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.
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
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.”
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.
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…
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.
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.
“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 Ruby’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.
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/
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