Please do not beat me over the head too badly for my bad imitation of an Australian accent. I’m doing the best I can.
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 76—Still Ship Shenanigans
“Alright ladies, it’s time for our first day bikini contest. Let’s get some contestants up here to show us what you got. Wrap those beautiful bods in towels, ladies. We don’t want to give the fellas any sneak peeks.”
I know it. I just know it. She’s going to enter it. I know it.
She walks over to us and immediately wraps herself in a towel, confirming my suspicions. She stands there wringing the water out of her hair like she’s not about to put me through one of the worst fucking torments of my life. I don’t remove my sunglasses so that she doesn’t see me brooding underneath… because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m brooding… or plotting. Right when I said I needed to keep the Dom at bay…
“Come on, Laura,” Butterfly says as she takes Laura by the hand.
Oh, no,” Laura says, her voice filled with mirth, “this childbirth body looks nothing like that childbirth body. I’ll be gleefully cheering you on from the sidelines.”
“Chicken!” Butterfly teases. They share a few jabs before she walks over to me, pushes my hair back, and kisses my forehead.
“Breathe,” she says softly. I raise my gaze to hers.
“Knock ‘em dead, baby,” I reply. She smiles widely and dons her Jackie-O’s before walking to the stage. I shake my head.
“I need a drink,” I say as I rise from the lounger.
“OI’ll join yah,” Jaxon says. “Lahrie, yah want anything frohm theh bah, love?”
“No, I’m fine, but I’ll take the chaise if Christian doesn’t mind,” she replies.
“Please,” I offer, “you’ll be saving our seats.” I head off to the bar. I don’t want a beer; I need something stronger.
“Yoh a protectah,” Jaxon says as he gestures the bartender over to us. “Yoh a bahsket cayse sittin’ ‘ere lettin’ ‘er do thaht.” He turns to the bartender. “OI’ll have a drahft. What’ll yah have, mate?”
“Double Scotch, single malt, neat,” I say to the bartender. He nods. Jaxon raises his brow at me.
“Yeh… bahsket cayse,” he concludes. “It’s ahll in fun, mate. She’s a beautiful guhl. Let the poor blokes have a look at ‘er. She’s comin’ bahk to yew.”
I sigh and internalize his words. It’s not that, right now, Jax. I’ve got a monster I’m trying to tame.
“Thanks, Jaxon,” I say, running my hand through my hair. The bartender comes back with a scotch and I’m sure I have no idea which it is, but honestly, it could be rot gut at this point. I need the burn. I take half the double in one gulp and it’s actually pretty good—not premium, but pretty damn close.
“Okay,” I say, turning away from the bar to face the stage. “Let’s see what barkers they have going up against my wife.”
“Thaht’s the spihrit, Chris!” he says, taking a large gulp of his beer.
I watch as women approach the stage. I try to gauge who might be competition for my wife, looking with a critical eye at measurements, natural beauty, things like that… but I don’t know these women. I know my wife—emotionally, mentally, physically, and biblically. I can’t compare any of them to her, because she does things to me that no one else can. So, I guess I’m just watching with the other blokes.
A few more minutes and a few more girls later, the competition starts. The DJ plays the song She’s a Brick House, and the first few contestants walk across the stage to applause, but little fanfare. There aren’t any real barkers up there so to speak. Of course, middle-aged grandmothers know better than to put themselves up against young college girls and twenty-somethings.
Butterfly is fifth in the competition. She steps up on stage and drops her towel, swinging her luscious hips back and forth. When she gets to the center, she turns around to showcase that glorious ass and that mystical, fabulous garden tattoo… and the catcalls officially begin. She looks coquettishly over her shoulder and blows a kiss to the onlookers, and the cheers increase. Not to be outdone, I yell a few catcalls of my own, causing Jaxon to laugh heartily and nearly spray his beer from his nose.
Three contestants later, a woman named Brigette is called. She walks up the stairs, drops her towel, and sashays across the stage in nothing—literally nothing! She’s “wearing” a one-piece white “suit,” if you can call it that. It’s a string around her neck and strings holding together a few scraps of material over her nipples and cooch. Her ass is on total display. She’s naked! Didn’t I see a kid or three on this boat? Or did I? I can’t recall right now.
Now, it’s not my way to disrespect a woman unless she disrespects me first in some way, but I have to say that the jeers, taunts, and catcalls that Brigette’s getting, she couldn’t have expected less. Even though I don’t know what “bury the bishop” means, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what a “cum junkie” is. There was a lot of “fuck a duck’s,” “fuck me dead’s,” and “fuck me sideways’” flying about, and I just assumed everybody wanted to fuck her—except, of course, for whoever called her a “cum junkie.” And I suppose “knob jockie” probably wasn’t a term of endearment, either. One guy clearly wanted to “root,” and another announced to his friend that she made him “toeier than a Roman sandal,” while a third said something about a “bearded clam.”
I am way out of my element with these colorful colloquialisms, so I turn to Jaxon for translation as the next contestant crosses the stage in a stringy bikini that still covered more than Brigette’s did.
“Theh’re pretty much sying thet she’s paupular with the boys and naut in a good wy,” he informs me, “and definitely naut paupular at ahll with theh guhls!” He lifts his glass with a “cheers” and finishes his beer, gesturing to the bartender for another one.
“Refill, Chris?” he asks, and someone else is calling me Chris.
“No, I’ll have a beer, too,” I say, the scotch having taken a bit of the edge off me and I’m now able to enjoy an ale or lager. A few more skimpy bikinis cross the stage as Jaxon and I drink our second beers and now, it’s time for the judging. Some mumbo jumbo goes on here and there and the MC announces third place goes to Janice, the woman with the black stringy bikini. She walks onto the stage and takes her small trophy, waving to the crowd like this was a real beauty pageant.
No, babe, they just wanted to see your ass.
