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…
Season 5 Episode 30
“I never thought I’d be having dinner in a place like this,” Sarah says after dinner. We’re sitting at the dining table having coffee as she gets to know everyone.
“Well, you’re family now, so get used to it,” Christian says, garnering a smile from Sarah.
“A month ago, you never could have told me I’d be here,” she says, looking down into her coffee, “physically or figuratively. I was… hopeless,” she says, her voice cracking a bit. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t see no light… no light at all. Fletcher just kept getting worse and worse…”
“Fletcher—that’s your husband?” I say, squeezing her hand. She nods but never raises her gaze.
“I never could have children,” she says. “He has two from his first marriage—a son and a daughter. His son used my credit to get three new cars. He wrecked two of them and the third was repossessed. So much for my credit. His daughter is the mouthiest, most disrespectful, ungrateful, assuming little brat I’ve ever met. She moved in with us and treated me like pure hell for three years… and he let her! I think he had started seeing her mother again. If it wasn’t her, it was some other woman. I knew he didn’t want me.”
“You said he had been abusing you for years,” I begin. “May I ask why you stayed?”
“I didn’t have anything or anybody,” she replies. “Every time I tried to leave, I lost my nerve. The thought of being completely alone was just too scary. I know it’s a screwed-up way of thinking, but… when you’re in it, you feel like it’s all you got. It was all I had. I’ve been trying to find another job for six months. For three of those months, his insufferable daughter was living there. He paid the rent on the house while she was there, but I didn’t know that he had stopped paying the rent until they came to put me out. I should’ve known something was going on because he hadn’t been home in four days.” She shakes her head. “If they hadn’t put me out, I would still be with him.” Christian sighs.
“I saw Helping Hands on TV before. I even went down there once but didn’t have the nerve to go inside. I never put it together that it was you,” she says to Christian, “but then again, why would I? I remember that day like it was yesterday… big, strong man sitting at my console, crying. You didn’t even know that you were crying… You told him,” she says, pointing at Jason.
“Yes, ma’am, I did,” Jason replies, and Sarah nods.
“Once you told me what was going on, I didn’t even think twice about helping you. It was the human thing to do, but when my boss found out… apparently, I had broken some rule or something that could have left the company liable, I don’t know. I figured all’s well that ends well, and I couldn’t turn you down in good conscience.”
“My only regret is that we didn’t know about this sooner,” Christian says. “We could have saved you a lot of distress.”
“Everything in its time,” she says. “Like I said, I may not have left. Most likely, I wouldn’t have. Whatever you did for me or however you helped me, Fletcher and his kids would’ve sucked me dry. Nope. This happened right when it needed to. I’m confused about something, though,” she begins, pointing at Jason. “I thought you worked for him.” Jason laughs.
“I do,” he says.
“Everybody at this table besides you and my wife works for me, and you will be, soon, too,” Christian announces.
“You always bring your employees to dinner at your home?” Sarah asks, puzzled.
“Well, no,” he says. “Jason has been with me the longest. He’s my head of personal security… and my best friend. He took a bullet for me.” Sarah’s eyes widen.
“Really?” she asks, turning to Jason and he nods.
“Two years ago, yesterday, in fact,” he says. Christian’s brow furrows.
“That’s right,” Christian concurs, and Gail looks a little uncomfortable.
“The lovely woman to his left, as you know, is Gail Taylor,” Christian says, moving the conversation away from the shooting. “She started shortly after Jason and began working for me as my cook and housekeeper. As luck would have it, she and Jason fell in love and got married.”
“Are you… still the housekeeper?” Sarah asks Gail.
“Yes,” Gail begins.
“She’s more than that,” I say. “She’s our home manager—she runs this place. And she’s helping to raise my children while she’s raising her own stepdaughter. It’s hard to put a label on Gail. She’s… the ‘do everything’ lady. We’d be lost without her—and she’s part of the family.” Sarah smiles and nods, and Gail returns her warm smile.
“And what about this cute couple snuggling here next to me?” she asks, causing Keri to blush.
“Well, Chuck is my personal bodyguard. Like Jason did for Christian, he saved my life. So, he’s also my honorary brother.” Sarah frowns.
“I thought the lawyer was your brother,” she says.
“He kinda is,” I say. “The lawyer is my best friend and he has been for a very long time. It’s very easy for us to call each other siblings because he has no other family and before my Dad had his son, I was an only child. We’ve been friends for many years, since we were kids.”
“More than 10?” she asks. I nod.
“More than 15,” I tell her. “That’s why it’s easier to just call him my brother.” She nods.
“That makes sense. And what about this beauty here?” she says gesturing to Keri.
“That beauty there is an inheritance… and a goldmine!” I say. “Shortly after my kidnapping ordeal, Christian took me on vacation to Anguilla. There, we met Keri and had no idea that Chuck would be so sweet on her. Long story short, she came to America to be with him and with her experience with children, we hired her as our live-in nanny as well.”
“You guys have adopted quite the family, haven’t you?” Sarah says.
“Like I said, what comes around goes around,” Christian says. “I’m adopted.” Sarah’s brows rise.
“Really?” she asks, her interest piqued. Christian nods.
“My start in life was horrendous,” he says. “My mother adopted me when I was four. She saved me…”
“And you save others,” Sarah finishes. Christian smiles a small smile.
“They save me, too,” he says, looking around at all of us. “Everybody at this table has saved me in one way or another—lovingly raising my children, protecting me and my wife, protecting my heart… and even you, helping me to get her back.” Sarah purses her lips.
