I didn’t wake up that day that you awoke. I awoke a year ago today. I awoke and realized that you and the babies are my purpose, my whole life. I know my behavior may not always show it, but you’re everything to me. I may still do some real bonehead shit, and we’re going to make mistakes—we haven’t gotten to the real doozies, yet—but no matter what happens, you are still my whole life. I’m still going to screw up, baby. I may not always get it right, and sometimes I may get it very, very wrong, but please… please, never forget that I’m nothing without you. You’re my whole heart and my whole soul and a year ago today, I could have lost that. This night was my rebirth… the day that I knew my purpose in life and why I was put on this earth. So, while some may think it’s morbid to commemorate the day that I could have lost my entire family, I find it necessary to remember the day that God showed me my purpose, no matter how difficult the circumstances were to bear.

“For that reason, I want to celebrate this day. I want to take away the bad meaning and the fact that a psychotic submissive nearly robbed me of my life and replace it with the fact that I discovered what you truly meant to me and you fought through a brain injury, through a coma, through a crazy doctor and through amnesia to get back to me. We were meant to be and whatever I may or may not know, I know that this day a year ago, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I belonged to you. I belong to Anastasia Grey.”

I climb in his lap and take his face in my hands. His arms slide possessively around my waist and I kiss him deeply. He groans as I melt into his body, feeding off of him. I pull my lips away from his and kiss him gently once more.

“And I belong to you, Christian Grey.”

*-*

We enter the restaurant and it’s quainter than I expected. I have to say that draped in diamonds and rubies, I expected to be at Canlis or some restaurant on the marina. Although I’m a bit overdressed, this is a pleasant surprise.

“Everybody’s staring,” I inform Christian.

“So?” he says. “Everybody’s looking at the gorgeous woman with the hot curves in the blue dress and wondering, ‘Who’s that dope on her arm?’” I giggle.

“That ‘dope’ is her gorgeous, hot husband,” I whisper to him as his hand slides to the small of my back.

“Hello, sir, ma’am,” a gentleman greets us. “Do you have a reservation?”

“We do,” Christian says. “It’s under Grey.” He looks at his appointment book.

“Right this way, sir,” he says and begins to lead us to a table.

“Um, can we sit at the bar?” I ask. The host looks at Christian who turns to me.

“Are you sure you want to sit at the bar?” he asks. I nod.

“Yes,” I say. Rubies or not, I want to feel like a normal person. Christian turns to the host and nods.

“Very well, sir.” Christian helps me off with my coat and the host pulls the stool out for me.

“Can we start you with something to drink?” he asks.

“A cosmopolitan, please,” I say.

“Um, I’m sorry ma’am, but that’s not on our drink list,” he replies.

“Well, can the bartender actually make one?” Christian asks. “I’ll pay him extra if he does it right and keeps ‘em comin’.” He raises a brow and suppresses a smirk.

“I’ll find out for you, and what will you have, sir?”

“May I see the wine list please?” he nods and leaves once I’m seated.

“I just want you to know,” he says, “I have no intention of behaving myself just because we’re sitting at the bar.” His words go straight to my core. I run my tongue over my bottom lip and bite it.

“I should hope not,” I reply huskily, and his pupils dilate wildly. He stands and moves his stool closer to mine. After climbing back into it, he turns to me and drapes one arm over the back of my chair, leaning in close to my face.

“Careful,” he says, his voice deep and full of desire, “you’re playing with fire.”

“Some like it hot,” I retort, raising my eyes to him but not my head. He clears his throat and shifts in his seat, adjusting his pants a bit. My eyes travel to his crotch and I can clearly make out the outline of his hardening cock through his jeans. My mouth waters. I can’t believe that after fucking like bunnies for two nights in a row, I could still spread him across this bar and fuck him right here!

“Behave yourself, young lady,” he warns.

“What’s the fun in that… Chris?” I reply. He chuckles and shakes his head.

“You are so going to get it…”

The gentleman comes back with my Cosmo and the wine list for Christian. He sets the Cosmo down and hands the wine list to Christian before turning back to me.

“The bartender wants to know if he got it right,” he says. I taste the drink and close my eyes, allowing the flavor to coat my tongue and the liquor to slide down my throat and warm my chest.

“Mmm,” I hum in satisfaction. “It’s perfect.”

The host stares at me for a moment, his expression unreadable, before he nods once and turns completely away from me to face Christian.

“Your choice, sir?” he says. His voice is scratchy, and he has to clear his throat and repeat himself. Okay… did I do something wrong?

“I’ll have a snifter of the A. E. Dor Napoleon and we’ll just do the classic wine pairings.” He hands the wine list back and smiles.

“Yes, sir,” the host says and leaves. Christian drops his head and laughs quietly.

“What did I just miss?” I ask, bemused. My husband raises amused sparkling gray eyes to me.

“That you’re a fucking siren even when you’re not trying to be,” he says leaning in closer to me again. “The entire time he was waiting for that wine list, he was covering his cock with his hand. You turned him on, baby.”

I glare at him with an expression of amused horror combined with disbelief.

“God, men are such simple creatures,” I say, tickled. Christian laughs.

“Most often, we are,” he confirms, “but baby, you’re hot.” He leans in and kisses me softly just under my earlobe. I will be if you keep that up.

“Scorching,” I breathe and take another sip of my drink to cool myself… and he has to adjust his pants again.

We feast on a stuzzichini presentation large enough to represent the meal on its own. We feed each other grape and melon, albacore, tonnato, grass fed beef crudo, pickled ramps, parmesan fermented potato and nasturtium crostata, coho roe, savory cannoli, sea urchin, with some sort of drink made with Campari, soda water, and something citrus. We never ate anything from our own hand, only from the other’s, and I don’t doubt that our sensual eating experience resulted in more than one pair of tight pants or moist panties in the restaurant.

As if the insane finger food weren’t enough, we ordered nearly everything on the seasonal menu and continued to feed one another. I ordered the meal combination containing hand cut pappardelle with a spicy ragù of tripe, ox tail, and goat’s milk pecorino, the house specialty bread with cultured butter and bagna cauda solids, and black cod and spot prawn cured on herbs. Christian ordered the dry aged duck breast with early winter roots and spicy pickled cherries and crispy braised pancetta with gorgonzola dolce, Adriatic figs and sage.

I decide to forego the concord grape sorbetto that comes with my meal and instead, opt to share Christian’s vanilla and rum panna cotta. It’s divine! By the time we get to the Amaro Montenegró affogato, I’m full to the gills and quite pickled. I’ve had about three… no, four different wine pairings, two separate liqueur concoctions, two and a half Cosmos, a sip of Christian’s brandy, and now dessert coffee with a liquor shot. Amazingly, I’m not falling down or stumbling drunk, but I’m pretty fucking high…

… And horny. If we don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to make good on my earlier thought of fucking him on this counter.


CHRISTIAN

She is surely ripe and ready. Every man in this place—and some of the women—have been eye-fucking her all night. Sorry, fellas, but she’s gonna be riding this dick tonight!

“I’m going to watch that ass while you walk away again,” I tell her, “so let’s go.”

She smiles coyly at me and slides off her seat. I retrieve her coat and fall in step behind her. Even though I know she’s fairly fermented, she walks in front of me with the grace of royalty, and the round, rolling ass of a stripper. I don’t even try to hide my erection or to divert my gaze. You have to be fucking dead not to watch that ass roll or to not have a reaction to it.

Just before we get to the door, I see a guy at one of the tables staring at Butterfly. Just as we approach, he glances at the hips. As she passes, I see him mouth “Damn” to his friend and his eyes meet mine.

He’s shameless. As I pass his table, he gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up combined with a “I wish it was me” expression.

I can’t be angry. I give him a single nod before helping Butterfly with her coat and leaving the restaurant.

“Calm yourself, Mrs. Grey,” I say as the limo pulls away from the curb and she looks at me with come-hither eyes. The last time we were in a limo alone together, it became a rolling fuckpad and we made the most of every damn inch of it.

“I’m hot, Chris,” she breathes, “and wet… and I wanna fuck.”

“And fuck, we will, just not now.” I close the space between us. “But I am going to kiss you until my lips are numb… or until we get to our next destination, whichever comes first,” and I descend on her.

“Oh, this is awesome!” she says as the limo pulls up to the Great Wheel. “I’ve never been on the Great Wheel and I’ve always wanted to go!”

She’s like a kid trying to get out of the limo to get on the ride. Again, the playfulness is refreshing… and arousing. I’m not really sure why, but Happy Ana makes me horny.

We stand in line with the other commoners trying to stay warm and snuggling with each other, giggling like teenagers and canoodling. We stand in line for about 20 minutes before we finally get to the front of the line, then we have to wait for the next ride as the family in front of us takes the last gondola. I pass the time nibbling on my wife’s ear and kissing her neck, making her giggle. Before we know it, we’re being directed to get into a gondola on the Ferris wheel—which is bigger than it looks, by the way.

We sit in the gondola and snuggle close to each other. The ride doesn’t start until all the gondolas are filled, but my giddy little drunk date is having fun waving at the people on the ground—none of whom can see her—and marveling over the view of the city.

“You behave as if you’ve never seen the city from this high before,” I say with mirth.

“Not from inside a little box! You can see part of the city from the Space Needle, but look,” she says gleefully while gesturing around the gondola, “it’s all around us!”

I can’t look at the city. I can only look at her. She’s finding such joy in this little thing and for some reason, it’s turning me on like mad! I think it’s the way that her eyes are twinkling, and her face is glowing. I know it would never happen because we’re so intense, but I would love to see her shining and laughing and happy like this when we’re making love.

The Ferris wheel makes a full revolution and I know that all the gondolas are full now and the ride is about to start. Just after the last gondola is closed and the wheel starts to spin, I turn to her and slip my hand into the split of her coat and between her legs, fondling her inner thigh.

Her eyes shoot to mine and she bites her lip, a coy smile playing with her mouth. My hand travels further up her thigh, avoiding her core but taunting the tender skin of her inner thigh just enough to drive her wild. Her breathing quickens as her chest rises and falls with her arousal.

“You’re missing the ride,” I caution. She looks past me out at the view, but only for a few moments before her gaze floats back to mine.

“No, I’m not,” she says seductively, and I catch her double meaning.

“You’re hot,” I inform her as if she didn’t already know.

“Yes, I am,” she concurs.

“Are you wet, too?” I ask.

“Why don’t you see for yourself?” she taunts.

I move my hand up to her core and stroke the outside of her panties—only once.

“Yeah, you’re wet,” I croon. Her brow furrows.

“You know that from one touch?” she queries. I shake my head.

“No, I know because I can smell you,” I reply. I stroke her panties once more and she groans.

“Christian…” she whines. I’m tormenting her. I know I am, but if she only knew that she’s tormenting me, too.

“Remember when we fucked in Paris and I made you imagine the Eifel Tower?” I ask softly in her ear.

“Yes,” she breathes, her voice thick with arousal.

“What could you imagine now?” I tease, still gently caressing the outside of her panties, only just brushing her outer lips enough to cause a spark, but not a flame. “What could you imagine in this little box floating above the city… with me teasing the hot little lips of that sweet pussy?”

“I could… imagine…” She can hardly breathe, “… that we’re in some public place… like a theater or… or a Broadway show… or… Moulin Rouge… with all those beautiful, nearly naked women parading across the stage…”

Oookay.

“You’re teasing me… like this… under the table… You’re… you’re about to slip your hands into my panties… and caress my clit with your finger… and I have to keep quiet… I can’t let on what you’re doing…”

She closes her eyes when I give her that single stroke of my finger against her lips, still gently caressing the inside of her thigh.

“Keep going,” I coax, brushing my lips across her cheek.

“You pinch my clit and I nearly come,” she whispers, “but I have to keep still, and I can’t make a sound. Then you slip two fingers inside of me…”

I grasp the nape of her neck and slam my mouth against hers. She’s making me fucking primal, writhing in this little space and breathing heavily and talking about me finger-fucking her in a room full of people. And the way she talked about the burlesque dancers, like she coveted them… I saw her react that way once before, when we visited the BDSM club a couple of years ago and she touched the girl lying on the bar. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear my wife is bi-curious. And if I wasn’t such a jealous fucker, I’d gladly watch and partake in that scene—if I didn’t want to kill any fucker who touched my wife.

“Mmm,” I moan when our lips part, “I like the way you think.”

“You’re doing this to me,” she accuses in a sensual whisper, her eyes still closed. No doubt, she’s sitting at a table at the Moulin Rouge behind her eyelids.

“Concentrate,” I warn, “I don’t want you to miss the ride.”

“Fuck the ride!” she breathes. She throws her legs over mine and fists my blazer, kissing me with a passion that matches my own. Oh, good God, I’m on fire in this little box! I break the kiss and move my lips to the alabaster skin of her neck.

“Easy, Mrs. Grey,” I coax, reaching into her coat and gently stroking her pert, aching nipple outside of her dress.

“Oh, God, Christian, please,” she says squirming in her seat.

“Please, what?” I tease still feasting on her neck.

“Please, stop,” she breathes, “unless you’re going to fuck me right here and right now!”

I cover her lips with mine, pushing my tongue into her mouth and tasting her anxiousness mixed with the lingering flavor of the various alcoholic beverages she consumed tonight… and Ana—her own unique flavor that drives me out of my mind. God, what I wouldn’t give to have that pussy wrapped around my cock right now, or straddling my face…

“Oh!” We’re jolted from our make-out session by the surprised exclamation of the attendant after he opens the door of our gondola.

“Um… rides over. Sorry,” he says apologetically. My wife accepts his hand to assist her in exiting the gondola—a bit frazzled, but no worse for wear—with me right behind her.

“No problem,” I say. “It was an unforgettable ride.” I shake his hand and press a C-note into his palm. He looks down at the bill, preparing to protest, but I’m certain the denomination snatches the words right out of his mouth.

“I… um… thank you, sir,” he says, trying to maintain his composure.

“Have a good night,” I smile and help my wife down the stairs. Just as we clear the platform, I hear, “Do you know who that was?” I don’t need to turn around to know that we’ve been made. I scoop my wife up in my arms and walk with long but casual strides to the limo.

“Oh!” she yelps, drawing even more attention to us. “Christian, I can walk!” she giggles loudly, and I can’t help but love the playful, inebriated version of my Butterfly.

“I know,” I say, “and I want to carry you. Maybe I want to woo you a bit more.”

“Mr. Grey,” she says in a low voice, “in case you didn’t know, when it comes to you, I’m a sure thing.”

“And only me,” I clarify, raising a playful brow that elicits another giggle from my wife.

“Yes, Christian, only you,” she replies with a devilish smile before nuzzling into my neck. She plants soft kisses from my clavicle up my neck to my ear and deliciously licks my earlobe.

And my pants tighten again.

I try to concentrate on getting to the limo, which isn’t far away, but it feels like miles with her nibbling on and sucking my ear.

“Butterfly,” I warn, “I’m trying to get us to the car and you’re making my knees buckle.”

“Well then you better concentrate,” she replies, hot breath taunting my ear and her husky voice shooting straight to my cock.

“Dammit!” I hiss and pick up the pace. This woman is going to be the death of me. When I get to the car, the chauffeur—I still don’t know his name—opens the door for us. I gently place Butterfly on the ground, but she doesn’t release my neck. She takes my face in her hands and pulls me down to her. She kisses me gently, but deeply, exploring my mouth sweetly with her tongue and moaning softly in her chest. Dear Lord, I’m going to expire.

She slowly pulls her lips from mine and keeps her eyes closed for several seconds, like she’s still tasting the kiss after we’ve parted. Fuck, I know I am.

“I love you,” she says softly after gently fluttering her eyes open. She closes her coat around her and daintily climbs into the car.

Damn. My wife just seduced the fuck out of me with very little effort.

I inform the chauffeur—who I discover is named Julian—of our final destination before we head home and climb inside the limo with my wife. She’s sitting sideways on the seat that’s facing the door, eyeing me like a starving woman staring at a buffet.

I will not fuck her here…
I will not fuck her here…
I will not fuck her here…
But I’m going to come pretty damn close.

We’re tearing at one another shamelessly in this limo. My dick wants her so badly that I can barely think, but feast on her skin and even on her nipples through that thin ass dress without breaching the promised land. She whines and protests that she’s hot and she wants me, and I want her, too… in the worst way. Luckily, the limo stops and Julian knocks on the privacy glass in inform me that we’ve reached our destination. She’s flushed, and her hair is wild from us mauling at each other, but in a moment, all her playfulness leaves and she becomes keenly aware of our surroundings.

