Raising Grey: Chapter 6—Changing Lanes

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 6—Changing Lanes

CHRISTIAN

“Like I said before, I’ve studied your vision for many years. I’ve always wanted the chance to work with you, not only for what you think I can bring to the company, but also for whatever knowledge I can glean from you, Mr. Grey,” Lorenz says as we take an informal tour of Grey House on Monday morning. I’ll be introducing him to the other departments at the department head meeting later. Right now, Ros and I are giving him a somewhat lay of the land.

“Your reputation precedes you, Lorenz,” I tell him. “Ros and I are on a first name basis, a privilege not shared with many on my staff. I would think it would be a bit awkward if I didn’t extend the same courtesy to you.” I gesture to him to enter the company cafeteria, which always has a chef on staff and a large selection of food for nearly every palette. “What’s most important to me in this relationship is that I have someone on my right and left hand that I can trust. There were many qualified candidates that applied for the position, but they didn’t fit the bill for more reasons than one.” I take the coffee from the counter. I rarely come down to the cafeteria in the morning, but when I do, they know that I want a fresh cup of black coffee.

“You have them trained well,” he says after he and Ros places an order, noticing that I didn’t need to. I raise my brow at him.

“They’re not trick ponies, Lorenz,” I chastise gently, and he immediately catches my meaning, “but they like to keep me happy.” I turn around to see who’s working today. “Thank you, Misty.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Grey,” she says with a bright smile. When Lorenz and Ros take their orders, we head back out of the cafeteria and continue our tour.

“As you already know, Ros and I both have families, so only the two of us running things has become a bit of a trial as of late since my wife just gave birth to twins. I was never very social as such before I met my wife, so my life has taken on a new dynamic. Even now, I really shouldn’t be in the office because my grandfather is in a very bad way, but there were things that needed to be handled—one of which was officially welcoming you to the company.”

“How is Burt?” Ros asks sympathetically as we are heading to the floor with the executive offices just under mine. I clear my throat and hide a sigh.

“Any day now,” I tell her as we round the corner towards Lorenz’s office.

“There are so many new technologies now, Mr. Gr… Christian,” Lorenz says sympathetically. “Maybe there are ways that they can prolong his life.” I shake my head.

“We wouldn’t want that,” I say. “He’s suffering right now and we try to keep him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. We don’t want to prolong his suffering just so that he could have a few more seconds with us.”  Lorenz nods.

“I understand,” he says. “This must be very hard on you.”

“It is,” I sigh. “It’s a long story that I don’t want to repeat right now, but I haven’t had him in my life for very long and now I’m losing him. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Well, I’m a praying man, Christian, and I’ll pray for your family.” I nod again.

“Much appreciated, Lorenz.” I straighten up. “Now, enough about me. I’m going to leave you in Ros’ very capable hands while I get some things done in my office. You know where to find me and I’ll see you at the department head meeting at ten.” I leave him and Ros to finish the tour as I make my way back to my office. I’ve decided to finish the quarters behind my office that have been dormant and unfinished for over a year now. Security is tighter this time around and workers must be registered and scanned with temporary badges into GEH’s security grid and then scanned again before they are allowed off the elevator onto this floor and the stairwells are guarded—no access. The work was nearly done before the Pedophile made her appearance that day, so there’s not much left to do. As such, the work can go on behind me without much noise or disturbance.

I sit down at my desk, still pondering Uncle Stan’s situation. It really shouldn’t be that hard to get him the time off that he needs to come and say goodbye to Pops. I just don’t know how to go about doing it without direct connections within the company. Sure, I know some people on the mountaintop, but by the time they even make their way to top level executives on the factory food chain, let alone down into the trenches, Pops will have passed on. I’ve got to come up with something fast.

“Andrea, come in here for a moment, please,” I beckon her over the intercom.

“Yes, sir.” A few moments later, she’s in front of my desk with her tablet.

“I need you to skip the department head meeting this morning. Let Luma take the minutes for you…”

“Luma’s not here, sir,” she says. “You gave her permission to take time off due to your family crisis.”

Shit, that’s right. I completely forgot.

“Dammit!” I exclaim, running my hands through my hair.

“What is it, sir?” I lean on my desk and fold my arms.

“I know how hard it is to transcribe minutes after they have been recorded, but I may need you to do that. I have a time-sensitive issue that requires your immediate attention. I may still be working it from other angles, but I need every possible angle explored.” She looks at me expecting.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ve become accustomed to being in two places at the same time. What do you need?” I sigh.

“Will you see if you can find out who I would need to talk to if I want to get some time off for a factory worker in one of the Big Three in Michigan? He’s out of paid leave and can’t get a leave of absence, so I think they’re throwing the book at him. I don’t want to rock the boat, though, because he still has to return to this job when all is said and done.” She bites her lip in contemplation and nods.

“I’ll see what I can find out,” she says. “I’ll start in the obvious places and work my way up. You better get to the meeting, though. You’re about to be late.” I look at my watch and push myself off the desk.

“It’s not like they can start without me…”

The announcement of Lorenz being added to the team is met with a bit of a lukewarm reception. Many of the department heads are wondering why I didn’t hire from within. It’s because I’m not 100% pleased with the performance of some of the departments and putting one of these people in an executive position over the company when they can barely handle an executive position over a department would have been a huge tactical error.

“Who would you have suggested that I choose from inside?” I ask, directing the question at the department head who raised the issue.

“Well, I’m just saying that… we would have liked the opportunity to have applied for the position,” he retorts, his voice lacking the conviction and accusation that it held moments ago. “We weren’t even extended the invitation.” It’s a very valid argument, but still doesn’t address the question.

“And again, I pose the question to you… who would you have suggested that I promote from the inside?” I ask. “You’ve been in the department head meetings nearly every Monday for the past several years with most of the people in this room. Tell me—honestly—who would you have suggested that I promote from the inside?” He looks around from person to person and doesn’t provide an answer. What’s more remarkable is that he doesn’t even offer himself as a viable candidate. I turn my attention to the hand that I see raised to my right.

“Mr. Grey, are we to understand that there’s no further room for advancement from where we are now?”

The million-dollar question. All eyes are on me. I am now presented with a situation where most high-level executives or owners find themselves—where I must put my foot down and show these people who’s boss without prompting a mass work stoppage or walkout. This situation must be handled both firmly and gingerly.

I stand from my seat, something I very rarely do in a department-head meeting. Accusing and expectant glances now become cautious. You’ve rattled the boss’s cage and he can no longer sit here quietly and observe the show. Now you’re nervous… and you should be. The sleeper has awakened—again.

“Mr. Carlton,” I say, buttoning my jacket, “besides the introduction of Mr. Fineman, what has prompted this line of questioning?” He considers his answer.

“Nothing, sir,” he replies. “Nothing before this made me think about possibly being able to advance—nothing but the creation of a position into which one of your senior managers could have advanced, but were never given the opportunity.” There’s a small murmur in the room.

“I see,” I say, stepping away from my seat and beginning my circle of the table, much like my wife did a few months ago when I announced that she was a major shareholder, which brings me back to the conversation. “So, before the creation of this vice-presidential position, were you satisfied with your station? Your salary fair? Your benefits and incentives suitable? Your company car and other executive perks acceptable? That’s not a trick question—there’s no wrong answer. This is not a trap.” He pauses for a moment.

“Well, yes sir,” he says. “My salary is quite generous and I’m very happy with my perks.” I nod.

“How about anyone else in this room?” I ask. “Is there anyone in this room who feels that their annual raises should be more? Their bonuses are not adequate? Not enough vacation time? Anything? Again, not a trick question and no wrong answer.”

I can see the honest contemplation on the faces of many of the people in the room, but none of them show discontent with their compensation.

“Okay, so let’s address another issue,” I say in the most diplomatic way possible. “How many of you feel restless, like the position that you’re in has you locked in a fishbowl and there’s nothing else to offer?” I’m looking for the Dodds in this one. I can’t have another person in an executive or management position trying to find a way to sabotage my company. Dodd’s fate was never made public. Hell, I don’t even know what happened to him. To that end, no one knows what would become of them if they cross me in such a manner, and this situation is the perfect environment for mutiny. A few hands are raised, some quickly and others more slowly. I make a mental note of the hands that I see in the air.

“That’s understandable,” I respond, to the surprise of many of the people in attendance, “especially if you’ve been here for any extended period of time. There are a few points that I feel compelled to make at this juncture,” I say, still circling the room. “First of all, as you all know, my life has taken on some major twists in recent years, which requires that I immediately have a more flexible schedule. For that reason, I was forced to seek out a qualified professional who could effectively be me in my absence with little to no training as quickly as possible. Being totally honest, who among you would have been able to stand from this table at this very moment and do that job?”

I emphasize the fact by pointing to Lorenz. They look from one to another and once again, no one can produce a suitable candidate.

“As I pointed out in his introduction, Mr. Fineman’s qualifications, resume, and references are impeccable. He comes highly recommended and leaves nothing but success in his wake. GEH is lucky to have acquired him and I hope that my executive management staff will be respectful and cooperative as he familiarizes himself with the intricacies of this organization.” That’s more information than they really deserve, but that’s okay. I’m only building up to tearing down that false sense of security.

“Every ladder has a certain number of rungs, which means at some point, you reach the top of that ladder. My management staff are all at the top of that ladder. Mrs. Bailey and I are not on that ladder. Being on that ladder insinuates that you can go down… and you can go down.” I add that last part in as a pre-warning for what’s coming next.

“Mr. Carlton, I’ll answer your question, now. This room is full of the elite of my company. Most of you worked your way to these executive positions. Others of you—like Mr. Fineman—were hired based on your qualifications. You are the cream who have in one way or another risen to the top and yes, this is the highest that you can go in the company. Having said that, please note that should you feel discontent in your position, you are more than welcome to tender your notice and resignation. Upon proper notice, I will be more than happy to honor your contracts with any severance packages promised as well as adequate references based on your performance with this organization. I’m very certain that there are other positions that would offer an opportunity for advancement, but I’m not remiss to say that you would be very hard pressed to find the kind of compensation offered by GEH.

“I did not add an additional rung to the advancement ladder,” I continue. “I hired someone to assist me with executive job duties, which are the duties that perform. Listening to your concerns and weighing them with your answers regarding your compensation packages, I conclude that had I continued doing what I was doing—trying to spread the work between me and my second in command, which was causing us undue stress and grief—you all would have been happy with your compensation and positions as long as I didn’t hire anyone over you to perform job duties that any of you have yet to say that you could step up and perform at a moment’s notice.”

There is still silence in the room. Even the quiet got quieter. And now, the death blow.

“While you are the best of the best of GEH, know this. This is a non-stock corporation. There are no stockholders, no board of directors and no members. There’s only me, my wife, and very soon, my infant children. This means that I. Answer. To no one. I decide I want something done, it’s done. Your ideas, concepts and departmental needs must be approved. Mine. Do not!

“I’m not accustomed to having to explain the decisions for how I run my company to anyone except my wife, who is also a majority shareholder in this company. The only other shareholders in this company will soon be my infant children, and I only answer to them for food, shelter, and the occasional diaper change. While your questions were justifiable based on your positions and concerns, and warranted answers, understand that this will be the last time I will ever be urged to address executive decisions made by me for Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated. I know and understand that as of late, I haven’t quite been the ballbuster that I once was, but make no mistake… he’s not dead. I can bring him back anytime anyone feels the need to be reminded just how far my reach can go.