“I count it an honor… to be counted among such a wonderful group of people,” she says, her voice cracking. Christian squeezes her hand.
“You’re my fairy godmother,” he says. “I wouldn’t have her if it wasn’t for you…”
“And you’re my savior,” I concur, gently taking her other hand. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”
“Well, I must thank you both. For the first time, I…” she pauses and chokes up a little. I squeeze the hand that I’m holding. “I’ve never been so at peace… at least not for a long time. Thank you.”
We converse a little longer before Sarah declares that she’s tired. We give her the option to take one of the guest rooms or Ben could take her back to the Fairmont Olympic. She agrees to stay, and Gail retrieves something for her to wear to sleep. We bid her goodnight and she heads to the guest room to turn in. It’s still fairly early, but she’s tired from an emotional couple of days.
My baby time is interrupted when I get a call from Aaron. He’s preparing to fly to Lake Como in the morning to see the villa in person. Like me, he couldn’t get a feel for the space with the virtual walkthrough. He saw the plans, however, and wants to confirm what he thinks he sees in the layout before he commits to a design.
“This is what I need you to do while I’m checking this place out,” he says. “Google, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever. Start getting an idea of how you want this place to look. If you hit a brick wall, I’ll come up with some ideas myself, which I’m going to do anyway. We still have time to do some painting if you want, just no crazy texturing stuff. If you do it in one or two rooms, you’re going to have to do it in more and we don’t have time for that. Did you have anything in mind?”
“All I know for sure is that I don’t want a remake of this house in Italy,” I tell him. “When I go to Italy, I want to feel like I’m in an Italian villa, not like I’m in Grey Crossing… only in Italy.”
“Well, if there are already columns there, you’re not going to be able to avoid that,” he says.
“Yeah, I figured as much,” I reply, “but if any of the rooms have exposed beams, that’ll be a plus.” He’s quiet for a moment.
“In that case, I suggest you Google Tuscan or old-world Italian. I’ll let you know which style will work better in the space and we’ll go from there.”
“You know I’m totally out of my element here, right?” I sigh.
“I had a feeling that you would be, but just Google Italian Villa. I’ll make a Pinterest page and make you a contributor. Then you can upload anything that you see that you like.”
“Um, Aaron, what’s Pinterest?” I ask. He’s silent again.
“You’re joking, right?” he says.
“No,” I reply. I hear him scoff on the other end.
“Watch your email,” he says.
I come to find out that Pinterest is yet another social network, but it’s more like albums and boards to share ideas and interests. You gather these ideas from the internet or even from your own files and you upload them to the board. You can organize your page by different interests, then you pin pictures to the board related to the topic… hence the name Pinterest.
You can make the boards public so that the whole world can see them, or you can make them private, so that only the contributors can see them. Our board—Italian Villa Ideas—is private. He has put a couple of pictures on the board to get me started.
The first one is labeled European Modern. I twist my lips and examine it. It looks just like what I said I didn’t want—Grey Crossing, but in Italy. The next picture is labeled Classic Tuscan. It looks more promising, as does Old-World Italian. I type each of the styles into Google and Pinterest and see what I come up with.
After only a few minutes of browsing, I quickly come to learn that I have absolutely no interest in the European Modern, everyone seems to have classic Tuscan, and old world Italian is not what I thought it was, but of the three, it’s going to be my best bet.
During my browsing, I see one extremely expensive décor idea–square furniture, sheet covers, all white… everything was white. There wasn’t a splash of color anywhere. The only things that weren’t white were the hardwood floors and the black piano. The bedding, the walls, the sofas, the lamps, the tables, the chandeliers—everything was white. It actually hurt my eyes.
On almost every site that I visit that talks about any kind of old-world, vintage, or throwback design, for lack of a better word, I keep seeing the phrases Baroque and Rococo, so I decide to look them up.
They look the same to me. Even the descriptions are the same. Baroque came first and Rococo is like Baroque, Jr. only with less of the gold and gold-leaf flamboyance. Since the most important architecture of the time between the 16th and 18th Centuries was the churches and the aristocracy, each of these styles lends itself to one of these factions.
The Baroque style of furniture and architecture was used mostly for cathedrals and temples. Art, at the time, was either political or religious. In this case, religious of course. During our trip, we’re going to see some of the most decorative and theatrical cathedrals in the world, as the church paid for art that made a dramatic religious statement, and cathedrals and churches were all decked out to win souls and show mere mortals on earth what kind of heavenly riches awaited their immortal souls.
In slight—and only slight—contrast, the Rococo style of furniture toned down the Baroque just a bit by replacing its over-the-top gold décor with white and some pastel colors, muting the Baroque only in that way without taking away from the intricate stylings, curves, and swirls of the architecture.
So, which do I want?
I think a calmer version of Baroque but not quite Rococo. Rococo has a lot of white, and I’m not feeling that, but Baroque has a lot of gold and that seems too much. We need to meet somewhere in the middle. We need the air of aristocracy from the Rococo mixed with the majesty and romance of the Baroque. Do we have the time for all that?
“Planning on sleeping in, Mrs. Grey?” Christian’s voice breaks my concentration. I raise my head to see him standing in the doorway of my office, leaning on the frame with his arms crossed.
“That wasn’t my intention,” I say, “but Aaron’s headed to Italy tomorrow to check out the villa, and he told me to look at some styles and get some ideas for what I wanted to see in the house.”
“How’s that going?” he says, walking into the room.
“Oh, God, it’s so much more than I care to explain,” I lament. He frowns.
“Why?” he says. “Pick some furniture and let him do the rest.”
