Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

No email this time. Still training for my promotion. I’ll post as often as I can.

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

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

Season 5 Episode 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

I’m walking on sunshine making mental plans for their first birthday party tomorrow. I’ve counted the guests and I’m going through my phases of Better Homes and Gardens again, only this time, it’s the birthday edition—if there is such a thing—and I’m not depressed or running from dread. I’m so filled with glee that I could just burst. There’s no GEH or Helping Hands today as I have to be sure that everything is just right for Minnie and Mikey’s birthday.

My guest list is all set—small but large for a birthday for a couple of one-year-olds, but who cares? Nothing could ruin my mood today, but surprisingly, something pretty damn morbid made it a whole lot better. The television is playing in the family room and I’m listening to the local news channel. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar working on the menu for tomorrow’s party when something on the news catches my attention.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke…”

I rubberneck to the television and feel my body floating into the family room. I don’t even remember getting out of my seat. I watch as a picture of an extremely much older-looking Elena Lincoln flashes across the screen. She didn’t look like that when she went in. I know she didn’t. Her natural hair had grown out, and it was brown. This woman, though she looks much older, has blonde hair… and she’s smiling… and she’s outside! And she looks like she’s wearing makeup! Where did this picture come from?

I’m pondering what the fuck is really going on in that goddamn prison when this bitch is supposed to be in maximum security and she’s able to get her hands on hair dye and makeup… and she’s fucking outside! I can’t see the surroundings behind her or if she’s wearing prison garb, so she could be in the exercise yard for all I know, but hair dye? And makeup? Tupac couldn’t even get a decent haircut when he was in jail!

I’ve missed the entire newscast lost in my wondering, and I scramble for the remote to rewind live TV. I’d die of suspense waiting for the story to come back on.

“Ana, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

I hear Gail’s voice, but I’m too focused on getting back to the story that I don’t even respond to her. I get back to the point where I see She-Thing’s picture on the screen and stop the rewind just before the story begins. I listen to the last bits of a story about the homeless people under the viaduct before the story begins to play again.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke. Lincoln was administered a routine flu shot when shortly thereafter, she began to show symptoms of a stroke. Prison officials indicate that Lincoln complained that she was dizzy, so she was instructed to lie down. Her symptoms became increasingly worse until she became unresponsive…”

“Is she dead?” I ask aloud. The words shocked me coming out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. I want to know if the Pedo-Bitch is dead!

“Lincoln appears to have been in a coma since Wednesday, but has regained consciousness a short while ago…”

The Bitch is stomping her feet like Rumpelstiltskin while I attempt to appear unaffected.

“Although she is awake, Lincoln appears to have suffered extreme paralysis as a symptom of the stroke. At this time, she is unable to walk, move, or speak. There is currently no information on if the condition is permanent.”

Well, that’s something. The Bitch settles a bit.

“Questions arose as to whether Lincoln could have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Toxicology reports tested for the flu vaccine and revealed that she was given the same strain of the virus given to all the inmates and staff of the prison. Reports indicate that there was no way the flu shot could’ve caused a stroke.

“Lincoln will be moved to a minimum-security prison where a special team will oversee her care in hopes of a recovery.”

“She had a stroke from a flu shot?” I ask aloud.

“That’s impossible,” Grace says, and I forget that she was in the room. I look over at her.

“Not that I really care what happens to the bitch,” I tell her. “To be honest, it would have been good news had they said she was dead, but a stroke from a flu shot? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, they clearly said it couldn’t have been caused by the flu shot,” she replies. “It has to be coincidence. Maybe she got some really bad news, or she had high blood pressure or something. There has to be an explanation.” She shrugs.

There is.

It suddenly dawns on me—my husband’s words a few days ago when I asked how things went with Greta Ellison.

“Nobody’s dead… except the book, and it won’t be back.”

Nobody’s dead except the book, and it won’t be back. That is so ominous, but I guess he’s right. The book, indeed, will not be back.

“Damn,” I say, gazing at the television, the news moving on to another story. “Karma’s a real bitch.”

“You look relieved,” Gail says, her brow raised when I turn to look at her.

“I am,” I reply. “There’s no use in lying. That woman is pure evil, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t consumed her from the inside out well before now.” Gail twists her lips.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” she says matter-of-factly, “the bitch shot my husband.”

Once I get over the initial shock of Elena’s fate, I walk around for the rest of the day on a damn cloud. I consider whatever happened to that bitch a necessary evil. She’s one miserable person who was hell-bent on destroying the lives of potentially dozens of families. I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place without her, and I don’t regret those feelings. I only regret that the stroke didn’t finish her off.

Second only to my two darling bundles of joy, it’s the best present I’ve gotten in a year.

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

“Did you hear about She-Thing?” I ask when he gets home.

“I sure did,” he says, coming into the family room as I’m decorating for the birthday party. “I wish the bitch had died.”

“I said the same thing,” I reply. “Maybe we should ease up on that before we bring some bad Karma onto ourselves. “

“No problem. I don’t want to talk about her anyway. So, a month ago, Santa Claus shit all over the house. Now, we’ve got Minnie and Mickey Mouse droppings.” I glare at him.

“First of all, you better be glad my children aren’t down here to hear you cursing or I’d find some way to make you pay for it, and I don’t mean a swear jar. Second, I’m having a great time, so don’t you come raining on my parade, Christian Grey!” I’m pointing at him with a Minnie Mouse wand made of a black glitter Minnie head with a pink glitter bow on it attached to a wooden dowel.

“Careful where you shake that thing!” he warns. “I don’t want fairy dust all over me!”

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

“Oooh! Who needs the swear jar now?” he teases, capturing me in his arms and tickling me, his fingers madly manipulating my ribs.

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

“What? What was that? I don’t think I heard you…”

“Stop or I’ll pee myself!” I warn. He stops tickling me and pulls me into his arms.

“Well, we don’t want that,” he says, kissing me softly.

“You seem in a better mood today,” I observe, closing my eyes as he peppers gentle kisses on my lips, my neck, and my jaw.

“It was a better day,” he says between kisses. “Somebody came in there and put the fear of God into my staff and they’ve been getting their shit together.”

“Mmm… have they now?” I say, still absorbing his tender kisses.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says, gently tasting my skin.

“Sheesh, get a room,” Jason says, coming from the mudroom and through the family room.

“We don’t need a room. We have a house,” Christian retorts, “and you’re in it.”

“Along with a very impressionable teenager,” he remarks. Oops, he’s right. Sophie should be around any minute to help me with the hors d’oeuvres and sandwich fixings for tomorrow.

“Look who’s talking,” I say as Christian releases his embrace. “You come in kissing Gail every day.” He pauses as he reaches his wife to do just that.

“I kiss her,” he concurs, “I don’t maul her in the middle of the family room. We’re not making out amongst the Disney paraphernalia. Hello, Love,” he says, turning to his wife and kissing her sweetly.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Christian says, forcefully pulling me back into his arms. “I’ll maul my wife whenever and wherever I damn well please… but I will be mindful of the teenager.” He looks at me again and pops a fast, hard kiss on my lips eliciting a giggle from me.

“So, what’s going on at the Ivory Palace?” I ask my husband. “Finney and Ros finally get their asses in gear?”

“Among other things,” he says. “Everybody’s waiting for the Queen of Hearts to come breezing into the office… ‘Off with their heads!’” he jests, still holding me close to him while ceasing his kissing. “It’s one thing to have one hardnosed boss, but two… and then whatever gets pass me or—heaven forbid—you, is now being picked up by the executive team who are also afraid of having their craniums severed.” He raises a brow.

“Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I declare. “That’s all we needed in the first place. Why the fuck did I have to come down there and put some fire under these assholes? And what’s with the Queen of Hearts analogy? That woman was insane. I’m not that bad.”

Queen of Hearts

“Well, get used to it because that’s what the ‘peasants’ are calling you,” he says. “And the Queen of Hearts may have been insane, but she was powerful. Insane or not, if she said a head came off, a head came off, and you proved that by sending Mosele home for a short ‘vacation’ to ponder his position. And let’s not forget the fact that you came breezing in there that Monday morning in this fierce red dress daring someone to test you. And those who did were made quick examples—not down the line, but in that same meeting. I think these people know who their dealing with.”

“Must we refer to them as peasants?” I ask. It sounds so unpleasant and elitist.

“If they can call you ‘Queen of Hearts,’ I can call them ‘peasants.’ And trust me, they have a plethora of unsightly names for me, so I’m being kind.”

Jesus, I would prefer not to have the company have the us/them mentality, but unfortunately, it looks like it may be what we need to get things done.

“Speaking of the executive team, how’s Ros doing with her dilemma?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he tells me. “I don’t want to be in her personal life that way. While I truly do sympathize with her familial woes, I’m sure that I would prefer not to be in her proverbial bedroom that way. I can’t empathize with her at all because she made a vow to one woman when her heart was with someone else. I can’t speak to what she should have done or what she should do now. I can only say that it’s not my arena.”

I try not to frown. Ros is his second in command, so he very well should be concerned about her familial woes. However, I guess as the psychiatrist between us, I’m going to have to keep an eye on the situation myself. However, his reaction—though very calm and PC—is not getting past me.

“What?” he asks, obviously noting my contemplation.

“You have some very distinct opinions about this,” I say. He raises a brow. “I live with you. I’m married to you. I fuck you. I can read between the lines,” I say, answering his unasked question. He adjusts his posture, about to make a point.

“I can clearly say that’s something that I would never do,” he says. “When I asked you to marry me, that’s where I wanted to be. I had the choice to stay in my lifestyle and be with whomever I chose whenever I chose—that’s not what I wanted. I wanted you. I want you. So, the concept of wanting someone else after I said that I wanted you is something I can’t fathom. But you…”

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

“I’m with you. I love you. I know you well enough to know that this is where you want to be. That whole Westwood bullshit was a blip in the radar for a few different reasons, but I know this is where you want to be. The thought that you would marry me while you still had unclear feelings for someone else only to have those feelings resurface years after we said our vows—I would be murderous. I wouldn’t even know how to handle that.

“So, right now, while I am concerned about Ros, I have to compartmentalize this whole thing. What she did was selfish and cruel, and now she’s trying to find the easiest way out of the situation she created. She totally created this monsoon, and now she’s trying to get out of it without getting wet. And where the fuck does that leave Gwen?”

He’s beginning to get angry, but I can see him visibly trying to shake off his anger with Ros.

“I see,” I say, calmly. “So, your empathy strikes again, but this time, it’s striking with Gwen. How does that feel?”

He raises his gaze to me and I’m looking at him with soft but inquisitive eyes, nothing confrontational. He couldn’t empathize with Ros because he would never do that. The only thing that he could do is put himself in Gwen’s shoes, and it’s infuriating him.

“Pretty pissed off,” he says, his voice calmer, “which is why I can’t talk to her about it. When her personal shit interfered with her job, I got involved. Where it doesn’t interfere with her job, I’m out of it.” He shakes his head. I nod and put my hand on his cheek.

“I think that’s best,” I tell him. “I’ll handle it. Like you said, as long as she does her job, right?” He closes his eyes and nods, leaning into my hand.

“Thank you for not getting mad,” he says. I scoff a laugh.

“You almost had me for a minute there, Grey, but luckily, I learned to listen,” I say with a wink and a smile. We hear the clearing of someone’s throat, and we turn to see Marilyn standing there.

“Um, I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says. Christian laughs. I turn to him.

“What?” I ask.

“She just did a ‘Jason,’” he says with mirth. My brow furrows.

“A ‘Jason?’” I ask. Christian cocks his head at me.

“If we’re in the midst of a conversation—or anything else—when Jason walks into the room, what does he do to get my attention?” I roll my eyes.

“You mean besides tell us to get a room?” I say, turning to Marilyn. “You’re not interrupting, Mare, what’s up?”

“I got a call from Alex. He said he tried to call you twice but no luck.” I begin looking around for my phone. Where is my phone?

“Hell, I don’t know where my phone is. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. He said that you were looking for a final background check on Jade Goldwin. He emailed it to you,” she says. Oh, yeah, her.

“Thanks, Mare. Did he say that there was anything to be concerned about?”

“Not to me,” she says with a shrug. “I would think if there was cause for concern, he’d ask me to get you to the phone, so I would say not.” I nod.

“I agree, but I’ll look at it anyway,” I say. She nods and smiles before heading back off towards the elevator.

“Jesus, has she lost more weight?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice that, but she has. My silence is enough for him. “Butterfly, this is not good. She’s really going to hurt herself if she doesn’t stop this!”

“I know, I know,” I lament. “I’m the doctor, remember?” He gazes at me for a moment.

“Her parents aren’t here,” he says, firmly. “She doesn’t have a significant other anymore. I hate to do this, but it’s you, baby. It’s all you.” I roll my eyes.

“I know, Christian, I’m just trying not to ambush the girl right now…”

“You may not have a choice. She’s slowly killing herself!”

“She just got back…” I excuse.

“Nearly three weeks ago!” he counters. I deflate. He’s right. She needs to eat.

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

“You may need to do more than that,” he cautions.

“Like what?” I recounter.

“I don’t know, but you may need to do more than that! This is serious! She’s really hurting herself right now.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, hoping to halt the conversation. Jesus, I’m not the one starving myself for crying out loud. I just have to figure out what to do.

“So…” he says, stalling, “what’s with this Jade Goldwin?” Holy cow, that’s the way to change gears.

“She’s coming to the party,” I tell him. “She’s in Maxie and Mindy’s Mommy and Me class, and she has a son the same age as Mindy. I just wanted to vet her before she came to my house and head her off if necessary.”

“Oh? How did you meet her?” he asks. Now he’s interested. Good grief.

“Maxie and I were shopping, and we bumped into her at the Marketplace.” He nods. I know he wants more information. I roll my eyes for the umpteenth time. Where the hell is my phone?

“Keep doing that and they might get stuck that way,” he says, swiping his phone and touching the screen. I’m about to roll my eyes at him again when I hear the muffled sound of our song playing. I look around and back at him, and he’s holding his phone up, showing me that he’s calling me. Where the fuck is my phone?

It goes to voicemail and he calls it again… and again. It took four times for me to find the damn thing between the sofa cushions. How the hell did it get there?

I swipe the screen and the battery is nearly dead. It’s a good thing I found it, or I may have never found it.

“Don’t you have a case or a clip or something for that?” he asks.

“No, Mr. Grey, I keep it in my purse, and I didn’t go anywhere today!” I snap.

“Touchy,” he teases.

“Annoying,” I counter in the same sing-songy voice. I open my email and click on the pdf attached.

“Yeah, she’s Jane Q. Housewife,” I say, scrolling through the document. “Twenty-nine, married, four boys just like Maxie said.”

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

“Sells insurance for a local company,” I tell him. “Small beans.” He nods.

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

“Just Jade and her youngest,” I say, closing my phone. “Maxie vouches for her, so she can’t be all bad.”

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

“All the grandparents, the godparents—Mia bowed out this time, the Scooby Gang… except for Gary, Luma and Herman and the girls, Marlow’s bringing Maggie and probably a date…” Sophie will love that, “… and our newest guest Jade and her little boy, English.”

“English?” Christian says in horror.

“I didn’t name the kid,” I say, with a shrug.

“Dear Lord,” Christian says. “That poor kid is going to be teased incessantly.”

“You don’t know that, Christian,” I scold.

“Baby, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never met anybody anywhere named English,” he points out.

“Okay, so he has a unique name,” I argue, “It’s not wild or crazy, like Fallopion or something. It’s just different.”

“You’re so sweet,” he says, stroking my cheek. “He’s going to get teased. Whoever came up with that name, that’s grounds for divorce.” I gape at him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask in horror. He raises a brow.

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

“You’re saying that when we have another kid, if for some reason you’re indisposed and I come up with a name that you don’t like, you’ll divorce me?” My voice rises to a squeak on the last two words and I think hearing it come out of my mouth makes him realize just how ridiculous he sounds.

“Well, no, but you wouldn’t name our child something ridiculous like English!” he quips.

“And what if I did?” I say, putting my hands on my hips.

“Then there would definitely be some papers filed somewhere,” he says, “maybe not for divorce, but we would be changing that kid’s name. And anyway, it’s a moot point because we sat down and picked our children’s names together, months before they were born. So, why are we arguing about a kid who isn’t even ours?”

I twist my lips and fold my arms. The argument does seem a tad ridiculous.

“You were the one who started talking about divorce,” I pout.

“Yeah, and you were the one to actually take it literally,” he retorts. “Divorce you? Over a name, even? Seriously?” Asshole.

“Be useful and grab that garland,” I pout.

“Hey, wait, I’m not getting roped into decorating,” he protests.

“Oh, yes, you are!” I whirl around on him. “You came in here pissing on my happy place then we’re talking about everything from Elena to Queen of Hearts to Ros to Westwood to Marilyn to some random kid named English to divorce and dammit I want my happy place back!” I say the entire sentence without breathing and he just gazes at me.

“I got your happy place right here,” he remarks, matter-of-factly and I roll my eyes for the 101st time today.

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

It’s Saturday, the day that we meet with Artemis and Savvina, but that’s not until much later. Right now, Minnie and Mickey Mouse decorations are exploding all over my dining room and family room much like yuletide exploded all over my house for Christmas. I’m definitely in the mood to celebrate.

There are two giant Number One balloons to greet you at the door. One has a Mickey Mouse head and the other, a Minnie Mouse head. There’s also a Minnie and Mickey sign that reads, “Welcome to the birthday clubhouse.” Once they don their Minnie or Mickey Mouse party hats, the kids get to munch on “Daisy’s garden vegetables,” “Goofy grapes,” or various melons cut in the shape of Mickey’s head and garnished with blueberries and pineapple. There’s always a way to get kids to eat healthy if you make it fun.

They also get to build ham and turkey sandwiches out of bread, turkey, ham, and cheese all cut in the shape of Mickey’s head with choices of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments as well—or they can choose to have Mickey shaped chicken nuggets or a hot dog from the “Hot Diggity Dog” bar. There are games and bubbles and prizes to keep them occupied, but let’s face it—who’s not going to have fun in Mickey Mouse land?

I was smart enough to know that “Hot Diggity” dogs and chicken nuggets wouldn’t cut it for the parents. So, we have the option of what I call “Chicken Bacon Crack Pinwheels,” Rueben pinwheels, quinoa salad, and seven-layer dip, along with the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. The drinks were either “Pirate Punch” or “Sea Water” from the Pirate Mickey drink bar, and various Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes are spread around the house, along with the Mickey/Minnie birthday cake on the kitchen counter.

Sophie has help me with most of the same-day preparation, like she always does. She wants to be a chef or a caterer, and she loves preparing the food and decorating the house. She’s so grown up for her age that I’m a little afraid that she might be missing her childhood. With a mother like Shalane, though, she’s probably already missed it. She’s seen too much for her age, and once you see certain things, you just can’t unsee them.

Sophie shed her purple tresses shortly after her last altercation with Marlow’s most recent date on Christmas, and after a visit to Miana’s, Jason is glad to see her enter with shiny, beautiful, billowing blonde waves. She actually looks a little older, but it’s most likely because that purple hair made her look so much younger to me.

She gleefully helps me finish setting up for the twins’ party which, as we all know, is really a celebration for the parents, but I don’t care. My little brother will be here. Max is bringing Mindy and I even told her that she was clear to bring Jade to the party since they’re such good friends. I should definitely get to know her if they’re that close.

Celida and Mariah will be here. At the tender age of 6 and 8, they love parties for whatever reason. Maggie’s coming, too. I don’t know if Marlow will be bringing a date this time, but I almost wish that he wouldn’t. It usually ends miserably for him and for Sophie. Until she gets over this crush that she has on him, she’s not going to behave. She’s a woman scorned at 13, and most women scorned don’t even know how to behave as adults!

Mia has decided to sit this one out, but the grandparents and godparents will be here, and of course, our resident waif, Marilyn. I hope I can get her to eat some cake or something before Christian declares martial fucking law!

The guests are now arriving and surprisingly, Maxie, Phil, and Jade arrive before Al.

“Forgive me,” Jade begins, “if I seem a little out of place today. I can’t believe I’m here—this place is absolutely astonishing. And the decorations—dear God! Did you do this all yourself or did you have help?”

“Well, both, actually. I did it myself, but I had a little help, too. My biggest helper was this young lady right here…” I snag Sophie as she’s walking by. “This is my resident party helper, Sophia. Sophie, this is Jade, and you know Maxie and Phil.”

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

“Hi, Sophia,” Jade says, “or do you prefer Sophie?”

“Sophie’s fine,” she says. Jade smiles.

“This is my son, English,” she says. English is older than the twins, but he manages a smile and a wave from his mother’s arms.

“English,” Sophie says, as if testing the word, “I’ve never heard of that as a name before.”

“He’s named after his paternal grandfather,” she says. “My husband insisted.”

“Oh,” I say, “so it’s a family name.” She nods.

“I would have chosen something normal, like Chad, or Blake, or Worcestershire,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I know the last one was a joke, but with a name like English, you can’t be too sure.

“It’s unusual,” I say, “but it’s nice.”

“Thank you,” she says. “It does sound distinguished at the very least.” I see my husband and decide to poke a little fun at him.

“Christian, come, meet our guest,” I say loudly so that he can’t ignore me or try to get away. He raises his brow at me because he knows what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“This was my other helper,” I say to Jade when he comes over to us. “He hung a piece of garland or three.”

“A piece of…” My husband trails off in mock horror and I pretend to ignore him.

“Christian, this is Jade and her son, English,” I say, introducing them.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he says with a nod of his head.

“Likewise. Thank you for having me,” Jade replies cordially.

English is an unusual name, isn’t it, Christian?” My husband throws a side gaze at me. “It’s a family name,” I tell him. “He’s named after his grandfather.” Still grounds for a divorce, Sir?

“Is that so?” Christian says. “Tell me, what is the origin of that name.”

“I have no idea,” Jade says. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m assuming it’s English! I can’t even derive a nickname from that, so I just call him Eddie.

My knees buckle and I’m literally choking on nothing. Christian catches me as I’m going down and makes an excuse to get me away from Jade. He takes me over to the pirate bar and I sit down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just wasn’t ready. It caught me off guard,” I excuse.

“Okay, so you can just sit here until you’re back on guard,” he says, kneeling in front of me.

“Really, Christian, I’m fine,” I assure him. “That’s just the last name I expected to hear at my children’s birthday party.”

“Well, maybe Maxine should tell her friends to do some homework before she brings them around,” he states.

“Oh, please,” I lament, “aren’t I considered enough of a prima donna to the public without people having to know my life history before they visit me? Besides, what would we do, tell her to change her son’s nickname because of my ex-boyfriend? Just let it go.”

I raise my head just in time to see Maggie giggling with Sophie, and a few moments later, Marlow enters… with a date, and not the girl from Christmas. Jesus, what was that, a month ago?

“You may need to talk to him,” I say to Christian while gesturing to Marlow. He looks over his shoulder at Marlow, then back at me.

“What?” he asks

“The girls,” I whisper harshly. “He brings a different girl to every event.”

“He’s young, Butterfly,” he excuses. “He’s not attached to anybody and I know he practices safe sex.” I know that too, but…

“He brought one girl to Mia’s wedding in September; another one to Thanksgiving; another one to Christmas; and now another one to the twins’ birthday. That’s four girls in five months! You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Besides the fact that it’s totally tormenting Sophie, it just doesn’t look good… and it’s not smart!

“He’s a young boy sowing his oats like young boys do. He’s no dummy. He won’t get caught up in a bad situation. I don’t see the problem.” I cock my head at him.

“Oh? So, if Michael brings a string of girls home from the ages of 15 to 18, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” I ask.

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. Is that so, Mr. Grey? I fold my arms and square off.

“And if Mackenzie brings home a string of boyfriends?” I say, and just let the words hang in the air. His face blanches and he begins to look a little ill.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. What’s good for the goose is going to be good for the gander in this house, Grey. So, if you don’t want to see your little princess doing it, don’t think I’m going to allow little Master Grey to get away with it either.

“Talk to him,” I say, firmly before rising from the breakfast bar and going back to the dining room.

I greet my guests and assure everyone that I’m okay, chalking my coughing spell up to an unexpected bout with my own saliva. Marlow introduces me to his date—Tasha, I think her name is. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that I won’t see her again after today.

Sophie and Maggie have taken to getting the children situated and playing “Pin the bow on Minnie” when Al finally decides to grace us with his presence.

“Sorry we’re late,” he says, and that’s all he gives me by way of an explanation, not that I need one. He and James are both as loose as a noodle and look like fresh, new daisies. I’m sure sex was involved.

“You nearly missed your godchildren’s party, you sex fiend,” I say, my voice low.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says waving me off. “You haven’t even opened presents yet.” I roll my eyes. “Who’s the bird with Maxie?”

“That’s Jade,” I tell him. “She’s in a Mommy and Me class with Maxie, which they probably had to miss to come to this party.” He looks at me.

“You sound a little snippy,” he observes. I glare at him.

“Jealous,” I say, honestly. “Maxie got married before me; had her baby before me; and now she’s moving on to new friends without me. Yeah, I’d say I’m just a little snippy.” I look over at Jade and Maxie having a conversation with Val.

“Jade calls her Max,” I say with disdain. “Her son’s name is English.” Al frowns.

“English? That’s his name?” he asks. I nod. “That’s odd. Where did that come from?”

“Apparently, it’s a family name. And get this, his nickname is Eddie.” Al literally winces at the mention of the name. “Yeah, my sentiments exactly, only a little more graphic.”

“Well, she seems like a nice enough person,” he says.

“She is,” I admit. “I just resent the fact that she’s apparently taking my place.” Al scoffs.

“Darling Jewel, she may be friends with our Maxine, but trust me—nobody can replace you.” He puts his hand on my shoulder.

“You’re sweet,” I tell him as we go to join the party.

Everything is going well, and the children are having a really good time playing games, opening prizes, and blowing bubbles. I’m with Minnie most of the day, standing her on her feet and coaxing her to walk with me, which she does. She’s doing very well keeping her balance and standing for several moments until she realizes that she’s standing, or she moves too fast to get to some new toy or adventure. Then she’s back on her hands and knees again. I think it’s adorable and, sure enough, after a few hours of guidance, she’s toddling around more than she’s crawling. Christian gets a few videos on his phone since I’m detained with entertaining. We’re just finishing singing “Happy Birthday” to the twins and I’m cutting and serving cake when I hear it.

“Is constantly twirling your hair an art form or can anybody do it?”

Oh, dear God. I raise my gaze to see Sophie, once again, facing off with Marlow and his date. Tasha looks at Sophie, appalled.

“Is this little brat talking to me?” she asks Marlow while pointing at Sophie. Marlow appears to be trying to smooth things over while Sophie stands there looking like she had nothing to do with Tasha’s current mood.

“No, Marlow! Does she speak to any other adult in this room that way?” Tasha shoots. I know what that means. Marlow is 17, so this girl is probably 18, and by pointing out that she’s an adult, she most likely just turned 18 and she’s smelling her adultness. I sigh.

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

“I don’t care,” I hear Tasha say. “In our house, children know to stay in a child’s place. Someone apparently forgot to teach her that!” She is furious. She throws a murderous look at Sophie and walks away.

“Seriously, Sophie?” Marlow hisses. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on with you?” and now, he’s livid, too as he goes after Tasha. I take this opportunity to make my way over to Sophie.

“Sophia!” I say quietly, “seriously, you’re going to have to stop this. Marlow is going to despise you if you keep this up.”

“I wasn’t trying to tease her,” she excuses, “it just slipped out. She stood there the entire time twirling her hair around her finger. Jesus, is she that flighty or is it a nervous tick?”

“And if it wasn’t her hair, it would be her shoes, or her dress, or her voice. This is getting out of hand!”

“What does it matter what I say?” she says. “He still going to do her.”

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

“They’re so obvious! How can he not see it?” My question is how can you see it so clearly? “How can he even like these girls? They’re scatterbrains. They have the attention span of a goldfish. None of them even show up again after the first time!”

That’s what I said, but that could have a lot to do with you.

“Well, for whatever reason he likes them, he likes them, and you’re going to have to stop being rude to them. For one thing, it’s not very ladylike at all. And for another thing, I defended you when that girl passively aggressively insulted you at Mia’s wedding. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how she made you feel although Marlow was clueless. What ground do I have to stand on right now when you’re behaving the same way she did? And third, and most important…” I put my hand on her shoulder and hold her gaze.

“I’m very fond of you, Sophie,” I say. “I consider us good friends, but I don’t like for anyone to insult the guests that come to my home and you do that repeatedly with Marlow’s dates. If they lash out at you first, I completely understand your need to defend yourself. But when you say disparaging things against them for no reason, that’s unacceptable behavior, Sophie.”

This is the first time that I’ve had to scold Sophie and I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary. She shrinks a bit as my words sink in.

“I really didn’t think about it that way,” she says. “I still think they’re flighty little thots, but I don’t want to make you guys look bad. I’m sorry, Ana.” I nod.

“You might want to apologize to Marlow and his date,” I tell her. She grimaces.

“I can’t do that,” she squeals quietly. “He already hates me, and I couldn’t face him right now… or her. Please don’t make me do that I’ll die!” She says the last part all in one breath, and I really believe she would just keel over and die if she had to face Marlow right now.

“Well, I can’t and won’t force you to do anything, Sophie, but you might want to think about your behavior and what damage has already been done.” She sighs heavily as if I’ve just pardoned her from the death penalty.

“Sophia!”

I discover that I may have spoken too soon. Gail’s voice interrupts our conversation and she is none too happy as she comes marching over to us.

“Sophia, is it true that you said something unkind to Marlow’s date?” Gail accuses. Sophie’s mouth falls open and she looks in horror over at Marlow. When I glance at him, he and his date are looking in our direction like they’re waiting for the ax to fall. Oh, this is just great.

“I can’t believe it,” Sophie says incredulously, her voice three octaves higher than normal. “He snitched on me?”

“So, that means that it’s true,” Gail accuses, a statement not a question.

“I was just kidding around, Momma Gail,” Sophie excuses. “It’s not my fault she can’t take a joke.”

“That’s because she didn’t find it funny,” Gail says. “You can’t say mean things about people and think it’s okay. It’s very unbecoming, and you owe them an apology. You march over there right now and apologize.”

As if Sophie’s face could show any more horror, she glares over at Marlow and his date then turns her gaze back to Gail.

“No,” she says, calmly, her voice resolute. You could knock Gail over with a feather right now.

“Excuse me, young lady?” Gail says in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Momma Gail, but I’m not going to apologize. He already won. He snitched on me for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings, and now they’re staring at me waiting to see what kind of trouble I’m going to get in. So, he won. I’m in trouble, I already know it, but I’m not going to apologize.”

Sophie stands firm on that sinking boat that she’s not going to apologize. To already be convicted of the crime, she pled her case very well for a 13-year-old kid. Right now, Sophie would rather run naked down the I-5 than to go over there and apologize to Marlow and that girl. Gail looks at her stepdaughter and knows that it’s a lost cause to try to make her apologize.

“The party is over for you, young lady,” Gail says firmly. “Go to your apartment. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend.” Shit, there goes my helper.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says dutifully, and marches past Gail without looking back at me or at Marlow and his date. I roll my eyes before Gail turns around to look at me.

“What?” she says. “She was wrong. She’s going to turn out to be a bully if we don’t nip this in the bud.”

“I highly doubt that,” I say, “but don’t be too hard on her. You know, teenage angst, sibling rivalry… She was probably just giving her ‘brother’s’ date a hard time, nothing more.” I do the finger quotes around the word brother knowing damn well that it’s more than that, but she’s not a bully. She’s lashing out because she’s jealous.

“I don’t know,” Gail sighs. “I hope you’re right.” She walks over to Marlow and his date and says something to them. I turn away and head over to the food table. I can’t help but empathize with Sophie again. Even though she was clearly wrong, he told Mommy on her. There’s no better or more thorough way to drive home the fact that he looks at her as nothing more than a child than to tell Mommy that she said something wrong. There’s no way in hell Sophie was going to apologize after that. She’ll most likely gladly take the grounding and hide under her bed for the next two days.

“Trouble in the happiest place on earth?” My husband’s voice breaks me out of my thought process as I fill my plate with a few pinwheels.

“I just lost my party helper,” I say, taking another pinwheel. “Sophie was poking fun at Marlow’s date, something about twirling her hair on her fingers, and Marlow didn’t like it. Apparently, he told Gail and now Sophie’s grounded.” Christian frowns.

“He snitched on her?” he says. I raise a shocked gaze at him.

“That’s exactly what she said!” I say, surprised.

“Well, yeah, me and Mia used to do shit like that to each other all the time—me and Elliot, too—but we didn’t snitch on each other.” I smile and shake my head.

“I think it might be a different dynamic here, Christian,” I say before I realize that I’m saying too much.

“How so?” he asks, and before I get the chance to trip over my tongue, he continues. “He considers her a little sister and that’s just how she’s acting, like a bratty little sister trying to embarrass him in front of a girl. But hell, he snitched. He broke the sibling code.” I frown.

“There’s a sibling code?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, apparently not with him,” Christian says. “I know there are some siblings who’ll squeal if you left the top off the mustard, but in our family, Vegas rules applied—what happened outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge stayed outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge.”

Well, that’s scary. Stuff was going on right under their nose and they didn’t know it. That’s probably why Pedo-Bitch could so easily get to Christian and almost to Elliot. Everything was so hush-hush.

At this point, I don’t know who’s side I’m on.

“Yeah, well, I’d say the lines are drawn in the sand now,” I say, eating a pinwheel.

“I’d say you’re right,” my husband concurs.


CHRISTIAN

“When you are in a submissive role, your duty is to serve. However, it cannot only be your duty. It must be your desire. You cannot force this relationship–it has to be something that you want… crave or desire, even. Some soumises are born, some are cultivated. Either is fine, but this must be something that you want to do for yourself, or you’re wasting your time.”

Pussycat and I are sitting in our mentors’ den. The sessions with them and our attendance at the Munches have been highly rewarding and very informative. Pussycat has done lots of research on her own along with several assignments given to her from Savvina. She has brought several questions to our sessions, and today’s question has to do with tasks.

