Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 27

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 27

Briana Evigan Ch 27

GOLDEN

I sit in my room for several hours after I leave Trey’s… Christian’s apartment. I don’t know what to think or feel. He turned me away. I want to be angry, but I can’t. I can’t muster up the outrage that I should be feeling, or at least that I think I should be feeling. I want to be angry because of what he took from me.

He took the last word.

I leave them salivating for me. I leave them wanting me, craving me… I leave them aching for the Golden treatment. He obviously wants me, but he sent me away. He told me to leave.

You win—I’m in agony; I can’t take this anymore. You make me want you, but then you say I can’t have you. Then you go away, but you make me want you again. I can’t get you out of my mind. You’re in my blood…

Please, just go, Ana. Just go…

There’s a small satisfaction in knowing that they want you, that they’ll come crawling back to you, even if they know that you’ll push them away… more than small if I’m honest. There’s that knowledge that they want to come back that speaks to the sadistic goddess inside.

He took that away from me. I was there in his home, somewhat available, and he told me to leave. The nerve of him! Although, I guess I’m being a little selfish since the man just gave his sister a kidney and could have died, and I’m stewing over what he took from me.

Instead of concentrating on Christian and his denial, I concentrate on the things that fulfill me—beating the hell out of my clients; watching them suffer and begging to come and then making them explode all over the exhibition room. I often imagine Christian watching me, salivating and nutting all over himself because he can’t have me. I think about him more than I like these days and I even dream about him some nights… dammit.

In one such dream, I was telling him why he couldn’t have me. He was begging and begging, telling me that he would give me anything to make him mine…

“You’re never going to be able to change me,” I tell him. “You’ll never change who I am. You’re saying that this is what you want. This is what you want right now. You’ll want exclusivity. You’ll want me all to yourself. You’ll even want me to get rid of Blake and that’s never going to happen. You will not want me to do to other men what I do to you. You won’t want me to do to them what I do to them. The resentment will set in, and then the hatred, and soon, you won’t be able to stand the sight of me. Why do that to yourself? Why should we do that to each other? Why not walk away now after we’ve had a good run and some good times? Take the good memories that we’ve had and don’t ruin it. Nothing lasts forever, we both know that, so let’s quit while we’re ahead.”

Then, of course, I wake up knowing that he doesn’t want to see me, and the last time he saw me, he sent me away. That indescribable feeling comes back, and I end up beating the hell out of one of my clients again… with Christian watching in my mind’s eye. I’ve actually acquired three more clients in the last two months, one of whom bought me a pair of solid gold stilettos that I’ll never wear.

Shoes are supposed to have some give, people, or you can’t walk in them!

Anywho, I’m still Golden and at least that hasn’t changed.

In other news, there has been an arrest in Blondie’s case. Some miniscule piece of evidence pointed to one guy who, if he had me as his defense, wouldn’t have been fingered for the deed. However, I’m not prone to represent the guilty, not to mention he crumbled under interrogation and confessed to the crime, offering to give up his accomplices for a plea deal as he’s looking at 25 to life. Once his plea was carved in ink, he fingered two other hired killers…

And Linc.

That doesn’t surprise me. Once I saw how badly he beat her before running off to the Bahamas, I knew that he was capable of doing much worse. Once I heard that she had liquidated some of their portfolio to pay the lawsuit, I knew that act wouldn’t go without some kind of punishment. Did I expect her to be killed? No, but I did expect some kind of retaliation. Once I saw how she died, I fully expected Linc to have done it himself. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he watched the whole thing.

Someone asked me if I felt any conviction over the situation. There’s the fact that the lawsuit was fabricated by me over something that didn’t really happen and that her death was a direct result of paying off that lawsuit. Had it been anyone else, I might have, but let’s look at the facts.

She stole one of my clients by lying to him because I wasn’t available.
She plotted against me to ruin me in the BDSM community by siccing Magic Dick on me.
When it didn’t work out the way she had hoped she threatened my life.
She blamed me for whatever did or didn’t happen to her crummy salons, causing me to hire security so that she didn’t attack me when my back was turned.
She ganged up on me with her frosted fuck creepy husband at the fundraiser a couple of years ago.

And that’s only what she’s done to me.

She broke Christian’s arm.
She falsely accused him of battering her.
Had one thing gone differently—any one thing—after she let him loose on me, he would also be in a wheelchair or dead from a bullet from my gun.

That woman was the devil, and you can’t feel sympathy for Satan.

For me, however, life is a bit… surreal, for lack of a better word. I still get off on my sadistic lifestyle. In fact, I need it now more than ever to maintain balance—but that word…

Balance.

I feel like something is really missing from my life. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, and I refuse to accept that it has anything to do with Christian. He was a chapter in my life that is now closed, and I can deal with that. But besides that, nothing else has really changed. Yet, even with yoga, meditation, and my beloved sadism, I can’t really find the balance that I’m looking for.

In my search for balance, I’ve been spending a little more time with my family. I’ve put more pictures and keepsakes of Mommy and Daddy around the house, things that Aunt Sheila gave me after Uncle Richard died. It makes me feel so much closer to them and I’m very happy about that.

I also try to get to dinner at Aunt Sheila’s at least twice a month. She’s still dealing with Uncle Richard’s death and the fact that more and more has come out about the kind of person that he was since he passed. He was a faithful husband and family man—he just wasn’t a really good person.

One Saturday night, I agree to go with Tracy to a club in the old neighborhood. I’m definitely game for some dancing and a few drinks. So, I put on my Bodycon wine-colored party dress with a sexy side slit and my wine-colored fabric thigh boots and plan to hit the club in Tracy’s Kia. I should have known that it wouldn’t be that easy. We have to wait in line to get in and once we do, we head to a table of Tracy’s friends.

The eye-cutting begins immediately.

“I thought you said your cousin was coming,” one of the girls says accusingly. Tracy gives her a watch-it glare.

“This is my cousin,” Tracy says. “This is Ana.”

“Oh,” she replies popping her neck, and every last one of them turn their heads without addressing me.

Okay, it’s going to be this kind of night. That’s alright, I’m not looking for new friends. I’m looking to dance and drink.

I squeeze into the seat next to one of the girls, who blatantly turns her back to me. I roll my eyes and they rest on Tracy’s, who is sitting across from me. She’s talking to the girl sitting next to her and looking apologetically at me at the same time.

Well, this was a great idea, but I won’t spoil Tracy’s night. I turn my attention to the dancefloor and people watch.

“You look like you could use a dance.”

I’ve sat here for what feels like an eternity, but I know it was only a few minutes, when I look up to see where the voice is coming from.

Tall, dark, and handsome… and he wants to dance.

“I certainly could,” I say. I put my purse across my body, and he leads me to the dance floor. This is what I needed… just to be free and have a good time. I dance for four songs with the guy and as I’m leaving the dancefloor, he hands me a number. I smile prettily and thank him for the dance before I head back to the table.

“Somebody needs some deodorant,” the same girl says to no one in particular when I sit down. Then she turns away from me and sips her drink. Tracy is gone, and I assume she’s dancing. I know that I’m not emitting any odor because first, I am wearing deodorant and second, I’m not even sweating. So, I deduce that she’s just being catty and bitchy for no reason. I sigh again and mock her behavior, turning the other way, away from her and towards the dancefloor.

Tracy returns and the revelry begins at the table again—for everyone but me, that is—for a solid twenty minutes. Yet another gorgeous black guy comes and asks me to dance, and I oblige. The truth is, it wouldn’t matter if Quasimodo walked up and asked me to dance, I was leaving that table. Who wants to spend a night out with a bunch of bitter, angry women?

I dance for several songs, get another number, and head to the bar. I order a double shot of vodka and a glass of water. When the vodka comes, I throw it back quickly and take large gulps of my water. When a third dance partner approaches me—champagne skin and curly hair—I’m on the floor again.

I spend most of the evening on the dancefloor or at the bar—mostly on the dancefloor. I go to the ladies’ room to relieve myself and decide that it’s time to rejoin my party at the table, not that I want to.

“Oh, Jesus,” one of the other girls says. “She’s back.”

No, the hell I’m not. I’m a grown ass woman. I don’t need this shit.

“God, you guys are a bunch of really catty bitches! That’s embarrassing. She didn’t even do anything to you!” Tracy accuses.

“Because of her, nobody wants to dance with us!” one girl remarks. Well, that’s a crock of shit. I haven’t even been at the table most of the night.

“Well, I’m leaving, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore,” I say, standing to my feet and grabbing my purse.

“Good!” she remarks. “Bye!”

“It’s not her fault that nobody wants to dance with you, Latrice,” Tracy says, standing as well. “It’s your fucking resting-bitch-face that chases them away. Jesus, if I can’t bring anybody around you guys, I don’t need to be around you either.” She puts her purse strap on her shoulder.

“Come on, Ana,” Tracy says, hooking arms with me, “let’s go get a drink… somewhere else!” We begin to walk away from the table.

“Uncle Tom!” one of the girls yells behind us.

“Fuck you, Allie!” Tracy yells back, flipping the bird behind her without turning around. We walk arm-in-arm out of the club and go to Tracy’s Kia.

“You didn’t have to leave your friends behind for me, Tracy,” I say as she starts the car.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she says, as she drives down the road. “It’s not like we were ride-or-die, anyway. They’re unhappy and they find fault in everything. Only one of them is actually doing something to make changes in her life and that’s Vershawna. The rest of them just complain about where they are. Yeah, we’ve been friends for a long time, but you can only deal with that shit for so long. I’ve grown out of it. They’re still stuck in it.”

“It could also be because I’m white,” I say, stating the obvious.

“That’s what it is this time,” she admits. “Tomorrow they’ll see somebody with the wrong color hair, with a skirt too short, with too many kids, you name it. If they can find something wrong with the world, they will. It’s time out for that shit.” I shake my head and look out the window.

“What is it, Ana?” she asks.

“I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime,” I begin, “from a lot of different nationalities and backgrounds. My father was black. I grew up in a black neighborhood. Most of my pro bono cases are young black boys that just deserve a break. My yoga instructor is black, my receptionist is black…”

“And you’ve said that you’ve met a lot of different nationalities, but so far, all you’re talking about is black,” Tracy points out.

“And there’s a reason for that,” I say. “I’ve met people from many walks of life, and I don’t treat anybody any differently because of it. Why is it that black women—particularly in social situations—dislike me so much? I get the whole concept of racism; I haven’t lived under a rock for the last 34 years, but this is more than that. This is I shouldn’t be seen with a black man; I shouldn’t visit the areas I grew up in… and it’s not all black people! It’s black women. And it’s not all settings—it’s in a club or a restaurant. They don’t give a fuck if I’m at the grocery store, it’s just if I’m having dinner with Kevin, or dancing with Darryl, or riding Fuckboy Jake’s bike! What the fuck is that?”

I’ve raised my voice louder than I intended and Tracy has fallen silent. I cross my arms like an errant child, certain that I’m not going to get an answer, but Tracy starts talking.

“It would take me way too long to explain that to you, Ana,” she says calmly, “but that’s not going to change. It comes from a long line and centuries of oppression and discrimination, and I think you know that. What you’re getting from black women is what black people have experienced from white people since well before you and I were gleams in our daddies’ eyes. The hatred that comes along with that has been passed down through the generations. Among the many, many other intolerances among the races, the vast majority of black women in many areas have a staunch intolerance of white women with black men. Remember, it’s only been about 50 years or so since the races could legally interact that way.

“The world is slowly changing, I know, but not everybody is changing with it—on both sides of the fence, for that matter. You never met our grandfather, did you?” I furrow my brow.

“No, I don’t think I did,” I reply.

“That’s because he went to his grave pissed at Uncle Ray for marrying Carla,” she says. I didn’t know that, but I vaguely remember something like that happening on Mommy’s side of the family, which is why I ended up with Uncle Richard and Aunt Sheila. I sigh and shake my head.

“So, I guess I’m just supposed to stay on my side of the bridge, then.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“You cross the bridge whenever you want,” Tracy replies. “That’s the only way to combat this kind of shit. Just don’t be surprised when people aren’t willing to cross that bridge with you.” I twist my lips. This isn’t new, I was just looking for some grand reason that black women hate me so much. There’s none. It’s the same reason they hated Mommy for marrying Daddy, and it’s not going to change.

“You hungry?” she asks, breaking my chain of thought. I look over at her and nod.

“Famished,” I reply.

“What do you have a taste for?” she asks.

“Greens and cornbread,” I say, without hesitation.


Eric Dane 27

TREY

I gave up a goddamn kidney; now my mother is going to have to speak to me.

It’s been months since the operation and even Dad has come by to see me. I’ve finally gotten the clearance from the doctor to resume activities as usual, and now, I’m going to my parents’ house to put this radio silence to rest.

I’m getting everything together and I’m looking for my phone, but I can’t find it. Where did I toss the damn thing? I look on the nightstand and see that the top drawer is partially opened. I open the drawer and there’s my phone.

How the fuck did it get in there?

I take it out and swipe the screen to see if I missed any important calls or texts. Just beyond the phone, I can see what else is in that drawer. It’s the handkerchief I used to wipe Golden’s lipstick away when she kissed me.

I run my thumb over the lipstick stain. She’s gone now, so I can admit that I had started to care for her. Maybe she’s right… maybe this is best. My first instinct is to put the handkerchief in the laundry to rid it of the memory of her, but then I’d look at every handkerchief I own and wonder if it’s the one. Instead, I take it to the kitchen and toss it in the trash.

The housekeeper lets me in at my parents’ house and tells me that Dad is out in the back and Mom is in the dining room. For some strange reason still unbeknownst to me, I decide to go and talk to Dad first. He’s sitting in a lawn chair facing the lake. He’s not looking left or right, just straight in front of him, like he would run out there and jump in the water and never return. Mom must not be talking to him either.

“Coming out for a father and son talk, are you?” he asks. He doesn’t look over his shoulder, so I don’t know how he knows who’s walking up to him or even if it’s me or Elliot. He’s quite maudlin and he looks like shit. He’s got a tumbler of amber liquid in his hand, but I can tell that he’s not drunk.

“I’m just making sure that you’re not out here contemplating suicide,” I say as I take the seat next to him. “I’ve never seen you like this, even when you and Mom broke up.” He turns to me.

“Concerned, son?” he asks, his voice laced with irony.

“Yeah, about my mother,” I reply matter-of-factly. He scoffs and takes a sip of his drink.

“I could die tomorrow, and you wouldn’t care,” he says, looking out over the lake. “You wouldn’t shed one goddamn tear.”

“And whose fault is that, Dad?” I ask. He turns an angry glare to me.

“You’re saying this is all my fault?” he asks incredulously. “You blackmailed me into showing you the BDSM ropes—pun intended—and you’re saying that this breakdown is all because of me?”

Touché.

“No, Dad, I’m not saying that,” I cede. “We both burned that bridge, but you kept throwing kindling on the fire for years and you know it.”

I don’t turn my gaze from him. I’m waiting for his rebuttal, but I know that he has none. He turns back to the lake.

“I hope my grandkids give all of you as much hell as you’ve given me,” he laments quietly. I scoff.

“What grandkids?” I ask, incredulously. “I’m 36 years old with no desire to have any children. Mia just got a new kidney—so that’s not happening any time soon if at all. And if you’re putting your hopes and dreams in Elliot to carry on the family name, good luck! He’s pushing 40 with a girl in every fucking port, and unless he’s got some illegitimates somewhere, sorry Dad, but this branch of the Grey family tree is dead.” He sighs.

“Well, that’s depressing,” he complains. “Looks like I’ve failed at everything.”

I shake my head. I can’t feel sorry for this man. He’s deliberately deceitful and the only time I’ve ever seen him exercise honesty and scruples is on the bench.

“I don’t know what you expect,” I say after a long pause. “I don’t know how long you were in the lifestyle during your marriage, and I’m sure Mom doesn’t either, but as soon as she found out and the bottom fell out from under your life as a husband, you stopped being a father. I’ll take what happened to our relationship because of how I held that whole thing over your head, but what the hell happened to Elliot? He finished college; he had the education; he was on the right track. What they hell happened?”

My father finally throws a glare at me.

“Yeah, you know,” I say nodding. “That’s what you do. Ever since you lost your woman, you wanted everybody to be as miserable as you. So, you went on this campaign to get everybody under your thumb. I don’t know how that served you, but you did it to the point where you had something on everybody. Me and BDSM—yeah, that’s a taboo lifestyle and it could cause some damage in certain circles, not to mention that it certainly was going to hurt Mom. Elliot and cocaine, and whatever the fuck else you’ve got hanging over his head, well, that goes without saying. But Mia, Dad? You were holding her hostage through dialysis? Seriously?”

“I wasn’t holding her hostage,” he defends.

“The hell you weren’t!” I retort. “I understand not wanting to put Mom through any undue stress, but something you said along the way scared the shit out of Mia about telling Mom what was going on, and I saw it in her face. Mom should’ve known what was going on with Mia. It was going to come out one way or another and she was fucking blindsided when it was. You thought that was the better option? You’re the fucking parent, Dad. Did you lose all of your paternal instinct when you were swinging that fucking whip at Bunny?”

My father doesn’t answer.

“Mia had another reason for not telling Mom about dialysis and I’m going to find out what it was, but you—you were just plain selfish. Whatever imagined power you thought you had, you’ve lost it all, and now you’re sitting out here concerned again that you may have lost your woman. Since you’ve forsaken everything to keep her and she’s probably all you’ve got left, you might want to get your shit together and figure out how to make this up to her.”

I turn my gaze to the lake. It’s beautiful with the evening sun glistening off it. I get lost in its peace for a moment.

“It was this bad,” he adds. I frown.

“What was?” I ask.

“Breaking up with your mom,” he says. “It was worse, you just didn’t see it.” He looks out at the lake and takes another sip of his drink, his eyes glazing over.

“I never wanted to die before, but without her, I did. I wasn’t suicidal, I just wanted the pain to stop. It was the worst pain of my entire life. I swear there was nothing else to live for… nothing.”

Gee, thanks, Dad.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he says, without turning his gaze to me. “Not five minutes ago, you confirmed that you wouldn’t bat an eye if I dropped dead in front of you.”

“I didn’t say that,” I protest.

“You didn’t have to,” he retorts. “It doesn’t matter, though. It’s my bed and I have to lie in it.” He’s quiet for a few minutes.

“I’m going to talk to Mom,” I say, standing from the seat. “If she’s not going to speak to me, she’ll have to do it to my face. Get your shit together, Dad,” I say as I walk back to the house. Mom is standing at the French doors with a glass of wine in her hands as I approach.

“You and your father talking. There’s a twist,” she says, sarcastically. “Then again, you have so much to share!” Okay, I had that coming.

“All I can say is that I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t openly lie to you, but I wasn’t totally truthful. I can tell you this about me, though—about all of us. Each, in our own way, was trying to spare you more discomfort. You had been through hell with Dad and we saw that. We watched you suffer and whatever we may feel about each other, we all love you very much. You’re the only reason why we tolerate each other’s presence when it’s time to come together when we’d much rather not. Mia’s a spoiled nagger, Elliot’s an asshole, I’m a cocky motherfucker, and Dad’s a snake…” Mom throws a chastising glare at me.

“I’m sorry for my language, and you may love him, but we both know it,” I say frankly. “But we all love you, and we wanted to spare you as much pain as we possibly could.” She turns back to her wineglass.

“After what your father put me through,” she begins, “I don’t know if I can forgive him for keeping this many secrets from me.” She takes a swallow of her wine and walks back into the dining room. So that’s why he looks so damn miserable. I follow her and join her at the table.

“Do you love him, Mom?” I ask.

“Of course, I love him!” she says, her head snapping to me. “That’s why he’s still here!”

“Then, you’ll forgive him,” I say. “And he’ll fuck up again, and you’ll forgive him, then, too… as long as he doesn’t do any big shit, again—then I’ll have to come and kill him.” I think she scoffs a laugh, but her face doesn’t change. “You know what they say about the road to hell, Mom. We all had the best intentions, even though none of us executed the best strategy.”

I don’t tell her that I really believe that Dad was keeping the secrets because he wanted to later use them as leverage. For what, I don’t know, but unless he has more ammo on my sister and brother, his well is empty.

“Why did you keep this from me, Christian?” she asks sadly. “Your secrets were the most painful.”

“Why mine, may I ask?” I say.

“You said it yourself, Elliot is a fuck-up,” she says. “I don’t know what he’s into—except cocaine now—but I know it’s nothing legitimate. Whatever he’s doing, he has that snaky, slimy look about him. And the women he brings around—why would you bring any of these women to your parents’ home? I’m preparing myself to hear some terrible news about him, and I can only hope it won’t be the very worst, but I expect for something to be deceitful about him.

“And Mia… well, Mia, I don’t know. Was she really trying to spare me, or did she have that whole stupid ‘I can do this on my own’ attitude that she has about nearly everything else? How the hell did she think she could go through this for seven years and we not find out? There’s no other way this could have ended except for her in a body bag.

“But you,” she shakes her head. “You’re into that same shit that your father was in, that nearly tore our family apart and how do I find out? From the cocaine addict who was simply trying to pull other people under the bus with him. But what you did with your kidney was worse.” I frown.

“How?” I say, my voice squeaking. I saved Mia’s life!

“Because you could have died!” she shoots. “Is that how you wanted me to find out you gave Mia a kidney?”

I don’t dispute her. My portion of the surgery was much easier than Mia’s. It was mostly done by laparoscope. It was the whole swinging-crutches-at-people-losing-my-shit thing that caused complications. And the press must’ve really been spooked, because I haven’t seen one picture of us or heard anything about the surgery even in the gossip rags.

“I’ll start with the first question,” I begin. “I didn’t tell you about my sexual lifestyle because of your history of it with Dad, but tell me, Mom. Is that the only reason why you’re appalled by the BDSM lifestyle?”

“I’m appalled because I’ve seen what they do!” she shoots.

“You haven’t seen everything, Mom,” I correct her, “I can guarantee it. If you’ve Googled anything, you’ve probably seen the grittiest that there is to see, and that’s not all there is to the lifestyle. You probably don’t want any BDSM lessons, and I don’t blame you because of what you’ve been through. But you can’t judge what you don’t know, and if you do that to me, you’re judging me for participating in a lifestyle that may be off the beaten path a bit, but is completely legal and based on the concept that every activity is safe, sane, and consensual. It’s no different than being homophobic or discriminating against someone because they’re transgender, or black, or physically disabled, or different than you in any way. And that would make you wrong, Mom.” Her eyes widen.

“How so?” she asks horrified.

“If Dad cheated on you with a Mexican woman and you discovered that I was marrying a Mexican woman, would you be angry with me for that?” I ask. She’s still stunned. “How about a vegan? Would you hate all vegans if Dad cheated on you with a vegan? What if he turned out to be bisexual and he cheated on you with a man—would you disown me for being gay?” Her face falls impassive.

“It’s the same thing, Mom,” I tell her. “You’re not attracted to women; you eat meat; you married a white man… and you don’t practice BDSM, but you can’t put those of us in judgement who do. This…” I pause and point at her, “is why I didn’t tell you.” She closes her eyes and I can see them rolling behind her eyelids.

“You’re… going to have to give me some time to deal with this,” she says. “In the meantime, I would really rather not know about any of your escapades.”

“Tell that to Elliot,” I say matter-of-factly. “You would have never known about any of it if I had my way.”

“Then, you still would have been lying to me,” she points out.

“But you don’t want to know, so where do I win in this?” I ask. She thinks about it, then changes the subject.

“What about Mia’s kidney?” she says. “We already knew that she needed one. There was no need to lie about it.” I sigh.

“Well, I told you that in the hospital, but I also suspected that Elliot was doing something—like what he was doing—that meant that he couldn’t donate a kidney. I was trying to avoid what happened, but it happened anyway, so that was all for nothing.

“Elliot has made some really fucked-up choices and he hates that he’s not in the spotlight. Anytime that spotlight gets turned on me, he finds some way to make it a bad thing. When he thought I was leaving town for Mia’s surgery, he was talking shit then. When he found out that I was the one who gave her the kidney, he was talking shit then. Mia was upset with me for shit that she really felt was my fault. Elliot was just fucking pissed because he couldn’t be ‘the golden boy,’ as he calls me. Do you realize that I was in a lose-lose situation all around?” She holds her head down. She’s clearly suffering from information overload.

“Christian, I love you,” she says, calmly. “You’re my baby boy, but if you keep another secret like this from me again, I’ll never forgive you and I may not survive it. Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I say.

“Are there any other secrets?” she asks.

“That woman they found dead last year, Elena Lincoln—the one who threw a potted plant at me and broke my arm?” My mother’s brow rises.

“Yes?” she says expecting.

“We had an affair years ago,” I confess. She waves me off.

“Oh, I knew that,” she says.

“How did you know?” I ask, my brow furrowed.

“That woman found the strength of Hercules and hurled a concrete pot at you. No woman causes that kind of damage to a man unless it’s self-defense or she’s known him Biblically,” she says. “Hell hath no fury…” I shrug.

“Then unless you want to know the details of my BDSM lifestyle, no, I have no other secrets.” She silent for a moment.

“Do you whip those women?” she asks.

“Do you really want to know?” I’ll tell you, but it’s all or nothing, Mom. She shakes her head.

“I don’t want to know,” she says, shaking her head. I stand, lean over and kiss her on the cheek.

“I love you, Mom,” I say. “Forgive me for my half-truths and omission lies.” She looks into her glass of wine.

“I’m working on it,” she says. That’s all I can ask. I walk through the dining room and head to the stairs to go check on Mia, who has been at home with Mom and Dad since the surgery. As I bend the corner, I see my father has come back into the house and is standing at the French doors.

“Don’t hurt my mother again,” I tell him. “I meant what I said.”

“You didn’t tell her that I was the one who introduced you to the lifestyle,” he says. His voice is defeated, but it could still be a veiled threat.

“Do you want me to tell her now?” I shoot. You’re not holding this over my head anymore.

“I just wanted to know why you didn’t tell her,” he asks, raising weary eyes to me. I sigh inwardly.

“I did tell her,” I say. “I didn’t blurt it out like a general public service announcement, but in so many words, I told her—and Dad, I think she already knows…”

“You can stop your sorry attempt at murmuring! I know!” Mom yells from the dining room. I twist my lips at my father.

“She knows,” I say sarcastically. “Don’t. Hurt my mom again.” I walk past him towards the stairs.

“Get your ass in there and grovel,” I add without looking back at him.


Briana Evigan Ch 27 2

GOLDEN

I’m standing in front of the ominous glass building, Grey House, trying to get the nerve to go inside. I’ve stood here many times before over the course of the past several months, never once daring to go inside. What the hell would I say to him? Why am I even here?

I know why I’m here… because I can’t get him out of my mind. We have unfinished business, but hell if I know how to finish it. He haunts my dreams when I’m asleep; he haunts my thoughts even when I’m with another client… another client. He’s not my client anymore. There’s absolutely nothing between us.

“Fuck,” I say, losing my nerve like I’ve done a million times before and turning to the parking structure.

“Ana!”

I turn towards the voice calling my name and there he is, walking down the street towards his building with Taylor close behind him… and now towards me.

Oh, shit.

“What are you doing here?” I ask. He raises his brow.

“This is my building,” he says, stating the obvious. I roll my eyes.

“No, I mean, what are you doing out here instead of up there?” He twists his lips. I’m positive that he wants to say none of your business, but he doesn’t.

“I was having lunch with a friend,” he says matter-of-factly. “What are you doing here?”

“I work downtown,” I say, a bit indignantly.

“No, what are you doing here?” he says, pointing in front of him and using my words against me. I don’t have an answer. I never got pass the point of meeting him face to face. I never came up with the magic Golden speech to give the poor suffering subject once I met him. So… here I am.

He reads my silence and puts his hand in the small of my back, effortlessly guiding me into the parking structure of his building. Is he sending me away again?

I soon find that he’s just moving us off the sidewalk and away from prying eyes. Taylor disappears somewhere as we walk to a secluded corner of the garage.

“What do you want, Golden?” he asks his voice low. Oh… Golden… we’re here again. I gird myself for the conversation ahead.

“I want to know why you sent me away,” I ask, the truth rushing out of my mouth before I have the chance to catch it.

“For the same reason that you sent me away,” he replies. “I couldn’t deal with it.”

“I never said I couldn’t deal with it…” I begin.

“Are you serious?” he interrupts. “You didn’t have to. Actions speak louder than gold and you made it perfectly clear that you were having all kinds of problems with everything happening between us. Your wiring short-circuited because of the kiss, and you went completely radio-silent after we had sex. You really think you needed to say you couldn’t deal with it?”

“Look, Christian,” I say, looking around the parking structure to make sure no one is around, “the only thing I was looking for is the respect that a Mistress is due!”

“I never disrespected you!” he retorts quietly.

“The hell you didn’t!” I counter angrily. “You showed up unexpected at my home and had the nerve to question me about a conversation that you shouldn’t have even been privy to! Any other time, there was a protocol when you left—it was how we operated. And you get all sensitive when I reacted the way that a Mistress would the next time I had you in my dungeon!”

“I was not your submissive!” he hisses. “I never will be!”

“And yet you and your kisses and your sex are supposed to change me?” I bark.

“Why do you keep saying that I’m trying to change you?” he demands. “I never gave you that impression! Not once! I can’t make you not be who you are any more than you can make me not be who I am. The only difference is that I didn’t know who I was until I got the full spectrum. One woman couldn’t satisfy me, because one woman couldn’t give me what I wanted—what I needed! Even after you beat the hell outta me, I needed to fuck… hard!

“Do you have any idea how many women I’ve fucked to your face? How many times I came into some deep, hot, tight orifice seeing you the entire time? It didn’t matter to me that you got some poor sucker off the day before or that you were getting him off right there and then. What mattered was that I was blasting the rocket’s red glare and I was seeing you! I was feeling your flogger on my back, smelling your smell, seeing your tight body and imagining that it was you wrapped around my cock! And then when you finally gave me what I wanted—sweet Jesus! I had hit Nirvana. Then you cut me off like a kid asking for a lollipop the day after Halloween… completely! Without a word. You and those fucking games! I can’t take those fucking games anymore!” He throws his hands up in the air. “Why am I even telling you this? It’s not like you fucking care!”

“Because I do care!” I yell at him. “I don’t want to, but I do! I don’t want to change who I am… who I was… but nothing makes sense anymore. I’m nothing like who I used to be. I can go through the motions. I can inflict the pain. I can make them come… but I’m not who I used to be! It’s not the same… something is missing. Something’s not right…”

I’m still a sadist and I’m still a Dominatrix, but I’m just not who or what I was. I simply can’t wring the pleasure from the experience that I used to… and I know why. Son-of-a-bitch, I know why. I don’t want to admit it and the words are ripping a hole in my chest, fighting to get out. They won’t be denied. I shriek in anger as I spew the confession burning in my throat and chest.

“Goddammit!” I sob. “Elena was right! She was right! You have spoiled me for other men! I’m ruined! I’ll never be the same! I’ll never fucking be the same! Damn you, Elena Lincoln! Damn you straight to hell! And damn you, too!” I yell at him as I make a B-line to my Range Rover. I dream about this man. I want this man. I can’t function properly without this man! What the fuck am I supposed to do now?


c50b50fe03562a62f3e07c4fdd3dfb38

TREY

She’s running away… again! She’s basically told me that she can’t live without me and now, she’s trying to run again.

I’m behind her before I can stop myself. I reach her right before she gets to her truck and snatch her back into my arms. She’s still weeping when I cover her lips with mine, branding her lips with a searing kiss. They’re salty and soft and irresistible, and when she wraps her arms around me and returns the kiss, I back her against her truck and press my body into hers, taking all of her that I can in case she gets away.

What the fuck am I doing? Why the fuck am I even doing this to myself? Because she’s goddamn addictive, and now that I’ve had her, I can’t think of anything else!

“I love you and I hate you!” I seethe as I bury my face in her neck. “Why do I let you do this to me!”

She’s still sobbing as I take mouthfuls of her flesh, tasting her everywhere my lips can reach, her weeping only ceasing when I take her lips.

“Why don’t you turn me loose?” I question against her lips, my hand thrust in her hair and holding her captive as I reposition my lips and feast on her neck.

“I… can’t!” she chokes. “I tried… I… keep trying… I can’t!”

Her hands thrust into my hair and I kiss every part of her that I can reach, fighting not to ravish her right here in the parking lot.

Breathe, Grey, breathe. Think about this. Think about what you’re doing.

I close my eyes and press my forehead against hers and we’re both panting like marathon runners, her breaths mingled with tearful whimpers.

“What are we supposed to do with this?” I breathe fiercely.

“I… don’t know,” she says in a sobbing voice. “I’m out of my element here.”

“I can’t take your fucking games, Ana,” I admit, my voice still harsh while I hold her close to me. “You’re hot for me one minute and the next minute, you’re cold, aloof, and invisible.”

“I know, I know,” she says, her voice helpless.

“I’d rather you walk away from me forever than to keep me on that goddamn rollercoaster. Let me go and let me get you out of my system… out of my blood!” I squeeze her harder with every word, my fingers digging into her body.

“No… no… please…” Her fingers tighten in my hair and I slam my lips against hers again, our teeth clashing together as our tongues hungrily search for each other, driving fiercely into each other’s mouth and devouring unspoken words.

I told her I loved her. Did I mean that? Did I mean that I love her or that I love what she does to me?

I break our kiss. We need to talk. We can’t do this here… none of this.

“Meet me at my penthouse,” I breathe raggedly against her lips. “Twenty minutes. We have to… work this out.”

She quickly nods at me with wide, glassy, brown eyes. I take a deep, ragged breath and release it before I let her go. I turn away from her and walk to the elevator, thrusting my hands into my hair on the way. What the fuck am I getting myself into? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to send her the fuck away? She’d just come back… like she did today.

“Ana?” I say, turning to face her. She hasn’t moved from her spot, but she quickly raises her head to look at me.

“Don’t play with me,” I say finitely. “If you’re not there when I get there, I’ll never see you again.” I mean it. I don’t have time for her games. She nods at me with a tearful sniffle.

*-*

About 45 minutes after I leave Ana in the parking garage at Grey House, I arrive at the lobby of Escala. I don’t know why I waited so long. I think I was just stalling, certain that she was playing with me again and that she wouldn’t be there—that she was stringing me along with her Golden lasso like Wonder Woman, leaving me totally helpless to her powers once again.

When I exit the elevator from the parking garage and walk into the lobby, she’s sitting there waiting for me, watching the front of the building like she expects me to walk in the front door. I guess she did.

“Ana,” I call out firmly to her. Her head snaps in my direction and she stands immediately. Her stride doesn’t have that confidence that I’m accustomed to. She’s not weak or anything, but that edge isn’t there. That edge that I love and hate.

Love and hate.

When she reaches me, I take her hand and wordlessly head to the elevator. Jason is already in the penthouse having gone up before me. So, she and I ride silently to the penthouse. The air is so thick in the elevator, you can hardly breathe. I stare at her while she stares at the numbers above us, rising to indicate that we’re headed for the top floor. When the bell rings and the doors open, she’s gotten a bit of her stride back and she slowly walks into the foyer. I follow behind her, reaching around her to open the doors of my penthouse.

She takes a deep breath and walks inside, immediately placing her purse on the sofa closest to the door. It’s the middle of the afternoon and my apartment is a ghost town—nobody expects us to be here.

I close the door behind me and walk over to her. She has her back to me and I total intend to ask if she wants something to drink for our talk, but she turns around and looks up at me, lips parted, brown eyes wide and wanting.

Shit! Fuck now, talk later.

I gather her in my arms, lifting her off the floor before she has the chance to think or protest. I burn her lips with a passionate kiss as I hurriedly carry her to my bedroom. I kick the door closed and place her feet on the floor. We stop kissing only long enough to remove our respective suit jackets and shirts. She quickly tugs at… something, and her hair releases from a tight bun and cascades down her back.

Fuck. I need her now.

She’s back in my arms and I’m undoing her skirt as she loosens my belt and unzips my fly. Both pieces of clothing fall down our legs and we each step out of them and our shoes, leaving them in mounds on the floor.

Lifting her in my arms again, I carry her to my bed, still hungrily devouring her kisses and I sit on the edge, forcing her to straddle me. I feel the heat of her core between us and my cock is hardening fast. I reach under her hair and unhook her bra, causing her breasts to spill out freely. I take one of her nipples into my mouth, taunting, teasing and tasting it. She gasps and drops her head back. I put my hand into the small of her back, holding her down onto my erection as I tease her nipple to tautness.

She whimpers loudly, the ends of her hair brushing my hand as I immobilize her against my body, against my cock. I put my other hand flat on her spine, move my mouth over to the other nipple, and begin to grind into her, against her exposed clit through her silk panties. She gasps loudly and thrusts her hand into my hair. She tries to move, but I have her firmly pressed against me, burning that clit with my rock-hard cock.

I’m going to make you come, Ana.

With nowhere to go, she drops her head back again and settles in for the ride. I suck her nipples hard, occasionally giving one or the other a gentle nip. Her whimpering becomes wheezing and her grip on my hair tightens. Moments later, her body stiffens and she’s crying out her orgasm. Her stiffening body begins to tremble as I continue to grind into her, squeezing out every single pulse of that clit. When her legs tighten against my thighs and she falls shivering against my body, I know that she’s had enough.