“You would say that,” I say, after twisting my lips. “Now I understand why you were so blasé when I freaked out about 14 bedrooms.” He shrugs.
“I’ve always just said, ‘This is what I want to see’ and set a decorator loose,” he says. “You picked a lot of what was happening in this house, remember?”
“I had a lot more time with this house,” I say, stretching and yawning.
“It can’t be that bad. Let me see what you’ve got.” He comes around the desk and I just sit back in my chair and let him see the Pinterest page covered in ideas and model rooms of both Baroque and Rococo as well as what I think an old world kitchen should look like, and a Tuscan room here and there. He pauses.
“Oh,” he says. “We’re going that route.” My brow furrows.
“What do you mean that route?” I ask. He looks at me, then back at the laptop.
“What you’re looking for is vintage stuff,” he says, “classic furnishings and things. It could take some time to pull that off.”
“Well, this is what I want,” I say, somewhat pouty. “If I wanted the whole clean, sleek lines thing, I could stay home.” Christian purses his lips.
“What does Aaron say?” he asks.
“I told you, he’s not going to Italy until tomorrow, but he told me to gather ideas for what I want, and I told him the same thing that I told you. I want to feel like I’m in Italy when we go to Italy… Jesus, what time is it?” I yawn and look down at the clock on my computer.
Three fourteen… Good Lord, I need to go to bed!
“Well, that’s it for me,” I say, locking my computer and standing.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Christian says, taking my hand and leading me out of the office.
“Well, how did this happen?” I ask when I enter my kitchen on Saturday morning.
“Well,” Ms. Solomon begins. “I found Sarah here snooping around in my refrigerator. When I asked what she was doing, she said that she wanted to make breakfast for everyone. Well, I wouldn’t hear of it, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, while we’re planning our menu, in walks Sophie begging to be part of the powwow. Since I knew you all weren’t due to emerge for at least another hour and a half, Sophie insisted on doing crepes and once I saw her technique… well, the rest is history.”
Sarah laughs, wearing my chef’s apron and taking a pan of fresh, homemade biscuits from the oven. Sophie happily adds another crepe to a mountain of cooked crepes and covers them with a teacloth, and Ms. Solomon continues to sauté what looks like mushrooms.
“It smells divine in here, ladies,” I say, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.
“Brunch will be ready in fifteen,” Sarah says while brushing melted butter onto the biscuits and causing my mouth to water.
“Sarah, I never asked, and I hope I don’t offend, but what exactly is your nationality? I can’t quite place it,” I say.
“You never would have, child,” she says sweetly. “I’m a mut. I’m a mixture of Asian, Polynesian, European, and African American.”
“Really?” I say. “You’re a walking melting pot.”
“That I am. My mother was Hawaiian, Asian, and European and my father was Samoan and African American. I’m told that there’s some Native American sprinkled in my bloodline somewhere, but I never traced it.”
“I knew the minute I saw her,” Ms. Solomon says. “My grandmother was Hawaiian—from Kauai, to be exact. She reminds me of her… when I was a kid.”
“Sophie’s cooking?” I hear my husband’s voice as he enters the kitchen from the dining room. “Whatcha cooking, Sophie?”
“It’s not just me, Uncle Christian. It’s all of us,” Sophie says with mirth.
“Sarah, this is very sweet, and totally unnecessary,” Christian says, sitting on the seat next to me.
“I tried to tell her,” Ms. Solomon says, pouring her sautéed vegetables into a small serving bowl.
“I wanted to,” she says, waving him off. “I haven’t been able to cook like this in years. I always dreamed of having grandkids all playing in my home while I baked their favorites in the kitchen. Even though I couldn’t have any children of my own, I was hopeful when I married Fletcher and he had children. Well… you know how that turned out.” Her voice falls a bit, but Sophie is quick to the rescue.
“What kind of baking do you do?” she asks. “Like traditional American? Cakes and stuff?” Sarah perks up a bit.
“Cakes, cookies, breads,” Sarah says. “I can cook just fine, but baking is my passion.”
“Then you should be here at Christmas,” Sophie says, her eyes large. “There’s all kinds of cakes and pies, but Aunt Ana bakes enough cookies to feed an army!” Sarah laughs and looks at me.
“You don’t say?” she asks. I shrug.
“It’s a tradition that I bake a lot of cookies and give some away. I know how to make the recipe bigger; I just don’t know how to make it smaller,” I tell her, spreading my hands apart from each other on bigger an bringing them closer together on smaller. Sarah laughs.
“You come from a big family?” she asks. I shake my head.
“Only child until a couple of years ago,” I reply.
“That’s right. You said that last night,” Sarah acknowledges. “Well, maybe we could share some secret recipes this year.”
“I would love that!” I reply.
“And that glutton is not getting a single cookie!” Christian declares, brooding. I scoff.
“Oh, my God, you’re still thinking about that?” I lament.
“I told you I wouldn’t forget,” Christian says, pouring a cup of coffee. My shoulders fall and I’m looking over at Sophie, pleading.
“I’m making a batch tonight, Uncle Christian,” Sophie says. “I’ll make sure you get your own.” My husband’s eyes sparkle for a moment, but then he remembers himself.
“Well… okay… I may let him have some cookies in that case,” he sulks. I almost expect his bottom lip to poke out in a full-on pout.
“Okay, I can’t take it anymore. I’m dying to know what this is about,” Sarah says. I chuckle quietly.