Tasks are generally set in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which ours is not. However, Pussycat points out that she can see how having a task or even several tasks would help her to maintain a submissive mindset. It doesn’t mean that she is releasing any of her independence. It just means that she’s acknowledging that I’m her Dominus and she, my soumise—and that in that role, she has the attitude of service, which is why Savvina is speaking on the duty of a soumise to serve.

“Service is a relative term,” Savvina continues. “It may mean that you perform direct duties required by your Dominus or it may not. It may also mean that you make yourself available for what he needs, or that you assist him with a skill or ability that he may not have. The possibilities are endless, and the two of you will set the guidelines for how you will serve him or what your specific tasks will be, if any.” Pussycat looks at me.

“Are there any specific tasks that come to mind that you think you may require of me?” she inquires. I ponder for a moment.

“None come to mind immediately,” I admit, “but I’m certain that we’ll come up with something.”

As we’re speaking, the coffee service arrives and is placed on the table in front of us. Savvina dutifully prepares two cups of coffee—one for Artemis, and then one for herself. She prepares Artemis’s cup with cream and sugar, and then her own before she sits back to enjoy the coffee. Pussycat’s and my cup remain empty.

I immediately see this as a test from our mentor if Pussycat is willing to serve—literally, although I’m not sure this is what she meant when she asked about tasks and service.

Noting that Savvina didn’t pour any coffee for us, Pussycat pauses only for a moment before retrieving the silver coffee pot and pouring a small amount into her cup. She replaces the coffee pot and takes a sip of the coffee. Then she retrieves the coffee pot again and fills my cup nearly to the brim. She adds a bit of cream and sugar before stirring it and handing me the cup and saucer, which I graciously accept. She then prepares her own cup and relaxes in her seat to enjoy her coffee.

“Why did you pour your cup first?” Savvina asks.

“I didn’t pour my ‘cup’ first. I poured a tasting in my cup,” Pussycat responds.

“And why would you do that?” Savvina asks. “Why would you pour coffee for yourself before pouring coffee for your Dominus?”

“Because I didn’t make the coffee, and it wasn’t made in my home,” she says. “How he takes his coffee is dependent on the brew, so I had to taste it to know what to put in it.” Savvina raises a brow and looks at me.

“Does she normally serve your coffee at home?” Savvina asks.

“Never,” I reply. “As of late, I’ve been leaving the house very early–before she wakes. It’s not something that I require her to do. Our staff makes sure that the coffee is prepared before either of us wakes. I sometimes leave so early that I just get coffee at the office.”

“How do you know how he takes his coffee if he’s never home or you’re not awake when he drinks it?” Savvina asks Pussycat, and she’s at a loss for words. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she was affronted.

“If you are serving your Dominus, you should never drink or eat before he does,” Savvina says, and crosses her legs definitively. Pussycat is silent for a moment, her brow furrowed, and just as Savvina begins to speak again, she interjects.

“I disagree,” she says, crossing her legs as well. Savvina’s brow rises again.

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

“If I make my own coffee, then I want it strong and black. If he drinks my coffee, he wants it black, too. It’s been that way since the first cup of coffee he drank at my apartment more than two years ago. Coffee in restaurants or at the office are a good, robust blend, but not as strong as mine—as is the coffee made by my staff at home. In that case, he’ll take a little creamer, but not sugar. Designer coffees usually have a flavor of their own, so he won’t take anything in those either, unless he opts for a shot of espresso. If coffee is particularly weak, it’s nothing but English tea to his palette. So, he takes it with cream and sugar. So, I beg to differ with you, because if it’s coming from a strange pot, unless he’s pouring his own coffee, I don’t know what’s in the pot. So, I have to taste it before I serve him.”

Touché.

“Well,” Savvina says, “The teacher has been duly chastised.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “This is a perfect example of service being a relative term and the two of you setting your own guidelines for your definition of service. You came to me with a question about tasks and service, and you ended up educating me on one of the most important aspect of the D/s relationship—that it’s totally a la carte, and that each couple writes their own rules and guidelines for their relationship.” She turns to me. “You should be proud.”

I look at Pussycat, who’s unsuccessfully resisting the urge to smile. I reach over, take her free hand, and kiss it gently.

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

I’m shocked to hear this announcement come from my wife as we’re riding into GEH on Monday morning. She lives to breastfeed our children and now she wants to stop?

“May I ask why?” I probe. She drops her gaze.

“There are so many reasons to stop,” she admits. “I’m more active outside of the home, with GEH and all, and even without GEH, I’m going to be more active with Helping Hands. We’re going to Vegas in a week and we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. I can’t go to the bathroom and pump every few hours and I don’t want to risk leaking all over my clothes. Most importantly, our children are drinking out of sippy cups and eating solid food. They just turned a year old. It’s time.” I twist my lips.

“You don’t seem too happy about it,” I tell her. She sighs. Breast-feeding was how and when she bonded most with the children. Now, she’s not going to be doing it anymore.

“We all have to be weened in one way or another,” she says with a shrug. “We might as well start doing it now before I start suffering from separation anxiety.” I take her hand and kiss it gently.

“I’ll be here for you,” I say. “And if I’m honest, I’m being a little selfish, too. Watching that nectar drip from your breast when you’re full and you come is very sexy.” That elicits a giggle from her.

“I know. I guess we’ll just have to ween you, too.”

I try not to stare at Marilyn throughout the morning, but she’s getting thinner and thinner and it’s not looking good on her. When she catches me staring at her, I ask her for a moment of her time.

“You’re going to Las Vegas with us, right?” I ask.

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

“You know Las Vegas has some of the best cuisine in the country,” I inform her. “World-renowned chefs have restaurants there in some of the casinos and hotels. Have you possibly thought about which ones you may want to visit?” She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” she says, her voice a bit perturbed, but I don’t allow it to sway me.

“Butterfly and I are hoping to go to Americana one night while we’re there. You’re welcome to come. I hear the food is exquisite…”

“I know what you’re doing, Christian,” she says. “You haven’t talked about any of the shows, none of the sights, not the nightlife or even the spas. You’re only talking about the food.” I purse my lips.

“I’ve known you as long as I’ve known my wife,” I say. “I’ve never seen you this thin… and you’ve gotten thinner just over the last couple of weeks. You barely touch your food at dinner if you eat anything at all and I have no idea what you’re eating throughout the day. You’re fading away in front of us…”

Marilyn hugs her iPad to her body like a shy schoolgirl as I drone on about eating and meals, and I get the feeling that I’ve lost her, so I stop talking.

“I’m not trying to preach to you,” I say, softening my voice. “That’s the very last thing I’m trying to do. I just don’t want to see you cause undue harm to yourself.”

She nods, and a single tear falls down her cheek. Shit.

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of place or if anything I said offended you,” I add.

She nods again, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

“I just need to go to the restroom,” she says, her voice small.

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

She’s out of the office before the words are out of my mouth. My en suite would’ve given her more privacy, but I get the feeling that she wants to be as far away from me as possible. She brushes past the reception desk and nearly runs into Butterfly on her way to… the restroom.

“Mare?” Butterfly calls after her, but she continues her bolt down the hallway. Butterfly turns to me and storms into my office.

“What did you say to her?” she demands, Momma-Bear loins girded for battle. I roll my eyes and thrust my hands into my hair.

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” I say, my voice squeaky as I explain myself to Mistress. “I just informed her that Vegas has a lot of good cuisine and world-renowned chefs and that she was free to try any of them. I just thought that something may awaken her palette again and encourage her to eat.” Mistress deflates immediately.

“Oh… that,” she says, her voice somewhat small as she falls onto my sofa. “I don’t know what to do, Christian. I know this isn’t good for her. I can’t force feed her, but she’s got to stop this.”

“At the risk of sounding insensitive,” I say, sitting down next to my wife, “she’s going to have to address this before she gets on that plane. She’s going on this trip in an official capacity. She’s flying on a GEH jet, and she’s staying on a GEH dime. There’s all kinds of liability involved if something happens to her while she’s on this trip. Though it was small, she had a medical procedure two months ago and she’s not looking well at all. She needs to be medically cleared to travel, not to mention her doctor needs to see what’s become of her.”

“Don’t you think that may be a bit drastic?” she replies. I can’t even find the words to respond to that. My face must display utter horror as I scoff and gesture wordlessly to the door that Marilyn just hastily exited.

“Alright, alright,” she says, raising her hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’ll talk to her. I’ll get it done.” I lean over and kiss her.

“It’s for her own good, Butterfly,” I say. She drops her head and worries her scar.

“I know,” she says, her voice full of defeat.

Son of a bitch, where the hell is Garrett? The girl could die, and he wouldn’t even know. Would he even care? He’s a real fucking prince among men, I swear!


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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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 5

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 5

ANASTASIA

To say that I was surprised to find out that Ros’ marriage was over is the understatement of the century. To find out that her wife left her because Ros wants to be with someone else completely floored me.

When I think about her situation as I would a patient, I have to be objective with my opinions. When I’m talking to someone that I know, it’s a little harder to find that objectivity.

On the one hand, she’s a person in an unhappy marriage. True, she shouldn’t have married Gwen if she was in love with someone else to begin with. However, be that as it may, we’re dealing with the present and where she is today, what her next move should be in terms of her own happiness. If she were a patient, my advice to her would be that I can’t encourage anyone to leave their marriage, but that life is short, and happiness can be fleeting—you have to grab it where you can, or you may lose it. What decision will make her happiest in the long run?

There would be questions about the lesser of two evils and which choice would have the least severe consequences, because both choices will have consequences. Once she has weighed all of her options, then she can decide as to which choice would be best for her.

On the other hand, I know this woman. She works closely with my husband, and I want to grab her and shake her and ask her why the fuck she would do this to another person. She married Gwen hoping that Gwen would make her happiness complete when her heart was with someone else. Love is such a precious thing that I have no idea why you would do that to someone.

She’s crying and broken, and she says it’s because she hurt Gwen and she really didn’t want to do that, but I don’t know if that’s true.

It could be that she’s scared shitless to leave the familiar and branch out into the uncertain, but she can’t stay with the familiar because Gwen doesn’t want her anymore.

It could be that after she has weighed her options, she really does love Gwen and want to stay with her over this Monique girl, but that ship has sailed because Gwen doesn’t trust her anymore.

Or it could be exactly what she said—she’s hurting because she hurt Gwen and Gwen doesn’t deserve that.

Her position is not an enviable one. She’s going to suffer a loss no matter what she does. However, I sincerely have a hard time finding sympathy for cheaters. As long as she pulls her weight at GEH, that’s fine by me.

Apparently, my husband had some kind of “Come to Jesus” talk with her and Finney, much like the one that I had, but obviously more effective as Finney went scurrying from the room on a mission to be more proactive, and Ros was reduced to a slobbering, blubbering mess confessing her infidelities and the breakdown of her marriage, something that we later discover that Finney didn’t even know. None of us can really empathize with her on this as we’re all on our first marriages and have no intention of leaving.

In other news, I’m about to pull the final rug from under one ex-GEH research assistant, Ms. Deanna Corman. She is ruing the day that she crossed me and came on to my husband—in my presence, no less—she just doesn’t know how much she’s ruing it, yet. I’ve decided to let her in on the punchline today.

The last few weeks have been a bit inconvenient for Ms. Corman. Her neighborhood has been papered with her pictures and details of her little petty citations—nothing major, just embarrassing.

I procured every available billboard in the Seattle area and filled them with little factoids about her without posting a picture or mentioning her name… initials maybe, but not her name, unflattering things like:

DC will offer you a good time, then sue you if you refuse.

There’s no way that she wouldn’t know the boards were about her—information about her being a homewrecker and unemployable, things that the average person may not even figure out. However, if you see it and you know that it’s you, you assume everybody knows that it’s you.

GEH got a call about one of the billboards from some attorney. Of course, they had no idea what the guy was talking about since I paid for the billboard under an alias. Don’t worry, DC, it’s only for a couple of weeks.

Probably some of the most satisfying results were the fact that her surveillance officer informs me that she was excused from two restaurants because the fliers that I circulated somehow made it to the restaurants. I honestly don’t know how that happened, but… bonus!

She’s been refused three interviews from companies that are close to GEH and can barely get an interview anywhere since Christian damn near owns everything except the Space Needle.

There have been other tiny little inconveniences, and I’m not sure if she knows that I’m at the base of her misery. However, she’s the only one who hasn’t dropped the lawsuit against GEH. All the other plaintiffs knew a losing battle when they saw one and got out while the getting was good. Little Ms. Corman apparently wants some visibility since word got back to us that she was fired because the boss wanted her, and she was ready to reciprocate until I threatened her. Granted, this is only rumor mill—nothing in print—but if she wants attention, I’m the bitch to accommodate her.

She received long-stemmed roses at her home today stating that a certain billionaire wanted to meet with her to clear the air, inviting her to dinner in a private room at Christian’s club downtown. What she doesn’t know is that the billionaire that’s coming to clear the air is me.

I’m sure to arrive well before her so that I can enjoy my meal before she gets there—duck a l’orange with sautéed cabbage, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. Certain that she plans to be fashionably late, I instruct the server to wait until my guest arrives to bring her meal to the table and in the meantime, I order two chilled bottles of Cristal—one for now, and one for when she gets here. The meal is superb, and I enjoy every bite of it while waiting for my prey to arrive. Just as I’m finishing my tiramisu, the server announces that she has arrived. I nod for him to show her in. The look on her face is priceless when she clears the large velvet curtains and finds that it’s me sitting there at the table instead of Christian.

“I see that you dressed the part,” I taunt of her cocktail dress that’s not even a sneeze off her snatch. “Unfortunately, I don’t bat for that team.” She narrows her eyes.

“I don’t need this,” she says. “I’m not dealing with this.” She turns to leave.

“Oh, no, you’re going to sit your ass down or three wives will receive very unflattering pictures of you with each of their husbands, including the one who put a gun to your head last year.”

She whirls around and stares at me in disbelief. I raise a brow at her, daring her to call my bluff. Her stare changes to a glare, and she slides into the seat across from me. I gently dab the corners of my mouth and take a sip of my champagne.

“You’ve had quite the spell of bad luck over the last month,” I say, smiling. “You lost a really great job with a really reputable company, billboards announcing your extra-curricular activities, being thrown out of classy establishments, interviews refused… you’re just the happy whore of Seattle, aren’t you?”

“Says the woman who has to threaten people to keep them from fucking her man,” she says, rolling her neck. I chuckle lightly.

“But you didn’t get to fuck him, now, did you?” I say with a smile.

“I ain’t dead yet,” she shoots back.

“That can be arranged,” I retort flatly and glare at her, my eyes piercing. Her resolve shakes a bit, but she’s determined not to give me the satisfaction of seeing her sweat, but she doesn’t understand that I already have.

“You’re feeling awfully brave,” she taunts. “I could be wearing a wire.”

“For what?” I ask. “If you’re wearing one, fine. You won’t get anything you can use in court… for what? What are you going to use—the fact that you’re a hoe that comes on to other women’s husband’s and we all know it? Yes, Your Honor, I’m guilty of calling this skank ass, sleazy, tramp-ass bitch a whore! Lock me up! Throw away the key! Nasty bitch.”

“I’ve already got something,” she says. “You said my death could be arranged.”

“I didn’t say by whom,” I retort calmly. “You’re currently fucking three other women’s husbands. You’re not fucking mine. But that’s okay, because I know you’re not wearing a wire. You’re not that smart.” Her face hardens as I sip my champagne.

“I appreciate your chutzpah,” I tell her. “You’ve got to be really brave or really stupid to pretend you still have the upper hand in this matter. While I would love nothing more than to drop kick your ass off the edge of the earth, I think watching you squirm worked out a whole lot better. Keep fucking with me, little girl. You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Realization finally dawns as she realizes what I’m saying.

“All this shit was you?” she asks incredibly. “The billboards, the restaurants… all this shit was you?” I shrug playfully.

“Guilty,” I say. “It’s only slander if it’s not true.” I smile and take a bite of my tiramisu. She leaps out of her seat and gets in my face.

“I oughta kick your fucking ass right here and now!” she threatens. Chuck emerges from the shadows behind her, but she doesn’t see him.

“You go right ahead and try,” I taunt, leaning forward into her face. “By the time I’m done with you, they’ll be finding parts of you on five different continents.”

She jerks back a bit, but still doesn’t sit.

“I’m your worse fucking nightmare, bitch,” I tell her. “I’m a wife who’s madly in love with her hot husband and her happy home and you’re threatening that. But what’s more, at the very least, I’m a comfortable billionairess with a really great setup and you’re trying to muscle in on my fucking territory, and you thought I was just going to roll over and take that have you lost your fucking mind?”

I say the last part all in one breath and she still hovers over me.

“Sit. The fuck. Down.” I say threateningly, but she doesn’t, so Chuck so graciously comes from his post and not so gently helps her back to her seat. Her eyes widen when she sees him—or feels him, I should say—and she turns an incredulous glare to me.

“You ain’t shit without your security,” she says. I swallow another bite of delicious tiramisu.

“That sounds like something I heard in a movie once,” I taunt. “’You ain’t shit without that gun, are you?’ I think that’s what she said. And yet, she still didn’t fuck with the bitch with the gun.” I sip my champagne.

“Christian came on to me,” she declares, changing tact. “He’s only putting on a show for you. I’m who he really wants.”

“Oh, I believe that,” I say laughing sarcastically. “And during your pillow talk, did he tell you about the time I made him come so many times that he had to beg me to stop?”

Her eyes widen and she can’t believe I just said that.

“You bounce your little ass on their dicks, and you suck their cocks and they shoot to the moon for you and you think you’ve done something? Has even one of those fuckers left their wives for you? You’re just some hot little hole to shoot a load in—a readily available piece of ass. They leave a couple of C-notes on the nightstand for you and ‘Thanks until next time, babe.’ And if that’s what you want, then fine, you got it. But bitch, I’m a wife. I got the kids, the mansion, the cars, and the name. What’s more,” I lean in closer to her, “I’m a young, flexible, horny freak and there’s nothing I don’t do. So, while you’re spouting about the dicks you can suck and fuck, believe me, Christian Grey ain’t one of ‘em!

“Do you really think random community pussy is that powerful?” I ask her with a frown. “The man married me; I’ve had two children for him—twins, the apples of his eyes—and notwithstanding the ridiculously generous prenup that you knew nothing about, I own half his company! You’re just some little tramp trick hoebag handing it out to anybody with a couple of pennies to rub together hoping for the big windfall. What could you have possibly hoped to achieve by crossing me?

“I only did this because you pissed me off,” I say, sipping my Cristal. “You tested me, and you tried me, and you dared me to call you on your shit. Or maybe you knew I would, and you were hoping I would give you something that you could use in court.

“I didn’t even have anything to prove by doing this to you, Deanna,” I say, finishing my champagne, “nothing in the world to prove but the fact that I can. This wasn’t even a coup. This was just some little thing I did in my spare time. I was just having a good time at your personal expense. Hell, it’s only money to me. Imagine what I could do if I really put my mind to it?

“Do yourself a favor. Walk away now. We are an at-will company with a positive drug test from a sampling of your hair from a reputable global testing company. No matter what lawyer you fucked that convinced you that you can win this, you can’t win. If you feel like wasting your time and money, be my guest… sue away. You’ll be stuck in litigation for years and in the meantime, I’ll be clocking your every move, taking note of every hard-up, married thousandaire you take up with, and reminding you that the Grey reach is infinite.”

I slide a hard drive across the table to her with several pictures of her most recent escapades.

“A bit of my research,” I tell her. “You can keep that.” I stand and retrieve my purse. “Enjoy your meal. Try the duck—it’s delicious.”

I turn around and walk out of the room and Chuck falls in step behind me. I stop at the server who’s standing just outside the door.

“Pour the lady some champagne, please,” I say. “She’s extremely thirsty.”


CHRISTIAN

“Do whatever you need to do, just be safe.”

Those were my wife’s words when I left the house this evening. Things have come to a head much faster than I expected and it’s time to move forward with the rest of the plan.

During our Downtime session on Friday, she told me about her meeting with Deanna Corman, the one final holdout on the wrongful termination lawsuit. She informed me about how, without my knowledge, she single-handedly launched a smear campaign on that poor girl that was utterly merciless and completely untraceable. Her final blow was the meeting where she informed Ms. Corman—who arrived thinking that she was coming to see me—that her demise could be more than dinner talk if Ms. Corman thought for one moment that she was going to muscle in on my wife’s cushy lifestyle.

That was a gangster move.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought it time to tell her my plans for our not-so-favorite author and her clan of unmerry men and women. After all, it was she who told me that I had better do something about the Pedophile or she would. I couldn’t let that happen.

I let her in on the things that were happening to Holstein—the box of live rats, the cliché cement shoes, and the plans I had for him this weekend. There was no use in drawing out the situation once I got the word that everything needed for Ms. Ellison had been done and secured. She’s really the big fish, because she’s got the pen.

“But what about Elena?” Pussycat had asked. “She has the original story. What’s to stop her from hiring another ghost writer? It’ll obviously be difficult, but from what you say, the warden won’t even be a factor anymore. She can just convince the new warden that she has the story of a lifetime and we’re back where we started from.”

I love my little Pussycat Butterfly, but she obviously underestimated my ability to tie up loose ends. I informed her about the Pedophile’s little accident and the fact that they’ll be culminating in a finale that Mrs. Lincoln won’t soon forget.

Our arrival at GEH on Monday morning was epic. The lobby was filled with the usual morning chatter until Mr. and Mrs. Grey showed up. My wife has been wearing these amazing power outfits and Monday was no different. She came breezing through the lobby in a gray sleeveless pencil dress cut right above the knee with a matching tailored gray blazer, sporting a pair of classic black Louboutin sky-highs and her signature Jackie O’s. She strode through that hallway with all the class, style, and power of the perfect CEO and I’m certain that the silence that ensued was just as much for her presence as it was for mine, if not more.

That morning, the power wife went off to her meetings with Lorenz in tow and I got updates on Project Alcatraz.

The Pedophile has been spending quite a bit of time in the infirmary—broken ribs, sprained ankle, and most recently, a strange bout with what appears to be food poisoning. Funny that she’s the only one who got it. She even suffered from a really bad forced haircut, which resulted in nearly all of her hair being cut off by the barber so that she didn’t look completely ridiculous.

Even the poor little smart-mouthed receptionist has been getting her due. For several consecutive days, gifts have been arriving at her home precisely when her husband is present and she’s not. That wasn’t very easy to pull off since there’s only a small window between the time that he gets home from work and the time that she gets home from work. Apparently, however, it worked… a little too well.

Coupled with the gifts, there’s been a gentleman perched across the street from her house… just watching, nothing else. He was conspicuous, meant for her and her husband to see. Mr. Receptionist could obviously be seen pointing at the guy one day and demanding that she tell him who the guy was, especially in light of all the gifts she had been receiving. She disappeared into the house with her husband while they were still arguing.

Apparently, she emerged Monday morning wearing sunglasses and looking like she had been through Armageddon. Sources at the prison informed us that the fucker has battered her… badly. She wouldn’t make a police report as, with everything going on, she knew the situation with her and with the warden were somehow related. She just didn’t know how.

I felt more than a tad guilty as I was only trying to cause a bit of inconvenience for her. I didn’t expect it to go this far. Hell, I don’t know what I expected. Nonetheless, Operation Receptionist halted immediately, and an anonymous call was placed to the police regarding how she showed up to work on Monday morning and requesting a wellness check at her home. No word yet on how that turned out.

However, the biggest news of the weekend was all about the warden. He fell prey to a harmless drug that knocked him out and landed him in a very compromising position—a position that landed on the front page of nearly every available news outlet on Monday morning. I say nearly every news outlet because some of them are unable to show the pictures due to their graphic nature, although the local morning shows took the liberty of blurring out the good parts while reporting the breaking news.

Supposedly, the good warden bats for the same team and was photographed in very compromising positions with what is revealed to be a gay, male hooker. Of course, the warden didn’t show up for work Monday or today with the press following him around, and with good reason. However, he probably should have been more careful where he parked his car.

This morning, armed with a search warrant based on an anonymous tip supposedly from the gentleman friend that he spent the night with, the police raided Holstein’s car and found four kilos of coke, an undetermined amount of meth, and an illegal firearm. My team takes credit for the gun; the drugs were a bonus. Apparently, the good warden was into a lot more than I thought he was.

So, with the warden completely out of the way and everything in place for this bug that keeps buzzing up my ass in the most lethal ways, I’ve informed my wife that the final steps are in place to assure that the Pedophile’s book never gets published, and that the skank that keeps inserting herself into our lives is not able to do it again. She knows how far I’ll go to protect my family, but this is bigger than just my family. This is decades and decades of young boys who have been victimized by that sick bitch, and now both these unscrupulous cows are trying to find a way to capitalize on her wretched behavior. I can survive the shit she might throw at me. There are several others out there who may not.

Thus, my wife’s warning to be safe.

We’re in one of the Fords tonight when Jason pulls up to yet another warehouse. We’re in all black again, both strapped with our Glocks and ready for any eventuality—very James Bond/Mission Impossible… quite fitting since this bitch has the disguise ability of Ethan Hunt.

She’s going to wish she hadn’t used it tonight.

A private text to her “Dom” phone requested her presence at a secluded location in an adequate disguise so as not to be recognized. She was then abducted in the old-fashioned manner and transported to this warehouse at approximately 10:00pm. Alex called me on our burners to tell me that she was in position, and I let her stew for an hour or so. When Jason and I arrive at the warehouse, she’s naked, duct-taped to a chair and gagged. A look of sheer horror comes over her face when she sees me enter the room.

“Wanted a little eye-candy, did you?” I ask Alex. He shrugs.

“That was a bonus,” he says. “I had to make sure that she wasn’t wired.”

“Where are her clothes?” I ask.

“In her car,” he says.

“And her car?” I press. “Did anybody leave any DNA behind?” Alex scoffs.

“Probably, but good luck finding it,” he says matter-of-factly. “That DNA and her bald man costume have both been thoroughly burned along with her car—down to the frame—which is now being deposited into a very large, but obscure, body of water as we speak.” I nod and turn to a trembling Ms. Ellison.

“And we meet again,” I say as I move to stand in front of her. “I’m dying to know what she told you that made you think I couldn’t get to you.”

“Here’s what I really don’t understand. You know that you’re playing with fire and you know who holds the torch. How can you not expect me to come at you with every incendiary device in my arsenal? My complacency has cost me way too much already and I refuse to allow myself, my family, or any of these other people that she has hurt become collateral damage on your twisted road to recognition. I’m going to put this matter to bed once and for all, and it’s never going to rise again.”

I can see her screwing up her courage for one last stand. Good. That’s what I want. In your final attempt to save your life, you’re going to tell me all your fucking secrets.

“Ms. Ellison, I’m not going to snap your wrist this time. I’m going to snap your fucking neck, and I’m going to enjoy it, if you don’t answer every fucking question I ask you quickly and truthfully.”

“Oh, you need information,” she says. “So, without my cooperation, you don’t get what you need. That’s quite the predicament.” She sounds so confident. I just laugh.

“Impressive,” I say, turning to Alex. “She’s duct-taped to a chair, surrounded by four men—any one of which could put a bullet in her ass right now and not care—and she still thinks she has the upper hand.”

“I may not have the upper hand,” she says, her voice trembling, “but there are other people involved, other people with things at stake, and they’ll see to it that the book is published, even if I don’t do it!” I’m unmoved. I turn back to her.

“Well, then, what good are you to me?” I ask, callously. “I could just get rid of you right now and move on to the others, right?” Fear clouds her eyes and she tries to speak, but nothing comes out.

“Is that what you’re looking for?” I add, with my hands extended in a shrugging manner. “You want a legacy? Because if I fuck you up right now, or I turn you over to any of these powerful, crazy motherfuckers you’ve named in that book, that’s all that’s going to be left—your legacy, which will most likely be worthless, because no one will be around willing to cosign this crud that you’re trying to print.

“Do you think I’m the only one looking for the total decimation of this bullshit? Do you think I’m the only one that knows you’re the fucking ghost writer, BD Simmons? Do you have any idea how easy it was to find your ass? You weren’t even creative! A civilian found you—a vanilla civilian at that! I gave your powers of stealth way too much credit, but I underestimated you at the same time. That’s something I don’t intend to do again.

“Oh, and don’t think she’s going to walk away from this either,” I taunt. “Why do you think you haven’t seen her for weeks?” I smile fiendishly.

“So, we’re going to try this again, and I’m going to hope—for your sake—that you want to keep your miserable fucking life and that you’re going to tell me everything that I want and need to know about everyone involved in this endeavor so that I don’t have to waste precious time looking for answers. Now…” I crouch down in front of her and rest my elbows on my knees.

“The difference between me and you is that I’ve got time. You, on the other hand, are not leaving this room. I don’t care if you eat; I don’t care if you sleep; I don’t care if your shit blocks up in your ass and comes out of your fucking throat. I and my friends are going to ask you questions which you are going to answer and then we’re going to check the validity of your answers. Each time you lie or fail to tell us everything, we’re going to break a finger. If too much time passes and we can’t validate what you’re telling us, we’re going to break a finger. When we run out of fingers, we’ll move to your toes. But my dear, when you run out of toes, you run out of time.

“With or without you, I will look under every rock in every slimy, sleazy slum of the country and I will turn over every diamond in every mansion of every billionaire who ever breathed to discover who all has a hand in this. If you’re writing her story true to tale, you already know that she’s most likely molested dozens of young boys, myself included. Whatever dirt or harm can be done to me by that book, I can recover, but all those other boys… their families, my children… you don’t give a fuck and neither does she. I have nothing at all to lose, Ms. Ellison, so let’s begin, shall we?”

I step away from her and remove my jacket, tossing it to Alex and revealing my Glock and harness. I grab a nearby chair and turn it backwards. I sit down and lean my arms on the back of it, glaring at her the entire time. I don’t think I saw this much fear in the eyes of the hackers when we questioned them.

An hour later, I have more information from this lying cunt than I ever thought I’d get. Alex immediately dispatches teams and special ops to verify her information. The faster we can get this thing laid to rest with the least amount of people knowing, the better. As it turns out, the Pedophile convinced the Cunt that less was more, too. So, no one had intimate details of the book except for the two of them. That was a condition of the publishing because although it could be leaked that a book was being written, had any of the details of the book leaked, the book would be worthless.

We already knew that the warden was in on the process. We just didn’t know how deep in he was. Basically, all he did was arrange special meetings for them and the passage of information. According to her, he’s pretty clueless, too. We’ll see.

I’m sitting in front of her glaring at her with a pair of vice grips in my hand when Jason walks into the room. He’s completely undercover. He looks like a member of the SWAT team. He wasn’t this incognito when we were dealing with Dodd and his crew. He looks down at the vice grips in my hand and back up at me. It’s no surprise why I have them. If this cunt lies to me, I’m going to be the first to break one of her fingers.

“The coast is clear?” I ask.

“Yes, sir,” he seethes, glaring at Ellison sitting naked in the chair.

“You okay?” I ask cautiously. He turns his gaze back to me.

“I’m trying to remember that I don’t hit women, sir,” Jason says, his voice menacingly low.

“Don’t worry,” I say, holding up the vice grips. “Maybe she’ll lose a finger.” He’s still glaring at her.

“I said I don’t hit women, sir,” he says. He marches over to the cunt and backhands her—hard! So hard that I damn near hear her neck snap and she cries out from the pain. When she raises her head, she’s spitting blood.

“Thieving, lying accessories to attempted murder… yeah, I can hit them just fine!” he hisses before turning back to me.

“We weren’t followed,” he informs me. “Her bank account has been cleaned out as has her safe deposit box earlier today. Her apartment is being cleaned as we speak.” She frowns, no doubt wondering what we’re talking about. I’ll tell her… when it’s time.

It’s about 2am as all the information Ellison has given us starts to flood into the warehouse—hard copies of pieces of the manuscript; research and data on all of her electronic resources. However, we did find a link to the cloud and to her storage there where she backed up most of her documentation, notes, outlines and draftsstorage that she failed to disclose.

I suppose she doesn’t need that index finger.

Once she’s finished screaming from the pain and is coherent enough to realize that I would gladly make good on my prior threats, she gives up four more cloud storage locations that contained more pictures, names, and information.

Good God in heaven. This crazy bitch has been fucking little boys from even further back than I thought. Her penchant for the underage was honed in Amsterdam when she was living with her sick aunt—and it never stopped. She was fucking kids even before she married Linc, and it never stopped. The more information that streams into our databases, the more horrified I become. I turn angry, disgusted eyes to this bleeding bitch taped to the chair.

“You knew,” I say, my stomach churning and my frown deep. “How long did you know?”

She’s weeping, unable to answer my question. Her lip and cheek have swollen from when Jason backhanded her. We just heard about the book late last year. She has an unbelievable amount of research on an insane amount of people. The carnage this book could have caused is immeasurable. I can’t see her just finding out only a few months ago that Elena was a pedophile and then accumulating this much information in that period of time. I can’t even see her being able to swallow that realization in just a few months—not even a horrible, conniving bitch like her!

She had some time to process this… to absorb this. I don’t know how long she knew, but this bitch knew! How could you even associate yourself with someone like that? She fucking knew!

Before I even realize what I’m doing, a size 11 ½ black hiking boot is planted squarely between this bitch’s tits, and she and the entire chair go flying into the air, landing several feet behind her with a loud thud. She shrieks in pain and I think she may have hit her head.

“You’ve secured any and all copies of that manuscript?” I ask Alex through gritted teeth.

“All the ones that we could find,” he says. “Manuscripts and notes—the outlines are very detailed… you should know that they have real names in them, including yours.” I shake my head. Retrieving the vice grips, I march over and roll the cunt in the chair over to her side to gain access to her hands again and firmly grip her next finger in the teeth of the tool. She cries out in pain.

“Is there anything else?” I growl. “You lie to me this time and I swear to God, I’m not going to stop when I hear the bone break!”