“Mr. Fineman came from an exclusive talent pool assembled for immediate need. With your qualifications, you can all join that talent pool, but you can also be replaced from it. Also remember that while there are unfortunately no positions above you that can be filled by you at this time, there are talented people in this company that would be only too happy to take the positions you choose to vacate. I will only remind of your NDA’s and your legal obligations concerning proprietary information. I will also caution you that your positions are based on skill… and loyalty. Breach of my trust comes with severe penalties. I would tell you to ask around, but I would first challenge you to find anyone who has breached my trust in any prominent or desirable position anywhere.”

I’ve made my way back to the head of the table and face the occupants of the meeting. Many of them appear to have shrunk in their seats… or something. I unbutton my jacket, sit back in my seat, and cross my ankle over my knee.

“Are there any questions?”

And there’s that rat pissing on cotton again.

“Then this meeting is adjourned. Ms. Bailey, Mr. Fineman, Mr. Forsythe, Mr. Welch, can you remain behind, please?” The other department heads rightly take this as their cue to scramble out of the conference room like roaches.

“Well,” Lorenz says, “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you in action so soon.”

“Neither did I,” I say, “but that’s nothing. Wait until you see me in negotiations.” I turn to Alex. “Did you make note of who raised their hands?”

“I did, sir,” he says.

“You know what to do. Keep reports and let me know if anything develops.” Alex nods.

“Yes, sir,” and he leaves without another word. I turn back to Ros, Al, and Lorenz, who raises his eyebrow at me. “You can’t be too careful,” I say.

“I’ll make sure to stay on your good side,” he says. I nod. I decide to direct the conversation to Uncle Stan.

“I have a delicate situation on my hands right now. It’s time sensitive—extremely time sensitive—and if I can’t find a sensible solution to the issue by day’s end, I’m going to have to roll through this thing like a bull in a China shop and I really don’t want to do that.”

“What’s up?” Ros asks.

“It’s one of the reasons I hired you, Lorenz, to give me time with my family. I need to know who I would talk to if I want to arrange so time off for an employee of a company that we supply steel to. Human resources have proven to be a no-go, so there has to be another way. This is of the highest immediate importance.”

“Detroit?” she asks. I sigh.

“Yes. One of my uncles works for the Big Three, but he’s taken all the time that he can and can’t get any time off to see Pops before he dies. I’m open for any suggestions.”

“You’re sure there’s no luck with human resources?” Al asks.

“Nobody to sweet talk,” I admit, “or threaten. I don’t want to strong-arm my way through this. I know that I could if I wanted to… money talks. But my uncle has to go back to work at that place when this is all said and done. If there’s any way that this can be done the same way that any other employee would be able to get help in an emergent situation, I’d prefer that, but I don’t have time to dawdle. If I can’t get this done in a reasonable manner by the end of business today, then I’ll strong arm, but I would prefer not to.”

“Steel workers… Have you tried the union?” Lorenz asks. I twist my lips.

“I don’t know what the union could do besides collective bargaining. Am I missing something?”

“They’re supposed to be on the side of the worker. I know most of them have funds to help with bills and whatnot when they decide to strike. There has to be something in place for a situation like this. A leave bank or something? With time being at a premium, I’d say go as high as you can in the UAW.” I don’t want to admit this early that the guy’s a fucking genius, but the guy’s a fucking genius. I never even considered going to the union.

“Okay, I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I’ve tried to help the little man, so to speak, so I don’t know which direction to go,” I confess.

“That’s not true, Christian,” Ros says, frowning deeply. I turn my gaze to her. “Jim Radcliff? The Martins? Luma?” she reminds me.

“The Johnsons?” Al interjects. “Marlow? Sophia Taylor? Val?”

“Those people are all family,” I remind him.

“There weren’t when you helped them,” he retorts. “The Radcliffs and the Martins aren’t your family and the others are only family because you welcomed them, except Val, who married your brother… after you helped her. Which reminds me… Chuck and his parents? Keri?” I put my hands up in surrender.

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say waving my hands. Apparently, I’ve been fairy godfather to more people than I thought. Lorenz smiles at me.

“You’re a secret philanthropist, sir?” he asks.

“Apparently so,” I say, running my hands through my hair. “Lorenz, can you help me out, here? I’m usually not at such a loss and my only care is normally that things are just handled—thoroughly and properly. This time, it’s different. The situation is out of my hands and it involves a direct family member, so it also needs to be handled carefully.” Lorenz runs his hands over his chin and beard in contemplation.

“Can you give me an hour?” he asks.

“Not much more than that,” I say. “I have to make something happen really soon. I’m already on borrowed time.” He nods once and excuses himself.

“I think he’ll do fine,” Ros says, once he leaves the room. “He comes with his own contacts, you know.”

“I know,” I tell her. “That can be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll just have to wait and see which…”

I was about to find out sooner rather than later which…

*-*

“I have Dennis Williams on the phone for you, Mr. Grey,” Andrea’s disembodied voice informs me. I was standing just inside the door of my nearly-complete sleeping quarters when I get the alert.

“Dennis Williams?” I ask, frowning. Who the hell is Dennis Williams? “Did I have a conference call that I wasn’t aware of?”

“No, sir,” she informs me. “Mr. Williams is calling from the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit. He’s the sitting president of the United Auto Workers union.”

The sitting president… The fucking sitting president… Are you kidding me?

“Which line?” I ask, quickly taking a seat at my desk.

“Line one, sir,” she says. I press the blinking light for line one.

“Christian Grey,” I say into the phone.

“Mr. Grey, hello. This is Dennis Williams from the UAW in Detroit.” I can tell he’s an older gentleman. I would have liked to have been better prepared for this call, something I’ll discuss with Lorenz in the future, but in this case, I’ll make an exception. I did pretty much tell him that my ass was on fire.

“Hello, Mr. Williams,” I respond. “I wish I could say that I was expecting this call. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I hear that a colleague of mine is now in a senior position in your company… Lorenz Fineman?” A colleague?

“Yes, he’s accepted the position of executive vice-president with Grey Enterprises Holdings,” I confirm.

“I should clarify, he’s not really a colleague,” Williams adds. “He’s helped us with some difficult situations in the past—strictly legitimate business, of course. When he called asking for my assistance with an urgent matter, I couldn’t possibly turn him down. He says it has to do with your uncle and the steel company that supplies the Ford plant. Do you have time to talk to me about it?”

Oh, boy, do I!

“I’d appreciate any help you can give me,” I inform him. “I should first tell you that I own controlling shares of Severstal.” The line is momentarily quiet.

“You do?” he says.

“Yes. So, if I wanted to push people around and be a bully and get things done, I could, but I don’t want to do that. My uncle is an honest working man and I don’t want to cause any trouble for him.”

“Grey!” Williams says, finally. “Of course! How did I not make that connection?” I laugh to myself.

“For some reason, a lot of people don’t. Maybe that’s a good thing. My own uncle didn’t even know until this past weekend, but that’s a different story. The situation is pretty simple and I just want to know if there’s anything that can done about it.”

“Well, let’s hear it. We’ll do whatever is in our power.”

“That’s all I ask. His name is Stanley Grey and he’s in the Dearborn Ford Plant. He’s used all of his leave time due to other emergent family issues. However, his father—my grandfather—is out here in Seattle with me and my father. He’s dying of kidney failure and he doesn’t have long left to live… a week, maybe. All his sons have been out here to see him before he passes except Uncle Stanley. It would mean a lot to my family if we could get him out here before Pops dies. He can’t use FMLA because he’s not the primary caregiver and Pops isn’t dead yet. So, you see my dilemma.”

“Yes, I see,” he says. “This is a fairly easy fix, though, and totally legit.” I hear him typing into his computer. “Stanley Grey… yes, there’s only one Stanley Grey in the Dearborn plant.” He types some more. “Yeah, I see he has used all of his time.” More typing. “He’s got an impeccable record, though. Long-term employee… no disciplinary action… We shouldn’t have a problem getting him some time from the bank.” I frown.

“The bank?” I ask.

“Yes, the paid-leave time bank,” he replies, still typing. “Employees have an option to donate time to the paid leave bank for situations like this. You never know what might happen. The union is a team, Mr. Grey. We have to look out for one another.” More typing. “Your Uncle has probably donated to the bank himself, but once the time is donated, it’s just classified by pay grade, not by person.”

“Does my Uncle know about this? Why didn’t he just ask for some of the time?” I ask.

“He might have, but there’s a process in getting the time approved and by the time it’s approved, it sounds like your grandfather would have already passed on.” He continues typing. “Yes, he applied for emergency time—two weeks. He withdrew it, though. I’m assuming it was just too close.” I hear more typing. “I’ll admit, Mr. Grey, this is partially special treatment because Mr. Fineman is a friend that we would like to keep in our good graces; but this is also the very reason why we have this time bank, for situations like this. Your uncle is entitled to this time and with his record, he most likely would have been approved. But based on what you’re telling me, it probably would have been too late for him to see his father before his death.” I hear shuffling on the other line, then a woman’s voice before Williams answers her.

“Can you get Dearborn HR on the line?” he tells her. “Tell them to check the leave bank database for Stanley Grey. This is his employee number. His leave bank request for two weeks has been approved effective immediately and he needs to be released as soon as possible. Tell them his father is gravely ill—use those words, Karen… gravely ill.” I hear the female voice say something on the other end and then a door closes.

“I appreciate you contacting the union, first, Mr. Grey,” Williams continues. “I’ll honestly say that I’m not really sure what you may have been able to accomplish through other channels, but even if you were unsuccessful in your plight, it still would have caused us problems.” I frown.

“I don’t quite follow,” I say.

“Well, HR works with us with the banked time, but the union maintains it and submits the requests for approval. Let’s say you went the traditional ‘heads will roll’ route, calling in favors or raging at whatever executives you knew. That shout would have started in Severstal’s hallowed halls, which would have made its way to through Severstal executive offices. After bouncing around shivering executives for a while, it finally would have made it to Ford’s board of directors… if you’re lucky. They would run around for a day or so trying to find out who should be blamed. Big man from one of our largest steel vendors is trying to get something done for his uncle. Who the hell is his uncle? They would be so busy running around scared that it would probably take them another day to figure out that Stanley Grey was in the Dearborn Plant.

“Now, they call HR and they go through the entire process all over again of discovering that Stanley doesn’t have any time left, even though you’ve already made this known in your request. Now, I must inform you that this information is not moving as quickly as it did between you and me—you talk to the source on the phone, I type in his name, find the request and get it approved and rushed through HR. No, this is going through a series of emails and executive memorandums that read like a game of CLUE with no one wanting to take any responsibility for this situation going into the crapper and Ford possibly losing its biggest supplier of steel since we know that Severstal has other large customers worldwide.

“After all this—probably three to four days after you’ve made the request—some clerk happens to see the notice and mentions it to someone in the know in HR that Stanley Grey needs some emergency leave and the request is coming ‘straight from the top.’ Keep in mind that the union may or may not get that ‘straight from the top’ information, assuming that we’ve been notified at all since no one thought to tell us.

“One of the reps on-site or at the local in Detroit is now trying to get this pushed through, but it still has to go through some kind of process at the union level. Let me tell you, Mr. Grey, news from the top gets to the union at a snail’s pace unless it’s something that directly has to do with us. Even then, it’s usually on a need-to-know basis and they decide who needs to know. By the time your ‘get this done yesterday’ request gets to us, it’s five days later. Your grandfather may have already passed away, and everybody’s now passing the buck until it lands in the lap of the union. So, by Mr. Fineman knowing to bring this matter straight to us, we’ve saved each other a lot of headache.” I hear a chime or some kind of notification. He’s silent and I hear typing. “And while I was telling my little story, your uncle has been notified of his approval and is clocking out as we speak.” I sigh heavily.