“And second place goes to… Ana!”
What? Second place? Who the fuck are the judges?
My Butterfly walks across the stage and takes the slightly larger second place trophy, blowing a kiss to the onlookers again and inciting more catcalls and cheers as she takes her place next to Janice, sporting a flirty smile.
If my Butterfly didn’t win with that luscious ass wrapped in blue spandex, her under-cheek poking out just enough to make you drool, again it doesn’t take rocket science to know who got first place.
“And the winner is… Brigette!”
The catcalls and jeers begin again, and I decide to throw in a few of my own… only I didn’t expect for my voice to carry that well.
“Boo! Boo! I demand a recount! She’s not sexy, she’s naked!”
My voice carries over the pool and to the stage like I’m talking into a bullhorn. The crowd quiets for two seconds and everybody turns to look at me. I feel a little stupid, and two seconds feel like two hours. Nonetheless, my little savior comes to the rescue in that third second when her beautiful—and loud—Butterfly voice floats back across the pool at me and says:
The crowd immediately bursts into laughter and the contest winner does a little bend to poke her ass out and pats it as she walks off the stage. She retrieves her large trophy from the MC and gives my wife a high five as she takes her place next to Butterfly. They pose for pictures, probably for the cruise album or something, and then they leave the stage.
“A bit cahrried away, thehre, Chris?” Jaxon teases.
“It was fixed,” I protest. “She was naked. That wasn’t even a bikini.” I take a swallow of my beer.
“It wahs a monokini,” he informs me. A what? I look at him bemused. “A one-piece mayde tah look loike a tew-piece.” I twist my lips.
“A one-piece,” I confirm. “It wasn’t a bikini.”
“Stop being a sore second-placer,” I hear my wife say from behind me. She puts her arm around my waist and kisses me on the cheek. “I won second place out of all those gorgeous women.”
“None of them are as gorgeous as you,” I say, pulling her close to me and kissing her lips gently.
“You’re my husband. You’re supposed to say that,” she teases.
“It’s true,” I confirm.
“Good answer,” she replies with a smile.
“It is true,” Laura says coming up behind us and standing next to Jaxon. “Those women were attractive, but none of them could have covered up like you did and placed at all. They had to depend on their skin to win.”
“Hehr, hehr,” Jaxon says finishing his second beer.
“Well, thank you all,” Butterfly says graciously. “I had no chance of winning against Bridgette. She has buns of steel and they’re all hanging out. I’m happy with my little souvenir.” She kisses her tiny trophy.
We have a few more drinks at the pool and listen to the reggae band play a little longer. My Butterfly shows off that beautiful prize-winning body in the pool a little longer as she and Laura laze away in the cool water while Jaxon and I keep a watchful eye on them from the in-pool loungers.
Jaxon tells me how he made his millions. He’s an affiliate marketer extraordinaire. He made his fortune based on the very simple concept that one dollar could become two, two could become four, four could become eight, and so on and so on. He took that one dollar, an idea, and a group of people and parlayed it into millions. His entire business is virtual, affording him the ability to run it from anywhere in the world. Between his business and his investments, he’s creeping up on a net worth of $80 million.
I tell him that my fortune is in mergers and acquisitions. We talk a little about what I do, how I started, and how I’m now one of the wealthiest businessmen in America. He apologizes for not knowing who I am. I assure him that it’s okay as we live on two different continents and unless our business paths crossed in some way, there’s no way that he would know who I was.
We watch our women talking and splashing their feet over the edge of the pool and I see that faraway look in his eye that I get when I think of Butterfly and our life together.
“Do you think you’ll have any children?” I ask. He turns to me and shakes his head.
“OI don’t know if it’s in theh stahs foh us,” he says. “OI gladly have a child with meh Lahrie, but losing Devon was a real troial foh ‘er. She nevah mentioned wahntin’ anymoh children, and OI won’t fohrce ‘er.”
“But is it what you want?” I ask. He shrugs.
“Honestly, OI’m foiyne eithah wy. OI love meh Lahrie. OI love ‘er with meh whole haht and soul. Whahteveh Lahrie wahnts, Lahrie gehts.” I sigh.
“I know that feeling, Jaxon,” I say, looking at my wife.
“Yah don’t sy?” Jaxon teases. “OI nevah woulda noticed!” Smart ass.
“I was living a useless existence of money and lies. It was horrendously bad, and I won’t even attempt to begin to tell you how bad it really was. I mean, I wouldn’t be dead today without her, but I definitely wouldn’t be this happy. I’d still have money, but not prosperity—the love of my family, new friends… good friends… toxic people out of my life. It was a real mess, man. I never would have believed for one second that I would have kids… twins, man. Me? A father? Not in a million years. I couldn’t even connect with my family correctly until I met Butterfly.”
“And yah only been tagethah two yeahs, yah sy?” he says. I nod.
“Two and a half, technically,” I correct him. I sigh. “She’s my whole world. I tell her every chance I get. I show her every chance I get—except for those moments when I stick my head up my ass…”
“We ahll have those, mate,” Jaxon says. I nod.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s still not enough,” I admit. He examines me.
“She mayke ya feel thaht wy?” he asks. I shake my head.
“Never,” I tell him. “She’d take me if I was broke, sick…” I look around to see if anyone is listening. “Before we got married, this crazy woman paid her off to leave me. Transferred $20 million into my wife’s bank account. My wife donated the entire thing to charity.”
“Well, fock meh soidewys, she did?” Jaxon says astonished. Okay, I’ve pinpointed one of those phrases.
“She did,” I say. “She had already turned the money down, but this batty bitch thought that actually having the money would change her mind. Instead, Butterfly contacted me immediately. She had never handled that kind of money before and didn’t know how to transfer it. So, she asked me.”
“Ya cahl ‘er Butterfloy… thaht’s beautiful.”