“No!” she screams. “No! I swear to God! There’s nothing else! I told you everything! Google, Dropbox…” and she just starts naming off all of her cloud storages, all of her data backups, hiding places for manuscripts in case we may have forgotten something, even confessing that there were drives and documents hiding in the car, which Alex assures me is a charred frame at the bottom of the ocean.

“You dumped it in the ocean?” I ask in horror. “That’s not a secluded body of water.”

“Are you aware of every bank, beach, tributary or coast that feeds into the Pacific Ocean?” he asks, flatly. No… no, I’m not.

“Duly noted,” I say. I turn back to Greta fucking Ellison.

“Tape her mouth,” I instruct. “Well! I’ve heard enough.”

She struggles uselessly, crying as two of the guys wrap tape around her mouth several times. I stand in front of her, looking down at her one last time.

“I told you that you would regret fucking with me. You didn’t believe me. I let you go once. I won’t make that mistake twice.” Her eyes widen and she’s trying to say something through her gag. I think it’s “please.” I don’t care to hear it.

“Instructions, sir?” Alex asks.

“Get her out of my sight and make sure that she doesn’t come back,” I reply, watching Ellison’s face pale to nearly white under her duct tape gag.

“You’re certain, sir?” Alex asks again. I turn to him.

“I was almost killed because of this woman,” I say through my teeth. “My personal bodyguard and best friend took a bullet that was meant for me from a gun that she stole and gave to the assailant.” I turn to Ellison. “I confront her thieving, conspiring ass with my evidence and she scoffed at me—through her grimace, that is, since I was trying to break her fucking wrist. In my kindness—or naiveté, take your pick—I warned her and let her leave that place in one piece and what does she do? She conspires with that murderous, pedophile bitch once again to ruin my life and quite possibly the lives of countless other people.

“Even behind bars, that bitch is a pestilence—a disease—and you want to give her a fucking voice, the most powerful voice of all…  a goddamn book. You’re as bad as she is. In fact, you’re worse, because you keep fucking going and you think you can’t be punished. Well, you can rest assured, BD Simmons, that after today, she’s going to be silenced and so will you.”

Tears form in her eyes and she begins to sob behind her gag. Sorry, cunt, I feel no sympathy for bitches who conspire to kill and destroy me. I turn back to Alex.

“If you’re asking if I want her to die, I don’t—but I don’t fucking want to see her again… ever.” Alex nods.

“You and Jason leave now, sir,” he says. “Plausible deniability.” I nod.

“I get it,” I say, grabbing my jacket and taking one final look at a terrified Greta Ellison. I turn back to Alex.

“Ever!” I reinforce before leaving the warehouse.

Jason drives us to another location, yet another of GEH’s obscure acquisitions. I see the Audi parked there along with who I assume is another member of Alex’s black ops team. Apparently, he’s somehow gotten clearance to get these guys without Colostomy’s help, because he said nothing about having to contact him for this mission.

“I need you to come inside, sir,” Jason says, and I follow him into the building with the black ops guy behind us carrying a bag. We enter the building and ride up the elevator to a secured loft.

“I need your clothes,” Jason says. He’s right. That bitch’s blood, tears, and DNA are probably all over me. “You can shower in there.”

I strip right there in front of Jason and the stranger and march to the shower to scrub away any evidence. When I come back, Jason has already showered and changed and is handing me a pair of boxer briefs.

“What about her?” I ask as I step into my underwear. “Won’t my DNA be all over her?”

“I’m assured that it’ll be taken care of, sir,” he says. “Plausible deniability.” I nod and continue to get dressed.

Once I’m clothed, we leave the loft. Off in the distance, I see our other black ops guy with a fire blazing in front of him. Jason signals to him and he nods before we get into the Audi and drive home.

The dawn is breaking when we get to Mercer Island. Everything all around us is proceeding as normal. No one looks at us like we’ve most likely made one woman disappear and will later be responsible for the incapacitation of another. And you know what?

I don’t care one bit.

It’s surprising how one can turn into a totally vicious and lethal animal when it comes down to survival. I totally believed my wife when she said that I had better take care of this or she would, and I wasn’t going to let her get her hands dirty with this shit. If the justice system can’t do their job of keeping this bitch on a leash, then I will. Holstein’s out, Ellison’s gone, and now it’s Lincoln’s turn. Just as I’m thinking about the bitch and how soon we’ll be putting our plan into action, Jason informs me as we’re walking into the mudroom…

“It’s flu season, sir.” I purse my lips and nod.

“That it is,” I say knowingly while removing my boots.

Butterfly is still wide awake when I come into the room. I knew she wouldn’t be able to rest until I returned. She makes eye-contact with me but says nothing until I remove my clothes.

Do we sleep now? Do we talk? Do we eat something, because I’m starving!

“Um…” She’s just as lost as I am. “How did it go?” I guess that’s a safe enough question under the circumstances.

“Nobody’s dead,” I say, pulling on a pair of sweatpants and sitting on the bed next to her, “except the book, and it won’t be back.” She moves behind me and leans her chin on my shoulder, gently rubbing my arms.

“That’s all I need to know,” she says, with a kiss on my shoulder. “I think we’ve earned a day off, don’t you?” I sigh heavily, feeling the weight of the world lifting off my back.

“I think you’re right.”


LINCOLN

I’m back in the hole. Why the hell am I back in the hole? I didn’t even do anything! But these fuckers dragged me straight from the infirmary to the hole. I’m really beginning to worry now. Where the hell is Ron? And why the fuck hasn’t Greta contacted me? I haven’t heard anything.

Things were pretty good for a long time. Sure, I had Christian’s threat about his precious wife and their ridiculous little family. Twins… talk about over-achieving. It’s not enough the bitch gets herself knocked up as soon as they get married. No, she has to spit out two at once! That’s probably how she got him to marry her in the first place. He was having second thoughts—I know he was. That’s why the little cunt ran off to Montana. Had it not been for that damn restraining order, I could have gotten him a suitable submissive and this never would have happened.

But no, almost seven months to the day they got married, she spits out twins. She was pregnant when they got married. She trapped him and he was too stricken to even see it.

Now, I’m in this place and I’m afraid to walk around out there anymore. My skin is saggy, and my body is starting to ache everywhere, and not just from these stupid accidents either… if that’s what they really are. At least in here I’m not getting randomly thrown against walls or tossed down the stairs. Jesus, I don’t know how much more of that my body could take.

Ron was providing my dye jobs—not the flaxen blonde I’m accustomed to, but a strawberry blonde. Anything’s better than this dull brown, which is showing again at the roots, by the way. This is becoming utterly ridiculous! I want some fucking answers.

“I want to see the warden,” I tell the guard when he brings my dinner. “I have a right to see him and I want to see him!” He smiles.

“You want to see the warden?” He smirks. “I’ll send word up right away that you want to see the warden.”

He raises a brow at me and leaves the cell. He’s probably bullshitting me. He’s not going to tell Ron that I want to see him. Nobody else has. I shake my head, sit on my bed, and eat my dinner.

A while after I’ve finished my meal, I hear the guard coming back down the hallway.

“Hands, Lincoln,” she says. Okay, they must be taking me to see Ron. Finally! I can find out what the hell is going on!

I stick my hands out of the small square and the guard shackles me.

“You know the drill,” she says, “other end of the cell.” She watches me through the small square as I walk to the far end of the cell. When she opens the door, she steps in with another female guard and a third woman dressed in a suit.

Who is this, the prisoner liaison? Where the fuck is Ron?

“Elena Lincoln, prisoner number 582625, ma’am,” the guard says. Ma’am? What the fuck?

“Lincoln,” the woman says. “I’m informed that you desperately needed to see me.” You were?

“Who are you?” I ask, bemused. She raises her brow.

“I’m Sylvia Mumford,” she says. “I’m the new warden.”

New warden! Fuck me!

“You asked to see me, Mrs. Lincoln?” she says, her voice impatient. Shit, what the fuck do I say?

“What… what happened to R… Mr. Holstein?” I ask.

“Mr. Holstein is no longer with the Department of Corrections… well, not in an official capacity anyway.” The guards chuckle behind her and she throws a look over her shoulder, not even making eye-contact with them, and the bitches stop laughing. Hell, I need her on my side. How to do that?

“Mr. Holstein was arrested and taken into custody, and thus, relieved of his duties.” I bite the inside of my lip. “Is that what you wanted to know, or did you want something else?”

“Well… yes,” I stutter. “I want to know why I’m in the hole,” I ask. I at least need to know that much. She turns to the guards.

“Why is she in the hole?” she asks.

“Lincoln’s been getting into a lot of fights on the tier lately. We’re not sure why,” one of the guards say. “The first couple of times, the detail just says that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nobody seems to know why she was pushed down the stairs,  and McCooley used her body as a ping-pong ball the other day. We don’t know what brought that on either.”

Mumford takes a closer look at me and frowns.

“How long have you been incarcerated?” she asks.

“Nearly two years from the first date of my arrest,” I reply. What does that have to do with anything?

“You’ve been here for almost two years, and you’ve got brown roots?” the new warden inquires. Oh, shit. How do I explain this?

“I… got a beauty day for good behavior,” I excuse. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“Good behavior,” she says, incredulously. “You’re literally bouncing off of walls and you got a beauty day for good behavior? And a beauty day includes a wash and trim, a manicure and pedicure, maybe a clear polish if you’re lucky. A beauty day does not include toxic dyeing chemicals that are prohibited in the prison.”

“I…” I don’t have an explanation for her.

“Well, that stops now,” she says. “Some things are going to change around here. I run a tight ship, and there will be no special favors anymore. I will, however, find out why you’re in the hole. What are you in for?” Oh, shit, here we go.

“Attempted murder,” I say, leaving off the rest. She shrugs.

“Well, that’s big for the justice system, but not so bad for the prison system. Have you made any enemies? I would think not since you got that whole beauty day.” Now, she’s mocking me.

“Um, warden,” one of the guards says, “Lincoln may very well have several enemies. She might be in here for her own protection.”

“Oh?” she says, turning back to me. “How so?”

“She’s not just here for attempted murder. There are probably several women on the tier that wouldn’t mind… a few moments alone with her.”

“Like whom?” Mumford asks.

“Like every mother on the block,” the guard replies. “Aunties, sisters, even cousins…”

“Spit it out, Redford. Why is she here?” Mumford says impatiently. “Did she try to kill a kid?”

“No, but she’s done some other things,” Redford says. “She’s doing 25 years for child pornography, statutory rape, and molestation.” The warden’s eyes widen.

“Twenty-five years!” she says, appalled. “Good God, 25 years? What the fuck did you do?” she says, throwing a glare back at me.

“Apparently a whole lot,” Redford says, when I take too long to answer, “to a whole bunch of boys… for a long time. She pled to the 25 years. Our only guess is that sometimes the block simmers down and leaves her alone and other times, they’ve got it in for her. She’s been on the bad end of quite a few mishaps over the last month or so.” Mumford’s brow furrows in contemplation.

“Lincoln,” she says. “That name is familiar to me…”

“She was all over the news for her trial…”Redford says. Mumford ponders a while longer before a look of realization comes over her face. Oh, shit. I’m screwed.

“And she’s all over the news now!” the warden says. “The word is that you’re writing an exposé about your encounters—about your crimes!” I swallow hard and clear my throat.

“I’m writing a memoir…” I excuse.

“About your encounters!” Mumford accuses. “How is that even possible? The law says that you can’t profit from your crimes!”

“I’m only writing about my life!” I defend. “And I’m using a ghostwriter, whom I haven’t been able to speak to in weeks.”

“You shouldn’t have been able to speak to them at all!” she declares. “This is preposterous! Who would authorize…?”

She trails off and her eyes widen again. I can see the nickels dropping left and right. There goes my book; there goes my privileges; there goes my protection; there goes everything. The warden turns her gaze from me and back to the guards.

“Does the population know about this?” she asks, completely ignoring me.

“About…?” the other guard asks for clarification.

“That she’s writing a book!” the warden barks. “That she’s planning on exploiting her crimes and these children that she raped and their families for personal gain!”

Goddammit!

“Um, I don’t know, ma’am,” Redford says. “Usually if something like that is in the prison population, we would know.”

“Oh, give it time,” Mumford says, angrily. “It’s probably only on the gossip rags and tabloids, but don’t worry. It’ll be on the regular news in no time, especially with Holstein’s recent arrest. It only broke on the dark news over the last couple of months. It’s my job to know these things. You’re prison guards in a maximum-security facility. It’s your job to know it, too.” She turns to me.

“The bad news, Mrs. Lincoln, is that you won’t be leaving solitary confinement for a while. The good news is that this is probably the safest place in the prison for you to be. No matter your crime, it’s my job to ensure your safety, and that’s what I intend to do. In the interest of the greater good, this is where you’ll be staying for a while until I can get to the bottom of just how far this goes. And you don’t have to tell me; I know that Holstein was in on something. You’ve had a ghostwriter coming to visit you and you’ve got blonde hair, for Christ’s sake!”

The bitch does a military turn and walks out of the cell. I’m waiting to hear the cell door close so they can remove these damn cuffs when I hear her talking to someone in the hallway instead.

“What’s that? Who’s it for?” she asks.

“Lincoln,” I hear someone say. “She didn’t get a flu shot before she left the infirmary.”

“It’s January!” Mumford exclaims. “She should have gotten a flu shot months ago.”

“I don’t know, ma’am, but her chart shows that she hasn’t gotten one,” comes the reply. I thought I already had a flu shot. I don’t know anymore. I’ve got bigger problems. What the hell am I going to do now? I’m totally cut off from everything! This is a disaster!

“She may not even need it now,” the warden says sarcastically. “I guess we don’t want any of the staff getting sick. Go on and give it to her,” I hear her say as her voice disappears down the hall. The cell door opens again and two nurses and another guard walk in—a guy I’ve never seen before.

“I’ll take it from here,” he tells the other two guards, and they leave.

“Have a seat, Lincoln,” one of the nurses says as she puts on her rubber gloves. I sigh and sit down. I have to stay in here. Granted, I’d rather be here than on the tier where they want to kick my ass regularly, but I was on my way out of here to an easier block. Minimum security, Ron promised me. All those times I sucked his tiny dick and let him come on my face, promised him the lion’s share of the profits from my book, and it got me nothing! It landed me here and now he’s in jail, too.

“Ah!” I say after the needle goes in and the vaccine is injected. “Shit, is it supposed to burn like that?”

“You might be having an adverse reaction to it,” the nurse says nonchalantly. She removes the needle and puts a cotton ball on my arm with a bandage.

“Shit, that really burns,” I say again. I don’t ever remember a flu shot burning like that.

“Aaaww, poor wittle baby don’t like da needle?” the other nurse teases, and the guard laughs. I roll my eyes at her. Bitch.

I suddenly feel heavy all over, like the weight of Atlas is on my back. This shit really sucks. I was this close—this close—to a cushier setup, to more privileges, to blowing the lid off of what would be the biggest scandal greater Seattle had ever seen, and what happens? Holstein gets arrested and Greta fucking disappears. She probably got word that Holstein got nabbed and ran for the hills. I could have fixed this… even without Holstein.

My head feels like a brick… really feels like a brick. I’m trying to focus and I’m suddenly seeing double.

“Thomtis wong…” Huh? The second nurse turns to look at me.

I can’t see straight, something’s wrong. That’s what I’m trying to say, but it comes out more like “Thatha fee som…”

“What the hell…” The second nurse is trying to lay me down on the bed, but it just looks like the room is spinning. The guard just stands there looking at me, while the first nurse calmly says, “Radio the infirmary. Tell ‘em we need a stretcher in the hole.”

She’s awfully fucking calm while I’m losing the ability to move my limbs.

“Mrs. Lincoln,” the second nurse says. “Mrs. Lincoln, can you hear me?”

Her voice is fading down a long tunnel, as is her face…

*-*

I open my eyes in a well-lighted room. I’m lying on my back and my head is elevated. I can’t move. I must be restrained, but I can’t move anything. My throat feels like sandpaper and I can’t even swallow. I can focus a bit and there’s someone sitting next to my bed… another nurse. I’m back in the infirmary.

I’m thirsty.

I’m thinking the words, but I’m so damn weak, I can’t even form them to come out of my mouth.

I’m thirsty.

Wait a minute…

I’m thirsty.

Wait a fucking minute. I’m fucking talking and nothing’s coming out! And I can’t move! Anything! Not my head, not my hands, nothing! What the hell is going on?

Hey, fucking nurse lady! Look over here! I can’t fucking move.

It takes an eternity, a literal eternity, but she finally looks over at me.

“Ah, Mrs. Lincoln, you’re awake,” she says in a pleasant voice. I look at her with frightened, beseeching eyes.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I talk or move?

“Give me just a minute, okay?” she says. She gets up and walks to the door, looks up and down the hallway, then closes the door and walks back over to me.

“Now, listen to me carefully, Sunshine,” she says, her smile wide. “Right now, you can’t talk. You’re going to hallucinate. You may even have a nightmare or two. You can’t walk; you’re going to be very dizzy very often; and unfortunately, there’s some vomiting and incontinence in your future. You’re having all of the symptoms of an acute cerebrovascular accident, or in laymen’s terms, a sudden stroke. However, Mrs. Lincoln, this was no accident.”

I think my eyes widen when I look at her. At least, that’s what they did in my mind. I know one thing for certain—I’m drooling, because she’s wiping my mouth.

“You’ve been diagnosed with a stroke. There’s no reason to believe otherwise, and there’s no reason to look for anything else. Now, I and my team are going to be in charge of your care, and we’ll take really good care of you. This condition could be permanent, or it could be temporary, but no matter what happens, when and if you come out of it enough to form words, you’ll never be the same again. You’ll probably be in a wheelchair and most of your thoughts will just be considered the ramblings of a delusional old woman. Knowing that, I can tell you this.” She leans closer to my face.

“I know you’re completely cognizant. I know that you can understand every word that I’m saying, so listen to me carefully. You’ve pissed off some really powerful people, and they want you to shut the fuck up. That flu shot that you got a few days ago… wasn’t a flu shot. It’s a little substance that mimics a stroke if it’s ingested or absorbed and it’s completely traceable—if you know to look for it.

“There’s only been about a dozen cases of poisoning from this substance and to my knowledge, only one of them resulted in death. That’s because it was ingested purposely and in a large quantity to bring about a suicide. That’s not what’s happening to you, however, Mrs. Lincoln.”

What the fuck is happening to me then? In my mind, I’m yelling, but there’s no sound in the room except the voice of this wretched woman apparently describing my fate.

“The people you pissed off want you to know that you pissed them off. They also know that you know who they are, so I don’t have to name them for you. You’re in this current state of purgatory because you need to think about what you’ve done. You’ve spent most of your life taking advantage of people, and once you were caught, you were determined to make your victims pay for your mistakes. The penal system may mostly be for punishment, but it’s also for rehabilitation. It’s a time to reflect on your mistakes and see if there’s some way that you can give back while repaying your debt to society. You weren’t doing either.

“Now, I don’t want you to take this personally. I’m just doing my job. My job is to care for you and keep you alive, but it takes a cold person to take an oath to care for people and watch them suffer at the same time. I am that person, Mrs. Lincoln. You’re not my first or only case like this, and you won’t be my last. This is what I do, and I and my team are well paid for it. So, here’s the deal.

“I’ve done my research on you. I know exactly why you’re here. I’ve read your story and I’ve seen your trial. I’ve got three children, Mrs. Lincoln—all boys. The youngest is 18. At any given time, my boys could have been one of your victims. I don’t feel any sympathy for you. I’m taking care of you because I’m being paid to do it. This experience is going to depend solely on you. It can last for six months, or it can last until I retire and pass the baton on to someone else. Either way, you’re going to be so screwed up when the fog somewhat clears that nobody will ever believe we had this conversation, and somebody will always have to take care of you.”

Dear God, this is not happening. This is fucking not happening. I can’t say anything; I can’t move; and this bitch is sitting here taunting me about how my life is in her hands! She can drag this out as long as she wants—as long as they want, and she’s already told me that this drug that they’re using on me can kill me. Oh, God, I know I’ve done some terrible things, but I don’t deserve this…

“Now, that look,” she says, pointing to me, “that’s a dangerous look, Mrs. Lincoln. That look, where your pupils constrict that way and your eyes sharpen, that look is telling me that you want to fucking choke me.” She smiles, because she knows that she’s right. “You’re going to want to control that urge, because I can hurt you in ways that don’t leave bruises.”

I’m doomed. I’m fucking doomed.

“That’s more like it,” she says.

The bitch can read my expressions. My eyes are the only things that move right now, and the bitch can read my fucking expressions.

“Now, in the next few days, you’re going to be moved to minimum security, where we can keep a closer eye on you, and assist in your rehabilitation and recovery. You’re trapped in your own mind, Mrs. Lincoln, so I suggest that you do what I said and take this time to reflect on your life and your mistakes, because right now, that’s all you have is your memories.”

The bitch smiles at me again and leaves me alone in my room. Whatever drug they’re giving me, I can’t even form the tears to cry. I wish I could die right now. I really wish I could die and just end all this. My best years are well behind me and everything I could possibly look forward to is gone.

I know Christian is a part of this if he didn’t engineer the whole thing by himself. But she said I pissed off powerful people, so there has to be some others in on this, too. Did Greta sell me out? Did all my clients and prior pets gang up on me? It can’t be a coincidence that Ron gets arrested and I get ambushed. Or is Greta going to write and sell the book without me? She’s got all the information—is that her plan?

Who cares? Who fucking cares now? Greta’s not going to sell that book. The people in that book are the reason that I’m in the situation I’m in now. Greta’s risking everything if she still tries to publish that book. She has probably met the same fate that I have if not worse… if they found out who she is.

A prisoner in my own mind… indeed. I only have my memories to keep me company until I go insane from the solitude, my only companions being the tormentors paid to keep me in this state. I close my eyes and try to remember a happier time. It’s the only thing that’s going to keep me sane…

Of course, I think of Christian… the day Grace brought him to me to hopefully straighten him out. He was a beautiful, beautiful boy with a gorgeous body. I enjoyed breaking him in and teaching him so much. He’s the only one who ever warmed my heart…

Young Christian in Elena's head in S5 E5

Behind my eyelids, I see a flash of light, and suddenly, I’m in the courtroom. It’s the day of my verdict, and that gorgeous boy is standing at the podium. He’s not the impressive, strong, virile man I last saw here in the visitation room. No, he’s that well-built, spry, angry young boy I met all those years ago. He’s glaring at me—sharp, gray eyes pierce me under a mop of unruly dark reddish-brown hair. He opens his mouth and he speaks… the same words he said to me that day that broke my heart. I never forgot those words, and he’s speaking them now… my favorite pet…

“I hope you rot! I hope that your evil festers in you and boils you from the inside out every day of your miserable life. I hope you live a long, long life of pain, suffering, and unhappiness. I hope your days from now on are filled with nothing but hopelessness, misery, and despair.”

I release a mourning, animalistic wail from my soul that I’m sure shakes the foundations of the earth, only… I’m the only one who can hear it. No sound is coming from me, and I can’t even have the cleansing cry that I need to lighten the burden on my heart.

I’m in hell. I’m really, truly in hell, and there’s no escape…

I finally see it. It’s really true what they say. Karma’s a real fucking bitch.


A/N: This was a very refreshing chapter to write. Payback all around… 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

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

 

Grey, Continued: Season 5 Episode 4

So, this is what my weekend looked like.

I’ve always known that if you’re staying in someone else’s house, you must live by their rules. If you break one of their rules—even if you don’t know you broke it—they can fuck up your whole world.

I had to work yesterday, but I’ve been working on Season 5 as I move along. I’ve been having a “Mommy” weekend (as in “I miss my Mommy”), and writing has been helping me through it. Imagine my horror when I woke up Saturday and discovered…

MY PINTEREST PAGE HAS BEEN SUSPENDED!

Thousands of pins, albums that I’ve worked on for FIVE YEARS that I can’t even access. Why? Because I was in “somebody else’s house,” and I supposedly broke the rules. They said I was spamming. How the hell do you spam on Pinterest??? I post something, you look at it… or you don’t. I don’t send anything out!

They sent me a nasty email saying that they don’t like it when people try to “game their system.” What the fuck? I write Fanfiction. I post pictures to my Fanfiction. How the fuck am I gaming your system?

Nonetheless, I realize that I was in Pinterest’s house, and they felt like I broke one of their little rules somewhere, and now they have locked me out, took away my key, and are holding my shit.

So, I went trolling Google and Pinterest (with a new ID) to see if I can at least get some of my content back, and I discover that I have a HUGE presence on Google and it’s time to put some money behind my name (more to come on that).

Luckily, I woke up this morning and got an email that basically said, “Oops, we’re sorry. We made a boo-boo…” Fuckers!

I’m in the process of trying to find another forum for my pictures.

All the same disclaimers apply.

Season 5 Episode 4

CHRISTIAN

Stress can have a huge impact on your life. It doesn’t matter how you try to manage it—one way or another, it has an impact on you.

Your family…
Your job…
Your goals…
Your peace…
Your relationship… D/s or vanilla.

I confided in Artemis that the clusterfucks going on with the company have impacted me more than I want to admit. Although I’m not looking to divert back to the old Master ways, grab some brown-haired waif, and beat the hell out of her, I have thought more than once about the relief I felt after one of my intense sessions with a well-trained submissive who could take a hit. I realize like sharing that information with my wife and soumise, in hindsight, was probably a bad idea. True, we should be able to discuss anything, or at least that’s how I feel, but right or wrong, some things are better left unsaid.

Artemis and the other Domini at the Munch informed me that I first need to understand and accept the massive amount of stress that my company’s condition is placing on me and my relationship; then, I need to fix it. Forget simply having my way with my soumise—I’ll fuck around and lose my wife and family if I don’t get a grip. The underlying relationship must be solid before the extras can be added or practiced. Otherwise, the D/s portion of our relationship will only be a means of escape from whatever issues we’re facing, and once the whips and butt plugs are stored away, all the same problems will still be staring back at us.

I had no idea that going to BDSM mentoring would involve a good, healthy dosage of relationship therapy. Butterfly and I basically didn’t talk to one another for nearly a week until Christmas and by that time, she was having a Yuletide-theme nervous breakdown and I was completely clueless until a holly jolly Christmasland exploded all over my goddamned house!

Communication.

Every meeting we’ve had so far, they’re banging into our heads the importance of communication.

I understand how important this is, but if they keep banging it into my head, I’m going to resent the concept. And I’m 99% sure that Artemis thinks I’m doing the “yeah, yeah, sure, sure, I get it” nod when he starts talking about it, especially since I may have verbalized my after-the-fact reticence about mentioning my nostalgic mind-wanderings in front of Butterfly.

“Even if it’s something painful, you have to be honest with your feelings, Christian,” he had said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that you must be hurtful. Being hurtful is just plain mean and vicious. Sharing something painful means that it may not be pleasant, but it still has to be shared. Do you understand?”

I understand alright, but if he only knew how much I try to avoid negative confrontations in this household—in this relationship!

“Your avoidance is only making it worse,” he warns. “It only means that what you feel is going to build up until you can’t hold on to it anymore, at which time, it’s going to come out at the most inopportune time in the most unfortunate manner.”

I personally think that’s what happened anyway, but I try to see the validity in what he’s saying. I’ve never been much of a communicator… ever. That’s why I’ve always had a fucking shrink, although I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to see mine, and Butterfly has effectively fired hers. Nonetheless, I think this whole Downtime thing will be helpful to our communication. It’ll help me not only be more receptive, but also be able to share more since we’ll be in our D/s roles.  

The D/s relationship is a team. You may think you already know that, especially since every relationship should involve teamwork, but the D/s dynamic is even more so because you can’t fake it. You can fake wanting to be with someone for a while so that you can bide your time until you can get out. Or you pretend to love someone or want to be with them until you get what you want. Not so with BDSM. You’re all in or you’re not. I’m sure there’s someone out there who could probably fake it, but I’ve never seen it. You must be invested in something like this—in it for the long haul or you’re just playing house.

There are a few times when I really felt like my wife and I were a team—when she put the Pedophile in her place at my parents’ house that first month we were together; when she let Natalia know that she had absolutely no power over us no matter what she thinks she accomplished by masturbating at the table in the club last year; and Monday in my office.

My wife effectively took a huge bite—and rightfully so—out of the asses of my executive team right after she steamrolled over my management team. I felt like I needed eyes in the back of my head, trying to monitor everything that everyone was doing and I’m losing my fucking mind trying to do it myself. The Butterfly Sword swung through that room slicing asses and taking names. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those people scramble out of that room that fast after I had a meeting with them.

However, the piece de resistance was when she unapologetically read Ros and Lorenz the riot act. I fucking loved it. Once again, she took one look at the situation with fresh eyes and immediately knew what the problem was. She had seen everything I saw in the departments and must have deduced that these fuckers knew I had my hands full with every department that there was no way for me to keep my eyes on them all.

And what did she do?

She did the exact opposite of what I did. I’m trying to overhaul the departments to get the bullshit out and make them become more productive. She read emails—emails—and discovered the most important projects that needed to be completed in each department. Now, she’s making them prove to her that they’re getting them done.

Today, she’s wearing a tan suit that’s every bit of 1930’s Katharine Hepburn minus the penny loafer shoes and including my wife’s signature platform stilettos.

Ana's Suit

The meetings began almost immediately with her first three being today. I watched from the eye in the sky just like I did for her department meeting, not because I was spying on her and thought she would fuck up, but because I personally wanted to watch her kick ass.

I sat and watched her rip procurement a new asshole. I knew it was coming because Yi was her first example in the meeting, having back-talked her about the sign-in sheet. How this doctor with a medical degree and license knows this much about directing purchasing and buyers, evaluating and negotiating with suppliers, and selecting and managing vendor contracts, I’ll never know. Yet in a manner of just a few minutes, she pinpointed direct flaws in the process, suggesting solutions for some and expecting Yi to report back to her with answers for the rest. That poor woman was left standing there holding those papers in awe.

Along the same lines, she visited Theodore Mosele, the one who made the toddler comment. I almost felt sorry for him. He’s the head of the Supply Chain, which includes category management, Yi’s department—procurement, shipping and receiving, and the warehouse. This idiot made an elementary mistake. He handed my wife some never-ending stack of papers with a cocky smile and the words, “This is what I’m responsible for. This is what I do.” I knew without even being able to see these documents that he was handing her bullshit.

Butterfly looked at the enormous stack of papers without taking it and looked back around to Marilyn. Without words, Marilyn handed her an iPad. She scrolls through the iPad for a moment and begins to speak to Mosele without raising her head.

“Mr. Mosele, you’re head of the supply chain.” It’s a statement, not a question. “That means that you should be intimately aware of the fiascoes that I found in procurement a moment ago.” She hands the iPad back to Marilyn without looking back at her and instead, raising her gaze to Mosele, who has now lost that smug look he had on his face.

“Please show me in that useless stack of printer paper that you’re trying to shove at me exactly what your plan is to correlate with Ms. Yi on the issues that I found in her department. Show me what you do.

Her last words were clipped and cold, leaving Mosele scrambling and excusing that he’s not certain what she discussed with Ms. Yi.

“So, let’s try this again,” she says, her voice cool. “The correspondence I’ve seen from Mr. Grey to your department directly referenced wanting to see strategies to improve productivity, quality, and efficiency in the supply chain, especially considering that shipping screw-up last year that nearly cost one of our long-standing clients. That’s also what I asked you for. So, Mr. Mosele, show me in that gibberish that you’re handing me where the directives are that I asked for.”

Mosele shifts from one foot to the other and flips through the several-hundred-page document, trying to find something to show my wife. Just like me, she knew it was garbage the moment he handed it to her.

“That’s what I thought,” she says, and he raises what looks like an accusing glare at her. She doesn’t back down for a moment.

“I have several departments to visit, Mr. Mosele, and I don’t have time for your games or your showcasing. You have one hour to get me what I asked for or you’ll find yourself on indefinite and unpaid administrative leave for insubordination and failure to follow instructions, and we’ll see if the next person can get me the information that I asked for!” She looks at her watch. “Your hour starts now.”

She turns around and marches out of the department, and Mosele stands there glaring at her departing figure until she’s gone, at which time, he angrily slams the documents on the floor that are in his hand.

That’s what you get, asshole.

I can barely pay attention to what department she visits next because I’m eager to see what’s going to happen when she gets back to Mosele. I halfheartedly watched her talk to heads of Marketing and of Business Logic, two meetings that went much smoother than the two that she had before, then after an hour and ten minutes, she heads back to Supply Chain with two more members of security in tow.

“I trust that you have what I asked for,” she says. Mosele’s 1000-page book of gobbledygook has now been reduced to what looks like a five-page synopsis of the exact fucking information that I asked him for two weeks ago. Butterfly has him explain his logic on several of the directives before she hands the papers to Marilyn, who places them in a portfolio that she’s carrying.

“Thank you for the information, Mr. Mosele. I knew you could do it. Take the rest of the day off. In fact, take the rest of the week off. I’ll let you know on Friday if we’ll expect you back on Monday.” She turns to leave.

“I did what you asked!” he snaps.

“No!” she says, whirling around to face him. “You didn’t! I gave you instructions and you cockily gave me some 500-page Yellow Pages bullshit thinking I wouldn’t know what I was looking at. What was that, a shipping manifest? Last month’s inventory? The Employee Code of Conduct?

“Do you think I’m stupid, Mr. Mosele, or were you just deliberately trying to piss me off? I really hope it was the latter because you have effectively succeeded at that! Maybe next time you’ll think twice about trifling with me.

“Yes, I’m a ball-buster when I need to be, and I’m proud of it. And, now, yours are cracked and on the floor. Pick ‘em up and get the fuck out of my building. Ben?”

She glares for a few moments at Mosele then turns around and walks out of the department, leaving him standing there staring at Ben and another of my security staff.

That show was fucking better than Netflix.

That afternoon, I had a meeting with Ros and Lorenz about the KPI report that was delivered to me.

