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 88—Coming Around the Stretch
Of course, something about me would send him into a rage. Was it the tight ass comment, the fact that they said I was holding out on him, or the fact that they were talking about me at all? Either way, Iron Fist Grey was able to flex his iron muscles.
“Excuse me,” I say, deciding to go to the kitchen to see what’s holding dinner up now that His Highness has finally joined us.
“Ana, what are you doing in here?” Gail says, pausing from feeding Mikey his dinner.
“Just coming to see if you all need any help,” I say. “I know that waiting for Christian threw our clock off a bit.”
“Ya fehd Minneh,” Keri says. “We gawt the bebbies. I hep wit da dinnah ef dey need…”
“She’s escaping, Keri,” Gail says, wiping her hands and handing Mikey’s spoon and bowl to a confused Keri. “Come with me,” she says, guiding me into the family room where Jason and Chuck are watching television. They look up at me and no doubt wonder why I’m being led into the family room when we have guests in the dining room.
“You’re going to need to be a tough soldier for the next few days,” Gail says with her hands on my arms near my shoulders. “He’s going to take at least that long to find his center. If it’s too much for you, nobody will blame you for being scarce or hiding out. It’ll be easier for him—and for you—if you can help him ride it out, though. No matter how he tries, he’ll never be able to be the asshole that he once was, but he’s going to give it the old college try, and it’s going to be rough until he finds the formula that works for him. You may need a moment or three to yourself throughout this time, just don’t run away. Remember the Vampire Lestat you found when you returned from Montana?”
I shiver when I recall how dead he looked walking into the penthouse that day. It was the creepiest thing I had ever seen… well, second only to that room where I was chained to the bed for four days. Why the fuck did that come to mind? I quickly shake off the memory.
“That’s who he’ll become if you disappear,” she warns. I shake my head.
“Let’s… just get dinner started,” I say. The dinner guests have opened the floor to Lestat and I don’t think I can take much more of hearing about his day tonight.
By the time we get the chicken cordon bleu and sides plated, the conversation has thankfully shifted to something else. I place his plate in front of him and take my seat to his right.
“You okay?” he asks quietly while everyone else is being distracted by dinner.
“Mm-hmm,” I say quickly, placing my napkin on my lap and preparing to eat my dinner. “Elliot, has Grace said anything about Christmas?” I ask. Elliot shakes his head.
“I assumed that we were all going over there like we normally do,” he says. “Did something happen?” I shake my head.
“I just hadn’t heard anything,” I say, trying not to open a can of worms.
“Are you guys still fighting?” he asks. “Since Thanksgiving?”
“No,” I reply. “We’re not fighting anymore.”
“You made up?” he asks. I twist my lips.
“More like called a truce,” I say. His brow rises.
“Oh,” he says. “That’s why you wanted to know if anything had changed.” I nod.
“Yeah… I wasn’t so sure,” I admit.
“If I know my mom, she expects everyone to be there for Christmas,” he says softly.
“Yeah,” Val chimes in. “She even welcomed me when Meg had control of my brain. I’m sure she expects you to be there.”
I don’t say anything. I get the feeling that Grace is just tolerating me right now because I’m what’s good for the Center. It seems like every time something goes wrong, it has to do with me and her. With everything that’s been going on in my life, it’s a battle that I just don’t have the strength to fight. I’m looking for simple, not more complicated.
“So did Al tell you guys the news?” I say, and I have everyone’s attention. “I’m going to trial in February. I’ll finally be able to tell my story against those Green Valley bastards.”
“Really?” Christian says, looking over at Al. “How did I miss this information?”
“You were a bit distracted today,” Al says unapologetically. “Besides, I knew that we were coming over today and that you would find out about it tonight.” Christian nods and tucks into his chicken. I keep the conversation going on the upcoming trial.
“One of the defendants took a plea last year—or whenever it was—to keep from having to go to trial. Two others—the main ring leaders—took pleas as well to turn state’s evidence against anyone else who comes to trial. So, now, someone’s coming to trial and these assholes get to testify, making good on their plea deal.” I take a bite of my chicken. Mmm, it’s really delicious.
“So, who’s going to trial?” Elliot asks. I look over at Al.
“Vincent Sullivan,” he replies. “He’s…” He clears his throat. “He’s one of the guys who… branded her.”
I don’t stop chewing even though the Bitch is fighting not to hurl. I have to face these people in court. I’m not going to let them see me sweat, so I might as well start practicing now.
“When are you going to Vegas?” Val asks. “When is the trial?”
“February 2nd,” Al replies. “The papers in Vegas are already on fire with the story… and some not-so-flattering assumptions about my girl.” My head pops up. I didn’t know that.
“Assumptions like what?” I ask. Al’s ears turn red. He thought I knew.
“Just people talking shit, Jewel. Don’t pay it any attention,” he says, trying to downplay it.
“You just said Vegas is on fire with the story and now you’re telling me not to pay it any attention?” I ask.
“What kind of shit?” Christian says firmly. Al rolls his eyes.
“The same shit they’re always talking,” he says, “that she’s a pampered princess that’s just trying to get attention and now that she has money, she just wants to get revenge on a group of kids for some harmless teasing.”
Don’t blow your top, Ana. Keep cool.
“Harmless teasing?” Christian nearly roars. “They call what they did to her ‘harmless teasing?’ Are they out of their fucking minds?”
“Oh, good grief,” I say, after swallowing my food. “The evidence is horrendously graphic, and it’ll speak for itself. Let them say whatever the hell they want.” I’m sipping this cranberry spritzer and it’s pissing me off. I want a shot of vodka!