“She is my Butterfly,” I say. “In more ways than I can explain…”
“Okay, you two look way too serious and we’re hungry,” Laura says as she and Butterfly approach. I stand to greet my wife. I look at my watch, which I set to ship’s time—and it’s well past lunchtime.
“What do you have a taste for?” I ask the ladies.
“Let’s go to the Bluewater Café,” Laura says. “It’s the ship’s buffet. Whatever you may have a taste for will most likely be on the menu and you won’t have to change clothes.”
Everybody agrees on the café for lunch. I send Jason back to our staterooms to see to getting our dress clothes pressed for dinner tonight as this will be one of two formal nights on the ship. I’m not sure that we’ll really be needing security that much when we’re on board. I’m just so accustomed to them being around. I discreetly ask Jason to analyze the situation and get back to me. He goes off to see to the pressing of our clothes while Lawrence follows us to the café.
“So, have you made any plans for the day at Hobart?” Laura asks when we sit down to eat.
“Not really,” Butterfly answers. “We were just going to walk around and see what’s going on.”
“It’s a beautiful place,” she says, “but you’re really only going to find a little shopping and some places to eat. The city really doesn’t come alive until the weekend with the festivals and live performances at the Salamanca Arts Center and the Salamanca Market, and we’re going to be there on a Wednesday.”
“Well, that sucks,” I say, frowning. “Doesn’t the cruise line know that? Why would they make this a port of call in the middle of the week if that’s the case?” I understand that people live here, and they have lives and things that they have to do throughout the week, and they can’t stop because we’re sailing through, but why are we sailing through if there’s going to be nothing to do?
“Don’t fret,” Jaxon says. “Thehre ahre a few things ta do ‘ere and thehre on Tazzie. Leave it ta me. We’ll geht a couple of exuhrsions an’ show ya whaht thehre is ta see. Ya won’t beh disappointed.” Laura smiles at her husband.
“Even though I’ve lived here for ten years, he’s still the native. So, there are still some things he knows that I don’t,” she says.
“Lahrie’s roight though,” Jaxon defends. “The best toime ta see Tazzie would the weekend, but we’ll mayke the best of it.”
I hope he’s right. I would certainly hate to be disappointed.
After a very satisfying lunch at one of the most stocked and elegant buffets I’ve ever seen in my life, Butterfly decides to head back to the stateroom for a nap while Laura, Jaxon, and I head to the excursion desk to plan our day in Hobart. As it turns out, we’ll be in Hobart first thing in the morning and we won’t be leaving until nearly midnight. The next morning when we awake, we’ll be docked in Port Arthur for half the day and then we’ll be headed to Melbourne.
I’ll have to admit that I had no intention of coming on this trip and falling in with a couple of travel companions—one of them an Australian native—but I’m glad we did. They’re not crazy people unless you have a problem with the whole spirit thing. As troubled as my mind and soul has been in prior years and as soon as just before our trip, I feel that anyone who says that they connect with the spirit and devote their lives to bringing peace to it is alright with me—not to mention that I’ve found the connection to the very core of my being in my wife. You can’t dismiss that as hocus pocus or mumbo-jumbo when you’ve felt it yourself.
I’m glad that no one appears to know who we are, either. The spotlight is expected when you are who we are, but it can be tiring as fuck!
We get to the elevators after we’ve planned excursions for Hobart and Port Arthur, and Laura and Jaxon both decide to take a nap before dinner as well. I’m not tired in the least, so they choose the floor where their cabin is, and I decide to head to the internet café. There are no buttons inside the elevators—you choose your destination before you get on and hope you’ve chosen the right deck. Luckily, there are maps at every bank of elevators to show you where you are and help you decide where you want to be.
In the internet café, I use my phone to shoot off a text to Al and ask how things were going with cataloguing my assets, advising him to liaise with the accounting department to help with valuation.
I go into the vortex that is my email and begin to respond to those that appear to need immediate attention, forwarding many to Lorenz and Ros and deleting many more. As I’m working my way through, I see one that immediately catches my eye.
To: Christian Grey
Re: SEEKNID 1.0
Date: Monday, December 8, 2014, 9:17
From: James Fleming-Forsythe
Good Morning Christian,
I know that it’s probably Tuesday where you are, and I don’t mean to interrupt your vacation, but I figured that you would see this whenever you check your emails, so you would be working anyway. I don’t mean to be a whiner, but every time I try to talk to someone in your R&D department about SEEKNID 1.0, they have nothing for me—no updates, no “this isn’t working,” no “get this the hell out of my face,” nothing. They’ve had this project for nearly a year now, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ve been shelved. Can you please tell me what’s going on? This is my baby and I’ve been perfecting it for years. If you’ve changed your mind, please let me know.
IT Engineer, Liondew Electronics
Jesus, they’ve been sitting on this for that long? Why hasn’t he said anything to me before now?
To: James Fleming-Forsythe
Re: SEEKNID 1.0
Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 16:39
From: Christian Grey
I really wish you had told me sooner that you had submitted the software to R&D. Hindsight being 20/20, I’m sure that I must have known that you would have done it by now, but you know that my finger is on the pulse of so much and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you about the strange cornucopia that is my life.
Nonetheless, this is how R&D works, unfortunately. If they can’t get it out in a day and see lots of zeros at the end of a project immediately, it usually gets shelved and pushed back in line unless someone makes it a priority. They don’t know you or the importance of the software, so they’ve most likely marked it as “can wait.” Let me put some fire under some asses and see what we can get rolling. Let me know immediately if you get the old “push off” when you call R&D, particularly who you spoke to and exactly what they said. Keep your phone on and your email open, my friend.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc
Research and development may not know that, but that software that they’re marking as “We’ll get to it later” saved my company and their jobs last year. We could have been making a fucking fortune off of that technology by now, but they’re dragging their asses. I send off a priority email to the R&D intake box as well as to Paul Hammock—the R&D department head, Barney, Ros and Lorenz with a CC to James and one to my wife as well for good measure, asking why a multi-million-dollar software program was being shelved. I didn’t ask if it was being shelved. I asked why it was being shelved. I didn’t go into any detail or talk about people’s heads rolling. Why? Because the silence makes them more nervous than the rant. They’re walking around asking themselves and each other:
Is that a rhetorical question?