Discovery Park.

I open the door and get out of the limo, before turning around to retrieve her. She’s hesitant to exit the car when she sees where we are—the very spot where she nearly fell off the cliff while I was in Madrid—but I stand outside the door with my hand extended to her, wordlessly waiting. She takes a deep breath, takes my hand, and steps out of the limo.

The playfulness from before is gone now, and she tightens her belt and wraps her arms around herself as we walk to the lookout point. I don’t get too close; I don’t want anymore accidents.

She won’t get too close either. She stops several feet from the edge and won’t come any closer. I take my cue from her and move behind her wrapping my arms around her waist. We stand there wordlessly looking out over the cliff at the beautiful view for several minutes and I can feel her questions radiating through her body.

How did he know?
Why are we here?
Can we go now?

“I love you, Anastasia,” I begin. “I know I’ve probably said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more, but you’re my whole life. I know that I can be a particularly selfish asshole sometimes, and I can do some seriously boneheaded things. I’m sorry about that. I’m working on it, God knows I am, but I got a late start. I’m the proverbial old dog trying to learn new tricks.

“I may never get this completely right,” I say beseeching. “No matter how perfect I may want to be for you, for me, for the twins… I’m not. I never will be. I’m going to keep making stupid snap decisions and boneheaded moves and you may get hurt in the process. I swear that I’ll try to keep that to a minimum. I’ll do my best to think before I act; I’ll try very hard not to hurt you and especially make it my mission not to deliberately cause you pain, but Butterfly, I’m going to fuck up again… maybe many more times in life. Please… please don’t give up on me.”

I know I could have lost her that night that she nearly fell off this cliff, and even though I know that the logical part of her wouldn’t want to kill herself, wouldn’t want to leave the twins without a mother, I’m not 100% sure that the emotional part didn’t take over for just a nanosecond and declare that the pain and heartache was too much. Ninety-nine percent of me knows that my wife didn’t try to kill herself—but that one percent, that single iota of doubt that says, “Close your eyes and jump…” that’s the one terrifying thing for me right now.

“I know you’re not a perfect man, Christian,” she says, still looking out over the city and the water. “I’m not a perfect woman, either. I made some mistakes, some bad decisions… one of them was putting you on a pedestal. Don’t take it the wrong way, please, but it wasn’t fair to either of us. I held these superhuman expectations of you and when you didn’t live up to them… well, it nearly destroyed us both. I don’t know what to ask of you in this monumental moment. I can only ask the same thing that you are—understand that I’m flawed, and yes, I’m intelligent, but I don’t always make the right decisions. So… be patient with me and… forgive me for what I did to us.”

“What we did,” I correct her, tightening my grip around her. “We both made one bad decision after another, and it nearly cost us everything in more ways than one. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen to us, but it could have been.” She shivers.

“Yes… it could’ve.” She sighs deeply. “Please forgive me, Christian.”

“I’ve already forgiven you, Butterfly,” I reply, “a long time ago. Will you forgive me?” She turns around to face me and pushes her arms under mine, wrapping them around my waist.

“Yes, Christian,” she breathes, her guileless blue eyes looking into my longing grays. “I forgive you, and I accept and love you with every bit of your flaws—not in spite of them, but because of them. They make you human and worthy of love and forgiveness. And I give you those things freely.”

She squeezes me tight and lays her head on my chest. I can’t help the Tarzan feeling that comes over me, making me want to shield her from the world and all its evils. I kiss her hair and lean my mouth on her head, absorbing her warmth into me.

My life, my love… You’ll always be a part of me.

“Let’s go home, Butterfly,” I say, breaking the silence. “It’s getting a little chilly out here.” I break our embrace and take her hand, leading her back to the limo. Before we clear the lookout point, she turns around and looks at the view once more.

“It’s one of my favorite places again,” she says, looking longingly at it before following me back to the car.

*-*

“You wanna do what?” she asks disbelievingly.

“It’ll be fun,” I say with mirth, trying to be convincing.

“We have a playroom,” she says. “We fuck anywhere we can find a dark corner, and you bought a deck of sex cards?” she laughs incredulously.

“I thought it would be fun,” I tell her, “see how many positions we can get through before one of us blows.” She twists her lips.

“You know that’s not fair,” she complains. “You have more stamina than I do, and you know that and I’m tipsy on top of that. Plus, I got a head start with all that nipple play and necking.”

“On you think I didn’t?” I declare. “It took everything I had to keep my dick from exploding out of my pants all night long. Besides, that’ll make it more fun—having you ride my dick with that tight little pussy and I have to hold my orgasm until you come first.”

“Well, that won’t be hard,” she declares.

“It will if you try not to come,” I confess. “Do you know how hard it is to hold my nut when I’m watching you trying not to come?” My dick throbs with the confession… and it doesn’t get past her.

“You’re really not playing fair now,” she confesses as her eyes drag from my dick to my face.

“Who says I’m trying to be fair?” I declare. “I’m trying to have fun.” She smiles impishly and bites her lip.

“So how does this work?” she asks.

“We pick a card, hold that position for five minutes, then we pick another one.”

“So, we just fuck in the positions? No doing shit to deliberately try to make the other go over the edge first?” I shake my head. You’re not getting off that easy. Where’s the fun in that?

“Oh, no, Baby, this is full-on fucking. This ain’t ‘don’t touch me here,’ ‘don’t do that.’ Uh-uh, this is the same animal fucking we always do, only we change positions every few minutes and see how long we can last.” She pretends to ponder the idea, then she smiles again.

“Okay, let’s do it, then,” she says. I return her smile.

“Good. Take off those clothes.” I begin to get undressed as the delectable Mrs. Grey slowly begins to peel out of her clothes. I’m undressed in sixty seconds while this woman takes her time removing my grandmother’s priceless jewelry and setting it on the nightstand. She’s tormenting me, slowly undoing her suspenders from her stocking and rolling them one at a time of her luscious thighs and legs.

Her body does a snake-wiggle as she pulls her dress over her head, simultaneously turning to reveal her beautiful, garden-tattooed back and that luscious ass in those barely-there panties. She puts her fingers in the sides and teasingly pulls the panties down, keeping her thighs close so that the crotch catches in her pussy and has to snap a bit to release from their captivity.

My dick fucking hurts.

She slides her panties down her legs and steps out of them, leaving them provocatively on the floor right where they are. She fucking knows I want to pick them up and smell them. That’s why she did that shit. She reaches around and unclasps her bra but turns to face me before removing it. She holds it onto her breasts with alternate arms while she slowly slides the straps from each shoulder. Then she lifts her tits, gives them a firm squeeze, and when she removes her hands, her bra falls away with them. Her tits are sitting up so proud and perky, her nipples and areola so aroused and taut that they’re nearly red.

I’m ready to fuck you now.

I’m going to fuck you so long and so hard that we’re both going to be screaming for it to be over.

“So where do we do this… on the bed?” she asks seductively. I have a feeling that there’s going to be too much going on to be confined to the bed.

“Let’s go to the sitting room,” I say, suggestively. “More room on the floor and we have the loveseat if we need any… additional assistance.” She deliberately strolls in before me, twitching that round ass as she walks pass me. My dick is throbbing already, and I hope she holds out for a really long time, because I plan to fuck until my damn skin hurts!

I begin to shuffle the cards as I walk into the sitting room behind her. She leans on the chaise, looking at me expectantly while biting her lips.

“Would you like to cut the deck?” I ask, handing her the larger-than-normal deck of cards. My wife surprises me by taking the cards, cutting them,

and quickly doing a waterwheel before handing them back to me.

nrbftyz

Is there anything this woman can’t do?

I take the deck from her hands and pull the first card. A smile immediately forms on my face.

“One of my favorites,” I say, showing her the card. She shrugs.

“It just looks like missionary to me,” she says, pushing off of the chaise.

“Oh, no, baby,” I reply. “This is the C.A.T. Let me show you the difference. Lie down.”

Christian and Ana play with a deck of sex cards in chapter 62. Position one--CAT (Coital Alignment Technique)

She obediently lies on the floor face up and I kneel between her legs. I set the deck of cards nearby with the timer next to it, but I don’t set it yet. My dick is already rock hard and ready, so I don’t need to dawdle. I take my time entering her and she gasps as I breach her opening, her skin flushing immediately. I slide in as far as I can go in this position and she squirms underneath me as her core wraps tight and warm around me.

“Shouldn’t you start… the timer now?” she gasps, her chest rising and falling with deep breaths of arousal.

“We’re not in position yet,” I say coyly before lowering myself down to her but supporting my weight on my elbows. “Knees up, feet on my butt.” She frowns a bit.

“On your butt?” she asks. I nod.

“You can do it. I know you can,” I coax.

“Before I do,” she says, breathing heavily, and I know she’s stalling, “tell me. What does C.A.T. stand for?”

“Coital Alignment Technique… now raise those goddamn legs,” I command her. She raises her knees as instructed and places her feet on my ass. This causes her thighs to fall far apart and I’m able to push further into her. She gasps and whimpers at the depth, but I’m sorry to say, Butterfly—that’s not the worst of it.

I bring my body as flat against her as I can without putting my weight on her and wiggle my hips a bit. My pelvis causes her lips to open so that I’ll have perfect friction and pressure on her clitoris with each stroke. She gasps and groans a bit when she realizes what’s in store. She’s arched and I’m flat, so although I’ll get great pleasure from the fuck, she’ll be getting much more stimulation than I will.

“Now, we’re in position,” I say huskily and start the timer. Reaching under her arms, I clasp my fingers in hers, pinning her hands next to her head and begin a slow, deep grind into her pussy and against that clit. The secret of this technique is to give her the best of both worlds—a good thrust and a solid grind so that neither part of that wet, throbbing peach is neglected. I only withdraw part-way and when I thrust into her, I grind each time to open that pussy and torment that clit.

Five minutes seems like a goddamn eternity as I’m watching her groan and suffer underneath me. Her body is trembling as she grasps my hands and her sex sounds are nearly unbearable. I cover her mouth with mine to capture her cries and the taste of her lips and mouth at the height of her arousal and she hungrily licks inside of my mouth, sending a jolt right to my dick and urging me to fuck her deeper and harder until…

DING!

I release one of her hands and reach for the deck of cards. The next position—swivel and grind. It’s the same concept as the C.A.T., only her legs are on my shoulders. I show her the card and she groans loudly.

Christian and Ana play with a deck of sex cards in chapter 62. Position two--Swivel and Grind

“I’m gonna lose!” she laments loudly.

“Fight it, baby,” I coach her. “You can do it. Hold out for me.” I lean up and take her knees in my elbows, pushing her calves until her ankles are on either side of my ears.

“Fuck!” I hiss as my dick slides into that hot pussy again, now tightly wrapped around my cock as I search for the position that gives the deepest penetration. Without withdrawing from her, I snatch the bolster from the chaise and shove it under the small of her back, raising her ass and giving me a perfect angle on her pussy.

“Aah! Oh, God!” she cries, alerting me that I’ve found the right formula, and I reach over and set the timer again.

Oh, God, this is torture. Watching this sexy little nymph writhe in amorous agony beneath me while she’s fending off her orgasm, her clit so hard that I can feel it rubbing against the skin of my dick in this position—that shit is enough to send me over the edge by itself. I thrust and swivel and grind hard inside of her and against her, trying to bring that orgasm on and hoping that she continues to fight it at the same time. I can tell that she’s right there, even though we’ve only been at it for a few minutes, because I know how to bring my wife to orgasm very quickly, but she withstands the exquisite torment, her suffering written all over her face in her tightly shut eyes and gaping mouth, keening moans and whimpers escaping her lips more often than not.

“I’m going to come,” she breathes.

“Don’t, baby… don’t,” I choke as I continue to drill into her and grind against her, finding it difficult to withstand the pleasure myself. I keep pumping and grinding and digging and I swear she’s just about to tip over and give up the fight when her salvation rings in our ears.

DING!

I have to stop and let her legs down as well as move the pillow underneath her to reach the deck of cards, now a bit strewn across the floor in a messy pile. I don’t know which one is on top, so I just pick one closest to my hand. I look at the card, then turn it around to show it to her. She sighs heavily, and I suppose she thinks she’s going to get a bit of a reprieve, but alas, I’ll have to show her that there aren’t many positions where I can’t dominate that pussy.

This one is called Kneel and Deliver. I kneel, resting comfortably so that my ass is on my ankles or the floor and my hamstrings meet my calves, and she straddles me. It’s that simple, only my wife should know by now that I’ll still fuck her senseless in this position. Nonetheless, I get on my knees and allow her to get comfortable before I set the timer.

Christian and Ana play with a deck of sex cards in chapter 62. Position three--Kneel And Deliver

Then the real fun begins.

With her feet flat on the floor, she begins to ride me. I let her do that for a few strokes, then I put one hand under that ass for leverage—and my sheer enjoyment—and the other around her back for support and stability. Then I lift a little so that I can rise up into that pussy. I don’t immobilize her, I just take over, squeezing that ass and pumping up into that delicious wet pussy. We’re eye to eye now and her arms slide around my neck so that she can hold on. She looks at me mournfully as if to say, “Why are you doing this to me?” Because I love you and I love that pussy. Now, gimme those lips.

“Kiss me,” I order her. Her juicy lips press into mine and her tongue begins a hot exploration of my mouth. She can’t control the fuck, but she can control the kiss, and I let her. Her tongue is relentless, tasting me and pushing me higher and hotter with each lap. When she thrusts her hands into my hair and pulls, my ass rises off my feet a bit to get a deeper thrust to match my arousal. My hand clasps tighter on her ass and I’m now fully participating in the kiss, tilting my head so that I taste every bit of her mouth. Air can barely get between us and the only thing moving right now is our hips as we sex each other lusciously. My wife moves her feet so that they are supported on mine instead of the floor and the move somehow causes her to tighten against me. I feel her getting wetter as the friction and heat builds between us.

“Oh, baby…” I groan when her juices start to slide down my dick. I can see the scene in my mind’s eye where her greedy pussy slides down and laps her arousal from my cock, leaving a ring of it behind where the lips met the furthest point of my dick. The mental visual causes me to move both hands to her ass and hold her up, thrusting my hips up and my shaft deep into her as she continues to feast on my lips and whimper into my mouth. I’m feverishly chasing both our orgasms when…

DING!

Thank fuck! A few more seconds and we would have both been over the edge. Reprieve! Fucking reprieve… or so I thought.

I reach behind her, almost remiss to leave this succulent position, and grab the card closest to my hand.

Oh, hell… we’re both going to get it now.

I show the card to my wife and she’s so gone, she just gets into position. This one is aptly called The Butterfly. I remain on my knees and she lays back so that her shoulders are on the floor. This is one of the positions that I would use to edge myself inside of her, but not tonight. I’m going to fuck that pussy deep and sweet.

Christian and Ana play with a deck of sex cards in chapter 62. Position four-The Butterfly

“Lock your ankles behind my neck and don’t let go,” I say, hearing the arousal in my own voice. Once she obeys, I grab those hips to stabilize them and begin that piston—low, slow, and deep.

“Aw, shit!” I hiss as the friction starts to burn in my dick. It feels so fucking good and now, I’m watching that pussy as it slides onto and releases my dick.

“So good… it feels so good…” I groan, quickening my pace only slightly and eliciting a low, slow moan from my wife. That’s it, baby. Feel it… feel what I’m feeling… it feels so goddamn good…

She’s arching her hips up to me, up to my dick, and I can’t help but reach down and thumb that pretty clit. Her legs begin to tremble, and she whines helplessly. A few seconds later, I see moisture escaping from her breasts. I reach up and massage the ample mound, my mouth watering to take it between my lips.

“So fucking beautiful,” I say as I squeeze her supple breast and a small amount of milk leaks from her nipple. I’m too far away to lick it clean, so I just spread it over her nipple until it shines. She rubs my forearms wherever she can reach them and arches her back some more allowing me to thrust deeper into her.

“No… no…” she whimpers, verbally trying to fend off her orgasm as her body spasms, indicating her imminent release. The sight is damn near too much for me. She is so fucking sexy, and these round hips and pulsing pussy are giving me a fucking workout. She’s determined not to blast too soon and I fucking love it! I love being able to fuck her and fuck her until I think I’ve had my fill, and then fuck her some more. She’s addictive… her mouth, her ass, her pussy, her body, all of her… fucking addictive.