“Come, Ms. Sarah,” I say. “Let me help you ladies get breakfast on the table and I will bestow upon you the saga of the chocolate truffle…”
We sit down to a brunch of five different varieties of sweet or savory crepes, fried potatoes and onions, baby mushrooms sautéed in butter, fresh fruit and cream, scrambled eggs, and maple sausage as I tell Sarah the story about Sophie’s dinner and delectable chocolate truffles and two grown men behaving like toddlers over the remaining chocolates. Jason and Gail join us at breakfast at which time, Jason declares that Christian won’t get any if he sees them first. That’s when I tell him that I have “contracted” Sophie to make Christian his own batch of truffles. Christian then gives Jason that “game, set, match” look which elicits a grunt from Jason.
Marilyn joins us last, thanking Sarah for introducing her to a new method of meditating this morning and declaring that she had completely lost track of time. While noting that Sarah had been quite the busy little bee this morning, I also note that Marilyn eats a few more eggs than usual, some fruit, a bite or two of one of Sophie’s apple cinnamon crepes, and a healthy glass of orange juice. That’s the most I’ve seen her eat in months. Gary is absent from the table, but she informs us that he had to work today—some special event at City of Music.
“Well,” I say as we’re drinking our after-brunch coffees and beverages, “Sarah and I are going to do some shopping—just some necessities and maybe some fun stuff here and there. Anybody want to come with?” I look at Marilyn.
“You know it’s been a busy week for me, Bosslady,” she says. “I just want to kick back and relax a bit.” I nod. She’s right. We’ve been quite busy getting back into the swing of things, and her week has been full of doctor’s appointments and therapists and… Gary. She most like does need the rest. I turn to Sophie.
“That sounds like a lot of fun, Aunt Ana, but I gotta go see the egg donor today.” I flinch a bit when she says that. I look at Jason who simply shrugs. Shalane’s selfish behavior is destroying whatever relationship she could possibly have with Sophie and she doesn’t care. So, Sophie calls her the most spiteful thing that she can without cursing. Last weekend, she was, “a word I can’t say.” This weekend, she’s the egg donor.
“Be strong,” I say, squeezing her hand.
“Thanks, but I don’t need to be strong,” she says. “Second only to the whole drug-dealer thing, she’s doing the crummiest thing to me right now that she can ever do. So, I don’t need strength to deal with her. Patience, maybe, but not strength.” That’s confusing to me.
“Why would you need patience?” I ask, bemused.
“To sit through an entire hour-long visit with her, stare at her and not say a word,” Sophie responds. I form an “O” with my mouth.
“Do you know that’s what happens?” I ask Jason. He nods.
“Yeah, I can’t go in there alone,” Sophie continues. “Dad has to take me once or twice a month or something to prove to them that he’s not keeping me away from her. So, I just sit there and stare at her and wait until it’s over.”
That would rip my heart out if my kids felt that way about me.
“I don’t even know what to say about that,” I say.
“It’s a crummy way to spend a Saturday, so I’ll be glad to make the chocolate truffles when I get back,” she says. Jason sighs.
“It’s time to get ready, Baby Boo,” he says, regretfully. Sophie nods and stands from the table.
“Ms. Sarah, when you come over again, can you show me some of your baking recipes?” Sophie asks.
“I sure can, child,” she says, and Sophie smiles.
“Thank you. It was really nice meeting you. Bye, everybody,” and away she goes to prepare for her jail house visit with her mom.
“I won’t pry,” Sarah says, “but I see a tragic story there.”
“Very tragic,” I reply.
“She’s a good girl,” Jason says. “I’m trying to… undo some of the damage her mother did, for lack of a better word. She’s so grown up and she knows so much to be so young.”
“How old is she?” Sarah asks.
“She’ll be 14 in May,” Gail says. Sarah shakes her head.
“She’s seen too much to be so young,” she says. “It’s all in her face.” Jason twists his lips.
“Yes, she has,” he says, “but I’m blessed. When I say that she’s a good girl, she’s really a good girl.” He finishes his coffee and kisses his wife. “Sarah, Your Highness,” he says with a nod, then leaves the table. Sarah turns to me.
“He calls you Your Highness?” she asks incredulously. Oh, God… is that the first time she heard that?
“It started as a joke that I’m regretting to this day and I’ll probably be regretting it for the rest of my life.” I lament. “Let’s go shopping…”
Sarah and I head to Walmart where she chooses her toiletries and a few items of clothing and creature comforts to make her feel at home. She’s modest with her purchases, being mindful of what she has left on the prepaid card that we gave her. I don’t fuss since she’s staying in a hotel, but we’ll most likely furnish her apartment once she finds one. I try to convince her to move into Grey Crossing with us so that she won’t be alone at the Fairmont Olympic. She assures me that she’s grateful for the alone time. It helps her to sort out her thoughts and to wrap her mind around what’s going on.
We go to a few more stores for some other miscellaneous items before we stop to rest at Starbuck’s.
“Christian calls me his fairy godmother,” she says as we sit in the café, “but I really think it’s the other way around.” I sigh.
“I totally understand why you would feel that way,” I tell her. “My husband is very generous with his wealth. He doesn’t just hand it out, mind you, but he’s quite philanthropic. He also enjoys sharing his good fortune with the people that he loves, and he never forgets a debt. It’s important to him… to us… that you don’t see this as a handout, Sarah. There’s no dollar value that we could put on what you gave us, what you did for us with that seemingly small gesture that cost you your job.” I take a deep breath and steel myself for the story I’m about to tell her.
“The two men in the video who kidnapped me took me to a remote location and handcuffed me naked to a bed for several days,” I say, looking down into my coffee. “One of them wanted money; the other wanted me. His plan was to take me to an even more remote location and keep me prisoner there until I fell in love with him. Even then, he never intended to let me go.” Sarah gasps.