Is he expecting an answer or is he just expecting us to get started?
Who is this James Flemings guy? Is he somebody new to the company?
If they only knew how important that James Flemings guy is to my family and how detrimental the software was and could be to my company, they wouldn’t even bother asking questions. I would have gotten error margins and project profit and loss reports long before I knew that James’ software had been shelved. Jesus, must I do everything myself? I work my way through several more emails when a familiar voice distracts me.
“Probably not a good idea to let Her Highness see you working, sir.”
My head shoots up. Shit, what time is it? I look at him in a panic. Is she here?
“Ben told me that she went back to the cabin for a nap, so we’re assuming that she’s still there.” I release the gasp that I was holding. Shit, that was close!
“How did you know I was here?” I ask. He cocks his head at me in that obvious way that indicates I’ve asked a stupid question. “Never mind,” I say, closing the email on my phone. There was really no need to come to the internet café. I could have logged into my email anywhere and I certainly wasn’t going to go into my company’s mainframe and network from a public computer on a cruise ship!
“I was thinking,” I begin, looking around to be sure there are no inquiring ears too close, “This is a pretty controlled environment, at least while we’re on the boat. It seems a bit of a waste to have security following us around everywhere we go… unless you feel it’s necessary. What say you?” He shrugs.
“Honestly, I’ve pretty much been a valet since I’ve been here. It’s not that I’m complaining, but… that’s pretty much what I’ve done.”
“So, you think it may be unnecessary to have you both on duty while we’re on the ship?” I ask. He twists his lips.
“I’ve watched the two of you,” he says. “You’re in a totally different world while you’re on this ship. You barely even know that we’re there. It’s my job—our job—to be present, but somewhat invisible. According to our conversation yesterday, Ben’s been doing a bit too good of a job of that.” I nod.
“It’s like I said, when you’re around, people aren’t so quick to approach us, but when he’s around, people say things to us like he’s not even standing there. He’s been about as useful as a scarecrow and not as effective.”
“I know, I know, you’ve already said,” I interrupt, “he’ll protect us from any real danger. But I and my wife would like the comfort of knowing that some cunts at Sydney Opera House are not going to harass her for me giving her a piggy-back ride or some assholes in the line at the OPT aren’t going to blatantly disrespect her in a public place.” Jason is now uncomfortable.
“Sir, there’s a very easy explanation for that,” he says. I frown.
“You have a viable explanation for this situation.” It’s a statement, not a question. He nods. “Why am I just now about to hear it?” I confront.
“Because I couldn’t say it in front of Ben, and I thought you already knew,” he says. I fold my arms.
“I’m listening.” He sighs and sits down.
“You’ve known from the very beginning that Her Highness is very personable and approachable. When she found out that Chuck was going to be her CPO, there was the immediate ‘call me Ana’ rapport. Once that happened, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him call her Mrs. Grey, Dr. Grey, Ms. Steele, Dr. Steele, or even Her Highness—the last one only when it was utterly necessary. As a result, there’s a certain closeness—a physical proximity—that he maintains when they’re together that lets people know ‘Hey, that’s her guard.’ You and I have the same rapport, even if it’s not as cordial to the outside world because of how you carry yourself…”
“Elaborate,” I say.
“You are much less approachable than Her Highness, and you know it,” he says matter-of-factly. “It makes my job easier, but it makes Ben’s a little harder.” I furrow my brow.
“How so?” I ask.
“He can’t get that close physical rapport with you. He has it with ‘Call me Ana,’ but he doesn’t have it with you. As a result, when he’s with the two of you alone, there’s a bit of a distance because you’re there.”
“Okay, but he’s been my CPO when you were unavailable, and nobody approached me, and nobody approached Butterfly.”
“That’s because when you’re alone, you’re unapproachable by yourself, so he’s just backup—as am I. I know you can take care of yourself, but I have to have your back. When you’re with Her Highness, she’s got Chuck, so by deduction, they know who he is. Right now, in casual clothes and deck shoes, he’s just some guy standing behind you. He’s more standoffish when you’re there than he is when he’s with Her Highness by herself, because they engage more. So once again, they know he’s her guard, but with you…” He trails off and calmly flourishes his hand at me.
“Okay, so, let me get this straight. He’s been with us for a while. He’s first CPO backup for both you and Chuck, and what you’re basically telling me is that he’s ineffective on his own as an officer because I’m around?”
“Yes and no,” Jason says. “He’s not ineffective as an officer. No harm has ever come to you or Her Highness on his watch, has it?”
He waits for an answer, but he knows that I’m not going to respond.
“You’re feeling the fact that you know those people wouldn’t have said anything had Chuck or I been around. Two of us are more effective than one of us no matter who it is. However, there are two of us who can get right into your personal space to the onlooker—physically and subconsciously—and he’s not one of them.
“He doesn’t have the physical rapport with you. Even Chuck has the physical rapport with you. That rapport, no matter where we are, says, ‘Don’t fuck with them. Do not engage.’ With Ben, depending on the circumstances, his presence may say the same thing, or it may say nothing at all. In a casual situation, they may not know who he is until he’s got somebody in a chokehold. And we can’t expect him to put someone in a chokehold for talking about your wife’s ass.”
“But I should expect something,” I retort. “I should expect him to make his presence known or intimidate the guy in some kind of way. This guy was brazen and even jeered me when I pulled her in front of me, and Lawrence did absolutely nothing. You would have done something.”