I stop my ministrations against her and lay her panting body on the bed. I remove her panties, suspenders and stockings all in one slow but efficient motion, tossing them in the mound of clothes we’ve created next to my bed. Giving her a brief moment to catch her breath, I remove my boxer briefs and socks, and they join the pile as well. I crawl back onto the bed and settle between her legs, the smell of her sex juices assaulting my senses. I use my nose to separate her lips and inhale deeply, blowing gently on her clit when I exhale. Her back bows and she grabs handfuls of the bedsheet.

I won’t make her cum again this way, but I’ll get her good and ready.

I am merciless on that clit. I mean, I am seriously porno-licking this pussy. Saliva is mixing with her juices from her orgasm and dripping down to her asshole. I use my fingers to spread the juices to her lips and tease her opening as my tongue torments the tip and underside of her clit. She nearly growls with pleasure as she arches into my mouth.

“Ah! Ah!” she cries as I fuck her with my tongue and suck her cunt until she’s trembling on the bed. I eat that pussy until her cries change and become high-pitched, then I crawl up her body, pushing her legs open with mine. I entwine my fingers into hers and pin her hands down on the bed. I gyrate my hips until the head of my cock finds the opening of her pussy. It takes all I have not to thrust into her balls deep, but I’m so fucking hard that I’m certain I’ll hurt her if I do… no matter how wet she is. I push into her, slow but hard.

Fuck, she’s just as tight as she was the last time.

I take a deep breath and push into her again.

Almost there…

I put pressure on my knees and push once more… hard. A squeaking noise comes from her throat this time and I pause, my cock buried balls deep inside her.

“You okay?” I ask, my voice and breath ragged. She’s panting underneath me, her eyes closed tight. “Ana?”

“Yes! Yes!” she says without opening her eyes. “Again!”

Her pussy is so hot and tight that I have to concentrate not to nut like a fucking teenager. I pull out of her—only halfway—and thrust deep into her again. She squeals softly again and the sound shoots straight to my dick.

“Again!” she breathes. “Don’t stop!”

Your fucking wish is my command.

I pull out of her halfway and plunge into her again… and again… and again. Her squeals become whimpers, then moans as I bury myself deep inside her over and over again and again, using our entwined hands for leverage. Jesus, it’s like we fit together perfectly, like nothing and no one I’ve ever felt in my life.

“Christian…” she breathes, turning her head to the side and closing her eyes. I bury my face in her neck and feast on her skin while I bury my cock deep inside her core. Unable to free her hands from mine, she wraps her legs around me and meets me thrust for thrust.

Goddamn, this shit feels so good.

“Christian… oh, God…” Her body bows again, and she locks her legs around my body. It doesn’t hinder my stroke, though. I’m thrusting freely and deeply into her now as she encourages me with various sex phrases…

“Yes…”
“Don’t stop…”
“Right there…”
“Again…”
“Please…”
“Oh, God…”

I’m getting hot and hard and my cock is just about ready to blow inside this soft, warm, tight pussy.

“Let me go… please… let me go…”

I release her hands and she wraps them under my arms and around my body, pulling me tight against her as she attempts to match my strokes.

“Kiss me… Christian… please…” she breathes. I put my hands on either side of her head and thrust my tongue into her mouth, licking and tasting and exploring as I stroke into her core with intent and purpose. My body is on fire.

She mewls into my mouth and strokes fast and hard on my dick, tightening her legs around me. When I feel her juices flowing and her walls tightening, I stroke deeper to pull her orgasm out of her, but then she bends her fingers and sinks her nails into my back, raking roughly across the skin.

“Fuuuucck!” I yell involuntarily against her mouth, my eyes closing tight from the pain, and my balls popping hard and emptying with force and anger inside her. I’m certain that she drew blood and if she didn’t, I have eight of the reddest tiger stripes across my back you’ve ever seen.

My back is throbbing with the pain… and so is my cock, giving up its final offering and I fall listlessly onto Ana’s panting body.


A/N: So, they sealed the deal again… but there’s still another chapter to go. What do you think?

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

 

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Raising Grey: Chapter 91—Thin Line

Three more chapters after this one…

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 91—Thin Line

ANASTASIA

After a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes, I head across the hall to the nursery. The children haven’t stirred yet, so I don’t disturb them. Instead, I go down to the kitchen to locate Gail.

“Has Christian eaten already?” I ask, watching her as she loads dishes into the dishwasher.

“Yes,” she says. “He and Jason have already left.” My brow furrows. It’s Sunday.

“Left?” I ask. “Where did they go?”

“To the airport,” she says, matter-of-factly.

What?

All kinds of horrible scenarios are going through my head, but I’m determined not to jump to conclusions or allow the Boogieman to take hold of me… without a thorough explanation, that is.

“Why… did they go to the airport?” I say, my voice calmer than my countenance at the moment. Gail turns a questioning gaze to me.

“I thought you knew,” she says, pausing her task. I shake my head as nonchalantly as I can. “He’s going to get some flight time in his helicopter. He said if he didn’t clock some time soon, he might lose his license.”

I don’t let her see me sigh, although my chest feels like it might cave in. I just nod and begin to pour some coffee.

“I smell bacon,” I say, effectively covering my jitters. “Is there any left?”

*-*

“I’m glad you called,” Grace says on the other line. “Would I be terribly selfish if I said that I don’t feel like hosting Christmas this year?”

“Grace,” I scold, “when were you going to tell us?”

“Everybody’s accustomed to coming to my house,” she whines. “I was trying to find the energy and will to go through with it, really I was, but I’m so tired. I just don’t want to do it this year… I really… I just don’t want to.” She sounds like a toddler trying to convince me not to make her go to bed.

“It’s not too late,” I tell her. “We can do Christmas at my house. You are coming, aren’t you?”

“Of course, I am!” she retorts. “It’s just… so much work…” Tell me about it. “I just don’t feel up to hosting it, Ana.”

“Grace, have you spoken to your doctor?” I ask. “Make sure that your medicines are all the right dosages? You should tell him how you feel. You might need some adjustments.” She sighs.

“You might be right,” she cedes. “I haven’t been feeling that great at all lately. It couldn’t hurt to have them check me out, huh?”

“I highly recommend it, doctor,” I press.

“I hear you, I hear you, I’ll call her in the morning,” she corrects me. “Can I bring something? A dessert or something? I did kind of dump this on you…”

“No, just bring yourself,” I say. “It’s an excuse to bake more cookies,” I add. Grace laughs on the other end and I’m happy that we’ve moved beyond truce. I end the call with Grace, suggesting that she take tomorrow off from Helping Hands and let me know when her appointment is going to be, then I call Chuck.

“Hey. We goin’ somewhere?” he asks.

“No, I was just trying to find out if your parents decided if they wanted to stay here or at your house for the holidays,” I say.

“I think Mom’s concerned about being an imposition,” he says. “They might want to stay at the Bainbridge house.”

“Well, that kinda sucks,” I say. “I really would like to see them, and them being all the way in Bainbridge, that’s an hour drive one way including the ferries anytime you want to see them. See if you can convince them to stay at the Crossing. We’ll be having Christmas here.”

“We are?” he asks.

“Yeah, we are,” I say. “Grace isn’t feeling up to hosting Christmas this year and in Val’s delicate condition, I wouldn’t dare spring it on her. And Mia… well, newlyweds and such. Anyway, yes, we’re having Christmas here, with all seven Christmas trees and the ‘come-one-come-all’ spirit that we always have.”

“Any idea how many people?” he asks.

“The door will be open,” I say. “I would hope that I could get everyone to RSVP by Christmas Eve, but the headcount will at least be the usual suspects.” Just as I finish my sentence, I raise my head to see my husband standing in the doorway just gazing at me.

“Well, I guess I’ll see if they want to come and stay, then since there’ll be festivities here anyway,” he says.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I gotta go. Gotta put out the APB’s and get the menu going.”

“Alright. I’ll let you know about Mom and Dad as soon as I do.” He ends the call and I put the phone on my desk still looking at my husband.

“Christmas is going to be here?” he asks casually.

“Yes,” I reply. “Grace isn’t feeling up to hosting this year. She apologized and assured me that she would be here.”

“It’s Thursday,” he says, walking into the office. “Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off by then?”

“You did a birthday party in a matter of a few hours,” I remind him. “I can do Christmas in a few days.” He nods and takes one of the seats in front of my desk.

“You have to know that I would never do that to you,” he says without looking at me. I swallow hard.

“I know,” I reply softly.

“Do you?” he accuses raising his head to me. “I don’t want you to say it because I was angry or because you think it’s what I want to hear. You have to know that I would never do that to you. Do you?” His statement is deliberate, and he won’t take a lie or a half-truth from me.

I didn’t before, truthfully, I didn’t. I wasn’t sure, but I am now.

“I know,” I repeat, firmly. I really do. He turns his gaze from me.

“I’m not angry anymore,” he says without looking at me, “but I’m not happy, either. Part of me wants to shake you and demand that you tell me how you dare think that way in the first place. Even when I ran off to Madrid thinking that you were protecting that asshole over me, the thought of another woman never entered my mind once. Not once! Part of me wants answers. The other part of me doesn’t even want to know. I don’t care how unhealthy it is, how you doctors may think I’m hiding, I don’t give a fuck. I don’t want to know what would make my wife—the woman that I love with every cell of my being—think that I would turn to one of those sub-bots that I used to flog and fuck because she wouldn’t allow me to use her beyond her limits.”

He stands from the chair and begins to pace around my office, his hands on his hips and his expression intense.

“This was my idea,” he says, gesturing wildly into the air. “It was my idea to get some formal guidance to see how we would proceed with our relationship in the lifestyle. Why would I bother doing that if I wanted someone else? And yes, I realize that the dreaded walk down Memory Lane happened after I made the suggestion, but I still went through with the meeting. I was open and honest about the memories and how they made me feel and look what it got me. I mean, really, why even bother bringing it up if my intention was to stray outside our relationship? That wouldn’t only make me an asshole. That would make me a stupid asshole…”

He’s ranting on and on and on, things that he didn’t say in front of Artemis and Savvina. These things were… are meant for my ears only. I think the biggest kick in the stomach for him is that he finds it incredibly unbelievable that my thoughts would even veer in the direction of him being unfaithful. All things considered, it was less about him being unfaithful and more about whether or not I would be able to be what he needed, even though the relationship between the two would eventually be cause and effect.

Was I too concerned about not being able to meet his needs? Was I taking a personal flaw—or what I perceived as a personal flaw—and imprinting it on my husband, i.e. I can’t be what he wants so he’s automatically going to find someone who can?

“I want you. To stop. Shrinking,” he says coolly and firmly. That’s when I realize that I’ve pulled my knees up into the chair and that my body is in such a tiny ball that another body could fit in here with me. I stretch my legs and put them on the floor, clasping my hands in my lap. That’s the best I can do.

“I can’t rescue you right now,” he says honestly. “I’m fighting my own demons at the moment.”

I guess we both are. I can’t blame him.

He gazes at me for a few moments, then he leaves my office.

I won’t cry. I haven’t been wronged.
I won’t blame the Boogeyman. That’s not what this is.
This is my own insecurities biting me in the ass and flowing out of my big mouth, and I just have to deal with the aftermath.

He needs time. I’ll give him time. Once his feelings of confusion simmer down, he’ll find his words. Then, he’ll most likely bite my head off.

And I deserve it.

*-*

“Purple, huh?” I say as I sit on Sophie’s bed, polishing her toenails the same lavender as her hair. She has already done my toes and I was waiting for them to dry as I do hers. I spent the afternoon journaling—mostly berating myself for being an insecure twit and imposing those feelings on my husband—then meditation, then yoga, and now I’m down here in Sophie’s apartment connecting with her on a simple level and trying to find out how she feels about the latest events in her life.

“I’m tired of being invisible,” she says, trying not to wiggle her toes. She painted mine blue and they’ve already dried. “It looks cute, and it’s kind of a statement.” I frown.

“What statement?” I ask.

“We’re… Care Bears.” My eyes widen and I try not to laugh.

“Care Bears?” I ask, fanning the polish on her toes.

“Yes,” she says. I’m Share Bear, because I always share my lunch with my friends when they forget theirs. My friend Cecily is Grumpy Bear… well, just because it fits, and the blue hair looks really good on her. And Lanie is Cheer Bear because, let’s face it, she’s sickeningly cheerful sometimes.”

I’m glad to hear that she has friends who were willing to stick through this crazy idea with her. I was worried about her fitting in after I had to make a couple of appearances at her school.

“And what color is Lanie’s hair?” I inquire.

“Pink,” she says. “It’s very pink.” I nod.

“How did their parents react to the new look?” I say.

“They didn’t flip out like Dad did!” she declares in the insolent teenagery way. “It’s not even permanent!”

“It just surprised him, Sophie. I think it’s really cute,” I say.

“Thanks,” she says. “I’m going to do it again when it wears off.” I don’t respond. I decide to change the subject.

“So, how do you feel about your mom?” I ask. I don’t know if anybody talked to her about it.

“You mean about her going to jail?” she asks. I nod. “I don’t know, Ana. I want to feel sad about it—she is my mom after all—but she tried to sell me to her drug dealer. What did she think was going to happen to me? I’m a kid, but I’m not stupid. I know he was going to try to do all kinds of creepy things to me or make me do creepy things. And whenever I talk to her, she acts like it didn’t happen. So, how am I supposed to feel about her going to jail?”

“I don’t know, Sophie,” I tell her. “My mom did sell me to someone… or at least she sold my silence, and I still haven’t forgiven her. So, this is one time I don’t have the answer for you.”

“At least somebody understands me,” she says. “I feel like a horrible person because I don’t know how I feel about her going to jail. She’s my mom, I really don’t want her to go to jail. But geez, she tried to sell me! Or trade me. That means that she really has a serious problem if she didn’t see anything wrong with that.”

“That’s true,” I say. “How do you feel about her getting help and maybe wanting you to come back and live with her?” Sophie shakes her head.

“I would beg the judge to let me stay with my dad,” she says finitely. “I’ve been doing some studying on my own and I know that the judge listens to kids of a certain age. I’m hoping that I’ll be old enough that by the time my mom is eligible for parole, the judge will listen to me.”

“The judge listened to you before, Sophie,” I tell her. “I’m sure he’ll listen to you again.” She twists her lips.

“I hope so,” she replies. Then she falls silent for a few moments.

“What is it, Sophie?” I ask.

“This is my first Christmas with Dad since… I don’t know how long. I’m just wondering how it’s going to go.”

“Well, it’ll be different for us this year,” I tell her. “We normally all meet at Grace’s, but this year, everybody’s meeting over here.” She raises her brow.

“Everybody?” she says, her voice a mixture of hope and dismay, if you can say that. I give her a sympathetic glance.

“You know the door is always open at Christmas for anyone who wants to stop by.” She sighs.

“That means that Marlow will probably be here, and he’ll bring one of his scatterbrains,” she says with distaste. I shake my head.

“You may want to lighten up a bit on his dates,” I tell her. “It only serves to piss him off when you give them a hard time.”

“They’re such easy targets,” she says. “You know why he’s with them. Do they have to be so obvious?” I raise a brow.

“Why is he with them?” I ask.

“Either they want to meet you or Uncle Christian, or he wants to make out,” she says matter-of-factly, and she’s right—most likely the latter.

“So maybe now might be the time not to pay so much attention to Marlow and his dates and start paying more attention to your own interests,” I say. I want her to focus on something other than the unattainable young man who visits us from time to time. It would be a long time before he would ever even be slightly interested in Sophie, and she’s certainly sabotaging any possibility of that even in the distant future with her behavior. He’s four whole years older than her—well, nearly four. She’d probably be somewhere around twenty-one before he would even consider looking in her direction, and there’s a whole lot of years between 13 and 21. Give it up, Sophie.

“Yeah, well,” she says flippantly. “I suppose there’s no way I can get out of Christmas,” she laments. I raise my brow and purse my lips.

“Not unless you want to tell your father that you don’t want to be around Marlow and why,” I inform her. She scoffs.

“Please,” she says in that surly teenage voice. “He had a cow over purple hair. This would probably give him a coronary!”

I don’t bother asking exactly what this is. We’ve all had girlhood crushes on some unattainable older boy. It’ll pass.

Once our toes have dried and we’ve talked about everything from her beloved High School Musical and Zach Efron to the fear of being a high school student herself next year, I hear the two-way come alive.

“Ana,” I call into the air, and I hear Minnie’s cooing voice.

“Well, that’s my cue,” I say, uncrossing my legs from the lotus position and putting them on the floor.

“How does the system know when to call you?” she asks, removing the tissue from between her toes. “Like, does it buzz every time the babies cry or when does it not buzz or what?”

“Barney set it up,” I tell her, then I realize that she doesn’t know who Barney is. “Christian’s IT guy. It’s some algorithm where it picks up a certain sound or tone of the babies, but only from the nursery.” We’re going to have to revisit, because it’s picking up some other things.

“Can I come with?” she asks, hopeful.

“Sure, you can, come on.”

Keri has already made it to the nursery when we get there, and I’ve already told Gail that I was on my way and that Sophie is with me. Sophie adores baby time. Like everyone else, she doesn’t know which baby to grab first. Luckily, Keri has made the decision and retrieved Minnie, so Mikey finds himself in Sophie’s arms. Already the ladies man, he coos and smiles at her, reaching for her face as she talks to him.

We spend quite a bit of time playing with and feeding the babies—more like monitoring them while they eat. Feeding time is a bit messy these days as the babies eat more with their hands, grabbing their sippy cups on their own and dropping more food on the tarps under their highchairs than they get into their mouths. It’s mostly a success, though that ends in bathtime and a nap for my two food critics.

We find that it’s early evening when we’ve finished with the twins and it’s time to go in search of sustenance. There’s nothing cooking when we get to the kitchen and when I locate Gail, I find out why.

“Christian and Jason are still at the office. He says they’re going to be late,” Gail tells me as she’s going over the house schedule for the coming week. Still at the office? It’s fucking Sunday! Why the fuck is he at the fucking office? And why the fuck didn’t he tell me he was going?

He’s avoiding me.

Try though I might, I can’t hide the mix of anger and disappointment that wells up inside of me. From now on, if I want to know where my husband is—if I want to know—I’ll ask Gail. At least her husband tells her what’s going on.

“Ms. Solomon decided not to start dinner until she talked to you,” Gail adds, reading my expression. “She thought you may want something quick and simple…” since my husband won’t be eating with me. I swallow hard and straighten my back.

“Sophie?” I say, turning to my Sunday companion. “Would you like to come and help me reacquaint myself with my kitchen?” Sophie’s face lights up.

“Yeah!” she says, like I just gave her a Christmas present. I nod and we walk into the gourmet kitchen.

“Sophie and I are going to play ‘chef’ this evening, Ms. Solomon,” I say, trying to hide my ire with my husband behind and painted-on smile. Ms. Solomon picks up immediately.

“Okay,” she says, “just call me if you need me,” and she leaves the kitchen to me and Sophie.

“So, I say, retrieving my chef’s apron from its hiding place where it has set way too long, “do we want something easy or complicated?” I hand Sophie another apron.

“Complicated,” she says, almost reading my mind and taking the apron. She ties it around her little body as I contemplate what we’re going to create. “Aunt Ana?” she says, getting my attention. I quickly turn my head to her. She variates between “Ana” and “Aunt Ana” at will.

“Hmm?” I reply, acknowledging her.

“Boys are stupid,” she says, looking up at me with big, understanding blue eyes that almost make me cry. I sigh heavily.

“Yes, they are,” I say as I retrieve a mixing bowl.

My spirits lift somewhat after Sophie and I giggle like schoolgirls creating a fabulous homemade chicken pot pie with all fresh ingredients including crust from scratch. It’s not really complicated on the cooking scale, but it’s detailed enough to keep us both occupied. As an addition to our comfort food, I make my garlic butter cheesy mashed potatoes and nearly cry when I taste them, longing like crazy for the simpler time when these were always in the fridge, and understanding a little more why Christian would wax nostalgic about memories of his most recent past.

The girls—Gail, Sophie, Keri, and I—all have dinner at the dining table, careful to keep the conversation light, nothing too serious to bring down girl time. When dinner is done, we load the dishwasher, put the food away, and go to our separate corners.

After I spend some time doing yoga, I take to Facebook and decide to create my first post…

“Your past is always your past. Even if you forget it, it remembers you. ― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye”

I close Facebook so as not to be tempted to overshare. The sun has long since gone down and still no word from my husband. Deciding to turn in early, I stop in my babies’ nursery like I always do to check on them. I find Minnie standing in her crib holding on to the edge, sleepy-eyed, but awake. I close the door and take her from her crib. She’s unsettled for whatever reason, so I take her to the window seat and rub her little back.

I make the mistake of looking over at the bridge. I’m not looking for an Audi, I’m just looking at the bridge, wondering how many husbands are crossing it on the way home to their families; or how many families are returning from Sunday dinner at grandma’s house, going on to prepare for the busy week; or how many wives are driving across the bridge, leaving their families and never to return again.

God, that’s dismal.

I look down at Minnie in my arms and she has fallen asleep. I didn’t really need to remove her from the crib to put her to sleep. I just needed to hold her in my arms. For the moment, I’ve officially had enough of wearing my big girl panties. I’ll be a big girl tomorrow. Right now, I just want to cry.

I cradle my sleeping baby girl in my arms, hold her close to my body, and weep.


CHRISTIAN

I’ve buried myself so deep in work that I didn’t realize how late it was until Jason tells me that his wife wants to know if we’re coming home before midnight.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “Old habits are hard to break. I got some of the results back from the drug tests along with some of the reports from the departments and I just got lost.” He furrows his brow at me.

“Do you need to talk?” he asks.

“About what?” I counter. About the fact that I’m one man, er, woman down because Ros chose now to have a pissing contest? I could just fire her, but she hasn’t taken much if any vacation time all year. So, the work falls on me and Lorenz and, well… I’ve got other things on my mind, too—like the goddamn Pedophile and that cunt ghostwriter of hers, and…

“We have,” I protest. “We were talking about Christmas, which is going to be at the Crossing this year, by the way.” Jason frowns.

“Thanks for telling me!” he scolds.

“I was just told today,” I defend. “And it’s only going to be family and friends anyway.”

“People are going to be coming and going. You never know where the paps are hiding. We have to be informed about these things.”

“It slipped my mind,” I say, removing my glasses and rubbing my eye.

“Now I know something’s wrong,” he says. I frown and glare at him.

“Why are you saying that?” I ask.

“Because anything to do with security, your twins, and your wife never slips your mind,” he says. “If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, but just know that I know. And it’s more than just this work shit.” He waves around the room at my office. “Let me know when you’re ready to go,” he adds as he walks out of my office. I’m only glad no one else knows me as well as he does.

Except my wife. At least I thought she knew me… well enough to know that I wouldn’t go running into the arms of another woman because she won’t do the hard stuff. For fuck’s sake, Anastasia…

I push those thoughts out of my head and shoot off an email to HR to have the handful of people who tested positive out of my building no later than Tuesday. I’m happy to find that the vast majority follow the rules. Those who can’t will have bad news from Santa.

In accordance with my own rules, I CC the email to my wife. It’s like I told Ros before she flew the coop—if five people come back with a positive test, that’s five people that I can get rid of and get some drug-free talent in here, which is what I want. Nine came back with positive tests ranging from marijuana to meth, and I don’t even have all the results yet. I can get them out of here before they fuck anything up if they haven’t already. I’d say that’s a big win for the company so far.

I fire off a few more emails and let Jason know that it’s time to go. We have to be in court in the morning at 10, so I don’t want to keep him away from his wife and daughter for too long…

What about your wife…?

I head to my piano and a snifter of brandy like I did last night and let my melancholy tickle the ivories. My music is solemn—disappointed, like my mood. I haven’t had dinner and surprisingly, I’m not even hungry. After I don’t know how many hours, I realize that I’m really tired, though, more tired than I expected that I would be.

I want my damn bed. I haven’t slept in it and I’m tired and I want it now.

I close my piano, finish my brandy and head to my bedroom.

She’s not here, and the bed hasn’t been slept in. It’s 3:00 in the morning, and she’s not here. She’s not in the sitting room either, and the throw from the bed hasn’t been disturbed. There’s no evidence whatsoever that she’s even been in this room. I check her yoga room and she’s not there either. I would have seen her when I came from the elevator if she had been in here.

I begin to check every guest room except the room that Harmony is sleeping in. Maybe she’s feeling the same way she felt when I left for Madrid and doesn’t want to sleep in the room by herself.

No luck.

I’m trying to keep myself from panicking. I know that she wasn’t in the gym when I passed by. Her office? Her parlor? The aquarium? The spa?

Nothing.

Where the hell is she? I can’t find her anywhere! Now, I am starting to panic. Was I too hard on her? Has she left me? No, she wouldn’t leave without the children…

The twins! Of course!

I don’t wait for the elevator. I take the stairs two and three at a time to the first floor, bolting through the empty family room, kitchen, dining room and past the main entry, then up the main staircase to my twins room. I’m out of breath and I have to pause for a moment to calm my breathing before I open the door.

When I do, holding my breath, the room is dark… too dark. I scan the room and after adjusting my eyes to the darkness, I see Mikey fast asleep in his crib. I look over at Minnie’s crib and it’s empty.

My daughter is gone. Where is my daughter… and my wife?

A momentary rush of panic flows through me as I note the empty rocking chair and no light from the en suite. Just when I about to go full DEFCON 1, I see a shadow in the window seat.

Oh, shit.

I slowly walk across the room and I’m relieved and dismayed at the same time to find my wife fast asleep in the window seat with my daughter cradled contentedly in her arms. Her head is lying back on the wall and she’s scrunched up in the window seat with the baby in her arms. The moon is shining on her face, and her tears have left many treks behind.

I don’t know how to feel. I feel like I’m the one who has been wronged because I was wrongly accused, but she’s been crying.

I shake my head and reach for my baby to put her in her crib, but my wife stirs—not enough to wake, but enough to tighten her grasp on Minnie. My daughter whimpers a bit, but suckles her binky a couple of times and she’s out again… and so is my wife.

I’ll have to leave them here… or take them both.

I gather my wife in my arms, and she must’ve cried herself into sheer exhaustion, because all she does is breathe those crying shuddering breaths, clings to her baby, and falls immediately back to sleep in my arms. I look back at Mikey once more, who hasn’t stirred, and carry Butterfly and Minnie to our bedroom.

Once I lay her down, she feels the softness and loosens her grip on Minnie. My daughter rolls out of her mother’s arms and begins to stir and fuss a bit.

“Sshhh,” I soothe, rolling her onto her belly and patting her back as she sucks her binky. In no time, she’s fast asleep again. I look over at my wife, fully dressed and curled up so tightly in a ball that she looks like she’s eight years old.

She’s shrinking in her sleep. I can’t stop her from shrinking in her sleep.

I put the blanket over her and Minnie and go to my en suite. I stand in the shower for several minutes, allowing the heat to wash away the stress of the day. Once I begin to feel relaxed again, I pull on a pair of sweats and climb into bed. Neither of them has moved from the positions I left them in. I lie in bed on my back, staring at the ceiling and trying not to think about the thing that kept me away from home all day. I eventually fall asleep in that position.

I only sleep for a few hours and I’m awake again. Jason and I are headed for court this morning, I need to get out of bed. I stretch, and my hand brushes over my baby girl. I look over at her and her mother. It’s hard to believe they haven’t moved for hours—neither of them. Butterfly’s still curled in a ball and Minnie is still resting peacefully on her belly. I carefully slide out of bed so as not to wake them and go into my dressing room. I quietly dress for the day, my tie draped around my neck and my shoes, cufflinks, and suit jacket in my hand and sneak quietly out of the room.

I finish dressing just before I descend the stairs and as I’m coming through the hallway towards the kitchen, I can hear Jason talking to Gail.

“I don’t know what it is,” he says. “Something must’ve happened when he and Her Highness went out on Saturday. He’s been avoiding her ever since.”

“I knew it had to be something,” I hear Gail reply. “I think she asked me three times where he was. She never knew. I made the mistake of telling her that you guys had gone to the airport—she turned white, I mean alabaster white. She tried to downplay it, but she was terrified for a minute until I added that Christian was getting some time in Charlie Tango.”

“Well, hopefully it’ll blow over soon…”

“I don’t think so,” Gail interrupts her husband. “You’ve seen him like this before. He’s cantankerous and unapproachable, and that was before Saturday. Whatever’s going on between them, she can’t talk to him, and he can stay this way forever.”

“I know, but before, he didn’t have her. And as much of an asshole as he is, I know he doesn’t want to lose her.” He pauses for a moment. “Do you think I should let Sophie come to the sentencing? She’s young, but she’s mature for her age.”

There’s another pause before Gail speaks.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she says. “That’s her mother, and seeing Shalane hauled away in cuffs is probably not a good idea for her. You’ll talk to her when you get home.” Jason scoffs.

“When I get home—that’s rich. With him hiding in that office until the late evening hours, I don’t even know when that’s going to be.”

“Well, tonight, you may need to have one of the other gentlemen sit with Mr. Grey while he hides out, because your daughter needs you. He can neglect his family if that’s his choice, but you, sir, need to be here.”

I’m not neglecting my family! We had a disagreement and we haven’t been speaking as much for one day! That’s not neglect!

“I’m sorry we haven’t had that much time together,” Jason says. “First Australia, and now this.”

“You’ll just have to find a way to make it up to me,” Gail replies suggestively, and I hear the unmistakable sound of kissing.

I’m not neglecting my family. If I feel slighted, I have every reason to take some time to myself and get my mind together. What the hell is this neglect shit?

“You’ve seen him like this before. He’s cantankerous and unapproachable, and that was before Saturday…”

I’m not neglecting my family… am I?

I take a few steps back through the hallway, then double back, allowing my soles to announce my presence before turning into the dining room and heading for the kitchen.

“Are you ready?” I ask Jason as I enter the room. “Good morning, Gail.”

“Good morning,” she replies, smoothing her hair. “Coffee?”

“Yes, black please,” I say.

“I guess so,” Jason finally responds with a shrug. “I wouldn’t even go if I didn’t have to, but you know… Sophie…”

“Yeah, I know,” I say, taking a welcome sip of my coffee. I look down at the plate in front of him. “That’s a hearty breakfast you’ve got there,” I say, noting the healthy serving of what looks like chicken pot pie and… are those…?

“No, I’m packing this for lunch,” Gail says, placing a cover over the plate and placing it into a thermal bag. “I made one for you, too, if you want it. Ana made a homemade, deep-dish pot pie last night and there’s enough to feed an army, and of course, those mashed potatoes…”

Ana? Butterfly cooked last night? And the potatoes?

“Yeah,” I say, trying to be nonchalant, “We’ve got a busy day ahead of us today. Brown-bagging is probably a good idea.” Gail throws a knowing look at Jason which I ignore while taking another gulp of my coffee and looking at my phone. “Is her hair still purple?”

It takes a moment for him to catch on.

“I’m used to it now,” he says. “Worse things could happen.”

“I’m glad,” Gail says, “because she’s talking about touching it up.”

“Purple again?” Jason laments a bit. Gail nods. “Well, like I said, worse things could happen.” He takes the thermal bag from his wife and kisses her. “See you later, love,” he says. I finish my coffee and walk out behind him.

*-*

The courtroom is fairly empty. There’s no one here at the moment except the courtroom staff, minus the judge, me and Jason, and the district attorney. I can’t imagine going forth into something that is this life-changing and no one even shows up to support me.

The way that I understand it, Shalane has agreed to come to court and turn herself in, taking a plea on a lesser charge with the hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Jason sits in his seat looking straight ahead of him. I can tell that he’s lost in thought. He’s probably thinking that his entire life and the life of his daughter balances on what’s going to be said in this room today.

The doors open behind us and in walks Shalane and what appears to be her attorney. She’s dressed more modestly than I’ve ever seen her, but she looks very thin and pale. I can’t tell if she’s thinner than she was the last time I saw her or not, but she’s thin. Her hair is pulled back in a bun, making her face look even thinner, skeletal even. Jason raises his gaze when he hears the doors open and looks back. Their eyes meet and Shalane looks horrified. Jason just shakes his head and faces the front again.

“She’s still using,” he says. I look back at her and then at him.

“How do you know?” I ask. I know that meth users look frail anyway, but how would he know that she’s not just frail from using before?

“She looks like death,” he says, turning his gaze to me. “I haven’t seen her since the last time that we were in court because the few times that she requested visitation, I had to work, so Gail took Sophie to see her. She looks worse now than she did then, and I know that she was using then.”

He turns his gaze to the front of the courtroom again and Shalane stops right next to us.

Shalane's meth mouth in chapter 91

“Where’s Sophia?” she whispers harshly. When she bears her teeth at him, they look awful. I don’t remember them looking that awful the last time I saw her. She looks like she’s been chewing tobacco and never brushed her teeth. I turn my gaze away from her. She looks horrible.

“Not here,” Jason says without looking at her.

“You know as well as I do that I may not see her for a while. Why wouldn’t you bring her so I could say ‘goodbye?’”

Because he probably didn’t want her to see you looking like this! Jason doesn’t dignify her with a response. Her attorney urges her to take her seat. She throws a hateful glare at Jason right before the bailiff announces the judges arrival and Shalane scrambles to her place at the defendant’s table. Everyone is seated and Shalane’s case is announced. After the attorneys introduce themselves, the judge speaks.

“It is my understanding that in the case of the State of Washington vs Shalane Deleroy, the defendant wishes to enter a plea, is this correct?”

“It is, Your Honor,” Shalane’s attorney says.

“Is the office of the District Attorney aware of this plea?”

“We are, Your Honor,” the D.A. replies.

“Is the office of the District Attorney in agreement with this plea?

“We are, Your Honor.” The judge examines some papers in front of her.

“It is my understanding that the charges have been amended from conspiracy to distribute to possession of a controlled substance, is that correct?” the judge asks.

“Yes, Your Honor,” the D.A. confirms.

“Very well. Ms. Deleroy, would you please stand?” The judge says and Shalane gets to her feet.

“Do you understand the charges against you, Ms. Deleroy?” the judge asks.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Shalane responds.

“Okay. In the matter of the State of Washington vs Shalane Deleroy, on the count of possession of a controlled substance, Ms. Deleroy, how do you plead?”

“Guilty, Your Honor,” she says after a short pause.

“Counsel, you have reached a settlement?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” the D.A. says. “The people have agreed to a sentence of 18 months in jail followed by five years’ probation.” That’s all? She tried to sell a child, for fuck’s sake! But of course, she took a plea. Gotta love the justice system.

“Ms. Deleroy, do you know that by pleading guilty you lose the right to a jury trial?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your Honor,” she replies.

“Do you give up that right?”

“Yes, Your Honor,” she says flatly.

“Do you understand what giving up that right means?” the judge asks.

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you know that you are waiving the right to cross-examine your accusers?” the judge continues.

“Yes.”

“Do you know that you are waiving your privilege against self-incrimination?”

“Yes.”

“Did anyone force you into accepting this settlement?” the judge inquires.

“No, they didn’t.”

“Are you pleading guilty because you in fact were in possession of a controlled substance on the night of March 19, 2014?

“Yes, I was.”

“Very well, Ms. Deleroy, you are hereby sentenced to 18 months in jail, with review in a year, followed by five years’ probation, on condition that you complete a court-approved drug rehabilitation program.

“You are hereby remanded and without bail to the custody of the sheriffs of Kent county to be delivered for commitment to the Washington State Department of Corrections where you will be confined until final execution of this judgment and sentence prescribed by law. This court is now in recess.”

The gavel falls and we watch as the bailiff cuffs Shalane. She doesn’t resist or perform like she has been known to do. Her attorney says something to her as she’s being cuffed, and she just nods meekly. Moments later, she walks out of the courtroom with the bailiff without a word or looking back.

Jason is still deep in thought as we leave the courtroom and walk down the courthouse steps in the frigid cold. We walk in silence to the car and once inside. He starts the car and just sits there for a moment.

“Jason?” I say.

“Thank you for coming with me today,” he says.

“You’re welcome,” I reply. There’s a long pause.

“I loved that woman once,” he says, almost nostalgically. “At one time, she and Sophie were my whole life. And then, it seems like out of nowhere, we were at the other end of the spectrum. I was devastated when we got divorced. How does something change so drastically between two people who love each other?”

I can see his reflection in the rearview mirror, but he’s still looking straight ahead. I don’t have an answer to his question and I’m not certain if it’s rhetorical or not.

“Work it out, sir,” he says, and his eyes shift to mine in the reflection of the rearview mirror. “Whatever it is, whatever has you and Ana at odds, work it out and work it out fast. Don’t let it simmer. It only takes a minute to lose everything you love.”

We gaze at each other for a moment in the mirror before he puts the car in gear and heads toward GEH.

*-*

“It’s been a bit of a commotion today, sir,” Andrea says. “Mr. Holstein has called several times. I hear a hint of desperation in his voice. Allen has asked to be notified as soon as you arrive as he indicated that GEH is most likely looking at five lawsuits for wrongful termination…”

“From the ex-employees who failed the drug tests?” I ask, bemused.

“Yes, sir, it looks that way,” she replies. I scoff a laugh.