“Mr. Williams, you have my eternal gratitude. I don’t know how to thank you for this.”

“All I ask is that if there’s ever a reason for our paths to cross again, listen to Finney. He knows what we need.” Finney? Really?

“Thank you again, Mr. Williams. I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to make travel arrangements for my uncle… and I need to tell my father.”

“You’re quite welcome, Mr. Grey. Until and if we meet again, it was my pleasure.” We exchange pleasantries and end the call. I dial my uncle’s number.

“Hello?” he answers and I can tell that he’s in the car.

“Uncle Stanley?” I respond.

“Christian!” he exclaims. “You did it! I don’t know how you did it, but you did it!

“Are you driving, Uncle Stanley?” I ask, unable to mask my concern.

“I’m hands-free,” he says, chuckling. “You’re just like my wife. Your voice is coming through the speakers.”

“What do you need?” I ask, relieved. “How soon can you get here?”

“Well, I’ll have to get a flight,” he says.

“Let me see what I can do,” I tell him. “I would send my jet, but it’s too short notice. If I can’t get you a flight within the next six hours, I’ll send my jet.” The line is silent for a moment.

“You have a jet?” he says, quietly.

“Yes, sir,” I tell him. He chuckles.

“Freem didn’t stand a chance,” he says. I don’t bother answering. Freem has a problem with money that I can’t explain.

“Will anyone be traveling with you?”

“No, not yet,” he says. “My wife may try to come later. There are some things going on with her job and our home that need our attention. She was more concerned about me getting to see Dad before… before he’s gone.” His voice cracks.

“Uncle Stanley, I’m going to try to make some travel arrangements for you. I’m going to end this call now. I don’t want you to be upset while you’re driving. How soon would you want to leave?”

“I’m going home to pack and wait for your call, son,” he says. I nod.

“Then I’ll call you with a flight as soon as I get one.” We say our goodbyes and end the call. I buzz my PA.

“Yes, sir?”

“Andrea, I need a first-class, straight through flight from Detroit to Seattle as soon as you can get it booked…”


ANASTASIA

I split my time today between cooing at my twins, talking to Pops, and being a buffer between Mia and her parents when they discussed continuing with her wedding plans. That last one was totally unnecessary as Grace and Carrick both agree that Mia should continue with her planning, just like Pops said. A few times, she came into Pops’ room with plans for the wedding and each time he saw her enter, his face lit up while she talked about small details like napkins, floating votives, centerpieces, and favors. I asked Pops if he wanted to rest and he politely said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead!” before turning to Mia and saying, “Nix the candle stands. I like the floating votives better. And the stones on the bottom should be gray—not iridescent. The iridescent stones look like dollar store dressing!”

“I thought that, too!” Mia had said. “I’ll let you know as soon as we narrow down the flower choices.”

“Whatever you choose, use lilacs instead of baby’s breath,” Pop’s calls out to her. “It’s prettier and aromatic, and it symbolizes new love.” Mia smiles widely.

“Thanks, Grampa,” she says sweetly before leaving his room. I turn back to Pops. “She’s doesn’t treat me like I’m dying,” he says as an explanation. “She’s giving me that gift, so I’m giving her the gift of showing interest in her wedding. That will be her final memories of me.” I smile as a tear drops down my cheek.

“Would you like to hold your great-grandson?” I ask. Pops toothless grin spans his entire face.

“I sure would,” he says, his gums on full display. I take Mikey out of the carrier attached to my body and place him gently in Pops’ arms.

“Hey, there, little fella,” he says sweetly to a sleeping Mikey. Again, Pops’ face lights up and I vow to keep as much life around him in the coming days that I can. His room is serene, welcoming death quietly and calmly like his life is already over, and that’s not what Pops wants. As he spends some quality time bonding with his great-grandson, I open the window and let some fresh air in. I come back over to his bed and sit down.

“You seem in good spirits today,” I say. He smiles at Mikey as he rocks him back and forth.

“You’re a doctor, child,” he says, still smiling at his great-grandson. “You know what this is.” I cringe inside. I know exactly what it is.

“You know what it is, Pops?” I ask cautiously. He nods.

“That last burst of energy that allows me to be coherent and say goodbye to my family,” he says, somewhat solemnly. “Ruby had it before she went home. It won’t be long, now.” I nod.

“I would say that you’re right,” I say, stroking Mikey’s silky brown hair as he sucks his binky intermittently without opening his eyes. “I can’t help but feel sad. I know what’s to come, but…” I hold my head down and quickly wipe away a tear. “… It just seems like we haven’t had enough time.”

“But we certainly made the best of what we had,” he said. “I loved reliving my life with my Ruby through talking to you. It was the most wonderful gift anyone could give me.”

“I’m glad I could do something for you during this time,” I say, feeling helpless.

“You’ve done so much!” he says. “Your wedding made it possible for me to reconnect with my son, meet my grandchildren, and know that the Grey name will continue to flourish well after I’m gone. Look at this!” He looks adoringly at Mikey. “Look at this gorgeous little man, this wonderful bundle of hope. I know that Ruby is so pleased that I got a chance to meet you all—to bond with you all and see my complete family before I pass on. This is why I’m not afraid. I have love and fulfillment on this side and I’ll have it on the other side. I just have to make the transition. What more could a man ask for?”

My tears flow freely now. I admire his strength and courage and I wish I had the chance to know him better before he’s taken away from us. A year seems so short.

“Tell me about your greatest adventure,” he says, catching me completely off guard.

“What?” I ask, a little shocked.

“I’m lucid and for the moment, I’m not dying. I want to hear about the living. Tell me about your greatest adventure.” I laugh softly.

“That would have to be marrying your grandson,” I reply. He scoffs at me.

“You’re supposed to say that,” he says in disbelief.

“Well, in my case, it’s true,” I say. “This relationship has been one roller coaster ride after another. I never know what’s going to happen next. There’s never a typical day in the life of the Greys. Everything we do, we do big… even screw up. I tell you, Pops, it’s been a wild ride.” He chuckles.

“Okay, then tell me about one of the adventures you’ve had since you married my grandson… a good one!” he clarifies. I only think for a moment.

“I would say that one of our best was our honeymoon, before it was cut short…”

I spend quite some time telling Pops about our trip to Europe. He’s never been, even though he’s taken a trip or three here and there with Ruby before she passed away. I relive the splendor of the Arc de Triomphe and the fact that Christian made me wear flats before we could see it. I hate flats because I’m already short, but I was already pregnant with the twins and didn’t know yet, so my feet were swelling in the stiletto boots I had been wearing for the last six hours. Pops sat in silent awe and wonderment as I talk about the wine tasting at a historic Paris champagne bar, seeing a show at the famous Moulin Rouge, and visiting the Eiffel Tower. He knows something else happened with the Eiffel Tower as I physically feel my face flush when I start talking about it, but he doesn’t press for details.

I continue with the beautiful sites and shopping of Paris, then take him on a mental trip through Greece. His eyes shine as if he can see the sites in his head and is traveling right along with me. We talk for hours about the Parthenon and the Acropolis, the bronze statues in the museum and church on Lycabettus Hill; the Olympic Stadium and the religious experience that was the prison and death place of Socrates; the wonder that is Delphi and the Santorini sunsets. Just as our virtual trip is coming to an end, I hear my husband’s voice and the whisper of a male voice that I don’t recognize. It’s only now that I realize that the sun has long since set and my son has slept for more hours than normal nestled in his great-grandfather’s arms.

“Pops!” Christian says in amazement as he enters the bedroom. “You look great! What… what happened?” Pops smiles at Christian, but doesn’t bother to repeat what we already know. Instead, he opts to enjoy what time he has left.

“Mikey here kept me content while Ana regaled me with fabulous tales of your honeymoon. It’s enough to put a little life in this tired old soul,” he replies. Christian smiles widely.

“Well, if that’s all it takes to get you looking and sounding this good, maybe I can put a little more life into you.” Christian leans out the door and gestures to someone. What looks like a young version of Carrick walks into the room.

“Stan!” Pops says with enthusiasm. “Son! Oh, my God! I’m so glad you made it!”

“Hi, Dad,” Stan says, walking into the room and approaching his father’s bed. Christian relieves Pops of Mikey, who promptly starts to fuss. Pops and Stan look at each other and embrace for long moments. Christian hands Mikey to me and we step out of the room to give father and son some much needed time together.

“He really looks good,” Christian says. “I haven’t seen him look this great since the wedding.”

“Yeah,” I say sadly. Christian examines me.

“What’s wrong?” I look up at him, almost not wanting to tell him what’s going on, but there’s no use in getting his hopes up.

“Christian,” I say softly, “often, during their last days, terminally ill patients get one last burst of energy right before they pass on. It could last anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, but once the energy wanes, death comes pretty quickly. Pops is convinced that this is what’s happening and so am I.” I give him a sympathetic look as I comfort Mikey. He frowns deeply.

“What are you talking about? He looks great,” he protests. “He might be turning around. I think he’s on the mend.”

“On the mend?” I ask, gently. “Christian, you know that’s impossible. You know his condition. What exactly is mending? Do you think his kidney is suddenly becoming whole and healthy again?” His face transforms from hopeful and jubilant to angry.

“Look,” he says, squaring off against me like I’ve challenged him to a fight, “my grandfather is healthy and in good spirits. I don’t know how it happened, but he’s the best he’s looked in months, and I’m not going to let you take that away from me!” I gape at him in horror.

“Me?!” I say aghast. “What in the world makes you think I have control over anything in this situation? I’m just telling you what I know as a doctor!”

“Well, doctor, I know you went to school and you’ve got all that fancy learnin’…” He’s mocking me! He’s totally mocking me! “… But I think I’ll take the condition of my grandfather over your expertise!” He hisses before storming off angrily.

What just happened? What the fuck just happened? We’ve all been sitting here waiting for that inevitable day that Pops leaves us—we all even moved in so that we wouldn’t have to hear the news over the phone! Now, somehow, I’ve become the Angel of Death and my beloved husband ridicules my education and hard work because I point out that he’s having his last energy burst? Am I in the fucking Twilight Zone? Fuck Ashton Kutcher, where the fuck is Rod Serling??

I storm off in the same direction Christian did, stopping in the nursery to deposit Mikey into his crib. The energy in the house must be too much for my little man because he’s been asleep for hours, only stirring every now and then when he’s moved. He slips back into slumber when I lay him down, and I continue to Christian’s childhood bedroom. I change into a pair of yoga pants, a sports bra and my runners and dial the pool house.

“Williams,” Chance answers.

“This is Ana. I need an escort out front in five minutes. One second longer and you’ll lose me.” There’s a moment of silence.

“Um, yes ma’am,” he says before I end the call. I put on a hoodie over my sports bra, grab my purse, phone, and keys and I’m outta here.

*-*

“I’d like a three-day pass, please,” I say to the girl behind the counter. She hands me an application which I complete and pay her for a three-day pass. I’m at one of those 24-hour gyms to work off my frustration. I go straight for the heavy bag and let loose on it.

How the hell can he even wrap his mind around the concept that Pops is suddenly “on the mend” when he’s been suffering from chronic kidney failure since before he even got here?

You know what this is. The day is near and he’s battling the first three stages of grief all at once… emphasis on the bargaining with the energy burst.
That’s bullshit! This isn’t bargaining! He’s placing blame for the obvious on me and then he’s treating me shitty for knowing what’s going to happen next!