“Christian,” she breathes, dropping her head back and surrendering to the pleasure. I’m elated and distressed at the same time to see her succumbing to her desire—elated because I love to see and feel her come around me but distressed because I don’t want it to end so soon. Five positions mean only twenty-five minutes. Maybe she’ll be ready for round two after this.

DING!

My wife is still writhing on my dick when I reach for the next card. I look at the card and…

“Fuck!” I hiss. I may lose this one. I pull out of her and stand, pulling her to her knees in front of me at the same time, reset the timer, and show her the card.

“Suck my dick!” I hiss, knowing that she’s about to punish me feverishly for the next five minutes for the drilling I’ve been giving her. She latches onto my dick like a plunger and begins feverishly and mercilessly working my cock.

Christian and Ana play with a deck of sex cards in chapter 62. Position five--Blowjob

“God! Damn!” I hiss as I grab her head and struggle to stay on my feet. I’m the one who said animal fucking like we normally do, so I can’t call foul now, but she is pulling and slurping and sucking so hard, deep-throating me and massaging me from my head all the way down my shaft to the base. She’s fucking me so hard that she’s not paying any attention to her own gag reflex and I see tears coming for her eyes for the effort as she hums along my cock.

And that shit is hot as hell.

She releases my dick with a pop

I grimace hard trying to keep the Dom at bay, but this is seriously some deliciously, sexy, fucking hot submissive shit. She’s on her knees, looking up at me, rolling my balls around in her mouth while my achingly hard and fat dick occasionally bops her in the face. I’ve never liked giving facials, but if she doesn’t stop soon, she’s about to get one. Just when I begin to feel like this is the longest five minutes of my life, the timer goes off.

“Grab a fucking card!” I nearly choke. You’re closer, so just grab one! She picks up a card without releasing my balls and shows it to me… and I can feel her smiling on my nuts.

“Oh, fu-uck!” I groan as I look at the picture and read the words.

Sideways oral.

Her mouth and tongue slide off my cock and I almost lose it.

“On the floor,” she commands. I drop to the floor and set the timer again as she quickly gets into position. I lean back, supporting my weight on one of my elbows while bending the opposite knee to turn my body slightly sideways. She slides between my legs, wrapping her arm around the thigh of the bent leg pushing her other arm under my body and bringing it back up around my hip so that her hand lays flat on my stomach. She looks up at me with predatorial blue eyes.

“Reset the timer,” she growls, “I haven’t started yet.”

Fuck! I reach over and reset the timer, bringing my eyes back to hers just in time to see her run her hot wet tongue from the base of my cock to the tip. The visual alone is enough to drive me up the fucking wall, but feeling her tongue slide up the vein that threatens to burst with hot semen any second draws a low and long, guttural moan from me.

“Baby, fuck,” I lament, and I can feel my face twisting into a horrible sex grimace as she torments my shaft again, up and down, up and down that vein, stopping to stimulate the frenulum until I’m ready to crawl backwards away from her. The next time she gets up to the head, she drops her whole mouth down onto my cock until I can feel the head in the back of her throat, and the gesture almost brings tears to my eyes.

“Aw, God,” I groan as my head falls back and I try not to push my hips into her mouth. She must have felt my resistance, because she intensifies her assault—as if she could—and I lose my battle to keep still. I begin to thrust into her mouth against her stroke and when I raise my head to look at her, she’s down on my dick and her hair is covering her entire head and face and part of my body.

Too much for my little fragile mind.

I cup her head with my free hand and try to guide her along my dick. I don’t have to; she has this all under control. So, I just leave my hand in place and watch her head bobbing in my lap while I stroke into her mouth, still sporting my sex grimace. It feels so good and I just sink into the sensation, sure that I’m going to lose this battle and love every minute of it. When I’m deep into the feeling of her mouth wrapped around my cock, I hear the timer go off again.

DING!

Yes! I’ll live to fight another five minutes!

But she doesn’t release my dick. She points to me indicating that I need to pick a card. I grasp wildly to the side of me trying to hold my nut and grab a card from the now completely disheveled pile.

“Oh, fucking hell! Is this a fucking conspiracy?”

She pushes her hair back as I hold the card up for her to see.

Sixty-nine… sixty-fucking-nine!

4ee8d228f026b71dcd6b8190b5f09d76

She actually laughs with my dick in her mouth and, like a fucking master, she releases my hip and thigh and rolls her ass around so that her pussy is perfectly situated on my mouth… without releasing my dick.

I married a fucking superfreak. Gimme that pussy!

I wrap my arms around that body, locking her against me at the small of her back and dive in. She gives me a sweet, seductive moan as her legs fall open more and her clit fits perfectly into my mouth. Fuck, yes, that’s what I’m talking about, a chance to get the upper hand…

… Or so I thought.

I lick into her sweet, succulent pussy and taste those delectable juices and it only makes me hornier and harder, and Mrs. Grey doesn’t let the opportunity slip by her. She already had me worked into “six seconds to blast off” before she put her pussy in my face. I already know my dick is jutting up into her face like a damn popsicle, and she’s taking full advantage of that shit.

She sucks that head like a delicious lollipop, causing quivers in my stomach and a heat to shoot from my groin to my head and my toes simultaneously. While I’m still trying to wow her with my awesome cunnilingus skills, she moves further down my dick, sucking only the top portion and the head, hard and continuous. She begins a slow roll of her hips into my face that actually causes my eyes to roll back in my head because her ass is so beautiful and it’s right here in my face!

I’m nearly having sensation overload when she moves a little further down my dick—no stroking, just holding it in her mouth and sucking hard. I can’t even describe this feeling! It’s hot and… damn, I can’t describe it. My arms move around her waist and I’m losing the battle to keep from stroking into her mouth, but I hold firm, and she continues to treat me with a perfect view of her ass while she grinds that tasty pussy into my face.

I think my entire dick is in her mouth now. If it’s not, it sure fucking feels like it. My legs lock involuntarily, and I need to move my hips. I can’t stand it anymore. It’s too much.

Before I know it, my hands are flat on the top of her back near her shoulders, pushing her upper body down onto my pelvis so that I can fuck her pus—er, I mean her mouth deeper, and she matches me stroke for stroke, giving me everything I need to get the deepest satisfaction possible…

And the timer goes off.

I can’t stop. I don’t stop. It feels too good and I’m too close. I hold her down. She can’t stop now. She tastes too good and I’m too fucking close. The oral portion of this exercise was too much for me.

She wraps her arms around my hips and pulls my thighs apart from the inside, indicating that she doesn’t intend to stop either. I could almost cry, I’m so relieved.

It feels like her stroke is deeper now that my legs are wide open and the air on my balls add a sensation that lets me know that it surely won’t be long now. I give that pussy one of my most passionate kisses in gratitude and she grinds down into my face, fucking my mouth with deep, even strokes.

If I’m honest, my wife is dominating me right now. She fucking owns this body and she knows it, and she wants to make sure I know it, too.

Believe me, Mistress, I know. I fucking know.

I release myself to her and stroke into her mouth, enjoying the sensation and allowing the orgasm to rise naturally. I don’t fight it and I don’t force it. I just feel it… just relax and feel what she’s doing to me…

“Mmm,” I groan into her pussy as my balls tighten and I know the explosion is imminent. My arms still wrapped around her body and my hands flat on her back, I fuck her mouth deep and she sucks me hard… harder… harder… until…

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

I don’t know how she holds it in, but I push my hips up against her mouth and she locks onto my shaft, only the suction of her jaws pulling the cum right the fuck out of me. She’s not moving her head or her lips, but that suction is murder and feels like it’s going to drain me dry. My thighs tremble with pleasure as I moan hopelessly against her clit, my entire pelvis locked in a burning, long-awaited, searing orgasm.

Oh, fuck, Baby, you are the best! You are the fucking best!

I can still feel my dick throbbing in her mouth, but when I know my orgasm has finally waned, I lock my arms around those hips and attack that pussy. She gasps on my dick but doesn’t release. I think she likes the throbbing in her mouth. That’s okay, Baby. I’m satisfied… for now. It’s my turn to make that pussy pulse.

I set to my task with unforgiving strokes, licks, sucks and ministrations, tasting that sweet juice as it slides down into my mouth.

She releases a high-pitched moan as she grinds into my mouth as much as my grasp will allow. That’s it, Baby, fuck this face.

Her wetness is increasing, soaking my face and her moans become more frequent and her grinds firmer and more intense. I keep that cowgirl on the saddle as I continue to lick that clit and suck that pretty pussy. She’s nearly sitting up now, using her hands on my torso to support her weight and rolling her hips on my face. The sex sounds coming from her are making my dick hard again and my only regret is that I can’t see her face or the movements of her body. I move one hand to her ass and squeeze hard, pushing her clit further into my mouth…

And she detonates.

The most beautiful feeling, flavor and sound in the world—my gorgeous wife pressing her pussy down into my mouth as I suck a rock-hard, wildly throbbing clit. The cry that she releases is somewhere between intense pleasure and pain, a slightly weeping sound that she must finally succumb to an orgasm that rocks the base of her soul, evidenced by the fact that as soon as the first wave is over, and she’s not immobilized by the pleasure, she breaks into the same violent sex trembles that I did moments ago. My face and lips are coated with her juices and her flavor has saturated every crevice of my mouth.

When she collapses on my stomach and her clit has softened, I release her pussy, gently kissing her inner thighs as she catches her breath. That was hot as fuck! Who knew that simple sex cards could result in some of the most explosive sex we’ve had! God, that was fantastic! The build-up, the sensation, the challenge, the pleasure, and finally the wild release. I’m lying here basking in the pleasure when my wife breathes three words that almost make me leap for joy.

“Pick a card.”


A/N: 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

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 16

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

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

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. 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 new saga continues…

 CHAPTER 16

Briana Evigan 16

GOLDEN

“Detective Bhingman.”

Well, of course they put me on the phone with this big ball of joy and laughter.

“Rita, how the hell are you?” I ask, as jovially as possible.

“Who is this?” she hisses. No doubt, she’s wondering how I know her first name because she didn’t say it and I didn’t ask for her when I called.

“It’s that ‘prissy little wannabe cunt’ that you love to hate,” I say, repeating the words that she didn’t know I heard. She’s silent for several moments.

“You know that many ‘prissy little wannabe cunts,’ do you?” I mock. “I’ll try to help you out a little more… the one with no cojones?”

The conversation was not twelve hours ago. I’m sure you remember it.

“What do you want?” she asks without acknowledging who I am. “I have things to do, cases to solve.”

“Well, detective, that’s why I’m calling. You and I both know who most likely beat the hell out of Elena Lincoln. You just don’t want to pursue it. Since you worked the night shift last night, I won’t keep you long. Has anyone bothered trying to locate Caldwell Lincoln? Has anyone looked at his face to see if he’s been in a brawl? Did anyone process the crime scene or the crime kit from Elena Lincoln to see that Mr. Grey’s statement to the press this morning was true, and he hasn’t been anywhere near that woman?”

“Press…?” Oh, dear God, tell me this Keystone Cop is not just finding out from me that Christian did a press release this morning.

“Yes, press,” I inform her. “He’s a billionaire who was wrongly arrested and detained for assault. You had to know he would go to the media with this.”

“Yeah, they usually do.”

They? Who the fuck is they?

“Detective is it only the rich and beautiful that you despise or do you just dislike people in general?” I ask. She doesn’t respond, because she knows that I hit that nail on the head.

“I’m used to the rich and beautiful trying to use the press to their advantage,” she says finally. “It won’t dispel the fact that your Mr. Grey is a person of interest.”

“A person of interest, hmm,” I say, contemplating the phrase. “So, he’s still a person of interest even though his alibi is airtight. That’s interesting. You must really like wasting your time.”

“Which is exactly what I’m doing on this phone call. So, would you kindly tell me why you’re calling?” she seethes.

“I just told you,” I say. “I gave you a very solid lead that you should follow if you’re truly interested in catching the actual guilty party who brutalized Elena Lincoln.” She scoffs into the phone.

“Why don’t you stick to… whatever it is that you do and leave the police work to the professionals, okay?” Oh, this bitch…

“I can always let your chief know that I called with a very solid lead, and you ignored it. The choice is yours. And another thing… Christian Grey is going to fucking bury you. So, you might as well have something to show for it when the dust clears.”

“Christian Grey can’t do shit to me. I was doing my job,” she says haughtily.

“Yeah… okay. Keep hope alive. In the meantime, follow the lead or I’ll give it to somebody else.”

“Nobody else would be able to take it. It’s my case,” she retorts.

“That’s what you think,” I say. “Do you want me to show you how wrong you are?”

“Do your worst,” she taunts.

“Done!” I snap. “And Rita, I think a really good anal fuck would dislodge that pole that you have stuck up your ass. You should really look into that—assuming you could find somebody with a dick that’s bigger than yours who’s willing to fuck you. Have a good day.”

I say the last part with syrupy sweetness before hanging up in her ear.

“Blake?” I call out to him. It’s amazing to me that no matter where he is in the house, he can always hear me. In a few moments, he appears inside the door.

“Yes, Mistress?”

“I need my laptop and tablet, dear,” I tell him, “and a glass of water, please…”

*-*

“Mis… Ms. Olivet! To what do I owe the honor of this call?”

“Chief McCulley, I always adore hearing your voice, but I wish I could say that this is a social call,” I purr.

“I am, of course, at your service. What can I do for you?”

“I’m asking a favor that shouldn’t have to be asked,” I say somewhat sorrowfully. “I’m only asking that a detective of the Kirkland Police Department put her personal feelings aside and follow a very valid lead from a reliable source before the trail runs dry.”

“That sounds reasonable. Who’s the source?”

“Me,” I inform him.

“Reliable, indeed,” he confirms. “And who’s the detective?”

“Rita Bhingman.”

“She’s one of the best. I can’t imagine she wouldn’t take a lead very seriously.”

“Have you been apprised of the handling of the case involving the assault on Elena Lincoln?” I ask.

“Not fully, no, but I’ve heard some tidbits.”

“Allow me to apprise you…”

I give him the details of the case thus far as well as my involvement, being careful to illuminate Christian’s current search for new legal counsel as the reason for our meeting. I outlined Christian’s arrest, our treatment by the police department—Bhingman in particular, including her not-so-flattering nickname for me, and the lead that I had given her as well as her flippant response.

“Hmm… Grey. It’s a wonder I haven’t already gotten a call on that one. I know that he’s friends with the mayor and his father golfs with the governor. I would have bet my badge that they would have had an airtight case before they even thought to detain him.”

“Well, sometimes even the best can screw up, and that’s okay as long as you recognize your mistake and do what’s necessary to fix it. She doesn’t appear in any hurry to do so, and I don’t know if it’s because she personally doesn’t like me or if she’s trying to nail the big fish here, and it’s blinding her to the facts. Here are the facts, Fred.

“Caldwell Lincoln visited Christian Grey yesterday at his office to confront him about Christian’s growing timber interest. This is not a secret—he just did a press release on this. Lincoln left the office angry around 6-ish and Christian left his office and met me. I will testify to that; my butler will testify to that; and I’ve recently learned that he has tracking devices in his vehicle that can confirm its whereabouts as well.

“Not two hours after he leaves Christian’s office in a huff, Lincoln’s wife is beaten within an inch of her life and he has disappeared. Mrs. Lincoln fingers Christian, but has the hospital taken DNA evidence from this woman? Christian appears on television this morning barefaced and in a short-sleeved T-shirt—not a scratch or defensive scar on him—hands, arms, and face as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Has anybody seen Mr. Lincoln? Can he say the same?”

“If he’s skipped town, though, there’s no way for us to see if he’s bruised,” Fred replies.

“That’s true, but the absence of scars on Christian Grey coupled with the absence of his DNA on Mrs. Lincoln not to mention his impeccable alibi should clear him of any charges, yet Detective Bhingman informs me that he’s still a person of interest. Now, this is a long shot, but unless Mr. Lincoln left on a ferry boat or cruise ship, he most likely caught a flight out of SeaTac last night. A facial recognition scan of the airport would determine if he was there. Review of his bank records will tell you where he travelled and might indicate where he is now if he booked lodging.”

“That’s a lot of work to capture someone for an assault on his wife,” he laments.