“That wouldn’t have happened if I was present, boss, and you know it. That’s why we’re having this conversation,” he points out.
He’s right. That guy clammed right up when Jason appeared and told us about priority boarding. He didn’t even approach the guy—didn’t even look at him. The guy had given me lip and shut right down when Jason started talking to me.
“It’s going to take him—and anybody else—quite some time to get even close to the level of comfort that I and Chuck have with you. Some of them are never going to even scratch the surface. Ben’s trying, and he’s doing a really good job under the circumstances. He just can’t be me or Chuck, boss. Think about it—how many other guards in your employ would you allow to live in your home?”
I shiver inwardly at the thought.
“Know that I put a fucking lot of faith in him to allow you and Her Highness to run around Sydney alone with him. And he did a good job. You both came back in one piece, having only suffered a little heckling from a woman who probably wanted you and a man who definitely wanted her. I’d say that’s a win, sir.”
I sigh heavily. Yeah, it’s a win. It’s just not the “flawless victory” that I’m accustomed to.
“I really hate it when you’re so damn logical,” I say, putting my phone back in the pocket of my shorts.
“What do you expect?” he says with a shrug.
“So, in all this chitter chatter, you haven’t answered my question. Should we ixnay the security while we’re on the ship, or do you think that’s a bad idea?”
“Do you feel like we’re cramping your style, sir?” he asks.
“Maybe just a little, but not really,” I admit. “Having a security detail does take away from a bit of the spontaneity, though.” He rubs his chin.
“I suppose that as long as we can track your watch and something on Her Highness, I don’t see why you need us around all the time. At the very least, you won’t need us both.”
“I don’t think she has anything that you can track besides her phone,” I point out, “and she’s not carrying that all over the ship. She’s with me all the time. Wouldn’t my Hublot be enough?” He shakes his head.
“That’s a no-go, sir,” he says finitely.
“Why? You don’t trust me to keep my own wife safe?” I ask bemused.
“Where is she now?” he asks flatly. I frown.
“You don’t know?” I say, nearly seething.
“Yes, I do know, but is she here?” he retorts. “Will your Hublot lead me to her right now?”
I deflate immediately. That’s something like 0 for 3 in Jason’s favor and I’m not liking that.
“Never mind, forget I asked,” I say. I’d better quit while I’m behind.
“I’m not saying that letting one of us off is a bad idea,” he says, “but I have a wife. I’m not going to enjoy a cruise without her. Ben may want to see the ship, catch some sun. I’ll just stay on duty.”
“Maybe you should both just stay on duty, too.” He shrugs.
“Totally up to you, sir. I would say that you don’t need two, though. Maybe, I’ll take one evening off out of the two that remain, order room service and veg out.”
“That’s not really a bad idea. When’s the last time you ‘vegged out?’” he shrugs again.
“Sometime with my wife, I don’t know.” He seems a little off when he answers that question.
“Something on your mind, Jason?” I ask, a little concerned. He twists his lips.
“Permission to speak freely,” he says. My brow furrows.
“I thought you already were,” I reply. He sighs.
“When you were ‘the single guy,’ the guy with the fembots who showed up on the weekends, it was different. It was different for us both. Gail and I spent a little time together and we were fond of each other. Even after we grew closer, it was still different—easier. When you had to take a quick business trip, or you flew across the country—or the world—it was just like it was in Madrid. You were all business, focused. I had a job to do and I just did it—cover your ass, that was it.
“Then, Her Highness comes along and changes everything. You did a complete 180 on me and I didn’t even know who the hell you were anymore. When she got kidnapped and you fell apart, I thought I had stepped off into the fifth dimension. I didn’t know how to react or what to do except get her the fuck back. I knew then that she was your Achilles Heel and if something happened to her, you would never recover. Hell had officially frozen over and before we got that first ping on that phone, I knew I wanted to marry Gail.
“It was you… and the fact that a 5-foot-3-inch Butterfly came along and melted your icy ass heart that made me realize I wanted to spend my life with that woman. I had planned to ask her before we left for Anguilla, but then I discovered that you were taking her, too, and I changed my mind and decided to wait. I thought to myself, ‘If this icy asshole can fall in love, what the hell am I waiting for?’
“Then came the trips to Paris… and Greece… and Napa… and the babymoon—all places I went without my wife, but I got to sit and watch you and your wife snuggled up together…”
And now, we get to the meat of it.
“Having to leave town at a moment’s notice isn’t anything new—for either of us—but having to go out of town to these romantic destinations without my wife… it’s a bit torturous. She would have loved to see the Sydney Opera House. She would have adored Napa. And the Eiffel Tower, she’s wanted to see that ever since she was a kid. And speaking of kids…” He trails off and I don’t know if that comment was a reference to the twins or Sophia or both.
“I’m not complaining, sir,” he points out. “You asked what was on my mind and this is what’s on my mind. Madrid was actually a breath of fresh air for what it was, because we both had to focus. Being in a couples environment can be a bit taxing without the one you love.” I sigh.
“Why don’t you both take the night off?” I tell him. “I’ll have Her Highness put her phone in her clutch or something. We’ll see how it works. Go have a beer or something. I’m fairly certain nothing’s going to happen and even if it does, you won’t allow yourself to be three sheets to the wind anyway.” He looks at me and nods.
“Duly noted,” he says.
I’ve fallen asleep naked in bed with my hair wet and I decide that I better get up and try to tame it, or it’s going to look like hell for formal night. That swim was divine, and my skin is sunkissed just enough to give me a pretty vacation glow, but once we ate, I felt completely waterlogged and needed an immediate nap. I stripped out of my dress and swimsuit, took a quick shower and relieved my boobs a bit, then fell out on the bed face down like a sack of potatoes. Now, my mane is all stringy and horrible, and I know that it’s going to be the vamp ponytail tonight because there’s nothing else that I can do with it.
I go to the bathroom and wet it down again, this time putting some leave-in conditioner in it along with some mousse at the roots and base and I partially blow-dry it that way. I put a ponytail holder in it, then dry the rest of it, causing the mousse to stiffen and hold the hair together while the tail falls straight and lazily down my back.
Christian’s still not back when I finish, so I don one of the complimentary terrycloth robes and go out onto the balcony with my phone. I haven’t journaled since I’ve been in Australia and quite frankly, I don’t want to. Having decided that I’m going back to Helping Hands—at least for the immediate future—I send a text off to Courtney asking if she’s willing to add to her duties and be my assistant at least until I make other arrangements. This, of course, leads to her asking about Marilyn. I rightly admit that I have no idea what’s going on with her, but life goes on and I need an assistant. She responds that she would be glad to help out.
We text some more about Harmony and Courtney tells me that she has returned to school, knowing that her mother would be very disappointed if she didn’t. She also informs me that Grace is very much out of sorts trying to figure out what she should be doing without me. Although I know that I shouldn’t be doing any victory laps or feeling any happiness over Grace’s calamity, I do! I need her to realize that even though she’s the head peg on the board, she can’t discount the rest of the pegs.
My mistake was that I became complacent—comfortable in the feeling that I was her equal when I’m clearly not. I am assistant director of Helping Hands—she’s the director. And she doesn’t hesitate to make sure that I know it. I don’t have a problem with my position. But I do have a problem with her not respecting my position—or my expertise.
And I’m going to retract that statement about not being her equal. She made me her equal. She gave me the authority. She had me doing all this work and making all these plans. I was autonomous, and I was making even more decisions than she was in some instances. Hiring the cleaning staff, interviewing people and chasing down background checks on viable candidates. Putting my marriage on the line for a useless and unnecessary investigation that didn’t cost her anything.
My position wasn’t imagined. This wasn’t my self-imposed level of comfort. This is where she put me. She put me in that slot of importance and value until I bucked against her. Then she had to knock me down a few notches.
I was going to send a text back to Courtney to tell her that it’s okay to inform Grace that I would be in next week. Instead, I send a different message:
**I guess it’s tough being the boss. **
I search my many text messages and, speak of the devil, I see two from Grace:
**I would like to know if you plan on returning to work. I just think that if you have decided to resign your position, you should please inform me of such. **
“Why should I inform you?”
I hadn’t really decided until recently that I was or wasn’t returning to Helping Hands. I felt like since she has no problems making decisions regardless of my concern or input, then what do you need me for? Even now, after I’ve decided to return to Helping Hands, I’m not sure that any decisions that I make or put in place are even going to stick. Is she going to look at something that I’ve decided to do and just sweep it away with the wave of her hand? That’s what she did with Courtney and Addie. A year’s worth of building this girl up and watching her grow and she just comes along and says, “No, I think this is what we should do.” We’re only lucky that it ended semi-well—this could have been a disaster.
She’s broken my trust and she won’t acknowledge it. It’s pretty much “take it or leave it.”
**I’ve just been informed that you left for a cruise in Australia this past weekend. Please contact me as soon as you get the opportunity. We really need to talk. **
Her messages sound professional and contrite, but I’m still feeling like she’s totally disregarded me, and I just don’t want to deal with it right now. I’m in need of some baby time after mulling over the Grace situation, and even though I feel guilty for not waiting for Christian, I can’t wait.
Refreshed and revitalized after getting my Minnie and Mikey fix, I turn to my long list of emails to see if anything needs immediate attention. There’s nothing particularly pressing, but I do notice one from Christian sent to R&D—and a whole bunch of other folks—asking why James’ software hasn’t been tested and produced. I was expecting to see the usual Christian Grey Long Arm of the Law, but I didn’t see any of that—which is strange, and a bit unsettling. And his ass is working on the cruise.
And what the hell are you doing?
I put a little salt on the situation by responding to all that I was under the impression that the groundbreaking software that has already proven to be worth its weight in gold was well past the research and development stage and was now somewhere in production and marketing. I also asked if I was mistaken about the process and timeline of things in GEH and requested that someone please enlighten me. Just as I’m pressing “send,” I hear the door open to the cabin. I close my email and scroll through things trending on the internet to see if anything fresh or new has hit the web about me and Christian.
“You’re awake,” he says, stepping out onto the balcony.
“I have been for a little while,” I say, raising my eyes from my phone. “You’ve been working.”
“Um… yeah,” he says sheepishly. I stand from my seat.
“No sweat,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. “I’ve been working, too.” I walk back into the bedroom and open the closet. I see that Jason has had both of my formal dresses pressed, obviously not knowing which one I would choose to wear tonight. I choose the red one with the nude Louboutin stilettos—simple and sexy, and perfect since I’m doing the vamp ponytail.
“I’m considering giving security the night off,” Christian says, stepping off the balcony and into the bedroom. I turn my gaze to him.
“Really?” It’s a question, but it comes out more like a statement. “What’s brought this on?”
“Just seeing how we move about the ship,” he replies. “This is a pretty controlled environment. What can happen to us here?” I shrug. He’s right. For one thing, we left on vacation very suddenly. Anyone possibly stalking us would need as much money and freedom as we do to have followed us here. For another thing, nobody seems to know who we are, so as long as we have security when we get to ports of call, I don’t see any harm in letting the guys roam the ship until we need them… if we need them.
“The catch is that you have to carry your phone with you, though,” he adds. “They can track my watch, but they have nothing to track on you.” I look at his arm.
“Your Hublot?” I ask. “They’ve tampered with your Hublot?”
“I was surprised, too, but apparently, yes,” he says. “Besides my phone, it’s the only thing that stays with me at all times.”
He says it so matter-of-factly, but the words hit me right in the heart. He doesn’t realize that the key around his neck that I gave him in Anguilla stays with him at all times, too, because he never takes it off. When you wear something without thinking, it becomes somewhat invisible, but the fact that he only wears my Hublot when he has so many options warms me right down to my very soul.
“Sure, I’ll… carry my phone,” I say, turning away and trying to hide my emotions. He’s behind me in a moment.
“What is it, baby?” he asks, concerned. “Did I say something wrong.”
“No,” I say, swiping away a tear before I turn to face him. “It’s just me being a silly, weepy, emotional girl. You have so many beautiful watches. I didn’t realize that you only wore mine.” His gaze softens, and the corners of his mouth turn up infinitesimally.
“This is the most beautiful of them all,” he says, putting his hands on my waist. “I cried when I saw this that day. If watches didn’t irritate me so much when I sleep, I’d never take it off.”
“We don’t have time before dinner for you to get laid, Mr. Grey, but your effort is stellar,” I say coquettishly. His smile is full now.
“I’ll keep working on it then,” he says suggestively.
And work on it, he did. He growls when he sees the red silk maxi dress Vickie outfitted me with and the simple patent-leather nude Louboutin stilettos. I accent the outfit with my Chanel Cometé collection and a red satin clutch. I suit my husband in a dark charcoal suit with black shirt and textured black tie and his signature Caesar Picotti’s. I knew the suit would work if I wore the red or the black on formal night. As he admires me in the red, I admire him in the black and catch a glimpse of something shining from his other wrist. When I get a good look at it, I nearly swoon.
I packed his black onyx cuff links to go with the shirt. He packed his onyx, gold, and diamond bracelet—the one I gave him as a wedding present with the Hublot. I had forgotten all about it until he just put it on… and his key is displayed outside his shirt and tie. I take a deep breath and unsuccessfully attempt to appear unaffected. He extends his elbow to me.
“Shall we, Mrs. Grey?” he asks. I retrieve my clutch from the bureau.
“We shall,” I say softly as I take his arm.
We have dinner in the main dining room which means that we are seated with three other couples at our table. There should have been four, but the fourth “couple” would have been Jason and Ben. The dining room is stunning. We enter through a grand staircase reminiscent of Titanic grandeur. A large, elegant chandelier adorns the middle of the large, three-story ballroom-esque dining room. Large tables are dressed in exquisite linens, fine china, highly-polished silverware, and classic crystal.
Passengers are dressed in their red-carpet finest and although my neckline is plunging, mine is not the most risqué ensemble in attendance tonight.
Christian pulls a chair out for me and two of the three women already seated at the table are salivating all over themselves. Yes, ladies, I know he’s hot.
We discover that the two drooling women and their companions are French, and the older woman and her husband are Italian. They all speak English, but occasionally, each couple may break off into their native tongue.
For our entrées, we have the choice roasted duck served with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions and a warm beet salad, filet mignon served with baked potatoes and Mediterranean zucchini and chickpea salad, or lobster tails with roasted Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. At the risk of sounding high-nosed, I do not want any filet mignon. I feel as though we are expected to eat it because we’re on a high-end cruise.
Unable to choose between the duck or the lobster, I choose them both with the mashed potatoes and the Mediterranean salad. When the waiter brings my meal, the two French ladies break into their native tongue talking about the amount of food that I’m eating. One of them even comments that I will most likely regurgitate my entire meal once I’m finished. Christian looks over at me and I raise a brow at him and smile, daintily eating my meal so as not to drop anything on my dress.
The Italian couple engages us in conversation about America and where we’ve traveled with my husband doing most of the talking about foreign destinations. I only pipe in when we talked about Anguilla. The catty women continue to make snide comments about me, my dress, my meal, the fact that I’m not answering any of the questions that the Califanos ask about exotic locations and that Christian is doing most of the talking. When it looks like my husband is about to respond, I put my hand on his knee to calm him and shake my head when he turns to look at me.
“Their men should teach their damn puppies some manners or put them on a leash!” he hisses, low enough for only me to hear.
“Apparently, dogs can roam freely on this ship,” I say without restraint. No one has any idea what I’m talking about, and the women all look at me like I’m a Martian. The French men haven’t said anything all night beyond introducing themselves, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re hired escorts or something.
This “banter,” for lack of a better word, goes on for several more minutes, during which time I force myself to finish my meal while Christian finishes his—with more insults from the French cunts serving as background noise. When he’s eaten his last bite, I place my fork on the plate and dab my mouth with my napkin, indicating that I’ve had enough of this meal and choosing to forgo dessert. One of the French women comments—in French, of course—that I must be getting ready to go and vomit and they both laugh. Christian puts his fork down and I toss my napkin onto my plate.
“Dames,” I say. Instinctively, their heads turn to me and their giggles cease. “Je ne vomis pas pour rester en forme, je pratique les arts martiaux, le yoga et la musculation. Vous devez faire attention à la manière dont vous parlez des autres dans des lieux publics. Vous ne savez jamais qui peut parler votre langue. Profitez de votre dessert.”
All the color leaves their faces as they realize I’ve been privy to every dirty and hateful thing they’ve said about me all night. I move to stand and Christian rushes to pull my chair back. All of the men at the table stand, even their dates, as I move from my seat and proceed to leave the table. Christian stops me from leaving and tucks my arm into his elbow before turning to our dinner companions.
“Mr. and Mrs. Califano,” he says before turning to the French diners. “Mesdames, messieurs, passez une bonne nuit.”
I would think the men were wearing earplugs because they haven’t reacted to anything all night. The women, on the other hand, look as if they could just curl up and die right at any moment. My husband effectively twisted the knife by letting them know that he was also privy to every word they were saying, after which, he leads me from the dining room and away from what should have been a pleasant experience.
“Do you want to go back to the stateroom?” he asks. I shake my head.
“I’ve been asleep all afternoon. I’m not going to let a couple of jealous Frenchies ruin my night. I’m beginning to wish we had asked Jason and Ben to come with us.”
“That wouldn’t have stopped them,” he says. “They thought we didn’t know what they were saying. So, in their eyes, they hadn’t offended us. That’s why they didn’t say it in English.” I roll my eyes.
“It seems we… or I… bring out the worst in people wherever I go, even on an entirely different continent!” I lament.
“First of all, you can’t hold yourself responsible for other people’s bad behavior. And second, all the bad behavior you’ve seen today and yesterday was because you look like a million bucks. Everyone who has had anything to say was either jealous or they wanted you. Tell me I’m wrong.”
“You think those hateful bitches at the Sydney Opera House were jealous?” I ask incredulously.
“I most certainly do!” he exclaimed. “You looked delicious in that jersey-legging thing you were wearing yesterday—fucking delicious! And nobody was carrying them on their backs!”
He’s got a good point.
We’re silent for a moment as we walk through the hallway of the ship. When we get to the bank of elevators, we look at the maps of the decks.
“Where do you want to go?” he asks. I review the maps quickly and point to my desired location.
“There,” I reply.
A few minutes later, we find ourselves in a small club called Cagney’s. I was able to order some tiramisu since I skipped dessert along with a deliciously nutty ruby port wine—not my first choice, but fabulous as a pairing with the tiramisu.
I chose this bar because it has karaoke and I’m feeling like my vacation is on the verge of being ruined by a couple of uncouth French twats. So, I deduce that Karaoke will be a nice way to loosen up. The tiramisu was a bonus.
There aren’t many people in the bar right now since it’s still fairly early, but there’s enough for a small party and cheering—or booing—section… about twenty, I would say. So, when the DJ calls my name, I’m ready for the performance of my life, and my song choice is evidence of that.
I turn away from the mic and wait for the song to begin. I don’t need the screen—I know all the words. I’m glad to hear that after the drum and base-beat intro, the track already has the backup vocals. So, I can concentrate on a mouth-watering performance. My dress isn’t tight, but I can still feel the silk gliding over my skin, so I can tell that what curves I do have are on demure display.
I have to sing in this soft falsetto voice to get the same effect as the original song, so I get the mic as close as I can without touching it so the audience can hear me.
“Many saaaaaaay that I’m too young to let you know just where I’m coming from…”
I’m bending one knee and bouncing my hips demurely to the beat of the song and flourish my arms artfully as I talk about people being uptight and the way that me and my man carry on. I mimic many of the original choreographed moves from the video from Sparkle with Irene Cara in it, including the synchronized hand movements when I talk about Giving Him Something He Can Feel, which causes the audience to come alive with a few cheers and a couple of catcalls.
Once the crowd has loosened up a bit, I borrow a few moves from the En Vogue version, rolling my hips from left to right and shifting my weight while slowly bending alternate knees, allowing my ass to caress the silk of my red dress and round out nicely on each shift. I add a bit of flare of my own when I spin that ponytail around once and pop my neck back strategically on one of the “ooo’s” in the song, poking my crimson lips out at the same time. The video is playing in my head and I’m wishing I had some elbow-length gloves to do a mini-strip tease like En Vogue did on stage.
The room is breathing, pulsing, and sweating with sexual tension as well as a bit of female animosity and envy. I can see some of the women in the crowd—particularly the ones in the front—glaring at me and whispering among themselves. More of the French whore haterade. It just spurns me on because I can easily see that the men are salivating all over themselves just like the ones in the video, and Christian is looking at me like he would come up on stage and eat me alive if he could right at this very moment.
I stick my leg out to showcase my nude stilettos. Then I bend down and drag my fingertips from my ankle up my calf and the exposed part of my thigh, up my torso, breast and neck, then pose my fingers upright next to my face as I turn my head away to showcase the diamonds and platinum on my ring finger. I know the final gesture is lost on many of the men in the audience and most likely only tends to anger the women even more, many of them stamping me a trophy wife from my performance and the size of my ring, but that’s okay. I’ll be a goddamn trophy tonight. I’m hot and I know it and I’m not up here cooing and gyrating so that these people can admire my intellect.
Once the last note of the song plays, the crowd erupts with applause from the men and some of the women who weren’t hating on me while I was performing. I move to the stairs and at least eight men rush the stage to help me down. I gaze over the faces looking for the one that should be there and waiting to see if he’ll make an appearance. Sure enough, a few seconds later, he makes his way to the stage.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he says in his powerful baritone voice. “I’d like to retrieve my wife.”
The men simultaneously look over their shoulders at him with distain before parting and allowing him access to the stairs. He holds his hand out to me and I give him my fingertips while daintily lifting my dress with my free hand to prevent taking a spill down the stairs. We both know that this is just a display for onlookers as I have absolutely no problem negotiating the stairs on my own. The men lining the stairs all look quite crestfallen as my husband kisses my hand before tucking it into his elbow and leading me back to our table.
“You are a vixen,” he accuses as he pushes my chair in for me.
“I try,” I say, giving him a mischievous smile.
A/N: “Dames, Je ne vomis pas pour rester en forme, je pratique les arts martiaux, le yoga et la musculation. Vous devez faire attention à la manière dont vous parlez des autres dans des lieux publics. Vous ne savez jamais qui peut parler votre langue. Profitez de votre dessert.”—“Ladies, I do not vomit to stay in shape, I practice martial arts, yoga and bodybuilding. You have to be careful about how you talk about others in public places. You never know who can speak your language. Enjoy your dessert. “
“Mesdames, messieurs, passez une bonne nuit.” —”Ladies and gentlemen, have a good night.”
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 on the menu or 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.
The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Luxury Cruise Ship” section.
And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.