I wail away at the heavy bag, feeling even angrier that at a time when we should be soaking up our last moments with Pops, we’re actually fighting because he’s feeling better!

You’re the doctor. You know what’s going on here and you’re supposed to be the level headed one.
I don’t want to be the level head. I don’t deserve this abuse! I’ve had just as much time to get to know Pops as everyone else except Herman and Carrick. I love him, too, and I don’t want him to leave us either! I’m not taking my feelings out on anyone else! Why does he get to take his feelings out on me? Because of his title? Because him being adopted means he’s actually related and I’m not? He’s at home spending time with Pops and I’m here beating the hell out of leather and sand and arguing with you!

For the first time ever, I’m not feeling the burn I need from the heavy bag. There’s no one on the other end of my fist screaming and moaning in pain or begging for mercy, so I’m feeling no satisfaction. On that note, I take my sadistic ass over to the barbell weight bench to cause myself some real pain. There’s 100 pounds on the barbell and I quickly and easily do two reps of ten bench presses.

Not enough weight.

I add more weight up to 110 and still don’t feel anything after ten reps. I feel like I’m wasting my time.

“Chance,” I call and he’s by my side in moments. “Add ten more pounds to this.” He frowns.

“Ma’am?” he questions. Oh, fuck, do I have to go through this with everybody who ever sees me workout for the first time.

“Ten more pounds please take it up to 120!” I say all in one breath. He chews the inside of his cheek, but does what I ask, staying close by as I press 120 for two reps of 10. There, that’s a little more burn, but I still want just a little more.

“Fifteen,” I tell him. “Take it to 135.” He frowns, but does as I ask, removing some of the lighter weights and adding heavier ones to bring my total weight to 135. I lift the barbells and begin to feel the burn, but still not certain that we’re at 135. At my strongest, that’s the most I’ve been able to press and this doesn’t feel like 135.

“Are you sure this is 135?” I ask after my first rep of ten. He nods.

“You can look at the weights yourself. It’s 135,” he says. I sigh. I guess I’ll just do reps of ten until I can’t do anymore. I’m very likely to hurt myself doing more than 135 and I have nothing to prove to anyone. I just want to feel the burn in my muscles, but the first thing I’m going to do when we get back to the Crossing is have a heavy bag installed so that I’m not spending my nights at a 24-hour gym whenever I feel the need to kill someone.

“I assume you can spot,” I inquire. He gets into position at my head, ready to take the barbells should I hit the wall. I begin a second reps of ten with Chance spotting me, then a third, and barely make it through a fourth. On the fifth rep, I tap out at eight and Chance has to spot me. When he takes the barbells from me and put them back on the hook, I’m puffing and trying to catch my breath. I think I may have only slightly overdid it, but I’ll find a hot bath when I get back to Grey… Compound.

I see Chance’s hand as he extends it to me to help me off the bench. I grab his hand and he helps me sit up before handing me a bottle of cold water. I gladly take it and down half of it before I take a breath.

“Why do you need a bodyguard?” he asks, after taking a seat on a nearby bench. I frown.

“What?” I question.

“I just watched you bench press more than your own body weight for four reps of ten and one rep of eight after you pressed 120 for two reps of ten, 110 for one rep of ten, and 100 for two reps of ten. That’s ten reps totaling 98 presses in about 25 minutes after you damn near tore the heavy bags off the wall for twenty minutes… and you’re proficient with a firearm. Again, I ask, why do you need a bodyguard?”

His summation of the situation is somewhat facetious and draws a small chuckle from me.

“I don’t need a bodyguard, but my children do,” I tell him. “I need back-up,” I add. He raises his eyebrow at me. I dry the sweat off my body with one of the gym towels then proceed to clean the machine I was using. “The one time I was overtaken in my adult life, I was double-teamed and drugged.” We won’t talk about the pesky Green Valley situation when I was poly-teamed or jumped or whatever you want to call it. “I can take care of myself, but I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. That’s why I have a bodyguard.” He nods.

“I’d hate to ever have to go one-on-one with you,” he says. “You’re tiny and you’re strong and you’d slip out of my grasp and beat my ass.” I chuckle again.

“Yeah, I could take you,” I tell him, “maybe not face-to-face, one-on-one combat, but in a self-defense situation, I could take you. I’m just smart enough to know that I can’t take two of you.” I finish drying the machine off and put my hoodie back on. I didn’t bring a change of clothes, so showering and putting these sweaty clothes back on would be my only option. No thanks, I have a hot bath in mind when I return anyway.

“I don’t think anybody could take on two of me,” he says. I just shake my head.

“If you think so, but you’re not invincible, Chance. You’re just well-trained. You’re not the only one. Don’t get cocky,” I say as I walk out of the health club.

“I don’t,” he says, “except now, I feel a little better at times like this when I have to shadow you.” I turn a bemused gaze at him, questioning with only my eyes. He shrugs. “After what I just saw, you could be my backup!”

I laugh at him as we get in the car and head back to the Greys.

*-*

It’s quiet when I get back to the Manor. I go to the kitchen and quickly down a glass and a half of cold water before refilling my glass and heading up the stairs. I quietly open the door to the nursery and check in on the twins. It’s well past their feeding time and I can only assume that either they haven’t awakened yet or…

“They’ve already been fed.”

His voice has ice in it as I look over my shoulder at him. His eyes are laced with anger as he glares accusingly at me. I don’t have the time or the energy to go at it with him at this hour. I quietly close the door and head towards our temporary bedroom.

“Where have you been?” he demands, his voice low. I whirl around and look at him with incredulous impatience.

“Look at me,” I begin, gesturing at my attire. “I’m wearing gym clothes. I’m sweaty and funky. Where does it look like I’ve been? I went to work out!” I put a hand on my hip and await his rebuttal.

“It’s 3:00 in the morning,” he accuses. “Our children woke and you weren’t even here. Nobody knew where you were in the middle of the damn night!” I narrow my eyes at him, not in anger, but in disbelief.

“Security knew where I was!” I retort quietly. Like he says, it’s 3AM and we’re standing in the middle of the hallway. “I called them first to ask someone to go with me.”

“That’s strange, because when I called out there, they had no idea that you were gone!” he snaps. I shake my head. Chance answered the phone and I told him that he had five minutes to get out here or I was leaving. He may not have had an opportunity to tell someone, although that’s not very likely, but whatever. Why is he standing here hissing at me like a dog?

“Well, that’s strange to me, too, because I don’t recall hearing my cell phone ring questioning my whereabouts or even my safety. Hell, I’m surprised that you’re concerned where I was at all!” I retaliate before I even realize it. “You were so ready to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when I explained Pops’ burst of energy, just throwing shit on all my studies, my internship, my knowledge because you suddenly can’t accept that your grandfather is passing away. Why the hell would you even care about me when this is obviously all my fault, right?” My voice is getting a little louder than it should and Elliot sticks his head out of one bedroom while Grace and Carrick are now looking out of a room from down the hallway.

“We’re not talking about that right now. We’re talking about what’s bringing you home at 3:00 in the damn morning!” he shoots.

“I told you! I went to work out!” I rebut.

“At three in the damn morning? Yeah, I believe that.”

What the fuck? Does he just want to fight? No, Christian, no. Fucking no.

“Fine. Ask Chance—he was with me. Call 24-hour Fitness. Track the GPS you finally put on my damn car. Do whatever the fuck you want to verify if I’m lying to you. Let me know what you find out.” I turn to go into his room. I need to get out of these sweaty, nasty clothes and into some water, pronto. Only, for some reason, I can’t move forward. I hear my husband’s voice and I turn around and see fire in his eyes, though I don’t know what he’s saying. His words are lost in the haze in my head and the fact that he’s firmly gripping my arm. It feels like slow motion when my eyes travel from his down to his hand squeezing my arm and back up to his eyes.

“Like I said,” I begin, my voice slow and calculated as I look up at him through my eyelashes in a way that’s anything but sexy, “ask Chance; call the gym; check my GPS; check traffic cameras; find an eye-in-the-sky; track the Space Needle Weathercam; pray to a higher power; hold a séance and ask the dead. I really don’t care. Do whatever the fuck you need to do to get your answers since my fancy learnin’ word is no longer good enough for you! Now please! Remove your hand! From my arm! Before I take it the wrong way!”

He glares at me with a look that not only relays his fury, but also the fact that he doesn’t know who the hell I am right now. Damn straight, Grey. I don’t even know who the hell I am, so I think you better let go of my fucking arm. After a few seconds, he does just that. I go into our room without another word and close the door behind me.


A/N: Ashton Kutcher and Rod Sterling reference—Somewhere earlier in the story,  maybe in another book, something unbelievable happens to Ana and she asks, “Am I being Punked? Seriously, where’s Ashton Kutcher?” So, this situation is so much more unreal than that one that she’s certain that she’s graduated from Punk’d to The Twilight Zone and she’s now asking for Rod Serling, who was the host of the original series from 1959 – 1964.

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

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

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 68—It’s All Greek To Me

The Acropolis – Athens, Greece

I apologize for skipping last week, but I was simply too busy to post. It would take too long to explain. I will also admit that my muse took a beating over the last two weeks, but I think she’s back in action now. The honeymoon is taking a lot out of me. Too much detail is overkill and not enough detail is boring. I’m having a hard time finding a balance, but I’m working on it. I mean seriously–you can’t honeymoon in Greece and just say “We visited the Parthenon and Parliament, then we went home” now can you?

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 fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 68—It’s All Greek To Me

ANASTASIA

“Olive oil,” I say as we sit in that luxurious marble bath after magnificent sex and astronomical orgasms. “That’s new. Why that particular choice?”

“Because it’s thick and it coats smoothly. Baby oil has a mineral oil base and tends to be a bit abrasive after too much friction. Olive oil absorbs into the skin and makes a fabulous lubricant. Oh… and it’s edible.” I look over my shoulder at him.

“How did you learn this, Mr. Grey?”

“Well, like you,” he cups both of my breasts and squeezes firmly, “I like to stay abreast of things.” I giggle and he chuckles a bit at his tiny joke. “I was actually looking for the perfect massage oil that was versatile enough for our… playtime when the clerk at my favorite little discreet toy shop recommended an oil with an olive oil base. As she started explaining the benefits of the oil, I thought, hey, why not just use pure olive oil? None of the additives of the massage oil, it serves the same purpose, it’s good for your skin, and no perfumed aftertaste.”

“Yes,” I coo, remembering the taste of his skin coated in olive oil, “the taste is divine.”

“Behave, Mrs. Grey, or we’ll never leave this suite,” he warns.

“Well,” I begin, turning around and straddling him in the bath, “as much as I am anxious to see historic Athens and all the Greece has to offer, I can’t say that I mind spending quality time with my hot husband.”

“Is that so?” he says, wrapping his arms around my body and pulling me close to him.

“Yes, Mr. Grey,” I slide my arms around his neck and nestle in his lap. “That is very so.” I kiss him deeply, tasting his flavor and essence, remembering how his mouth feels and how he responds to me. He groans just before our lips part and he is slow to open his eyes.

“I like that,” he says in a low sexy tone. “You’re exploring…”

“Is that what I’m doing?” I ask in my own sexy tone. He nods.

“It’s exciting,” he confesses. “It adds another dimension to our intimate time… and it’s hot!”