“Okay, so, that’s enough of that,” Val says, quickly sensing my tension. “We came over to talk about my godchildren. Why the hell you two think you’ll kick the bucket at the same time is beyond me, but let’s get on with it.”
“It’s not that we think we’ll die at the same time,” Christian says. “It’s just that we’ve realized that we didn’t have provisions for our children in case something happens to us. We’re certain that no one would fight over the kids, but in the unlikely event that we both depart, we just want things to be… in order.”
“What brought this on, Bro?” Elliot asks.
“Watching Tina’s children act like savages after she died and realizing that we didn’t have a will,” I answer, and I’ve had enough of this damn spritzer. “Gail!” I yell. She comes scrambling into the dining room.
“What? What is it?” she asks, frantically.
“I’m sorry,” I say immediately. “That was a bit dramatic. Please forgive me. Would you uncork a Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc?” She raises a knowing brow at me.
“Coming right up,” she says and walks out of the kitchen.
“Continue,” I say, turning back to my meal and ignoring the gawking faces at the table.
“So, are you saying that whomever gets the kids will suddenly become billionaires?” Elliot asks.
“That’s a possibility,” Christian says. “As you know, our children will be very well provided for, and even though our entire fortune wouldn’t pass down to them upon our demise, whomever takes them on will be pretty much set as their caregivers. There will, of course, be large trusts for when they become adults. But let’s face it, if I were to retire right now and travel the world every day of my life, I would still have money to burn for decades to come. So, of course, I want my children to be cared for if something happens to me.”
“So, what’s the idea?” Val asks. “The children’s care will be written into your will?”
“Definitely,” he replies. “If something happens to me and Butterfly before they reach 18, definite provisions will be made for their care and custody. And that’s where you guys come in.”
“Well, there’s two kids and two couples, but… there’s no way I would want to split them up,” Val says.
“Ditto,” Al replies. “If something that horrible was to happen, they would already be traumatized enough with losing their mom and dad. They would never recover.”
“So, what do you suggest we do?” Elliot says. Val and Al ponder the situation, and I’m sure that neither of them wants to raise their hand to be first in line for fear of hurting the other. Val comes up with the tiebreaker.
“El and I will have our own bundle of joy soon. I think it would just be greedy for us to ask for first-standing with Minnie and Mikey if something happens to you guys, heaven forbid.” Elliot twists his lips and nods.
“I have to agree,” he says. “It’s not like you’re going to take my niece and nephew and skip town.”
“Are you kiddin’?” Al exclaims. “If something happens to Chris and Jewel, I’m gonna have a little girl on my hands. I’m going to have your ass on speed dial!” he says to Val.
“Well, then that settles it,” Val says. “If something happens to you guys—and by the way, nothing’s going to happen to you guys—Al and James become daddies and El and I will be happy back-ups. Is everybody cool with that?” James and Al look at each other and James nods. Elliot is nodding, too.
“Good,” I say. “I know this is the whole reason we called this tête-à-tête, but I would very much like to stop talking about my demise now… and where’s my wine?”
“It’s here,” Gail says, entering the room with Windsor behind her. “I was just letting it breathe.”
“Good,” I say, noting the large-bowl wine glasses. “Sorry, Val, but I need this.”
“Don’t mind me,” she says, holding up her cranberry spritzer, Windsor pours me a respectable amount in my glass and I almost want to hit him.
“Um, you might want to keep pouring, Benson,” Al says.
“His name is Windsor,” I correct him. “Don’t be a queen, Al.” I turn to Windsor. “Please?” I say holding up my glass. Windsor fills it to nearly 75% and I thank him. He goes to fill the other glasses and Al informs him that only he and I would be drinking the red. The gentlemen would most likely want the white.
“I’m sorry if I offended you,” he says to Windsor. “I can be a jerk, but I’m not an asshole.”
“No offense taken, sir,” Windsor says. I don’t know if he’s offended or not, but he wouldn’t show it if he was, consummate professional that he is.
My glass is empty in no time and Windsor is refilling it before I even ask. Iron Fist Grey, the Green Valley nightmare, and my imminent demise all in one conversation… It’s a bit much for one evening.
“You okay, Ana?” Val asks. I nod without looking at anyone.
“Mmhmm,” I say, swallowing more of my wine. Cabernet is the answer to all the world’s problems and I’m going to sit here and drink until I have answers to mine.
Once the evening winds down, I’ve killed three large-bowl glasses of Cabernet and I notice that people are careful what they say to me if they venture to say anything at all. I say my goodnights to everyone once they’ve had coffee and Christian heads to the door to show everyone out. I head upstairs and don some exercise gear. Before he has the chance to get away from the door, I’m across the house and in the elevator. When I get down to the exercise room, I murder the elliptical until my arms and legs ache and I’m swimming in sweat. I just want to fall into a coma-like sleep and forget this day. Tomorrow is a do-over and I’m hoping that it’s going to be much better than this.
My husband, the asshole—who can’t shed the asshole before he gets home. I know that I’ve understood and labeled the Boogieman, but are we ready for this kind of test?
Once I’ve beaten myself all to hell and my muscles all feel like rubber, I abandon the elliptical and go to my room. I run a bath in my marble tub and climb in quickly so that my muscles won’t lock. It feels really good and I’m hoping to fall asleep the moment I get out of the tub…
“Butterfly… wake up.”
I open my eyes, still in the tub. The bubbles have dissipated, and the water is cold. I look up at my husband, my eyes questioning.