“What made him think that kidnapping you would make you fall in love with him?” she asks horrified.
“He was sick,” I reply. “He was an ex who couldn’t accept that I was moving on. We hadn’t dated for four years by the time this happened, so…” I push my hair behind my ears. “I’m a psychiatrist, Sarah, and I still can’t tell you what was going on in his screwed-up head.
“I wouldn’t eat while I was there—they had drugged me with propofol at the aquarium, and I was sure that he would put something in my food to subdue me again once he was ready to move me. I also thought that if I starved myself, then he would have to take me to the hospital unless he wanted to just let me die… either way, it would have been better than where I was.” Sarah’s brow furrows.
“Are you saying that you were trying to kill yourself?” she asks. I shake my head.
“No,” I say calmly. “I knew the bastard was unstable, but I knew he wouldn’t let me die. The thought had crossed my mind throughout the ordeal, though… not the thought of killing myself, but the thought of dying because my circumstances were so unbearable. I knew Christian would never stop looking for me, but I knew that David was crazy enough that it would be improbable that he would find me.
“When they identified David and his accomplice, it made him nervous. He gave me my phone and told me to call Christian and tell him that I had left, that David didn’t kidnap me. I didn’t know that Christian had seen the video of my abduction or how they knew that David and Harris had taken me. I heard the two of them fighting about it and that’s how I found out. When he gave me my phone, I was able to make an emergency call and fool David into talking about the kidnapping while a 911 dispatcher listened. I was only hoping that Christian was tracking my phone signal and would pick it up when my phone was turned on.”
“So, that’s how they found you?” she asks, “from your phone signal?” I nod.
“It was a chain reaction,” I tell her. “Seeing the video made it possible for them to identify what happened to me and who took me. As long as nobody knew who they were, they were safe. The minute their pictures and identities were released to the media—with and without their disguises—they weren’t safe anymore. This pushed David’s hand and he became desperate. They would either have to stay where they were or move me quickly. Harris was in it for the money. He was a disgruntled employee who got fired because of me, so he had a bone to pick, but he wasn’t going to sit still while the authorities closed in on him.
“He had beaten me several times while I was chained to the bed,” I continue. “He wanted the pin numbers to my credit and debit cards, and I gave them to him. I knew that Christian’s team would be watching my bank accounts, too. It all culminated in my rescue since we had current pictures of them with their disguises as well as pictures of their original appearances. They had to move fast, and they became sloppy, so…” I trail off.
“So, what became of them? Did they go to jail?” she asks.
“They’re both deceased now,” I tell her. “Harris died in a shoot-out with the police when they got to the house where they were holding me hostage. David was arrested, tried, and convicted. A few months later, they found him hanging in his jail cell.” There was no need to fill in the dirty little details of what led to David’s ultimate demise—or the fact that we’re still not totally sure it was a suicide.
“I didn’t know they beat you,” she says sadly. I purse my lips to force away the tears.
“It was pretty bad,” I reply. “I was hospitalized for a while. The bruises left me unrecognizable. Christian was so sweet,” I remember fondly. “He wouldn’t allow me to feel ugly or undesirable for one moment, even with my face all swollen and purple…” She covers her mouth at my description. I reach across the table and take her hand.
“Your actions saved me from that, Sarah,” I tell her. “This is why it’s imperative that you understand that this—none of this—is a handout. I was on the inside. I knew their plan; I heard it. If we had to wait for warrants to find out who had taken me or what had happened to me, I never would’ve seen Christian again. I’d be chained in some basement right now, going insane, being raped or beaten or God only knows what, assuming I had lived through the ordeal. You. Saved. Me, Sarah. I owe you my life, and I will spend the rest of my life showing you just how grateful I am.” She nods, wiping away a tear.
“It’s so hard to imagine one little action being a part of such a big thing,” she admits. “And I lost my job… I still wouldn’t have done anything different.” She raises her gaze and looks off into the distance at nothing in particular.
“That young man looked so distressed,” she says. “He was heartbroken and begging for my help. I tried to explain that to my boss, but it was no use. He couldn’t hear it. He was talking about how the guys in the video could have sued us. I never knew what happened in the end—I didn’t keep up with it, I’m sorry. There was so much going on in my life at the time…”
“I wish we had known,” I tell her. “We could have prevented so much of that.”
“Everything in its time, child,” she says, sipping her coffee. I take her hand again, just as I see Chuck gesturing out the window. I follow his gesture and see a very unwelcomed sight.
“Well,” I tell her. “We’re going to have to take our beverages to go. Being who I am and especially in light of the various events that have recently occurred in Nevada, I often find myself the object of unwanted attention. As such, the press is just outside.” She turns to look.
“I… don’t see anybody,” she says bemused.
“Black Celica two cars back across the street,” I tell her. “There’s a guy in the driver’s seat aiming a telephoto lens right at us. And the sandwich shop just over there,” I gesture with my head. “There are two of them in there sitting at different tables.”
“Don’t you find that intrusive?” she asks.
“Sometimes,” I reply. “As long as it’s not during a particularly rough time in my life or they’re not disrespectful, I don’t mind them getting a picture or two. Everybody has to stay employed. It’s when they make up stories or they’re vicious with their headlines that it bothers me.”
Chuck gathers our bags and leaves Starbucks. A few moments later, he pulls up in the Audi, and Sarah and I leave the coffee house without incident.
“You don’t look happy,” I say when Jason comes into my office later Saturday evening. He shakes his head.
“Sophie’s making the truffles,” he says before he takes his seat.