“Mmmm,” I moan, moving my lips down his jaw brushing only slightly, remembering how his skin feels and committing his shiver to memory, “that’s good, because you drive me wild.” I continue down his jaw, over his neck, and back to where his neck meets his shoulder, then sink my teeth into the tender meat there. He hisses and sits up straight, both his hands instinctively traveling to my ass.

“You want to come again, don’t you?” he whispers harshly.

“Mm-hmm,” I answer, not releasing my mouth or my teeth from their target. He wraps one arm around me and lifts me with ease. When he sets me back down again, I’m in Nirvana…

We’re eating breakfast nearly at the crack of dawn to be able to tour the Acropolis before it gets too hot. We want to see as much as we can before the sun beats down on us, then we will have lunch at the New Acropolis Museum Café and stroll around the ancient artifacts for the afternoon. I was smarter in my dress this time a chose some comfortable shorts and a sheer cotton blouse with a pair of wedges that tied up around my ankle and leg and I put my sneakers in my backpack with my digital camera. There was no way that I was going to be caught unprepared while we are visiting the Acropolis. Christian admits to not being as learned about Athens as he was about Paris and confesses that we will be learning the history together. I won’t tell him that I know a lot about Greece already, but I am soon to discover that even my knowledge doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Jason and Norbert join us in the taxi while Chuck and Meathead stay behind at the hotel. This is probably quite the boring trip to Chuck so far, but he doesn’t seem to be complaining. Norbert speaks to the taxi driver and a few minutes later, we are in the Plaka district. Athens is really a very beautiful city—picturesque and historic. I remember seeing the Acropolis lit up from our table at dinner last night and it literally gave me chills. Then again, it could have been Christian, but I think it was the upper city.

A beautiful pedestrian road in the Plaka district takes us to the marble paths that lead to the Acropolis. Once I discover that I won’t be allowed to take my backpack to the Acropolis, I change into my sneakers and we begin our tour of the famous historic location. We grab a guide at the Propylaea—the entrance—to help fill in the blanks for us on our tour.

I’ve seen many photos, but nothing prepares you for seeing the Parthenon up close. It’s glorious and beautiful, majestic and tragic—strength in its endurance and weakness in its collapse. It’s being rebuilt, has been and will be for several years, but the emotions elicited from being here are very profound. You feel kind of small in its presence—not because of the size, although it is quite massive, but because of everything that it represents, everything the city has endured, the fact that you can see history playing out before you when you stand here.

Going from structure to structure, the guide tells us the difference between the three types of architecture on the Greek columns—Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. That’s information that I may never use again, but it’s interesting to see the columns graduate from the old Doric style to the newer and more flamboyant Corinthian.

Christian is shocked to discover that, contrary to popular belief, the Parthenon was not the religious temple of the Acropolis. That particular honor belongs to the Erechtheion. This temple is dedicated to the Greek goddess of war, Athena and the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. Athena and Poseidon competed to see who would become the patron of the city. Athena won the competition by causing an olive tree to grow by touching the ground with her spear. Hence, the city of Athens was named after her. Poseidon’s feat of causing a spring to burst from a rock by striking it with his trident only earned him a small village in Syros—further example providing ample opportunity to rib Sir Christian that “girls rule and boys drool.”

Our guide tells us that the Erechtheion marks the end of what is known as the Panathenaic Way. This is the ceremonial path from the town below that leads up to the Acropolis where a procession took place as part of a huge religious festival that involves sporting events as well as cultural competitions.

The Erechtheion has two porches, but the south porch is most well-known. Overlooking a beautiful green carpet with several stone ruins almost laid out like a historic graveyard is the porch of the Caryatids. I take several pictures of this structure said to contain the grave of Kekrops, the half-man-half-dragon king. Unlike the north porch supported by six Ionic columns, the south porch is supported by six Korai or maidens in lieu of columns. The famous Caryatids have been removed and we will see four of them when we go to the new Acropolis Museum this afternoon. These ladies are replicas of the originals, as evidenced by the change in the color of the stone between the maidens and the porch. It’s nonetheless very beautiful in its ruin.

Standing at the northeast corner of the Acropolis, you will find the location of the Greek flag. Our guide tells us one of many stories that he has told us today concerning the history of war on this site, but this one seemed to affect me the most. As the story goes, an Evzone guarded the flag that flies over the Acropolis. Evzones are mountain units and infantry of the Greek Army and they still guard the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at Parliament in Syntcegma Square today, and they raise and lower the flag here at the Acropolis every Sunday. During World War II, German soldiers ordered an Evzone to take the flag down, which he did. Instead of handing the flag over to the Germans, he wrapped the flag around him, then jumped off the Acropolis and killed himself.

Hearing this story and the many stories about the buildings and temples of this city gave me a whole new respect for the ground on which I am standing and the people who stood here before me and who inhabit the area today. It seems like whoever was at war at whatever time in history made their way to the religious center of Greece and declared “We’re going to destroy your culture!” Many of them are probably rolling over in their graves knowing that their actions only added to Greece’s already unbelievably rich history and makes it even more amazing that these temples still stand—even in ruin…

…A small Athenian temple at the Propylaea was dismantled by the Turks in 1686 to be used as a platform for a large cannon. It’s been rebuilt, dismantled again, and rebuilt again, and here I am in 2013 on my honeymoon—able to stand on it and see all the way out to the ports where ships are waiting and across the water to the islands and the mountains.

..The Turks used the Parthenon to store gunpowder and the Venetians attacked it in 1687. A Venetian cannon ball struck the gunpowder and blew it up.

…The current Erechtheion temple sits on the northeast corner of what used to be the original temple. The original was burned and destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC.

…After the Greek flag was removed, the Nazi flag flew over the Acropolis during the occupation in World War II. A plaque by the flag today includes the names of two heroes who removed the German flag in 1941.

Any wise strategist knows that the best way to destroy a culture is to attack its religion. These failed attempts to conquer the capital of Greece remind me of a movie I saw called “The Book Of Eli.” In the movie, the main villain was desperate to get his hands on a copy of the Bible after the Apocalypse. He knew that not only would weak minds be easily swayed, but that people hungered for real leadership and for something and someone to put their faith in. He knew that he could rule with that Bible and he went to all ends to get a copy of it from “Eli.” When he finally obtained the Bible after thinking he had killed Eli, he couldn’t read it. It was written in Braille.

Athens is very proud of its history and the fact that you can walk the same trek as many of the great thinkers, sit in the theaters where the original Greek tragedies played out, and walk down many village streets and run right into historic ruins.

Below the Acropolis the Rock of Areopagos. If you dare climb the rock, which from my vantage point I can see that many people have done just that, you will get a spectacular view of Athens and the surrounding villages. This is the site of St. Paul’s speech to the people of the city of Athens depicted in chapter 17 of the book of Acts in the Bible. Although we didn’t go to the rock, we were told by the guide that there is a bronze tablet at the top of the stairs that contains the words to St. Paul’s speech to the men of Athens.

We travel down the south slope of the Acropolis and I get pictures of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, or Theater of Herod, and the Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus. Though the Theater of Herod is more well-preserved, the Theater of Dionysus is said to be more significant. The Theater of Herod was mostly used—and still is—for cultural performances. The Theater of Dionysus is the first stone theater and the site of the great Greek tragedies. This location was also later rebuilt to house the gladiator fights.

Our history lesson is set to continue as we reach the New Acropolis Museum and the fantastic view of the ongoing underground excavation in the Atrium before you enter. As fascinating as all of this is, I need to eat! Though I had no intention of hiding this fact from Christian, my growling stomach gave me away and alerted him that although we could make our way through the Gallery of the Slopes and the glass floor that further boasts the ongoing excavation under the Acropolis, most of the Museum would have to wait until after lunch.

We decide to go straight to the Museum Café and Restaurant, where our table is decked out with fresh shrimp with ouzo, cherry tomatoes, orzo and red saffron, veal scaloppini with oregano, sautéed vegetables with lime, trachanas with mushrooms and crunchy Greek prosciutto, and fresh pasta with minced meat and kefalotiri cheese. The pasta and minced meat reminded me of the spaghetti and meatballs, but didn’t seem to torture me like red meat has been since the murder burger incident. I should really sue that place. They may have ruined a good steak for me forever! The fresh shrimp was so tasty that Christian had to request a second order as I finished it off before he had gotten any.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I scold him. “We’ve been traipsing around ancient ruins all morning. I’ve worked up an appetite and at least my feet don’t hurt!” He gazes at me with laughter in his eyes before taking a bite of the pasta and minced meat while waiting for the shrimp.

We finish our lunch and visit the exhibits in the museum starting with the Parthenon Gallery since we are somewhat working our way backwards at this point. This exhibit is the home of the Parthenon Frieze—a relief that once adorned the cella of the Parthenon. It was made up of 115 relief sculpture blocks and depicted the Panathenaic procession. It was once in rich color on a deep blue background. Its restoration and preservation here in the museum means that parts of it had to be reconstructed or cleaned with lasers and pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Those that remain show men, women, and children, gods, goddesses, horses and chariots, and various other animals marching around the perimeter of the center wall of the gallery—constructed to match the dimensions of the original cella—and meeting up like they did on the east end of the Parthenon cella to hand over the peplos to the goddess Athena. The outer walls of the Parthenon Gallery are glass. So while you take in the pictures on the frieze as well as the relief sculptures on wall blocks supported by beams and displayed outside and above the Parthenon Frieze, you have a beautiful view of the Parthenon itself, standing majestically in the background and watching over its former treasures.

Working our way down, I see the actual Caryatids that were removed from the Temple of Erechtheion. There are only five of them here… well, four and a half I should say. Four of the maidens have been rescued from the elements to be displayed safely here in their original positions from the South Porch. A fifth stands here in pieces in the back far right position of the porch. It appears to be her torso, pieces of her dress and a piece of her head or maybe a representation of her head, but the rest of her is gone. The maiden in front and second to the left is missing, her position obviously empty—like the “missing man formation”—and as some Athenians have told me, waiting for her return. She is referred to as “The Stolen Caryatid” and she stands now in the British Museum along with pieces of the original Parthenon Frieze and other artifacts and treasures from the Acropolis and ancient Greece. There is an ongoing battle to return these treasures, called the Elgin Marbles, to their homeland to be properly displayed in their place of origin.

From the second floor balcony, you can see the Archaic Gallery display, various busts and statues, sculptures and reliefs, all situated in various locations on podiums around the room. When you walk into the Museum, you almost feel like you’re interacting with the art, like you’re in the marketplace and some random conversation is going on and it’s just another day in Athens. I don’t know if everyone in ancient Greece was as pretty as these statues, but I find myself gazing into the blank eyes of a beautiful Greek kore wondering if she posed for this sculpture or if she was etched so well in someone’s mind that they sculpted her from memory. Where did the artist see her? Was she his lover? A model? Someone that he admired from afar? What was her life like in ancient Greece? Was she one of the inhabitants of the nearby villages? Was she the daughter of an aristocrat? Was she…

“She’s very beautiful, isn’t she?”

I turn to investigate the voice with the Greek accent that I don’t recognize. A tall, attractive gentleman with black hair is standing behind me and to my right. He’s casually well-dressed like Christian, and carries himself like he comes from money. Oh, shit.

“Yes, she is.” Please leave me alone.

“American,” he observes.

“She’s American?” I ask, confused. He laughs that same controlled laugh that Christian has.

“No. I meant you,” he says in a low, soft voice.

“Oh,” I say, cautiously, “Yes, I am.” I turn back to the kore, a bit put off by the fact that he’s interrupting me.