“Bring it on,” I say. “Tell him that I’m here and to bring the files and names of those losers who want to sue me.”

“Yes, sir,” she says and begins to dial the phone.

I walk into the office I left not 12 hours ago, Jason’s words ringing in my head to fix whatever’s wrong between me and “Ana.” He never calls her Ana, so either he was highly distracted or very serious. I remove my coat and rub my hands together. They’ve gotten a chill just from the car to the door. It’s really cold outside.

“Andrea, will you get me a cup of coffee, please?” I say into the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” she replies. I fire up my computer and of course, many emails greet me—responses from the department heads I’ve been harassing about projects that should have long since been started or even finished. I take several minutes to respond to them and give further directives. Then I can’t help but feel a bit of anger towards Ros for skipping out on me at such a crucial time, but I push the thought out of my head. It is what it is, so she gets one gimmie, but that’s it.

“Well, hello, Chris. So nice of you to join us,” Al says, breezing into my office in that way that he does.

“Don’t give me shit, Forsythe, I had things to do this morning,” I warn. “What’s up?”

“Well, first of all, Chocolate is walking on air that we finally got the ball rolling on SEEKNID,” he says. I raise my gaze to him.

“You told him that?” I ask.

“No, he told me,” he says. “He’s been getting calls about algorithms and the way the program is supposed to work in an ideal setting. He’s got an appointment to come down next Tuesday for his input and approval.”

I must’ve missed that email in the thousands that I’ve been reading over the past several days.

“Well, it’s good to know that someone around here is doing their job,” I point out. “So, what’s the angle—I drugged their coffee?”

“No,” he replies. “They’re actually claiming ADA protection.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” I say. “This is a joke, right?”

“Well, no. Under the ADA…”

“I know how the ADA works!” I snap. “Title I to be exact. The moment I decided that this would be a drug-free workplace, I educated myself on that.”

“Good, so I don’t have to explain it to you. The revolutionaries are trying to sue you for not making reasonable accommodations for their ‘illness.’ According to the lawsuits, as an employer, you should have provided counseling and cessation or rehabilitation programs instead of firing them.”

“And this is why I had to go all Rambo on my fucking company,” I lament, “because the inmates are running the fucking asylum.”

“There’s only eight of them, Chris,” he says.

“All eight of them are suing?” I ask.

“All eight of them have mentioned it,” he replies.

“And if only one of them is successful in this suit, employers everywhere will have to keep drug addicts on their payroll,” I respond. “This section of the ADA is supposed to protect people like Chuck, who had a bad spell but has cleaned their life up and is moving on, so that their prior mistakes don’t follow them to the grave—not strung-out or social-using opportunists who got caught. They’re not suing me because they’re sick. No, they’re suing me because they failed random drug testing, which is my right to perform as an employer, and I’m going to be performing it more often.

“No one came to me and said, ‘Sir, I have a problem I need treatment.’ They went out and partied the night before or the weekend before and they dropped dirty. So, if they have money to burn, let them go on and sue me, because I’m taking this all the way to the fucking top. Any lawyer with an ounce of sense knows this isn’t going to go anywhere. There’s no judge in America that’s even going to hear this. So, all I want to hear from this point on about these cases is how soon they’re going to be thrown out of court.” He twists his lips and nods.

“Christmas is at your house,” he says.

“Yes,” I say after a pause.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asks.

“Ana just decided this weekend,” I say. He raises a brow at me. “What?” His face falls to a slight frown.

“Nothing,” he replies.

“Out with it, Forsythe,” I demand. Everybody seems to be able to see that something is wrong, and I haven’t said a word or even behaved differently that I know of.

“Nothing,” he says again, “if you don’t see anything wrong with what you just said, neither do I. Have you started planning for February or are we just flying by the seat of our pants?” I frown.

“What’s happening in February?” I ask and his eyes widen.

“Green Valley? Smote the bastards? Hello?” I shake my head.

“I’ve been a little distracted with company business,” I reply.

“Well, undistract yourself!” he demands. “This is like one of the most important things that has ever happened in Jewel’s life!”

“Jesus Christ, I know,” I say, irritated. “Just give me definite dates and I’ll have travel plans ready.”

“Well, you may want a guest list, too, because it looks like you’re going to have a full-on entourage.” I frown.

“Entourage?” I ask. “That’s a bad idea. That screams of publicity, something we really don’t need.”

“Well, I’m going, and I know that if I’m going, Chocolate is going to be there.”

“We really don’t need legal representation for this, Al…”

“Well, then it’s a good thing I’m not coming as legal representation,” he interrupts. “I was around for this shit, Chris. I may not have been right there in her face, and I may not have been able to be by her side, but I was there. I felt everything that she felt and when she got back to Montesano at the tender age of 16, I cried with her while she told me what happened. I vowed that if it took my last breath, I would see these motherfuckers get what’s coming to them and I’m. Going. To Vegas.”

His brown eyes are piercing through me at the moment and I’m pretty certain he’d deck me if I tried to stop him. I sigh heavily and drop my head.

“I’m sorry,” I say, not able to give him any explanation as to why I was so insensitive of his emotional investment in all this. He’s silent for a moment.

“What’s going on with you, Chris?” he asks, and when I look up, he’s closing the door. I drop my head again.

“There’s so much going on in my life right now,” I admit. “We went to Australia to decompress and I come back to a shitstorm of motherfuckers not knowing what they’re doing. I’m putting all of my time and energy into trying to figure out what’s going on before my company collapses, and now I get the news that bastards are trying to sue me because I’m not letting them do drugs on the job.

“Ros is testing all of my patience. She took nearly three weeks off right at Christmas with no notice and right in the middle of a crisis because she’s pissed! She’s pissed because I decided to do random drug testing which sniffed out eight people so far, and because I’m turning the company upside down, but not to her specifications. It bothers the fuck out of me that Lorenz is floating around just as cool as you please while I’m running around here pulling out every strand of my hair.

“My wife has vowed not to come to GEH anymore because she feels like nobody respects her, and Ros was bordering on insubordination the day that she walked out of here.”

“She said that?” Al interrupts. “She said she wasn’t coming back because they don’t respect her?” I nod quickly and widen my eyes.

“Yeah, she did,” I confirm. Al scoffs, then chuckles. “What’s funny?” I ask with a frown.

“She’ll be back,” he says with a knowing smile, “and when she does, some fire’s gonna fly in this bitch.” I eye him speculatively, then roll my eyes.

“I’ve got another Ana to meet now?” I’ve got a feeling that’s the last fucking thing that I need.

“Oh, this Ana doesn’t have a name, but you’ve probably met her already. Tell me—if I’m not overstepping—has this surly, distracted, inattentive, bear-like, solemn persona made its way to your home yet?” He’s gesturing to me in the most belittling manner as he rattles off this list or unattractive adjectives that describe me perfectly these days.

“No, you’re not and yes, it has,” I confess. He twists his lips.

“Um-hmm, and how is Butterfly taking that?” he says, his brow furrowing. “I notice you haven’t used that particular term of endearment in this entire conversation.” Jesus, I haven’t? Is that what Jason was talking about?

“Things aren’t well,” he says. “There’s other things going on.”

“And none of them stemmed from this, right?” he presses. I don’t know how to answer that. We were planning to see our BDSM mentors anyway. When we got there, I made a confession and she accused me of wanting to be with other women. That had nothing to do with what’s going on here and neither did our going to see our BDSM mentors…

But my confession and the feelings surrounding it did.

“So, while you’re searching for an answer to that question, riddle me this. Have you ever seen Jewel get to the end of a situation that she couldn’t handle or that had just worked her nerves to the very end and flip the fuck out? I mean, completely turn into somebody you didn’t know?”

Flynngate and the Treehouse Trauma both come to mind immediately. Then, of course, there was the Crouching Tiger moment when the Pedophile put her hands all over me in front of a room full of people at my parents’ house. And let’s not forget holding a chopping knife to the Pedophile’s throat at the breakfast bar at Escala, and that cold woman that took over my kitchen the entire afternoon. I get a chill just thinking about it…

“And that…” Al says, pulling me out of my daydream and pointing a finger at me, “tells me that you have seen her in this state. And when she blows, be prepared for somebody to walk out, especially if her flamethrower is aimed at our little ‘hot shot in heels.’”

“Fuck,” I hiss. The last thing I would want to have to do is choose between Ros and my… Butterfly. I would really hate to lose Ros, but that’s a no-brainer. Al stands.

“Whatever fire is in the hole at home, fix it, Chris. You and I both know that although this is your pride and joy and you built it with your bare hands, none of this…” he gestures around the room, “is going to be worth anything to you without Jewel.”

Without Jewel? What does he mean by that? She’s not going anywhere! It’s not that bad…

Is it?

I sit there pondering just how bad the situation must be for Jason and Al to check me about it without even talking to my wife, and I’m surprised to see that Al has left and Jason has taken his place.

“It’s late,” he says. “I figure you might want your lunch.” He’s standing there holding the plate his wife made for me this morning along with some utensils. Food from the hands of Butterfly. I move to take it from him

“Thanks,” I say. He hesitates.

“It’s still cold,” he says. “You want me to have Andrea heat it up?” I shake my head and take the plate.

“No, I’ll do it, but ask her to get me something to drink, please.”

“What do you want?” I think for a moment.

“Cranberry juice and sparkling water on ice.”


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.

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~~love and handcuffs

 

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 26

Two more chapters after this…

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 26

Eric Dane 26

TREY

I didn’t get the whole lowdown on sexual activity once I’m released from the hospital, so I’m pretty sure that I’m just going to take it easy until I’m cleared by the doctor. In light of that, I have one last hurrah on Sunday night. I do every freaky thing in the book—anal, deep throat, titty fucks, you name it…

And I don’t come once.

I know it’s a combination of being worried about the surgery—if Mia will be okay, if there’ll be any complications for either of us—and the fact that I still have residual thoughts of Golden.

 

She let me call her Ana while we were maki… having sex. I don’t refer to her as that anymore.

I let Ronnie know that I’m going to be unreachable for about a month and a half so that she doesn’t think I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. I told her to call me if she needs me, but that I’m really going to be tied up in a very important project. Of course, she gave me a hard time about the pun. I’m really glad that we’re still friends.

I’ve already packed my bag and I’m heading out of the penthouse with Jason when I look back at Mrs. Jones standing in the kitchen. Her hands are clasped together, and her expression is unreadable. She’s clearly concerned. I hand my bag to Jason, walk over to her, and I take her clasped hands in mine.

“I’ll be fine,” I tell her with more conviction than I feel. “People do this all the time.” She nods quickly and looks at the floor.

“Yes, sir,” she whispers.

“I’ll need lots of your soup,” I say, trying to lighten the situation. She scoffs a chuckle-sob.

“Yes, sir,” she says again. I kiss her hands and she never raises her gaze to me. I quickly walk out the door with Jason before I get all emotional and lose my nerve.

When I get to the hospital on Monday morning, I have Jason wait in Admitting while I go see Mia. I’ve been here just about every other day to make sure that she’s okay. At first, she was surprised. Now, she’s accepting of it even though I think she may be kind of cautious. I still haven’t told anybody that I’m going to be her donor. Like Ronnie, I tell them that I had some important business that couldn’t be rescheduled.

“Wow, Christian,” Elliot jibes. “You couldn’t put your business on hold for even a minute to make sure your sister is going to be okay?” I ignore him. I could blow his entire world with three sentences right now…

“Why yes, brother, I did in fact put my business on hold to make sure that my sister is going to be okay. I’m her donor since you are somehow physically unfit to donate your kidney. Why don’t you tell us how that came about?”

That’s not the priority right now, however. Mom has that same question in her eyes as I move next to Mia’s bed.

“Hey, Pest,” I say, taking her hand.

“Hey, Lucifer,” she replies with a smile. She’s scared. I can tell.

“You ready?” I ask, sitting on her bed next to her. She shrugs.

“I really don’t have a choice, do I?” she laments.

“We talked about this,” I remind her. “You’re going to come through this okay, and you’re going to take better care of yourself, right?” She nods quickly.

“Right,” she whispers.

“Aw, isn’t this sweet?” Elliot chimes in. “Hell has officially frozen over. Lady Capulet and Lord Montague are playing nice and all we needed was a life-threatening emergency. Go figure.”

“Elliot, stop being such an asshole,” Mia says without looking over at Mom, which she usually does when she curses. I think we all know that she gets a few “gimmes” today.

“So, look, I really have to get going, but I know you’re gonna knock this thing outta the park. Just give it as much hell as you’ve given me.” She smiles weakly.

“Get better,” I say, trying to make a hasty getaway. She raises sad eyes to me.

“Come on,” she begins. “Admit it. Your life would be a whole lot simpler without me.” Her voice is maudlin with a touch of that sarcasm I know so well.

“Of course, it would,” I reply with a half-smile, “but I don’t want you to die… because it would also be quite boring.” I fight the urge to hug her. I’m sure that I’ll spill my guts if I do. “I gotta go, Pest. I gotta see a man about a dog.”

“Of course, you do,” she says, her sarcasm returning. She drops her head again and I can’t resist. If this doesn’t work out right, I may not see her alive again. I lean down and kiss her on the cheek. She raises surprised eyes to me that quickly soften when we make eye-contact.

Yeah, sis, I may not like you that much, but I do love you.

“What’s your hurry, bro?” Elliot taunts. “What could possibly be more important than your sister’s health?” I turn a hateful glare to him.  I could destroy him in front of everybody right now with the information that the doctor insinuated and come out the hero for giving up a perfectly functioning piece of my body to a woman who obviously hates me… well, hated me, but I don’t do that.

I don’t know how long I stand there glaring at him, but I watch as his expression changes under my cold stare. I don’t have time to play this game with him. I have to go and get checked in myself.

“Nothing,” I nearly growl in response, and I’m about to prove it when you can’t, you asshole. I leave the eerily silent room and, as usual, Elliot has to have the last word. He just wasn’t brave enough to say it in my face.

“Then, why are you leaving?” he yells out of the room. “She could die, you know!” I hear my mother scolding him.

“I’m aware of that, Asswipe,” I say lowly to no one. “That’s what I’m trying to prevent.”

I walk slowly down the hall and press the elevator button to head to admissions, pretending that this isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

*-*

You get this drunk, hungover feeling without the headache when you wake up from anesthesia. My mouth feels like cotton and my throat stings a bit.

“Mr. Grey, you’re awake,” some nurse says. “That’s good. Let me get some readings from you and the doctor will be in shortly.” I smack my chops trying to create some saliva in my arid mouth.

“Dry mouth?” she asks. I nod. “We’ll get you some water for that.” She marks something on her chart and leaves the room. I look around and see that I’m in what looks like a common recovery room. Well, I don’t like that.

“Sir?” I slowly turn my head and Taylor is walking into the recovery room. “Just checking on you, sir.” I gesture my hand around the room. “They’re going to be moving you to a private room soon, sir.”

Yeah, soon. The last thing I want is for my parents—or heaven forbid—Elliot or Mia to see me in here.

Mia!

My facial expression must have given it away.

“No one knows we’re here, sir,” he says, “so I haven’t been able to get any information on your sister.” I lay my head back on the pillow. I don’t even want to open my mouth.

“Mr. Grey, how do you feel?” The next voice I hear is a large black man in scrubs—our doctor. I open my mouth and point inside.

“You’re hungry?” he asks. “That’s new.” I make a gesture like I’m drinking something.

“Oh, you’re thirsty,” he says. “Well, that’s good. We’ll get you some water.” Like an angel from heaven, the nurse comes back with a picture of ice water and looks at the doctor for approval. He nods and she hands me the small picture.

“Small sips, Mr. Grey,” she says while helping me raise my head. My tongue and throat are saying, “That’s not gonna happen,” but when I get the straw to my mouth, my strength says, “Small sips.”

“Your stats are looking really good, Mr. Grey,” the doctor says. He shines that infernal light in my eyes, and I blink and glare at him. He does a couple of other things to test my reflexes and such. When my throat feels better and my head is slightly clearer, I’m able to form a word.

“Mia,” I say, my voice rough. The doctor looks up at me and raises his brow.

“It looks really good, Mr. Grey,” he says. “She’s tired as you would expect. Her resistance and immune system aren’t as strong as yours with the dialysis, but she’s looking good.”

I nod. The last thing I want is for her to go downhill, especially since part of me is inside her now.

A while later, I’m hungry and cantankerous, and I want to go to a private room. I’m tired of laying in this bed and I want some food. I’m wearing a catheter and I fucking hate it. After enough bellyaching, either they finally got my room ready or the squeaky wheel got the oil.

I’m in a wheelchair and Taylor is rolling me down the hall with the nurse walking close by—not my nurse, but a nurse. The minute we exit the recovery unit, I hear it before I see it. It’s the unmistakable raucous of the press. What the hell are they doing inside the hospital? The moment we round the corner, I see them, a cluster of them trying to get into one of the rooms. I’m only glad the poor bastard in the room ain’t me. I make to hide my face until I see something that causes me to cringe.

“What are you doing here? Get away! This patient has had major surgery and is trying to recover. What’s wrong with you people? How did you even get in here?”

That’s my doctor demanding that these vultures cease and desist. My doctor… Wait a minute! Does that mean…? He turns around and sees me in the wheelchair about 50 feet from him and his brown skin turns white. His expression tells me everything I need to know.

That’s Mia’s room.

And suddenly, I feel no pain… just pure rage.

I’m up out of that chair and storming down the hall before anybody can stop me. The catheter bag is dragging on the floor behind me and I don’t know what disconnected. Somewhere along the way I get my hands on a crutch from God only knows where and bellow at these fuckers as loud as I can… which turns out to be pretty loud for a guy who just gave up a kidney.

“Move the fuck outta my way!”

My voice carries over the clamor of the reporters and they all stop. A nurse rushes down the hall and moves to assist me.

“Get your hands off me!” I demand, and she nearly leaps away from me, startled. “How the fuck did they get in here?” I roar. “This is a goddamn hospital! Why the fuck are they here?”

“I… I don’t know, sir…”

“Get security and the police on the phone and do something!” I turn back to the press. “Get the fuck away from her room or I’ll start swinging crutches and anything I can get my hands on.”

“And we’ll sue you for everything you have, billionaire boy,” one of the reporters says.

“Good luck convincing a judge about a man in the hospital in a gown hours after giving his sister a kidney!” I raise the crutch and they begin to back away, enough for me to get into Mia’s room.

I walk in and there’s a nurse smiling for the cameras over a sleeping Mia.

“You!” I bark, and another nurse nearly jumps out of her skin. I read her badge and commit her name to memory. “I’m going to have your fucking life in the palm of my hands. Kiss your career goodbye!” With the crutch at the ready, I start swinging. Fuck a warning—I’ll blame the meds.

“Get the fuck outta my sister’s room!” I demand. The crutch cuts through the air and the crowd leaps back, Dammit, I missed every one of them. Now, I want blood. I swing again, but these bastards are fast.

“If I see one picture of me or my sister in the press, you will all sorely regret it! I promise you that!” I swing again and connect with a wall. Pain rings through my hand and wrist and shoots up my arm… the bad arm. Fuck, I forgot about that thing.

The crack of the metal crutch against the wall was enough to clear the room, except for the petrified nurse.

“You inconsiderate, hateful, selfish, heartless bitch!” I seethe. She takes a step back as I walk toward her. “How could you? How could you violate her privacy that way? She’s unconscious! Totally indisposed! What the fuck is wrong with you?” I’m angrily pointing at Mia to illustrate her helpless condition and when I throw a glance at her, she’s looking at me. I’m shocked to see her eyes open.

“Mia?” I squeak, caught off guard by her gazing at me.

“Chr… Christian…” she says weakly. “Wh… what are you… doing here?”

That’s right. She doesn’t know that I’m the one who gave her the kidney.

“I…” As soon as I try to formulate the words, something happens. My head gets fuzzy and starts to spin and I feel weakness in my body. I think I say something, I don’t know, but suddenly, all I see is darkness.

*-*

When I open my eyes, my head feels like lead. I can feel that irritating oxygen tube in my nose and I can’t move a muscle. My body weighs a ton. I’m trying to focus—it looks like I’m in a different room—more machines, more IV bags, more fucking tubes. Whatever happened, I ain’t gettin’ up no time soon.

I turn my head and try to focus on the form sitting next to my bed, but I can’t make it out for shit. Nobody but Taylor should know that I’m here, so maybe it’s a nurse.

Shit!

Mia knows I’m here now. She probably knows that I’m the one who gave her a kidney. So, there’s no telling who this is by my bed. I try to focus my eyes a little more, but it’s hard as hell. I can tell by the fuzziness that they’ve got me on some drugs. I fight harder to focus, and the blob begins to take form. These must be some really good drugs because that woman looks like Golden.

This is so unfair. When I’m at my weakest and can’t clear my mind enough to fend off thoughts of her, she haunts me in my drug-induced haze.

“Go away,” I manage. Maybe if I can fully wake up, I can make the apparition disappear.

“What?” Oh, dear Lord, and it speaks, too.

“Go away!” I say again. Haven’t you hurt me enough?

“I hurt you?” it asks. Did I say that aloud? Of course, I didn’t. Hallucinations are all in your head, so of course they can read your mind. I close my eyes and try to make her disappear. “I warned you not to fall in love with me, Chopper.”

Chopper. Fuck. I forgot all about that name.

“And as far as I knew, I didn’t,” I retort weakly, “but I like you enough to be confused. Now go away and stop haunting me.”

“Haunting you?” it asks. “What do you mean haunting you?

Oh, for fuck’s sake! I swat at the apparition, hoping it will dissipate and leave me the hell alone. A manicured hand reaches up and catches my wrist, stopping it cold before it gets anywhere near the apparition.

The apparition… what the fuck?

I glare at the hand, then into the face of one very angry madam.

Oh, hell, the haze is clearing up now!

I have no idea what expression is on my face, but whatever it is, hers morphs from anger to sheer confusion to questioning uncertainty. I, on the other hand, haven’t cleared the haze enough to know where or when I am, but I know one damn thing for sure.

“Mi… Mistress??”

7bd497e296c232ffba49c6bffa0997f6-briana-evigan-beautiful-things

GOLDEN

So, from what I can see, Linc is the primary suspect in his wife’s murder and the prosecutor’s office is looking for an indictment. This is a high-profile case, and they’re pressed to solve it.

The coroner’s report was gruesome. Elena died from blunt force trauma. The thing is… she didn’t just get cracked over the head and die. Somebody beat the hell out of her—brutally. The medical examiner is a friend of mine from college, and she gave me all the gory details.

Blondie was beaten and kicked and strangled mercilessly. Her body was bludgeoned so badly from head to toe that some of the strikes actually broke the skin on her body. Her face was so swollen that she was nearly unrecognizable. Although she was identified at the crime scene, her identity had to be officially confirmed by fingerprints and dental records.

After all of that, she took 15 blows and kicks directly to her head. That’s what killed her. The bleach was a means to clean the body of DNA and evidence. So far, it’s been pretty effective. However, since they discovered that Linc had motive, they’ve been on his ass, combing his financials, tracing his every step to pin it on him. His passport has been revoked—not seized, revoked. He can’t even go to Canada or Mexico. He even tried to move back into his house, but the police have it sealed off as a crime scene… even after all these months.

I really hope he did it—not because I’m that macabre or because I want to see him go down, but because they’re combing the very hairs in his asshole to find evidence against him. If they find out that he’s guilty, then he deserves it. If they don’t find anything or it turns out that someone else did it, he’ll be the victim of the biggest and worst persecution campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.

While spending the holiday with my father’s family—my family—I discovered that Reynard approached them first. I knew he had approached Richard, but I didn’t know he had approached the entire family. He displayed about the same amount of grace, poise, and tact with them as he did with me. Except for that empty shit he said leaving my house, he hasn’t made any real threats. Nonetheless, even though the Blondie threat is no longer an issue, I still keep Jesse around.

I come home one day after another big win and a heavy fee being transferred to my account to Blake preparing a delicious dinner.

“Well, this is wonderful,” I say.

“I’m sure you closed Hamilton and Ryers successfully, Mistress,” he says matter-of-factly.

“I did,” I say, trying to see what he’s preparing.

“Make yourself at home, Mistress. I will set the table.”

I change into jeans and a sweater and I return to the dining room. We have a delicious meal of gazpacho with pa amb tomàquet, paella, empanadas, and homemade churros for dessert. He tells me about his day while we eat, that his whore ex-wife has finally sold the house to a nice family, which means that the home will be used as it was intended at last. I tell him about the cocky male corporate lawyers who underestimated me once again. We’re toasting to my success when he rolls his eyes and reaches for his phone.

“I apologize, Mistress,” he says. “It’s incessant.” I try not to be irritated as he pulls out the phone and looks at it. He frowns, looks at me, then back at his phone.

“What?” I say.

“It’s nothing, Mistress,” he says, and puts his phone on the table. He begins to clear the dishes from the table, and his phone buzzes again… and again… and again.

“Blake, what is it?” I ask again.

“It’s nothing,” he says, putting his phone back in his pocket without looking at it.

“It’s clearly something. Your phone is buzzing like a ticking timebomb, now what is it?” His expression is a combination of melancholy, regretful, and angry… which is some fucking combination.

“What do you hear of Christian Grey these days?” he asks, and I’m totally taken aback to the degree that I jerk like someone just hit me.

“Are you telling me that your phone is going batshit because of Christian Grey?” I ask, nearly in horror. Blake doesn’t respond. “Who in the fuck is texting you like a goddamn crackhead over Christian Grey?” I ask sincerely irritated.

“They’re not texts, Mistress,” he confesses. “They’re more like… notifications.”

Notifications? What the… Never mind.

“I hear nothing of Christian Grey these days,” I say, pretending that I’m not fucking dying to know what those damn notifications are all about. “And I really don’t want to,” I add for effect.

“Mistress,” he sighs, “there’s something you should know.”

“What?” I ask, impatiently.

“It’s about Mr. Grey.” I roll my eyes.

“Look,” I begin. “I thought we had this conversation. Trey is no more. He doesn’t exist to me and I really don’t want to hear about him. What is your obsession with this man?”

“Permission to speak frankly, Mistress,” Blake says coolly.

“Not if you’re going to disrespect me,” I retort.

“I would never do that, Mistress, but I am going to say something that you may not want to hear.” I cross my arms. Fine, fire away.

“Permission granted,” I say firmly.

“He does exist,” Blake says. “He’s a walking, breathing person right here in the county where you live. He has affected you and although you may deny his existence, he’s alive and kicking and still on this side of eternity. He has permeated that shell that you’ve erected for everyone else that doesn’t work with me. I know you care for him and that he has affected you and you think of him often because you’ve changed—not enough for anyone else to see, but enough for me.”

I’ve changed alright. I’ve changed back to who and what I was before I met Trey—to that sadistic, hedonistic goddess that has my clients clamoring for me. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

“Are you finished?” I shoot.

“Not quite,” he says softly. “You’re right. I am obsessed with Christian Grey—the same way that I’m obsessed with Caldwell Lincoln, Reynard Stamper, Kevin Sheardon, and the same way that I was obsessed with the late Richard Steele and Elena Lincoln. I’m obsessed with these people only to the degree that they affect you. And he affects you, so I just keep tabs on him from time to time.”

“Well, there’s no need,” I say flatly. “I’m fully aware of Christian Grey’s new love interest and it doesn’t affect me,” I say with more conviction than I feel.

“Well, that’s good to hear, but you may be interested in knowing that he’s not with his new love interest anymore. The relationship didn’t last three weeks. They’re good friends now, but not lovers.”

Are you kidding? I don’t talk to the man for months and he hooks up with someone for three weeks—three fucking weeks—and I see them during that damn three weeks? That shit knocked me completely off my square, made me totally doubt everything I was and everything I felt, and they weren’t together for three fucking weeks. This is why I don’t get attached. That shit is too damn messy.

“Well, I’m sorry for him that his relationship didn’t work out. This has nothing to do with me, and I’m weary of this conversation.” I turn to leave.

“One more thing before we conclude… please, Mistress.” I roll my eyes and turn back to my errant submissive. If it were the nature of our relationship, I would chain him to the ceiling and lash him until he wept.

“Yes?” I seethe.

“Are you at all familiar with the term nephrectomy?” I frown.

“No,” I reply, waiting for him to get to the point.

“It’s the procedure where one of your kidneys is removed.” My eyes widen.

“What?” I say just above a whisper. “Are you trying to tell me that Christian has renal failure?”

“No, but his sister does, so he donated one of his kidneys to her.” He pauses. “I’m still a little gray on the details—no pun intended—but something happened, and he’s had some complications. He’s not doing well.”

I suddenly feel my throat constrict. Something’s happening in my chest and I feel a bit lightheaded. My arms fall to my side as I attempt to appear unaffected.

“What hospital is he in?” I ask.

“Seattle General,” Blake informs me. I take a deep breath and purse my lips.

“Send some flowers,” I say before turning and leaving the room.

“Yes, Mistress,” I hear from the room I just left. I ascend the stairs, go into my bedroom and close my door. I almost can’t breathe. Christian is in the hospital, he’s short one kidney, and he’s having complications. What kind of complications? Why didn’t I ask that question before I left the room? What if he doesn’t make it? Will I be okay? I said that he didn’t exist to me, but is that what I really want? What if he really didn’t make it? What if he dies?

What was that you said about not getting attached?

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and grab my car keys.

*-*

“He hasn’t had any visitors,” the nurse says. She didn’t want to give me any information, but I effectively convinced her that I’m close friends with him and just wanted to make sure that he was okay. “He didn’t list anyone as next of kin except his bodyguard, Jason Taylor. His sister didn’t even know that he gave her a kidney until the anesthesia wore off and she’s been in no condition to come and see him, so…” She trails off. Even though she didn’t give me everything, she may have still given me too much information.

“I’ll make sure that his family knows,” I tell her. She raises a brow at me.

“You’re associated with the family?” she asks. I nod.

“I know his father very well,” I tell her. “We’re colleagues.” She looks at me skeptically.

“The judge?” she questions.

“Yes,” I say, reaching into my purse and giving her a business card. “Like I said, we’re colleagues.” Her expression softens as she reads my business card.

“Oh,” she says. I’m startled by a somewhat familiar voice down the hall.

“Ms. Olivet?” I turn to see that a confused Taylor is coming down the hall with two coffees in his hand. I turn to the nurse.

“Thank you,” I say with a nod.

“You’re welcome,” she says softly. I walk towards Taylor.

“How is he?” I ask when I close the space between us. At first, he doesn’t answer. “Taylor? How is he?”

“He…” he begins. Then he breezes past me to a door where another guy is standing. He hands him one of the coffees, then peeks into the room. Expressionless, he comes back over to me and gestures me to a community waiting area.

“Have you seen him?” he asks.

“No,” I reply. “What’s happening? I know that he gave a kidney to his sister.” He looks at me in surprise. This must have been the world’s best kept secret if his family didn’t know—not even the sister who received the kidney. Taylor is looking at me now no doubt wondering how I found out. Don’t look at me; I’m trying to figure out how Blake found out.

“Taylor, please tell me before my imagination starts running away with me,” I beg, trying not to sound too desperate.

“He had some trauma only hours after he left surgery,” he begins. “Right before they were to remove the catheter, he discovered that the press was in his sister’s room. An unscrupulous guard apparently colluded with an equally unscrupulous nurse and… the rest is history. Mr. Grey physically kicked them out of Mia’s room and collapsed shortly thereafter. Apparently, once his adrenaline dropped, he succumbed to his condition. There was some tearing, some internal bleeding, something about a fistula or something… They had to take him back to surgery. He… he’s been out for three days. He’s not comatose, but he should be awake by now.”

“And you haven’t called his family, Taylor?” I scold. “Really?” He avoids my gaze. “I know Carrick Grey,” I tell him, and his eyes rise to mine.

“For God’s sake, Taylor, he may not wake up! If you don’t tell his family what’s going on with him, goddammit, I will. And I think they would rather hear this from someone that they’re somewhat familiar with than a total stranger, but if you can’t do it, I guarantee you that I can have Carrick Grey’s home number in twenty minutes.” I sit there folding my arms. He rolls his eyes.

“I’ll call his mother,” he cedes.

“You better,” I warn. “I’ll put my guy on getting that number just in case.”

“I’ll call her,” he says like an errant child, and I believe him. I nod.

“Can I go in and see him… or should I just leave?” He twists his lips and shakes his head.

“I really don’t know,” he says. “He’s… different lately… even before the surgery.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket. “Go,” he says, scrolling through his phone. “Go in before I lose my nerve to make this call.” He puts the phone to his ear, and I walk to the door that I assume is Christian’s. “Ms. Olivet?” I turn back to him.

“If I find myself unemployed, I’ll be knocking at your door for a job.” I have to suppress a smile as he turns back to his call. “Mrs. Grey?… Hello, ma’am, this is Jason Taylor… Yes, Christian’s security…” I leave him to his call and make eye contact with the guy standing at the door before I go inside.

the-tragic-demise-of-mark-sloan-1518199391

I’m not prepared for the sight that greets me. He looks weaker and more helpless than I’ve ever seen him. There’s a tube down his throat helping him breathe and he’s attached to more machines than I’ve ever seen on one person. Jesus, is he dying?

I sit next to his bed and say nothing. What can I say?

Hiya Chopper, remember me? I was your Domme once, but we had sex and it blew my mind. I didn’t know how to handle it or you, so I cut you off, but now that I think you might be dying, I’m back. So, how the hell are ya?

I sit there for several minutes, listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat on the monitor. It’s comforting… somewhat. At least he’s still here.

He’s still here…

“He does exist. He’s a walking, breathing person right here in the county where you live. He has affected you and although you may deny his existence, he’s alive and kicking and still on this side of eternity. He has permeated that shell that you’ve erected for everyone else…”

How do I deal with this? I’m not satisfied anymore with this life. I want… something else. But this? Can I give up who I am for this? Do I want that? Does he even want that?

My thoughts are interrupted by the door opening, followed by the ceremonious entering of what looks like doctors and nurses.

“His numbers look better and his saturation… Who are you?” I stand from my seat.

“I’m… a friend,” I reply.

“Mr. Grey asked not to have any visitors,” the doctor says firmly.

“It’s okay,” Taylor says coming into the room behind the doctors and nurses. “Ms. Olivet, if you’ll come with me, the staff need to do some things for Mr. Grey.” He holds his hand out to me. I look back at Christian and weave through the inquisitive faces with an “excuse me” or two before joining Taylor.

“What’s going on? Can you tell me?” I ask as we walk toward the community area again.

“Well, the good news is that his stats are looking better,” Taylor says, guiding me past the community area and to the elevator. Is he kicking me out? “They want to remove his catheter and his breathing tube.”

I sigh and try to appear unaffected… again. The elevator rings and he gestures for me to get inside. I want to say something like, “Tell him I was here,” or “Don’t tell him I was here.” Instead, I just step inside. To my surprise, he steps inside with me.

What does he think? That I’m going to troll around the hospital or something? He presses the button for the first floor and continues what he was saying.

“The bleeding has stopped from what they can see, but there were some other complications that went way over my head. It was touch and go for a while, but any improvement is better than unconscious for three days.”

The elevator rings on the first floor and he gestures for me to exit. I leave and turn towards the outside doors.

“Wrong way, Ms. Olivet,” he says. When I turn around, he’s standing at the elevator gesturing in the opposite direction. I don’t question. I follow him and he leads me to the cafeteria as he continues to apprise me of Christian’s condition.

“Would you like something?” he asks. “Some food or some juice or coffee?” He gets two more coffees and I frown.

“You guys drink a lot of coffee,” I say. “Didn’t you just bring coffee a couple of minutes ago?” He frowns.

“No, I got coffee for us when you went in to see Mr. Grey,” he says, bemused.

“That’s what I said,” I reply, equally bemused. He pauses.

“Do you know how long you’ve been in there?” he asks. I shrug. I don’t even remember what time I got here. His expression softens.

“Would you like a muffin… or a Danish? Something else?” he asks. “A bagel, maybe?”

“Taylor, how long have I been in that room?” I ask him.

“About three hours,” he says matter-of-factly. “There are salads and sandwiches on the other side, or maybe you’d like something hot?”

What the fuck?!?

“Three hours?” I say horrified. “You gotta be kidding!”

“No, ma’am, and I’m certain that very soon, his parents are going to be here.” I roll my eyes and rub my neck.

Don’t get attached. Yeah, sure.

“Do they have corned beef?”

*-*

“Taylor, how long has he been like that?”

An older, beautiful blonde woman is grilling Taylor about Christian’s condition. She looks terribly worried and I deduce that this must be Christian’s mother.

“About three days, ma’am,” Taylor replies. “He’s doing much better than he was.”

“Much better?” the woman exclaims. “He was worse? He looks like he’s dying!” My sentiments exactly.

“Please, Mrs. Grey, let me take you to talk to the doctor. I’m certain that he’ll put your fears to rest.” Taylor begins to lead Mrs. Grey away just as the elevator rings.

“Grace!” I hear a familiar voice call.

“Cary,” her voice cracks. I drop my head so that my hair falls over my face and watch through my tresses as Carrick Grey opens his arms to accept his wife in a warm embrace. She weeps gently on his shoulder as he rubs her back and comforts her. The inner me rolls my eyes at the display. The outer me can’t help but gaze at them in awe of their love and care for each other and wonder what it must be like to have that. After more than three decades on earth, I’ve never had that.

Judge Grey puts his arm around his wife, and they follow Taylor down the hall. Goddammit, these feelings! I don’t want these fucking feelings! Why the hell can’t they just leave me alone?

It would be so easy to just stand up, go downstairs, walk the hell out of here and don’t look back. So, why can’t I just fucking do it?

“Ms. Olivet?”

Taylor is rousing me from my sleep. My head feels like a rock and there’s a crick in my neck. I fell asleep in the chair in the waiting room.

“What time is it?” I ask.

“It’s just after 2am,” he says. “My replacements are here and I’m about to call it a night. Why don’t you go home and get some rest now?”

I stretch and look around. The staff appears to have changed and there’s no one in the waiting room.

“Are his parents still in there?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“They’ve gone to see Mia. Then, they’re going home for the night.” I nod.

“I’m confused,” I say. “Why didn’t his sister tell his parents what he did and that he was here?” He shakes his head and sighs.

“They’re a strange family, Ms. Olivet,” he replies. “I couldn’t answer that question for you because I don’t know.” I nod again.

“Maybe I’ll just go in and say goodnight,” I say, standing and cracking my stiff joints. Taylor nods and walks with me to the door. He holds it open and I go inside. Christian looks a lot better now. That tube is gone, and he has the small oxygen tube in his nose. He looks like he’s sleeping now as opposed to dead.

I sit in the chair and gaze at him again. He’s such a handsome man. He looks so peaceful, but still very weak and vulnerable. I’m just feeling sympathy for him, that’s all. It’s nothing more than that. I don’t want him to die and I’m concerned about him. That’s all this is…

“Go away…” I hear a frail voice say. I slip out of my daydream and focus on wet, gray eyes groggily gazing at me.

980x“What?” I ask. I’ve been here for hours worrying about your ass, afraid that you were going to die, sleeping in a very uncomfortable waiting-room chair and your first words to me are go away, you ungrateful asshole?

“Go away!” he repeats. “Haven’t you hurt me enough?”

Are you kidding? Is he serious? He knew what this was.

“I hurt you?” I ask incredulously. He doesn’t reply. He just closes his eyes tight, like he’s trying to wish me away. “I warned you not to fall in love with me, Chopper.”

“And as far as I knew, I didn’t, but I like you enough to be confused. Now go away and stop haunting me.” His voice is barely above a whisper.

“Haunting you?” What the fuck? “What do you mean haunting you?

He raises his hand and swats at me like he’s trying to swat away a fly. You disrespectful… I grab his flailing wrist and hold on tight. You better put that thing away. You’re short one vital organ. You want to be short a limb, too?

He stares at my hand grasping his wrist in disbelief, then up at me—and I am pissed. How dare you fucking swing at me, you insolent…

But his face… he’s horrified. It’s like he’s seeing a ghost, or death itself has walked into the room. He’s silent for several moments before he breathes, “Mi… Mistress?”

Oh, shit. How did that happen? Does he regularly talk to manifestations of me? Should I be afraid? Instead, I just sigh and shake my head.

“I’m not your Mistress anymore, Chopper… Trey,” I say, placing his arm gently back on the bed. I only ever really called him Chopper during a scene—maybe a few other times.

“I know… I mean…” His voice is still weak. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you weren’t well,” I say, crossing my legs and girding up my armor, “or I should say I heard that you weren’t doing well.”

“How did you hear that?” he asks. “Are you having me followed?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” I reply. “I know people who know people…”

“But no people knew I was in here, so how did you know? My parents don’t even know.”

Somebody knew,” I tell him, “and your parents know now.”

“What?” he shoots, and his monitors spike. I stand and put my hands on his chest.

“You need to calm down,” I tell him. “You became upset and from what I understand, you may have attacked some reporters. You ripped your sutures—inside and out—and you put yourself at risk. A lot of people thought you may not make it. You’ve been out for nearly four days. I know your father—he’s presided over a lot of my cases. I threatened Taylor that if he didn’t call him, I would. Taylor and I both agreed that it would be better that they hear this news from someone that they know as opposed to hearing it from a stranger.”

“Let’s see if he still feels that way when I fire his ass,” he croaks.

“Then, he’ll just come and work for me,” I say, and Christian glares at me. “If I was a mother, I would very much rather come and see my very alive son who may not be doing well than to come to the hospital and identify his remains when I didn’t even know that he was sick, much less that he gave my daughter a kidney.”

“You know too damn much,” he squeaks. You’re right. I do.

“Are you in pain? Do you need any pain meds?”

“Yes, and yes,” he says, laying his head back on the bed. I press the button for the nurse. He tries to adjust himself in the bed, but he can’t move. A few moments later, a petite nurse enters the room.

“Mr. Grey,” she says, her voice bubbly. “Ma’am,” she nods at me and I nod back before she comes to the side of the bed. “You’ve decided to join us. How do you feel?” She looks at his chart and some of the machines.

“In pain… and I’m thirsty,” he croaks. She nods.

“Let me get the doctor and we’ll see what we can get you, okay?” She proceeds to check his pulse and blood pressure, looks at his IV bag and checks some other stats.

“Glad to see you’re awake, Mr. Grey. Your vitals look good and I’ll be right back with the doctor.” She smiles and nods at me again before leaving the room.

Christian and I are completely silent for several minutes. Neither of us knows what to say to each other. When I thought he was dying, I could think of nothing but getting to him, being by his side. Now that I know he’ll be fine, I just want to get the hell away from him—put as much distance between us as possible.

“Mr. Grey, hello. We must stop meeting like this…” The doctor comes into the room and starts talking to Christian, and I take this moment to make my getaway.

“Mi… Go… Ana!” He’s coherent enough to go through all of my names before I make it to the door. He’s still weak and fragile, but his eyes are beseeching. I give him a weak smile.

“I’ll check on you,” I say softly. I turn away and walk out before I lose my nerve and stay. I look at the guard at the door—some guy I don’t know—and he gives me a nod. I turn away and walk to the elevator.

What was the purpose of this exercise? I keep asking myself that question during the entire ride home. I went running to this man’s beside like… like… like he meant something to me. Why the hell did I do that? The minute I saw that he was going to be okay, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. So, why did I go in the first place?

I sit in front of my house for several minutes when I get home. I’m seeing Judge and Mrs. Grey, holding each other warmly in the hospital hallway when they didn’t know what was going on with Christian. It was very tender and loving, and you could tell that they cared for each other very deeply. I don’t want that. I don’t want to be dependent on anybody and I don’t want anybody to be dependent on me… do I? I look at my front door and see Blake there waiting for me to come in. I sigh heavily, open the door and step out of the truck. I close and lock the door behind me and proceed towards the only man in the world who can see right through me.


Image result for eric dane in bed

TREY

I should have known. I don’t know why I was surprised. Day one and day two, I watched that door. I asked Taylor if he had heard anything from her or seen her, or even if she asked if I were dead or alive. Nothing. Nothing at all. Day three, I have a lovely showdown with my family… in a fucking hospital bed.

“Christian,” Mom says, her voice pained, “why didn’t you tell us? They just told us that they had found a donor. They didn’t tell us that it was you.”  I can’t come up with an answer for her.

“I asked you,” she accuses. “You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie to you, Mom, I avoided the truth,” I defend.

“It’s the same thing, Christian!” she says, fighting back her tears. “I could’ve lost two of my children and I wouldn’t have known until they were gone!” She covers her mouth and turns away. Dad raises his eyes to me.

“This was an incredibly selfless thing that you did, son,” he says, sounding more fatherly than I’ve heard him sound in decades, “and very foolish to do on your own. Your mother needs to know… and I need to know… why?” I sigh and try to rely on divine intervention to give me an answer, but I realize that nothing is going to suffice but the truth.

“I don’t know why Mia hates me,” I begin, “but she does, or at least she did. It can’t just be Harvard. It can’t. There has to be something else. I’ll never find out what that is, but she hated me. If she knew that she was getting my kidney, she might’ve said ‘no’ just to spite me. She would’ve thought I would try to use it to hold over her head, like she would be indebted to me for the rest of her life! And she would’ve said ‘no.’ Then what? She goes back to the end of the list and hopes for another kidney because she turned down a perfectly good one. And then we hope that she finds one before she dies? I couldn’t take that chance. We couldn’t afford for that to happen!”

“Is that what you thought?”

I hear Mia’s voice and look over at the door. She’s sitting in a wheelchair just outside the threshold.

“You thought I hated you so much that I wouldn’t take your kidney?” I sigh. Jesus, she wasn’t supposed to hear that.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” I scold.

“No,” she retorts. “I’m doing a hell of a lot better than you because I wasn’t swinging crutches at people three hours after surgery.” Oh, shit, she saw that. “You really thought that, Christian? That I wouldn’t accept your kidney?”

“And once again, the golden boy has to take the spotlight,” Elliot jeers. “You weren’t the only kidney, Mr. Perfect. Did you forget I was a match, too?” God, did he have to use that word? I’m still not 100% sure her visit wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

“Then why didn’t you give your kidney?” I ask. I won’t out him, but if he keeps it up…

“Oh, because billionaire boy beat me to it!” he snaps.

“How was that possible when they tested you first?” I ask. “The doctor told me that I was the perfect match—the perfect choice to save Mia and to extend her life. Now, why would they even need to test me if they had already found a match with you?” Drop it, Elliot.

“Most likely because of his cocaine use,” Dad blurts out. Elliot’s head whips over to Dad and my eyes transform to the size of saucers.

“Dad? Seriously?” Elliot accuses.

“Yes, seriously!” Dad retorts. “I’ve had enough of you walking around here like you’re so goddamn high and mighty. This isn’t about you!”

“Dear God, Elliot! Cocaine?” Mom exclaims horrified. “How long? Never mind! Never mind! I don’t want to know.” Elliot smiles nervously.

“Chill out, Mom,” he says in that slimy voice that he uses to make your skin crawl. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a little nose candy.”

“I’m not hearing this!” Mom says, throwing her hands up. “I am not hearing this.” She turns to Dad. “Carrick? You knew?” Dad sighs.

“Unfortunately, I did,” he says to her before turning to me. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t!” I reply, awestruck. “The doctor wouldn’t tell me, but he was adamant that I was Mia’s best chance of survival even though we were both a match.” Elliot is clearly floundering, so instead of walking that plank that he was standing on and taking his medicine like a man, he decides to shoot a hole in the bottom of the boat.

“Well, since we’re telling secrets,” he says with a devious smile, “I suppose you already know that Christian is into that same shit Dad was into.”

You can actually hear the skin ripping as his knife sinks into the bodies of nearly every person in the room and drags down their torsos, spilling fresh blood onto a sterile floor.

“Wha…?” Mom shrieks. Dad and I quickly look at each other and have a silent conversation about what really needs to be said here. Elliot is looking to drag everybody down with him, even if it destroys Mom in the process.

“Christian, is this true?” Mom shrieks. I screw up my courage and spit it out.

“Yes, Mom, it’s true,” I say impassively, “but Mom, you can’t be angry with me. I’m a consenting adult. This was after Juliet—I wasn’t in a committed relationship, so nobody was hurt. I shielded you, the family, and everybody from it, and if it wasn’t for Chicken Little over there, you still wouldn’t know.”

“How did Chicken Little know?” Dad asks.

“I heard the two of you talking,” Elliot says victoriously, and Mom turns her horrified glare to Dad. Oh, great.

“I asked questions, Mom,” I clarify. “It was no secret that he was familiar with the lifestyle and I was curious. I didn’t want to go wandering off into some crazy cult shit… so I asked.”

Mom looks back and forth between me and Dad, not sure which of us to be angry with more, no doubt, but Elliot’s not done yet.

“Yeah, Dad has dirt on everybody. He’s been holding us hostage for years. So, since my secret is out, let’s lay everybody’s dirty laundry on the table. So, what about the Little Princess over there—Little Miss Throw-Everybody-In Judgment? What’s the dirt on Mia?” Elliot says snidely.

“You just saw the dirt on Mia,” Dad hisses without looking at him, then turns to Mom.

“Mia’s been on dialysis for the last seven years. You’d already been through so much we didn’t want to tell you. Of course, it got to the point where we couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.”

Seven years… dear God. Even I didn’t know that. It wasn’t that she wasn’t taking care of herself. It was just that… she was waiting. It was time.

“Secrets,” my mother chokes through her tears. “Secrets and lies! That’s all this family is built on—secrets and lies!” She runs out of the room in tears. Dad sighs mournfully and looks down at Mia.

“Are you okay?” he says softly. She shrugs.

“Yeah,” she says. “I’m glad it’s out. We’ll work on the rest later.” Dad takes her hand and looks over at me. I give him a half shrug to indicate that I’m indifferent about the whole thing, but there are really no hard feelings. He raises angry eyes to Elliot but says nothing. Then he leans down to kiss Mia’s cheek, releases her hand, and leaves the room, most likely to go find Mom. I turn to Elliot.

“Well, congratulations,” he sneers. “You’re the golden boy once again.” And there’s that word. I glare at him.

“You thought I was leaving her hanging for a business trip, and I was shit. You find out that I gave her a goddamn kidney, and I’m still shit.” I just look at him and shake my head.

“Get the fuck outta my room, Elliot,” I say with no emotion. I’m totally done with my brother, and I have nothing else to say on the matter. He gazes at me for a moment, then at Mia who has her back to him and hasn’t raised her head, and wordlessly leaves the room. Mia wheels over to me.

“It’s Harvard, Christian,” she says, placing her hand on the bed on top of mine but still not raising her eyes. “It’s always been Harvard. I resent you… resented you because I didn’t get a chance to go. Everything fell apart between Mom and Dad right after you dropped out, and I didn’t get a chance to go. It was my dream to go to Harvard, and I felt like you took it away from me. I resented you, but I don’t hate you. I never hated you.” She sniffles.

“When I saw you in that room with that crutch, swinging it at strangers and cursing out some nurse with your ass hanging out…” I try not to laugh. That’ll be in somebody’s paper if it’s not already. “… All I could think was, ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ When I finally shook the anesthesia, the doctor told me that you had given me your kidney and that you weren’t doing too well.” Her voice cracks on the last words. I swallow hard.

“You looked so weak every time I came to see you,” she squeaked. “I kept thinking, ‘He gave me the kidney to make up for stealing my chance to go to Harvard.’ I just wanted you to wake up, so I could say ‘thank you’ and ask you why you didn’t want me to know… but when I came in and heard the real reason…” She trails off and begins to weep. I turn my hand over and grasp hers in mine. She’s been crying a lot these days, and I don’t know if I can get used to it. She’s always been outspoken, and she can be a real pill, but I’ve never seen soft Mia.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs. “I’m so sorry. How can I ever make this up to you?” I squeeze her hand.

“By taking care of your body and living a good life… and agreeing to stop all this bickering. I think we’ve both seen that life is too short for this shit.” She nods through her tears.

“And Mia?” She raises her gaze to me.

“You’re smart, you’re resourceful, and you do a good thing. I’m proud of you for chasing the bad guys… but I’m not one of them.” She nods again.

“I know,” she says, still in tears. “I wanted to make you the bad guy, and I found a way through the whole ‘capitalist’ thing, but… I’ve always known.” I nod.

“So… you’ll give your brother a break?”

“This one,” she says, wiping her eyes and I deflate a bit.

“You’re going after Elliot?” I ask, knowing how this will affect our already upset Mom.

“No,” she says. “There’s nothing to go after. I don’t know what he does, and I don’t have the will or energy to chase him down. I’ve always known he was a creep and now—today—I know he’s a drug addict. I don’t see any redeeming qualities and until he shows me some, I have to let that go. Besides,” she strokes my hand gently, “I’ve got some serious bridges to mend on this side of the water.”

I don’t tell her that she never really hurt me; she was just a pain in my ass, but she needs to work through how she’s feeling, and I’ll be there to help her. I’m glad to have my little sister back.

“We’ll get through it,” I say softly, twisting my lips to avoid that twinge in my chest that’s making me feel a bit sappy.

“Christian,” she says just above a whisper, “thank you.” I squeeze her hand again.

“You’re welcome.”

*-*

Day four, Mia is my only visitor, and we spend the entire day together, including meals. Day five, we both get to go home. Elliot is M.I.A. as expected. Mom and Dad come to get Mia and Taylor comes to retrieve me. My mother doesn’t speak to me and that smarts. It’s a double-edged sword along with the cat-and-mouse game that Golden keeps playing with me. I get in the car after hoping—futilely—that my mother would at least acknowledge my presence. And suddenly, I’m weak again. I’m weak and I’m tired and even though I spent a week in bed, I just want to get back in bed again.

“Taylor, I need a little help,” I say when we get back to the penthouse. I feel like all the energy has been sapped out of me just by leaving the hospital and getting in the car.

“Do you need a doctor, sir?” he asks. “Should we go back to the hospital?

“No, the doctor said this might happen…” Sudden drains of energy, feelings of emptiness, loss, and depression. I just have a feeling that this isn’t just from the nephrectomy, that it’s quite possibly more emotional than physical.

“Can you just help me get to bed please?”

I put my arm over his shoulder, and he helps me to the elevator.

I spend the rest of that day as well as the next several in my bed. Mrs. Jones brings me meals and Taylor checks on me regularly. I shower each morning and change my pajamas, just to get back into bed and lay there or watch TV or talk to Mia or Ronnie—who reams me a new one once I tell her what really happened.

I deserved that… and she comes to check on me when she can.

The rest of the time, I think about Mom… and her.

Until day ten… when she shows up at my penthouse. She’s like a ray of sunshine showing up in my room and my spirits suddenly soar.

“I… said I would check on you,” she says almost timidly.

“That was more than a week ago,” I reply. “I could’ve been dead.”

“But you aren’t,” she says.

“What took so long?” I ask, really needing to know why she made me wait for ten days.

“I… I was busy,” she says, and I immediately see her whipping some poor, fortunate soul chained to the ceiling in her dungeon.

Cat-and-mouse. She’s playing with me again.

I told you not to fall for me, Chopper.
I’m not your Mistress anymore, Chopper.

Indeed, you aren’t, and suddenly, I’m weary again.

“I need you to leave,” I say, quietly. She’s silent for several moments.

“What?” she asks.

“You can’t fathom the concept that someone wants you to go away, can you?” I ask, wearily. “I said the same thing to you at the hospital—basically the same thing—when I didn’t know it was actually you sitting there, and your reaction was exactly the same. You said, ‘What,’ like you couldn’t comprehend the words that were coming out of my mouth. So, I’ll say them again so that you’ll know that I’m not under the influence of any drugs. I need you to leave,” I repeat, shaking my head and barely believing that I’m hearing myself say it.

“You play with me,” I continue, “I’m one of your toys. You’re a true sadist—you said it yourself. You win—I’m in agony; I can’t take this anymore. You make me want you, but then you say I can’t have you. Then you go away, but you make me want you again. I can’t get you out of my mind. You’re in my blood. I’m pussy-whipped, and it’s not because you fucked me. I was pussy-whipped long before that. I had dreams about you; I saw you in other women before and after you cut me off. It’s always been you and as far as I know, it’ll probably always be you. Fuck, I almost took a damn bullet for this shit!

“You got what you wanted!” I say with clenched fists. “You broke me down after I swore that another woman wouldn’t do that to me. I’m your ultimate trophy! Or maybe not—maybe I’m just another notch in your belt. But congratulations! You win. You really are a sadist—a divine, magnificent, beautiful, horribly cruel sadist. Whoever fucked you up, you got them back in spades—with me! Now, please, just leave before I make a bigger fool of myself than I already have.”

I grit my teeth to keep from saying what I really want to say; to keep from begging her to stay with me if only for tonight. I can’t take this anymore. My emotions are way more involved than I ever intended and it’s just too damn much.

“Christian…”

“For God’s sake, just go!” I yell. Her soft, concerned voice is like nails on the chalkboard of my soul—literally. And hearing her say my name smarts even more.

“Please, just go, Ana,” I say softly. “Just go…” I shut her down. I can’t hear her anymore. I don’t know how long I sit there in my bed with my head down, but the next voice I hear…

“Can I get you something, sir?” Taylor says. “Or I can have Mrs. Jones make something for you…” I sigh heavily.

“Something to drink, please,” I say, my voice barely audible. “Maybe some soup, too. My throat hurts.”


A/N: This was one of the chapters that I wrote near the middle of the book when I decided how to expand on the family dynamic. It was very hard to write.

We’re really closing in on the finale. So, remembering the warnings I’ve been spouting all through the story, any predictions at this point on how the story will end?

Will it be a “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell” ending like in The Way We Were?

Will it be the moment when Sayuri finally wins the affections of the Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha?

Or will it be some calm (or wild) variance in between—The Secretary? Wild Orchid? The Story of O?

Two more chapters to find out…

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 90—Phantoms

Four more chapters after this one…

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 90—Phantoms

CHRISTIAN

“Look, I know I haven’t seen you in a while, Grey, but marriage has made you awfully soft. Get your head in the game, man!”

Bastille’s right. I fucking hate that he’s using the same words about marriage making me soft, but he’s right… well, partially right.

“I’m not soft, you asshole,” I jeer. “I’m out of practice, that’s why I called you.”

“You called me because you’re weak and you need me to toughen you up. Now, get on your fucking feet.”

I’m pissed now. I pay this bastard to spar with me, not disrespect me.

“And get that fucking power-play chastisement outta your eyes!” he shoots. “I’m not going easy on you, Moneybags. I never have and I never will! If that’s what you’re looking for, you can go find someone else to train your billionaire butt! You’re flabby, your muscles are weak, and your form is horrible. So, you can either put ‘em up, or you can get your ass outta my gym. Either way, get it off my mat.”

I’m going to beat the fucking hell outta this asshole.

I get up, take my stance and lunge at him. He does a sweeping kick at my feet and I land flat on my face. Shit, that hurt.

“Amateur move, Grey,” he says. “Have you forgotten everything I’ve taught you?” I rise to my hands and knees to get some much-needed air in my chest since the full-frontal faceplant just knocked the fucking wind out of me.

“I think I have,” I cede. He walks over to the front of me and stands there with his wrapped hands on his hips.

“Well, at least you finally fucking admit it,” Bastille barks. “You don’t stay sharp if you don’t practice and you don’t stay fit if you don’t do the work. I can tell just by looking at you that your body fat percentage is higher than it’s ever been since I’ve known you. I don’t give a fuck about those six pack abs—you’re in shape, but you’re not in Christian Grey shape. We have to start from square one until you learn to ride that bike again.”

He walks over to the corner of the ring, wipes his face and takes a swig from his water bottle.

“I’ve beaten your ass enough today. If you want to get back on your game, I’ll see you here next week, but it doesn’t matter to me either way.”

He bends and exits the ring between two of the ropes and I’m left there on the mat, feeling soft.

You know that feeling that you get where you think everybody is looking at you? Well, I scan the gym, and nobody’s concerned about my flabby ass, but I still feel like shit. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but there’s no arguing with an Olympic kickboxer.

And the body bag at home doesn’t kick back.

I’m standing in the shower in the men’s locker room thinking about the meeting that Butterfly and I will attend tonight. I’ve sunk back into my old ways in the workplace, and it brings back thoughts of my old ways all around. My talk with Flynn when I was in Anguilla comes back to me…

“You need to put playtime on hold for a while and learn to control yourself.
“It’s time to graduate a bit, Christian.”
“You need to take a page from this remarkable woman’s book and start handling your demons in a more productive way now.”
“It’s okay to exercise the lifestyle that the two of you enjoy, but the moment that one of you doesn’t enjoy it, it’s not okay anymore.”

We promised in Anguilla that we would do research and we never did. Then we promised again after the menopause situation with my mother. Today is the day. Today we start our active research by meeting with our mentors.

When I return home, I find my wife still in her yoga gear in the middle of the family room floor with our children. Our children… it seems like ages since I spent any quality time with my kids. A wave of guilt jolts through me as I watch my wife, smiling and attentive with my son, holding both his hands as he stands on the floor in front of her bouncing on his heels to some tune on the television. Minnie is thoroughly occupied in the Pack-n-Play with an array of various toys. They look happy and carefree and I almost feel like and interloper as I enter the family-room-turned-playroom.

“Hey,” I say softly as I walk in. She frowns when she sees me.

“Your hair is wet,” she observes. I touch my hair and remember that it’s still a bit damp from the shower at the gym.

“Yeah, I took a shower after my workout. I went straight to the car, though,” I confess.

“Christian Grey, did you forget that bug that hit you after your brother’s housewarming?” she scolds. “Are you trying to catch your death?”

“No, I’m fine,” I reply, sounding like a petulant child. I lean into the Pack-n-Play and retrieve Minnie before sitting on the sofa with her. “Your mommy sounds like she’s going to spank me,” I say to Minnie and she coos as I bounce her on my knee.

“Your daddy’s going to kill himself if he doesn’t dry his hair before going out in the cold,” she retorts to Mikey, who has graduated to full-on twisting and dancing with his mother’s help. Jesus, they look so big. It’s only been a week… two if I count Australia, but I’m sure I’ve seen them in between there.

“What should I wear tonight?” she asks. I raise my gaze to hers and she’s still looking at Mikey. I know she’s asking because I told her how to dress when we went to the club.

“Dinner attire,” I say. “Not too formal, not too conservative, but nothing flashy or too provocative, either.”

“Something in between,” she says, and I nod. “How was your workout?”

“Brutal,” I admit. “Claude beat my ass, then let me have it for being out of shape.” She raises her gaze to me, her brow furrowed.

“You’re not out of shape,” she protests.

“Remember, I used to work out every weekday,” I remind her.

“Which you’ve been doing lately,” she points out.

“Lately,” I say. “I’m not in Bastille-kick-boxing shape. The bastard even called me flabby,” I lament. She glares at me and clears her throat. “What?”

“You said the ‘B’ word in front of the children,” she chastises. I frown.

“What ‘B’ word?” I protest. I didn’t say bitch.

“B-A-S-T-A-R-D,” she says. Oh, that “B” word.

“Sorry,” I say with a shrug. “Did you even catch that, Minnie?” I say to my daughter. She touches my face and babbles something incoherent, and all is right with the world.

*-*

My wife presents herself in an ensemble that I’m certain is from my grandmother’s collection. It’s a red, strapless knee-length sheath dress with an open skirt attached to the back, making it look like one of her Lindy-Bop dresses. There’s a bow right in front at her breast, and she has complimented it with a red and gold choker necklace. I’m not sure what it’s made of, but it has red balls between large gold links with what looks like charms all around it. If it’s a costume piece, it matches the dress very well. Her hair is swept up in a chignon with flirty tresses falling around her face and she’s wearing my grandmother’s ruby earrings.

She looks absolutely stunning.

“I said not too formal,” I say when I see her. She looks down at her attire.

“This isn’t too formal,” she protests. “It’s like a cocktail dress. Should I change?”

“No,” I say, taking her coat from her arm and holding it open for her. “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she says as she closes her coat around her. She checks her makeup in the mirror in the grand entrance as I put my coat on, then I lead her through the mudroom to the garage.

“We’re taking the RS7,” she observes as I press the key fob and the alarm chirps. I smile and lead her to the car. I open the passenger door for her, and she gets in. Once I close the door behind her, I walk over to the driver’s side. I really love this car. It’s got a lot of power behind it and I never considered getting rid of it once that drunk driver totaled my Spyder, but…

“It’s time for an upgrade,” I say as I start the car. “I love this car, but it’s a couple years old now.”

“Is that the only reason you want to upgrade?” she asks. “Because of the age?”

“Isn’t that enough?” I ask.

“It’s basically new, Christian. You hardly ever drive it,” she says. “Besides, I have some pretty fond memories of this car… especially the hood.” I feel my mouth involuntarily forming a smile.

“Well, that’s enough reason to keep it,” I say suggestively, dropping a gear and heading to Kirkland.

We arrive at this perfectly square contemporary house in Kirkland. I’ve never been here, although I know the couple very well. Butterfly will most likely loosen up a bit when we get to the door. I pull into the driveway and turn off the car.

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“Are you ready?” I ask. She takes a deep breath and sighs.

“Let’s do this,” she says. I get out and go over to her door. She’s all legs when she steps out of the car and I’m already fighting my primal urges as I take her hand and lead her to the front door.

“Christian,” a familiar face greets me. “It’s good to see you as always. Come in, come in, it’s cold out tonight.”

I put my hand in the small of my wife’s back and usher her in out of the cold.

“Artemis,” she says with realization. “Right?”

“Guilty,” he says with a flourish and a small bow. “May I take your coat?”

“Yes, please,” she says and allows him to take her coat.

“Oh,” he says upon removing her coat. “I’m afraid we may be a bit underdressed.”

“It’s my fault,” Butterfly says. “I didn’t know how to dress for the evening. I hope I don’t make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Nonsense,” I hear a woman’s voice and we both turn to see a beautiful blonde woman approaching us.

“And this beautiful creature is my wife, Savvina,” Artemis says, welcoming his wife into his arms and kissing her cheek gently. “You’ve met Christian, of course, darling. And this is his lovely wife, Anastasia.” Savvina extends her hand.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Anastasia,” Savvina says.

“Likewise, thank you,” my wife replies taking Savvina’s hand. Hmm, no call me Ana. She’s still a bit uncomfortable.

“Let’s go and make ourselves comfortable, shall we?” Savvina says. Savvina tucks my wife’s hand into her elbow.

“My dear, you are exquisite,” Savvina says, leading Butterfly into the den. Butterfly looks back at me and I don’t say or do anything. These are our mentors and she needs to trust them without my prompting. She’s a good judge of character, so I don’t worry.

The den is an open room with two sofas facing each other and a wall of glass facing Lake Washington. The backyard is lit with track lighting and recessed ground lighting, so we get a view of the highly manicured lawn with the lake as the backdrop.

“Let’s get right to it,” Savvina says as she and Butterfly take a seat on the sofa across from me and Artemis. Oh, okay. I assumed that I and my wife would be sitting together. I didn’t think they would separate us this soon, but okay.

“So, we know why we’re here, right?” Savvina asks. I think she wants Butterfly to answer, but I’m certain that she’s not comfortable enough yet.

“We all know my history in the lifestyle,” I begin. “My wife basically doesn’t have any…”

“I have a little,” she protests. I frown and turn my gaze to her, and she looks back at me. “What you mean to say is that I don’t have any before you, but I have some now,” she corrects me. I nod.

“I stand corrected,” I cede. “We’ve… had some playtime. Some of it can get a little intense…”

“Meaning?” Savvina probes.

“There have been some punishments,” I say. “There have been more than a few times when her limits have been tested, but she’s not a seasoned submissive and I think she may be taking more than she should in a healthy BDSM relationship.”

“Which means you feel like you may be giving more than you should,” Artemis says, and it’s not a question. I shrug.

“Yes… I think I might,” I confess.

“Why do you go as far as you do?” he asks me.

“I look to her for signals, like I’ve always done with any submissive, and she doesn’t give them to me. I only know or get the sense that I’ve gone too far when her body betrays her. I didn’t really realize that she was doing this until our cruise.”

“You had absolutely no warnings before then?” Artemis accuses.

“There may have been warning signs…” I pause, “there were warning signs, but I kept thinking that we were getting it together.”

“You’re quiet, Anastasia,” Savvina says. Butterfly begins to fidget a bit.

“I just want to be what he needs,” she says. “It’s not that bad…”

“Not that bad,” Savvina repeats, “that should not be a phrase that you use to describe your relationship at all.” Butterfly rolls her eyes.

“I’m trying to say that he doesn’t abuse me,” she clarifies.

“No one suggested that,” Artemis says. “Why would you immediately feel the need to point that out?”

“Because of what we do,” she defends. “People tend to get the wrong idea…”

“Are you forgetting that you’re here because we do the same thing?” Savvina interjects.

“It’s just… when he talks about pushing my limits. I haven’t passed out. He hasn’t beaten me and drawn blood or broken any bones, so I don’t know what he means when he’s talking about pushing me past my limits.”

“Your limits mean a lot of things, Ana… may I call you Ana?” Savvina says, and it’s the first time that anyone has ever had to force the nickname. Butterfly nods. “You mentioned breaking bones and drawing blood. Have you ever seen anything like that in the lifestyle?”

“Well, yes and no. I haven’t seen breaking bones, but I did visit a BDSM club in college and I saw blood play.”

“Do you consider that abuse?” Savvina asks. Butterfly grimaces.

“To each his own, I guess,” she says, finally. “It’s not for me.”

“So, he hasn’t done anything to you that you would consider abusive, but yet, you’re here because he thinks he’s pushing you past your limits.” Butterfly sighs.

“He went to see his trainer today,” she begins. Huh? Where’s this going. “The guy told him that he’s out of shape because he’s been out of practice. Look at him!” She gestures over to me. “You can pick any part of his body and not be able to pinch a centimeter of fat. Yet, his trainer says he’s out of shape. Why? Because he’s supposed to be at a certain level of performance, and he’s not there.

“That’s how I feel,” she continues. “I feel like I just need the conditioning to be what he needs when he needs it. And yes, I know that there’s a point called ‘too far,’ but if I don’t allow him to push my limits, how will I know what that point is?”

“I see,” Savvina says to Butterfly. “So, it sounds to me that you may have a bit of a grasp of the physical, but you don’t clearly understand the mental.”

“I understand the mental,” she says, clearly affronted. “He’s a Dominant—he needs to regain or maintain control.”

“That’s not all he needs,” Savvina replies. “But what about you? What about what you need? What about your mental? Does the pain get you off?” She shrinks a bit. She’s shrinking?

“Sometimes,” she admits.

“And the other times?” Savvina presses. Butterfly crosses her legs and begins to look very small, shrinking more and I repress the urge to leap over and gather her in my arms. I hate that shit. She looks down, then casts a glance in my direction, though she never makes eye contact with me.

“In another life, you would have been a great pain whore.”

No, she wouldn’t! Pain whores absolutely get off on pain. I know that’s not Butterfly.

“We need to be alone,” Savvina announces. My back straightens.

“Why?” I ask. I thought we were in training together.

“Because you came to us for help,” Savvina says. “She’s a submissive right now and she’s clearly not going to talk with you in the room, much less be receptive to anything I’m going to be telling her. We need to be alone.”

“Come on, Christian,” Artemis says, standing. “Let’s go get a drink.”

Savvina doesn’t break her gaze with me and Butterfly won’t meet my gaze at all. I reluctantly stand and follow Artemis to another part of the house.

“What’s your poison?” he asks, and I notice that his normally heavy Greek accent is significantly smoothed out.

A double shot of Scotch…

“Sparkling water with lime,” I say. “I’m driving.” He nods and begins to fix my drink. “Your accent suddenly doesn’t seem as heavy.”

“It’s a practiced dialect,” he admits, “when I want to make sure that my English is fully understood. Thank you for the confirmation.” He places a soda water with lime in front of me and prepares one for himself.

“You don’t have to abstain from drinking just because I am,” I observe.

“It’s better to keep a level head,” he says. “I may have one drink with dinner, but nothing more.” I nod.

“Why did you offer me a drink, then?” I ask. He raises a brow.

“I offered you a drink, not the bottle,” he says, sipping his soda water. “How does it feel to be ushered from the room that way?”

Like I’ve totally lost control and I want to beat something until my arms ache.

“Fucking helpless,” I admit.

“Good,” Artemis says. “You’re going to have to let her grow on her own and that means letting go. As you both said, she had no experience before you, so you were okay to introduce her, but you’re not okay to teach her… and even though she’s on her way, she has a lot to learn.”

“I’m aware of this now,” I say. “That’s why we’re here…”

Artemis and I talk for a while about balancing life with being a Dom and a husband—he calls it Dominus—and after a few minutes, he reaches into his pocket and looks at his phone.

“Dinner is ready,” he says, “and we’re being summoned.”

I raise my gaze to him. I guess that last part means that our wives have finished their conversation and it’s safe for us to go back. I feel a bit powerless and, in light of current events, it’s not a good feeling. Not a good feeling at all.

Artemis and I go back to the den to join our wives and I get a surprise.

“Ana, why don’t you go on in and get settled for dinner with Artemis? Give me a moment with Christian, do you mind?” Butterfly is clearly hesitant.

“Um, okay?” she says and it’s more of a question than a statement. Artemis gestures with his arm and smiles warmly. She looks at me then at Artemis and leaves the room with him. He mimics placing his hand in the small of her back, but doesn’t actually touch her as they exit. Savvina turns to me.

“You’ve always had submissives that were already primed,” she says. “They knew who they were, they knew what they wanted. They had contracts, they underwent negotiations, and they knew exactly what to expect. They knew what they would and wouldn’t take from you, and it was all spelled out in black and white. They had been thoroughly trained, and some of them were pros. You’ve never had feelings for any of them except your Mistress when you first began as a submissive…”

God, I hate that she refers to that woman as my Mistress.

“You’ve never had a submissive in training, much less one that you’re in love with—seasoned or not. Do not badger that girl about what we discuss. You’ll set her all the way back and undo any progress we possibly make. My suggestion is that while she’s going through her initial submissive training that you go to your Dominus training until you’re needed for her sessions. You’ve known me for years. You know she’ll be safe with me.”