“I understand, Fred,” I say, pretending to capitulate. “I guess this case will just go unsolved, then… unless Bhingman wants to go pick up Bill Gates or Howard Schultz next.” I hear him sigh.

“I see your point,” he says. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“That’s all I ask, and Fred? Grey is livid—he’s out for blood and I’m sure he’ll take this matter as far up as it can possibly go. Expect that call from the mayor… fair warning.”

“Thanks for the heads up,” he says. “You’re a true treasure as always,” he adds with admiration.

“Thank you, my dear. It’s always a pleasure.”

*-*

I don’t watch much television, but I’ve been trying to keep up with the local news to see if there have been any leads on the brutalized socialite still confined to Seattle General Hospital two days after her attack. Of course, there have been no arrests. Why? Because that stupid ass detective is still probably chasing behind Christian instead of tracking down Caldwell Lincoln. I know the type of information and clearances that they need to check out the security cameras at SeaTac and to look into his bank accounts can’t be acquired overnight, but that’s all the evidence they’re going to have to nab this guy because in a couple more days, he’s going to be bruise-free.

I have to go to court in the morning and as far as I know, dear old Uncle Richard won’t be on any of the cases that I’m on, so I don’t have to worry about that… I hope. Nonetheless, I need to loosen up and I don’t want to go to any of the clubs. I need a different kind of release tonight.

I find myself at Divine Movement with a pole room to myself for two hours—just what I need. I haven’t done any new routines since Dirty Diana, so I just spin awhile and allow some of the new music to play. I don’t feel the vibe on anything as all the new music is crap to me. I don’t necessarily have to listen to old school all the time. It’s not like it’s my thing or anything, but the new shit is just that… shit.

I hear a beat that I like though I don’t recognize the song and it prompts me to do a few curls and leg extensions.

Wow, this sound is really groovy.

I do a few floor moves and begin to pay attention to the words of the song. They’re familiar, but the beat is completely different. After a minute or so of feeling the groove, I realize that I’m listening to a cover of Maneater. It sounds nothing like the original, but it has a sinful beat and is motivating me to try some moves…

So I do.

I push my limits and do a super-fast spin on the rotating pole in an impossible position. I even impress myself with that move. I guess I should be thanking Kevin for those times that he held me in those pretzel yoga poses so that he could stare at my ass. I ponder for a moment if this should be the next song to which I formulate a new routine. After all, I am a maneater. But no… it’s got a nice beat, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Next is another cover of another oldie… Love is a Battlefield. I like this one, too, and it causes me to bend and stretch and curl into positions that I didn’t know I could achieve. When I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror wall, I’m hanging upside down with my ass sticking out and my muscular legs pointing back towards the pole, but my feet and legs aren’t touching it. Every curve and every sinew of every muscle—even my ass—is defined and sculpted, suspended in the air like a magnificent statue.

Fuck. That looks hot!

I commit the pose to memory along with the insane spin I created in the impossible position to add to my new routine. The next song that I hear seals it for me. Yet another cover, this one is Tainted Love, and it’s hot and sensual as fuck!

I spend the next hour and twenty minutes doing incredible moves and poses to make onlookers gasp, the entire time Tainted Love is playing in my head…

Morning comes and I’m a little stiff from my pole workout, a sign that I may need to spend more time at the studio. I almost dread putting my hair back in its traditional bun for court, but I do that on purpose. I don’t want anybody—judges, DA’s, clients, nobody—looking at my beauty and taking my skills for granted. Know that I’m very serious when you see me coming. That’s why it’s serious professional no fucking frills when I’m headed to court—except for the stilettos.

As expected, I didn’t face off with Richard Steele—one of his colleagues this time. I came ready to do battle since I didn’t know what to expect. As it turns out, my petrified client, his mother, and I sat for hours waiting to present our motion to dismiss… and the DA beat us to it! It appears that “new evidence” surfaced that pointed to a different suspect and exonerated my client. When I asked for the evidence to be presented, that motion was denied based on the fact that my client had been cleared and that I am no longer representing the accused party in this case. For some reason, I think that’s just a matter of time.

Well, that was a day wasted, but the outcome was pretty much the same. My client is going home cleared of the charges… but who’s about to take the fall?

I stop in the ladies’ room to relieve myself and just as I’m about to leave, who do I see standing outside of one of the courtrooms talking to what looks like another plain-clothed detective?

Bhingman.

I’m not looking for a confrontation, but I’m sure as hell not going to avoid her. It’s not like I could anyway, because just as I’m putting my purse on my shoulder and preparing to proceed towards the door, she shifts her gaze and sees me walking out of the ladies’ room. She begins a heated stride towards me, so I proceed in her direction as well. What, do you think I’m going to run, bitch?

“Olivet!” she snaps once she has closed the distance between us.

Bhingman!” I retort with just as much malice as she delivered, if not more.

“I bet you thought that was cute, didn’t you?” she hisses.

“Nothing I do is cute, detective, but I’m just dying to know what you’re talking about,” I reply.

“I’ve got nearly every elected official in a 100-mile radius crawling up my ass because of you and your pretty boy!” she seethes. I scoff.

“Is that what you see?” I ask incredulously. “A pretty boy? I’ll admit that he’s nice on the eyes, but you’re missing a whole lot here, Cagney,” I say before closing the remaining space between us.

“Christian Grey is power,” I inform her, my voice low, “more power than you’ll ever know or see in your life. You, my little guppy, ran into the shark tank and tried to bite the fucking shark! Now, that shark is preparing to eat you alive. What the hell did you expect—for him to roll over while you try to pin a crime on him that he didn’t commit? What new type of insanity are you suffering from? That man wiggles his little finger and empires fall, and you don’t think he has the power to land you on a desk job in a lighthouse on the outskirts of nowhere?”

She doesn’t know how to answer, so she turns the conversation onto me and my lead.

“You come in with an idea and you want us to drop everything and chase behind some hunch that you have! There’s a process to police work!” she retorts. “You don’t just jump off a cliff onto a lead without proper protocol!”

“And yet, that’s exactly what you did,” I remind her. “You jumped right off the cliff and landed on the wrong suspect and you’re too asinine to admit it. You went on the word of a woman laid up in the hospital with an obvious ax to grind and nothing else! No witnesses, no DNA, no evidence, nothing! If this is what you call police work, I’m on the wrong side, because the bad guys are getting away and the good guys are constantly in court defending their innocence from blind and bigoted cops who find the most ridiculous reasons not to like them!”

“What I don’t like, Olivet, is people with money and friends in high places who can tell the police not to do their job!” she counters.

To this point, I had been quiet, keeping my voice low. Now, I’m getting angry, because she’s completely ignoring everything I’m saying.

“And I don’t like police who don’t do their jobs!” I retort angrily. She’s a bit taken aback by the force of my statement. “Do you have any idea how many pro-bono cases I take because some lazy ass flatfoot or some gung-ho cop grabbed the wrong kid and was too concerned with nabbin’ somebody instead of getting to the truth? ‘He’s here; he’ll do; fuck that the real culprit is still out there and will probably commit another crime before the day is over,’ right, detective?”

I pause and wait for a response, but I get none. I know that I don’t need one, because I already know that I’m right. I’ve seen it too many times.

“You think whatever the fuck you want to think about me,” I snap. “I don’t care! The fact is that Christian Grey is not your guy. He did not attack that woman, and the real offender is probably on a beach in Cancun sipping mai tais while his bruises heal! And you’re here splitting hairs with me while Mr. Grey has already filed his suit for false arrest. You allowed the woman who assaulted him months ago and left him with broken bones, who is currently under an open protection order to finger him as her attacker with no evidence and you detained him even though he told you he had an alibi. When his alibi checks out, you get mad at me because I’m the one who had dinner with him!

“He’s friends with the mayor; did you know that? Chief McCulley let me in on that tiny tidbit of information. If he had been dining with the mayor that night instead of me, would you be treating the mayor this way? Why are you really pissed, Ms. Bhingman? Is it because you can’t move forward with the case? Is it because you think we’re lying? Or is it because he’s an innocent man and you can’t pin the crime on him?”

She wants to answer, but she looks from left to right, noting that a few people are observing to see why my voice has risen. I also take note of that fact and employ Golden’s take-no-prisoners attitude and tone for my next message. I lean in to her so that inquiring ears aren’t privy to the conversation, but she can hear me loud and clear.

“I’m going to give you a bit of advice,” I say. “I called the chief of police. Mr. Grey will most likely contact the mayor—if he hasn’t already—and his father golfs with the governor. That’s how many degrees of separation you are from an administrative reprimand or worse. You’re trying swim waters that are way too deep for you. This major waterway is a whole lot more rapid than the little pond that you’re accustomed to wading in. Don’t go chasing waterfalls, detective. You just might drown.

“And yes, you’re dealing with a rich man who knows people in high places, but that’s not your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is that when this case blows wide open—and it will—I’ll be right there with our recorded conversation telling the press that I gave you the solid lead before the reward-chasing nuts started calling you and you ignored me simply because you didn’t like me.

“Now I suggest you get your head out of your ass, your nose out of the air and stick that stank ass superior attitude in your fucking pocket and do your goddamn job. I’ll play by the book and I’ll respect your position as long as you respect me, and if you can’t do that, then you stay the fuck out of my face unless you have questions—or answers—about the case. I have a lot of strings in my little violin case, detective. I’ve only pulled one of them!”

Her eyes are screaming that she wants to ask me if that was a threat—you know, like they do in the movies—but of course, she won’t because she already knows that it was. You have to wonder where someone’s mind is that they feel confident enough to threaten a cop, even if the threat is veiled.

Don’t push me, Missy. This isn’t about Christian Grey anymore. This is about me and you.

I can only assume that something in my gaze indicates that I’m ready for a full-on duel if that’s what she wants. Apparently, it’s not. She slowly brushes past me and proceeds down the hall.

“Have a good day, detective,” I call after her before heading in the opposite direction.


Eric Dane 16 small

TREY

I have fifteen messages when I get out of the meeting with Brandon, all from CEO’s in the lumber industry—Linc’s colleagues and some of his competitors. I have Andrea organize the messages and arrange a schedule of callbacks during the course of the afternoon.

And one more, from my father.

“I hear you’re looking for new legal counsel,” he says, when I return the call.

“How did you hear that?” I ask.

“Word gets around,” he says. This is the sum-total of my life. My father and brother are both snakes.

“What do you need, Dad?” I ask.

“This whole thing with Elena Lincoln,” he begins, “what’s the real story there?” And here we go.

“There is no story,” I reply. “She’s a delusional bitch who used to be a friend and now she’s not. And if there was a story, I’d be off my fucking rocker to tell you. You’re about as trustworthy as a scorpion.”

“Christian!” he says, mocking injury. “You wound me!”

“Not yet, but I could…” if you don’t keep your nose out of my fucking business.

“You’re not threatening me, are you, son?” he asks coolly.

“You take it how you want to,” I say. “Just take it the fuck out of my personal affairs. That bitch hit me with a potted plant because she thinks I’m responsible for the fall of her business, and now she’s fingering me for some shit I didn’t do as revenge and caused me to spend a night in jail. I’m going to destroy her for that shit. Now, as you can see, I’ve got enough of my own fucking problems without you sniffing around trying to find some where there are none. Stay the fuck out of my life, Dad, and if this is the bullshit you call me with, don’t bother calling me at all!”

I end the call without another word and summon Andrea.

“Yes sir,” she says through the intercom.

“If my father calls, don’t patch him through to my voice mail and don’t take a message.”

“Yes sir,” she says without hesitation.

*-*

The sixth day after that bitch had me arrested, there’s a break in the case.

I knew that my outrageous reward would mean that the police would be inundated with crackpots just looking to cash in, and boy did that work. They got calls from everywhere—people who claimed to be witnesses to the attack and know who did it; people who clearly teamed up for one to report the crime and the other to take the fall with the intention of splitting the reward money once it was collected; and of course, various sightings of Linc.

The fact that on live television, I questioned where he was while his wife was injured and in the hospital shed light on him as a person of interest, but that Bhingman bitch wouldn’t get off my ass. She would show up at places where I was having lunch with clients and sit there and watch me or she’d be standing across the street when I got out of the office. As I’m escorting some key officers of a company I’m planning to merge with to their limousines, I see her sitting in her car not a hundred feet away from the front door of Grey House. I was trying not to call in any favors and do this by the book, but this has to stop.

“I’m willing to take to social media with this harassment,” I say to Bhingman’s superior. “Everywhere I look, there she is. I didn’t commit this crime. While you may not know who did commit it, you have proof that I was nowhere near that woman. Yet, this crazy cow is everywhere I go, like a psychotic groupie! If I did the same thing to her, you’d have me in cuffs, but she gets to do it to me because she has a badge?”

“Mr. Grey, I do apologize,” he says. “She’s just following a lead, and she’s required to be thorough in her investigation…”

“And while she’s thoroughly harassing me after I’ve been cleared, the real culprit is running around out there and she’s not solving the crime! That’s okay. You go on and sit on your butt. I’ll handle this myself.”

I put in the call to the mayor that I was trying to avoid, and to the governor since he’s good friends with my slimy father. I give them the details of the case and let them know that I’m not looking for any favors—I just want her to leave me alone and go catch the real culprit. Within an hour, she was away from my door and I haven’t seen her since.

The best news came in the form of pictures forwarded to me and to various members of the press this morning. A tip came in that was, once again, ignored by the police, so the tipster took to social media and the web. She posted pictures of a badly bruised Caldwell Lincoln checking into a swanky hotel somewhere, as well as a few pictures of him in compromising positions in a nightclub and on the beach with more than one woman… in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas? Seriously? He’s in the Bahamas? Of all the places that loser could abscond to, he went to the Bahamas? For the love of God…

The pictures are very clear, and he looks like utter hell—horrible scratches, a black eye, he’s got a chipped tooth, and bite marks on his hands. She may have taken a beating, but she beat the hell out of him, too.

Once the pictures were released, suddenly the cops announce that they have DNA evidence that eliminates me as a suspect and incriminates her husband. Because she fought back, she had his blood on her and a lot of DNA evidence under her nails. Her house was still a crime scene and with her still recuperating in the hospital, CSI just went back in and took hairs from Linc’s brush.

When they were questioned about why they sat on the evidence or what may have taken so long, a spokesperson indicates that Elena and Linc shared a common space, so they couldn’t immediately assume that he was the culprit just because his DNA was present.

“But you could immediately arrest a man whose DNA wasn’t present based solely on the word of a woman who attacked him several months prior?” I hear one of the reporters ask.

Bullseye!

Needless to say, they are looking to extradite Linc back to the states, assuming they can get it done. And he’s most likely going to stall to give his wounds some time to heal.

Almost simultaneously, I get the notification that Elena is being released from the hospital and has requested police protection—from me! The request was vehemently denied, and she was advised to employ private security if she feels threatened.

Lying ass cow, you should be afraid of me!

My small victory lap is interrupted by Andrea informing me that my 2:00 has arrived. I’ve been interviewing for new legal counsel. Dad probably heard that from just having his ear to the ground as I’m not keeping it a secret. What I am keeping a secret is that I’m looking for an asshole—not a yes man, but someone who understands that I hold the power and doesn’t try to step on my toes like Rockford did. He was once an asshole—still is, actually… he just got too comfortable and lost his edge. Then he decided to play that game with me that lost him his job.

Once they’ve been vetted and cleared, I personally sit down with candidates that will hold key positions in my company, particularly legal. I’ve met with several applicants that were intelligent, industrious, and ambitious—but they sucked up to me too much, or they recited my portfolio like they memorized it right before the meeting, or they just didn’t have the edge.

This guy does.

Daron Wester—very cocky. He’s good and he knows it. He’s currently employed with another corporation downtown, but when he heard about the opening in Grey House, he couldn’t allow the opportunity to pass him by.

“I’m a shark, Mr. Grey,” he says, “I smell blood in the water and I go for it. I’ve been filling up on goldfish for the last few years and I’m tired of it now. So, do you have some meat that I can chew on, or should I take my inquiries elsewhere?”

Oh, I’ve got meat alright. Let’s throw you a few morsels and see how you work out.

I hire the guy for the probationary period, which is usually three months, but he negotiates six instead with the requirement that he gets to work the entire six months at his agreed upon salary without fear of dismissal except in cases of gross misconduct or breach of contract. He’s convinced that he would truly have nothing to sink his teeth into in three months and therefore, wouldn’t be able to show his chops. He’s right.