“Are you here on vacation?” he asks, his voice a bit closer to me than it was before. I look over my shoulder at him in my peripheral. He’s about 5′ 11″, well-built. He smells good, but he’s not my Christian.

“Honeymoon,” I clarify, without making eye contact and look back at the kore. Hey, you, say something to this guy and make him go away.

“Ah, honeymoon. When were you married?” Why do you want to know?

“Saturday,” I say, trying to hide my ire.

“Well, well, very newly married. Congratulations.” Isn’t that what honeymoon generally means?

“Thank you.” End of discussion, right?

“Are you and your husband enjoying Greece so far?” Wrong.

“Yes, we are, very much.” I say. I would think that my short answers would signal that I’m not interested in conversation or whatever he has to offer, but apparently it doesn’t.

“We have many beautiful attractions here… very beautiful indeed,” he says suggestively, and here we go.

“I’m aware of that,” I say, turning around to face him. “My husband and I plan on seeing as much as we can while we’re here.” I walk away from him go over to another display, this one a frieze of a man’s profile.

“Do I make you uncomfortable?” He’s behind me again. I turn around to face him and fold my arms.

“No, you don’t, but my husband could make you uncomfortable. Why are you talking to me? I told you that I was married.”

“I just like the company of extraordinarily beautiful women,” he says, his voice honey smooth and seductive. Do they teach this shit somewhere?

“How often has that worked for you?” I ask.

“What?”

“That line.” He smirks at me.

“You do not think you are beautiful?” Oh, no, diversion is not going to work.

“Okay, let’s try this. Please go look for the company of another extraordinarily beautiful woman. I am only interested in being in the company of my husband.”

“Hmm,” he says, rubbing his chin. “Your husband… he’s keeping you happy?” He asks, reaching for my hand. Before it gets there, another hand is on his wrist holding firmly. It’s not Christian.

“I wouldn’t do that,” the voice says. It’s Jason.

“Ah, you must be the husband,” the unknown guy says, snatching his arm away from Jason.

“No, the bodyguard, luckily for you,” Jason says calmly. Unknown Guy looks at me.

“Bodyguard,” he says impressed. “Hmm, extraordinary indeed.” I roll my eyes.

“You don’t give up, do you?” I ask appalled.

“Not usually,” he answers with a smile.

“Please, just leave me alone,” I tell him. “I don’t want a scene and I am not interested in your company—at all. I told you that I’m married and you are being very disrespectful.” His piercing black eyes gaze at me before he bows slightly.

“I do not wish to cause you disrespect. I will go. Should you change your mind, I am Owen.”

“I won’t, Owen. Please leave,” I insist. He nods again, throws a look at Jason, who is ready to strike like a serpent, then walks out of the gallery. I drop my head into my hands and rub my face. “Where is he?” I ask, my face still covered.

“About 20 feet to your seven o’clock,” he says. I don’t even want to turn around. I didn’t want to turn around for the entire conversation for fear that the Neanderthal was going to pop up and destroy all of the Greek artifacts in a 500-foot radius. I don’t want to move.

“Are you okay?” Jason asks. I sigh heavily and nod, just waiting for the Wrath of Grey to fall down on me. Why didn’t he come over when he saw Owen getting fresh with me? Could he hear me saying that I was married from that far away? Oh, I wish one of those famous Greek gods would just swoop down and take me anywhere but here right now. Did he touch me? No, he didn’t. Jason stopped him before that happened. I just stand here for a moment, trying to figure out what I should do next. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I didn’t do anything wrong at the hen party either and look how that turned out. I don’t know if I stand there for a few more moments or minutes, but I get my answer.

“Stop doing that,” he says in a low firm voice. I feel him reach around my body and grab my wrists, stilling my hands that were rubbing my face moments before. I freeze. I don’t know what to say or what to expect right now. Still standing behind me, he brings my hands down to my chest and asks, “Are you okay?”

I’m still frozen, a little shocked, but I manage to nod stiffly. He knows me well. He turns me around and forces me to look up into his eyes. I don’t know what he sees when he looks at me, and I can’t interpret the emotions that flash through his stare in the few seconds that we gaze at each other, but he cups my face and says “I’m sorry.”

Huh? Sorry? For what?

“For what I did,” he says softly, “at your bachelorette party.” Oh my God, we’re having this conversation here?

“Not here…” I begin.

“Yes, here!” he says firmly but quietly. “I was an ass—a barbaric, unfeeling ass—and I’m sorry. I don’t know how to react when a man touches you. I’m trying, that’s why I stayed by the beam. I love you so much. You’ve made be feel things I’ve never felt before and the thought of losing them or sharing them…” He stops abruptly and drops his head, closing his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel like that… or like this.”

He knows me too well. He totally nailed it. I had no idea what he was going to do while this guy was putting the moves on me. I was frozen with panic and uncertainty and I just wanted him to go away. It took an intervention from Jason—who has now conveniently disappeared in that way that he does—to make that guy stop. I’m feeling kind of numb now—not sad, not scared, not relieved, just… numb.

“Butterfly?” I look up in his eyes, large and questioning. “Please forgive me.” I’m still having a problem finding my words, so I just nod. He brings his lips to mine and kisses me, pulling my body closer to him. I melt instantly, momentarily forgetting that we’re standing in the middle of a busy museum. I cup his face in my hands and just let him kiss away my uncertainty.


CHRISTIAN

She’s so beautiful. I’m leaning against one of the large, gray beams in the center of the Archaic Gallery and I just watch her as she goes from display to display, marveling at the history laid out before her. She stops at a statue of a peplos kore and I can almost imagine her standing there having a conversation with the woman about fashion or the latest gossip. She’s lost in thought as she stares at the statue and I’m wondering what heavenly ideas are going through her mind. She looks utterly adorable standing there still as a statue herself gazing at the maiden like it holds the secrets to the universe. I don’t know how long I stand there gazing at the light of my life before I see some slick-haired Greek slither up to her and start conversation.

…And the light just got dark.

I can tell that she’s paying him no attention, but it seems the more she tries to shun him, the more determined he becomes. He’s one of those, wear you down until you say ‘yes,’ and then…

“Do you want me to take care of it, Boss?” Jason’s voice breaks my chain of thought and I realize that although my arms are crossed and I am still leaning on the beam, my fists are clenched to the point where my knuckles are white. I want to kill this fucker. Get away from my Butterfly! She folds her arms and takes a stance that says that she clearly wants him to leave her alone. Do I go charging in again? Will I embarrass her?

“Yes, Jason, please,” I say. I don’t think I can handle this situation diplomatically. In an official capacity, Jason may be able to defuse the situation and get rid of this loser without making a scene. He gets over to them not a moment too soon. This asshole was about to touch my Butterfly. Easy, Grey, easy. Nothing has happened. Don’t lose your cool. I’m no longer leaning on the beam. In fact, I’m ready to leap over these statues in a minute.

Cool, Grey. Be cool. Let Jason handle it.

The greasy Greek snake has slithered away and I can tell by the glance Jason just threw at me that she just asked about me. She doesn’t turn around though. She just stands there rubbing her face in that way that she rubs her forehead like she’s going to start a fire. What is she doing? Turn around, Butterfly. Let me see your face. She won’t move. She nods at Jason, but she won’t drop her hands and she won’t move.

Come to me, Butterfly.

Nothing. It’s not like she can hear me, though. Jason looks over at me after a few more moments of watching her trying to start a fire on her face. It only takes a moment to realize what must be going through her head. I walk over to them, reach around her and clasp her wrists, forcing her to stop rubbing her face. When I turn her around to face me, it’s written in her eyes.

I’m such an asshole.

I don’t know what I say to her, but all I know is that I am begging her to forgive me in my heart. I’m so sorry I made you feel this way. I’m so, so sorry. I know it wasn’t your fault. I’m so sorry.

Before I know it, we are kissing deeply in the middle of the museum and I just want to get her out of here.

“Do you want to see more of the exhibits?” I ask her.

“No. I’ve seen enough. I’m ready to go,” she says softly. I have to stop myself from carrying her out of the museum. She seems vulnerable and I’m her protector; that’s my first instinct. We stroll the rest of the way through the museum, slowing down to view the glass floor and the exhibits of the Gallery of the Slopes since we basically ran through it on our way in. Once we get out into the fresh air, Butterfly seems to loosen up a bit, thank God. We decide to take the five-minute walk over to the Plaka district to do some tourist shopping and have dinner.

The Plaka district is characterized by very narrow roads, most of which do not allow cars. The area is very small, only 6 blocks wide and 10 blocks long. However, this is the area of the old village buildings, wrought iron balconies, and picturesque cobblestone streets. Every space is being used and the shops are nearly one on top of the other. You can find just about anything in the Plaka district. The shops have their wares all hanging or displayed on the outside of the stores and both locals and tourist buzz around looking for a deal.

We have gone to many of the shops so far, purchasing Greek pottery, fresh sponges from the Mediterranean, hats and souvenirs, and now we find ourselves in a small shop of unique handmade jewelry… and I’m watching her again. She is carefree as she talks to the shopkeeper about her choices. Norbert has taken most of the items we have purchased back to the hotel and Adrien and Charles will return and relieve Jason for the evening. I must admit that she is choosing some stunning original pieces, but I would have to say that my favorite pastime is Ana-watching.

I love the way her body moves. She’s curvier lately and her ass fits perfectly in these little shorts she’s wearing. I remember seeing her in a similar pair in Anguilla and just thinking that I wanted to cup her ass all night, not necessarily fuck her, just cup her ass. Now, it’s rounder than it was then and I could just wrap my hands around those cheeks and never let go. She glides to another display of some black and silver necklaces and I move to where I can get a better view of her. She is so beautiful with her chocolate locks cascading down her back. She moves her shirt in an effort to cool herself and it only brushes against her luscious body and makes me want her. I’ll make you hot, Baby. I’ll make you so hot, you can’t see straight.

“Sir?”

I’m a little embarrassed that Charles caught me eye-fucking my wife, but hey, we’re married and if he sticks around, he may accidentally see more than that.

“Yes?” I respond.

“Just letting you know that we’re here, sir,” he says. I nod and turn back to my Butterfly gazing. Her body is changing. She’s more sensitive and sensual. She can go as long as I can if not longer sometimes, and that’s new. I don’t remember ever having a woman who wasn’t worn out before I was and didn’t need a little coaxing. Now this new exploration thing that she’s doing, that’s fucking hot! The looks on her face when she realizes her full orgasm. The way that her insides vibrate, tighten, then release when she is concentrating on the sensation… shit, I better stop thinking about this before I give Charles a view he’ll never forget.

Down, Greystone.

Butterfly buys her wares and I swear she turns around and looks right at my dick. She looks up at me and smiles, walking the short distance across the shop over to me. She leans her body against mine and gives me a soft kiss.

“Do you need a moment?” she whispers in my ear. My eyebrows furrow when I look at her. She gestures her head down to the area that she is craftily covering with her body. Charles, like Jason, knows when to get lost and has retreated out of the shop and is standing just outside the door with Adrien. “What were you thinking about?” she asks.

“You,” I answer honestly, “and you hot ass and your firm breasts and how you make me so hard and want you so much that I can’t fucking see straight.” Her eyebrows shoot up and I can tell that she is a bit taken aback by my confession.

“You do the same thing to me, Mr. Grey, but…” She looks down at my dick again. “My arousal is not so visible.” Shit, I’m coaxing Greystone down and he’s rising higher to the challenge. The little jewelry shop is so tiny and there’s nowhere to hide. I’m going to have to go into the street like this.

