Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 20

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the new saga continues…

Chapter 20

Eric Dane 20

TREY

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve spoken to my Mistress. I’ve had more than a few mind-blowing orgasms since our last encounter. Angry sex is quite fulfilling and as it turns out, every time I stick my dick in some dark orifice lately, I think of Golden and become angry. Then, of course, I end up fucking someone into oblivion. I still get a little enjoyment from my Dom activities, such as they are—controlling a woman’s orgasm; tying her down and fucking her until she begs me to stop; having her ride me until my head nearly explodes; drilling into her ass and feeling my dick thump hard while pumping that hot cum into her… yeah, that shit still gets me off, and well!

But there’s also those times when I’m just fucking, just thrusting into some hot pussy and grabbing a big ass, and I feel it… that fucking whip across my back. That shit makes my dick so hard and my balls so tight. Then I see her curled up with that Kevin fucker, talking shit to me that last time that I saw her, and that shit pisses me off. So, even though I may lose the image and feeling of the whip, that anger drives me harder and further into that pussy until I and the poor waif that’s beneath me are both howling to the moon in climax.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

This woman fucking controls everything I do. I can’t even have a climax without her.

I’m still building my lumber empire while Linc and his remaining minions are doing everything they can to head me off. He’s countering my bids with some of the holdouts, like a couple of large mills in Texas, Maryland, and New York. I was able to acquire the contract of one of his largest interests overseas, but I’m not going to get into a bidding war with him. He’s offering higher contracts to the holdouts, which is why they’re hesitating.

They’re hoping for more money. What they don’t know is that I can take a bite out of the industry with what I already have. If they want to go with Lincoln Timber, they can. The larger contracts will have the same effect on Linc’s bottom line as it would if he had to buy the timber from me. It would still take a bite out of his profits. The biggest downfall is that I wouldn’t recognize any income for GEH.

Linc is a sleeping giant. He has a big name because of tenure, not power. So, he’s actually prime for picking right now. Truth is, if I hadn’t done it, sooner or later, someone else with an ounce of sense would have.

Word trickled down to me a couple of weeks ago that Elena Lincoln is in hiding… somewhat. Apparently, she pissed someone else off and was sporting a new set of bruises for a while. It’s only hearsay since no one got any pictures of her, but I’m wondering if Linc snuck up on her again, or if she just got on someone else’s bad side like she always does.

The past few weeks, I’ve been going to the park for lunch more often. The sunshine—when the sun is out—actually helps to improve my attitude. I’ve run into my new friend Veronica a few times, if you can call her that. We just sit, eat lunch, shoot the shit, then go back to our jobs in our respective glass towers. It’s kind of good to see her when I do, though.

“Getting in touch with you is like trying to contact Her Majesty the Queen,” my father chides when I absent-mindedly answer my cell one day.

“What is it, Dad?” I say. I’m still raw from our last conversation about my search for legal counsel.

“Always a pleasure to talk to you, son,” he says. “I just wanted you to know that your sister has been having more episodes.”

Episodes? He must be talking about her diabetes.

“She should probably monitor her levels more closely, then,” I say, “instead of trying to chase the next conspiracy theory. She needs to prioritize.”

“Have you even spoken to your sister since your mother’s birthday?” he asks.

“Why? Is she dying?” I ask impassively.

“Not that I know of,” he retorts, sarcastically, “but that is your sister, Christian.”

“Have you forgotten, Dad? Mia and I don’t speak—we fight. And that’s only when we get together at your house. Do you really think I’m inclined to call her and chat to sign up for an extra dose of that? No, thanks. What does her doctor say?” He pauses.

“The same thing he’s been saying,” Dad says.

“Which means nothing has changed, right?” I conclude. “If she’s been having episodes, it’s because she’s probably not measuring her insulin correctly and not watching what she’s eating. I know that diabetes can be properly managed with diet, medication, and lifestyle. She’s most likely concentrating on all the wrong things—like another corporate conspiracy—instead of concentrating on her health. What does her doctor say about it?” My father sighs.

“Never mind,” he says. “I thought you might want to know about your family. Forget I called.” He ends the call abruptly.

Well, that’s not like Dad. He usually wants to fight and taunt. My first instinct is to call my mother, but while I’m considering making the call, I get a text from him.

**Don’t bother your mother with this. It’s apparently nothing that Mia can’t fix with a little diet and medication, so no use upsetting your mother, right? **

That only makes me want to call Mom more, but since I don’t have any information, I tend to agree that calling her and drilling her about it would only stress her out. I’m sure as hell not calling Elliot. He’d find some way to hold it over my head if there is a way. Gosh, gotta love family.

I head to Crimson to see what mischief I can get into tonight. I need a little spice since I haven’t seen Golden for weeks. I walk around and examine the flavors on the menu. I’m on the hunt and they know it. They nearly offer themselves up to me as I walk past them. There’s quite the buffet on display tonight, from the sexy, beautiful, tasty morsels strolling around half-naked and ready to fuck to the Goth-painted bondage freaks and partially-bound pain whores. Whatever your pleasure, it’s present tonight, except…

I have to admit that the asses are leaving a bit to be desired. There are taut, tight asses on display and even wide asses to be had; fit asses and flabby asses alike… but none of the round and juicy bubble asses that I’ve become accustomed to. I like to watch my dick slide between those cheeks whether I’m fucking that tight rosette or edging myself between two juicy globes. I love to grip that ass meat fiercely while I’m pumping into a tight, hot hole—front or back, it doesn’t matter. My dick is thumping with anticipation

I can’t help but wonder what Elena does for entertainment these days since she’s been banned from any reputable club. Does she frequent the back-alley clubs that just don’t care, or has she given up on the scene completely? She only comes to mind because I’m reminiscing of big asses and Caramel comes to mind…

And ultimately, Golden.

I’ve prowled the entire place, and no one seems to fit my taste tonight. Who am I fooling? I haven’t felt her whip; haven’t come like she makes me come in weeks. I know what I want and it’s not here. I reluctantly text her phone, fully expecting rejection if any answer at all. After another hour of walking around Crimson dissatisfied, I get in my car and make plans to contact my service and fuck til I’m blind.

Just as I’m entering my parking garage, I get a response to my text.

**Be in the dungeon in an hour. **

*-*

As instructed, I’m in her dungeon within the appointed time. She greets me in a gold robe and insanely high black high heels.

Black… that’s different.

She’s wearing some kind of hat—antique gold, not the shiny or flaxen gold I’m accustomed to seeing. It’s tilted and it has fringe on the brim so I can’t really see her face. She’s wearing red tassel earrings and antique gold gloves protrude from her gown. Lace, I think… I can’t help but wonder how those are going to feel on my dick.

She’s silent as she guides me to her table and begins to undress me… slowly and sensually. When I’m naked, she wordlessly directs me to lie on the table, which I do, my face and dick protruding through their usual orifices. As she touches me, I realize that her gloves are not lace. They’re latex, painted to look like lace.

Shit, that’s hot as fuck.

She straps me down—securely—using wrist and ankle restraints that are lined in fur or fuzz or something, but they’re so tight that they damn near cut off my circulation. She extends another strap across my waist and secures it in place.

That’s different.

I feel the table turn, then tilt. When it’s done, I and the table are vertical, and my feet are flat on the floor. My dick is hanging out of the glory hole in her table, and I can see myself.

She has position me so that I’m facing a mirrored wall. That wasn’t there before. I know there was a mirror, but not an entire wall. I see her standing next to the table, still donning a robe with her head slightly tipped on an angle in the direction the long tassels are hanging.

Are we taking a fucking picture? C’mon, let’s get on with this.

She slowly undoes the sash of her robe, opens it, and allows it to fall off her shoulders. Holy Mother of God, where did she find this outfit?

Her entire outfit is latex, most of it that same antique gold except for the latex stocking which are a semi-transparent black with antique gold lace toppers and red seams and heels. Those lace toppers are held on to a beautifully structure latex corset by a set of gold suspender garters, a pair of deliciously-tight latex panties underneath. There’s a small latex cape on her shoulders, obviously tailor-made for her just like the rest of this ensemble—with fringe on the edges just like the fringe of her hat and red tassel earrings. The red in the earrings is made to bring out the red accents in the stockings, the gloves, and on the back of the garter.

I won’t deny that I’m a bit unnerved. Not only has she restrained me in a manner that I’ve never been restrained before and I am quite immobile, but also her usual sunshine-gold garb has been replaced with the exquisite antique gold, black, and red creation. I’m feeling a little anxious waiting for her next move.

I see it all. Whatever I can’t see from just looking around is on complete display in the full mirror in front of me. That delicious ass strolls over to the implements, and Mistress picks her weapon of choice. I’m immediately transported to the state of mind I’m always in when I come to her dungeon—the willing subject ready and able to take whatever she dishes out.

She chooses her flogger and walks back over to me. I brace myself for her strikes, but when they begin, they’re gentle. I open my eyes and I can’t see her, because she’s behind me, but I can see the tails of the flogger—going back and forth rhythmically on my back. Even though I can’t see her, it appears that she’s doing a figure-eight flogging.

I don’t particularly like this. It’s like an incessant tickle on my back and I’m not digging it at all. Just when I’m about to protest, the strikes become a little harder, providing a scratch to the itching previously caused by the flogger tails.

Okay, that’s better, a little relief.

The strikes get harder still and now, it’s starting to sting. This is the feeling that I associate with those massive orgasms, so I sink into it. The strikes are continuous on alternating sides of my back and I clench my jaw to bear the pain as there is no relief from the continuous blows. She doesn’t let up and I’m starting to feel the burn in other parts of my body. Jesus, it must have been longer than I thought because this is really beginning to hurt. I’m gritting my teeth now to withstand the torment of the tails of the flogger and I can feel the sweat forming on my brow.

At last, she stops, and the air brings welcome relief to my skin. Shit, that was intense! I don’t know how much more of that I would be able to stand.

Next, I see her reach for her crop. I prepare myself for the impact, but instead, she begins with light repetitive taps on the top of my ass.

Okay, that’s like a ruined fucking orgasm… to go from whacks back to taps. My adrenaline is up and now, she’s cooling it down again. It’s aggravating. What the fuck is this shit?

Just as I am beginning to come down from the adrenaline rush and my breathing becomes more regulated, the blows of the crop become more intense. They move from the light taps to more intense flickers. Moments later, she graduates to long, fast, and hard vertical strikes—up and down on my ass cheeks like a paintbrush.

Where the fuck did she learn this technique?

The sting is more intense again and I clench my fists once more to bear the pain. Now, the sting in my back returns and intermingle with the sting on the tops and bottoms of my ass cheeks. The way that she’s striking, it’s not hitting the meat. It’s just hitting the tops and bottoms… and that shit stings.

I’m grunting now from the pain, sweat forming quickly on my forehead this time. I tighten my cheeks, but that actually makes the pain a little worse. That’s not supposed to happen. What’s going on with me?

Her next tool is a cross between a crop and a paddle. I’ve never seen it before—braided handle like a crop or a cat with a narrow paddle that looks more like a 12-inch cane wrapped in a leather ruler. She stands to the side of me and starts with those like fucking taps again right on the meat of my ass.

What the fuck is this anti-climactic shit! You can’t work a man up to a painful frenzy, then bring him back down just to work him back up again. That shit will cause him to have a heart attack!

I’m trying to concentrate on the pain I was feeling before, the intermingling of the flogger with the crop and the sting that caused me to grunt in agony, trying not to lose the rush, but it’s no use. She continues this tickle-flicker-spanking thing until my body and breathing are calm.

She’s blowing my high, and I don’t like it. And she’s not talking to me. She usually says something to me throughout this process, but this time, she’s silent—like she’s denying me the stimulation of her voice. As I’m pondering the significance of that factor, her strikes go from gentle flickers to…

“Fucking hell!”

It feels like she has every intention of fusing that damn thing with my ass. I know I verbalized my surprise and agony, but she doesn’t stop to chastise me for speaking. She just keeps going…

Whap!
Whap!
Whap!

Sonofabitch! My eyes are squeezed so tightly that I’m seeing stars. This shit hurts, and once again, it’s blending with the pain of the other two instruments.

Shitfuckinghellsonofafuckinghellshitmotherfucker! This shit is bordering on inhumane. What the hell did I do to deserve this?

Oh… I know what I did. I pissed her off, and now she’s making me pay.

My main consolation in this exercise is that I’ll have a session to recall in the coming weeks when I’m fucking some poor wench within an inch of her life… and that I’ll come like a rocket when this is all over.

My brain and body is slipping into this spacy kind of acceptance of my fate and the pain as Golden rains blow after blow after blow on my tender ass. I feel my muscles relax even though I’m not telling them to do it. It’s like I’m in some kind of subconscious state that’s absorbing the pain, only I’m quite conscious. My body is warm… hot… it feels like it’s on fire all over, and I’m floating, or at least it feels like I’m floating, somewhat outside of myself when…

“Aaaaaaaahhhhh!”

I cry out involuntarily when I feel a very narrow leather strap or tail stripe my back from the left shoulder down to my mid back. What the ever-loving fuck!?

It appears that I had somehow disconnected from our session and my Mistress wished to bring me back—and oh fuck, did she! I didn’t even see or feel the paddle stop or see her retrieve another instrument. So, I don’t even know what she’s using. I just know it’s some kind of whip.

Thwap!

“Aaaahhh!” I cry out again. Her strikes are slower, more calculated this time. My back is already bruised and tender from the flogger, my butt still aching and stinging from the paddle and the crop, and now this… my favorite thing, but not so favorite right now.

Nonetheless, my cock can’t seem to distinguish that.

I feel the rush of blood going through my shaft with each strike. It’s like a heartbeat…

Thwap! Pump! Thwap! Pump! Thwap! Pump!

I know I’m getting hard. I can’t stop it. But after several thwap-pumps, apparently, I’m not hard enough for my Mistress.

“Shit! Aahh! What the fuck!”

Well, she’s not hitting me anymore, but without warning, she has thrust a latex-covered lubed finger into my ass. That shit hurts and my erection wanes immediately. I’ve had enough of this sadistic shit. Now, I’m about to safeword until…

Her finger begins to move—methodically, rhythmically—and I know what this is, I’ve just never experienced it before. I’m trying my best to hate it because I’ve always felt like no straight man—no man’s man—really wants a finger in his ass. But her touch is firm and gentle at the same time, masterfully rubbing that magic gland or moving in circles, in and out and around, causing and involuntary reaction from my body. Her free hand firmly squeezes my painful ass or strokes my burning back, enhancing that pain/pleasure experience that I’m accustomed to. I close my eyes and grunt, biting my lip to suppress any further outbursts from the combined experience. This shit is fucking magical.

I’m completely immobilized, and I can’t move—to thrust, to roll, to move out of the way, nothing. I’m totally at her mercy and she’s about to show me just how true that statement is.

She moves her hand slowly, methodically, massaging my asshole and all the sensitive nerves, adding lube occasionally and often turning attention to my prostate. I am so aroused that I can barely think. The feeling is incredibly erotic, and she’s keeping me just on the edge as my cock gets harder and harder.

I’m nearly shaking with anticipation when she stops the anal massage. My eyes fly open in horror and surprise and immediately focus on my red, veiny cock standing impressively upright and staring back at me from the mirror.

Damn… he’s pissed.

She walks around her table to the front of me and turns to face me. Her face is still totally covered by this hat with the tassels and if it wasn’t for the thick bubble ass wrapped in latex staring back at me from the mirror, I wouldn’t even know this was Golden.

She removes one latex glove—probably the one that was in my ass—and gently begins to caress my cock. The fucker is on fire. I thought a good stiff wind could make me come, but I’m discovering that my sadistic Mistress can draw that process out forever…

And ever…

I groan inwardly as her soft hand outlines the veins on my straining, angry dick, causing just enough stimulation to keep him aching and hard. After a few moments of playing with my immobilized, thumping cock, she produces a small leather apparatus and begins to attach it to my nether-regions. Once she has snapped the thing in place, I look in the mirror to see that my junk is tightly restrained in a highly-restrictive cock and ball harness—the kind that goes between your testicles, wraps around each ball, and snaps around your dick like a cockring. My balls are shiny and straining and my dick is harder and protruding farther than it was before.

She uses her nails to gently scratch and tease the tight skin of my balls and I’m losing my fucking mind. A shiver runs through my entire body and I can’t even move. What’s worse is that I can clearly see this shit in the mirror as she taunts my balls—over and over again. My cock can’t even bob and flex like it usually does because of this damn leather contraction.

She kneels down and, while still tickling my balls, she takes my cock into her mouth. Fucking hell, her mouth is hot! I’m unable to stifle my groan as she takes my cock all the way to the base and slowly drags her lips to the head. She doesn’t even have to hold it because it’s so fucking hard that it’s protruding straight out for her.

And I. Am. In. Agony.

Once, twice, three times she does this and the third time, she locks her lips on the aching head and suckles like she’s capturing the flavor of a delicious lollipop.

Her tongue and lips wrap repeatedly around the strained head, the skin now shining like my restrained balls. She holds her head back just enough for the tassels to fall apart, only giving me a view of her crimson lips suckling the very head of my cock. I then see her talented tongue lick lazily over the tight skin, then sensually over the slit to collect the tiny offering of precum.

Fucking hell, I’m going to die.

Her tongue flicks several times over the frenulum before she sucks one more time as if to clean the head, then replaces her mouth with a thoroughly oiled latex glove.

Oh, God. Oh, dear God…

I can say that I’ve never felt anything like this before. It kind of reminds you of a condom, but not. With condoms, the stimulation is outside of the latex. This is direct—slippery rubber up and down your cock, pumping you to orgasm.

Shit. Fucking hell.

I close my eyes tight, because the burn is unbearable. When I come, it’s going to be fucking explosive, and if she keeps this up, it’s going to be any second now.

As if she was reading my mind, the gloved hand stops its stimulation, and I take in deep breaths to try to calm my frazzled nerves. Fuck, that was hot as fuck! Fuck!

My reprieve is temporary, as I expected, and the soft skin of a bare hand caresses my cock again. I open my eyes and look down at her to see both her hands are latex free now, but she’s only using one hand—one well-oiled hand—to torment my aching dick.

Mistress has decided that she wants to play today and play she does… and play and play and play, much to my eternal torment. My dick was hard just from her putting the cockring on, but I know that she has a thing for dicks. She admires them and adores them and right now, she’s paying very special attention to mine. She’s treating it like a treasured pet and dear God, I’m losing my mind in the pleasure and the teasing.

My dick is fully cooperating with her, reaching out to her soft yet powerful perfectly manicured hands. I can feel it pulsing against her grip as she forces the blood to the very sensitive and swollen head of my very sensitive and swollen cock. She now sits comfortably on a stool next to me, wearing this golden Domme outfit and paying extra special attention to my dick.

Did I mention that I’m not blindfolded, and I can see?

Yes, I can see her as she perfectly edges my anxious shaft with just the right amount of smooth oil—not too much to make it too slippery or too little to cause too much friction… or even enough friction. My muscles hurt from tightening with the pleasure of this near-coming-not-quite-enough stimulation, and she knows it. She repeatedly runs her fingertips from just under the base of my hood over the rim—my fucking nerve center—and up the overstretched skin of the head, her nails scratching just enough to cause painful tremors to rack my body as her fingertips close over the tip.

“Uuuuuuuggghhhh!” I groan in agony and ecstasy each time her nails gently scratch the head of my cock, my balls screaming to come. She always works me into a mindless frenzy until I break out in an unbelievable sweat. I’ve even begun to train myself to bear the sweat in my eyes so that I don’t miss the show.

“Please, Mistress!” I beg. “Please! I need to come!”

“Sssshh,” she chides softly. “Not yet, Chopper.”

She spoke! She spoke to me and it causes ripples of pleasure to flow through my body. I groan involuntarily and she stops her stimulation again. I look down to see a long stream of precum hanging from my dick and dripping onto the floor.

And that’s hot.

My dick is aching so badly; my balls are about to burst, and she takes that oily hand and strokes slow and hard from base to tip and back again—achingly slowly, causing a burn deep in my abs that almost makes me want to cry.

She does it again… and again… and again… and…

“Aaahh!”

My body jerks from the unexpected pain of a cat, wrapping around my back and butt. My eyes shoot open.

She’s standing next to the table, pumping my dick with her oily left hand, and a cat o’ nine tails is hanging from her right.

She’s going to cause a fucking nuclear explosion.

She strokes my cock again, base to tip, causing that rumble in my body when her hand passes the head and her palm strokes my frenulum, then…

Thwap!

Pleasure and pain; heaven and hell; agony and ecstasy. I’ve never been so on edge, so aroused, so ready to blow in my life! She strokes again…

Thwap!

And again…

Thwap!

And again…

Thwap!

And just when I thought the sensation couldn’t become any more intense, she removes her hand. When it returns, it cups my head again and this time, she’s got that fucking bullet in it, rolling it over my head in different areas as she strikes me with the cat once, twice, three times. My head is about to explode from pleasure overload, and so are my balls. I can’t take it anymore; I’m losing my mind. I’m about to give her the spectacular candle-lighting ceremony that she’s been building up to and I just might break that mirror. My eyes roll back in my head…

And she stops.

I’m dizzy, mindless. My body is mush and my dick is throbbing so hard that I can hear it! I feel her undoing my ankle restraints, the waist restraints, and one of the wrist restraints. I can feel her remove the cock-and-ball harness, and when I open my burning, weary eyes, she’s standing in front of me. She has removed her hat and she’s looking impassively at me.

“Not yet, Chopper,” she says as she raises a brow, gazes at me and walks away. I watch her ascend the stairs, her ass tauntingly switching from left to right.

Wait a minute. That’s it? She’s just going to leave me here? She’s going to leave me with my dick thumping and aching like this—my balls ready to explode with a good wind? What the fuck?

Is this a fucking joke? She can’t possibly intend to leave me like this. She can’t!

I wait for a moment before I undo my last restraint. She probably left that one so that I wouldn’t lunge at her ass.

This is the cruelest, most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen. The torment of each of her implements—slow rise just to let my adrenaline drop again, then start the torture over all the way from the beginning to drop me down again… repeatedly…

That’s like a ruined fucking orgasm…
She’s blowing my high, and I don’t like it…
And she’s not talking to me… like she’s denying me the stimulation of her voice… 

As my prior thoughts flash through my head, I think hard to all the times I’ve watched her in action. In all the time that I’ve seen her… watched her… been in her dungeon… I have never seen her leave a man unsatisfied. I’ve seen other Doms or Dommes do it, but in the year that I’ve been dealing with her—visually or physically—she’s never done this… to anybody! She has beaten them, tortured them, done some pretty unthinkable things to them and their dicks, but they always came. Often, they came several times. And she just worked me up, worked me over and left me hanging—literally.

What the fuck is this anti-climactic shit!

She’s fucking turning me into a sub.

I grab my T-shirt and slide it over my head and onto my sweating, stinging back. I slide my boxer briefs over my aching ass, followed by my jeans. Angry adrenaline is pumping through my veins so quickly that I can barely get them zipped and buttoned.

“These games,” I hiss quietly as I slide on my socks and step into my boots. “These fucking games!”

I grab my jacket and ascend the stairs two at a time. In my angry haze, I know he’s there, but I don’t really see him.

Don’t worry, Belvedere. I know my way out.

I breeze past him and out the door, slamming it hard behind me.

*-*

I come and I come and I come, in several different positions, with more than one woman, and each time the only thing that comes back to me is that horrid woman’s face and the torment that she put me through tonight…

Cruel, sadistic bitch.


Briana Evigan 20

GOLDEN

Waking up in Blake’s lap a few weeks ago was an eye-opener. First, it felt good—not that it was Blake, but that it was anybody that close to me. Waking up and smelling the scent of a man, feeling his strong hand resting in my hair… it was a good feeling… too good. It brought me to my second realization.

That I forgot who I am.

I’m Golden—often imitated and never duplicated; highly coveted, but never acquired; sought and lusted after; craved and never forgotten…

And Trey’s text reminded me of that.

I had been saving the Atsuko Kudo couture latex ensemble for a special occasion. I would give him an evening that he was sure never to forget.

You may not be a submissive, Chopper, but I’m still a Domme.

That night, I made sure that he didn’t forget it. I flogged him, cropped him, paddled and whipped him in a manner to keep him on edge all night—start with just enough tenderness to bring the blood to the surface of his skin, then give him the intensity he craves and subsequently bring him all the way back from the precipice, just to do it all over again.

And again.

And again.

He squirmed and he cried out as his nerves were so exposed, he was losing his mind. It was magnificent.

The prostate massage was a last-minute decision. He was so far into subspace, I don’t even think he felt me massaging and lubing his asshole, because he never responded. He only reacted when I breached his rosette. That’s when I knew I had to bring that lovely little member back to attention once more. So, I did.

He came so close to exploding that I had to end more abruptly than I intended.

But the cock-and-ball harness was magnificent. It made me remember why I nearly lost myself in his kiss. His dick is beautiful. It’s God’s work of art—exquisite, superb. I never looked at his face once; I only concentrated on the cock. It’s breathtaking.

Watching it throb, tasting it, playing with it, feeling it on my fingers, seeing it change and grow before my eyes—it was glorious.

Then I remembered…

Watching it blow is what made me kiss him in the first place… and he was insolent the last time he left.

No, you’re not a sub, but I’m still your Mistress, and I deserve your respect. For your malfeasance…

Your orgasm is mine.

That’s the only time I looked in his eyes, to let him know that he didn’t even control his own dick.

When I walked up the stairs and to my room, refusing to see him that night, I knew that would leave a lasting impression on him. No matter who he goes to, no matter what he does, no matter who he fucks, no matter how hard or how many times he comes, it still won’t be what he would have gotten had I got him off that night, and he knows that.

So, he’ll stew in his brew for a little while, but he still won’t forget Golden. And maybe the next time he sees me, he’ll have a little more respect.

*-*

Several weeks have passed since Canciana’s attorney, Greg Beasley, darkened the door of my office. He’s called me several times since then and more than once, I’ve inquired about what his client thinks would be a suitable settlement, only to have them come back with ridiculously unrealistic numbers. I pretended to continue to confer with my client, throwing out possible counteroffers and negotiating. I was only buying time to execute our ultimate coup.

Blake has footage from long before he ever expected to get a divorce. Using the resources at our disposal, we were able to secure names, places, receipts, pictures, and videos, including a few bonuses I’m certain that Mr. Beasley and the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Haviland have no idea are in store for them. Promising a settlement that would appease “all parties involved,” we set a meeting for today.

“I’m sorry, Mistress,” Blake says as we head to my office. “I never meant to drag you down in this.”

“I’m not dragged down in this, Blake,” I comfort him. “I offered to help a good man and a good friend, and a whore and her unscrupulous attorney are taking advantage of that. Now, they’re about to get more than they fucking bargained for.” I look over at him. “Chin up, my friend. Today, you’re going to be free.”

We walk into the office, deliberately ten minutes late. I’m suited, booted, and bunned in my regular “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” garb while Blake looks sharp—and three levels of pissed off—in a tailored black suit and white shirt with no tie. Canciana Haviland and Greg Beasley are standing in my lobby awaiting our arrival. Blake doesn’t even make eye contact.

“Forgive our tardiness,” I say insincerely. “We’ll be with you in a moment.”

“Being late for a meeting is very bad form, Ms. Olivet,” Beasley says sharply. Is this fucker scolding me? I slowly turn to face him, every bit of Mistress rising up in me, no doubt displayed in the glare I give him.

“We can reschedule if you like,” I say, my tone sharper than his. I offer no other explanation and wait for his response.

“No need,” he counters. “We’ve come all this way now.”

“Then, like I said,” I say, my voice low and my words crisp, “we’ll be with you. In a moment. Chanelle, please offer Mr. Beasley and his client something to drink while they wait.” I over-emphasize the “t” on “wait” and never break my gaze with Beasley. We’re having a stare contest until I hear Jesse’s voice.

“Ms. Olivet,” he says, knowing that I’ll stand here and stare at this fucker until his dick falls off. I don’t break my glare with him until I turn hard on my heels and my designer stilettos click loudly across the lobby floor. Jesse holds my office door open for me and he and Blake follow me into the office.

“Don’t let him unnerve you, Ana,” Jesse says.

“I’m not unnerved,” I say, opening my briefcase and setting it up on the conference table. “I’m ready to scrap.” I gesture to the large leather seat beside mine for Blake to take a seat as I prepare for the meeting with the snake and the Mrs. I’m taking files out, preparing disc drives and firing up my tablet and laptop, along with two sets of prepared documents. I go to my desk and press the button that records depositions in my office and head back to the conference table. Blake is still standing behind his chair.

I should have known. He won’t sit before I’m seated.

I nod and walk over to my chair, allowing him to pull it out for me to take my seat. Once he is seated, he rests his arms on the armrests and fixes the most stoic expression on his face that I’ve ever seen.

“Jesse, let them in and remain in position.” Jesse opens the door and informs Canciana and Beasley that they can enter. Once they’re inside, he closes the door behind them and takes his place by the window.

“Who is this?” Canciana balks in a slight Spanish accent.

“That’s her bodyguard,” Beasley says in a condescending tone. “Wherever she goes, he goes,” he mocks.

“Hmph,” Canciana grunts unimpressed. Oh, I’m going to love this.

“I take it you and your client have had a chance to review Mrs. Haviland’s request,” Beasley says confidently. Requests… more like outlandish demands.

“We have,” I say, “and we’re prepared to make an offer.” I slide the papers over to him and his client with Blake’s signature already on them. He frowns.

“This is the same offer as before,” he says, shaking his head. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Oh, I think it is,” I retort, “but that’s for you to tell me. You see, I don’t take kindly to blackmail at all, especially when someone wants to go about the business of completely fabricating a story and besmirching someone’s good name just a get a dollar they don’t even deserve.”

“Ms. Olivet!” Beasley says, feigning shock, “such harsh words! I wouldn’t call it blackmail. I’d much rather refer to it as a bargaining chip.”

“A bargaining chip,” I say with a nod. “What a nice way to phrase extortion.”

“Extortion, please!”  Beasley says. “Our clients have been married for several years. She’s at least entitled to what she’s asking for.”

“First, how do you know he even has what she’s asking for?” I retort. “He’s living in my guest room, not the Fairlane Olympic. And second, are you really planning to go to court spouting about how many years they’ve been married?”

“I thought we were here for a settlement hearing—to avoid dragging this out in court,” Beasley shoots.

“Well, that’s going to be up to you and your client,” I say. “I mean seriously, my client walked in on her screwing another man in his home in the bed that they once shared, and she didn’t even have the modesty to be embarrassed. She just barked at him to close the door and you really think we’re going to capitulate to your demands for more money? I’ve seen some real pieces of work in my day, but you take the cake.”

“You’re hardly in a position to insult my client, Ms. Olivet,” Beasley taunts.

“Oh, on the contrary, Mr. Beasley, we’re in a position to do whatever we want. You have pictures of my client coming in and out of my home, fully dressed in a business suit just like he is now. Whatever that may imply, it proves nothing, besides that my client was at my home…”

“A judge may not see it that way, Ms. Olivet,” he retorts. I shrug.

“They may, they may not.” I pull the first file from my briefcase, “but how do you think a judge would see this?” I open the file and remove one of the very graphic pictures of Canciana and one of her lovers, handing it to Beasley. An unreadable expression crosses his face as he hands the picture to Canciana. She looks at it then raises a hateful gaze to Blake.

“Me estabas mirando, gilipollas enferma?” she barks.

“This changes nothing, Ms. Olivet,” Beasley says. “We would simply contend that Mr. Haviland’s indiscretions occurred first, and there’s no telling what that could do to your reputation,” he smiles that slimy smile.

“I thought you might feel that way,” I say. “I can see the importance of having a smear-free name as an interpreter of the law. However, I was hoping that we could keep the smearing between our clients instead of involving each other. Since that doesn’t appear to be the case, tell me, Greg. Is there a Mrs. Slimy Attorney?” I ask. His smirk falls.

“That’s really none of your business,” he says curtly. My turn to smirk.

“Maybe it is, and maybe it’s not,” I say, my voice low, “But you’re the one who dragged my reputation into this, and a girl must protect herself. Now, what was that phrase you used earlier? Ah, yes, I remember now… bargaining chip.” I pull three more stills from the file. “I’m pretty certain that Desiree wouldn’t be too pleased to see these.”

His pupils constrict at the mention of his wife’s name, and I push the pictures across the table to him. He examines the pictures and all the color leaves his face. He looks at the pictures, then at Canciana, then at me.

“Where did you get these?” he seethes. I cross my arms.

“A little birdie gave them to me,” I say. “She’s got some pretty good moves, wouldn’t you agree? I mean, I was thoroughly impressed watching the videos.”

“Videos?” he barks angrily.

“Lots. And lots of them,” I say confidently, “dating back through several of those ‘years’ they’ve been married. It’s really not a good idea for you to fuck your clients!” I add viciously as Greg is currently looking at pictures of him and Canciana in various sexual positions.

That gets Canciana’s attention.

“Oh, there’s more,” I say, opening the file and laying picture after picture in front of them—all stills of Canciana in compromising positions in the bed that she once shared with her husband. “And if you like those, you’ll love this.”

I hit the auxiliary then play buttons on the remote to activate the feed going to the television. A live action video of Canciana at her hoe finest, wildly riding some guy who is not Greg. His face shows intense displeasure. Blake doesn’t even turn to face the screen.

“You’ve got impressive moves, Canciana,” I compliment. “I thought it was the expensive gifts that you were showering on your boytoys that kept them coming back. I stand corrected.”

“Pendejo!” she hisses. “Perra!”

“Likewise, puta,” I respond without flinching. She narrows her eyes at me. She spoke two of the very few Spanish words that I understand. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

“Two out of the other five guys that you’ve been fucking… they’re married, too.” Greg glares at her. Apparently, he’s unaware of the extent of his lover’s infidelity, if you can call it that, since he’s cheating on his wife with her. “I hope you’ve been having protected sex, Greg, because you’ve been fucking the ‘good time girl.’” I turn back to Canciana.

“I understand that you’ve been hurt, but you took advantage of a man’s guilt to the fullest extent. You never once thought of his suffering—not once. You spent years and years punishing him for a terrible mistake, and he was already punishing himself. I can tell you now that if your daughter is looking down on this right now, she’s ashamed of you. Your behavior has been reprehensible in more ways than one. Even the law of the land allows a man to pay his debt to society and move on with his life. You just want him to pay over and over and over again while you behave like a mindless floosy, a senseless harlot, and a heartless and soulless charlatan draining him dry until he’s dead.”

“I lost my child,” she says softly but firmly. “You don’t know that pain.”

“Then you should have gotten help instead of extorting the husband and father that was hurting right along with you!” I hiss. “I lost my parents as a child—both of them at the same time, almost exactly the same way you lost your child. No, I didn’t lose a child, but you lost one person that you loved, and I lost two. I guess if there was someone there that I could have extorted, maybe I would have turned out like you!”

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Attacking her won’t help at this point.

“You get the house, you keep your car, and you get what’s in your prenup. Sign the papers now and go away, or this footage—and there’s a lot of it—gets released to every slimy, sleazy, back door porn site and gossip rag I can find. And the wives of your married fuckboys will get packages of their husband’s extracurricular activities…” I turn to Beasley, “including yours.”

He turns an accusing glare to Canciana.

“Five other guys,” he hisses. “Five fucking other guys. I could understand one, or even two, but five… you’ve got a fucking problem—literally! Sign the goddamn papers,” he barks. “I’m not going down because of you! I’ve got way too fucking much to lose and if I do, I’ll bury you, you slut.”

I raise my brow. Diplomacy has flown the coup, not that it was ever present. Canciana clearly sees all of her options—her opportunity to get more money—flying out the window.

“Tu matas a mi hija. Me quitaste la vida. ¡Lo único que queda es el dinero, y ahora también quieres tomar eso. Bastardo¡” she barks at Blake before lunging a huge glob of spit at him that lands right on his cheek. I’m disgusted, but he doesn’t even flinch. He gazes unaffected at her and he removes a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes the saliva off his face.

“I have been punished,” he says calmly. “My suffering ends today. Take your money and leave me, and never darken my door again.”

Further angered by his lack of reaction, Canciana yells a few more statements in Spanish before Greg interrupts her.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s a horrible wretched person he’s going to burn in hell sign the goddamn papers!” Greg demands, the volume in his voice causing Canciana to nearly leap from her seat. She knows that she has no other options, so she continues to hurl insults at Blake in Spanish for at least another minute and a half. In the middle of her rant, I see Blake do something I have never seen him do.

He loses his temper.

Blake silences his estranged wife by simultaneously slamming his fist into the conference table and rising to his feet, glaring at her with a look of death. I have no idea what she said to him since I don’t speak fluent Spanish—just the few words that I’ve picked up from Blake—but either she said something that just pissed him the fuck off or he has simply had enough.

“I. am giving you the chance. To walk away from this situation. With your money. Your house. And your car. Which is more than you’re entitled to in our prenuptial agreement. I. Have suffered. Enough. Now, take your trinkets. And get out of my life. Or I swear on the holy virgin that it’ll be your turn.”

Blake glares at her without blinking, his gaze more menacing than I’ve ever seen. Canciana is leaning back in her seat in utter horror. Either she has seen this side of him before and she doesn’t want to see it again, or she has never seen this side of him before and it’s shocking the shit out of her. Greg is just as surprised at the situation, but not horrified. He just sits there with a surprised frown on his face waiting to see what his client is going to do.

I’m completely shocked by what I’m seeing, but I don’t show it. I just pretend like this is another day at the office and I show no emotion. I’m certain that no one saw me when I flinched at the noise since we were all focusing on Blake.

No one moves. No one says another word. The next move belongs to Canciana.

She blinks several times, gazing at Blake in fear. I don’t dare look in his eyes. I’m afraid of what I’ll see. I’m not afraid of Blake because I’m certain that I would never have to fear him. However, he feels nothing but contempt for this woman, for what she has done and put him through over the last few years. Even criminals serve their time and at some point, are released. She never intends to release him. She intends to punish him indefinitely as if he had just committed the crime yesterday. He, on the other hand, feels like his sentence is over.

We sit there for what feels like an eternity, Canciana waiting for someone to speak and come to her rescue, but it’s not going to happen. The three people at the table with her all want her to sign the papers, and at this point, I’m certain that Greg would have no problem leaving her in the room alone with Blake to allow him a few minutes to make good on his promise that it’s her turn.

Seeing no assistance from anyone or reprieve from Blake, she straightens her back, picks up the pen, and signs every page of the divorce decree, pushing it back towards her attorney. He pushes them to me, and I check each page.

“You need to sign here, here, and here, and initial here and here,” I say, pointing out the pages she forgot to sign. She signs and initials the missing pages, sighing like we’re inconveniencing her. I review the documents again.

“Are we finished?” Greg asks, perturbed.

“We’ll see,” I say. He turns his glare to me. “I don’t appreciate my privacy being violated for your game of cat and mouse. You have nothing on me, nor will you get anything on me, besides the fact that I enjoy my male company and that this man lives in my home. I can live with the world knowing that, but I still have footage of you, and it’s a whole lot more than just your ‘comings’ and goings, pun intended. Call off your dogs and don’t darken my door again or I promise you…” I lean forward on the conference table. “If you think he’s scary, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” I sit back in my seat. “Deal?”

Greg swallows, but doesn’t move while Canciana’s gaze snaps back and forth from him to me.

“Deal,” he says, his voice low. “I would shake on it, but I don’t assume you’d want to shake with a slimy lawyer.”

“Not necessary,” I say, standing, “especially since I can be pretty fucking slimy myself—when needed.” I stand and hand the papers to Jesse. “My secretary will make you a copy to take with you and you’ll have court certified copies in a week. Jesse, please show these people out.”

Greg stands first while Canciana seems to be planning some kind of exit strategy—one last crack.

“I suggest you stand and leave silently,” I warn her. “I will not be responsible for your safety if you stay a moment longer.” She turns her gaze to me, and Jesse steps in.

“Ma’am,” he says, coming very close to her chair—more of a threat than Blake is at the moment—who, by the way, is still staring venomously at her, “if you’ll come with me, please.”

It’s not a request.

“Oh, and Missy?” I say as the bitch finally stands. “I would caution you against getting another lawyer and trying to contest. This…” I gesture around the files and papers, “only scratches the surface of what I’m capable of if you ever come after me again!” Yes, bitch, this is personal.

She sighs angrily and walks out with Jesse and her slimy attorney.

When I look over at Blake, he’s still leaning on the conference table with his fist clenched. His eyes are closed and he’s breathing deeply. He does that for several moments before he slowly lowers himself back into his seat.

“I’m sorry, Mistress,” he breathes, his voice gravelly. Approach with caution, Olivet.

“Blake… is there anything I can do?” I ask carefully.

“Just please, don’t dismiss me for my behavior,” he beseeches. I sigh inwardly. He wants to stay. This is good.

“Of course, not,” I say, softly. He turns a cooling gaze to me, his eyes red with repressed anger. I gently place my hand over his and raise my brow as if asking for permission. He closes his eyes and nods.

“Thank you, Mistress,” he breathes.


A/N: “Me estabas mirando, gilipollas enferma?”—“You were watching me, you sick asshole?”

“Pendejo! Perra!”—this translates a couple of different ways depending on where your from, but in this instance, Canciana is calling Ana an asshole and a stupid bitch or whore.

“Puta”—also translates a few different ways, but in essence, it’s just what it sounds like; whore, pussy, or cunt.

“Tu matas a mi hija. Me quitaste la vida. ¡Lo único que queda es el dinero, y ahora también quieres tomar eso. Bastardo¡”—”You kill my daughter. You took my life All that’s left is money, and now you also want to take that. Bastard!”

The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 86—Going Soft?

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 86—Going Soft?

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly agrees that Wednesday is a good day for us to meet with the godparents of our children to solidify our plans for the twins. She’ll talk to Valerie since I’ve already told Al. In the meantime, I’m back in my glass and steel fortress about to let some folks have it.

I’m sitting in the usual department head meeting, putting together some thoughts concerning the four people at the center of my ire. While I’ve been sitting here, I’ve listened to discussions about shipments of supplies to some of our warehouses that had to be rescheduled because the shipping dock simply misplaced the materials, resulting in a horrible delay of delivery of product to our end users; a fire in one of our buildings on the east coast that resulted in injuries; and an extremely costly error with one of our pharmaceutical subsidiaries that could result in a lawsuit.

While I’m sitting here quietly fuming at our shipping, quality, and safety teams and waiting to hear what the plan of action is to keep these situations from becoming international incidents, one of the department heads from some department is expounding on some question that Lorenz has asked about something. I half-heartedly pretend to listen and jot down notes in my ledger—something I never do—when I decide that I’ve heard enough of the useless rambling. I have a shift in my seat that I do that signals the person speaking that they should wrap it up soon.

“What’s the progress with SEEKNID 1.0?” I ask casually once I hear that the discussion about… whatever it was… has ended. I hear throats clearing but no answers. So, I raise my gaze to my R&D department head. “Mr. Hammond, was my question unclear?” He clears his throat and rubs his eyes.

“No, sir, your question was clear,” he replies, his voice tired. I narrow my gaze at him.

“Well?” I hiss, waiting for an answer.

“I… haven’t had a chance to review it, sir,” he says. My brow furrows and I look over at my wife, who shrugs, before I look back at Hammond.

“What do you mean you haven’t had a chance to review it?” I ask. “I sent an email requesting immediate research and testing on Tuesday… while I was still on vacation with my wife.”

“I sent one as well,” Butterfly chimes in, “wanting to know why it was taking so long for the project to be initiated.” I look over at her.

“You sent one, too?” I ask. She nods.

“I questioned the delay of a very important product both to GEH and the industry and requested additional information on the normal timeline concerning the processing of a project from presentation to production. I never received a response.”

“To whom did you send this email?” I ask frostily.

“I did a blanket reply to all of the people on the original email that you sent out… even you. Maybe I did something wrong,” she says. All heads know that I’m now going to go in search of this email, because if I received it, their asses received it, too. I may not look for an email from my wife because I’m with her every day and she can just tell me what’s up… or text me. As soon as I swipe the screen of my phone, people start speaking up.

“I received that email, Dr. Grey,” Ros says. “I’m sorry I didn’t respond. I made the error of thinking that one of the heads closer to the project with more detailed information would provide an explanation for you. I apologize for that oversight on my part…”

“Same here,” Lorenz excuses. “Granted, I wouldn’t have had the immediate information that you needed, but I—or someone—should have responded to your email. I hope you’ll excuse the oversight.”

“It’s an oversight on your part because you and Ros have an entire company to run,” Butterfly says as I’m searching for her email. “I appreciate the acknowledgement and hope that in the future, I can expect a response to an email when I send it. ‘I don’t know, let me find out for you’ is a perfectly good response. It’s just very disheartening feeling like I’m being ignored.”

“Understood, Dr. Grey,” Lorenz replies. “Thank you for understanding.” My wife nods just as I find her email that she sent minutes after I sent the email to my chief officers, Barney, Hammond, and R&D.

“That explains why my company heads didn’t respond. However, in this instance, I can understand why they would have expected the experts in the area to have said something.” I turn to the people who would normally have their hands on the pulse of the situation… or who should, that is.

“I have no excuse, sir,” Barney says, his response a mixture of unapologetic but humble, if that’s possible. “I have quite a few irons in the fire in IT and since the product hadn’t made its way through R&D yet, there’s really nothing I could do with it at this time. I apologize, too, An… Dr. Grey, for not at least responding to your email. Please charge it to too many balls in the air and not disrespect, ma’am,” Barney finishes, and I can see my wife cringing inwardly at the ma’am sentiment.

“So, that leaves my $15-million R&D department,” I say, turning back to Hammond and the man sitting next to him. “We’re all waiting for you, gentlemen. Was my executive and IT staff supposed to respond to these emails that were clearly in your court and control?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Hammond says a bit half-heartedly. “I just saw the email this morning before I came to the meeting. I didn’t have a chance to look into the matter thoroughly.”

“This morning?” I frown. “Why did it take so long?”

“I’ve been in the hospital, sir,” he says. “I was just released yesterday. I had a severe upper respiratory infection.” I glare at him. Is this fucker contagious? “It’s cleared up now, sir,” he adds, reading my thoughts. “I’m just still a little weak from the illness.”

“How long were you hospitalized?” I ask.

“Twelve days, sir,” he replies. Shit! That was some infection!

“And who is your second in command?” His eyes widen and I see the guy sitting next to him suddenly get fidgety.

“I take responsibility, sir,” Hammond says, “I should have left stricter instructions…

“That’s admirable of you,” I interrupt. “But I sent instructions to the team to get going on this last week while I was on vacation and you were hospitalized recovering from a severe infection. Now, who. Was your second. In command?” He sighs heavily and drops his gaze.

“Nathan Burgess, sir,” he says without making eye-contact. I look over at the sweating worm next to him.

“I take it you’re Nathan Burgess,” I say, watching the man’s forehead become shinier and shinier.

“Yes, sir,” he squeaks then clears his throat. I lean back in my seat.

“Let me ask a question to all people within earshot… Should I call an ear, nose, and throat specialist in to have you all examined?” I bark, and everyone suddenly sits up straight. “I’m sure that I made the announcement months ago that Dr. Anastasia Grey is 50% owner of this company and you all are still treating her like a goddamn outsider! Don’t you all realize that with or without my authorization, she has the power to fire any and everyone in this room? And she can’t even get a response to a goddamn email?”

I see my wife squirm infinitesimally, then plaster an impassive expression on her face.

“A week goes by and she couldn’t get a specific answer to a specific question that she asked and all I’m getting is a bunch of ‘I’m sorry’s,’ but what’s more, did you all suffer from fingerous brokitis? Because no one responded to me, either!”

The looks of discomfort that everyone donned moments ago have now been replaced by expressions of horror. This lets me know that even after this last announcement, they still won’t regard my wife as 50% owner of this company.

“I sent an email to at least five people within the sound of my voice and to the research and development team a week ago, and not one person thought it might have been important to stick your head in the door and ask, ‘Hey, what’s going on with the thing Mr. Grey asked about?’ Not one of you? None of you?”

Now even my executive staff is looking a little green in the face, as they should. I sent this email out to several people, because I expected if one person didn’t see to the situation, someone else would have. I didn’t send that information out for show. Even my wife had the good sense to respond and acknowledge the email and none of these highly-paid assholes thought they should even bother?

Even though Hammond knows that he’s off the hook for this situation because he was sick in the hospital, he still shrinks in his chair. That only makes me more pissed at this Burgess fucker.

“And you,” I say, focusing my attention on him, “if anyone was at the root of finding out where this project stood, it’s you, because your boss was out sick. Tell me, did you not see the emails?” He’s so scared right now, he could shit his pants.

“I… um… I remember… seeing the reports on… the projects we were working on…”

“It’s a simple question, Mr. Burgess,” I interrupt this stuttering fool. “Did you see the emails?”

“I… I think… I may have seen the email from you, sir,” he stutters.

“So, you did see one of the emails,” I confirm, and he nods. “And not only did you not see fit to respond, but you also don’t have any information about the content.”

“I was trying to get some information for you, sir,” he excuses. “I didn’t want to respond without at least having some kind of input…”

“So, you didn’t respond at all,” I interrupt. “Nothing.” And I get no response. “To add to that, you knew that you were the one in charge when the command came down, and you sat there quietly willing to allow your boss to take the wrap.”

“No, sir,” he interjects, “that… I wasn’t…”

“You all. Are getting. Sloppy,” I say, my voice threatening. “I lighten up on you for a minute and you act like you don’t remember who the fuck I am. Do I need to go back to being that iron-fisted fucker I was before I met the love of my life for you slackers to remember that I will fire you at a sneeze? Did you all conveniently forget all the crazy shit that I and my family have been going through? Shit that’s been plastered all over the goddamn news? You idiots are in charge! I trust you to run my company when I’m not here! Did I make the wrong decisions? Should I be coming in here taking my frustrations out on you? Or do I need to babysit each one of you fuckers to make sure the work is getting done? If I must do that, why the fuck do I need any of you?

“Two years ago, I told you all that I didn’t become who I am today by turning a blind eye to weaknesses in my company. You didn’t believe me then, but you better fucking well believe me now. I will be revisiting those protocols that were put in place at the last company-wide review. Anybody who I find lacking will find themselves immediately on the block. Depending on the severity of the situation, that means one of two things. First, your position may immediately become interim. This means that you will have to reapply for your position, and I personally will decide based on your qualifications and the talent pool if you get to keep your job or find yourself replaced—sound familiar?

“The second outcome is that your performance has shown no improvement in your department since the last protocol review or you have fucked up so tremendously that you just lose your job. I will be completely within my rights because with the exception of two or three departments that have new heads, you have been given two years to get your acts together and put your best foot forward. If I discover that you’re still doing the same haphazard, lackadaisical work that you were doing at the last protocol review, I’m getting rid of your ass.

“And make no mistake, this will not be a review of what you’ve done in the last couple of months. There’s nothing you can do in the next week or so that can repair the shabby ass job you’ve already done, if that’s the case. So, don’t bother putting any extra credit projects on the hopper or searching for a scapegoat, because it’s not going to help you.

“Mr. Burgess,” I say, turning my attention to the second man in charge of R&D, “effective immediately, you are being placed on administrative leave without pay for a period of three weeks. I have documentation from both owners of this company specifically asking about a program that should have been in production months ago.

“Although you may not have seen the email from Dr. Grey, you admit that you saw the email from me and a week later, you haven’t even pulled this extremely important and potentially profitable project off the shelf yet. I promised the developer that we would have some information for him, and you have nothing for me to give him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled the project away from us since our company apparently doesn’t want it!

“Your position will be under review as well and the only reason you’re not being fired is because I don’t think you disobeyed a direct order. I just think you’re being sloppy, and you dropped the fucking ball, which is almost just as bad by the way. I’m running a multi-billion-dollar company with holdings and subsidiaries worldwide. I don’t have time to micro-manage and I can’t afford for anybody to be sloppy.

“Hopefully, three weeks without pay and a bit of uncertainty about your future will help to alleviate that situation. After your three-week administrative leave, I and Dr. Grey will have reviewed the departments and you will be notified if you do or do not still have a job.

“Mr. Hammond, I want a preliminary report on the SEEKNID software in my email within three days, and cc Dr. Grey’s company email with those findings as well. Don’t rush and don’t fuck this up, Mr. Hammond. A preliminary report shouldn’t be too difficult to generate. If you have questions, contact James Forsythe-Fleming directly. His contact information is in the project file.” I stand to my feet and turn to my wife.

“Is there anything you’d like to add?” I ask.

“No, I think you’ve covered it quite thoroughly,” she replies, crossing her legs. I turn back to the department heads in the conference room.

“You’re dismissed,” I tell them. They begin to scramble out of the office, and I gesture to Jason to handle Burgess. He nods once and walks out the door behind Burgess. Ros and Lorenz stay behind and everyone else leaves the room.

“So,” Ros begins, “does this mean that Finney and I are under review as well?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I say, taking my seat. “I work closely with you two every day. I’m very well acquainted with your job performance, although I do expect you to treat an email from my wife as if it was an email from me.” They glance at each other. “Is that a problem?”

“No, of course not,” Lorenz says. “Again, Dr. Grey, my apologies for not responding.”

“Accepted,” Butterfly says softly, “and when it’s just us, I prefer Ana if you don’t mind.” Lorenz nods.

“And what about legal?” Ros asks.

“What about legal? I retort, my brow furrowed.

“Will legal undergo the review that the other departments are being subjected to?” I know what she’s asking.

“As a matter of fact, it will not,” I say finitely. “Much like you and Lorenz, I work with my head of legal nearly every day. I have had no problems from my legal department and as such, I’m not in the habit of fixin’ what ain’t broke. And in case you’re wondering, my accounting department won’t be subjected to that protocol review either as they already undergo an audit annually. Are there any other departments that you have questions about?”

“I’m not trying to start a fight, Christian,” Ros says. “It’s just that you know what they’re saying about your head of legal since he is your wife’s best friend.” Butterfly sits up straight and glares at Ros, who doesn’t return her gaze.

“I hired Allen Fleming-Forsythe because he is very fucking good at what he does, not because he’s my wife’s best friend. And those people that you’re talking about, tell them to get their Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree, and then maybe they can say something!”

Ros shrinks a bit in her chair at the same time that Butterfly leaps from hers.

“Baby…” I say, trying to halt her escape.

“I’m going back to the Center,” she says, retrieving her purse.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“Darling, they’re never going to revere me as you—none of them,” she says. “Some of them will get it in their heads that they need to respect me. Others will resent me. Still others will try to fuck you while I watch,” she says disdainfully, and I know she’s talking about that little trick from the new projects meeting a few weeks ago. “But they’ll never ever treat me like they treat you. It’s simply not going to happen.

“Your best friend is your bodyguard, but nobody’s asking if our security is going through an overhaul, just legal. You want them to treat me like you because you hold their destinies in your hand, but that’s simply not going to happen. They can’t wrap their heads around someone else wielding your omnipotent power. So, there will be sometimes when I’ll be able to take the reins with some people, and sometimes when I definitely won’t. You trying to shove it down their throats is just going to cause them to question and resent me, even at the risk of their jobs. It’s that simple.”

Without another word or any malice, she puts her purse on her shoulder and strolls out of the conference room, Chuck silently falling in step behind her. Ros and Lorenz have a silent conversation—again—which is really starting to piss me off. I thrust my hands in my hair, close my eyes, and begin to count.

She’s right. They’re never going to revere her like me. My two executive heads—or at least one of them—just proved that. We had a goddamn mole in the building for three years that everyone was certain that I fast-tracked through the system without even so much as an actual word from me, but I can’t openly hire an extremely qualified head of legal without being questioned about nepotism because he’s my wife’s best friend.

I don’t know if I really wanted them to revere her like me, though. At the most, I want them to respect her and recognize her authority, but it appears that I can’t even get one of them to do that until I get my hairs up. Then, they respect her for the moment and it’s back to business as fucking usual.

Dear God, I’m trying so hard to temper the new husband and family man with the hard-as-stone businessman, but it’s damn near impossible to be those two people. I was always the cold-hearted, unfeeling asshole everywhere I went—business and professional—and people sat up and paid attention; never questioned my judgement or authority. I need to get that back, but fuck if I’m going back to being that asshole that I was before…

“Christian?”

Ros’s voice breaks into my thoughts and the darkness behind my closed eyes. Without realizing that I was still counting, I now notice that I’ve gotten somewhere in the 300’s. I hope I was counting quickly.

“You can go now,” I say without opening my eyes.

“Christian, I…”

“I need. You to leave,” I hear myself nearly growling. After a brief pause, I hear the two of them stand and leave the room. I don’t know how many more minutes I stand there before I head to my office.

“Has Holstein called today?” I ask Andrea as I pass her desk.

“Twice,” she says. “He’s on hold as we speak.” I nod.

“Get Welch and Shaler in here…”

“The smoke is rising quickly on the internet,” Josh says once he and Alex are seated in my office. “All it takes is a rumor to get the fire going online. By the end of the week, if that, there will be quite a few high-powered people with ruffled feathers from nothing but a little innuendo.”

“Good, and what can we do with Holstein by the end of the week?” I ask Welch. He looks over at Joshua. “Nothing drastic,” I add. The real hell will come later.

“We’ve got a few things in the hopper for him,” Alex says, revealing nothing. “We’ve already got great information on him. It appears that our dear warden has been a very bad boy as of late.” I raise my brow.

“Excellent,” I say, turning back to Joshua. “How long before the average reader will be able to see the smokescreen?”

“Keep your eyes on the regular news outlets. When you see it, everybody else will, too.” I nod and look at the screen just to my left scrolling the NASDAQ and NYSE for selected stocks.

Kavanaugh Media has dropped significantly in the last week and still dropping, and that asshole is still holding out. Well, good luck to you.

“Start to sprinkle some inconvenience on Holstein,” I instruct Alex. “I want him jittery as fuck. If I know the kind of people he’s pissed off like I think I do, he’s going to be getting it from so many different directions that he’s not going to know where it’s coming from first.” Alex nods and I turn to Josh. “Any new news for me?” I ask him. He shakes his head.

“Not since yesterday,” he replies.

“Well, good work so far,” I comment. “Keep it up.” He stands, taking his cue to leave.

“Thank you, sir. You know where to find me,” and he leaves. I turn to Alex.

“Ellison and Lincoln,” I say after flipping the switch on the scrambler.

“We’ve of course put a tracker on Ellison’s car, but we expect her to get wise to that pretty soon. She has another… partner who requires her to carry a specific cell phone everywhere she goes…”

“How did you find that out?” I ask with a frown. He just twists his lips and cocks his head at me.

“I mean…” I stutter, then sigh. “I did this shit for years. Can people find out this crap about me?”

“Your operation was a whole lot more Mission Impossible than a lot of these amateurs out here,” he says, and yet another Mission Impossible reference. “She went to see Lincoln yesterday and was forced to leave said phone at the guard’s desk… with one of my colleagues. It’s being tracked as we speak, along with the small device that has been placed on her car. We figure that no matter what disguise she wears, she has to either carry that phone, drive that car, or both.”

“Have we found out anything else on her besides who she’s playing with and that she can disguise herself to be anybody?”

“Nothing much, except that her Dom likes to watch.” I frown. That’s one thing that I could never get into—watching my women with someone else. I’m too damn possessive for that shit… and I immediately think of Butterfly leaving my office a little while ago.

“Can we use that to our advantage at all?” I ask.

“We will,” he says, “when it’s time for the confrontation. For now, we’re watching her every move and trying to get as much information as we can on that book, and if there’s a plan of action if she doesn’t publish or check in with anybody.” I don’t react. I know what he’s getting at and I don’t want to admit that I anticipate the day that Greta Ellison is no longer a blip on my radar.

Butterfly has arrived at the Center by now. I wonder what she’s doing?

“And Lincoln?” I say, trying to keep my mind on the matter at hand. “What’s the word on her since she’s obviously still visiting with her ghost writer?”

“I still have friends in low places,” Alex says. “Lincoln’s life can become ‘uncomfortable’ as soon as you say the word…”

“’The word,’” I reply sarcastically, and he nods. It seems that I should have never gone through Holstein in the first place to get what I needed. I should have just kept the job in-house. Hell, I don’t know the ins and outs of this kind of thing anyway.

“How uncomfortable do you want her to be?”

Very!” I say before I think about it, “but not yet. Just uncomfortable enough for now… enough to know that something’s not quite right. Shit Holstein can’t prevent, right?”

“Shit Holstein won’t even know about,” Alex confirms.

“She could tell him,” I warn.

“She could, but by the time she realizes that she’s targeted, he’ll have his own problems to contend with. He won’t know which way is up with all the people that’ll be pissed at him by the time Josh’s plan is put into action. He’ll be clawing and begging for vacation time by the end of the week from the publicity alone.”

This is good news. I’m so sick of bullshit, I could literally scream. I actually just want to go home and daydream about our trip to Australia and all the fun and sex that we had… the wines we tasted, karaoke and game night, and deciding that we’ll begin BDSM training this weekend…

“Still with me, sir?” Alex’s voice breaks in, and my visions of butterflies leave my head.

“Yeah, I’m still here…” just barely.

“Thinking about the meeting?” he asks.

“Amongst other things, yes,” I admit. “I have no idea how my life became such a mess.”

“There are several answers to that question, sir.” I glare at him.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I snap.

“Simply that it depends on which question you’re asking. How did your life become such a mess… from which point of view? As a child? We know the answer to that. As a teenager? We’re fighting that demon right now. As a man, same demon, only she had you believing that you were in charge when she was actually the one in charge all the time.”

“How the fuck did you know that?” I bark.

“We all knew it,” he replies. “You were the only one who didn’t. Now, you’re a husband and a father, and that’s the real fucking mess.”

“Are you trying to get fucked up? And fired? In that order?” I threaten. He shrugs unfazed.

“You asked a question. I’m just answering it,” he replies. “Love is the messiest situation you’ll ever encounter in your life, and I don’t have to ever have been in love to know that. You had a nice little plan of things, a place for everything and everything in its place, including each of your Jennifer Love Hewitt wannabes. And then along comes this 5’3” fireball and knocks you right out of your Cesare Paciottis and onto your billion-dollar ass. There was nothing clean and tidy in the world about that transition. You fell instantly, and then she got kidnapped—what—two weeks after you sealed the deal?”

“Something like that,” I mumble.

“The next year of her life plays out in the press with you as nothing more than honorable mention in several of the headlines. Then you spend more money than you’ve ever spent on any one purchase in your life except your penthouse maybe—notwithstanding your business acquisitions—to marry her in a castle, to let the world know that the infamous Christian Grey is finally off the market. You take an ass beating like I’ve never seen you take since the day I met you to prove that you’re worthy of her love, and you went soft in that fight…”

“I did not fucking go soft!” I interject, ready to leap at the fucker.

“Yes, you did,” he retorts unapologetically. “You could have flattened that fucker in three hits, and you know it. I know him. I know his skill. And I know that he could have done the same thing, but he wanted to beat your ass and leave a mark, and that’s exactly what he did. He landed your ass in the hospital. You couldn’t see. You had to have your teeth wired. You were unrecognizable. He won! But you… you were worried about what Butterfly would say if you laid him out; how she would react if you sent her father’s best friend home out cold in five seconds. At the same time, you wanted to teach that fucker a lesson, but you wanted to play fair. Ain’t shit fair in love and war and this was both, and you conveniently forgot that, but you want to stand there and tell me that this shit ain’t messy? Seriously?

“You want to know what’s going on with your business? You’re going soft. People can see you going soft. You’ve found love and it’s the most beautiful, life-changing thing in the world, but that’s what it’s doing—it’s changing your life, and people can see that. Why do you think that Spanish asshole thought he could pull that shit over your eyes? Why Fairlane LTD sold you a poison pill? Why the Pussy DJ, as you affectionately call him, tried to drag that shit out as far as he could? Why two ex-submissives and one wannabe felt like they could push limits they knew would set you off? One is back to being afraid of you, one is more afraid of Ana than of you, and one isn’t afraid of either one of you.

“The old Christian Grey would have had each one of those bitches crushed under his heel. The new Christian Grey—the husband and father—is soft, and that’s a good thing when it comes down to your wife and family, but not a good thing when it comes to your business and dealing with your adversaries. You even showed that today. Two years ago, that guy from R&D, Burgess, would have been out on his ass. You put him on administrative leave. You gave him and everybody in that room hope when you should have struck fear into them. You’re in a cutthroat business and you’re turning into a teddy bear. So far, the most Christian Grey thing I’ve seen you do is go after Lincoln and her crew of Merry Men.

“Christian Grey gives half his empire to a woman? Any woman? Everybody everywhere is wondering what the fuck is going on. You have to figure out what you’re going to do here, sir, because what it looks like you’re doing is giving the reins to everyone else—Ros, Finney, your wife—while you sit back and watch. Of course, no one is worried about showing your wife Christian Grey respect. They’re not even showing you that respect right now. Nobody responded to your email? Seriously? You don’t find that strange?”

Shit. Shit, shit, fucking shit, fucking hell, shit. Having that anvil hit me in the face is the most painful and shocking thing I’ve felt since Pops died. Even more shocking than finding my wife locked in a gaze with another man, and that says a lot! Besides Lincoln, my biggest concern these days is trying not to curse around the twins.

“I’m going soft,” I say.

“You’re going soft,” Alex confirms. “You built this empire with a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. You’re not going to be able to maintain its momentum being ‘father of the year.’ You’re going to have to choose one or be satisfied with a compromise… and all the drawbacks that come along with that.”

My company and my family are the two single most important things in my life, and my head of security is telling me that I have to choose between them? That’s not possible. There has to be a compromise that doesn’t leave me looking like a pussy.

“Get started on our prison posse,” I tell him. “I’ve got some things to ponder.”

Once Alex goes and I’m in the office alone, I give some serious thought to the man that I used to be. He was a real fucking asshole—in and out of the office. I didn’t have to be one person during the day and another at night and on weekends. I was just Christian fucking Grey, striking fear and reverence into businessmen and submissives everywhere. Now, I have to prove that I’m not a pussy without ostracizing my wife or mistreating my family. How the fuck am I supposed to do that?

My thoughts are interrupted by my cell phone buzzing in my pocket. I’ve been standing at the window pondering my situation for I don’t know how long, but the call is coming from inside GEH. What the…?

“Grey,” I say answering the phone.

“Sir, it’s Alex. I don’t have time to explain, but I think you should get down to Helping Hands right now!


ANASTASIA

I’ve had enough of trying to be Mrs. GEH. If those fuckers don’t want to acknowledge my authority, so be it. And why would they? Christian’s been at the helm of that company for more than a decade, then I show up with a marriage license and a minor degree trying to throw my weight around and take over. No thanks. If the day comes where I have to take the reins of GEH—and I truly hope that day never comes—then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. In the meantime, Christian can have it. I’m done locking horns with people who don’t think I should be there.

Courtney is filling in as well as can be expected for Marilyn, but I do still miss her, as a PA and a friend. I’m still not very comfortable at the Center right now. I want to make the executive decisions that need to be made, but I’m in constant concern that Grace’s instincts will somehow undermine whatever decisions I make. I make a list of everything we need to go over—which is nearly everything since I no longer want to make any final decisions on my own. Geez, why am I even here? I’m nothing more than a middleman at this point.

I’m lamenting my situation when a knock at my open office door causes me to raise my head. Speak of the devil…

“If you have a moment,” Grace says in a formal tone. I gesture to the chairs in front of my desk, inviting her to sit. She takes a seat and for some reason, I immediately prepare myself for a showdown.

“I’ve given it some thought,” she says, her hands in her lap. “You shouldn’t leave Helping Hands… I should.”

Okay… I certainly wasn’t expecting that! I frown.

“What?” I say, surprised.

“I’m a figurehead, Ana,” she says. “You’re the voice. You’re the face. You’re doing all the work. We’re starting classes because of you. We’re getting more donations and attention than ever because of you. We got past that whole thing with Gloria and the licensing board because of you and it nearly cost you everything. Helping Hands cannot afford to lose you. It would be the worst thing that could happen to this organization.”

“Grace, I can’t run this place alone… or full-time. I’ve got twin babies at home. I quit my practice just so that I could work here part-time. Did you forget that?”

“No, I haven’t forgotten that,” she says. “There’s no reason why you couldn’t remain part-time with the right person in the position as assistant director… or as director if you choose to remain the assistant. I think… I think I’ve truly damaged the professional relationship too much and we just can’t be effective if we’re here together.”

I won’t deny that the professional relationship is terribly damaged, but it’s more than that.

“Here’s the thing,” I begin. “You and I being here together is not the problem. It never has been the problem. We’ve bumped heads before. We’ve had disagreements before. We’ll have them again. The issue—the very big issue—is you disregarding my professional opinion and authority.

“It’s like you take temporary leave of your senses, and you’re a doctor, Grace. It’s not like you don’t understand the importance of confidentiality and trust in a doctor/patient relationship.”

“That’s not how I saw this,” she defends. “You and Courtney are friends. Addie is my friend. We’ve been friends for decades. I wasn’t stepping on your professional toes! You were looking out for your friend and I was looking out for mine!”

“I made it clear to you that our relationship was personal and professional! If you didn’t know that, then it’s because you ignored me—not because you weren’t informed. And that brings to light yet another very vital piece of information. You felt like your friendship with Adelaide was more important than my friendship with Courtney. And if my relationship with her was destroyed, that was fine as long as you got what you wanted. So, basically, what you’re telling me is that what you did wasn’t just a bad judgment call—it was just you being completely selfish?”

Grace sighs heavily, drops her head, and puts her hands on her hips.

“Yes, Ana, that’s what I’m telling you,” she says flatly before raising her eyes to me again.

And I’m floored.

I wasn’t expecting her to just come out with it. I was expecting her to stutter a bit, beat around the bush, stall, try to explain herself, something. She just spit it out and I’m pretty taken aback by it.

“I don’t have an explanation for it,” she says as if reading my mind. “I don’t have a justification for it. I can’t wrap it up in a pretty bow and make it what it’s not. I felt that my longtime friend needed to see her granddaughter—needed to see the changes that she made in her life, and I orchestrated it… by any means necessary. I wasn’t taking into consideration any other relationships, friendships, promises, nothing. All I knew was that this woman needed to see that Courtney had changed, really and truly changed.

“I watched Tina die and her crazy, ungrateful children swarm in on the house like rats. She went to her grave with nothing but regrets for those children—nothing but regrets! And then I see Adelaide feeling like her granddaughter is a lost cause when she’s not 20 miles away every day making something of herself and being a better person. I couldn’t live with that!

“Just telling her that Courtney was here—that she had changed—wouldn’t have worked. She had to see it! So, I put the picture—one picture—in the slideshow. It was in a slideshow with at least 100 other pictures from several different agencies, and I told myself that if she saw it out of all those pictures, then it was meant to be, and if she didn’t, then I would walk away… and she saw it.”

Grace is showing a bit of passion as she tells this story, so much that I can somewhat understand why she did what she did, especially in light of Tina’s recent death… but she still betrayed me, professionally and personally.

“I apologize,” she says further, “for disregarding your professional authority, and I also apologize for jeopardizing your relationship with Courtney. But I don’t apologize for helping my friend. I feel like it was really, really necessary under the circumstances.” I sigh.

“And therein lies the problem, Grace,” I point out. “If you don’t feel any remorse or conviction for what you actually did, then you’ll do it again. I pour myself into these people’s mental well-being, and I can’t have someone look at the situation and just say, ‘This is how it should be,’ and just make an executive decision without even thinking to consult me first simply because you knew I would say, ‘No.’ You’re playing a dangerous game of chance with people’s lives and your solution to that problem is that you should just pick up and leave simply because you don’t want me to leave.

“With or without me, you built this place. You had the idea; you bought the property; you funded it; you built it from the ground up—and you have a responsibility to this place and the people in it. You can’t just throw your hands up and walk away…”

“But you can?” she asks incredulously. “I want what’s best for the Center and like it or not, you have a responsibility to this place, too. You’ve started all kinds of programs, hired staff and created different departments, got our accreditation so that we can do schooling—people depend on you!”

“I’m an employee!” I point out.

“You are assistant director!” she retorts, pronouncing each syllable. “This place will survive without me, but it won’t survive without you.” I’m being battered with logic here.

“I won’t be blackmailed into keeping this job, Grace,” I say finitely. “I won’t be forced to move into a position that I can’t handle because we don’t see eye-to-eye and you don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Will you listen to yourself?” she nearly barks. “That’s the exact reason you’re leaving! And it’s not that I don’t want to be here. The Center needs you, and if it’s going to be a choice between you or me, then the choice needs to be you.”  I’m not going to coddle her.

“If you want to leave Helping Hands, you can, but I’m not running this place full-time. It’s everything I can do to be here when I’m here. I’m not going to take on the role as director.”

“I’m not saying that I want to leave Helping Hands!” she shoots back. “Of course, I don’t want to leave! I love the work that I do here, and I love what the Center does for the families and the community, so much that I’m willing to step down if I’m going to be a hindrance to its progress. We’ve accomplished so much over the last two years and I’m under no misconception, Anastasia. I know that’s because of you. If the Center loses you, it will certainly lose that momentum that it has gained over that course of time, and we may never get it back. I’m just trying to do what’s best for the Center.”

Well, fuck. I hate to admit it, but I know that she’s right. It’s not that no one else can do my job or even step in and pick up where I left off, but will they have the passion, drive, and vision that I have for this place? Even only part-time, I get a lot of shit done in this joint, and lately, part-time has been feeling a lot like full-time.

I don’t think the Center would crumble and die without me, but I have to agree that it could possibly take a substantial blow.

“Understand me clearly,” I begin. “My responsibilities are very important to me, and I will not shirk them. That’s the reason I came back here in the first place. But Grace Trevelyan Grey, make no mistake. We don’t have to agree, and you don’t have to kiss my ass, but if you ever cross me this way again—if you ever again disregard my professional opinion and authority or dare to treat me with the complete and utter lack of respect that you’ve shown me throughout this situation, I am outta here—with no notice!

“I understand and appreciate that there’s a lot going on—with this place, with your job, with your recent diagnosis. I get it. However, that does not give you license to treat other people like they don’t count and if you think it does, then I’m here to tell you that you are sorely mistaken.

“If you feel strongly about something, you need to find some kind of way to talk it out and find out if there’s a solution to the situation, just like you’re supposed to when you have bouts or episodes with your menopause. You knew this situation had repercussions and you completely ignored them. Do that again, and this ball is all yours. Have I made myself perfectly clear?”

“Must you be so cold and harsh in making your point?” she retorts, coolly.

“Yes!” I nearly hiss. “You were cold and hard in making yours and I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding here. I want to see Helping Hands succeed and continue to assist the community as much as you do, but not at the cost of my dignity, self-respect, or peace of mind. Now I repeat—have I made myself perfectly clear?” She pulls herself up to her full height.

“Perfectly,” she says. We stare at each other in silence for several moments, each of us waiting for the other to say something.

“I… think now would be a good time for me to call it a day,” she says formally. “I’m on call at the hospital tonight and I should probably get a couple of hours rest before I go in.”

“I think that’s probably a good idea,” I reply. Don’t go home and tell your husband or mine that I bullied you, or I won’t be back tomorrow, and you can sell the place for all I care. She sighs.

“Goodnight,” she says just as formally. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She walks out of my office.

Sakes alive, this woman is going to be the death of me.

Almost the second that she walks out of the office, my desk phone rings. I sigh heavily and lift the receiver.

“Dr. Anastasia Grey,” I answer wearily.

“Hello, Mrs. Grey. How are you today?” a woman replies.

“I’m fine. May I ask to whom I’m speaking?”

“Oh, you don’t know me, but I just wanted to talk to you myself, to ask you how it feels.”

“How what feels?” I ask bemused.

“To be sitting on top of the world,” she says. “To have your family around you and your friends and your husband. To have more money than you know what to do with. To have the life that many people only dream about while you go about the business of ruining the lives of others.”

I’m taken aback by the accusation of this unknown woman. I want to know who this is and she’s giving me the creeps at the same time. As I’m trying to formulate some kind of response, I see Courtney walking past my door. I wave frantically to get her attention, then cover the mouthpiece of the phone when she enters my office.

“Get Chuck!” I whisper harshly. She doesn’t hesitate. She darts out of the room and I turn my attention back to the mystery caller. “Who is this? What do you want? What are you talking about?”

My husband is dead, Mrs. Grey,” she continues. “I’m sure that you know that. After nearly thirty years of marriage, I’m a widow now. My children are all gone. One of them is in jail. One of them is a public figure and just wants to stay as far away from this as he can. One of them won’t even speak to me because she’s convinced that I had something to do with this.”

“To do with what?” I ask almost frantically. “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what you’re talking about! I’m going to hang up now.”

“No, you won’t, because you’re dying to know who I am,” she says calmly. “You’re aching to know why I said you’re ruining people’s lives.”

“You’re right, I do want to know, but I’m not about to play a cat-and-mouse game for your entertainment,” I hiss.

“Aren’t you the little indignant one!” she hisses back. “You walk around all high and mighty like nobody’s important but you. Nobody matters but you and your precious little family. How are your babies by the way—growing up healthy and strong like Mommy and Daddy, I take it?” I suddenly feel a sharp chill and then seething, searing rage.

“Lady,” I say with as much restraint as I can muster just as Chuck walks into the room, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but you better hope for your own sake that you didn’t just imply a threat to my children.” Chuck freezes and when I raise my eyes to him, all the color is gone out of his face. He’s on his phone in moments talking very low while I try to ascertain who this woman is.

“You’re right about one thing. You don’t know me. You have no idea who I even am, so save your high-handed threats, you lying, pompous, pampered whore! You’ve never even met me, but don’t worry, you will. Every time I see your picture in the paper or see your face in the news, it makes me just want to gag. It’s bad enough that I have to stand by and watch you get over on other people’s pain and tragedy. Now, I had to be subjected to a two-hour vomit-fest about how special and perfect you are. You hit it big because your gold-digging ass landed a big fucking fish and all of a sudden, that’s supposed to make you something? You’re nobody! You’re nothing! You always were nothing and you’ll always be nothing!”

God, if I didn’t know better, I would swear that I was talking to Elena Lincoln, but this is not Lincoln. I’d know She-Thing’s voice anywhere.

“You don’t know shit about who I’ve always been, bitch!” I nearly shriek. “You don’t know shit about what I’ve been through, so don’t you dare try to pretend you know me!”

“Oh, I know exactly who you are!” she shoots. “You’re the same lying little cunt you always were! You were the same fortune-seeking, gold-digging, attention-hungry, lying bitch that you were when you were a teenager. I see you have those same social-climbing tendencies as your worthless mother! My only regret is that they didn’t kill you!”

Fucking hell. This is not happening. This is fucking not happening. I take out a pen and scribble on my desk pad:

Green Valley.

Chuck raises his eyes to me and mutters something into his phone.

“I know you’re still there,” she snaps. “I can hear you breathing…” I’m trying to quickly put together who this could be. She talked about Carla, so she has to be one of the socialite-bitch parents. She keeps calling me a gold-digger and a lying bitch. I don’t say anything as she continues to rant and I’m putting together the things that she’s already said. One child is in jail, probably the one that helped in the beating. There are a lot of people that were arrested, but I don’t know who all is still in jail besides the main players. I sit at my desk and start typing facts frantically—whatever I can remember from the conversation:

Her husband is dead; they were married for 30 years.
Her children are gone—jail, public figure, and incommunicado, none of them apparently speaking to her or readily accessible.
She’s pissed off about my money.
She called me a lying, pompous, pampered whore. Pompous and pampered obviously comes from the money and she clearly thinks I’m lying on her kid, but where did whore come from? Was she there? Is that a reference to the brand?
Fortune-seeking, gold-digging, attention-hungry, social-climbing… None of this is helping me. They’re just angry words. Who is this woman?

“Are you fucking typing??” she asks, horrified.

“Yes, I am, because you’re boring me,” I reply quickly out of frustration, “I’ll admit that I’m dying to know who you are, which is the only reason why I’ve stayed on the phone for your useless drivel. So, you can either tell me who you are and what the fuck you want and get it over and done, or you can continue to sit here and drone on that whatever role your offspring played in my torture was somehow my fault! Either way, I’ve got shit to do, so while I sit here and listen to your self-victimized, delusional babbling, I’m going to type until I feel this conversation is going nowhere and then I’ll hang up.”

“You self-righteous bitch!” she exclaims.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Move on,” I say, pretending to have no interest. Nothing pisses off an already pissed-off person more than acting like you truly don’t care that they’re as pissed off as they are.

“How dare you trivialize my suffering!” she screams into the phone. Is she serious?

“You mean like you trivialized mine?” I respond calmly. “I was beaten within an inch of my life. I was 15 years old in a coma for three weeks. I lost my baby. I’ve got brands on my back, lady, haven’t you seen the video?” She momentarily gets quiet. Maybe she hasn’t seen the video, but she certainly heard about it while I was in the hospital.

“It serves you right,” she says, indignantly, and I have to stop myself from laughing in her ear though a tiny scoff does manage to escape. No one’s suffering is important but our own.

“That’s what I get for trying to reason with the unreasonable. Your child is in jail right now because you passed down to him or her the same privileged thinking that you’re trying to push off on me right now. You push the blame off on the victim so that they—and you—don’t have to take responsibility for what they did. If I had my way, all of you stuck-up, snobby, voluntarily blind ass parents would be sitting in jail and going on trial with your criminal children for raising a bunch of spineless, socially irresponsible, uncaring, amoral, juvenile delinquent bastards!” I bark. I hear her gasp on the other line. Yes, lady, you really pushed the button, now.

“It’s okay, though,” I continue. “It’s okay that your child participated in a crime that killed one person and temporarily maimed another, but you think that’s fine because it’s your child. You wouldn’t feel that way if your daughter was on the receiving end of this brutality.”

“My daughter would never be in your situation, because my daughter is not a lying, gold-digging cunt!” she spits.

“How would you know?” I ask. “According to your victim rant, she’s not even speaking to you…”

And then it hit me, like a boulder from the sky…

Her daughter won’t speak to her because she thinks Mom had something to do with this. In fact, she moved away to New York and she’s not speaking to the whole family because of this incident.

One child is a public figure, like a newscaster—or whatever he is—in Texas.

One child is in jail, the fucker that started this shit in the first place.

Her husband is dead… because he killed himself on Christmas Day right before the family fortune went completely belly-up and eventually took more than half of Green Valley’s wealth with it.

Whitmore!

I didn’t know that I had tuned her out until I come back to myself and she’s ranting and cursing in my ear again.

“This concludes our conversation,” I interrupt her unceremoniously. “I know who you are. I’m calling the district attorney to tell him that you’re harassing me, so leave me alone. Please know that if you come anywhere near me or my family that I am armed and licensed, and I will defend myself up to and including deadly force.” She’s quiet for another moment.

“You don’t know who I am,” she says, confidently. “Don’t pull that shit on me, you little twit!” Oh, well, at least I’ve gone from a cunt, a whore, and a bitch to a twit.

“No?” I say confidently, both in response to her and to Courtney’s and Chuck’s questioning eyes. “Tell me, exactly how many other girls accused Cody of rape?” I say calmly.

She falls silent. I know there were more. He was too cocky, and Carly was too ready to defend him. They were all in a state of self-imposed blindness, like if they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

“How many parents did you all have to pay off?” I continue. “Are there any little illegitimate grandchildren running around that you may or may not know about? Hell, your son and his friends beat my baby out of me. How many of his other victims didn’t get that privilege?” She gasps loudly, then screams into the air on the other end.

“You’re a lying bitch!” she screams into the phone, and now I’m a bitch again. “You were a lying bitch then and you’re a lying bitch now!”

“Yeah, I’m sure that we all were,” I say, referring to his other victims. “Goodbye, Mrs. Whitmore. You’ve been warned. Don’t contact me again.” I hang up the phone and take a deep breath. The adrenaline drop is almost immediate. I open the drawer of my desk and retrieve my purse. My hands shake as I search frantically for the card.

“Ana?” Courtney’s voice is thick with concern, but I just put my hand up to silence her. I think a whimper escapes in the gesture, but I’m not sure. Locating the card, I shakily dial the number and wait for an answer.

“Anastasia Grey for Herbert Larson,” I spit all in one breath when the receptionist answers. I’m shaking uncontrollably now, and the tears start to flow.

Herbert Larson. Ms. Ste… Mrs. Grey?”

“Mr… Larson…” I can’t get my words out.

“Mrs. Grey! What’s wrong?” he asks alarmed.

“Whit… Whit… Whitmore! Pa… Pamela Wh… Whitmore…”

“Mrs. Grey, please. Breathe. I can’t understand you…” I’m starting to hyperventilate. I push back from the desk and drop my head between my legs. Chuck kneels in front of me while Courtney retrieves the phone.

“Mr. Larson?… Yes, I’m Courtney Wilson, I’m Mrs. Grey’s temporary personal assistant… May I ask who you are, sir?… Oh, okay. I understand now. She just received a call here in her office at the Center from one of the parents of someone who has been arrested in her attack. From what I understand, it was Pamela Whitmore and she mentioned someone named Cody…”

Thank God for Courtney. I’d certainly be lost without her right now.

“Yes, sir, I’m sure that can somehow be arranged… She’s very upset. I’m sure she’s probably going to go home for the rest of the day. From what I could understand from Mrs. Grey’s end of the conversation, this Whitmore woman may have made some kind of derogatory reference towards Mrs. Grey’s children and their safety… Yes, sir, I’ll have her give you a call as soon as she’s able… Thank you, Mr. Larson. I’ll tell her.”

She ends the call. Although I’m no longer hyperventilating, I’m still sobbing. I feel sick to my stomach. The adrenaline that kept me collected on the phone with that witch has left my body all too quickly and all I can think about are my children. I’m still laboring a bit with my breathing and my sobbing when I focus, and Chuck has suddenly become Christian.

Did that just happen? Am I crazy?

I look around the room to make sure I’m not hallucinating… you know, head injury, grief, adrenaline? I identify Chuck and Jason both standing nearby. I don’t know how he got here so quickly or when he took Chuck’s place but thank God he’s here. I throw my arms around his neck and weep with abandon. He’s rubbing my back and trying to soothe me, but it’s no use.

“My babies… my… babies…” He stands effortlessly with me in his arms and without a word, proceeds to carry me out of the center.

*-*

“I’m not coming to the department head meetings anymore,” I tell Christian once I and my babies are home and settled and someone has explained the Pamela Whitmore situation to him. He frowns.

“May I ask why?” he asks.

“I’m a distraction,” I say. “They’re not going to treat me like you and the more you try to make them do it, the more they’re going to kick against you. I’ll be present for really big announcements and super important meetings that can shift the direction or position of the company as I am part owner now, but in terms of the operations, you don’t need me and neither does the company. I’m a hindrance, not a help.” He sighs.

“We never would have found the flaw in the XRC90 transmitter if you hadn’t caught it,” he protests.

“Yes, you would have,” I inform him. “You have a lot of smart people working for you—Ros, Lorenz, Barney, somebody would have found the error. I was just the one focused on it at the time. It’s okay to come home and be a husband and father, but you need to run your business when you’re at your business, and everyone has already told you that I’m one of your biggest weaknesses. You need to see that in this situation right now.” He rolls his eyes and runs his hands through his hair.

“I love you,” he says. “I love our life together. I don’t want to see that change.” I frown.

“And it won’t,” I say. “Why would you think…”

Then it dawns on me. Somebody has already had this conversation with him, or something like it.

“Why would you think our life would change?” I finish my question.

“Because I have,” he blurts out. “I’ve changed since I’ve been with you. I’m not the man I used to be in any shape or form. You’ve permeated me—my blood, my soul, my very being, everything that I am, you’ve permeated me, and I’m a different man… and everybody knows it.”

As much as I love him and as much as I love hearing that I’m in every cell of him, I don’t need him to tell me that this is a bad thing for him as a businessman.

“Well, fuck,” I breathe.

“I have a hard-enough time trying to be one person,” he laments. “I don’t think I can successfully be two.”

“I know,” I respond. It’s then that I realize that part of the old Christian Grey may need to return in order to save his company, his legacy. I’m going to have to be understanding and let him do what he needs to do. This isn’t going to be easy.

“You gotta do what you gotta do, Christian,” I say, resigned. He rolls his eyes.

“There’s no way that I can be that guy I was before,” he says firmly, “nor do I want to.”

“And you don’t have to,” I point out. “But you need that iron fist that you used to rule with, and if it means that you need to put on that asshole persona when you enter GEH, then so be it. I saw you be two different people in one night, Christian. I know you can do it.” I’m referring to the night he turned into the Dom with Greta Ellison and nearly broke her wrist. His pupils constrict as he realizes what I’m referring to.

“Yes… you have, haven’t you?” he says, none too pleased. I nod.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” I repeat. He sighs heavily.

“God, this shit is going to be difficult as fuck,” he hisses.

“I know,” I assure him. “Difficult, but not impossible. Just picture yourself walking into your building and everybody around you is trying to destroy your company. Who would you be?” His brow furrows, then one rises.

“Yeah, this ain’t gonna be as hard as I thought,” he says frankly.

I’m certain that it won’t. It’s a necessary evil… but will we survive it?


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

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

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 19

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the new saga continues…

Chapter 19

Eric Dane 19

TREY

The latest development in the Lincoln saga is that Linc has been detained as the primary suspect in the attack on his wife. Once the police finally decided to do their jobs instead of chasing the wrong big fish, all the evidence pointed to Linc—concrete and circumstantial. Of course, he denied it… until he heard that his DNA matched the bloody remnants under her nails. However, here’s where the story takes a turn.

Linc isn’t denying battering his wife. He is, however, claiming that she attacked him first. So, his attack was supposedly in the form of self-defense. With Elena’s history of violence after she threw that cement pot at me, it’s not completely off the mark that he could have been defending himself against her as far as the police can see. With a lawsuit pending from me for wrongful arrest, they can’t afford to get these facts wrong or overlook any details. So, now, the question is who’s actually going to be charged with what?

Facing possible charges for filing a false report and as a jointly and severally liable party in my lawsuit, Elena immediately claimed some form of diminished capacity, stating that she was completely delusional after the attack and currently has no recollection whatsoever of who she fingered as her assailant. Kirkland’s finest isn’t going to let her get away with that. If they’re going down, she’s going down, too. I was nearly accosted by a couple of reporters trying to get a response from me about a statement that she had made once Linc was indicted.

“Have you seen Mrs. Lincoln’s statement?” some guy says as I’m trying to get into Grey House.

“What statement?” Like magic, and in response to my question, he produces a tablet cued up at Lincoln standing at what looks like a podium in her yard. She looks like the damn President about to address the press in the Rose Garden.

“My doctor has confirmed that I was most likely suffering from trauma-induced delirium when I initially attempted to identify my attacker,” she says. “I didn’t know until several days later that I had accused the wrong person. In fact, I was unaware that I had accused anyone at all. Although the details of the attack are slowly coming back to me, the moments following the attack are still a bit of a blur. My only explanation for my original identification is that Christian Grey and I were once very close, and in my distress, I may have digressed to that time and called on my friend. I have no other explanation or recollection of why I indicated that Christian had attacked me. I can only hope that one day, he can forgive this horrible misstep on my part. There’s bad blood between us, yes, but nothing that would prompt me to cause him deliberate discomfort for something that I think he didn’t do.”

“That’s interesting, Mrs. Lincoln, considering the bad blood between you right now is mainly because you broke his arm with a cement pot. Aiming to cause that deliberate discomfort, were you?” One reporter asks.

“I choose not to address that issue as it is separate from this one and part of a currently open case.”

“Oh, this is a currently open case as well, yet you had no trouble addressing it since you were exposed to have lied… er, I mean was mistaken about who attacked you,” he retorts. “Nonetheless, I do have a copy of your statement to the police here. Your accusations sound nothing like a woman blabbering in delirium. In fact, your statements are quite succinct in accusing Christian Grey of ‘doing this to you.’ Care to elaborate, Mrs. Lincoln? I can read the statement for you if you like—just to refresh your memory.” She sneers at the reporter.

“I don’t need you to read the statement,” she hisses. “Like I said, my doctor indicates that I might have regressed to a different time. It was Mr. Grey who started the rumors that destroyed my business! So, I may have been thinking of that when I identified my attacker,” she seethes.

“Well, that’s interesting,” the reporter says. “You never made any indication in public before now that it was Mr. Grey that was the cause of the demise of your salons. Are you sure you want to make that declaration, Mrs. Lincoln? It’s my understanding that Christian Grey is already pursuing a case for defamation of character against you as well as anything that can be linked to his wrongful arrest. Are you sure you want to give him additional ammunition for slander?” Elena’s face pales, then reddens, and just as she’s about to formulate an answer, her attorney steps in.

“Okay, that’s enough,” he says. “My client is very emotional about this entire situation. She only agreed to this release so that she could tell the truth and explain what she thinks happened during her trauma and you’re exploiting her and the situation. This conversation is over.”

“We’re just trying to report the news, Mr. Mason,” the reporter shoots, as several others shove mics in his face. “She was in the hospital for several days and never once retracted her comments about Christian Grey, even after it was publicly revealed that he had an alibi for the time during her attack. She’s a Chatty Cathy when she’s the victim, but the moment she’s in the hotseat, she loses her memory. Then of course, there’s the fact that Caldwell Lincoln has been extradited back to the States accompanied by photographs that look like he was in a gang fight after disappearing the very night his wife was brutally attacked, and suddenly Mrs. Lincoln may have been mistaken about her attacker. Don’t you think that’s a bit convenient?”

“I said this conversation is over!” Mason hisses and shuffles an angry Elena off the platform.

“So, what do you have to say about that, Mr. Grey?” the reporter asks.

“What do you expect me to say?” I counter.

“She asked for your forgiveness. Do you forgive her, Mr. Grey?” the guy asks. “Can you forgive her?” I pause as if I’m pondering the situation.

“She’s right about one thing,” I begin. “We were friends once, but that woman is toxic. She put me in a situation that could have very well cost my life, so I ended our friendship. Shortly thereafter, her salons came under investigation for unclean business practices. Now, I don’t know if those circumstances were true or not, but she blamed me for that. She apparently blames me for every bad thing that happens to her. I wasn’t even near her!” I wave my hands and shake my head. “I have things to do…”

“But can you ever forgive her?” another reporter asks before I clear the door to my building. I turn to face the few reporters who have gathered for a statement.

“That woman aimed a dangerous projectile object at my head. Had I not had the wherewithal to sacrifice my arm by blocking my face with it, I might not be standing here talking to you today. She follows that attack with a fabricated accusation that I brutally and deliberately assaulted her, resulting in my wrongful arrest and detainment by the police department, harassment by one officer who would not leave me alone even after I was cleared of any wrongdoing, and possibly irreparable damage to my name and reputation. And even after she’s called out for the liar and the brutally violent woman that she is, she still manages to falsely accuse me on live television of something that she has absolutely no proof that I had any hand in. So, to answer your question, no—I don’t forgive her. It would do me well to never see her again and if I had my way, all the lawsuits and all the charges would just go away if she would just go away, but I know that’s not going to happen. So, I’m just going to let justice take its course. Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I have a business to run.”

In related news, Linc posted his insane bail, but his passport has been confiscated and he’s currently on a temporary “Do Not Fly” list. I know this is a bit extreme for mere accusations of spousal abuse, but I have a sneaking suspicion that all these extra measures are because of me. Additionally, he’s not allowed to return to his own home.

In the meantime, I’m gobbling up lumber interests like Pac Man, having secured two of Linc’s five largest suppliers as well as several of the independents. Once the news officially spread that GEH was entering the lumber business, prospects started flocking to me like flies to shit. Either they have huge bones to pick with Caldwell Lincoln and Lincoln Timber or, like Spires said, they don’t want to be on the losing end when the dust clears.

Stuver and Warner are still barking about the dangers of “strange bedfellows,” but those old farts don’t have enough pull on their own to dissuade members of the industry from getting on board with me. That’s fine. Let them sink with the Lincoln ship as far as I care. I don’t know if Linc is playing it smart or stupid by remaining mute throughout this endeavor, but I’m keeping my eye on him… or I should say that Wester is keeping an eye on him. This man has proven to be worth his weight in platinum when it comes to getting information for me. As it turns out, my mugshots remain property of the police department, innocent or not. However, Weston is taking special pains to make sure that they don’t end up on the internet, which is all I really care about.

Now about that other situation…

I sit at the desk in my study staring at the box that was delivered last week sitting on the credenza across the room. I haven’t opened it because, of course, I know what’s in it. She didn’t return the vodka, but she returned the sculpture. Now, she won’t respond to my texts or phone calls. What’s the meaning of this?

I’ve tried to keep myself occupied with other things going on in my life, but no matter how I try, this situation keeps coming front and center. I swipe my screen and look at the message that arrived the day before the lips were delivered to my doorstep:

**The kiss was a mistake. It won’t happen again. **

So… what? Was the whole damn thing a mistake? Is that why she won’t speak to me now? Not even a message to tell me that she’s busy? A “fuck you go away?” Nothing?

I know we’re not in a relationship, but I really thought we were at least more than this.

I don’t know why I try to play this game with Golden. This is what she does. This is who she is. She’s so much better at it than I am. I’m a master at business. I can bust anybody’s balls in the boardroom… but this shit? These body and mind games? I don’t do this. That’s not me. When it comes to a woman’s body, I get what I want, I give them what they want, and I’m done. I don’t do this cat-and-mouse, Jedi-mind-trick, Vulcan-mind-control bullshit. Why do I even try with this woman?

After signing more contracts for more lumber interests and discussing the final steps involved to round out GEH’s up and coming lumber division, I decide to go for a walk on a sunny Friday afternoon to try to clear my head of all things Golden. When is the last time I went for a fucking walk? As of late, I’m usually mobbed by reporters wanting a statement or reaction to the latest development in the Lincoln case or trying to get information about my lumber takeover or some other bit of minutia.

Jason hovers nearby as I sit at a picnic table after having finished a delicious corned beef on rye with a kosher pickle. Surprisingly, the walk has helped to clear my mind a bit. It’s just another female, right? I mean, granted, I want to fuck this female so badly that I dream about the shit, but in the end, that’s all it really is, isn’t it? It’s not like my life’s dream is getting away from me. It still pisses me off that she won’t even return my calls or respond to my texts, though. Since when is it okay to treat people that way when you have an intimate relationship with them?

“Good afternoon. Do you mind if I sit here?”

I’m jolted from my thoughts by a woman’s voice. I don’t know her—business skirt suit and pumps, brownish-blonde curls, beautiful.

“It’s a free country,” I reply. She smiles and sits on the bench next to me.

“It’s really a pretty day,” she says, opening her sandwich and taking a bite from it. “It’s nice to see spring coming in so nicely,” she continues after she swallows. I said you could sit. I didn’t say I wanted to talk. I look over at Jason and I can see his brows raise under his sunglasses. Part of me wants to know why he didn’t move in when this woman approached me. The other part knows that he can’t very well bumrush the woman for asking to sit down.

“I suppose,” I say, disinterested. I can see her looking at me out of the corner of my eye.

“You look like you’re having a bad day,” she says, still trying to strike up conversation. I look over at her, then turn my gaze back in front of me.

“Oh.” She rewraps her sandwich and puts it back in her bag. “You’re one of those,” she says, dismissively. My brow furrows.

“One of what?” I inquire.

“Beautiful men who think any woman who shows you the slightest bit of attention is trying to hook up or something. It was just a ‘good afternoon,’ handsome. Have a good day.” She stands with her bag and begins to walk away. Well, damn…

“Wait,” I say, halting her progress. She stops and turns around, but doesn’t walk back to me. I stand and walk over to her.

“It’s not you and I didn’t mean to be rude,” I say apologetically. “I’m just distracted.”

“Over a girl?” she asks.

“Over life,” I correct, not wanting to admit that it is over a girl. “Come, sit down and finish your lunch.” She pauses for a moment, then goes back to the bench with me.

“So, should I ask what has you distracted, or should I just eat my lunch and be on my way?” she asks as she takes another bite of her sandwich.

“Well,” I begin, “I barely know you. In fact, I don’t know you at all, so it might not be a good idea to spill my guts to you.”

“Oh, I completely disagree,” she says. “Spilling your guts to a stranger is better than spilling your guts to your friends. There’s no judgement.”

Well, I don’t have any friends to speak of… people that I know, but not any real friends, so that’s a moot point.

“I’m just a man with a lot of irons on the fire, lady,” I say. “Stranger or not, spilling my guts isn’t going to help any of them.”

“I see,” she says. “Well, you never know. I might be able to help. Your boss taking a bite out of your ass for something? You lose the big account?” Is she serious?

“Um, no. Trying to land the big account is more like it, and I am the boss.” She twists her lips.

“Okay. So, what do you do?” This lady is not for real.

“You know what I do,” I say in disbelief. She raises her brow at me.

“You’re a suit in the middle of downtown on a park bench. You’re a businessman, I know that much, but am I supposed to be psychic?” She takes another bite of her sandwich. I look at her incredulously.

“You really don’t know who I am?” I say, furrowing my brow. She cocks her head and twists her lips.

“I’ve seen the face somewhere, but, sorry… nothing’s coming to me right now,” she says somewhat apologetically. I scoff a short laugh. “That’s funny?”

“Maybe a little,” I say. “Actually, it’s quite refreshing.”

“Uh, why? Are you a celebrity or something?” she asks. I stifle a scoff and extend my hand to her.

“Christian Grey,” I say, introducing myself.

“Veronica Beal,” she says, shaking my hand. “I do know that name and I know that I should know who you are.” I raise a brow and point to the big glass building off in the distance prominently displaying the words Grey House.