“That’s what has you in a mood?” I ask. He’s silent for a moment.
“I can’t call her any more names,” he begins. “There are no words left to describe this person anymore. She’s never going to sign those papers. She sat there yammering and yammering for an entire hour like she and Sophie were having a wonderful visit, and Sophie never said a word. I don’t even think she blinked. It’s not going to happen, Christian. She’s not giving in. Sophie’s not going to Italy this year.”
“What are our other options?” I ask hopeful.
“Nothing that will be done by June,” he says. “Court orders, filing for sole custody… I’ve got Allen on filing court orders, but it probably won’t do us any good until next year. Sophie’s being so mature about it. She’s upset that she can’t go, but she’s not throwing any temper tantrums or anything—besides not speaking to her mother at the visits—but she’s resigned to her fate. She expects for anything involving her mother to be a disappointment and yes, we all know that life isn’t fair, and you have to take the good with the bad, but this is a lesson that she’s learning too soon. Some disappointments can be avoided, and this is one of them.
“So now she had to rise above the disappointment and try to function knowing that the family is going to Italy and she can’t go. Of course, this means that Gail can’t go either because one of us has to be here with Sophia.”
Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that.
“I offered to sign her up for cooking classes for the summer if she wanted them, but you’ve tasted her cooking. Her first meal… she’s a natural. She doesn’t need classes, but the experience would have been invaluable!”
“Don’t give up hope yet, Jason. There’s got to be something we can do,” I comfort. He shakes his head.
“Allen is looking into it, but trust me, I don’t think so. This is federal. This is beyond taking a kid across state lines—this is taking a kid out of the country. Either it’s done right, or it’s not done at all. If I do anything sideways with this, she’s got me by the balls even in jail.”
I know this, that’s why I have Allen making sure our twins are good to travel, but…
“If we need a court order, it’s only a matter of finding a sympathetic judge,” I point out.
“I know that, too, but it still has to be on the up-and-up, Christian, or this whole thing could blow up in my face.” I sigh.
“I wish there was something I could do,” I say.
“I wish there was, too,” he replies, “but this time, I don’t think so. Unless I’m looking to smuggle her out and smuggle her back in again, this isn’t happening.” He leans forward in his seat and I go over to the bar in the bookshelf. Retrieving two shot glasses, I pour us both a shot of bourbon. I hand him the shot and he throws it back like water. I offer him the bottle for another shot, but he shakes his head.
“It was a burn,” he says, looking out ahead of him. What was a burn? “All this time, she had me thinking it was a bike accident. It was a burn.”
He’s talking about the scar on Sophie’s hand. He’s still digesting that the terrible gash was a burn and not a cut.
“What child in the world deserves what this woman has put her through?” he asks. “She went on drug binges and left her alone for days. She had to hide money and things from that woman to keep her from taking them. She was in this house for three days before Shalane even knew she was gone! She could’ve been kidnapped, lost, hurt, dead, anything, and that woman didn’t even know she was gone.
“But then she takes my daughter on a drug drop, offers her as payment for a drug debt, then tells the police that I’m dead so that my daughter can end up in the system! What’s going on with this woman? I know that drugs fuck up your brain cells, but they can’t have her brain fried this badly!
“She’s systematically destroying this kid’s life! Sophie has done everything humanly possible to combat the things her mother has done to her, and she’s turned out to be a great kid in the process—a great kid! Even from jail, Shalane is reaching out to do whatever damage she possibly can. It’s killing me, man.”
He leans his elbows on his knees and shakes his head.
“You know what she said on the way back?” he asks, turning his gaze to me. “She said, ‘Thanks for not being anything she tried to say you were.’ She said that she already knew that her mother was lying, but she could never see for herself because she never spent enough time with me. Now that she could, she just thanked me for being a great dad. She told me that she would get over not going to Italy, and that she didn’t blame me, but that she’s never going to get over her mother doing this to her.
“So… her truffles are her way of dealing with the disappointment. She used cooking to escape when she was a kid… and she’s doing it now.”
I find interest in something on the bookshelf as my head of security and best friend chokes up a bit but quickly recovers.
“Sure you don’t want another drink?” I ask.
“I’m sure,” he says, clearing his throat. “Thanks for listening.”
“If there’s anything I can do…” I begin.
“I know, Boss,” he replies. He stands and I give his shoulder a firm squeeze before he leaves my office. I shoot over a text to Allen to beseech him to do everything legally possible to get this court order pushed through for Jason. I know that without calling in a favor or pushing someone’s hand that these things can take forever, and he’s right. This situation has to be completely clean and correct or he could end up in a really bad place because of it.
I realize that I’m a lucky ass bastard marrying the goddess that I married. She’s a wonderful woman, a fantastic mother, a brilliant doctor, a mind-blowing lover, an excellent cook… I can imagine that Jason must’ve felt most of those things for Shalane when they were together or he wouldn’t have married the cow. What on earth could make someone become so bitter and hateful to someone they claimed to love? I hope I never cross that threshold. I didn’t want to speak to my wife when I felt she betrayed me, but I didn’t hate her. I was hurt, but I could never hate her. These two clearly hate each other, and Sophia is becoming collateral damage.
With an unyielding urge to suddenly see my children, I take the elevator to the second floor to their nursery. I’m pleased to find that they’re alone in their room, fast asleep in their respective crib. I’ll take responsibility and tend to them if they wake up, but I have to hold them.