“I’ll get it to calm down,” I say, not so sure of myself.

“I’m just a little worried about you,” she says with mirth. “It can’t be very comfortable in those jeans.”

“No,” I tell her, “but the tightness against…” I trail off and she raises her eyebrows again. Yes, Butterfly, I like it.

“What are you going to do?” she asks.

“I’ll talk it down,” I tell her as we leave the jewelry store.

Yeah… that didn’t work.

I’m walking down the streets of the Plaka district, examining more things to buy and every female eye walking in my direction goes straight to my dick. It doesn’t matter if they are 25 or 75, they are looking at the package, and Greystone is looking right back at them. It’s not because he wants any of them; it’s because he refuses to settle down. He is pumping hard and to the left and I’m trying to ignore him, but it’s doing no good. Butterfly is becoming aggravated with the additional attention to my unwelcome erection and begins to somewhat separate herself from me. That doesn’t make me happy. If she was trying to have the effect of making it deflate, that worked.

She’s looking at some colorful scarves on a display and I am standing behind her, watching her ass and thinking about what I could do with those scarves. Oh, for Christ’s sake! I cross the tiny street and look at some boring postcards of the Parthenon and the surrounding ruins. Charles and Adrien will make sure no harm comes to Butterfly.

My mind must have wandered to parts unknown and my thoughts are interrupted by the voice of a young Greek woman.

“See anything you like?” she asks in a mild Greek accent. I look at the postcards in my hands.

“Just looking for now.” I reply.

“Are you in Greece on business?” she asks. I raise my eyes to her. Young and beautiful and making the moves on me. Oh, shit.

“On second thought, I’m not interested in anything.” I put the postcards back on the rack and do an “about-face” back to my wife and the scarves. That’s the last thing I need is for her to see some young Greek girl on the prowl, chatting me up while I’m standing there with a boner. Well, the boner is gone now, but the last she saw, I had a boner. She finishes her transaction and turns around to face me. She seems surprised to see me standing there.

“She’s pretty,” she says, putting her wallet into her backpack. Fuck. She saw me.

“Who?” I ask with an obtuse frown. She twists her lips at me and her eyes are screaming, “Seriously, Grey?”

“The girl that you were talking to,” she says with a little spice. I look back over at the woman who is now examining me and Butterfly.

“Oh,” I say non-committal. “Yeah, I guess she’s kind of pretty.” I turn back to Butterfly. “I hadn’t noticed. I was looking at the postcards. I heard a voice ask me if I was interested and I said, ‘no.’ I think postcards are kind of cheesy. Everybody knows that we’re here, so why send a postcard?” Keep talking, Grey.

“The same reason you buy souvenirs,” she says, her voice tainted with skepticism.

“Yes, but a souvenir is different,” I say, keeping the conversation going and willing her to move away from the shop with the staring Greek girl. “A souvenir is a tangible reminder of where you’ve been or gift from your trip that you give to someone else. A postcard… it’s just a picture. You’ve taken a million pictures. Why do you need postcards?”

“Then why were you looking at them?” she accuses. I know what she’s doing. She’s feeling a bit of the same thing that I felt in the museum and I can’t blame her for it.

“Because they are boring and they kept my mind off your ass and my dick at a manageable size,” I tell her honestly. Her eyes go immediately to my pants and although Greystone thumps at the thought of her eyes on him, my erection has considerably subsided.

“Oh,” she says somewhat dismissively. “Well, let’s go find something else boring to look at besides the beautiful Greek girl,” she says almost in a pout. I smile and put my arm around her waist.

“Like I said, I hadn’t noticed,” I respond, reaching down to squeeze her ass and leading her away from the offending shop.

The sun has set and we have covered the Plaka district, sending Adrien back to the hotel with Butterfly’s acquisitions twice during the trip. We are now in a lovely Greek restaurant with wooden and wicker chairs and red and white tablecloths about to enjoy some delicious food. A mention that we are newlyweds got us a quiet table inside of what looks like a discreet little cave inside the wall.

“You moved away from me while we were shopping,” I observe. She looks up from her menu and examines me. “You didn’t think I noticed?”

“You didn’t notice the pretty Greek girl,” she says with no malice looking back at her menu.

“She’s not you,” I reply immediately without taking my eyes off her. She looks back up at me just as the waiter comes to take our order. There aren’t many choices, so we ask for beer and wine and literally, whatever’s cooking and send him away. I look back up at Butterfly. “You didn’t answer my question,” I press.

“You didn’t ask one,” she says softly.

“I did, but I’ll ask again. You moved away from me while we were shopping. You didn’t think I noticed?” She looks down at her hands. I reach across the table and put my finger under her chin, lifting her eyes back to me. I know what it was, but I want her to tell me. She tries to lower her head again, but I won’t let her. Talk to me.

We stare at each other for quite some time, I don’t really know how long, until the waiter comes back with our drinks and salad. I know that we will have some time now before the food comes. I entwine my fingers in hers across the table.

Talk to me, Butterfly.

“I don’t know what to say,” she says shyly. “I just wanted it to stop.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

“I was trying, Baby, but you know what you do to me.”

“I know,” she says, still unable to make eye-contact with me. “It’s just… there was nothing that I could do about it.”

“Well, maybe not at that moment, but…”

“Not that,” she interrupts me. “The staring. I wanted it to stop. It… I didn’t like it.” I know you didn’t, Baby.

“While they were looking at me, I was only looking at you,” I try to comfort her.

“I know, but…” It doesn’t seem to be working. She finally raises her eyes to mine. “Think about it, Christian. I’ve likened you to a Greek god many times before. Now here you are walking down the streets of Greece—a beautiful man with a beautiful body, strikingly beautiful gray eyes and beautiful wavy red hair… in perfectly fitting jeans with an erection the size of the Parthenon. I can’t make women not look at you on a normal day. What the hell am I supposed to do when you’re waving Athena’s spear at them?”

She’s not angry, but she is perturbed by the situation, and I am doing my very best not to laugh at that description.

I fail miserably.

“Athena’s spear?” I say through my laughter. “Greece has really gotten to you, hasn’t it?”

“It’s not funny, Christian!” she says swatting me on my wrist. I point at her face, still unable to control my glee.

“Then why are you laughing?” I ask. She tries to hide her chuckle and I take this moment to move next to her in the cove-booth. I put one arm around her and shield her from the view of the restaurant. She gasps quietly as I gently stroke the tender meat inside of her thigh. She spreads her legs a bit for me and I move further up her thigh.

“This spear only sharpens for you, Baby,” I whisper in her ear, still making light of the situation.

“I still don’t like them looking,” she breathes, arousal thick in her voice. These tables are nothing like the tables at the restaurant last night. Not only are we hidden away in the corner of a quiet little cove with few patrons in the restaurant, but the table cloths are much longer and shield my actions from prying eyes. I could make her come right now, but I won’t. This excites me immensely, but concentrating on driving her crazy keeps the woody at bay.

“I feel the same way,” I say, brushing my lips against her cheek. I wrap my ankle around hers, locking her foot with mine and pulling her legs apart. “The thought of another man looking at you… admiring you… touching you… It’s more than I can bear.” I move my hands further up and inside the leg of her shorts to the crease in her thigh and caress her there. She takes in a deep breath and closes her eyes as I close my lips over that space on her neck right under her earlobe. I am able to travel under her underwear and tease her just over her lips. “Then, I remember that you will only allow me here. No one else… that I am the only one who can touch you here, taste you here, feel you here…” I slip my fingers between her lips and into her hole, massaging just enough to get her wet and lubricate my fingers.

Two quick breaths escape her throat as she settles into the feeling. She’s doing it again. She’s absorbing the pleasure and concentrating on the sensation. This is a whole new dimension for us and I love watching her. I love every minute of it. The fact that we are doing this in a public restaurant makes it just that much hotter.

“Only me,” I whisper in her ear as my wet fingers now massage her clit. She stifles her groan and sinks back onto the seat and into my arm.

“Yes,” she breathes, her eyes closed, one hand clenching the seat and the other grasping my shirt and she exercises control over her breathing.

“You do this to me,” I breathe, stroking her clit slowly just for sensation, not for orgasm. “This is what you make me feel. Only you, Lady Anastasia.” She whimpers a bit at my declaration. “Kiss me.”

Her free hand moves from the seat to my cheek and she kisses me deeply, almost making me forget where I am. I taste her hunger and her yearning in her kiss. She moves me in every way.

“Christian,” she breathes, “stop… stop…” I know that she no more wants to come right now than I want her to come. So I move my fingers from her clit to just inside the lips, minimal stimulation so that she doesn’t come crashing to the ground. Her breathing regulates a bit as I move my fingers to the outside of her lips. She still feels so good and my fingers are still drenched in her wetness. She releases a deep breath when my hand emerges from her shorts. Before I have a chance to do anything, she grabs my hand with both of hers and brings it to her mouth. She wraps her lips around my fingers and sucks them firmly, cleaning all of her juices from my hand. She raises her eyes to mine as she licks between the fingers and kisses each fingertip seductively, even the ones that didn’t pleasure her. I lick my lips and my dick is getting hard again.

“That’s what makes me want to fuck you every night,” I confess.

“It’s our honeymoon. Nothing’s stopping you.”

“Make sure you eat all of your dinner,” I warn. “You’re going to need your strength.” She gasps again. Oh yes, Butterfly. I plan on making you scream to the Acropolis.

Her appetite is as healthy as ever and that pleases me. I feel the need to carry her when we leave the Plaka district, so she tells me to squat and she climbs onto my back. People stare and point, smiling at us while Butterfly giggles and whispers in my ear during her piggyback ride from the Plaka district all the way back to Syntagma Square. Even after a full meal, she is as light as a feather.

When we get back to the hotel, I quickly get her out of her clothes and into bed. That crazy erection comes back with a vengeance and I sink into her over and over again, unable to control my aching and burning need for her. I try to control myself, but the beast inside me needs her to calm it and Greystone is completely helpless. Dom Dick is brick hard and saluting with no sign of surrender. Butterfly comes more times than I can remember and I blow several times before he is willing to submit. By the time I am sated, Butterfly has screamed herself voiceless and is begging me to stop and let her rest. She collapses in my arms and we both fall into a deep sleep.

I awake on Thursday morning, content and still sated from the night before, but the bed is empty.

Where’s Butterfly?

I get out of bed and go to the bathroom, intending to search for her once I relieve myself, and I find her there at the vanity in one of the Grande Bretagne robes.

“Well, good morning,” I say to her, before coming behind her and kissing her neck. “You’re up early.”

She spits and rinses her mouth. “Good morning,” she says, wiping her mouth. “I haven’t worked out in forever. I just wanted to get one in. I really need to burn all these calories I’m taking in.” Damn. I guess I had better enjoy the round ass while I can.

“You did a lot of walking yesterday,” I tell her. “You had to have burned off enough for a few people with that trek.” I look at the toilet and realize that I don’t think we’ve ever used the bathroom in front of one another, except last year when she was stunned. I shake that thought and point to the toilet. “Do you mind?” She looks at me through the mirror.

“Do I mind what?” she asks.

“If I piss in front of you.” She looks at me bemused.

“You’re kidding, right?” Okay, what does that mean? She doesn’t care if I piss in front of her or she would be utterly appalled and I should have not even ask?

“We’ve… never done that in front of each other,” I say with a shrug. She turns around slowly and faces me with one hand on her hip.

“Christian, I’ve had your dick in my throat and you’re seriously asking me if I care if you take a leak in front of me?” Well, when you put it that way…

“You never know. Some people are squeamish about that kind of thing,” I say, whipping out my dick and handling my business.