“Oh,” she says, realization dawning. “Well, that explains it.”

“Your meaning?” I ask.

“The aloof, standoffish attitude. I bet you get approached by women all the time. How many marriage proposals have you gotten today?” I laugh. It feels good.

“None today,” I say with mirth, “but it’s early yet.”

Veronica tells me that she’s an accountant at Lakeland and Moor down the street from Grey House, and she only came over to talk to me because she lunches here often when the weather is good and she has never seen me here, not to mention I looked like someone had just shot my puppy. Jesus, does Golden have me that fucked up? I listen to her talk about herself, giving her little to no information about me. I know better than that.

“Well, that’s my time,” she says, standing and straightening her clothes. “I’m not the boss and I have to get back to work.”

“It was nice talking to you,” I say. She smiles.

“You mean listening to me,” she says. “See ya ‘round, handsome.” She gathers her wrappers and bags, throws them in a nearby trash receptacle, and walks away down the lane.

And I’m left here still thinking of Golden.

*-*

It’s probably not a good idea to be here, especially since there’s a late model Grand Cherokee parked in front of me. The last thing I want to wander in on is another client being serviced, but she pushed me to this. She won’t talk to me or return my calls. She hasn’t given me any reason—she’s just not talking to me. Desperate times…

Am I desperate? Fuck it.

I ring the bell and wait for Belvedere to answer the door, which he does.

“Mr. Grey,” he says in a heavy Spanish accent. “What can I do for you?”

“Is she here?” I ask. I never know what to call her in his presence.

“Is she expecting you?” he asks.

“No… she’s not…” and don’t bother telling me to leave because I’m not fucking going anywhere. He stands there for a moment, then steps aside to allow me in.

“Please wait here,” he says after closing the door behind me, and heads to the parlor. There’s no Tupac playing, so I know that she’s not rejuvenating from a scene. However, when Belvedere opens the door and enters, I can see past him.

I can see her on her sofa. She’s not dressed in any of her welcoming Golden garb. She’s wearing a white shirt and black skirt—like she’s just got in from work, only her hair is terribly mussed… and she’s not alone.

She’s in some guy’s arms, a black guy. They look very cozy. Just as Belvedere fully opens the door, I hear, “I’m a big boy, Ana. This changes nothing between us… unless you can’t deal with it.”

Can’t deal with it… can’t deal with what? And he calls her Ana? Who is this guy?

They have a few more words of exchange before Belvedere announces that Mistress has another visitor. So, this guy knows who she is. She leans her head to the side and makes direct eye-contact with me. She turns and says something to her companion to which he replies, “Is he the kiss?”

She’s been talking about me? What the fuck?

She stands and releases her bun. Her brown hair falls over her shoulders in full waves. She apologizes to Kevin about dinner and asks Blake to show him out and to show me in. He gazes at her for a few more moments before he walks to the parlor door with Blake. He stops at the door and glares at me, sharp black eyes glaring at me issuing a challenge… or a warning.

“Mistress will see you now, sir,” Blake says, breaking our glaring contest. I turn and look at Golden, now standing in the middle of the room, two top buttons undone with black stilettos now donning her feet that were stockinged only moments ago.

“I don’t recall inviting you,” she says, still standing in the middle of the room.

“No, I don’t believe you would,” I reply coolly. “You seemed a bit preoccupied.” She raises a brow at me. I’ll give you a fucking Mistress when I feel like it.

“I see someone is feeling a bit obstinate today,” she chides.

“Whatever do you mean… Mistress?” I ask emphasizing the word.

“That’s more like it,” she gloats.

“At least one of us is being treated with some modicum of decorum,” I retort. She’s taken aback, but she tries not to show it. “You talk about me to others?” I accuse sharply.

“He’s a friend, not that I owe you that explanation, and I only mentioned a kiss to him… not who. He wouldn’t have known anything about you had you not shown up uninvited,” she shoots.

“I wouldn’t have shown up uninvited had you returned my calls or texts,” I reply, calming a bit. “If the kiss unnerved you, why did you do it?”

“Who said it unnerved me?” she replies, folding her arms.

“You’re talking to friends about it,” I shoot back. “Do you talk to your friends about all of your dungeon encounters?” She sighs heavily and I know she’s looking for a comeback.

“That’s hardly any of your business…”

“It is when it applies to me,” I say cutting her off. “I am extremely discreet about my BDSM activities. I never speak to anyone outside of the lifestyle about my encounters and I don’t appreciate being cocktail discussion for you and your friends.

“Don’t you dare try to demean me that way,” she says, her voice low, cool, and controlled. “I don’t have cocktail discussions about anything I do! With anyone! Like I said, I mentioned. A. Kiss. If he has any idea who you are, it’s only because you came barging into my home.” Mistress is definitely here now.

“You had to talk to someone about the kiss,” I accuse, changing tact, “but you couldn’t talk to me. I sent you a full-sized statue of your naked body and you kept that, but you couldn’t keep a pair of lips. You kissed me. I didn’t kiss you—you kissed me. And while I’m left to wonder what the meaning of it is and why you sent my tribute back to me, you’re talking to Kevin about our kiss.” She rolls her eyes.

“Stop talking about it like it’s something that we shared,” she says, her voice dripping with disgust. “It was something that happened, and that’s all. It was a mistake, and like I said, it won’t happen again.”

What the fuck was I thinking? Why the hell did I even come here? It was obviously a mistake—she made that clear in more ways than one. What was I expecting to hear? Jesus, I’m acting like a fucking puppy. Yes, I love her whip, but not enough to allow her to humiliate me this way.

I’ve heard enough. She can talk about me to her friends, but she can’t talk to me? Friends… like hell he’s a friend. It’s one thing when she’s mindlessly tormenting strangers and making them come. This is more than that. I already have to contend with this manservant fucker lurking around her 25/8. Now, I show up after she hasn’t returned my calls and she’s all cozy with this asshole who’s giving me the evil eye. I really don’t need this shit. Mistress won’t give me the time of day, but when I try to get answers, she shuts me down and she’s snuggled up with this fucker. Time to get the hell out of here.

“Goodnight, Mistress,” I say, turning away and heading toward the door.

“I haven’t dismissed you yet, Trey,” she says, emphasizing my name like I emphasized hers. She’s kidding, right? I turn around just as I reach the door.

“With all due respect, Mistress,” I say with less venom, “we aren’t in the dungeon, and even then, you said it yourself—I’m not a submissive…” meaning I don’t need you to dismiss me. I see the flicker in her eye and I’m certain that she wants to give me a comeback, but she doesn’t have one.

I open the parlor door and Belvedere is right there looking at me. I square off with him for a moment before I walk to the front door and leave.

I’m more conflicted right now than I can even explain. I’m left with nothing but questions and no answers. What exactly did that kiss mean? I know why I was so perplexed by it, but why is she? I couldn’t understand why my Mistress who is so blatantly unemotional with me suddenly felt the need to kiss me. It left an impression on me and I wanted her to know that, but when I did, she clammed up and acted like I had broken some unwritten rule. She’s the one who crossed the line with no explanation, not me. When I send her tribute, she sends it back and when I look for an explanation, she shuts me down.

And when I come to see her, she’s cozied up with someone else, being all friendly and vulnerable with him when she made it clear that this was something that she didn’t want with anybody.

Why am I so fucking pissed about this? We’re not exclusive. We don’t even fuck!

I punch the gas and head back to my side of the bridge.


Briana Evigan 19

GOLDEN

How dare he walk out of here like that! I’m the one in control here and he doesn’t have the right…!

The right to what? The right to do what?

It doesn’t matter. I’m fucking pissed now and the next time he comes crawling to me for a scene—and he will—I’m going to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.

I take a deep breath and try to regain my composure. I’m so pissed off that I can barely breathe. First, this bastard fucker comes to my house demanding his share of my dead father’s money—money that doesn’t even exist, to my knowledge—after this balding bitch boy leads him right to my door, and then Trey has the audacity to show up right behind him without an invitation, and goes marching out of here like he owns the place.

It’s too late to get a client now, but fuck if I don’t need one.

I pour and throw back three shots of vodka in quick succession—not his—before I take to my room and a hot bath.

*-*

I wake the next morning after B.O.B. induced three brain-shattering orgasms, loose as a noodle and ready to take on the world. I gave Blake instructions to find what information he could on Reynard Stamper and his mother before I fell into a feverish session of self-love. By noon, which is when I decide to roll out of bed, he has more information on Stamper than he gave me on Trey.

Trey… asshole.

Reynard Stamper, 35 years old…
Address: 1417 S 10th Ave, Yakima…

Yakima??? Seriously? That’s like 150 miles away! He came 150 miles to harass me for money he thought my father had? After all this time?

Apparently, he has only lived in two places. This address for most of his life, then another address for a few years and then back to this address. My guess is that this is probably a family home.

Occupation: Merchandiser…
Education: High school diploma…

What exactly is a merchandiser?

Marital status: Divorced; three children.
Relationship status: Single

No criminal offender profile and no hit on the sex offender registry. His employment history is unremarkable and his credit sucks.

Mother, Heather Stamper-Watson. Recently deceased.

Hmm, could that be why he’s suddenly on the hunt for my father? His mother died?

“Blake,” I call out and he leans into my study.

“Yes, Mistress?”

“Did you get any information on who owns that house this asshole is living in?” I ask. “I’m just curious.”

“I did not, but I’ll see what I can find out before Monday.”

“See if you can find out who has the lien,” I say. “And I need a copy of his birth certificate.”

“It’s in the file,” he says. I thumb through the file and locate a photocopy of Reynard’s birth certificate—minus my daddy’s name.

“Thanks,” I tell him. “I’ll look through the file before I ask for any more information.” Blake smiles and leaves the room and I begin to take notes.

How and when did his mother die?
Does he have any siblings?
How old are his children?
Are they still in Washington?
What makes him think Daddy is his father?

As I proceed through the file, I find a possible answer to my last question.

There are a few color copies of pictures of my daddy, very young, with a pretty young black woman. They’re date-stamped nearly 40 years ago and one of them have “Heather and Ray” written on the margin. It’s obvious that Daddy knew this woman. He, also, most likely, had a relationship with her, but there’s no proof that he’s Reynard Stampers father. If Heather was so sure of her son’s paternity, why didn’t she name him Steele? What were the circumstances of their breakup? Did Daddy really know that he had a son—if this guy really is his son?

I know my father. The man that welcomed me into his heart and gave me his name, planned on having another child with my mother would not have walked away from a son that he knew existed. I’m certain that no matter the circumstances of their split, my father would have owned up to his responsibilities had he known he had a son out there. He’s not around to defend himself and Heather isn’t around to explain herself, but nothing anyone can say about him would ever make me feel otherwise.

He was a good man. He had a heart of gold. He would have helped anyone who needed him. There’s no way that he would have turned his back on his own flesh and blood.

I flip through the file and find more information—nothing of any real substance. School pictures, report cards, shot records… I take a critical lawyer’s look at the pictures of young Reynard, in grade school, middle school, prom, high school graduation, his wedding. I look with a lawyer’s eye, not the eye of a young girl unwilling to admit that the horrible stranger that darkened her door last night may, in fact, be her adopted brother. I compare pictures of Reynard throughout the years with the early pictures of my father in the file, with the pictures of my father from his grave, with the images of him forever stamped in my memory. I look hard to see the facial structure of the man that I’ll always love as my Daddy in the smiles and expressions of the younger man claiming to be his son.

I see no resemblance whatsoever.

I could still be blinded by my hope and wish that he’s not Daddy’s son, but truthfully, I don’t see it at all. I would be willing to painfully accept that this man might be my father’s child if I could see any resemblance whatsoever. As much as I hate to admit it, I would somewhat welcome seeing a live version of my father—a small piece of him still here on earth—just to have the chance to look into his eyes again. I would even give him some of my own money if he needed it. But unfortunately, that asshole Richard looks more like my father than this bastard ever will. I’m certain of it.

Having laid my doubt to rest, I give my other questions to Blake to get answers for me, mainly in a bid to have some ammo should this imposter show up again. Then, I go about the business of proceeding with my day.

I want to do some yoga today, but I really don’t want to see Kevin today, not after last night’s display and his declaration that his “hat is in the ring.” I just don’t want to deal with it, so I opt to do Ashtanga on my patio instead. It’s a nice enough day, if I dress a little warmly. After I torment with body with grueling stretches and extensions, I shower and go to the kitchen to cook the meal that I intended to cook last night. As I’m mincing fresh garlic, my mind immediately drifts to the day that I cook dinner for Trey.

Trey… again.

Dammit, I didn’t cook dinner for him. He was just there on a night that I decided to cook. It wasn’t for him…

Was it?

“Dammit!” I exclaim as I nip my finger with the knife. “Sonofabitch!”

“What is it, Mistress?” Blake is by my side in moments.

“Oh, nothing. Just an absent-minded mishap,” I say, running my hand under cold water. “Can you get me a band-aid, please?”

“You’re sure?” he says, coming into the kitchen to examine my wound.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I say, shoving the finger with the nick in his face so that he can see that I haven’t maimed myself. “See? Now, may I please have a band-aid?” he looks at me skeptically as he goes to fetch a band-aid. Gees, Blake, it’s just a little cut.

You would have thought my house submissive was performing surgery.

Peroxide to clean the wound…
A small sterile pad to dry the peroxide…
Antibiotic ointment to cover the cut…
And finally, a band-aid to protect my boo-boo…

I mean seriously. This was so much prompt and circumstance for a cut no bigger than my fingernail.

“Thank you, Blake,” I say, accommodating.

“You’re distracted,” he accuses. I glare at him, ready to take a bite out of him for misspeaking, but when I look at him, his eyes are gentle and filled with concern. How and why do you chastise someone for that.

“Wouldn’t you be?” I cede. “This man shows up at my door and pretty much disrupts my life. Jesus, what a card!”

“Mr. Grey does have a presence that won’t be denied, Mistress,” he says softly. And now, he misspeaks.

“I was talking about Reynard Stamper,” I say, raising my brow at him. He raises a knowing brow to me then drops his arms to his side and his gaze to the floor.

“My apologies, Mistress,” he says. “I will leave you now.” And he walks out without another word. He didn’t need to say another word. He called me on my bullshit without calling me on my bullshit. I want to be angry, but how can I? Blake knows me better than I know myself sometimes.

I finish my meal and, too ashamed to even look Blake in the eye right now, I sit down and eat alone.

Monday morning comes in like a lion! The first visitor to my office is an attorney—Canciana’s divorce attorney, to be exact. This guy is the epitome of the slimy lawyer, complete with the dark, slicked back hair.

“Greg Beasley,” he says, handing me a business card, “representing Canciana Haviland.” I take his card.

“Did I forget our appointment, Mr. Beasley?” I say, unimpressed while looking at his card.

“No, please forgive me for taking liberties,” he says, clearly insincere. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I would drop by to see if we could discuss the case involving our mutual clients,” he says.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” I say, handing his card to Chanelle. “Our clients have a prenuptial agreement. There’s really no need for either of us to even get involved, but I’m sure that—like me—you’re just trying to protect your client’s interest,” I add, equally as insincere. He smiles an unnerving smile.

“Yes, this is true, but I have some… information that I really think might be relevant to the case,” he baits.

“I would much rather have this discussion with my client present,” I retort.

“I won’t take much of your time,” he continues. “This information is quick and I’m certain that you can share with your client at your leisure.”

I hate playing into someone’s hands, but he’s clearly unaware that he’s playing with a homerun hitter, especially since I don’t do many divorces. To that end, I let him think he has the upper hand. I turn wordlessly and walk into my office, allowing Jesse to escort him in.

“We… don’t need an audience, Ms. Olivet,” he says of Jesse when he sees that he’s coming into the office with us.

“This is my bodyguard, Mr. Beasley,” I reply. “I go nowhere without him except the restroom. Please, state your business or you can make an appointment with my receptionist—at which meeting, he’ll still be in the room. Or I can see you in court,” I end with a shrug. You got past the threshold, asshole, you’re not going to run the meeting.

He looks at Jesse again, then opens his briefcase. Jesse steps menacingly close to him and he stops moving, then slowly pulls out a file.

“I just thought you might want to see this,” he says, handing it to me. I take the file from him and open it. Inside, there are pictures of Blake arriving at my home, leaving my home, greeting me at the door, unloading things from my Range Rover. There are also pictures of me coming and going, and of Jesse. This asshole knew who Jesse was when he made the prior statement.

“In the interest of full disclosure, divorce cases can get very ugly, especially when there are undisclosed assets involved,” he oozes. “To that end, Mrs. Haviland had employed a private investigator in an attempt to shed light on the dark patches of the case. As you already know, your client is trying to offer only the house, car, and the money in the prenup. We’re certain that a judge would be sympathetic to Mrs. Haviland’s plight, having already lost her only child in an accident caused by your client, coupled with seeing these photographs.”

“These pictures show a man coming and going from a residence,” I say. “Nothing more.”

“Oh, but they imply quite a bit,” he says victoriously, thinking he has me on the ropes. “With the right spin and, like I said, a sympathetic judge, we may be able to turn the tables in our favor.”

He knows damn well that he can’t turn anything in his favor because we have a prenup in place. He’s trying to influence me because I’m the attorney and I’m in those pictures. If he puts enough heat on me, he thinks I’ll pressure Blake into giving his whore of a client more money. Alright, Beasley. I thought this would be fairly easy, but I haven’t had a good chess game in a while.

“In light of this new information, I’ll need to discuss some things with my client,” I say. He smiles and crosses his legs.

“Excellent. I’ll wait,” he says. Good grief, this guy is a real piece of work. I don’t think so, you scumbag. I open the desk drawer, drop the file in, and close it before folding my arms.

“I will discuss this with my client, and I’ll get back to you. Jesse?” Jesse stands and moves next to Mr. Beasley. He looks at Jesse and then back at me.

“You do that,” he says somewhat menacingly while standing. “You have my card.”

“Good day, Mr. Beasley,” I say, never standing from my seat.

“Sir,” Jesse says when Beasley doesn’t move fast enough. He glares at me for another moment before leaving the room. I sigh a frustrated sigh and look at the pictures again—absolutely nothing incriminating, but I don’t want some fucker poking around my house and my private life trying to get some information on Blake. I’ll have to talk to him, but we’re not giving in to this asshole. There’s always another way.

My second visitor shows up after lunch, in the form of one on-the-mend Elena Lincoln. I’ve told her more than once not to come to my office or darken my door, and yet here she is.

“I don’t see your attorney, so we really don’t have anything to discuss,” I say when she bypasses Chanelle and barges into my office.

“You can’t be blind,” she says, a bit frantically. “Don’t you see what I’ve been through? What I’m going through? I’ll probably end up in jail after all of this—Christian and Linc, and now the Kirkland Police are after me, too. You can make this lawsuit go away; I know you can! What do I have to do?”

“You have to get in touch with your attorney and let him know that you would like to offer a settlement and how much that settlement will be. He will let me know and I will confer with my clients to see if the settlement is acceptable. That’s what you have to do. Otherwise, we go to court and let them decide.”

“You know that’s not what I meant!” she says, sounding more and more unstable. “I know you’re responsible for this! These women didn’t just appear on your doorstep looking for a lawsuit. You went in search of someone who was willing to take part in this fucking farce just to get back at me. Admit it!” Okay, she’s losing it.

“I’m not admitting anything, and you’re coming unglued again. You’ve screwed over so many people that you have no idea how many people you’ve screwed over. You just throw a stone and pick someone to blame for your latest conspiracy theory. Just that I know of, Elvin is still pissed at you; some girl that you slapped and left her scarred is still pissed at you; and yes, Trey is pissed at you. Those are just the ones that I know. Who else have you pissed off that I don’t even know about?”

“Don’t play that game with me,” she fumes. “I don’t care if I pissed off the goddamn queen of England—you’re behind this and we both know it! What did you do—go around to salons to see who might want to join you in this farce?”

To be honest, that’s exactly what I did, but hell if I’m telling her that.

“If you want to know how I was connected with the women who felt they were wronged by you, I’ll tell you,” I say, folding my arms. “In case you have forgotten, I was one of your clients, too. I stopped frequenting your establishment well before any of this shit started because I didn’t fucking trust you! You were trying so hard to shove Trey down my throat and I didn’t know what your real intentions were, and I didn’t want to trust my beauty care to you at all. With the timing of my departure, I guess you could safely assume that it was me, but bitch, I’m telling you that it wasn’t me.

“I went to another shop—like all of your fucking other clients—since no one had done my hair or nails since you! And as much as you may hate it, you are still fodder for conversation. So, guess what? They were talking… and so was I! I have no loyalty to you! I don’t know for certain that you didn’t have bedbugs in your shops. All I know is what I’ve heard on the news and through the grapevine, which is the same thing everyone else has heard.

“You paid to have someone’s house fumigated, for Christ’s sake! What innocent person would do that? If there was never a threat, why would you fumigate against a threat that was never there? You set the precedent for this lawsuit, Elena, not me. So, stop walking around looking for another goddamn scapegoat. You fucked up—plain and simple! Deal with it!”

She looks like her head is about to explode. Her fists are clenched and so are her teeth. It’s a good thing I don’t have any potted plants in my office, but I have other things that can be hurled at an individual.

“Elena,” I say calmly, but firmly, “I know you have the tendency to react unscrupulously when you’re upset, but I’m going to attempt to appeal to your sense of reason… assuming you have one. If you act as irrationally in my office as you did at Trey’s, you’ll leave here in a body bag. Are we clear?” Her knuckles whiten.

“Your threats don’t scare me, you little bitch!” she seethes.

“Well, they should, you old bat!” I retort. “I swear to God, I will have no mercy on your ass if you raise a hand or anything else to me.”

“What are you going to do?” she hisses. “Get a restraining order like that little bitch submissive of yours?” I raise my brow at her.

“Oh, he’ll love to hear your sentiment,” I taunt. “And no, I’m not going to get a restraining order against you, Elena. I want you to come within a thousand feet of me! I want you to press your luck with me so that you can see your life flash before your eyes, you washed-up old cunt! Ever since I found out that you set that man loose on me like a housecat chasing a common rodent, I’ve dreamed of torturing you until you didn’t know your fucking name. You won that round and you don’t even know it. Only victory isn’t so sweet because it didn’t turn out like you thought it would.”

“I could squash you like a fucking bug, then claim that you attacked me because I fingered your little pet!” she threatens.

“I have two witnesses that you came storming in here acting irrationally and that I feel threatened. Do you really want to have this fight? Don’t forget, I get off on inflicting pain.”

“So, do I, little miss!” she hisses.

“Balls in your court, Blondie!” I challenge. She looks over at Jesse.

“Jesse, block the door so that this bitch doesn’t throw something at me and try to run, and don’t move a fucking inch, unless she pulls a weapon,” I order.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says hesitantly and moves to the door.

“Your move, Blondie,” I say, and coining Jesse’s phrase I add, “nothing between us but air and opportunity.”

She lunges at me before the words are even out of my mouth. She has two handfuls of my hair and is bending me backwards over my desk shrieking a horrible war cry. I’m at a huge disadvantage like this—bent over backwards and I can’t really strike, and she has quickly undone my bun and is now using my hair against me. I return the favor, grab a handful of her hair and pull like hell. She screams and releases one hand from my hair and moves to grab her own.

An opening! That’s all I need!

I place my thumb over her eye and push in, hard enough to cause pain but no permanent damage. Good Lord can that woman yowl! Her big mouth is enough to win the fight all by itself if you allow her to catch you off guard.

The good news is that you can’t very well hold someone down on a desk while they’re trying to push your eyeball into your skull.

I ignore the ache in my back from being pressed against the hard edge of my desk, and Carla the scrapper comes out. I’m not one of those macho-body-blow-upper-cut fighters. I’m sure that there was some of that fancy, descriptive hitting going on somewhere, but I will just hit you anywhere I can—anywhere there’s an opening. And every time I see your face, I’m going to hit it. It’s one of the most vulnerable spots on the body with the exception of the breasts of a woman, the balls of a man, and the kidney area on both.

I don’t have time to strategize. I hit fast and I hit hard. We’re both swinging like wildcats and she gets a couple of solid hits on my face, only because I let my guard down to hit her body. That’s okay, though, because after about six good minutes of a solid girl fight, she’s on the ground.

Excellent!

There’s nowhere to roll in my office. So, she’s on the floor, taking a terrible beating and kicking from my stilettos. When she rolls into a ball and begins to cough and cry, Jesse pulls me away from her.

“That’s it. That’s it, Ana, she’s had enough.” I look on the floor at my nemesis who is holding her stomach and crying, her hair a matted mess sticking to her face. I’m breathing like a bear, having been stopped abruptly in the middle of a massive workout with no cooldown whatsoever. Fighting to catch my breath, I go over to my desk and type in my password, then activate the monitor in the corner.

“Look up, you psychopathic bitch,” I declare, wiping the blood from my lip. She weakly raises her head to me, still sobbing, and I point to the monitor. She looks over to see the three of us and the office on the monitor.

“I don’t really give a fuck what you tell people happened to your goddamn face this time, but know that if you try to say that I attacked you, I have this, and you came at me first. Yeah, I taunted you, but you came here looking for a fight and you got one.”

She glares at the screen, drooling blood on the floor from her newly split lip, then back at me. Whimpering and crying, she slowly drags her battered ass off the floor. She’s only wearing one shoe, and that one has a broken heel. She looks like she’s gone a few rounds with someone who knows what the hell they were doing, but I took a few hits, too.

“Now, get your shit and get the hell out of my office!” I hiss. “I don’t want to see you again ever, even with your attorney, unless I see your wretched ass in court!” I spit blood and saliva into the trash can and turn a menacing glare back to her. She stumbles and limps over to her bag. She retrieves it along with her other shoe and hobbles her weeping ass out of my office. I wait until we hear the elevator before I release my breath. It hurts.

“Shit, are you okay?” he says coming over to me. My legs feel like rubber. “You were recording?” Jesse asks. I shake my head.

“I have a camera in here,” I tell him, a little wobbly from the hair-pulling and the sucker-punch to my lip. “I record depositions. It wasn’t on, but she doesn’t know that.” He sighs and Chanelle comes rushing into the room moments later.

“Shit!” she says. Hell, am I all bruised up? I must look like a fucking wild-woman. “You drew first blood?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No, she attacked me. She just got more than she bargained for,” I replied.

“Yeah,” Chanelle concurs. “You’ve got a busted lip. She looks like total shit.”

“Get me some ice and some water—separately, please,” I say. She nods and leaves.

*-*

The look of death is in Blake’s eyes when I arrive home and Jesse enters behind me.

“I just wanted to make sure you got in safely,” Jesse says.

“Mistress! What happened?” Blake says, looking from me to Jesse and back.

“I got into a little scuffle with Mrs. Lincoln,” I say, falling into a nearby chair. My head still hurts.

“With all due respect, Mistress,” he says sharply before turning his glare to Jesse, “where was your security? That is why you hired him after all.”

“With all due respect,” Jesse speaks without cowering, “Mistress ordered me to stay back while she handled the situation, which she did.”

“I was speaking to my Mistress,” Blake warns.

“But you were looking at me,” Jesse retorts menacingly. “And in the future, Jeeves, don’t question how I do my job and I won’t question how you do yours.”

“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” I say, waving my hand at them both. “Jesse, I’ll call you in the morning to tell you how I’m feeling and if I’ll be needing you tomorrow. I may just take some time to regroup.

He’s still glaring at Blake when he says, “I’ll be waiting for your call.” He turns and exits the front door, closing it behind him. Blake turns his gaze back to me.

“I think your security is a bit sensitive… and disrespectful,” he says, turning his attention to my face.

“That was a clear sign of aggression, Blake, and you know it,” I chide. “Did you expect the man to back down from you because you were angry? Like he said, he was doing what he was told… and I kicked that bitch’s ass. I swear, I’ll kill her if she comes near me again.”

“Does she know that?” he asks, his voice menacing. I know he’ll take matters into his own hands. He recorded himself breaking into her home for Christ’s sake. I’m just glad that he was smart enough not to leave any DNA behind during his visit.

“I think she’s well aware,” I assure him. “She thinks I have a recording of the fight—and of her starting it—and I’ve warned her not to darken my door again.”

“You warned her before,” he points out.

“Exactly… before I beat the hell out of her, then threatened to show the footage to the police. She’s got enough problems on her plate and today’s visit was just her trying to make one of those problems go away. Instead, she compounded it, and if you think I look bad, you should see her. She’ll probably go into hiding for a while because she has no way of explaining her new wounds without incriminating herself.” I groan a bit. I feel like shit.

“What can I do for you, Mistress?” Blake says, crouching down to me. He cares for me so much and I can tell that my discomfort pains him. I gently touch his face.

“You’re a good man,” I say, looking into soft brown, nearly hazel eyes. “I know you feel guilty and tormented about the past events in your life and that’s okay. You’re human. You made a terrible mistake, but you didn’t run from it. You didn’t hide from it and you didn’t compound it by continuing to exhibit destructive behavior. I just need you to know that you are a good man… a very good man. Do you understand that?”

His face changes from concern to soft acceptance, his puppy-dog eyes gazing at me as if to say, “I hear you child, but…”

“I just want you to know that,” I say. “I just want you to know that an educated and intelligent woman who knows your past still thinks that in here, you’re a good man.” I gently touch his chest while still holding his cheek without breaking eye-contact with him. He sighs and does that tragic half-smirk that he often does, placing his hand on his chest over mine.

“Thank you, Mistress,” he breathes. I gaze at him for a few more moments, then kiss him on his forehead. He closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them, his smirk is more of a smile.

“Now,” he says, closing his hand gently over mine, “what can I do for you, Mistress?”

“Come with me to the parlor,” I say. He helps me out of the chair and into the parlor. I think that bitch may have pulled out some of my hair because my head still hasn’t stopped hurting. My lip is busted on the inside and a handprint on my face is slowly fading. That’s the extent of my visible bruising. Blake helps me to the sofa, fluffs a pillow behind me and removes my shoes.

“Drink?” he asks. I nod.

“Double shot, neat,” I say as I relax into the sofa. He quickly pours my drink and brings it back to me. I throw back half of it almost immediately.

“Sit with me,” I tell him. “We need to discuss your case.” Blake frowns.

“We can discuss work anytime, Mistress,” he protests. “You need to rest now.”

“No, we actually need to discuss it now,” I insist gently. “It involves me now.” His frown deepens.

“You?” he asks, bemused. “How?” I throw back the other shot and hand him the empty glass for a refill. He pours another double shot and hands it back.

“Canciana’s attorney visited me today,” I begin. “He wants me to try to convince you to give her more in the settlement. He has information…”

“About you?” Blake interrupts. I twist my lips.

“Somewhat,” I reply. “They hired a private eye to follow you. He’s been following you here, watching you… and me.” His expression falls flat, impassive. “They have nothing more than coming and going, but it’s clear in the pictures that our relationship is… close. It can be construed any way they twist it. I’m not concerned about the intel that they already have. I just don’t want them poking around anymore in my life.” He sighs.

“Should I give her what she wants?” he asks. “She can take half if it means that she’ll go away.”

“Hell, no!” I say, taking another swallow of my drink. “There’s more than one way to skin this cat. She’s been unfaithful for years. All we have to do is hire our own private eye to get some good, solid info on her. It shouldn’t be hard.”

“It won’t be hard at all,” he responds. “I don’t need a private eye, Mistress. I have surveillance… in my home.”

I nearly gasp at this revelation. I don’t usually stoop to these kinds of tactics, but if this asshole watches my home much longer, he’s going to get too much information on me, and I can’t have that.

“You have surveillance?” I ask, surprised. “What kind of surveillance?”

“Everything,” he says. “I don’t know how discreet she was in public, but she was downright scandalous in my home. I’ve been reviewing and compiling information ever since I walked in on one of her trysts and filed for divorce.”

I roll my eyes. What kind of skanky, treacherous woman would have extramarital relations in the same bed she once slept in with her husband? Even if the marriage is over, don’t do that shit in your matrimonial bed… in the home where you once built a family. Geez!

“I need some specific footage from that surveillance, Blake….”

He tells me about the footage. As it turns out, Blake has watched or scanned every bit of surveillance from his home when he’s not there. He has all of her escapades categorized by date, time, and partner. He even has records of her purchases for her lovers. That would come in handy if they try to establish that he and I have an intimate relationship, but the footage is much more useful. I need this shit to go away—and fast!

*-*

I awake still lying on the sofa. I feel a warm hand on my head and look down to see blue pinstriped slacks as my pillow. I’ve fallen asleep on Blake’s lap.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a sign to me that no matter how much I fight it, I’m changing.


A/N: The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey:Chapter 85—Business As Usual? 

FThis 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 85—Business As Usual? 

CHRISTIAN

“I still think you overacted about the snake,” I say coming out of my dressing room while straightening my tie.

“Whatever,” she replies, “be glad I don’t cut you off,” she threatens.

“I’d find a way to make you give in,” I say confidently

“You think so, huh?” she challenges. I raise an eyebrow.

“You want to test the theory?” I retort just as haughtily, daring her to try me and begging her to do it at the same time. I’ll have your pretty little ass clawing at the walls. She ponders the theory for the moment, then turns and leaves the bedroom.

“I thought not,” I say under my breath as I follow her out of the room.

“You’re going back to the Center?” I inquire, noticing that she’s dressed for work as we descend the stairs. She sighs.

“Yes,” she says, “for now. I have responsibilities, but I don’t know what the future holds yet. I still don’t appreciate being disregarded that way, so we’ll just have to see.”

“What will you do if you leave the Center?” I ask. “Stay at home?”

“We both know I’d lose my mind,” she replies. “I haven’t gotten that far yet. I gave some thought to starting my own cause, but… that seems so catty and that’s certainly not my M-O. I just wish she could truly see what she did. It’s unacceptable and I just can’t tolerate it… and I won’t keep talking about it with you because I don’t want you to feel like I’m trying to make you take sides against your mother.”

“I don’t think that,” I say, placing my hand in the small of her back and leading her to the kitchen.

*-*

“Ronald Holstein on the line, sir,” Andrea says through the intercom. “I’ve been telling him all week that you were out of the country and expected back today. He’s been calling every day nonetheless.”