“So, you won’t tell me about the progress of the sessions?” I inquire. She shakes her head.

“You’ll only know what you need to know and nothing more. I will tell you this—she needs a lot of training. She’s balancing on a delicate rope right now and she’s full of more uncertainty than you think. I’m only telling you this because if you push her too hard, it’ll be disastrous.” I nod. I can’t do anything but train and wait.

Fuck, this is going to be tough as fuck!

I’m contemplative throughout dinner, talking as much as is necessary to be social, but lost in my own thoughts. Don’t ask about training; don’t push too hard; I won’t get any updates. How the fuck am I supposed to know what to do and what not to do? I’m going to lose my goddamn mind trying to gauge what’s appropriate and what’s not. I thought I truly had a handle on this whole Dom thing. If I didn’t know anything else, I always knew how to read a woman’s body—what buttons to push, what things to say, how to touch her. To some degree, I’ve even been able to read a woman’s thoughts…

I know when she’s displeased; I know when she’s aroused; I know when she’s angry or sad.

Now, suddenly, with my own wife, I feel like I’m completely out of my league. And it doesn’t help where now I’m fighting with my company as well, where at one time I had total and absolute control and now, it just seems like things are going haywire!

Everybody is telling me that I’m going soft, including my fucking trainer. Even my executive staff don’t respect my decisions anymore. I feel like I’m losing my grip on everything and it’s unbelievably frustrating.

We’ve spent dinner mostly in an effort to make Butterfly more comfortable with the journey we’re about to embark upon, but the entire time, I’m feeling more and more rudderless. By the time we return to the den for drinks and to discuss our next steps, I’m wound tighter than a dollar-store watch.

I’m having visions of the less-controlled things that I once did to faceless submissives in the playroom that’s now being dismantled at Escala. I’ve been having these visions ever since I held my wife down and forced her into two orgasms… or was it three?

I’m remembering with a regretful fondness the days when I was looking forward to the weekend when some fit but bony waif would call me Master and I would work her over until all the pressures of the week had been released. I wasn’t kind to those women—I respected their limits and their safewords if they used them, but I wasn’t kind.

If they ever left me feeling empty or unsatisfied in any way, I punished them. And if they did it again, I ended their contract. It was a means to an end, and it worked out nicely, until…

“Christian, you’re quiet,” Artemis says, bringing me back to the here and now. I know he’s asking what I’m thinking because I haven’t contributed anything to the conversation since we returned to the den. Well, if I’m looking for help with this Dominus thing, I have to be honest.

“This week, I found myself fighting my old… urges,” I admit, and Butterfly rubbernecks to me. Oh, hell, this may have been a bad idea, but the elephant is in the room now.

“Your old urges?” he asks, curiously. He knows what I’m talking about. He’s outfitted both of my playrooms and broke down the one at Escala.

“The pressures of life and the corporate world,” I continue without looking at anyone. “They’re… unearthing the memories of my prior coping techniques.”

“I see,” he says. “Can you elaborate for Ana?”

“I’m aware of his prior coping techniques,” my wife says, turning from me and dropping her gaze to the floor.

“Okay, then elaborate for me,” Artemis presses. I glare at him and he doesn’t falter. He’s not allowing either of us to hide. If this is what we want, we have to face up to it.

“The caning and the whipping,” I admit. “The orgasm refusal and striping the skin with a cat… the things that use to calm my frustration with… life.”

I don’t look at Butterfly, but I can see her deflate out of the corner of my eye.

“You miss those things, Christian?” Artemis asks. I shake my head.

“I just… recall my fascination with them, that’s all,” I admit. “I remember anticipating the weekend and imagining a scene, then carrying it out with a submissive. Yes, the release was liberating. When the days become more stressful than you’re accustomed to—stressful like they used to be—you remember your old coping techniques. That’s all this is.” My wife scoffs, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.

“Ana, is there something you want to add?” Artemis adds. She shrugs.

“What’s to add?” she asks, her voice laced with sarcasm. “He’s feeling nostalgic about the days when he used to beat submissives. His business is stressing him out and he’s thinking about going back to the old way of doing things, just like he did with his company.” I roll my eyes and sigh.

“I’m not thinking about going back to the old way of doing things,” I defend. “I was honest about remembering those times because the stress and the angst that I’m feeling now is similar to the stress and the angst that I was feeling then. It’s no different than smelling my mom’s chicken soup and remembering my childhood, Anastasia. It’s just something that struck a memory.”

“Oh, there’s a comparison—your old BDSM lifestyle and Grace’s chicken soup.”

Yep… yep, that sounds ridiculous.

“Okay… alright, that was a bit too simplistic, but it’s the same premise. It’s something that struck up a memory and that’s all,” I retort.

“Um-hmm,” she says, her gaze back to the floor.

“Ana, what’s going through your head?” Artemis asks.

“I knew that’s what he wanted,” she blurts out. “No matter how he tried to convince me otherwise, I knew deep down that’s what he wanted all along.”

What?

“That’s what I wanted, yes!” I say finally, firmly.

“Then why didn’t you just say that?” she nearly shrieks. “Why play these games with me like I’m what you wanted all this time?”

“Because you are what I want!” I snap back harshly, feeling attacked, “and I don’t want to be that way! It’s what I wanted! It’s what I was accustomed to! And when things get rough, it may be what my mind recalls as a coping technique. It does not mean that’s what I want now! If you, of all people, don’t know and understand that, then I don’t know what to tell you!”

“We need to back up,” Artemis says. “We’re getting into pointing fingers and losing sight of the purpose here. Ana,” he says, turning to my wife, “you’ve heard that Christian may be having some of his initial primal urges…” I move to dispute him, but he raises his finger to silence me. I fucking hate that shit, but in this setting, it’s different—another means to an end.

“How do you feel about that?” Artemis continues. “Would you be able to satisfy those urges for him?”

“No,” she says, after a pause. “I can’t be that woman. I don’t like whips and I don’t like canes, and he knows that.” Her voice is cracking.

“Christian,” Artemis turns to me, “how do you feel about hearing that?”

“I don’t want to do those things to her, and she knows that,” I retort. “That’s why we’re here—to find that compromise that works for us both without her having to push herself to limits that I know she can’t take.”

“Then when he needs the really hard stuff, he’ll just go find someone else that’ll take what he’s dishing out!” She hisses through her tears.

“Fuck! Seriously?” I roar. “You seriously think I would fucking do that?”

I launch from my seat and walk away from the conversation, over to the wall of glass and just look out at the darkness. I don’t even bother counting. It won’t help this time. I really can’t believe what I’m hearing. Does she really think I would do that to her? To our fucking family? Seriously?

“Ana, that’s not fair,” Savvina chimes in. “Has Christian ever given you any reason to believe that he would venture outside of your marriage?”

“No,” I hear her sob, “but I can’t be that woman for him. I know who he was, what he did, and I can’t be that woman! So, what is he going to do—pretend like he doesn’t have those urges? Pretend like he doesn’t want to chain me to the ceiling of the playroom and cane me until my entire body is striped pink?”

I’ve never fucking whipped any woman until her entire body was striped pink. That is abuse. Hell, I had a hard time with B&D after I spanked her until she had purple bruises on her bottom. Remember that, Anastasia?

Come to think of it, even if I was that much of an asshole to want to cheat on my wife, I could never inflict the kind of damage on any woman that I used to before I met Ana, for more reasons than I can count.

I can’t hear anything now. I’m so fucking pissed that I can barely breathe. How dare her! How fucking dare she think I would want someone else—for any reason whatsoever! Yeah, I skipped out to Madrid when things got a bit much for me to bear, but has that situation completely negated everything that I’ve ever done in our entire relationship to prove that she’s the one that I really want? Jesus H. Christ, this is a fucking nightmare.

I feel angry, I feel appalled. I feel every type of burning rage a man can feel when he’s innocent and being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. But beyond all that fury and ire, there’s one emotion that’s sticking out the worst, and I can’t put a name to it? Is it rejection? Do I feel slighted? What is this?

“What did you say?” Artemis says and apparently, I said something, but I wasn’t aware of it. I close my eyes and open my mouth and just let the word flow out on its own.

“Hurt.”

The room is silent, and I don’t turn around. I’m leaning on the wall next to the wall of glass—or I should say that it’s kind of holding me up right now. I don’t want this. I don’t want any of this. I’ll turn my back on the whole lifestyle, on everything it means to me or does for me if it means I’ll lose her. I’ll work out until every muscle in my body feels like steel before I jeopardize my family. But I think what bothers me the most is the fact that she feels like I could so easily throw that all away.

“Christian, you’re moving backwards. That’s not good…”

We’re moving backwards!” I say finally, interrupting Artemis’ statement. “We’re moving backwards in every way!”

“That may be what’s needed,” Savvina interjects and I glare at her. “To pull back all the layers of everything you’ve built in terms of your practices and dispel all the disillusions.”

I take a moment to think about what she said when Butterfly left the room; that all of my submissives have already been primed; that she’s pretty much at a precipice right now and if I push her too hard, it may set her back. I just wish I knew how the fuck this equates into I want someone else just because I confessed to feeling the same lack of control that I used to.

“I really think we’ve gone as far as we can today,” Savvina says. Both Artemis and I look questioning at her and she gestures to Butterfly. I look over at my wife and she’s as still as a statue, tears falling almost endlessly onto her beautiful red dress. I push my hands through my hair and shake my head.

“I think you’re right,” I say, unable to hide the anger in my voice. I leave the den and head to the front room and the closet where our coats are kept. I’ve never needed time alone more in my life than I do right now.

The three of them come from the den into the front room where I’m standing. Butterfly isn’t crying anymore, but she’s eying me leerily. Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“You can ride with me if you like,” I say, failing miserably to contain my ire, “or if you rather I call someone to come and get you, I can do that, too.”

She immediately drops her gaze and shakes her head, and I immediately feel like shit. I hold her coat open for her and she walks into it without raising her head.

“Next week?” Savvina asks. “The Munch?”

“Yes,” I say, my voice clipped. No way in hell I’m going to put myself or her through this without seeing it through.

The ride back to Mercer is deathly quiet. I don’t even bother to turn the radio on. I’m concentrating hard on the road and trying to get us back home in one piece. Total silence for twenty minutes and plenty of time for my thoughts to bang themselves against my skull over and over again until I can at least find the solace of my goddamn piano…


ANASTASIA

He bolts to the elevator without a word the moment we hit the mudroom. He doesn’t even bother to remove his coat… or mine.

Weeping, I take the stairs to our bedroom. I cry the entire time I rip the red dress from my body, truly hoping to never see the beautiful piece of fabric again. I kick off my stilettos and I’m careful with his grandmother’s earrings, not so much with the costume necklace from one of my prior Ana Steele collections. My hands are trembling so much as I try to remove it that I break the clasp. I reach for a nightgown, then realize that I’ll most likely be spending the night alone, and not in that bed, so I opt for a pair of yoga pants and my U-Dub sweatshirt instead.

I always feared the day would come where I wouldn’t be enough for him. In the back of my head, I always dreaded the day would come when he needed something that I couldn’t give him. That’s why I took the heavy play. It was never something that I couldn’t take, and I knew it wasn’t abuse. I knew that I could stop any of it with just a safeword, but I knew he needed more. No matter how he tried to convince me or himself, I knew he needed more, so I convinced myself to take more—to be what he needed.

The truth is that the whole thing is an unknown to me, and I’m putting characteristics on him that were never ever there… like infidelity. Mistrust is a poison pill and I can’t allow that to creep into our relationship. It’s more than the running away to Madrid because he can’t take the heat or deal with what he saw. This is actively believing that my husband would venture outside of our marriage and find satisfaction in the arms of another woman, or with another woman at the end of his whip.

I’m fighting the urge to pack my things and my babies and leave just because I don’t want to be here and I don’t know what to feel, but I know that won’t solve anything. If anything, it’ll make everything that much worse, and it’s the wrong thing to do for so many reasons. I don’t even know why I want to leave. Even now, my mind is ping-ponging back and forth between rational and irrational thoughts, and I really need to talk to somebody.

I need a friend—a confidante in the worst way.

I open my phone to Facebook and look for Laura’s name. I can instant message her and she’ll contact me when she’s online.

Hmmm, I have to download Facebook Messenger. Fine. I download the app and look for Laura. She has to approve me to message her. That’s strange. Shouldn’t I already be approved if I’m her friend? Whatever. I type a short message:

Mercer Doctor Lady: Hey, what’s up?

Short and sweet. What time is it in Sydney right now anyway? Is she even awake? I’m fucking bright-eyed and bushy tailed since my husband refuses to come to bed after I foolishly accused him of wanting to whip other little brown-haired girls if I refused to cooperate. God, the thought is so repulsive, and if he had even the slightest reaction close to mine, I certainly understand why he’s livid and needs his space right now.

Ellen Degeneres it is…

I watch three clips of her scaring her guests and playing silly games that she made up when my phone chimes with a notification.

LauraLee Kelly: You’re up late. Can’t sleep?

Very perceptive.

Mercer Doctor Lady: How’d you guess? Exactly what time is it in Sydney? Did I wake you?

LauraLee Kelly: Not even. Has it been that long, dear? It’s barely dusk here.

Oh. Well, at least I didn’t wake her.

LauraLee Kelly: I know it’s past dusk in your neck of the woods. Why the night owl?

I can’t tell her everything, but I’ll give her the basics.

Mercer Doctor Lady: I had a fight with Christian.

LauraLee Kelly: Uh oh. Can you elaborate?

She knows me well.

Mercer Doctor Lady: Only a little. Old ghosts preyed on my insecurities.

LauraLee Kelly: The Boogieman?

Hmm… no.

Mercer Doctor Lady: Honestly, no, not this time. I was just insecure about his nostalgia of the man that he used to be before he met me.

LauraLee Kelly: Okay, so I’m a little lost. Why was he nostalgic?

Mercer Doctor Lady: Because work is stressful, and he began thinking about the things he used to do as a single man.

LauraLee Kelly: I’m not trying to open a can of worms, but work stress usually doesn’t make you think about something like that. There has to be something more. You know I’m your friend and I’d really like to help you out with this, but I don’t want you to tell me more than you think you should.

Shit, should I tell her anything? I’ve already told her so much. I would normally talk to Ace about things like this, but he’s not available and I’ve pretty much told him to kick rocks until I need him…

As I’m pondering my options, my phone makes this horrible ringing-clanking sound. It sounds awful. I look at the screen and discover that Laura is calling me. That’s not my ringtone, though. I look closer and realize that she’s calling me through Messenger. Hm, you learn something new every day.

I swipe the screen and accept her video chat.

“I figured this would be easier, whether you wanted to elaborate or not,” she says when her face appears on the screen. Jesus, she’s a sight for sore eyes.

“I didn’t think I’d miss you guys so much so soon,” I admit. “It’s been a rough week ever since we’ve been home.”

“Obviously,” she says. “Why are you sitting in the dark?” I turn on a lamp on the end table. “There you are. You don’t look so good…  do you want to elaborate or would you rather not?”

I look over into our bedroom at our undisturbed bed and sigh.

“Yeah,” I cede weakly.

Without giving her too much information on our background and why we partake, I explain to her that we’re active in the BDSM lifestyle and that Christian would most likely blow a literal fuse if he knew that I was telling her. I give her the short version of our mostly vanilla relationship with the kinky fuckery thrown in, but that my most recent uncertainty stemmed from the fact that my husband was—once upon a time—into some of the more sadistic stuff.

“You’re afraid that he wants to go back to that?” she asks.

“I don’t know, Laura,” I admit. “I know he thinks about it even though he won’t do it with me. I know he would never hurt me… well, beyond what I can take and what I consent to, but he used to be into some heavier shit than what we do. This week has been stressful with some things that have been going on with the business and in our personal lives, and he admitted that he had been thinking about some of the things that he used to do with those other women.”

“Did he say he wanted you to do those things?” she asks.

“No,” I say, shaking my head.

“Did he give you the impression that he wanted to start doing those things again… with you or other women?” I clear my throat.

“Not as such,” I admit. “He just… talked about remembering those things—his old ‘coping mechanisms’—and he made it sound like he missed them.” She nods.

“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So, did he in any way, shape, or form make you feel like you were falling short because you weren’t doing what these other women did?”

“No,” I admit. “He didn’t, but…” I trail off.

“But what?” she presses. I roll my eyes and sigh.

“This horrible woman that he used to… be involved with, she told me when we first got together that he would tire of me—that one day, he would miss his old lifestyle and that I wouldn’t be enough. As soon as I start remembering what she said…” with the help of a nocturnal visit from the bitch, “… he comes out and admits that he misses that lifestyle.”

“He said that?” she asks in horrified awe.

“Well, no, not that. He said that the stress of the week is making him nostalgic for his old coping mechanisms.” She frowns.

“What else did he say?” she asks.

“That was pretty much it—that he was just thinking about his prior activities and the way that he used to cope.” She rubs her chin.

“Okay, I see. So… some bitch planted a seed in your head a few years ago when her time was apparently fading and yours was just beginning to bloom, and now when things aren’t so perfect, her words have come back to haunt you and you suddenly believe that your husband is no longer satisfied with your relationship. Have I just about summed it up?”

Wait a minute, whose side are you on?

“You do realize that you’re subjecting yourself to insecurity because he’s remembering the familiar, don’t you?”

God, she makes it sound so simple. It’s got to be more than that.

“We were seeing another couple in the lifestyle to try to help us find a middle-ground between our kinky fuckery and the really hard stuff.”

“Why would you need that if you guys were already practicing?” she asks. “I thought you said he didn’t expect you to do all that hard shit.”

“He doesn’t,” I clarify. “We’re seeing this other couple because he feels like he may be pushing me beyond my limits and that I’m letting him because I don’t want him to seek satisfaction elsewhere. So, we sought out some guidance.” She frowns.

“You realize that you’re proving my point, right?” she says. “If he had the slightest inclination of going back to the lifestyle that he was living before, you think he would have said anything about it while you were present? He has a woman who is clearly willing to take more than she can bear to help him stay grounded, but you guys are meeting with someone because he feels like you’re going beyond your limits. How this equates to ‘he wants his old life back,’ I have no idea, so you’re really going to have to help me with that.”

You should see him, Laura. He’s nearly inconsolable!” I say, my voice desperate. “Most people devote eight or nine hours of the day to work. If you’re the boss, maybe ten or twelve. This thing with the business has turned him into someone else entirely. This is the guy he used to be before he met me, only it’s worse—or maybe it’s not worse, because I wasn’t around then. Maybe this was who he was all the time—unapproachable for 16 – 20 hours out of the day, but nobody cared because he didn’t have a wife and children. Nobody was looking or nobody cared if he slept for maybe four hours each night, but when he did that, he let his frustrations out on the weekend on women who were trained and professional and could take a whole lot more than I can.”

I’m choking back the tears that are welling up in my throat again. My husband is nostalgic about the old days not because he wants another woman, but because life is guiding him to where he was before. If something doesn’t change, what’s to stop him from wandering into his old way… again, not because he’s unfaithful, but because it’s what’s familiar?

“Ana, my high school years were outstanding—I was popular, I had friends, and the prom was phenomenal. I remember those days with fondness, but I don’t want to go back! It was a time before all my problems started. I was carefree and young and happy, but I still don’t want to go back. All kinds of things have happened that makes me a different person now than I was then. So, this person now won’t fit in that time, no matter how great it was. Do you really think that this person that Christian is now would fit in the time of the person that he was then? Because if you do, you’ve got a bigger problem than you think.” I choke on a gasp and cover my mouth.

“No,” I sob. “No, he’s nothing like he was before… nothing at all. I don’t think he could ever be that person again if he tried. He’s… come a really long way, and the biggest part of the journey was… in the first few months that we met. The Christian Grey that I first met could never have… been a husband, let alone a father. Yes, he has his imperfect moments, but… he’s not that guy. He’s… just not that guy.”

“I’m glad you see that,” she says. “So, why are you talking to me and not to him?”

“He needs some time,” I say, wiping the tears from my cheeks. “He’s a proud man. He told me how he felt… and I told him how I felt. I don’t think either of us could really take it.”

“Mm,” she replies, “his version of sulking?”

“Brooding,” I correct her, “but he gets a gimme on this one… a big gimme.”

Laura and I talk a little more and I thank her for listening to me and helping me get my thoughts together. The incident wasn’t Boogieman status—only because I think I’ve learned how to deal with the Boogieman—but it was pretty steep, and the way I feel about Ace these days, I don’t think he would have been able to help me.

Quite some time after I began my call with Laura, I go to the nightstand in my bedroom and retrieve my iPod. I take the throw from the bottom of the bed and go back into the sitting room. Still fully dressed, I wrap the throw around me and lay on the loveseat. I’m surprised that my iPod is still charged, but I haven’t used it in a while. I turn it on and open my files. That one big file is still there of course. I open it and allow it to play. I lay my head on the pillow as I listen to him play his piano and sing to me. I finally fall asleep as his deep voice sings about being in love with me and feeling brand new…

I slept like the dead. It must have been the emotional overload from last night. I’m in the fetal position on the love seat, wrapped in the throw from our bed. I’m listening to the last bars of one of the songs Christian sang to me on my iPod—I think it’s Michael Franks, Now I Know Why. I stop the iPod and sit up. It’s obvious that he didn’t come to bed last night since I’m still on the loveseat.

It’s also obvious that he’s been in this room.

On the floor next to the loveseat is a single flawless long-stemmed rose.

I pick up the rose and take it to the en suite with me. While I’m in the shower, I think about the conversation Savvina and I had before my husband dropped the “nostalgia” bomb…

“You say that you know about the mental,” she says. “So, what do you know?” I straighten my back.

“I know that different people deal with stressful situations in different ways,” I say. “I know that my husband has been mentally preconditioned to deal with unfettered circumstances in a physical manner. It helps him to regain control and yes, it gets him off.”

“Unfettered,” she says, repeating my word. “God, you sound so clinical.”

Well! Should I be offended?

“Why are you making this relationship sound so sterile?” she asks.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“How long have you actively partaken in a BDSM lifestyle of any kind?” she asks.

“Since the beginning,” I reply. “Well, almost the beginning. We might have been a week or two into our relationship, I don’t remember exactly…”

“And how long have you been together?” she presses.

“Two and a half years,” I confess.

“So, you two have been dabbling for two and a half years, and you don’t find it strange that your husband has not been able to identify your limits?” My defenses drop and I shrug.

“Christian was a different man when we met,” I tell her. “If you already knew him, I’m sure you’re aware of this.”

“I have helped my husband outfit a few dungeons for him. I’m aware of this,” she replies. Dungeons. He’s never called it a dungeon… but she just did.

You seem unnerved,” she says. “Does it bother you that I’ve had a hand in decorating his dungeons?”

“No,” I reply honestly, “it’s unsettling that you call them ‘dungeons.’ It conjures other impressions for me.”

“Well, that’s what they are, dear, but I’ll refer to them as playrooms if it’ll make you more comfortable.”

“Yes, please,” I reply.

“Earlier, you said the pain gets you off… sometimes. Is that why you allow him to push your limits so far?” I raise my gaze to her.

“I will speak to Christian about our progress and things that I feel he needs to know throughout our encounters, but whatever you say to me will remain in confidence,” she assures me. I stare at her for a moment or two.

“I’m not sure… what my husband wants,” I tell her. “He’s beautiful and powerful and he has spent a good portion of his life in the BDSM lifestyle, both as a submissive and as  a Dominant. He’s very good at being both. His pain threshold as a submissive is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“So, you’ve dominated him, too,” she observes.

“Like you said, we’ve dabbled,” I inform her. “But when he’s on the other side of the crop…” I trail off.

How do you feel going into a scene?” she asks. “When you know that he’s in full Dom mode, when he binds you or restrains you in any way, when you don’t know what’s coming, but you think you might, how do you feel? What are you thinking?”

I try to think about all the scenes we’ve done. Some of them have been passionate while others have been somewhat brutal. And yet others have been a combination of the two.

“It honestly depends on the situation,” I confess.

“Do you know what’s coming before it happens?” she asks.

“Not unless he tells me,” I reply.

“And how often does he tell you?”

“Not often,” I say.

“So, again I ask, how do you feel going into a scene… overall?” I pause.

“I trust him,” I reply. “I know that if I tell him to stop, he’ll stop. I know that he won’t hurt me beyond what I tell him that he can and can’t do.”

“That’s all wonderful, Ana, but you still haven’t told me how you feel,” she points out. “He’s in full Dom mode and you know it’s coming. You know what he’s done before, but you don’t know what he’s about to do now. How do you feel?” I swallow hard.

“It depends,” I reply honestly. “Excited sometimes, or… terrified…”

“Terrified?” she questions, frowning deeply.

“Of the unknown,” I add. “I want to be what he needs, but sometimes, I don’t know what he needs. I know he can be intense, and I just don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if he’s going to do something that I like or if he’s going to need something more than I can take. It’s a balancing act and sometimes, it can be terrifying…”

I tell her about punishments that I don’t feel I deserved or where I think he actually may have gone too far, like the time I went outside without a jacket to stop Keri from leaving when I was pregnant. I didn’t feel like it was a huge malfeasance and could have been easily settled by a verbal lashing about going outside without a coat—like he went outside with wet hair or ran through the rain and actually did get sick—but he spanked me in the shower until my butt was purple.

Or the first fiasco in Anguilla where I was left shaking and nerve-wrecked after being ordered not to come.

“So, it’s not that you’re concerned if he’ll hurt you because it sounds like you expect him to hurt you anyway. You’re simply afraid that you won’t be able to sustain as far as he might be willing to go.”

Bells ring in my head not to respond, not to let this woman know that she’s hit this nail on the head. What does that say about my husband—that he will one day take things too far? That I will have to safeword to get him to stop? When will I know when to safeword if I keep telling myself to go further and further… for him? When will that moment come when he really does need more, and I can’t give it to him?

“No response is a response, Ana,” Savvina says. “You don’t understand the mental and what it means for you; and if you don’t find enjoyment in it, or relief, or release, then it is abuse, even if it’s unintentional.”

“But I do find release…”

“No, you don’t,” she interrupts me. “You don’t find Nirvana, peace, or even subspace until it’s over and he makes you come. This. Is. Not. Just. For. Him. As his wife, this is for you, too. Until you fully understand that, you’re in a dangerous place.”

We went in to dinner shortly after that revelation with Savvina promising to help me understand what healthy limits are as opposed to allowing myself to be brutalized—for lack of a better word—for the sake of keeping my husband from straying. And then came the timebomb…

“The pressures of life and the corporate world, they’re… unearthing the memories of my prior coping techniques… The caning and the whipping, the orgasm refusal and striping the skin with a cat… the things that use to calm my frustration with… life. I just… recall my fascination with them, that’s all. I remember anticipating the weekend and imagining a scene, then carrying it out with a submissive. Yes, the release was liberating. When the days become more stressful than you’re accustomed to—stressful like they used to be—you remember your old coping techniques…”

Who wouldn’t feel at least even the tiniest bit of doubt upon hearing that their very dominant-previously-sadistic husband is recalling his fascination with his previous BDSM lifestyle right at a moment when he’s telling me that he may need to pull back because I might be pushing myself too far?

He expressed his feelings and I expressed mine. Mine were apparently the very wrong ones…

“You can ride with me if you like… or if you rather I call someone to come and get you, I can do that, too.”

He was pissed, not that I could blame him. I let the insecurities that I got from a dream—a phantom—materialize into the real, and I threw that insecurity at my husband. That ride was probably the longest twenty minutes of my life.

That’s a lie. The seconds passed like hours when he was in Madrid, but that’s another situation entirely.

I’m blaming a bout of dream-induced temporary insanity for my feelings of insecurity. I truly don’t think Christian wants another woman, not even to release his frustrations. However, I’m not at all convinced that he doesn’t want the release of the intense playroom scenes that he once had with his prior submissives, and I don’t know what to do about that.


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 25

There are three more chapters after this one.

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 25

Trey Chapter 25

TREY

It’s Valentine’s Day…

And where I wish I were spending it with Ronnie, as a friend of course, she’s got a new beau in her life. It’s some guy that she met from one of the dating sites and this is their first date. She promises to give me all the details at our next lunch—whether he’s a dud or a stud—and I…

Well, I’m at the club taking advantage of one of the many single submissives available this evening. Tonight, it’s a gorgeous fucking redhead with an Olympic ass. I plan to oil that thing down and fuck her blind. No exhibition room for me tonight—I don’t want the distraction. I just want to fuck.

I begin the night with her squatting in front of me, my hands pinning her up-stretched arms against the wall by her wrists. I’m standing in front of her, deeply and slowly fucking her mouth and throat. Her safeword is to look up at me and blink, especially since her mouth is full and I’m almost drooling looking down at her lips wrapped around my cock while it’s disappearing into her mouth and throat. She doesn’t safeword, though. She can take it and take it she does. She’s so fucking talented that when she licks my balls with my dick still in her throat, I give her the first of many seminal salutes right down her goddamn throat.

Next, she’s in stocks with a spreader bar on her ankles, her stilettos causing her ass to toot straight up in the air, and my dick is jutting angrily right in her direction. She’s helpless and she can’t move, and I want to fuck—and fuck and fuck and fuck. I don’t care if she comes. I’m going to fuck her until I get Golden out of my head… at least for the night.

Her pussy is dripping wet in anticipation of my cock, and I’m going to give it to her, hard and deep, but first…

I oil that ass so that it’s nice and shiny, then lube her asshole thoroughly and retrieve the large glass butt plug. With no preparation, I shove it into her ass to the hilt. She gasps and her leg trembles. She likes it rough. She better, because there will be nothing tender about tonight’s fucking.

I position my head at her opening, grab her hips, and shove my cock in hard. She cries out in a high-pitched squeal. Fuck, that’s tight! And wet! And fucking hot as a goddamn sauna.

I don’t make a sound. I just concentrate on my dick—pulling it out and shoving it back in hard, deep, hot… fuck! God, it’s so fucking good. I pull out and slam into her again… and again… and again… the fucking pleasure shooting all the way to my goddamn feet. It’s hard to keep quiet, but I do, so I can pay attention to my throbbing, burning cock buried inside this eager, hot pussy.

I look down at her ass, swallowing that butt plug and rising and falling with each stroke. That shit is erotic as fuck. I grab the bottom of her ass cheeks and lift and spread, revealing my dick all wet and shiny, veiny and coated with her juices, the skin of her pussy wrapping around it and pulling as I pull out from her and resisting as I push back inside. Fuck, the sight is almost better than the feeling… which makes the feeling burn hotter.

I grit my teeth and stifle a groan as I plunge into her—deeper and harder with each stroke. I feel her start to tremor inside and my cock hardens. I throw my head back and thrust deeper and deeper, again, again, again…

I want to pull out when I feel her orgasm beginning, make her suffer, but I can’t. When she tightens around me, I look down at her ass and the butt plug is pulsing with her, every throb causing it to move. Her orgasm is so massive that although I hear her whimpering, I can only feel her pulling my dick deeper and deeper inside of her quaking pussy. I open my mouth and cum, violently, massively, and silently—the ejaculation causing my knees to buckle and my thighs to tighten. My tongue hangs far and hard out of my mouth in silent ecstasy and I’m dizzy when I’ve finally finished.

I grit my teeth and catch my breath as my cock pulses inside of her, my orgasm finally waning. I take a moment or three to get my bearings, my cock sliding out of her and my cum dripping on the floor from her open legs. That shit causes a twitch and I know I’ll be ready again in no time.

The butt plug’s gotta go, because that ass is next.

As my aching cock is getting a little air, she’s panting and still recovering from her climax. I put the spanking horse underneath her, because that body has to stay still for this ass fuck. Once she’s positioned on the spanking horse, I release her from the spreader bar. That asshole is puckering and pulsing and begging for my cock. Who am I to deny it?

I breach her rosette with the head of my cock and it slides in easily. I go further and further until I reach some resistance and she gasps. Then I take it slower until she takes all of my dick and then I thrust harder… and harder… and harder. She groans.

“Quiet!” I order, and she’s immediately silent.

Completely immobilized, she takes every deep thrust, her oily ass swallowing my cock over and over again. The site is fucking delicious. This is a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day.

I grab her hips and slam her ass against my pelvis every time I thrust, her cheeks bouncing and wobbling from the impact and making that satisfying noise each time we make contact…

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

My cock is burning from the tight friction and the vision is causing my balls to tighten. She whimpers with each thrust and I grab the frame of the stocks to get more leverage.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

Faster and harder I go, chasing this intense tightening in and below my balls. She cries a shrill cry and unless she was tightening her Kegels and had an orgasm in her pussy, she’s riding through an anal orgasm. No matter, because that ass is tightening either way.

Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!

Thwap!

What the fuck!

I get a sting in my back that causes me to drive hard and fast into this nameless redhead with the big ass. She’s back! She’s fucking back! I’ve been trying to exorcise this shit for months. I even have a failed fucking relationship to chalk up to this shit and she’s still fucking here.

Thwap!

“Aahhh!” I cry out involuntarily, the sting going straight to my dick and causing it to swell and thicken. Still holding on to the stocks, I’m fucking her hard while I drill and grind into her ass, and in my lust and pleasure-filled haze, her flaxen red hair turns brown and whimpers are replaced with a voice more familiar.

Trey… fuck me, Trey…

Thwap!

I’m sweating like a racehorse, pounding like a jackhammer and a few moments later…

Thwap!

“Fuuuuuuuck!” I grunt in agony as the dam bursts and I’m spraying uncontrollably into her ass. My dick is thumping painfully inside her and I’m momentarily blinded by the dizzying pleasure. I don’t know what to do except stand here as the pain in my balls intensifies from the incredibly, indescribably powerful orgasm ripping through my body right now. I’m stiff and shaking at the same time as I dare to whisper her name…

“Ana…”

*-*

I’m awakened from an intensely deep sleep by my phone buzzing on the nightstand. It’s 3am. I came home and fell into an orgasm-induced sleep, angry that thoughts of Golden/Ana still haunt me during intense orgasms. I can’t seem to separate the pleasure and the pain. My first thought is that Ronnie’s date took a terrible turn and she needs me to come and get her, but when I clear the dust from my sleepy eyes…

“Mom?” I answer in a crackly sleepy voice.

“Christian…” She’s crying. What’s wrong?

“Mom, what is it?” I ask. “Is it Dad?”

“No… No… It’s… your sister,” Mom weeps into the phone, “she’s… not doing well.” I feel the blood rushing from my face.

“What do you mean she’s not doing well, Mom?” I ask. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Mia’s… Mia’s kidneys are shutting down,” she says.

“What?” I whisper.

“It happened so fast,” she breathes. “She was on dialysis for a short while, but then… out of nowhere…” My mother breaks down into sobs.

This doesn’t happen out of nowhere. Not this. Mia either didn’t know what was going on with her body or she didn’t care, and now my Mom is crying her eyes out, afraid that she’s about to lose her daughter. Was this what Dad was talking about months ago? What’s with the cryptic shit he was saying? Why didn’t he just come straight out and tell me what was going on?

“Where are you?” I ask.

“Se… Seattle Gen,” she chokes out.

“I’m on my way, Mom,” I say, unsuccessfully attempting to mask my anger.

I blindly slide into the first clothes I get my hands on. For all I know, I could be wearing red pants, a purple shirt, and green sneakers. I text Taylor that I’m going to Seattle Gen to see about Mia and rush down to the car. I think I get it in gear and moving before I even get the door closed.

I’m talking aloud to no one the entire way wondering what the hell happened to my sister. Our fights have been some real doozies, but nothing ever bad enough that I would wish something like this on her… and I’ve got a few choice fucking words for my father when I see him, too.

My mother runs to my arms the minute I enter the waiting room for the Intensive Care Unit. I throw a hateful glare over her shoulder at my father as she cries in my chest.

“Mom, tell me what’s going on,” I say.

“I’m not totally sure,” she says, weeping bitterly. “She told me that she was going to have some simple procedure done. I knew something was wrong when I saw the shunt…”

The shunt? I never saw a shunt. Where was the damn thing?

“I asked her about it, and she confessed that she had been on dialysis for a few weeks or a few months, I don’t remember which, but she assured me that everything was okay—that they were only doing dialysis to help strengthen her kidneys…”

They generally don’t do dialysis to strengthen your kidneys that I know of. They do dialysis when your kidneys are starting to fail. I look up at my father again and I can tell by his expression that there’s more. He’s got that “Don’t say anything or we’re all toast” look on his face.

“Her creatinine levels are crazy, and none of this sounds right to me—none of it does,” Mom weeps. “Mia has given strict instructions that we only get limited information on her condition and I don’t know what to do right now.”

“How did she end up here?” I ask. “Was she here for dialysis and they just kept her?”

“She was out with friends and she passed out,” Dad says. “She has a medic alert bracelet and they brought her here.” I shake my head.

“Mom you need to calm down,” I tell her. “I know you’re upset, but we should find out what’s going on before we think the absolute worst…”

“This is the absolute worst!” she shrieks. “My baby girl is sick! She’s been on dialysis and I didn’t know! I don’t know what’s going to happen to her! This is the worst!” she sobs.

I hold her for several moments until she calms, my thoughts going in a million different directions. I have to go talk to Mia, and…

“Where’s Elliot?” I ask.

“I left him a message, but he hasn’t responded,” Dad says. I twist my lips. Do you really expect him to respond to you?