He’s shrewd. I like him already.

Sink your teeth into suing the municipality that had me wrongfully arrested, destroying the bitch who wrongfully accused me, and gathering the needed information and contacts to uproot Caldwell Lincoln as the timber giant of the United States. By the time I’m done with this piece of shit, he’ll go from being Paul Bunyan to Tom Thumb.

Daron is all for that idea.

I want to get a message to Linc so badly that I know what he did and I’m taking him down but contact with him right now is definitely not a good idea. The best way to get the message to him is to just pull the rug out from under him and keep it moving.

My afternoon is filled with meetings from various representatives of the timber industry. The verdicts are mixed. Many of them don’t know which side to take. Linc has been in the catbird seat in the industry for so long that his name certainly holds clout with the powers that be. However…

“There’s a new face on the timber scene, now, Mr. Granger,” I point out to the President CEO of Wurchiest, one of the largest lumber suppliers in the United States. I don’t let on that having him on my side would most likely be the biggest coup ever and would secure my position in the industry. However, this is personal, and he knows that even if I don’t say so. Wurchiest boasts 12 million acres of timberland in the US alone and produces the lion’s share of wood and paper products from its mills in the northwest and the Midwest.

“You’ve got me in a precarious position, Grey,” Granger says. “I know you’re a corporate giant, but when it comes to timber, you’re an upstart. Lincoln has been in this business for decades and his name is not one that’s spoken softly. A man in my position can’t afford to run behind someone who’s simply trying to satisfy a vendetta only for him to lose interest three or four years down the line and I’ve alienated one of the most powerful men in the business.” I nod.

“I see,” I say, leaning back in my chair. “I can understand you wanting to play it safe, but I have to ask you—and this is not a set-up. Are you a powerhouse on your own, or does your success depend on Lincoln Timber? Ultimately, you just have to decide where you’re going to be standing when the weapons are dropped, and the fight is over and the way I see it, you shouldn’t have to worry about alienating Lincoln. He should be worried about alienating you.

“I don’t need to tell you about GEH’s impressive holdings across several industries. I’m a corporate giant not because I tame the bulls, but because I run with them and sometimes, I capture them. You don’t get to be who I am by playing it safe.

“Lincoln has gotten comfortable. He knows what you know, that his name means something, but that’s all he’s got right now is his name. His contracts are antiquated and the deals that I’m offering are causing his longest-standing colleagues to sweep him by the wayside. Now, it may be today, or it may be tomorrow—hell, it may be next year, but I’ve got my sites set on being the next timber giant. To you, that may just mean that I’m gnawing on a bone. To me, it’s another lucrative endeavor that I can add to GEH’s billion-dollar portfolio. It would be a whole lot easier if you were on board with me, but if I have to be number two for a while, that’s fine by me. Gathering up all the little shards of glass may be a lot of work, but there’s still going to be a whole lot of glass in that pot when it’s all said and done. Putting that big blue marble in there would sure make it a whole lot sweeter. And here’s another thing…

“Lincoln’s time is coming to a close. He may be trying to hold on to what he has with a death grip, but sooner or later, that grip is going to slip because he has a young, vibrant, hungry upstart with unlimited funds under his mattress coming up behind him taking bites out of his ass. You can see it as whatever you want to see it, Mr. Granger, but sooner or later, I will be number one. My success with Mobilecom should serve as an example.”

Granger’s eyes flash at the mention of Mobilecom. It was—as he mentioned—an upstart telecommunications company that I acquired several years ago. Almost immediately upon acquisition, GEH began gobbling smaller telecommunications companies and ISP and cell service providers—small shards of glass to put in the big pot. Within three years, we were competing with large companies, offering the same services at discounted rates because we could afford to. The larger companies were offering “Cadillac” packages at “Cadillac” prices, but people where just beginning to recover from the blows of the housing bubble and the banking crisis and couldn’t afford the Cadillacs. Long story short, Mobilecom is now one of the largest telecommunications providers in the area, all from an even smaller upstart than he’s considering me to be right now.

While these points are marinating in Granger’s head, there’s a knock at my office door. I plan on firing the person on the other side of the door and having them thrown off the premises when Wester sticks his head in. Okay, he’s new, but this doesn’t look good for him.

“Forgive me for interrupting, Mr. Grey, but in light of your meetings this afternoon, I thought this shouldn’t wait.” He walks in and crosses my office. “Utz answered your bid for the clearing rights of their lands in North and South Carolina and Georgia with a contingency on their lands in Oregon.” He hands me a piece of paper with a counter bid from Utz Timber that’s right in the area I was hoping. I aimed very low with my bid, knowing that I was outbidding Linc’s current contract, but still not coming in as high as I could on what the land and the rights were worth. Utz played right into my hands, sealing the bid at within five million of my target offer. I could counter, but I’m sure that Wester timed this little announcement for Granger’s benefit.

“Oo,” I exclaim quietly. “Lock it down. Inform him that I can have contracts on his desk in an hour for his review and we can Skype and have this puppy signed, sealed, and delivered by dinnertime.” Wester nods.

“Done, sir,” he says as he leaves the room without even acknowledging Granger.

“Utz,” Granger says, almost to himself. “Small company…”

“With considerable interests,” I add. “Shards of glass, Mr. Granger.” He twists his lips and stands.

“I’ll be in touch,” he says. I stand with him.

“You do that, sir,” I say proffering my hand to him. He shakes it firmly, buttons his suit jacket and proceeds to the door. When he opens it, at least seven executives from different timber companies are waiting in my lobby area.

“Sirs, I apologize. My meeting ran a little longer than I expected. Since I’m sure that you’ve been chatting among yourselves, would you mind terribly if we all met together in the conference room? I can reschedule anyone who would rather have a one-on-one for a later time.” We’re not talking numbers after all—just yet. We’re just working on an agreement. The gentlemen all agree to a meeting and I have Andrea show them to the conference room while I show Granger to the door.

This couldn’t have worked out better had I planned it this way.

“Mr. Granger?” I say, gesturing towards the elevator.

“Shards of glass,” he points out as I push the call button.

“There’s still room in the pot, sir. Let me know.” We shake again before he boards the elevator.

“Get some refreshments in that room quick,” I tell Andrea. “Coffee, water, soft drinks, pastries. And tell security I need three details, now.  It’s showtime.”

And showtime it is. Linc’s diehard supporters all but accuse me of trying to destroy a national treasure while the others have valid questions concerning my plans and reasons for wanting to enter an industry so far outside the spectrum of my current interests. I give them the whole Manifest Destiny-type speech that this is a lucrative industry and I want in.

“And this would have nothing to do with the personal issues that you’re currently having with Lincoln and his wife, would it?” Stuver taunts.

“Of course, it does,” I say to his surprise and to the surprise of the other men in the room. They’re not surprised that I’m having issues with Linc, just that I admitted that those issues are the foundation of my interest.

“I’m a straight shooter, gentlemen,” I say, standing from my chair and buttoning my jacket as I circle the room. “My intense—and justified—dislike of the Lincolns is exactly what brought my attention to the timber industry. If I wanted to sneak in through the back door, all I had to do was buy stock. Not only would that give me voting rights, but I would also be driving up the price of my own investment. It would also make any one of the companies that I’m approaching ripe for a takeover. That’s not what I want. I want to be a part of the industry, of the growth, the profits. I have the money and the power to do it. I want the profitable companies and operations to stay intact, and I can still enjoy the prosperity of the expansion while contributing to the profits that you deserve that you’re currently not getting through your contracts with Lincoln Timber.”

Various murmurs spread over the conference room.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable being a part of your cat-and-mouse game with Caldwell Lincoln,” Stuver continues. “He’s been a captain of this industry probably longer than you’ve been alive and I don’t think it’s the best idea to put the future of our companies in your hands.”

This sonofabitch. So, now he’s the spokesperson? Time to strip him of his imagined power.

“Very well, Mr. Stuver. You can leave now.” To say that he’s taken aback would be an understatement.

“What?” he barks with heavy emphasis on the “wh.”

“You’ve made your position quite clear. You are obviously pro-Lincoln, and I am not. So, our business here is done. If you would like to hold a meeting with any one of these gentlemen at a later date, I suggest you contact their office and make an appointment. In the meantime, thank you so much for coming and you can leave now. Taylor, please show this gentleman to the elevator.” Stuver’s eyes widen and he scoffs disbelieving.

“Is this how you do business, Grey?” he accuses. “You invite people to your business and then throw them out when they disagree with you?”

“Feel free to disagree with me all you want,” I defend. “However, you’ve spent the afternoon throwing veiled insults at me, wasting my time, and defending my adversary. You’ve made it very clear that you want nothing to do with this endeavor. So, our business is done and yes, I’m throwing you out. You should be questioning my cojones if I allow you to stay.” I turn to face the other gentlemen in the room. “If anyone shares his opinion, please join him now.” One other person stands and heads for the door.

“And thank you for coming as well, Mr. Warner,” I say to the asshole who stood up. “Taylor?”

“Gentlemen?” Taylor says as he holds the door open. Stuver and Warner both leave, conspiring as they walk to the elevator.

I’ll deal with them later.

“Now, back to business. Should I stop talking now or are any of you gentlemen interested in my hope for expansion?”

The room is silent for a several moments before someone finally speaks up.

“Well, you’re right about one thing,” Spires says. “Lincoln is lowballing the hell out of me and he doesn’t give much if any at all when it’s time for renegotiations.”

“That’s because Lincoln is the Rockefeller of timber, so to speak,” I admit. “A long time ago, he did what I’m doing right now—locked down one lumber interest, then two, then four, then eight, and so on. Pretty soon, he was one of the biggest names in lumber. Those above him saw no need to take him down, or he’d be down by now. His lateral colleagues may keep an eye on him, but as long as he’s a good boy and stays in their good graces, they continue to allow him to play in the sandbox with them. Those below him haven’t had the desire or the ability to go up against him. I fall into none of those categories.

“Where I am now is where Lincoln started when he began Lincoln Timber. The difference between me and him is that I’ve already secured several timber interests as my startup. In addition, Lincoln doesn’t have the buying power that I have—or the drive. The only reason why Lincoln Timber is a giant right now is because he enjoys outrageously massive profits by keeping his costs low—you all!” I point around the room to each of them. “He buys a lot from you, but at a very low price, and you all know this. What if you could maintain the same level of production at a profit margin 10-33% higher than you’re recognizing right now?”

The murmurings begin across the room again.

“I only say that, gentlemen, because once the contracts are signed, the numbers are available to whomever may ask for them under the Freedom of Information Act. Lincoln is definitely lowballing you. Some of you are operating on profit margins that weren’t acceptable a decade ago. Others of you—and you know who you are—are enjoying near or at-market profits because you held out for a better deal, but I can still make it sweeter. I must tell you that I’m determined, gentlemen. I’m not going to let anyone stop me. I’ll keep going until I build my own industry giant if I have to.”

Of course, Wester comes knocking at my door again. Does he plan this shit?

“Again, my apologies, sir. Just thought you should know that I just got another call—Wurchiest is a go.” I suppress a smile.

“Wurchiest,” I hear someone whisper. “I knew I recognized that guy.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wester,” I say. He nods and leaves the room. Yeah, he’s cocky as fuck.

“Gentlemen, those battle lines are being drawn. What say you?” I say, taking my seat again.

“Fuck,” Spires says, “I don’t want to be on the losing side when the dust clears. Count me in.”

Four out of five of the remaining executives agree to come over to my side before the meeting is over. The fifth wants a little time to think about it. Don’t think too hard, junior. The offer may not be on the table for long.

By the time I get home that evening, I get the best news yet. I don’t know who made a call to whom or what happened, but the police in the Bahamas pulled Linc in and took several pictures of his scars and bruises. I have no idea how this works, but I have a feeling that they have all the evidence that they need to pin that motherfucker and I have all the evidence that I need to begin my lawsuit.

I fire off a text to Wester to get the ball rolling and file the needed documents with the required agencies. I wasn’t born yesterday. Most likely, nothing will come from this lawsuit, but it’ll ruffle enough feathers to make sure that this case is going to be examined with a fine-toothed comb.

*-*

She’s on her knees on my bed, facing away from me with that glorious ass on display. The plump lips of her pussy peak from just beyond the junction of her parted thighs and she’s looking coyly over her shoulder, her mahogany hair cascading down her naked back, caressing her creamy skin.

“What are you waiting for?” she taunts, her voice like melted butter.

I have no fucking idea, I think to myself, fisting my unbelievably stiff erection in my right hand. I climb onto the bed and crawl up behind her, my dick pointing due North and seeping in anticipation. I don’t dawdle. I want her too much—have wanted her for months!

Her ass is fucking beautiful—the source of many scenes and vicarious orgasms with other women as well as orgasms at her hand in her dungeon… strapped to her table, chained to her ceiling, bound to her wall. That ass is calling me, but I’ve wanted that pussy for too long to let this opportunity pass me by. I’ll have to get the best of both worlds.

I release my dick and close the space between us, caressing her bare back, her hips, then her stomach, committing the feel of her skin to memory. Mmmm, she feels divine. I move my hands down to the front of her thighs and splay my finger firmly across the soft skin. I press her body against mine as I nip her shoulders, tasting her flavor. Her ass sandwiches my dick and I can’t help it. I push my cock between those soft, sweet cheeks and let the feeling of the meat burn my shaft as I stroke a few times. I groan at the feeling… so fucking good.

 “Stop teasing,” she warns, her voice even. “Handle your business.”

With pleasure, Mistress.

I pull back and grab my cock. Guiding it between her parted legs, the head finds its way to her luscious peach without much coaxing. I push forward and breach that sweet pussy with a loud grunt, shivering at the feel of the inside of her. I’m going to come.

Fuck! No! Not yet.

I pull out slowly and push into her again. So fucking good… slowly… don’t come too soon.

“Faster,” she commands, her voice is controlled the whole time. I move a little faster, exercising every bit of dick control that I can. Her pussy is hot and burning my dick, coaxing and commanding me to come. My fingers sink into her hips as I settle into a sensual roll that gives me continuous stimulation. Fuck, she feels so fucking good and I’ve wanted this for so fucking long.

“Shit!” I hiss, not sure how much longer I can hold out.

“Poor Chopper,” she taunts, wiggling her hips seductively on my dick while still holding on to the headboard. “Can’t hold out much longer? We’ve only just started.”

“Fuck!” I groan as that pussy rolls masterfully over my dick. “Shit, that feels good.”

“I know,” she says, wiggling her hips again, and I still for fear that I’ll blow my load inside her right this second if I thrust into that hot pussy against that delicious, round wiggling ass.

“Ummmgghhh!” I groan, fighting for all I’m worth to hold my nut.

“Sit back, ass on your feet,” she commands. I take a deep breath and do as I’m told. Her ass sticks a little further out, a little further up, on perfect display—and I can clearly see her hungry pussy lips wrapped around my aching cock. Fuck, the site is almost unbearable.

“Now, fuck me,” she commands, her voice a mixture of sensual and demanding. God, I’m not going to last long.

I push my cock into her resisting pussy, groaning deep as I watch and feel it rubbing against her lips and the velvety inside of her core.

“Dammit!” I groan, as she stays stock still and gives me the pleasure of watching my dick sink into that deliciously soft and wet pussy, over and over again. I groan mournfully as I feel my pleasure creeping through my rolling abs and the tightening muscle in my back. Too soon. Too fucking soon…

“Hold it, Chopper,” she coaches in that playroom voice. “Enjoy it… you know you want it.”

She starts to move, raising her ass on my withdrawal and pushing down when I thrust—not too fast, not too hard, not to eager. Just enough to match my stroke.

“That’s it,” she coaxes, “keep it steady.”

My muscles ache from trying not to thrust into her like a horny rabbit. I keep the stroke even like she instructs me, licking my lips at the sheer pleasure of the burn. I use my fingertips to gently lift her ass. I’m not holding anything up, just lifting slightly so that I can feel her skin against my hand. Her ass is softer than I expected and as she grinds down onto me, my hands cause her to open more, giving me an even more tormenting view of her assault on my cock.

“Sweet Jesus!” I hiss as I watch her pussy greedily gobble my shaft. I’m shaking with pleasure as we cruise into and against each other, my dick threatening an offering that she won’t soon forget.

And I feel the crack of a lunge whip across my back.