“Whenever he calls, tell him that I’m in meetings until further notice,” I reply. Let his ass stew for a while until I decide what I want to do with him… and we won’t be doing some simple shit like kidnapping his fucking dog, either.

“Yes, sir,” Andrea says.

“I know you’ve got a hundred meetings today, but you’re going to want to hear this,” Josh calls in my office from the reception area before I close the door. I gesture him in, and he closes the door behind him.

“Sir, let me start by saying that it’s not my business what you do in your private life, but I’m sure that you hired me because I’ve always got my ear to the ground and because I’m more insightful than most.” I already don’t like the sound of this.

“I’m listening,” I say as I gesture to the chair in front of my desk.

“Well, the puzzle is falling together, sir,” he says taking the seat. “Elena Lincoln is still talking to whomever will listen, but now she’s starting to say a little more.” I frown.

“A little more like what?” I ask.

“She’s saying things like people in high places are going to fall when her book is published,” he says. “She insinuated these things before, but she didn’t come out and say them. Now, she’s saying them—to other reporters and it’s filtering back down to me. I was going to make another trip back up there to see her, but I really don’t think I need to. Her diarrhea of the lips along with Ron Holstein’s foot-in-mouth syndrome has pretty much given me all I need.

“I should tell you that her conversation is not nearly as cloaked as she thinks it is. I only say that because it wouldn’t be wise to give away her story before publishing, or her book would be worthless. Bearing that in mind, I can only assume that she’s not fully aware of how much information she’s leaking and, sir, anybody with even the slightest inside hook would have no problem finding you in her code speak. What’s more is that they would probably find a few others, too… I did.”

Oh, fuck, this just keeps getting worse and worse.

“Okay, Josh, I need you to give it to me straight,” I say. “I can’t follow any more riddles.”

“Nineteen out of 20 journalists don’t have the background information or resources that I have,” he begins. “They could get it, but it would take a lot of work and even more time. By then, the story would be blown wide open. She didn’t give me the name of her ghostwriter, but she gave me her pen-name—BD Simmons. There’s no risk in giving me that because there’s nothing else published in that name. However, these ladies aren’t as savvy as they pride themselves to be.

“I don’t know what they’re expecting, but I can almost guarantee that Lincoln is counting on the safety of the prison walls, as ironic as that sounds. Her ghostwriter has anonymity on her side. For whatever reason, they’re both underestimating the danger of the situation. Knowing what I know about Lincoln—the public information and the inside information, you should know that it doesn’t take too much ingenuity to figure out what BD Simmons is an acronym for.”

No, it doesn’t. I figured it out the minute he said the name. BDSM.

“So, of course, the first thing I did was check her old haunts, her old sources, her submissives…” Jesus, this is so much more of this conversation than I really want to have with Josh. “The logical paths lead to three of her girls—two still studying journalism and one with a degree in literature. They all have other… interests at this time, according to Alex, but one has been visiting her at the prison, quite freely I might add.”

“And who is that?” I ask.

“That would be one named Greta Ellison. It didn’t take much more than context clues to figure out that she was BD Simmons.”

“Fucking hell!” I hiss, trying not to curse too loudly or crash something against the nearest wall. Why the fuck do I keep letting these people get away and the minute I let them out of my sight, they bite me?

“Get Welch in here!” I bark into the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” Andrea replies.

“You’re sure that Ellison might not be just filtering the information through to her? Like being a liaison between Lincoln and the ghostwriter?” I ask, not wanting to believe that I was gullible enough to set this bitch free instead of crushing her when I had the chance.

“Sir, to be able to stand in a court of law and tell you that Greta Ellison is Lincoln’s ghostwriter, I can’t. To look you in the eye and tell you with at least 95% certainty that Ellison is her ghostwriter, that I can do. No matter what your content, you can’t get a decent feel for the story—for what the real author wants to portray—without a face-to-face meeting. Even with every fact airtight and recited to you, you wouldn’t be able to relay a successful story without meeting personally with the subject, and Ms. Ellison does that a lot.”

She has no other reason to meet with Lincoln. There’s nothing for her to gain from the acquaintance, and I threatened her the last time we met. I let her ass go, but I threatened her…

And she threatened me.

 “You think you’re so much. You’re not untouchable, Mr. Grey, and I’m just the one to prove it!”

This should come as no surprise to me. I remember our first meeting. She wasn’t just an airhead when I interviewed her. She was brilliant. She was perfect. She knew all the right things to say and do to get me where she wanted me and that can’t be taught. She’s wily, cunning, sly, and conniving… and she’s smart. Now, she seems dead set to destroy me and my family by any means necessary. I’ve got to destroy her first.

The gloves are off… all the way off.

“I won’t say, ‘Good Morning,’” Alex says as he opens my office door. “I can already tell it’s well past fucked up.”

“That’s an understatement,” I say coolly, my mind travelling more miles per hour than I can clock. “Close the door and have a seat.” Alex enters and closes the door behind him.

“This thorn is never going to go away,” I say, standing from my chair and walking to the window. “She’s on the watch list. How was it that she was seeing Lincoln and we didn’t know?”

“The same way that she stole Her Highness’s gun, sir,” Alex says. He scrolls through his tablet and hands it to me.

“She’s like Ethan fucking Hunt, sir. She can physically turn herself into anyone, male or female. There’s no way to tell who she is when she leaves her home. We didn’t even know that she was visiting Lincoln until we worked our way backwards and reviewed Lincoln’s visitor logs…”

Do I even want to know how he got access to Lincoln’s visitor logs without Holstein’s cooperation?

“Then we coordinated the people leaving the apartment with the people returning. She hasn’t gotten smart enough to change disguises before she gets home. Then again, she doesn’t need to.”

I scroll through the pictures and see men and women of every nationality identified as Greta Ellison. I even had to turn the tablet around to confirm the person was her a few times. Height and build don’t change. Shape can be masked by clothing, but she’s definitely different people.

“A few times, she logged in to see Ron Holstein, so he’s definitely in on it,” Josh adds.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” I say, still swiping through the many faces of Greta. She’s dangerous—extremely dangerous—and she must be stopped.

“Josh, who have you deduced could also be in this book?” I ask. He twists his lips. He doesn’t want to tell me.

“High-profile officials,” he says. “Some politicians, philanthropists, businessmen like yourself…” That’s all I need.

“Any way to get word to them without totally letting the cat out of the bag?” I ask. “You know, they don’t need to know where the information is coming from and I don’t even need to know who they are… it’s better that I don’t. Just a little tip-off that they may soon be in a tell-all book about their dirty laundry that may make it look even dirtier than it really is.” His brow rises.

“I see what you mean. I may need your help, Alex,” he says.

“I’m at your disposal,” Alex says.

“Then, get on it,” I tell Josh. “I’ll have more questions for you once I sort my rambling thoughts.”

“I’ll keep you posted,” he says as he stands to leave.

“Alex, you stay. I need more information from you.” Josh pauses, but only briefly before he leaves the room. I go over to the desk and flip the switch that scrambles recording signals in my office, even my own.

“She’s a chameleon,” I say, once I know that I’m no longer being recorded. “She’s a fucking dangerous, pestilence ass chameleon that’s not going to fucking go away.” I walk to the window.

“Do you know that I presented her with proof that I knew she was the one that stole my wife’s gun?” I continue. “I had her pinned in a BDSM club between three people that could have killed her with our bare hands, confronted her, threatened her, and let her go and she still came back?” I hiss angrily.

“Yes, sir, I do,” he says. Of course, you do. It’s your job to know. It only takes a minute to ponder what needs to be done.

“Ellison is smart. She’s cunning and she’s brilliant. She gave that gun to a woman that she knew was unstable, delusional, desperate, and had a bone to pick with me. She knew what that woman was going to do with that damn gun, and she gave it to her anyway.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex concurs.

“That woman tried to kill me with that gun,” I say, handing him the tablet, “and had it not been for Jason, she would have succeeded. As an accessory, Ellison tried to kill me.” Alex cocks his head and ponders.

“With the right evidence, a court of law would say that you’re absolutely correct…”

“Fuck the court of law!” I bark. “Because of those two conniving, murderous cunts, my bodyguard and best friend took a bullet for me and that’s the only thing that saved my life and nearly cost him his!” Alex examines me.

“What do you propose?” he asks.

“Get started with Josh to alert the other officials that they’re technically in the hot seat. Between my world-class security team and my extremely savvy PR department, I’m sure innuendo can be circulated to the press without upheaval or suspicion.” Alex casts a knowing gaze upon me.

“You’re creating a smokescreen,” he says.

“I wouldn’t call it a smokescreen,” I reply, “just more people of interest. I was the center of her last trial. The spotlight is already going to be on me. I want to see how many other people we can cast center stage.”

“I know we’re not being recorded,” he says. “I need to know what you have in mind.”

“You know what I have in mind!” I retort sharply. “She’s a thorn, a deadly thorn in my side and she needs to be extracted… and her little dog, too.”

“Are we talking Lincoln or Ellison…”

“We’re talking both!” I say before the words are completely out of his mouth. “But we can’t be sloppy. The minute that smokescreen starts, I need shit to get rolling on the lot of them… Lincoln, Ellison, Holstein, and his haughty ass secretary, too.

“Why the secretar…?”

“Because she pissed me off!” I hiss… and she doesn’t know who she’s fucking dealing with. Alex straightens his back.

“What are we talking here, and in what order?” he asks.

“Punishments for Lincoln begin immediately—subtle at first, but by the time it’s over, she’ll know who it is.” I’ll come up with something creative for her at the end so that she won’t be willing or able to fuck with me ever again. “Save the secretary for last. I just want her seriously inconvenienced, extremely uncomfortable, and if I forget while pursuing the bigger fish, it’ll be your responsibility to make sure those wishes get carried out.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Holstein? Thorough retaliation—annihilation, if possible. My only requirement for him is that he gets to live,” I growl. “His begins the moment the signals start to rise from the smokescreen, so get that going now.”

“And Ellison?” he asks. I only glare at him. Ellison… big, little bitch with too much power, real and assumed. She’s become more than an inconvenience! I don’t know if she’s chasing money, fame, or revenge, but whichever it is, it’s going to cost her dearly. She has no idea how far this woman has taken her down the rabbit hole, if for no other reason but the information that she’s given her, let alone how she plans to use it.

My silence answers his question.

“Duly noted,” he says, rising from his seat. “Anything else?

“I want to be there for every step of what happens to Ellison until I tell you that I don’t,” I say.

“Yes, sir,” he says coolly before opening the door to leave the room. I know that I’ve already missed a meeting and Andrea didn’t inform me. She knows me so well that she probably knew to reschedule with me in a meeting with Josh and growling for Alex. Just as Alex reaches the elevator, I hear something I don’t think I’ve heard in all the years that she has worked for me.

Andrea raises her voice.

“Mr. Holstein, I don’t care who you are or who you think you are, but I am a professional, and unless you can conduct your calls to this office with a little professionalism and decorum in the future, I will disconnect your calls every time I hear your voice. How’s that for a short-skirted, pencil pushing answering machine… sir?

Whoa! Holstein said the wrong thing to the wrong person and Andrea’s giving him what-for on this end of the line.

“Well, if you think you haven’t gotten through to him before, let’s see how successful you are now!” She slams the receiver down and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. Alex and I make eye-contact before he nods and boards the elevator. When Andrea opens her eyes, I’m peeking around the door jam at her.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Grey, but you don’t pay me enough to put up with the names he just called me.” My face falls.

“More than a ‘short-skirted, pencil-pushing answering machine?” I ask, as if that wasn’t bad enough.

“Much more,” she says, her voice low.

“The next time he calls, put him on hold,” I say. It’s time to put my plans into action for this fucker as soon as possible. I don’t disrespect Andrea and I won’t allow anyone else to do it, either. His dick has gotten way too big for his pants, and I’m about to whack it down a couple of inches.

*-*

Al was two steps ahead of me and conferred with my accounting department about the best way to itemize and categorize my assets for a will. He’s slowly working his way through the process, setting up a trust for each of the children and placing other items in a revocable living trust, and several other terms of mumbo-jumbo that I trust he’ll handle and explain to us when it’s time to sign the final documents. I inform him that we’ll plan to have dinner with him and Valerie and their significant others sometime this week to discuss some of the particulars and to get some things in writing should I and my Butterfly meet an untimely simultaneous demise. We set aside Wednesday for the meeting, pending Valerie and Elliot’s acceptance of the invitation and, of course, Butterfly’s approval.

It’s later than usual when I get home and all I can think is that I can’t wait to be in my wife’s arms. Today was packed full of catching up with whatever work and catastrophes that simply couldn’t be solved without my presence not to mention plotting revenge on my enemies. I didn’t even eat lunch, so I’m hungry in more ways than one. Just as we’re pulling into the garage, my cell rings.

“Grey,” I say without looking at the phone.

“Hello, Christian,” my mother’s voice says. I try not to sigh loudly into the phone. My last conversation with my mother involved her trying to get the inside scoop on what my wife’s plans are in terms of the Center. Now, she has spent an entire day with my wife… and she’s calling me. What is it now?

“Hey, Mom,” I say, trying to sound casual. “What’s up?”

“Is Anastasia home yet?” Why would she call me and ask me that? Why wouldn’t she call Butterfly? And yet…

“No…” I say, slow and uncertain, as I look over at the bin where her vehicle usually is and it’s empty. “Is everything okay?”

“She’s probably just still at the Center,” Mom says. “You may want to go down there and get her. It’s been a long day.” I’m noticing that my mother’s tone is a bit labored, like she’s extremely tired.

“What happened, Mom?” I ask. “Did you two have a fight?”

“No, we didn’t have a fight,” she says, slightly exasperated, “and you said that you were going to stay out of it, so that’s what you should do.”

Well!

“I didn’t call you for that reason, anyway,” she continues. “I called you because, like I said, it’s been a long day and she was still closed in her office when I left, so it might be a good idea for you to go and get her.”

Jesus Christ. This day has already been horrific. The last time I popped up on my wife at the Center unannounced… no, I won’t think that way. Mom says I should probably go and get her, so I’m going to get her.

“Okay, Mom, I’m on my way now,” I say, and Jason looks over the seat at me.

“Okay. Goodbye now.” And just like that, she ends the call. What the hell happened at the Center today? I’m just looking at my phone wondering what’s going to be waiting for me when I get to Butterfly.

“Sir?” Jason says, reminding me that we’re still sitting in the car.

“We’re going to the Center,” I inform him.

“What’s wrong?” he says with concern.

“Nothing that I know of, but Butterfly isn’t here and she most likely still has the children with her. I’d like to go and bring them home.” He twists his lips at me. “While we’re on our way, you can call Chuck and make sure that everything is okay, but my mother just called and told me to go get my wife, so I’d like to see her, okay?”

There. I’m not trying to catch her in anything, nor do I think I would. I just want to go get her.

“Very well, sir,” he says, and starts the car again. As we’re crossing the bridge, he put Chuck on the speaker.

“As far as I know, she’s fine,” Chuck says through the speakers. As far as he knows…?

“Why wouldn’t you know?” I ask.

‘Because she’s been holed up in her office all afternoon,” he says. “She hasn’t come out and when I went to check on her, she called through the door, ‘Leave me alone! I’m busy!’ So, knowing that she’s okay, I did what she asked and left her alone. I do know—through the grapevine—that she and Grace had an intense conversation today and Grace didn’t look happy when she left. She stayed all day, but she was less than pleased.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Jason asks.

“Because I think that’s why she’s still in the office,” he said. I sigh.

“She fought with Mom,” I say. Mom said they didn’t fight. Jesus, the day was at least as hard for her as it was for me and now, she’s hiding out. “Thanks, Chuck,” I say.

“You’re welcome, sir,” he says and ends the call. Jason looks at me, questioning.

“The mission hasn’t changed. Get me to my wife.” I wonder if she’s hiding from me thinking her argument with my mother is going to cause us a problem? I’m even more eager to get to her now than I was before.

Hurry up, Jason. She needs me…


ANASTASIA

“She hasn’t given you any idea when she’s coming back? Or if she’s coming back?” Courtney asks.

“Neither,” I tell her. “She’s never taken a day off in her life that I can remember, not even for doctor’s appointments…” which makes me question when she ever went before the whole pregnancy scare. “Then she takes them all at once. I’m still depositing her check into her account because she has nearly a lifetime in sick time accrued and she only ever used vacation time when I did so…” I trail off.

“Well, I’m certain that I won’t be as efficient as Mare was, but I’ll be happy to fill in for her the best that I can.” I sigh.

“Thank you, Courtney. Every little bit helps. I know that you have your own set of responsibilities here and I won’t interfere with your work, but of course I’ll pay you extra for helping me out. If Marilyn hasn’t decided what she plans to do at least by the new year, I’ll look into hiring someone more permanent.” It hurts to say that.

“I hope everything is okay with her. This is so out of her character. It had to be something really bad, and no, I’m not pumping you for information.” She looks down at her notepad and writes something on it.

“How are things with you and Addie?” I ask. Courtney raises her gaze to me.

“Still a little tense, but we’re talking,” she says. “Grandfather has made it clear that I’m still not getting any money from them and I’ve made it clear that I never intended to see them again, so the last thing I expect from them at this point is money. I don’t think I would want it even if they offered it to me. It reminds me too much of who I was and what I was doing… and how I felt when Grandmother disowned me. No… I think I’ll be happier earning my own way and making a life with Vick, whatever that life may be.”

“I’m glad that the two of you are talking, but you know I had nothing to do with this, right?” She rubs my forearm.

“Yes, Ana… I know,” she says. “Grandmother says you only talked about it after she confronted you. I know you would never betray my trust.”

“That’s what’s most important to me,” I tell her. “I’m all for a happy ending, but I won’t take credit for a victory that means you think I betrayed your confidence.”

“I know better,” she says with a smile. “I knew from the very beginning that it wasn’t you. I knew when I saw your face when I walked into your office. I may have been focused on Grandmother, but you were clearly horrified,” she adds matter-of-factly. “We’ve… got a long way to go. I don’t know if it’ll ever be back the way it was. Maybe it’s better if it’s not. Scratch that—it’s definitely better if it’s not.” She folds her arms around her body. “I… don’t like that Courtney. I don’t know how I lived with her for so long. No matter what happens, I don’t think I could ever go back to being her. For one thing, I’m sure I’d lose Vick. She won’t take any of my crap. She calls me on my shit any and every time I try to pull it, and she supports me in everything I do. What’s more, she knew me when I was that other crazy bitch, and she still loves me. Can you imagine?”

“Your grandmother knew and loved you, too,” I point out.

“No, she didn’t,” Courtney corrects. “She may have loved me, but she didn’t know me. She thought she knew me. She knew the façade. When she saw the real me, she thought that was the façade. When she found out that it wasn’t, she couldn’t take it. That’s why she sent me away.” She sighs and stands.

“I’m going to find something to do now,” she says. “I’ll be at your beck and call of course, but as you know, there’s lots that need my special attention… and I do better when I’m moving around.” She goes to the door, opens it and steps out. I follow her to the door.

“You’re sure this isn’t going to be too much for you,” I reinforce.

“Nah,” she says, hugging her laptop. “Outlook isn’t a foreign language for me. We use it in school for the syllabi and to keep up with our classes. I just have to spend a little time deciphering Mare’s hieroglyphics and we’ll be fine. Plus, I get an up close and personal look into the super-secret life of Anastasia Grey.”

She does a spooky little wiggle of her fingers and smiles before walking away down the hallway. I turn to go back into my office, but a shadow catches my eye. She doesn’t move or speak, but I can see her standing in her doorway, or at least her shadow cast on the floor of the hallway. I say nothing. I just go into my office and close the door.

Now, she’s lurking. She won’t even face me. Yet another reason why I feel this is no longer the place for me. There was a job that needed to be done here—some things that needed to be fixed. I fixed them. I did my job, but the job isn’t completely finished. So, I’m going to finish my job here and then I’m going to find something else to do.

What, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe I’ll get in touch with Josephine Kennedy, our sponsor for Broadmoor. She’ll probably have some suggestions. I don’t need to be in any kind of executive position. I just want to be somewhere that I can do some good and my opinion is valued.

Knowing that I don’t have much time to implement the learning programs needed before the school year starts, I immediately get to work researching the necessary requirements for a learning coordinator. I fire off a text to Keri to meet me in the office as soon as she has a moment.

Every time someone knocks at my office door, I get the willies. I don’t want to talk to Grace at all, to have her confront me about my absence or to rehash why I feel like she should treat me with more respect and consideration. These things should be understood. You hired me to do a job; then let me do it and don’t interfere with it. If you’re going to interfere and do things your way, what do you need me for?

Anyway, this time, it’s Keri at my door.

“Ya wanted ta seh meh, Annah?” she asks cautiously when she enters the room.

“Yes, please, come in,” I say. She slowly walks in and takes a seat. I can tell that she’s nervous, so I get straight to the point. “I need your help.” She looks shocked.

“You do?” she says, her surprise evident. I nod.

“First, I need to ask how the process is going with getting your teaching certificate here in the states. Were you still planning to do that, or had you changed your mind?”

“Noh! I mean, yes! I mean…” She’s terribly nervous. I’ve never called her into my office in an official capacity, ever, and she’s not quite sure how to handle it.

“Keri,” I say, rising from my seat and walking over to her. “Relax. You’re not in any trouble or anything like that. I just… I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. I need some information and I just want to know what your immediate plans are.” Keri sighs heavily and rolls her eyes a bit.

“Ah’m sawtty, Annah,” she says. “Ah jus feel lak Ah’m bein’ cawled to da ptincipal’s awfice!” She laughs. In effect, she is, but only because the principal needs her help.

“I understand,” I say.

“Yes, I steel plan on gettin’ mah teachin’ cehtificate heyah. Ah cahl de school bohd ahnd dey sey Ah got ta tek de necesetty exams foh residency. Ah alreaty apply foh the exams since mah degtee is enough foh da requyment. So, Ah’m wehtin’ foh dem ta tell meh when da test gwine be and Ah should be okay.”

“They didn’t say anything about your citizenship or anything like that?” I ask.

“Ah’m heh on a work visa. Ah can keep dah sem visa or get a new one if I choose to teach. Ah wold luv to teach, Annah. I miss me bebbies.” I know that she’s talking about her students in Anguilla.

“Have you thought about becoming a resident?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Anguilla ask de sem ding when I cawled for mah recohds an cehtifications. Dey say, ‘ahe ya gwine stey dere in da states or ya come back to Anguilla?’ I tell dem it not my immediate plan ta stey, but don know what happen in de furtah.” I frown.

“You may go back to Anguilla?” I ask sadly.

“Me don know,” she says honestly. “Anguilla me home. I could nevah leave hah forevah. But me heart wit me Choonks. Das wheh Ah mus be.” That’s an enigmatic response.

“Does Chuck know that you’re somewhat on the fence about returning to Anguilla?” I ask. She nods. “How does he feel about it? He can’t be happy.”

“He not,” she says. “He tinks me run out da doh anyday wit mah bags. I tell him, ‘Choonks, don tek it dat weh. Ah jes not wannah lose meh woots, das all. Jes like yah not wannah stey in Anguilla becuz yah home heyah, I no wannah be in Anguilla witout yah, but Anguilla me home, too. Meh woots deyah. I don wanna lose dat.’”

“So, we’re not talking about packing your bags and moving back to Anguilla when your visa is over. We’re just talking about being able to go back to Anguilla as you please so that you don’t forget your roots.”

“Yeh,” she says, confidently. “I noh move back to Anguilla. Lek I seh, mah heart wit me Choonks. Ah havta be wheh he is.” I sigh heavily. It would be a devastating day all around if we lose Keri.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” I admit. “My second question is more detailed. You worked with small children in Anguilla, right?”

“Yeh, all me bebbies primery school, some younga,” she says. I nod.

“I’m trying to come up with a plan of action to get started with our early-learning program when the school year starts. I have some good solid ideas that we presented to get our licensing and accreditation, but now we need to tweak it and get it ready to roll out. I could really use some help.”

I confer with Keri about what direction we should take in terms of curriculums. I know that the subjects in Anguilla will most likely probably vary from the subjects in America, only because of the difference in culture and the direction of the curriculum as it relates to the region, but I’m certain that the basis is the same. I’ve done a little research to get a basic framework, but I’m definitely going to need some help in nailing down the particulars.

Keri turns out to be invaluable. We’re at it for hours fine-tuning our curriculum and learning plans. We’ve already done some interviewing for teachers and tutors, and we’ll have to make some decisions this week, which means that whether I want to or not, I’ll have to meet with Grace.

There’s no use putting it off.

Once I’ve finished with the basic curriculum, I ask Keri to look it over and see if there’s anything else that we may need. I don’t want to present this outline and framework to the teachers and tutors that I plan to hire, and it turns out to be total garbage. Then I send a text to Grace that we need to chat about the teaching staff and to let me know when she’s available to do so.

It was like carving my tooth out with a chisel just to send the text.

Not half an hour after I hit send, Grace is at my door.

“May I come in?” she asks. I sigh inwardly.

“Please,” I say, standing and gesturing to the seat in front of me. She enters and sits down, and I close the door behind her. I jump right in.

“The school year is starting in a few weeks and I don’t want to be caught unprepared like we have these last terms,” I say, picking up the papers showing the progress that Keri and I made and handing it to her. “We already conducted several interviews and with where we plan to start, I would think we don’t need too much staff right now—a few teachers and a tutor or two and someone to act as principal or superintendent just over the scholastic portion of the program…”

I continue discussing what I think would be the best direction for the preschool and tutoring program—afterschool classes, playgroups, and eventually, a possible part-time homeschool, particularly for at-risk families, namely residents in the dorms while Grace looks over the proposals and plans that Keri and I have collaborated on so far.

“You’ve been quite busy,” she says raising her eyes to me. “I’m glad the Center won’t suffer because of our disagreement.”

I wouldn’t say that just yet, Grace.

I continue the conversation as if nothing had been said about our disagreement and make suggestions as well as request input on who would be the best candidates for the positions we would like to fill as we really need to get the ball rolling like right now. Grace gives her opinions on who she thinks will fit the immediate bill and luckily, except for one, they were the same people that I think will work best. I cede to her judgment for the last person, selfishly thinking that if they didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have to be the one to contend with it. She would.

It’s a bit late in the afternoon when we bang out our initial steps and final choices, and I’m more than ready to discontinue the conversation. I’m not, however, ready to pick up the conversation that she wants to have.

“I really feel I did the right thing,” she says with conviction.

“Grace, this conversation is moot,” I say matter-of-factly. The time for us to have this conversation has passed.

“You won’t even discuss it with me?” she asks, her voice rising an octave in disbelief.

“No,” I say finitely. “I don’t want to fight with you or dispute this with you anymore. What you did could have had disastrous results, and if you can’t understand that, there’s nothing for us to discuss.” She sighs.

“Fine. I was wrong,” she says, almost like a petulant child. I shake my head.

“You don’t get it,” I say. “I’m not looking for capitulation. I don’t need you to admit that you were wrong. I need you to see that you were wrong. Courtney had come miles from where she started. Her progress was fucking immeasurable. Addie barely recognized her as the hell that she sent back to her hellhole hometown. What you did could have set her back far beyond her starting point, and what would you have to say had that happened? What could you have possibly said to me—to Courtney—had you, in your self-proclaimed omnipotence, destroyed all the work that she put in to achieve what she achieved?”

“Can’t you see that sometimes, everything isn’t answered by theory and book-smarts? Sometimes—oftentimes—there’s emotion involved, and you just have to go with your gut?” Her voice is beseeching.

“I can see that, Grace, but can you?” I retort. “Logic dictates that the strides made by Courtney should have had her running back to Addie to present her new self—to show her grandmother that she was nothing like the person Addie last saw. The fact that her grandmother felt that she was nothing, she had to prove her wrong—for herself, but in the process, she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with the source of her uncertainty. When they parted ways, Addie pretty much told her that she was better off dead. She cremated and buried Courtney’s mother this past summer with no pomp and circumstance, and you just take it upon yourself to say, ‘Oh, it’s a good idea to shove these two into each other’s faces!’ If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, just how fucked up a judgment call that was, then you’ll do it again and I can’t tolerate seeing all my hard work destroyed that way. I might as well go back to my practice.”

“I… I… I didn’t know…” she stammers.

“Of course, you didn’t know!” I bark. “There’s a lot you didn’t know! I’m the psychiatrist! I have all the inside scoops on what’s going on in these people’s minds because that’s what I do! And you had the audacity to be offended because I pointed that out! I don’t diagnose the intricate illness of children—that’s your specialty, not mine! But they share their deepest, darkest secrets with me because of my station and I act accordingly! She trusted me! She trusted me with her secrets and her feelings, with her life! And you exploited that! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that you orchestrated a train wreck that could have destroyed them both and they just got lucky and walked away?”

“I… was just… following my instincts,” she says, resigned.

“Well, congratulations, doctor,” I say, clasping my hands on the table. “This time, your instincts were correct, and in the process, you undermined everything I do. The very basis of my profession is privacy and trust—respecting the rights of the patient. You know the Hippocratic Oath, and you totally disregarded mine, then haughtily walked away smiling when you did it. I can’t work like that. I can’t have someone’s mental well-being in my hands and in the back of my head, constantly fearing that you’re going to make a decision that’s going to unravel the intricate tapestry that I’ve taken months… or years… to create with one of my patients based on your instincts.” I silently shake my head, indicating that this is definitely a no-go for me.

Grace bites her lip and takes a seat, humbly clasping her hands in her lap.

“Can you, for just a moment, see where I’m coming from?” she says, her voice shaking slightly.

“No…” I begin.

“Please… let me finish,” she beseeches without raising her eyes. It’s my turn to be petulant, but I just defiantly fold my arms and sit mute.

“Addie… is my friend,” she begins. “She’s been my friend for a long, long time—even longer than that crazy bitch who victimized my son.”

That kind of stings… and causes me to let my guard down a little.

“You may have known how Courtney felt, but I knew how Addie felt. She felt hurt and betrayed, and that’s what made her say the things she said to Courtney, but most of all, she was heartbroken. She felt that she would die and have nothing to show for her bloodline. She had such high hopes for Courtney, and when she saw those hopes dashed to the rocks…” She stops and swallows.

“I’m not saying that you wouldn’t understand,” she says. “You’re a mother, so you have to know that we only want what’s best for our children. Courtney’s mother was such a disappointment and Addie had her hopes in Courtney even when everybody told her that it would be a lost cause. When she finally accepted that those hopes were destroyed, it was the most traumatizing thing that had ever happened to her. She tried to move on, but she was crushed.

“That’s the reason I advocated for Courtney in the first place,” she adds. “After everything that she had done and all the problems she had caused, I just wanted to help my friend. It was wonderful seeing the progress that she was making, but Addie was still hurting… deeply hurt. We didn’t hear anything about her daughter because she couldn’t mourn her daughter. To her, it was all a lost cause.

“I found out about Adele—that’s her daughter’s name—at Mia’s wedding. I had been trying to indirectly arrange a meeting ever since. I knew Courtney was at the wedding, but by the time I had heard about Adele, Courtney had already left.

“When I say that I was trusting my instincts, Ana, I’m not just saying that I thought it was a good idea. My friend was suffering, and I just didn’t want to see her suffering anymore… and I knew that seeing Courtney—how beautiful she is and how far she’s come—would do her some good.” I roll my eyes nearly to the point of agony.

“Why. Didn’t you. Explain that to me?” I nearly seethe. “Why didn’t you come and talk to me?”

“Because just like you had confidences, I had confidences…” she begins.

“But it was okay for you to disregard mine!” I nearly shout, causing Grace to jump a bit in her seat.

Settle down, Grey.

I take a deep breath and address the situation again.

“The progress that I made with Courtney in eleven short months is more than I’ve done with a lot of people in years, and you could have undone all of that. That’s what I need you to see. This situation is the epitome of that old saying about the road to hell and good intentions. I can appreciate that you saw your friend suffering and you wanted that suffering to stop, but your. Methods. Were wrong. You threw a blowtorch into a vat of gasoline and prayed that it wouldn’t explode, and instead of alienating one person, you could have alienated three—one of which was your very close friend.

“As much as I want to say that the biggest betrayal here was to Courtney’s right to privacy and to Addie’s suffering, I can’t even say that,” I say, and she raises glassy eyes to me. Yeah, this is going to sting, Dr. Grace, so get ready for it. “The biggest betrayal is that you dismissed me. You dismissed my expertise and my feelings. It caused friction in my marriage and discord in my professional life. But you know what’s even worse, Grace? What you probably never even considered even up to this very moment? You. Destroyed. My trust! Did you think about that? Did you think about the fact that I have to trust the person that I work with and I don’t trust you anymore?

“I can’t be effective under those conditions, and I can’t just wave that off. When you’re dealing with the human mind, at any given moment someone’s sanity can be hanging in a delicate balance. One wrong word, one wrong action, can be the difference between a breakthrough and suicide—and I’m not exaggerating.” I immediately think of Ace’s shark’s tooth.

“I should have come and talked to you,” she says just above a whisper, her voice cracking.

“Yes,” I say softly, but firmly. “You should have…” and now, it’s probably too late. Grace takes a deep, shuddering breath and stands.

“Let me know what you decide to do,” she says without raising her eyes to me. “I’ll understand either way.” She turns and quickly walks out of my office. I hear her heels clicking at a quick pace down the hall and just before she closes the door to her office, I hear her begin to weep.

Dear God in heaven, I think to myself as my face falls on my arms on my desk, my hair splayed wildly over my hands and arms like a blanket. What am I going to do now…?

*-*

“Hey…”

My head feels like lead and my eyes hurt from crying. I can only imagine that I look like pure hell from having cried myself to sleep at my desk and when I turn towards the soft, melodic voice, my husband is looking lovingly at me while stroking my hair out of my face.

“Hey,” I barely squeak out. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s late… and Mom called me,” he says. “She told me that you were still in your office when she left and that it might be a good idea if I came to get you.”

“I don’t know what to do, Christian,” I lament, on the brink of tears again.

“Well, you won’t think about it tonight,” he says cupping my cheek. “Right now, I’m going to take you home, bathe you, feed you, and make love to you. Then, you can conquer this in the morning.”

I don’t have the will or desire to fight him. I’m tired of thinking, dreaming, fretting about this whole thing. It’s getting on my nerves. I stand and proceed to leave the building and had it not been for Chuck, I might have left without my children. Mom of the year.

My husband keeps his promise, making sure that I was fed, bathed, and loved. Nonetheless, at 2:49 in the morning, I find myself staring at the ceiling while he’s sleeping comfortably next to me. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here, but I decide that I don’t want to lie here anymore. I quietly roll out of bed and retrieve the first shirt that I can find. It’s the linen shirt that Christian wore to work, and it smells like him. It’s comforting. I put it on and button it before leaving our suite.

The children are sound asleep and I don’t want to disturb them, so I go to the kitchen to get something to drink. After I fix a spritzer, I sit at the breakfast bar, trying to think of something to do. I look at my phone and begin to scroll through it. Some time between the time I got home and now, my contacts, calendar, and apps had all been moved to the new phone.

When did he find time to do that?

I had already forwarded my calls to the new phone, but it’s probably time to leave the new number on the old message so that I can retire my 4S soon. I decide to take a look at my emails. I had cleared most of them at work, but I hadn’t looked at the junk mail to see if anything had been misrouted.

Sure enough, something had.

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Re: Web Presence
Date: Saturday, December 13, 2014, 14:14
From: Laura Kelly

Hey there, Sheila!

Just a little nudge from down under to remind you to finish setting up your social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—but start with Facebook. It’s probably best for social media virgins. I know you said you had to talk to your PR people before you could pull the trigger. Remember what I showed ya!

Jax was a little depressed after visiting his mum’s grave, even more depressed when we got back to the ship and there was no Chris to shoot the shit with. You’ll have to come back and see us sometimes, or we’ll look you up next time we’re in the States.

Look for LauraLee Kelly on Facebook. You can’t miss me!

Missing you guys already!
Laura

Laura showed me the basics while we were on the cruise and we ran around her social media accounts a bit, but we never actually set up an account for me.

Social media. Facebook. Hmmm…

Screw PR. I’ll just create an alias.

I go to iTunes and download the Facebook app. Sign up with an email.

Back up.

I go to Gmail and create an alias email just for this purpose. You can’t be too careful.

First name… Anastasia

Last name… hmmm.

Lambert.

There’s no taboo attached to that name for me anymore. It’s a name that I used to escape, and I escaped, so…

Welcome to Gmail!

Back to Facebook.

Sign up. What’s your name?

Anastasia Lambert.

Hmm… it still feels too obvious.

Mercer Mistress… Hell, no!

Mercer Doctor Lady.

Good enough for now.

Upload a profile picture…

Butterflies!

I do a quick internet search and find a picture of a black and white butterfly that reminds me of Marty.

Perfect!

I download it to my phone, then upload it as my profile picture.

Invite your friends… well, I only have one that I know of on social media…

LauraLee Kelly. I need her email. Nah, I’ll look her up and invite her to be my friend. It’s faster.

I have access!

LauraLee Kelly.

She’s right. I find her quickly and send a friend request. I create the same account with Twitter, then I make the mistake of going to Facebook and Twitter and doing a search for my name.

There are a million of me!

I could make a page with my real name and no one would be any wiser, but no. I’ll hide behind Mercer Doctor Lady. Not very creative or catchy, I know, but it’ll fit the bill. I answer a few questions about books and hobbies.

There’s nothing on my timeline since I don’t have any friends, so I see what Facebook has to offer.

Videos… relationship advice… reality TV snippets… groups that might interest me… comedy…

I like comedy.

I watch several comedy videos and share many of them to my timeline.

I’m dying laughing over Steve Harvey and Family Feud…

Ellen Degeneres, well, I love her. I follow her and Steve on Facebook.

The Real Housewives of what? Where? What real housewives behave this way? And you’re still married? These women need to get a damn life!

“What are you doing down here?”

I’m startled by Christian coming to the kitchen in his pajama pants. I’m even more startled by something else…

Daylight.

“I was just… I couldn’t sleep,” I say. Hell if I’m telling him I spent all night on Facebook. His gaze softens.

“I didn’t do my job, then,” he says, closing the space between us. I put my phone down and sigh.

“It’s not you,” he says, “and I don’t want to pull you into the middle of what’s happening between me and your mother.”

“She said you didn’t fight, but I have a feeling you did,” he says. I look up at him.

“You thought I fought with your mother and you still brought me home and took care of me?” he shrugs.

“She’s my mother and I love her very much, but she went home to her husband. You’re my responsibility.” I wrap my arms around his waist and lean on his chest.

“I love you,” I say, breathing in his scent.

“I love you, too,” he says. I sigh. “You’re holding it in. You have to tell somebody.” I lean back and look up at him, twisting my lips.

“She looked like a broken puppy when she left my office, and I heard her crying,” I say. “She broke us… plain and simple. She broke us as a team. I have to trust who I’m working with. That’s it. I don’t expect you to take sides here, I really don’t, but I have to say it out loud. She broke us. She broke the team, and I don’t know if it can be fixed.”

“Any idea what it would take to be fixed?” he asks.

“Time, for one,” I admit, “and I’m not sure I’m willing to put it in.” She begged me last year to give Courtney a chance and I did, and we built something, and then she tossed it out like trash. Fuck how Courtney was feeling; fuck what Courtney wanted; Addie was more important.

“You’re taking it really personal, baby. Can you tell me why?” he asks.

“Because this could be anybody,” she says. “This could be a scared and battered wife and mother hiding from her abusive husband. I put in the work and get to the core of this girl’s deepest, darkest secrets—get her to where she’s not afraid to fall asleep at night; to where she finally sees that she’s out from under the oppression of her abusive husband and can do something with her life… move forward like Marlow’s mother did. And then Grace somehow brings the abusive father back into the picture. All that work I’ve done for nothing, and her only excuse and reasoning is that she’s following her instincts.

“Yes, that’s more graphic. Addie wasn’t abusive, but Courtney was crushed, crushed enough to never want to see her grandmother again, and Grace disregarded that… disregarded her feelings, disregarded her wishes, disregarded my work as a person and a professional. It’s very personal, Christian. How can I work with someone like that?”

“Then… why were you crying?” he asks.

“Because I obviously hurt her, and I didn’t mean to. We didn’t fight, but I was merciless in my explanations. She put her friend’s feelings over all professionalism and trust, the very basis of my profession. If she’s going to make decisions over my head without any consideration for my wishes, opinions, or input, then why am I there? I feel strongly about that, but I didn’t mean to hurt her—and I don’t know if she was hurt over understanding what she did to me or the concept of losing me.” He hugs me again.

“You’ll figure it out, baby. I know you will,” he encourages, “but doesn’t it feel better to get it out?”

“A little,” I say, sinking into his embrace.

“What have you been doing down here all night?” he asks. I twist my lips and look up at him, then push my phone over to him.

“Facebook?” he says, mirthfully. “You’ve been on Facebook all night?”

“Watching videos,” I say. “I don’t have any friends online.”

“You’ve got one, Mercer Doctor Lady,” he says and hands my phone back to me.

Laura accepted my friend’s request.


A/N: Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible. He was a master of disguise and could make himself or anyone else look like anyone anywhere.

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

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

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 18

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

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessary CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away. I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the new saga continues…

Chapter 18

Eric Dane 18

TREY

“We think it was Linc, but was it really him?” Wester asks, reviewing the article about Linc being extradited back to the states and now in custody of the Kirkland Police.

“It was him,” I reply. “I’d bet my fucking fortune on it. Elena is beat all to hell not two hours after he leaves GEH with a bloody nose, and come morning, he’s gone.”

“That’s my concern,” Wester says, folding the paper and putting it back on my desk. “You’ve been cleared of beating Elena Lincoln. Is there any possible way that you can be pinned for his face looking that way? That would clear him for beating Elena and pin you for beating him.” I hadn’t even thought of that.

“Wouldn’t he need some kind of proof that I hit him?” I ask. “A witness, or DNA, which he certainly doesn’t have? Besides, I hit him in the nose and that was it. That man looks like he’s been through Saigon!” Wester nods.

“This is true,” he says. “There’re all kinds of holes in the story that Linc won’t be able to fill. First, his wife falsely accuses you. If he tries to accuse you, too, it’s likely that no one would believe him even though you knocked the stuffing out of his ass. It’s obvious that he exhibits all the benchmarks of a guilty man, but I look beyond the obvious, sir. I look for all the loopholes that some sleazy DA or some gung-ho cop can use to make the big pin and do the famous televised perp-walk. That’s why I’m asking if there’s anything at all that can link you to assaulting that man?”

I twist my lips and ponder the situation. I like the way he thinks. He’s three steps ahead of everything and he’s got raw killer instincts. Once we got him out of here, I didn’t think twice about Linc or anything that he thought he might have been able to do to me. I had shown him who’s boss and he dare not cross me.

Until…

“There’s nothing I can think of besides the fact that he left here with a bloody nose,” I say. “If someone saw him leave, or his exit was caught on someone’s exterior security camera somewhere…” Wester nods.

“We’ll prepare for that eventuality,” he says, typing into his phone. Fuck, I’m glad he’s on my side.

“Could this whole thing be a scheme or plot of some kind between him and his wife? To nail me for this so that I can become a non-factor in his lumber interests while negating the cases that I have against his wife?” Wester nodded.

“It would be quite the coup, but it could. From what I know about Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, I don’t think they collaborate that way.”

“Don’t put it past them,” I say, typing into my computer. “A common enemy can create an alliance between the Hatfields and the McCoys.” He purses his lips.

“You’re thinking like me,” he says, with raised eyebrows.

“How do you know you’re not thinking like me?” I ask. He laughs and shakes his head.

“I’ll cede this one to you this time, Mr. Grey, because you’re the boss… but I think you know better.” Asshole. He’s a straight shooter and a straight cutter. He’s just what I need for my team.

“I want my mugshots back,” I inform him. “I never should have been booked and I don’t want those in the system.”

“I’ll get on it,” he says. I bring up my email and see that the piece that I’ve commissioned is ready to be shipped. Fucking hell, it took long enough. I asked for the damn thing nearly a week ago. She’s going to think I completely forgot my tribute. I pay the fortune it costs to have it shipped overnight and order another case of the gold-infused vodka to accompany it.

I’ve been resisting the urge to touch my lips all day, her kissed still bruised in my skin like it was yesterday. It’s my turn to leave an impression.


Briana Evigan 18

GOLDEN

Just when I thought I was in the clear for that temporary slip of the lips, it comes back to bite me in the ass. A week after I absent-mindedly kissed Trey after a scene, I get two pretty fucking remarkable gifts…

Another case of the gold-infused vodka, as if he knew that I had run out…

And a golden sculpture of lips—a very large sculpture of golden lips. They’re like two-feet wide.

“He seems infatuated with the anatomy,” Blake says, eyeing the lips.

“This is gaudy,” I say, pointing to the horrid thing. “This is something I would expect to see in someone’s psychedelic 1970’s bachelor pad along with horrible shag carpet, beaded curtains, and lava lamps. How dare he send me something like this!” Blake examines the sculpture carefully.

“If I can be so bold, Mistress,” he says, “this is certainly not some gaudy piece worthy of a 1970’s bachelor pad.” He lifts the sculpture. “This—like the statue—was commissioned. Even though there may be others out there like it, this is a custom piece. It’s not mass-produced, it’s made of gold fiberglass, and it was created by an international artist. That writing on the bottom is German. As you well know, the States doesn’t have many mass imports from Germany.”

“It’s still gaudy,” I maintain.

“It’s not gaudy, Mistress,” Blake retorts. “It may not be to your taste, but it’s not gaudy. Like the statue, Mr. Grey wants you to know that your body has left a lasting impression on him. This time, it was your lips.” I shake my head. This can’t happen.

“How do you know so much?” I ask him.

“It didn’t come easily,” he says. “What would you like to do with it?”

“Ship it to his home address,” I say without hesitating. “I’ll keep the vodka, but not the lips. Please make it clear that I don’t want it returned.”

“Very well, Mistress,” he says, and he takes the ugly thing and the packing that came with it and leaves the room. This is not part of the plan, Trey. If you want this to continue, you have to get your head out of the clouds. In fact…

I pull out my phone and fire off a text to him.

**The kiss was a mistake. It won’t happen again. **

*-*

“So, you kissed him,” Kevin says as we eat lunch after our yoga session later that week.

“Yeah. Temporary insanity,” I admit.

“Or could you just like the guy?” He raises a brow at me.

“I like his dick,” I say finitely, eating some of my fried zucchini. He scoffs.

“And you’ve never seen a dick you’ve liked before,” he says, his voice low, “because it’s obvious that you’ve never voluntarily kissed some guy… at least not in the current context.” He takes a big bite of his burger.

“I’ve seen other dicks that I’ve liked,” I say after swallowing my food. “And actually, I choose one person a month to kiss. So, yes, I have voluntarily kissed someone else before.”

“So, what’s so different about this one?” This one wasn’t the one I chose to be this month. In fact, I hadn’t chosen anyone to be this month…

“I just got carried away. It happens,” I say dismissively.

“Really?” he says, his mouth full of burger. “And how often has that happened to you?” he confronts.

“That’s not the point…”

“It’s exactly the point!” Kevin laughs. “You may be starting to feel something and it’s scaring the shit out of you. Is it the fact that you’re feeling something or the fact that you’re feeling something for him?”

“I’m feeling something for his dick!” I clarify, louder this time. A few people in the café turn and look at us.

“I’m sorry to be the one to burst your little bubble, Annie, but there’s a body attached to that dick!” he says, just as loudly as I do. “You can’t just cut it off and pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

“I may not be able to cut it off,” I say, lowering my tone, “but I have absolutely no problem pretending the body doesn’t exist. You wouldn’t understand, because you don’t adore the penis like I do.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t kiss his penis,” Kevin says, taking a bite from a fry.

Yeah, there is that.

“What I’m so miffed about,” he says, wiping ketchup from his mouth, “is that I didn’t think you were even slightly interested in that kind of relationship at all, so I didn’t even try.”

“I’m still not interested,” I clarify. “Like I said, it was temporary insanity and it won’t happen again. God, I wish I hadn’t even brought it up now.”

“You brought it up because you needed to tell somebody. You needed to tell somebody because it was eating at you and you couldn’t handle it on your own. That’s probably the case because you like this guy more than you’re willing to admit and denying it to me—even though I wanted you first—to him, or to yourself is not going to make it any less true.”

“Wanted me?” I say, pretending to be slighted. “You don’t want me anymore?”

“What does it matter? We’re friends now,” he says, chomping on another fry. I roll my eyes and move to take another bite of my sandwich when I catch an unpleasant sight over Kevin’s shoulder.

“Oh, what the fuck is this?” I hiss, dreading the next few seconds. Kevin frowns and looks over his shoulder just in time to catch Jake strolling in our direction.

“What the hell?” I groan. “Do I have a fucking tracking device attached to me?” I don’t see or hear anything from this guy in 17 years and now, he just seems to pop up where I am. I understood him popping up at the restaurant because I was in his neighborhood, but the grocery downtown? And now here? Am I releasing dog pheromones or something?

“Fancy meeting you here,” he says with a suggestive smile.

“Yeah, fancy that,” Kevin says, a near-scowl affixed to his face. Jake turns to Kevin.

“Yeah, you, too Kev, but…” he turns that creepy ass smile back to me, “I was addressing the lady.” I fold my arms and glare at him.

“Well, the lady is clearly not addressing you,” Kevin replies. Jake doesn’t tear his eyes away from me.

“I don’t know why I was so… driven… to get a Mickey’s patty melt—this place is so far out of my way—but now I see. When I want something, I just do whatever I have to do to get it.” He bites his bottom lip and I just want to hurl. I’m in a public café, not one of the clubs. I can’t floor him like I normally would. I have a few choice words bubbling up in my stomach, but I’m certain that it would just egg him on. Instead, I turn back to my lunch and continue to eat.

“Look, man, you’ve come to speak. You got your sandwich. Now, if you don’t mind, you are interrupting our lunch, which is pretty rude,” Kevin warns. I know just from his strength and his size alone that unless Jake has been working out or doing some MMA fighting that I’m not aware of, Kevin can most likely squash him. Hell, I can most likely squash him, but there would be some police intervention involved with either of those options. Even though I don’t make eye contact, I can feel his gaze boring into me.

“The lady hasn’t expressed an interest in my leaving, and even if she did, I would do my very best to dissuade her.” Dear God, if he only knew how much his sad attempt at seduction is making my stomach turn. He really is ruining my lunch.

“My mom always told me that if you ignore a pest, they eventually go away,” I say, taking another bite of my sandwich.

“Except flies,” Kevin says to me before turning a searing glare back to Jake. “Those bitches don’t go away til you swat ‘em.” I raise my eyes just in time to see the gentlemen glaring at each other about to square off.

“You wanna catch this fade, mothafucka, let’s go!” Jake taunts. Oh, I’ve had enough of this shit.

“And exactly what would you be fighting for?” I say loudly, now standing to face Jake and deliberately raising my voice. “When I wanted you, you didn’t want me. Now, you precariously pop up everywhere I’m trying to get something to eat, often muscling in on my meal, and now you want to fight because I won’t pay you any attention? It’s my understanding that you can—and already did—have any piece of pussy in town that you wanted. What’s the problem? Go find one that wants you, too. Just leave!”

I’ve had enough! I want this asshole to leave me the hell alone. He won’t take the cold shoulder; he won’t take rejection; let’s try humiliation.

“What the fuck you say?” he says, surprised that I had the nerve to call him out. “This mothafucka disrespected me. What makes you think I would fight over you, hoe, you ain’t shit!” I violently wave him off.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever the fuck you say! You made that shit very clear several years ago—until you fuckin’ started stalkin’ me again. Now, say that shit while you walkin’!”

Jake eyes me with serious distaste and raises one nostril like he’s smelling something bad.

“You think you hot shit ‘cause you white?” he spits.

“What I think is that we were trying to enjoy our lunch before you brought your ass over here fuckin’ with us. You said I ain’t shit, so why are you still here? Get the hell away from our table!” He’s so busy trying to humiliate me like I just humiliated him that he doesn’t see Jesse come up behind him.

“Shut the fuck up, puppy, and sit yo’ ass down,” he retorts.

“The lady said leave,” Jesse says from behind him. “You’re disturbing her lunch.”

Jake turns around and whirls right into a wall of angry, buff security guard about five inches taller than him. Not to be outmatched, he aggressively looks up and down Jesse’s form.

“What? You fuckin’ her, too, white boy?” he accuses.

Oh, little boy, if you only knew that nobody in this room right now is fucking me, least of all, you.

“No, but I may have to restrain you and kick you out for insulting the lady and disturbing her lunch. You are now in her personal space which makes you a threat, and I won’t be responsible if your face meets a little road rash on the way down.” Jake scoffs.

“You think I’m scared o’ you?” Jake asks incredulously, his voice rising two octaves. “Nigga, where I come from, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!”

“Please… oh, please test that theory,” Jesse invites and stands there, waiting for Jake to make a move. Jake glares at Jesse but doesn’t dare to make a move. “Air and opportunity, young’un,” Jesse adds.

Now, where Jake comes from, “air and opportunity” is short for “Stop yappin’ and make your move. Ain’t nothin’ between us but air and opportunity,” So, now Jake has to shut the fuck up and make his move or get the fuck on. He takes the latter option. My guess is that he has assessed the situation, weighed his options, analyzed the likelihood of actually leaving the building with a face full of road rash, and decided that outcome would not be favorable for him. He’s going to leave… but not quietly.

“Please,” he says, disdainfully, “ain’t none o’ y’all worth none of this shit.” He moves around Jesse to leave and calls out “bitch” just as he’s getting to the door.

“Yo’ momma’s a bitch,” I retort before the door even opens. He doesn’t pause. He brushes right out the door.

And I’m pretty sure that’s the last I’ll see of him.

“God, what is it with that guy?” Kevin asks. I nod at Jesse thanking him for coming to my rescue and he nods and goes back to his table and his sandwich.

“Is it usually volatile when you guys get together?” I ask. “Does he have something to prove?”

“Yes,” Kevin says. “He sees me with you and you’re the only one in the neighborhood that he hasn’t fucked. So, he has to prove he can fuck you, too. Ain’t shit with me and him. I’ve seen him around here and there, but I haven’t seen him this much in years. It’s like your pussy starts moving in his general vicinity and he can smell you coming.”

“That can’t be it, because I’ve been back in Seattle for a while. So, if he was smellin’ my pussy, he would have smelled it long before now.” I pause. “He does realize he called Jesse the ‘N’ word,” I point out. Kevin twists his lips.

“You said you come from the hood,” Kevin says. “You know that’s not what he did. He used the ‘gga’ not the ‘gger.’”

“But if Jesse had said that to him…” I begin my protest.

“Yes, I know,” Kevin interrupts. “The entire café would have been in an uproar. At the risk of defending that asshole, you know we throw that word around a little more than we should and in different ways.” I twist my lips and don’t touch the rest of my unfinished lunch.

“I don’t approve of black people disparaging white people any more than I approve of white people disparaging black people—and he does that pretty freely. Jesse was the ‘gga’ and ‘white boy’ and I supposedly thought I was all that because I’m white, but had I made even the slightest reference to his race, that would have been an entirely different conversation.” Kevin puts his hands up.

“Hey, I’m on your side, remember?” he says, surrender evident in his tone. I roll my eyes and shake my head. I’m going to start carrying a police whistle and blow the shit out of that bitch when I see him coming!

“Well, I’d say lunch is sufficiently ruined,” he says, pushing away the rest of his burger. I raise my eyes to him and his disgusted expression.

“So… since we’re friends and all, I guess I can make this up to you. That asshole wouldn’t have come to the table had I not been sitting here. Dinner at my house on Friday?” He raises surprised eyes to me. “That is if you don’t mind crossing the bridge.

“Uh… no, I don’t mind,” he stutters. “I got a car.”

Yeah, I surprised the shit out of him.

“Well, then, I’ll text you my address, and don’t be surprised when my butler answers the door.”

“Ooooo, a butler! Fancy,” he teases, and it adds some levity to our ruined lunch.

*-*

I invited Kevin to dinner. Why the hell did I do that? I still have a few days where I can cancel, but I’m not going to. I’m sadistic, not selfish, and I do feel that Jake ruined a perfectly good lunch because of me.

My phone has been ringing and buzzing with texts… from Trey. I’m sure he has received those ghastly ass lips back and wants to know why. I would rather not see or speak to him right now. I’m not totally certain why I succumbed to kissing him and right now, I’d prefer not to make that mistake again. In fact, Golden has other plans this evening…

**I would be eternally grateful if Mistress could find it in her schedule to fit me in tonight. Or even tomorrow, or whenever you have available. **

The text came right after lunch and right before Trey’s. I would like nothing more than to get my hands a little dirty at one of the clubs. I need to beat the image of Jake out of my fucking head…

And the taste of Trey off my goddamn lips.

**Club Syndrome. 8:00. Tonight. Don’t be late. **

I do a quick gold-chrome nail cover before I don my attire for the evening.

Tonight, it’s the vintage boned gold corset with the mock alligator texturing over high-waisted gold panties. I have to tape my boobs and the corset down so that they don’t fall out during my new routine. Adorning my chest is the Majestic Gold Filigree Indian Wedding choker with matching jhumka earrings—tribute from another satisfied client valued at over $12,000. I have to double-side-tape this piece as well as the necklace falls elegantly over my chest and will droop over my chin while I’m performing unless I secure it.

Wonder WomanThe best wigs that money can buy will ensure that my raven hair won’t end up on the floor somewhere. Gold contacts reminiscent to sunsets and gold eyeshadow on my lid and under my eye lend a dramatic contrast to the black lashes and brows with just a dusting of gold at the end of the brows. I slide into a decadent pair of gold thigh-high stiletto boots and slide two gold arm bracelets on my arms. They almost look like the “Wonder Woman” symbol.

When I’m satisfied with the look, I descend the stairs to find Blake waiting for me. He doesn’t react to my attire, but then again, he never does.

“Which wrap, Mistress?” he asks unfazed.

“Gold leather,” I reply. I check my reflection in the mirror at the foot of the stairs. My lips are done in matte, non-smearing lipsticks—gold and black in a fierce design. I’m extremely proud of my creation. I look every bit the sexy, golden nightmare and I’m beginning to feel more like myself again.

Blake assists me into my gold leather trench just as the doorbell rings. As I fasten my belt, I see my driver and my bodyguard waiting on the other side of the door for me. Right on time, as usual…

“Thornton will be meeting me this evening. Set him up and let me know when he arrives,” I say to Zane, the head dungeon monitor, when I arrive at Syndrome. “And cue the new music.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I remove my coat and walk right to the stage to my usual theme song. This will be my first time doing my new routine, but I’m not concerned. As usual, I just want to show the amateurs how it’s done.

Moments after I mount the stage, the music changes and a dangerous, sultry beat begins as I circle the pole. The crowd goes from a gentle roar to a tiny murmur as I bend one leg and wrap it around the pole behind me.

Sometimes I feel I’ve got to run away…

As Claire Guerreso begins to sing, I reach behind my head, grasp the pole, and begin to climb it backwards.

The murmur falls to silence.

Half-way up the pole, my body bends in half, then fully extends with my stiletto heels pointing perfectly to the ceiling and my raven wig hanging dramatically towards the floor,

It’s nothing but me and the music now.

I’ve lost my light for I toss and turn I can’t sleep at night…

Like hell. Maybe you, but not me.

a2ca8bf11648826dc78841c9918824c9I reproduce the incredible move where my body is bent but not touching the pole. I saw this move in the mirror at the studio, so I’m well aware of how sexy it looks now.

Once I ran to you, now I’ll run from you…

The idea behind a good pole dance is to look sensual and sexy and desirable without looking raunchy. If I wanted to be a stripper, that’s what I would do, but that’s not what I do here. My routines have the same effect whether I’m wearing a pair of lamé panties, thigh high boots, and a corset, or if I’m wearing a catsuit and strappy stiletto. It makes you wonder what’s underneath, not just want to fuck.

My moves display incredible control over my body and muscles—unbelievable leg extensions, midair ab and hip rolls, and insane upper body strength that allows me to sensually animate my body while my hands or arms are the only things touching the pole. My attitude sends a message to men and to women not to come at me with bullshit, because I’m not the one and I won’t have it.

The crowd is once again silently mesmerized as that one line is sung that reminds me that I’m Golden…

You need someone to hold you tight and you’ll think love is to pray,
But I’m sorry, I don’t pray that way…

Nope, not I. Find somebody else to love you.

I writhe down the pole in an awesome finishing move that has my knees bent and my body lying backwards with one arm over my head and my hair splayed on the floor—not even having broken a sweat. When the music dies, I rise to my knees and then to my feet before sauntering to the stairs. There is no applause, but I can clearly hear the murmurings of the crowd—some talking about how sultry the dance was while others asked who I am. They must not be the regulars.

“That’s Golden,” I hear someone say. “She’s a Domme and she damn near owns the place.”

“Well, I never heard of her,” another says.

“You must be new, then,” the first guy says. “She’s extremely exclusive. They’ll blackball you if you do something to piss her off.”

“Your client is ready in room three, ma’am,” Zane says to me as he helps me off the stage. I can’t hear the conversation anymore as I descend the stairs and thank him, but I hear the end of it.

“If she’s here, she’s going to be in one of the exhibition rooms. Come on, get ready for the show of your life.”

That’s right, boys. Golden is here in full effect and now, I have fresh meat to impress. It’s not that I’m looking for any more clients, but I just adore performing for Golden virgins.

Thornton is into humiliation. That’s just what I need tonight. It’s like somebody somewhere knew that I needed to remember who Golden is and what she does. I open the door to the exhibition room and there he is, standing in the corner with his back to me. He’s only wearing his pants, and he’s not allowed to look at me without my permission.

I remove my corded whip from the wall and, dragging it on the ground behind me, skillfully approach my subject.

“Hello, Thornton…

*-*

Last night was perfect. I stretched my Golden legs—and my Golden whip—and I am back! Not that I went anywhere in the first place, I just needed to remind myself who I was. All this kinda touchy-feely shit had me out of touch for a moment.

I don’t answer any of Trey’s calls or texts, which aren’t as frequent as they were at the beginning of the week when I first returned those garish gold lips that he sent me. Those things were horrendous. What the hell did he expect me to do with those?

What’s more, he knows that I know exactly what they were all about. He had as many questions about the kiss as Kevin did… as I did… and I answered them. It was a mistake. It was temporary insanity and it won’t happen again. I told him that and when I feel like he finally understands that, then I’ll answer his fucking texts.

I made sure to tell my clients in the Lincoln lawsuit that she came by in an attempt to settle, but that she wasn’t apologetic, which means that her offer would have been laughable had I listened. They agreed with me that we should take it to court if she doesn’t admit fault and try to make it right.

Make it right. That’s hilarious to me. Each of these women knows that they’re taking this woman for a ride. Maybe one or two of them might have suffered the real heebie-jeebies. The rest are just on the bandwagon for the buck. I’m usually not the slimy lawyer, but in this case, I don’t care. Blondie took the gloves off on me a long time ago, and since I’m so damn ethical in everything else that I do, I don’t mind being the corrupt attorney this time. Not one bit.

It’s just what she deserves.

True to my word, I agree to fix dinner for Kevin on Friday. I get the feeling that I may have to squash his hopes for l’amour as he’s convinced that Trey is breaking me down. Dinner may not be the best idea under the circumstances, but as a friend, I promised. And as a woman and a Domme, I know that if I back out, I’ll be feeding his idea that I’ve been weakened and I’m afraid to be alone with him.

As usual, I can’t find what I need in my area, so I visit the grocery in my old neighborhood and hope to God that the Jake-radar isn’t alerted that I’m in the area. I manage to avoid seeing Jake, but I should have known that I wouldn’t leave this area unscathed.

“Ana?”

I turn to the voice that called my name. It had to happen. At some point, it had to happen. First, Richard in the courthouse; then Jake at the restaurant… and the grocery… and the café. Now, this.

I sigh heavily as I look into the face of my cousin, Tracy. Of course. It had to happen. I raise my eyebrow at her as if to ask, “What the fuck do you want?” but she totally ignores the gesture.

“Wow,” she says as she closes the space between us. “You look really good. You haven’t changed one bit.” I’m a little taken aback by the compliment.

“Thank you,” I reply, trying to appear unmoved.

“I haven’t seen you in years. Have you moved back to these parts?” she asks.

“No,” I reply. “I… needed some ingredients that I can’t find in my neighborhood.” She twists her lips.

“Well, I know what you mean about that,” she says, looking over her shoulder as if looking for someone. “I’m not living around here either anymore, but Mom needs a few things, so…” She trails off. Figures. Why couldn’t Sheila’s lazy ass husband come and get what she needed? He can track me down and chase me around the city. How about you tend to your ailing wife and leave me the hell alone! God, I want to be a total bitch, but…

“I heard about Sheila,” I say. “I’m sorry.” Tracy frowns a bit and just as she’s about to speak…

“Baby, they’re out of cumin. We may have to see if we can find it somewhere else. I know the exotic spice stand at the Mar… Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

The gentleman who joins us is a handsome, older man, distinguished looking and well-built. He’s pushing a grocery cart with a child in the seat, maybe two or three years old. Another little girl is latched to his hand, six or seven years old.

“Ana, this is my husband, Lance. Lance, this is Ana, my cousin.”

Lance’s eyebrow rises in obvious surprise. Yeah, yeah, I’m white, so what?

“Ana, yes,” he says with a sincere smile. “Tracy has mentioned you. I’m glad you reconnected.”

Reconnected? Mentioned me? What the hell?

Not in a public grocery, Ana. Don’t make a goddamn scene, and definitely not in front of children.

“It’s nice to meet you, Lance,” I say, trying not to sound stiff. Noticing my discomfort, Lance turns back to his wife.

“I’ll go pay for these and meet you outside, okay?” he says. Tracy smiles and nods as he leans down and kisses her on the cheek. He turns a half-smile to me. “Ana, hope to see you around.”

“Thank you, Lance. Take care,” I say, trying not to be rude. When he’s out of earshot, Tracy turns her attention back to me.

“Ana, what did you mean by that,” she asks, “when you said you’re sorry about Mom? What did you hear about Mom?” I try not to frown at her. Is she in denial? What the hell?

“That she has cancer and she’s dying,” I reply, stating the obvious. Tracy frowns at me like I have no idea what I’m talking about. I soon find out that I don’t.

“Mom’s not dying,” she says, her frown burrowed deeply. “Dad is.”

I know I must look like I’ve seen aliens. Richard’s dying, not Sheila. Why would he say it was the other way around? What would be the purpose of that?

“I…” I’m at a loss for words, something that doesn’t happen often. I quickly find myself and lean on my attorney instincts instead of the diplomacy I can’t seem to locate when I’m dealing with this family. “I… was misinformed,” I excuse. “I was told that Sheila was the one who had cancer—stage four, in fact.”

“Well, someone must have gotten their facts confused,” Tracy retorts, a slight bit of anger hidden in her words. “My father’s dying, not my mother. We’re not quite sure how much time he has left.” I sigh a bit inwardly. I hate being made to look like a fool and I won’t apologize because Richard lied to me.

“I should be going, Tracy,” I say turning to leave. “Take care of yourself, okay?” I can’t tell her that I’m sorry to hear about Richard, because I’m not. As cold as it sounds, I’m not sorry in the least that he’s dying.

“Ana, wait,” she says as she falls in step behind me. “If losing someone shows us anything, it shows us that we should hold on to who we have left. Don’t be a stranger.”

Oh, God, I almost want to gag. Give me a fucking break. This is your first experience with loss, girlie, and you’re an adult. I lost my Mommy and Daddy almost 23 years ago and I was a child—an innocent, forsaken, isolated child with nothing and no one. Who the fuck held on to me? As long as I wasn’t a burden or a disgrace, I could stay tucked away in the corner, but as soon as I brought any attention to myself—even slight attention—I got abandoned, so I’d rather not hear about holding on to who we have left, because nobody bothered holding on to me!

“You take care, Tracy,” I say, my voice cold, before leaving her and my groceries in the store.

I walk to my car as quickly as I can. I don’t have Jesse with me as I sent him home already. I kind of wish he had been with me. Maybe Her Fucking Majesty wouldn’t have approached me. Fuck! I left my groceries in the store. I’ll just wait until I see her leave, then I’ll go back and get them.

I wait almost forever before she finally leaves, then I run back in and retrieve my basket, grateful that all my things are still there. As I’m paying for my items at the cashier, my phone rings.

“Yes, Blake,” I answer.

“Ma’am, you have a visitor.” He’s calling me ma’am. That means someone is in his face.

“Kevin? He’s extremely early,” I say, looking at my watch.

“His name isn’t Kevin, ma’am,” he says coolly. I frown as I place my bags back in my basket.

“Is it Trey?” I reply, my voice just as cold.

“No, ma’am,” he replies, “but he refuses to leave without speaking to you. I can remove him if you like.”

“Who the hell is it, Blake?” I ask, irritated.

“He says his name is Steele, ma’am.” Steele. Did that fucker come to my house? Did Tracy say something to him? “His name isn’t Richard, ma’am, but it is Steele.”

Steele. Not Richard. Who the hell is at my house?

“I’m on my way home,” I say as I load the groceries into my Range Rover, “but I’m quite a ways away.”

“Would you like for us to wait for you, ma’am?” he asks.

“I want to know who the fuck this guy is,” I exclaim, climbing into the car.

“We will wait for you,” he says flatly.

“It could take me quite some time…”

“We. Will. Wait. For you,” he says finitely. I pause for a moment.

“Very well,” I say as I start the car and end the call. Now, this is what that statement really means:

Some guy shows up at my front door and got my “butler,” who informs him that I’m not there. From the way Blake is speaking, this guy has pushed himself into my house, at which time, he made some kind of demand that Blake get me back home, stating that he’s not leaving until I’m there. Blake can easily, and legally, put this man out on my doorstep—in pieces, if necessary—but he won’t do it without my permission. He won’t even touch the guy.

When Blake came to call me, this fucker followed him to the phone, which means he took great liberties walking through my house. In my mind’s eye, I can see Blake’s scalp boiling during this encounter, but he won’t let it be seen. When he first spoke to me, he indicated that someone was at the house, and let me guide the conversation from there.

Someone’s there.
Not Kevin.
Not Trey.
He won’t leave. Blake offers to remove him.

I have another idea. I want to know who the fuck he is.

Steele. Not Richard, but Steele. Now I really want to know who the fuck he is.

At this point, the rules have changed because Blake can’t afford to let him leave. We both need to know who this fucker is. This means that if Blake has to break his legs and tie him to a chair, they’re going to wait for me.

I drive home as quickly as I can, from several miles away, in rush hour traffic… which means it’s still taking a long time to get home. It could be my other cousin—Tracy’s brother—I can’t even remember his fucking name right now. He wouldn’t come to my house like that… would he?

I leave all my groceries in the car and dash to the stairs to find out what’s going on. I burst through my front door and I see a stranger—a black man—standing there playing “slaps” with Blake… or at least that’s what it looks like. He keeps trying to get a hit in—a shove, a slap, something—and Blake just keeps forcibly pushing his hand away. Blake is clearly blocking his escape, so I’m assuming that sometime during the wait, our guest decided that he didn’t want to stay, probably once he realized that he wasn’t going to get the free reign of the house that he enjoyed while Blake was calling me.

“What the hell is this?” I ask, bemused.

“Well, it’s about time you got here!” the stranger says, no longer sparring with Blake. I’m taken aback by his boldness.

“I was unaware that I was on a clock,” I retort, folding my arms.

“Well, I’ve been waiting for you for a while,” he shoots, moving to close the space between us. Blake steps in front of him and he huffs impatiently. “Dammit, she’s here now! Can you move outta my way now?”

“You said you wanted me,” I say folding my arms. “You wanted me to drop what I was doing and come all the way home from clean on the other side of the bridge. You’re lucky I was on my way home or you might be standing here playing “slaps” for another couple of hours. Now, here I am. What do you want?”

“I want you to call off your damn dog!” he says, unsuccessfully trying to get around Blake.

“Well, you see, we don’t know who you are or why you’re here, so it’s not very likely that he’s going to heel,” I informed our visitor.

“He’s holding me against my will,” he says. I scoff.

“You show up at my home, demanding to see me and refusing to leave until you do. I’m sure my butler didn’t invite you in because he asked me if he could remove your ass. I’m also sure that you followed him around my house without permission because I could tell by the way he was talking when he called me. Now, you want to say that he held you against your will? Make up your fucking mind!”

He’s shocked that I most likely called him on exactly what happened in my home before I got there. He’s nervous at first, but he recovers very quickly.

He has ammo.

“You’re gonna want to hear what I have to say,” he says cockily. I put my hand on Blake’s shoulder, signaling him to stand down.

“Don’t go anywhere,” I request. He nods and takes a step back. “Make it quick,” I say to my now unwanted visitor. He smirks and looks around.

“Nice digs,” he says. “Nice house in an affluent neighborhood, butler, late model Range Rover. Seems my dad’s money set you up real nice.” I frown.

“Your dad’s money?” I say, shaking my head. Is he the son of one of my clients? I only have two black clients, and I would have fucking remembered if either of them was named Steele. He smiles fiendishly.

“I should say our dad,” he oozes, “even though he really wasn’t your dad.”

Our dad? What the hell? Dad? Dad? Daddy?

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I nearly growl.

“I’m talking about Raymond Steele!” he hisses. “The asshole who got my mother pregnant and left us to rot!”

I sincerely feel like somebody hit me in the chest with a sledgehammer. Nobody has ever said a harsh word to me about my father. My defenses are down, and I don’t know how to react.

“How… did you find out about me… where I live?” I stutter. He scoffs disbelieving.

“I just told you that your so-called father—even though he’s not really your father—deserted me and my mother and all you want to know if how I found out where you live? Are you for real?”

I don’t respond. I don’t know how. I don’t know who this man is or even if he’s who the fuck he says he is, but I don’t have shit to say to him until he tells me how…

Uncle Richard told me where you were,” he says disdainfully, and I can easily tell that he has about as much love for Richard as I do.

“Richard?” I hiss, finding my words. “Richard told you where to find me?”

“Don’t worry your pretty little head, Buffy,” he sneers. “He didn’t know anything about me either. Seems Dear Old Dad just hoped I would disappear.”

I narrow my eyes at this fucker. I’m beginning to hate him more and more. He doesn’t look anything like my father, and I don’t believe a word he’s saying.

“How do I know you’re even who you claim to be?” I seethe angrily. “You don’t look like any of the Steeles to me and my father is not here to defend himself.”

“Well, I have plenty of pictures of my father and my mother together before you were even born! So, even though you may not know who your daddy is, I know who mine is.”

He has no idea how much of a gift he just gave me. The fact that his mother and my father may have been together before I was born means that Daddy didn’t cheat on Mommy.

“Well, whatever your name is…”

Reynard,” he hisses, “but you can call me Ray,” he adds with a sinister smile. The hell I am.

“Well, Reynard,” I spit with all the venom I can muster, “I know who my daddy is because his name is on my birth certificate and my maiden name is Steele.”

“The fuck you say!” he barks. “Richard told me you were adopted!”

“I gives a fuck what Richard told you!” I bark back. “Check vital records, mothafucka, you’ll see my name is Steele. Now, why the fuck are you in my house?”

“I came to claim my share of my father’s money—whatever he left you. I’m entitled to half of it, because he was my father, too.” Now, I laugh loudly.

“Is that what this is about?” I cackle. “Money? Boy, did you come to the wrong place. Daddy was a great man. He was known and loved by many people, but he certainly wasn’t rich.”

“You’re living awfully comfortably, Ana, so Daddums must’ve left you something!” he accuses.

“Well, whatever you think Daddy left me, you better go harass Uncle Richard before he kicks the bucket. Whatever I may have had, Richard took for those couple of years he took care of me—right before he abandoned me. Everything you see here is mine! I worked for it; I paid for it; I own it. So, if you came here looking for a payout, you came to the wrong place, asshole, cuz I have nothing for you.”

He needs to recoil a bit. He sees how Richard lives, and he sees how I live. In his mind, with all the wealth that he’s seeing, there’s no way that after all this time, Daddy didn’t have something that he left behind that this jerk could lay claim to.

“I’m going to drag him through the mud,” he says calmly. “I can see that you love him very much, and I’m going to soil his name so badly that there’ll be no recovering from it. I’m going to tell everybody who’ll listen that Ray Steele had a little Steele that he left to die because his mother wasn’t white and the black baby that he made wasn’t good enough to have a decent life!”

Does it always come down to this? Does it always come down to the black world hating me because a black man wanted me as a daughter? Because a black boy wanted me as a girlfriend? Because another black man is attracted to me? Because I’m white? Is that why Richard deserted me? I’m, once again, extremely angry.

“You slime-sucking piece of shit!” I declare. “You haven’t asked how he died or even where he’s buried. You just show up on my doorstep looking for a damn handout from a man who’s been dead for over twenty years, and you have no fucking idea who he even was!”

“I may not know, but according to you, quite a few people do,” he taunts. I scoff.

“Who do you think he was, the fucking mayor?” I ask. “My father was a Seattle cop. He was loved by everybody who knew him, but he was still just a Seattle cop. You’re just another illegitimate child from somebody’s past, buddy. Nobody’s going to give a fuck about you. I knew my father. I’m sorry for you that you didn’t get a chance to, but I knew my father and he was a wonderful, kind, and generous man. And believe me when I say that nothing you can say now or ever will change that in my eyes or in the eyes of anybody who ever knew him. And you may want to be careful who you go spouting your bullshit to, because you don’t have any proof, and if you go spouting it to the wrong people, they may just squash like the insignificant little bug that you are!”

“I thought you said he was nobody,” he nearly growls.

“I didn’t say he was nobody,” I say. “I said he was a Seattle cop. I also said that he was loved by everybody who knew—in so many words. So, go ahead, do your worst, Reynard, because you’re not going to get a fucking dime from me. Now, get the fuck out of my house.”

“Oh,” he says, folding his arms. “When I wanted to leave, this fucker wouldn’t let me go. Now, I’m supposed to leave because you said so?”

“Yes, sir,” Blake says, stepping between me and Reynard. “Allow me to show you out.”

Reynard stands there looking at him for a moment, a bit incredulously.

“Man, get the fuck outta my way,” he says, moving to brush Blake aside. In less than three seconds, this asshole is pressed against the wall, his arms pinned in a mummy-like pose in one of Blake’s hands with Blake’s other forearm under his chin and precariously close to his neck.

“We’ve played this game already, sir,” Blake says calmly. “Would you like to move to level two?” Reynard struggles a bit against Blake.

“Get the fuck off me, man!” he threatens.

“I’m taking that as a yes, sir,” he says, and I can see him press his arm further against Reynard’s throat. “So that there’s no misunderstanding, I’ll ask again, sir. Would you like to continue this game, or would you like to leave?”

Blake hasn’t broken a sweat, hasn’t raised his voice. Reynard, on the other hand is looking a little pale.

Is he choking him to death?

“I’ll leave,” he squeaks out. Yeah, he was choking him to death!

Blake releases Reynard and shoves him in the direction of the door.

“You haven’t seen the last of me, cracker bitch!” he seethes rubbing his neck.

“For your sake, you better hope I have, you fucking bastard!” I retort. “I’m strapped and I’ll pop a cap in ya ass if you show up at my door again. Then, I’ll give what’s left of you to him and my bodyguard. They’ll need dental records to identify you.”

Reynard’s eyes pierce and he looks at me like a Martian. Blake forcefully shoves him out the door that he opened behind Reynard, who stumbles onto the porch and nearly down the stairs.

“Have a good night, sir,” he says, slamming the door behind him and immediately turning to me.

“Mistress?”

“Another… child,” I pant, putting my hand on my forehead, my adrenaline immediately dropping. “A brother… Daddy… couldn’t have known. He… never would have left…” I crumble to my knees and Blake catches me.

“Mistress…”

“I need… I need to speak to him…” He owes me an explanation. He doesn’t owe me any fucking thing else, but he owes me an explanation.

“Maybe you should rest first, Mistress…”

“I need to talk to him!” I shriek. Blake pauses for a moment, then helps me to the parlor and sits me on the sofa. I’m nearly hyperventilating when several moments later, I hear him dial the phone.

“Is this Richard Steele?” he pauses. “One moment please, sir.” He hands me the phone.

“How!?” I scream. “How could you send that fucker to my home?”

“Anastasia?” he asks, surprised.

“You know who the fuck this is!” I shriek through my tears. “How the fuck could you send that sonofabitch to my home?!” I hear him sigh.

“I’m sorry about this, Ana…”

“Is he my brother?” I scream. “Dammit, is he my father’s son?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I know Ray was seeing his mother years before he met Carla, but I never knew or heard anything about a child.”

“His name is Steele!” I accuse. “How could you not know?”

“What? His name is not Steele. It’s Stamper.” Well, he knows that much.

“How the fuck do you know?” I say through my tears. I hear him sigh.

“Ana, must you curse in every statement you make to me?”

“How the fuck do you know?!” I scream. He pauses, then begins to speak again.

“He came to me a little while back. I had him checked out.” Wha…?

“A little while back,” I squeak incredulously. “A little while…” How long ago? It doesn’t matter. It was long enough to have him checked out.

“I tried to tell you,” he says calmly.

“Like hell, you tried!” I shoot. “You came to me with bullshit, each time trying to get me to bow or give in and listen to your sob stories about why I should forgive you for deserting me. You remember how you callously blurted out that lie that Aunt Sheila was dying, hoping to get a reaction out of me? Well, you should have blurted out the truth instead—that I possibly have a psychotic half-brother looking for me trying to get some of my dead dad’s non-existent money!”

“I wasn’t sure…” he interjects.

“But you knew!” I interrupt, sobbing. “You knew he was vindictive and spiteful. That’s why you had him checked out! You knew Dad didn’t have anything, and if he did, I never got it. You knew that! Why didn’t you tell him that instead of leading him right to my front door? You couldn’t do right by me if your fucking life depended on it! You ditched me when I was 15 and now, I’m 32 and given the second chance, you still threw me to the dogs. And you have the nerve to say that my father would be ashamed of me? Old man, if Daddy was here right now, he’d have you bound, gagged, and publicly flogged in the middle of the Marketplace. Then, he’d shoot you in the knees with his service revolver!”

“Don’t say that about my brother!” he says, threatening.

“I’m not saying that about your brother! I’m saying that about you, you miserable fuck!” I scream. “You’re a wretched excuse for a human being, and I hope you die a miserable fucking death!” I hiss.

“Well, apparently, God agrees with you,” he laments, “because it’s not your Aunt Sheila that’s dying from cancer. It’s me. Stage four metastatic melanoma—the baldness isn’t a fashion statement.”

“You’re late with that news, too, Unc! I already knew. You’re coming into court looking like hell and ill-prepared, having the judge question my ethics and motives—you need to go the fuck home and die!” I curse him.

“Do you really hate me?” he asks, and he sounds a little remorseful. “Do you really hate me that much, Anastasia?”

“With the disdain of a thousand plagues,” I growl. “My only regret at this point was that I wasn’t able to watch you rot! I did everything in my power to forget that you abandoned me! That you left me to die or to be a statistic and I was determined not to let that happen. And I survived! I survived and I succeeded despite what you did to me! And you have a hissy fit because I won’t run into your arms for a warm embrace after seventeen years? And we only met by accident? After all the pain and disappointment you’ve already caused me, you unleash that vermin on me? Lead him right to my fucking door? You are the worst form of subhuman I’ve ever known in my life and I have no idea how a kind, gentle, noble and loving man like Raymond Steele could have ever been related to you. I hope your last days are agonizingly, painfully miserable and I can only hope and pray that on your way to your eternal afterlife, you get one last glimpse of my father so that he can tell you just what a rotten, miserable asshole you really are right before he throws your ass off a cliff to rot in hell!”

I slam the receiver down onto the carriage, heaving with sobs so uncontrollable that I can barely breathe.

“Ana?”

I whizz around to see Kevin standing in the door of my parlor staring at me. Shit. I forgot about our dinner.

“I… I don’t think… I…” My sobbing is so heavy that I can’t get my words out. Nothing on this earth ever upsets me like things that have to do with my parents. Nothing! Now this asshole shows up opening old wounds, looking for money that Daddy never even had. I sink to the floor, my knees unable to hold me up anymore. What is it about the Steele bloodline? Had it just produced a bunch of leeches and monsters with my daddy being the only good egg? Was Daddy like this and I just didn’t know it?

Of course not!

Daddy loved Mommy endlessly, and he showed it all the time. He was a wonderful father to me, and I have nothing but good memories of him. He adopted me and gave me his name. He didn’t have to do that. He married Mommy—that would have been enough for me, but no. He went all the way. He loved me. And he was a good man… a really good man, and I’m not going to let some possible hateful offspring from a relationship—probably even a one-night stand—before he met my mother or some judgmental, heartless asshole of an uncle change my opinion of him.

But to have them spit on his memory like this hurt so badly that I can barely think or breathe. I feel Kevin lift me off the floor and I’m back on the sofa again, weeping in his arms. When did he get here? Did Blake let him in? Where’s Blake?

“Ssshh, ssshh, shh,” he says, rubbing my arms. “Calm down. You’re going to pass out.”

Blake comes in with a glass of water, but I can’t drink anything right now. I can’t even think…

*-*

“So, do you think he’s really… your father’s son?” Kevin says, still sitting on the sofa with me and stroking my arm once I’ve finally calmed down. Blake has retrieved the groceries from the car and prepared some hors d’oeuvres since I was in no condition to cook.

“I don’t know,” I say, my head swimming. “My wretched uncle says he did some kind of background check on him. I’ll do one, too. His name isn’t Steele. I don’t know if he’s really an illegitimate child or just an extortionist.”

“What if he is your dad’s child?” he asks.

“What if he is?” I repeat. “He better go get to know Aunt Sheila and their crew, because he doesn’t mean a damn thing to me. He comes barging in here, asking for money, not even asking about Daddy…”

“Okay, okay,” he says. “I don’t want you to get upset again.” He rubs my arms and I sigh.

“Kevin, what do you think this means?” I ask.

“What what means?” he says.

“This,” I say, gesturing around us. “All this. What do you think this means?” He sighs.

“It means that we’re friends,” he says. “You told me that we’re friends, and I’m okay with us being friends. But I saw you at two very vulnerable moments, which lets me know that you’re not as untouchable and unmovable as you always pretended to be.”

“Kevin…” I protest.

“Do I expect you to change? No,” he interrupts. “What does this mean? It doesn’t mean anything. As long as you are who you are and you gotta do what you gotta do, I’m okay being your friend—but if things ever change, and you need something different in your life… just know that my hat is in the ring.”

“There is no ring, Kevin,” I tell him, slightly frustrated.

“And yet, I’m here,” he says, gently caressing my arm. “If there ever is a ring, my hat is in it.” I shake my head. Give it up, Sheardon. It’s never going to happen.

“This is going to change things between us, Kevin,” I say, sadly.

“I’m a big boy, Ana,” he says. “This changes nothing between us… unless you can’t deal with it.”

I shake my head and pop some cheese into my mouth. A few moments later, Blake comes into the parlor.

“Mistress, I really hate to disturb you, but you have another guest.”

What is this, Grand fucking Central Station?


A/N: The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 84—Adelaide Antics

More Aussie—get over it.

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Dedicating this one to Alexis, who sends me a “thank you” email every time she gets a chapter. I may not always respond, but I see every one of them, my friend. You’re welcome, and thank you for sticking it out with me.

Chapter 84—Adelaide Antics

CHRISTIAN

I’m lying on the bed trying to catch my breath and she’s still playing with my cock. She has made it clear that she’s not done with me yet, so I better get my ass and gear and get ready for round two.

I take a few deep breaths to regain control of my body and try to draw my focus away from my aching dick. My wife playing with it before it’s ready is not necessarily a good thing, but I’m not going to tell her that.

It’s time for mind over matter, Grey. You’ve been here before—being tormented after an orgasm. You can overcome this.

My wife is in tune with me, though, even in this pickled state, and she adjusts her stimulation… gently stroking my balls and playing with my perineum like only she’s allowed to do. It gives my tender head and cock a moment of sweet reprieve, but still adds the sweet stimulation of her gentle hands. I close my eyes and absorb the feeling of my wife touching me as my cock recuperates. A few moments later, I sink into the feeling of her hands on me, stimulating my prostate from the outside.

She looks up at me, demanding, opens her mouth wide and descends upon my balls. I take a deep breath and she sucks them into her mouth. My dick twitches a little, but hasn’t yet revived. She rolls her tongue around the skin, tasting it and never taking her lust-filled blue eyes off of me.

Lick, lick, lick, suck… she’s tasting them, savoring them like candy, and after a minute or two, we have liftoff. When she sees my cock respond to the stimulation, she sucks my balls into her mouth, manipulating them like she’s giving them a blowjob.

“Sssss,” I hiss as she sucks them into her mouth, fellating my testicles like two delicious gumballs right before you devour them. It looks insane and feels even better, and it’s not long before Greystone it staring up at me at attention. He seeps a very tiny bit of grateful moisture from the head and settles back into pleasure, occasionally bobbing his applause at her masterful skills.

I gaze into her commanding blue eyes as I push my pelvis down against the hand still massaging my perineum while she gobbles my balls. Without warning, she takes my cock in her mouth again and I hiss in surprise. She bobs down on it and I can’t help but thrust. Then, she’s up on her knees, nothing touching me but her lips and tongue.

“Good God,” I hiss as I thrust slowly and evenly into her mouth, rolling my hips to keep up with her rhythm. She angles her head at just the right moment in just the right way with each thrust to accommodate the mouth fuck. Her mouth is wet and hot and as I stroke into it, saliva falls amply and provocatively from her lips. I swear if she keeps this up, this show will be over a whole lot sooner than we want.

Fucking hell! What was in that wine?

She grants me reprieve and releases my dick momentarily only to zero in on the head once more. Fucking hell.

She licks the head gently, then purses her lips in the most delicious way and sucks it into her mouth. The skin is still a little pliable and oh, so sensitive and it feels so good. Her puckered lips suck the head, the tightness and pressure never relenting, and now I want to crawl up the bed away from her. Her lips never breach the rim and she’s driving me crazy. When she loosens her lips a bit to allow saliva to run over the head of my dick only to suck it into her mouth and clean the skin again, I nearly break into convulsions.

“I want to make you come like this again,” she says, “but I can’t wait anymore…”

She scurries on top of me and drops down on my rock-hard dick, thrusting it so deep inside of her that I think I feel the opening of her uterus. I’m in elated shock as she just sits atop me, her head back and her eyes closed, her hands flat on my chest.

“Yes!” she breathes, as she flexes and contracts her pussy. “Oh, yes…”

Oh, yes is right! I can’t say it because I’m frozen in pleasure, my hands once again gripping the sheet and my mouth open, looking up at this enchantress and panting like a dog. Do what you wish to me… I’m yours… I don’t care…

She rocks her hips infinitesimally, but she may as well be wobbling like she’s working a hula-hoop! Greystone reaches out in every direction to feel her walls and I can barely function. I watch her lick and bite her lip as she widens the stance of her knees for traction and I’m mesmerized. Her mouth is moving but no words are coming out and she looks ethereal, almost like she’s praying—and this feeling in my cock is heavenly. Her walls are squeezing and grinding against my shaft ever so slightly causing this deliciously infernal burn. The light from behind her is causing a “halo” effect around her and it’s either the remnants of the wine or an extreme pleasure-induced haze, but I swear that God has sent an angel to ride me tonight…

Yeah, it’s the wine, but who the fuck cares?

Her grind intensifies just a bit, a tiny bit of roll and a tiny bit of thrust, and I know that she’s finding the angle that’s hitting that spot. I’m not even here anymore. I’m just that body that’s attached to that dick that’s bringing her to her plateau.

Use me, baby. Fucking use me til you scream…

Her hip roll becomes a steady thrust, short and intense, and her nails dig into my chest. The pain ignites my pleasure center, my balls tighten, and I almost lose it. I grunt loudly, grabbing her knees as she continues to ride me.

Yes… touch me…

I don’t know if she said it out loud, but I heard it. My hands travel up the front of her thighs to her hips, pistoning against mine and working Greystone into a fired frenzy.

“Yes!” she breathes, and I squeeze her hips. Fuck that dick, baby. Ride that cock until you’re dripping all over it.

My hands move up her alabaster skin to her breast. I squeeze her mounds and thumb her taut nipples until they pebble.

“Oh, God,” she keens, her thrusts quickening. She moves her hands from my chest and positions them on the bed on either side of my head.

I can’t play with her breasts anymore. I can’t concentrate… too good… too good…

My hands move to her thighs and clench. I have no choice but to hold on for this masterful ride. She drops her head so that her hair falls forward over my face, reminding me of the very first time she caressed me with her hair. It’s longer now, thicker, and it smells divine, and I swear that I’m slipping into a level of subspace where I’m transcending a bit, my shaft and balls being beaten within an inch of their lives as she’s now thrusting with speed and purpose, fucking me…

Fucking me like a man… like a man would fuck his woman, driving into her balls deep with sweet abandon, feeling her wrap around him over and over again as he pursues sweet release. I’m that man, only I have nothing to do with the fucking. I’m being fucked—ridden like a wild animal.

Her breaths are ragged, driven. Her rhythm is fast and smooth. She doesn’t pump and rock me with each thrust, although the bed rocks violently with our movement. No, her motion is smooth, a groove on and off my dick, the only parts of her moving are her hips as she fucks me and her knees as they open and close on either side of me with each thrust, her feet secure under my thighs anchoring her to my body.

Fuck… oh fuck…

She’s primal as she rides me—fucking feral. I can’t see her face through the mask of her hair over mine, but I know that her eyes are closed, her mind and body concentrating on nothing but riding that dick, nothing but feeling it fill her pussy over and over and over…

I grind my teeth and take in a breath as I feel the orgasm quickly rising in my balls again. She’s not ready, and I can’t go until she does.

With her hands flat on the bed, she moves her hips up and down on my cock with a very controlled and rhythmic bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. With each silent drop, my cock threatens to blow, but I hold that painful nut, waiting… waiting…

She whimpers. Fuck, she whimpers. The sound of her voice turns me on so much. Don’t come, Grey. Fucking hold it…

I squeeze her thighs harder, trying to hold back my climax banging at my balls and demanding to be released.

She whimpers again.
Fuck, she’s killing me here!

She’s bouncing harder, faster, with purpose, her breathing intentional and ragged… Fuck, I’m not going to make it…

“Come! Come!” she hisses heavily. Shit, I hope she was talking to me, because I squeeze her thighs tight and begin to blow fantastically inside of her. Seconds later, she shrieks and begins to tremble on top of me. I grab her breasts as I’m blasting out my insides, pumping all my hopes and dreams inside of my happy place. Her legs tighten on either side of me, her hands clasp over mine on her breasts, and her head falls back, releasing cries of passion as we both ride out our orgasms.

*-*

Sunday has no particular schedule except to be at the airport at 4:30pm to fly back to Seattle. Even though the session last night was hot as fuck, we managed to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Butterfly awakes with only a slight hangover—fortunate, but surprising, considering that she probably consumed her body weight in wine yesterday and enamored several people in the process. However, after a steaming hot shower, another round with the breast pump, and lots of water and some ibuprofen for my libation princess, she’s ready to face the day.

We start with some Facetime with our babies with a promise that they will see us tomorrow night. Minnie’s separation anxiety seems to have gotten a little worse and I must say that I’m glad we’ll be home soon. I shudder to think how badly my babies suffered while I was away from them in Madrid. True, they had their mother, but I wasn’t there… and she was suffering, too. God, I can’t believe I was such an insensitive asshole.

Intent on forgetting about the huge fuck-up I made a few months ago after leaving my wife and children with no word if or when I was coming back home, I aim to have fun with my wife for our last day in Australia. So, we have a hearty breakfast and plan to spend our last day at the Adelaide Zoo. However, after talking to the front desk staff, we decide to go to the Cleland Wildlife Park instead. According to the locals, the Adelaide Zoo is nice, but you’re going to spend most of your day seeing more of the common animals that you would see in any zoo. Cleland is a bit more interactive and entertaining on short notice. We’ll get a chance to connect with and observe the indigenous species of the land in their natural habitat.

Once again, Lawrence shadows us while Jason gets us checked out of the hotel and our bags checked at the airport. He’ll meet us at Cleland with a picnic lunch we secured from a local café and then it’s to the airport with us all to return home.

My wife is looking adorably casual in another pair of skinny blue jeans and a cute T-shirt that’s tied in a knot behind her with a caption that says, “Baked in Seattle.” She’s wearing another pair of sneakers today and says that she just wants to be comfortable walking around the zoo and traveling home. I pretty much mimic her outfit in a T-shirt and jeans, although my shirt doesn’t have a caption.

We enter the park through the gift shop and past the café before we exit out the back of the building and we’re on our way to see the animals.

There are a lot of exhibits, but for the most part, many of the animals roam pretty freely so as to maintain the aspects of their natural habitat. So, it’s very easy to just walk up to them and start feeding them. However, there are some enclosures, and what’s the first one that we see?

You guessed it—the reptile enclosure.

“I don’t want to go in there,” Butterfly protests.

“Don’t be a chicken,” I say. “We don’t even know if we’ll see the same things we saw at the zoo. We’ll probably see something more interesting and exotic.”

“I see snakes on the display, Christian. We will see the same things.”

“Well, then, you know that they’re in cages, and I want to see the snakes.” I enter the reptile enclosure to see what types of exotic animals are on display. Lawrence stays with my wife outside as I take a look around.

It’s probably a good idea that Butterfly stayed outside, because some of the snakes are contained in the displays and some of them are not. Granted, they’re not crawling all over the floor, but they are on displays outside of the glass. I don’t know why I’ve always been a bit fascinated by snakes. Maybe it’s because I’ve always considered myself a bit of an unsavory character—unkind, undeserving of love, maybe even a little wicked—and snakes have historically been associated with evil, like the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden.

There are a few keepers in the reptile enclosure, all near one of the reptiles who aren’t contained. I’m fascinated by the one with this huge greenish snake wrapped around his body. I see that a small child is actually stroking the body of the snake and I walk over to get a closer look.

When I say this damn thing is huge, I mean it’s huge! I have no idea how long it is, but I’m fairly certain that it’s non-venomous if they’re allowing a child to pet it while it’s wrapped around another human being. I’ve only seen two other snakes this big. One is an anaconda and I’m pretty certain this ain’t one of those.

“Is that a Burmese python?” I ask the trainer. That’s the snake that accompanies Selma Hayak’s dance at the strip club in From Dusk Till Dawn.

“Thaht’s a good guess, mayte, but no. This is an olive poython. She can get ta be fordeen feet long and up to 20 kilos in body weight…”

Here’s another example of the varying accents in Australia. He hardly has an accent at all, and not only that, but I also note that he used a metric weight and a standard measure of length.

“Theyse ahr warm weathah poythons that eat really big pry—kangaroos, wallabays, things of thaht soht. This guhl here was actually a breedah for a while, but now she’s here with us.”

She looks strangely majestic wrapped around this guy and I reach out to caress her smooth skin…

“Would ya loike to hold hah?” he asks. I’m taken aback by the question and frown, but I find myself agreeing to hold the ginormous olive python. The keeper shows me how to cradle the snake as he helps her wrap her coils around my body. If you don’t cradle or hold them correctly, they can get hurt, which strangely means that in captivity, we’re more dangerous to them than they are to us.

I’m a tiny bit nervous holding the snake, admiring her texture and how gentle she is, and hearing more facts and statistics about how she came to be in the Adelaide preserve when olive pythons mostly inhabit northern Australia. I’m sort of wishing Butterfly was here with me to take a picture of this, but I’m certain that she’d probably have a coronary if she saw me like this. I don’t know why because it kind of feels like a big hug…

“Christian Trevelyan Grey, what the hell are you doing!?”

Is my mother here?

I raise my gaze to see a tiny and enraged Butterfly glaring at me with her hands on her hips, and the entire reptile enclosure falls silent.

“You have infant twins at home, and you come to Australia and suddenly become Steve Irwin! Have you lost your mind?” she scolds.

“It’s not dangerous, baby,” I say, and I feel like I’m twelve.

“Not dangerous??” she shrieks. “It’s a snake! A very big snake! And I can guarantee that it didn’t get that big by eating mice!”

“Thehr hahmless, ma’am,” the keeper says. “She’s not venomous and she’s gentle as a lamb.” Butterfly throws a glare at the keeper that chills my soul, and I simultaneously throw a glare at Lawrence, who simply shrugs. The shrug says a lot—he couldn’t stop her from coming in, but I’m still miffed at him.

“I thought you were staying outside,” I retort, trying to regain control of the situation.

“You’ve been in here forever,” she counters. “I would like to see the park!”

I haven’t been in here that long… have I?

“Sir,” she says, turning to the keeper, “would you please remove the huge, man-eating reptile from my husband?”

“Yes, ma’am. C’mon, guhl,” the keeper says as he gently begins to uncoil the python from my body and wrap her around his. I can see that he’s unsuccessfully trying to hide his mirth as he retrieves the snake. There’s no use in trying to reason with her right now. She might as well have walked in on me with another woman.

Actually, she did.

She does a military turn to leave and marches towards the door. Just before she gets there, we see a group of children gathered around another keeper. I’m sure we have the exact same thought. What in this room could have children gathered around like that?

She approaches cautiously and stands there, easily able to see over the children and somewhat mesmerized, I must say, by whatever has their attention. I look over her shoulder and the keeper is handling a bearded dragon. I don’t know what has Butterfly so mesmerized, but she is completely entranced. When the keeper asks if she wants to hold it, she extends her hand without even speaking. The keeper places the dragon in her flat palm, and she examines it carefully while the keeper gives us little factoids about it, like the fact that its beard does indeed look like unshaved whiskers and extends fully when he feels threatened.

I snicker at my wife’s obvious double standard and lean in to get a laugh at her expense.

“Mommy, can we keep it?” I whine like one of the children watching my wife, causing them to snicker. It breaks her trance and she looks over her shoulder at me. “You can hold a dragon, but I can’t hold a python.” She sticks her tongue out at me and hands the dragon back to the keeper with a “Thank you.”

“I told you at the zoo that I don’t have problems with lizards. It’s snakes that are my issue,” she says once we clear the door. “And how can you even compare the two? That dragon was twelve inches tops from nose to tail. That snake was ten feet long easily.”

“Fourteen, but who’s counting?” I say, walking past her and looking at the full-sized map since she has the small one.

“You are such an a—ah! Oh, God!” I turn around to see my wife leaping backwards and looking at something on the ground. A large ball of fur is running towards her, and she yelps. And then another. I look at the map and discover that these furry little not-so-adorable creatures are potoroos. Butterfly doesn’t like them too much. As a matter of fact, she could very much do without them.

Potoroos have really long tails and are about the size of a young housecat. When they stand, they resemble very small kangaroos. However, when they run on all fours—which they do more often—they look like very large, really fat rats. They scamper right across the trail as you’re walking by, causing my wife to nearly jump out of her skin when she sees the first one. I’m certain she would have scurried up the nearest tree if she could. Once she sees the first one, she has the displeasure of seeing them scamper all over the park in herds looking for food like giant rats in the sewers of New York. She opts not to feed them, although Lawrence gets a kick out of letting one of them eat from his hand.

A tiny bit of fun never hurt anybody.

A wallaby walks up to us on the trail and Butterfly leans down to feed it. However, a potoroo runs over to partake in the feast and Butterfly is having none of that. So, the poor wallaby has to wait until the next person comes with a treat. No worries, Butterfly. We’ll get a chance to see more wallabies deeper in the park.

Our next stop is the rainbow Lorikeet display. Two of the birds are huddled on the fence together and I swear, they look like their snuggling and making out. The minute one walks down the fence for some room, the other walks right back up to it and continues to rub against the first bird’s feathers.

“Is that how they mate?” I ask Butterfly, who has downloaded the Cleland app to help us identify the animals and get more information on them.

“Maybe,” she says, scrolling through her phone. “They’re mostly monogamous and most of them mate for life. So… these two could be a couple.”

Could be? It looks like one is going to mount the other right here on the fence!

After a quick left turn past the Lorikeets, we arrive at one of three kangaroo habitats—the Kangaroo Island kangaroos. You can walk right up to them and feed them right from your hand. From there we see the swamp wallabies, confirming what I said earlier—that we would get another chance to feed the wallabies without being swamped by what Butterfly so lovingly refers to as “wildlife rats.”

She’ll hold a fancy lizard, but she won’t go near the potoroos… My wife is strange.

Next, we walk through one of the aviaries in the park where we see various species of native birds, water birds, and forest birds and on the other end outside of the aviary, we see the cape barren geese and the emu. I think I remember seeing the emu and some kind of kangaroo at the Seattle Zoo, but I’m not sure. I have to say that I’m getting a kick out of not just seeing the usual suspects as I’m certain we would have had we gone to the Adelaide Zoo instead.

We spend a little time looking at the wombats, but unfortunately, they like to hide in their little dens or holes or whatever you call them. So, they’re not really interested in putting on a show for us. However, it’s a warm day, so the echidnas are out and about on display. They’re these tiny little things that favor miniature porcupines, but when I see them, I swear they remind me of powder puffs—maybe not so puffy, but they still look like powder puffs.

Further into the park are the western grey kangaroos and the yellow-footed flock wallabies. We see the wallabies first, and I mistake them for just more kangaroos, but the locals inform us that wallabies have shorter legs than kangaroos. I only see the difference after they point it out.

A western grey kangaroo with a baby in her pouch comes to eat from my wife’s hand, which is somewhat unusual, we’re told, since kangaroos are extremely protective of their babies. She actually holds onto Butterfly’s hands with one of hers while she eats the feed from her palm. Of course, I must capture that for posterity.

Jason calls us to inform us that he has arrived with our lunch, so we head to the picnic area, intent on saving the Tasmanian Devils and the Koala display for last. More time has passed than we thought as it’s easy to lose yourself in the various species of animals in the park, especially watching them thrive in their own habitat.

“Is it me or does is seem like we haven’t really had any alone time on this trip?” I begin as we tuck into a delicious picnic lunch of Thai salad with beef strips; chicken, avocado, and pesto rolls; a stocked deli and Mediterranean antipasto tray; fruit salad, croissants, sparkling mineral water, bottled water and of course, a bottle of white wine. My wife raises her head slowly and cocks it to the side, gazing at me like a strange animal.

“Well, yes, of course there’s been a lot of fucking,” I acknowledge, “but I just mean out and about.” She begins to load her fork with Thai salad.

“Well, we are in a foreign country,” she replies. “We have to have our security. It’s the nature of the beast—you pointed that out to me. And we’re in a very touristy part of the world. It’s not like we went to a retreat.” She takes the forkful of her salad.

“I know. I guess I kind of expected more ‘gazing at sunsets’ and that sort of thing. Speaking of sunsets…” I pull out the camera and scroll back to the pictures of the sunset that I took at Barossa Valley.

“Christian, these are beautiful,” she says as she scrolls through the pictures, temporarily abandoning her lunch. “Where did you take these?”

“Wine country,” I tell her. “Near the end as we were leaving.” She looks at me and frowns.

“Where was I?” she asks. “How could I have possibly missed this?”

“You were asleep, darling,” I inform her with a smile. The fruits of the land had you knocked out completely. She twists her lips.

“You’re going to rub that in,” she complains, handing me back the camera.

“Not as much as you did last night,” I say before taking a bite of my chicken wrap. The words are out of my mouth before I know it, and I don’t regret it. It’s true. She raises a brow to me and helps herself to some antipasto.

“I made a call a few days ago,” I say. “Remember when I said that I wanted us to have some kind of training when we got back to Seattle?” She nods. “Well, a couple of old, trusted acquaintances got back in touch with me and are willing to set something up for next weekend.” She swallows her food.

“That soon,” she says, picking at her salad. I place my fork on the plate and take her hand.

“Is there any reason why we should wait?” I ask. “We need some formal training.”

“What… exactly is involved in ‘formal training?’” she asks.

“We learn from people with experience how the lifestyle fits into our relationship,” I say, trying not to be too obvious to possible prying ears.

“Hmmm,” she says before turning back to her lunch.

“What?” I ask.

“I’m not sure how I feel about ‘formal training,’” she says. “It brings the Pedo-bitch She-thing to mind.” I twist my lips. I hadn’t thought about that.

“It’s going to be necessary, baby,” I tell her. “We’re going about this the wrong way. We jumped into it with both feet, but we never really knew what the other needed from the relationship. I’m feeling around in the dark for your needs and you’re pushing yourself beyond your limits for mine. That’s totally unacceptable.”

“But… strangers,” she says, trepid, “I realize the importance of assistance, believe me, but the thought of training for something so intimate with outsiders…” She’s shaking her head.

“When you needed guidance, you went to your friend, Michelangelo,” I point out. “This is going to be no different.”

“This is going to be world’s different,” she says, firmly but softly. “Someone’s going to be teaching me how to be a submissive. I remember the BDSM club, Christian, I don’t know if I want anybody to see me like that!”

See her like wha…?

“Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute. I remember the BDSM club, too. I don’t want anybody to see you like that, either! Is that the kind of training you think I mean?”

Her expression softens, a mixture of relief and confusion.

“I tho… well… well, what other kind of training is there?”

I slump back in the chair a bit, my own emotions a bit of relief and amusement.

“Baby, you’re a psychiatrist,” I say softly, leaning in her direction. “You took human sexuality as part of your required studies. You must know that the biggest percentage of the lifestyle is psychological—what you mentally gain from the experience. The physical is an aid; it’s a means to an end. It’s not the meat of the relationship or the lifestyle. You must know that.”

“Well, yes, but…” Just as she begins her protest, I can see one of those three-second-funnels run through her head with a myriad of scenarios and questions and situations and realizations and in just as much time, she says, “You’re right. My mind is totally blowing past that part because it’s wrapped around the physical portion of it. I don’t know how I could have missed it.”

“Because you’re in it,” I point out, stroking the skin on the back of her hand. “It’s the same thing as being able to help someone else face and conquer their fears, but not being as successful about facing your own. It’s a normal human flaw. But now that I understand more clearly, I can tell you. Our training will be all instructional, informational, and verbal. We may take part in an activity or two if it’s required or we desire it, but I don’t want anybody else seeing or touching that beautiful body any more than you do.”

I stroke her cheek with the back of my hand and she physically relaxes. Geez, if she thought for one second that I would want anyone but me exercising any dominance of any kind on her, I’m extremely glad to dispel that theory. Touch my Butterfly? In a pig’s eye! And some other horny Dom watching me spank or flog her so that he can go impose his will on some pain whore somewhere with images of my Butterfly in his head? I think not!

“Yes,” she says, “yes, I think I would like to pursue this… to see… what we need to do to enhance our relationship and… to meet each other’s needs.” She’s choosing her words carefully. I can tell.

“I want to be a good husband, and a good Dom to you,” I say without hesitation or careful choosing of my words. “I want us to come to an agreement of what works for us instead of you feeling like my will must be imposed upon you. When I’ve lost control, I do want you to help me back to where I need to be, but only to the extent of what you can take, not what you think I need. You’re the perfect Domme for me when the time comes—and with very little training—but I’m definitely not the perfect Dom for you… yet.”

“That’s what we’re aiming for?” she asks uncertain. “Perfection?”

“As fucking close as we can get,” I say, bringing her hand to my lips and pressing a gentle kiss on her fingers. She gives me a faint, coy smile.

“I can deal with close,” she says softly.

We finish our lunch talking lightly about the things we plan to do when we get back home, but I can tell that she’s still distracted by the previous content of our conversation. I’ll just have to show her that everything will be better throughout the course of our training. She’s not some mindless, meaningless submissive. She’s my wife, and it’s important that she knows what she means to me—even in that submissive role… especially in that submissive role.

We’re back on the trail to commune with the rest of the animals in the park before we must head to the airport. Our first stop is the red kangaroo area. The kangaroos stick around in groups of two or three—one, occasionally—especially babies with parents. All of the animals are pretty docile and accustomed to human interaction, and the red kangaroo is no exception. I lean down to feed one of them while Butterfly is feeding another. He lies down on the grass in the shade and gets comfortable, forcing me to walk over to him and squat. While he’s chilling under the tree, I extend my open hand with the feed and he just chomps away. I reach up and rub his head, giving him a scratch behind his ear. The freaking diva raises his chin like a dog as if to say, “You missed a spot.” I hear a little giggle and look over at my wife, who’s videotaping my interaction with my latest friend on the digital camera. I give her a good show and scratch him under his neck, since he so obligingly raised his head to give me a better angle.

We continue through the preserve and arrive at the dingoes den. They have a beautiful coat, and amongst themselves, they’re very playful. However, they’re considered “pests” and as an old tale goes, they like to eat babies in Australia. I don’t know how true that is, but according to one of the locals also attending the park, there is a story from the 80’s that a woman named Lindy Chamberlain’s baby mysteriously disappeared while on a camping trip.

Dingoes, like any other animal in the wild, are opportunistic and mostly eat small animals like rabbits and rodents. At the time, the ranger was touting that dingoes in the area were becoming quite aggressive and due to the eating habits and reputation of the dingo, Chamberlain declared that a dingo had eaten her baby. The story is apparently pretty controversial because some people say that dingoes don’t really eat babies. Yet, she lost her baby and blamed a dingo.

Though the infant’s clothing was discovered mangled and bloody about two and a half miles away from the campsite, the child was never found.

The dingo is a carnivorous canine, likened to a reddish-brown wild dog, with a longer snout and sharper teeth. Whether they attack babies or just eat rabbits remains to be seen. However, the pure dingo is an endangered species because of crossbreeding with domestic dogs, so pest or not, the pure dingoes in this habitat are protected.

We finally get to see some real, live Tasmanian devils. The little buggers are tiny little black things that scurry around looking for food or whatever it is they’re looking for. This being my first time ever seeing a live Tasmanian devil, I try to compare it to the cartoon.

“No resemblance,” I say. Butterfly frowns.

“To what?” she asks.

“To the cartoon,” I reply. She pauses for a moment, then laughs loudly.

“Besides the ears, have you ever seen a rabbit that looks like Bugs Bunny?” she asks mirthfully.

She’s got a point.

Many of these devils are very small, but they’ll only get to be just over two feet long at their longest only about 18 pounds. I would say that all of these are less than ten pounds. They can run pretty fast—about 8 miles/hour—and although he’s not leaving utter destruction in his path, this little guy in the enclosure looks like he’s trying to reach that speed as he runs around and around and around in circles while his friends just sit on a rock watching him. I guess the cartoon Tassy is more of a caricature of what the Tasmanian devil should look like, because I see little to no resemblance whatsoever.

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Now, of course, Butterfly has to have the experience of holding a koala. They’re cute and lovable and right up her alley, and they’re actually very strong. My wife adores them. Had I jokingly asked if we could take one home like I did the bearded dragon, I’m certain she would have agreed and demanded that I find a way for us to have a Koala transported to the Crossing. I could see myself trying to convince her that we are not the Neverland Ranch and a koala is not Bubbles. Oh, the arguing with PETA and animal control and the zoning board for keeping an exotic animal in the area…

And I quickly bring my mind back from the tangent.

We pet them for a while and learn about their upbringing and temperament from the keeper while they feed on sprigs with eucalyptus leaves. Finally, Butterfly gets her much-anticipated opportunity to hold the koala. The keeper instructs us to don a smock that’s very soft like velvet or something, almost like the koala’s fir and the same color. We each get the opportunity to hold the koala in our arms and Butterfly is completely stricken. She gets her picture taken with the little guy and I think he’s as stricken with her as she is with him—he won’t release her when it’s my turn to hold him.

We finally come to a compromise and Butterfly pets him while I hold him. That’s the only way that he would settle in my arms! When he finally does, though, he cuddles into me and continues to eat his eucalyptus leaves. Butterfly stays by my side while I take a picture with it to keep the little guy from squirming. It’s like holding a small child—well, not my kids. My kids are cuter, but this little guy is pretty cute, too. We have to be careful while we’re handling them as they have powerful claws and can scratch you pretty badly. That’s why we wore the smocks.

Butterfly is sad to leave the wildlife park, particularly the koala area, but we stop at the gift shop where we buy lots of trinkets and souvenirs as well as copies of our pictures from the Koala experience. Oh, and she purchased several stuffed koalas, too.


ANASTASIA

Traveling to and from Australia means that you can literally be traveling for about 48 hours to three days, if you count swapping planes and layovers. What I can’t understand is if we could fly from Sydney straight to Seattle after a 1 ½-hour layover—which is what we did—why couldn’t we fly from Seattle straight to Sydney? Since I’m not the pilot, it’s a rhetorical question. And since the flight is already done, it’s also a moot point.

There’s a bit of fanfare at the airport when we arrive—not much, but more than I expected since no one knew that we had left the country. I assume that someone else must have been flying out or arriving at SeaTac, and they just got a bonus capturing the Greys.

Boy, was I wrong!

I’m sad to leave Australia and my fuzzy koala friends, but I’m very happy to be home with my bed and my babies, though I can honestly admit that I didn’t miss the snow. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those two little pink bundles when we arrive on Sunday evening, and Gail is right on top of it, handing me Minnie the moment I remove my coat and settle in the family room. Once that order of business is complete, she dives right into the next one.

“Did I correctly see you with a giant snake wrapped around your body?”

Christian and I look at each other and back at her.

“What?” he asks incredulously.

“Either someone has some very good photoshopping skills or there’s a picture circulating around the internet of you with a Burmese python wrapped around your body… in those clothes!” she confirms pointing at him.

“Are you serious?” he asks. “That couldn’t have been a day ago! Did you see any paps around?” he inquires of Jason.

“Um, I was retrieving lunch at the time,” Jason replies, “but Ben didn’t notify me of any press when I got back.”

“Then who took the picture?” I ask.

“It says Renee Schuller took the picture,” Gail says, scrolling through her phone. “She was another visitor at the zoo when she heard someone yell your name. Knowing who you were, she snapped the picture and posted it on her Facebook. It went viral in a matter of an hour.” My husband slowly turns his head to me, and I shrink a bit.

“Well, what did you expect?” I defend. “I walk into a reptile enclosure that I didn’t want to go inside in the first place to find my wayward husband who had spent so much time in there, I thought one of the reptiles had eaten him, and when I get in there, he’s got a god… gosh darn snake wrapped around his body that I discover is over twice as long as he is tall! Yes, I flipped the f… freak out.”

“You called out his name?” Jason asks.

“Yes, I was horrified! He had a frag-nabbit python wrapped around his body!”

“And someone recognized him just because you called out his name?” Gail protests.

“She called out my full name—all three of them—loudly, and somebody knew who I was. I was expecting to turn around and see Grace standing there! Instead, I’m standing there being scolded by my wife trying to convince her that the snake is harmless. Even the keeper was laughing at me. Oh! But not five minutes later, she’s holding a dragon!” All eyes snap to me.

“God, you are so dramatic,” I chastise.

“You were holding a Komodo dragon?” Gail asks surprised.

“No!” I reply, a bit perturbed with my husband. “I was holding a bearded dragon, not a Komodo dragon. Komodo dragons are much bigger than bearded dragons…”

“Yeah, like a hundred and eighty pounds,” Jason points out.

“Exactly!” I say. “I was holding a lizard that was about 10 inches long. He was holding a 14-foot python!”

“And it was an olive python, not a Burmese python,” Christian defends.

“What’s the difference?” I retort.

“About ten feet,” Jason interjects. Christian makes that one-up kind of face, and I just want to punch him.

“Fourteen feet, Christian!” I announce. “Fourteen feet of man-eating reptile wrapped around your body! Exactly how did you expect me to react?”

“I didn’t expect you to be there!” he counters.

“Then you should’ve brought your as… butt out of the reptile cage!” I retort sharply.

“What is this thing you’re doing?” Jason points at me with an open hand. “Gosh darn butt freaking frag-nabbit—what is this?”

“My children are almost a year old which means they’re going to be forming more words which means I don’t want any cursing around my babies.” I announce.

“Yet, you’re cursing me out about a flipping snake,” Christian mumbles, deliberately loud enough for me to hear him. Did I curse once? Did I say even one curse word? One?

“I’m going to hit him,” I say calmly to Jason while pointing to my husband. I’m going to hit him really hard and he may need medical attention.

“Remember, boss,” Jason says, “you have to sleep with her.”

Christian twists his lips but quickly gets the point and goes to the refrigerator.

“Hey! You guys are back!” Chuck comes from the area of the elevator, acknowledging our presence. “It’s been dead here without you,” he says, coming over to the sofa and giving me a kiss on the cheek. “How was Australia?”

“It was an adventure,” I say, somewhat dryly. Chuck sits on the arm of the sofa next to Keri.

“You didn’t have a good time?” he asks, curious. I sigh and kiss my yawning baby girl.

“No, we really had a great time—a couple of adventures here and there, but nothing to write home about… except when someone gets a picture of you and posts it on Facebook.” I twist my lips as Christian comes back into the family room with a Budvar, drinking it straight from the bottle.

“Oh, you saw the picture,” Chuck says. “What did you think?”

“I didn’t see it,” I reply. “I was there!” He turns to Christian.

“What did you think?” Chuck asks.

“I didn’t see it either, but I will,” he says dryly, before taking a drink of his beer.

“Ooookay, so, that’s my cue to shut the hell up,” Chuck says.

“Good idea,” Jason advises, “and watch your language.”

“What did I say?” Chuck says, shrugging.

“Hades,” Jason replies. “Her Highness doesn’t want any cursing around the children since they’ll be picking up words soon.” Chuck nods.

“Will you ever stop calling me Her Highness?” I ask.

“Old habits die hard and you started it, so live with it,” he replies matter-of-factly. I twist my lips and turn to Chuck.

“So, Chuck, tell us about your trip, first. How did things go?” I ask. Chuck sighs.

“Well, I got to see Mom and Dad’s house… not new, but new to me. It’s in Rapid City and it’s really beautiful—four bedrooms and three baths. Mom and Dad don’t need that much room, but they wanted to have room when Sunny and the kids came to visit. It’s a beautiful place and I would have loved to share some of those missed years with them, but…” He trails off and clears his throat.

“You know that we spent the days in court,” he continues, entwining his fingers with Keri’s. “Most of the nights we spent in front of the fireplace with good old-fashioned hot cocoa and marshmallows, going through albums and pictures of old times… and things that I missed—birthday parties, Christmases, Thanksgivings. We had good, home-cooked meals. I mean our meals here are pretty great, but there’s nothing like Mom’s cooking. She made this cabbage soup that she used to make when I was at home. I haven’t had it in forever! And the pan cornbread! Keri had three helpings!” he laughs.

“Eet wahs deleshush!” Keri exclaims, her eyes large. “It wahm an wholesome. ‘S like a huhg from de inside!”

We all laugh, and Chuck continues to tell us how his parents connected with him in their home and in their town, how they saw the sights of the city and even visited Mt. Rushmore. We don’t rush him to talk about the trial. We just let him ramble on for a while about reconnecting with his parents and wanting to go back home to visit more often, now that he actually has a home.

“Joe is a miserable bastard,” he says finally, as if he were saving the worst for last. “He sees what he’s done, and he knows what he’s done. He just doesn’t care. He found a way to make himself the victim the entire time. He told the court about my drinking, my terrible behavior—you know, destroying his wedding and stuff—and how he was desperately trying to protect his parents from my toxicity. It was like he had a catalog of every terrible thing I had ever done when I was drunk. If I were on the outside looking in, I would have taken his side, too.”

“So… what happened? Did he win?” Jason asks. Chuck purses his lips.

“We had an uphill battle, me and mom,” Chuck says. “We had to prove that we had lost something besides time in order for it to be an actionable case. Joe spent months preparing for this case. Every bit of my dirty laundry has been aired in South Dakota… the cars I wrecked, the wedding I destroyed, the break-ups I’ve had—if I stole a pack of gum, it’s now on the court record. At first, everybody was looking at me like I was a criminal, but when we got a chance to speak…”

He clears his throat again and has to regain his countenance a bit. It’s obviously hard for him to talk about it, and now I can see why he waited to discuss it.

“Joe talked for the whole first day, which I thought was strange since he was the defendant. He had all kinds of convincing evidence as to why he felt like I shouldn’t be allowed contact with my parents. He looked like the perfect, simple little country boy just trying to protect his ‘maw and paw’ while I went off to the city to live a fast life and get drunk. He even used our accident against me,” Chuck says, looking at me, “claiming that he came to Seattle to see me last year only to find me laid up, busted, and broken after having an accident from driving while drunk. I looked like Satan when he was done. I didn’t even want to take the stand. We went to a restaurant that night for dinner, and they wouldn’t even serve us!”

He shakes his head while Christian and I exchange a glance. He tried to use my accident to gain ground for his selfish actions—that unfeeling asshole!

“I came back to the house that night, and I told Mom that I didn’t think it was worth it. I would be coming back to Seattle at the end of the week and I would never have to see that town or him again if I didn’t want to, but they have to live there. Mom wouldn’t let me quit. She told me that he stole something very valuable from us and that if we didn’t see this through, win or lose, that he would automatically win. Then Keri gave me a pep talk and pretty much said the same thing Mom said. All I had was the truth—I didn’t have a mountain of memories and journal entries to spill in front of the court. I didn’t know how effective I would be.

“We went to court the next day and got the surprise of our lives. With a town full of angry ass people staring at me, I took the stand. Mom’s lawyer asked me questions, and I told my side. I didn’t deny anything he said. I owned up to everything that I did, except I wouldn’t let him use that accident against me. I told the court about the car that T-boned us and that anyone who wanted to know what happened in that accident could Google my name, the date, and that accident in Seattle and get the truth.”

“Did they do that?” I ask.

“Most of the court was on the phone while I was still testifying,” he responds. “That’s when the tide changed.”

Jesus, I’m glad to hear that! I’m sitting on the edge of my seat—literally—waiting to hear the rest of what happened.

“With one statement and in a matter of about a minute, I had established Joe as a liar and even worse, an opportunist. He not only lied about me and the accident, but he tried to use it against me to his advantage in a court of law, which is perjury. To keep him out of jail, his lawyer recalled him to the stand where he testified that he didn’t intentionally lie on me; he just didn’t have all the facts. With my history and seeing me laid up from a car accident, of course he assumed I was driving drunk. The judge opted not to charge him with perjury, but the damage was already done.

“I told the court about my time in rehab and AA; the years of trying to get in touch with my parents and how he destroyed all my letters; thinking that they hated me and never wanted to see me again; doing my tours of duty and coming back and joining a private security force; getting into that terrible accident that almost killed me; only being able to reach my parents because I had a wealthy boss who tracked them down after Joe came to see me asking for money for them and told me that they still wanted nothing to do with me; having an entire family all across the country that didn’t even know I was alive… I’d say the tide shifted pretty strongly.

“Mom had a plan… a big one. Never try to pull one over on your mother. She’ll get you every time.” He chuckles and shakes his head.

“My family came from everywhere!” he says, “not all of them, but a lot of them. They all talked about watching my mother suffer, about the years she spent researching and following dry trails and trying to track me down, waiting for a phone call or something in the mail to tell her something, anything, any tiny bit of hope. Mom had been searching for years trying to find me—trying to get me some help if that’s what I needed—and all the time, I was okay. I was in full recovery and living a healthy life. What Joe did wasn’t just selfish. It was cruel.

“Three days of nothing but solid testimony against my brother—hours and hours of recounting all the stories he told and the lengths he went to in order to ensure that I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with anybody and that nobody would be able to get in touch with me. Christian, as horrible as it was, had that car not nearly killed me, I never would have found my family, and they never would have found me.

“The parade of people that came through that courtroom talking about how my mother suffered, what she went through and what she did—they laid a foundation for her, and she got on that stand and cinched the deal.

“Mom had records—money that she paid for internet searches and background checks—nothing that panned out because she was using amateur resources and by the time she was searching for me, I was already in the service. After I didn’t hear anything from them, I moved on with my life. Jay called me about this great opportunity, I came to Seattle, and that was that… but Mom, she now had to deal with what she accepted as the death of her son and was going through therapy… money trail.”

I see where he’s going with this. They’re suing for slander and defamation of character, but he didn’t want money—he never did. He just wanted somebody to tell Joe that he was wrong, but you don’t get that kind of satisfaction in civil court. There has to be something lost—like I lost wages when David kidnapped me, and I lost money when that Keystone Cop took my credit cards—that can result in a need for restitution and possibly be a catalyst for punitive damages. Maddie produced that loss. Now, they had a real case.

“Joe had tried to make the therapy seem like it was my fault for disappearing. It didn’t float. Even his ex-wife showed up in court talking about how obsessed he was with keeping me and my parents apart even before she left him. In the end, he lost.”

Those were the words I was waiting for.

“He lost the case?” I confirm. “You won?” Chuck nods.

“Mom showed a monetary loss and had records and witnesses to prove it. I didn’t really show a monetary loss except for the stamps on the letters he destroyed. But when I mentioned the wealthy boss who tracked my parents down, there’s an expense that can be tracked… and it was enough.”

“So, what happened?” I ask, anxious to hear Joe’s fate.

“The jury found in our favor,” he says. “They awarded us one of the weirdest settlements I’ve ever seen in my life. Joe has to pay me and my mom a dollar a week… every week… for life!”

“What?” I ask, a bit surprised as well as a bit appalled.

“Yep, and if he misses a payment, he’ll be held in contempt of court and arrested.”

“You’re kidding,” Christian says.

“I’m not,” Chuck replies. “He can’t file bankruptcy to discharge it, because it’s something that he can pay. There’s no hardship. Even if he had other debts that he couldn’t pay, this one still couldn’t be discharged. He is locked in. If he doesn’t make the payments, he’ll be held in contempt of court and then have to do jail time. Then he’ll have to pay fines when he gets out and he’ll still have to pay our restitution. The only way that he can get out of this is to leave the state, but even that has its repercussions. He would still have to make the payments wherever he goes and if he doesn’t and the court finds out, there’ll be a warrant issued for his arrest and he’ll be a fugitive. He’s locked in.”

“How did things end?” Jason asks. “I mean, I know you had to have something to say.”

“I told him to never darken my door again and forget that I’m alive except when he has to write my check. Then I let him know that every penny that he gives me is going to a local alcohol rehab program so that more people can be success stories like me.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Fifty-two dollars a year—that hardly seems like compensation for what you lost.”

“Can you really put a price on what he did to me?” Chuck says. “To my family? They thought I was dead… my mom thought I was dead. He knew I was alive… and well. He knew I had gone through rehab. He knew I was in the military. He knew, but he was holding this anger for what I did at his wedding, and subsequently somehow blamed me for ruining his life. My mother can’t stand not to speak to him because that’s her son, and I wouldn’t expect it to be any other way, but what he did to us is immeasurable.

“I think the judge did the right thing, because assigning a specific dollar amount would have been an insult. Yet, by saying, ‘Send them a dollar a week every week for life…’ you don’t know when that’s going to end, so there’s no set dollar amount on that. Plus, he’ll never forget. He’ll never forget what he did to us and why he has to pay for it, even if it’s just a dollar. He was wrong. He was very wrong, and somebody in authority confirmed that. Somebody told him he was wrong, and he can’t take out a loan or hock his drawers and pay off the debt and call it even. It’ll never be even. What he did to us will never be even! Yeah, I think the judge did the right thing.”

He takes a deep breath and lets it out while Keri rubs his back.

“Mom surprised me, though,” he says once he’s calm again. “She kissed him in the middle of the courtroom right after the verdict in front of everybody. She told him that she loved him, but that she must have failed somewhere as a mother. She told him that if he doesn’t pay that dollar every week to me and to her like the judge ordered that contempt of court wouldn’t be his only problem. She said that $2 a week was the very least that he could do after what he put his family through, and that if he couldn’t do that, she would never speak to him again. She said that she has unconditionally given the last fifteen years to him and that she was giving the rest to me, and he could be a part of it, or he doesn’t have to. It’s his choice. And then we left.”

“Wow… talk about courtroom drama,” I say.

“I feel so bad for Joe,” Chuck says. I almost hurt myself rubbernecking over to him.

“Why in the he… heck do you feel bad for Joe?” Christian asks

“Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying he didn’t deserve what he got, but I do feel sorry for him. I don’t know if he has any friends, but he’s alienated his family to the degree that I don’t think it can ever be fixed. I’m his brother. No matter what happened in our lives, I’m still his brother, and look what he did to me. Look what he did to my mom and dad. Nobody’s ever going to trust him again.

“I was under the influence of a controlling drug that I let go of and never touched again. He did this with sound mind and body. He has no excuse. I can forgive him for what he did to me. I really can. I can’t forgive what he did to my mom and dad.”

He shakes his head again and the room falls silent.

“So, on another note, my parents are going to spend an early Christmas with Sunny and the kids, and then, they’re coming here and staying through the New Year. I had a feeling you wouldn’t mind if they stayed here, but they can stay at my place in Bainbridge if it’s an imposition.” His face is alight again with joy, talking about his parents coming for Christmas.

“Now you know better than that,” Christian scolds. “Find out what would make them more comfortable. I’m fine with whatever they want to do.”

“When will they arrive?” I ask.

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll have to get the Bainbridge house cleaned for their arrival just in case,” he says. “Now, enough about me. I want to hear about the trip. I’ve never been to Australia. Jason, what do you think of Sophie’s new look?”

Jason frowns and Gail drops her head.

“Dammit, Chuck, thanks a lot!” she exclaims. I look down at Minnie and she’s asleep in my arms. Mikey is out cold in the Pack-n-Play. Crisis averted. Gail didn’t even notice.

“What new look?” Jason asks. Gail shakes her head and takes out her phone. She swipes the screen and enters something into it. Jason reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone.

“What the fuck!?” he yells.

And two babies are startled and crying.

“God! Thanks, Jason!” I declare and try to get Minnie to settle while Christian retrieves Mikey and gently begins to sooth him. Jason is unfazed, at least by my scolding.

“Gail, what the hell?” he hisses quietly through his teeth.

“She wanted to try something different,” Gail defends. Did she shave her head? Oh, dear God…

“What’s wrong? What is it?” I ask, praying that she didn’t follow Harmony’s lead and scalp herself.

“Purple!” he barks at me. “Her hair is purple! She looks like one of those rainbow horses you used to see in those cartoons! Who’s idea was this?”

0c92ef8bcafa0f5da9440b78ed459cb6And now I’m trying to suppress a laugh. The hormonal, emotional teenage girl dyed her hair purple. Worse things have happened.

“Calm down, Jason. It’s a rinse,” Gail chastises. “It’ll be gone in about three shampoos and then she’ll probably be green.”

“Oh, God,” Jason laments. “Please don’t let child services see her. They’ll probably take her away from me.”

“Um, Jason,” I say, “child services removes a child from abusive and dangerous situations, not because she dyed her hair purple.” He sighs heavily and rolls his eyes.

“This is just a phase, right? Tell me this is a phase. I hope this is a phase…”

“Oh, for God’s sake, man, stop being so dramatic. What are you going to do when she brings home a boyfriend?” Gail chides. I raise a brow and turn to Jason.

“Ugh,” he groans, puts his hand on his forehead, and turns away. Gail and I chuckle quietly, and I just shake my head. She’s already in that stage, Jay. You better prepare yourself.


A/N: The way that this picture was previously labeled in Pinterest made me think I might have made young Sophie’s hair purple before. I don’t think I did, but just in case, someone let me know if I did.

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~~love and handcuffs