“Mom, have you tried to call him?” I ask.

“No,” she says, her voice weary.

“Can I see your phone?” I ask. She doesn’t question. She just gives me her phone. I kiss her forehead and walk into the hallway and head to the nurses station.

“Where is Mia Grey’s room?” I ask.

“Room 517, down the hall, third room on your left.” I nod my “Thank you’s” and leave. I scroll through the contacts on Mom’s phone as I head to Mia’s room and swipe the screen when I get to Elliot’s number.

“Hey, Mom,” he answers sleepily.

“You’ve taken to not checking your messages, Asswipe?” I say.

“Wha…? Christian?” he says groggily. “Why are you calling from Mom’s phone?”

“Your sister’s in the hospital and she’s doing pretty fucking bad, so you need to get your ass in gear.”

“Who…? What…?” he says.

“You heard me. Get your ass to Seattle Gen, now!” I disconnect the call.

I look in the window of room 517 and see Mia sitting up in the bed. She doesn’t look good at all. Her skin looks a mix of grayish-yellow. I quietly open the door and slowly enter the room.

“Oh, great, this is just what I need,” she says when she sees me, “the angel of sunshine.”

I don’t respond to her sarcasm. Instead, I walk over to the chair on the side of her bed and sit down. At first, I don’t say anything. I look down at my hands for a minute or two, trying to find my words, occasionally looking back up at her to make sure she’s still alive. At minute three, I finally find the words that I want to say.

“You’re dying, Mia,” I say finitely. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m not dying, Dr. Grey,” she shoots back. “My levels are just off.”

“You’re in intensive care, Mia. You levels are not off!

“Don’t try to tell me about my illness!” she hisses. “I’ve been living with this my whole life! I know what’s going on!”

“Then give it to me straight!” I retort sharply. She’s silent for a moment, so I softly add, “Please.”

I don’t know what that one soft Christian moment does for her, but she totally crumbles and begins to cry.

“I need a kidney,” she weeps. “I won’t make it if I don’t get one.” Her shoulders are shaking with genuine sobs. I can’t watch her like this. Whatever our differences, I can’t watch her like this.

I stand and sit on the edge of her bed. I embrace her and let her cry in my arms. She’s scared and I can see that she is. She cries for quite some time as I hold her and rub her back.

“How long?” I say when she finally starts to calm.

“I’ve been on dialysis for years,” she says. “That’s all you get.”

Years? Fucking years? Mom thinks it’s only been a couple of months or something.

“Mia why didn’t you say anything?” I chide gently. “This is very serious stuff.”

“I told Dad,” she says, “when I first started dialysis.” I stiffen.

“Dad knows?” I ask.

“I had to tell one of them,” she says. “I couldn’t tell Mom. She had already been through too much. I regretted telling him from the very beginning. He held it over my head like a juicy piece of gossip.”

So, this is the big juice Dad had on Mia. That’s pretty fucking cruel.

“Jesus, Mia,” I say feeling somewhat helpless. “You need a kidney. How long have you known?”

“About a year,” she says. “I thought I would have one by now. I was doing everything the doctor told me to, to the letter—taking my meds, never missed dialysis. I don’t know what went wrong. My GFR is out of whack, all of my levels are crazy…”

“That’s because dialysis is a temporary fix, even if you can do it for years. It’s not a long term or permanent solution, Mia.” She nods and wipes her nose.

“I know,” she says, her voice shaking, “I was trying to buy some time.” I shake my head and squeeze her hand.

“It’s going to be okay, pest,” I say. “We’re going to find a kidney for you, okay?” She raises wide eyes at me. “And it won’t come from any of my underground connections that’ll snatch some poor sucker off the corner that’ll miraculously be a match.” She wipes her nose again and rolls her eyes.

“I deserved that,” she says wearily.

“Yes, you did,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m going to give Mom back her phone, and you need to get some rest.” She wearily nods and snuggles down into her pillow. I pull her covers over her shoulder like I did before we became mortal enemies… well, not mortal enemies.

I leave her room quietly and close the door. Who’s standing off to the side but dear old fucking Dad.

“You. Are a real fucking piece of work,” I hiss shamelessly at him. He has the nerve to look affronted.

“Don’t blame me,” he chides. “I told you…”

When did you tell me?” I bark, trying to keep my voice low. “You told me no such damn thing! You told me that she was having episodes!”

“I told you in that conversation when you asked me what her doctor said,” he replies. I take a moment to recall the conversation. What did he say…?

What does her doctor say?
The same thing he’s been saying…

I look at my father with disdain.

“You’re a real fucking asshole, you know that?” I say calmly.

“If you had been speaking to your sister…”

“I. Asked. You!” I hiss. “I asked you outright was she dying; what did the doctor say; I asked you, plain and simple, and you did that same game-playing sneaky, sheisty shit you always do. You know damn well you made it seem like nothing was seriously wrong. ‘The same thing he’s been saying,’” I say in a mocking voice.

He makes to respond, but I’ve heard enough. I have no idea why, but my mother loves him. That’s the only reason that I won’t deck him right now.

“I know somebody like you,” I say, thinking of my golden tormentor, the ache still fresh after all these months. “They get off on other people’s pain, on watching them squirm. You know the type, don’t you, Dad?” I add, glaring at him and he glares right back. I know he was a Dominant in the lifestyle, but was he a sadist? I never asked.

“You lost the love of your life once because of your selfishness and shadiness,” I warn calmly. “Keep it up, Dad, and you’re going to lose everything you hold dear.”

I stare him down for a moment to see if he has any shots that he wants to add—this’ll be his last chance. When he has none, I go in search of a doctor or nurse.

“Excuse me,” I say, capturing the first one that I see in the hallway. “You have a patient here that needs a kidney. How do I find out about possibly becoming a donor?”

*-*

I call Daisy Evans during business hours. She’s the living donor coordinator on staff as well as the main coordinator at the transplant coordination center. I tell her that I don’t want my identity revealed yet. I’ll decide if I want to do that once we find out if I’m a match for Mia. She takes the time to get me registered with UNOS—The United Network for Organ Sharing—and then she starts the process of seeing if I’m a viable donor. There’s so much information I need to know about this process:

Mia has a 5-15% chance of dying each year she’s on dialysis. I know that she’s been on there for longer than she’s telling us. I just don’t know how much longer.

It’s a fairly simple surgery to remove the kidney as most of it is done through a laparoscope. Mia’s part is going to be more difficult.

My recovery, should I be a match, will also be pretty simple—a 2 to 3-day recovery in the hospital followed by a 6-week recovery at home, then life is back to normal.

There’s a whole lot more shit to know and learn, but Daisy tells me that I’ll have plenty of time to get and review all the information I need before the procedure. That doesn’t make me feel good since I know that my sister is pretty much on borrowed time.

The next few weeks are kind of crazy. I start with a questionnaire that’s about a hundred questions long. Then, there’s the blood test, the urine test, the ultrasound, a psychological evaluation, a financial evaluation, an overall health evaluation… My head is spinning by the time I’m done with all these fucking evaluations! The entire time, I’m worrying if my sister’s going to die by the time I find out if I’m a good match for her.

I would go by the hospital to see her at least twice a week. Then when she moved back home with Mom and Dad, my visits changed to once a week. I know that Elliot and I are both being tested since Mom and Dad have already been tested and are, crazily, not compatible to give her a kidney. After sitting on pins and needles for weeks, I’m finally called into the transplant coordination center one day to talk to Daisy Evans.

“Mr. Grey, I want to start by saying that I have some good news for you,” she says. “You and your brother are both ABO and crossmatch compatible. You’re both ideal matches to donate a kidney to your sister.” Well, this is good news.

“There’s a but,” I say.

“Your brother’s health and… extra-curricular activities would most likely exclude him from being permitted to give her a kidney.” I frown.

“Wait, are you telling me that my brother is going to need a kidney soon, too?” I ask horrified. I only have two kidneys!

“I’m not saying that,” she says. “I am, however, strongly suggesting that you be the one to donate the kidney. Mia is a very young woman and she has a better chance of survival and extended life with one of your kidneys than she would with one of Elliot Grey’s. That’s all I can say without breaking the law and I’ve already insinuated more than I should.”

So, basically something is wrong with Elliot or he’s done something to his body or kidneys that makes him less than ideal. If he were sick, we’d be having a different conversation. So, my guess is recreational drugs or alcohol. Obviously, if I want my sister to live, I’m going to have to be the one to give her the kidney. She’s a real pain in my ass, but I don’t want her to die.

“Remember when I requested to remain anonymous?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says.

“I need it to stay that way,” I say. “No one can know that it’s me, not even my parents until I’m ready.” She frowns.

“That’s highly unusual,” she says. “This is your sister…”

“You do deceased donors all the time,” I point out, “and the person on the table or their family doesn’t know whose kidney, heart, or liver they’re getting. They just know that they or their loved one is getting a second chance at life. The donation has to be anonymous.” She sighs.

“This affects your support system,” she says.

“You’ve seen my evaluation,” I counter. “You know that I have a very capable support system outside of my family.” She nods.

“As you wish, Mr. Grey,” she says.

“So, what do we do next, doc?” I ask.

So, after all this time, it turns out that my evaluations are still not over. I now have to meet with everyone who will possibly be touching my body, including the coordinator, who won’t be touching my body—the nephrologist, the surgeon, another social worker, and the anesthesiologist—severally and collectively, and the entire time, they’re reminding me that I have the option not to do this.

“I have a question,” I say. “How many people have gone through this entire process and then decided—right at this point—that they don’t want to do it?” The social worker sits back in her seat.

“Um, maybe about five to eight percent,” she says.

“Do you want to know why?” I ask, “Why that five to eight percent change their minds?”

I have a captive audience now.

“Because when this process started, I was given a detailed evaluation. I was asked every question on that thing down to if I rode a horse when I was three years old. I gave you samples of everything in my body except my kidneys—and I’m sure I’ve somehow given you that, too—to show that I’m capable of donating a kidney. I’ve been instructed to do my own research, which I have done. I’ve talked ad nauseum with the transplant coordinator for months. I’ve done everything short of cut my side open, rip out my own kidney and hand it to you to prove that want to give this kidney to my sister.

“When I’ve finally passed the physical, psychological, and financial testing for this process, I’m finally able to meet the actual team that’s going to be doing the process, which from what I understand is a couple of tiny cuts, a few snips, a larger cut and sloop! It’s out.”

The coordinator and the nephrologist both jump when I say, “sloop,” which is an indication that the kidney is being slid out through this two-inch incision at my “bikini line.”

“I’ve read up on and been repeatedly informed of the recovery time, the possible risks, and the restrictions. I could have changed my mind anytime during this grueling process, but I get to this point and I have five people constantly informing me, ‘You don’t have to do this,’ ‘You know you don’t have to do this,’ ‘You can change your mind at any time,’ ‘You haven’t been coerced into doing this, have you?’ ‘You can walk away at any time.’

“You know what that does—having it repeatedly hammered into your head that you don’t have to do this? It makes the listener feel like either one or more of you is not confident in their abilities or that there’s something you’re not telling us.”

“That’s not the case at all, Mr. Grey,” Daisy says. “We just want to make sure that the person that is about to make this sacrifice is completely sure, that they’re in the right state of mind to proceed.”

“And I totally understand that, but the constant questioning at some point becomes badgering the witness. And people who were completely ready before suddenly feel like, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t do this’ because of you. How many of those five to eight percent have gone through all the evaluations, all the research, all the testing, and backed out at this point?”

“All of them,” the surgeon says. “They don’t get to this point unless they pass the preliminary evaluations.”

“What does that say to you?” I ask. “You have someone who has proven to be perfectly healthy, perfectly ready to go under the knife and give the gift of life and then decide, ‘Eh, no thanks.’ They go through all of this and then they get to the Inquisition, and they don’t want to go through this anymore. If they didn’t have doubts before, they do now.”

“Which is why we ask if they’re ready. We just want to make sure that the donor doesn’t have any doubts or major concerns…” Daisy says.

“And that’s why only two of you need to ask that question at this point—maybe three if you’re still not 100% sure. And those three only need to ask the question once. There are five of you, and each of you asked me twice. You don’t think that’s enough to plant a seed of doubt in anybody’s mind?”

They all fall silent for a moment, probably counting how many out of that five to eight percent could have actually been successful transplants. They’re so busy trying to cover their asses that they’re less concerned about good medicine.

“The only doubts and major concerns I have about this process is that it’s taking so long that my sister might die before she actually gets my kidney. So, let’s lay this to rest in case anybody is going to ask me this question again.” I look at the nephrologist. “Are you confident in your abilities?” He frowns.

“Yes, sir, I am,” he says, taken aback by the fact that I would ask him that. I ignore his offense and move on to the surgeon.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask.

“Yes, I am,” she says, flatly. I move on to the anesthesiologist.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask,

“Yes, sir,” he says without malice. I nod.

“Are you confident in your abilities?” I ask the social worker.

“I am,” she says impassively. I look at Daisy.

“And how about you?” I ask. “Are you confident in your abilities?”

“Yes, Mr. Grey, I’m confident in my abilities.” I nod and look at the group as a whole.

“Is there anything in this process that you have left out, omitted, failed to tell me, or are hiding that I need to know before I lay on that table?” They look at one another, shaking their heads as if to say, “Not me, did you leave something out?”

“No, Mr. Grey,” Daisy says, “we’ve told you everything.”

“Well then, if you have any other relevant questions, please ask them. Otherwise, let’s cut the bullshit and get this scheduled. I’m afraid my sister doesn’t have much time left. “

*-*

“That’s really great news, Mom,” I say when she calls me to tell me that Mia’s surgery is scheduled for two weeks. They wanted to wait for three, but I made them move it up since there was no reason to wait. I wanted to go next week, but they said, “no.”

I know why they want to wait—to give me time to back out. They don’t understand that I’m counting the days. I’m watching my sister get sicker and sicker.

“I appreciate you being able to bury the hatchet and be there for your sister during this time,” she says. You have no idea, Mom.

“You never know how much time you have left with someone,” I tell her. “Recent events have shown me that you have to fight the battles worth fighting and leave the others alone. When does she check in?” I ask, pretending not to know.

“Two weeks from Monday,” she says, sounding like she’s talking about Christmas, which for her, she probably is.

“I’ll be there, Mom,” I promise.


Golden Chapter 25

GOLDEN

Yep, I still love what I do. All I needed to get back to myself was to get a hold of two or three of my pain whores, beat the Trey out of me, then make them come like fountains.

I even kicked the shit out of Desmond’s case—the first pro-bono case I’ve had in a long time that actually went to trial. Once the barracuda was back, the D.A. didn’t stand a chance. Golden is back on her square.

I go to the clubs with no worry of Trey since he has a girlfriend now. Truth is, I don’t think I would care if he showed up at all—single or attached. I still wouldn’t let him near me with a ten-foot pole.

I do, however, take the chance to go and see my father’s family, though. I waited longer than I should, but I show up for Easter dinner based on an invite from Tracy. Everyone’s going to be meeting at Sheila’s and bringing a dish. So, to prove I haven’t lost my roots, I bring the greens. Of course, they all look at my pot of greens with a healthy dose of skepticism. I call them all out and tell them to at least taste my greens before they write me off. After all, Aunt Sheila is the one who taught me how to cook.

There are no greens left in the pot when dinner is over.

The family sits down to a game of Spades and Tracy graciously asks me if I want to “P-up.”

“Hell, no,” I say emphatically. “I’ve watched enough Spades games to know that the only white girl in the room does not need to be playing. She needs to be watching!”

The room lights up with laughter as the adults play several hands of Spades…

And the white girl watches.

I know from way back when I used to watch Daddy play that Spades is part of the culture. It’s not just some game of playing the highest card and taking the most books. No. There’s a whole lotta smack-talkin’ involved, and if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, you stay the hell outta the game!

Guess what the hell Ana does?

The beer and Hennessey is flowing and I start to get to know the family better. Tracy and Lance actually have four children—two together, which were the two that I saw in the grocery store—and one each from prior partners. Junior has two little girls, but he’s divorced. My understanding is that the split is amicable, and that the girls spent the first part of the day at church with their mother, then came to Sheila’s for dinner with their dad. While the adults are talking, Junior’s oldest, Felicia, walks over to the group.

“Who is that lady, Aunt Tracy?” she asks, pointing to me.

“This is your Aunt Ana,” Tracy says. Felicia looks at her.

“I thought you were my Aunt,” she says.

“I am,” she says, “but Ana’s your aunt, too.” She looks at me then back at Tracy.

“She’s white,” Felicia whispers. Tracy chuckles.

“Yes, she is,” Tracy says with mirth. Felicia looks right at me and firmly asks:

“How did you get white?” Her little hand flies up to her mouth and her eyes widen. Immediately realizing her mistake, she begins to back-peddle.

“I mean… um… I…” Her eyes fill with regret and I spring into action.

“It’s okay,” I say, crouching down to her. “I know what you mean.” Relief instantly replaces her relief. I know that she meant to ask how she can have a white aunt when her family is black.

“Your grandpa had a brother that died when he was younger,” Tracy tells Felicia. “His name was Raymond. He adopted Auntie Ana, but when he died, Ana came to live with us.” Felicia frowns.

“Oh,” she says slowly. “Is that like Regina?” she asks. Tracy frowns.

“Who’s Regina?” she asks.

“A girl at my school,” she says. “She has two mommies. She said one mommy is her real mommy and the other mommy adomded her and now she’s her mommy, too.” Tracy and I both laugh.

“Yes,” Tracy says, “adopted,” she corrects.

“Adopted,” Felicia repeats.

“That’s exactly what this is,” Tracy says.

“Okay,” Felicia says. “See you later, Aunt Ana. I wanna go play.” She smiles widely and waves before she goes off to play with the other children.

“I wish the whole world could be that accepting,” I lament. Tracy puts her hand on my shoulder as I rise.

“Unfortunately, I think the world will end before that happens,” she says sadly.

I stand and go relieve myself and I can tell that a pow-wow of the adults has occurred since I was gone. Junior takes the initiative to ask the question that’s burning in everyone’s minds.

“Ana, we heard Dad’s version of what happened—which was apparently wrong. Do you mind telling us what happened to you when you left… or you didn’t come back?” he asks. I can tell he has no idea of the truth. I sigh. “If it’s too painful…”

“No,” I say, “it doesn’t sting as much anymore, so I can tell you. Let me start by saying that I have no intention of speaking ill of the dead,” I add. “I’ve already forgiven my uncle, so I’m going to make this as neat and clean as possible.

“I was dating Jake at the time… I honestly don’t even know his last name…”

“Fuckboy Jake?” Tracy asks, then looks over at Sheila. “Sorry, Mom.” Sheila waves her off. I know immediately from the description that we’re talking about the same person.

“Yes,” I say without hesitating. “You all remember—how many white people were there in the neighborhood?”

“About as many as there are now,” Tracy says. “There was only you.”

“Exactly,” I say. “So, when Fu…” I stop and look at Sheila. “When F-Boy Jake chooses me over all the black queens, who do you think gets the whisperings, the murmurings, and the side-eye?”

“I didn’t know you were dating Jake,” Junior says.

“I know,” I say. “He wasn’t F-Boy Jake at the time. I think he was F-Boy in training.” I roll my eyes. “Anyway, you know he always rode that yellow bike and he always wore those yellow jumpsuits…”

“I was wondering why you started wearing those jumpsuits,” Tracy says. “I thought it was just a fashion statement.” I nod.

“Well, now you know,” I say. “So, one night, I was riding his bike and the neighborhood girls saw me and started to give me a hard time. They started calling me names and wanted to know if Jake knew that I had his bike. You know his parents had that party store over on 161st…”

They nod.

“Well, I knew how to get in so that I could put Jake’s bike back. Ask me how these girls got there before me, I have no idea, but when I got there to put his bike back in the storage room, they were tearing up the store and they tore up his bike, too. The only thing that I could deduce was that these girls were mad that Paleface was the flavor of the month and wanted him to know it. So, here are my options…

“Defend little Jakey—or try to run away—and risk getting my butt kicked by a mob of mad black girls, or somewhat look like I’m going to join in and try to walk out of this alive. So, what did I do? I stole a candy bar.” The group pauses, waiting for additional information.

“And then what?” Tracy asks.

“And then nothing,” I say. “I stole a candy bar—that was it. And I only did that because I was afraid that if I didn’t do something, they were going to beat the hell out of me.” Aunt Sheila frowns deeply and sits forward in her chair.

“Go on,” she says, a little too calmly.

“The cops picked up everybody that they saw on surveillance. When Uncle Richard got there and found out that the whole thing happened on a Sunday morning, and not one day where he could prove I was in school, he wrote me off. He left me cold with no lawyer, no parent, no nothing. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to him; I never got a chance to explain. He looked at me like I had shot his puppy and left me there. I got to court and there was nobody there for me but the public defender. I don’t even know what happened… I just know they let me go.”

“And that’s why you take a lot of cases pro bono,” Sheila says, her expression unreadable. I pause for a moment and gaze at them.

“I just want them to know that somebody’s listening,” I says. “Black kids—particularly black boys—often get fingered for just walking down the street. I just want to make sure they don’t get thrown in jail simply for ‘walking while black.;”

Junior clears his throat while Tracy looks down and Sheila is looking dead at me.

“It’s the same thing that happened to me,” I continue. “Granted, I’m white, but I was accused of something I didn’t do. I did one dumb little thing, but even if I had done the ultimate worst, I was convicted by the one person that I needed to be in my corner without even having the chance to explain myself.

“When they asked me if they could take me somewhere, I knew they couldn’t bring me back here. I knew Uncle Richard wasn’t going to welcome me with open arms after he had deserted me at juvie without even hearing my side. I knew that if he had left me there on the mercy of the court that he wasn’t going to welcome me with open arms. I knew I was on my own, because if I wasn’t, he would have come for me; he would have looked for me; he would have sent Tracy and Junior to bring me home from school; something. Instead, he told you all not to talk to me. I know there’s nothing that can be done about this now, but I have to say this. You guys have no idea how many times I wished you guys would walk into school one day, look at me, and say, ‘Ana, come home,’ but you would barely even look at me.”

Now, Junior’s head is down, but Sheila is still looking at me.

“I lived on the streets,” I say with a shrug, “in vacant houses. I lied about my age and got a job for a while, but then I had to quit so I could focus on school. I still had to get scholarships or else I wasn’t going to college. So, I pinched pennies and I entered writing contests. That’s how I survived. As soon as I graduated and U-Dub said I could come to the dorm in August, I went straight to the dorm. I’ll never forget it. I left everything I had in that vacant house. When I moved in, I had bought a new duffle bag, I filled it with new clothes, one pair of pajamas, toiletries, and a towel. The first thing I did was take a shower.

“I slept with no blankets for three weeks until my roommates felt sorry for me and gave me some bedding. I didn’t have a computer, so I was in the library until it closed. School was a dream for me because I had spent a year and a half in hell, but it all paid off in the end.”

“Excuse me,” Sheila breathes and scurries from the room. I watch her run from the room and look back at Junior.

“I had to ask,” he laments, shaking his head. I look at Tracy.

“Your version of things is completely different than Dad’s version of things,” she says. “According to Dad, you had gotten involved in some kind of gang and that’s why you were in juvie. They were removing you from our home since Dad was technically just a guardian and not your parent or adopted parent, and they were making you a ward of the state because of your activities. If we looked at you funny, it’s because we couldn’t put together what Dad was saying with what we were seeing, but he told us not to talk to you, and the fact that you never came back to the house only served to reinforce what he was saying.” She looks at the door her mother exited.

“Mom’s going to start grieving again,” she says. “She’s been finding out all kinds of things she didn’t know about Dad—not things like he’s got another family across town or anything like that. Just things she didn’t know… like this. If she finds out too much more, it’s going to rip her apart.”

Now, I look at the door Sheila just exited.

“May I?” I ask, gesturing to the door. Tracy nods.

“Be my guest,” she says. I get up and follow Sheila through the door. I begin to walk down the hall, and the layout of the house is coming back to me. I know where she is. She’s in her spaffice.

A spaffice is just what it sounds like—it’s a cross between a spa and an office, and it’s the opposite of a man cave. Now, it’s not a spa in the sense that there’s a Jacuzzi or a set-up to get your nails done and things like that, but it was always Sheila’s escape and you couldn’t bother her when she was in her office. I remember the few transformations it took on while I lived here. Now, it’s got a jungle-like look, with lots of flourishing live plants and a Zen-like setting. There’s even a hammock in the room. Right now, Sheila’s at the window seat looking out of her bay window.

“Aunt Sheila?” I say, cautiously entering the room.

“I was against you coming to live with us at first,” she says without turning around, her voice soft. “It’s because of the neighborhood that we lived in… and you were white. I foolishly worried about what people would think, but I also worried that we wouldn’t be able to keep you safe.”

A single tear falls down her cheek and she quickly wipes it away.

“I quickly learned that my brother-in-law… or your mother… or both, had taught you a thing or three, and I had nothing to worry about. People still talked, and it bothered me at first, but after a while, I didn’t care. Richard was your advocate. He always wanted the best for you, just like he wanted the best for Tracy and Junior… and so did I.

“I have no idea what happened that day, Ana,” she says turning to me. “Richard left to get you, and he came back without you. He simply said that you had gotten into trouble and you would most likely end up in foster care. I asked him what happened. I asked him why they would put you in foster care when you had us. You had been with us for years. He refused to talk about it. He simply said that you weren’t coming back and that I didn’t have to worry about the white girl in the house anymore. I was appalled that he said that. After all these years, he still thought I felt that way?” She shakes her head.

“I wanted to know what happened. I wanted the information that he wouldn’t give me. I tried to call the juvenile center, but they had no record of you, and now I know why. I didn’t know who else to call. That day, Tracy and Junior came home and said they saw you at school. I looked at Richard, and he forbade everybody to talk to you. He said that you would be a bad influence on the children and that you would use my emotions against me. He made it sound like you had gone out and joined a gang or something… and now…”

She sighs heavily and looks out the window again. I walk over to her and take her hand.

“He didn’t even tell us he had gotten in touch with you again. For all we knew, you were dead or in jail or somewhere with a slew of babies… we had no clue. Once the kids graduated from high school, there was no more talk about you. And now, here you are… almost twenty years later…” She begins to weep again.

“I’m sorry, Ana,” she sobs, her shoulders shaking. “I don’t know how you can possibly forgive us…”

“I can forgive you because you were misled,” I say, squeezing my hand. “You went by what Uncle Richard said, and that is… was your husband after all. I didn’t even know you tried to look for me.”

“I didn’t try hard enough,” she scolds herself through her tears. “You went to school with my kids, for God’s sake!”

“And your husband and the man of your house told you that I was a bad influence. I’m the adopted daughter of his biological brother. If you really thought he felt that way, what could you do? I wouldn’t want a bad influence around my kids… if I had any.”

“How can you forgive him?” she says through her sniffles. “How can you forgive him for lying on you and deserting you like that? For everything you went through…?” I drop my head and think about my words before I speak.

“I was so angry for so many years,” I say. “I was hurt; I felt betrayed. I lost my Daddy and Mommy all back over again. I used those emotions to thrive. I thought about Daddy and Mommy looking down on me. I never once thought about what they would think of Uncle Richard and what he was doing. I didn’t even know the whole story about what Uncle Richard was doing and I still don’t know, because he’s not here to tell us. So… what do I do now? Do I just sit here angry and spiteful at a dead man?

“I can’t live like that, Aunt Sheila,” I tell her. “I forgave Uncle Richard for me… because there’s just nothing else to do.” She twists her lips.

“Where did you get this fortitude and character?” she asks, “because I doubt that you got it from us.” I shrug.

“I think I may have picked up a bit of it from you guys,” I admit, “some of it from my Daddy and Mommy, and… some of it from life.” I sigh. “Everything happens for a reason, and I still know how to cook.” We laugh.

“You sure do!” she says surprised. “You didn’t forget one single thing in those greens. I can’t get Tracy to cook greens like that!” I chuckle.

“That’s because when everything is taken away from you, you hold on to what you can with both hands,” I say. She looks down at my hand over hers and covers it with hers with her other one.

“I’ll never let you get away again,” she says, a tear or two dropping on our joined hands. I put mine over hers.

“I’m not going anywhere, Aunt Sheila,” I promise.


A/N: Never saw this coming, did you? 

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 89—Still Minding the Monsters

I passed my CE. Now, I get to keep those 44 licenses!

One and a half months…
6 classes…
31 credit hours…
3 days of testing…
My scores: 96, 96, 92, 88, 84, 82

Thank you to all of you who encouraged and prayed for me. I couldn’t have done it without you and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks to my mommy who, even though she was sick, was encouraging and rooting for me the whole time.

Especially thank you to my Daddy, who catered to my every need while I studied and wouldn’t allow me to doubt myself for one moment!

We did it, y’all! ❤ 

FYI—four more chapters in book four after this one and a new era begins for our couple!

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 89—Still Minding the Monsters


CHRISTIAN 

I awake in the middle of the night again and discover that Butterfly has left our bed. I go in search of her and find her in the yoga room, sitting on the floor and assembling her Lego model of the Sydney Opera House.

“Why are you awake?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me for a moment, then turns her attention back to the Lego model.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she admits. “I got up and journaled for a while, then I decided to meditate a bit, but I’m still not tired. So…” She gestures at her Lego model.

“What’s keeping you awake?” I ask. “Something on your mind?”

“The usual stuff,” she dismisses. “Nothing and everything.”

So, something’s on her mind but she doesn’t want to talk about it.

“Do you need some help?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “It’s therapeutic, but you can come and sit with me while I finish if you want to.” I graciously accept the invitation, sitting on the floor lotus-style in front of her and the Lego pieces. We had already talked about our day, so we just sit quietly—me watching while her dexterous fingers snap the little pieces into place. It’s not an exact replica, but it’s enough to remind her of our trip.

She put it on one of the shelves in the yoga room, and now I realize that she’s been quite busy in here. The shelves are neatly arranged with paraphernalia from different stages of our lives.

Seashells and souvenirs from our trip to Anguilla, including the dolphin globe…

A picture of me and Gail walking down the aisle on her wedding day…

The picture of us from our first press conference standing in front of the elevator at Grey House…

A picture of her and Marlow—I don’t know from where or when…

Many, many more pictures—Christmases, birthdays, wedding and bridal showers, weddings…

Her promise ring sealed in what looks like an acrylic box… I can’t be upset about it, considering the carats she has on her hand now.

A miniature Eiffel Tower and what looks like a map of some of the ruins from Greece…

A cork from one of the bottles of Screaming Eagle wine from Napa Valley…

A picture of her henna-ed hands over her henna-ed baby bump…

A picture of Minnie and Mikey only hours old in the bassinets in the hospital nursery…

Two dried roses and a few stray rose petals…

“What are these from?” I ask, pushing the dried rose petals around.

“Our engagement,” she says softly, and then I remember the incredible rose ceremony I engineered to propose to her. I turn to her and smile before turning back to examine the many mementos that she has assembled on the built-in shelves.

A picture of us singing at Mia’s wedding…

Her and Allen dancing at his wedding…

A captured shot of her and Valerie in the guest room, talking about God knows what right after Valerie and Elliot moved into the Crossing…

The first ultrasound pictures of our babies… the gender reveal. I take the picture off the shelf and examine it, creepily caressing the point where the technician pointed out Mikey’s penis.

“I was a real jerk when we first got this picture,” I say, looking down at the picture of the first ultrasound, when we found out the sex of our babies.

“I…” She trails off and I raise my head to look at her. “I… only vaguely remember.” I look down at the picture again.

“I hope you never remember,” I lament. “I was a real asshole, Butterfly. We were at odds and I robbed you of what should have been one of the most joyous moments of our lives because I was pissed.” I raise my gaze to her again. “When and if you do ever remember it, please also remember that I’m so, so sorry.” She takes the picture from my hand and put it back on the shelf.

“Sometimes, I feel like the accident may have been a blessing in disguise,” she says, adjusting the picture so that it’s straight. “That I know of, I haven’t lost any long-term memories, and God knows I’d love to shed some of those, but I seem to have shaken some of the short-term memories that I probably didn’t need anyway.” She turns to me.

“I remember you passing out,” she says. “I think it was when you found out that we were having twins, but… I don’t remember a bad reaction to the gender reveal.” I swallow hard and put my arms around her.

“Let’s hope it stays that way,” I pray, “but I am sorry.” She nods and ends the conversation. She smiles faintly and turns away, walking to the French doors and looking out. I don’t ask her what’s on her mind. I have a bit of a sinking feeling that she actually does remember the gender reveal. She’s just letting me off the hook. I move behind her and wrap my arms around her waist, and we watch the stars beyond the trees through the glass of the French doors.

*-*

Butterfly is still asleep when I get dressed. We were up late stargazing, so I don’t bother to wake her. I just quickly and quietly eat my breakfast and sneak out to go to Grey House.

I don’t even raise my gaze from my phone as I walk into the building with the usual “I don’t give a fuck” attitude I’ve been sporting all week. I hear the chatter cease as the crowd silences and in my peripheral, I can see it part like the Red Sea.

Yeah, that’s what I’ve been looking for.

I don’t need to be liked; I need reverence. If having these peasants like me means that my company is going to fail, they can hate me until eternity rolls as long as they respect me.

“You look like a man with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.”

I raise my head to see Josh standing at Andrea’s desk as I step off the elevator.

“Coffee, Mr. Grey?” Andrea asks.

“Black,” I say. I nod at Luma before I walk into my office. “You have information for me?”

“That smokescreen flew up faster than I ever thought it could’ve,” he says following me into the office.

“Details,” I say walking over to my desk and taking a seat while pressing the button to scramble the signals in my office. Jason enters and closes the door behind us.

“Sometimes you have to shake a cage to see what falls out,” Josh says, handing me his tablet. “Just a little bit of innuendo, you can cause a fucking avalanche.” I look at his tablet to see a Google search on Elena Lincoln autobiography. Harmless enough… but not.

“Wow! What the fuck?” I ask, scrolling down the headlines in the search. They range from thought-provoking questions like, “How far up does this go?” to the completely and utterly ludicrous… Lincoln Brings Children from Third World Countries to Staff Her Pedophile Sex Rings.

“Jesus, seriously?” I shoot. “Most of this shit is fucking nonsense.”

“Maybe so, but not to the reading audience,” Josh defends. “There hasn’t been this kind of buzz since the government wanted translation of Heidi Fleiss’ black books.” I frown. What the fuck is he talking about?

“That’s a bit before your time,” Josh says, “but let’s just say that one little woman had a whole bunch of powerful men by the balls, even though we never really found out who they all were. Nonetheless, a whole lotta twigs and berries were in a knot over the Hollywood Madam.”

There’s a knock on the door and Jason opens it to reveal Andrea standing there with my coffee. I gesture her in, and she places it on my desk in front of me.

“Careful, sir,” she says, “It’s fresh.”

“Thank you,” I say, and she turns and leaves the office. “We’re about the same age, Josh. How do you know about the Hollywood Madam?”

“It’s part of pop culture, believe it or not. It’s my job to know… just like the O.J. trial.” I shake my head.

“You wanted a smokescreen, by golly, you got one. My advice would be if you want to get to him first, you better move fast.”

“I don’t care who gets to him—or her or them—as long as this whole thing is shut the fuck down,” I say, scrolling through tagline after tagline of suggestive innuendo about Seattle’s Pedo-Madam and her rich and powerful clientele.

“This innuendo isn’t that discreet,” I say. “I can see myself and a whole bunch of other fucking people in this nonsense. Don’t you think this might be overkill?”

“Is it?” he asks. “Do you know every single person in the Seattle area that practices the BDSM lifestyle? I can guarantee they don’t all know about you. And the fact that there are so many in the smokescreen makes it even better for you, especially since so many people are already in an uproar ‘in the interest of the public good’ trying to find out what she knows.” He does the finger quotes around the public good comment, so I know that it’s a quote.

“But why shine a light on me?” I ask.

“Because not shining a light on you would be more obvious than shining a light on you,” he points out. “To be honest with you, sir, with the way this is being spun, you’re old news. You were splattered all over the headlines when she tried to kill you and Jason last year. They know your story. They want more chapters now—more players. That’s why her book can be so compelling and successful, and that’s why so many men in high places are squirming and demanding answers. Nobody knows just how deep this goes…”

“Very deep, Josh, believe me. Her pedophile activities go back more than a decade just that I know of, and the community… you’d be surprised how many people have something to lose if their involvement in that lifestyle is discovered. There’s a whole fucking lot of people that need this bitch to shut up.”

“And hence,” he says, bowing dramatically, “your smokescreen.”

“Excellent work, Josh,” I say. “Keep your ear to the ground and be as visible as possible in your freelance persona. We don’t want to give away your alter ego.” He nods and leaves my office. I look over at Jason.

“So, it begins,” he says. I nod.

“Apparently. What about Holstein and Lincoln?” I ask. “If the smokescreen is already up…” Jason nods and calls Alex on his cell.

“The boss wants an update on Alcatraz,” he says into the phone and ends the call a few seconds later.

Alcatraz?” I question. “You guys have code names for everything?”

“Yes, we do,” he says seriously, and I just shake my head.

“I guess I should expect it,” I reply. A few minutes later, Alex is in my office.