“It’s about 3am,” he says. “You fell asleep. I assume you were pretty tired after you climbed Mt. Rushmore, but had I thought you’d be napping in the tub, I would have come to check on you sooner.”
Wouldn’t you know it? At three in the morning, my docile Christian finally returns after still being a bear at nine at night. So, now what? He’ll go to sleep and wake at six to gradually go into bear mode again? To be that cold soul I had breakfast with yesterday? What should I do—swap my schedule so that I’m awake in the middle of the night to spend some time with the man I’ve come to know?
“What are you thinking?” he asks. Do I tell him? Do I say that I don’t know how to be married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that, by the way, I spent my entire college tenure wondering which one was really the crazy one and which one was sane?
“That this water is cold, and I feel like a saturated, useless sponge at the moment.” It’s true. He retrieves a bath towel and opens it. Tossing it over his arm, he extends his hand to help me out of the tub. I drag my waterlogged ass out of the tub, and he wraps me in the bath towel. My hair is wet even though I didn’t wash it and I don’t feel like dealing with it in any capacity right now.
He carries me to the bedroom wrapped in the bath towel, sits me on the bed, and begins to dry my skin. I try to accommodate him, but I’m just too tired to sit up. I lay down on the pillow, wet hair and all, and allow him to finish drying my body. I must have drifted off to sleep because I awake with him gently sucking my nipple. It feels so good, but I’m so tired.
“Christian…” I protest.
“I need you,” he replies, his intense gray eyes meeting my sleepy blues. I surrender and allow him to do what he wants. It’s not like I have the strength to protest anyway.
Mr. Grey works his usual magic, working my body into a fevered frenzy with his hands and mouth before mounting me.
And, dear Lord, does he mount me!
He pushes my legs open and thrusts into me—hard! My upper body rises off the bed and he grabs both my wrists and pins them down on the sides of my head to prevent my escape. He’s grinding and stroking into me mercilessly, with force and purpose. I can’t move anything. My hips are pinned down by his forceful motion and his hands are clasped to my wrists, fastening them to the bed. His eyes are silver fire, staring down at me as he thrusts into me, my ladyparts completely open and at his mercy. I see torment and passion in his eyes at the same time and my entire body rolls with each thrust. I’m helpless to fight him when he says…
“Don’t come yet.”
“I… I can’t… Christian!”
I detonate in orgasm, my entire pelvis flexing painfully. I cry out from the intense pressure and vibration, but he just keeps pounding.
“Christian… please…” but he’s gone. He sees me… but I think his mind is somewhere else. He grinds and rolls his hips and begins to stimulate me again. I groan in my chest, knowing what’s coming.
“Christian…” I breathe.
“Feel it!” he nearly growls.
And feel it, I do. His dick is wide and demanding, and he’s thrusting deep, rhythmic strokes as if he’s digging for buried treasure—forceful and intensive, still holding my hands down and still looking in my eyes. Shit, I feel it in my chest.
“Oh, God,” I groan, the ecstasy and agony almost too much to bear. I feel the force of his weight on my wrists, but he’s using his knees for leverage, occasionally stretching his lips and making primal noises in his throat and chest. His pecks are flexed, and I can see the top of his eight-pack abs, both sets of muscles beginning to glisten with sweat.
I’m wrung out, only able to lie there and take what he’s dishing out. My body is on fire and after several minutes of intense manipulation, the heat reaches into my core again. I think I hear him say something, but the resulting orgasm is ringing in my ears and blocking out all light and sound. I feel myself struggling under his grasp, but not to get away, just from the intensity of the climax.
I’m wheezing when the second one wanes, but the fucking nymph in me just won’t tap out. My body is shattered, wracked from exhaustion and intense orgasms, but the little inner whore is naked, squatting on the bed salivating and cheering me on.
No, hoe, I’m tired!
But neither she nor my husband can hear me. He’s still stroking like this marathon has just begun, and the inner whore is squatting behind him encouraging like a coxswain…
“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! Stroke…”
“Christian…” I whimper.
“You can do it,” he hisses.
No, I can’t!
The inner whore is nodding feverishly and if I could move, I’d throw something at her head and knock her ass unconscious. Christian must be hearing her.
“Please…” I beg.
“One more!” he commands and keeps stroking into my core. I’m certain that no matter what he and my inner whore says, I don’t have one more in me.
Somebody forgot to tell my pussy.
A few minutes later, my crotch it on fire again. He feels different inside me—not wide, but his ministrations are leaving no area untouched. Dear God, his cock is so hard… so hard and stroking every wall inside me, every secret spot…
“That’s it… give me one more! I need one more!”
He needs it? Why does he need it? It doesn’t matter, because my body obeys his command and gives him the third orgasm he demands. I’m covered in both our sweat as my core vibrates angrily in a final crippling showdown. I can’t scream as the pleasure—and exhaustion—has snatched my voice away, and I can’t move as most of my muscles are locked in the orgasm.
My husband grunts and thrusts and I feel his legs stiffen, but he continues to grind into me a few more times until I hear an inhuman sound rip from his chest. I open my eyes to see him just as he expresses his climax. He stretches his body backward and straightens, his chest and head up like a wolf howling at the moon. My core is still pulsing around him and he jerks with each flex, his entire body stiff, sweating, and trembling.
If I wasn’t so fucking tired, the sight would turn me on again.
My body falls completely limp as he finally drops his head, sweat dripping from his hair and face, panting and gasping to catch his breath, his arms straight, his muscles bulging, his hands still clasped at my wrists.
I’m wiped out while he’s catching his breath, I can’t even keep my eyes open anymore…
When I’m semi-conscious again, he’s coiled around me, spooning me and kissing my back over and over again. I fall back into a deep sleep.
I didn’t hear him leave. I was worn out from the morning’s exertions and quite frankly, I’d rather not be greeted by the morning bear anyway. I roll over and stretch, trying to pop the kinks out of my muscles. I had a double workout last night—first the elliptical, and then Christian and his trifecta of orgasms. I can barely get out of bed.
I take a quick shower since I smell like sweat and sex and quickly get dressed in something simple—a white button-down shirt with black pants and Chanel suspenders with black and white stilettos. When I look in the mirror, my hair looks like toddlers have been playing in it.
No amount of combing and brushing is helping it, so I put it in two wild and sad looking braids and put a hat on it for the day, Odd for me, but I just don’t have the strength to fight with it.
Strange… I actually look ten years younger.
I stop by the nursery to see that my children are asleep and decide that I’ll let them stay home today. I stop by the kitchen to make myself a strawberry and cream cheese bagel and to grab a black coffee to go.
“Are you in a hurry?” Gail asks. I’m chewing my bagel and looking at my phone.
“I slept longer than I intended,” I say, looking at my watch and noting the time. “I need to get going and make sure everything is moving along for the new semester. Plus, I have some calls to make and some interviews to do this afternoon.”
“Busy day, huh?” she asks.
“Yes,” I reply, eating the last of my bagel, “that’s why I didn’t intend to sleep in so late.” I text Chuck to meet me at the car so that we can get going.
“The twins are staying,” I add as I’m leaving. “I can’t breastfeed for 24 hours anyway. Call me if you need me!” I wave behind me and head out to the mudroom.
“New look?” Courtney asks when I get to the Center.
“Bad hair day,” I admit. “I must have been insane to wear stilettos today. My feet are freezing.”
“Uh, yeah,” Courtney comments. “It’s all wet and slushy. You’re going to ruin your shoes and freeze your toes.” I shake my head.
“What’s on my calendar today?” I ask, stomping my feet to warm my toes.
“You’ve got the interviews for housekeeping this afternoon, and you told me to remind you to call Ms. Sherwood from the cleaning company. Are you going to have her train the new employees?”
“Hell, no,” I say, taking a seat at my desk. “I had to watch that woman like a hawk the entire time her company was here. There’s no way in hell I’d let her train new staff to do the same thing they were doing. Besides, they’re contracted so they most likely wouldn’t do it anyway.” Courtney twists her lips.
“Yeah, there is that,” she says.
“How are classes going?” I ask.
“Pretty good,” she says, “except that there was a pop-quiz in Psych 101 yesterday. Who gives a pop quiz right before Christmas?” She shakes her head and I laugh.
“Welcome to the wonderful world of higher education,” I tease. She shakes her head again.
“Gimme a break,” she retorts. “I’m regurgitating psychology vocabulary in my sleep. My girlfriend’s going to leave me if I don’t stop talking shop when I get out of school.” She changes her voice to mimic a female announcer.
“Behaviorism, inhibition, suppression, configurationism, Galton and Freud and Gestalt and dear God in heaven how did you even remember your name when you were in school?” I chuckle.
“Do you regret your decision?” I ask.
“No,” she says, going over to the Zen area to retrieve her laptop from its case. “It’s rough, but I want to help kids, and this is what I need to be able to do that, so…” She trails off after she pulls her laptop from the case.
“That’s a very noble undertaking.”
We’re both caught off-guard by a voice from the doorway.
“Grandmother,” Courtney greets Addie. “H… Hi.” I can tell she’s still trepid about seeing her grandmother.
“Courtney… you look lovely, darling,” Addie says.
“Thank you,” Courtney replies.
“Hello, Ana. You’re looking beautiful as ever,” Addie greets me. I smile warmly.
“Thank you, Addie, and so are you. Won’t you come in and have a seat?”
“Well, I really didn’t intend to stay long. I just came to ask Courtney what her plans were for the afternoon.” She turns to Courtney.
“Um, Ana’s assistant is off sick, so I’ve been helping her. We have to interview some candidates for the cleaning staff this afternoon,” Courtney replies.
“Oh, that’s too bad. We were hoping you would be able to join us for lunch,” she says softly.
“We?” Courtney asks. After a short pause, Fred enters the office and stands next to his wife. Courtney’s mouth falls open and she’s stunned pretty speechless.
“Hello, Courtney,” Fred says.
“G… Grandfather,” Courtney says, clearing her throat to find her words, but still finding none.
“Courtney, I can do the interviews alone or have Mr. Collier or Grace sit in with me if you want to go to lunch with your grandparents.” She turns uncertain eyes to me.
“You’re sure?” she says. There’s hope in her voice.
“I’m sure,” I say. “I’ll be fine.”
“Can I leave my school stuff here?” she asks.
“Of course, you can. Go, have lunch with your grandparents.” She raises her brow and sigh.
“I’m… I’ll be right back,” she says to Addie and Fred. “I have to go get my coat and purse.” She smiles and leaves the office. I turn to Addie and Fred.
“Fred wanted to see it for himself,” Addie tells me turning to Fred. “I think he got more than he bargained for.”
“Not really,” Fred replies. “She looks like she’s doing well and she’s trying to turn over a new leaf, but she was always a good actress… a very good actress.” I drop my head and scratch the nape of my scalp. If he gives her that attitude at lunch, she won’t go to lunch with them again because she’s come to learn that she doesn’t need discouragement in her life.
“Ana, what is it?” Addie inquires, noting my change of expression.
“Nothing,” I say, not making eye contact with Fred.
“That means it’s me,” Fred says. I frown and look at him.
“How would you know it was you?” I ask incredulously.
“Because I’m an old dog with a wife, dear,” he replies. “I’ve been married for 43 years and I’ve been around a female or three in my day. Trust me, I’ve been in the doghouse more than a few times and I fully know the meaning of ‘Nothing,’ ‘Fine,’ and ‘Never mind.’” He looks at me knowingly and cocks his head. I sigh and put my hands on my hips.
“I’m not going to try to sell you on your granddaughter,” I say. “To me, her progress speaks for itself. I will tell you this, though, and I’m only saying it as a friend. If you’re taking that attitude to lunch with you, it’s not going to fly. She will Uber her way out of that meal. She knows who she was and that she put you through a lot, but she’s been through some things, too, and she’s not going to allow herself to be berated anymore. I only said it because you pressed, Fred.”
“That, I did,” he says with a sigh.
“And she’s right.”
We all turn to see Courtney standing at the door in her coat with her purse on her shoulder. There’s no sign of her prior shyness.
“I don’t have anything to prove to anybody else anymore but myself,” she says. “I’m a horrible person and I know it… or at least I was. I was so wretched that I don’t expect anybody to believe that I’m not that person anymore, but you know who does have to believe it? Me! So, I love you, Grandmother, and I love you, too, Grandfather, but if this luncheon is to put me under the microscope, I respectfully decline the invitation.”
I can’t remember being prouder of Courtney than I am at this moment—well, maybe when she told me that she was going to school. Now, she stands here before her grandparents with her shoulders squared and her head held high pretty much telling them that if they don’t want to accept her, she’s fine with that. Before, she was self-centered and didn’t care about other people, only for what she could get from them. Now, she’s self-driven, and she has a purpose. She’s more concerned about what she sees in herself when she looks in the mirror than what other people see when they see her.
Addie walks over to her and smiles.
“I want to have lunch with my granddaughter,” she says, “and you will be under the microscope with me, but only because I want to catch up with everything going on in your life and with school. If your grandfather doesn’t want to behave, then he’s uninvited.”
Courtney is nearly pushed to tears, but instead she straightens her back and extends her neck, blinking the tears away. Then she turns to Fred.
“The Uber app is almost instantaneous, Grandfather,” she says. “The moment I feel that either of us is causing the other discomfort, I’ll leave. I can always study or come back and help Ana with the interviews. And if you think I’m acting, then this is going to be an Oscar-worthy performance.” She awaits acknowledgement from her Grandfather, who reluctantly nods. Addie sighs and puts her hands on Courtney’s shoulders.
“So, would you like to go to the club?” Addie asks.
“We can, if you want,” Courtney says, “but there’s a little restaurant not far from here that has the best Mediterranean food… and quiet tables.” Addie tilts her head at Courtney.
“Well, then,” she says, “that’s sounds nice. Lead the way.” The corners of Courtney’s lips rise slightly, and she nods before she leaves with Addie in step behind her. Fred turns to look at me and I raise my brown and tip my head in a gesture that clearly says, “Balls in your court.” His lips form a thin line and he leaves to join his wife and granddaughter. I smile to myself, knowing that Courtney has effectively exercised her independence to her grandfather. I go back to my desk and make the call that needs to be made before month’s end.
“Clean It Up for You, what can I do for you?” the receptionist answers.
“Good morning, Anastasia Grey calling for Sonia Sherwood…”
I’ve barely gotten any sleep, which is something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. There’s been a sleepless night here and there, but none of the 2-hours of sleep nights since I stopped having the nightmares. When I left this morning, Butterfly was still in an exercise, wine, and sex-induced coma.
When I saw that Butterfly was on the elliptical after dinner and three large glasses of wine, I thought it best to leave her alone and go to my study and get some work done. I approved the initiation of the random drug testing on 50% of Grey House staff to be done in three waves tomorrow, Friday, and Monday. The results will begin to come in on Tuesday, but I couldn’t get a guarantee that I would have them all for the sake of accuracy.
Ros has taken immediate advantage of her impromptu vacation, which means that Lorenz and I must weed through the findings and analysis of the audit teams while she’s away. There’s quite a bit in a short time—red flags that I asked to be notified of immediately instead of waiting for preliminary or final reports. To be quite honest, my company is a mess. We’re not on the brink of collapse, failure, or bankruptcy, but I was right. Complacency is running rampant through the departments and the ship is nowhere near as tight as it used to be.
That’s my fault.
When I shut the system down somewhere around three o’clock and came upstairs and she was still in the tub, I knew that I had to get her out of there. She was exhausted and shattered and I had every intention of drying her off, braiding her hair, and putting her to bed. Then, she passed out face up on the bed and I knew I would never be able to get that hair braided. I straightened her body and kissed her lips goodnight and the animal in me just suddenly came alive.
I didn’t intend to fuck her. I really didn’t, but when I kissed her neck, the valley of her breasts, and then her nipple just to tame the beast a bit, the taste of her skin sent me into blind passion and I just had to have her. Determined not to fuck her while she’s asleep, I fix my mind to back away… and then she spoke.
And I pounced.
It was like something else completely had taken over me and I was going to turn into a werewolf or the Hulk or something if I didn’t have her! I feasted on her body, touching her in all the right places to get her ready, but when I entered her, the beast was back.
I know what it was. I just didn’t want to admit it.
Dominant Christian was alive and kicking in the early morning hours. Fucking her was not enough, but even in my primal state of mind, I knew I couldn’t dominate her when she was so exhausted, so I had to improvise.
I imagined her shackled to the bed, blindfolded and completely immobilized after a good flogging, with a pair of clamps biting into her nipples. Her breasts were wobbling wildly, dripping with water, sweat, or milk—I didn’t know which—and she couldn’t move, so it wasn’t a far stretch. I fucked her and fucked her and fucked her until my cock burned, forcing three orgasms from that exhausted body until I was paralyzed in ecstasy myself.
Once I came down from my climactic high, I saw that the third orgasm had wrung my wife unconscious and, to be honest, I felt guilty. I wrapped her in my arms, kissing her back and neck while silently begging her forgiveness for being so thoughtless and selfish. I only got a couple of hours of sleep and then quietly got dressed and left the house before she woke.
Now, I’m here in the office, still feeling as aggressive as ever as I continue to comb through my emails and examine the notes of the auditing teams. Word is definitely out that Grey is on the warpath. The elevator was completely silent when I got on it this morning and some people even got off once I boarded. Others refused to get on when they saw that I was in the car.
I don’t care if you like me. Just do your fucking jobs, and do them right or I’ll have you out on your asses before you get the chance to gasp.
I’m a bit irritated when I’m interrupted mid-morning by a knock on my door.
“Sir, a word?” I look up and see Jason standing in the doorway. I gesture him in and remove my glasses. My eyes are getting tired more often. It might be time for another trip to the eye doctor.
“I know this is short notice and I apologize, but I need Monday off,” Jason says. I frown. It sure is short notice, short as fuck.
“May I ask why?” I inquire, coolly
“Well, it won’t be the entire day, sir, just enough time to go to Shalane’s sentencing.” I raise my brow.
“Shalane’s… as in your ex-wife Shalane?” I ask. Why would he want to be there for her?
“Yes,” he says. “I’m not letting Sophie go, but someone has to be there to speak on my daughter’s behalf if they ask.”
I see. I guess that would have an impact on her sentence… if they ask.
“What time is it?” I ask him.
“Ten A.M.,” he replies. I nod.
“Then we’ll both be there.” His eyes widen.
“Sir, you don’t have to… it’s Monday morning,” he protests.
“And you’re my best friend, so yes, I do have to.” If I’m trying to find a balance between asshole and nice guy, I better start somewhere.
“So, it looks like she’s going to be spending Christmas in jail, huh?” I add. Jason nods.
“Yeah, looks that way,” he says.
“How do you feel about that?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“I hate the things Shalane has done, but I don’t hate Shalane. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for anyone that has just proven to be rotten to the core, but I’m not a bad guy. So, I think I’ll just keep my answer to myself on that one.”
I nod. I can understand that. I’m on the opposite end of that spectrum. If I can’t stand you, you’re going to know about it. If I wish you would burn in hell, you’re going to know about that, too.
“Mr. Grey, Lorenz is here to see you,” Andrea’s voice says through the intercom. Did we have a meeting this morning?
“Send him in,” I tell her. “What time is the sentencing again?” I say, turning my attention back to Jason.
“Ten AM,” he repeats as Lorenz enters.
“We’ll be there, then,” I say. He nods, then nods at Lorenz and leaves.
“Something I need to know?” Lorenz asks.
“No,” I respond, “except that you’ll be holding the fort down alone for a few hours on Monday morning. I have an appointment.” He nods noncommittal.
“So, we found out what the big ruckus is about Kavanaugh,” Lorenz says. He has my attention, but only slightly. I have my own fish to fry.
“And what’s that?” I ask.
“The next heir apparent? ‘Baby Momma’ is one of Katherine’s friends.” My eyes widen.
“You’re shitting me!” I respond. This is fucking juicy.
“I’m not,” he says. “The wife found out through a damn text!” he adds. “He’s taking a paternity test, but whether it’s his or not, Mama Kavanaugh has had enough and is taking him to the cleaners.”
“Fuuuuck, really?” I say, sitting back in his chair. “Does Ethan know?”
“I don’t know that he does unless he’s been keeping up with the gossip rags or the specific financial news that deals with his father, but I don’t think he cares. He’s been completely mum about the whole thing.” He probably doesn’t. From what I’ve heard, he got his trust right after he married Mia and hasn’t spoken to his father since. If he doesn’t know, I’m sure as hell not going to tell him.
“What about Katherine?” I ask. It’s more out of curiosity than anything. I don’t plan to do anything with the information.
“Well, she was in Martha’s Vineyard for a while, but now word has it that she and young Kevin are now living in Paris…”
“Paris? How could Kavanaugh afford that?” I ask.
“Well, he can’t that I know of, but she secured employment there with one of the fashion magazines, so… she’s officially a Parisian now.” I shake my head.
“If I were her, I’d get as far away from this shit as possible, too,” I say. “That man has a tribe of illegitimate children now. How many is this?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve lost count. Can I get back to you on that one?” he jests, and I chuckle.
“Have you seen the latest emails from the auditing team?” I ask. He sighs and crosses his legs.
“I have,” he says.
“It’s only been a couple of days. You still think I’m being paranoid?” He shakes his head.
“No, sir, I don’t,” he replies. “I never did, I just thought you might have needed to rethink your approach a bit, but now…” He trails off.
“Yeah, now,” I say, putting my glasses back on and looking at the screen. “I just basically had a meltdown yesterday about our customer satisfaction and retention processes and our internal process quality and then I see these findings? I’m certain that I’m not the only one that sees the drastic change in three years in these areas.”
“No, sir, you’re not alone,” Lorenz replies.
“The only reason we’re not bleeding from the jugular right now is because we have other divisions and operations that’s taking up the slack. I shudder to think what would have happened had I not thought to do something about this now!” I shoot. “So, are there any answers to any of the questions I had yesterday?” He nods.
“Yes, sir,” Lorenz begins. “The drugs from the pharmaceutical mishap have obviously been recalled. This sort of thing happens all the time and we’re looking into the ramifications of it now. Concerning the fire, thankfully, representatives from the EAP were on that as soon as it happened, so we’ve already got damage control and assistance in place for that.”
“And what about the late shipments?” I ask.
“I think client services is putting that fire out now,” he says.
“Don’t think. Know! Find out how often this has happened and if this is a one-off or a regular occurrence. Get some impromptu surveys going to see what the customers are feeling right now. See how many we get back. Get on this! Now that I know for sure that I’m not Chicken Little running around exclaiming that the sky is falling, I want this ship tight as soon as possible, and spare no fucking expense!”
“Will do, sir,” he says, and he stands and leaves my office. Sometimes, I hate that he’s so goddamn cool, but if I’m the hothead, and Ros is getting all sensitive and running off when there’s controversy, I need someone to be the voice of reason.
“Mr. Holstein is still trying to contact you, sir, and there’s a Herbert Larson on line three for you.” Larson… why the hell is he calling me instead of Al?
“Grey,” I answer.
“Mr. Grey, Herbert Larson here…” he begins.
“I know who it is. What can I do for you?” He pauses.
“You obviously know why I’m calling,” he says, coolly.
“Honestly, I don’t. I thought all of your contact went through our attorney or if not him, through my wife if utterly necessary. You have no reason to be contacting me,” I point out.
“I’m calling because harassment is a serious offense in the state of Nevada, Mr. Grey,” Larson says.
“And I’m not in the state of Nevada, so your point?” I retort.
“Mrs. Pamela Whitmore contacted the police this morning,” he says. “Apparently, several gentlemen have been following her around.”
Good, she knows that she’s being tailed.
“And you’re telling me this because?” I ask.
“The gentleman that she described follows closely to the description of the gentleman that accompanied you and Mrs. Grey during your visit and they have Washington driver’s licenses.” I laugh loudly in his ear.
“Well, don’t this just beat all?” I say, with pretend mirth. “It took less than a day for you to finger who you might think is harassing Pamela Whitmore, but it only took the great state of Nevada more than a decade to pinpoint who brutalized my wife.”
The line is silent for several minutes.
“That woman called my wife at her place of business and insulted and threatened her and my family, and you’re calling me about some random men following her because they live in my state? If they’re breaking the law, then I suggest you arrest them, but don’t you dare interrupt my life with any nonsense that you have no actual basis for. You all didn’t follow any hunches to find my wife’s attacker before she came to you with a damn video. Don’t come to me with any half-baked, unfounded accusation. Yes, I will do whatever’s necessary to protect my family, but you do know that we have a restraining order against her, right?”
“I’m just letting you know that Mrs. Whitmore…”
“You don’t need to let me know shit about Mrs. Whitmore unless you’re telling me that you’ve arrested her for harassing my wife,” I say, cutting him off. “Nevada seems to be quite prevalent with going easy on and protecting violent criminals and offering no protection for the victim… that is, until you think those criminals are the victims.”
“You need to know that following Mrs. Whitmore could be considered obstruction of justice,” he points out, ignoring my prior statement.
“Oh, you mean like what that Henderson officer Sullivan did?” I counter. “Both when the incident happened by hiding evidence to protect his brother and by seizing the police report I presented to him two years ago without knowing that I had several copies? Yes, Mr. Larson, I’m very aware of the laws concerning obstruction of justice—that is, when your state deems it necessary to enforce them. By the way, what was the fate of Officer Sullivan? The victim here still hasn’t gotten any word that he’s come upon his just deserts, yet.”
The line falls silent again, and I know that he’s searching for a retort.
“I’m not saying that I’m following anybody and I’m not saying that I’m not,” I continue. “I will say that when you try to accuse someone of something, you better fucking well have enough evidence to do it instead of calling someone and trying to sniff them out. I play chess with multi-billion-dollar companies and more money than you’ll ever see in your life. I don’t have time to bluff.”
“So, you’re saying that you’re not having her followed?” he prods.
“I’m not saying anything,” I reply. “I will say, however, that if she comes anywhere near Seattle and my wife and children, I’ll know before you do.” I can feel his frustration through the phone.
“You’re preventing me from doing my job,” he says, his voice low. “Ever since this started, I’ve been doing my best to bring justice to this situation, and the only thing I’ve seen from you at all is this vigilante attitude like you’re running things, and nobody can tell you anything. Now, I’m warning you, Mr. Grey, if you interfere with this case or its participants in any way, I will have a warrant issued for your arrest!” Wrong move, Skippy.
“Save your goddamn threats for those assholes who beat my wife!” I seethe.
“Mr. Grey, that language is totally unnecessary,” he retorts.
“It’s completely fucking necessary, and if you fucking don’t want to fucking hear it, then you can fucking hang up the fucking phone!”
I’m so pissed at the audacity of this fucker that if I could teleport to Vegas right now and personally beat his ass, I would! I think he gets the hint.
“Good day, Mr. Grey,” he says.
“Fuck you!” I retort before slamming the receiver into the carriage.
One… two… three… four…
Butterfly isn’t home when I get there. I’m still fuming over Larson’s nerve. The fuck with that guy! I’m watching the cunt who birthed the fucker who raped my wife then had the nerve to call her and threaten her because she knows the trial is coming up, and this sonofabitch has the nerve to call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by making sure that I know if this hoe crosses state lines. That place has the most backwards system of justice I’ve ever seen in my life, and the people who live there must be as fucked up as their sense of justice.
My wife is raped as a teenager and nobody blinks, not even her damn guardians.
She’s beaten within an inch of her life and her baby is killed, and nobody blinks.
The mother of the fucking rapist and baby killer calls and threatens my wife and our children, and nobody blinks… but then they call me and tell me that I’m breaking the law by following that cunt.
I hate to think I and my wife are flying all the way to Vegas to find out that the entire justice system is so fucked up that the whole lot of those fuckers are still going to get off easy after they’re convicted—if they’re convicted!
I run a punishing rhythm on the treadmill for quite some time before I take to Butterfly’s heavy bag to burn the rest of the aggression from the day. I’m finally starting to cool down—and tire—around 8pm, and I take a quick shower and change into a pair of sweats and a T-shirt.
I look for my wife in the nursery, but find that my children are fast asleep. I check the yoga room, the dining room, the family room—no Butterfly. Where is she?
“Did Ana come home?” I ask Gail. She frowns.
“Yeah,” she says. “She spent some time with the babies and then she went downstairs.” Downstairs… her office or her parlor. “Should I hold dinner or just put something away for you two to eat?” You two?
“She hasn’t eaten yet?” I ask. Gail shakes her head. I go to the elevator and take it to the ground floor. Chuck and Keri are on the patio sitting on the sofa. He has his arm around her and they’re gazing across the lake.
I need to find my wife.
I glance in the parlor as I pass and confirm that she’s not in there, then I go to her office. I’m about to walk in when I hear her talking on the phone.
“I really can’t wait to see you. It’s been a long time.”
Now, I trust my wife implicitly, but walking in on that statement would send a lesser man into terrible suspicion. I stay back and listen a little longer.
“I’m in no hurry to come, but at least there’s one bright side to it.”
That sounds a little crazy.
“No, I haven’t heard anything at all, but who knows what’s going to happen on that front.”
I should really just walk into the room instead of trying to decipher who she’s talking to, not to mention, it’s not polite to eavesdrop.
“No, I’m not going to any of those places. I might see some of the casinos with my best friend and his husband because they’ve never been there, but that’s all. I have no interest in the whole ‘Vegas experience.’ I’ve already had it.”
So, she’s talking to someone in Vegas. I know it can’t be Carla…
“So, I’ll let you know when we finalize our travel arrangements and where we’ll be staying. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet your husband this time.”
This time. That’s her aunt. What’s her name? Cynthia, that was it.
“That would be very nice. I’m sure Christian would like that.”
I walk into the office as she’s finishing her call with her aunt. She looks like a kid! She’s wearing suspenders… and a hat! Over pigtails! I walk over to her after she has ended her call and begins typing into her laptop.
“Fashion statement?” I ask. She looks up at me.
“My hair wouldn’t cooperate,” she says and stretches. “My dad wants to come to Vegas when we go for the trial.” I raise my brow.
“He does?” I ask. She nods.
“I suppose he needs some kind of closure, too,” she says. “This whole thing was so traumatic for us both—going through hell, finding peace, then having it ripped away from us again. I’d say he definitely needs some closure.”
“Well, you’ll get no argument from me. I’ll get a block of rooms so we don’t have to worry about it.” I sit down in front of her desk. “How was your day?” She raises her head again, somewhat in surprise.
“Busy,” she replies still looking at me. “We hired a couple of people for the in-house cleaning staff. They start shadowing Mr. Collier on Monday. I fired our cleaning crew as of the end of January. The head bitch in charge wasn’t happy to hear that, so now we have to keep an eye on them until the contract ends.”
“Were they slacking?” he asks. I shake my head.
“Not since the first time, but we weighed what we were paying them compared to the cost of having a cleaning crew of our own. The costs were comparable, but having someone on staff makes them more accountable to us than having an outside company come in. Plus, we’ll need people available at a moment’s notice instead of just at a certain time.”
“I see you’ve thought about this,” I say, sitting back and crossing my legs. “You’re still working?” She twists her lips.
“No Marilyn,” she says. “Courtney helps as much as she can, but she’s still no Marilyn… and she took the afternoon off to spend with her grandparents.”
“Really?” I ask. She nods. “Last I spoke to Fred, he wasn’t sold.”
“He’s still not sold,” Butterfly says, “and Courtney’s okay with that. She told him that she knows that she was a horrible person and that if he didn’t want to be bothered to not waste her time.” I raise my brow again. She has changed.
“Larson called me today,” I say. She stops typing and looks at me.
“Why did he call you?” she asks.
“To tell me to call off my security team that’s watching Whitmore.”
“You have a team watching Pamela Whitmore?” she asks. I nod.
“And I want her to know that she’s being watched.” She goes back to typing.
“Figures,” she says. “Serves her right… that backwards ass town. It’s okay to harass the victim, but not the victimizers.” She shakes her head.
“That’s what I said,” I reply, standing. “Come. We need to eat.” I hold my hand out to her. I know that she wants to work more, but I’m hungry and she needs to eat, too. She closes her laptop and takes my hand.
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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