“We have four major segments failing half of their critical KPI’s and nobody thought that this was something that we should investigate?” I inquire. So far, no one has any answers for me. “I have an entire quality assurance department whose sole purpose is to sniff out problems and set metrics to find solutions and what do I discover? They’re one of the departments that has the fucked up KPI’s. Who’s watching the company if the watchers are fucking up? You know what that’s the equivalent of? A dirty cop—someone who’s supposed to be keeping the peace and not doing his fucking job.” I drop the files on my desk and walk to the window, disgusted.

“I want stats and metrics on the department heads and the managers of that department to the auditing team in the next 24 hours. Give them the guidelines and tell them I want an analysis of the data by the end of the week. Let the powers that be know that they’re going to be coming before me to tell me why they should keep their jobs.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ros asks. “We could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.” I turn to her.

“Have you missed something?” I ask. “We’re already in the fire. This company is dying a slow death, and nobody can see it but me? I’m putting the IV’s in the veins and putting the defibrillators on the pulses and you guys are looking at me like, ‘What the fuck is he doing?’” I turn back to Ros.

“Tell me, Ros. Do you remember when we found the hacker?” She raises her brow.

“I do,” she says.

“Right before that happened, what would have been the takeaway if I had found out that quality assurance was sub-par? What would you have told me if we had discovered that while someone was running through our systems, moving money and wreaking havoc, quality assurance wasn’t making the mark? Be. Honest.” She blinks a few times and sighs.

“I would have said somebody would have needed to be reprimanded or fired,” she replies honestly. I nod.

“Now, imagine in that lovely condo that you own across the street from my penthouse that you have rats running around chewing your wiring, eating your food and leaving their rat shit turds all over the place for company to see. Also, in the midst of all this, you’ve got an exterminator on-call that comes out every week to eliminate this problem. You’re paying him handsomely and you still have the problem with the rats. Are you going to ponder whether or not this fucker is doing his job?” I stand there with my hands open in a shrugging motion, waiting for an answer.

“No,” she says, “I’m not.”

“Are you going to keep paying him while the rats are nibbling at your charger cords and your Lindor chocolates?” I ask folding my arms. She looks down at her tablet.

“I’ll get right on it,” she says, swiping the screen and tapping on it.

Later that night, I tried to talk to Butterfly about her day:

“How was your day?” I had asked last night when I got home.

“You know exactly how my day was,” she retorted. “I don’t know how you know, but I know that you know.” I twisted my lips and smirked.

“True,” I replied. “I don’t know if I should feel a little professional jealousy over the fact that I asked that fucker Mosele for answers two weeks ago and you were able to get them in an hour.” She raised her brow at me.

“Actually, it took me two days,” she said, her tone betraying what her words weren’t saying…

How the fuck did he know that?

“Nonetheless, it still wasn’t two weeks,” I countered. She gazed at me for a moment.

“Do I have to worry about you going behind me undoing everything that I’m doing?” she asked frankly. I was a bit taken aback.

“Why would you think that?” I asked surprised,

“Because I know that it’s safe to assume that no one is reporting every single thing I do in GEH back to you because I’ve already made it clear that that would piss me off. So, the only other explanation is that you must be watching me somehow. I really don’t care—it is your company. I just want to know if I have to worry about you going back and undoing everything that I’m doing.” I scoffed.

“First of all, it’s our company,” I corrected her. “And second, you’ve made it perfectly clear to all observers that you don’t need my help or permission to get shit done. The very last thing you need is for me to walk behind you gumming up the works.” She nodded.

“That’s good to hear,” she said, “because I guarantee you that the head banging has only just begun.”

Of course, she was right.

Did you see this?” Butterfly asks, marching into my office on Wednesday afternoon. She’s spent more time at GEH than she has at Helping Hands this week. As she’s marching into my office with her tablet in hand, I already know what she’s about to throw at me.

“The email from Ros?” I ask calmly.

“So, you’ve seen it,” she says, a statement not a question. She drops some files on my desk and reads from her iPad. “It’s becoming increasingly unclear as to whom I should be reporting as of late. I have directives that need to be rectified. To whom should I be directing my responses?” She reads the email with disdain. “To us both, you smarmy ass bitch!” she hisses. I suck in a breath between my pursed lips.

“I see that she has rubbed you the very wrong way,” I say, removing my glasses and looking at my wife.

“She’s testing me, Christian,” she threatens. “I don’t know how far my reach is with her, but she’s trying to see how far she can go with me, and I’m telling you, she’s going to fail.”

“Your reach goes as far as mine does, baby,” I tell her. “I only ask that before you decide to terminate one of our executive team that you discuss it with me first.”

“I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that,” Butterfly retorts, pacing the room. “She’s valuable to the company and I’m very well aware of that, but she’s aware of it, too, and she’s really smelling her own ass right now.”

“Yes, I know this. I can see it, too,” I say calmly. “What would you like for me to do about it?”

“You just did it,” she says, stopping in front of the same window where I stand to get my thoughts together. “You told me how far my reach goes, and you gave me a guideline. That’s what I needed.” She folds her arms but doesn’t turn around.

“She likes being the only woman on campus that can command a room full of men in her pencil skirt. I’m the new girl on the block who showed up with a whole bunch of power and she can’t stand it when the truth of the matter is that had she wielded the power she should have wielded in the first place I wouldn’t be here.” She turns around to face me.

“Exactly where do you see in my schedule that I have time to come to GEH and perform a job that I’ve never been trained to do? That I didn’t even ask for? We’re getting to a point with this business and our marriage where most women would be giving you an ultimatum—this business or me; where a lesser woman would be out looking for extracurricular activities to soothe the ache of what might be missing in the relationship because you’re GEH 20 hours out of 24 of every single day including weekends! But did I do that?

“No!

“I rearranged my entire fucking life and came in here and got my hands dirty! I did some basic research on what you were trying to get from each department and I came in here and rattled a couple of cages, asking these idiots why they needed repeated commands to do their goddamn jobs and yes, I asked Ros and Finney exactly what the hell they were supposed to be doing, too. I wanted to know if they were working as hard as you are, as stressed as you are right now trying to run this company; if their spouses are on a plane, train, or automobile on their way down here to find out what the fuck is going on in this place.

“She wants the power, but she acts like she doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with it, and now she’s getting all haughty because I’m being forced to come down here and exercise them both because she won’t do her fucking job? Are you serious?

“I’ve got another job and two children that require my time and energy and I’m not here because you can’t do this on your own. I’m here because you shouldn’t have to!”

Her eyes are glaring a glass blue, almost gray, and any idiot can see that she means business. When I’m able to break the trance of her eyes glaring back at me, I gaze past her and see Ros and Lorenz standing at Andrea’s desk looking into my office. I wonder how much of the conversation they’ve heard. My wife follows my gaze and turns around. Upon seeing Ros in the doorway, she fully turns to face her, pops her neck, and folds her arms. She’s preparing for battle. Ros straightens her back and marches into the room.

“We have the talks for Northwest in twenty,” she says crisply, keeping her eyes on me without acknowledging Butterfly. Dear God, why is she so intent on fanning that flame? Butterfly glares at her for a moment, then turns and retrieves the files and her tablet from my desk, shaking her head the entire time.

“Stay,” I say, hoping she’ll take part in the discussion.

“Can’t. Meetings,” she says, her voice clipped before turning to glare at Ros. “Otherwise…” She walks purposefully out of my office, Marilyn standing from her perch near Andrea’s desk and falling in place behind her as the click of her angry stilettos warns subordinates of her approach. I shake my head.

“If you think poking this angry bear is bad, keep poking that one and see what happens,” I warn her, organizing some things on my desk. Ros’s mouth gapes.

“Didn’t you hear what she just said about me?” Ros says. “I’m supposed to come in here all smiles and open arms while she’s talking about me behind my back?”

“Was she wrong?” I ask, pointedly, raising only my gaze to Ros and she looks like I just slapped her. “And make no mistake, Ros, anything that she’s says when you’re not here, she’ll say when you’re present…” and I’m pretty sure that she did the last time she spoke to you, “and it’s not because she’s the boss’s wife or half owner of this company. It’s because that’s who she is. She doesn’t mince words and she never has. When I first tried to put her in her place nearly three years ago, she mercilessly let me have it with both barrels even after she found out who I was.

“I’m not telling you to kiss her ass—she’d see right through you, but whatever issues you have with her presence, you need to work them out. Not only is that woman your boss, but she has identified a weak link in the infrastructure and she’s trying to compensate for it, and she’s right… she shouldn’t have to. Her personal assistant is sitting in with her on these department head meetings when one of you should actually be there, observing and supporting her as well as gathering valuable information needed to run this company. I’m going to have to get her an office, because like it or not, she’s part of the executive team now.

“You’re a valuable asset to this company, Ros, but I advise you not to put yourself in a position where you’re pitted against my wife. I’m sorry to tell you that you will lose, not only because she’s a formidable opponent and more resourceful than you think, not only because she’s half-owner of this company, but also because she’s my wife. Do you understand that?” She straightens her back and clasps her portfolio with both hands.

“Yes, sir,” she says dutifully.

“Ros? That’s not a ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ question and I’m not looking for capitulation. If you continue to cross her, that woman will flatten you with a steamroller and not look back. She’s got a lot more to lose here than you think. If worse comes to worse and this company folds, you’re out of a job, and you have to find another one. Where does that leave me? Or her?

“My life’s work is destroyed; my children’s legacy gone… Yeah, they’ll have plenty of money, but eventually, money runs out unless you find some kind of way to make more of it. That’s what I’m trying to do for my children. I’m trying to have something to pass down to them so that they can have something to pass down to their children. And when shit goes wrong in this place, I take that shit home where it ends up getting dumped in her lap one way or the other.

“She didn’t come in here waving her little handkerchief and saying, ‘Look everybody, I’m the boss!’ She came in here with hard facts, looking for answers, calling everyone to task. Why? Because I did come home and dump that shit in her lap and she, as half owner of this company, wanted to know what the fuck was going on. She has that right! She has the right to confront you about anything that’s happening in this company; she has the right to ask you questions and get answers; and she is entitled to respect from you as your boss even if you have to bite your tongue until it bleeds and choke on your own blood to give it to her!”

It appears that some of that blood I was just talking about has left Ros’ face and is sliding down her throat as we… I speak.

“I’m not going to be the one that you have to contend with,” I warn. “If you fuck up with her, then you have to deal with her and she. Can. Fire. You. The moment that you feel that she is out of line, off the mark in some way, or behaving unprofessionally, then we can sit down and have an executive meeting where we can discuss that behavior and you can present your evidence. But at the moment, it just looks like you’re miffed because apparently, something in this mix isn’t going the way that you feel it should. I knew it when you took that cock-and-bull vacation, and it’s still evident now.

“State your fucking grievances or shove them up your ass because none of us have time or patience for this sidestepping, round-and-round, high-handed-one-minute-then-pretend-acquiescence-bullshit you’ve got going on here. We’ve got a company to run and we’re trying to patch the cracks before they become full-on fissures and fault lines. We are a team—all of us! What you need to decide is if you’re on this team with us, and if not, I will take your resignation whenever you’re ready, that is, if she doesn’t get sick of your crap and hand you your walking papers first.

“Whatever issues you have, you better solve them quickly, because we won’t have this conversation again,” I say, my voice cool. “This is your final warning and you can interpret it however you want. Do you really understand what I’m saying to you?” I speak with no malice, but she needs to understand what a precarious position she’s in right now. She sighs heavily. Her shoulders fall and she’s less defensive.

“Yes, sir,” she cedes, “I understand.” I sigh heavily and look at my watch.

“Northwest in ten,” I say, stacking some files on my desk and putting some items inside my portfolio. “I’ll meet you down there.”

“Yes, sir,” she says, crisply before turning and walking out of my office. I sigh again, counting to myself as I get my notes ready for the meeting. I don’t know what’s going on with her, but she has to get that shit together and get it in gear because my wick is running short with her crap and Butterfly’s wick is even shorter. I’m quickly coming to grips with the fact that Butterfly just may give her some unpaid time off, assuming Ros doesn’t leave first.

I’m just realizing that Lorenz is still in the office.

“Is there something you need, Lorenz?” I ask.

“Not an enviable position to be in, sir,” he says, “stuck between a member of your executive team and your wife.”

“Correction,” I say, raising my eyes to him, “two members of my executive team, one of whom happens to be my wife. And owner, wife, or otherwise, if she was walking around here behaving the way that Ros is, with what I can only characterize as unfounded jealousy, I’d be checking her on it, too.”

“Are you sure that’s what it is, Christian?” he asks.

“Aren’t you?” I say, fixing my gaze on him. I already know the answer to that question because I remember his parting words to Ros when they left my office after that meeting on Monday. “Whatever this is or whatever brought it on, I have no idea, but it’s been brewing for a while. I had seen the ways that she did—or didn’t—address my wife before, but she confirmed for me that something was wrong when she asked me if legal was getting audited with my wife standing right there looking at her and wasn’t afraid to tell me why she asked.

“She knows damn well that legal is tight as a fucking drum and didn’t need to be audited. She didn’t ask about security, where the head of my personal security lives in my house with his entire family, breaks bread at my table, was best man at my wedding, and I walked his bride down the aisle and gave her away. No, she asked about legal. And even if Allen wasn’t my wife’s best friend and godfather to my children, I know from experience that he could still run circles around any legal mind this side of the continental divide and probably beyond. That’s why I hired him.

“She had a point to prove and proved it, and all parties involved heard it loud and clear. She’s testing the waters, and if she doesn’t stop, she’ll be boiled alive.” I pause and take a deep breath. I need to count, but I don’t have time.

“Lorenz,” I begin, “I gave that woman half of my company, not only because she’s my wife and I love her, but because I trust her. I trust her to take care of my home, my children, and my life. And if something happens to me, I trust her to take care of my company. I trust her to know that if she can’t handle the reins, that she’ll put them in the hands of someone who can.

“Take a good look at her. She’s not running around here playing house. She’s kicking ass and taking names and she’s getting things done, and right now, there are people in this building who’ll follow her orders before they’ll follow yours or Ros’ and that says a lot.

“Man to man, that’s a powerful pussy between those legs, but right now, that’s not what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the fact that within a matter of days, she’s pinpointed weak spots that I’ve been pointing out to you and Ros since last year. In that short period of time, she came in here and she’s having executive meetings that you and Ros haven’t initiated or conducted since you’ve been working here unless you did so directly under my instruction.

“What does that say to me about my executive team? And now, every time Ros gets a chance, she wants to get yet another bug up her butt because someone wants to call her on her bullshit? How long do you think that’s going to fly? How long do you think I’m really going to sit here and watch her play King of the Hill with my company? How long do you think my wife is going to sit here and watch that?

“You once told me that if you thought I was about to shoot myself in the foot that you would be remiss not to tell me. She’s not hearing me and she’s certainly not hearing my wife, so maybe she’ll hear it from you. You better tell her that she’s got the gun aimed at her own toes, and quite possibly, her fucking skull.”

Lorenz has fallen silent, pursing his lips before they form a flat line.

“Let’s get going,” I say. “We’re late for Northwest. 

*-*

I watch my wife sleeping peacefully in the bed next to me. She was still on fire when she got home from GEH today. She’s getting a small taste of how I was feeling last year when I was dealing with all this shit on my own. She now sees for herself that it’s not so easy to come home and turn off the heat when you’ve been dealing with it all. Her presence this week has had several profound results and revealed some important facts.

She showed up to GEH and she became me—only worse, because she added the flavor of a woman scorned—and these people quake when they see her coming.

Her being there this week and taking the reins on several of the departments, taking small but hard bites out of my workload has made things a whole lot easier on me. I was able to come home and flog, then pamper, love, suck, and fuck that body until she was able to let go of all things GEH. However…

She’s going to burn out real fast at the rate that she’s going. No doubt, Artemis and Savvina’s talk about us being a team made her walk into that place and rip the walls down. Now, she’s trying to make sure that they’re rebuilt correctly, and she can’t do that by herself. She’s going to fry and have a nervous breakdown, especially with the Green Valley trials coming up in a few weeks.

I’ve been rattling cages, but now, the big ones need a shake or three.

I’ve made Ros and Lorenz cancel anything they had on the books and meet with me first thing Thursday morning. I’m sitting behind my desk when they enter and dutifully take the two seats in front of me.

“The gloves are coming off,” I begin. “I’ve had enough of this shit. Things are going to change today, as of this moment, in fact. Lorenz, I recognize the hard work that you put in while it was just the two of us over the last two weeks, but for the most part, I still had to lead the horse to water, and that’s unacceptable. If you two need me to tell you what to do, I’ll do that. I’ll treat you just like I treat my management team. I’ll hand you a list of directives and a date by which I expect them to be fulfilled. You’ll go through semi-annual evaluations just like everyone else does. Oh, and since you won’t be performing all the duties of the initial jobs that I hired you for, this will effectively be a demotion and you’ll take a significant cut in pay.”

That gets their attention.

“You see, my wife just walked in here and showed me that anyone with determination, common sense, and a solid grasp of business, armed with a little authority and the information that I’ve been sending you guys from the very beginning can come in here and whip these fuckers into shape and get the job done. My wife is right—if I have to do this on my own, I might as well have a board.”

They share a knowing glance.

“And she’s right about another thing,” I say, rising to my feet and looking down at them. “I see everything that goes on in my office…” I turn my gaze to Ros. “Everything!” I glare at her for a moment to let that sink in. That ‘I-know-something-you-don’t-know’ glance that you two keep sharing with each other like a private joke in my presence, I share that glance with Jason at least five times per day, maybe more. I know what it means.

“She told you that’s sending a message to me and you didn’t listen, so you better fucking hear it from me. I know the two of you have conversations outside of my presence, I expect that. However, if you keep up that silent-conversation-eyeball shit, I’m going to start feeling the need to reach behind me and find out if there are any knives in my back. And if you make me feel that way, I sure don’t fucking need you around me.”

They appear to grow in front of me, straightening their backs like two students called to the principal’s office. Good. Now, back to the purpose of this meeting.

“You two are highly educated in management and thoroughly experienced. There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever why you couldn’t do exactly what she did, and yet you…” I turn to Ros, “are resentful that she came in here and did what you should have done a long time ago. And you’re right, Ros. Maybe every department does need to be audited, including my executive team.”

Her eyes grow large and for the first time, I see some really serious concern.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I hand them printouts of the same emails that Butterfly read that resulted in the fresh-faced overhaul that GEH has seen over the past three days. This is what I was doing all throughout the second half of December, but I was doing it on my own. She just picked up where I left off and cleaned up the dust. I was assuming that my executive team would get the hint and help out, but they never did. The fact that my wife had to come in from the outside and clean up is pissing me off. The fact that Ros is acting like a little bitch in the process when she should have been doing this in the first place is burning me the fuck up.

“My wife is the assistant director of a very important charity that has a lot of projects on the hopper and does a lot for the community. She has two small children to raise. I pay you two a fucking fortune and she should not have to come in here and do your jobs! You want to do mediocre work, go do it at somebody else’s company. I don’t want to lose either of you, but if you’re not pulling your weight like I need you to, then I’m not losing anything, am I?”

My anger and frustration suddenly come to a head, realizing how dedicated my wife is to this company—more dedicated than the fuckers that work here. I have one of my wife’s three-second funnels and give them my final conclusion:

“Get your heads out of your ass, get on my fucking team, or get the fuck out!”

I stand over them, leaning on my desk with my hands flat, glaring at them and waiting for their decision. I’ve had enough of this shit, and when I say that it stops now, it fucking stops now.

“You’re right, sir,” Lorenz says.

Right about what? About you getting on my fucking team or about you getting the fuck out? I wait for him to finish. He looks over at Ros.

“We’ve gotten complacent. We’ve been sitting here waiting for direct marching orders on a whole lot of things. You and I both got our feathers ruffled when our pet mergers got axed to make room for the audits.”

Ros twists her lips, but says nothing.

“Although I haven’t been as… confrontational with Dr. Grey, I’m just as guilty as you are when it comes to not picking up the ball and running with it when we needed to,” he says to Ros.

“Don’t you mean ‘dropping the ball?’” Ros says, her voice tame.

“No, I don’t,” Lorenz says, firmly. “When did we ever have the ball?”

“I thought we had it at least once throughout this process,” she contends, her voice still defeated. Lorenz laughs.

“Ros, if you had that ball at all, you threw it over the fence and into the next yard when you took that impromptu vacation and deserted GEH during one of its most critical times last year.” Ros raises a shocked gaze at Lorenz.

“Yeah,” he continues, “I may not have said anything because I’m not your boss, but that was a bullshit ass move and you know it!”

He nearly growls the last words. I had no idea he was this angry about her taking vacation time when she did. He never shared that with me. I’m unsuccessful at hiding my shock because I can see Ros look at me in my peripheral vision, then look back at Finney because I have nothing for her. I glance over at her, and at this moment, you could catch flies in her mouth.

“How can you say anything about having the ball when you walked off the damn field?” he accuses. “I may not have been running plays like I should have. I may have even been sitting on the bench, which is no better, but at least I was at the goddamn game!” He turns to me.

“I’ll never be you,” he says. “I’ll never command the respect from or wield the authority with the staff that you do, but he’s right,” he says, turning back to Ros. “It’s time to get the fuck in the game. No offense to Dr. Grey, but a psychiatrist has no business coming in here showing us up when this is what we’re supposed to be doing every day. You’ve been giving nothing but a whole lotta lip and a healthy dose of a bad attitude. If you keep it up, you’re on your way out, and I don’t intend to go with you. I like my job, and I want to keep it. So, there’s my decision, sir,” he says, turning back to me. “I’m part of the team.” I purse my lips and nod.

“I’m glad to hear it,” I say. He stands.

“You hired me for a reason. I’m sorry that I haven’t fulfilled that purpose to the best of my ability. With all due respect, sir, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do… some emails and reports to read, probably talk to some departments. If there’s nothing else, I’d really like to get started.”

His demeanor and entire stance have changed. Ros is officially on this plank all by herself. I nod at him, dismissing him and he walks out of the office, closing the door behind him. Ros still sits in the chair, her head bowed.

Well?

“I’m… Gwen and I are separated,” she blurts out. What?

“Huh?” I say, stunned.

“My wife,” she says. “My wife left me. We’re separated.”

This kind of knocks the wind out of me. Ros and Gwen could have been the poster couple for same-sex marriage, and now she’s telling me that they’re getting a divorce?

“Why?” I ask. “How long?”

“On and off since about June,” she admits. “On all the time since just before Thanksgiving.” I frown.

“What happened?” I’m waiting for the whole we just grew apart speech. Nothing could have prepared me for what I hear.

“I met someone.”

What. The. Fuck. I’m suddenly angry as if this was my relationship going south.

“What the fuck do you mean you met someone?” I bark. “You met someone a decade ago when you met Gwen…”

“I know, I know,” she laments. “Gwen was supposed to be my future, my happily ever after, but then I met Monique, and everything changed.”

 I’m not buying it. This is really pissing me off. How can she just dismiss the sanctity of marriage like this?

“I know it’s fucked up, Christian, but the heart wants what the heart wants.”

“That’s such a crock of bull,” I accuse. “When you’re single, you jump around from person to person because that’s what you do. You taste the flavors to see what you like the best. When you’re married, you make a commitment. Sure, it’s okay to appreciate beauty, but you do not engage. You’ve promised yourself to this woman and you’re out there playing the field?”

“I’m not playing the field!” Ros retorts. “I didn’t go looking for this. I didn’t plan it! It just happened. If anybody should understand a thunderbolt hitting you out of nowhere, you should.”

Oh, the fuck you are going to use my meeting the love of my life to excuse your infidelity.

“Oh, I see,” I say, coolly. “So, me being a single, unattached man meeting, falling in love with, and marrying the woman who became my life and would eventually bear my children is comparable to you cheating on a woman that you’ve been dating or married to for the last ten years in what way? A pretty, hot piece of ass walks past you, causing you to want to throw away everything you’ve built with Gwen, and this is comparable to my situation with my wife exactly how?”

I’m thoroughly offended, and I’m anxious to know how she’s going to talk her way out of this shit.

“That’s not what I meant!” she retorts sharply. Oh? Enlighten me then. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this.

“I’m just saying,” she says, “that this is out of my control. I’m feeling things with Monique that I’ve never felt with Gwen—ever. Gwen was safe, and I knew that I wouldn’t get hurt, but Monique… she touches my soul, Christian. And it’s not just sex, it’s everything.”

“So, you’re willing to throw away everything that you have with Gwen, your plans, your life, your love, her heart—to go chasing after this other woman that you’ve only known for six months?”

Ros clears her throat and diverts her gaze to the floor and it only takes a few moments for me to realize the truth.

“Oh, God,” I say. “It’s been longer than that, hasn’t it?” Ros sighs and shifts uncomfortably.

“I met Monique… three years ago.” Three years! Three fucking years, you’ve been stringing Gwen along and wasting her fucking time?

“I haven’t been dating her for three years… I’ve known her for three years,” Ros corrects. I just shake my head.

“And how long have you been dating?” I ask accusingly.

“Not the whole time, but nearly the whole time,” she confesses. I quickly do the math.

“Just so that I’m clear, you married Gwen in March… 2011, no, 2012, right?”

She nods. She knows I’m doing the math.

“Were you seeing the woman before you married Gwen?” I ask. She clears her throat, but doesn’t answer. No answer is still an answer, Rosalind!

“For God’s sake, why?” I nearly screech.

“Because I loved Gwen,” she says with conviction. “I still do, with all my heart…”

“Not all of it!” I shoot back. “Believe it or not, I totally understand trying to figure out where your heart belongs, but why the fuck couldn’t you do this before you said, ‘I do?’ Does Gwen know this? Does she know that you were torn between two lovers on your wedding day?”

Ros does something that I’ve never seen her do before, she chokes back a sob.

“I thought being married would make things right,” she says, her voice heavy with tears. “I loved Gwen… love Gwen, and I thought that committing myself to her was the right thing to do. I thought this silly fancy with this other woman would go away once I gave myself to the woman that I wanted to be with… only it didn’t. I threw myself headfirst into my marriage with Gwen, trying to make it work, trying to build forever, but Monique was always there! I couldn’t shake her, even though I wasn’t seeing her.

“We messed around a couple of times before I married Gwen,” she confesses. “We even hooked up the night before my wedding… the last hurrah, we said, but it wasn’t. I could never get her off my mind. I didn’t contact her for months, but there wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t think about her at least once, not a day.

“On the one-year anniversary of my marriage to Gwen, I saw her again. I should have avoided her, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. We greeted each other like we were old friends, agreed to meet for drinks. That’s when it all started again, and that’s when I realized that I was going through the motions with Gwen for months; that as much as I loved her, I couldn’t shake Monique and I never would.

“I tried to have my cake and eat it, too. It worked for about three months, but Gwen knew something was up. She knew I wasn’t all there. She played my little game, tried to fix it… tried to do what she could to hold us together, but right before Thanksgiving, she’d had enough. She packed up her things and moved back to Snoqualmie with her parents. 

“When it looked like you were going to be dumping a bunch of crazy shit in our laps, I took that moment to flee. I couldn’t handle what was going on in my marriage, what looked like erratic behavior from you, and what I perceived as an unnecessarily high-handed attitude from Mrs. Grey. Maybe I made the whole thing up in my head, but I was under a lot of stress at the time. It was too much shit flying at me at once.

“I took the impromptu vacation to regroup, and to go see Gwen. I needed to know what she wanted to do, because I owed it to her not to leave us both hanging in limbo.” I shake my head.

“You went to ask her for a divorce,” I say, “right at Christmas.” She shakes her head.

“That wasn’t my intention,” she counters. “If Gwen had told me that she wanted our marriage—that she wanted to work things out and she just needed a little time, I would have given her that time, and I would have tried to work things out. But like I said, whether you believe me or not, the heart wants what it wants. When she asked me about Monique—if I could give her up—I couldn’t hide it. She saw it in my face. She asked me for a divorce right there and then, three days before Christmas.” She wipes a tear from her cheek.

“I came back to Seattle, spent time with Monique. I told her what was going on. She comforted me, reaffirmed her feelings for me. She admitted that she couldn’t promise marriage, and I wouldn’t want her to. I wouldn’t want to put that responsibility on her.” She begins to sob again.

“I made a horrible mistake, Christian,” she weeps, “but my mistake was not Monique. It was Gwen. Yes, I loved and wanted her, but she wasn’t the one. I married her because she had seniority, because I had made promises, because I felt like it was the right thing to do—but I was wrong. I made a mistake, and I dragged that poor woman through all this drama, and I ripped her heart out because of my screwed-up sense of obligation. It was Monique!” she wails. “It was Monique all along, and I married Gwen! I was wrong! God help me, I was wrong!”

She buries her face in her hands and sobs bitterly. I’m an asshole, but I’m not a fucking asshole. I can’t sit here and watch a woman sob no matter how much of a bitch she’s been over the past few months.

I get up and retrieve the box of tissues from my en suite and walk over to the front of my desk. I hand her the box and she takes a wad of the tissues in her hand, burying her face and crying again.

Jesus Christ, she’s losing it.

“I can’t help you with this one, Ros,” I admit. “I don’t know what to say. Even as a single man with different bed partners, it was always one-on-one. It was a strict rule of mine. When I had my pick of two women, I didn’t sleep with either of them until I made my choice. My choice didn’t even want me, but I guess I can understand someone being in your mind and your blood and you can’t get them out. My choice was Ana, unequivocally, and that’s who it’s been ever since.

“You broke a vow to your wife and that’s really fucked up, but you need to consider something else. This woman—Monique—she has no respect for the sanctity of a commitment. What makes you think that if you leave your wife to be with her that she’s going to respect the sanctity of yours?”

That only makes her cry harder and I’m afraid that she’s going to have a coronary or something.

“Alcoholism is a disease,” I begin. Ros raises a confused, tearful gaze to me.  It’s an analogy, Ros, stay with me. “It destroys the body and it eventually leads to things that can kill you like cirrhosis of the liver. It’s something that the drinker brings on themselves, but it affects everyone around them, nonetheless. Your executive team needs to know about this. It’s affecting your productivity and your ability to make decisions. The fallout from your personal life is making your professional performance look pretty fucking shitty. Tell them whatever details you want, or omit whatever details you choose to omit, but they need to know what the fuck is going on with your life.”

Like an angel from God, my wife opens the door and walks into my office. Her expression was at first confrontational, but immediately morphs into bemusement. I quickly mouth, “Help me!” gesturing to Ros while sporting a wide-eyed confused look of my own. My wife mouths, “Did you fire her?” and I quickly shake my head.

She comes into the office and closes the door behind her. She immediately walks over to the bar and fills a glass with water from the mini-fridge, bringing it back over to us. She crouches down in front of Ros and puts her hand on Ros’ shoulder.

“Here,” she says, softly. “Drink this.”

Ros raises bloodshot, tear-filled eyes to Butterfly, then takes the water and drinks a healthy amount of it.

“What’s wrong, Ros?” Butterfly asks, and Ros breaks down again.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs, “I was shitty to you for no good reason and I’m sorry.” Butterfly looks over her shoulder at me as if waiting for an explanation. I shrug and gesture back to Ros. If she’s going to share this with you, she’s got to give it to you.

“Ros, that’s hardly a reason for you to be all broken up like this…” my wife begins.

“No… no…” she chokes out. “It’s not that. I just wanted you… to know how… sorry I am… It was rude… and unprofessional… and I was being a bitch… and I’m sorry…”

“Okay, okay, it’s fine,” Butterfly says, trying to calm her. “I accept your apology if you swear not to let it happen again.” She shakes her head.

“It won’t… it won’t…” she promises. Butterfly nods.

“Okay, now tell me what’s really wrong.” Oh, boy, here comes the floodgates again.

“I’m a terrible person,” she weeps. “I took a beautiful, kind woman and carelessly ripped her to shreds…”

This is my cue to leave Ros to speak to Butterfly. I think she’ll have to turn on the shrink.

“I’m going down to the gym,” I tell Andrea. “Contact me down there if they need me.”

A/N: So, yes, something was going on with Ros. What do you think about her dilemma? I’m of two minds, but I’ll wait to see the verdicts.

Did you guys see the two homages I paid directly to Fifty Shades? Let me know if you find them. If not, I’ll reveal what they are. 😉 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/ … that is, until they decide to fuck with me again!

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, or 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

 

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 3

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 03

ANASTASIA

Like any relationship, the BDSM journey is just that—a journey. If you ever think that you have arrived at the place you need to be in that relationship, it’s time to re-evaluate. You are constantly changing and growing, constantly becoming more and exploring more. You don’t sprint through the lifestyle; you stroll, tasting the flavors of what you enjoy and enjoying the process of evolution through the experience.

One thing I’ve discovered in our sessions with Artemis and Savvina and from the soumises at the Munch is that there is no one way to practice the lifestyle. Now, even in my inexperience, I already knew that. However, more than once, I’ve seen or heard people—even at the Munch—who seemed to think that there was only one way to practice, and that if you didn’t follow a certain set of rules, then you were doing it all wrong. Your way of practicing the lifestyle was incorrect because they “would never do anything like that” to their sub, or their Dom “would never do anything like that” to them.

I was happy to hear the majority of the soumises form a consensus about the few elitists—their word, not mine—who seemed to think that they knew everything there was to know about BDSM:

“If you ever meet someone who tells you that the way that you choose to practice is wrong, or that there is only one set of rules and that if you don’t follow those rules, then you’re not practicing the right way, get as far away from them as you can. That’s not someone that you want to emulate. No one has the right to tell you what you or your Dominus wants in your relationship. You dictate that. It’s okay for someone to guide you, but feel free to ignore their guidance, especially if they’re trying to tell you that you’re wrong. Run, dear. Run far away.”

That bit of advice came from Emelda. I’m not sure if that’s her real name. Some people used aliases—as did Christian and I—and some people used their real names—as did Artemis and Savvina. Emelda was once in an S&M relationship where a coven of submissives told her that she not only had to accept whatever her sadistic Dom dished out, but also that she was not allowed to have her own desires, she wasn’t allowed to voice her opinion, and that what her Dominant says goes, no matter what. She was in a very unhappy S&M relationship and she felt that she had to stay there because this was the only way to go. It wasn’t until she ended her relationship with her dictatorial Dominant and ventured out on her own that she realized how many different variations of the lifestyle there really are.