“So, now that the smokescreen is effectively in place, our friend is going to get a very expensive bottle of peroxide-laced champagne.” I frown.

“Peroxide?” I ask. “Can’t that kill him? I said start small.”

“This is small,” Alex says. “In high doses, it can be fatal. We’re not using that much—just enough to make him pretty damn uncomfortable.”

“What if he doesn’t drink it?” I ask.

“He’ll drink it because it’s odorless and tasteless,” he replies. “Since it’ll be his first… delivery, he’s not suspicious yet. He’s so cocky that he’ll probably think it comes from a secret admirer or something and down the whole damn thing. Once his stomach starts burning and his mouth starts bubbling like Alka Seltzer, he’ll take his ass to the hospital where they’ll most likely try to pump his stomach to see what the hell he ingested. He’ll put two and two together after a rough night.”

I nod. I’m accustomed to just going in and flattening shit like a steam roller. When it comes to the subtle art of revenge, yeah, I can’t do that. I’ll have to leave that to the experts.

“He’s going to receive an untraceable package at his home next week right around Christmas,” Alex continues. “It’ll be a dead fish with a rose in its mouth.” I roll my eyes.

“Oh, dear God, that is so cliché,” I lament.

“Exactly, which is why he’s not going to suspect that it came from you,” Jason says. I raise my brow.

“That’s so ridiculous that it’s genius,” I reply, shaking my head.

“During this time, he’ll get the standard phone calls, messages, little shit like tampering with his car. The real fun starts after the New Year. He’ll be tied up in a nice little bow and most likely out of commission in a month or less.”

“Sounds good. What about Lincoln?” I ask.

“Her punishments have already begun. She doesn’t know where they’re coming from, though,” Alex informs me.

“I thought she had Holstein’s protection,” I inquire. “If he hasn’t gotten any of his threats yet, isn’t he still protecting her?”

“Remember when I told you that it’s easier to get to someone in the pen than it is to get to them on the streets?” he says. “It’s easier to get to someone in the pen than it is to get to them in the streets.”

“So, humor me and tell me what’s going on,” I say, folding my arms and smiling.

“Well, yesterday, she got her hand slammed in a very large door—actually fractured a finger. This morning she took an accidental spill down a flight of stairs, clumsy thing that she is. Nothing fatal, but very uncomfortable. She’s got little mishaps, accidents, and bad luck as well as a beatdown or twelve lined up for her until you say the word that something different happens.” I chuckle deviously.

“Excellent. Let her stew in that for a while. What about Ms. Ellison?”

“Hers has to be very subtle,” Alex says. “For now, she gets to watch. She gets to enjoy her anonymity until we get all the information we need from her. Her apartment was bugged yesterday, but we didn’t get the chance to plant the trackers, keyloggers, and other hacking tools before…” He looks at his phone.

“Speak of the devil,” he says. “She just left her apartment dressed like a bald man, so no doubt, she’s on her way to see Holstein or Lincoln. She’ll find out that Lincoln’s in the infirmary when she gets there and can’t have visitors, so she may talk to Holstein. We’ll get the rest of the equipment into her apartment while she’s gone.”

“How do you know how much time you have?” I ask.

“Do you remember going to Walla Walla?” he asks. I shrug. “Do you remember how far away it is? Of course, you don’t, because we flew. She’s driving. Walla Walla is a five-hour drive. Once she hits the 90, she won’t be back until tomorrow.”

“How do we follow her that far without her catching on?” I ask.

“Drones,” he replies, typing into another phone he pulls from his pocket. “Remember, I have unlimited resources. Once we figure out her comings and goings, there’s nothing she can do to get away from us… especially after the Vashon Island disaster.”

Oh, dear God, I definitely don’t want to think about that. The rest of this situation is moving along rather nicely, however. It’s almost too easy.

“What about the receptionist?” Alex asks. “Do you want us to move on her yet?”

“No,” I say. “Not yet. Let her watch for a while, too. She’ll be wondering what the hell is going on and when her little payback comes, she’ll be pissing herself wondering just how bad it’s going to get.” There’s a light tap at the door.

“Come in,” I say. Andrea sticks her head in the door.

“Mr. Grey, I don’t mean to disturb you, but William Kavanaugh is on hold on line three. I told him that you were in a meeting, but he insists. You didn’t give me any specific instructions on what to do if he calls.”

“Thank you, Andrea,” I say. She turns to leave.

“Oh, and just FYI, Mr. Holstein’s secretary is on hold on line two.” I frown.

“His secretary?” I haven’t started anything on her yet. “Why is she calling me?”

“My guess is that Mr. Holstein has caught on to the fact that he’s going to be on hold indefinitely, so he makes her do it.” That fucker. He’s made a bed that he’s trying to make everybody else lie in but himself.

“Have fun with it,” I tell her with a shrug. “Leave her on hold and hang up at your discretion, every time she calls. He’ll get smart to it and he’ll start calling, then handing the phone off to her. You can do the same thing to him if you like.”

“Yes, sir.” She nods and leaves. I’m not sure why she didn’t use the intercom, but it’s a moot point.

“You gonna talk to Kavanaugh?” Jason asks.

“When I’m ready,” I say, leaning back in my chair. “Holstein is shitting his pants because I tried to contact him and then I went quiet. Now, the smokescreen is up and he’s slowly realizing that he’s about to make a whole lot of enemies if he hasn’t already, and he’s looking for an ally.”

“Do you seriously think he’s trying to find an ally in you?” he asks. “Hasn’t he been trying to reach you for days?”

“Yeah, but I went up there asking for a favor. I’ll bet my last dollar that he’s stupid enough to think that he gets to cash in since he did me a favor. Never mind the fact that he betrayed me, totally stabbed me in the back by siding with her and protecting her. If he were to talk to me now, his conversation would go along the lines of blowing the whistle about our little agreement. The only catch is that he can’t prove anything without throwing himself under the bus. If he’s protecting Lincoln—and anybody with half a brain knows that he is—the powers that be are going to be gunning for him very soon, so he needs a friend in the worst way.”

“Ellison just crossed the bridge headed to Mercer,” Alex says. Mercer… where I and my family live. That bitch might just drive by my house. She had better fucking not.

“You’ll make sure she’s sealed up tight?” I ask.

“As a drum,” he promises. I shake my head.

“Tighter,” I say with no mirth. “Airtight. A fucking submarine 50,000 fucking leagues under the sea tight.” His lips form a flat line.

“Do you really know what you’re asking?” Alex says.

“I know exactly what I’m asking,” I confirm. “It’s the same thing I asked for when we first started talking about this situation, and I’m asking for it again. Can you make it happen?” He looks at Jason who shrugs slightly.

“I can make anything happen that you need. I just want you to be 100% certain of what you’re asking for.”

“Have I ever asked you about those hacker fuckers?” I ask. His face immediately turns to stone.

“No, sir,” he says frostily.

“Have I ever heard from them again?” I ask matter-of-factly. He sucks his teeth.

“No, sir,” he says again, just ask frostily. I cross my arms.

“Do you still think I don’t know what I’m asking for?” I ask. “He just told me that Holstein was getting a dead fish with a rose in its mouth—cliché, but effective. I know what that means and I’m sure that he will, too. This situation needs to be handled delicately, but it needs to be airtight. All I’m asking for is untraceable creativity and I don’t give a fuck about plausible deniability.” Alex raises his brow.

“But you will still have it,” he says finitely, “for the safety of all parties involved.”

“Then once again I say make sure the situation is airtight,” I repeat.

“It will be, sir,” he says, coolly. I nod.

“Now, go on and let me talk to this asshole,” I say. “I need to deactivate the scramblers… unless there’s something else that we need to discuss.” Jason shakes his head.

“I got nothing at the moment,” he says. Alex stands.

“I don’t know if I’m concerned or if I like you better when you’re like this,” he says and heads for the door. “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Do that,” I say. He nods and leaves the office and Jason falls in step behind him. I deactivate the scrambler and push the button for line three putting Kavanaugh on speaker phone.

“Grey,” I say, infusing as much boredom into my voice as possible.

“So, first your new little flunky was chomping at the bit to get a bid in with me, and now he’s not returning my calls. You do all your business like this, Grey?” Kavanaugh barks.

“We don’t have business, Billy,” I say in a condescending tone. “You decided that you didn’t want to dance with me, and I obliged. So, why are you bugging me now?” I take a seat at my desk.

“You know why,” he says. “To be honest, I know that Grey Enterprises is going to be the best bed for this company. Yeah, I was giving you a hard time because I didn’t want to play ball, but GEH with a major media outlet? Think of the possibilities!”

“I did,” I say, leaning back in my seat, “and I’m no longer interested.”

“Come on, Grey, don’t play hard to get,” he presses. “You can name your price within reason.”

“Is that the same line you use on all these women spitting out your babies left and right?” I ask, growing weary of hearing him grovel. He’s silent for a moment. “What’s the deal, Kavanaugh, the media business not paying enough for you to pay off all these skanks you keep impregnating? I suggest you keep your business and build it back up because the way you’re laying seed all over the state, you’re going to need the income.”

“That’s none of your fucking business,” he says, his voice low, “and it has nothing to do with buying the company.” I scoff.

“I know the old saying is that men tend to think with their dicks, but did you shoot your brains outta your cock and into one of your baby mamas?” I ask incredulously. “It has every fucking thing to do with the business. You’re coming to me because everybody that you had your sights set on turned you down, and now you’re desperate. You know me well enough to know that normally I would jump on an opportunity like this. But there’s one problem, Billy.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and GEH… well, she’s very sensitive. She doesn’t like the fact that you rejected her advances when she used her wiles on you, that you turned your back on her like she was one of those worthless whores that you fuck and make babies with… you know, those treacherous pieces of trash that don’t respect the sanctity of marriage that are now entrusted with the task of raising a child when they probably shouldn’t be trusted with a goddamn gerbil, but I digress.

“But, GEH… no, she’s not one of your whores. She’s a 20-carat diamond set in a split-shank halo thrice-polished platinum band—priceless, and you treated her like glass. So, no, Kavanaugh, she’s not just ‘playing hard to get.’ She doesn’t want to dance with you. She doesn’t want to be courted by you. She doesn’t want to fuck with you at all.

“And besides the fact that you insulted the lady, have you totally forgotten how media outlets make their money? Or did you just hope that I would be so starstruck with the acquisition that I wouldn’t remember? Your name is shit, Kavanaugh. Your company is shit. By the time I paid $1 for that sinking ship, I would have to pay the sponsors to advertise on any of your mediums before they would ever think to pay me.”

I can almost hear his temper brewing on the other end.

“You’re full of shit, Grey,” he hisses. “You say GEH is a woman, then she’s a fucking tease! She waves her little ass in your face and if you don’t bite immediately, then all of a sudden, she don’t want you, is that it?”

“Call it what you want,” I cede, “but I no longer want any part of your dying empire.”

“What’s the matter, Grey?” he taunts. “What’s the real problem here? You feeling a little inadequate because I can snag ‘em hot and young and you’re stuck with the same piece of pussy?”

He’s not serious, is he? Does he really think he’s some kind of stud dropping babies all over the state? These women are using you as a meal ticket! They don’t really want anything more to do with you once they’ve got the babies except your wallet.

Any other day, I would sit here and spar with this man about how delusional he is about his virility, but today, I don’t have time for it. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

“That’s the difference between me and you, Kavanaugh,” I say. “You’ve got big resources, but you think small. You built a legacy with your wife, and then you destroyed it with opportunistic whores. Katherine is cunning and intelligent, if she would only learn to use those resources properly. Ethan is a financial mastermind and surprisingly considerate, in spite of his bloodline. You were a corporate media giant, and you allowed the very thing that you had the reins of to destroy you—the media. Why? Because you couldn’t keep it in your pants.

“You have a slew of bastard children running around and what—you expect them to become great and somehow elevate you again? Are any of them even carrying your name or are they all living off hush money? And surprise, Kavanaugh, you’re not at your lowest point; you can still fall further, but even now, when you’re flailing and gasping for air, you’re still walking around like the king of the hill. You’re ridiculing me for being a happy and faithful husband while you’re out there being the epitome of the rolling stone, dropping your seed in any hole that’ll take it, including your daughter’s friend. You’re not even in my league anymore, Kavanaugh. At this point, I don’t think you ever were.”

“Don’t give me your high and mighty shit, Grey,” he seethes. “You’re one broken condom away from where I am right now, so don’t try to play me stupid. Do you want the company or don’t you?”

And apparently, he doesn’t know how far he can fall.

“No, Kavanaugh, I don’t want your company,” I say, honestly. “In fact, I’m dumping all your stock. I thought I was interested in the media, but I’m not. Moreover, I take failing companies and rebuild them—make them well again. I can’t do anything with a company that’s already dead in the water. Your stocks are dropping miserably, your name is being smeared over every media outlet except your own, and your business and reputation has been totally destroyed. Anybody with their eye on the market and even the slightest bit of common sense is dumping your stock as we speak. I’m sure someone can pull you out of this hole, but it won’t be me. I wish you luck.”

I end the call and shoot off an email to Lorenz, Ros, and the M&A research team that all communication with Kavanaugh Media and Kavanaugh himself will cease immediately. Then I send notice to my investment team to dump his stock as quickly as possible. He’s worse than a poison pill. He’s a festering bucket of disease and I’m certain that he’ll infect my company with an incurable ailment if I take him on. I’m already in the process of flushing out corporate cancer and suturing oozing wounds in GEH. The very last thing I need to do is introduce a new bacteria.

“Andrea, get me an appointment with Bastille…”


ANASTASIA

I didn’t mean to sleep this late. I mean, I did mean to sleep late, but not this late. I’m scrambling around trying to get dressed and trying to put my day together at the same time. We’ve decided on our new hires and the members of the cleaning crew are shadowing the maintenance supervisor as needed. Keri’s finalizing the preliminary curriculum and we’ll be presenting it to the teaching staff at the beginning of the year. She’s preparing to test for her American teaching credentials at the same time and…

God, do I miss Marilyn.

Half of the things that I’m scrambling to organize right now she would have had organized before I awoke this morning. Each day without her and without hearing from her is making me lose hope that she might be returning. No offense to Courtney—she’s a great help, but she’s no Marilyn.

No bad hair day today—I put it in a quick messy bun before I run down to the kitchen and grab a cream cheese and jelly bagel and coffee to go. Since I’m only going to be at the Center for an hour or so, I don’t bother taking the twins in with me. I usually never take them in with me on Fridays anyway since that’s the day that I go to see Ace.

Ace… hmm.

I’ve had more success texting and Facetiming with Laura than I have with standing appointments with Ace. And even when Pamela Whitmore called, I didn’t fall into the big, black abyss. She called and she scared me. I cried, it shook me up, but I didn’t fall apart. I pulled myself together and the Boogeyman didn’t show up.

There were no sightings of Chicken Little, Armageddon, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The world didn’t end… and I don’t expect it to any time soon.

I haven’t seen Ace in six weeks. I think it’s time for a session.

“You’re not bringing the babies to the Center anymore?” Ebony asks as I pass by the day care sans Minnie and Mikey.

“I never bring them in on Friday,” I reply. “It’s a short day for me.” Her brows raise in acknowledgment.

“Oh,” she replies, walking along with me towards my office. “I just hadn’t seen them for a couple of days. They’re the only twins that come to daycare. I just like seeing how alike and different they are. I love babies at that age. I kinda wanted to have some of my own but…” I look over to her and her head is down.

“But what?” I say, she shrugs and smiles tragically.

“I have bad taste in men,” she says. “It’s kind of a blessing that I haven’t had any children. What kind of life would I give them? I’m on the run from a psycho gang member and his psycho ‘family…’” She does the finger quotes around the word family and I’m aching to do the finger quotes around the word gang member. I think he took her for a ride. We can’t even find the guy.

“When and if the time comes, Ebony,” I say, my voice softening, “you’ll meet the right guy and you’ll have babies.” She smiles weakly.

“Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’ve got other munchkins to look after. I just wanted to see what happened to my two favorite Mouseketeers. I’ll see ya later.” She turns around with a wave and heads back towards the nursery. I feel so bad for her. I really think she’s running from a phantom, but when someone is that scared, you can’t un-scare them. They have to see it for themselves.

Believe me, I know.

*-*

“I thought you may have fallen prey to the shark’s tooth… or some other traumatic experience.” I narrow my eyes at Ace. Needless to say, he’s a bit surprised to see me in his office, but he sure as hell kept that appointment open and kept charging me for it.

“And yet, you never called once to see if I was okay, only to cancel our appointments. Oh, wait… you didn’t call. Amber did, that is, when I did get a call.”

“Well, you’re obviously fine, so there really was no need,” he retorts. I glare at him. “What’s wrong? Did you expect to come in here and I’d be falling over myself?”

I hired him for his straight-shooting and I stayed with him because he doesn’t pull any punches, but this is bordering on disrespect.

“I don’t need your bad attitude or your smart mouth right now,” I warn.

“Then why are you here?” he asks, matter-of-factly. I purse my lips and tilt my head.

“Good question,” I say, standing to my feet and grabbing my purse. With my latest discovery, I seriously don’t need this shit, you smug bastard, I think to myself as I head for the door.

“Ana!” he calls out forcefully, causing me to stop in my tracks without turning around. “I cancelled two appointments with you. You cancelled the rest.” Now, I turn around to face him.

“I have displeasure in enough places in my life,” I tell him. “I don’t need to experience rejection from my shrink.”

“Nobody was rejecting you,” he retorts. “Other people have things that happen in their lives, too, Ana. It’s not always about you…”

“Well, excuse me, Dr. Avery, but I couldn’t tell,” I say finitely. “You basically throw me out of your office the first week, which somewhat pissed me off, but I understood it. The second week, you have Amber call me an hour before my appointment to tell me not to come. The third one, you send me a text… a text, for Christ’s sake. Forgive me if I didn’t feel particularly welcome in your establishment!” He looks a little chastised standing in the middle of his office.

“I see your point,” he says, gesturing to the chair. “Can we try this again?”

I don’t even know if I want to try this again. I’ve had more success without you than I’ve had with you, which is kind of why I’m here.

I reluctantly move back to the chair and sit down.

“I’ve just come back from a week in Australia,” I say.

“I know. Amber showed me the picture of Christian with the snake around his body.” I twist my lips.

“Yeah, well…” I quickly change the topic. “Notwithstanding my husband’s fascination with deadly creatures, the trip was very enlightening in many ways, good and bad.”

“Elaborate,” he says, crossing his legs.

“My first night off the plane in Sydney, I was nearly attacked by bats.” I pause. “I exaggerate, they probably weren’t attacking me. They probably weren’t even concerned about me, but they were swarming around my head and I felt totally attacked. I even milked all over myself.” His brow furrows in confusion.

“I’m breastfeeding?” I say. His mouth forms and “o” and he nods. “That was a scare and kind of funny after the fact, not particularly traumatic.

“I found out that women in general don’t like me,” I continue, “at least the ones that just see the outside. I thought it was just Seattle and everyone who knew that I was one-half of AnaChris, but I’ve discovered that my looks, my shape, my face, the fact that they see my husband, something—I don’t know, but whatever it is, I bring out the bad in a lot of women. And they’re not ashamed to say so, often in public places. I could understand if I had harmed or offended them in some way, but these women just snap for no reason. I’ve decided that although I may bite back every now and then, I’m just going to take the high road, because I have other things to do than entertain petty jealousy.”

“That’s a very progressive and mature way of looking at things,” he comments.

“I’m working on it,” I admit. I’m not being mature at all about Ms. Deanna Bitch and my immediate plans for revenge, but that’s another topic. “My husband and I are taking a deeper look at our roles in our marriage as it pertains to our lifestyle…”

The lifestyle?” he asks. I nod.

“We’re meeting with trusted friends of his that have been in the lifestyle for many years to help us adapt a practice that’s more suitable to us.”

“I thought it already was suitable,” he presses. I shake my head.

“Most of the time, it’s really great, but there are times when he’s really intense and I think he needs a little more so I would push myself further—sometimes a little beyond my limits—and he noticed it on the trip.” His brows rise.

He noticed it?” he asks. “What happened? Were you hurt? If I may ask that…” he adds.

“I wasn’t hurt, per se, but I was really worn out—like if you do too much exercise, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. There’s a certain amount of exhaustion that comes with the activity, the exertion, and the release, but it’s not supposed to be like that.”

“Help me understand,” he says, shifting in his chair, “You seem to understand so much about this, and yet you were pushed beyond your limits?”

“I pushed myself,” I tell him. “I have safewords when I’ve taken too much, but I won’t use them. My husband was a sadist when he was in the lifestyle before me. He liked to punish women and whip them and watch them squirm and fuck them hard then send them home. That’s how he was able to regain control of himself when he felt that he lost it. From the very beginning, our relationship was different—but even then, I felt like I needed to be more for him when he needed that control. I needed to give more of myself and I needed to take more, and he would give me whatever I would take. But on this trip—and one other time in Anguilla—it was too much for me. Only this time, he realized it before I did.” Ace shakes his head.

“I get the concept, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand the participation,” he says. I shrug.

“Most people don’t,” I say. “That’s why the lifestyle is so secretive, but that’s one of the many breakthroughs I had while I was away. We visited the MONA, a museum in Hobart that has some of the creepiest art exhibits that you’ve ever seen. It caused Christian to become quite reflective about his biological mother. But I think the most impactful visit was when we toured Port Arthur.” His brow furrows again.

“Port Arthur was a prison settlement and has now been turned into an open-air museum. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed. Port Arthur is also the site of a terrible massacre orchestrated by some asshole who went on a shooting spree throughout the town and killed several men, women, and children.

“The place is full of death,” I tell him. “It’s like the hundreds or thousands of people who have died there, the spirits don’t leave. They’re all still there on the island and they emotionally ambush you when you get there. Nothing but anguish and sadness and despair… I couldn’t wait to get away from that place.

“I had to cleanse myself of the demons that I took with me when I left Port Arthur, and in the process, I had to face my own head on.” I drop my head and smile a tragic smile. “It’s amazing how you sometimes don’t want to let go of your fears and sometimes, they have to be ripped from you like a favorite toy.” I shake my head before I raise my gaze back to Ace.

“I identified my Boogieman, and then I faced him. He’s a fairytale, just like he always has been, but he’s very real when he shows up. The rest of my trip was very pleasant and relaxing for the most part, and when I returned, Pamela Whitmore called me at the Center.”

“Who’s Pamela Whitmore?” he asks.

“Cody Whitmore’s fucking mother,” I reply. His eyes widen.

“Cody… why the fuck was she calling you?” he inquires.

“I found that out the next day. I’m going to Vegas at the beginning of the year. One of the fuckers who directly burned me is going on trial, and Whitshit and his girlfriend Madison-Pussy took a plea to testify against him. So, once again, his jailtime and just desserts are my fault.” I shrug.

“How did the call go?” he asks. “I’m certain it had some kind of impact on you or you wouldn’t have brought it up.” I sigh. Here goes.

“I’ve had to hold people up and help them through their crises. I’ve had to battle ghosts and monsters—old and new. I’ve cried and I’ve been afraid and uncertain. I even quit my job—temporarily, maybe, but I still quit. People and things have challenged me, and you know what? I survived. I survived without running to a shrink every week and without having to cry on somebody’s shoulder every few minutes. I still have my journals, and I have my family to talk to if I need to, and I’ve even made a new friend with amazing insight, but I’m stronger now than I have been in a very long time.

“I did what you told me to do. I took responsibility for my own mental health. I took a really hard look at what I was really afraid of, and while some of those monsters are still very real and very scary, I was able to see that bad shit happens all the time. While some pretty fucked-up shit has happened to me, it’s still not the worst that could happen and even if fucked-up shit continues to happen, all the worst of it still won’t fall on me.

“I’ve been holding my friends and family together, being there through their tragedies, fighting for ‘truth, justice, and the American way,’ and the entire time, the only time I focused on my own issues was when it was time to come and see you. Outside of that, I think I may have done it three times. And then it struck me—like a boat out of the blue. If I can be strong for everybody else, why the hell can’t I be strong for myself?

“I’ve dealt with more tragedy than I want to, and if I’ve learned nothing else, I learned that trouble is not convenient. It doesn’t make an appointment to drop into your life—it just shows the fuck up. So, I can either watch the horizon and wait for it, or I can live my best life and work through it when it shows up. Guess which one I choose?

“So… Dr. Avery, if you’ve had some misfortune over the past weeks, I truly hope it has been or will be resolved in your favor. However, the time apart has helped me understand that I really do have to stand on my own two feet. I hope I can call on you in an emergency or if I find the need to speak to a professional, but I’m requesting an end to our weekly sessions.”

He’s quiet for a long time as he examines me. I don’t know what he’s looking for, but I give him a minute or two.

“So,” he finally says with a sigh, “it looks like in trying to take some time off to handle my personal issues, I’ve cut off my nose to spite my face.” I pause for a moment.

“No,” I say, “I would more say that by cutting the apron strings for a while, you made me stand on my own. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, you removed the training wheels, and I had to ride or fall… or maybe I removed the training wheels when I came in here and accused you of not doing your job. But you can rest assured that one way or another, you did your job. I’m standing on my own… for now. And this won’t be the last time you see me. Hell, I’m about to go to trial for the Green Valley cases—I’ll have you on fucking speed dial, but I think it’s time to disconnect the machines… Ace.” He twists his lips.

“Thanks.” I raise my brow at him. “If you had called me Dr. Avery one more time, I think I would have put you out of my office again.”

“Oh, I owed you a few with all the times you called me doctor during our sessions.” I stand. “I think that’s our time, doctor.” I extend my hand to him. He rises and takes my proffered hand.

“Try not to be a stranger,” he says. “And don’t wait to call me when you’re falling completely apart. Keep me up to date, okay?” I nod.

“If I don’t see you before then, make sure I get pictures of the baby.” I smile and release his hand and we head to the door.

“Oh, one more thing,” I say with my hand on the door handle. “I have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. In the midst of all my turmoil, I have no desire to kill myself. Don’t ever refer to me as a shark’s tooth again.”

I make eye-contact with him and wait for a response.

“Deal,” he replies.

*-*

I arrive at the Crossing with plenty of time to get some baby time before Christian gets home. I don’t want to face the bear, so I sleep late on mornings when he has to prepare to be the asshole, then take my chances on an early morning rendezvous after the bear has settled. Other than that, I opt to do what he does… work later, work out when I get home, have a later dinner once he’s a bit more docile, then go to bed early or escape to my office or the twins’ room. This usually means that I do nocturnal wanderings, which is a good time for extra meditations, planning for the next day, or journaling.

I remember lamenting that I would probably have to wait until the wee hours of the morning to get any quality time with my husband without having to worry about dealing with Mr. Asshole CEO, and it looks like that’s inadvertently exactly what I’m doing.

And I’ve effectively fired my shrink.

Was that the right thing to do? I really think that the good that he was doing was barely measurable. He pissed me off more often than not, then after he kicked me out of his office—with good reason—he just started cancelling my appointments without advanced notice or without telling me why. Even though he may have been going through something of which I was not aware, he made me feel unwelcome. He forced me to look at my problems through my own eyes or seek help from someone else. Where did he think that would leave him?

He made me feel like he didn’t want to be bothered, so I said, “Okay.”

I, of all people, can completely understand when real life gets in the way of helping other people. I was kidnapped, hospitalized, and jet-setting several times when I had my own practice. However, when I returned, I reached out to my clients to apprise them of what was happening, assuming they hadn’t already seen something on the news. Not only that, but I don’t remember once ever kicking someone out of my office except Melanie when I found out that she was the videographer of my attack. With our “relationship” being on tenterhooks after that, one would think that my therapist would have handled the next few meetings with a little more tact and consideration, even if it was necessary for him to cancel for personal reasons.

It’s a moot point anyway. I’ll now be using my Friday afternoons to spend more time with my children.

Speaking of which, Minnie and Mikey have just finished their afternoon snacks, and I’ve come to discover that Mikey likes the colorful snacks like strawberry and mushed up mangoes or pineapples. My strange little girl on the other hand likes anything green like kiwi or of all things, broccoli. She prefers the broccoli—can you believe that?

We’ve now cleaned up the colossal mess that my children always seem to make when they’re eating their finger snacks and now, we’re in the family room watching the end of, of all things, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog
Now we got ears, it’s time for cheers
Hot dog, hot dog, the problem’s solved
Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog!

Mikey’s clapping in the Pack-n-Play and Minnie has pulled herself up on the sofa and is bouncing while bending her knees. I’ve decided that I’m going to buy or download all of the songs from the various kids’ shows that we watch because my kids absolutely love them.

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog
It’s a brand-new day, whatcha waiting for?
Get up, stretch out, stomp on the floor
Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog!

Minnie has released the sofa and is now clapping and waving her hands in the air… completely oblivious to the fact that she’s standing on her own. I quickly whip out my phone before the final choruses of the Hot Dog Song finish playing and record my daughter bouncing on her little feet and attempting to mimic the words to the song.

That’s it. The Hot Dog Song is officially my favorite song now… although it’s going to be hard to decide between that and the Outside Song from Bubble Guppies.

“Hod hod hod hod…” and that’s all she’s saying, but it’s music to my ears. Mikey turns in his Pack-n-Play and says something to his sister, and I swear that she understands him, because she bursts out laughing. Then she turns to me and reaches her arms out to me, taking a few giggly and wobbly steps before I drop the phone and she falls into my arms.

“Minnie is a big girl!” I say, praising her accomplishment. I pick up the phone and turn it to us. “Say ‘bye-bye,’ Minnie Mouse!”

“Hod hod hod hod hod hod,” she repeats trying to reach for the phone. Mikey spits out a full sentence of baby gobbledygook, and I turn the camera to him.

“Say ‘bye-bye’ Mikey.” More babbledy-wabbledy and I end the video.

Time gets away from me while I’m spending time with the babies and I hear the mudroom door open and feel the chill of the bear breeze into the house. Shit, I intended to be in my office working or hiding or something when he got home. Instead, I’m sitting here hiding on the floor with Mikey asleep on my chest and Minnie knocked out on the sofa. I had slipped into the serenity of the moment and forgot my mission.

My husband doesn’t even come into the main part of the house. He sheds his outerwear and boots and turns straight towards the elevator. I don’t know whether to feel affronted or to breathe a sigh of relief. Jason comes in right behind him, looking like he’s more than ready to shed the burdens of the day. He comes through the family room and into the kitchen and kisses his wife.

“Hello, Love,” he says sweetly, and I feel a tiny twinge of jealousy at the sentiment. “I see the car—where’s Her Highness?” I don’t hear anything for a moment, but Jason’s purposeful stride tells me that Gail most likely pointed to the family room. Sure enough, Jason peers around the sofa.

“What are you doing hiding down there?” he accuses.

“I’m not hiding anywhere,” I lie. “I was tending to my children until they fell asleep.”

“They’re asleep?” Gail says as she comes into the family room. “Would you like some help taking them to the nursery or do you want them to stay here?”

“The nursery,” I say. She takes Mikey from me, allowing me to stand,  and walks to the elevator.

“What’s up with him?” I ask Jason. He sighs.

“It’s been a day,” he replies, “a… pretty full one.” Enough said. I nod and retrieve my daughter from the sofa, then follow Gail to the elevator. I’ll put the babies down first, then go and do some yoga.

*-*

“Enjoy it while you can, because he’s going to wake up one day and realize that he misses what he had…”

I’m standing at Grey Manor in the backyard by the gazebo. She’s standing there in her usual black funeral garb with that halo of bleached blonde hair and that blood red lipstick that looks like she’s been feeding all night. I know she’s not real. I know she’s locked in that cell in Walla Walla, so why is she coming to me now?

“This is just a phase for Christian. You’ll see…”

These are the same words she said to me that night two years ago on the back lawn of Christian’s parents’ house—the same words that she used to try to scare me away, only then she was frantic and trying to make her point. Now, she’s confident, standing there in a skintight catsuit with her arms crossed and her legs in that stupid Angelina Jolie Oscar pose. 

“You’re nothing long-term or even worthwhile. He’s wasting his time on you…”

She continues to taunt me as she closes the space between us, a sinister smile marring her face. I want to say something back to her, tell her that she’s wrong as usual, but my lips won’t move. I can only stand there as she comes closer, taunting me and exploiting my fears…

My fears…

“You’ll never be enough for him. Face it. You’re just a plaything. And when he’s done with you, you’ll be no more important to him than one of his ex-subs, Number 16…”  

Of all the things that I had to remember word for word like it was yesterday, I fucking had to remember this… now…

“Give it up, little girl,” she says as she stops in front of me. “Playtime is over—literally. You’ve had your fun, now move along. You’ll never be able to give him what he really needs and the more you pretend that you can, the harder it’s going to be on all of you, including your bratty little children.”

I want to swing on her, do anything to shut her up, especially since that last part is new and it’s all a manifestation of my fears, but she just laughs a hideous laugh and walks right through me…

I open my eyes slowly, not startled by the dream, but totally unnerved. It’s about two in the morning, and Christian still isn’t in bed as usual…

As usual…
Only not…

This isn’t usual. It’s only been this way since he’s gone back to being the ballbuster at work that he used to be… before us.

I throw my legs out of the bed and put my robe on. As always, I look in the nursery to see if the children are stirring. They’re not, but I go into the nursery anyway. I look into the cribs at my sleeping babies…

“… Including your bratty little children.”

Christian would never do anything to hurt our children… but why didn’t I first think that Christian would never do anything to hurt me?

I shake my head and curl up in the window seat in the twins room. This is another attempted manifestation of the Boogeyman, I know it. It’s a manifestation of my own fears that I must deal with.

The million-dollar question is… how?


A/N: Hollywood Madame—for those who may not know, Heidi Fleiss was an upscale madame who ran a high-priced call-girl ring in California. When she was arrested, they did everything they could to find out who her clients were in her infamous black book, but to my knowledge, they never did. There was a lot of rumor that Charlie Sheen was one of her clients, but I don’t know if it was circulated by her or by him, or if there was any truth to it.

Book IV will be coming to an end soon and I will have any announcement about how the story will proceed after that. I think many of you will be pleased.

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 24

My CE testing is next week. I have theory oozing out of my ears! I feel more confident, but I’m hoping I can retain the information for the three days of testing. In the meantime, this was my break from studying and now, I’m going back into the rabbit whole. Wish me luck!

We’re coming to the end, campers. There are four more chapters after this one.

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 24

briana_evigan_1289148201

GOLDEN

Sampson got the beating of his life last night, and he loved every minute of it. I, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy it as much. Why? Because of him—Trey.

Why did he have to come to the club last night? Wasn’t it bad enough that I saw him at the fundraiser? With his beautiful, model-like Brazilian date? I could tell by the way that he was carrying himself when they were leaving that they were going to fuck. That’s information I really didn’t need.

“Slow down, you’re walking faster than me in those damn things!” Jesse said as I’m hurrying out of the ballroom and away from Trey. Shit! Shit! Shit! What is he doing here?

“I had to get out of there,” I admitted.

“I noticed,” he retorted. “What the hell is going on? Did Grey do something to you?”

“No… yes…” I sighed. “No.”

“Which is it, Ana?” Jesse asked. “Is there something I need to know about this guy? Does it have to do with Lincoln?”

“No,” I said, “and no,” and yes. I put my hand on my forehead to gain my wits about myself, then I pulled him away from the ballroom entrance.

“We had sex, Jesse,” I confessed breathlessly, like I’ve been holding it in for years.

“Okay, and?” he asked.

“And I haven’t had sex with anyone in years!” At least not voluntarily. His eyes widened.

“What?” he hissed. “What do you mean? You… you don’t…”

“No!” I cut him off. “I’m not a hooker, Jesse. There’s no penetrative sex involved.”

“Except with Grey,” he pointed out. “No wonder he couldn’t look you in the eye.”

Yeah, I noticed that, too.

“So, what now?” Jesse said.

“What do you mean ‘what now?’ What nothing!” I declared. Jesse scoffs at me.

“You’re different,” he said. “I couldn’t put my finger on it before, but now it all makes sense. When did this happen, about two and a half, three months ago?”

Shit!

“Yes!” I hissed, angry that he could damn near date it.

“If I didn’t have sex in several years, the first person I had sex with, I’d fall in love with. Are you falling in love?”

“For fuck’s sake, Jesse, no!” I denied vehemently. I’m not falling in love. I’m just… confused.

“Well, you two definitely have unfinished business,” he said. “He can’t look you in the eye and you can’t stay in his presence for more than ten minutes. What does that say to you?”

“That I need to check the fucking guest list before I come to fundraisers from now on!” I hissed quietly.

“You guys both live in Seattle. You travel in some of the same circles. You know damn well that’s not the only place you can see him. And that’s not what I was getting at.”

“I know what you were getting at and it means nothing, Jesse,” I scold. “He’s some guy that I fucked and that’s it.” Jesse folded his arms.

“And you’re not speaking now.” I didn’t answer. “Let me guess—you cut him off.” I raised my gaze to him.

“Yeah, so?” I replied.

“So, you used him for sex,” he declared. I glared at him.

“That is not what I did!” I hissed, looking around to be sure that we didn’t have a listening audience.