I scoop Minnie into my arms first since she’s closest to the door. She doesn’t even stir. It’s harder to get Mikey into my arm with his sister on my shoulder, but I manage it. He stirs a bit, but he settles once I sit in the rocker and get him in a comfortable position. I remember my wife sitting in this room, in that window, telling Minnie the story of Cinderella and how she didn’t like being Cinderella.
That will never do.
I don’t know any fairytales. I’ve seen them with my wife, and we’ve watched them with our children, but I can’t remember any of them… except the Gingerbread Man… and that one had a horrendous ending.
“I’m not as creative as your mother,” I tell them. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when you get older and you want me to tell you a story. The only one I remember is The Gingerbread Man, and he… heck if I’m going to be telling you that story.
“I can tell you this, though,” I say. “Monsters are real… and dragons are real… and bad guys are real… and there really are things that go bump in the night, but you know what? There really are knights in shining armor that save you from danger…”
Like bullets from a crazy blonde and cars used as missiles to destroy the one you love.
“And there really are fairy godmothers and princesses…”
Godmothers that risk everything to let you see a video to save your princess.
“And I’m still working on that ‘happily ever after’ thing, but I know for a fact that you can live a pretty darn happy life…”
Like living in a castle with a beautiful princess and two wonderful children and great friends with a king and a queen in the kingdom who saved you from the dragon that burned holes in your chest and back…
“I swear to God that I’ll never let anything bad happen to either of you,” I promise, and I feel a tear fall down my cheek. “I swear on my life that I’ll do everything I can to protect you from danger. I’ll slay every dragon and kill every bad guy…”
I can’t get any more words out of my mouth. I know that there may be something out there that I can’t protect them from. I can’t promise to keep them safe from everything because no human alive can do that, and the thought kills me. The thought that I can’t keep danger away from my children… dear God…
“I’ll fight with my last breath to keep you safe,” I sob quietly. “I swear that to you… I’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt you…”
What if I can’t? What if something gets to my precious babies and I can’t save them? What if I fail?
I hold my slumbering children close to me and cry about the monsters I may not be able to catch…
I blink my eyes open at the sound of my name… or some version of it. I’m still holding my children and I’m leaning back in the rocking chair. The sun is peeking through the shades in their windows and Keri is looking down at me, gently rousing me awake.
“Keri,” I say sleepily. “What time is it?”
“Eight o’clock,” Gail says. “We came to check the children to see why they didn’t wake, and now we know why.”
I stretch as much as I can under my children to keep from waking them.
“Here, give them to us,” Gail says, reaching for Mikey.
“No,” I protest quietly, “don’t wake them.”
“Eet’s time, Chteestin,” Keri says. “Dey need dere bat an’ btekfest.”
Bat an btekfest? Oh, bath and breakfast!
“Oh,” I say stretching. “Oh, yes… of course.” I reluctantly hand my children to their nannies. “Is Butterfly awake yet?”
“Not that we noticed, but we came straight up here,” Gail says before carrying Mikey to the en suite. Jesus, I slept for a long time in the chair, and the children didn’t stir either… not once all night.
Still working the minor cricks out of my joints, I go to the owner’s suite to find that my wife is no longer in bed. She was here, but she’s started her day already. We headed in different directions last night after we came home from meeting with our mentors. Well, not immediately after.
Our training wasn’t intensive. We talked about our scene in Las Vegas, the first one that we’ve had since we started training. We confessed to not having as much Downtime as we should, vowing to correct that situation soon. Certain that we’ve garnered the most that we can at this point from our mentors, we agree to meet once a month, even if it happens to be a munch, just to stay on top of our relationship and lifestyle goals. Savvina and Artemis have helped us tremendously in redirecting our relationship as it relates to the Dominus/soumise dynamic, and I couldn’t be happier. I was never displeased when my wife took the reins and I don’t think I ever will be. I just hope she still chooses to do so since the focus has mainly been on her as the soumise.
When we got home, I showed her the pictures of our candle play from Las Vegas. I had them enlarged, printed in black and white and framed. Then I put them in the playroom. Butterfly agreed that they’re absolutely stunning… and hot! Good grief, they’re hot! They incited a fast, hard, and hot fuck in the playroom and then we went our separate ways, her to the shower and most likely to bed, and me to my study.
After a hot shower to loosen my muscles and bones, I go in search of my wife. I find her in the family playroom, doing yoga with Marilyn. It’s a welcome sight, and I watch for a moment, but decide not to disturb them. I go to the kitchen to find Ms. Solomon preparing breakfast.
“Good morning, Ms. Solomon,” I say as I pour a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” she greets.
“Who’s awake?” I ask.
“I’ve seen everyone but the Taylors,” she says. I go to the refrigerator.
“Gail is with Keri and the twins,” I say. “Maybe Jason is still asleep.” I see Sophie’s truffles in the refrigerator and I take one.
“You’re not going to eat those now, are you?” Ms. Solomon scolds.
“Just one,” I say and pop it into my mouth before she can stop me. The confection is just as divine as it was the first night I tasted it. I take the bowl with the remaining chocolates and tuck it into a drawer in the refrigerator. These are not community chocolates and I won’t have a certain distressed glutton pilfering my treats.
“Can’t wait for breakfast, bro?” I hear off to my right. I lean back and see Elliot and Valerie walking into the kitchen holding hands.
“Mind your own business,” I say, closing the refrigerator. “Who invited you, anyway?” I add, throwing a glare at him. I walk over to Valerie and kiss her on the cheek.
“You’re in a good mood,” she says, smiling and maybe a bit surprised at the kiss.
“I spent the night with my children,” I say, sipping my coffee and heading to the dining table.