“Fuck!” I cry out as my dick stiffens immediately inside her unforgiving pussy. Fucking hell! The combination of my most recently discovered guiltiest pleasure—or pain—and the culmination of something I’ve wanted so much that I could barely think of anything else is almost more than I can take.

I run my hand up her back and thrust it into her hair, grabbing a handful of it as I watch her body drop down on my aching dick.

“Fuck… Golden…” I groan as I thrust into her and she pushes back onto my erection, matching me stroke for sensual stroke. “God!” I gasp as my free hand roams up her body to her perfect breast and we continue the hottest, sensual tango I’ve ever felt in my life—a synchronized fuck where each stroke burns deeper than the one before with an unbelievable rhythm that has my dick desperate to come.

The whip bites into my flesh once more, searing across my back and causing my mouth to water.

“Fuck!” I bite out as it feels like she’s getting tighter around me. “Fuck!”

“Don’t lose it,” she purrs. “Keep your rhythm. Keep it deep…”

I groan in my chest, rolling my hips as I lean back and thrust into her, making sure that every millimeter of my dick sinks into that tight, wet pussy.

“Shit!” I curse. “I… can’t! Too… fucking… tight…” Too fucking much…

“Feel it, Chopper,” she coaxes as she rolls her hips in the opposite direction of my gyrations. Her control is maddening, and so fucking hot! My dick stiffens and now it hurts to roll my hips. I can only thrust into her, repeatedly, watching my dick disappear and reappear—wet, red, and angry—in and out of her luscious pussy.

“It’s coming!” I grunt, rolling my abs and getting lost in the wet sounds our sex makes as she pumps my cock with her juicy pussy. “It’s… coming!”

“Mmmm,” she moans. “Well, like I said… what are you waiting for?”

One final crack of the whip across my skin and my balls pop like eggs, my cum spilling helplessly out into her.

“Fuck!” I hiss, one hand fisting in her hair, the other grasping her hip as I try to still my stroke and enjoy the pulsing of my dick, but it’s no use. Both our bodies continue that sensual, even grind as I’m coming relentlessly inside that wet pussy.

That maddening, even stroke has my dick thumping and pounding so hard and my balls saluting magnificently. I squeeze my eyes shut and howl in agonizing satisfaction, the sound echoing in my ears…

The pain and pleasure are so deep that I open my eyes and I’m face down in my bed, sweating like a man on trial and coming so hard that my ass muscles hurt from the tension. I’m fucking my mattress and the orgasm is still going on and on and on. I’m gripping handfuls of my sheets, biting my pillow as I thrust into the mattress and still see her in my head, riding my cock.

“Golden! Golden! Golden!” I bite out into my pillow as my body comes so hard, I almost want to cry.

“Yes! Fuck! Yes!” I groan as I tremble through the intensity. When the orgasm finally wanes, I fall helplessly onto the bed, breathing heavily and trying to recover. I knew it was a dream. I knew it when I was fucking her, but I didn’t care. I had to have her any way that I could, and that was the best fuck that never happened to me in my entire life.

I fall back into an exhausted sleep, pondering what tribute I’ll be sending to my Mistress for this wonderful gift she’ll never know she gave me.


A/N: Chris Cagney was one half of a female police duo from a series from the 80’s called Cagney and Lacey. So, when Ana calls Bhingman “Cagney,” she’s referring to the cop show.

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 61—Memories

You know how you get a plan, and you say, “This is the plan! This is what I’m going to do!” and as soon as you start the plan, life happens and shit just gets dumped on your head?

Of all the times that I’ve said, “I’m ready to publish,” I never took the active steps. I just said it and then beat around the bush… “It’s okay, I’ve got time…” 

This is the first time—the first God’s honest time that I said that I was really ready to publish and I started taking steps to get published… and it seems like the celestial planes opened up and cow manure just started falling from the sky on my head, like my saying that I was really ready to publish was a bad omen. 

So… I’ve decided to keep my mouth shut—to be like Nike and “Just Do It.” You won’t hear me talk about it anymore until the book is being marketed to be sold. I can do this, I know I can, but shit just keeps rolling in front of me to stop me and I can’t keep letting that happen. It’s going to be a slow process because my money just dried up after 1) I had to go to Detroit for my other mother’s funeral and 2) I had to get major repairs on my car. The well is completely dry, and I’m trying to fill it back up again.

But I digress… On with the story. Thanks for listening.

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 61—Memories

ANASTASIA

The accident… of course. How could I forget?

You forgot because you never knew what day it was. You just woke up in the hospital.

That’s right. Nobody ever told me what day it happened… just sometime in November.

“Ana?” Grace says, and I snap out of my daydream.

“I…” I swallow hard. “I never knew what day it happened,” I admit.

“Are you okay?” Marilyn asks.

“I’m… I’m fine, I just…” I shake my head. “I just wonder why Christian didn’t say anything.” Was that what he was referring to when he said he thought I was sleeping in today?

“Maybe he didn’t want to bring it up. It’s such a sensitive topic, after all,” Grace says as she sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk. That could definitely be true. He did seem to be tiptoeing around the conversation… except when I said, “Fuck you.”

“Yeah,” I say with a sigh, suddenly feeling the need to rub my scar. “That’s definitely a day that will live in infamy.”

“I’ll certainly never forget it,” Marilyn says sliding into the seat next to Grace. “I think Al had activated the contingency and he just called Gary and Max. When he told me what happened, I was stunned. It seemed so… surreal.”

“That’s definitely the word for it,” Grace says. “I was in the hospital when they brought you in, but of course, I’m on the pediatric ward. By the time I discovered that you were there, you were already in surgery.”

“Where was Christian?” I ask. They both gaze at me.

“You don’t remember?” Marilyn asks.

“I’m sure if I thought about it hard enough, I would. But right now, I don’t,” I confess. “I remember him being there when I woke up, but the particulars of the moments before I got there are still a bit cloudy. They come and go.”

“Christian had gone back to Detroit to see if Anton Myrick was actually in jail,” Grace says. Oh yes, I do remember that now. “He had told you to come to our house until he returned, but you were already headed back to Escala. He discovered that you had been in the accident when he got off the plane.”

“That had to be horrendous,” I comment, thinking how I would feel if the roles had been reversed.

“Yeah, some unscrupulous photographers got some pretty candid shots of his immediate reaction,” Marilyn informs me. “I know you could probably find them if you Googled them, but the reaction of the public and the huge outpouring of support after your accident kind of shamed the reporters who took the pictures, and they somewhat disappeared into obscurity after that.”

“Hmm,” I say, “they became their own sacrificial lambs.”

“Pretty much,” Marilyn confirms. “Before I forget, I got a message from Val this morning that she and Elliot are going to be throwing themselves a housewarming tomorrow. She says gifts are not expected because it’s such short notice but will be accepted. She just wants to show off the new house.” I shake my head.

“I’m going to give her a pass on this one, because I don’t think she’s ever had a housewarming before in her life, but I’m going to rag the hell out of her for waiting until the last minute.”

“She’d probably just give it back to you, Bosslady,” Marilyn says. “How many last-minute parties or get-togethers of yours has she been invited to?”

Yeah… there is that.

“I didn’t want to say anything to anyone at the time,” Grace says, “but that’s when I first got the impression that something was wrong with Valerie besides her just being an insufferable cow. She was at the hospital every day and she truly looked like she was going to expire without you, but the moment anybody approached her…” She trails off and shrugs.

“Jesus,” I say. “That was just a bad time in all of our lives.”

“You and Christian never talked about it?” Marilyn asks.

“Very briefly,” I admit. “We were more focused on recovery and getting on with our lives than the accident, especially since we knew who had caused it and that I wasn’t in any danger of them anymore.”

“I never really got the details on that one,” Grace prods.

“Unfortunately, Grace, you won’t get them from me, either,” I say. “The most I can tell you is that part of the story is extremely sensitive and if it hasn’t been shared with the family by now, it won’t be.” She shrugs.

“Oh, well,” she cedes, “as long as there’s no threat…”

“There’s no threat,” I interject. There’s silence for a moment.

“Does it bother you to talk about this?” Grace asks. My turn to shrug.

“Not really,” I reply. “I never heard about the reactions of everyone else. I mean, I heard some of them, but not all of them, and not in any great detail. If I’m going to talk about it, now would be the time… before I go talk to my shrink later.”

“A shrink with a shrink,” Marilyn says. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.”

“It’s no different than a surgeon who needs a surgeon, or an eye-doctor who needs an eye-doctor, or a dentist who needs a dentist,” I say, and she nods.

“Being a doctor,” Grace says, “it was hard for me to watch. You were in pretty bad shape when you came out of surgery, and while Dr. Hill was gingerly trying to tell Christian what the odds were, I knew the grim truth. I think he did, too—Dr. Hill’s words were of very little comfort to him. He lamented losing you every day.”

“I remember when the cops came to the hospital,” Marilyn says. “I wasn’t in the room, but I saw when they left. They were none too happy, and Ray came out of there barking like a bear.”

“Ray?” I ask. “Daddy?”

“Yeah,” Marilyn nods. “As far as I could tell, they said something to Christian that he didn’t take too kindly to and he kicked them out. I think they came back a couple more times, but they never got anything, of course. Christian was on a plane when this whole thing happened.”

“They tried to pin this on Christian?” I ask incredulously. Marilyn nods.

“Christian wouldn’t talk to them,” she says. “If they didn’t have any information on what happened to you, he had nothing to say.”

“What?” I tease. “Mr. Grey didn’t stomp around the hospital demanding answers?”

“That didn’t happen until you woke up,” Grace says with a chuckle. “He was trying to get Dr. Hill fired because he kicked Christian out of the room.” I frown.

“Okay, I didn’t hear that part,” I say. “I remember losing my temper because Dr. Hill kicked him out of the room, but I didn’t hear anything about Christian coming unglued.”

“Oh, yes,” Grace says. “If I remember correctly, Dr. Hunt said that Christian approached him quite ardently about having Dr. Hill replaced. Christian said that he would call Switzerland if he had to and get the next best neurosurgeon available.”

That sounds like my Christian,” I reply with mirth.

“It turned out to all be a misunderstanding,” she says. “As you can see, all’s well that ends well.” I nod. I guess we really were in a hurry to move on with our lives. We never really discussed the impact this had on us or the people around us.

“Well, it looks like I have something to discuss with Ace this afternoon,” I say, trying to change the subject. Grace takes the hint and stands.

“Just remember,” she says, “I’m always here if you need to talk… about anything.” She leaves my office. I kind of get the idea that Christian may have talked to her at some point about my chosen treatment plan for PTSD. I hate admitting that I have it, especially after that conversation all those months ago with Dr. Baker, but she was completely off the mark. This situation was different, and she was wrong.

“So, Mare,” I say, changing tact, “you’re my employee, but you’re also my friend. Time is ticking into the future, my dear. When are you going to take that test?” She sighs.

“I know, I know,” she laments. “I’m going to take one this weekend. Whatever I decide to do, I definitely need to know soon.”

“Have you talked anymore to Gary?” I ask. She rolls her eyes.

“Gary is of one mind,” she says. “He won’t hear anything else but that I’m keeping the baby. So, talking to him is kind of mute right now, especially if I make a decision he doesn’t like. It irritates me that he rubs my stomach when I haven’t even decided to keep the baby if I am pregnant. And if I decide the terminate the pregnancy, I get the feeling that he’s never going to touch me again.”

I’ve seen this kind of situation break people up for more reasons than one. I don’t even know what to say to her right now.

“You have a tough decision ahead of you, Mare,” I begin. “Whatever you do will have quite the dramatic effect on you both, and that ripple will most likely reach much further than that. However, this is one of those times where I will advise you to carefully consider what you want. You are the first and most prevalent person your decision will affect. Only after that do you consider everyone else’s needs and wants. Either decision is going to affect you exponentially, and you need to decide which of those exponents are most bearable and most favorable.” She leans her head over on her fingertips and closes her eyes.

“Bosslady, can you do me a favor? Stop being PC for a minute and give it to me straight.”

Why am I beginning to hate when people say I’m PC?

“Okay,” I say folding my hands on my desk. “I had my babies because I was ready. I was in love with and married to a billionaire. I was happy. We planned for children, and I’m not so young. Granted, I’m not old, but for motherhood, I’m old enough. Conditions were right for me. Are conditions right for you?

“On the one hand, you’re young and you’ve got things that you want to do. On the other hand, you have a great guy who loves you and is excited about the concept of having a baby. Right now, those are the only two people that matter. There’s no other way to put this, Mare. You must rearrange your entire life for a baby. If motherhood was not in the original plan, that’s going to be fucking hard. It’s not going to be a cakewalk anyway, but it’s going to be really hard if it wasn’t what you wanted. You will make sacrifices. You’ll do things that you never thought you would do before, but all in all, it’ll be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve ever had.

“However, if you don’t want this, it’ll be the worst decision you’ve ever made if you keep it. Your entire life thereafter will be filled with ‘what if’s’ and ‘woulda-shoulda-couldas.’ You’ll resent that baby and what you feel you had to sacrifice for him or her, and you could possibly come to resent Gary. You’re already resenting him for rubbing your stomach—which is a form of emotional warfare, even though he may not know it or intend it to be. That’s another reason why you need to take that test and make your decision because it’s not really fair to him.

“Now,” I begin, standing from my seat and walking around my desk. “There is, of course, a third party that you have to consider in all of this.” I lean on my desk in front of her.

“I’m not going to preach pro-life to you, but what about the baby? Can you give that baby the kind of life he or she deserves if you have it and don’t want it? You’ve already clearly said the adoption is not an option, but if it somehow becomes an option, can you give a baby away after you’ve carried it for nine months? How will that affect you? And Gary?

“And then there’s the unspoken thing that I don’t know if either of us has addressed. Twelve years ago, I was in your shoes even though I didn’t know it. I found out that I was pregnant after the fact, but knowing that, I knew that had I known before the fact that I would have found a way to get rid of it. The affects are the same—I detached myself from a living part of me enough to know that I never would have kept it; to be glad that it was gone. In my heart, I had terminated that pregnancy even though I had nothing to do with it.

“I never told anybody, but more than a few times, I wondered what would have happened if my baby had lived. Where would we be now living with a mother then who hated having me around much less help raise a child. Would I have turned out like her… or worse? Would Cody and his family have tried to take him or her away from me? Would they even claim it?

“All in all, although it was not a good thing that the baby was murdered, it was a good thing that I didn’t have the baby—but I still wonder…

“Would it have looked like me or would I have had to stare Cody Whitmore in the eye for the rest of my life?

“Would he have the rotten tendencies as Cody? Or my mother? Would I be able to curtail any of that?

“Would I love it anyway… because it was a part of me? Nurture it and do my best to keep it from harm, make sure that it never felt in its life the way that my mother made me feel? I still wonder.

“Technically, my twins are rainbow babies because they were the first born after I lost a child, but I often wonder if they’re considered rainbow babies if you didn’t want the first child in the first place.” I raise my eyes to Marilyn who is on the brink of tears.

“I didn’t get the chance to make that decision the first time, Mare, but you have to.” She quickly wipes a tear from her eye.

“Jesus, I’m not any closer to making a decision than I was before we started the conversation,” she laments.

“Well, if you’re looking for me to give you that magic word that’s suddenly going to be your answer, that’s not going to happen. I’ve given you the real deal—the entire good, bad, and ugly that I know. You have to make the ultimate decision.”

“I love Gary so much,” she says, her voice cracking. “Maybe, one day, I can see having children with him… but today?” She trails off with the question and offers no answer. “It’s… going to be a short day, right? Can you… survive without me for the rest of the day? I think I’m going to need to take some of that perpetual sick leave I’ve accumulated.”

“Go,” I say, waving her off. “I can manage.

*-*

“PTSD,” I snap at Ace after I take a seat on his sofa.

“Excuse me?” he says, closing the door behind me and standing at the seat in front of me.

“I have a question for you,” I say, “and it’s a valid question.” He folds his arms.

“I’m waiting,” he says.

“Are we getting too close?” He jerks his head like I just hit him. “You see, when Maxie and I began to get too close, her ability to help me weakened until it diminished completely. I’m wondering if we may be getting too close… too personal.”

“I sent you out of this office crying last Friday because you were choking on the truth, and now you think we’re getting too close?” he asks incredulously.

“I can’t see any other reason why you would have missed such an obvious diagnosis,” I say matter-of-factly.