“Didn’t you?” Jesse accused. “You got him all primed with the Golden treatment, on and off for a whole year. You’ve been giving him little tastes of the meal month after month, and then when he’s groomed and ready, you give him the whole enchilada, then you cut him off at the knees. That poor guy has been sitting somewhere wondering what the fuck happened for three months. What—do you think his money makes him impenetrable? I wouldn’t be able to look at you either!” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Careful, Jesse. You’re treading thin ice!” I warned.

“Well, forgive me,” he retorted. “I’m just telling you how this looks from another guy’s point of view. And with all due respect, that’s a pretty shitty thing to do to somebody.”

“Guys do it to women all the time!” I excused firmly.

“Yeah, but did he do that to you?”

The words just hung in the air. Jesse talked to me like I’m supposed to have a conscience about sex—and I don’t. It’s simply not part of the equation. It’s an unknown that needs to be thrown out completely, like it never happened.

“He’ll get over it,” I dismissed. “After some time, he won’t even remember me.” Jesse shook his head.

“I hope you’re right,” he said, “but be careful, Ana. Karma has a way of coming back to bite you in the butt when you least expect it, and it’s never convenient.” I rubbed my neck to try to relieve the tension there when Jesse speaks again.

“Senator, 10:00.”

I look up and see the Senator exit the ballroom and look around. It’s showtime. I massaged my head and came out of my hiding place straight over to him.

“I see you’ve missed me,” I said, stepping behind the Senator. He turns around to face me and smiles widely.

“Always,” he said, extending an elbow to me.

We re-entered the ballroom and head over to the bar. We both got refills of champagne and began discussing the evening.

“I have to say that Christian Grey was extremely interested in what we’re doing in the Battery District,” he said sipping his champagne.

“Is that right?” I said, feigning disinterest.

“Yes,” he continued, “even more interested than our Jesse. He was hanging on my every word.”

“How nice,” I said, scanning the room and finding him on the dancefloor with his Brazilian bombshell. Of course, you would know he wasn’t gay, Gisela. You’ve had some of the magnificent dick!

“Indeed,” he said, “he didn’t look at anyone else in the group. Not even his date. I know I’m captivating, but I’m certain I’m not that captivating.” I watched as Christian made a call and he and the Brazilian princess walked out the door. She had that satisfied little smirk on her face of a woman definitely about to be fucked.

“Not one other person in the group,” the Senator continued. I finished my champagne and took another glass from the bar, tucking my hand into his elbow.

“Let it go, Senator,” I warned with a smile. He raised his brow.

“Yes, Mistress,” he complied, and we rejoined the party.

Then I go home and have a dream about Trey—but not fucking me, fucking her!

As if that’s not bad enough he shows up at Crimson. That’s when I see and hear the truth. He looked strong at the party—confident and unmoved, but that was just a façade. When I saw him at the club, I saw that he had changed. He’s not broken, but he’s not the confident man that I previously knew him to be. He’s defeated, but not broken.

*-*

Monday morning, I’m back in court for another pro-bono case. Just as I clear the metal detectors and head to the courtrooms, I swear that I see someone down the large corridor.

Is that Aunt Sheila?

It’s strange that I refer to her as Aunt Sheila when I refuse to refer to Richard as Uncle. I must have gazed at her for too long, because once I come back to myself, she’s walking over to me.

“Anastasia!” she says surprised. “What are you doing here?”

Shit.

“I have a case,” is all I can say.

“You do?” she inquires. “For what?”

“A young man wrongly accused of robbery.” Sound familiar, Aunt Sheila?

“Are you a social worker?” What the fuck? Am I the world’s best-kept secret? Richard has only been chasing me down for over a year.

“No, I’m an attorney,” I retort, “and I’m late.” I cut the conversation and go into the courtroom.

This time, things didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. My client is out on bail, but the case is being bound over for trial. The evidence is very weak—a grainy video and a shaky witness. My client even has an alibi. Nonetheless, the judge wants to see all the evidence and hear the case, so we’re going to trial.

When I walk out of the courtroom an hour or so after I walked in, Sheila is sitting outside on the bench still waiting for me.

Oh, for the love of God. I turn to my client.

“Don’t worry, Desmond,” I comfort him. “This is a very weak case. We’ll beat it. You be sure to keep your grades up and stay out of trouble in the meantime, okay?”

“Okay, Ms. Olivet,” he says sadly and heads down the hall with his mother. Sheila waits until they’re safe distance and approaches me again.

“The word around this place is that you take those cases pro-bono,” she says. I sigh.

“I do,” I say. “I believe everyone deserves a chance to say their piece and they don’t deserve to be railroaded by people and a system that doesn’t care about them.”

“That’s very admirable,” she says, ignoring my implications. “Ray would be proud. Richard would be, too.”

“Richard already knows,” I say sharply. She stares at me for a moment.

“He did?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say sharply. Then I realize… I’ve never seen Sheila at the courthouse, and she’s talking about Richard in the past tense.

“Sheila, where’s Richard?” I ask frankly. She sighs heavily.

“Well, that’s why I’m here,” she says, “to… tell his coworkers and colleagues that… Richard passed away Friday night.”

I don’t know how to react. I don’t feel any loss for his passing, but a woman has lost her husband. I can’t muster any sympathy because she, too, deserted me when I had nowhere else to go. So, I just go the professional route.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” I say, impassively. She nods and scrunches her face in that way that fights back tears.

“He’s with his brother now,” she whispers. I hope the hell not.

“I don’t mean to be rude, Sheila, but I really need to go,” I say and try to leave.

“Ana, wait,” she says, causing me to stop and turn around. “I’m sorry.”

The words hit me square in the chest and nearly knock me off my feet.

“What?” I breathe, with emphasis on the “h.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeats. “We shouldn’t have left you.”

I’m stunned. Eighteen years of pain and hatred have boiled down to “I’m sorry, we shouldn’t have left you.” There was a time when I would have given anything to hear those words, but now, they mean absolutely nothing. I roll my eyes.

“But you did,” I say, turning to leave again.

“Ana!” her call sounds desperate, pleading. “I would have come for you, but Richard expressly prohibited it. He’s my husband… was my husband. I had no choice.” Her voice is cracking, but I don’t feel her pain.

“If…” she pauses, “if there’s any time that we should remember we’re family, it’s now.”

“Now?” I ask in horror. “Now? When your husband dies? Not when my mother and father died? Not when I was a teenager and I needed you? You were all I had… and you left me! You left me cold with nothing and no one, and you want to blame a dead man? If he had ordered you to desert one of your own children, would you? Would you have turned your back on your own children, knowing they had no one else? Or was it because I wasn’t your child? Or was it because I was white?”

All of the anger and the feelings that I’ve held in for years are coming out on this woman right now, in a totally inappropriate place at the worst time ever—three days after she’s lost her husband.

“Richard assured us that you would be okay…”

“But he told you not to speak to me, because Tracy and Junior never did—not once! For two years, they pretended like I didn’t even exist. I don’t know what he hated in me, but he passed that hatred down to you and you took it!” I hear my own voice, loud and echoing through the corridors, cracking with pain and repressed anger, but I can’t stop now.

“You were the only. Mother. I had left,” I say, shaking my head. “I had no one to guide me, no one to love me. I had nothing… nothing but you… and Uncle Richard, and you left me… you left me to fend for myself.”

“It wasn’t like that,” she protests. “Richard convinced me that you would be better off in foster care with a family that was able to deal with a troubled child.”

“When was I ever a troubled child?” I nearly shriek. “The only trouble I had was losing my parents, and then losing you! My grades were flawless, and then I went to college on a free-ride scholarship. When did I give you any trouble…?”

Then suddenly, her words play back to me.

“Wait a minute… did you… did you say foster care?” I ask in disbelief. She swallows.

“Richard said… he told us…” I glare at her for a few moments, then I cackle a tragic laugh that silences the corridor for several moments.

“I wasn’t in foster care,” I say with an ironic smile. “I lived on the streets.”

Confusion clouds her face for a moment.

“No,” she says in disbelief. “Richard… he… he said…”

“He lied,” I interrupt her, “Or he was wrong. It doesn’t matter which,” I add firmly, my tragic smile falling. “They let me go. I lived on the streets.” Horror mars her expression.

“No…” she breathes in that way that sounds like she’s seen a ghost.

“Yeah,” I say, matter-of-factly, “I lived in vacant houses for two years, which weren’t hard to find in our neighborhood, you know. I survived any way that I could—part-time jobs, sometimes eating from garbage cans. It. Was. Hell.” I put my free hand on my hip and examine her horrified expression. “You know, looking at you now, I don’t know which one is worse—thinking that you didn’t care about me and you left me out there to die, or knowing that I went to the same school with your kids for two years and you had no idea what I was going through.”

She puts her hands over her mouth, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, her eyes never leaving mine.

“Ana,” she whispers through her sobs, “my God!”

Yeah, that’s how I felt, Aunt Sheila.

Suddenly, all the anger and hatred that I felt for her, Richard, and their family flows from my body and onto the floor in a puddle around me. Nothing’s holding me up but the pain. I have to get out of here.

“My condolences to your family,” I spit before I turn around and walk down the hall in front of a wide-eyed audience. I don’t care that they know about my past. Look what I became.

The closer I get to the door and the further away from Aunt Sheila, my knees get weaker. My stride quickens, then turns into a skipping trot. Before I know it, I’m sprinting towards the door, desperate to get some air. The moment the cool air hits me, I crumble to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably on the courthouse steps.

*-*

The incident with Aunt Sheila broke me down to nothing. I’m completely raw and I can’t function. For two days, I stayed in my room in mourning… mourning what, I don’t know, but I couldn’t even face the sunlight.

Blake tended to me carefully and didn’t ask what was wrong. He waited for me to tell him. On day three when I finally emerged, I told him about my meeting with Sheila in the courthouse; about how they never had any idea that I was sleeping in the cold on the ground or in dirty, germ and rat-infested vacant houses even though I’m sure I told Richard at some point; how I would give anything right now for Reynard to really be Daddy’s son so that I could connect to my father in some way… just not so much of an asshole.

Blake tells me that Richard’s funeral was announced on television since he’s with a public office. Against my better judgement—I’ve been doing a lot of that lately—I decide to go.

His funeral is held at the First United Methodist Church of Seattle. The sanctuary is huge and nearly packed to the walls, including the balcony. Either a lot of people loved Richard, or a lot of people were glad to see him go. All races are in attendance, so at least I’m not like the only white girl in the church.

I walk to the front of the church to view his remains. I look down into the casket, looking for any resemblance of my father. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated so badly that he just looks like a dead man, an expression of peace on his face that says his suffering is over.

I cry at his casket… I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the feeling of death is surrounding me, I don’t know. The last time I stood at a casket was Daddy and Mommy, so this is another part of Daddy dying, no matter how much I don’t want to admit it. I didn’t bring a handkerchief with me because I didn’t expect to cry. I have to get away from this casket as I’m turning into a slobbering mess with nothing to clean my face.

I turn and walk quickly away from the casket and down the aisle of the church. I slide into the first available seat that I see, hold my head down, cover my face, and cry. Why am I crying over this man? Why can’t I stop? He wasn’t my daddy. He didn’t even make a good uncle, but for some reason I can’t stop.

I feel a hand on my back, and I raise my head. A hand is holding a handkerchief out to me. I take it without looking and clean my face, then my eyes before raising my gaze to the face of the person handing it to me. It’s a younger version of Richard… and my daddy.

“Come sit with the family, Ana,” Junior says softly. I look sadly at him, then shake my head.

“Please… Ana… please come and sit with us,” Junior says, his eyes bloodshot and pleading as much as his words. “Please…”

I’m not going to be a bitch. I bite back my feelings and stand. He takes my hand, and I let him. He leads me to the front row and gestures for me to sit between him and Tracy. At first, I hesitate, but Tracy holds her hand up for me to take it. I sigh, accept her hand, and take a seat between them. I sit quietly on the row with the family, listening to the choir sing, listening to the expressions of sympathy and the kind words about my uncle, the eulogy, crying the entire time.

I feel like I’ve lost my Daddy all back over again.

Not that I feel like Richard was my father, just that I’m consumed by the same hopelessness that I felt at Daddy’s funeral.

I’m thoroughly waterlogged when the service is over, and the closed casket is wheeled down the center aisle of the church. Junior and Tracy cling to my hands and Junior holds his mother as we walk out of the church. I look up and catch the sympathetic gaze of Judge Grey and I nearly break down again. I behaved so badly in his courtroom the last time I saw Richard there. I’m suddenly so ashamed… and how I talked to Sheila in the courthouse. My behavior was atrocious.

We stand outside and watch them load Richard’s casket into the hearse and as the cars begin to line up to go to the cemetery, various people come and give their condolences to Sheila. Tracy is holding hands with her husband now and Junior is still holding mine as Sheila accepts hugs and kind words. As the visitors stream by, Junior beseeches me to ride in the family car to the cemetery to lay Richard to rest. I weakly oblige because I have no strength left to protest.

We begin to walk to the family car and just outside the entrance stands Reynard. I know he’s not looking for a showdown today of all days! I hesitate, but Junior squeezes my hand and the entire family walk straight for him. He looks at me with disgust, then turns his gaze to Junior.

“So, why wasn’t I invited to sit with the family?” Reynard asks snidely.

“Maybe because we don’t know who you are,” Junior retorts.

“You’ll accept her,” he gestures to me with disdain, “but not me?” Junior makes to speak, but Sheila stops him.

“Maybe if you had presented yourself to us with a little more decorum and kindness, we may have been more willing to accept you into our family. Right now, you just need to give us time.” She herds us all together and pushes us in front of her to walk away. She looks back at Reynard and adds one more thing…

“… And proof.”

I know he doesn’t have proof. Richard could have helped him because he and my dad share DNA. Richard’s kids are a long shot, but they’re not going to help him.

So long, Reynard.

We ride silently in the family car to the cemetery, the same place where Daddy and Mommy are buried. His plot, in fact, is one half of a double plot right next to Daddy and Mommy. I sit quietly thinking of my father and mother while the minister says the final words over Richard’s casket. Once the final words are spoken, the mourners all file to their cars, leaving the family behind to say goodbye. Sheila kisses the casket and declares her never-ending love for her husband. Junior and Tracy say similar words to their father.

“Can I have a minute?” I ask and the family leaves. I walk over to Richard’s casket. I look at the dark brown finish as if I were looking at Richard.

“This is it,” I tell him. “This is the end of the road. I bet it’s been one hell of a journey.” I take three flowers from the blanket on the casket, then I lean down to it.

“I forgive you,” I whisper. “Goodbye Uncle Richard.”

I take one last look at his casket before I walk over to Mommy’s and Daddy’s plots. I look at the headstone and my heart breaks. I fall down on my knees on the cold ground and begin to weep.

“I miss you so much, Daddy,” I say. “It never gets easier.” I cry for a minute, my heart feeling like it’s being ripped from my chest.

I’m proud of you, baby…

I raise my head. There’s no one there. I look around… nobody. I know I heard it. I know I did! But there’s no one there. I look back down at the headstone and smile. I kiss my fingers, then touch the picture of his face.

“I love you, Daddy,” I whisper, “bunches and bunches, from this life to the next.” I hold my head down and finish his reply, “And the next… and the next…”

And the next.

I sigh heavily, then I kiss my fingers and touch the picture of her face.

“I love you, Mommy… and I miss you, too. I need you so much right now…” I place two of the flowers on their headstone. My only consolation is that they’re together. Even though I couldn’t have them here with me, one of them didn’t have to face the agony of being without the other.

I take one last look before I rise and turn to walk back to the car. As I’m walking towards the limo, I see Reynard standing next to another car. He just stares at me before he gets into the car and drives away. I sigh and walk back to the limo.

More silence surrounds our ride back to the church to get my Range Rover.

“We’d like very much for you to come back to the house to the repast, Ana,” Sheila offers. I swallow hard.

“I’m sorry, I…” I can’t form my words. “I’m not ready yet.” I pull out my business card and hand it to Sheila. “I’ll be in touch… I promise.” She hugs me and I return her embrace.

“You know where to find us,” she says, “when you’re ready.” She smiles at me and I return the smile. I hug Junior and Tracy.

“Sheila has my number,” I say to them both. “My private cell is on the back.” They smile and I head to my Range Rover.

I cry all the way home.

I don’t know how to process what happened today.

I forgave Uncle Richard. I really forgave him. It just doesn’t make any sense to hold a grudge against him anymore.

My father’s family welcomed me back. It took 18 years, but they welcomed me. I don’t know what Richard was doing, but I wish he had just taken the simple route when he was alive and apologized, then gave me some time to heal, but it’s water under the bridge now.

My father’s family stood up against my supposed brother. It was a silent, unified front and I appreciate it.

My Uncle Richard is gone… and my daddy spoke to me. I’m sure of it.

And I’m weeping so badly that I can barely get home.

Once again, Blake tends to me without asking any questions. Golden is on hiatus once more, just for a week or so until I get my emotions in check. I can’t be an effective Domme while I’m all caught in my emotions.


000fwskk

TREY

“Merry late Christmas,” Ronnie says, handing me a small box. I take it with a smile.

“Thank you,” I say.

“It’s okay that you didn’t get me anything,” she says. “We didn’t agree to exchange gifts.” I smile inwardly and take the ribbon off the box. We’ve moved to having our lunches in small cafés and eateries since the cold weather set in.

“Ronnie,” I say, looking at the gold monogrammed cuff links, “they’re beautiful.”

“I don’t know if you have a pair,” she says, “monogrammed, anyway. They’re not fancy like the once you’re used to, but…” I put my finger on her lips to silence her.

“They’re beautiful… thank you,” I repeat. She swallows.

“You’re welcome,” she says softly.

“And actually…” I reach into my pocket and pull out a small box from Tiffany’s. She gasps.

“You sly dog,” she says, punching my shoulder and taking the box. She pulls off the ribbon to reveal a delicate platinum locket on a platinum chain.

“Christian,” she breathes, and it’s the first time she’s used my full first name and not my initials, “it’s stunning. You shouldn’t have…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say, trying to make the situation a little lighter, “that’s what they all say.”

“I just bet they do,” she says with a wide smile. “Would you?” She hands me the necklace and lifts her hair. I fasten the locket on her neck and resist the urge to caress her skin. She touches it with admiration.

“It’s beautiful, Christian,” she says. We sit silently for a moment.

“So, what are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” I ask.

“Watching the ball drop in Times Square and the Space Needle display… from my living room,” she says. “What about you?”

“I usually go to one of my nightclubs,” I tell her, “but I’m not really feeling it this year.” She twists her lips. “What do you say we watch the ball drop together?” She raises her brow.

“Hmm… I don’t know, can I trust you?” she jests.

“Can you?” I laugh. She sighs.

“Okay, fine, you twisted my arm.”

“Your place or mine?” I ask.

“Mine, I guess. I’m ordering out. Unlike you, Mr. Grey, I don’t like to cook. Chinese okay?”

“Chinese is fine by me,” I say. “About eight?” She nods.

“You bring the cocktails.”

“Deal.”

*-*

At 8:00pm, I arrive at Ronnie’s downtown condo with two bottles of champagne, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of tequila.

“You didn’t specify what cocktails to bring, so…” I say, holding up the wine satchels.

“Good grief, CG, did you rob a liquor store?” she says, stepping aside to let me in. “And even in casual clothes, you always make me feel like a troll.”

Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about you.

“Does anything need to be chilled?” she asks.

“The champagne,” I say, handing her the satchel with the champagne in it. She puts the bag on the counter and removes the bottles.

“Oooo, the good stuff,” she says, taking the bottles to the refrigerator. “The food should be here any minute. I didn’t want it to be cold.”

“Good thinking,” I say. “Boy, the Rocking Eve is really rocking, huh?” I say looking at the television.

“Yep, they’re having quite the party. I set a little picnic setting in front of the TV. That’s how I do my New Year’s. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Nope, that’s fine. Should I take off my shoes?” I ask.

“Of course, make yourself at home.” She brings a tray with wine glasses and champagne flutes into the living room and places them on the coffee table next to our picnic setup.

“Are we drinking tequila from wine glasses?” I ask. She raises her brow at me.

“You didn’t tell me we had tequila,” she says. “Food first, caveman, or we’ll be loopy as fuck by the time the fireworks start.” As she’s scolding me, the doorbell rings. “Would you get that please?”

I stand up and answer the door. The poor delivery guy is carrying two hot and cold bags with enough food to feed an army.

“Oh, dear God,” I say, taking one of the bags. “Come in, man.” He follows me to the kitchen counter.

“What are you trying to do, feed the homeless?” I ask as he and I begin to take the items from the bags and place them on the counter.

“I didn’t ask what you liked,” she excuses, “and I eat a lot.”

“You couldn’t eat all this in a week!” I exclaim, still removing container after container from the bag.

“I’ll do my best,” she says, “and tonight I have help.”

We finally get all of the food out of the bag, and the delivery guy sighs a sigh of relief.

“Thanks, Dan,” she says once he’s finished and hands him a tip. “See ya next time.” He nods and moves to leave.

“Wait a minute, Dan,” I say, reaching into my pocket. Whatever she gave him, it wasn’t enough. I hand him a hundred-dollar bill.

“Wow! Thanks, man!” he says happily,

“Happy New Year, Dan,” I say.

“Happy New Year!” he says, nodding and smiling widely. “See ya, Ronnie.”

“Bye,” she laughs as Dan leaves and I close the door behind him. “What did you give him?”

“I’m not telling you,” I say. “I gave him enough to make up for having to deliver the freaking Chinese buffet on New Year’s Eve. Now let’s eat.”

We toast the New Year in on all three of the other time zones, laughing and eating and talking about the events of the year, namely Elena’s death, Ronnie’s promotion, my not-quite breakup with Golden, a few of her disastrous dates, etc., etc., etc.

It’s nearly midnight and we’ve finished one bottle of champagne, the bottle of wine, and two tequila shots apiece. I’m filling the glasses for our midnight toast.

“Can I crash on the floor?” I ask. “I don’t feel like going home this late, or this liquored.”

“I thought that was a given,” she says, taking the flute from me. “If you’re not at the club, wherever you are at midnight, that’s where you stay.”

“I never heard that,” I say my brow furrowed.

“Well, now you have,” she says dismissively. “Are you okay? Do you feel sick?” I frown.

“I’m not that liquored,” I chastise. As we’re talking, the countdown begins.

“Ten… nine… eight…” We join in with the countdown and when we get to midnight, we yell, “Happy New Year,” and blow our noisemakers. The fireworks begin out the large window of her living room at the Space Needle, and we instinctively lean in and kiss each other.

Wait! Whoa…

What we thought would be a harmless peck becomes a soft but passionate lip lock of melding mouths and caressing tongues. I don’t know if the fireworks are hotter outside or in here. When our lips part, I look into the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

“We’re missing the fireworks,” I say softly.

“Are we?” she breathes, her lips kiss-swollen. Damn, they look tasty.

“Yeah,” I reply, my voice huskier than I intend. We stare at each other for a few moments.

“You know, this is the perfect setting to get into trouble,” she says, looking into my eyes.

“Yes, it is,” I agree.

“Have I ever told you that you’re pretty hot?” she says.

“You call me handsome all the time.” She nods.

“It could just be the alcohol talking,” she confesses.

“Do you regret it?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Will you regret it in the morning?” I add. She shakes her head.

“It is morning,” she says softly. I kiss her again softly.

“So… why don’t you show me some of that kink?” she says. I raise a brow at her.

“You sure about that?” I ask, suggestively.

“You said that if I don’t like anything you do, all I have to do is tell you to stop. Did you lie?” I shake my head.

“Nope,” I reply, “that’s exactly how it works.”

“Now, what if I’m not into that whippee/chainie shit?” she says, cocking her head and repeating her statement when we first talked about BDSM. I move closer to her.

“There’s a lot more to the kink than just the whippee/chainie shit,” I say. We’re very close to each other—breaths away, in fact—and she looks at my lips and chuckles slightly.

“What?” I ask, my voice low and watching her eyelashes closely.

“When we first met, I distinctly remember saying, ‘It was just a “good afternoon,” handsome.’” My turn to chuckle.

“That you did,” I say, now looking at her lips.

“What is it now?” she asks, her voice soft.

“It’s ‘good morning, gorgeous,’” I say, and she raises her eyes to mine.

“Show me what you got,” she coaxes. You asked for it.

I close my lips over hers, put my arms around her waist and pull her close to me. She opens her mouth, giving purchase to my tongue and wraps her arms around my neck. Her body smells great and feels magnificent…

I awake in the middle of the night, naked on the floor with Ronnie in my arms. It doesn’t feel right to sleep around while I’m sleeping with Ronnie, so I guess it’ll just be us. I didn’t do anything particularly kinky with her the first time besides some human bondage…

I pinned her hands down and while I ate her pussy until she came.

I held her hands over her head in one of mine and fucked her until we both came.

There was some gentle choking and some basic orgasm denial to extend our pleasure, but nothing more than that. I would say that she thoroughly enjoyed herself, as did I.

And I’m still thinking about Golden.

*-*

Linc is fading fast.

As it turns out, Elena came to an agreement with Ana and the participants of the class action suit. The amount is undisclosed, but with a class action, it’s easily in the millions. Elena and Linc were both trying to lock down whatever assets they could with a possible divorce pending, so although Elena had some pretty good liquid cash on hand, she didn’t have the millions needed to settle a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. So, she did the next best thing.

She liquidated several of their joint holdings in their portfolio to cover the settlement.

A lot of the holdings were shares in Lincoln Timber. Since I had been following the company for my growing timber interest, I gobbled up the shares moments after they became available. That really pissed Linc off because I’m cashing in on him from both angles.

In addition, she couldn’t liquify enough assets to cover the remainder of the settlement, so she took out a secured loan, using others of their joint assets as collateral. She had no source of income when she died, so who’s going to have to repay that loan?

A week after the settlement was paid and final, she ends up dead. With this new information, guess what this situation and all of its little tentacles create?

Motive.

So, now, Linc is the primary person of interest because no one else had any motive to kill her. Ana had already gotten her payoff and I had a lawsuit pending, so…

Ana…

Six weeks since I’ve seen her; four and a half months since I’ve felt her, tasted her… and I still can’t get her out of my mind.

Ronnie is very understanding. I haven’t done anything like call out Golden’s name at that crucial moment or some shit like that, but she’s very astute and can tell that I’m sometimes a bit distracted, for lack of a better word. She’s perfect for me in my currently fucked up state… and too good for me at the same time.

I even swore that I saw her Range Rover in traffic one day while Ronnie and I were having lunch. I heard a horn and turned to see where it was coming from. A Range Rover was at the light that looked just like hers, but I dismissed it as wishful thinking and never told Ronnie. I’m like a dog chasing a bone that I’ll never get.

Hell if I know how this will play out.


Briana Evigan 14

GOLDEN

I haven’t been back to any of the clubs since Richard died. I’ve just been meditating, working, doing the yoga and trying to find myself. Kevin contacted me wondering what the hell was going on, so I met him for lunch and spilled my fucking guts… about Richard, about not going to the clubs, about Christian… though I called him Trey in Kevin’s presence.

He reiterated that his hat was still in the ring should I decide that I want to wander in that direction, although he informed me that he’s certain that Trey will get “first dibs” and he holds no ill will about it. I only tell him that I don’t think that day will come anytime soon.

And then I see something that literally rocks my world.

I’m downtown just after the New Year closing on a deal with one of my corporate clients—another ridiculous payday, by the way—and I stop at a light on 4th. I scan my surroundings and what do I see right in the window of a quaint little café?

Christian! And he’s holding some girl’s hand close to his lips while he’s speaking to her and looking into her eyes, and it’s not fucking Gazelle or Glenda or whatever the fuck her damn name is. This girl is blonde, attractive. She’s giggling and engaging him in that familiar way that couples do.

Couples.

Fuck, is that what this is? I’m tossing and turning in 15 different emotions ranging from anger to grief to dreaming about this asshole and he’s moved on in a vanilla relationship? Because that’s what that is—totally vanilla. He was all confused and shit, stuck between Dom and masochist, and all I had to do was dump him—for lack of a better word—and now, he’s the perfect boyfriend? What the fuck, man?

The car behind me honks his horn and even with my windows closed, I can hear him saying something about the light not getting any greener. Fuck this shit. Any confusion I may have had over Christian Grey/Trey/Chopper has now been resolved.

I put my feet on the gas and speed away from this touching display of affection. It’s time to get back to myself and stop this touchy-feely bullshit… or so I thought.

I get back to my office to find that Aunt Sheila has sent me several packages—some of them quite large. I have no idea what they could be, but whatever they are, I know that it’s better that I don’t open them in the office, so I have Jesse load them into my Range Rover so that I can look at them when I get home.

It was the right decision.

I’m surrounded by the packages—four in total—in my parlor. I take a box cutter and open them…

And come face to face with my childhood.

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Daddy’s badge and ribbons…
Daddy standing in front of his patrol car…
His certificate for graduating from the academy…
My parent’s wedding certificate…
Lots and lots of pictures, including baby pictures of me, pictures of me and Daddy, of Daddy and Mommy, of the three of us, even some with Richard and his family as the kids were all growing up…
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My christening dress…
Mommy’s wedding dress…
Mommy in her wedding dress…
012421e0610090f614d87874cb05a44a
The flag from Daddy’s casket…
61gcs9lft9l._sx425_I remember them giving me that flag. I never knew what happened to it.

Memory after memory come flying at me out of this box and I still have three more boxes to go. Mommy and Daddy’s things, and my things, kept from me all these years. I deduce that Richard must have been a miserable soul in the course of his life and even now, I’m still not angry with him anymore. But now, the onslaught of the emotions is back and because I’ve never dealt with anything like this in my adult life, I just let them happen. Letting them out at Daddy and Mommy’s—and Richard’s—grave help me to move on a bit, and that’s what I need to do…

Including what I’m feeling for Trey. I haven’t put a name to it yet…

Oh, who am I kidding?

I wanted him to still be pining for me; to be thinking about me and that night that we shared; to be dreaming about me like I’m involuntarily dreaming about him. He’s moved on, but dammit, I haven’t! Yes, I still love what I do. I’m still a sadist, but for the first time since I’ve been in the lifestyle this way, something is missing. What am I feeling? Anger and frustration… and hurt.

Let’s deal with one onslaught of emotions at a time… Trey will have to wait.

“Blaaaaaake!”


man-in-shadows-hiddleston

TREY

Friday night, I go to Crimson for old time’s sake. I’m not looking to get laid though I might be secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of Golden.

Of course, I don’t.

I sit at the bar for hours sipping on a Jack and Coke before I finally tell the bartender to let Max know that Trey is here and requests an audience. I gaze at the pole for a few moments like I did the last time I was here, then finish my drink.

“Come with me, sir,” one of the dungeon monitors disrupts my inner musings. I follow him to a back elevator, and he presses a security code that takes us to the second floor. He hangs back when the door opens, and I exit into Max’s private lair. It’s not what you would expect from the owner of one of Seattle’s most successful underground BDSM clubs. It’s homey—high-end, but cozy.

3d133c46abc729670f9b280e295cacaf

I have a seat on one of the sofas, and Max comes strolling out and casually sits on the sofa across from me. She’s in full-on Domme garb for just such an occasion.

“I was wondering when you were going to come and see me,” she says, crossing her legs. “You’re all over the news with everything that’s going on with Petra. Then you become scarce and people have no idea what to think unless you clarify things for them.”

“You know I don’t care what people think, Max,” I say.

“Not even me?” she asks with a raised brow. I twist my lips.

“Of course, I care what you think,” I correct her. “You hear anything from Golden these days?”

“Not since our last conversation when she made that request about you,” she admits. “I haven’t heard from her since then.”

“I know for certain that she was in the club since then,” because I saw her myself.

“You asked if I had heard from her,” she points out. “I haven’t. I don’t keep tabs on every time someone comes into the club unless they’re a problem, Trey. I know that you haven’t been here much only because some of the regular girls have been asking for you. I know that she and Petra had a falling-out right around the time that you and Petra had a falling out. And of course, Petra was banned after she brutalized one of her submissives—I didn’t want that stigma attached to my club. Now of course, someone offed Petra, so that’s a moot point.”

“It is, indeed” I confirm.

“What’s the story there, Trey?” she asks. “First, the three of you are frequenting the club two or three times a week, then suddenly, no Golden. Shortly thereafter, no you. And of course, no Petra. You guys have come and gone every now and then that I’ve heard, but not like before. What gives?”

“Petra was a lying, conniving, and violent bitch. And Golden…” What the hell? I don’t know what’s going on with Golden either. “I’m… trying my hand at a relationship,” I say, changing the subject. Her brow furrows.

“With Golden?” she asks, surprised.

“No!” I say, more forcefully than I intend. “A… civilian, for lack of a better word.” She twists her lips.

“How’s that working out for you?” she inquires.

“We’ll see,” I say, leaning forward on my elbows. She leans forward, too.

“Completely vanilla?” she asks. My turn to twist my lips.

“As vanilla as I can get,” I reply. “I need my kink, but I discovered that I didn’t need the sadism stuff.”

“Then… why are you here?” she asks. I don’t make eye contact with her. Yeah… why am I here? Can I really do this relationship stuff with Ronnie? Or am I just fooling myself to get Golden and her whips out of my head?

And her mouth…
And her body…
Her ass…
Her smell…
Fuck!

I stand from the sofa and grab my jacket.

“A pleasure as always, Max,” I say, donning my jacket.

“You know you’re always welcome,” she says with a smile, about as confident as I am that this relationship shit is going to work out.

“See ya ‘round.”

*-*

“We need to talk,” Ronnie says, showing up at my apartment after work midweek. I don’t mind. I told her that she could come by anytime she wants, but something’s different today.

“Sure, come on in.” I close the door after her and follow her into the great room. “What’s up?” She walks over to the fireplace, then turns to face me.

“I think this is where I should get off, handsome,” she says with a small smile. I frown.

“What do you mean?” I ask. “Get off what?”

“This ride,” she says with no malice. “It was really fun, but it’s not going any further.” I sigh.

“You’re breaking up with me,” I say. It’s a statement, not a question. She chuckles.

“If you can call it that,” she says. “You’re still hung up on that girl.” I shake my head.

“I never had that girl,” I reply.

“Yes, you did,” she retorts in her way. “You had her once, and it fucked you up. And as much as you’ve tried to move on, you can’t. You care about her and you’ve got unfinished business.”

That’s the same fucking thing she said.

“And the fact that you knew exactly who I was talking about without me being specific is proving my point. You either have to make things right with her or you’ve got to move on, but you’re not going to be able to get past it until you do.” I fall onto the sofa.

“This is really depressing,” I declare. “I’m not good at relationships at all, BDSM or vanilla.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Veronica says, sitting down next to me. “I think you just haven’t found the right girl.”

“I thought you were the right girl,” I protest.

“Tell me you don’t see her when you close your eyes,” she says, softly. I hold my head down. “I’ve felt that before, too, Christian. It means that you’re human, but you’ve got to get past it, and I can’t be the rebound girl.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” I say honestly.

“Hey,” she says, putting her hand on my cheek so that I raise my eyes to hers. “I’m not hurt,” she says with a smile. “You’ve got some great moves and we had a great time, but neither of us are in love.” She cups my face with both hands.

“You didn’t lie to me, Christian,” she says. “You didn’t deceive me or lead me on. You gave it to me straight and I appreciate that. But because I was your friend first, I know that you’re broken in here, or at least bruised.” She points to my chest. “You have to fix that before you can move on—with me, with her, with anybody. Maybe I could have been the right girl, just not right now.”

“Fuck, I hate this,” I groan. She’s perfect for me. She’s funny, she’s sarcastic, she’s beautiful—not the huge ass, but I could deal with that… but she’s right. This isn’t meant to be.

“I… still want us to be friends,” I say, taking her hands, “not in that tragic cliché way, but… like we were before. Can we do that? Is it possible?” She looks into my eyes.

“Do you love me?” she asks and raises her brow waiting for an answer. I nod.

“Yeah,” I say, “I think I do… but as a friend.” She smiles a wide smile.

“Then I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow,” she says. I sigh and wrap my arms around her. She returns my embrace and we sit there for a moment. When we release, she kisses my forehead.

“Don’t act all strange on me, okay?” she says. I nod.

“I won’t,” I promise. She walks to the door and we hold hands until the last possible moment. She turns around and looks back at me.

“Tomorrow,” she says.

“Lunch is on me,” I say. “Corned beef on rye, 11:00.”

“I’ll see you then,” she smiles and closes the door behind her.

How the fuck do I feel relieved and shitty at the same time?

Max was right.

That shit with Ronnie didn’t last a month. She’s beautiful and willing, but she wasn’t enough… and she wasn’t what I wanted. As it turns out, I wasn’t what she wanted either. I’m glad she ended it first. I really didn’t want to hurt her.

So, what the hell do I want? Do I want a relationship? Do I want a Domme? Do I want to be a Dom? Do I just want mindless sex with several women until my eyes pop out? What the hell do I really want?

I walk over to the bar and pour myself a shot of Jack and throw it back. I pour a second one throwing it back just as quickly before I slam the glass down on the counter and head to bed.


A/N:  So, vanilla didn’t really work for Trey. Then again, we knew that it wouldn’t… and Golden is a slobbering mess. Both characters have come way out of their comfort zones. What will the next few chapters hold?  

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

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~~love and handcuffs