“Montana mad at you?” Elliot probes as he and Valerie follow me back to the dining room.
“No,” I say, “I just spent a little more time in the nursery with them than I intended and fell asleep.”
“Where did you sleep, in Mikey’s crib?” Valerie jests. I chuckle.
“No, I slept in the rocker while telling them a story.”
“Remind me not to let you tell me any stories,” Elliot says.
“Well, hey, look what the cat dragged in,” Butterfly says as she and Marilyn join us for breakfast. She kisses Valerie, then Elliot, and they exchange pleasantries.
“You didn’t come to bed. You okay?” she asks before kissing me on my forehead.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I assure her. “I went in to check on the ‘mini-me’s’ and our conversation was so riveting that I just fell asleep.” She twists her lips in disbelief.
“Seriously, Christian?” she accuses.
“Seriously,” I reply. “Ask Keri. She woke me.” Butterfly shakes her head and pulls out her phone as she takes her seat.
“Oh, well, this is just great,” my wife says as she swipes her screen.
“What?” I ask. She looks at the screen for a few more moments then hands it to me. There’s a picture of her and Sarah sitting in a Starbuck’s with the caption:
Anastasia Grey Enjoys Shopping Spree with Mother Figure While Bio-Mom Lies Paralyzed and Infirm in Las Vegas Hospital
“Are you kidding me?” I say.
“Tell me about it,” she replies.
“What is it?” Valerie asks and I hand her the phone.
“Hm,” she says. “Not enough going on in the news, I see.”
“Exactly,” Butterfly says, retrieving the phone from Valerie. “Carla Morton could not be reached for comment. Of course, she can’t. She’s infirm, you assholes.” She shakes her head. “Mother figure… They don’t even know who she is! She started out as an intake at Helping Hands. For all they know, they can be plastering her all over the news and endangering her life!”
“Okay, no more paparazzi at the table,” I scold. “They’ll always find something, Butterfly. You know that.”
“Or make it up if they don’t,” she says, swiping her screen and putting her phone away. “So, what brings you guys over today?” She puts her napkin in her lap and looks at Valerie.
“I needed the company,” she says. “It’s… Meg’s birthday.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.
“Meg’s birthday?” she says, bemused. “Oh! Meg!” she says, realization dawning. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. “It’s just unnerving any time Meg rears her ugly head—figuratively or physically.” I look at Elliot and he inconspicuously points at his head before scratching it. I nod just as inconspicuously, silently mouthing an “oh” at him.
“Was this… this was the day of the surgery, right?” Butterfly asks. Valerie nods. “You’re alright, aren’t you? There’s been no…” She trails off.
“Oh! Oh, no, I’m fine. There’s been no recurrences. I just… didn’t want to be… alone, you know? I was alone when I found out about it and when I went to surgery—except for El, of course… I just wanted to be around more friends and family, that’s all.”
“Of course,” Butterfly says, reaching out and grasping her friend’s hand. “I’m so glad you came over. We can hang out and talk all day like we used to before we had to start adulting.” She and Butterfly laugh.
“Yeah, I love El and George, but it’s hard to have a girl’s day with them,” Valerie says. Butterfly’s brow furrows.
“Um, who’s George?” Butterfly asks. Valerie scoffs.
“You didn’t tell them about George?” she says to Elliot.
“I told him,” Elliot says, pointing to me.
“George is only the most adorable mongrel you’ve ever seen!” Valerie proclaims. “We got him from the rescue a few weeks ago and he’s just too lovable.” She retrieves her phone, swipes the screen, and gives the phone to Butterfly.
“What kind of dog is this?” Butterfly says with mirth.
“We have no idea,” Elliot admits. “He’s a mutt—that’s all we know.”
“He looks like Benji,” Butterfly says, handing the phone to me. She’s right. He does kind of look like Benji.
“That’s what I said,” Valerie replies. “They didn’t know what kind of dog Benji was, either, but I did learn that a trainer once said that he was a mix between a Miniature Poodle, a Cocker Spaniel, and Schnauzer. So, that’s what we’re going with until someone tells us different.”
“Well, I think he’s adorable,” Butterfly says as Ms. Solomon begins to serve breakfast and I give Valerie back her phone. “How’s his temperament?”
“The most vicious thing on that dog is his tail,” Valerie replies. “He likes apples and he just wants to be loved. He licks everybody he meets than waits for treats.” She laughs.
“He sounds like the perfect little companion…”
We talk some more about Elliot and Valerie’s dog and the conversation wanders over to the Italian villa and the fact that Aaron has probably landed in Rome by now and will most likely get to the villa tomorrow. We shy away from the Gia Mateo as two people at the table would really rather not talk about her.
I look at my family sitting around the breakfast table and wonder why our story has to be so tragic. We’re all pretty much estranged from our original blood family—some by death; others because they’re just assholes. We all had to make a family—or were blessed with one—that’s not blood. And we all have a horrendous story or two to tell.
Is it true that the worst trials produce the best—and worst—people? I mean, look at Sophie. She’s striving and succeeding at being one of the best people I know at only 13 years old and look at the shit hand she’s been dealt so far. Seriously, who in God’s name deserves a mother like that?
Every time I think of her or I think of Carla or the crack whore, I just want to be the best father that I can possibly be. I want to show my children that there’s nothing that they can’t have or can’t do, and not because they’re rich, but because they’re loved. I want to chase away their Boogeymen or at least help them fight them. I want to celebrate their victories and comfort them in times of sorrow. I want them to know that as long as I’m alive, I’ll be there for them to comfort and protect them.
I want them to know that my horror story will never be theirs.
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/
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