Shantille was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was afraid to explore what she really wanted in a Dominant because too many times, she was told that the intense play that she liked was abuse and the Dominants shouldn’t treat their submissives that way. Shantille likes extreme punishments; she feels that if there’s no bruising, it’s not kinky enough for her. Pain to the point of tears is cleansing and erotic to her and that’s what she wants. Once again, the elitists tried to tell her that she was being abused; that her Dominant wasn’t a real Dominant—he just wanted to beat her; that she should probably seek some therapy if that’s what she really wanted.

All and all, my sessions with my mentors and with like-minded individuals over the past weeks have taught me that BDSM is a buffet. There’s literally something at the table for everyone, from the very tame to what some would consider the grossly extreme. What one couple or group or person may get off on, another might find disgusting or abusive—or boring. To be welcomed into the various circles, as it were, you must be careful not to degrade someone else’s relationship or practice. That’s a quick way to get blackballed from certain clubs and parties.

Another thing I’ve learned is to respect the balance—or imbalance—of power. While the soumise has the power and control to halt play with a safeword, his or her Dominant will always be the Dominant, until—if—they switch. As such, there is going to be an imbalance of power, and for this reason, you must constantly communicate—in and out of Downtime.

This is very new to me because I always felt that as Christian is the Dominant, his word during playtime was law and I had to follow or be punished. We set the guidelines where as soumise, I must follow the rules. However, in a healthy BDSM relationship a soumise has needs, too, and must be able to communicate those needs.

When we’ve completed our mentoring session on Saturday, we’re always in the mood to play a bit. We only venture into kink so far, as we still feel that we have a lot to learn about the D/s relationship as it relates to us and our marriage. However, we don’t want to deprive ourselves of what we enjoy, either. So, I get to enjoy a light flogging—ten firm lashes with a cat—and a thorough fucking from behind while chained to the playroom bed… nothing too intense, but just something to take the edge off.

Bright and early Sunday morning, we arranged for a crew to meet us at the apartment that Gary and Marilyn once shared, and my PA tearfully tackled the task of packing her things and sorting through what she had brought from her apartment and what belonged to Gary in terms of furniture. There were things that I knew were touches of Marilyn in the apartment, but since she and Gary bought several of the things together, she refused to take them.

For good measure, she cleaned out the refrigerator, removed and tossed out expired food from the cabinets, and meticulously cleaned and vacuumed each room after she was certain that she had removed all her things from that room. The apartment was eerie when she was done—not empty, but a bit hollow. She took the door key and the mailbox key off her ring and left them both on the counter before walking out of the apartment without looking back. I couldn’t help taking a last look at the space that had once represented the love den for one of my closest friends and the woman who took his virginity—also my friend. I locked the doorknob and closed the door behind me.

I didn’t drive to the apartment, thinking that Marilyn might be too upset to drive her car back to the Crossing. I was right. She only had one request when we got into her car, that I call Gary as soon as possible to let him know that she had moved out so that he could go back and do whatever he planned to do with the apartment. Then she sat in stoic silence, tears burning a trek down her cheek for the entire ride back to Mercer.

She didn’t eat that night, and I didn’t force her to. I know Christian was just chomping at the bit to get her to eat something, but once I told him what our day entailed, he let it go for one night.

Val and Elliot are doing a little better. They’re still a bit sad about the loss, but not as melancholy as they were in the very beginning. They appear to be clinging to each other and loving each other through it, which is a good thing. I’ve sometimes seen with the loss of a baby that one spouse may tend to blame the other, causing a rift between them that is sometimes never mended. Marilyn and Gary are one such cautionary tale, although their situation was the result of a deliberate action.

This past week, Christian seemed to try to lighten up a bit when he came home from GEH, but now instead of being the big bad bear, he’s just exhausted when he gets home. He whined a bit about Claude beating his ass again on Saturday but took a little victory in the fact that Claude didn’t beat his ass as quickly and easily as he had before.

But he’s still really tired.

My husband doesn’t look like he’s finding any peace, except when we’re talking to our mentors or when we’re fucking. He’s been auditing and restructuring and re-evaluating the company for about a month now. He should definitely be seeing more progress than he has been. What the fuck is actually going on in that company?

There’s no way to begin to describe the amount of crap that he has on his plate. He put faith in me as 50% owner… and I backed away. I haven’t even been in the office again since Ros’ remark about Al and the nonchalant way the department heads behaved towards me. I own half of that company, and I let them chase me away…

… Because Daddy couldn’t get me the respect that I deserved…

… And I subsequently left my husband to handle things all on his own.

He has an executive team. What the fuck are they doing? What the fuck is anybody doing?

I ponder my situation only a few more moments before I make a decision. He’s trying to get to the bottom of things, but only a few heads have rolled… not enough, apparently. Moreover, apparently not the right ones. I screw up my resolve and open the folder that contains the GEH emails forwarded to me.

The first fifty or so are all useless drivel that followed Christian’s command that I be CC’ed on executive emails. Garbage. I get through those rather quickly. Very shortly thereafter, I get to some real meat and potatoes…

Requisition requests, memos, executive orders from the boss, status reports…

Executive orders from the boss…

I decide to filter out the messages that all came from Christian. Hundreds of them… in a very short period of time. How does he keep up with all this?

Just for shits and giggles, I filter out the messages from Ros and Finney. Exponentially less. Does Christian just have more to say? I read a handful of his emails and find that they’re not just the typical Christian Grey “What the fuck, get this shit done” emails that I thought I would see. There’s critical thinking, probing questions, analysis, detailed directives—yeah, there’s some commands and “get this shit done” in the emails, but there’s some serious meat in here, too. I see a bit of meat and vegetables here and there from Ros and Finney, but for the most part, I’m seeing the equivalent of electronic “uh-huh’s” and “okay’s.”

 As I scan through the emails, I see several emails going from Finney to Ros and Christian, from Christian to Ros and Finney, and from Ros to Finney and Christian. I see even more emails from Christian to departments and department heads asking about projects and deadlines and metrics and what have you. I see the emails coming back to me, to Finney, to Ros, and to Christian. But the responses coming from Ros and Finney to the department heads are very few and far between.

Am I missing something?

Do they not take part in the general operation of the corporation? Is there some kind of delegation of duties in the hierarchy that I just don’t see? Why does it appear that Christian’s doing all the damn work?

The more emails that I read, the more I get the feeling that I’m right. Christian’s pretty much holding the reins of this Clydesdale powerhouse all by himself, guiding it down the necessary paths and trying to keep it from swaying left or right or veering off in the wrong direction while Ros and Finney are pretty much riding along in the coach.

Well, they’re not that useless, but from what I’m seeing here, they might as well be.

So, in light of everything that’s been going on in our home, with our relationship and discussions, and the fact that I am, in fact, 50% owner of that company, I’ve decided that I do need to know what he’s dealing with in more detail in order to be a better wife, Domme, soumise, and partner—and to allow these fuckers who are under my employ to run me away from my company is not the way to do it. I can draw the line between Ana, Butterfly, Dr. Steele-Grey, That Bitch You Don’t Want to Fuck With, and anybody else that I need to be… but if you need That Bitch, then here she comes.

I spend the rest of the evening going through the remainder of the emails, categorizing them and making rules for various ones so that they go to specific folders as I need them to and getting a better idea of what I’m dealing with in terms of the framework and infrastructure of the company. Once I’ve gotten a pretty good idea, I bang out an outline of some key points that are causes for concern. That part takes a little longer than I expected since I didn’t want to burden Marilyn with working on the weekend so soon after her return. Things will become perfectly unbearable soon enough. I might as well allow her to get her bearings again.

Once I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of the direction that I would like to take, I scan Christian’s emails to me for a group that I know he had created, then copy it into my contacts:

I’ll find out soon enough what’s the difference between the members of the Management Team and the Department Heads and Executive Team, but no matter. I want them all in this meeting. I discover that the Executive Team is Ros, Finney, and me. I remove myself from the Executive Team group and compose my email.

To:      GEH Department Heads
GEH Management Team
GEH Executive Team
Bcc:   Christian Grey
Re:      Emergency Mandatory Leadership Meeting
Date: January 11, 2015 20:21
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey

High Priority High Priority CommunicationHigh Priority

Good Morning Team,

This is your other boss, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey.

Let me begin by saying that I appreciate being included in the emails. It has given me some very valuable insight on the inner workings of the organization—its strengths as well as its flaws.

In an effort to continue the mission and vision of GEH, I will be holding a mandatory meeting tomorrow at 1:00pm in the Executive Conference Room. The location is subject to change based on availability, so please keep an eye on your emails as you will be responsible for any information communicated and attendance is required unless you get specific permission from me not to attend.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey…

Hmmm… I don’t really have a title with GEH and this is my company email.

Assistant Director was easy with Helping Hands.

We actually have executive and Senior VP’s and quite frankly, I’m not a VP.

Co-CEO? Abso-fucking-lutely not!

What is the hierarchy in this situation? Fuck it, never mind. I know what I’ll call myself.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Executive Director, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I’ll hear something about it if it’s the wrong title. I send an email to what I now call my Power Assistants Team, Marilyn and Andrea, to make sure that the room is available and to secure certain items needed for the meeting, including a podium and a preprinted sign-in sheet. I call up to Ms. Solomon to bring me an antipasto tray and a pitcher of cranberry spritzer and settle in to prepare my meeting.

Things are really sloppy and can be corrected with just the slightest push in the right direction, a little change in protocol and requirements, and a sledgehammer upside someone’s head. I understand why my husband had to become the iron fist. People had stopped taking him seriously.

What I don’t understand is why it looks like he’s doing it on his own. Not once do I see Ros or Finney drop the anvil on someone who has clearly dropped the ball or has shown mediocre effort in rectifying any errors or bringing a viable solution to fruition. My husband’s voice is the shot heard ‘round the company. However, even with all his power, he can only handle so many direct situations at once. Bearing this in mind, it’s time to shake things up, but I don’t want to show up and come off as a mom having a temper tantrum.

As such, I will need to call on The Bitch.
You rang?
I sure as hell did. We’ve got a job to do, sistah.
Bring it on.

“Good evening.”

I raise my head to see my husband standing in the doorway of my office wearing his glasses. I rarely see him wear them, but here he is.

“Busy?” he asks. He knows I am. I remove my glasses.

“I’m working on something,” I tell him, putting my glasses down and clasping my hands on the desk in front of me.

“You don’t usually work on Sunday,” he says, slowly breaching the doorway and approaching my desk. Sorry, not today, Sir.

“It’s time-sensitive and pretty detailed,” I tell him, not breaking my gaze with him. “Did you need something?” I ask. I need to get back to work. He raises a brow at me as he halts behind the chair in front of my desk.

“What are you working on?” And there it is. He’s never asked me that before. Very droll, Mr. Grey.

“I think you know,” I respond, still holding his gaze. He’s silent for a moment before he finally takes one of the seats in front of my desk.

“I was perusing my email and I’ve just discovered that there will be a meeting of the department heads tomorrow afternoon with the Executive Director,” he points out. I don’t respond. “Non-profit organizations have Executive Directors. We’re not a non-profit.”

“And Chief Executive Officers normally answer to the Chairman of the Board,” I point out. “We don’t have a board.” He purses his lips in thought.

“Duly noted,” he cedes. “We’ll leave it for now.”

“How kind of you,” I say sarcastically, especially since I didn’t ask your permission.

“There’s a problem though,” he says. “I have another meeting at that time, so you may have to reschedule.”

“No,” I say matter-of-factly, “that works out just fine, because this is not your meeting—it’s mine. And if Ros or Finney were going to be in the meeting with you, I need them, too.” He raises a brow at me.

“I like to know what’s going on in my company, Anastasia…” Anastasia. Perfect.

Our company,” I say, firmly, folding my arms. “And you will know. I wouldn’t dream of keeping anything from you. But this meeting is mine, and your presence is not required. In fact, it’ll be more effective if you weren’t there.” He purses his lips again.

“Very well,” he says, and I’m sure that he’s thinking that he’s going to have to undo whatever mess I may create tomorrow, but I’ve got news for you, Grey. You won’t be able to unfurl this one. And if you try, I’m going to walk away and leave it to you—50% and all… and you’re going to leave that damn asshole bear at the door when you come home or you’re going to have a much bigger problem to deal with.

*-*

I don’t go into Helping Hands in the morning. Instead, I work remotely with Keri, and we confer with the learning coordinator about the last things needed to put the curriculum in place for tutoring. We’ve already gotten our Head Start program going and two of the children in the daycare will be attending. Keri and Ebony are very excited about that. Courtney’s doing well with her teen support group—not counseling, just building on the idea of peer support. Our cleaning crew is moving right along with the transition from Clean It Up For You, and Mrs. Sherwood is unsuccessfully attempting to prove to us just how much we really need her. I’m aware that having an in-house staff is more expensive than having a service do the cleaning for us. However, the accountability of an in-house staff is worth the extra money.

After sitting with curlers in my hair all day, I fashion it in big, billowing curls and don a red sweater dress that falls sleekly over my body and ends mid-calf with an insanely long matching knit wrap that I wear backwards so that it falls nearly to the floor like a cape behind me. I finish the ensemble with a pair of sky-high black patent leather Louboutin classic red-bottom stilettos and an oversized black patent leather clutch bag. Light make-up and moisturizer assure that there’s no overkill, and I’m ready to make some waves.

“You mean business, huh, Bosslady?” Marilyn asks when I enter the kitchen.

“Kickin’ ass and taking names,” I reply. “You ready?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she says.

“Then let’s rock and roll.”

Marilyn carries my coat for me in case I need it, but I won’t. I go straight from the mudroom to the garage to the Audi, and from the Audi to the elevator in the parking structure on GEH’s ground floor straight to the top floor. I expect to see Christian holding a meeting in his office, but he’s not there. He better not be in this department head meeting. I specifically told him not to come and if he’s testing me…

I walk into the meeting with Alex, Chuck, Ben, and Marilyn behind me. I’m overjoyed to see that my husband has honored my request and stayed away from my meeting as I stroll in with purpose and head straight to the sign-in sheet. I see that several people that are probably in this room haven’t signed the sheet like I asked. So, I call them out.

“Pa Nou Yi?” I read out, knowing that I’ve pronounced her name perfectly. A pretty Asian woman raises her head and acknowledges her name.

“Did you forget to sign in?” I ask. She clears her throat.

“We never use sign-in sheets with Mr. Grey,” she announces matter-of-factly, other members of the management team cosigning her statement. I nod.

“I see.” I retrieve the ledger containing the sign-in sheet and deliberately snatch the attached pen with so much force that I break the ball chain holding it to the lectern. I stride purposefully over to Ms. Yi and place the sign-in sheet and pen in front of her.

“Do I look like Mr. Grey to you?” I ask, glaring at her. She purses her lips, then picks up the pen with the piece of ball chain still dangling from it and signs next to her name.

“Thank you,” I say. “Has anyone else forgotten to sign in?”

“I have,” someone says, raising her hand, and a few other people raise their hand as well.

“Pass that around, Ms. Yi,” I say, “so that the rest of your colleagues can sign it.” She doesn’t make eye-contact with me as she slides the sign-in sheet to the next person.

“Now we have to take attendance like toddlers?” someone comments from across the table. I slam my hands on the table with just enough force to get his attention, lean over it and glare into his face.

“If you’re going to behave like toddlers, yes, you do,” I retort sharply. He’s a bit taken aback, evidenced by his expression. “And the next time you have something to share, say it loud enough so that we can all hear you.” I glare at him next and he stares back at me. Like I said, I’m not Christian Grey. I don’t have time for the stare game. I’ve made my point.

I march purposefully to the head of the table and slam my large, patent-leather clutch down on the table, startling several of the meeting’s participants. I remove my backwards wrap and drape it over the back of the seat while I wait patiently for the sign-in sheet to make its way around the table.

“Thank you,” I say to the last person who hands the sign-in sheet back to me. I see that there are people who still haven’t signed in after the sheet has made its round. 

“Alex, let the four people who haven’t signed in on this list know that they have five minutes to get to this meeting that started ten minutes ago, or they can be escorted out of the building immediately.” I hand him the list.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says without pausing and pulls out his cell. I pull a Christian Grey move and pull out my cell phone while standing at the head of the conference table, making a note of the names that were blank on the sign in sheet.

“Mrs. Batma?” Alex says from across the room. “This is Alex Welch from GEH security. You received a memo that there would be a department head meeting at 10am today with Dr. Anastasia Grey. She indicates that you have five minutes to get to the meeting, which started ten minutes ago, or I’ll send my staff down to escort you from the building.”

He doesn’t pause. He ends the call and calls the next person on the list.

“Chuck, Ben, please pull the remaining four chairs over by the window.” You fuckers want attention, you’re going to get it. Once they get the chairs lined up, I tell Chuck to go outside and wait for them. Finney and Ros keep looking at each other, no doubt wondering what the hell I’m doing. Yeah, you guys are generally in the inner sanctum, but not today. Today, you’re in the same category with these fuckers who don’t know who the hell I am.

A few minutes later, Chuck escorts our four stragglers into the conference room.

“So nice of you to join us. The next time one of your employers calls a meeting, try not to be late!” I say sharply. “Alex has the sign-in sheet.” The ladies and one gentleman murmur apologies.

“Now, we can get down to business,” I say once they’ve signed in and taken a sheet.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Mr. Grey?” Ros asks.

“Mr. Grey didn’t call this meeting. I did. Do you have a problem with that?” Her eyes widen as she glares at me, but she quickly remembers where she is.

“None at all, Dr. Grey,” she replies.

“Good. Now, as I was about to say before I was interrupted, I know you haven’t seen me around for a few weeks and why should you? You hadn’t seen me around before then either. Well, that’s about to change. I realized that I’m sitting in my lovely home enjoying a wonderful life made possible by the fruits of the labors of this company. And now, for some reasons, the efforts have appeared to stray from the common goal, and the labors are all beginning to fall by the wayside. Now, I can’t just sit back on my laurels and watch that happen, especially since—like it or not—I own half of this company.”

I pause for a moment to let that sink in.

“I’ve given some serious thought to this situation before I called this meeting… how I was going to deal with the fact that I’m part owner of a multi-billion-dollar company, but I can’t even get the management staff to respect me as such. My first instinct was to just leave this alone and allow Christian to run his business. Then, I remembered a conversation that he had a while back when he told me that I would be half-owner of this company. He said he trusted me. He said that he knew that his company would be in good hands if anything happened to him—that whatever I didn’t know, he had an executive staff and a management staff that would assist me to help keep the company thriving.

“He had that talk with me before he knew that I had any business education whatsoever. I thought he was out of his mind, but the fact remains that he did entrust me with fifty percent of his company while he’s alive, the whole of it upon his demise. So, hate it or love it, boys and girls, I’m here to stay.

“Who are you?” I ask, pointing at the guy who made the toddler comment.

“Theodore Mosele,” he says after a pause, “head of…”

“I don’t need to know what you’re head of; I just need to know your name,” I cut him off, holding my hand up to halt his introduction. “Mr. Mosele brought up a very good point. Why do we have to take attendance like toddlers?” I look at the list. “Mr. Reiter, would you like to tell us why?”

I look around the room and a gentleman raises his gaze to me along with his brow as several other department heads in the room turn to him.

“Um… to make sure that we’re all here?” he says—a question, not a statement.

“Excellent!” I reply. “The four people who decided to join us fifteen minutes after the meeting started are evidence that the sign-in sheet is needed, at least until I get to know who you all are… and I will get to know who you all are.” I turn to the four stragglers.

“The fact that you were up here within five minutes upon the threat of unemployment proves to me that you weren’t doing anything that was so important that you couldn’t have your asses in here at one!” I glare at them all and allow those words to sink in.

“Consider this your only warning,” I caution the attendees of the meeting. “The next time any of you decide that you have something better to do than to attend an owner’s meeting—or you conveniently forget how to sign your name when you enter—you will be subject to immediate disciplinary action.” I hear a few gasps, but no one speaks.

“I now understand why my husband feels the need to go back to running his business with as little leniency and leeway as possible. It appears that if he gives an inch that people will take ten damn miles.” I bark.

“I was going to back away and let him handle GEH like he always has, and then I realized… We’re a team. We’re going to remain a team. And in order for us to be effective, I have to back him up and we must work together.

“I’m no Christian Grey. I’m never going to be Christian Grey, nor do I want to be Christian Grey. However, like it or not, I am still fifty percent owner of this company. Anybody who doesn’t like that or can’t respect that can get the fuck out right now!”

The room is silent for a moment, then various murmurings begin.

“I don’t recall giving anybody else the goddamn floor!” I say, looking directly into the eyes of every person that I see has begun to speak out of turn, glaring at them and waiting for them to see that I’m plotting their demise if they don’t shut the fuck up. The murmurings quickly dissipate.

“I don’t care if you see me as an extension of Christian Grey, because when it comes to me, he’s not your biggest concern—I am. From this point on, any one of you who has a problem treating me with the same respect that you would treat anyone else who signs your paychecks and can bounce you out of here on your high-paid asses will find out just how quickly I can do the latter.

“The sudden random fifty-percent drug testing? That was me, to weed out any initial weak links. The mid-year and year-end self-evaluations followed by subsequent leadership evaluations—that was me, too. This tells the company what you think you’re worth to the company and what you can offer. Then it requires that your leaders cosign those conclusions, and add some thoughts of their own. This way, we can see what talent we have available in our pool, but we can also see who’s not making the mark. This also puts responsibility on your supervisor to dispel or justify your analysis of your performance.

“If you say you’re doing great and your supervisor says that you’re doing great, then you better be doing great. If you say that you’re doing great and your supervisor says, ‘Not so much,’ then it might be time for a counseling. Automatic raises are a thing of the past—that includes cost-of-living raises. All GEH employees must prove through these mandatory evaluations that they are worth their raises. If you are still employed here when the fiscal year begins, you will get a raise. However, your evaluations will determine how much. GEH will no longer be paying for mediocre or substandard work. From now on, you earn your money here, or you can get out.

“I’ve only brought these points to light to show that some of the things that you have seen implemented at GEH have come directly from me. You don’t have to see me to know that I’m affecting your lives already. Having said that, let me make this clear.

“I will not, I repeat, I will not accept disrespect, side-eyed glances, push-back, second-guessing, or any other little passive-aggressive tactics that anyone wants to try to push off on me. You don’t need my husband’s go-ahead or second opinion to carry out a command that I give you and I don’t need my husband’s permission to fire your ass and have you ceremoniously escorted off my goddamn property. If you want to see how far I can go to prove what I can do, please try me—I welcome the challenge. I can be an ally, or I can be an enemy—it’s all up to you. What I won’t be is an afterthought. I’ll be, ‘Oh, shit, Dr. Grey,’ before I’ll ever be, ‘Oh, yeah, Dr. Grey.’ Is that understood?”

The room is silent.

“That is not a rhetorical question!” I shoot. Various yes, ma’am’s fill the room. This is the first time that ma’am doesn’t make my skin crawl. None of these people are my fucking friends with the exception of a handful. I’m not dealing with this bullshit from these people anymore.

“Excellent. Now, let’s go over some particulars that I saw in some of the emails that I read last night.” I gesture to Chuck who brings my briefcase. I open it and remove my iPad and a few documents.

“This is how this is going to go,” I begin. “I’m going to call on many of you as needed by department to expound upon various projects and initiatives that should be in progress or nearing completion. You are going to give me as much useful information as possible without withholding key components and without drowning me in a bunch of useless drivel in an attempt to lose me in lingo. I won’t pretend to know what each of you are talking about. However, I have enough knowledge and a solid level of intelligence to grasp a general synopsis of the information that I’m asking for. Is there anyone unclear about what I’m about to do?”

Various No ma’ams fill the room and I’m certain that if they were unclear, they would fake it until they knew exactly what I wanted. Ros and Finney do this thing that I often see Christian and Jason do—the look that says a thousand words—and they do it often. To me, it honestly feels like a “put a pin in what she just said, and we’ll discuss later.” Why the fuck do you need to discuss later? Why can’t you discuss it now? But I digress. Other things to handle at the moment.

“Good. The first thing I’d like to talk about is…”

I go through the outline that I made from the email last night, making notes on each initiative and alerting various department heads that I would like to revisit the directives they’ve been working on, gesturing to Marilyn to make note of those departments as I plan to visit them later in the week or next week, as I get the time. Helping Hands is truly running itself with Keri, Courtney, Grace, and the learning coordinator—although I can’t completely disappear, I don’t need to be around as much.

During the meeting, I make various demands of Chuck and Marilyn, sometimes Ben and Alex as well, addressing them all just as informal as I always have.

“As you can see,” I say once I’ve gotten all the information that I want from each department head, “I call many of the staff by their first names. That’s because I’ve developed a rapport with them. I can develop a rapport with anyone in this room, but you’re going to determine what that rapport is going to be—friendly, strictly business, you can’t stand my fucking ass, I don’t care. As long as you do your damn job and respect my position.

“And make no mistake, I don’t care what you want to call me behind my back—really, I don’t. Call me a ballbuster, call me a bitch, call me a wannabe, call me whatever the fuck you want. Just don’t let it get back to me and do what the fuck I say when I give you a command or send you an email. I most likely have some personal opinions about and colorful names for many of you, simply due to the fact that I had to rearrange my life to get to the bottom of what was going on here before the life that I’m enjoying falls out from under me.”

I place my iPad on the conference table and stand, spreading my fingers out so that my fingertips are the only part of my hands touching the table.

“This meeting is adjourned,” I say. “Those of you who will have appointments to discuss your directives with me, look for an email from my personal assistant, Marilyn Caldwell.” Everyone stands with as little murmurings or fanfare as possible, including my executive team.

“Ros, Lorenz, wait, please,” I say. Another 10,000-word glance passes between them and they sit.

“Alex, is there a smaller room where I can meet with Ros and Finney?” I ask. He looks at his phone before responding.

“Mr. Grey isn’t done with his meeting yet,” he says. “You can use his office.” Perfect. I nod.

“Chuck, please gather my things together here and you and Ben wait for me outside of Christian’s office. Marilyn, my notes should have synced with yours, so hopefully if gives you an idea of what I need and what to send to each department head about what I need and include meetings that won’t conflict with anything that I have scheduled now. Hopefully, Andrea can find a spot for you…”

“No problem, Bosslady, I’m on it.” I nod and turn to my executive staff.

“Ros, Finney,” I say marching past them with my shawl and clutch in hand.

Christian’s office is perfect for this task. His chairs are far enough away from the front of his desk to make sure you know that he knows he’s the boss. I sit my gorgeous ass in his seat of power as Ros and Finney initially hover over me for a moment or two before they finally take their seats. I pause for a moment before I begin, then I jump right in with no prelim.

“Are you concerned about your jobs at all?” I ask them. Ros’ eyes pierce.

“Excuse me?” she asks.

“I realize that you can leave this place today and have a job tomorrow, but my question is, and I’ll repeat it… Are you concerned about your jobs at all?” Ros stands and puts her hand on her hip.

“Are you threatening us, Ana?” she accuses, affronted. Bitch, what the fuck…?

“Well, I don’t know, Ros. Do you feel threatened?” I reply, taking the exact same tone that she’s taking with me. Ros is a powerful woman and she knows that she is, but I’m not going to back down to her or anybody else if I feel like they’re a hindrance to my husband. So, it behooves them to answer the goddamn question.

“Okay, ladies, please,” Finney says, standing as well and attempting to be the voice of reason. “We’re all on the same team here. Of course, we value our jobs, Ana,” he replies. I glare at Ros again and she glares right back. She’s testing me, I know, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I turn back to Finney.

“That’s not what I asked,” I tell him. “I asked if you’re concerned about your jobs at all. Is there some hierarchy here that I’m not aware of?” I inquire. “Some distribution of work that I’m just not privy to? I don’t pretend to know everything.” Finney frowns.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Finney says.

“Neither do I,” Ros shoots, folding her arms. I glare at her.

“Watch your tone with me, Ros, I’m not in the mood,” I caution.

“And you think I am?” she retorts. I suck my teeth trying not to lose my temper.

“Rosalind…” I begin.

“Anastasia?” she retorts, interrupting me.

That’s it.

I slam my hands so hard on Christian’s desk that it rattles, pushing myself out of his chair. She and Finney both leap back a step, and her stance has moved from offensive to how-close-is-the-nearest-door. I’m glaring at her, ready to fucking pounce if this is what she wants.

“You’ve got one more time,” I seethe, pointing and glaring at her from behind Christian’s desk, “just one more time to pull that passive-aggressive disrespectful bullshit on me, and you’re going to find out just who the head bitch in charge really is!”

She’s standing there gape-mouthed staring at me like she can’t believe what I just said and did. She’s been the high petticoat all these years and I understand that she feels like her toes are being stepped on right now, because dammit, they are!

Try me, cookie!

“Ros,” Finney says, his voice very low, “she’s right. You’re being insubordinate.” She throws a glare at him, then at my strawberry-red raging face. I can see in her eyes that she has a three-second funnel of her own and either she thinks better of what she says or what Finney said got through to her. Her stance changes again, and she’s immediately more approachable… and receptive.

I take three deep breaths to calm my anger… no, my rage and repeat myself.

“Is there some hierarchy here that I’m not aware of?” I repeat, “or some distribution of work that I’m just not privy to? Like I said, I don’t pretend to know everything. What I mean…” I say immediately, “… is that I took some time this weekend to review the emails that have been floating around the department heads and the executive team for the last several weeks, and it appears that all initiatives, directives, questions, answers, and guidance come from my husband.

“Now, maybe I’m just seeing things, or maybe I’m biased in my view of the emails. Maybe there are some emails that just aren’t getting to me, but from what I can see, there’s an uneven distribution of work among the executive team and it looks like one person is taking all the responsibility on himself. I would just like to know how the work is distributed so that one person doesn’t carry all the burden. It’s my understanding that Finney was hired because he didn’t want you to carry the burden all by yourself, but now, he appears to carry the lion’s share on his back. Am I mistaken? Did I miss something?”

“We all have different roles, Ana,” Finney says, and Ros still hasn’t found the words to address me yet.

“And does his role entail carrying the lion’s share of the work?” I ask again, since they seem not to be able to answer the question. I turn back to Ros.

“I’m not here to fight with you,” I say firmly. “I’m not even here to cunt-strut with you. I don’t have the business savvy that you do, the knowledge that you do or even the tenure that you do, but if my green, inexperienced ass can look at this setup and tell you that something’s wrong then dammit, something’s wrong—and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in business management to see it.

“He’s got shit flying in every direction and it’s all coming from him. Now either you two are not following directions and are not CC’ing me on all executive email or for the umpteenth time, he’s doing the lion’s share of the work! Which one is it?”

Ros purses her lips, folds her arms, and drops her gaze—and I’m about three seconds from sending her ass on an administrative leave, but I won’t because I need answers.

“If GEH has a top-drawer, Grade-A executive team, why is he carrying this all by himself? And don’t tell me that he’s not! I live with that man. I have to watch him every day. He’s wound even tighter than he was when he was dealing with those fucking hackers. He has to gird up the asshole hours before he even leaves the house and he usually doesn’t shed it for hours after he gets home. Does Gwen have to deal with that?” I shoot at Ros. Her face softens infinitesimally.

“Does Mrs. Finney?” I say, turning to Finney. Their silence tells me everything I need to know.

“This is his baby,” I nearly seethe. “He suffers many sleepless nights wondering what’s going to happen with his creation—his life’s fucking work. He needs unwavering support, from you, from me, from everybody that values their job here, but he needs it most of all from the people who are closest to him! He and I are not the only ones who need to put up a unified front! You do, too. He doesn’t just need great minds pushing pencils, making calculations, and giving great ideas. He. Needs. Your. Support!

“You are not figureheads. You are each one-third of an executive team, but it looks like he’s carrying all the weight. You’re worried about drug tests and if my best friend’s department is going to be audited. Does legal fucking need to be audited? Because if it does, fucking audit it! Do it because there’s something going wrong in that department, but don’t do it to make a fucking bunch of sycophants happy who can’t even keep an eye on their own goddamn departments.

“That same silence that you observe when he walks through the hallways, they need to observe that same silence when you walk through the hallways—not because they’re afraid of you or because you’re being an asshole, but because you wield the same power that he does and they know it. And people should know that if they’re not doing what they need to do that the same hammer that he can bring down on them can come from you.

“If there needs to be a change of accountability around here, that’s fine. That’s why I came up with the mid-year and year-end evaluations. You didn’t need them before because everybody was scared shitless. Slowly but surely, that situation has faded, and now my husband has taken it totally upon himself to become the long arm of the law and get this place back in shape. But I refuse to believe that he has to take on the role of Big Angry Growling Daddy Bear 20 out of 24 hours a day while you’re fussing about drug tests and whether legal is going to be audited or not. He’s walking around barking at everybody he talks to and every time I see you two, you’re cool as a cucumber. What’s wrong with this picture?” They throw knowing glances at each other.

“And that,” I say, pointing to them, “if I see that, he does, too. That is a total indicator that you’re a team and he’s the odd man out. I’m a psychiatrist—I dare you to tell me that I’m wrong.”

I fold my arms and wait for a response. I feel like I’m talking to the enemy now. How many times has Christian had to justify something to them? How many battles has he had to fight where they’ve had these secret conversations with their eyes? Whose side are they on anyway? If they’ve built some kind of alliance that has my husband on the outside, what does that mean for GEH?

Ros wants to retort, but her facial expressions indicate that she doesn’t really know what to say. Finney, once again, speaks for them both.

“We’re definitely not against Christian, Ana,” Finney says. “We may not agree with every decision that he makes, but we’re not against him…”

“And it’s okay that you don’t agree with every decision,” I retort. “My husband can be very high-handed, but agree or disagree, he shouldn’t have to carry every burden on his back. And right now, he is.”

They turn to each other for one of those secret-eye conversations again, but quickly divert their gaze. Hmm, something’s getting through.

“The reason I asked if you were concerned about your jobs is not because I was threatening you. It’s because GEH is at a precipice. The mistakes and the dismal performance that we’re seeing in some of our departments is dreadful. No, we’re not losing money, but we’re trying not to get there. And the safety and quality issues; the inventory mishap; the fact that I, a civilian, walked in here and found the flaw with the XRC90 transmitter and the responsibility subsequently still fell on Daddy Bear to get them to run some simple tests; the fact that SEEKNID, a software that basically saved this company from potentially losing millions and millions of dollars, didn’t get launched last year—those are all indications that too many balls are being dropped and we’re headed downhill. That’s a huge concern for my husband, and if it’s not a concern for you, the hell if I’m going to let him take that shit on all by himself. And if we can’t patch the holes in the framework, then I’m going to discuss with him taking this company public.”

“Public?” Ros has suddenly found her words.

“Yes, public,” I say. “Maybe a board of directors can have better luck than we are, and if they can’t, then we’re screwed anyway, aren’t we?”

“Ana…” and I’m Ana again, “… taking this company public could be the worst possible decision…”

“But having your CEO die from a stress-induced heart attack sounds like a better plan to you?” I ask, my arms folded. They involuntarily have one of those silent eye-conversations, then look back at me.

“At the risk of overstepping my boundaries,” Ros begins with no malice, “you said it yourself—this is Christian’s baby. He’s worked hard at it. He’s said many times that he already knows that a board will come in here and tear it apart. They would do everything for the profit and not for the company, the community, or the greater good, and he doesn’t want that. It would break his heart to do something like that. He’ll never take this company public. It’ll be like giving his baby up for adoption, then selling it to the devil. He’ll die at the helm before he does that.”

“That’s a very interesting analogy you just used,” I inform her. “I know very well that this is Christian’s baby, but guess what? Christian now has two very alive, very breathing children—not metaphorical babies… babies who are walking and breathing and growing and learning to call him ‘Daddy.’ GEH was his only baby, but it’s not anymore.

“Christian Grey never thought that he would be a husband and a father, but now he is. He never thought he would give away half his company to a woman, but he has. I birthed Minnie and Mikey and he birthed GEH. He trusts me to help raise his children, and I am. He trusted you to help cultivate GEH. Are you doing that? We have employees at the house just like we have employees here. If I drop the ball and everything has to go through Daddy Bear, why does he need me? I serve as wife, mother, confidant, partner, lover—if I can’t do those things, what good am I? If an outsider can walk in and see that I’m not doing those things, if they can’t see or feel my presence in my home… my children don’t reach for me when I walk in the door, nobody cares whether I’m there or not… what purpose am I serving?”

“I think you’re being a bit harsh, Ana,” she inserts, “no disrespect intended.”

“Am I, Ros?” I say. “How many times have you been to dinner at my home lately?” I ask. “How many times have you seen my husband not make it to the dinner table before his children have to be put to bed because he’s in the workout room working off the day? How many nights have you gone to bed early so that you can be awake in the wee hours of the morning because that’s the only time that you can have a normal conversation with your spouse? How much of GEH goes home on your backs and gets dumped on your families? How much time does it take for you to wind down from the pressures of the day and let go of the business so that you can have some kind of semblance of a normal life?

“I don’t see the same stress on you and Finney that I see on my husband, and when I went into those emails, I see why. My whole intention was to come in here, claim my half of the company, and start really putting my foot down on some shit so that he doesn’t have to take it all on himself, but he has an executive team. Why should I have to do that?

“You walk in first thing in the morning looking like a million bucks and you leave without a smudge on your lipstick, but he’s pulling his hair out.” I turn to Finney “You emit knowledge and power in your stride. You’re confident and it’s evident. He’s wearing a perpetual grimace. He’s constantly pondering something, and I know that he doesn’t smile here because he doesn’t smile at home.” I turn back to Ros.

“You’re always entitled to a vacation—anytime you need it and anytime it’s available—but you don’t think we know that you took a vacation at a very crucial time for this company because you had a bug up your butt?” I accuse. She stares at me, her expression a mixture of surprise and chastised.

“We drop what we’re doing, and we take international vacations at will,” I admit. “So, the very last thing I’m going to do is give you a hard time about taking some time off, but I won’t hesitate to call you out on your bullshit reason and timing. You made a statement and we heard it loud and clear and I don’t like it. He’ll never call you on it, because he can take the reins by himself… but he can’t do both. He can’t be the 24/7, ball-busting leader and still be a family man.

“He has changed,” I point out. “He’s my husband now. He’s the father of my children, and I am not going to lose him to this business… and that’s not a threat. That’s a bona-fide, genuine, signed, sealed, and delivered promise!”

There’s nothing else for me to say. I retrieve my wrap and my clutch and walk out of the office.

Chuck, Ben, and Marilyn silently and quickly fall in step behind me as I stride to the elevator. Chuck inserts a key into the panel and pushes the button for the first floor.

“I need one of those,” I tell him. Without blinking, he gets on his phone.

“Alex… please secure an express key for Her Highness.” He ends the call and looks straight ahead.

When we exit the elevator, I begin my stroll across GEH’s marble floors, commanding the silence that I said should befall the room when Ros and Finney enter as well as a glare here and there. I meet one of them head on since she doesn’t feel the need to break it… today’s sacrificial lamb, so to speak.

“Take a picture it lasts longer!” I shoot in one breath as I approach her. My firm voice cuts through the silence of the lobby, causing everyoneincluding those who weren’t even looking at meto turn their attention to the glaring bitch, who quickly drops her head and her gaze all before I even past her.

The car has been parked in the front of the building for my exit and although I’m dreading the cold without my coat, the statement being made as I march through the lobby with my entourage is much more effective and is bound to cause a buzz once I leave…

One that will ring loudly through the hallowed halls of GEH and, no doubt, directly to the ears of my husband.

CHRISTIAN

That red dress is screaming business and “fuck me” at the same time, demurely covering everything from her neck to her mid-calf with the exception of her dainty little hands. I’m more than a bit taken aback when she snatches that pen from the podium and slams it down in front of the head of procurement along with the sign-in sheet she got from God only knows where.

I see her getting a bit of kickback from some of the boys on the management team, but she’s giving it right back to them. I’m glad I was able to finish my meeting in time and now, I’m tucked in Jason’s office as he and I watch her meeting through the various eyes in the sky. Every time somebody tries to give her some shit, she chews them up, swallows them, and shits them out. Before anyone attempts to be insubordinate, she lets them know that she doesn’t need my permission to kick them out on their asses, and she’s right.

She reminds me of a female version of myself, and I can’t help but wonder what brought this on.

“She can really command a meeting,” Jason says, watching as she fires off detailed questions at members of the Boys’ Club that a few of them have a hard time answering. I would berate them for not having answers that I need, but not Madame Butterfly. Oh, no. She politely lets them know that they will be getting memos for later meetings in a few days or so where she expects to get the answers that she’s seeking without excuses.

Shit, the Butterfly Sword looks to be about as effective as the Iron Fist, if not more so in some cases.

She must have spent hours researching what these departments should be doing! I know that I know some of these projects off the top of my head and others I’m very familiar with…

And somebody tell me why Ros and Lorenz are looking at each other like deer caught in headlights!

I watch the management team and department heads scatter like rats when she dismisses the meeting, several of them crowding the stairwells and not even waiting for the elevator. She has struck the fear of God into these people and they’re off to do whatever is necessary to save their souls! And now, it’s time for the showdown with Ros and Lorenz. I only say showdown because the last time Butterfly was in the office at one of the department head meetings—when she swore that she would never be back—she had a bit of a head-to-head with Ros, who never apologized for her behavior, accusations, or disrespect, by the way. Now, she’s locked in the room with the Butterfly Sword and I’m anxious to see who’ll emerge victorious.

Butterfly doesn’t pull any punches. She goes straight for the jugular. Lorenz is confused, but Ros is ready to fight, and the dukes are raised.

“Oh, shit,” Jason hisses, covering his chin and mouth while shaking his head. He knows what’s coming. No sooner than Ros girds up her armor and prepares to show her weapon, Butterfly slams her hands on my desk shattering the silence and any expectation in the room as well as Ros’ resolve. Her next words and much of the conversation thereafter demonstrates who’s clearly in charge in this meeting.

She’s brought a few things to light that I never considered. I don’t care that I’m doing things on my own as long as they get done, but she’s right. If I have an executive team, why am I doing things on my own? My wife is trying to get a school started. We have to go to Green Valley in a few weeks and I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to go with her with things in the current condition they are, and she’s turning her focus from things that she should be focusing on to the inner workings of GEH and why things aren’t getting done here.

Maybe I should be coming down on Lorenz and Ros a little more. Why the hell did I hire him in the first place? Oh, yeah… I hired him to help take the load off Ros whenever I pulled up and left town and to allow her to take time off without it handicapping the company. Apparently, something got lost in translation with their duties. And I love that she points out that look that they give each other. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear to God that they were planning a mutiny.

And I love my wife dearly, but she knows that I’m never going to take my company public. I don’t even know why she mentioned that. Then again, I guess if there was an ultimatum on the table, we’d need to have a serious discussion about it—about what it would mean to take my company public and why she would think it was a last resort or even a resort at all. Then her final words play in my head as I watch her walk across the lobby…

“He has changed. He’s my husband now. He’s the father of my children, and I am not going to lose him to this business… and that’s not a threat. That’s a bona-fide, genuine, signed, sealed, and delivered promise!”

What makes her think she’s losing me to my business? For fuck’s sake, I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about all this myself. I turn my gaze back to my office and Ros and Lorenz are still standing there.

“Why are they still standing there?” I ask, pointing at the screen.

“They’re talking,” Jason says. I purse my lips.

“Turn it up,” I say, focusing on the screen again.

“Calm down, Ros,” Lorenz says, “Christian knows more than anybody what a disaster it would be to take this company public if for no other reason than that there are assholes out there who would love to take it on just to run it into the ground.”

“But she doesn’t know that,” Ros hisses. “She’s running around here throwing orders like she’s got a new toy, and she’s going to destroy the business in the process.” That’s not what I see at all.

“And may I ask where that theory is coming from?” Lorenz challenges. “What did she do in that meeting that leads you to believe that she didn’t have complete control over everything that she was doing? I would have had to be studying for months to get the kind of detailed intel she had on these departments and what they should be doing. She reviewed emails for a weekend and walked in here and rightfully handed a bunch of executives their asses. Then she turned around and held the departments responsible for not having the information that she needed. I don’t see anybody running around ‘with a new toy’ at all. I see somebody with a vested interest in this company wanting to know what the fuck is going on.”

“Oh, God, don’t tell me you’re under that spell, too,” Ros laments. “Christian I can understand. He’s married to her and he’s in love with her. Now, your vision is all clouded, too?” Careful, Ros.

“My vision is not clouded,” Lorenz says firmly but slowly, “and I don’t like the implication of what you’re trying to say.”

“Oh, keep your shirt on. I’m not trying to say anything. I’m just pointing out the fact that she has absolutely no business experience whatsoever besides her little minor degree…” She waves her hand around dismissively as she describes my wife’s education, “and she’s coming in here throwing orders around to the people who have been doing this for years. They’re not going to like it and we’re probably going to see quite a bit of pushback from it.”

“And whatever they’ve been doing for years, Ros, they haven’t been doing it right. That’s why she’s here. This is her company, too, and she has a right to call ‘bullshit’ when she sees it. Now, I see where you’re coming from, and had this been any other pampered wife running in here waving the ‘I’ve got the power’ flag without the correct information or intention, I would be the first person going to Christian and telling him that shit needs to stop. However, I can clearly see, that’s not what’s going on here and so could those other people in that room. What exactly is your problem?”

“My only problem is with someone who has no idea what the hell is going on marching in here trying to run things!” she snaps, folding her arms. Lorenz falls silent and just looks at her. Noting the silence, she raises her gaze to his.

“What?” she demands.

“You know what? I hope you’ve got your asbestos pantyhose on because whether you like it or not, that little ball of fire is going to fly through here and make some changes and if you don’t watch your attitude and stay on your toes, you’re going to get your ass seared. So, what I suggest you do is pack up that little green-eyed monster and put it back in your pocket, because whether you agree or not, there’s nothing that she said in that room or this one that was. Not. True.

“If she has to deal with half the hellion at home that he is when he’s here, it’s a wonder she hasn’t packed up her babies and run to the hills. You and I both know that we don’t carry the burden that he does, and we definitely don’t take it home to our wives. That woman that walked into that meeting this morning was pissed! She was about the business of getting down to business and whether you want to admit it or not, that’s exactly what she did.

“I’ve watched you make little snide, dismissive comments around and about her like you don’t understand what side your bread is buttered on. Get used to it, Tootsie—she is the head bitch in charge. She could be sitting at home eating bonbons and watching soap operas and she would still be the head bitch in charge. You should be happy that he has a woman that’ll look at all this and see that something’s not right and try to find a solution for it instead of sitting back, spending all his money, and giving him a hard time about having to work so much!”

Damn, I never thought of any of that. Whatever Butterfly wants, I just make sure that she gets it, even if it’s a private meeting with my department heads… well, not so private since I watched from Jason’s office. I just didn’t interfere.

“I’ve worked for this company for years,” Ros says. “I have just as much blood, sweat, and tears in it as Christian. I’ve helped to build it up from a baby just like he did. I just don’t want to see all my hard work—our ­hard work—dismantled by a housewife, no matter how smart she is!”

Damn, Ros, petty much? I agree that she worked hard to get GEH where it is today and her contributions are invaluable, but why must she besmirch my wife so badly?

“Well, forgive me for not noticing,” Lorenz quips, “but what you just saw was goddamn intervention, or did you miss that whole thing? And if what you say is true, then tell me this—are you bleeding, sweating, and crying as much as he is right now? Will we see Gwen marching into the building any second telling us that this shit has got to change?”

Ros falls silent for a moment as if pondering Lorenz’s words, basically the same words that Butterfly said to them not twenty minutes ago.

“Make no mistake, she’s going to have a talk with Christian, and I can guarantee you that there’s going to be some ‘Come to Jesus’ in there. She looked at something somewhere that said that we’re not pulling the weight Christian is when we’re supposed to be a three-man team, and she’s about to make it a four-man team like it or not.”

“Christian likes to do things himself. You know how hands on he is,” she excuses.

“I know that’s bullshit and so do you,” he counters. “We do what we’re told. We do what’s needed. We’ve gotten comfortable in sitting back and not getting our hands too dirty because it’s easy to stay back and let him do that. What building do you need to fall on your head to realize that all of our jobs are in jeopardy right now? A month ago, she couldn’t tell you what the process was for SEEKNID from idea to completion, and now she can tell you that we can probably shave a day off our inefficient shipping processes just by streamlining and combining some of the tasks. Isn’t this the same woman who found a flaw in a product that was supposed to be one of the major selling points of one of our deals last year just by looking at the acquisition reports?

“You’re selling her short, and I have no idea why and I really don’t care, but you better get off that horse, because you’re on it by yourself, and we both better get our asses in gear or we may just find ourselves in the unemployment line!” He glares at her for a moment before he walks out of the office.


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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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 2

I didn’t mean to trigger so many people and so many bad experiences with last week’s episode. I’m sorry. 

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 2

ANASTASIA

Marilyn was truly a sight for sore eyes this morning… somewhat.

While I’m very glad to see her, I can’t get over how pale and frail she looks. She absolutely looks ill. Nobody’s saying it out loud, but it’s written all over everyone’s face as she greets them on Monday morning.

What the hell happened to Marilyn?

With her being away for so long and no one knowing why she was gone, the main whisper around the Center is that she has the big “C.” This is a perfect example of how the rumor mill gets started.

“She doesn’t have cancer, for Christ’s sake,” I scold some of the gossipy kitchen staff. “And it’s none of your business what’s happening with her unless she wants to tell you. So, stop drawing conclusions and spreading false rumors about something that you know absolutely nothing about!”

Duly chastised, the kitchen staff shut down their misguided conclusions and the rumors stopped just after lunch. At least, they stopped around me.

Marilyn quickly jumped right back into her work, exclaiming how awful my calendar and commitments looked and wondering how many of them I had missed while she was gone.

“Did you totally delete your appointments with Ace?” she asks horrified. “There’s none of them here. What’d you do, fire the guy?”

“Actually, yes,” I reply. She raises a questioning gaze to me. I sigh and remove my glasses. “He threw me out of his office during one of my sessions…”

“So, you fired him?” she asks confused.

“No, not yet,” I reply. “The next week, his wife called and cancelled my appointment, on the day of my appointment. The next week, he texted me and told me that my appointment was cancelled. After that, I skipped two weeks. I just didn’t feel like dealing with the rejection.

“The following week, we went to Australia, where I had several epiphanies and discovered after five weeks of no therapy that my therapist may not be helping me as much as I thought he was. I still journal; I still talk to people as needed; I still meditate and do my yoga; and I still have Ace on speed dial, but the weekly sessions are over. They’re not helping anymore.”

“How have you been doing since you stopped seeing him?” she asks.

“Overall, pretty good. I’ve had a few hiccups—I’d be worried if everything was peaches and cream after I fired my therapist, quite frankly, but all and all, things are okay with me. It was the right decision.” After a pause, I add, “Now, I’m going to ask the question that nobody wants to ask. Are you well?” Marilyn frowns.

“What do you mean, ‘Am I well?’” she asks.

“Physically,” I say. “Have you been to the doctor since the termination? Is something going on with your health?”

“No, I haven’t been to the doctor. It was an abortion, Ana, not open-heart surgery. There’s nothing wrong with my health. I feel fine.”

“Then why do you look like you’ve lost half your body weight?” I ask. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“You’re being dramatic,” she says. “It’s just a few pounds. I’m depressed. I have the right to be a little thinner.”

“You’re using present tense,” I say. She rolls her eyes again and meets my gaze.

“What? What do you mean?” she asks.

“You’re saying that you’re depressed, that you have the right to be thinner. I take it that means that you’re not eating.” She sighs like a petulant child and drops her gaze back to her iPad.

“And you’re still depressed, that means you’re still not eating.”

She doesn’t raise her head or acknowledge my statement.

“Look at me, Marilyn!”

The petulant child raises her eyes to me again.

“You’re dangerously thin. You’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight in a short time and the ‘C’ word is already floating around the rumor mill. My God, how could your parents watch this and not be concerned?” Her demeanor changes immediately.

“Because they were more concerned about my immortal soul than my earthly coil!” she snaps, immediately dropping her gaze back to her iPad. I sit silently watching her and waiting for her response.

“It’s just a little weight,” she says without raising her gaze. “Trust me, it’ll be back in no time.” I don’t press the issue… for now. I just get back to the work at hand.

We’ve gone over some of the things that need to be done and Marilyn is frantically working to get her calendar—I should say my calendar—and notifications back to where they should be. I’ve noticed her daydreaming more than once and this time, she’s toying with her finger nervously, rubbing the spot as if it hurts. I’m only just remembering that she used to wear a promise ring there that Gary gave her last year. As if she’s suddenly conscious that she’s worrying her finger, she stops and turns her focus back to her iPad.

“Can you ever forgive him for leaving you?” I ask.

“I already have,” she says, her voice small as she concentrates on her iPad.

“Because you still love him?” She sighs.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s ever going to change, but no. I understand how he feels. I don’t think he could ever understand how I feel… but I get it. So… yes, I’ve already forgiven him.”

“Enough to take him back if he asks?” She pauses for a long moment.

“Can we please change the subject?” she beseeches. I sigh. She needs to talk this out, to come to grips with her raging emotions, but I guess now isn’t the time.

“I’d really like to not have to work at all this weekend,” she interjects. “I need to find a place to stay.” I frown.

“I can’t stay in that apartment,” she says, hugging her iPad close to her and looking at the ground. “It’s worse than being at my parents’ house. I can’t do it. And I don’t want to be alone. I thought I could handle it, but I can’t. I was fine at the hotel. There weren’t so many memories, but now I’m back and I feel like I’m going to die.

“It’s Gary’s apartment,” she continues. “He paid the lease and I can’t stay there… for obvious reasons. I’m calling movers to come and get my things and maybe I’ll put the bulk of them in storage while I try to find somewhere permanent, but it was hell sleeping in that apartment last night… or trying to sleep in it. When I’m gone, let him know that he can move back in. I’m surprised he didn’t move in while I was at my parents’.”

“I don’t think he knew that you were gone,” I reply. The truth is that nobody has seen Gary. We know that he’s working, but he hasn’t really spoken to us since the breakup. He called me once on Christmas, but that’s it. He probably thinks I’m going to harass him about Marilyn.

“You have any idea where you’re going? Have you looked at any places yet?” I ask.

“My old apartment is obviously gone, so that’s out,” she says. “I’ll find something.”

“And in the meantime?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I can’t stay with my parents. Even if they were close enough, they drive me crazy,” she says. “They haven’t ostracized me, but they’re acting like they have to cast demons out of me because I murdered this innocent child.” Her voice cracks as she says it. “I wish I hadn’t done it,” she confesses. “I would have kept the baby had I known it would be this bad.”

You feel bad?” I ask.

“Gary’s hurt and I’ve lost him forever. My heart aches and I can’t stop it. My parents are treating me like Satan’s spawn instead of their daughter. Nothing much would have changed if I had the baby…” I frown, horrified.

“Nothing much? Are you kidding? Your entire life would have changed!” She raises her eyes to me.

“You would have let me bring the baby to work,” she points out. “And Helping Hands has a nursery…”

“I’m a billionairess with a full-time assistant, full-time nannies, and full-time staff—and I had to choose between my practice, Helping Hands, and my babies. You really think your life wouldn’t have changed?” She drops her eyes back to her iPad. “You did what you felt you needed to do for yourself. Neither decision was going to be easy, and they would both be full of regrets no matter what you chose. You’re only tormenting yourself by second-guessing your decision because you can’t go back and undo it.” She sighs.

“Yet another reason to change the subject,” she says, with the same shaky voice. “Is it okay if I have the weekend off?” I twist my lips.

“Of course, it is,” I say softly. “We usually don’t work weekends unless there’s an emergency anyway.” A few moments pass and I say, “You know I’ve got the condo. Courtney’s staying there now, but there’s plenty of room.” She shakes her head.

“Me and Court are cool and all, but not cool enough to be roomies. You pay me well, Boss Lady. I’ll find a place.” I know you will, but I don’t want you to be alone. You don’t look well and you’re scaring me!

Here comes the Owie House again.

“I have eight bedrooms—pick one,” I say. She raises her eyes to me, then realization dawns.

“Oh, I’m sure Christian would just love that,” she says sarcastically. I twist my lips.

“Are you forgetting how many bedrooms I have?” I say. “As long as you don’t come out of those rooms in any state of undress, we’ll be fine. Besides, having my personal assistant truly at my beck and call would be a dream come true—even if it is only temporary.” She smiles weakly.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” she says. I lean forward on my desk.

“Do you have any idea how handicapped I was without you? Any clue?” I ask. She cocks her head at me.

“If you’re calendar’s any indication, yes, I do!” she declares.

“Courtney’s wonderful. She did the best she could, but she’s not you,” I reply. “Look at all the people that live here,” I add. “Val and Elliot are here, and some days, we never even see them! You could go for days in this joint and not bump into each other… and you work here! No commute. Put your furniture in storage—you can use the storage at my condo if it’s not much, I know that’s empty. Hide away in the furthest bedroom from humanity if you choose and take some time to regroup. That way, you don’t have to stay in the apartment, you don’t have to be subjected to the cathobapticostal condemnation and casting out of demons for choosing to terminate your pregnancy, and you can take your time and find a nice place on your schedule. No pressure.” She frowns.

“Have you talked to Christian about this?” she asks. I pull out my phone and start texting.

“No,” I tell her, “but he’ll be fine with it.”

“I don’t want to make this decision until you talk to your husband,” she protests. I raise my eyes to her.

“Would you rather not stay there?” I ask. “I don’t want to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do.” She shakes her head as my phone buzzes, and I continue to text.

“It’s not that,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll have privacy. I just don’t want to impose, seriously. Right now, the easiest thing for me to be is invisible…” which is why I don’t want you to be alone.

“That’s not healthy,” I reply, “but I guess it’s somewhat expected under the circumstances.” My phone buzzes again. “And I’ve talked to my husband,” I say, showing her the texts.

Ana: I’d like for Marilyn to stay with us for a while until she finds another place.

Christian: Okay.

Ana: She’s worried about being an imposition.

Christian: Eight bedrooms?? Almost 15,000 square feet?? We’ve already got a tribe living there. What’s one more?

Marilyn almost laughs after reading the text. That’s progress.

“Thank you,” she says, her voice soft and grateful. I’m glad I turned the phone around before the next text came in.

**Garrett’s being an asshole. **

**No, he’s not. He’s hurt and he has a right to be. I just wish this wasn’t so hard on either of them. **

**There you go with that PC-ness again. She needs him, and he deserted her. That’s all I see. **

**I understand. I won’t dispute you on that. But he’s still my friend, so what are you going to do when he comes around? **

**Don’t worry, I’ll behave. **

“What is it?” Marilyn asks, noting my constant texting.

“Oh, nothing. We’re just discussing that we have to keep our chandelier swinging and jungle noises to a minimum,” I jest. She laughs. “Honestly,” I interject, “he doesn’t agree with Gary’s handling of this situation.” She drops her head.

“Neither do I, but I understand.” she says sadly. “I might as well be dead to him. He was everything to me… still is—and I thought I was everything to him, but apparently, I’m not.”

I want to tell her that it’s just not that simple, but to her, it is.

“He was my heart and soul. I can’t even put into words what he meant to me… means to me. I want to hate him so badly, but I can’t. I swear to God, I would have kept the baby had I known it would turn out like this.”

Tears are falling down her cheek faster than she can catch them. I’m glad the door is already closed.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” I tell her, “but wouldn’t you have just been swapping one set of problems for another? You clearly said that you weren’t ready.” She shakes her head.

“I know,” she says weepily, “but this feels like it’s never going to end. It’s never going to stop hurting…” she trails off, weeping.

“It will, Mare,” I try to comfort her. “It doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will.” She does her best to pull herself together, but she’s still sniffling.

“You may want to put me in the room farthest away from you and Christian,” she chuckles sadly. “I still spend most of my nights crying and I don’t want to disturb you.

That’s it.

“Fuck finding a place of your own. You’ll store your things on our property, and you’ll stay as long as you need to.”

“I can’t…”

“Yes, you can,” I interrupt her. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m very worried about you. You went straight from a horrible, traumatic breakup to living with your parents who subjected you to weeks of religious bullying and emotional warfare. You really haven’t had any time to heal and now, you’re trying to move back into your old apartment where all the wounds are ripped open again. You look like you’ve lost at least half of what little body fat you had and quite frankly, I’m scared. You’re going to come to my house where you can have good company whenever you want it and good food so we can fatten you up.” She laughs through her tears again.

“Good luck with that,” she says. “My mom may be a fundamental fanatic, but she’s the best cook on the planet! She couldn’t even get me to eat. I can’t keep anything down.” I frown.

“What are you eating lately in an average day?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I don’t know, I’m not keeping a diary,” she says.

“What did you eat yesterday?” I ask. Her eyes go skyward as she tries to think.

“I had a cup of tea and some toast before I left Spokane. Then, I had an orange in the afternoon. I had Chinese delivered to the apartment for dinner.” I caught that. She had it delivered…

“But did you eat it?” I ask. Her shoulders fall.

“Yes,” she answers suspiciously. My eyes narrow.

“And?” I press. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“Boy, nothing gets past you, does it?”

“No, so spit it out,” I chastise.

“I did,” she replies.

“No, you didn’t. You’re holding something back…”

“No, I did,” she says, her turn to interrupt, “I spit it out—or up. I couldn’t hold it down.” I shake my head and close my laptop.

“Would you like for me to go with you so that you can pick up some things for the week? We can handle the heavy lifting on Saturday.”

“You’re already giving me a place to stay,” she protests. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” I say. Rising from my seat, I swipe the screen on my cell phone and call Chuck.

“You okay?” he answers.

“Jesus, am I that bad?” I ask. He sighs.

“I just never know what to expect when you call before quitting time.” I shake my head.

“Well, keep your boxers on. All is well with me, but all is not well. I need you and Carol to bring the cars around. We need to go to Marilyn’s and pick up some things. Have Tate and Rebe get Keri and the twins back to the Crossing, unless Carol wants to switch with Tate for a while as there might be some heavy lifting…” Chuck scoffs.

“Are you kidding?” he asks. “Have you seen Carol?”

“Well, not without clothes, no,” I say matter-of-factly. He chuckles.

“She’ll be fine,” he says. “She has bigger biceps than Christian.” Egad, don’t tell him that!

“Don’t publicize that, okay?” I warn. There’s a moment of silence.

“Affirmative,” he says. “I’ll get the transportation ball rolling.”

“Thank you,” I say before ending the call.

“You don’t have to do this,” Marilyn says.

“Quiet, Little Orphan Annie,” I say, packing my things and grabbing my coat, handing Marilyn hers. “You’re wasting away in front of me. This situation requires an immediate intervention and I’m the one to do it.”

*-*

You can tell that no one’s been to the apartment since she left, not even to check on it. It has that stale, needs to be cleaned smell. She just stands in the door and looks around the room.

“It’s barren,” she says. “We had so many good times here, but you wouldn’t know it looking at it now. It’s gray in here—it looks like the death angel himself brushed through every room and left his aura behind.”

She hadn’t even unpacked. All there is to do is clear what’s left of her things out of the apartment and clean it.

“Please grab those two bags over there,” she says to Chuck and Carol, pointing to the luggage that I assumed she had taken to Spokane with her. She goes into the kitchen and returns with a large roll of black garbage bags.

“Ana, can you help me please?” she says. I frown and follow her into the closet.

“You’re going to pack your things in garbage bags?” I ask, horrified.

“Trust me,” she says. She removes a bag from the roll and tears a hole right in the bottom of it, rendering it basically useless… or so I thought. She takes a handful of clothes from the rack of the closet, still on the hangers, and hands them to me.

“Hold this,” she says. I take the handful of garments from her and she proceeds to put the bag over the garments, sticking the hooks from the hangers through the hole at the bottom of the bag. She takes the garments from me, hangs them back on the rack, and ties the bag closed at the bottom.

Instant garment bag.

“That’s kind of clever,” I tell her. She nods.

“Yep, and the clothes are still on the hangers. So, when I get to your house, I hang them in the closet and rip off the bags.” I nod. Work smart, not hard.

After about an hour, Marilyn had enough of being in Gary’s apartment. We had gathered most of her things and agreed to come back this weekend to situate the rest. She deduced that her car being here is what prevented Gary from coming to the apartment, so since she was going to be staying with us, she would leave it here until she packed and removed the rest of her things to eliminate the risk of running into Gary. Her relationship is over. She doesn’t like it, but she’s accepting it.


CHRISTIAN

I’m sitting at my desk thinking about the conversation that I and my wife had the day after Christmas about Management 101. My meeting this morning is with the human resources department along with Ros and Lorenz. Last week, I reviewed a sampling of our annual reviews and my wife is right—these reviews are shit. There appeared to be no measurable goals and feedback was shoddy, at best.

Further investigation showed that the managers in each department are responsible for the content and conducting of the annual reviews as well as the feedback and follow-up. There’s no accountability for leadership, and no useful feedback for employees to promote improvement. It’s just like Ana said—management isn’t motivating the people in the trenches and, as a result, we have shitty work coming from the trenches, and if there is any hidden talent down there, it’s hidden in the shit. Once again, my wife was right. I have no idea how my company hasn’t folded by now.

In an attempt to get everyone involved instead of just having another heads will roll meeting, I put Lorenz in charge of a brainstorming session where we put the ideas that my wife suggested to work. How do we create a system of reviews that holds each employee—management and subordinates—responsible for their performance on an ongoing basis, with continuous feedback and evaluation to identify weaknesses and opportunities before they become critical?

I was amazed how the room came alive. Many, if not all, of the people in my human resources department have degrees and some of them are in management. The whiteboard was full of ideas and poor Andrea had her hands full trying to keep up with the minutes of the meetings. Many of the ideas mirrored the suggestions of my wife, but in more detail…

Holding management accountable to levels below and above them will keep them on their toes and prevent them from doing the old soft-shoe when performance reviews come around.

Specific goals need to be set for all employees that are measurable and align with the goals of the organization.

Employees need to know that they are not only striving for excellence individually, but also as a team. If one employee is lacking, they bring the team down, in which case, the team will be able to motivate said employees to identify opportunities to improve and achieve their goals.

The meeting went on all morning. When it was complete, each attending had a task to bring back to the next meeting where they would work with Lorenz to construct a new method of reviews that would be more conducive to the company. Two really important points came out of this meeting besides the birth of the creation of a new system of performance reviews:

I was able to pass this ball off to Lorenz and the human resources team. Even though the initial idea came from me by way of my beautiful and intelligent wife, I don’t have to monitor the progress of the project. I could delegate the responsibility to one of my other executive team, leaving me to deal with other pressing matters. I’ve become so accustomed to handling things myself—and everyone letting me—that the concept of delegation is sometimes hard for me to grasp. I don’t know who can really do exactly what needs to be done unless someone steps forward and says, “Hey, I can handle this for you.”

The second thing… Ros contributed nothing to the meeting. She didn’t have a suggestion, she didn’t take any notes, and her expression barely changed at all for three hours. If I were to guess, she was just sitting there wondering when it was all going to end. She sat in the meeting the entire time like she was watching a movie at the drive-in. All she needed was the goddamn popcorn.

I don’t have time to ponder what the fuck is going on with her because the moment I get back to my office, Alex has left a message that he wants to meet with me, and I’m quite anxious to know what he has to say.

“Holstein is losing his mind trying to see who’s got it in for him,” Alex says when we settle in my office and I activate the scramblers. I’ve just been informed that besides the lovely Christmas inconveniences that he’s had so far, he received a box of live rats on his doorstep on Saturday. His wife and children were put up at a hotel while he contacted exterminators in hopes of getting the things out of his house.

How the hell do you deliver a box of live rats?

Alex informs me of the lovely things we have prepared for the weeks to come for our favorite little traitor, and I must admit that the finale warms my fucking heart. Elena’s small and gradually growing mishaps are a delayed Christmas present as well. She’s suffered everything from a black eye to a busted lip to a sprained ankle. Hers and Holstein’s comeuppance will culminate right at the same time.

I guess now would be the time to start terrorizing that smarmy-assed secretary, since she wants to mouth off with the big boys, let’s see if she likes how the big boys play.

The buzzing in my pocket informs me that I have a text message. I remove my phone and see that Butterfly is informing me that Marilyn will be staying with us for a while. I shrug inwardly. The more the merrier. Chuck’s parents left this morning after being assured that he would be okay, and Harmony will be moving into Escala at the end of the week. Even though Valerie and Elliot have moved back in for a while, they’re pretty much a staple at my house to the degree that they permanently have their own room.

Butterfly tells me that Marilyn is protesting, and I remind her that we have eight bedrooms, then express my displeasure with how Garrett handled this situation. I’m staying out of it for the most part, but I feel that if you love someone, you shouldn’t desert them even when they piss you off. Believe me, I’m still kicking myself for the Madrid excursion, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

Alex is still filling me in on the progress of Alcatraz and the plans to be put in place for one Ms. Greta Ellison when Ros bursts into the room without knocking or being invited. I glare at her.

“Excuse me, but when has it been acceptable to burst into my office without permission?” I ask. She just looks at me.

“We have a development on the Fraser account,” she says.

“That didn’t sound like an apology and you haven’t answered my question,” I bark. She rolls her eyes.

“I don’t have time for this,” she says, dropping the file on my desk. “Look at this.”

“Keep fucking with me, Rosalind, and you’re going to have a whole lot of goddamn time on your hands.” I declare coolly. She raises a surprised gaze to me. That got her attention. “Now, pick up your file, get the fuck out of my office, and try that shit again.”

She blinks a couple of times like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. I’m not going to repeat myself, so she had better move her ass. As if suddenly realizing that I’m not fucking playing with her, she retrieves the file and marches back out the way that she came in. At this point, I wouldn’t give a fuck if she didn’t come back.

As it appears that’s exactly what she decided, Alex and I resume our conversation. A few moments later, my intercom comes alive.

“Rosalind is here to see you, sir,” Andrea’s voice says uncertainly. I look over at Alex, who actually rolls his eyes in disbelief. My sentiments exactly! My first inclination is to make her ass wait for a few more moments, but I decide instead to let her in with the intention that if she brings any of that premenstrual I am woman hear me roar bullshit with her, she’s going to be roaring on the other side of that goddamn door.

“Send her in,” I say. I deactivate the office scrambler and clasp my hands in front of me while glaring at the door. She’s slightly more docile when she enters, and her temperament cools even more as she approaches my desk, no doubt noting the please fuck with me today expression on my face.

“We have an issue with the Fraser account,” she says, handing me the file. I stand and indignantly snatch the file from her hand, giving her a healthy dose of the attitude that she feels I should contend with from her.

“What am I looking for?” I say, my voice low and firm as I skim through the information.

“You should see it there in a minute,” she replies. Don’t test me, lady. Tell me what the fuck you want. I cut a sharp glare at her.

“What. Am I looking for?” I ask more firmly in case I didn’t make the question clear the first time. She sighs.

“On the first page…”

We go through the file and the areas for concern over the next few minutes. Alex excuses himself to “take care of some things” while we’re going through the information. After we decide on a course of action, I lean back in my chair.

“Tell me why you couldn’t solve this on your own,” I ask. “This is pretty elementary.”

“I don’t know where your mind is lately, Christian,” she retorts. “I may think one course of action is the best and you’re totally against it.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” I counter. “You’ve had autonomy in this company since the day you first came on staff. I don’t second guess your decisions. I may decide that there’s something that I don’t want to do, like I may shut down a merger, but I never second guess your decisions. You didn’t need me for this, and I had to take time out of my day to tell you what you already knew. Why?” She purses her lips.

“It’s like I said, I don’t know where your mind is. We used to be in sync, but lately, our thought processes have been extremely… polar.” I shake my head and cut right to the chase.

“You confuse me, Ros,” I admit. “You get all touchy because of my wording of something and because of my decision to perform random drug testing and we actually found several people who not only had traces of drugs in their system but were also high on the job. And for the life of you, you still can’t admit that I was onto something. You actually didn’t like my decision, and you still can’t admit that I was right. You act like I’m taking toys out of your little play box and I won’t let you come and play in mine. What the fuck is up with you?”

“I’ve already told you there’s nothing up with me,” she says, flatly. “If you insist on thinking otherwise, there’s nothing I can do about that.” My expression doesn’t change, although inside, I’m sick of her shit.

“You can go now,” I dismiss her, turning my attention back to my computer. She turns on her heels and marches out of the room, and I ponder my words.

You can go now…

Has Ros outlived her usefulness? She’s been a part of this company almost from the very beginning. It’s always been her and me with our noses to the grindstone. Good, bad, or ugly, we’ve always managed to pull this company through. Now, there are changes—lots of changes—occurring in our lives, personal and professional.

She and Gwen were engaged when she started here, but they married after she had been with GEH for a year.

Things went floating merrily along for a few years and then I met Anastasia. That’s when the ship started falling apart.

As soon as I turned my attention from the company for the slightest moment, balls began dropping all over the place. I would go out of town on business trips at the drop of a hat and there was never a problem, but as soon as I started taking trips with my girlfriend-then-wife, she started having problems and I had to hire Lorenz. Now, we’ve got help and she’s still behaving as if she’s having a problem pulling her weight. If I didn’t know for sure that she was gay, I’d think she was pregnant. And that brings up another point…

She’s getting to a point where she’s downright rude to Anastasia. She shows her absolutely no professional courtesy as an owner of this company, but she also acts as if she doesn’t even like her as a person. Once again, if it weren’t for the whole gay thing, I’d swear she was a spurned lover!

Has she outgrown GEH? Has GEH outgrown her? Is it time to suggest that she update her resume and review her professional options? I would give her nothing but a shining recommendation, but sometimes, people just don’t fit anymore, and I can’t have someone on my team that I feel is not on my team anymore.

I thrust my hands into my hair. I can’t deal with this right now, but can I afford to put it on the back burner until the situation becomes detrimental? I shake my head and call Allen.

“Allen Forsythe-Fleming,” he answers.

“Allen, when are we supposed to go to Nevada?” I ask.

“February 2nd,” he says. Jesus, I hope this shit is somewhat in order with the company by then. There’s no telling how long we’ll be in Vegas for this fucking circus.

“Do we have a final headcount?” I ask.

“For…?” he asks.

“How many people are going,” I say, as if it’s obvious. “Ana’s dad wants to go; you’re going; we have security. Do we have a final head count?”

“Oh… no, I didn’t think about that. I’ll call Jewel and see who all we’re expecting. Is everyone going to have security?”

“Liaise with Jason to see how much security will be needed for the amount of people traveling. He also usually makes my travel and lodging arrangements, too. Do we have any clue how long this thing might take?” I ask.

“I would say prepare to be there for at least a week, but quite possibly more than that. I remember Jewel watched most of the Double-Dicker’s trial stream live on some court channel. I don’t know if they’re going to do the same for this one. Part of me thinks they will and part of me hopes that they won’t.” My brow furrows.

“Explain,” I press.

“It’s much more sensational than the Edward David trial, so I would think they would want to stream it. On the other hand, Jewel’s been through enough. This was a terrible and, quick frankly, very personal time in her life. I wouldn’t want to see that splattered all over the news.” I nod as if he could see me.

“Hear, hear,” I concur.

*-*

I’m exhausted when I leave the office today. Ros tried my patience three more times before the day was over and I just don’t have time to deal with her attitude along with everything else happening with the company. She just came back from vacation and it’s done absolutely nothing to improve her sour ass mood. As such, I can’t very well send her off on another one, but something’s got to give because this female is working my last fucking nerve.

When I get home and we enter the garage, I’m expecting to see Marilyn’s car in the last bin, but there’s nothing. I leave my coat and boots in the mudroom and decide that I’m way too tired to work out. This day really wore me out.

I step into the family room to see Keri and Gail minding the twins as they watch some Disney cartoon on television.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask, wearily.

“Upstairs,” Gail replies.

“Marilyn’s not here?” Gail nods.

“That’s where Ana is,” she says. “They arrived not too long before you and they’re probably upstairs unpacking some of her things.” I nod and reach for my son.

“Hey, little prince,” I say, lifting him out of the Pack-n-Play. “I guess they had to confine you to make sure that you wouldn’t run amuck all over the house, huh?” Mikey babbles something incoherent as he pats both my cheeks.

“Hes seestah won beh too fah behahnd. Look!” Keri shows me that Minnie is standing and taking several steps on her own. I sigh heavily about how quickly it seems my children are growing.

“Gail, have we thought about childproofing at all?” I ask.

“I’m already on it,” she replies. “Ana actually beat you to it.” I smile softly.

“Of course, she did,” I say, looking back at Mikey. “Your mom thinks of everything.” I kiss him on the cheek, lean down and give my Minnie Mouse a kiss before I go in search of my wife.

I take the elevator to the upper level and I can hear women talking the moment the doors open. Good grief, did she stick the poor girl on the other end of the house? Sure enough, I follow the voices to the last bedroom and there they are. The door is open, but I knock anyway. Butterfly and Marilyn both raise their heads to me, and I’m not prepared for the sight that greets me.

“Hhi,” I say, with a little more emphasis on the “h.”

“Hey,” Butterfly says, somewhat surprised, but rising to greet me. She gives me a small peck on the lips, and I enter the room.

“Hi, Christian,” Marilyn says as she stands. I try not to allow my expressions to betray my thoughts, but I don’t think I’m doing very well.

“Hi, Marilyn… how are you?” I ask cautiously.

“As well as can be expected,” she says, with a shrug. You sure about that?

“What?” she says after I’m silent for a while.

“Forgive me if I misspeak, but… are you well?” I ask. She raises a brow at me.

“Yes,” she says, with no malice. “I…” She looks over at Ana, who shrugs one shoulder at her. “I’ve been a bit… depressed. It’s… a little hard to eat.”

“A little…?” I nearly gasp. “It hasn’t been that long. What’s it been, like a month? Two?” Marilyn drops her head.

“One month… one week… five days…” Her voice trails off as she whispers the last two words, and I suddenly feel so bad for her. I sigh heavily.

“Marilyn,” I say, my voice softening as I close the space between us, “I know you’re hurting, but you’ve got to eat. You’ve lost so much weight. There’s absolutely nothing healthy about the amount of weight you’ve lost since I’ve last seen you. You’re in a mansion now… with a cook… and a butler… please, eat.” She drops her eyes again and nods.

“I’ll do my best,” she promises. I take her hands.

“That’s all I can ask,” I say, giving them a squeeze.

“You can’t say I didn’t warn you,” Butterfly says to Marilyn.

Dammit, I wish she had warned me! This poor girl looks like she’s knocking on death’s door. She was thin to begin with—not skinny, but fit. Now, she looks downright frail, and her makeup is doing nothing for her skin. It’s ashy and her face is sunken, like it’s barely hanging onto her bones. She doesn’t look like the Grim Reaper, but compared to what she was, she’s pretty damn close!

As I’m pondering the situation with Marilyn and how to get her back to a healthy weight without force-feeding her, I catch a glimpse of black plastic in the closet.

“Um, why are there garbage bags hanging in the closet?” I ask, pointing to the bags.

“Oh.” Marilyn walks to the closet. Dear God, she looks even thinner from behind. She quickly rips away one of the trash bags to reveal several garments now hanging neatly in the closet.

“Garment bag in a pinch,” she says. “Easy packing and unpacking when you’re in a hurry.” I purse my lips and nod.

“That’s pretty smart,” I say. “There might be a market for something like that.”

“Well, take the idea, Mr. Mogul,” she says. “If anybody can sell it, you can.” I smile.

“Do you mind if I steal my wife for a minute or two?” I ask, looking over at Anastasia. Marilyn waves me off.

“Take her,” she says. “I think she’s babysitting me.”

“I’m not babysitting!” Butterfly protests.

“Then you won’t mind coming with me and letting Marilyn get settled, right?” I say, cupping her elbow and guiding her off the bed. She looks back at Marilyn as if she’s leaving her pet at the boarders for a week.

“You’ll be alright?” Butterfly asks like a protective mother.

“Go,” Marilyn says, shooing her off.

“I’m right down the hall if you need me,” Butterfly continues, trying to stall as I gently lead her away.

“Go-wah!” Marilyn says, a little more urgently. I put my arm around my wife’s waist and guide her out of the bedroom.

“Don’t miss dinner,” I say sternly to Marilyn and raise my brow at her. She nods noncommittal and rips another garbage bag from her clothes in the closet.

“Why did you stick her all the way down here?” I ask as I lead my wife away from Marilyn’s door.

“She wanted the farthest room,” she replies. “She still cries a lot.” I shake my head.

“Jesus, somebody should tell him what he’s doing to her. She looks like hell!”

“We don’t know what this is doing to him,” Butterfly defends. I want to ask whose side she’s on, but Marilyn is her PA and friend and is now living here, so she’s obviously on Marilyn’s side; and Garett is her longtime friend, so I can see why she would be on his side, too. She’s stuck in a bad place, and I’m glad it’s not me!

“Where’s her car?” I ask.

“Still at Gary’s apartment,” she says. “She left it there in the parking garage while she was out of town. As such, Gary never came near the apartment, we’re thinking it’s because he thought she was there. Her logic is to leave it there until the end of the week until she gets all of her things from the apartment and avoid the chance of running into Gary.” I twist my lips again.

“If this is how you felt when I went to Madrid, I am so, so sorry,” I lament. She closes her eyes and shakes her head.

“It’s water under the bridge,” she says. “It’s over and done; let’s not bring it up.”

Her reaction lets me know that’s exactly how she felt. I pull her into my arms and kiss her forehead.

“Minnie’s going to be walking soon,” I say as we walk towards the stairs…

*-*

With a broken-hearted Marilyn, a mourning Valerie, and a soul-weary Elliot at the dinner table, we try to keep the conversation light, but try though we may, there wasn’t much participation from our latest house mates. Valerie dutifully ate her meal, mostly in silence, while Elliot devoured his food like the caveman that he is. I’m not insulting him; I’m always happy to see that someone has a healthy appetite, especially with the young lady to my right looking as if she needs to be holding a sign that says, “Will work for food.”

I try to keep the conversation going as much as I can by talking about Butterfly’s solid idea for revamping performance reviews and even Ros’ bad attitude throughout the day. Butterfly chimes in with discussion about the school year starting and Keri taking her tests for her American teaching certifications soon. We covered everything we could think of from the Christmas cookies to Freeman finally being out of the brothers’ hair, but nothing could ignite a table-wide conversation.

Marilyn dismally picks at her food and I’m certain that she hasn’t eaten two bites before excusing herself from the table. I watch her walk from the table with her head down, looking like she’s headed for the gallows. She’s so thin that I’m afraid if a good storm occurs, she would be whisked away to the Land of Oz. I want to demand that she come back to the table and finish her meal, but she’s a grown woman, not one of my children. When I look over at Butterfly, she’s watching Marilyn walk away with the same concern that I am. She finally just shakes her head and begins to pick at what’s left of her own food.

“She’s lost weight,” Valerie says finally, and I’m glad that she’s talking.

“Yeah,” Butterfly laments. “She’s not taking the breakup well at all.”

“That’s not a bad breakup,” Valerie protests. “We’ve seen bad breakups, Steele. We’ve been bad breakups. That’s more than a bad breakup.”

What can she say, that Marilyn is also in mourning for the loss of a baby that she wasn’t really sure that she wanted and that she willingly got rid of? Valerie’s mourning losing a baby that she and Elliot wanted more than anything. This would very likely put a rift between them.

“Yes, Val, it’s more than that, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it,” Butterfly says.

“Garett’s an ass,” I mumble before taking a mouthful of food.

“Christian,” my wife warns gently. I glance over at her and she’s scolding me with her look. I turn my attention back to my meal.

*-*

The apartment has been cleaned from top to bottom. The sunlight from the glass windows lights the entire space and the view of Elliot Bay is just as spectacular as it was when I first moved here. Escala was one of the first things I purchased when I began to make my fortune. It was a status symbol. It was me thumbing my nose at my father because he thought I was out of my mind to throw away the opportunity of a Harvard education to go out on some “half-cocked business endeavor.” When Fortune named me as one of the top twenty up-and-coming businessmen of the decade, I celebrated by buying my first sports car…

And this penthouse.

I remember personally choosing every piece of furniture that decorated this space—every dish, every lamp, every sculpture and vase, every piece of art. It’s empty now. I’ve just finished the closing and signed the papers transferring ownership to Harmony, and now the space is waiting for her to come in and make new memories.

Memories.

It’s not like I can pretend that the things that happened in this space didn’t happen. I was mostly happy here. My life went through many transitions, but for me, they were all good. Each transition was better than the last, even the time I spent with Lincoln.

Elena.

I haven’t said or even thought her first name in quite some time. She’s been The Pedophile or Lincoln or even that blonde bitch or just that bitch, but nothing more. Now, in this empty space, I remember a lot of our relationship, what she used to mean to me.

In those days, she was everything—a mentor, a friend, a trusted confidante, a lover. It was a relationship that I hadn’t shared with anyone else, ever. I didn’t know what it meant to have friends or people you confided in, only her. I only had my family—and John, and my life was so steeped in secrecy that I couldn’t even confide in my family.

I trusted no one. I thought everyone was out to get me, everyone. Submissives only wanted the gifts that I could give them or the pleasure I released on them. If they wanted more than that, I terminated our contract and didn’t look back. No one sought to really be my friend. They only wanted what they could get from me. I had learned to distance myself from people a long time ago, especially since I couldn’t stand to be touched.

Jesus, that seems like ages ago.

I still have a phobia of strangers touching me without permission, but things have certainly changed over the past several years.

I wander up to what used to be the playroom. The walls are now painted a calming ecru. The chains, tracks, and carabiners have all been removed from the ceiling. I had completely forgotten that there were windows in here. I had that entire wall covered with artificial soundproof walls that only showed a landscape from the outside.

All the equipment has been removed from the walls. It and the furniture from this room have been taken by Artemis to be sold on consignment with the proceeds going to my account for whatever other services I may need from him in the future—everything except the Chesterfield chair. Butterfly and I decided to keep the chair for Downtime and put it in our sitting room.

Downtime is a specific time for us to communicate while in character—me as Dominus and her as soumise. During the Munch, we learned that Downtime can be called by either of us when we need to discuss something, particularly about our relationship, but it could be anything at all. It’s another way for us to connect as Dominus and soumise in a non-sexual atmosphere unless we choose to transition into a sexual act. It can be used to reconnect after we’ve had a disagreement. Downtime can be very powerful in maintaining a strong, loving, and respectful BDSM relationship if utilized properly.

I’m not really certain why they call it Downtime, but its description may have something to do with it. Butterfly would present herself to me as soumise, in whatever garment I’ve chosen for her for the evening, and she would then become Pussycat. She would sit in whatever position I choose for her—kneeling in front of me, sitting in my lap, or her head in my lap. Whatever her position, her head would remain below mine, indicating her willingness to submit to me. We’ve procured a plush pillow for her for the times when she will be expected to kneel.

We will, of course, communicate at other times, but Downtime is specifically to assist in the transition from vanilla to D/s, even if there’s no sexual act involved. It’s not required every time we want to make a trip to the Blue Room, but it’s recommended for couples who plan to practice on a regular basis, particularly in a married D/s relationship. During the Munch, Artemis recommended Downtime at least once a week. Butterfly got the same recommendation from Savvina.

I couldn’t imagine having Downtime in this room with those women who used to be my submissives. I’m certain that I’ve spoken to them more than once in a Downtime position, with respect and consideration for their immediate concerns, but this is certainly different.

At first, I didn’t want to use the Chesterfield chair. I remember making her fuck me until she was completely exhausted in that chair. She remembers the encounter fondly and indicates that she would like to see me sitting in the chair in my Dom uniform. I can imagine the comfort and pleasure I would feel with Pussycat at my feet in one of her Victorian nightshirts with nothing underneath, or simply a pair of white thongs, her head resting on my lap while I caress her brown tresses and we calmly discuss whatever may be pertinent at the time. It’s important that we don’t allow heavy feelings or anger to prevent us from doing Downtime. No matter what the situation, I’m still her Dominus, and she will always be my soumise.

It’s strange and somewhat appropriate that I would think of our new relationship standing here in this room where I first explored my role, tastes, and preferences as a Dom. It now looks like any other bedroom in the penthouse, but it has experienced many transformations throughout my journey of discovery.

At first, it was black. I had taken my cues from Elena and leaned to the familiar—black equipment, black furniture, nearly black walls. That worked for a few months, but I began to feel like I was lost in the darkness when I entered the room. My soul was dark enough; my surroundings didn’t need to be black, too. That’s why my apartment was always decorated in stark white with contrasting accents. It may have seemed sterile to some, but to me, it was comforting. White would definitely not do for the playroom, though.

The only other colors that meant anything to me were red, yellow and green. I certainly wasn’t going to have a yellow or a green room, and although red is the customary safeword, it seemed appropriate to me…

And it worked out very well.

The rich wood tones of the furniture and the deep, dark browns of the Chesterfields blended very well with the Red Room. There were a few pieces with black cushions or accents with blonder tones in the wood, but nothing too bright. It was inviting and foreboding at the same time, and absolutely perfect for my purposes.

I’m experiencing nostalgia again as I recall picking the pieces for my room. Elena had helped outfit the Black Dungeon, but I found Artemis through connections I had made on my own. He listened to what I wanted and offered suggestions on what the Red Room should contain and look like. He was right. The playroom was exquisite. I could hardly wait to leave work some Fridays and get back here to this room—to the comfort and safety it afforded me; the control I wielded in these walls. There’s nowhere in the world that I was more powerful than I was in this room, not even at my desk in GEH or at the head of the conference table while simpering executives hung on my every word. No… here… this was my realm, my central station of Dominance. My power was absolute, and I knew it

I brought many women to their knees… broke their bodies, then broke their hearts. They ached for the pain, coldness and cruelty I was dishing out. They returned for it weekend after weekend, and when I turned them away, they cried for it. Some of them even went insane. One of them died trying to kill my wife.

I sigh heavily thinking of the women I abused and destroyed in this room. Granted, they signed up for the physical pain, but not for the emotional warfare that I subjected them to… some of them anyway.

I feel her presence behind me, and I don’t have to turn around to know that she’s in the room. I’m feeling guilty for all the memories that flooded me when I entered this room, some of them still refusing to be exorcised.

“I’m sorry,” I say, conviction in my voice for my unspoken mental transgression. Butterfly comes behind me and wraps her arms around my waist.

“Don’t be,” she says, laying her head on my back. “This room is who you were, and a lot of who you are right now. Good or bad, it helped to shape the man that you’ve become—my husband and the father of my children. I can’t be upset about that.”

I cover her hands with mine and sigh heavily. I always thought that we would get back to this room for one last hurrah. Maybe it’s good that we didn’t.

“We’ve had more than a few hot memories in here of our own,” I comment with mirth. I can feel her smiling on my back.

“That we did, Mr. Grey,” she says, and I squeeze her hand in an effort not to slip into my own submissive mode. Mistress can be merciless as a Domme, and I must admit that I like it. I like it a lot!

“Remember the first time you subbed for me?” I ask. “You knew just what I needed even though I tried to make you stay away that night. I was certain then that you would be perfect for me. I already knew, but that moment erased any lingering doubt.”

“I remember it well,” she says. “I was scared shitless.”

“I know,” I reply, “but you did very well, especially for your first time.”

“I’ll never forget it,” she says into my back. I drop my head and take a deep, cleansing breath.

“Can we make a promise?” I say, and her head rises from my back.

“What?” she asks.

“Can we please promise that our lifestyle—our roles—won’t become so practiced that we don’t find any enjoyment in it anymore? That if we find ourselves becoming too sterile or too routine that we’ll talk about it and find a way to keep things fresh?” She’s silent and when I turn around in her arms, she’s smiling at me.

“I thought that’s what we were doing now,” she says, her voice soft. “I thought that’s one of the reasons we sent the Chesterfield back to the Crossing… for our Downtime… and ideas.”

I smile back at my coy little wife. Things will never be sterile or routine with her. She’ll always find new ways to turn me on even without trying. I cup her face in my hands and kiss her softly, and again.

“I love you, my beautiful Butterfly,” I whisper with my eyes closed, my forehead touching hers.

“I love you, too, my love,” she whispers. I kiss her again and release her face, gesturing for us to leave. She smiles at me and walks out of what used to be the Red Room. I turn around and look at the ecru walls once more, then leave the room, closing the door behind me.


A/N: The sale of Escala is final, and one chapter of the Grey Saga is definitely closing. What does the future hold for our couple, especially with one of the Green Valley trials on the horizon?

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

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, or 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

Introduction to Seasons…

Someone made a really good point to me quite a while back in a comment in an attempt to make me stop writing. They told me that the story was really good, but that I should have stopped at Book III because that’s where the story stopped.

They were right.

Don’t panic; I’m not going to stop writing, but I just want to point something out and make an announcement to those of you who have seen a significant change in the writing from Book I to Book IV.

For a story to continue, characters must change, people must die, situations and dramas must develop—things don’t stay the same. As a result, you may lose readers. People may lose interest. They may not be happy with the direction of the tale.

And you know what? That’s okay.

I stopped watching TV because it just wasn’t holding my interest anymore, but I was still diehard on some series just because I was… until they didn’t hold my interest anymore either.

I fussed and I screamed and I jumped up and down and had a temper tantrum when Grey’s Anatomy killed off McDreamy, but people still watch Grey’s Anatomy.

There was an episode of Scandal where some young black kid was killed and Olivia Pope came to the rescue and some black activist looking for his fifteen minutes of fame starts bashing her right there on the scene loosely referring to her as a tool used by the white man to get the black folks to shut up (not his exact words), all I could see was some flighty-ass “brother” looking for attention and bringing separatism to the black community instead of relief to the family. As a result, I watched the first few minutes of that episode and never watched Scandal again, but other people watched Scandal all the way to the end.

And guess what? Shondaland didn’t die because I stopped watching and my story won’t die because certain people stopped reading and lost or lose interest. But Shondaland and my broken love affair with Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal (when it was on) made me realize something…

The “Christian and Ana Show” did end with Book III. That’s where they got married, had their kids, and their “happily ever after” began. Once you get to Book IV, you are now in the series—the soap opera. You are now in the Downton Abbey, the Days of Our Lives, the Game of Thrones (before it ended), General Hospital of the Christian and Ana saga and how they interact with other people and the other dramas that occur from those interactions.

As a result, Book IV will be renamed Season IV, and the chapters renamed Episodes. This way, there will be no confusion for those of the mind that the particular Christian and Ana story stopped at Book III. You’re right. The rest of the series is now called

The Misadventures of Christian and Ana and Their Crazy Friends

It will be named Misadventures for short, and each season will most likely still have a title of its own. Enjoy. Or don’t. But don’t ever suggest that I stop writing. I won’t 😊

Smoochies!

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 94—The Christmas Song

Final chapter of Season Four…

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 94—The Christmas Song

CHRISTIAN

She hasn’t stopped moving for twenty minutes all day, even after we sat down for dinner—which was glorious, by the way, and lasted for hours!

Even the hors d’oeuvres were magnificent. We had some kind of gourmet mushroom pastry things that melted in your mouth; smoked salmon tartines with capers; lobster toast with avocado; Asian meatballs with a variety of dipping sauces; some kind of delicious fried potato bites; mini crab cakes and something with zucchini and goat cheese. There was an army of people here, so even though there were lots of finger foods, there wasn’t enough to get full.

Thank God!

I know she had a hand in the meal. There’s no way she just made the cheesy garlic smashed potatoes. And who came up with bacon brown sugar brussel sprouts? The combination doesn’t even sound appealing, but they were delicious! And Keri—I know it was Keri—made this dish called Caribbean rice and peas. That wasn’t just rice and peas! It was outstanding!

There was some divine side dish that involved bacon, pineapples, and water chestnuts. Butternut squash and roasted asparagus… there was so much food, I can’t even remember everything. And fresh smoked ham and turkeys for Christmas! Why the fuck didn’t I think of that?

Besides the deadly cookies, the desserts included an ambrosia salad the likes of which I’ve never tasted before, a delicious chocolate cake that Maddie called Mexican chocolate pound cake, and a delicious apple pie so large that it looked like it needed to be cut with one of Mia’s wedding swords!

Elliot teased me mercilessly about the dinner I missed last night—stuffed beef tenderloin, herb potato stacks, cider-glazed carrots with walnuts, balsamic green beans with pearl onions, and some kind of buttermilk crescent bread that he couldn’t name. I was almost jealous until I partook of the Christmas feast.

She has finally sat down in the family room playing with the children—on the floor! In that dress and those shoes! She really looks adorable playing Mrs. Claus, handing out presents that she purchased for everyone, and every third or fourth gift, opening one with one of the twins. We normally have a special gift swap on Christmas Eve, but it didn’t happen last night since I came to bed so late… like I’ve done every night this week. Last week, she wandered in the middle of the night and I was able to see her. This week, I guess she was working so hard on the house and on Christmas that she was too beat to wander.

She’s spoken to me a few times today—cordial, not cold, but not necessarily warm. I keep trying to convince myself that it’s because she just has so much to do being the hostess of this huge party. I had no idea it was going to be this big, but with the exception of a handful of extras that showed up this year, this is what my Mom does every year.

Wait, let me take that back…

It was just me, Elliot, and Mia at first. Ethan would come sometimes and then there was Kate. The Pedophile never missed a Christmas, but for the most part, that was it. We occasionally had someone come over, but even then, it was only one or two people.

As time passed, the crowd grew a bit—Kate kicked off and then there was Valerie. There was no more Pedophile because… well, because Butterfly. With Butterfly came Ray, Mandy, and later, Harry. She also brought Al with her. Then there’s Luma and the girls… and the list goes on.

At Mom’s house, we may have had 10 or 20 people, but here, we’ve got about 40—Courtney and Vickie; James is here; we’ve got Marcia, Maggie, and Marlow; he brought a date as did Marcia; Jason’s family, Chuck’s family…

Yeah, at least 40.

I think I’ve tasted every kind of alcohol we were serving today. I’ve had beer; I’ve had wine; I’ve had spiked eggnog; I snuck off for a double shot of Scotch. Now I’m standing in the doorway, leaning on the wall watching her in the family room still being the little entertainer, while I’m sipping on rum-spiked hot cider with a cinnamon stick. It’s delicious.

“I know that look,” I hear Jason say as he stands beside me. I frown.

“What look?” I ask. He points to my face.

“That look,” he says. “You’ve got that look in your eye again like she’s going to run away.” I turn back to Butterfly, watching her laugh and playing with our children.

“She already has,” I reply, sipping my drink without taking my eyes off of her.

It’s very late as our guests finally make it to the door. No one drank too much and if they did, they were here long enough to let the buzz wear off. Even my buzz has worn off a bit.

We still have a few meanderers and Butterfly is in the kitchen preparing leftovers to stay in the fridge and others to go to Helping Hands and a few other shelters in the area. Lots of cookie tins and boxes left the house today and there are still lots more, so I don’t have to fight with Elliot over… hell, over anything. There are so many damn cookies in this house, we could open a store.

The only people left are close friends and family—people who are staying the night or may be staying the night and are helping with the cleanup and packing of the leftovers. I feel like I’m in the way, so I get another spiked cider and steal away while no one’s watching.

I go to the yoga room where Butterfly has placed several memories on the shelves. I see she has placed a few more up here. There’s a picture of her and Valerie. It looks like they were in college. There’s a Mickey Mouse and a Minnie Mouse “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament…

What’s this? Is that what I think it is?

I pick up a clear box that appears to be sealed shut. I think it’s plexiglass. There’s a ring in it…

Her promise ring.

If it’s sealed in the box, it means that she doesn’t plan to wear it anymore. I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, it’s up here with a bunch of other things that clearly mean something to her, not to mention that she’s wearing a handful of platinum and diamonds that says she’s my wife… so, why do I feel a sudden cringe in the fact that it’s sealed in this box?

I go to our bedroom and don’t even turn on the light. I sit in the sitting room and look out the French balcony doors at the night sky. I can see the lights and bulbs and the seventh tree in the backyard from here. Dear God, there’s a lot of fucking lights back there. The dock looks like a runway and the big boathouse appears to be a lighted square floating on black water.

I sip my cider and sit down. Why do I feel like she’s pulling away from me? Yeah, I’ve been working a lot, but she knows that I have to. Is she still feeling slighted from my slip-up this weekend? I thought I made it glaringly clear that I’m not interested in any other women. I want her.

I run my hand through my hair and sit on the loveseat. I lament my current situation while I finish my cider sitting in complete darkness. I’m thinking about going to get a refill when I see the door open from my perch in the sitting room. She sticks her head in and I watch her shadow look conspiratorially from left to right before she steps into the room and closes the door.

She turns on the bedside light, just enough to cast a slight glow by her side of the bed. I watch her remove her earrings, her necklace, and her bracelet. She sits on the side of the bed and stretches her neck as if in pain. Then she falls heavily back on the bed with a thud and a sigh, her arms stretched straight out to either side of her.

I walk to the doorway between the rooms, lean on the door jam, and just watch her for a moment. She’s about to crash. Whatever had that adrenaline going is seeping out of her and she may just fall asleep in that dress—that gorgeous, sexy, stunning dress…

“Tired?” I say, coming out of the shadows. She pops up like a Jack-in-the box and stares at me.

“Busy day,” she says, and it almost sounds like her voice is cracking.

“I can tell,” I say coming into the room. “Busy week.”

“It was… a special day,” she adds, “Our friends and family… Maddie and Nelson… and the twins first Christmas.” She almost sounds like she’s making excuses.

“Everything was beautiful…” including you. Did I tell you that? She smiles weakly.

“I had a lot of help,” she says dismissively, badly imitating mirth as she rises from the bed. “I’m going to go take a shower, okay?”

Her voice is nervous. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be in the same room with me anymore. She proceeds to walk past me and head to her en suite with both hands in her hair trying to remove the bobby pins. I reach out and place my hand on her stomach just as she’s passing me.

“Stop.”


ANASTASIA

“Stop.”

His voice is low and breathy when he stops me. I literally freeze at the sound of it. His hand touching my stomach is like a wall, preventing me from moving any further. My hand is still holding the first bobby pin I tried to remove; my arms still suspended in the air. Even my breathing seems to have stopped.

He moves behind me like a stalking lion, his hand still on my stomach, his fingers now splayed like the bars of a cage. I can feel him looking at me, examining me, and I don’t know what to do.

Instinctively, I slowly let my arms fall. I’m way too tired to hold them in that position anyway. As if I just sent him a signal, he pulls me closer to him with the splayed hand and I feel his breath on my shoulder. It’s hot when it seems like it should be cool. He hasn’t been drinking much, just a couple of beers and maybe a double-shot or two all day… has he?

I feel his lips brush across the bare skin of my neck and the exposed part of my shoulder, and a bolt of shock begins at my stomach where his hand is pressing me and shoots up to my neck where his lips are brushing me. Good God, what the hell?

He continues to brush his lips across my exposed skin. His free hand starts at my wrist and his fingertips move slowly up my forearm and bicep. When he reaches my shoulder, he clasps it with just a little firmness and his brushing lips turn into kisses.

I swallow hard and close my eyes. When the kisses turn to gentle nips and open-mouthed kisses, I tilt my head to give him better access. He responds without hesitation and the inner flame is almost immediate.

And there’s that breath I lost a moment ago, coming back all at once. Control yourself, Steele… er, Grey! The panting is almost embarrassing!

His hand moves up to my face and he cups my chin from behind, gently pulling my head further to the side to gain more access. His tongue licks my skin and he nips my earlobe, causing an involuntary shiver. He slowly turns me around to face him, his hand from my stomach now on my waist and his hand from my chin now gently cupping my cheek, his fingertips in my hair.

I don’t raise my gaze to him. I’m focused straight ahead at his black shirt open at the neck, his chest rising and falling with rhythmic breaths. He slides his hand to my chin again and gently lifts my face to bring my mouth to his. My eyes flutter closed involuntarily as he presses his lips to mine. His hand moves back to my face and his fingertips caress my neck just underneath my ear.

His kiss is soft and teasing at first. His every move is an act of deliberate seduction as he bites my lip and caresses the bite mark with his tongue before placing his lips over mine once more. I move my hands up his arms to his shoulders then his hair. I tilt my head and lean into the kiss, opening my mouth to invite him in. It seems like so long since I’ve tasted him. He’s delicious, and I’m starving…

… And so is he.

Without breaking our kiss, he wraps his arms around me and lifts me effortlessly off the floor. With me now face-to-face with him, his tongue probes my mouth hungrily and I have absolutely no escape from his ravenous kisses… not that I would want to.

I don’t know that he’s carrying me back to the bed until I feel the mattress on the backs of my calves. With one arm still around me, he uses his free hand to unzip my dress and unhook my bra while still devouring my lips. I taste the cider and rum on his tongue as it explores my mouth and I wonder if it’s him or the alcohol that’s ravishing me right now.

Truth is, my body’s so on fire that I don’t care.

He lays me down and guides us so that we’re lying properly on the bed, finally breaking the kiss. Still hovering over me, his mouth moves to my neck again and his hands push my dress and bra slowly off my shoulders. As his mouth plants open kisses on my shoulder, my dress and bra travel further down my arms. I’m doing the best that I can not to breathe like a bear, but his lips against my skin is sending shivers all over me.

The further down my body the dress moves, the further down his lips travel—my neck, my chest… Once my dress is far enough down my arms, my eager nipples pop free from my bra, taut from arousal and incredibly swollen with milk since I haven’t pumped since before I got dressed. He zeroes in on them immediately, laving them gently with his tongue, then taking them into his mouth and sucking hard, first one and then the other, before releasing them with a sensual pop.

I’m squirming underneath him, so hot that I could just combust right here and now. He moves further down my body—my clothes and his mouth. When my hands are free, he tosses my bra onto the floor and continues the journey down my body. I don’t know what to do with my hands now that they’re free, but I want to touch him. So, I thrust my hands into his hair as he continues to shower my breast, chest, and torso with kisses.

When he gets to my hips, he slides his hands into my panties so that he’s able to remove my underwear, pantyhose, and dress from my hips all at the same time. Before he frees me from my pantyhose and underwear, he opens his mouth over my covered crotch and breathes three long, hot breaths over my panty-clad core. I’m nearly crawling out of my skin with need now, and he slowly and tortuously slides my clothes down to my calves.

He removes my dress first and tosses it on the floor. Then he takes off my stilettos, one by one before sliding my panties and my stocking first off one foot and then the other. He stands at the foot of the bed just looking at me, his hungry gray eyes roaming from my feet all the way up to my starving blues. His lips are parted and his breathing his heavy but controlled. Stop tormenting me, man!

He’s looking me in my eyes, staring at me as he sensually unbuttons his shirt. There’s no playfulness in his eyes as he strips for me. He’s serious, and he wants me.

He’s stepping from foot to foot as he undoes his cufflinks and at first, I think he’s growing anxious. I realize that he’s toeing out of his shoes and using his feet to remove alternative socks. His eyes still haven’t left mine when his cufflinks fall carelessly from his hands onto the floor and he peels out of his shirt. His chest is broad… so broad! I know that it always has been, but it’s broader than I remember. Has it been that long… or am I just that hot?

After dropping his shirt to the floor with his cufflinks, he undoes his belt, then the button and fly of his pants. Grasping the waistband of his slacks and boxer briefs, he slides them both off his hips then stands before me. His beautiful abs, muscular thighs, and semi-hard erection all look fucking glorious.

Shit! My mouth is watering.

He climbs onto the bed and crawls to me. He lifts my foot to his mouth and sucks my toe hard. My first thought is, “Wait… I haven’t showered and I’ve been on my feet all day!” but he has no regard for that. He sensually feasts on each toe, finishing by running his thumbnail firmly down my instep. I gasp and attempt to crawl away, but he has a firm grasp on my foot and ankle. I drop my head back and take in a deep breath.

When I bring my gaze back to his, he’s crawling further up the bed. My leg is over his shoulder now and he’s parting my thighs, but my other leg is underneath him. He settles between my legs and begins to kiss my thighs, softly, alternating between lips, pecks, and open-mouthed kisses like he did with my body. I groan inside because he has me in a somewhat immobile position and I want him. God, I want him now!

His mouth moves quickly to my outer lips, then my inner lips. Just as his tongue teases right around my clit, I reach down and caress his hair once more. As if he was waiting for me to do that, he grasps each of my wrists and pins them to the bed on either side of me, becoming human shackles.

I’m completely immobile… and this is fucking hot.

Using his mouth to open my lips, his tongue laves deliciously over my clit. I feel the texture and massage of his tongue coupled with the hot air of his breath and I sink into the pleasure. He suckles my clit then laves it again and I feel my chest flutter. I gasp twice, trying to adjust to the manipulation. God, it seems like it was so long ago when he last touched me. It wasn’t that long was it?

His lips close over my clit, and when I look down at him, I see his head moving, sensually rotating between my legs and he concentrates on feasting on my clit. Happily resolved to my fate, I drop my head onto the pillow and close my eyes, concentrating on the rhythm and heat of his mouth.

I can move nothing but my head with my wrists locked down on the bed by his strong hands and half my lower body pinned down by his chest. He knows this. He wanted me immobile. I can do nothing but absorb the pleasure that his tongue and mouth is bringing to my aching, hungry core and he knows that. I’m rising fast and with his rhythm, I’m sure that’s his intention.

As my breath intensifies and I’m getting closer and closer to climax, he releases my wrists and moves his hands up my body, clasping them both over my swollen breast, pinching one nipple firmly while flicking and massaging the other. I gasp quietly at the pleasure and revel in the joy of being able to thrust my fingers into his hair again.

He consumes my pussy with just enough firmness—not too gentle and not too intense—to cause a steady rise from the first lick to now. His massage of my breast is just enough additional stimulation to cause that delicious rumble and tightening in my pelvis. My clit is hardening, and I can feel it against the rough texture and sensual, exquisite rolling of his tongue. I try very hard not to grind into his mouth because I don’t want him to change this perfect rhythm, but I can barely move anyway.

Trying to hold my body still only intensifies the sensation, and I jerk once involuntarily against his mouth. He doesn’t change his rhythm, but he grips my breasts a little tighter, squeezing the nipple with his thumb and forefinger, and with the flick of his thumb across the moisture of the other nipple, I come magnificently in his mouth. I grab his hair with one hand, the sheets with the other and pushing my breasts into his hand and my pelvis into his mouth, I release an animal groan that has been trapped in my soul for a week.

God, it feels so good, and yet he’s so controlled in pulling it out of me, doing only what’s necessary to prolong the orgasm to the very last burn until I have to beg him to stop. Even then, he licks the outside of my lips, the area in the crease of my pelvis, the tender skin of my inner thigh—still tormenting me as I struggle not to squirm too much underneath him.

I’m spent, but he’s just getting started, slowly moving up my body once more, taking big mouthfuls of my skin as he rises—my mons, my navel, my stomach, my breasts… again. God, this man is too much for me. I can’t resist him.

He positions himself between my thighs with one of my legs on his hip, and he grinds into me, against me, the length of his penis rubbing against my tender clit. Jesus, it hurts, and it feels good. It’s now that I wish I had pulled these damn pins out of my hair because a few of them are now stabbing me in my scalp. I turn my head to give myself some relief from the constant jabbing and concentrate more on the jabbing in my nether regions.

He’s propped up in his elbows and I can feel his breath on my jaws, his cock stroking against me, up and down, up and down, up and down. On his downstroke, he nips my jaw and adjusts his hips so that with his next upstroke, his head breaches my opening. I take a deep breath as I feel him concentrating on his cock, pushing it deeper into my resisting cunt. When he forces it into me in the final thrust, I gasp, and he groans deep in his chest. He doesn’t move for a moment, running his hands down either side of my body until they reach my hips.

Dear God, I’m doomed.

He pulls out once, then thrusts again, slowly, and I instinctively turn to face him, but turn away again when the pins stab me in the back of the head. A few seconds later, he rolls us both onto our side, my leg still wrapped around his hip and his dick still hard and deep inside of me. One of his legs is bent and between mine, holding my leg open and over his hip. The arm that’s under my body is holding me firmly against him, his hand flat in the small of my back, his fingertips splayed across the top of my ass.

And he’s stroking into me, slow and deep. I’m at an angle where I can feel him against every wall of me, and it feels wonderful! I try to look at him, but I can’t help but close my eyes and get lost in the sensation of him inside of me, all over me, loving me.

With his free hand, he caresses my scalp, and with every stroke, his fingers search… stroke and search, stroke and search, stroke and search. I’m well on my way to my climb to Nirvana when I realize that with the mesmerizing rhythm of his fingers and his hips, he’s pulling the pins from my hair, one by one. I pay attention to one particularly worrisome pen leaving my hair and I feel him gently flick it to parts unknown behind me—probably on the floor—and even though I wasn’t laying on it, I feel the relief once it’s been removed. Now, he’s massaging my scalp where the pins were, and the relief feels orgasmic all by itself. Coupled with the burning and increasing pleasure in my pelvis, I feel like I’m going to lose my damn mind.

Once the last pin is out, he runs his fingers through my hair to make sure that he hasn’t missed any. When he’s certain that he’s removed every single pin, he rolls me over onto my back again and swivels his hips to gain maximum penetration and leverage. I gasp at the deepness, and I know that I’ll be coming very soon. He buries his face in my neck and grasps both my hands, pinning them to the bed with his fingers entwined in mine.

And then he begins to move… really move.

He’s squeezing my hands tight as he grinds deep into me, the thrust of his hips causing my body to push up on the bed slightly with every stroke. My core is on fire and he just keeps pushing and pushing, his mouth licking, sucking, and kissing wherever it’ll reach. His hunger and need are consuming me, and his masterful ministrations are more than my starving pussy can withstand.

“Christian!” I gasp as I feel my thighs tighten and my stomach begin to tense.

“Come for me!” he breathes sensually.

His voice triggers my passion and before I know it, I’m spiraling and floating in another hot and heady orgasm. My breath is taken away and although every muscle clenches with untold pleasure, I can only get gasps and whimpers out of my throat and chest.

“Ah! God! Yes!” I hear his muffled voice exclaim painfully as his hips press forcefully into mine and his body stiffens. I feel his cock pulsing inside of me as he comes, and his grip on my hands tightens immensely. The squeezing hurts a little, but I’m fighting more with catching my breath than freeing my hands.

I feel him jerk a time or two, his breath ragged, and he loosens his grip on my hands. Thank God. I’m still having problems catching my breath when he lifts his head and looks at me. He brushes the hair away from my eyes, the holds my face in both his hands, planting tender kisses on my lips, over and over again.

*-*

We’ve finally calmed after several minutes, and I’m lying on his chest in post-coital bliss, sleepy and content but no longer exhausted. He’s gently caressing my hair and my arm, and I’m enjoying a closeness that we haven’t shared for at least a week.

“This might not be the right moment to ask this,” he says softly, “but I have to know. Whatever made you think that I would want another sub—anybody else but you?”

I sigh heavily. I knew this was coming. I might as well tell him the truth.

“I dreamed about Elena,” I reply, my voice small. “The conversation that she had with me at your parents’ house. She told me that you would bore of me, that you would want what you had before. She told me that I was no more than #16, and that when you were done playing with me that you would go back to the way that you were. And that same day, you told me that you were thinking about the way things used to be. The timing was too much.” He sighs, and I can tell he’s frustrated.

“Why didn’t you tell me that?” he accuses. “I’ve been thinking that you thought I would randomly run into another woman’s arms and all this time, you’ve been haunted by a dream?” I raise my gaze to him.

“Do you see how ridiculous it sounds coming out of your mouth?” I ask. “How do you think I felt with it running around in my head? With me letting it come out of my mouth the way that it did? You’ve awakened me screaming from bad dreams more than once, but the monsters of my past have been the unwelcome companions of my nights more times than you know. Who do you tell about nightmares? ‘Hey, yo, Doc, I’ve been having bad dreams. Can you give me something for that?’” He shakes his head and presses me down onto his chest again.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” he says. “Your sensitivity is one of the reasons I love you so much, but one day, I swear it’s going to drive you to an early grave.”

I know he’s right. I try to channel the negative energy so that it doesn’t turn into the Boogeyman again, but I couldn’t help it. Having him be the asshole and barely spending time with me or his kids just exacerbated my concerns.

“I’m not being sensitive about this week, though, Christian,” I point out. “The only reason I knew you were alive is because I didn’t get the next of kin notification.”

“I know, I know, but it was a really shitty week,” he excuses.

“Yeah, tell me about it!” I quip sarcastically. He looks at me.

“From the looks of things, you were having a great time,” he says without malice. I raise up onto my arms and glare at him.

“There’s a life-sized infant Messiah at my gate,” I begin. “The Jolly Green Giant dropped his tree trimmings at my portico and Frosty the Snowman shit glow balls in my backyard. My boathouse is so bright that it could literally lead the three wise men to the promised land. There’s a generator keeping the dock illuminated to alert passing ships that there’s ‘Land ho!’ I’ve single-handedly eliminated the rainforest for the Christmas trees, and I’ve baked enough cookies to feed the island of Cuba.

“Decembertime ejaculated all over my entire one-trillion-square-foot house! Google satellite picked up my house and had to turn away to refocus. The only thing I left out was ice-skaters in the infinity pool. This all occurred in less than three days—do you consider this normal?”

“Um, no,” he says, “when you put it that way… But really, the house is beautiful. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that you went overboard. Well, not the first… Elliot wouldn’t let me live it down, but I think it was overboard in a good way. The Mice are walking or trying to walk, and they had a great Christmas—you may have to give up your yoga room sooner than you thought because they got a whole lotta shit from every direction. The cookies were phenomenal. What are you going to do with all those damn cookies?”

“I’m giving a lot of them away,” I admit. “Don’t worry, I’ve hidden about five dozen of your beloved chocolate chip pecan.”

“On top of what was displayed?” he asks. I nod. “Well, then, I think I have about seven dozen, then.” I raise my gaze to him again.

“You hid more,” I accuse. He nods.

“Yep,” he confesses. I just laugh.

“Figures,” I reply. We’re silent for a moment.

“We didn’t get to exchange gifts for Christmas Eve,” he says. I sink into his chest a bit.

“No, we didn’t,” I say, lamenting that we missed our tradition.

“I can tell you what I got you… if you want.” I look up at him again.

“If you want,” I reply.

“It’s hard to get someone a gift who already has everything, so I got you the same thing I did last year,” he says. “Come hell or high water, we’re going to Italy next year. I’m having the house prepared for our vacation, and you can change anything you like when you get there. We couldn’t go this year because of my grandfather’s death, and I’m certain that you weren’t ready to leave the twins so soon.”

“I’m still feeling nervous about leaving them,” I say. “Maybe it’s because we just got back from Australia.”

“Well, not to worry,” he replies. “We’ll be spending a little time in Italy alone, and then the twins and some of the family will join us.” I smile widely.

“I think that’s a wonderful and thoughtful idea,” I say throwing both my legs over his body. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he says, kissing me gently. He gazes into my eyes and his kisses become purposeful—tender, but a bit more intense.

“This is what I miss the most when we’re apart,” he breathes between kisses. “Kissing you… tasting your mouth and your skin…”

This is what you miss the most?” I ask, surprised. He pulls his face back so that his eyes meet mine.

“Yes,” he says, his eyes a piercing gray, “and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I’m doing it wrong.”

He sits up with me in his arms and dips me so that I’m cradled in one arm. He cups my cheek with his free hand and covers my mouth with his. His kiss is gentle, but probing… coaxing, so that my mouth automatically does what he beckons. His tongue does a gentle exploration of every crevice of my mouth, stopping to engage mine every so often. His lips knead mine at just the right firmness to make me want more… and more.

His hand pushes back into my hair, and now he’s peppering my lips with wet, licking kisses that feed my arousal. I try to reach for his hair only to find that it’s awkward and slightly out of my reach, so I grasp onto his bulging bicep, which only fuels my arousal even more. His breathing is controlled—like he’s running a marathon and he’s trying to conserve his breath.

I, on the other hand, am puffing like a fucking freight train.

His wet, licking kisses turn into soft, probing tastes of my lips and tongue again and his hand moves from my cheek to around my back, trapping me against his body. His lips meld to mine in that manner that takes my breath and now, I can grasp his hair. I have to… I feel like I’m going to faint.

My body is ablaze, and I feel like my skin is crawling… no, tingling… tingling all over. He’s still only kissing me—only kissing me, that’s an understatement—but my pussy is burning like a fucking forest fire. I’m trying to control my thoughts, trying not to be such a hopeless, horny little nymph, but when he releases a soft, short moan into my mouth, I can’t even think anymore.

I whimper as my body explodes with need and he responds by pressing me harder against him. His lips continue their sensual massage and now, his tongue starts a rhythm against mine that’s a lot like what he does on my clit.

He’s tasting me. He’s really tasting me.

I’m a ball of hot, horny mush now as he literally goes down on my mouth, making my clit jealous… and sensitive… more sensitive by the second, in fact. I try not to squirm in his arms, but my attempt at control is only making it much worse. Each lick, each rhythmic and skillful pass of his tongue against mine is causing a fire down below that I can’t explain or quench. I feel his erection growing against my hip and the combination of thoughts of all these things collides with the licking and licking and licking inside of my mouth…

… And the burn starts.

I don’t know how it started on its own and I don’t care, I squeeze my thighs together and almost instantly, my clit bursts into a fantastic clitoral orgasm. I moan into his mouth and he continues his rhythmic licking kiss, this time, his erection grinding into my hip, getting harder and harder and demanding to be acknowledged. I fucking can’t breathe as this orgasm burns through my core and makes me light-headed. As I begin to come down from it, his licking kisses become soft, peppered pecks against my mouth.

“You naughty, dirty girl,” he says, impishly against my lips. “You came.” And he descends upon me again.


CHRISTIAN

I’m awake before I really want to be. Getting out of bed early to turn on the asshole means that I’m on an early-to-rise schedule that I can’t really turn off even when I don’t plan on going in to work. We had one more orgasm after I showed her the meaning of “what I miss most when we’re apart…” Well, she had two if you consider the one that she had in my lap. I assume that she won’t be fit for anymore sex for a couple of days, but if she is, I’ll certainly be ready.

She lays on my arm with her hair sprawled across the bed behind her and I just stare at her. I adore her. I hate it when she hurts. She and the twins are my whole life, but lately, I haven’t really had the chance to show them what they mean to me with the fucking incompetence running through my company. These people have never been as lackadaisical as they are right now, and I know it’s my fault because I really have gone soft on them.

My arm is asleep, but I’m not moving. I could sit here and gaze at her in wonder all fucking day. She turned our house into a winter wonderland for our twins and most likely, for herself, too. She baked all those damn cookies and even came up with new ones that were absolutely fantastic! God, I wish she had any idea how much she means to me.

And her dreams. Fuck, I can’t even argue. I know only too well how it feels to be haunted by night phantoms. Years and years of therapy didn’t make them go away. The only thing that chased them away was…

Her.

I really should have made more effort to see her this week, to talk to her, I was just so distracted…

I lay in the bed for I don’t know how long just pondering all the clusterfucks going on at GEH and gazing at her at the same time, thanking God that she belongs to me and that she hasn’t opted to just get off this crazy Grey ride and run for the hills. I’m so lost in her beauty and her splendor that I don’t even recall when she opened her eyes and began returning my gaze, but she’s staring at me now. I brush stray hair from her face and push it behind her ears.

“Did I wake you?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“What time is it?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply honestly, still tracing her face with my fingers. She stretches her neck.

“Is your arm asleep?” she asks. I nod.

“Um-hmm,” I confess. She lifts herself slightly and I stretch my arm, getting the blood to circulate again. She moves around a bit and she looks a little stiff.

“Would you like a massage?” I ask. She nods.

“My neck,” she says, worrying one side just above her shoulder.

“Turn over,” I say. She raises a brow at me.

“You’re not going to launch a sneak-attack on me, are you?” she asks. I chuckle.

“Not unless you want me to,” I say with mirth. She turns over and I move behind her, careful not to put my weight on her. She’s right—when I touch her neck in that spot, the muscle feels like a knot.

“Arms down, relax,” I instruct her. When she obeys, I begin to work the knot out of her neck and shoulder. You would think I did launch a sneak attack on her the way that she’s moaning right now. If I didn’t have a larger task at hand, that’s probably what I would be doing right now with all the orgasmic sounds she’s making.

“Is that better?” I say, kissing her shoulder once I feel that the knot is gone.

“Much,” she says, stretching and rolling her head around. When I get off her back, she turns over to look at me. “So… GEH…” She trails off and I sigh.

“Yeah,” I lament. “It’s in bad shape—not comparatively when you look at other companies, but comparative when you look at where we were five years ago. It’s in such a state of disarray.”

“Things change, Christian,” she says, sitting up and taking the sheets with her. “You changed. Of course, the company would change, too.”

“I know,” I say, recalling everyone’s accusation that I’ve gone soft. “I don’t even recognize the place anymore,” I say, leaning on my elbow, “and it doesn’t help that Ros chose now to take a vacation.”

“Yeah, how convenient of her to choose to take an impromptu vacation right at that crucial moment when shit hits the fan,” she quips. I sigh.

“I can’t discipline her for taking a vacation,” I inform my wife. “She never takes a vacation…”

“But we both know there was a message here,” she interrupts me, “and the moment that she feels that her message is louder than yours, you’ve officially lost control.”

I hate to admit it, but she’s right… and dammit, why does she have that sheet over her beautiful breasts?

“I’m going to give you a little lesson in basic business management, husband. You know a whole lot about business obviously, but there’s something that you’re missing.” She adjusts herself on the bed, and she’s still covering those gorgeous mounds.

“You didn’t finish college—obviously because you didn’t need to, but there’s one class you should have taken before you dropped out and that’s Management 101. You missed some crucial points that you need right now. There is a problem, and it is your fault, but not for the reasons that you’re thinking.” I raise a brow. Now she has my attention

“Elaborate.”

“You see apathy and a lack of control. You see sloppiness and a clear disregard for authority. But Christian, this didn’t just start yesterday. This didn’t just start last month. How long has this been going on, do you even know? Can you even determine that, or would it take a whole other audit to tell you when that happened? These people stopped caring and became sloppy a long time ago. You just didn’t see it until now and even then, somebody outside of your company had to bring it to your attention.

“What happens when the iron fist stops banging, because believe me, you cannot maintain the iron fist and live the life that you have become accustomed to with your wife and family. So, what happens when the pendulum stops swinging—everybody goes back to the same old schedule of fucking up?

“You no longer have the control of the fear that you wielded once before. You still have the respect, but not the fear, because they’ve seen that there can be a kinder, gentler you. You went from being Gordon Gekko to the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, and now you’re going back to being Gekko and a lot of them are not buying it. How else would you explain employees in a zero-tolerance environment in an at-will state partaking in recreational drugs?”

Shit, now even my wife is saying that I’m soft.

“You can’t be everywhere all the time, but your presence needs to be. It was before, but I don’t think you’re going to get that kind of control back unless you want to lose the person that you are now in other areas of your life.”

I know what she’s getting at. I know she would never make me choose between my family and my business, but there’s a huge rift in progress here, and I don’t know how to deal with it besides taking a bite out of people’s asses.

“It’s the only thing they understand, Ana,” I tell her. “They don’t see the dangers of the situation unless you put it right in their faces and threaten their livelihood. The only fire they feel under them is the complete loss of their livelihood.”

“And to some degree, they need to feel that, but by the time they feel that, it’s not a burn. It’s consuming! You’re firing people, shit’s not getting done, you’re back at square one in a lot of areas and what does that do? This is something that needs to be caught in the bud, not when the bud becomes a branch and is sprouting leaves. This review that you’re doing shouldn’t be done when you see a problem. Your current method of annual reviews is not working.”

“Okay, I’m listening… and why are you covering your breasts?” I ask.

“Because they’ll distract you,” she replies matter-of-factly.

“No, they won’t,” I protest.

Yes, they will,” she points out. “It’s distracting to you now that I’m covering up.”

I twist my lips. Busted.

“Duly noted. Continue.” She crosses her legs lotus-style under the sheets before continuing.

“This problem shouldn’t be presenting itself to you for solving only when the problem pops up. The annual evaluations that you’re using right now aren’t working. The company should be going through company-wide evaluations every six months, and you shouldn’t be the one doing them. They should be evaluating themselves and telling you why they should keep their jobs. They should not only be showing you in productivity, but they should also be showing you in performance and they should be telling you why they should be allowed to stay in the positions they currently hold.

“There should be at least a mid-year evaluation and a year-end evaluation and if they fail these evaluations, then their jobs are in jeopardy, like a probationary employee to see if they can improve their performance. There needs to be a guideline or bar set so that they can meet that bar, or they’re probationary and if they can’t improve significantly to keep their job, then they get let go. This way, you see the problems as they begin, not when they’re nearly out of control.

“Right now, you’re saying that the problem lies primarily with the department heads, and actually, it does. But know this, Christian—shit may roll downhill, but the smell rises. If department heads were motivating the people in the trenches to do what they needed to do, you wouldn’t have half the problems that you have right now. You don’t just have shitty department heads. You have shitty people in the trenches, too, because trust me—they’ll do whatever you allow them to get away with. And if I’m wrong about that and you have untapped talent in the trenches, then apparently, somebody’s not paying attention.

“You must have a system of making everyone accountable that doesn’t involve you having to come in a roll heads every year. That’s not your job. You put other people in place to do that, and they need to be doing it. There needs to be feedback on every level, and the people in the trenches need to have a voice because they can most likely pinpoint most of your problems faster than your spreadsheets.

“If you want to have your hands on the pulse of what’s going on at the heart of the company, you should be seeing weekly or monthly production reports and comparing those trends with the ones from before. The evaluations that you see from the bottom-up should match the production that you see in those reports and if you don’t, that’s when the hammer falls. By the time you see a problem, it has gone from a spark in the basement to damn near a nuclear explosion. You need to be finding these things when they spark… or at least before the plutonium is added.”

“Okay, wait, things are bad, but don’t you think you might be just a tad dramatic?” A look of sheer horror comes across my wife’s face.

“Hmmm, let’s consider the evidence!” she says a bit angrily, and the sheet falls as she begins counting on her fingers.

Titties!!
Shit! Pay attention, Grey.

“A hacker got in and moved millions of dollars from your account. You almost didn’t find out until the money started moving. Over a year later, the program that basically saved your company is still on a shelf.

“My background check on a bitch trying to fuck you was the catalyst for the drug tests that sniffed out… how many people actively using drugs in your company?” Damn… the count is now up to…

“Twelve,” I mutter.

“An ‘outsider’ came in three times and pointed out something that was going on in your company that initiated full-blown ass-raking sessions…”

“Wait a minute, three times? Three times where?”

“The XRC90 transmitter…” she’s counting on her fingers again, “the fact that SEEKNID was still sitting on the shelf, and the Mole—which damn near indirectly cost my life, by the way!”

Fuck! This shit is starting to sting.

“Okay, okay… I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Calm down, please.” I put my hands on her arms and try to calm her. She’s getting so upset that her lovely, plump breasts aren’t even the slightest distraction right now. She takes a deep breath and releases it.

“I don’t want to spend the entire day talking about GEH,” she says. “We have guests in the house, I never did get that shower that I wanted last night, and my breasts feel like they’re about to explode!” She grabs her oh, so swollen breasts and milk sprays out of one of them.

“See?” she says, petulantly.

“Okay, I’ll make you a deal,” I say, moving closer to her. “You pump, because I know you need some instant relief and as much as I would like to, I don’t think I can supply that much relief this morning. While you do that, I’ll run us a bath. We can relax, I can clean you up and help ease some of the stress off of you and then we can enjoy our day with our guest and our family. Deal?”

She sticks her lips out in the most adorable little pout. I can tell that she still has fight in her, but no reason to fight.

“Deal,” she acquiesces. I kiss her pouty lip and get out of bed to start our bath.

I’m going to pick her brain a bit more about her Management 101 ideas. Sometimes, the best advice comes from someone who’s not in the fire with you… an outsider, she called herself. I hate that she feels that way. Maybe she’s referring to her position when she discovered the things that she found, but she wasn’t an outsider when she found the flaw in the XRC90 transmitter. She was half owner of the company then.

And Ros. Fucking Ros. What possible message could she be trying to send to me at this point? She’s been my second in command for years. She knows how important she is to the business. We’ve bumped heads more than once, but now she decides to just take off, not only at Christmas, but right when the fire begins to blaze the highest. What the fuck is she playing at and why the fuck is she choosing to play now?

And will my wife be okay?

We kind of discussed why she felt the need to go Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Edition all over the mansion—which took a lot of fucking work, by the way—but did we dig the core out of the problem or just kind of brush over it a bit? I discover that I’m probably the last to learn that she’s not seeing Ace anymore, at least not weekly, so who does she talk to about this shit?

And Green Valley. Fuck, Green Valley. The trials are coming. It’s really beginning. How many fucking times are we going to have to fly to Vegas for her to go through this every time one of those fuckers goes on trial? She’s going to have to relive this shit over and over again and I don’t think either of us considered that when we started this crusade. It’s almost a blessing for two of those fuckers to have taken a plea and at this point, I’m beginning to wish that the rest of them would, too…

But Butterfly wants her day in court. She wants her voice to finally be heard and no one can deny her that. I can only hope to God that I don’t fucking murder these assholes with my bare hands when I see them. And I swear to God, none of them better get off easy, or I’m going to track them down myself and do the world a fucking favor.


EPILOGUE

What in the hell is happening?

Absolutely nothing is going how I planned. There’s so much that needs to be done before the book is ready to print and I can’t get in touch with anybody or get anything done!

I haven’t gotten any of my phone calls.

I can’t write any letters.

I haven’t seen Greta in over a week.

My cell was raided and all the creature comforts that I did have were taken away.

One of those fucking reporters leaked too much of the damn story too damn soon. There’s so much damn speculation that by the time the book comes out, I don’t even know how effective it’ll be.

And Tier Time has become hazardous to my health once again! I was somewhat protected. Now, it seems like it’s open season!

Last week during breakfast, I got caught up in a fight that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Two women got into a brawl, I got physically pulled into the fight, and it seems like they were swinging at me more than they were swinging at each other! I’m still sporting a shiner from that one.

And before I even healed from that altercation, I had an unfortunate encounter with a flight of stairs.

“Hey, Baby Fucker, remember me?”

No, I don’t remember you! I didn’t even fucking see who you were! That’s all I heard before I went tumbling down the stairs—metal stairs, in fact! It’s a wonder I didn’t break my fucking neck!

Now, I’m in the infirmary in excruciating fucking pain from a sprained ankle. I’m lucky that’s all I got, but they won’t even give me pain killers. I’m not a fucking drug addict! Why can’t I have something to dull this pain?

Every time I ask for Ron, they laugh at me and ignore my request.

I’ve been cut off from everything I had access to before and nobody’s listening to me. What the fu…

No Greta…
No Ron…
No letters…
No calls…
No protection…
Details have been leaked…
And they’re calling me “Baby Fucker” again…

Baby Fucker…

Oh, fuck!


A/N: Gordon Gekko is a fictional character from the Wall Street franchise—Wall Street in 1987 and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010. Gekko is famous for the phrase, “Greed is good.” This fictional character was a corporate raider and the perfect “corporate psychopath.” Michael Douglas won an Oscar for the role that he played so well that many people, agencies, and governments blamed Gekko for several financial crises for 20 years after the film first aired. At the 2008 UN General Assembly, Douglas had to “check” a reporter for calling him “Gordon.”

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 ~~love and handcuffs