“And what makes you say that?” he asks. There’s something hiding in his voice. It sounds like anger or frustration, I don’t know, but quite fucking frankly, I don’t care.

“PTSD!” I snap. “I’m suffering from PTSD because of Christian’s flight to Madrid!”

“Oh, that,” he says, finally taking the seat in front of me.

“Yeah, oh that!” I say in a mocking tone. “Wasn’t it obvious?”

“Was it obvious to you?” he retorts.

“It’s not supposed to be obvious to me! You’re my shrink!”

“And you’re still a doctor!” he snaps back. “Do you think a dentist needs another dentist to tell him that his toothache is a cavity? He may need someone else to look in his mouth and tell him how bad it is, but he knows it’s a cavity! And even he can manipulate a mirror and see a cavity in his own mouth. So, what did you do—take a good hard look in a mirror?”

“No! A friend helped me see what was going on, because my shrink couldn’t do it!”

“No, your shrink wouldn’t do it!” he shoots. “Someone else mentioned PTSD to you and you shut down completely—won’t even be in the same room with the woman. Now, I’m trying to help you work through an extremely difficult situation and you expected me to suggest it? Even if it may have been true?

“There are other ways to get you to understand that you’re suffering from PTSD without saying that you’re suffering from PTSD, like when I told you that you were torturing yourself; like when I told you that you have to find a way to move on or you would be paralyzed in fear if you didn’t; like when I shoved your unrealistic expectations of Christian right back down your throat and you ran out of here like a toddler because you knew that I was right! Had I come out and said, ‘Ana, you’re suffering from PTSD,’ you would have fired me, and you know it. Yet I saw it, your friend saw it, but you couldn’t. Why? I’ll tell you why, because you were so damn tunnel-visioned on it that you couldn’t see it yourself.

“Why do you think I keep calling you ‘doctor’ during our sessions?” he asks accusingly. “You know what’s going on. You’d spot it in a minute if it was somebody else, but you refuse to see it in yourself. Your misery is affecting everyone around you… everyone, yet you prefer to wallow in it and worry about it instead of doing something about it.”

“That’s not fair, Ace,” I say squarely. “You haven’t even asked me how I’m handling this or what I’m doing since I realized what it is. You just start condemning me for not knowing what it was in the beginning.”

“Well, excuse me, but when my patient—who is also a doctor—comes into my office and immediately starts barking at me about not doing my job, I tend to get a little sensitive. And quite frankly, don’t try to feed me that crap about not knowing what it was. You have all the classic symptoms. I can totally understand not being able to see through your shit-colored glasses, but with all that schooling and all the people that you’ve said you helped in your life, there’s no way in hell you didn’t know what you had. You just didn’t want to admit it because someone else said it first.

“Even though Dr. Baker may have been off the mark at the time that she mentioned it, she said it, you shut it down, and you couldn’t hear it or see it again. You deal with it every day in varying degrees with the people who come into the Center and you couldn’t—or wouldn’t—see it in yourself! So, you tell me who couldn’t diagnose you, doctor!”

I sit silently in my seat glaring at him, resenting him for being right… again, but he still didn’t give me a chance to tell him how I’m dealing with it.

That would be because you came into the office barking at him. Would you attempt to reason with a rabid dog?

And here you go. I definitely don’t need your smart mouth right now.

Yes, you do. You’ve been needing it for months, but you haven’t listened to me. I knew what was wrong, but the great Dr. Steele-Grey had this all figured out, so I shut the fuck up. Boogeyman, indeed.

Don’t mock my coping mechanisms.

That’s not a coping mechanism. That’s an excuse. And don’t look now, but your doctor’s staring at you.

Apparently, my inner conversation with the bitch went on a little too long and must have come with some kind of expressive gestures, because Ace is looking at me with a combination of confusion and anger… or frustration.

“I’m journaling,” I say to him.

“Congratulations,” he says sarcastically. “Psychology 101.”

“And now you’re mocking me, too,” I observe.

“Someone else is mocking you?” he asks, sarcasm still evident.

“Skip it,” I say, pursing my lips. “Today is the anniversary of my accident.” He raises a brow at me. “I didn’t know it. Grace and Marilyn told me.”

“How did you not know it?” he asks, frowning.

“Because I awoke in the hospital something like two weeks later not knowing who my husband was,” I retort. Ace scrubs his hand over his face.

“Ana,” he says, rising out of his seat, “I’m going to need you to find a friend to talk to. I can’t do this.” I frown deeply.

“What?” I ask horrified. He’s dumping me, too? Why the fuck can’t I keep a shrink?

“Today,” he says. “I can’t do this today. This conversation started on the wrong foot and I can’t find my professionalism to help you like I know that I need to. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a bit perturbed and this will not be a productive session. I know this is a delicate time and an important day, but I can’t service you like I should feeling the way that I do right now. That’s why I’m advising that you speak to a friend—not just any friend, someone who knows and understands what you’ve gone through over the last year… particularly over the last two months.”

But I don’t wanna talk to a friend. I wanna talk to my fucking shrink!

“Can’t we just… start over?” I protest.

“No, Ana, we can’t start over,” he retorts. “Today is a wash. I told you that your misery is affecting everybody around you. Now, it’s affecting me. You want to blame someone or something for how you feel, for your current state even though there’s not necessarily anyone to blame, but you gotta put it somewhere. Blame Christian; blame the universe; blame the blue-eyed guy who had you mesmerized and almost kissed you; blame the Boogeyman. Now, you’re blaming me.”

“I’m not blaming you!” I excuse.

“The hell you aren’t!” he snaps. “You came in here and screamed a diagnosis at me, then proceeded to try to dress me down like I’m the root of your problem, like I haven’t been telling you ever since this happened—ever since you came to me with this shit—to get to the bottom of how you were feeling. I knew what was happening when I visited your house, the minute you crawled into your shell and refused to talk about it. You wouldn’t even look at your husband and you were a breath off of doing that shrinking shit again.

“What I need you to do—what you need to do—is take some responsibility for your treatment and for how you feel. If you’ve done that already, bravo! But the bottom line is that you should have done it a long time ago. Go ahead and mourn the death of your perfect life—that’s fine. It had to die at some point, and a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter if someone has not yet taken their final breath. However, after every death, life must go on. Yet you kept behaving like you wanted to crawl into the casket and die with your fairytale, and you couldn’t tell that was PTSD?”

He’s mad. He’s really mad. No, he’s pissed. His voice has escalated, and I know things are getting bad when I hear a knock at the door. A timid Amber sticks her head in the door.

“Doctor?” she says softly. “Are you okay?” Ace scrubs his hand over his kinky hair.

“I’m fine,” he says softly to his wife. “Don’t leave.” He turns back to face me.

“Find a friend to talk to,” he says coldly. “Don’t hold in how you’re feeling today, what today is and what it means. The most professional thing I can do right now is tell you to leave before I really offend you and then you really fire me.” He turns back to Amber. “Shut it down. We’re going home.”

“Yes, doctor,” she says professionally and returns to the reception area, leaving the door open.

The session is officially over.

Ace doesn’t say anything else to me. There’s really nothing else to say after you kick your patient out of your office, now is there?

I put my purse on my shoulder and walk out of the office, then out the front door. It barely closes behind me before I hear the lock engage.

Well, damn.

I walk to the parking lot, not really knowing how to feel or what to think. When I bend the corner, there’s a limo waiting there. What celebrity has come to visit Dr. Avery? Chuck steps out of the Audi and a chauffeur steps out of the limo.

“Apparently,” Chuck says, “your husband has plans for the evening. I’m to follow you and the limo to Miana’s where you will be ‘prepared’ for the night’s events.” He smiles.

It’s such a welcome surprise that I almost want to cry. I guess Christian will have to be the friend that I lean on tonight.

“Mrs. Grey,” the chauffeur says as he opens the door for me.


CHRISTIAN

“I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but did you know that there’s a hidden passageway that leads from the pantry to the foyer?” I ask Aunt Tina when I get to her house that morning.

“Of course, I’m aware of it,” Tina says softly. “I’ve lived in this house for 50 years. There are several. There’s one that leads from the kitchen to the servant’s quarters as well, and from the servant’s quarters to the backyard, but that one’s usually locked.”

Servant’s quarters to the outside… I shoot a text to Jason to check the other two passages immediately. Unless he was just afraid to approach or afraid to be discovered, Roger could be gaining access to the house freely even though he’s not on staff anymore.

“Well, I’m arranging for tighter security and some video surveillance of the outside of the house—not the cheap stuff that kept buzzing in your ear. The good stuff that my team will be able to review. We’ll set up a security room here…” I point to a room on the plan. Tina looks at it and nods.

“That was Daddy’s den,” she says fondly. My face falls.

“I won’t use it if you don’t want…” She waves me off.

“Daddy’s been gone for a long time now,” she says. “I’ll be gone soon, too. Use whatever room you must and do whatever you must to protect my Harmony.” Harmony smiles softly.

“You seem to be doing better today, Tina,” I say, squeezing her hand. She’s sitting in the parlor in a comfortable chair with a hot cup of tea and a roaring fire. There’s a very pretty and feminine shawl on her shoulders and an afghan warming her legs.

“Yes,” she says cheerfully, “getting all the juice outta the old gray mare before she’s put down.”

That sounds awful to me, but I know exactly what she means.

“I’m going to leave you in peace, now, Auntie,” I say as I rise to leave. She catches my hand.

“Harmony, darling, can you give me a moment alone with Christian?” she says sweetly.

“Sure thing, Mommy.” Harmony kisses her mother’s cheek. “I’ll go see how soon lunch will be.”

“Thank you, darling.” Harmony nods at me before leaving the room.

“My children are a dreadful lot,” she begins immediately the moment Harmony leaves the room. “I was hoping at least one of them would have come by now. They’re all old, I understand, but I’m older. They may even be sick, but I’m sicker. We’re all knocking on Death’s door, but he’s going to answer a whole lot sooner for me than he is for them.”

She shakes her head and gazes at the fire. She’s not angry. She doesn’t even seem hurt. She’s just… disgusted.

“I’m going to provide for them,” she says. “I’m going to leave something to every one of them. It’s what Daddy would have wanted, but the lion’s share is going to a child who didn’t even come from my cooter.”

Cooter… okay.

“They may still come, Aunt Tina,” I console.

“It’s too late,” she replies. “Emotionally and physically, it’s too late. I feel wonderful, Christian,” she says turning to me. “I feel like I could take a walk around the lake in the sunshine or do some of that needlepoint that I started but never finished. I want to pull out my old record player and dance and sing along to my favorite songs. I’m not sure if you know what that means, but I know what that means.”

Her energy burst. The end is near.

“Don’t let them near my Harmony, Christian,” she beseeches me. “You’ve done a lot for me these past weeks, and I appreciate it though I never asked for any of it. I’m asking for this. Protect her from those vultures. Do whatever you have to legally do to keep them away from my baby. I don’t know what I would have done without her, where I would be without her. I may have rescued her, but she rescued me right back, and I thank God for her every day.”

She takes a handkerchief from her cuff and dabs her eyes. I take her hand in mine—soft and frail, skeletal. These were the hands that brought trays of cookies and lemonade to the porch. I can still see it, as if it were yesterday…

“Is someone under there?” I hear an old lady, but I won’t make a sound. If I’m quiet, she won’t hear me. She won’t see me… and then she’ll go away.

I shouldn’t have chased that rabbit under here, but it’s so quiet—even better than the treehouse. Nobody can find me here…

But the old lady did.

She keeps looking under the steps, but then she goes away. Whew! She didn’t see me. I wrap my arms around my legs and lean my chin on my knees. I’ll wait for a while… wait until I don’t see the light, then I’ll come out.

I hear the door close to the house, and then footsteps on the stairs. She’s back. Why is she back? Did I make a noise?

I see her put something at the opening of my dark space. I wait for a minute, but then I crawl over to see what it is.

It’s one of the fancy little plates like the ones Momma has. Saw… saw… sawzers. There’s something on the sawzer. When I get closer…

It’s a cookie!

I snatch the cookie and gobble it down almost in one bite. It’s so sweet and yummy.

“If you come out, there’s more,” the old lady says, “and lemonade, too.”

I don’t want to come out. I’m scared… but she saw me take the cookie. If she tells on me, Momma will send me back to the man with the boots. If I don’t come out, they may call the blue people to come and take me away.

I’m scared now. I don’t know what to do…

“Come on out,” the old lady says. “I won’t hurt you.” She won’t hurt me.

“Promise?” I ask.

“I promise,” she says. I take a breath and come out of the dark space.

“Well, hello,” she says and smiles a big smile. “You’re Grace’s little boy, right?”

Grace. Grace. At the hospital, they call Momma ‘Dr. Grace.’ I nod.

“Come, have some more cookies, and I’ve poured you some lemonade. I know you must be thirsty…”

Aunt Tina was what I pictured my grandmother would be. I was wrong, of course, but I would have wanted my grandmother to be like her. Maybe Ruby was…

But I digress.

We sit there in silence for several minutes, holding hands and gazing at the fire. I’m the first to break the silence.

“Thank you, Aunt Tina,” I tell her. Worn blue eyes turn to my grays, and I know that she knows what I mean.

“You’re welcome, child,” she smiles softly. She pushes a button on the side table next to her and we wait in silence for a minute or two, after which there’s a knock at the door.

“Come in,” she says in the strongest voice she can muster. I look up to see Windsor coming into the room.

“Yes, ma’am?” he says obediently.

“Windsor, would you please bring a plate of my favorite cookies and a pitcher of lemonade… with two glasses?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Windsor says and disappears almost as suddenly as he appeared.

“Take care of my Harmony, Christian,” Tina says sadly. “I know that you have a family of your own, but… just do what you can.” I squeeze her hand.

“She won’t be alone, Aunt Tina. I promise.” She nods and looks back at the fire.

A few minutes later, Aunt Tina and the young boy who hid under her porch share cookies and ice-cold homemade lemonade one last time.

*-*

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any recording to tie Roger or Kenneth to the bugs and surveillance devices,” I inform Harmony after leaving Aunt Tina in her parlor. “My IT team thinks they went to a local location, like an email address or a cell phone. Without that location, we can’t get the recordings, and we know that neither of them would be forthcoming with that information. It might have even been destroyed by now.”

“Well, we still have the proof of his funds misappropriation, don’t we?” Harmony points out.

“Um, there’s a problem with that, too,” I say. “The funds that he misappropriated have been put into an account that has Tina’s name on it, too. So, technically, he took the money from her and gave it back to her. Since she locked him out of all of her accounts, she inadvertently locked him out of this one, too. I gave the information to Carl on Wednesday and since he’s her current power of attorney, he closed the account out and moved the money back to her main account.” I give her a little piece of paper that shows the transfer with several digits.

“Good God, that’s a lot of money,” she says.

“Yep,” I say. “He didn’t want to draw attention to himself drawing all the money out of the account, so he left it there probably hoping that he could get it later or draw it out in small amounts. Of course, he didn’t count on us finding the account.”

“How did you find out about it?” she asks. “Did he tell you?”

“Um, sort of,” I say. “We’ve been having him followed. He met up with Kenneth to try to salvage their scheme and he told Kenneth at the meeting. The recording isn’t admissible in court because neither of them knew they were being recorded. So, Roger’s story pretty much ends here.

“Jason has engineered a rotation that should cover the grounds while we tie up all the loose ends when the time comes. It shouldn’t be too intrusive. I just ask that you lean to the judgment of the security team in the coming days and weeks as I know you’ll be extremely fragile during this time, and your sisters and brothers will want to strike at your weakest moment.” Harmony shakes her head.

“All this to keep my siblings out… geez.” She folds her arms and walks to the French doors, staring out over the back lawn to the lake.

“Have you heard anything from them?” I ask.

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard from them alright,” she hisses, “every last one of them, in fact. They’ve called several times since Mom has been sick.” Hmm, from Tina’s description, I was under the impression that they hadn’t tried to contact her at all.

“Well, at least they’re calling to check on her,” I say.

“No, they’re not!” Harmony laments. “There calling to see if she’s dead yet. They call like crazy trying to get Mom’s stuff before she dies. They don’t ask to speak to her or ask how she’s doing. They don’t even know that she’s lucid. They think she’s drugged.” She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “I can’t believe these people. None of them have been there for her. None of them! They have proof that she’s knocking on death’s door and they’re not even attempting to help or come and see her before she dies. I swear, I won’t speak to any of these people once my mother’s gone.”

“I know this is a terrible time, but these are your siblings,” I point out.

“They’re not my siblings,” she retorts, walking away from the French doors. “Mom is not my mom because she adopted me. A piece of paper did not make her my mother. Her love makes her my mother. The unconditional love and care that she’s given me all these years. That’s why she’s my mother. These people are my great-aunts and great-uncles and only by blood. They’re horrible human beings and I want nothing to do with them. How that wonderful woman upstairs could have birthed four such monstrous people into the world, I’ll never know.”

Harmony falls onto the sofa and buries her face in her hands, weeping.

“I need more time!” she sobs. “I’m not ready! I need more time!”

Out of nowhere, Windsor appears with a wet washcloth and a glass of water. He stands in front of Harmony, waiting for her to acknowledge his presence. After a few moments of letting her have her cry out, he garners her attention.

“Miss Harmony?” he says softly. She weeps softly for a few more moments, then holds out her hand without raising her head. He hands her the washcloth and she buries her face in it just like she had buried it in her hands moments ago and continues to weep. I raise my gaze to Windsor, but he just watches Harmony. When she gets her sobbing under control, she gently cleans her face with the wet washcloth and hands it back to Windsor, who swaps it for the glass of water that he has in his hand.

“Would you like some tea, Miss Harmony?” he asks.

“Yes, please. Thank you, Windsor.” He nods and leaves the room. One week and he’s this in tune to Harmony already?

I, on the other hand, am a little out of my element.

“I’ll be fine, Christian,” she says with shuddering breaths. “It’s going to be like this for a while. I’m losing my mom.” I can only imagine.

“Do you have anyone that can come and stay with you for a while?” I ask. “This is a big house, and you and I both know that it’s just going to get bigger…” once Tina’s gone.

“I didn’t really make any friends while I was with Ken,” she says. “He such a narcissistic fuck that he wouldn’t let me out much without him.” I sigh.

Take care of my Harmony, Christian.

“I’ll talk to Ana… see if we can work something out,” I say. She won’t be able to stay in this house immediately after Tina passes away. I already know that.

She doesn’t respond.

“I have to get going,” I say apologetically. “I have to handle some business at my father’s house.” She begins to rise just as Windsor enters the room with her tea.

“I’ll see Mr. Grey out,” Windsor says, situating her tea on the end table next to her. She nods and sinks back into her seat.

“Harmony,” I say, and she raises her head. “Dig out your mom’s record player and play some of her records. She might enjoy a trip down Memory Lane.” She smiles at me.

“Thanks,” she says, her voice weak. “I will.” I follow Windsor to the door. Jason is a few steps behind him.

“Windsor, see if you can locate an old record player and records that belonged to Tina. She’s feeling nostalgic.”

“Yes, sir,” he says as he opens the door for me.

“One more thing. Were you… looking to stay on here once Tina passes on?” His brow furrows.

“Oh, no, sir,” he says. “I just want to do my best job while I’m here—help out in any way that I can.”

“Good,” I sigh. “You’re doing so well, I was just wondering.” He smiles.

“No, Mr. Grey,” he says. “I look forward to returning to my duties at Grey Crossing. I just want to make sure that I don’t leave a bad impression—of you or of me—while I’m here.”

“I don’t think you could ever do that,” I praise. “Besides, if you left, I may have to move in here with you because my wife would kill me.” I leave, and he closes the door behind me.

I’m lost deep in thought when I get to Dad’s house. I imagine that having no friends while your mom is dying is pretty fucking bad. Having none once she has passed on has to be worse. I need to ask my wife how to handle this one. I’m completely out of my league.

“Your clerk is doing most of the work,” Uncle Herman says when we sit down at the computer in Dad’s study. “I don’t know how she did it in such a short amount of time, but everything is categorized perfectly—furniture, collectibles, jewelry… even all the keepsakes. I had no idea how to find the paintings or the model cars Dad was giving to Stan and Rick, but she’s already located them and got the model cars on their way out here and Stan has already picked up the paintings.”

“Grandma had some really nice stuff,” I say, scrolling through the descriptions of the items. Some of them even have pictures. “Do you think anybody’s gonna fight over anything?”

“I won’t allow that,” he replies. “I’ve already told everybody how disputes will be handled. If they can’t deal with that, then tough.”

“We’ve got some requests already for some of the furniture,” I tell him. “Lanie’s looking at a walnut armoire and a marble vanity with stools.” Uncle Herman laughs.

“I’m not going to deny her that, no matter who else wants it,” he says. “She sat at that thing for hours when she came to the big house. Mom bought her her own set of makeup and she just played in it all day. The marble never stained, and she was careful not to get anything on the white seat cushions. It’s hers as soon as I get a shipping address.”

I remember a conversation about Lanie never being allowed to be girly around her father.

“And the armoire?” I ask.

“You’ve probably never seen Beauty and The Beast, have you?” he asks. I nod.

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I say.

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“Remember the talking armoire with all the beautiful dresses inside? Mom had every princess dress to date in that armoire, from Cinderella to Snow White to Belle. Even Pocahontas and Sleeping Beauty, and a few that she made up on her own. The Unicorn Princess was my favorite. Hell if I know where they found a rainbow gown—a costume of some kind, I think Mom made it. She made a headband with a pink horn and ears and there was a hot-pink wig made into a pony… Wait a minute…” Uncle Herman takes the keyboard from me and starts typing on it.

“I’ll be damned,” he says.

“What?” He highlights the item we’re discussing.

Eighteenth century walnut chateau armoire with girls costumes inside.

“The costumes are still in there. She’s going to freak out!” Uncle Herman exclaims.

“What if someone else wants the armoire?” I ask.

“Executive decision. They can be mad at me,” he says as he marks the armoire, vanity, and stools as not available and indicates that Lanie will be getting them.

We sit there for several more minutes virtually going through Grandma Ruby and Pops’ things. I hear all kinds of stories about the origins of the items and who will most likely want what. It appears that Pops never got rid of anything, so there’s going to be a lot to dispose of.

“No way!” I exclaim when we’re more than halfway through the list.

“What?” he asks. I look up at him.

“Pops’ had an Apollo?” I ask.

“What the hell is that?” he asks. I point the old player piano in very substandard condition.

“Oh, that,” he says and shrugs.

“Oh that,” I mock him. “That is 100 years old, man—at least.”

“It looks like it,” he says. “You want it?”

“Hell, yes!” I say before I think about it. “Wait a minute… someone else might want it.”

“Trust me, Christian, nobody wants that piano. It used to just start playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame in the middle of the night and we thought the thing was haunted. I don’t even know why Dad kept it.” My phone vibrates, and I pull it out of my pocket.

“The timer on the electric motor was off,” I say looking at my phone. “The cars should be here in about fifteen minutes. The T-Bird is on its way to Burtie in California.” Almost on cue, Herman’s phone rings and it’s Uncle Stanley.

“You get the cars yet, man?” Uncle Stan asks.

“They’re on the way. Christian says they should be here in about fifteen minutes.”

“I drove my Mustang down to Belle Isle for old time’s sake before I brought it home. Man, that’s a beautiful car.”

“I know. I saw the pictures,” Uncle Herman teases.

“Man, Christian, having the kind of power you do must be a pretty big burden to bear, huh?” Uncle Stan asks.

“In what way?” I counter.

“Well, I’ve only known of you for a few months, since my dad passed away. In that time, I watched the self-proclaimed bully of the family proceed into a harried frenzy at the mere mention of your name and then calm less than 60 seconds later after finding out that merely talking in your presence could cost him jail time. At a moment’s notice, you can go from the states to China and probably be back before dinner. Hell, you had travel arrangements for me to come see Dad before I even knew that I was taking a trip! That cocky ass private-eye who kept calling Rick esquire and stood firm that he wasn’t giving us any information, handed over a file as thick as the White Pages in less than five minutes after you made a call. Now, you’ve made arrangements to ship and deliver valuable antique cars—three of them, to be exact—to destinations in two states, with about as much effort as it takes to order a pizza. Is there anything you can’t do?

“I’m sure that there is, but to be honest… not much, Uncle Stanley.” He whistles.

“Having that kind of power must be staggering. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

“With great power comes great responsibility,” I caution. “I’m not always in the cat-bird seat, but most often, I am. To make a bad matter worse, in the eyes of some, I’m hated just because I have money, not because I’ve actually done something wrong. So, at times. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.”

“I can imagine. Grass is always greener and all that. All I can say is I’m glad you’re on my side.”

“Mine, too, although I have no idea what we’re talking about,” Dad says walking into the room and dropping his briefcase on the floor next to the desk. “What did I miss? Are the cars here yet?”

“Any minute now,” I say.

“Christian just claimed Ichabod,” Uncle Herman declares.

“No shit?” Dad says with a laugh. “I guess that really doesn’t surprise me.”

“Why the hell do you want Ichabod?” Uncle Stan asks.

“I’m assuming you’re talking about the hundred-year-old, priceless, classic piano, and why are you calling it ‘Ichabod?’” I inquire.

“After Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman who rode in the middle of the night. Your treasured hundred-year-old classic is a playerless piano that randomly started playing in the middle of the night. It wouldn’t have been so creepy, but it started playing at the same time every night.”

“And when did you geniuses finally figure out that it was a faulty timer on the electric motor that went off at the same time every night?” I ask.

“We didn’t,” Uncle Stan say. “It just stopped playing.” There’s a knock at Dad’s study door and he goes to answer it. “It’s your problem now, genius,” Uncle Stan adds.

“A problem that I gladly accept,” I taunt. I’m going to get that beauty restored and get the timer fixed. When I show them how good it looks when it’s done, we’ll see who has the last laugh.

“Alright, boys, showtime,” Dad says. “Trucks pulling up the drive now.”

“Gotta go, Stan. You got your toys, now we’re getting ours,” Uncle Herman says. He and Dad say their goodbyes and end the call. The trucks are just pulling around the circular drive when we come outside.

“Dear God, they towed them across the country like that?” Uncle Herman asks horrified. The cars are both uncovered and traveling on flatbed tow trucks. I have to keep from chuckling a bit.

“No, they were transported to Grey Shipping in a boxcar by semi—much like the packing Pods that you’ve seen—then towed here on the flatbeds.” He nods.

“Why not just have the ‘Pod’ drop them off?” he asks.

“We tried. This area isn’t zoned for semis.”

“Okay, now you’ve lost me,” Uncle Herman says.

“Semi-trucks have to follow a certain route,” Dad tells Uncle Herman. “The drivers know which routes they can take, and which streets are zoned for heavy hauling like that. An 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer can’t travel on roads that aren’t zoned for that type of driving, like many residential areas.”

“I never knew that,” Uncle Herman says, watching the tow truck operator gingerly lean and lower the flatbed that carries his Fairlane.

“That car is even more beautiful in person,” he says.

“I’ll say,” Dad says, admiring the Coupe.

“I’ll race ya!” Uncle Herman jests and Dad laughs.

“No can do, big brother,” he confirms. “This beauty is going straight to the garage and won’t see daylight again until spring, where my lady and I will be enjoying picnics and rides on sunny Sunday afternoons.”

“Any room for this land yacht in there?” Uncle Herman asks.

“Of course, there is,” Dad says, “and if there’s not, we’ll make room.”

By the time I leave Dad’s house, Uncle Stan and I have gone through the manifests and have a pretty good idea what’s in the storage units. Nothing is committed to memory, of course, but he—and later, Dad—had quite the trip down Memory Lane going through Pops’ things.

An email actually went out Wednesday listing all of the items on the manifest even though Uncle Herman only looked at the finished list today. The email was sent with return receipt requested. So, we know that all the family members—grand-children included—received a copy of the list and Ms. Tanner has already started making a list of who wants what. As a result, by Monday, anyone who has requested something from the list can either prepare to pick it up or have it shipped depending on their locations, and notwithstanding the possibility that two or more people may want the same items.

I’ve gotten word from Chuck that Butterfly has left her session and is now in the limousine on her way to Miana’s. Chuck couldn’t gauge how she felt when she left Ace’s office, but she’s about to be pampered a bit before I take her out and help her forget her troubles.

This night one year ago was one of the most horrendously traumatic and miserable nights of my entire life. I can’t remember ever feeling the sense of loss and hopelessness I felt when they hinted that my Butterfly may not make it. I don’t even remember feeling that hopeless when the crack whore died. It was a long time ago and I remember feeling hopeless, but I don’t remember just how hopeless. Maybe I did feel that hopeless, I don’t know.

How the hell did my mind drift there?

Uncle Herman allows me to choose some pieces from Grandma and Pops’ private collection of vintage jewelry, real fucking quality shit. I stop at Cartier on my way home and have Marvin clean the pieces for me. He was hesitant at first because one of the pieces is pretty damn priceless. However, I assure him that I would trust no one else to the task and would not hold him responsible for any damage that occurs from reasonable handling. As a result, twenty minutes later, the pieces come back glistening and beautiful as if they’re brand new. He even provides me with unmarked boxes for the pieces since I brought them in simply wrapped in velvet as Uncle Herman had presented them to me.

As my barber gives me a haircut and trims my beard, I go over the events and discoveries of the day. Aunt Tina is having her final energy burst—something I learned about while being an asshole during Pops’ energy burst. Now would be the time for all of her loved ones to be around her reliving old times and telling her how much they love her, but there’s only Harmony, and she’s not holding up too well.

And then there’s my dad and uncles and the disposition of Pops’ estate. They did pretty well with the cars and Uncle Herman seemed to enjoy going through his parents’ things and remembering their significance—nothing like the crying fit he had earlier in the week. I was glad of that.

I was totally floored when he showed me Grandma’s jewelry collection from the safe deposit box, though. Good Lord! Extravagant doesn’t even begin to describe these pieces. I had picked one piece from the collection and Uncle Herman kept saying, “Pick another one.” I finally had six pieces of exquisite antique jewelry and I know my girl appreciates vintage pieces. Some of the pieces aren’t necessarily vintage—they’re just really pretty expensive. I don’t know how Pops had the money to afford these things. I can only guess that he must have been making an excellent living at Ford and purchased items when they weren’t so expensive. He apparently had a keen eye for value because I’ve yet to see anything that he purchased that depreciated in value except for that dilapidated house, and even the house was worth a pretty penny back in the day if I understand correctly. Even though it’s run down now, it’s in the historical district where the land itself is probably still worth something.

When I get home, Jason informs me that our reservations at Altura are all set. I haven’t taken her there yet. The last time I planned to take her was when I saw the ultrasound of the twins—and then all reason escaped from my brain and I simply had to get her home to take care of her. So, tonight, we finally get to go.

As I’m taking my shower, it occurs to me that she may feel a bit subconscious about the bruising on her wrists and ankles while the staff at Miana’s are doing her treatments. The pieces that I chose will hide those nicely, but hopefully her relaxing spa and make-up session won’t be too uncomfortable for her.

I choose a crisp linen shirt and a pair of jet-black jeans with a black blazer and a plain pair of black Bally leather ankle boots.

You’ll do.

With the jewelry in an unmarked bag, I descend the stairs and go to the garage.

Jason and Chuck are being dismissed for the night after I retrieve my wife from Miana’s. I requested that our chauffeur be security trained as well so that we don’t have an entourage of people with us. There will be no fucking in the limo tonight as I have other plans for us when we get home.

Of course, I’m fucking speechless when I arrive at Miana’s to pick her up for our date. She’s in a simple blue mock wrap dress with suede blue Louboutin Harler pumps with wide ankle straps and huge sexy Veronica Lake barrel curls in her mahogany hair… and she is stunning! I suddenly feel like a troll.

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Veronica Lake

“You look delectable,” I growl as I kiss her on the cheek.

“You’re looking quite yummy yourself, Chris,” she says, and my lady is feeling playful.

Oh, joy!

“Um…” I take her hands and notice that the skin on her wrist is flawless. I raise questioning eyes to hers.

“Airbrushing,” she says. “Seems I’m not the first wife with a kinky lover that this establishment has seen.” She winks at me. Jesus! I hope none of my prior subs came here it get cover-ups! It seems like an eternity ago and I can’t remember. I recover quickly and return my wife’s smile.

“Go on and get your coat, love,” I tell her. “I want to watch your ass as you walk away.” She smiles coyly and turns to the door.

And dear God, does she give me quite a show.


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

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 ~~love and handcuffs