“I think you should know me better than that. Would you care if I pissed in front of you?” she asks. I turn around after putting myself away and look at her as if to say “seriously?”

“Exactly,” she says as she begins flossing her teeth. I walk behind her and grab her ass.

“I’m going to miss this,” I say giving it a squeeze. She leans on the vanity.

“Are you saying that you like my ass flabby?” she says.

“Your ass is far from flabby, Ana, but it is curvy and round and yes, I liked it before just fine before you ask, but I do like the curvy and round.” I kiss her neck and grab her ass again before she gets me into one of those “what was so wrong with my ass before” conversations. Seeing that she has already showered and washed her hair, I get in the shower and decide to take advantage of the rainwater and wall jets. I so need to get one of these built. Those jets feel fantastic on my balls.

When I come out of the shower, Butterfly is already gone. I dry my hair and brush my teeth, then go in search of Butterfly again. She is enjoying her breakfast at the dining table and looking at her phone.

“You couldn’t wait for me?” I ask. She looks up at me.

“It just got here and I was hungry. I heard the shower go off, so I knew you wouldn’t be long.” She says, eating a piece of a croissant. I have nothing to worry about. That ass isn’t going anywhere. “Do you have the day planned yet?”

“No,” I say, uncovering a tray and digging in to some eggs and pancakes. Butterfly is gobbling down some fresh fruit. “I figured we would just play it by ear.”

“Good, because I want to see the Parliament Building and the changing of the guards. Then, I’d like to see the National Gardens. I’ve heard that they’re very lovely. Did you have anything that you wanted to do today?” she asks.

“I want to go to the National Archeological Museum,” I tell her. She presses something on her phone.

“That’s a bit north, but not too far. So we can go to the museum after the National Gardens then swing back to the Olympic Stadium and the Temple of Zeus.” She is typing away. What is she doing?

“Butterfly, what are you doing?” I ask her before taking a sip of my coffee.

“I’m planning our day,” she says, looking up from her phone momentarily. “There are so many things to see in Athens and while I don’t think we can possibly see everything, I want to see as much of the ‘must-see’ places as possible.” I nod.

“Okay, so what’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” I ask.

“Well, we still haven’t seen Socrates Prison in Philopappos Hill, although I don’t think that was the prison that held Socrates at all, but that’s neither here nor there…”

“Oh, really?” I interrupt her. “And why, oh great scholar, would you dispute the great people of Greece?” She looks up at me.

“Lots of reasons,” she says, folding her arms. “First of all, there were no prisons at the time. Detention was not the preferred punishment for offenders. You were either exiled, fined, set free, or killed—well, forced to kill yourself.”

“Whoa! Good God!” I almost choke on my coffee. “How the fuck do you force someone to kill themselves?”

“You force them to drink poison, in this case, hemlock,” she says nonchalantly.

“In this case? There were other ways to kill someone? I mean poison seems pretty effective.”

“Well, yes, there’s always another way to kill someone, Christian…”

“I know that,” I interrupt her, “but I mean, forcing someone to drink their own poison knowing that they are going to die soon, that’s psychological warfare.” She twists her lips in thought.

“I guess you’re right about that, but the hemlock death was very humane and only reserved for those who could afford it,” she said, as if she were talking about buying shoes or something. “The other method of death at the time was a type of bloodless crucifixion. You were bound to a board with irons by your wrists, ankles, and neck and strangled slowly. It took days to die.” I instinctively reach for my neck.

“So what you’re telling me is that if you had money, you could buy your own hemlock, take it yourself, and…” I trail off.

“Your body would just go numb from your feet to your head. When the numbness got to your heart, you died quietly.” Oh, joy, how neat… not!

“Okay, you could buy your own poison or you could be strangled for days.”

“Yep.”

“And one of these happened to Socrates in his prison cell?” I ask and she nods.

“He took the hemlock,” she says, finishing her fruit.

“Okay, so you said that you don’t think that the prison at Philiphophis Hill is actually Socrates prison. What is it then and where is Socrates Prison?” She giggles.

“It’s Philopappos Hill and no, I don’t think that was the prison. It’s too modern and looks more like someone created it. Many scholars and… other important people,” she says with a wave of her hand, “agree that this was most likely not the death cell of Socrates. This was built much later and is now used as a tourist trap. I mean, do you really want to tell a tourist that the place of Socrates’ death no longer stands when you have these perfectly intact cells inside of a cave at the bottom of an ancient hill in the city where Socrates lived?” How the fuck did we get on this conversation? It’s absolutely morbid!

“Okay, so, where was his cell?”

“Well…” she punches something into her phone and shows it to me. “It most likely was here.” She’s pointing to a map with yellow squares and arrows on it and I have no idea what I’m looking at. “This would have been the site of the ‘Agora State Prison,'” she says, “just southwest of the boundaries of Agora. It was illegal to execute anyone inside the borders, so this area was most likely where it happened. There were eight cells here and four rooms for the guards. The building is gone now and only the foundation is still there, but it will be easy to see where the death cell was. That’s one of the places I want to go tomorrow, too.”

“Oh, Butterfly, that is so macabre. You want to go stand in the place where Socrates drank hemlock and died?” I ask. She looks at me.

“It’s no different from visiting the Lorraine Motel and Civil Rights Museum in Memphis where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed, or the Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. where Abraham Lincoln was shot and the Petersen House where he later died. It’s a part of history, Christian, nothing more.” I think she’s a little sensitive about my statement. I certainly didn’t mean to offend her.

“Can I ask you one more thing?” Her gaze doesn’t turn from me and I think she may be expecting me to say something else offensive. “Well, you didn’t seem to know a lot about the Parthenon and the Acropolis and I was sure that you would. How do you know so much about Socrates?” She settles a bit, almost relieved I think that I didn’t say something stupid.

“I’ve told you many times that Al and I are split-aparts,” she says. I nod.

“Yes.” How can I forget?

“That theory was introduced by Plato.” I nod. “Who do you think Plato’s teacher was?” And it all makes sense now.

“Socrates.” She nods. I look down at my food, which has gone cold. Something inside of me suddenly goes cold. “I try not to take it personally. Allen has said that you two were soul mates. He has even said it about James, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that about me.” Did I just say that out loud? I said I would never say that to her! I would never tell her those feelings. I look up at her and she is horrified, I mean utterly horrified. Shit, shit, shit!

“How…” I think she is at a complete loss for words. She’s kind of suspended in time. “Why… how…” I’m only getting one word. I don’t dare say a thing. There’s nothing that I can say after that declaration. I can only wait for her response. “How could you not know?” she finally says. Not know what? That Allen is your soul mate and I’m not? That I’m really your soul mate? I’ve never had the kind of relationship with anyone outside of my family that she has with Allen. I watched him kiss her tenderly on the dance floor at my wedding reception and had anyone else kissed her like that, I would have ripped out his throat.

What do I say? I feel ashamed, but not. I want to be in that place, to be her split-apart, but I can’t. That spot is taken by another man, and I’m not allowed to be angry about it. It’s completely foolish to be angry about it, but part of me is. Part of me feels like there’s a part of her that I will never have, that will always belong to someone else, and he’s stomping and kicking and throwing a temper tantrum like a three-year-old because of it—but I can’t tell her that.

I look in her eyes right now and I can’t even describe what I see—confusion and hurt and anger, but not, just a mishmash of “I don’t know” and “Why” and “What the fuck.”

Shit, I fucked up.

“Butterfly…” I reach for her and she pulls away from me. That shit hurt.

“After everything we’ve been through… you still don’t know?” she asks, her voice small. It’s such an all-encompassing question and I don’t know what she’s asking me. Please tell me what you mean.

“Butterfly, I don’t doubt for one moment what you feel for me; what I mean to you. I don’t want you to think that I don’t know, that I don’t understand. It’s that selfish bit in my that wants to be your everything and knows that’s not possible.”

“But you are my everything, Christian,” she says, her imminent tears evident in her voice.

“No, I’m not, but that’s okay. There are supposed to be other people in your life that fill other needs for you. I can’t help wanting to fill every need that you have, to be everything that you need. I can’t help wanting you to need only me because you mean so much to me, but that’s not realistic and I know it. Please hear what I’m saying, please.” I fall on my knees in front of her and take her hands while the tears fall from her eyes onto her robe.

“I love you so totally and completely that I have a hard time accepting that I can’t fill every single void in your life. Everyone needs more than one someone in their life, and it wasn’t until I met you that I needed anyone in mine. I mean, I needed people, but I didn’t understand that I needed people until I met you. You came with your own cheering section and people flocked to you and there were these two remarkable men in your life that gave you just about everything that you needed… except that romantic love. That’s where I came in. You became everything for me and I became everything for you. But you can’t love me like Mia does, or Grace… and I can’t love you like Allen or Ray. It makes me a little jealous, that I can’t fill every need, but that’s the unreasonable, selfish part of me that I’m still working on. Please, please just know that I love you with everything that I am and I know that you love me just as much. Please know that.”

She closes her eyes tight and takes a deep, shuddering breath. She nods wildly while she takes in another sobbing breath.

“I know,” she chokes quickly. “I know.” I crush her in my arms while she cries. I’m sorry, Butterfly. I’m such a fucking idiot. I fucking hate Socrates… fuck, Plato. Shit, I hate them both, but they’re already dead. “I… need to… clean up… pull my… self toget… together.” She’s trying to escape. I know she is, but this time, I think she needs to. I cup her face in my hands and kiss her gently but she’s unable to return the kiss through her sobs.

“I’m sorry,” I try to tell her. “I’m an idiot and my mouth runs before my brain sometimes. Please forgive me.”

“I… under… stand,” she says, still sobbing. “Let me… go and… fix myself… o-okay?” she needs to get away. I nod and release her, sitting back on my feet and letting her walk hurriedly back to our bathroom. I run my hands through my hair. I feel like a fool. It’s hard to explain what I’m feeling. I don’t doubt her feelings for me. I know that they are genuine and I trust her with my life. I’m just so… consumed with her and that fact that there could be somewhere, sometime that she doesn’t need me scares the shit out of me. I just don’t know how verbalize it without diminishing the relationship that she has with her best friend, or her father… or fuck, even with me. I’m such and idiot. I know that she’s going to be thinking about this for a long time and I don’t know how to fix it.

Shit, I’m such and idiot.


A/N: I took Greek and Roman studies a loooooooooooooooooooooooong time ago. Even with those classes and the hours and hours and hours of research that I did, I know that I could not scratch the surface of the rich history of Athens and of Greece as a whole. To that end, if my Greek readers see that any of my facts, points, or spellings are flawed, would you please shoot me an email and let me know. I would also appreciate it if in that email, you would include a link of some kind if you could so that I can double-check those facts. You all know that I am a research fanatic and a stickler for details and accuracy and I would hate to offend anyone by getting the history wrong.

I didn’t intend for their honeymoon to become a history lesson for my readers, but it was unavoidable. You can’t visit Greece without going through the history—there is absolutely no way. It also adds dimension to the physical beauty of the location.

The missing man formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flypast of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event, typically in memory of a fallen pilot. Several variants of the formation are seen that display either an aircraft splitting off of the formation and flying away or an aircraft missing from the display. In all cases, the aircraft performing the split off or missing from the formation is honoring the person (or persons) who have died, and it represents their departure to the heavens.

Don’t forget to check out the Pinterest boards to follow Christian and Ana on the honeymoon. https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-off-to-greece/

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn X