Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 16

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

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

Season 5 Episode 16

ANASTASIA

“Shit! Are you serious?” I hear my husband bark into the phone. “She drove off? It wasn’t an accident?” He’s silent for a moment. Who drove off what? What the hell is he talking about?

“Is she dead?” he asks a few moments later and I really want to know what the hell is going on now.

“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck! What the fuck else can happen? I’ve got to tell Butterfly…”

“Tell. Me. What?” I say, and a horrified gaze turns to me. That’s when I realize that he forgot I was in the room.

“Get the car ready,” he says into the phone. “Tell all the details we’ll meet everybody at SeaTac.” He swipes his phone and puts it back in his pocket. “Baby,” he says, taking my hands and leading me to the bed to sit me down. “There’s been an accident… we don’t really know if it’s an accident…”

“Who, Christian?” I ask. I know it’s a she, I just need to know who.

“Carla,” he says quickly. My brow furrows.

“Carla?” I ask. “Carla drove off of something?” “An overpass,” he says. “She’s on her way to the hospital. It doesn’t look good.”

It doesn’t look good. How do I feel about that? She’s my mother… I never said that I wanted her to die, but I was prepared not to see her again until I was burying her. How do I feel about this?

“Butterfly?” Christian asks, squeezing my hands. “Are you alright?” I shake my head.

“Yeah,” I say, still shaking my head. “Yeah, we gotta go. Let’s go.” I heard him tell Jason to get the car ready. We should really get moving. I stand and Christian stands with me. We move to the door and the moment we open it, Marilyn is standing there about to knock. I look at the solemn look on her face and she no doubt examines the solemn look on ours, or at least on Christian’s.

“You know,” she says.

“How do you know?” Christian asks.

“Christian,” she shows us her phone. “It’s on the news.”

“Fuuuuuuuck!” he yells, thrusting his hands into his hair. “Couldn’t they give her daughter a chance to be notified before the fuckers zeroed in for the kill?”

“They’re reporting that your security team contacted the police, so they’re probably assuming that she already knows.”

I’m eerily calm while my husband is pulling his hair out, putting his hand in the smalls of both our backs and guiding us quickly towards the stairs. I don’t really hear anything around me. I’m trying to process the information that I just got.

Carla threw her car over an overpass… at least they think she did, they’re not sure. She could have lost control of the car, or fell asleep at the wheel or…

“Ana?”

Christian and Mare both call my name at the same time, bringing me back from my mental wanderings.

“Do you have everything you need?” Christian asks. “Your purse, your phone…?”

“Oh,” I say, coming back to the here and now and thinking to retrieve the things that I need before I leave. I go back upstairs and grab my essentials, then take a detour to the twins’ room. Mikey is sleeping in his crib, but Minnie’s not there.

“I love you so much, little prince,” I say, brushing his hair with my fingers. “You’ll never, ever know the feeling of thinking that Mommy doesn’t love you… ever.”

I kiss my fingertips and touch his head before going in search of my daughter. I find her in the family room with Keri. When I hold my hands out to her, she reaches out to me in a gesture that warms my aching and confused heart.

“I love you, Minnie Mouse,” I say, hugging her close to my body. “You’re going to grow up to be a beautiful woman and Mommy will be there every step of the way.”

I kiss her little chubby cheeks and she pats mine in return, blissfully oblivious to the fact that I’m telling her that I’ll never put her through what Carla put me through. I quickly hand her back to Keri and fight the tears that are threatening to fall. I go back to the grand entry and Marilyn is standing there with Windsor. She’s buttoning her coat and Windsor is holding mine.

“Mrs. Grey?” he says as he holds my coat open. I allow him to help me into it and note that Christian has disappeared. As I’m tying my belt, I see him at the top of the stairs coming from the direction of our bedroom and the nursery and I realize that he was saying his goodbyes to Mikey. As he’s descending the stairs, Jason comes bursting into the front door and catches my gaze. His eyes are immediately sympathetic, and I think he’s about to tell me that my mother is dead.

“Any more news?” I ask as flatly as I can, my voice still cracking from saying goodbye to my daughter.

“No, Ana,” he says, softly. “No news yet.” I nod and put my gloves on. I want to yell that I’m not at the brink of tears because of Carla, but I just skip it and head out to the car.

I have no idea how quiet, loud, bumpy, harrowing, or otherwise uncomfortable or distracting that three-hour flight was because I spend the entire thing lost in thought. Flashbacks of my childhood play in my mind over and over again like a movie, as clear as if it all happened yesterday…

Daddy and Mommy dancing in the living room…

German chocolate cake for my fifth birthday… and sixth… and seventh… and eighth…

My books and all the many places I traveled to, telling Mommy and Daddy about the adventures when I returned…

The things me and Mommy used to make—crafts and dresses and maps to go on the walls…

Dancing with Daddy in the living room and getting to love the Motown sound…

We’re all back at the Waldorf Astoria and back in the rooms that we kept reserved for the trial. Christian wants to eat first, but I have no appetite. I really want to get to the hospital and see the extent of the damage. Christian instead gives the task to Jason to find us something to eat, which he no doubt delegates to someone else since he’s going to be driving us to Summerlin Hospital where my mother has currently been admitted.

“I’ll be here for you for as long as I can, Sunflower,” Daddy tells me, “but I’m not going to the hospital. I’m sure you can understand why.”

“I understand, Daddy,” I tell him, returning his embrace as he hugs me. “I’ve got a feeling this is something I’m going to need to do alone anyway.” I don’t look at Christian when I say that because I can feel the hey-what-about-me gaze boring into my back.

Twenty minutes later, we’re at the administration desk trying to get information on Carla. My name is Grey, previously Steele, and my mother’s name is Morton. So, trying to prove that I’m next of kin is like pulling teeth. They finally locate my mother’s medical records and see that Anastasia Steele is listed as next of kin, and I’m able to go to the intensive care unit to see my mother.

Dear God, she looks awful.

She’s in a private room, which is some comfort since I didn’t want to deal with anyone taking pictures or anything. It was hard enough to get in with the paparazzi newly fired up and trying to get a story. Christian is right, those people are vultures. Had I discovered that my mother was dead and had to come and identify the body, some asshole would be outside shoving a mic in my face asking, “How do you feel about that?”

No sooner I get into the room and ascertain that it actually is my mother lying in the bed post-op, her surgeon comes into the room with her chart.

“Mrs. Grey, hello,” he says, “I’m Dr. Lei Jianhong…”

Huh?

“Just call me Dr. Lee. It makes life easier for all parties involved.” I nod and turn my gaze back to my mother.

“I won’t lie to you, Mrs. Grey. There’s a lot going on here. Mrs. Morton’s vehicle had airbags, which offered her some protection, but she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. As a result, she was ejected from the car during the accident. Now, that’s an awful thing when you consider a vehicle going over a bridge onto the road below and into oncoming traffic. However, it turned out to probably be a blessing in disguise—as much as a nearly fatal car accident can be considered a blessing—since your mother’s car exploded on impact and she was ejected from the car most likely as part of the explosion. However, the airbags didn’t prevent her from being ejected when the car hit the ground below.”

Was anyone else hurt?” I ask, noting that he mentioned the car possibly falling into oncoming traffic.

“Thankfully, no,” Dr. Lee says. “No other vehicles were involved in the accident, even on impact with the road below.”

In short, I listen to Dr. Lee tell me that my mother was thrown around like a rag doll—battered to and fro by the air bags, violently ejected from the car on impact or when it exploded, jettisoned into the air God only knows how far, then took one of the worst tumble-and-rolls the human body could have possibly taken before her body finally came to rest several hundred feet away basically at the bottom of a concrete basin.

She has two broken legs, a fractured skull, several broken ribs, a broken neck, a severe pelvic fracture and internal bleeding that required surgery, multiple contusions—obviously—both of her lungs are collapsed, and she’s currently in a coma. It’s a wonder she’s alive.

Oh, and she’s most likely paralyzed.

“Your mother has visibly suffered a spinal injury, most likely a form of anterior cord syndrome. Without all the complicated doctor speak, it means that she’s probably going to be paralyzed from the waist down.”

Great. Fucking great. So, if she does wake up from this, she won’t be able to walk.

“Is the condition permanent?” I ask flatly, still looking at my mother.

“There’s no way to tell right now,” the doctor says, and I continue to stare silently at Carla.

“Mrs. Grey?” I turn my gaze to him. “It’s been my experience that coma patients can sometimes hear what you say, feel the energy that you’re giving them… and that if she wakes up, her recovery can depend totally on her support system.”

In a nanosecond, in my peripheral I see my husband loading the rounds about to fire with both barrels. I put my hand up to silence him without taking my eyes off the doctor.

“Dr. Lee, do you know who I am?” I ask. “Do you know my story at all?” He purses his lips.

“I’m afraid I don’t,” he says. “I’ve heard some murmurings around the hospital, but I’m afraid I don’t.” Okay, so that means he gets the short version.

“My full name is Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” I tell him, my voice even and controlled. “So, had you decided to use that ‘complicated doctor speak’ that you referred to earlier, my husband wouldn’t have been able to follow you, but I probably would.

“I don’t live here, Dr. Lee. I live in Seattle, WA. I’m only here because the verdict in my case will be read tomorrow—the case in Green Valley where the teenager was branded and beaten. I was that teenager. I spent three weeks in a coma at the age of 15 as a result of that beating, not to mention the coma that I experienced 1 ½ years ago that lasted 12 days and resulted in temporary short-term amnesia. Long story short, I’m fully aware of the dynamics and the aftermath of a coma—medically and personally.”

“Dr. Grey, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“But most of all,” I interrupt, my voice still controlled, “you should know that my relationship with this woman is hostile at best, nonexistent in most cases. When I was in that coma for three weeks at 15, she wouldn’t stay in the hospital with me because of what people were saying about us. I could’ve died and she may not have even known. She was aloof and detached from the entire situation. My mending and recovery had absolutely nothing at all to do with her. It was my father and my sheer will and determination to survive.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with my mother when and if she wakes up from this, but I’m going to thank you in advance not to judge me or lecture me on my reactions or my behavior, because any care and concern that I choose to extend to this woman, I will be doing it out of the kindness of my heart and because my conscience has led me to do so, not because she deserves it from me at all.”

I stop talking and allow the words—and the silence—to settle in the room for a while.

“I understand, Dr. Grey,” he says. I nod.

“Good. Now, does my mother have health insurance?” I ask.

“She does.”

“Is it the good kind?” I ask. “Will it cover everything that she needs?”

“It’s adequate,” he responds.

“Adequate isn’t good enough,” I say, reaching into my purse and retrieving my Amex Black. “Any human being deserves the best care that you can give them. You make sure this woman gets just that.” I hand him my Amex Black.

“Um, I wouldn’t handle that, Dr. Grey,” he says, refusing the card. “You would handle that with administration.” I look over at Christian and he leaves the room without a word.

“Whatever she needs,” I tell him. “The best possible care. If it’s not covered, that Amex will be on file. If it needs approval, I’m sure my husband will make sure our contact numbers are available.”

“We’ll make sure she gets the best care, Dr. Grey,” he assures me.

“Good. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like some privacy, please.” I turn back to Carla and Dr. Lee leaves, closing the door behind him.

“Well, well, well,” I say, putting my hands on my hips, “would you lookie here. My, how the tables have turned.” I shake my head at her frail body, tubes and IV’s everywhere, those awful compression stockings on her legs.

“I wonder if you can hear me,” I continue. “Did you do this on purpose? Was this a call for attention? Because you got it, but at what cost?

“It would serve you right if I just let you lay here and die,” I say, “if I just walked away and didn’t look back until they called me and told me that you had taken your last breath. But I won’t do that, Mother, because I’m a better human being than that. I’m going to give you what you didn’t give me. I’m going to give you the best care and I’m going to make sure that you’re comfortable. I’ll contact your job and let them know what happened to you. I’ll make sure that all of your affairs are in order, because that’s what family is supposed to do. They’re supposed to take care of you. But, hear this, Mother, and hear it good.

“This changes nothing. Beyond the concern and sympathy that I would feel for any human being in this situation, I feel absolutely nothing for you, and I’m not ashamed of it. You caused me so much suffering and so much pain, and it took me years to get over it, but I did. I got past it and healed, and I learned not to let it run my life, but it was hard. It was almost impossible. When I finally let you go, you found a way to keep poking your head into my life. I thought I would never be rid of you.

“Now, here you are, completely helpless. You need me and I know you do, but I can’t even find it in my heart to care. And I hate you for doing that to me. I hate you for ripping my mommy away from me and replacing her with this cold, unfeeling, unkind, horrible human being that watched me suffer—that contributed to that suffering. It’s an awful, gut-wrenching, agonizing feeling to let go of your mommy, but I did. And now, I don’t have anything left for you.

“So, don’t worry, Mother. I won’t let you die, and I do feel bad for you that this happened. I’ll make sure that you get the best care, and hopefully, you’ll make a full recovery, but that’s all I’ve got for you.”

I twist my lips and take another look at her before I leave her room to go find some coffee and some food.

*-*

“Canyon Meadows rehabilitation, this is Lana, how can I help you?”

“Yes, I need to speak to someone about one of your employees,” I reply

“Well, you would most likely want human resources, but they’re not open right now. Will this person not be able to make it to work? Were you looking to report an absence?” Lana asks.

“Well, yes, but… it’s going to be more than just an absence.” There’s a momentary pause.

“Is this about Carla?” she asks. I’m a bit stunned, more stunned that she knew about my mother by name.

“Yes… yes, it is,” I reply.

“Oh, God… she’s not…” Lana trails off.

“No, no, she’s still alive,” I say. “I just wanted to touch bases with her job to let you know that she’s severely incapacitated at the time.”

“Yes, we know,” Lana says. “We saw it on the news. May I ask to whom I’m speaking?”

“This is Anastasia Grey.” The line is silent.

“Ana… her daughter?” she asks. I nod as if she can see me.

“Yes,” I say. Of course, she’s been talking about me.

“May I ask what hospital she’s in, Mrs. Grey,” Lana asks.

“She’s at Summerlin Medical Center,” I reply.

“I’m so sorry about this, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “I’m certain that you have this under control, but if there’s anything that we can do… anything, please let us know.”

“I will, thank you,” I tell her.

“Carla is a vital member of our staff and she’s very important to us,” she continues. “The patients love her and… we all love her…” Her voice is cracking a bit. I have to fight to keep from saying the incredulous, “Really?” When I don’t respond, she adds, “Just know that we’re praying for her. Please, tell her that we’re praying for her.” I purse my lips before answering.

“I will,” I respond. “Thank you again, Lana.”

I end the call and look over at my mother. To say that I’m at a loss for words would be an understatement. I don’t know what to make of this at all. I know that my mother has had the capacity for kindness in her life. She was the best mom in the world when I was a kid, before she decided that our life with Daddy wasn’t enough for her. I don’t know what happened, what snapped in her mind to make her the heartless, selfish bitch she became when she got with Stephen, but I know that she was once a very loving and caring human being. It appears that person has resurfaced, only… not for me… too late for me…

“Your coworkers are praying for you,” I tell her. “Lana sounds pretty broken up about your accident, so if you did this on purpose, it was a selfish thing to do since it appears that there are people who really care about you. So, you need to hurry up and wake up and get better so that you can get back to those people.”

Why am I so detached from this? I feel like I’m talking to a stranger, not the woman who birthed me into the world. I’m taking about as much responsibility and concern for her as I would a stray cat that I discovered was hit by a car and took it to the hospital. Hell, I’d probably have more concern for the cat.

“Hey,” I hear my husband enter the room. “You haven’t eaten much. Do you need anything?” I sigh.

“Yes,” I say. “I need to get out of here. There’s nothing more I can do right now, and I really want a bath. Were you able to get everything squared away with the hospital and her care?

“As much as I could,” he says. “Your mother has advanced directives.” My brow furrows.

“Advan… why didn’t the doctor tell me that? What kind of advanced directives?” I ask appalled.

“I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me, but they’ll probably tell you…” I’m out of the room and headed for the nurses’ station before the words are out of his mouth.

“Excuse me,” I get the nurse’s attention at the desk.

“Yes, ma’am?” she replies.

“I’m Anastasia Grey. Carla Morton is my mother. I was just told that she has advanced directives, and nobody told me. What are they?”

The nurse’s eyebrows rise in surprise and she immediately picks up the phone in front of her.

“I’m paging Dr. Lee right now, Mrs. Grey,” she says.

“Would it be in her chart?” I ask.

“Yes, but Dr. Lee most likely has it. The chart on her bed only has her vitals.” I nod and I suddenly feel helpless. The phone at the nurses’ station rings and she answers it. She explains that I’m standing at the station and I have questions about my mother.

“He’ll be right up, ma’am,” she says, and I nod again, deflating a bit. I take a seat in the waiting area just beyond the nurses’ station and wait for Dr. Lee. Christian sits next to me and takes my hand in his. I’m pretty certain that he thinks I’m broken up about my mother, but I’m not. I somewhat resent the thought that people think I should be… if that’s what he’s thinking. I just want to get the hell out of here and get into a bath!

“Dr. Grey…” I hear Dr. Lee off to my right. I’m on my feet walking towards him in moments.

“My mother has advanced directives?” I ask without greeting him.

“Yes,” he says, his brow furrowed.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I inquire. He pauses.

“I’m sorry… Dr. Grey, you are her next of kin. I thought you knew,” he excuses. I’m frustrated now. He’s right. He had every reason to believe that I would be aware of my mother’s wishes. I put my hand on my forehead.

“Can you tell me what they are, please?” I ask. He opens the only chart that he has in his hand.

“It’s simple,” he says. “Do not resuscitate if her heart stops and 30 days assisted if she’s comatose.” I roll my eyes and drop my head. If she had the wherewithal to plan and sign a DNR, she’s going to have a cow if she wakes up from this thing and she can’t walk.

“Is there anything else I may need to know?” I ask calmly. He shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “Her prognosis is the same as it was when she arrived… not really good, I’m afraid.” I nod.

“I’ve got a really rough day ahead of me tomorrow, so I’m going to go back to my hotel. Please call me if anything changes,” I say.

“I will, Dr. Grey.”

“Thank you for everything, Dr. Lee,” I say before heading down the hall towards the elevator.

*-*

“All rise.”

I’m not necessarily dressed for court this morning. I’m deliberately garbed in a violet silk pants suit with flashy buttons, a matching belt, and a black bustier with my signature black sky-high stilettos. Am I making a statement?

Yes.

I’m not hiding anymore, and I don’t mind being seen. I don’t care what these assholes in this town think about me anymore. No matter what I do, they’re going to find something wrong, so fuck ‘em. Chew on this for a while.

Whatever the verdict, I’m going to strut out of here with my head held high, because if 18 people can look at what happened to me—repeatedly, I’m told—and find this man not guilty, then the justice system is shit, and I’ll find my own fucking justice.

The jury is led into the courtroom once again after the judge has taken his seat. I have to admit that of all the defendants in the cases I’ve been a part of—and there’s only been two others—Vincent Sullivan looks the most solemn. There’s no cockiness in him at all. He’s clearly terrified because he doesn’t know what’s about to happen to him.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached verdicts?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your honor, we have,” the foreperson replies.

“Bailiff, would you please retrieve the verdicts from the foreperson.”

The bailiff retrieves a stack of papers from the foreperson and hands them to the judge, who reviews them for several moments, and there’s a long silence in the courtroom before he speaks again.

“So, the verdicts appear to be in proper order. This is in the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county, state of Nevada, case number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. The jury having reached verdicts, Mr. Sullivan and your counsel, would you please stand?”

There’s no hope in Vincent Sullivan’s face whatsoever and when the judge tells him to stand, he almost can’t raise his head. The judge begins to read the verdicts.

“We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oath, do unanimously find the following verdicts in the counts as charged in the indictments.

“Count one, assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count two, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count three, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count four, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, we find the defendant not guilty.

“Count five, kidnapping in the first degree, we find the defendant not guilty.

“Count six, manslaughter for fetal homicide, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.

“Count seven, attempted murder, we find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictments.”

Five out of seven—excellent!

“Is this your true verdict, so say you one and all?” The judge asks and the jury concurs. The judge then instructs the jury that they will each be questioned concerning the verdict.

“Juror number one, is this your true verdict…?”

Vincent Sullivan sits with his head face down on the table, his body shaking with sobs as each juror is surveyed for their verdict, and they each answer in the affirmative. I always wonder what’s going through a defendant’s head as they sit there crying once convicted for something they actually did. I can fully understand someone crying if they’re wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of a crime, but I was there for this one, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. So, while he sits there racked with grief and distress, all I can think is, “What the fuck are you crying for?”

The verdicts are so entered into the record, and sentencing is set for March 4th. That’s like two and a half weeks that I’m still tethered to this place. As Vincent Sullivan is lead weeping from the courtroom, the judge gives the jury some additional instructions and after what seems like an eternity later, court is adjourned. I realize that the verdict isn’t the only reason I’ll be here in Las Vegas. I would be somewhat stuck here anyway because of Carla. A 30-day directive… one way or another, I’ll know what’s going on with her by mid-March.

I don’t have to wonder why she decided to have a DNR. She works with hospice patients. She has probably watched people helpless, suffering, and dying slowly and decided that she didn’t want that for herself. I always thought a DNR meant no heroic measures at all, but apparently, there are different degrees of it.

Larson makes a B-line to us once the court is dismissed. I think I hear him saying something about justice, and I vaguely hear him say that I’ll be able to speak at the sentencing, which I already knew. I don’t really care right now. I still think that ambush that he pulled with Whitshit was pretty fucked up and he’s not my favorite person at the moment. I stand from my seat and don my Jackie O’s before leaving the courtroom.

“Annie, are you okay with that?” Daddy asks. I look up at him.

“I’m fine with that, Daddy,” I tell him. “Somebody else finally got to see what these people did to me, and they said it was wrong. That’s what I needed. I didn’t need to watch them copping pleas and getting lighter sentences for squealing on each other. I needed somebody to see it. It’s been buried all these years, and somebody finally saw it. Whatever they decide to do to him, they saw it, and they can’t unsee it. That’s what matters.”

The verdict made it outside before we did, if that’s even possible. It’s a tad chilly in just my silk suit, but I still stroll leisurely down the stairs of the court as I put my black leather gloves on and head to the car. The press is still clamoring for a statement, and Vee didn’t return with us this time.

“Anastasia, how do you feel about the verdict?” one of the reporters calls out. I stop on the stairs and turn to the flashing and live cameras.

“I feel that the jury did the best they could do under the circumstances, and I’m satisfied with that,” I reply.

“What about the fact that they came back ‘not guilty’ on the kidnapping charges?” another one asks.

“You can’t win ‘em all,” I say with a slight shrug, then I turn and proceed down the stairs to the car.


CHRISTIAN

“You’re sure she drove her car off that overpass?” I ask Jason.

“No, sir, I’m not,” he says, “but there were two witnesses driving behind her who pulled over when her car went through the guardrail. They called the police—not the security detail—and according to Alex, they have somewhat conflicting accounts of the accident, but both descriptions indicate that she drove off that overpass.”

“Is there any other possible explanation for this?” I press. Jason shrugs.

“There could be,” he says. “She could’ve fallen asleep at the wheel or lost control of the car…”

“Or someone could have hit her… one of the cars that stopped,” I say.

“It’s not impossible, but why would they stop?” he asks.

“To make sure the job was done,” I reply.

“Then why call the police?” he asks. “They were on the freeway. They could have just kept going.”

“They had already stopped. No doubt, the fire and two cars stopped on the freeway drew attention. Once they were in it, there was no backing out.”

“I don’t know, boss,” he says. “It sounds a little far-fetched to me. If other cars were stopping, let someone else call the police. Why put their name on the report?”

“The car’s on fire on the road underneath an underpass. There goes any evidence. The body is lying there in a concrete basin. The victim most likely didn’t see it coming. They could make up any story they want,” I say.

“Are you smelling something, boss?” he asks, “Or are you exercising your Constitutional right to create conspiracy theories?”

“I’m always smelling something, Jason,” I reply. “Ever since I realized I’m not untouchable, there’s always something on the grill.”

“Well, that’s a healthy dose of realism,” he counters, “but I have to say, I still think it’s a bit far-fetched.”

“Well, we won’t know until she’s awake,” I say. “You’ve checked her financials?” he nods.

“She’s got a couple of bank accounts. She’s got one account, though, that verifies what she said in court.” I frown.

“Remind me,” I say.

“That the money that she got from Anastasia has been put into a separate account and she hasn’t touched it. It started at about 90 grand a couple of years ago. It’s back up to just over a hundred now.”

“She sold a house in Green Valley,” I remind him. “That could have come from that.”

“It could,” he says, “but you should know that property values are about the same in Summerlin as they are in Henderson. Her everyday accounts have some padding that would account for selling her four-bedroom, two-and-a-half story, 3500-square-foot house in Henderson, paying off the remaining mortgage and property taxes, and purchasing a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1200-square-foot house in Summerlin with no mortgage.”

I twist my lips. I can’t help but smell a rat when it comes down to this woman. She just testified in a case where one of Henderson’s wonderful citizens was convicted on five of seven counts and will most likely be in jail for a really long time… although her car went over the bridge before we got the verdict.

“Make sure we have as detailed a breakdown as possible of her income, assets, and expenses,” I say. “Butterfly may need that information. Have we heard anything from Alex about this Drake fucker? I want his head on a platter and it’s never taken Alex this long to get me the information I need.”

“He’s still looking,” Jason says. “From what he’s found so far, the guy is clean. He’s looking for other creative ways that you can possibly get to him.”

“I don’t care if the guy is clean or not. I want his ass for what he tried to do to Butterfly,” I say.

“In his defense…”

Defense?” I interrupt him. “You’re really going to defend this guy?”

“In this case, yes,” Jason says. “And I need you to hear me out.”

“I don’t want to hear anything that’s going to defend the man that tried to turn the 15-year-old version of my wife into a gold-digging little bitch trying to get her big come-up when she was branded like a fucking animal!” I bark.

“Well, this time, you’re going to have to listen to me, Boss, because any other time when somebody has done some shady shit, I’m right there with you. This time, you’re about to punish a guy just for doing his job.”

I’m ready to deck him. I’m fucking ready to deck my head of security and best friend.

“What did Drake do that Lincoln’s lawyer didn’t do? That David’s lawyer didn’t do?” he asks. “Right or wrong, whether their defenses were half-cocked—like Lincoln’s—or totally founded, they were just doing their jobs. They were defending their clients. You can’t expect them to come to court and do any less. Now, I don’t know what unicorn birdie from another planet made Lincoln’s lawyer believe that they could get away with that cock-and-bull defense, but hate it or love it, Boss, David’s defense and Sullivan’s defense had grounds.”

“You’re bullshitting me, aren’t you?” I ask flatly.

“You can’t see it,” he continues. “You’re too close and this is your Butterfly. We all know what that guy said about her was bullshit, but the jury didn’t. The only way to save his client was to take Her Highness out of the victim’s seat and put his client in it. If he could paint your wife as the wanton slut and these other vicious teenagers as people who would stop at nothing to make her pay for her heinous behavior, well then, it’s easier to paint Sullivan as a victim afraid for his life.

“You may not like it, but that’s what the defense saw when it came to Her Highness. That’s what her attackers saw. You heard yourself that Whitmore is either in complete denial that he raped her or he’s a really good fucking actor. So, if all parties involved are going by his word, what the hell do you think they’re going to believe?

“Then we find out that Sullivan is really in love with the guy, so if Larson’s theory is correct and he’s just a spurned lover, then we’re back to the impression of Anastasia—that she’s a gold-digging bitch, according to the man he loved, and she got to Whitmore before Sullivan did. Either way, it’s all open for interpretation from the outside looking in, and the job of the defense is to make sure that the jury interprets it his way.

“I’m not saying that you don’t have a right to be upset about what he said. Fuck, we’re all upset about the shit he said. I am saying that you’re trying to destroy a man for just doing his job. It’s like trying to get a cop fired for pulling you over for speeding, and the radar says that you really were speeding. I want you to think about that as you go after this guy.”

In reality, he’s right, but I don’t want to hear his logic right now. I want the man to suffer that caused my wife this undue pain. I’m not trying to do the right thing, dammit. I just fucking want somebody to suffer!

And going after his ass wouldn’t make me any better than the fuckers who branded my wife… because somebody had to suffer…

Dammit.

“Get out,” I say defeated, turning away from Jason.

“Call me when you need me,” he says behind me.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…”

I now have to kybosh my thoughts of seeing Drake on a stake, which ain’t gonna be easy, so I turn my attention back to the time we have to be in Vegas and how to handle it. At least now, we have a somewhat definite time span of when we’re going to be leaving this place. Sentencing in Vincent Sullivan’s case will be on March 4th, and by the 15th or 16th, we’ll know what’s going to happen with Carla Morton.

So, how do I make this place bearable for my wife until then?

“I want to stand by Jewel in this,” Allen says when I approach him for assistance, “but as far as I’m concerned, that woman doesn’t deserve an ounce of sympathy. All I think about when I think about this entire situation is that I could have lost my best friend, and that fucking cunt didn’t care one little bit, not one little bit. I’m full of concern for the human condition, but that woman… she could die tomorrow and the only thing I would be concerned about is how it’s affecting Jewel.”

“And in the meantime, Jewel is in this hellhole trying to figure out what needs to be done for her,” I remind him. “What are you going to do if she comes to you for advice?”

“Tell her to pull the plug,” he says flatly.

“I’m serious,” I tell him.

“I am, too,” he replies. I look at him and realize…

“You are serious!” I say.

“Yes, I am,” he says flatly. “If Carla Morton has a DNR, she clearly doesn’t want to live in a vegetative state. Right now, that’s exactly where she is. The machines aren’t keeping her heart beating, but they are keeping her functioning, and when she comes out of that coma—assuming she can even remember who she is—she’s not going to be able to walk. Jewel now not only has to break that to her, but if she lives, Jewel has to be attached to her some kind of way for the rest of her fucking life when all she’s been trying to do since she was 15 years old was get the fuck away from her.

“Legally, she can pull the plug on that woman, and the fact that she has a DNR totally suggests if she knew that she would wake up in the state she’s in now, she’d probably want it that way. And we’re not going to mention the thing that no one seems to want to say out loud—that maybe Carla Morton really did drive off that overpass, that she really did try to kill herself, which is a whole new set of problems that Jewel doesn’t need.

“All the evidence suggests that Carla Morton did not want to live and does not want to live this way. If she wakes up from this, she’s going to require 24-hour surveillance not to do this again. Based on her DNR alone, Jewel could pull the plug and she would be within her legal rights. So, if she asks me, know in advance that that’s going to be my legal advice.”

“Allen,” I say, calmly. “We need another plan of action. You and I both know that Butterfly won’t be able to live with that.”

“Then she better not ask me,” he says. I roll my eyes.

“She’s here,” I say again. “We’re here, and we have to be here for a while. Besides pulling the plug on her mother, what can we do to make this pill easier to swallow?” Allen thinks for a minute.

“Bring her babies,” he replies. I turn a horrified gaze to him.

“What?” I ask, aghast.

“Bring the twins,” he repeats. “That would make this pill much easier for her to swallow.”

“She’s not going to let me bring the twins down here!” I say finitely. “The last thing she wants to do is expose her children to this place. And besides, there’s nothing for them to do down here.”

“There’s plenty for them to do down here,” he counters. “And all you have to do is get in touch with the concierge you’ve got in your pocket that can pull Cirque de Soleil tickets out of his ass and he’ll turn one of these suites into Disneyland, and you know it.”

Well, he’s right about that. I just don’t know how I feel about the twins being here. They’re safe in Seattle. They have a whole fleet of people looking after them there…

“Hey, you asked, that’s what I think,” he says. He’s not really the fountain of knowledge right now telling me that he’s going to tell my wife to pull the plug on her mother.

“I’ll think about it,” I say.

“Think about what?”

Our conversation is interrupted by Butterfly. She’s been at the hospital all afternoon since we left the courthouse and she’s just getting back to the hotel.

“Well, you’re a surprise,” I say calmly, willing Allen not to mention the conversation that we were just having. “How’s Carla?”

“The same,” she says as she gets a bottle of water from the minibar. “Her room is full of flowers.” I turn a surprised furrowed brow to my wife.

“What?” I exclaim as she cracks the seal on the top and takes a healthy drink of water.

“Her room is full of flowers,” she repeats. “When I say full, Christian, I mean bursting out the fucking door.” I look over at Allen and raise a brow at him.

“Why would you do something like that?” Allen asks.

“I didn’t. None of those flowers are from me,” she says, coolly, coming back into the living room and taking a seat in one of the large chairs facing me and Allen. “From what I can tell from the ones that had cards, they’re from her job, from coworkers, and from patients. As I was leaving, more were coming from places like Three Square, Goodwill, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. There’s even a teddy bear there from the family of an 8-year-old girl who died of Leukemia. I found out that my mother did hospice care for her out of her home.” Allen twists his lips.

“How does that make you feel, Jewel, about your mother?” he asks. Jewel rolls her eyes.

“A whole lotta fucked up,” she admits. “Here’s this woman who was everything in the world to me until I was about 13 years old. Then, I slowly cease to exist to her except as a tool to hurt my father. I have what still is to this day the worst experience of my entire fucking life, and she left me alone and wrote me off through the entire fucking thing. Even then, I was nothing more to her than a fucking payoff.

“She pops up after I’m kidnapped, pretending that she cares when the entire time, I know she was just trying to get back in my good graces so that she could get some money. Even her pickled husband was playing ambulance chaser—for lack of a better term—trying to get security to beat him up so that he could get a lawsuit.

“She starts talking shit about me when she finds out that Christian and I are getting married—more press time, woo woo!” She twirls one finger in the air, and I can tell she’s getting angrier and angrier by the second.

“When I bring her to Seattle to find out where the fuck her mind really is, and she shows me, I give her what she wants and send her on her way. Then, she shows up at my home the next day acting all reformed and remorseful and shit, trying to give the money back and putting on this huge fucking performance about how she just wants me in her life and she doesn’t need the money and wah, wah, wah…”

Her voice mimics a crying woman when she discusses Carla’s performance.

“For four years, that woman and her husband were the very bane of my existence. And to a teenager, four years is a lifetime, especially when you spent a portion of one of those years in a coma and recovering from a beating that most people wouldn’t have survived, and one person didn’t!”

Oh, yeah, she’s mad.

“Why did she testify?” she demands. “What did her testimony do? Why did we even need it? The only thing I could see was another opportunity for her to get into the limelight. It didn’t help the case at all!”

“It corroborated the story that Whitmore’s father paid them off,” I say.

“He wasn’t on trial here,” Butterfly retorts. “He’ll never be on trial. He took a plea; he can’t even appeal. Her testimony was useless. The only thing it corroborated was how horrible a mother she was. Why would anybody want to announce that?”

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I now believe it was her final attempt to show Butterfly that she had changed her ways. When the only response she got from it was me and Jason showing up on her doorstep telling her to leave Anastasia the hell alone, that may have been the final blow for her. Jason told me that many of the following nights were spent with her on her patio drinking something out of a cup and crying. Maybe she really did throw her car off that overpass.

“Butterfly, did I ever tell you that I went to see your mother the night before she left Seattle?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me. “We had a very harsh heart-to-heart, if you can call it that. I believe that’s why she came to see you the next morning to really try to make amends. It’s possible that she was telling the truth—that our conversation sunk in and she saw the err of her ways.”

“I don’t remember if you told me or not, but it doesn’t matter Christian,” she replies, flatly. “Either you love somebody, or you don’t. Either you’re concerned about them or you’re not. She didn’t care about me. She didn’t love me. What you said to her shouldn’t have made a difference to her at all. Those feelings that she was professing, that conviction that she was feeling, she should have felt that all on her own the minute I brought her to Seattle. This changes nothing.

“And now, she has a room full of flowers like she’s Mother fucking Theresa!” she says, launching herself from her seat and pacing the floor. “And the cards… they love her. She’s a wonderful human being. She’s the most valuable employee they’ve ever had. She’s a devoted volunteer or a treasured friend. She’s all these wonderful fucking things that she couldn’t be for me!

“I’m her flesh and blood,” she cries, angry tears burning a trek down her face. “She birthed me into this world. I have children now—I know what that’s like. Carrying life in your body for nearly a year, nurturing and loving them inside of you and never knowing that you could love someone so much that you’ve never met until they put that baby in your arms. How can you even allow a speck of dust to fall on their little heads let alone behave stoically while a group of vicious people beat them damn near to death?”

Is she talking about herself or the twins?

“We were happy!” she wails. “We were happy and then suddenly… she wasn’t! She turned everybody’s life upside down. She destroyed our happiness, our love, our lives, our contentment… because suddenly, she wasn’t happy! She wasn’t happy, so we all deserved not to be happy.

“Sometimes, my daddy wanted to kill himself!” she sobs. “Many times, I just wished I was dead! She didn’t care! She didn’t care at all! And now, she’s a fucking guardian angel! She’s the end-all-be-all wrapped up in human form! She’s all that and a bag of chips to a bunch of fucking strangers and she couldn’t be that to me! I needed her! I needed her more than anything in the world! I needed her love and care and concern, and she could give it to me! God, what did I do to deserve that?”

She’s screaming now, having a full-on meltdown. I want to grab her, to hold her and tell her that it’s not her fault that Carla was a horrible woman and mother when she needed her, but she has turned her back to me and is now facing the darkness out the window and the lights of the strip.

There’s a knock at the door of the suite and I look at Allen. He leaves the room to answer it and Butterfly doesn’t even respond. She’s standing at the window sobbing, still spewing all the ways that Carla neglected her and allowed Stephen to emotionally abuse her. Even now, I want to dig that fucker up, beat his ass and kill him again for what he put her through. Thank God, he didn’t procreate.

“I can hear her down the hall! What’s going on?” I hear Ray’s voice from the foyer. Allen is trying to explain what’s happening, but Ray comes barreling into the living room with Allen and Jason on his tail. He stops in the doorway and examines the situation. I’m near the entrance, looking at Butterfly who is across the room looking out the window, sobbing, and still berating her comatose mother.

Ray and Jason just stand there in awe and confusion.

“I don’t get it!” she wails. “I don’t get it! Why couldn’t I just stay with Daddy? We were happy! We would have lost her, but I still would have been better off! She hated me before we left Seattle, I knew it! I knew it in the way that she treated me! I knew it before we even got to Nevada! She fucking hated me! How can you hate your child? How can you put your body through those changes and agony and mental and physical trials and bring a life into this world only to hate it? How is that possible?”

She sobs some more and now there are four men in the room who have no idea how to handle what’s going on with her. We’re all looking at each other and back to Butterfly in befuddled helplessness.

“I would have sent her the money,” she says, and I’m wondering what the hell she’s talking about. What money?

“I would have gotten a job after school, or Daddy would have sent it. I know he would have. Had we known any of this would happen, any of it at all, we would have done everything in our power so that I wouldn’t have to go with that woman!”

“Butterfly, what are you talking about?” I finally ask. What money—the $750,000 they got from Whitmore? Ray didn’t have that kind of money and even she knows she wouldn’t have been able to make that with an after-school job.

“She called me a tax deduction!” she screams. What? What did she say?

“Huh?”

“I asked her… w… why,” she sobs. “I asked h… her why… she didn’t… let me stay… with Daddy. She said because he would get the tax deduction!” She spit the last part out. “It’s always been about money with her! That’s all it’s ever been! I’m her daughter! I suffered! And she called me a tax deduc…”

She whirls around to see a group of men standing there, stunned and helpless. She takes note of the looks on our faces and her gaze rests on Ray’s. I turn to look at him and he looks totally broken and sad, like there’s something he could have done to prevent what happened to her. He has to know that he did everything in his power and that there was nothing else that he could do.

Butterfly can’t face any of us right now. She breaks down in mournful sobs and runs to the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

We all just stand there looking at each other for a moment.

“I’ll… I’ll call and check on her later,” Ray says, his eyes glassy and red with unshed tears. “Call me if she needs me.”

“I will, Ray,” I say, sympathetically. He’s the first to leave.

Jason just looks at me, his expression unreadable. It looks like a combination of questioning and that helplessness that we all feel right now. Finally, no doubt feeling like there’s nothing else that he can do at the moment, he leaves the suite behind Ray. I look over at Allen and he’s looking at the door that Butterfly slammed behind her. You can hear her weeping.

“She wasn’t talking about herself, Chris,” he says before turning his gaze to me. “She was talking about her children. The circumstances may have been about her, but the anger, the hurt, and the disbelief that anyone could be this cruel to their own child, that’s about the twins.”

I know this. I know what he’s saying is true, and yet…

“Bring her babies,” Allen reiterates. “They won’t only brighten her days and make this easier to bear, but she needs them. Get them here as soon as possible.”

“Allen…” I try to protest.

“Chris. Bring. Her. Babies.”

A/N: It’s funny that Darcy’s comments at the end of episode 13 suggested that we bring the kids to Vegas and I had written this episode in the previous weeks and had just finished writing the following episodes when I posted episode 13.

I know I threw you all a curve ball… so far. The comments from the last chapter were saying things like, “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” and “OMG, Carla killed herself,” and all I could say while I was reading them was, “But is Carla dead… yet?”

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 15

It was a close race between Old World Charm and Classic Rustic Tuscan, but Old World Charm won.

I won’t even begin to tell you how horrid my holiday was. It’s not even worth repeating. Let’s just get on with the story.

Falala, my snowflakes are on my front door greeting everyone who comes to my home for the New Year. ❤ A little good news is that we’ve been having some warmer days and we’ve finally passed the winter solstice, so the days are a minute or so  longer each day and it helps a bit with my seasonal depression. 

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

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

Season 5 Episode 15

ANASTASIA

I immediately regret knocking on Marilyn’s door without calling. I don’t know what she’s doing or even if she’s awake yet. When she opens the door, I can clearly see that she’s been crying. She’s not a sodden and soppy mess, but her skin is blotchy, and her eyes are still a bit glassy.

“I knew it was you,” she says. “No one else would be knocking since Vee and Fergus have their own room, and everybody’s probably avoiding me like the plague.”

“Well, I don’t know if anyone is avoiding you,” I say honestly as I enter and close the door behind me. “Unfortunately, I know from experience that you can’t hide grief, no matter how hard you try. It’s impossible. If only people wouldn’t be so terrible about how they interpret it.” She falls down on the sofa in her sitting area and I take a seat next to her.

“I won’t ask how you’re holding up,” I say. “My visit has many reasons.”

“Shoot,” she says.

“First, I’m shamelessly checking up on you,” I tell her. “You left suddenly last night and even though you handled the situation with grace, it couldn’t have been easy.” She sighs.

“It wasn’t,” she says. “To come back and hear a table full of people talk about how they thought you were bulimic or anorexic…” She shakes her head. “Thanks for defending me, by the way.”

“I wouldn’t say that I was defending you,” I admit. “I just think it’s very rude to talk about someone behind their back that way when you have no idea what was going on. Then, they would all be smiling in your face when you came back to the table. All they had to do was ask if they were that concerned. If you didn’t want to tell them, you wouldn’t tell them, but don’t just jump to conclusions.”

“Well, thanks for whatever you did,” she replies. We’re silent for a moment, then I strike up the conversation again.

“The other reasons I came by was, well, we don’t talk anymore. I know that you’re hurting, and I don’t want to push it, but your doctor did say that therapy might help, and some yoga or meditation. I’m great with all those things, you know,” I press.

“Yes, I know…” and that’s all she says.

“I miss being able to talk to you,” I tell her, “but I don’t know what to say right now without being insensitive to your feelings.” She sighs again.

“I guess I won’t know what bothers me until it bothers me,” she says. “I don’t want you to think you can’t talk to me. I’m just trying to muddle my way through this life, and to be honest, I don’t quite know how.”

“That’s one of the reasons I want you to be able to talk to me… about anything. And if we can’t do that just yet, then let’s try some of the other relaxation or stress-relieving techniques. Any illness or hurt has to start mending somewhere, Mare, or you just stay sick.” She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

“Have you tried to eat anything yet?” I ask. “Have you had your smoothie or anything?” She shakes her head. “Good, because I’m starving. All I’ve had is coffee. So, I’m going to order some breakfast—and a smoothie and a carafe of orange juice—and we’ll see where it goes.” She nods.

“Okay,” she cedes. “I haven’t showered yet, so I’ll do that while you wait for breakfast.” I nod and she heads off to the shower.

I call downstairs and order double servings of a traditional southern breakfast in case anything on the tray tempts her nostrils and she decides to give it a try. Then I check my phone again and the pictures of me that are on Facebook. There have been several likes and comments, some good, some bad as I would expect. I wanted attention in that dress, I sure as hell got it. I don’t know if my father or Mandy is on social media, but I’m kind of hoping that they don’t see this even though they were front and center for the fashion show.

“Why the face?” Mare asks as she comes out of the bedroom in one of the hotel terrycloth robes. Wow, that was fast. I turn my phone to her, and she looks at the picture.

“You’re on Facebook?” she asks.

“Apparently,” I say, scrolling through the pictures once more.

“No, I mean you have a Facebook profile?” I frown.

“Oh! Yeah, but there’s nothing on it. It’s very non-distinct. I don’t even know if I’m going to put anything on it with the publicity I’m getting down here. So much for ‘What happens in Vegas.’” I put the phone on the coffee table.

“Do you really want a social media presence?” she asks. “It can be even more intrusive than the paparazzi.” I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “Right now, I only use it to chat with my friend from Australia. She’s the one who convinced me to set it up. I really can’t see any other use for it right now.” She sits on the sofa.

“Nights are the worst,” she says, her head down. “I lay in bed praying for sleep to come to me, and even if I’m exhausted, it takes forever. We slept in knots. We’re both heat-seekers, so if either of us awoke and the other was too far away, we would move over and snuggle in and go back to sleep. There’s no heat in my bed anymore, so I can’t sleep. I can’t even find the slight peace I had before I met him… and that’s why I cry a lot at night.”

“Only at night?” I press.

“Mostly at night,” she says, “but there are some nights that just run right into the day because I don’t sleep at all. Even when I fall asleep, I wake up and remember that he’s not there, so I’m just crying again.”

Oh, dear. So, now she’s not eating or sleeping. No wonder she doesn’t look well. She’s killing herself.

“I’m a realist,” she says. “I don’t expect this to go away overnight, but it’s been nearly three months and I feel like this just happened yesterday. When will this get easier?”

“I don’t have that answer for you, Mare,” I respond. “Breakups really suck.”

“This is so much more than that,” she confesses. “I’ve had breakups before. I was sad, disappointed, angry… nothing felt like this. Nothing has ever felt like this. I feel like somebody died.”

Yeah, unfortunately, that’s what breaking up is—your relationship died. And if you were really in love, there’s no telling how long you mourn the deceased.

“I miss him so much,” she says, wiping a tear from her face… and now she’s crying again. “I miss his smell, his voice, his touch. I miss him holding me and our crazy after-sex talks.” She throws her head back and looks at the ceiling, the tears falling down her temples now.

“He was supposed to get a promotion at City of Lights,” she says. “I wonder if he got it…”

A knock at the door signals that breakfast is here and I’m certain that getting Mare to eat at this point is going to be an Olympic feat. The tray smells wonderful as the porter rolls the tray into the suite. I thank him and roll the tray into the dining room. I begin to uncover the plates and set them on the dining table—double servings of fluffy scrambled eggs, home fries, hominy grits, ham, and biscuits with sausage gravy, and of course, a fruit and vegetable smoothie and orange juice.

“That’s a mountain of food,” she says when she sees it.

“And I’m starving,” I tell her, “but I’m hoping something might tempt you to nibble. If not, I’ve got your smoothie and some orange juice.” She smiles weakly as she takes a seat at the table, sitting on her feet in one of the chairs.

I begin to load my plate with the delicious food and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee and some orange juice. Jesus, I really am hungry.

“I’m going to change my phone number,” Mare says, playing with the straw of her smoothie. My brow furrows.

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s hard waiting and hoping that he’ll call,” she says. “It may be an exercise in futility, but it’ll be a step in the right direction for me.”

An attempt to let go… I get it.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “but I’m going to do it anyway.” She sips her smoothie. I chow down on my breakfast while Marilyn talks, telling me that she needs to go shopping for some new clothes as none of her old clothes fit anymore. I want to take her to the spa for a complete treatment—mani, pedi, exfoliating, massage, cut and color. She’s totally wearing her grief and it needs to be scrubbed, plucked, and rubbed out of her, but I think that may be too much too soon.

“How long did it take you to get over Edward?” she asks, and she surprises me by retrieving a fork and picking at some of the eggs on the plate, eating very small bites, but eating.

“I honestly don’t remember,” I tell her, finishing the last bites of my breakfast and refilling my coffee from the pot. “You have to keep in mind, though, that my story is much different than yours. I was betrayed and cheated on, so in addition to losing the man that I loved, I had to deal with healing from the deliberate pain that he put me through. That part took a long time.”

“I’m not saying that my situation is better or worse than yours,” she says after swallowing another mouthful of eggs, “but Gary really was the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life so far. So, I don’t know which is worse—having your heart ripped out, stomped on, and destroyed by someone who was supposed to love you, but finally getting away from that loser… or knowing that the man who makes your heart leap with excitement and love is alive and well and walking this earth and never wants to speak to you again… for something that you did.”

Yeah, that’s a tough call.

“Well, you know how when someone dies, they always tell you to remember the good times?” I begin.

“That doesn’t help,” she says. “It only intensifies the reality of what I’ve lost.”

“I get that,” I say, “but you can’t get rid of those memories. They’ll always be there, and they’re good memories. It’s strange that you asked me about Edward,” I say looking into my coffee cup. “Vee had just come up to the room to discuss my wardrobe reveal on Facebook this morning…”

“I bet that went well,” she says sarcastically. I raise my gaze to her.

“Let’s just say that she won’t ask about my clothes in the future,” I say. “Anyway, Christian and I began to talk about the implications of our wardrobe choices last night, how the men were catcalling from their seats, but the women were more brazen in their pursuits.”

“Whoa, I missed something, huh?” she asks, finishing the eggs to my delight.

“Yeah, you did, but nothing huge, just a tiny floorshow. Nonetheless, the conversation got me to thinking about Edward and our relationship—how the women knew that we were together, but they were unbelievably brazen in flaunting the fact that they were fucking him. They were so disrespectful to me that I couldn’t even go out anywhere anymore. They were everywhere! Everywhere I went—clubs, social events, anything—they were always there. I remember that I even changed some of my interests, sought out different things and different groups of people, but no matter where I turned, someone from that core group of women was always there and I couldn’t escape. That’s not surprising, because there was so many of them.

“I’ve been with my husband for three years now,” I continue. “We have two beautiful children and a wonderful life. I had dropped that man nearly four years before I met my husband, but even now, I find myself lost in melancholy sometimes about the things that he put me through. I had nightmares about the kidnapping for a long time, but seeing him intimate in so many ways with so many women…” I trail off and finger my coffee cup.

“He’s been dead for nearly a year now. He can’t hurt me anymore, and he couldn’t even if he was alive, but the ache of what he put me through, I can always go back to it just like it happened yesterday. It’s always going to be there even if it’s not as intense as it was when I was in the thick of it. I sometimes have to push those thoughts away by force, remembering that those times won’t come back.

“I know the grass always looks greener on the other side,” I say, feeling the anguish rise in my throat again, but swallowing it back down, “but I know from painful experience that when you love someone and your heart is broken, it eventually mends. It may not mend as quickly or as seamlessly as we would like, but it does mend, and remembering the good times aren’t so bad. But when someone treats you like shit, makes you feel like shit, makes you doubt everything you thought you knew, makes you walk away from nearly everyone and everything you thought was familiar because you found out that you were the butt of the joke, you don’t get over that,” I say shaking my head.

“That pain comes back and back and back, and when you think it’s gone, something happens to jar the memory and it’s peeking its head back into the door at you again. So, I know that you’re hurting and I’m not minimizing your pain, but if I had to choose between your pain with Gary and my pain with Edward, I’d choose yours, because I know you’ll mend one day. Try to take a little comfort from that even though I know it’s not much.”

It’s quiet for a moment as I twirl my coffee mug and she sips her smoothie.

“I didn’t mean to bring you down, Bosslady,” she apologizes. I shake my head.

“You didn’t,” I inform her. “I selfishly thought to come down and check on you and talk to you because Edward and his harem had come to mind while I was in my suite as a byproduct of a prior conversation. I hope you don’t mind.”

“I don’t,” she says. “I’ll just have to take your word for it about this whole mending thing, though.” I take her hand.

“Look, I was going to see if I could find a yoga place nearby, just to get some air, but while I was searching, I found this meditation center. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried meditation before, but when I’m totally lost and out of my center, it helps me find my way back. It’s not a complete cure-all, but it’s a really good start.”

She twists her lips skeptically at me, but finally gives in.

“Okay,” she says.

“And if you like, we can go to the outlet mall and grab a few things.”

“You hate the mall, Bosslady,” she says.

“Yes, but this is different,” I tell her. “You need some things and a little retail therapy never hurt.”

*-*

I stop to say goodbye to Daddy and Mandy and to tell Christian where I’m going, and Chuck and Carol accompany me and Mare to the Las Vegas Meditation Center. Not very original, I know, but the center is very professional and informative. The guide doesn’t inundate Marilyn with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but she—like me—can see Mare’s dis-ease without much effort.

“Confusion in your life is often brought on by confusion in your spirit,” Maya says. “This often leads to bad decisions, lack of self-care, and overall poor health. At the root of it all, everybody wants to be happy, whatever happiness means to each person. The source of true happiness is found inside. If you have a lot of confusion, anger, sadness, and discord, there’s no way you can find peace. No matter what’s happening outside, you won’t find happiness until you find peace inside. That’s the goal of meditation. You find the method that’s best for you based on what is ailing you most right now. What’s at the crust of your discontent?” Mare pauses for a moment.

“A recent breakup,” she replies. Maya nods.

“Was it mutual?” she asks. Mare shakes her head.

“It was not,” she replies.

“So… it has left you broken and out-of-sorts,” Maya observes.

“Very much.”

“How long?” Maya asks. Mare clears her throat.

“Two months… two weeks… one day,” she says, whispering the last two words. I feel so bad for her.

“Still new,” Maya says softly. Mare nods, obviously fighting back her tears.

“When two people come together, they become one. When you split, you lose a part of yourself and you’re forced to get it back without that other person. That’s why they’re often called your ‘other half.’ You have to find yourself again,” Maya says. “It’s a long journey, but you must take it.” She takes Marilyn’s hand. “I suggest Zen or transcendental meditation. I’ll get you started with some books and quick techniques. Don’t try to read everything, you’ll get overwhelmed…”

I follow Maya and Mare around the center, and I have to admit that the information she’s providing is quite solid. She doesn’t talk to Mare about getting over Gary. She talks about finding the center that she lost when she and Gary split, about finding one good thing in each day that makes her feel a little better—no matter how big or small—even if she has to create that one good thing.

She could put me out of business if more people paid attention.

I hand Maya my Amex Black once she has given Mare a solid jumping-off point with books, some music, and even some candles and a meditation pillow.

“I got it, Bosslady,” Mare says.

“You wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t dragged you here,” I tell her. “Besides, you won’t have a choice but to give it your all if I get it for you.”

“Don’t take her card,” Mare says to Maya before looking back at me. “That’s exactly why I have to get these things myself,” she says. “I do want to get better. I do want to come out of this, so I need to do this.” She hands Maya her card, and I can’t argue with her logic. I’m proud of her for feeling this way, but I’m beginning to regret introducing her to Gary. I wouldn’t have done it had I thought either of them would end up in this kind of pain, and I know they’re both hurting.

We take our wares back to the car and Chuck drives us to the other end of the world and the Outlet Mall. It’s well into the afternoon by the time Marilyn has found enough pieces to cover her for a couple of weeks as we don’t know how long we’ll be here. We stop at the food court and I don’t bother trying to get her something to eat. We go straight to Tropical Smoothie and we both have one for lunch.

“I call his voicemail in the middle of the night,” she says as we’re sitting at a table in the food court, “the one at City of Lights. I never leave a message. I just listen to his voice.” She drops her head and sighs sadly. “How am I ever supposed to get over him if I can’t let go?”

“Time, Mare,” I say. “That’s what it’s going to take. Nobody said that you would just stop loving him, and nobody’s saying that you have to, even now. It would be impossible. Your love for him isn’t a curse, even though it hurts. It’s a beautiful thing, and you may have to use that love to get over him, if that’s what’s in the stars.” She raises her gaze to me.

“Why would you say that?” she asks. “What else could possibly be in the stars?”

“Anything!” I tell her. “Anything at all can be in the stars. Who am I to say? And who are you? We all have to die one day, but we do everything we can right now to live and that’s what you have to do even though death is inevitable. But Marilyn, death is the only thing that’s inevitable. So, yes, anything is in the stars. Do you understand?” She swallows and nods.

“I get it,” she says. “Now, can we go? I’m really tired of being strong right now.” I nod and stand.

“Let’s go,” I say, grabbing some of her bags.

*-*

“I was wondering if Mac had chased you away from me for the day,” Christian says when I get back to the suite.

“No, just… trying to help Marilyn out of her funk, as much as anybody can,” I say, dropping a bag of my own wares.

“How is she?” he asks, helping me out of my coat.

“The same,” I tell him. I go to the kitchen and retrieve a bottle of water. “She’s trying to cope, but… I know you don’t have any experience with breakups, but this is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I tried comparing her situation with my breakup with Edward…”

“How the hell did that happen?” he asks.

“Don’t ask,” I say, taking a few healthy chugs of the cold water. “A series of dominos. Anyway, I feel like my breakup with Edward was worse…”

“I concur,” he interrupts. I twist my lips.

“I just didn’t spiral down the wormhole as badly as she did,” I finish. “It was rough, and I had several years of withdrawal, and I was able to recoil and get on with my life, even though I didn’t have a relationship for several years. She’s destroying her health, and if she doesn’t come out of this pretty soon, it may be irreparable.”

“So, what now?” he asks. “She’s obviously going to need some intensive therapy.”

“She doesn’t want to go through therapy for a breakup,” I tell him. “She’ll barely talk to me about it.”

“This is more than a break-up…” That’s what she said. “This is affecting her health and everything and everyone around her.”

“Yeah, I know. She opened up a bit today and I’m hoping she’ll get a little better after this. We’ll just have to see.”

“I hope you’re right,” he replies. He doesn’t say anything more but what he doesn’t say is louder than what he says, and his implication is correct. Neither of us wants her to find out the hard way that she’s got to come up out of this funk and fast. Nobody is expecting her to wake up one day and be “all better,” but she’s got to get on the road to better because she’s going way down the rabbit hole.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly reluctantly decides to stay in Vegas for a few more days to see if the jury comes to a verdict with the promise to our babies that we’ll be home on or by the weekend. Al opts to stay with her since he knows that, one way or another, we’ll all be back in Vegas next weekend. She and Al spent Sunday afternoon watching 80’s movies while I caught up on things happening at GEH. I kept the block of rooms just in case anyone wants to come back on short notice.

Monday and Tuesday were just like regular workdays for all parties involved, except we set up shop in a Las Vegas hotel. Butterfly and I Skype into the department head meeting, and the peasants are just as subservient, obedient, and accommodating as they are when we’re there. I love the fact that my wife shows no sign of weakness in front of the staff even though this has been one of the most trying times she’s faced in a while—and she’s faced a few! However, she still exercises her authority as necessary in the meeting, asking specific questions about progress on the issues she discussed with various members of the management team, doling out praise for a job well done, additional instructions for the “next steps of the process,” as she put it, and swinging the Butterfly sword when necessary on those who aren’t making the mark.

“She’s just what we needed,” Lorenz says in a private video chat. “No matter how much you shook your fist in here, it was still business as usual. Everybody waited to see who would get the fist or the ax, but no one was moved enough to make a significant difference. When she came breezing through here like, ‘Shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out because I will close this whole thing down, they believed her. We believed her. Even Ros got her ass in gear.”

“I guess there’s nothing like fresh new hell to get the ball rolling in the right direction,” I tell him.

“Yeah,” he concurs. “I don’t know what’s going on these days with her personal life, but she’s thrown herself full force into her work. You’d be impressed.”

“That’s the Ros I know,” I reply. “Though I hope everything works out for her, I really don’t want to know the details. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I can’t empathize with where she is at the moment.”

“Hear, hear,” he concurs. “I won’t judge, but I don’t get it. I’ll just leave it at that.”

I appreciate that he doesn’t want to discuss the situation any further. There’s not a lot I have to say on the matter. I end the call with a few instructions and move on to other issues at hand.

Later that evening, my wife dons a sexy black dress with straps across the chest and an alluring peekaboo oval right at her cleavage, while I slip into basic black Armani, and we take a little drive up the strip in a 2015 Audi A5 with a moonroof that Jason procured earlier in the day. We decided to forego security for this little trip since the paparazzi has seemed to die down since the trial has ended and the jury is now in deliberations.

I’m pleasantly surprised that Butterfly enjoys the view of the strip through the sunroof during our drive. I veer west on Spring Mountain Road and proceed to our destination, a small Japanese restaurant called Aburiya Raku. It has some pretty good reviews and when we arrive, we see that there are mostly Japanese clientele. When the native ethnic group is en masse in the establishment, you know you’ve made the right choice.

We enjoy a variety of delicious Robatayaki items all grilled on oak binchotan—yakitori Chicken, duck, and Kobe beef skewers, including Kurobuta pork cheek and asparagus with bacon. We also have salmon roe and direct flamed eggplant. The sea urchin looked less than appetizing, so we shied away from that delicacy. We have the three-sake sampler—Juyondai and Isojiman both served cold, and Kubota sake heated. Kubota is normally a very dry sake, but when served heated, it has a softer flavor.

The experience is just what we needed to loosen up and just as we’re leaving, Butterfly needs to go to the restroom. She’s in there for a while and just as I’m settling the bill, I almost go to the restroom to see if she has fallen in when she comes storming back to the table, snatches her coat and purse and marches out the door of the restaurant.

What the fuck?

I quickly walk out behind her and the moment I clear the door, she begins walking towards the car. What the hell is going on? We just had a wonderful meal and now, she’s walking like she’s trying to escape from the police and huffing like a bull. I hit the key fob to unlock the car and she’s in the passenger seat before I can even get to her to open her door. When I get in the car, she’s breathing heavily in the seat next to me, sweating, her chest rising and falling lusciously underneath the straps of her dress.

“Drive!” she demands. My brow furrows.

“Butter…”

“Drive!” she hisses again. I don’t give her a chance to say it a third time. I drop the gear and peel out of the parking lot, not sure where I’m going.

“I hate this place!” she hisses. “I fucking hate this fucking place!” She rifles into her purse and pulls out a small bottle of hand sanitizer. She dumps a healthy amount of it into her hands and scrubs vigorously. She then dries her hand with a paper towel that was haphazardly shoved into her purse.

What the hell did she do in there, kill somebody?

I don’t ask what’s wrong. I quietly drive and wait for instructions for my wife to tell me where we’re going. Are we going back to the hotel? I don’t turn on the strip. I just drive down Spring Mountain Road until the street starts to curve and the neighborhood looks a little shady. I get back to a main street and, knowing that I turned left on Spring Mountain to get to the restaurant, I turn right on the main street.

At first, the neighborhood still looks pretty unsavory, and I wish I had Jason with me. After a while, the speed limit slows to a crawl, and I realize that we’re in the college district.

Butterfly still hasn’t said anything. She just sits there looking ahead of her.

I drive through the college district for a few miles until the road that we’re on ends and I have to veer to the right since I’m in the right lane…

And I end up driving through the airport.

Now, I’ve been to many airports in many cities, in many countries, on nearly every continent, and I’ve yet to find one that isn’t difficult as hell to navigate. McCarran is no different.

Here we go loop-de-loo for about 15 minutes and I finally manage to get to the other side of the airport… thank God. The bad news is that I now know that we are not only on the other side of the strip—which I suspected—but we’ve also passed our hotel.

And my wife is still silent. Okay, enough of this shit.

The airport interchange or connector or whatever the hell it is also ties in with the freeway. So, now I need to get off the freeway. The first exit says Sunset, only “exit” is misleading. It’s a maze of go-around-another-loop-onto-another-connecter-then-veer-right-onto-another-ramp-and-you-had-better-know-where-you’re-going-when-you-finally-get-to-the-street.

Left, or right?

Since we’ve crossed and we’re on the other side of the hotel, I think we need to go left because we need to head west. I turn left when the light turns green and proceed down Sunset Road. I’m sure the next light has to be Las Vegas Blvd and we can head back to the hotel.

Wrong.

The next light is Eastern. If we haven’t gotten back to the strip yet, we’re going the wrong way. That’s it. I need to find somewhere to pull over so that I can check the GPS and get us back to the Waldorf. After we’ve driven in silence for a while, my wife barks at me.

“Turn here!”

I’m actually startled a bit and I make an immediate right where she tells me to turn. My hands grip the steering wheel and I’m actually relieved to find that there were no vehicles or pedestrians to my immediate right, or I would have surely hit them. The area is well-lit even though it’s very late and I wonder where we are.

“Butterfly…” I begin, my voice scolding as I want to chastise her for startling me while I’m driving.

“Turn here!” she barks again.

“Ana!”

“Turn!”

I narrow my eyes at her and turn. We’re clearly in a park as I notice we pass a baseball field. There’s no talking to her right now. She’s livid about whatever happened in the moments that we were separated. We’re leaving the lighted area and driving more into a darker, shaded area now.

“There!” she barks. “Park there.”

I pull up next to a partially wooded area and turn the car off. Butterfly is facing forward, blankly looking ahead, no longer breathing heavily, but still breathing fire, nonetheless.

“Butterfly, what the he…”

“Take your pants down,” she says impassively. I frown deeply.

“What?” I retort in disbelief.

“Take your pants down!” she repeats, her head whipping towards me.

“Anastasia, I hardly…”

“Do you wanna talk or do you wanna get fucked?” Hell, really? I’ve never seen her like this. She is simmering angry… and ordering me to drop trou. If I protest right now, I’m afraid that I’ll risk that second option being taken off the table for the rest of this cursed trip. “Take. Your. Pants. Down.”

She’s not going to repeat that shit. I obediently undo my belt, my button, and my fly. Lifting my hips, I pull my pants down just above my knees and before I can get my ass back into the seat, she leans over, grabs my cock and takes the whole thing in her mouth.

“Whoa!” I exclaim, not prepared for the attack.

“Shut up!” she hisses. I have no idea what has her in this mood—and so goddamn bossy. I resent it a bit, but I like it much more than I resent it. She’s not my Domme; she’s someone else, but just as sexually demanding as my Domme.

My dick was flaccid a moment ago, but it hardens almost instantly with her technique—slow, deep, and hard… forceful, taking me from base to tip with no difficulty at all.

“Fuck!” I hiss quietly, one hand gripping the leather door handle while the other grasps the armrest between us. She’s fucking me so hard with her mouth that I only have a small amount of room to thrust up into her mouth on her downstroke. I wasn’t prepared, and I have to concentrate on not coming immediately. It only takes moments to get me so hard that I could knock down the trees in front of us with my dick at this moment. She’s going to fucking murder me…

She moves quickly, lifting her dress and rising to her knees. She pulls her dress up over her ass and before I can think or protest, she straddles me and kisses me deeply. Fuck, what is she doing?

She pushes the buttons on my door and my seat slowly reclines enough until she feels comfortable. I watch in aroused awe as she hoists one leg up on the armrest that my hand was previously occupying, the other nestled in the seat between my body and the door. Her legs are open wide and even though she’s still wearing her panties, I can smell her insane arousal.

Panties… she makes quick work of that, too.

Apparently, in her haste, she forgot to remove them. She grunts impatiently, and I hear the distinct sound of tearing fabric. Unwilling to just pull them aside and take care of business, she rips them off and tosses them into the passenger seat.

Fuck! My dick is hard and hot at the sight of that. She’s going to tear me apart.

She reaches between us and guides my head towards her opening. Upon finding her prize, she looks me in the eyes—hers already a deep blue, not royal like when she’s about to come, but damn near indigo. Fuck, that turns me on all by itself. Steadying herself on my shoulders, she works her way down onto my shaft without taking her eyes from mine, slowly taking me inch by inch.

“Sssssss!” I hiss as she envelops me.

“Quiet!” she whispers, glaring at me, still pushing her pussy down onto me. Her mouth opens when she takes me, but no sound comes out. She sits there for a moment, not moving, just wrapped tightly around my erection. Now, my mouth opens. She’s so tight and hot—not warm, hot—and she feels so damn good. A tortured breath escapes my parted lips and the hand that was previously on the armrest now rests on her bare hip.

She grabs my face as sticks her tongue into my mouth, giving and taking the most lavish and sensual kisses. I groan in agony at the decadence of being buried inside of her while she kisses me like this. I lap into her mouth, tasting her deeply as my dick gets harder and harder inside her. She breaks our kiss and my lips feel bereft, but she alleviates that issue by rising off my dick and falling achingly slowing back onto it.

Oh, God… this is too fucking much for me…

She grinds so. Damn. Slow, up and down on my cock, causing an unbelievable burn on my skin. I don’t even know how she has the control to move that slowly. The entire time, she doesn’t take her eyes off mine. We’re so close that our foreheads are nearly touching, our open mouths breaths from each other, and I’m at her fucking mercy.

“Fuck me,” she breathes, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to move this slowly, this meticulously, without breaking her rhythm. I don’t move yet and she rises and falls a few more times. I hear her gasp and her pussy gets wetter, so she changes—just a bit—her stroke a little faster, but only a little, and still incredibly deep and painstakingly slow.

She feels so good riding me slow, her cunt sliding all the way to the very tip of my cock then slowly and painfully devouring me balls deep. It’s an exercise in torture, and she’s insatiable… hungry. I groan at the intense burn and the tightening in my cock.

“Hold it!” she growls, grabbing my face again. “Fuck me. I want to feel that hard cock.”

Fuck, this is insane! We’re not in a scene, but with her taking charge this way, I know I better obey and not come. I revert to my stamina exercises—painful minutes and hours of training as a submissive where I was fucked, fondled, and teased deliciously and ordered not to come. This is so much worse, so much hotter and sweeter and it feels so good, over and over, torturous minute after minute after minute of sweet, painful manipulation of my dick.

“Don’t come,” she commands in a husky voice when she feels me thicken. “Fuck me.”

Don’t come, Grey. Don’t come.

Our mouths are wide open, the passion and pleasure so deep and intense that we can only dart our tongues out occasionally to taste one another.

I grip her ass, raw and naked and juicy, her hips sliding slowly up and down my cock. Fuck, it’s so good. I only have to move my hips infinitesimally to get the deepest penetration, but God when I do…

“Fuck!” I hiss. I’m not going to make it. I close my eyes and try to concentrate on not coming, because the sight of her on top of me, the smell of our intermingling arousal, the sound of her wet pussy coating my erection as she rises and falls over me—It’s fucking with every one of my senses, not just the obvious ones.

“Ana, baby…” I groan as I squeeze that sweet ass on her every downstroke, trying not to guide her talented hips over my cock—not that I have to—but I sure take advantage of pressing my fingertips into her skin and squeezing that ass on every gyration.

She’s fucking torturing me, her hips and ass claiming me in slow, controlled movements, and that’s the only part of her body that’s moving. Oh God, she’s milking me… milking me so hard with meticulous, intent hip rolls. I feel like I’m fucking floating as she fucks me deeper, slower… I’m going to come…

The car jerks and I’m snapped out of my Nirvana. What the fuck was that?

Somehow, the car lurched into gear amidst our sensual dance and we were slowly moving forward the entire time. My senses blurred, I’m trying to figure out what has happened and where we are. The car has stopped moving and the ruffle of leaves around us helps to clear my fuzzy mind. We’ve rolled into a bunch of trees or shrubbery or something and except for the back of the car, we’re surrounded by flora.

My wife never stopped stroking.

There could have been an earthquake around us, and she probably wouldn’t have stopped.

“Don’t stop!” she says without lifting her head to observe our surroundings. “Almost there…”

Almost? Shit, if it weren’t for the distraction of the trees, I’d be blowing off inside you right now!

Thank God for trees!

I grab that ass again, my fingers spread out over each of those juicy, bare cheeks. Thank the forces of inertia for that brief interruption, because this party was about to be over… but the inertia in my wife’s hips and her continued hip rolls and concentrated strokes on my eager dick assures that my reprieve is short-lived.

Her hair has fallen into my face. One of her fingertips has slipped into the corner of my lips and it tastes good. She’s panting into my mouth and I’m breathing her breath as I’m panting my own. She’s totally owning me.

“Ana…” I breathe hopelessly as I feel her tightening around me.

“God… Christian…” she squeaks as she cums hard on my cock, fucking me through her orgasm and never losing her rhythm. Her pussy is so juicy that I can feel her nectars sliding down my dick with each stroke. The prior distraction of the collision completely gone, I sink my fingers deep into the meat of her ass and meet her orgasmic strokes, still not having to lift my hips very high as she’s controlling my thrusts. Moments later, I let go.

Boy, do I let go!

I hold her hips and ass hard so that only the top half of my dick is inside her. I can feel my cock thumping and pumping so hard that it hurts… really hurts.

“Gah!” I whisper-choke through the painful ecstasy as my dick thumps so hard with each muscle contraction from my balls that I can feel it violently pushing against the walls of her pussy. My legs are trembling with the unbearable and seemingly never-ending pleasure and I wish I had a camera recording the hot action of my hands tightly gripping my wife’s beautiful ass while my dick—only partially inserted inside of her—visibly throbs madly as it empties violently into her hot pussy. The visual sends me into a whole new series of squirts, vibrations, and tremors—if that’s even possible—and my body is useless and shaking underneath her as I come and come and come…

What seems like several minutes later, my wife crawls off of me, retrieves her panties from the passenger seat and begins to clean herself.

“Not that I’m complaining, but do I get to know what brought that on?” I ask as I slide my pants and boxers back into place.

“Stupid bitches in the bathroom,” she says, still cleaning herself. “I don’t want to talk about it.” I sigh and get out of the car to survey the damage. We’re stuck in the trees and the front of the car is sunk in mud up to the bumper. Jesus Christ. I pull out my phone and call Jason.

“Sir?”

“Can you track my phone and come and get us?” I tell Jason. “I have no idea where we are. Get an Uber or a taxi—I don’t care—just come and get us.”

“We’re at Sunset Park,” Butterfly grumbles, “and send a damn tow truck.” The line is silent for a moment.

“Did she say tow truck?” Jason asks. I try not to get irritated. Whatever’s bothering Butterfly, she’s irritated enough for the both of us and that hot fuck didn’t seem to help.

“Yes,” I tell him. “We’ve had a bit of a mishap with the rental…”

“I’ll be there in ten.”

*-*

“Keep your clothes on,” she says. “Drop your pants and sit down.”

My wife has given me a few instructions when we arrive back at the hotel, and I’m going to do what she tells me since nothing that has happened so far has softened her sour mood since we left the restaurant.

I dutifully drop my pants and sit in the large chair with the large ottoman in front of it. While I’m sitting there, she goes off into the bedroom and I hear her rummaging through something. Make-up? Luggage?

She comes back with a travel-sized bottle in her hand, but I can’t see what it is. Standing on the other side of the ottoman, she undoes her dress, pulls it off her shoulders and lets it drop to the floor. Her bra soon joins it and she’s standing before me in nothing but strappy stiletto sandals.

And my dick is rock-hard again.

Her eyes go immediately to my jutting erection and she guides her hand down to her pussy. She begins playing with her clit and my mouth immediately starts to water. What the fuck? Let me do that!

She opens the travel bottle and I soon realize that it’s some type of oil. She puts a little of it on her finger and returns it to her clit. She moans and drops her head back as she pleasures herself in front of me and Greystone starts to do a dance while watching her fondle that shaven jewel.

Fuck, she’s fucking cruel.

When her head rises again and her eyes meet mine, she steps next to me, holding the bottle over her shoulder upside down. I don’t have to see it to know that the oil is dripping down her back.

Stay calm, Grey.

Grey may be staying calm, but Greystone is animated and untamable.

She turns around and sits on my lap, discarding the empty bottle across the room to parts unknown. Her beautiful oily back is staring at me and the oil has rolled down to her beautiful and now oily ass. I can’t help it. I rub the oil into her skin and over her cheeks. She grinds over me and I bite my lip as her pussy lips glide over the outside of my erection.

Shit, the oil and the friction are almost too much.

I gently coat her rosette with the oil that has leaked there and push my thumb inside. She moans her pleasure and grinds harder.

Fuck, that doesn’t help.

Watching her hips roll on my dick with my thumb penetrating that delicious ass, I’m certain that she wants me to come this way. As soon as Greystone is hot and ready to blow, she stops her gyrations.

“Fuck!” I hiss as the sensation slowly eases away. She stands, my finger popping out of her asshole, and she turns around. She straddles me, facing me, but still not letting my dick into that luscious pussy. It’s erect behind her and she adjusts herself, her hands on my shoulders, so that’s it’s nestled between her oily ass cheeks.

“Aw, fuck,” I groan low as I take her hips in my hands. She moves just right, and my dick is rubbing between her ass cheeks.

“Fuck!” I bite out as I take a nipple in my mouth and suck hard, causing her to cry out.

“Ah! Christian!” That hip roll keeps going and I squeeze her cheeks, pushing them together so that they grip my dick as I torment her nipples, first one, then the other. I know I can make her come this way, and soon…

“Stop!” she cries, her voice tortured. She stops and I stop, and she fights for a moment to catch her breath. My pending orgasm ebbs away as she takes a brief reprieve, but her next move lets me know this round will soon be over.

After her momentary time-out, she reaches behind her and dexterously locates my aching cock, now oily from her ass. After stroking it a few times, she guides the tender head back to her ass… and her asshole.

Oh, shit.

I sit paralyzed as she manipulates and guides Greystone to one of his very, very favorite places. My breath catches when the head breaches her rosette. I bite my lip again, trying to prepare myself for the pleasure and not simply blow my load from the mere thought of what’s going on.

She rises and falls infinitesimally, working my cock into her ass and again, I have to concentrate on not coming. After a minute or so of glorious coercing, her tight ass finally accepts my aching shaft and she lays that beautiful body back on the ottoman.

She’s holding her ankles and riding my dick anally, laying back on this ottoman and spread out before me. Her lush tits are bouncing before me and she looks and feels fucking divine! Over and over, several minutes of torturing and tempting me with her tightest orifice. I’m going to come this way. There’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I grab her hips again and thrust up into her tight ass, short deep thrusts that massage my head and squeeze my cock and feels so good. She writhes on top of me and her body flushes. She bites her lip as that sheen of sweat shows up on her skin. If she comes, I’m right the fuck behind her so I might as well help her along.

I rub my thumb upward, repeatedly against that oily clit. It takes about a minute and her back is arching up, the top of her body suspended in orgasm and ecstasy and pushing her hips and ass against my dick. I thrust up into her a few more times and I’m hanging in yet another trembling orgasm, as intense as the first an hour or so ago.

“Fuck! Ana! Shit!” I cry out as I push myself into her clenching ass, gritting my teeth and pushing my head back into the chair as I swear brain matter is once again shooting from my cock. To this day, I have felt nothing like Anastasia’s ass and I’m certain that I’ll be out for the count as usual after that sweet, Valium-laced, anal session. I soon discover that my wife has other plans.

I am fucked, sucked, licked, gripped, and rubbed into complete oblivion for the better part of the early morning hours before my wife finally taps out and grants me reprieve somewhere around dawn. What the hell happened in that bathroom?

*-*

“Oh, I’ve missed my babies so much!”

The moment we walk into the house on Friday, Butterfly zeroes in on the twins. Mikey runs into his mother’s arms and Minnie, still not as balanced as Mikey, toddles over to my wife and they share a three way embrace that lasts for several long moments. I couldn’t get in on the love until she was ready to release one of them. She didn’t even take her coat off for a full twenty minutes.

We had decided to leave Las Vegas mid-afternoon on Friday as we knew that if the jury reached a verdict after 2:00pm, they wouldn’t be able to get everyone back in court in enough time to deliver it, and court wouldn’t be back in session until Monday. When we landed in Seattle and Allen checked his texts, it turns out that’s exactly what happened. Larson informed him that after asking to see the video three more times and reviewing Vincent Sullivan’s testimony twice, the jury had reached a verdict early Friday evening. We would have to be back in Vegas on Monday morning, and we’ll find out at that time when the sentencing will be… if there will be a sentencing.

As such, my wife threw herself into being Mommy from the moment we walked in the door. She normally dresses in what I would call office attire or business casual when we fly, but not on Friday. On Friday, she was all jeans, sweatshirt, and sneakers so that the moment she got home, she didn’t even have to change her clothes. She was right in the middle of the family-room floor with the kids and it was blankets and forts all weekend. We didn’t spend one night in our own bed.

I had learned that the 1914 Centennial Para Vintage Tawny blend had arrived from Barossa Valley on Thursday, and I was hoping to give it a whirl on Valentine’s Day, but nooooooo. Mrs. Grey had other plans. Mrs. Grey pointed out that we had been having wild sex the entire time we were in Las Vegas and that she now wanted to spend quality time with her children, knowing that we had to go back to that dreaded place again the next day. I remind her that it’s probably only going to be a day trip unless the sentencing is going to be this week and she reminds me that the Tawny blend will still be here when we get back. So, floor blankets and forts it is.

“Baby,” I ask while we’re preparing to catch the plane again on Sunday, “are you ever going to tell me what happened in that bathroom at Raku?” She sighs heavily and sits on the bed.

“There were a couple of women in the bathroom,” she says. “They saw me come in. They knew I was in the stall. They proceeded to talk major shit about me… major shit. I couldn’t even tell if they really knew who I was, but the six degrees of separation attached me to the blue dress from karaoke, and they knew the dress, and they knew you… or at least they knew your face.

“Whatever the case may be, they were just talking about how you looked too good to be with me and they were pointing things out like my big hips and I’m short… They brought up the blue dress and the fact that, ‘Well, at least this dress looks better than the blue one, but not by much.’” She’s mocking the girl’s words, so I know she was repeating them verbatim.

I opened the door and looked at them, and they’re standing at the sink glaring at me like, ‘Oh, you still here?’ They knew I was in there. They were deliberately picking a fight, and you know me! You know I could have given them one… but I was just so tired. I’m tired of people just not liking me or hating me or judging me for no reason. I’m tired of people expecting me to act a certain way or look a certain way or dress a certain way or be a certain way. I’m not Michelle Obama. I’m not required to greet everyone I see—smile and wave to the townsfolk when I arrive. I’m a young woman who just wants to live, and they won’t let me live!

“So, I was just tired. I looked at those women, and I had nothing—no snappy comebacks, no zingers, no cracks about their five-and-dime dresses and shoes, nothing. I just got the hell out of there. I didn’t even wash my hands.”

Oh, well that explains the hand sanitizer incident. I was wondering why she used so much.

“The entire time we were in the car, all I could think was, ‘When am I going to discover that someone doesn’t like me for something that I directly or deliberately did to them?’ Everybody that I’ve come in contact with so far doesn’t like me for some abstract bullshit or imagined wrongdoing, or some stupid shit like my big hips, I’m too short, and you’re too good for me. It was just more than I could bear at the moment.” I walk over to her and put my arms around her.

“You know that none of that matters to me, right?” I say, sincerely, while looking into her eyes.

“I know that, I do,” she says. “I’m just trying to find a way to deal with this shit. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I can handle it, some dumb shit happens again and I’m back on the ledge again.”

I hold her close to me and try to comfort her, especially since we’re about to get back on the plane again to go back to Vegas. We’re just waiting for Lawrence to tell us that he has retrieved Ray and they and Allen will be meeting us at SeaTac. My pocket buzzes and I’m sure that it’s Jason calling to tell me that we’re ready to go. I retrieve my phone and swipe.

“Yeah?” I answer.

“Sir! Jesus! We’ve got a problem!” I furrow my brow.

“What? What is it?” I ask.

“I’ve called the police! I don’t know what we should be doing!” Jason is frantic. I’ve never seen him like this… or heard him like this.

“Take a breath, man. What are you talking about? Called the police about what?” I ask, trying to get him to calm down. I hear him swallow hard before he speaks.

“Carla Morton just drove her car off an overpass.” 

A/N: So, anyone who lives in Vegas knows that Sunset Park doesn’t really have trees in a marsh like that—there are trees, but not enough for a car to get lost in. Hell, nowhere that I know of in Vegas has trees like that accessible to a vehicle since we’re sitting smack on top of the desert, but I took a bit of creative license here.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Grey, Continued: Season 5, Episode 14

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

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

Season 5 Episode 14

CHRISTIAN

Lunch manages to end on a high note with Butterfly showing Cynthia and Larry pictures of the twins at Christmas and their first birthday and talking about the accreditation at Helping Hands and all the things the Center will be able to do now that they’re licensed. I’m very happy to move the conversation away from the trial. We’ve decided to stay, and now we need to make the best of our time while we’re here awaiting this damn verdict. Much to my surprise, Butterfly suggests that we all go to Karaoke since most of our party will be returning to Seattle tomorrow. Cynthia and Larry decline, but it looks like our party will be going to make fools of ourselves on stage.

Although we’re in better spirits as we watch the living statues perform in the middle of the mall/casino, our spirits take a nosedive the moment we see him.

“Brian? What the…?” Ray begins.

“I swear I’m not following you,” he says with his hands up. Butterfly and I are both glaring at him like we could shoot him where he stands.

“What, did you come for a shopping trip?” I nearly hiss. He turns his glare to me.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” he says. He reaches into his jacket and just as Jason is reaching into his, Cholometes pulls out a mirrored box. Inside the mirrored box is another box—blue… Tiffany blue to be exact. He opens the box to reveal what looks like a 2-carat solitaire stone set in a platinum band with eight round brilliant diamond set in the band.

“I’m going to ask Shawna to marry me,” he says to Ray.

“Thank God,” my wife says, probably a little louder than she intends and never making eye-contact with Brian. He brings his gaze down to her and I’m immediately on guard.

“I see that’s good news to you, Ana,” he says. “I’m glad to hear that.” Butterfly raises a hateful gaze to Cholometes that doesn’t even faze him.

“You’re here in Las Vegas to attend the trial of the bastards that beat and burned me 15 years ago. Yet, you say that you’re here to support my father. The last time I saw you, you tried to announce to a room full of my family and friends—particularly my father—that I and my husband engage in an alternative lifestyle. Forgive me if I question your motives, Mr. Cholometes!” she spits, her voice full of venom, before she turns to her father.

“We’re going to the car, Daddy. You can meet us there when you’re done talking to your friend.” She marches away with Chuck right behind her. I glare at Cholometes for a moment, then fall in step behind my wife. I hear Ray talking to him as we leave.

“Bri, I appreciate your support and friendship, but in the future when you want to drop into town, you may want to call first.”

“Good idea,” I say to myself as I catch up with my wife.

“Baby…”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says. “I want to go to the Fashion Show Mall and buy a skimpy dress to wear to karaoke tonight.”

“We’re in the middle of a mall right now, baby,” I point out.

“I don’t want to risk running into him again!” she says. Duly noted… then I pause.

“How skimpy?” I ask.

“Nearly non-existent,” she says. “I’ll be with my husband.”

And she wasn’t kidding.

She bought a short cobalt-blue, spaghetti string dress that fit her like a second skin that she plans to wear without a bra. What’s more is that she found a pair of cobalt-blue thigh-high soft suede stiletto boots to wear with the barely-there dress. To make matters worse, she bought a white bridal cape trimmed in fur with a hood, so that you were sure to see her coming.

Fucking hell.

“Your dad is going to be there,” I protest, trying to get her to reconsider her wardrobe choice.

“And I’m a grown ass woman with twins,” she replies. “If he’s never considered the fact that I’m a sexual being, now would be the time to get over it.”

I had to buy something, too, because I hadn’t planned on attending any social events. So, all I brought are suits and sweats, and hell if I’m wearing either of those out with her tonight. So, what do I buy?

I find the most Beckham-esque pair of black slacks that I can find in that they fit a man’s muscular legs, ass, and groin area very nicely and leave nothing to the female imagination. I pair them with a thin muscle turtleneck T-shirt and a pair of Mahogany brown ankle boots that pretty much sends the message that my wife is not the only one who’s going to look tempting on the streets of Vegas. She examines me with a scrutinous eye before we leave the suite and simply laughs as we head for the elevator.

Everyone comes out with us tonight, including Mac’s husband, Fergus, which unfortunately means that Marilyn is the only dateless person this evening. At first, that gives me cause for concern, but she assures me that she’s okay and plans to have a good time. She even intends to sing a song.

Jason’s eyes bulge from their sockets when he sees my wife’s attire. Ray is equally speechless when she removes her cloak. Of course, Allen can be counted on to fan the flame.

“Well, well, well, Hot Mama, what’s gotten into you?” he asks.

“A little bit of hell from Sin City, that’s all,” she replies taking a seat. Jason looks at me and I just raise my brow and shrug. He, on the other hand, sighs and rubs his forehead. He knows that dress has the makings for a long night.

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We’re at a local bar in a casino called Ellis Island in downtown Las Vegas, as if we hadn’t spent enough time down here already, but this place is rumored to be one of the best karaoke spots in town. If I’m honest, the food’s not bad either. We arrived early and commandeered one of the large tables that look like picnic tables. We’ve deliberately skipped dinner to partake of the greasy bar food, because that’s what Butterfly wants—chicken wing dings, loaded steak fries, jalapeno poppers, fried mushrooms… all the things that usually mean a night of indigestion, not to mention a steady flow of a drink called “Adios.” Hopefully, I won’t have to carry her into the suite at the end of the night, but even if I do, she deserves to let loose after the week that she’s had.

When the massive amount of food arrives, everyone digs in and I’m thrilled beyond words to see that Marilyn takes a few bites of a wing ding! That was worth the trip all on its own.

More than one man has eyed my Butterfly in this delectable fucking dress with her nipples at full attention. I’m trying not to go all Neanderthal on the fuckers, but they’re getting on my fucking nerves. The women eyeing me are a bit more discreet, but the gesture offers me little to no comfort.

The first to be called up from our little group is Fergus. He gives his wife a kiss and mounts the stage.

“Hold on a minute there, lad, before ya start,” Fergus turns to the crowd. “Do any of ya Americans know anything about good Irish drinkin’ songs?”

I don’t know anything about Irish drinking songs. I look over at my wife and she shakes her head and shrugs, but his question receives a bit of a reception from the crowd.

“Well, let’s give it a lil shot. If I say, ‘And it’s no, naaaay, neveeeerrrrr…” He pauses and several people in the bar clap four times.

“Oooooohh! I see ya do!” he says with his jolly Scottish accent. “Well, let’s do a round of The Wild Rover!” He turns to the DJ. “Okay, lad, let’s give it a go.”

A rousing introduction of what sounds like banjos and violins pipe through the speakers, and Fergus begins singing about spending all his money on drinking but coming home with gold in store. When he gets to the first round of the “No, nay, never” chorus, a few people in the bar clap with him.

Now, here’s the thing about Irish drinking songs… well, I should say this Irish drinking song, because I haven’t heard any other ones. It’s a very happy song. In fact, in a room full of drinking karaokers, it’s infectious. So, by the time he gets to the second round of the chorus, more people are clapping with him. By the third chorus, my wife and I are clapping with him. By the fourth and fifth chorus, the entire bar is singing along with him.

He gets a rowdy round of applause when the song is over and an enthusiastic roar to sing it again… which he does, and it’s just as much fun the second time around.

After a few other performers, Ray goes to the stage and sings Lionel Ritchie The Only One. Apparently, Mac hasn’t had enough to drink yet to show her vocal skills, but James is beckoned to the stage a while later and belts out a very good version of Michael Bublé’s Save the Last Dance for Me.

To my dismay, three or four songs later, my scantily clad wife is called on stage and sings a very animated version of Katy Perry’s Roar.

And Christ, did she roar!

I’m sure that a good portion of the power behind that song was fueled by alcohol, but she doesn’t seem impaired at all. Of course, the catcallers are yelling shit like, “Yeah, baby, roar on over here,” and “I’ve got something to make you roar,” but they were largely drowned out by the power of She-Women waving through the crowd and “roaring” along with my wife.

No sooner the little “tiger” is ready to take her seat that the DJ beckons her back to the stage with Al. They cling to one another and sing That’s What Friends Are For. I see my wife getting misty-eyed when the song is over, and she hugs her best friend. So, I’m happy when one of the other patrons belts out Sweet Caroline, which is one of those songs that unites people across all genres.

A few songs later, Amanda produces an amazing rendition of Celine Deon’s Because You Loved Me, and now Allen is looking for a song to sing for James since everyone seems “so sappy and sentimental” as he put it—everyone, that is, except…

At first, you can’t tell what the song is because you just hear the guitar strumming a single tune for a few beats, but when she opens her mouth…

“There’s a fire starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark…”

Marilyn’s voice has so much soul in it that everyone at the table is taken aback. We’re all listening intently as she finishes the first verse, and if you close your eyes, you don’t know that this isn’t Adele.

“The scars of your love remind me of us, they keep me thinkin’ that we almost had it all…”

I look over at Butterfly and she’s staring at the stage like she’s never seen this person before. Marilyn’s eyes are closed as she sings the song and when she hits the chorus, her voice reverberates through that place like she’s giving a concert—and the crowd reacts as such, but Marilyn is in her own world belting out this song like a pro.

“Did you know she could sing like that?” I ask, leaning over to Butterfly.

“Not a clue,” she says, still gazing at Marilyn, who continues to captivate the crowd.

“Turn my sorrow into treasured gold. You’ll pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow…”

She’s clapping with the rhythm of the clapping in the song as she sings this part, almost like it was rehearsed, but each time she gets to that chorus, she belts it out and the women in the bar transform into backup singers.

“You played it, you played it, you played it, you played it to the beat.”

She ends the song perfectly as the music ends and steps quickly off stage to thunderous applause. She proceeds pass the table, not stopping to look at any of us.

“Marilyn!” Butterfly calls behind her.

“I’m fine,” she calls back. “I just need the restroom.” Butterfly moves to stand, but I prevent it, shaking my head when she looks at me strangely.

“Let her go,” I tell her. “She obviously needs a little alone time.”

Butterfly at first gives me a look that screams how dare I hold her down like that, but deflates when I point out that Marilyn needs to be alone.

“Well, that explains a lot,” Mac says, taking a sip of her drink. I frown.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I knew that crying was more than just a bad dream,” she says. “I just didn’t want to be intrusive. Bad breakup?” I look at Butterfly who shrugs. I can see Ray looking over at us expectantly, especially after he saw Marilyn kiss me on the cheek.

“The worst,” Butterfly says. “It’s not like we can keep it a secret anymore. I can’t reveal the details, but… it’s pretty brutal.”

Physically brutal?” Ray presses. Butterfly purses her lips.

“Daddy, I love you, but that’s none of your business. Bad break-up, that’s all you get, which is more than I should have said.”

“No offense, Ana, but it’s the elephant in the room,” Amanda says. “I don’t know her very well, but every now and then, a bit of personality shines through. She’s not usually this quiet girl that everybody’s seeing now, is she? And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that she doesn’t eat. I thought she was bulimic, but like Vee, I didn’t want to intrude.”

“What made you think bulimia if you hadn’t seen her eating?” Mac asks.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking anorexia…” Amanda says.

“Can we please not talk about her this way?” Butterfly interjects fervently. “It’s rude and intrusive, not to mention narrow-minded to draw conclusions without knowing the entire story!”

“Thanks, Bosslady.”

We all turn to see Marilyn standing just at the end of the long table where we’re sitting. Amanda’s face pales and she chokes out her apology.

“Marilyn! I’m sorry… I didn’t mean…” Marilyn holds her hand up to silence Amanda.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s easy to get the wrong idea. I and my boyfriend didn’t see eye-to-eye on a very important matter and it resulted in our break-up. I wasn’t ready, not that I think I ever would have been, but it can’t be fixed now. I’m doing better with it now than I was before, but as you can see, I’m still not taking it very well. I’m ingesting what I can—doctor’s orders—but apparently, the first thing to leave after you lose your heart is your appetite… along with a bit of your sense of self-preservation, so…”

She trails off, and Mac and Mandy look more than a bit sheepish.

“So, I’m not bulimic and I’m not anorexic. I’m just broken-hearted,” Marilyn says with a shrug.

“I’m so sorry, Marilyn,” Amanda says again.

“Really… it’s okay. I totally understand. To be honest, I’ve become a bit accustomed to being Sideshow Bob… and I know Bosslady’s not going to tell you guys anything, so you heard it from me.” She mocks a half-bow. “Jason? Can one of the guys take me back to the hotel? I think I’ve had enough fun for the night.”

“Maybe we should all go…” Mac begins.

“Oh, please, don’t,” Marilyn protests. “I already feel bad that I put a big damper on the night. If everybody leaves because of me, I’m going to feel really shitty.” She turns to Jason and he nods to Lawrence.

“Christian, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll take you up on that separate room for the night,” she says. I look over at Mac who’s staring at me wide-eyed and beseeching. I clear my throat.

“I… took the liberty of getting a separate room for Mac and Fergus,” I say. “I know how it can be for married couples who haven’t seen each other in a week, so I thought… you know… just in case?” She nods.

“Goodnight, everyone,” she says as she retrieves her coat and purse and leaves with Lawrence. Mac releases a breath she was holding.

“Thank you, Christian!” she sighs heavily. “I feel twelve types of shitty now.” Butterfly doesn’t say anything. She just leans back into me. Everyone is quiet now and the tension can be cut with a knife.

“Okay,” I announce. “We’ve all had a pretty shitty week, and although what has happened to Marilyn is indeed tragic, she has requested that we don’t end the night on her account. So, Jason, please flag down a waitress so that we can get another round of drinks, and Mrs. McIntyre, I believe since you initiated the event that has thrust us into this current state of melancholy…” I’m speaking with an exaggerated tone to lighten the mood of the revelers, “… that it’s only fair that you turn in one of those little sheets and get up there and get to performing.” Mac twists her lips and snatches one of the song books from the table.

“I didn’t see you grace us with a performance, Mr. Grey,” she shoots.

“Oh, my request is already in,” I correct her. “I’m just waiting for them to call my name.” Butterfly turns to look at me.

“Really?” she asks.

“Yes, really,” I reply. “Did you think I was going to let you have all the fun?” She rolls her eyes.

“I’ll prepare myself,” she says.

“For what?”

“For all the women that are going to rush the stage when you start singing,” she replies.

I think I owe an additional debt of penance, too,” Amanda says as she begins to thumb through the song book.

I watch as Amanda and Mac begrudgingly submit their selections and Butterfly thumbs through the book. I don’t think she plans on singing another song. I think she’s just trying to find something to do with her hands.

“Jewel?” Allen says, garnering her attention. When she looks up, he just gazes at her. She looks back down at the book.

“I don’t know what to do,” she says quietly. “She’s so sad and I know this will pass, but I know from experience that it could take a really long time. In the meantime…”

She trails off and she continues to thumb through the song book. I slide my arm around her waist to try to comfort her.

“I know it’s not the same, Jewel, but she’s got you. She couldn’t ask for a better friend or Bosslady at a time like this…”

“But is it enough?” she interrupts, firmly but quietly. “I swear to God, she looks like she’s dying.”

Allen can’t counter because he knows that she’s right.

“We’re doing everything we can, baby,” I tell her, “and she’s doing what she can to get through this. I know it’s hard to watch, but we’ve just got to give her time.” Butterfly sighs and nods. Just as I’m about to say something else encouraging, the DJ calls my name. I kiss my wife on the cheek and go to the stage.

I chose a song that’s clearly out of my range, but I’ll make it work. The familiar intro plays, and my wife raises a questioning gaze to me as I begin to sing…

“I could stay awake just to hear you breathing, watch you smile while you are sleeping, while you’re far away and dreaming…”

Butterfly’s mouth falls open as I croon the lyrics. After a few lines, her face softens, and she sinks into the music.

“Lying close to you feeling your heart beating, and I’m wondering what you’re dreaming, wondering if it’s me you’re seeing…”

I’m no Steven Tyler, but I adjust the high keys to fit my voice and continue singing to my girl.

“I don’t wanna miss one smile, and I don’t wanna miss one kiss…”

She’s looking at me with those big ocean blue eyes that I could just fall into and I’m trying very hard to finish the song. It’s just a song, I know, but it reminds me of how much I love her and how lucky I am to have her.

“I don’t wanna close my eyes, I don’t wanna fall asleep ‘cause I’d miss you, Baby, and I don’t wanna miss a thing.”

As the lyrics end and the music is still playing, I can hear someone saying something over the applause, but I just want to get back to my girl. I sit down and pull her onto my lap, and she kisses me sweetly on the cheek. It’s tender and special and if I’m honest, I’m a little verklempt by the gesture.

“Jesus, Chris, you could’ve said ‘excuse me’ before you nearly knocked the poor girl down,” Allen scolds as he returns to the table after turning in more song requests. What the hell is he talking about?

“I didn’t knock her down! She’s on my lap!” I protest.

“Not that girl… that one.” He points to some girl just on the other side of the stage. She’s with a group of what I assume are her friends and she does not look happy.

“Who the hell is she?” I ask. I look at Butterfly and she shakes her head and shrugs.

“Oh, don’t ask her,” Allen chides. “She was just as moonstruck as you were. She was one of the fan club that gathered at the stage when you started singing.”

“Oh, you can’t be serious,” I say and Butterfly laughs.

“I told you,” she says, still giggling.

“I wasn’t even that good,” I point out.

“You were good enough,” Allen says. “You had a party of about five meandering at the stage.

“Couldn’t they tell I was singing to her?” I ask, gesturing to my wife.

“I’m sure they could, but I don’t think it mattered,” Mac says. “When you finished your song, that girl threw herself right in your path, and you politely pushed her right out of the way like a saloon door.” Butterfly sputters a laugh again.

“And I missed it,” she chuckles.

“You were otherwise occupied, dear,” Mandy chimes in.

“I should go apologize,” I say.

“No, you shouldn’t,” Butterfly says. “Vee says people could tell that you were singing to me, but she obviously didn’t care. So, I’ll tell you what. I’ll try to smooth things over since it was rude to knock the girl out of the way, because if you go over there, she’s going to see it as an invitation.” I raise a brow at her.

“It’s that or nothing,” she says. “I’ll be happy to sit here and drink and order more wing dings and watch my family sing.” She shrugs. I guess it couldn’t hurt to let her try to apologize for me. She didn’t shove the girl.

“Chuck is going with you,” I condition.

“Chuck can stay right where he is,” she retorts. “It’s 30 feet away. If she’s got a gun, she can shoot us from here,” she adds, throwing back her drink, then strolling over to the table with the women. I watch as she animatedly talks to the women and the one in the pink and white dress sneers at her a bit. They have a brief exchange then Butterfly shrugs, says something else and proceeds to leave.

She looks like she’s about to come back to the table when I vaguely hear something come from one of the women at the table that makes her stop in her tracks. Her mouth opens slightly in surprise before she turns around and takes the two steps back to the table. She says something to the girl, whose face transforms into a mask of horror. Her friends’ faces all range from shock and awe to badly hidden amusement. Butterfly stops the waitress and says something to her, and the waitress nods and leaves. Butterfly then smiles, waves, and walks back to the table.

“Do I even want to know what just happened?” I ask. She shrugs again with a smirk on her face.

“I apologized on your behalf, or at least I tried,” she begins. “She was surprised that you’re my husband; I didn’t bother to ask why. She didn’t accept my apology, so I just shrugged and said, ‘Well, I tried.’ Just as I was about to leave, she said that my husband shouldn’t have let me leave the house like this.”

“Oh, Lord,” Mac says.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she tells Mac. “I just told her that her friends shouldn’t have let her leave the house like that. Then, I bought them a round of drinks.” Allen nearly chokes on his drink and James has to pat his husband’s back and hand him a napkin.

“I guess I missed the thrust here,” I say.

“That, my dear Chris, is called shade,” Al says. “Friends don’t let friends go out looking like crap and that pink and white dress that she’s wearing looks like it came from the dollar store.” I shake my head.

“I can’t take you anywhere,” I jest to my wife.

“Hey, it’s not my fault that other people don’t know how to act around me,” she says.

“None of this has anything to do with the number of ‘Adios’s’ you’ve consumed, right?”

“Maybe,” she replies, “a little bit. Hey, you were the one who swerved her on stage. I was just trying to soften the blow.”

“The hell you were!” I accuse. “You were trying to rub it in.” She smiles.

“Maybe… a little bit,” she repeats.

“And what the hell is a ‘swerve?” I ask. She and Al laugh.

“Google it,” she says, “along with shade. Be sure to look for the urban dictionary definitions.” She resumes her perch on my lap.

“You really can’t blame me,” she says. “You do this to women wherever we go. It’s like they’ve never seen a handsome man in their lives, and they don’t know what to do with themselves when they see you.”

“Oh, like you don’t have the men in here sniffing the floor just to get a whiff of the soles of your boots,” I counter. She laughs heartily.

“More chicken wings,” she demands mirthfully, “and another Adios… and a glass of water.” The waitress actually waves at her from across the room and Butterfly nods.

“Did she just actually take your order?” I ask and she nods.

“We have an agreement,” she replies. “Daddy, are you having a good time?”

“Actually, I am,” Ray says. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve been out… what with the business and Harry. I thought I’d feel a little out of place with all these young people, but this is really fun, as long as no one says anything about the old coot sitting at the table with all the youngsters.”

“They better not,” Amanda says, leaning over to kiss Ray tenderly on the lips. “If they think Ana defended her man, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Ray smiles at his wife suggestively as she caresses his cheek, and I kind of get what Jason means when he says we need to get a room.

After a few more drinks and a lot more chicken wings, Mac is finally called to the stage to… grace us with her version of Hit Me Baby One More Time… and now I know why she had to be tipsy to sing, because she can’t carry a tune with a bucket!

Not long after that, Amanda gives us a moving rendition of Come Away with Me, although that song is already a bit melancholy and moving on its own.

We sit and listen to several other songs—both good and bad—and I’m really ready to call it a night when the DJ calls my wife’s name again.

“What?” I ask. “When did you turn in another song?”

“Al took it up there for me,” she says, rising from my lap. Oh, dear God, here come the catcalls again. She goes up to the stage and a song begins that I’m familiar with, but… there’s no way she can sing this song alone.

“I finally found someone who knocks me off my feet, I finally found someone who makes me feel complete…”

She effortlessly begins to sing a song—a duet, no less—and she’s singing both parts! Of course, she sounds fantastic, even singing the guy’s part. I don’t think the crowd really knows what to make of it.

“My favorite line was can I call you sometime…” Although she sounds good, the song sounds empty. She’s looking at me and singing and… Okay, I know what she’s doing now. Why didn’t she just say so? I rise from my chair and walk up to the stage and begin to sing with her on the second verse.

“Did I keep you waiting?”
“I didn’t mind…”
“I apologize.”
“Baby, that’s fine.”

It’s funny that this is where I came in on the song because I actually did keep her waiting while I was trying to figure out what she was doing. I’m getting flashbacks of us doing the impromptu duet at Mia’s wedding. We really surprised everyone and it’s not an experience that I’ll soon forget.

“This is it! Oh, I finally found someone, someone to share my life…”

I slide my arm around her waist and pull her to me in this nothing shred of a dress. She                                       feels fucking divine. I can inconspicuously caress her curves as we sing the song, but it’s getting a little hard to concentrate… literally.

“My life has just begun, I finally found someone.”

I nearly want to jump her fucking bones as the music dies, but her father would probably beat the hell out of me. Instead, I plant a passionate kiss on her lips right there on stage. There’s a reason to catcall, you fuckers.

“They didn’t have Love All the Hurt Away,” she breathes against my lips.

“Just as well,” I reply, kissing her softly. “Things might have gotten indecent.”

I step off the stage and take her hand, helping her down as well before we hear the dreaded and predictable suggestion about a room. We’re just sitting back in our seats when the DJ calls Allen to the stage. I nip and nibble at my wife’s ears, neck, and exposed shoulders while Allen sings to his husband about starting Back At One. When the song is over and Allen returns to the table, Ray confesses that he’s ready to go back to the hotel.

“This is really a lot of fun and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I really need some shut-eye.”

“So, do I,” I concur. “Being merry and shoving off girlfriend-hopefuls is hard and stressful work and I’m beat!”

The rest of the karaokers concur that it’s time to call it a night and we head for the cars.

*-*

She drops her cape right on the living room floor when we get back to the hotel. She doesn’t even bother to turn on any lights. She just walks over to the window where I can see her silhouette. I retrieve her cape from the floor and toss it over the back of a nearby chair, my jacket joining it. I close the distance between us just a little, leaving a few feet so that I can admire her body. She turns around and slowly walks toward me, closing the remainder of the space between us.

Neither of us speaks, and she never looks into my eyes. She only raises her gaze to my lips. The moon or the lights from the Strip or something is shining into our suite. I don’t know and I don’t care. I only know that it’s just enough light for me to see her—watch her tempt me.

She leans in just a bit, closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She holds it for a few seconds, then blows it softly out of her mouth. She’s… smelling me. Shit, that’s hot.

I still don’t move because I want to see what she does next. She opens her eyes, still focused on my lips.

Don’t breathe, Grey. Don’t fucking move.

She raises her hand and moves to touch my lips… but she doesn’t. Instead, she touches her own, her fingertips barely ghosting over the skin before she replaces them with her tongue, only faintly licking where her fingertips have been before disappearing back into her mouth.

Fuck, this is unbearable.

Her teeth worries that same lip only for a moment and her hand drops back down to her side. She leans in as if she would kiss me, but stops—a breath away from my face and her mouth not quite high enough to kiss.

She just stands there with her hooded eyes still looking at my mouth and licking her own lip. I’m so busy concentrating on her mouth as much as she’s concentrating on mine that I don’t realize where her hand has gotten to until she nearly breaks me. She reaches out and teases my dick with a single finger, stroking it only once from tip to base. Her touch is like hot fucking fire and it’s one of the most grueling endurance exercises I’ve ever experienced not to react to her surprise caress.

Without saying a word, she turns away and walks toward the bedroom, her ass a magnificently animated display in that illegal dress. As she struts across the floor to the boudoir, she slowly removes her dress with her back to me, skillfully sliding the thin material down her torso, past her hips, and off her luscious ass, bending over to pick it up just as she crosses the threshold of the bedroom and tossing it somewhere off to the side. She’s still wearing those sinful suede thigh-high boots and a nearly nonexistent blue thong.

I walk to the room behind her pulling my shirt over my head as I go, totally intent on a wild, hard, and deep stand up and deliver when I get my hands on her. I won’t even need to take off my pants for the first fuck.

ANASTASIA

“Christian…! Please…! No more…” I beseech as I’m panting beneath him. We both came so many times last night that I completely lost count, and now, I’m awakened by an incredibly hard dick and my husband’s need to pound into me once more… or, I should say several times more.

“No more…” he pants into my neck, his hands entwined with mine as he’s resting his weight on me and chasing his own breath. The room is silent for several moments, save the sound of our breathlessness. Then, he turns his head and plants tender kisses on my cheek.

“What’s gotten into you?” I ask, finally able to speak, but still a little winded.

“You know what got into me,” he says, planting open-mouthed kisses on whatever part of my face and neck he can reach. “That goddamn dress… I wanted to fuck you right there on stage. That shit drove me fucking crazy. That damn thing was barely brushed onto your body and your damn nipples were sticking out of it like you were fucking freezing the entire time. I had to talk my cock down for half the night.”

“Mmmm,” I purr both at his words and his kisses. “Maybe I should wear it more often then.”

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“No, the hell you won’t,” he threatens. “Not unless you want me to follow you everywhere you go with a medieval mace. Then I’d literally be beating them off with a stick.” I scoff gently.

“Says the man who physically shoved a woman out of his path last night,” I tease.

“She liked my voice,” he jests.

“Oh, I’m just so sure that’s all that it was,” I retort. “It had absolutely nothing to do with those Triple H pants you were wearing.” He raises his head and looks at me.

“What the hell is a Triple H?” he asks.

“Not what,” I giggle. “Who… Triple H is a professional wrestler.” He frowns.

“I didn’t know you liked wrestling,” he says.

“I don’t,” I reply, “I just know who Triple H is.”

“Well, how do you know who he is if you don’t like wrestling?”

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“I saw him somewhere,” I admit, “on a poster or a commercial or something… and he can really fill out a pair of jeans!” Christian growls at me deep in his throat.

“Oh, come on,” I accuse, “there’s some starlet somewhere that gets your boxer briefs in a wad.”

“No, there’s not,” he says confidently. I twist my lips at him.

“You’re telling me that you never had a celebrity girl crush?” I say incredulously.

“Well, yeah, but they’re all old now,” he says.

“Well, Triple H is no spring chicken,” I jest.

“But he’s not as old as mine… and I bet he’s in better shape, too,” he defends.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” I say playfully. “Who are yours?” He clears his throat.

“Mine were Katherine Deneuve and Jane Fonda—when they were both much younger,” he confesses.

“You’re an old soul, Christian,” I say.

“And you’re not, Ms. Motown?” he defends. I shrug.

“Yeah, but… is Katherine Deneuve even still alive?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I think so,” he says. “I hadn’t heard that she died. If she is still alive, she’s like 80 now.”

“Well, Jane Fonda still looks good,” I say.

“Not as good as she did when she made Barbarella!” he points out. I laugh heartily.

“So, you don’t have any current girl crushes at all?” I inquire.

“Yeah, you,” he says, going back to kissing my neck and jaw.

“Very cheeky, Mr. Grey. I guess I should find that dress in red, huh?” he raises his head again and gazes at me.

“Okay, keep it up, Mrs. Grey,” he says, grinding his hips with his cock—though flaccid—still inside of me.

Okay, okay,” I surrender. There’s absolutely no way I can withstand another round, much less a possible punishment fuck.

When he finally rises off me, the separation is agony. I have been thoroughly well-used, and I can barely walk. I’m in need of some cold water in my nether regions, but who the hell wants to sit in a cold bath?

Me if I want to cool the fire in my loins.

I sit on the edge of the tub and use the shower head to spray some cool water on my crotch. Jesus Christ, that feels good. That man isn’t going to be able to touch me for a week if he keeps this shit up.

Once I’m cooled down a bit, I don a terrycloth robe and go to the bedroom. I check my phone since I haven’t spoken to the twins this morning and I see that I have an instant message from Laura. She probably wants to know how the trial went. I didn’t call her on Friday with any updates. I swipe the phone and check the message.

You made the tweets again, my dear. Nice dress!

Oh, shit. I click on the link Laura provided and there I am—several pictures of me, in fact—singing with Al, singing with Christian, singing alone, even talking to the table of girls before I ordered their drinks—and that dress is screaming “fuck me!”

What was I thinking?

Oh, well, it’s done now. I’m sure I’ll hear some hell from Vee or Christian any second now. I suddenly realize that there are no pictures of Christian in his come-hither gear besides the picture of us singing together—just me. And there’s that damn double standard…

Fuck ‘em. I look good.

I unwrap my hair and pull out the hair dryer. It takes forever to dry this shit now, but I let it grow this long, so…

Christian enters with wet hair and draped in a towel, so I assume he used the other bathroom while I was dousing my pussy in the en suite. He chooses a pair of jeans, some boxer briefs and a T-shirt, and he’s ready in about 10 minutes. I silently curse him for being able to allow his short hair to air dry, but my only other option is to cut mine, and that ain’t happening.

Fifty-eleven-trillion years later, I’m finally done with my hair and I’m now wearing a jersey and yoga pants as we have no plans of going anywhere today. I go to the kitchen to see if there’s any coffee in there, pondering what I want to do for breakfast. Christian isn’t out here, but there is a pot of coffee.

Egad! His Highness can work a coffee pot! I never knew!

I pour myself a cup—black—and allow the warmth to flow through my body. It feels good, but I need food. As I’m reaching for the room service menu from the dining table, Christian comes from the other side of the suite where I assume the office space is.

“Mac is on her way over,” he says, looking at his phone. “Apparently, someone at the bar knew who we were and now, we’re on someone’s Facebook feed.”

“Yeah, mostly me,” I say, drinking more of my coffee. He raises his gaze.

“You already know?” he says. I nod.

“I saw them when I got out of the shower. Laura sent them to me.” He scoffs a laugh.

“Why do we need Mac when we’ve got her?” he laughs.

“I tend to believe that, depending on the source, things hit social media before they hit the mainstream,” I reply. I take another sip of my coffee and there’s a knock at the door. No doubt, it’s Vee. Christian walks across the suite to open it and she breezes in with her tablet in her hand.

“I knew that dress would be trouble the minute I saw it,” she says as she and Christian join me in the dining room.

“Trouble in what way?” I ask. “I’m not running for office!”

“No, but you are the representation of a multibillion-dollar conglomerate,” she retorts, “not to mention that we’re here waiting for the verdict on a very sensitive case.”

“From a sequestered jury,” I point out.

“And the fact that you had to point that out means that if they had seen you last night, you know that there would be a problem…”

I’m trying not to look gape-mouthed at this woman as she seems to be lecturing me on my choice of dress! No one has ever lectured me on my choice of dress! Even Christian, who may have a word or two to say every now and again, didn’t lecture me last night. He just got in on the fun.

“Understand something, Vee,” I interject, attempting to diffuse the situation before I really begin taking it too personally. “I dress for no one. I never have and I never will. The only time I wore what someone besides my husband suggested I wear was when I came out of the closet as his girlfriend. Fifty to 75% of my wardrobe is imitation or genuine vintage. None of my shoes rise less than four inches—preferably six—including my wedges and some of them are platforms, more affectionately in some circles referred to as stripper heels. If I wore what other people thought I should wear, I’d never wear anything I liked!”

“Well, that may have to change…”

What? What the fuck did she just say?

I’m flabbergasted. She’s droning on about something and Christian his completely mum. Have I stepped off into the fifth dimension or something? Signed a prenup—check. Legally changed my name—check, check. However, the memo that indicates that PR gets to tell me how to dress must’ve gotten lost in the mail.

I’m certain that my husband’s silence means that he’s waiting to see how I’m going to react. He’s about to see right now.

“Okay, Vee? Stop,” I say, putting my hand up in the “halt” position. I think she’s stunned.

“I. Am a grown woman,” I begin. “I went out on a Saturday night to a bar in Las Vegas. I wore a party dress to that bar in Las Vegas. I had a good time at that bar in Las Vegas, which is something that I didn’t expect to do in Las Vegas. I don’t regret anything that I did, wore, or said last night. Although I have no intention of dressing like a hoochie every night, I may decide sometime in my lifetime to once again wear something provocative!

“I wasn’t acting unseemly. I wasn’t drunk in public. I didn’t get arrested. I wasn’t in a girl fight, although the possibility was pretty good. If I wore a habit or a burqa, someone would still have something to say. So, whatever damage control you feel you may have to do for ‘Anastasia’s Sultry Little Blue Dress…’ do it!”

I think she’s even more stunned than she was when I told her to stop. When she looks over at Christian, his hands quickly fly up in surrender, so she turns back to me.

“You do realize that if you dress like that on a regular basis, I’m going to be putting out fires all the time,” she advises me.

“Number one,” I say, crossing my arms, “I don’t dress like that all the time and you know it. You’re just uneasy because, as a consenting adult, I see nothing wrong with what I wore last night and because I won’t agree with you that there was something wrong with it. Number two, if I do decide to dress like that all the time, get your buckets ready. Nobody tells me what I can and can’t wear, not even him,” I say pointing to my husband.

5b285a986f95924a4357f1d3425eb293

6470905e01ecf8f5b2d132729de4607c“I know how to behave in public, Vee. I didn’t wear that dress to a country club or to meet the mayor. I wore it to a bar. J-Lo and Beyoncé have both worn less, on the red carpet, no less—in front of many entertainment cameras and national news outlets. We all talked about how scandalous it was, said our ‘ooo’s and ah’s’ like Smurfs and got over it. If my dress is the talk of Wall Street today, there’ll be another story tomorrow. Get a grip!”

Vee is still stunned, and I know why. I don’t want her to think I’ll be difficult, but we’ve got to get one thing straight.

“Vee, in most cases, I lean to your expertise and I will continue to do that, but unless I’m walking down 4th Street in a string bikini bottom and pasties on my tits, don’t tell me what to wear.”

She finally seems to be coming around to the crust of the conversation.

“Well, then,” she says, pursing her lips, “think I’ll just go on back to my room and… fuck my husband.” She makes some kind of goofy face and just leaves after that. I turn to Christian who’s making a face of his own, more like, “It wutn’t me.”

“Well?” I say defiantly.

“Well, what?” he asks, trying to hide his mirth.

“You don’t have anything to say?”

“I didn’t have anything to say last night. Why would I have anything to say right now?” he points out. I roll my eyes.

“What I don’t understand is why every little thing we do ends up being front page news before we’ve even had our coffee!” I say, throwing my hands in frustration. “You were on the other side of the world holding a giant reptile and the news was stateside before we were. Twice now, Laura’s told me about my day—from Australia—and I’m still here in Vegas!”

“I think you said it yourself, baby, it’s the nature of the beast,” he says calmly while refilling his coffee cup. He’s awfully cool for a conversation centered around my state of dress—or undress, as it were.

“Hey,” I say, “what gives? You’re usually in a tizzy about my Lindy bop dresses and you’re not having a cow over this?”

“Well, first, when I saw the bobble-head, I knew the conversation was already over.” I furrow my brow deeply at him, so he does this wild shaking thing with his head that looks like he’s having a fucking seizure!

“What the fuck is that?” I ask, wide-eyed.

“That’s what you do when someone says something that you can’t believe,” he says. My mouth gapes.

“I do not do that!” I defend.

“Ask. Anyone!” Christian says, firmly standing his ground. “The minute that neck starts working, I step back… even if I’m the reason that neck starts working.”

“Asshole,” I mumble.

“Be that as it may,” he says unfazed, “there are also a lot of other reasons I’m not flying off the handle, not the smallest of which is that you were with me,” he begins. “Not only that, I was with you when you bought the dress and the boots. I knew what to expect. I also had another realization.”

“And what’s that?” I ask. He sips his coffee.

“I think I’ve always known it, but I’m still amazed to see it in action. Women are very brazen when they see something they want. I’ve seen men try to make a move, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as brazen as I’ve seen women. You could be at the park with your woman and your entire family and some female will come right up and try to put the moves on you.

“From what I’ve seen, men are subtle. They’ll wait until your guy’s not looking, then they’ll try to slip you a number or get you alone. As soon as the guy steps up beating his chest and telling them, ‘Woman, mine,’ they generally go away, but not women. Women will argue with you and taunt you, try to get the man at a later date… what’s that all about?” I shake my head.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’m a shrink and I don’t fucking know. I’m one of those women who feel that there are certain things that should say that a man is off limits,” I begin counting on my fingers, “a wedding ring, an announced commitment, the fact that a woman is hanging on his fucking arm… but no. They do it with you all the time, they did it with David—they just walk right up like they don’t fucking see me! The girl on the wine train, Greta, Deanna, this bitch at the bar. Or I become America’s Most Hated just because I’m with you.

“There’s no way to combat that shit, and these women are becoming more and more brazen as time goes on. They look at me and convince themselves that I’m nothing and no one, that I’m a trophy wife and they step right in.” Christian sighs.

“Well, the point that I was making was that your dress, although it got a lot of attention, it wasn’t a threat to me. The catcalls came from the audience just like they came from the pool when you were in the bikini contest on the cruise. Except for the crazy couple that approached us—and the female approached us first—I didn’t have to worry about it. Nobody walked over to you, sending you margaritas; nobody asked you to take walks with them on the promenade, and even last night—nobody sent a drink to the table with ‘regards.’ Even earlier this week in the Skybar, the moment I made my presence known, that guy thanked me for the drink and went on his way.”

“He was harmless,” I say, waving him off, “and your presence didn’t make him leave.” He scoffs.

“Really?” he says. “And what did?”

“When he noticed that you were there, he made a comment about how intense you looked. He acknowledged that he thought you might have wanted him to leave, but he didn’t leave. When I told him that you were my husband, that’s when he left,” I say.

“Exactly!” Christian says. “The presence of your husband. Made. Him. Leave. And baby?” he leans in to my ear. “They’re never harmless. Women may be brazen, but men are smooth. No matter how polite they are, they have one goal, and Westwick should have shown you that.”

He raises a quick brow to me, then kisses me on the cheek before he goes back to the office area. I want to be pissed, but I can’t. If I can use Greta, Deanna, and a random stranger bitch in a pink and white dress as an example, he can certainly use Liam.

I sit at the table with my coffee looking into the cup, and somehow transport back to a time when I realized that women were brazen…

We were meeting a large group of friends at a martini bar. I had arrived first and sat at one table with a group of friends. More of our group were sitting at various other tables. Eddie arrived shortly after I did. Even though we were living together, we had driven separate cars because we were coming from separate locations.

Chelsie was there. She had disappeared for a while, right after I caught them the first time. Well, I hadn’t caught them. I saw the evidence and I confronted her with it. Her guilt made her leave, but she returned. And when she came back, she was stronger, different…

Brazen.

He greeted her before he even greeted me. He leaned down and whispered a conversation in her ear. I watched as her hand with insanely long acrylic nails reached up and caressed his face next to hers. I watched them for a long time, wondering and knowing at the same time that she was fucking my man again. I asked myself, “Could this be true?” But I knew that no one behaved that intimately if they were just friends.

I still played dumb to it, all the way until some of my other friends said that she was bragging about having him, that I knew who I was living with—knew what I had gotten into. I played dumb for the longest time, but she flaunted it in my face, and when I confronted her about it again, she threw a veiled threat at me.

She was brazen and I had lost.

“Butterfly?”

My reminiscence of one of the many women my ex had fucked is broken by my husband’s voice. I was a different woman, then, too. I was weak, and tired, and I couldn’t fight anymore.

“Are you okay?” I nod.

“Yeah,” I say, abandoning my now cold coffee. “I’m going to check on Marilyn,” I add, standing from the table. I move pass him and he catches my arm.

“The dress really wasn’t that big a deal, baby,” he assures me. I nod.

“I know,” I say, and I do. “What’s she gonna do—issue and apology for my attire?” He still examines me.

“You haven’t eaten anything,” he presses.

“I’m going to order something in Mare’s room… see if I can’t tempt her to eat a little something.”

Unable to argue with that logic, so he kisses me on the cheek and releases my arm. I smile tightly as I go to the bedroom to retrieve some shoes.

I fucking hate dominoes.

A/N: I don’t know if anyone else does this, but when my thoughts begin in Vegas and end up in Germany, I call that a “domino.” I start with one thought that leads to another one and another one and another one until I end up somewhere completely different than where I started. Ana and Christian started with a dress and Ana ended up in a recollection of her no good, lying, cheating ex-boyfriend.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 13

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

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

Season 5 Episode 13

ANASTASIA

Dear God, I just couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand it! I seriously felt the walls closing in on me listening to this elite club of fuckers somehow try to make what this asshole did to me okay. Then, here comes this brainless fucking cum-sucker with the nerve to get in my face and accuse me of “doing” something to the snot rag who tried to kill me! And then, to top it all off, my beloved husband who watched me battle with this shit for years asked me if I was losing my mind.

What the fuck do you think?

Do you know anybody who would be able to keep their mind throughout this shit? And how many times do I have to go through this to get all the motherfuckers that did this to me? How many more times do I have to hear that my accusations are besmirching upstanding and stellar members of society… at least after 2001, that is. Am I wrong for wanting to just line them all up and use their glutes for target practice? Just empty several clips into their ass meat until I feel justified?

I couldn’t say that I didn’t care what happened in this case… I did, I really did, but if I had to listen to one more shining testimonial of this fucker, I would have leapt over that half wall and ripped his eyes out myself. And everything that accompanied my attempt to take a breather made it all the more necessary for me to get the hell out of that building.

Daddy silently walked with me as I wandered through the interactive aquarium that was almost identical to the one we visited in Australia. I didn’t look at the fish. I just walked around the aquarium enjoying being near the water. There’s no water in Vegas, except Lake Las Vegas which is quite a way from here. We’re in the middle of the city, in one of the not-so-desirable neighborhoods to be exact… not that being downtown was any safer. Nonetheless, this was as close to my kindred element that I was going to get without a 45-minute drive.

Yet, after about an hour of communing with the deep blue, I realized that I needed to get back into that courtroom, as much as I didn’t want to. So, I had Chuck take us to Chipotle, then we headed back to the Justice Court.

I had walked in just in time to hear the last part of Larson’s cross-examination of Vincent Sullivan, which shed a whole new light on why the fucker burned me, and now it’s time for closing arguments. I half listen to what the counselors are saying, reviewing a lot of the relevant testimony and what I thought the jury might be thinking…

“So, you’ve heard a lot of conflicting testimony over the past several days,” Larson begins. “You’ve heard Anastasia’s mother admit that she was an unfeeling, uncaring social climber who wanted nothing else but to fit into a society where she never belonged. You’ve heard damaging testimony from Amber Whitmore that she clearly remembers the defendant meeting up with a group of kids that night at her home dressed all in black, and seeing her brother coming home in a black cape like the cape we saw on the video and smelling like he had gone camping. Among other things, you’ve heard the defense paint a picture of an unscrupulous young gold digger looking to snag a rich boyfriend.

“Let’s just assume for a moment that Anastasia Steele was that person. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you agree with everything they said about Anastasia Steele Grey. Did she deserve what you saw in that video? At any point, did anything you heard during these proceedings in its worst interpretation indicate that she deserved what you saw happen to her? I’ve been horrified during my tenure by stories and images of ostracization, by ill-fated misfits being teased and bullied—but I have never in my life seen anything this disturbing except in the movies. Attack her from behind, knock her unconscious, strip her naked and throw her in the trunk of a car, drag her begging and screaming to a bonfire, beat her, burn her, kick her, spit on her, urinate on her, and kill her baby, then leave her for dead? Really?

“They want you to believe that Cody Whitmore was this innocent young rich boy who was targeted by this young girl trying to make a name for herself on his back. Even if by some stretch of reality that could have been true, where and when does that make this act warranted and acceptable? Where and when does the alleged scheming of a teenage girl equate to attempted murder? At what point was Cody’s alleged victimization equal to Ana’s?

“And after hearing and seeing all this, this man…” he points to the defense attorney “wants you to classify this situation as unfortunate.” He says the last word slowly and with deep contempt, then pauses for effect. “What’s more, he wants you to view one of the alleged aggressors as the victim.”

He holds up a picture of Cody’s mugshot and the unrecognizable picture of me in the hospital after the beating, both retrieved from the Henderson Police Department.

“I would have to say that if any one person with any small amount of intelligence and capability of logical thinking can look at these two pictures and say that this man is the victim of the two, I’ll quit my job and never sit at the prosecutor’s table again, because I’m clearly on the wrong side of the law. If there’s anything that you heard that can justify that kind of violence against a young girl based on a theory of what they think she was doing at the time, my argument is futile and there’s really nothing else to be said.

“He took a plea for a lighter sentence,” he adds holding up Cody’s mugshot, “and anybody—anybody—who had anything to do with this…” he holds up the picture of me, “… is just as guilty as he is.”

That line of defense confused me. I’m clearly the victim—that’s indisputable. Clearly, if I were the worst and most opportunistic slut who ever existed, it still wouldn’t excuse what they did to me. I just corroborated what the video said… what happened to me, but Whitshit is testifying against Vincent Sullivan, talking about his participation in the attack. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to try to discredit Whitshit as opposed to trying to discredit me? Why make Whitshit look like the victim? He took a plea. What was the logic behind this defense?

“Now, we have new evidence—verbal, but evidence, nonetheless. No one would have known that the defendant had feelings for Cody Whitmore, and he doesn’t deny it. His entire defense was built on the claim that he was afraid of the Bonnie and Clyde combination that was Carly Madison and Cody Whitmore. Yet, his story changed to say that Cody made him feel at ease, smoothed things over once it was revealed that the defendant was romantically smitten with him.

“So, which version of his story should we believe? He said he didn’t know Anastasia Steele. Yet, he pressed that brand into her back with so much vigor—listened to her scream, watched her squirm… and then he did it again, after he gleefully participated in viciously beating her and humiliating her. He said he didn’t know her, but he gives a detailed description of a nobody… a social and fashion misfit, a Plain Jane in the wrong place, but he didn’t know her.” Larson shrugs.

“Some guy screwed some nobody in high school. Wasn’t that a regular occurrence? Didn’t that happen all the time? Why would you care… unless you had feelings for that guy? And now, she has to pay, right? That’s how Carly Madison felt. Why wouldn’t Vincent Sullivan feel that way when he admittedly had the same feelings for Cody Whitmore?”

This argument goes on for at least another 40 minutes, after which Drake takes the floor to dispel it. I barely listen as Drake paints Vincent Sullivan as a young misguided kid afraid for his life when he took part in my mutilation. Maybe he was afraid for his life, I don’t know. They did it to me; why wouldn’t they do it to him? Nonetheless, that night, he made the decision that his life was more important than mine, and today, I make the decision that mine is more important than his.

I’m elated when the judge gives the jury instructions on the interpretation of the law and dismisses them to deliberate. This leg is over, and now the waiting begins. I watch Christian exchange some words with Larson as Jason stands nearby. The courtroom begins to clear, and I get a better view of him. His hair looks like he’s been pulling at it for the last several hours. He looks down at his phone, then raises his eyes to me. He does a double take when he sees me in the back of the courtroom with Daddy and Chuck. Daddy is talking to Mandy and Chuck is quietly sitting next to me like the professional that he is. Christian walks away from Larson, who’s still talking to him, and makes a B-line for me.

“Hey,” he says, cautiously.

Hey? I guess I really can’t expect him to say anything else, can I? I wave a gloved hand at him. Daddy and Chuck correctly read the temperature of the conversation and move away to give us privacy.

“How much did you hear?” he asks.

“Enough,” I say, my legs crossed, and my gloved hands clasped in my lap.

“Are you angry with me?” he asks. I roll my eyes and sigh.

“I don’t know how I feel,” I say folding my arms. “I’m tired of being the goddamn damsel in distress! For once, I want people to look at me and say, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t fuck with her,’ instead of saying, ‘Oh, poor Anastasia Steele,’ or making me out to be a perfectly horrific villain. Twice now, someone has done something unimaginably violent to me, and twice the defense has tried to make it look like I set upon these poor boys with my toxic pussy! I mean, Jesus, I was 15! Who in their right mind deliberately plots to get pregnant at 15? And I was a virgin! He admitted it on the stand!

“There are so many unscrupulous, promiscuous girls out here who don’t care about their bodies or who they hurt or whose life they ruin. Carly Madison was a perfect example… but me? I was a good girl. I was an honors student who minded my own business and just wanted to be left alone. My biggest concern was getting away from Carla and Steven and getting back to Daddy. I was raped and then brutalized, and this is what I get? What the hell is the world coming to when the bad girls are protected and the good girls aren’t safe?

“A lesser person or just someone else who hasn’t enjoyed the good fortune that I have later in life would go completely insane trying to figure out the logic or the fairness in all this. I completely understand firsthand how something like this could cause someone to become a drug addict or continue a destructive cycle because this could drive you out of your fucking mind!”

I drop my gaze and shake my head, unable to see the reasoning in anything that’s happened in the last five days. What if the jury comes back and they believed Sullivan? Or Whitshit? What if they come back with a not guilty verdict because they bought his story about being afraid for his life. He wasn’t afraid of me, so why did I get punished?

I’m worrying my scar and as I raise my head, I catch a glimpse of Drake looking back at me in the courtroom. I don’t even look at him long enough to read his expression. I scoff and divert my gaze, standing up and walking out of the courtroom.

I’m almost at the elevator when I hear my name. I cringe at the sound of it. Christian and I turn around to see Larson quickly walking towards us.

“Dr. Grey, I really feel that things look good in our favor,” he says, humbly. I try not to shake my head.

“What did he get?” I ask, flatly. Larson’s brow furrows. You know what I’m asking you, fucker. What did he get? Larson straightens his back.

“He got the same thing Madison-Perry got,” he says. “Thirty years on various counts, including kidnapping, battery, and manslaughter. The only difference is that he has a possibility of parole in 18… because he didn’t brandish one of the irons.”

I twist my lips. That’s something. I expected them all to get away with it.

“Your final performance was very good,” I say, unfazed. “Let’s see what the jury thinks.” I turn to the elevator and Chuck pushes the down button before I do. I put my sunglasses on and watch the doors.

When the elevators open on the first floor, the press is clamoring outside. The police are gone now that the trial is over and it’s our own duty to get safely from the door to our cars. The three members of our security are standing at the door waiting for us to get there and our three SUV’s are waiting out front. However, standing at the end of the hallway on the other side of the building, I see someone that garners my immediate attention.

I ignore my husband’s call and march down the hall to where I see Pamela Whitmore standing. She straightens her dress, retrieves her purse and turns to leave, nearly bumping right into me. I’m clearly shorter than she is, but in my stilettos, we’re eye to eye. I stand there glaring at her for several moments, one hand clasped over the other. She doesn’t look nearly as menacing as she sounded over the phone, but I’m living proof that looks can be very deceiving. When I finally speak, my voice is very controlled.

“Your son. Raped me. And then he and his piece of shit girlfriend orchestrated my abduction, brutal beating, and torture, and the subsequent death of my unborn child, nearly killing me in the process. Then, your audacious husband paid off my worthless stepfather and my unscrupulous mother to keep me quiet. I suffered tremendous physical and emotional pain and torment at the hands of all of you, and you have the unmitigated gall to call my place of business and taunt me? Make veiled gestures towards my children?”

I pause for a moment and allow the words to sink in. Her skin blanches a bit, but there’s no other indication that what I’m saying is having an effect on her. So, let’s try this.

“If you dare come anywhere near me… anywhere near my family… I. Will kill you.”

I look her square in the eyes and I don’t blink, waiting for a reaction from her. At first, I get none, and then…

She swallows.

That’s all I need. I turn around and march back over to my husband.

“We can go now,” I say, walking past him and heading for the door.

I get my wish.

Apparently, when I open the door, the chill that I emit is colder than the outside. I dash down the stairs in my stilettos to near silence and easily get into my awaiting chariot with my husband very close behind me. The paparazzi must have known that if they approached me right now, I’d chop ‘em up and feed ‘em to my dog.

Dog.

“I want a pit bull,” I say once the car is loaded and we’re on our way back to the hotel.


CHRISTIAN

What the fuck did she just say?

“You want a what?” I ask in horror.

“A pit bull,” she repeats. “I want a pit bull.” I look over at Ray and his expression lets me know that I’m completely on my own.

“You want a pit bull?” I ask incredulously. “When you said that you wanted a dog, I was thinking a Chihuahua or a Shih Tzu or a Pomeranian… I wasn’t thinking a pit.”

“Well, that’s what I want,” she says defiantly.

“We have children,” I protest. “Pit bulls are dangerous dogs, Anastasia…”

“No, they’re not,” she retorts. “They’re family dogs. They’re only raised and trained to be dangerous and ours won’t be raised that way. And because we do have children, I want a thorough-bred, pit-bull puppy… with papers, but I want a pit. And we’ll hire the best trainer to train us and the puppy.” She’s thought about this and I can’t argue with logic.

“Thorough-bred, top of the line, and we all get trained,” I confirm.

“That’s what I said,” she replies.

“Okay, you’ve got a deal, but Ana?” She raises a brow to me. “If that dog even snaps at one of my children, I’ll shoot it myself.”

“You’d have to get to it before I do, but that won’t be necessary.” I sigh.

I guess we’re getting a dog.

Butterfly and I have a vigorous workout in the hotel gym. I find it very difficult to keep up with her, and I finally have to stop her workout and force a cooldown so that we can meet the rest of the family for dinner. She has to shower unless she wants to sit at dinner all sweaty.

We all meet up for dinner in my and Butterfly’s suite to discuss what would be happening next. Ray wants to be here for Butterfly but admits that he has a business that he needs to check on and wants to get back to Washington by Monday. Mac needs to get back to GEH as well to make sure Josh hasn’t burned the place down. James needs to get back as well, but Al is on the fence about going with him. He wants to be where Ana is through this ordeal and I can understand that. I’ve given instructions to Jason to have the jet ready to fly back to SeaTac on Sunday afternoon. Butterfly is reserving her decision for Sunday morning.

The plan is for us to stay until the verdict, but we don’t know how long that’s going to take. Getting back to Las Vegas in time for the reading once it’s announced that the jury has reached a verdict could be almost impossible, but Butterfly’s mood has changed significantly with today’s events—including her confrontation with Pamela Whitmore. So, we’re definitely playing it by ear right now. As we speak, she’s sitting in her chair to my right in a terrycloth robe with one foot up in the seat. She’s picking at a chicken Caesar salad, looking as though she’s a million miles away.

“Butterfly?” I say, trying to get her attention.

“What about security?” she says without raising her eyes. “I’m sure they’d like to see their families, too. We surely don’t need ten people here now.” I look over at Jason and he nods.

“Jason will coordinate who needs to go and who needs to stay and who can leave,” I reply.

“What about him and Chuck?” Butterfly says, still looking at the crispy junks of Romaine lettuce. “Gail and Keri must be pulling their hair out, not to mention Sophie.”

I look over at Jason, beseeching for him to help me out here.

“Your Highness…”

“Please,” Butterfly says, cutting him off and raising her eyes from her salad for the first time to look at him, “call me ‘Ana…’ just while we’re here.” She sounds like she’s pushing her voice from her chest with great effort. Softness covers Jason’s gaze.

“Old habits are hard to break,” he confesses.

“Please,” she repeats, “try.” He nods.

“Ana,” he says, “this is what we do. We know how this works and we’re accustomed to it…”

“The ladies shouldn’t suffer because you have to be here for us,” she protests. “When you were both out mending due to occupational injuries, we each had a different detail.”

“We’ll work it out,” he says.

“Don’t just say that to appease me,” she says. “I don’t want anyone in my life to suffer just because I have to be here, and Gail, Keri, and Sophie are in my life, too.” Jason nods.

“Duly noted,” he says. “We’ll work it out… Ana. I promise.” She nods and turns her attention back to her salad.

“I miss my babies,” she says. That gets my attention.

“We can have that jet ready in twelve hours,” I say, looking at Jason, who nods.

“No,” she says. “I’ll get some nice, long Facetime tonight before I go to bed, then spend the weekend with my family and friends here. We’ve got lunch with Auntie Cynthia tomorrow. I really want you to meet her, Daddy. I don’t know if you guys met at the wedding or not,” she says raising her gaze to Ray. “She’s the biggest reason I survived once they brought me back here.”

“You never told me that,” Ray says. Butterfly shrugs and turns back to her salad.

“There wasn’t much reason to talk about this place once I left,” she says, “wanting to put it all behind me, you know. I really should have done a better job of keeping in touch with her but…” she shrugs and trails off.

“I understand, Annie,” Ray says. “I’d love to meet her. I don’t think our paths crossed at the wedding unfortunately.” Butterfly smiles weakly and turns back to her salad. I throw a knowing glance at Ray, who twists his lips and turns back to his meal.

I can’t help but glance over at Marilyn, who doesn’t appear to look any healthier than she did when we left Seattle. Although we’ve all had our choice of meal, Marilyn only ordered a bowl of consommé and I’m beginning to get a little more than concerned about her. Jason assures me that her lunch smoothies are packed full of as many green vegetables that he can camouflage in there as well as half a scoop of organic protein. It makes me feel better, but I’m still very concerned about her. Butterfly told me that the doctor gave her the go-ahead and some instructions to work her way back into eating more, but something’s got to give soon, or this girl is going to waste away to nothing.

“Does anyone have plans for this Friday evening?” Mac says, taking a forkful of her salmon.

“Ray and I are going to see Penn and Teller,” Amanda says. “I’ve always wanted to see them, and the tickets are almost impossible to get, but the concierge was able to score some for us.” Mac nods.

“What about you, Al?” she asks.

“Oh, Cirque du Soleil, baby,” Al says. “The minute I knew we were coming to Vegas, I booked tickets.”

“Which show?” she asks.

“O,” he says, and it sounds like Eau, “I really think you would like it, Jewel. It’s a water show.” Butterfly raises her gaze to him.

“A water show?” she asks. “Really?” Al nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “A giant pool sets the stage and there’s synchronized swimming and aerial acts—dramatic costumes and original music… I can’t wait to see it.” Butterfly smiles faintly.

“Then, I await your review, Mr. Forsythe,” she replies, and Al returns her smile.

“What about you, Marilyn?” Mac asks. “Any plans tonight?”

Nobody has shared Marilyn’s latest emotional dramas with Mac, and this is one of those times that I wish we had given her some kind of heads up. She shares a suite with Marilyn, so I thought she may have some kind of idea, but if I know Mac, she’s plugged into GEH every night or getting updates from Josh or the internet on all things Christian, Ana, and Las Vegas Hazing Trial. So, she probably hasn’t seen what Marilyn may or may not be doing.

“No,” Marilyn says softly, “no plans for me besides binge-watching Game of Thrones.” Seeing the need to pull attention away from Marilyn, Al jumps in.

“What about you, Vee?” he asks.

“Sleeping!” she chimes in quickly, causing gentle laughter to rumble across the table. Even Butterfly chuckles a bit. “Once I do the regular check-ins of all the spots and the home office, it’s me and the sandman. Fergie’s flight gets in at 4:26am and I want to be awake to meet him at the airport.”

“Fergie?” Amanda asks, her brows furrowed.

“Fergus,” she says, “my husband.”

I knew that she was married, but I didn’t delve since he gave me no cause for concern.

“Fergus,” James says. “Do you mind if I ask the origins of that?”

“Not at all,” Mac says. “Fergie’s a full-blown, red-blooded Scotty! “

“No kidding!” James says. “With a kilt and everything?”

“He wore it to our wedding,” she says, with a smile.

“Now, is it true that the kilt has to be made a certain way, or can they just go buy one?” Ray asks.

“Anybody can just go buy one,” Mac says, “but any old body had better not wear any old kilt to Scotland or to any traditional ceremony of any kind…” and off my head of PR goes talking about the different types, colors, and measurements of kilts. How did we get into this conversation? Once I get a chance, I interject.

“Would you and Fergus like a private room for the weekend?” I ask, considering that she’s sharing a room with Marilyn.

“Oh… no, we’ll be fine. Fergie and I have been married for many years, Christian. We know how to behave.” I smile and nod at her. “But if we’ll bother Marilyn…”

Uncomfortable that the attention is back on her and her half-empty bowl of consommé, Marilyn shakes her head quickly and diverts her gaze from anyone at the table. The gesture mainly goes unnoticed.

After dessert and a bit more conversation, the group begins to disperse for their Friday evening plans. Butterfly goes to the bedroom to begin her long session of Facetime with the twins and I’ll join her in a moment, but first I steal a moment with Marilyn.

“How are you?” I ask, not knowing how to ask the question that I want to ask.

“I’m fine,” she says, looking at me questioning.

“Is there anything you need?” I ask. “Anything I can do to make you more… comfortable?”

Her questioning gaze slowly morphs into one of understanding, and the corners of her mouth turn up slightly.

“No, Christian,” she says, “I’ll be fine.”

“You… haven’t been eating,” I say, broaching the conversation carefully.

“The doctor says I have to take it slow,” she replies. “Smoothies, vitamins, water-based soups… I always vomit when I try to eat solid foods. It’s because my body, unfortunately, has become accustomed to eating itself. So, introducing regular food again is a process. She prescribed me Ensure and Pedialyte to be sure that my body is getting all the nutrients that it needs, and I’m getting in the smoothies and consommé so that Bosslady doesn’t have me involuntarily hospitalized…”

Or me.

“So… it’s almost like… tube-feeding…” I say cautiously.

“That’s exactly what it is,” she admits, “only I’m consuming voluntarily.” She drops her head. “I’m trying to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as I can. My… situation has just been harder on me than I ever thought it would be.”

“I understand,” I reply. Without any respect to my personal feelings about her decision, I still think Garrett’s an asshole for leaving her like this. “Did you want me to get you a private room for the weekend?” I ask. She smiles and surprises me by taking my hand.

“No,” she says. “I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl. I live in the real world and I know that it doesn’t revolve around me. There’s plenty of space between Mac’s bedroom and mine. I’m sure that I won’t hear anything if she and Fergie decide to have some alone time, okay?”

I nod. I just want her to be comfortable. She surprises me again by standing on her toes and giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Christian,” she says sincerely. “You’re like the overbearing big brother I never had.” She gives my hand a squeeze before leaving the suite. I catch a glimpse of Ray, who frowns at me, then excuses himself from his wife.

“What was that about, son?” he asks, and I know that I owe him an explanation since he doesn’t know the nature of this relationship besides the fact that Marilyn is Butterfly’s personal assistant.

“Can you keep a secret?” I ask him in all seriousness. He raises his brow.

“It depends on the secret,” he says, his voice a bit sharp.

“Well, I can,” I reply, “and all I can tell you without betraying Marilyn’s confidence is that my wife and I are concerned about her health. She’s lost an unhealthy amount of weight in the last few months and no one in our group can attest to her eating any solid food all week. Can you?”

I see the wheels turning in Ray’s head, but he doesn’t answer.

“She’s important to my wife, so that means that she’s important to me. Whatever you see from me is nothing but concern and what you see from her to me is most likely gratitude. Anything else that you want to know, you’ll have to ask my wife or Marilyn.” He twists his lips and nods.

“I see,” he says. “You’re a strange man, Christian.”

“So I’ve been told,” I concur. “Go… you’ll miss your show.” He nods once. I’m certain that he’s not really sure what to make of the situation as he leaves and joins his wife.

“Christian,” Mac is getting my attention once the suite is nearly empty. “I don’t want to hurt Marilyn’s feelings, but I did book a room for tomorrow night. I’ll let you know what the room number is as soon as we check in.” I nod.

“Make sure you expense it,” I tell her.

“Thank you. It’s no offense to her. She’s a wonderful girl, but she cries at night… almost incessantly! I went in to comfort her the first night and she swore that she was okay, that she had a bad dream… but I’ve heard her crying other nights. Trust me, it doesn’t bother me except that I want to go in and talk to her, but I get the feeling that she doesn’t want to talk. The only thing is… that it doesn’t lend to set the mood for romance when you haven’t seen your guy for a week.”

“I totally understand,” I tell her. “Believe it or not, I think she would, too. Let me know what room you got when you check in and we’ll put it on our bill, too.”

“Thank you, Christian. You’re a prince among men,” she says before leaving the suite.

“So,” Jason says, sliding in for his chance for alone time, “do you agree that we should get back to Seattle some time during this trip?”

“I think it’ll help with her stress levels if she knows that you and Chuck are getting some time in with your ladies during this ordeal.” He sighs.

“She’s going to have to get some time in with her babies or she’s going to lose her mind. We both know that.”

“Yes, I know,” I reply. “Facetime helps, but it’s not the same. You know, those little munchkins have the most healing hugs…”

“Yes, I do know,” he says, fondly, “and it doesn’t change as they get older.” I smile.

“We’ll play it by ear,” I say. “I figure once it gets to the twelve-day mark, one of you will have to go home for the weekend. Hell, at that point, we may have to go home for the weekend.”

“Then, it’ll work out perfectly,” he says. “If we all go home for the weekend, no harm, no foul. As much as I respect Her Highness, you know that I’m not going to leave you in another state without me, right?” I feel a sudden warmness in my heart for my bodyguard and best friend.

“I know,” I acknowledge.

*-*

I’m sitting the in the living room of the suite at about 2am. We Facetimed with the twins for hours, even watching one of the Disney movies with them until they fell asleep. My wife fell into a contented rest—finally—after Facetiming with our children. After Jason gave me a report on Carla Morton’s and Pamela Whitmore’s uneventful Friday evenings, I worked for a few hours, played the piano for about twenty minutes and now, I’m as bright as a bunny, staring at the fire in the gas fireplace.

I’m wound so tight by all the mental stress of everything going on that I can barely think. My method of dealing with stress has always been to work out or fuck. I’ve already worked out and I’m back where I started from, and I don’t want to put myself upon my wife right now. I have to read her moods and when she finally fell asleep, her mood was not screaming, “Take me, take me now!” But I need something very physical right now or my head’s going to burst.

I get on the floor in front of the fire with my back against one of the chairs and shed the only piece of clothing that I’m wearing, my sweatpants. My cock is limp, not flaccid, but not hard either. I’m going to have to give him some motivation, but what? Pornos have never been my thing since I’ve always been so sexually active. I don’t have one of those Tenga eggs I used after Butterfly had the twins. Those damn things needed no motivation whatsoever. All I have is my hand and my imagination. I don’t even have anything to use for lube.

My cock looks so pitiful that I don’t even take it in my hand. I close my eyes and think of a time that I was so hot and so hard that I couldn’t stand it. The Tenga experience comes to mind, but it’s not enough to get me hard. Butterfly in the playroom… yeah. She always looks delicious in the playroom. The problem is that my mind keeps flashing from scene to scene to scene and although it’s a wonderful replay, I can’t concentrate on any one scene. Just when I’m about to give up, I think about the “red” photo shoot, and the perfect memory pops up behind it…

Santa Baby!

Fuck, that night was so hot! Our first Christmas Eve together. Her goddamn skills were lethal… are lethal. She hasn’t fucking lost her touch. In no time, one hand is rubbing my chest while the other wanders down to my balls, cupping and rubbing them firmly as my cock slowly firms to attention.

I see her ass peeking out of a red Santa skirt and shimmying at me in my mind’s eye and my cock throbs in appreciation of the memory. I move my hand from my balls to the base of my cock and squeeze, feeling it thicken in my hand. The anticipation that I felt waiting for her that night was driving me out of my mind. She was rolling and stripping and singing—long red boots on mile-long legs and a delicious ass that’s even thicker and juicier now than it was then.

I groan in my chest as I imagine that ass wiggling in my face, causing my shaft to lengthen and thicken even more. I grip it hard and give it one firm stroke.

“Fuck!” I hiss, looking through the gap between her legs at her beautiful mound clad in sexy red panties. I give my cock a slap, and another one immediately thereafter. I feel pleasure shoot through my groin almost blinding me. I stroke it again… and again… avoiding the head and feeling the shaft getting harder and harder in my hand. My breathing is becoming more labored as my dick gets hotter and the skin gets tighter. I want to grab the head, but that means I’ll come too soon, and the pressure of the week will still be trapped and needing to release.

I need to edge. I don’t want to, but I need to…

Still remembering the sensual show my wife-then-girlfriend gave me on Christmas Eve, I stroke my cock a little faster, a little deeper, a little harder. God, I wish I had some oil or some lube, but my saliva and precum will have to do.

On one of the strokes, I get the picture of her pulling my hips to her, dropping to her knees, and sucking my cock into her mouth. My hand runs over the head and collects the precum there, causing me to arch my back and thrust into my hand once. I thought I would come, but I quickly move my hand back to the shaft and away from the sensitive head, spreading the small amount of precum that I gathered over the tight skin of my cock. Fuck, this shit is torture…


ANASTASIA

I open my eyes and I’m in bed alone. My husband is nowhere to be found. I remember that we’re in Vegas, explaining my unfamiliar surroundings. I slept like the dead, but it’s still dark. What time is it?

I look at the clock—2:18am. I throw the covers off and see that I’m wearing the terrycloth robe and a pair of panties. I must’ve fallen asleep in them, but the room is dark, and the suite looks dark beyond the bedroom door. Where’s Christian?

I get out of bed and go in search of my husband. When I come out of the bedroom, I see the fire is lit in the fireplace. Noting that the living room is dark, I head towards the office area, but stop in my tracks when I hear moaning to my left.

What the fuck…?

I quickly turn around and head towards the sound, surprised to find my husband sitting alone on the floor in front of the fire. His eyes are closed and he’s naked. His legs are spread wide and he’s leaning back on the loveseat, his other hand rising up and down slowly on his erection.

I watch him lost in his passion; his expression strained as he pleasures himself. He looks amazing—a masculine deity in human form pleasuring himself on the floor of my Las Vegas suite. In the middle of all this hell, I get to watch this beautiful hunk of man working his gorgeous hunk of meat while his pecks, abs, and biceps flex involuntarily to the sensation in his cock.

I lick my lips, then bite the flesh of the bottom one. I have no idea why he’s masturbating in the living room, but he looks so sexy. I open my robe and rub my heating skin as his breathing becomes louder. He’s going to come soon… but then I watch as he moves his hand from the head, halting his speedy ascent to orgasm.

Do it again, I think to myself as my hand caresses my abdomen.

He looks lost… lost in his own little world, gripping his cock and stroking it with such force that it looks as if he may just yank it right off!

I reach down into my panties and find my clit. With each slow stroke of his cock, I stroke my clit, working myself into a heated frenzy.

He groans as he draws pleasure from his grip, and I shiver as I imagine what he must be feeling. His breathing becomes rhythmic matching his sliding hand and I close my eyes, my own orgasm not too far on the horizon. When I open my eyes, he has opened his eyes and he’s looking at me, still stroking his member. I’m shocked. I don’t know what to do. I feel like an intruder… on my own husband!

“Are you just going to stand there and watch?” he growls. What else am I supposed to do? You’re out here beating your meat instead of in our bed fucking me and I have no idea why. What’s more, I just got caught wiggling my bean watching you.

“Come here,” he commands me as his hips rise to meet his slowly stroking hand. I walk over and stand over him.

“Get rid of the robe… and the panties.”

I drop the robe to the floor and slide my panties down my thighs until they fall at my feet.

“Straddle my thighs.”

He’s breathless, very near orgasm, but I hear his Dom voice hidden in his arousal—not full Dom, but commanding. I stand over him and begin to drop down on him.

“I didn’t say straddle my dick. I said straddle my thighs.”

Fuck. He sounds mad! Is he mad? I straddle his thighs further away from his dick.

“Move back.”

Huh? Oookay… I slide further back toward his knees.

“Lean back on your hands.” Um, okay. I lean back on my hands. “Further! As far back as you can go!”

Okay! Bossy much?

“Feet flat on the floor. Knees up—spread ‘em wide!”

I do as I’m told, and I see what he’s doing now. I can’t easily lean forward, my legs are open wide, and I’m completely exposed to him. Without another word, he begins to stroke my clitoris with the head of his penis. The fire I had started a moment ago is beginning to roar again. I bite my lip as my clit starts to throb.

“Keep your hips still. Don’t move unless I tell you to.” I nod. His aim is so controlled. He fucks his hand deep and slow while using it to guide the head and a very small portion of the shaft to the bottom, tips, and sides of my clit. Only the head occasionally dips inside of me for lubrication, but the bulk of the stimulation are my inner and outer lips… and my clit… my entire clit!  Shit, it feels so good—a sensual massage with the head of his dick on my completely exposed clit.

“Yeah. That’s it. Feel it, baby,” he groans. I can’t control my breathing or my tongue as it darts in and out of my mouth, over my lips and teeth trying to absorb the immense pleasure he’s bringing to me. I want to grind against him, but not only is it difficult to move, but he also told me to keep still.

My breasts feel so heavy. Even though I stopped breastfeeding a week ago, I’m still producing milk—not as much, but it builds up if I don’t pump. It aches to be released when the children need to be fed… and when I’m aroused as my breasts are one of my erogenous zones… very erogenous zones!

He reaches between us with his fingers on my butt cheek; he opens my lips and strokes the side of my clit. The pleasure is almost unbearable. He’s so hard and each time he rises into his hand, his hard cock hits the underside of my clit just at the opening of my vagina… and my G-spot. I’m nearly blind from the friction and satisfaction. I don’t know what to do with myself. I throw my head back and get ready for the tsunami that’s about to hit.

“Christian! Christian!” I’m almost afraid of the orgasm that approaches. My legs are weak from this position and I won’t be able to keep still. My arms begin to tremble, and my legs start to shake.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful!” he groans as he continues to thrust and torment me. “Can you be any fucking hotter?”

Soon the sheer force of the climax that wracks my body causes my elbows to give way.

I’m going down.

Just as quickly, Christian wraps his arms around me and snatches me onto his exploding erection. Some of his semen squirts outside of me, but most of it is emptying into me as he holds me prisoner against his body, grunting like an animal.

He catches his breath very quickly, then lays me down between his legs, opening them wider so that I can lay my back on the floor. He brings my legs forward so that my knees are around his hips.

Whew! Thank God! I felt like a contortionist for a minute there.

While I’m resting and catching my breath, he licks his thumbs and rubs my tender nub. It hurts at first, but he’s gentle, coaxing me back to arousal with his cock still inside of me. When my tongue licks the inside of my lip and my knees rise higher widening my legs, he begins a slow stroke—only short enough to thrust his head and a portion of his dick into me. His ass doesn’t leave the floor. He licks his own lips sensually as he watches his cock slide in and out of me.

“Yes,” he says carnally, hissing as he breathes in. “That’s what I need… right there.” I feel his legs widen, but his stroke never changes. He takes my hand and puts my fingers in his mouth, licking them salaciously.

Fuck, that’s hot.

He takes my fingers out of his mouth and brings my wet fingertips down to my clit.

“Stroke it, baby,” he says in that same animalistic tone he came with. “Stroke it good. Don’t be shy…”

Yes, sir!

I begin with the slow stroke I did while I was watching him, rubbing deeply on every thrust, only I don’t have to imagine this time. He’s inside of me. I reach down a little further to caress his dick on the upstroke.

“No!” he hisses. “Just yourself! Only touch yourself. I want a full view of that glorious clit.”

Oh, God, he’s making me so hot! This is a three-finger job.

I wet my fingers again, tasting our intermingled juice and strumming my libido even further, then stroke my clit with my new moistened fingers, moaning when my wet tips may contact.

“Yeah, baby,” he says, just above a whisper, his hot cock seeming to thicken with the next mini-thrust. “That’s it right there, baby. Work that clit… you look so good.”

Knowing that he’s watching me and loving it has to be the biggest mind-trip I’ve ever felt. I close my eyes and thrust my breast forward, taking one of my nipples in my free hand and pinching it hard. The sensation shoots right to my clit and the other hand and I groan loudly. I feel a small amount of milk escape, but I don’t care.

“Oh, baby,” he says, his tone a mixture of arousal and reverence. “Keep going, baby. Don’t stop.”

I pinch my nipple again, teasing it and arousing it to firmness, remiss that I can’t easily reach the other one. Christian gasps deeply and snatches me off the floor.

“Don’t stop,” he hisses, his whispered voice thick with his arousal. “Keep touching yourself.”

It’s hard to reach my nipple, but there’s still enough space between us to stroke my clit, so I keep stroking, stroking myself into blind pleasure. He sucks my neglected nipple into his mouth and I nearly scream, stifling the sound as it escapes my throat.

“Do you feel that?” he says in that same aroused whisper as he mini-strokes into me. “Do you feel it?”

Fuck yeah, I feel it. From this angle, he’s at the perfect depth and aim to hit my G-spot, and I’m wiggling my bean.

“Uh-huh!” I answer helplessly.

“Fuck me just like that,” he breathes. “Can you do it? Can you fuck me like that?”

“Uh-huh! Uh-huh!” and I begin the stroke that where he left off. I only have my knees because one hand is on my clit and one was on my breast, but has now abandoned that task to concentrate on clit and fuck. It takes a minute, but I get the mini-stroke back… better, in fact, because I have to wiggle a little bit to reach my g-spot.

“Oooooh, my God,” he groans, “ooohh, my God, yes!” His hand travels up my thighs to my hips, grasping them firmly but not hindering my movement. He bites my nipples again—first one, then the other before taking it into his mouth and sucking hard. I’m fucking going to come. I have to slow down the stroke on my clit to stop the rise before the game is completely over!

“Kiss me,” he hisses, “Fucking kiss me like you mean it!”

Before I can even think about it, I take a handful of his hair with my free hand, snatch his head back and slam my mouth to his, thrusting my tongue inside and licking feverishly like I’m searching for buried treasure. He moans hard as his grip tightens on my hips and we share a kiss that last almost a lifetime. He breaks the kiss and looks into my eyes, his own hooded.

“Are you still stroking it?” he asks whispered. “Are you still stroking it for me?”

“Uh-huh,” I pant, now wildly wiggling my clit while I ride him, and he thrusts into me.

“Make it come, baby… make it drip all over me.”

I wiggle my bean slightly harder and before I know it, my knees lock in the “up” position so that I’m just gripping the head of his cock and I squeal out a crippling orgasm that has me gripping his shoulders for support.

“Fuck! Fuck! Ana, fuck!” he yells as he squeezes my thighs, holding me in place as my core torments the head of his cock, milking his cum in an equally violent orgasm.

“Oh, God,” he pants as I fall helpless into his lap and onto his still throbbing cock. “Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God I needed that so bad.”

“Why… didn’t you wake me?” I pant.

“Ssssshhh, Ssshhh, shh,” he silences me as his head lolls then lies in my breasts, his arms firmly around my body now. “Sssshhhh…” I’m assuming he doesn’t want to lose the moment. It’s not really important now anyway, is it?

*-*

“Daddy, this is Cynthia Crestwood. Auntie Cyn, this is my father, Raymond Steele.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Steele,” Cynthia says, extending her hand to my father.

“Ray, please,” he says, accepting her proffered hand. “The pleasure is all mine, really. This is my wife, Amanda.”

“A pleasure, Cynthia,” Mandy says. “Is it okay if I call you Cynthia?”

“Of course,” Auntie Cyn says, shaking Mandy’s hand, “and call him Larry.” She points to her husband with a smile who shakes Daddy and Mandy’s hand.

“A pleasure, Ray, Amanda,” he says kindly.

“Mandy, please,” Mandy says. The six of us—and our security—have convened at the Cheesecake Factory in Caesar’s Palace for lunch. Of course, we immediately talk about the elephant in the room.

“So,” Larry begins says once we’re seated and have placed our orders, “I’ve been following the trial on Court TV. That was quite the revelation near the end there.”

“I didn’t know Court TV picked up the trial,” I say, looking over at Christian, who shakes his head. “I thought channel 13 was there—KTNV.”

“KTNV is affiliated with Court TV,” Auntie Cyn says. “The trial was on replay most of the night.” I shake my head.

“So, once again, America got to see me carried out of a courtroom. That’s just great.” They would have seen it on the news anyway, but a cable network with national affiliates? Yeah, groovy.

“You had us worried there, dear,” Auntie Cyn says. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I tell her. “I don’t do well in high anxiety situations. Try though I might, something always happens. Nonetheless, here I am.”

“I’m not an insensitive jerk,” Larry says, “but I have been known to miss a cue. So, if I happen to take the conversation somewhere that you would prefer it doesn’t go, please feel free to tell me to shut the hell up.” The rest of us laugh.

“I appreciate that, Larry…”

Lunch is filled with talk about the trial, how we think the jury might sway. We all gave our honest opinion based on the presentation of the evidence. No one came out and said that they believe the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on all counts, but everyone has a doubt or three.

Auntie Cyn feels that the kidnapping charge may not stand because they didn’t definitively prove that Vincent Sullivan physically had anything to do with the kidnapping. Daddy says that if he gets off on the kidnapping charge, he’ll probably get off on the conspiracy charge, too.

While Larry feels that Sullivan should get whatever they charge him with and more, he feels that the guidelines surrounding attempted murder may mean that the jury is going to come back with a not guilty on that one. While he’s definitely guilty of assault, battery, and manslaughter, Larry feels that attempted murder might be a stretch.

Amanda feels that the whole “diminished capacity” thing is bullshit. As a court reporter, she doesn’t buy it for a second. She’s seen the defense a lot—some succeed and some fail—and according to her, his case holds about as much water as a fishing net.

“It’s the criminal equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework,’” she says, somewhat disgusted. “People who fall back on that as a defense take away from those who may truly have been in a diminished capacity. The guidelines to prove diminished capacity are so strict now that you basically damn near have to prove that you were either clinically insane or that you were not only in imminent danger, but also immediate danger at the time of the commission of the crime, and it’s all because people are so busy crying wolf!”

“What’s the difference?” Christian asks.

Immediate danger or peril is imminent, but not all imminent peril is immediate. Immediate danger is not a written doctrine or legal concept yet, but it’s one of the things that certain people may look for—and informed jurors are aware of—before a defendant takes the stand.

“Being mugged at gunpoint is immediate danger. It’s also imminent danger. Being threatened about a crime that’s going to happen tomorrow, that poses possible imminent danger for something that’s going to happen tomorrow and something that may happen to you in the future. You’ve got time to do something about it!”

“I felt that way, too!” Christian says. “Even if he really felt that he was in danger of retaliation, by his own admission, he had a whole day and possibly more to tell somebody what was going to happen, but he didn’t. He said he thought it was going to be a harmless brand like his brother’s frat brand, but even that’s assault if it’s against your will.”

“Exactly,” Mandy says. “Even if he really thought it was going to be harmless, he made a bad judgment call. Even though he knew in advance that this harmless thing was going to happen, he decided not to tell anybody. He sat on it for a whole day and didn’t breathe of a word of it to anyone who could’ve prevented it. He also made it appear that he was afraid of Carly from the very beginning. Why was he so afraid for his life if it was supposed to be this harmless thing?

“Good point,” Larry says.

“I’ve heard of sudden peril, though,” Auntie Cyn says.

“That’s a totally different type of law and a completely different concept,” Mandy says.

“Indeed,” Ray says.

“And back to the concept of imminent danger,” Mandy continues, “he could’ve told somebody what was going to happen the next day and prevented this whole thing from happening. He thought it would have put a target on his back—or at least he claimed he did, but it would have put a target on Cody and Carly’s back if anything happened to him or Ana. As diehard as his brother was to protect him—had something happened to Vincent, he wouldn’t have rested until those responsible were under the jail. And if he was really in danger, he could have relocated or his brother could have arranged some kind of protection for him—something, but those options were not dangerous. They were inconvenient! As a result of his lack of action, a girl was brutally beaten and burned, her baby was murdered, and he’s claiming the dog ate his homework.”

“Bravo!” Auntie Cyn says quietly clapping her hands.

“Very well said, baby,” Daddy says, quietly clapping as well.

“Hear, hear,” Larry says, raising his soda.

“Now let’s just hope the jury agrees with you,” I say, and the celebration stops. Everyone turns to look at me.

“See, here’s where I’m the Doubting Thomas,” I admit. “We’re talking about a group of people who share the community with this man. They share all the same values, the same beliefs, the same thought processes. There’s no doubt that he did these things to me. The question is his intent and state of mind. Two psychiatrists gave us the entire lowdown of the feeling of imminent danger. Neither doctor fully corroborated his claim that he felt he was in imminent danger, not to mention immediate danger. Was I the only one to see that?”

“No, you weren’t,” Christian replies. “I saw that, too.”

“So,” I continue, “unless those magic twelve people have the same thought processes that you do and not the same thought processes that he does, he’s getting off.”

“It only takes one, Ana,” Mandy protests gently.

“And then the best we get is a mistrial,” I say, “at which point, we’re going through all of this again. I hope we have—as you said—a panel of informed jurors. Otherwise, this whole thing was a waste of my time.”


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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. Be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 8

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

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

Season 5 Episode 8

CHRISTIAN

The trip to the District Court is… interesting. The I-15 freeway is nerve-wracking to say the least. Traveling down that stretch of road, you just want to close your eyes and pray that you don’t get killed. A six-mile journey takes all of 30 – 45 minutes in rush hour traffic, and we have to hit it coming and going for the next several days at least. I’m silently praying for safe passage. My wife, on the other hand, is sitting next to me silent and stoic.

The courthouse is clean and professional enough, but the distance in between once you exit the freeway reminds me of Detroit. Where Detroit has liquor stores every few blocks, here there are bail bondsmen everywhere you look. Downtown is full of apartments in desperate need of repair and no-tell-motels all over the place—or at least that’s what they look like to me.

At a certain point, you reach the business district that looks like it totally shouldn’t be here—clean lines, high rises, well-maintained streets… which they very well should be with all the construction we kept hitting on the way out here.

The parking is atrocious down here and we can’t afford to get out of town tickets in three rental SUVS, or worse, towed. As such, we have a plan for pickup and drop off at the courthouse. All non-security staff will form a perimeter around me and Butterfly with Ray and Allen in front, James and Mandy on either side, and Vee and Marilyn bringing up the rear. The five members of my security team that won’t be parking the cars will form a five-point star around the eight of us with Jason at the lead, two guards at the rear, and a guard on either side. Butterfly will be duly buried in the middle of several people…

… Which is a good thing.

We can barely get the cars to the curb for fear of running over the Paparazzi’s toes as we pull up.

“Fucking vultures,” I mumble. This is insane and I have no idea how we’re even going to get out of the car.

“Where were all these people when this shit happened to me?” Butterfly blurts out, breaking her silence. “Why weren’t they this fucking hungry for a headline then?”

Oh, shit. She’s already losing it.

Several members of the press have cameras pressed against the glass of the SUV’s, and we can’t even exit the vehicle.

“Baby,” I say, taking her hand and trying to put out the fire before it starts, “remember what we said about the press egging you on.”

“Oh, don’t patronize me, Christian!” she barks snatching her hand from mine. “I’m not out of the car yet! And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon either! These people have no fucking respect whatsoever. We’re trying to get to court, not walking the fucking red carpet!”

Dear God, somebody save me. I’m in a little metal box with a woman who’s getting more and more irritated by the second and my attempts at reason are only making it worse. What’s more, we can’t get out of the little metal box.

Unbeknownst to me, the city of Las Vegas has foreseen this little problem and has prepared accordingly. I can hear someone on a megaphone saying something, but I can’t quite make it out over the throng of people. As the cameras move away from the tinted glass, I crack the window slightly to hear what’s happening.

“Step away from the vehicle. Move away, or you will be arrested for obstruction of justice. This is your final warning.”

That’s right. Butterfly is a key witness in a criminal case. If they don’t allow her to get out of the car, they’re obstructing justice. I look back at my wife who looks through the crack in the window with stunned awe as the press is pushed away from the car. A few moments later, Chuck and Jason exit the car and another security detail takes the driver’s seat.

The door opens and we see Chuck, Al, James and Jason standing there.

“Are you ready?” Jason asks. I look at Butterfly, whose previous anger has completely deflated. She nods, and Ray exits the car first, then Mandy. It’s everyone else’s responsibility to fall in line once Butterfly exits the car, because she’s running to the door the minute she’s out of the car.

I never understood the concept of the courthouse having fifty stairs that you have to climb to get to the door. What’s the purpose of that?

When I step out of the car, I scan this situation before I let Butterfly out. Every fucking local newspaper in the state must be here. We’ve never had this much pomp and circumstance in Washington, and we’ve been to two trials where each of us was a key witness.

The press is neatly pushed away from either side of the car with Las Vegas Metro Police officers in tan uniforms with batons drawn holding them back from blocking our path to the door.

Now that’s what I call protecting and serving!

The cameras are still flashing, but I expect that much. We can’t stop them from taking pictures, but they have to let us through. I lean down into the car and take my wife’s hand.

“Ready?” I ask. She sighs heavily and nods.

She swings her legs out of the car and her Louboutin stilettos are probably the only picture of her that the press gets this morning. She stealthily stands to her feet and everyone quickly falls into formation as those sky highs take the stairs like Rocky. She doesn’t fall; she doesn’t stumble; she doesn’t trip; and she’s shorter than everyone on the peripheral. So, I’m certain that no one got a picture of her.

When we enter the doors of the courthouse, she doesn’t even look like she broke a sweat.

The police keep the press at bay until we all pass the metal detectors and enter the main hallway. Mac has informed me that only one station—KTNV Las Vegas—will have access to the trial. Because the case is so sensational, several media outlets filed for courtroom media access, but only one was granted. Thank God for small favors.

I’m busy checking on my wife to see how she’s holding up when I’m greeted with the last fucking thing I expected to see at this moment. I prepared myself for everything… every possible eventuality. I didn’t prepare myself for this.

Cholometes! Brian fucking Cholometes!

He’s sitting in the waiting area near the elevators looking straight at us. I glance down at Butterfly and she hasn’t spotted him yet. She’s too busy girding herself for the experience ahead. When he sees us, he rises from his seat and begins his approach. I put myself in my wife’s line of sight and I look down at her.

“Prepare yourself, baby,” I say. “We’ve got company.” Her expression hardens.

“Whitshit?” she spits. I shake my head.

“Cholometes,” I reply. An instant look of horror mars her face.

“What?”

The response comes from Ray. Apparently, my voice wasn’t as low as I thought it was. I look over at him and he’s scanning the room.

“What are you doing here, Brian?” he says before Cholometes even reaches us. He slows his approach at Ray’s tone.

“You’re my friend,” Cholometes replies. “I came to support you… and the family.”

By the family, you mean my wife. She has all the support she can get, Colostomy, she doesn’t need you!

“You didn’t have to come,” Ray says firmly. Cholometes ignores the implication.

“It’s the least I could do,” Cholometes replies, “especially after the events of our last encounter.” His words hang in the air. I take Butterfly’s hand. You mean when you outed our lifestyle in front of all her family and friends? Is that the encounter of which you speak?

“My little girl’s got a rough time ahead of her, Brian. If you’re bringing any drama with you, you can take it right back where you came from,” Ray scolds.

“I’m only here for support,” he responds before looking down at Butterfly. “You have my word.” Butterfly scoffs and rolls her eyes.

“Let’s go,” she says to me. I quickly lead her away from the scene without a word to Cholometes. My main concern right now is protecting her as much as I can.

“He doesn’t get within five feet of my wife,” I say to Jason and Chuck as we walk away.

“If he does, I’ll kick him in the fucking balls,” Butterfly growls under her breath as we walk deliberately towards the elevators. The bell rings that the elevator arrives and when the doors open, our group all stream in in formation—except one.

Sorry, Colostomy, no room.

There’s actually plenty of room, but the glare of at least seven angry men may have persuaded him to catch the next car.

The floor is surprisingly quiet when we exit the elevator. There are a few people in corners chatting quietly about… whatever. Butterfly never raises her head. She quietly watches her feet as we walk directly to courtroom 8A.

And now we discover why no one is in the hallway.

There are several people in the courtroom, spread out on different benches. The two benches behind the prosecutor are conspicuously empty. We all file in, and Butterfly still hasn’t raised her head or removed her sunglasses. Upon hearing us enter, Larson and his colleague turn around. Butterfly takes her seat, but I remain standing.

“Mr. Grey,” he says as he approaches the balustrade between us.

“Mr. Larson,” I greet just as stoically. He turns to Butterfly.

“Mrs. Grey, are you ready?” he asks. She removes her glasses finally.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies.

“Please, be prepared,” he says. “Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity—not that he was insane, but that he was coerced and intimidated… basically that he was too young to understand or unaware of the full impact of his actions.” She twists her lips.

“Why does that not surprise me?” she says a little too calmly.

“They’re going to show the video, and the pictures of your back. Things are going to get very graphic and pretty brutal…”

“Nothing they say or do is going to be as brutal as what they already put me through, so it doesn’t matter, does it?” she replies matter-of-factly. Larson sighs, no doubt noting the same hostility that I experienced in the car.

“They’re going to make you out to be the villain,” he warns.

“What else is new?” she replies.

“I just want you to be prepared for anything. Expect anything. Remember, we can’t mention the rape unless they do,” he cautions. She sighs.

“Mr. Larson, nothing could prepare me for this, but I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all I ask,” he says, finitely. He glances at me again, then returns to his seat.

We sit in the courtroom waiting for an eternity for the proceedings to start, but it’s clearly only about twenty minutes. We hear more people come into the courtroom, but we don’t turn around to see who they are. There’s a guy sitting at the defense table looking at a notebook in a ledger. Clearly, he’s the defense attorney. After a few minutes, a door opens on the side of the courtroom and in walks some guy in a suit and handcuffs. This is obviously Vincent Sullivan, but I didn’t commit his face to memory. I can’t even remember what his brother looks like at the moment.

Butterfly glares at him, but he doesn’t look our way once. Sullivan is escorted to the defense table where the bailiff removes his cuffs. In both of the other cases we attended, both defendants scanned the room, made eye-contact with us and either sneered or jeered at us, but not Sullivan. He’s been coached. He doesn’t look left or right. He looks down or at his attorney—nowhere else.

“All rise. The criminal session of the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county is now in session, the honorable Wilson Bates presiding.”

The court stands to their feet as Judge Bates takes the bench.

“You may be seated.”

Judge Bates looks at the file in front of him and sighs.

“I’m not looking forward to this,” he mumbles, almost to himself. I think he forgot he was mic’ ed. What did he mean by that?

“Docket number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan you stand charged with assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, manslaughter for fetal homicide, and attempted murder. You have entered a plea of ‘Not guilty due to diminished mental capacity.’ Do you wish to change your plea at this time?”

“No, your honor,” Sullivan says after a brief conference with his attorney.

“Is the state ready to proceed?” he asks.

“We are, your honor,” Larson replies.

“Is the defense ready to proceed?”

“Yes, your honor, we are,” the defense attorney replies.

“Very well. Bring in the jury.”

The bailiff leads 18 people into the courtroom and the judge has them sworn in. He begins the somewhat tedious task of jury instruction, and it’s at this moment that we discover that the jury will be sequestered, as well they should be. I expected as much. This case is way too publicized already to have them exposed to outside forces while they’re listening to it. I feel badly for them because this is going to go on for a while.

Once he has completed his instructions to the jury, he announces that Mr. Larson will be presenting opening statements on behalf of the State.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Larson says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Counsel,” he says to the defense attorney, who nods. Then he turns to face the jury.

“Anastasia Steele was a loner,” he began. “She was a good student, but a stranger in a strange land. She was implanted into the affluent neighborhood of Green Valley at 14, but she wasn’t wealthy or even well-off like the other residents of the community. She had come from humble beginnings—not impoverished or even unpleasant, but humble. She was raised for most of her life in the home of her mother and father in Montesano, Washington. However, as fate would have it, her parents split up, and Anastasia would come to Henderson with her mother to reside in the home of her mother’s future husband.

“The following years would not be kind to Anastasia, and one year in particular, she found herself knocked unconscious, kidnapped, bound, and subjected to one of the most brutal and violent hazing rituals in history—the degradation and branding of another human being.”

Larson handles the opening arguments like a seasoned professional. He paints a vivid picture of a young misfit with good grades in an unhappy home. He makes reference to the rape without calling it that, labelling it as the “incident” that sparked the attack.

He gives a chilling recount of how Butterfly was kidnapped while walking home from school, thrown in the trunk of a car, dragged to the bonfire, and then tortured by a group of teenagers.

He outlines a gruesome picture of a vicious mob and a brutal hazing ritual that left a 15-year-old girl in a coma for three weeks while her attackers went home to their beds and slept peacefully with no concern about the young girl they left for dead.

“That night, an officer happened upon the scene of the hazing, causing the participants and observers to scramble, leaving Anastasia Steele naked, burned, beaten, unconscious, bleeding, and left for dead on the ground. Her unborn child was inside of her, his or her little heart beating its final beats, if it hadn’t stopped beating already.”

Butterfly doesn’t react to the description, but various members of the jury are visibly affected by it.

“Anastasia was rushed to the hospital, underwent several procedures—one of which was to remove the remnants of the dead fetus from her uterus—and she spent three weeks in a coma. Meanwhile, the defendant and their co-conspirators who had executed this horrendous event and even recorded the whole thing on video, all went home to their fashionable houses and their comfortable beds, laid their heads on their pillows and slept, night after night. Anastasia was living the nightmare, but her vicious and brutal attack was reduced to nothing more than locker-room talk and urban legend.

“She was rescued from the hell that Henderson was to her, Green Valley, and taken back to Montesano by her father. She was enrolled in school and ready to rebuild her life until the father of one of the defendants paid off her mother and stepfather to bring her back to Las Vegas, where they could keep an eye on her and make sure that she didn’t spill their secret.

“Their secret stayed buried until a few years ago, when a routine background check unearthed a second name for Mrs. Grey—Anastasia Lambert, and that name led to a second set of school records, prompting an in-depth background check which uncovered the police reports and the horrific pictures you will see today of Anastasia’s broken body.

“Anastasia’s husband-then-boyfriend came to investigate the matter, setting off a chain of events that has led us here today. Simultaneously, Mrs. Grey—then Dr. Anastasia Steele—had begun seeing a patient for dignity therapy who, as it turns out, had recorded the video that you’re going to see today. This young lady was dying of a terminal illness and had sought out Dr. Steele to confess her involvement in Anastasia’s attack before she died.

“The video you’ll be seeing is 37-minutes long. It’s quite graphic and very brutal. It plays out like a horror movie. You must sit through the entire thing. We ask that you please prepare yourselves for the gruesome scene that you’re about to see. If any of you have weak constitutions, we will pause the playback while you compose yourself. However, we will resume playback because the video is evidence and you must see it in its entirety.

“As you are watching the video, ask yourself how it makes you feel. How it feels knowing that this is not a movie—this is not a re-enactment–that this really happened to a 15-year-old girl. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that no one felt that anyone should be brought to justice for this—not even the police. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that this could have been your child. Not one of them felt any remorse for what they did, and they don’t feel any remorse now. In fact, they’re trying to get away with it. How does that make you feel that something like that could happen in this day and time in the United States and no one is called to justice for it for nearly 15 years?

“That’s thirty-seven minutes… thirty-seven live minutes of the most vicious attack on a young girl that you may ever see in your life. Remember that Anastasia Steele’s terror and pain lasted more than that thirty-seven minutes. Remember that no matter what you hear in this courtroom, no matter what pictures the defense may want to paint of Mrs. Grey, of her family, and of the alleged assailants, remember what you see with your own eyes. Remember what the video tells you—what you saw.

“You’ll hear testimony from others that may seem circumstantial, but I ask that you consider it in context with everything else that you’ll see and hear during this trial. Let’s give Anastasia the justice that she finally deserves. Thank you.”

Larson takes his seat. The judge then announces that the defense, Mr. Drake, will present opening statements.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Drake says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Opposing counsel,” Drake says, and Larson nods.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you of your instructions, that you must weigh this case on the facts. Although you may find yourself empathizing with the victim, although you must watch the cruelty of the action, you cannot decide this case on emotion. You must decide it on the facts. You must decide if Vincent Sullivan willingly and maliciously injured a young girl and caused the death of her unborn child. That’s going to be hard to do once you see the evidence.

“You’re going to be tempted to sympathize with the plight of a young girl who was victimized by a group of vicious teenagers, because that’s exactly what you’re going to see. No one is disputing that. What has brought us here today is Mr. Sullivan’s role in this act. And this is where it’s imperative that your personal prejudices and biases do not come into play.

“For one thing, we get a vivid picture of a poor young girl just trying to survive in the affluent neighborhoods of Henderson. They want you to believe that this poor little waif was an unsuspecting victim of an unnecessary violent act. While I won’t deny that this act was brutal and unfortunate…”

Unfortunate? What the ever-loving fuck? She was raped by a motherfucker who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and then beaten because she was raped! And he calls that shit unfortunate?

“… Don’t be cajoled into believing the ‘victimized nerd’ persona that’s being presented to you. This girl was a promiscuous opportunist looking to trap a young man simply because his family was well-to-do. This was no innocent that we’re dealing with. This was a young harlot who seduced the son of one of Green Valley’s most prominent citizens, lied on him about it and provoked him and his young girlfriend until a group of unidentified people saw through her scheme and put a stop to it. Did she deserve what happened to her? Did she bring it on herself? I can’t say, but I can tell you this. The prosecution has given you his version—his opinion—of what he thinks happened that night. As jurors, it’s your job to apply the law to this situation to determine Vincent Sullivan’s guilt or innocence.”

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. You don’t want them to look at her as a poor little waif or a victimized nerd because that would be biased, but you want them to look at her as a promiscuous opportunist and that’s not? I’m confused.

“The boy that she targeted was a popular young man, a well-known athlete… and she was a misfit. She wanted to belong, to fit in by any means necessary, even if it meant trying to trap or blackmail one of the most popular boys in school, and she just played the wrong cards. I’m not saying that she deserved what happened to her, but I am saying that when you play a dangerous game, something dangerous is bound to happen.

“The video you’re going to see is dark. Forensics have verified its authenticity, but most of the assailants are hooded; and the key witness and videographer—God rest her soul—is conveniently deceased. Yet, the prosecution would have you believe that this powerful multibillionairess…” He’s pointing at Butterfly, “… just happened on this information—that an ailing woman with a terminal disease wandered into her office after 15 years with a key piece of evidence to put away several prominent members of our community; that we should now look at this suffering soul whose net worth is probably more than all of us combined and say, ‘Isn’t that so sad and tragic. Poor little rich girl.’”

His voice is so condescending that you can hardly believe that he’s talking about this brutally senseless act of violence that occurred to a 15-year-old girl. Yes, she’s a billionairess now, but this act didn’t happen to a billionairess. This happened to a nerdy teenager—an “A” student who wanted nothing but to graduate and get away from the hell that was an uncaring mother and an emotionally cruel stepfather and happened to be unlucky enough to get raped by the most popular boy in school.

Drake is trying to make Whitmore look like the victim. How can he be the victim when she’s the one who was raped and attacked? She’s the one who was beaten damn near to death. Her baby was beaten to death. How is he the victim?

“’People say believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’ Those are the words to a song that my mother used to play all the time. What you see… You’re going to see a lengthy video of some kids doing some horrible thing to some other kid. And as that video is playing, some of you may become ill. Why? Because this was your first time seeing it and you were not prepared. This isn’t her first time seeing it…” He’s pointing at Butterfly. “But I can guarantee you she’ll vomit, and I’ll tell you why. It’s called practiced regurgitation. It’s what bulimic women do when they want to expel their food after a binge. They can barf on command. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

He can’t be serious! His opening statement is to discredit her possible vomiting? I look over at Butterfly and she’s looking at him in utter horror. Is this really where he’s going with this? He’s not talking about Sullivan at all or his defense, only that the jury will have to review the evidence and determine if his acts were willful or malicious. The rest—and remainder—of his opening statement involved downplaying the content of the video, making Whitmore out to be the victim, and painting my wife as a wanton harlot out to snag a rich kid.

One of his final statements is to paint our marriage as her ultimate triumph in doing just that and using her newfound wealth to punish the good citizens of Henderson. For the love of God!

We painfully sit through several more minutes of this bullshit before the state’s case finally begins.

“The state calls Anastasia Grey,” Larson announces clearly. Butterfly takes a deep breath and walks to the witness stand. She’s sworn in and asked to state her name.

“Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” she replies and is told to be seated.

“Dr. Grey, what’s your specialty?” Larson asks.

“I’m a psychiatrist. I’m also the assistant director of the Helping Hands charity in Seattle, and I’m the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.”

Yes, sir, that’s my baby.

“I’m sure you’d like to get this over with as soon as possible, so let’s just get to it, okay?” Larson asks. Butterfly nods.

“I’ve called you first, Dr. Grey, because I want to set the scene for what the jurors are going to be seeing. I’ll be asking you several questions about the incident. I need you to be as detailed as possible and as succinct as possible. I know that’s going to be hard, but we must get to the facts. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” she nods.

“Tell us, when did you first arrive in Green Valley?”

“In 2000. I was 14.”

“Where were you before you moved to Green Valley?” Larson asks.

“We lived in Montesano, Washington.”

“How would you characterize your childhood, Dr. Grey?”

“It started out really good when we were in Washington. We had a great relationship, but once we moved to Vegas, everything changed.”

“Changed in what way?” Larson asks. Butterfly shrugs.

“It felt like my mother hated me,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to say it. She told my daddy that she was leaving because he couldn’t provide the type of life that I deserved, but when we left, she treated me like I was an imposition the entire time, like all of her problems were because of me. She was unhappy with my dad during the last year or so of their life together, so I thought that if she moved to a new life, maybe she would be happy, and things would change… but she wasn’t. At least she wasn’t happy with me.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I studied hard. That’s all I could do. My clothes were plain; I was poor. I obviously didn’t belong, and Green Valley made sure that I understood that. I resented it. I was happy in Montesano with my simple clothes and my simple life and my travel books. She said I needed to have more, and she brought me here—and gave me nothing but misery.”

“How was school?” he asks. She scoffs.

“School was school,” she says. “Study, do my work, get my grades, go home. I was teased for not having the things that everyone else had, but I tried to ignore it. Home life was much worse, so school and friends weren’t a big deal.”

“Were you abused at home?” Larson asks. She shakes her head.

“Not immediately,” she replies. “They never hit me, but the mental warfare was brutal. Even now, as a mental health professional looking back on it, I don’t know how I survived it.”

“What about your father?”

“We talked when we could, but she did everything in her power to keep us apart. She even had me saying cruel things to him when he called. She’s a miserable soul. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on.”

“Okay, so we’ve established that your home life was pretty miserable, and school life wasn’t much better. Did you have a plan of escape?”

“I was only 14 when we got here. Escape hadn’t even occurred to me. I was waiting for my mother to get what she wanted and stop treating me like crap. Eighteen was four years away. It was obvious that the only way I was going to college was through scholarships, so school it was. I liked school. I liked learning. It was the people that I didn’t care for.”

“So… at the beginning of 2001, you met one of the popular students in school, is that correct?”

“That’s correct.”

“Tell us what happened,” he says.

“Cody Whitmore offered me a ride home from school.”

“Did he take you home?” Larson asks. Butterfly shakes her head.

“After a… harrowing encounter, for lack of a better word, he left me stranded in the middle of the desert to find my own way home.”

“And after that encounter, what happened?”

“I went home and told my mother and stepfather what happened.”

“And?” Larson presses.

“My stepfather and I went to Cody Whitmore’s house to confront him and his father. My stepfather took one look at that house—all that money—and his whole tone changed. We went inside. Whitmore’s girlfriend was there and denied everything. His father wouldn’t hear anything after Whitmore denied everything, and my stepfather didn’t even raise his voice to fight for me. He apologized for disturbing them and we left. He berated me the entire way home.”

“Why do you think your stepfather didn’t fight for you?”

“Because he didn’t believe me,” Butterfly replies.

“And why do you think that was?”

“I can’t speak for Stephen Morton and he’s no longer with us to speak for himself—not that I believe he would—but I can tell you this. I already told you that my mother couldn’t stand me. He liked me even less. He took one look at that house, all that money, Whitmore’s gorgeous blonde girlfriend, and all I heard all the way home was that there was no way in hell that Cody Whitmore would want my ass. It was awful. I wish I had just kept the entire thing to myself or ran away from home… something.”

“I can imagine,” Larson says. “So, let’s get to that fateful day in March of 2001. Can you set the scene for us?” Butterfly’s expression hardens.

“From the time we had confronted the Whitmores all the way to that day, my life was hell. I was an open target for everybody. They were already teasing me, so I thought it wouldn’t make a difference if they were teasing me some more. I was wrong. If I left early from class, someone was waiting to antagonize me. If I stayed over and waited until the halls were cleared, someone was still waiting for me. It’s like they had assignments to get me and they didn’t even go to class until they got me.

“It was little simple stuff at first like gum in my hair, kicking or pushing me on the way down the hall, knocking my books out of my hand, flipping my lunch tray over… just bullying stuff. So, when they were following me home taunting me that day, I didn’t think anything different of it. I wanted them to stop, but what could I do?” Larson nods.

“What happened next, Anastasia?” he says softly. Butterfly closes her eyes.

“I remember feeling something in the back of my head. It was fast—it was like fire… like a hot knife jabbing into my skull. Then I saw… stars or flashes of light or something. I heard ringing… and then, nothing.”

“And what do you remember next?” he asks. She sighs.

“I opened my eyes and it was cold… and dark. I didn’t know where I was at first, but then… I saw the taillights shine in my eyes, and I felt the movement. I knew I was in the trunk of a car.”

She still has her eyes closed. Is she… regressing? Right there on the stand?

“What were you thinking?” Larson asks.

“I was horrified,” she says calmly, a single tear falling down her cheek. “I didn’t know what was going on.” She opens her eyes and looks at Larson. I’m relieved to see that she didn’t regress, but she’s pale as a ghost and she doesn’t look well.

“There’s only one reason to put a live human being in the trunk of a car, and it never ends well. Here I am—a live 15-year-old girl, bound, cold, and in the trunk of a car.”

Her voice is cold and even as another tear streams down her cheek. She wipes the tears away immediately as Larson continued.

“When did you realize what was going on?”

“Not for a while,” she says, her voice failing a bit. “When the trunk opened, all I saw was hoods. I thought I was about to be a human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. But when they reached into the trunk and pulled me out, I could see that they were… my age—kids. All I could think was, ‘What the hell is happening?’

“Nobody talked to me. They just grabbed me out of the trunk and started dragging me across the grass. My head was still banging from whoever hit me and I couldn’t see anybody. I had tears in my eyes. I was still seeing spots from when they shined the light in my face. I could see the bonfire, though, and I knew it couldn’t be good.” She drops her head.

“I saw some of their faces because they were all wearing hoods, but they weren’t all wearing masks. The two that were wearing masks—I heard their voices. I knew exactly who they were. I begged for my life; I pleaded for them to tell me what I had done wrong…” She grabs the railing of the witness stand. She’s looking for strength, I can tell…

I’ve got you, Butterfly. I’m here. Be strong, baby.

She takes a deep breath and raises her head again. She already looks spent.

“Go on,” Larson says. She begins to worry her scar.

Come on, baby. You can do this.

She clears her throat.

“She got in my face. She said something to me…” Butterfly says.

“Who did?” Larson asks. Butterfly looks up as if to pull strength.

“The one he calls Carly Babe,” she says. She was searching for her words. “She taunted me, she called me a bitch, and then she slapped me. That must have been the ‘go’ signal, because they all came at me after that. The hits were coming from everywhere. They hit me everywhere… everywhere! I don’t know how long this went on. It just seemed like it wouldn’t stop.

There was nowhere to go,” she says, her voice cracking. “My legs and wrists were tied… I tried to roll away… I couldn’t get away. No matter where I tried to roll, a foot or a fist came at me, and they were peeing on me and spitting on me… oh, God…” She whispers the last two words before thrusting her hands into her hair.

“I couldn’t cover my face or my head or my mouth… I just wanted it to stop; I wanted somebody to help me… I called for my mother, but she wasn’t there…” Her words trail off, and she stops for a moment.

“Dr. Grey…?”

“After a while, one hit just ran into the other,” she says. “I was still screaming when the urinating and spitting started, but after a while, I just stopped. I was exhausted and I couldn’t scream anymore. Nobody was listening anyway. Nobody could really hear me. The smell of piss permeated my senses, and I just prayed to hurry up and die. When I felt that first burn, I was surprised that anything could cause more pain than I was already feeling, but I was certain that I was about to get my death wish.”

She’s never explained things to me like this… ever. My stomach is churning, thinking about this ordeal. I know what happened, but I imagined how horrible it must have been from what I’ve learned, heard, and saw. Even now, it’s worse than anything I ever imagine. Larson purses his lips and nods at her.

“Your honor, I like to introduce into evidence state’s exhibit one.” The judge nods and Larson turns to the jury.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see the video of the night in question. You will first see the taped confession of Melanie Coleman, a terminally ill woman who confesses to recording the video live. Please prepare yourselves.”

I’m not ready to see this again. I’ll never be ready to see this again.

“Please remember that deathbed confessions are admissible and not considered hearsay,” Larson says. “These confessions often occur because a dying person wants to live their final days free of secrets they have been concealing throughout their lives. Know that Ms. Coleman died days after she recorded this confession.”

Larson somberly takes his seat as the video begins to play. A frail woman connected to oxygen declares her name and that she recorded the video on March 10, 2001. She introduces some of the people in the video, including her cousin—Carly Madison—but admits that she doesn’t know most of the assailants.

Today is the day. Today is the day that we send a message to everybody that doesn’t know just how we take care of things in our town. Today is the day that we show that little broke bitch that she can’t fuck with me or my man and get away with it!”

I watch with clenched fists as Carly Madison-Perry and her piece of shit boyfriend, Cody Whitmore, set the scene for the horror that will change my Butterfly’s life forever. I watch the petite young brunette being knocked unconscious and thrown into the back seat of a car.

Ray clears his throat. Amanda gasps.

They were still at the school. Students were everywhere! Nobody did a goddamn thing! Nobody said a thing! Even after the attack… nobody said shit!

There’s a conversation going on like these girls are headed to a slumber party right before the screen goes black… a fucking slumber party!

When the screen comes back, there are about five girls in the frame looking like witches in black on Halloween. They each say some Fuck with us and die type of bullshit before they take my Butterfly out of the trunk of the car. The camera zooms in on her. She’s been crying and she’s absolutely terrified.

I look over at my wife and she’s not paying attention. She’s holding her head down, even turns it away as the video plays, most likely trying to tune it out as much as she can. She leans her head on her hand, blocking her view of the screen. No one looks at her—they’re concentrating, horrified, on the events happening on the screen.

She can’t watch the video. The last time she watched it, she ended up catatonic for several days—but she lived this horror, and she knows exactly what she’s hearing.

The first time I saw this video, I didn’t hear it, but now I do. It’s faint, but it’s heart wrenching. You can barely hear it over the commotion of the vicious crowd—kicking, beating, and desecrating this poor girl—but when you hear it once, it becomes clear, almost like you can’t hear anything else over it…

“Moooommmiiiiiiieeeee!”

“Moommmmmiiiiieeeeeeeee!”

Moooooooooommmmiiiiiiieeeeeee!”

Jesus, my heart is breaking, and Ray looks as if he could leap out of his seat right now.

The video is nearing the end, getting into the worst part of the attack. Women have begun to cry as they hear her screaming for her “mommy.” I’m getting more and more enraged watching the callous, cold, and unbelievably cruel behavior of these monsters as they torture my Butterfly.

When the searing of her skin can be heard in stereo throughout the courtroom, and her wails of agony rip through my ears and heart, that’s when the vomiting begins, and my Butterfly is not immune. Even after having lived through it, her stomach still can’t take it once the video is played again. I want to rush to her on the stand, but I know that I can’t, and the court has actually supplied barf bags for just such an emergency. Five people lose their breakfast and several others are green in the face watching this display.

It seems like it takes forever for the video to finally end, but it was only a few minutes from the branding to the end of the video. Several of the jurors, the onlookers, and my wife are unable to compose themselves once the video is complete. Sullivan is looking down at the desk and Drake is simply examining the condition of the attendees in the courtroom with a bit of concern.

Yeah, asshole. Just because you can watch that shit without blinking doesn’t mean that every other human being can.

It’s music to my ears when the judge calls a brief recess and the jury is quickly led out of the courtroom.

Butterfly collapses in tears on the stand, having fought to hold herself together as the jury is led away. Why is she trying to be strong now? No one—except that fucking defense attorney—would blame her for falling apart during this time. She leans forward on the railing of the stand and weeps until her body shakes. She did the same thing when she had to identify the people in the video last year. I sprint around the balustrade to get to her taking long strides to get to the witness stand.

“No!” she shrieks, jerking away when I touch her without lifting her head. I’m shocked that she won’t let me touch her, but pretty certain that she wouldn’t let anybody touch her right now. Nonetheless, I turn my gaze—and my rage—towards the defense table. Sullivan still hasn’t raised his head, but when Drake catches my gaze, he immediately turns and begins to confer with his client. You despicable, reprehensible…

“Sir,” Jason says, breaking my gaze from the defense table. He needed to, and I think he knows that.

“Get Alex on the phone,” I say, my voice only loud enough for him to hear me. “I want everything he can get on this guy. This is going to be his swan song.” Jason nods, but doesn’t move. Don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I’m more concerned about Butterfly right now.

“My wife needs ice water,” I say, a little louder, my voice still rugged as Satan, “and a salt packet if you can find it.”

“I’m on it, sir,” he says, and turns to leave.

“I knew this would happen,” the judge says and produces a salt shaker from under his lectern, placing it on the side of his podium. “There’s a vending machine down the hall with water in it.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Jason says and dashes from the courtroom.

“Thank you, sir,” I say. “It’s much appreciated.” He nods and leaves the bench, going to his chambers. I take the salt and wait the eternity for Jason to return with the water. I glare at the defense while my wife weeps in the stand.

“Practiced enough for you?” I hiss at Drake. His brow furrows deeply.

“You’re not supposed to talk to me,” he says finitely.

“Why not?” I seethe. “Court’s not in session. There’s nobody here for your performance now!” No matter what he tries to get the jury to believe, he doesn’t believe that she practiced this reaction any more than I do. There’s no fear in his eyes, but he’s a bit dumbstruck. Sullivan continues to stare at the table in front of him like a good little puppy.

“Chris!” Al is in my line of sight almost immediately. “No,” he says, and that’s all he says.

“Come on, son,” Ray says, walking up next to him. “Let’s check on Annie.”

I’m seeing red. I’m seeing death and carnage and mayhem. I’m so sick of this shit. I’m so sick of my wife going through unnecessary stress and pain, and I’m really sick of Nevada and I’ve only been here for less than a day!

But I have to see about my wife.

I tear my gaze away from the not-so-cocky asshole at the defense table and go over to my wife. I move to the opening on the side of the witness stand to get closer to her, to speak to her before I try to touch her again.

“Baby?” I say, gently. “Baby, it’s me.” She throws her arms around me without looking, sobbing on my shoulder.

“I know, Baby,” I say, gently stroking her back. “I know.” She still says nothing but continues to weep.

“We can ask for a recess until tomorrow…” Larson says approaching us, his voice concerned. I’m just about to agree when my little waif squeaks in my ear.

“No… no… I have to do this… I can’t put it off anymore…” and she continues to weep. I blink the tears back in my eyes and look at Larson.

“She’s going to do it,” I say, just above a whisper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if I get her out of this courtroom and she doesn’t do this today.”

That’s the truth. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Larson examines me for a while, then nods.

“If you think that’s best,” he says, and he says it to me. I’m a little shocked. I lean in to my wife’s ear.

“Butterfly?” I say softly. She nods feverishly on my shoulder.

“She says, ‘yes,’” I tell him, doing everything I can not to fall apart myself. He nods and walks back to the prosecutor’s table. Jason comes back into the courtroom with two large bottles of water.

“Baby?” I say to my weeping wife. “We gotta pull it together now, okay?” I say. She nods, still sobbing. I pull her back from my shoulder and give her the water. She looks like hell. Her eyes are all puffy; her face looks like it’s going to explode.

Marilyn and Mandy return to the courtroom clinging to each other with Ray right behind them. They look like they’ve been through the wringer, too. I didn’t even know they had left. Ray was just standing next to me a minute ago… wasn’t he? Al looks like he may have shed a few tears himself, but James is clinging tightly to his hand. None of them have seen this video that I know of, and today, they got to see it on a wide screen.

“Ana?” Jason says softly, handing her the salt shaker. She shakes some in her palm and licks it out, letting it sit on her tongue for a while. Her crying has become sniffles, and I hand her my handkerchief to wipe her face. She dries the tears and her face is very red and swollen. Her eyes are so bloodshot that the whites don’t look like they’re there anymore. Jason removes his handkerchief from his pocket and douses it in water, some of it spilling onto the floor, and hands it to Butterfly. She covers her face in the cold, wet cloth and takes several deep breaths to compose herself.

The bailiffs come through with a garbage can and remove all the barf bags, including my wife’s, while she slowly and shakily pulls herself together. When she removes the handkerchief, some of her color has returned, but her eyes are still red, and she still looks like a train wreck.

“Do you want your purse?” I ask. “Your lip gloss?”

“I don’t care how I look,” she says, tying her long hair in a single knot behind her back, the shorter part falling over her shoulders. I stay at the stand with her while people begin to file back into the courtroom.

“Remember, if you feel like you can’t do this…”

“I can do it,” she interrupts me and clears her throat. “I can do it.” I nod and kiss her hand firmly.

“I love you,” I say, cupping her cheek. She swallows.

“I love you, too,” she replies, looking at me with bloodshot eyes. I wet the handkerchief again and wring it dry before giving it back to her with a fresh, dry one from my other pocket. I’m all out of handkerchiefs now. That’s a first.

I stay with her at the stand until the last possible minute when the bailiff tells me that I need to take a seat. I tear myself away from my wife and take my seat behind the prosecution. The same bailiff walks over to my wife and says something. She nods, and the bailiff walks to the door of the judge’s quarters. A few moments later…

“All rise…”

… And court is back in session.

“Mr. Larson, would you like to continue with this witness?” The judge says.

“Yes, your honor,” he says, and he walks over to Butterfly.

“The video says it all,” he says, with sympathy. She nods.

“That it does,” she replies.

“Can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says. “With all due respect, the witness has no way of knowing which assailant is Vincent Sullivan if she’s face down on the ground.”

“If it please the court, your honor, I’m getting to how she can tell us which assailant is Vincent Sullivan,” Larson protests.

“I’ll allow it for now. Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods.

“Dr. Grey, did you know Vincent Sullivan?” Larson asks.

“I knew of him,” she says.

“How?”

“He was in my biology class. I saw him every day. He didn’t stand out or anything, but I saw him, so I knew who he was. He’s also right next to me in the yearbook. I’m Steele; he’s Sullivan.”

“The defense is right,” he says. “You were face down. How do you know who the people were who are behind you?”

“I watched that video more times than I would like, mostly because even though it happened to me, I still can’t believe it’s real. I still can’t believe that a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to purchase cigarettes are capable of doing something this cruel.  Unless someone has given us another video of this event, I’ve watched that boy abuse me more times than I care to discuss.”

“So, once again, I ask you, can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Vincent Sullivan is the guy that branded me the first two times,” she says clearly. “He’s the one that backed away when he heard that I might be dead.”

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibits 2 – 54.” Larson retrieves a folder and reveals several pictures of Vincent Sullivan on the night of the attack—stills pulled from the video along with his yearbook picture from 2001 and his current mugshots. Like Butterfly, the images haven’t changed much.

Larson also introduces pictures of a broken and battered Butterfly along with pictures of her grotesquely and freshly burned back, accompanied by pictures of the current scarring incorporated into the garden tattoo.

“Dr. Grey, I have to ask. These are some pretty graphic pictures. I can’t even see how someone could survive something like this and yet, you’ve indicated to me that you haven’t had any work done. I think we’d all like to know just to be able to effectively link you to this incident, how can this person that we see so brutally beaten turn out to be this person that we see today?” She sighs heavily, looks down, then raises her gaze back to Larson.

“I’m carrying permanent scars on my back, in my mind, and on my heart. I guess God saw fit not to have me wear them on my face, too.”


A/N: Criminal cases in Clark County normally initiate in the Las Vegas Justice Center and then move to the District Court. For aesthetic and creative reasons, I mention the District Court, but the descriptions of the courthouse and courtroom are the LVJC.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued, Season 5, Episode 7

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

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

Season 5 Episode 7

ANASTASIA

I can’t and won’t force Mare to go to the doctor as a requirement of going on the Las Vegas trip, especially since I fucking need her there, but I have a better way to convince her to see the doctor.

We’re sitting in my sparsely furnished GEH office down the hall from Christian’s when I decide to broach the subject with her.

“I don’t mean to make someone else’s phobias your responsibility, but I’m going to share something with you that normally, I wouldn’t, but under the circumstances, I don’t think he would mind.

“It’s public knowledge that Christian is adopted. We’ve both seen what kind of life he had with Grace and Carrick. What the public doesn’t know is what his life was like before he was adopted. Without betraying too much confidence, I can tell you that the first four years of Christian’s life were terrible. He lived in poverty and squalor, and he was often very, very hungry. From the way that he lived, I often wondered how he didn’t die of starvation.”

“Oh, my God,” Marilyn replies, covering her mouth. “I had a vague inclination… hints every now and then that his life wasn’t… ideal before he was adopted, but I had no idea.” I nod solemnly.

“We all know that he can be a bit bossy, but when he pesters you about eating, it’s more out of concern. He intimately knows the feeling of extreme hunger, and he has severe issues with wasted food and people not eating because he knows there are people out there who don’t have food. I would venture to say that my husband would feed the world’s hungry if he could. Most of our leftover food—and anything that’s about to expire when we restock the pantry—goes to food banks.

“Jesus,” she says, shaking her head. “That explains a lot.”

“You should’ve seen Mia’s reception,” I say. “As big as the Grammy’s and four or five choice gourmet meals for every person in attendance. She had a cake that, I think, was two and a half times her height, and she and Ethan cut it with a sword.”

“Oh, dear God. There’s no way you guys ate all that food. Christian must’ve had a cow.”

“Almost,” I say. “Mia had already arranged for all of the leftover food to go to homeless shelters, but my husband certainly had a huge problem before he discovered that.” Marilyn sighs heavily and deflates a bit.

“I just don’t want you to think that we’re treating you like a child,” I say. “You don’t look well at all, and if I’m concerned, I know that Christian is climbing the walls. Seeing you not eating or barely eating when you do isn’t helping.”

“Ana, I’m not doing it on purpose,” she excuses softly. “I actually miss eating some of my favorite foods, but my stomach just won’t let anything stay down.”

“Then, we need to start with a visit to your doctor and then to a nutritionist to see if we can work you into eating something more. Whatever is causing you not to be able to eat is going to have to stop, or you’re going to cause yourself some serious physical harm… and my husband is going to have a stroke trying to feed you.” She laughs somberly.

“Well, we don’t want that, but I’ve been to the doctor. She says there’s nothing wrong with me,” she says.

“Well, we’re going again,” I say, “and we’ll let her know what we think about the nutritionist, then we’ll go from there.”

Marilyn agrees, and I can tell that it’s reluctantly, but she has to know that things are only going to get worse before they get better if she doesn’t start eating soon.

Since the trip is next week, Marilyn manages to secure an appointment to go in to see the doctor on Wednesday. I ask if she minds if I go, too, and she allows me to go with her. I sit in the lobby while she’s being examined, but we both go into the office to talk to her doctor once the exam is complete.

“Well, Marilyn, there still aren’t any complications from the termination, but I can see why your family and friends are concerned. You’ve lost about twenty pounds since the procedure.” I turn a surprised gaze at Marilyn. Twenty pounds is a lot when you’re something like three percent body fat if that.

“I was thinking that we could get her in to see a nutritionist to help her to eat the right foods to put the weight back on,” I suggest desperately.

“In theory, that’s a good idea, but a nutritionist isn’t going to be much help if she doesn’t eat,” the doctor says. “I’m prescribing Pedialyte and Ensure just so that you can start getting some nutrients into your body…”

“Pedialyte?” Marilyn gasps. “Isn’t that for babies?”

“You’re not eating,” the doctor retorts. “You’ve got to get something into your body, no excuses. And Marilyn, this is prescribed, that means that you have to do it.” The doctor looks over at me and I nod.

“You can also do protein-rich smoothies, then work your way into lighter foods to get your stomach accustomed back to digesting more. You’re currently at risk of developing refeeding syndrome if you haven’t already since your body has been severely malnourished for the last few weeks. That could affect all of your major organs and, if not treated properly, it could even be fatal.”

That gets her attention.

“I can’t force my body to hold food down, Doc,” she complains. “What am I supposed to do?”

“It’s going to be trial and error,” the doctor tells her. “You’ll do the meal replacements that I suggested, and then you start introducing lighter foods into your diet to see what you can tolerate. Your only other option is to be hospitalized and put on a feeding tube.” Marilyn rolls her eyes.

“Okay,” she says with a heavy sigh. “I’ll do my best.”

“Nobody’s telling you to eat a five-course meal,” the doctor advises. “That could actually do more harm than good right now. Do the meal replacements—try others if you like, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, even the protein bars are good. Introduce food slowly, but introduce food, Marilyn. That’s probably why you can’t keep anything down—you’re trying to move too fast. And yes, you still have a nervous stomach brought on by stress. I know it’s easier said than done to remove stressful situations from your life, but you need to get started on it. Do some yoga or meditation. Seek out therapy or religious guidance…” Oh, fuck, wrong word.

“Okay, thank you, doctor,” I say, standing to my feet immediately to rescue Marilyn from having to hear about religious guidance. “Just for my own knowledge, she’s safe to travel, isn’t she?” Marilyn and the doctor both look at me.

“Did you have any reason to think that she wasn’t?” the doctor asks. Uh-oh, time to play dumb.

“Hey,” I say with a shrug, “I’m an M.D., too, and you just threw a term at me that I’ve never heard. I know that malnutrition and starvation can be very detrimental, but I’ve never heard of that refeeding thingy situation you were just talking about. You see that my solution was to take her to a nutritionist.”

“Oh, that,” the doctor says. “She should be fine. I can’t say what flying will do to her stomach in terms of motion sickness, but traveling won’t hurt her any. Just make sure that she gets her meal replacements—and at least a light soup of some kind—when she gets to where she’s going.” I nod.

“Is there anything that I—or we—should know about that refeeding thing? What to do or not to do?” I ask.

“Besides keeping an eye on her, I would say no. Honestly, the very best thing for her would be to take it easy—rest and try to recuperate from whatever has her in this state.” Yeah, tried that, didn’t work.

“Would some type of vitamin supplement help right now?” I press. The doctor ponders the thought.

“A women’s multivitamin would help,” she says. “Maybe even a prenatal vitamin. You want to look for something with magnesium, calcium, potassium… I also recommend sports drinks with high electrolytes, like Gatorade. If you find yourself weak, fatigued, light-headed, having trouble breathing or swallowing, you need to get to the hospital immediately.” Marilyn nods and stands to her feet.

“Thank you, doctor,” she says. “I’ll do everything you said.” The doctor nods and we leave the office.

“No knowledge of refeeding syndrome,” Marilyn says when we get back to the car. I frown.

“What?” I ask.

“You said that you had no knowledge of refeeding syndrome,” she says. “You’re a doctor, and if I remember correctly, your boyfriend-now-husband starved himself for five days when you two were fighting. You starved yourself for four when you were kidnapped. How is it that you have no knowledge of refeeding syndrome?” That’s an easy answer.

“I don’t remember a lot of the details, Mare, but I do remember that both times that we were rehydrated and refed, we were in the hospital. We were both on IV’s for at least 24 hours, and we both had soup as our first meal the moment the doctor said that it was okay to eat. Neither of us were on voluntary or involuntary starvation for two months, and as soon as the following day, we were both eating solid food with no problem keeping it down. There was no need for anyone to explain refeeding syndrome to us because we were directly under a doctor’s care, and no—I’m not familiar with every disease and syndrome there is out there. I’ve never heard of refeeding syndrome, but it does explain why you can’t keep all of your food down.” I can still tell that she’s looking at me skeptically.

“None of this had anything to do with being concerned if I could go to Vegas or not.” It’s a statement, not a question, and I’m not prone to lying.

“Truthfully, yes,” I reply without taking my eyes from the road. “It’s no secret that I’m concerned about your health, so you shouldn’t be surprised. And I already told you about Christian’s food issues and your visible loss of weight—20 pounds, Marilyn? For Christ’s sake! I know from my own weight that you’re not much over 100 to begin with and you lost 20 pounds! Jesus! The last thing any of us needs is for you to be stuck in one of the oh-so-loving facilities in fabulous Las Vegas! I don’t know if they’ve improved at all, but they were pretty shitty when I was in residence, and I was in a suburban hospital. Had she said anything different, I would have quickly put the kibosh on your trip to Vegas, which would have pissed both of us off, so hate me later.”

I’m suddenly lost in thought about why we’re going to Las Vegas and my horrible experience at the hospital—wanting to die and wondering why my mother didn’t want me, why any of this had to happen to me.

“Bosslady?”

I’m concentrating on the road, but I honestly don’t know how I got from point A to point B, and I forgot Mare was in the car until she just said my name. I feel the tears on my face, and I realize that I’m in no condition to drive. I don’t know if I blinked out for just a moment or for several minutes, but I immediately pull over to the side of the road and put the car in park.

“You have to drive,” I say as I release my seatbelt and leap from the driver’s seat. I can only imagine the panic going through Chuck’s and Carol’s mind as they watch us switch seats while traffic is whizzing by, but in no time flat, we’re back on the road.

“It’s not that serious, Ana,” Mare says. “Well, it is that serious for me, but I’ll be okay.” I go fishing through my glove box for napkins or tissue and find one of Christian’s handkerchiefs in there.

“I’m very fond of you, Mare, but that’s not why I’m crying,” I say, wiping my face and my nose. “I’ve done everything possible to carry on with my life without thinking about that place and now, in less than a week, I’m going back—back to the horror; back to face those awful fuckers who did this to me. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I just know that I have to.”

“And in the meantime, you’re trying to take care of me,” she says, without looking over at me.

“You’re my friend,” I say. “You need me as much as I need you. I can’t lose you now.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Bosslady,” she says.

*-*

I’m white-knuckle gripping Christian’s hand as the GEH jet lands at McCarran Airport on Sunday afternoon. This is the last place in the world that I want to be, and to make a bad matter worse, the Paparazzi is here.

“Don’t worry, Butterfly,” Christian says. “The limos are coming right to the private hanger.” I nod, but don’t reply. Sure enough, a few minutes later, limos are lined up outside of the jet.

As we descend the stairs, I can see various members of the “press” off in the distance trying to get a shot of us. It gives me the willies and I nearly run down the stairs to the nearest limousine. Christian has to struggle to keep up. These are not rented limos; they’re directly from the Waldorf Astoria. Jason will secure our cars once we’re settled at the hotel.

There are several people in our party—my dad and Mandy, Al and James, Christian and myself, Vee, Marilyn, and various members of our security staff. Josh is holding down the fort at GEH, handling any PR questions or situations that may arise, but Vee is here with us to head off the press as this is an open case and none of us can say anything to them.

We’re here. We’re actually here. After all these years, it’s finally happening. Will I be able to tell my story in front of a jury? An audience? The people who attacked me? Dear God, give me strength.

“You alright, Sunflower?” my father asks, taking my hand from across the limo. I close my eyes and nod.

“I will be, Daddy,” I say, lacking the conviction of my words.

Mandy tries her best not to look awestruck as we travel down the Strip. No matter the time of day or night, it’s always Saturday afternoon on the Strip. I didn’t come down here a whole lot when I lived here, but whenever I did for whatever reason, it was always the same. Some little odd job or something would have me taking the Deuce down Las Vegas Blvd to downtown or to Fremont St, and I would have to sit in gridlocked traffic, watching the throngs of tourists walking across the street testing the cars and pretending that their bodies are made of “some other metal than earth.”

You know the theory that if you hate something, your friends are all supposed to hate it, too? I think everyone on this trip is trying to maintain that chain of thought. “Ana hates this place and we’re here on business, so we all have to hate it, too. Boo! Hiss!”

The car is eerily silent and out of respect to my utter abhorrence of this place, my family are all looking straight ahead—neither left nor right—some of them vainly attempting to ignore the splendor that is Las Vegas. I lay my head on my husband’s shoulder and close my eyes. I don’t have the strength to be “grown up” right now.

We pull up to the Waldorf Astoria to only a bit of press. I know they’ll be more before the week is out, probably before the night is over.

“How did they know where we were staying?” I ask in dismay.

“The limos,” Christian replies. “You know the drill, baby. They would have found out anyway.” I sigh. I want to cry.

“Yes, I do,” I say before donning my Jackie O’s. Christian squeezes my hand.

“Okay, so here’s the drill,” Vee says when the limos cruise to a halt. “Waldorf has agreed to keep the press out of the hotel during our duration. With the size of our party, the caliber of our rooms, and the reason for our stay, they were only too happy to oblige. As such, the Waldorf is Switzerland. You can go wherever you want inside the hotel, but if you leave the building, you must take security with you. Each of you will have your own detail and 24-hour access to them for when you would like to go somewhere.

“We’re all here to support Ana, and we all know how she feels about this place. With her permission, I can tell you all that she’s okay with it if you all decide that you want to go sightseeing or see a show or something. Once again, I just ask that you’re sure to take security with you when you do. Not only are we all strangers in a strange land, but as Ana’s support system, we all have proverbial press targets on our backs.”

Mandy shivers a bit at the analogy.

“Al is having the same conversation with James and Marilyn in the other limo if he hasn’t already. Ray, do you have a pair of sunglasses?” Daddy shakes his head.

“The sun has never bothered my eyes,” he says. She pulls a pair of Raybans from her purse.

“You’re going to need them here,” she says. “This is desert sun, it’s a whole different breed. Not only that, but the press can smell fear and curiosity and they’ll zero right in on you. It’s easier if you just hide your eyes.” She hands the glasses to Daddy and he scoffs.

“Young lady, I’m a Marine,” he says. “Two tours in the Gulf and I’ve dealt with the press before, but I won’t be difficult. I’ll wear your glasses.” He takes the glasses from Vee and puts them on.

“Thank you, Ray,” she says kindly. “No one—no one—speaks to the press but me. They’re going to say things to push your buttons, to try to elicit a response from you. You’ve got to tune them out. This is an open case and we can’t say anything about it—nothing. So, I have prepared responses and my own security detail if I have to be a decoy.”

While Vee was briefing us, security has flanked both cars and is waiting for us to exit. On Vee’s signal, they open the doors and create a wall between us and the press. The cameras are flashing and they’re all clamoring, so I can’t hear what anybody is saying, which is a blessing to me. Without looking left or right, and in the protective grasp of my husband, I walk into the hotel.

I breathe a sigh of relief once we’re inside, happy that I’m safe behind these doors from the prying questions of the press. Apparently, I deflate a little more than I intended because Christian catches me around the waist and quickly leads me to a seat.

“Annie?” I hear my dad’s concerned voice.

“I’ll get some water,” Mare says from off to my right. Jesus, am I going to be able to do this?

“Grey, party of 16,” I hear Jason say at the counter.

“Baby? Are you okay?” Christian’s voice now floats through the voices and I raise my head to gaze at him through my sunglasses.

“I’m fine,” I say, rubbing my forehead. “I just got a little light-headed for a minute, that’s all.”

“Give her some air,” Vee says, and my family all part like the Red Sea. “Jason is collecting keys. Why don’t you all go over there and see which rooms are yours? Christian?”

Christian looks up at her like she has two heads. I touch his hand and he looks back down at me.

“I’m fine,” I tell him. “I just need to catch my breath. Get everybody situated. The sooner, the better.”

He looks at me uncertain and nods. Then he throws a glare back at Vee.

“Go,” she says, shooing him off. “If she swoons again, do you want her to be sitting here in the chair? Get things going!”

Reluctantly, he and my father walk towards the counter.

“I’ll go see what’s keeping Marilyn and that water. You’re okay?” Vee says.

“I’m fine. I’ll just stay here…” I look at all the security standing around me, “… with Agents K, C, B, and R.” I drop my head in my hand again in an attempt to stop the spinning. I’ve got to get a grip on this. I can’t be swooning and girly in court. I want to get these fuckers.

“Excuse me, aren’t you…”

I’m lifting my head to see who dares invade my space, but before I even make eye-contact, one of the security detail steps in front of me.

“Move on, please, ma’am,” he says in a completely official capacity. I hear the woman scoff, but I just put my head back down.

“I was just going to say ‘hello,’” she says affronted. I don’t have the strength to raise my head to greet her.

“Please, ma’am,” security says again, “move on.” He’s being as polite as he can be, telling her to move along and leave me be.

“Well!” she says, and finally moves on. A few moments later, Marilyn comes back with a bottle of water. I drink it down even though it doesn’t do much.

“What do you need, Bosslady?” she asks.

“I need to lie down,” I say, my voice low.

“Coming right up,” Christian says. “I’ve got our key.” He holds his hand out to me and I rise from my seat. I blindly follow him to the elevators, and I assume everyone else is getting their keys as well. Chuck rides with us all the way up to one of the upper floors—I don’t see which—and Christian leads me out of the elevator. Soon, Chuck is opening the door to the room and Christian leads me in.

Beautiful, as usual. I wouldn’t expect less.

The lobby was an elegant statement in marble, various textiles, and abstract decorations. Even in my compromised condition, I could appreciate the splendor.

Our suite is huge, decorated in black and white like a fancy condo, with sleek lines, luxurious textures, and geometric accents, complete with a baby grand piano. It has a large living room area, a large dining area, a huge bathroom with a sunken and jetted tub, hanging lamps, full open kitchen, a wet bar, a fitness room, and an enviable view of the strip. Home away from home, I guess. Right now, I’m only interested in that king-sized bed…

*-*

Christian wakes me in time to meet the family for dinner. I could do without it right now, but we need to go over the game plan, and I need to see Marilyn and make sure that she has gotten her Pedialyte, Ensure, soup, and Gatorade.

I lay in the bed, trying to find the strength to rise and face my family. I have no freaking idea how I’m possibly going to get through this. I was all gung-ho to nail these bastards to the wall, and now, knowing what’s ahead of me and with it being so close, I just want to run. I just want to go back home.

“God…” My voice is so squeaky that I barely recognize it. “I know that we haven’t had any intimate conversations lately, and I’m sorry about that. I know that when things go well, we often forget to pray. I think that should be the time that we pray the most because hell isn’t falling into our laps and we should be thanking You for peace. So… thank You for peace. Thank You for a wonderful life, and beautiful children, and a supportive family, and for having everything that I need. Thank You for all of my blessings and forgive me for not being more thankful more often.”

This is starting to sound like a speech.

“I’m having some trouble, God,” I continue. “I need Your help. I know in Your omnipotent wisdom that you will allow things to proceed as You see fit, but God, I need strength. I’m falling apart. I don’t know if I can do this.”

I begin to weep.

“All this time, this has been something in the future… something that I’ve been looking for and waiting for, and now it’s here. A few hours away, it’s in my face. I can’t chicken out now, but I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I need Your help. Please, I can’t do this without You. Give me strength to face these monsters and not cower in front of them. Please, don’t let me digress into this attack so far that I can’t function. Please, God, give me strength to say the right things and do the right things so that these bastards get what’s coming to them…”

Did I just say bastards while praying?

“Just… don’t let me fall apart, please? I appreciate it. Amen.”

I wipe the tears from my eyes and sit up on the edge of the bed. I see that my phone is blinking with a notification from Facebook Messenger. It has to be Laura since I don’t have any other friends on Facebook yet. I open my messenger.

I didn’t know you were already in Vegas. I hope everything goes well. Keep me posted as much as you’re able.

You’re in the tweets, by the way—some good, some bad as you would expect, but I thought you might want to see this one about a certain lady who approached you this afternoon.

Oh, shit. I haven’t even been here for three hours yet and somebody’s already tweeting about me. Not totally sure if I should, I click the link to see the bad news.

There’s a picture of me looking like someone just shot my dog. It’s a profile and my head is down. I’m wearing my Jackie O’s and seriously, my face says that I’m just ready to climb under a rock and die. The caption, however, from sassyvelmalou is very insensitive.

Here sits Queen Anastasia Grey. She’s staying at the Waldorf in Vegas. She’s a snotty elitist who thinks she’s too good for the rest of us. I was only trying to speak and her security pushed me away like I was a panhandler begging for a dollar.

Now, I don’t know about Twitter at all or how to comment or follow comments or anything else, but this does nothing for that whole falling apart thing I was just praying about, until I see that Laura has linked some responses:

@sassyvelmalou Look at her, you insensitive twit. Don’t you know why she’s here? She’s here about that assault case when she was a kid. She probably wants to be anywhere else in the world and here you come acting like she’s here for your entertainment. Some people, I swear!

And another:

@sassyvelmalou She looks like somebody died. Leave her alone, for fuck’s sake!

And a third:

@sassyvelmalou Have you been living under a rock? Haven’t you been watching the news at all? Would you feel like sitting and chit-chatting with a stranger if you had to come to town rehash a to brutal and vicious beating? Go out and buy a clue, you idiot!

I must admit, I didn’t expect anyone in Vegas or the surrounding areas to be sympathetic to me. It’s refreshing to see, even though I know that there are just as many—if not more—who feel the same way as the invasive bitch who wrote the first tweet.

I’ve got enough on my plate to contend with to have to deal with some hateful bitch who’s angry that I didn’t take time out of my misery to say, “Hi!” You want to see a snotty elitist, bitch, you’re about to see one.

I screen shot the picture of me along with her Twitter handle. I click on her handle to see if she has a profile picture. Oh, goody! Her handle doesn’t only have a picture, but it also has a name. I didn’t get a chance to look at the woman, so I don’t know if this is really her, but we’ll find out soon enough.

I forward all the information to Christian with specific instructions. Then, I stand and find something comfortable to change into for dinner. By the time I come from the en suite from washing my face…

“What the fuck is this?” he says as he walks into the room with his phone in his hand. I begin to get undressed.

“That’s a picture of me in the lobby downstairs,” I say as I remove my travel clothes. “A woman was trying to speak to me while I was having that episode and security politely asked her to move on—emphasis on the politely. I lay down, I take a nap, I wake up, and Laura sends me this.” His expression hardens.

Laura saw this?” he asks, appalled. “Australia Laura?”

“It’s on Twitter, Christian,” I say. He shakes his head.

“I don’t know anything about social media,” he says.

“That’s okay. You don’t need to. I’m not on Twitter and I saw it.” I remove my pantyhose and put on a red sarong skirt.

“I want you to find out her real name and if she’s staying in the hotel, have her kicked out. I don’t want to run into her again.”

Of course, Christian put his Amex Black on file. We’ve booked two penthouse suites with one bedroom, four Presidential suites with two bedrooms and three beds, and one Presidential suite with one bedroom—and we’re booked indefinitely. These people are at our fucking beck and call.

“Really?” he says. He almost sounds excited.

“Really,” I say once I tie my sarong and pull on a black crop top that crisscrosses at the abdomen with extra-long sleeves. “If it’s a problem, and only if it’s a problem, offer to pay for her room, but she has to go tonight. I’m not spending one evening in a hotel with that woman! She took a picture of me while I was trying to compose myself. Look at me! I look like hell—there’s clearly something wrong with me. Then, she posted it on Twitter with a derogatory caption!”

I begin to brush the sleep kinks out of my hair.

“Isn’t this exactly why we paid extra not to have the press in here? This is worse! This is personal! She called me an elitist because I felt like shit and my security told her to leave me alone. They don’t owe her an explanation. I don’t even know her.”

I retrieve my tinted moisturizer.

“If she doesn’t go, we go—us and all eight of our high-priced rooms, and you can make that clear. The Aria is right behind us. I’m sure they’ll be glad to take our money.” He’s fucking giddy.

“Your wish is my command, Your Highness!” he says, and he’s tapping into his phone as he’s leaving the room. For some reason, I don’t so much mind when he calls me that.

I cover my face with my moisturizer before I retrieve my lip gloss from the dresser and coat my lips. I slide into a comfy pair of black Jimmy Choo wedges and spritz on some perfume before I go into the living room.

“Perfect,” he says into the phone. “Take Jason with you, Mac. Meet us at Twist when it’s all done.” He ends the call.

“That was Vee?” I ask.

“She saw the tweet before you did,” he says. “She was trying to do damage control. As it turns out, the fact that we paid extra to assure that we wouldn’t be bothered by the press is a perfect reason to have her thrown out, not to mention the threat of losing eight premium rooms for an indefinite period of time. She did warn me, however, that this does in fact make us look elitists and that we may find that we are untouchable in some establishments.”

“Right now, Christian, that’s fine with me,” I retort. “I’m just trying to get through this damn trip. If I was here on vacation, traipsing happily through Sin City, I could understand her thinking I was elitist in having my security tell her to leave me alone. I’m here to testify in a case that involves a crime where I almost died, and an unborn child was killed. It’s not my fault that people are out of touch and she should have done some research before she tweeted that shit. If people are going to deem us untouchable because I don’t want to be bothered because I feel like I’m in hell, so be it. For every one establishment that won’t touch us, ten more will take our very green money and you know that I’m right.”

I march around him and head to the door, and he mocks an angry cat meow behind me.

Jason and Vee join us shortly after we’re seated at Twist, and Christian informs us that we’ll probably be having nearly everything on the menu. Twist is a themed restaurant built around the chef. So, that means really small servings that are meant to be tasted by everyone. Hence, there’s going to be a lot of food at the table tonight.

Marilyn barely picks at some of the food, taking very small tastes to appear to be eating. I know better, but I also know why.

“She’s still not eating,” Christian whispers.

“We talked about this, Christian,” I remind him. “She’s doing the best she can.”

He looks at me, then down at the food and continues to eat.

Small talk goes around the table through dinner and desert—and Marilyn’s nibbling—and once coffee is served, Christian takes the floor… or the table, so to speak.

“First, Butterfly and I would like to thank each of you for making this trip. I know that it means so much to her for you all to be here, and that means that it means a lot to me, too.

“Some of you haven’t experienced the kind of publicity and scrutiny that Butterfly and I have. You’ve seen it, but you haven’t experienced it. To that end, we definitely have a game plan for our stay here.

“Please, keep your room keys with you at all times. They’re not only your identification, but they’re also your keys to any services in the hotel—any services, and for what I’m paying these people to maintain our comfort and privacy, trust me—they’re like gold. If you lose a key or misplace it, let Jason know immediately. Also, if you have any excursions or shows that you want to see while you’re here, let Jason know. He’ll get it set up for you. Each of the rooms has a tranquility day pass, so ladies—and gentlemen, if you wish—the spa is at your disposal.

“We’re all here to support Butterfly. She needs each of you here in one way or another. So, please, don’t nitpick about the price of anything. Whatever you want to do, whatever show you want to see, wherever you want to go, please let Jason know. When we’re not tied up in that horrible trial, Vegas is your playground. My only request is that you don’t go out and get stone-cold pickled drunk and not be able to be in court in the morning. That is, ultimately, why we’re all here. We have to be in court by 9:00am every morning. The cars will be ready to leave at 8:00am each morning because we have to contend with the traffic on the Strip and the rush hour traffic on the I-15. Please govern yourself accordingly.

“Butterfly and I plan to be here indefinitely—from trial to sentencing. It’s our understanding that once the verdict is handed down, the sentencing will be very shortly thereafter. As we don’t have a timeframe for this, if anyone needs to get back to Seattle on short notice, let me know. If you give me at least 24-hours-notice, I can get the jet out here. If not, we can get you the soonest commercial flight. Depending on the length of our trip, Butterfly and I will be flying back some weekends to see our children. Anyone is welcome to fly back with us.”

By our children, I’m certain that he means Minnie and Mikey… and GEH.

“You already know not to speak to the press. Mac, how did that situation go?”

“As planned,” she says. “It will be executed upon her return to the hotel.” Al looks at me, then at Christian.

“What happened?” he asks succinctly.

“Someone took a picture of Butterfly in the lobby earlier and Twittered that she’s a snobby elitist because she wouldn’t talk to them while she was indisposed,” Christian replies.

Tweeted, Christian, tweeted,” Vee says. “I can’t believe you’re this ignorant to social media.”

“I have no use for it,” he excuses. “I have you.” She just rolls her eyes.

“Each of you have a security detail for when you decide to go off on your own. Even if you go to the bathroom in the courthouse, someone’s going to follow you to the door. If you’re approached by the press or anyone else, please do not engage. I can guarantee you that they’re all looking for information, especially when they discover that you’re with us. They can be vicious, and they will try to egg you on.

“To give you an example, I saw a clip a long time ago where Rebecca Romijn Stamos was leaving the airport. The paparazzi was trying to get her attention, and when she didn’t respond, one of the reporters yelled out that it was no wonder John Stamos divorced her. I only remember that because I thought it was pretty shitty, and I use it to remind myself that reporters—and anyone trying to get a story—can be real fucking assholes.”

Jesus, that was cold.

“So, if someone gets too pushy or aggressive, lean to your security. That’s what they’re there for,” Christian adds.

“Good grief. This is going to be an adventure,” Mandy says. Ray takes her hand protectively.

“Are there any questions?” he asks. No one speaks up. I think they’re all a little shell-shocked. This isn’t Marilyn’s first time at the dance, but I don’t think Al has had this much exposure and I’m sure that Mandy and James haven’t. Daddy’s had a taste, but probably only as much as Al.

“I have a question. If I may ask, I’m just curious… how many different names does she have?” Vee asks, pointing to me. Everyone looks at each other.

“Butterfly… or Anastasia,” Christian says. He better not mention Pussycat!

“Annie or Sunflower,” Daddy says.

“Jewel,” Al chimes in.

“Ana,” James says, with a shrug. “Sorry, not very original.”

“Bosslady,” Mare says, and everybody looks at her. “It was my choice I like it!” she says all in one breath. “I heard this girl call her boss Bosslady on a sitcom once and it just stuck.”

“No need to explain it, Mare,” Al says.

“I like it, too,” I chime in quietly.

“Her Highness,” Jason says, and I groan. “You started it.” I roll my eyes at him.

“I don’t call her Her Highness,” Chuck clarifies. “I only do it when they make me.”

“That’s a lot of names,” Vee says.

“Val calls me Steele; Mia calls me Anakins; Elliot calls me Montana… That’s all I can think of right now.”

“That’s enough!” Vee says. “I only have Vee and Mac. I feel deprived.”

The table breaks into some much-needed laughter.

“Well, campers, tomorrow is day one. We set the stage for how the week is going to go. I’m going to take my girl back to the suite to unwind and get some rest. I have wake-up calls set for everyone at six. If you need a different time, call down to the front desk and change it. Just be mindful of the 8:00 meeting time. We’ll see you all in the morning.”


CHRISTIAN

As we’re passing the front desk on our way to the elevator, we hear a bit of a commotion.

“What do you mean I can’t stay here tonight? I have a convention to attend in the morning! I can’t find anywhere to stay on such short notice!”

It’s Velma. She has just been informed that she won’t be welcome at the Waldorf Astoria, and she’s kicking up some dust! She’s being told that she violated the privacy of one of the guests and that’s against the policy of the hotel. My wife suddenly detours from the elevator, to my surprise, and goes over to the seat where she was sitting earlier, and she now has a bird’s eye view of the front desk and can hear the entire conversation.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she nearly screeches. “So, her money says that she can stay, but I can’t?”

“No, ma’am,” the night manager says. “Your money is as green as hers and I resent the implication. Your behavior says that you can’t stay here and making a scene isn’t going to change that.”

“I’m calling the corporate offices! This is ridiculous! You can’t just throw me out! Where will I find another room this late?” She’s on the verge of having a conniption. Butterfly crosses her legs, leans her chin on her hand, and turns purposefully towards the front desk to watch the show. I perch on the arm of her chair and Chuck stands protectively behind us.

“Feel free to call the corporate offices, ma’am. They’re closed right now, so you’ll have to call them in the morning. In the meantime, hotel security will accompany you to your room to collect your things.”

“I have nowhere to go!” she says, bursting into tears. I almost want to tell the manager to let her stay the night… almost.

“Las Vegas Blvd is full of hotels, ma’am. I’m certain that you’ll be able to find somewhere else to stay,” the manager contends.

“I’m not leaving!” she says, folding her arms. “You can’t just put me out like this!”

“That’s your choice, ma’am, but if you refuse to leave, I’ll be forced to call the authorities.” I can see her face pale from here.

“You would have me thrown in jail?” she asks, appalled.

“I don’t know what the authorities would do, ma’am, but I would be forced to call them to have you removed,” he says calmly.

“Get your boss on the phone right now! My company spends just as much money at this hotel as she does, and I’ll make sure that you’ll lose all of their business!” she threatens.

“And who is your company?” the manager asks unfazed.

“Bolding Industries,” she announces proudly. I scoff involuntarily. Butterfly looks at me.

“One of yours?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No, but I have a bit of influence with them. She’s giving me so much more information than I could have found on Twitter.” I fold my arms.

“Well, ma’am, we would hate to lose Bolding’s business, but nonetheless, you have to leave.” He turns to hotel security. “Please escort Ms. Hearns to collect her things.” Velma folds her arms again. The night manager is done talking and picks up the phone.

“Yes, this is Stannis Barley at the Waldorf Astoria on Las Vegas Blvd. I have a guest here who has been ejected and she refuses to leave… Yes, sir, in front of the Aria… She’s making a terrible scene and I’ve asked her several times to leave…”

Velma huffs and heads to the elevator with hotel security close behind her. She doesn’t look left or right as she walks to the bank of cars and never sees me and my wife sitting in the main lobby. When she boards the elevator, I walk over to the night manager, who’s still talking to the police.

“Please come,” he says. “She’s uncooperative and I don’t expect her to leave without incident… thank you.” He ends the call and turns to me. “I apologize for that, sir. How can I help you?” I pull out my business card and slide it to him.

“I doubt that you’ll have any problems with Bolding Industries, but if you do, please call my office.” He looks at the card.

“Oh!” he says. “You’re Mr. Grey?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you for taking care of that. My wife was devastated to see that ridiculous post.”

“No problem, Mr. Grey. The police are on their way and Ms. Hearns will definitely be escorted off the premises. I don’t know who you called, but this order came straight from corporate. So, if she calls them like she said she would, she’s going to be disappointed.”

Mac is getting a raise.

“Thank you, Mr. Barley. You have a good night.”

Butterfly is in a good mood when we board the elevator, but her mood plummets the moment we get to the suite. The reason for our visit must have hit her again like a wrecking ball.

She walks to the bedroom like she’s going to the gallows. I enter behind her as she has started undressing.

“Do you need to talk?” I ask. “It’s been one hell of a day.” She shakes her head.

“No,” she says, and it sounds like she’s about to say something else, but she doesn’t. She’s lost, and I can tell. I hate when she’s like this and I can’t do anything to help her.

Except…

I watch as she strips down to her underwear and removes her bra. When she’s standing there in nothing but her panties, I stand behind her and put my arms around her. I kiss her neck and gently cup her breasts. She smells divine, and I can tell that she’s still very tense. I take her hand and lead her to the bed. She dutifully lies on her back looking up at me. I bend down and kiss her gently on the lips before looking into her eyes.

“This is for you… not for me,” I say softly. Her brow furrows a bit and she looks at me questioning. I kiss her again and move to her neck, then the valley of her chest. I unbutton my shirt and move to her breast, suckling the nipple gently. A very small amount of milk seeps from her nipple and turns me on. She hasn’t been producing as much milk since she stopped breastfeeding a week ago, and I must admit that I’m going to miss it, but I won’t aggravate it since she has agreed to stop.

I remove my shirt as I move to the other nipple and remind myself that this is not for me. This is for her, to help her relax.

I move down her body to her taut belly and trace the lines of her abs, amazed that she’s still so fit after giving birth to twins. I toe out of my shoes as I run my tongue above the elastic line of her panties. She gasps as her stomach quivers slightly, and I move further down and settle between her legs. I delight in the feel of the skin of her thighs on my biceps taking what joy I can from this skin-to-skin contact.

I place my nose directly over her core and sniff deeply through her panties. Dear God, I don’t know how I’m going to do this without wanting her. I’ll take care of her, then go rub one out in the shower when I’m done.

I lick the surface of her pretty little nylon panties and she nearly erupts. Oh, yeah, she’s wound really tight. If I’m not careful, she’s going to blow in 30 seconds.

“Relax, baby,” I coach. “I’ve got you.”

Her body is still quivering, and her chest is heaving slightly. I lick her pussy through her panties again… and again. She mewls as I lick her and I’m trying to prepare her for when I lick her raw, but I see that nothing’s going to prepare her for it, so… why wait?

I lift the crotch of her panties from her core and press my thumb through the seam. The threads give way easily and I rip the seam up to the top of her pussy, effectively creating crotchless panties and exposing her entire delicious cunt. I pull the sides of the panties open and her clit pops out anxiously, plump and wet and ready for action.

I run the stiff tip of my tongue from the bottom of her inner lips, up and over her clit. She yelps, so I do it again… and again. I can see her grabbing the pillow over her head as I torment her, taking a break for about a second between each lick so that she doesn’t rise too fast.

“Christian… yes…” she breathes, and although I adore the taste of her, I’m so happy that she’s finally loosening up. I lick a few more times before I change my rhythm. Still using the stiff tip of my tongue, I flicker over the same area—inner lips to clit. She begins to rise higher, of course, now squirming underneath me and moaning deeply in pleasure, calling to God every few flicks. It sounds a bit strange to me as I heard her praying earlier, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s thinking of the same “God” as she calls out in pleasure that she does when she calls out in prayer.

Focus, Grey. I know you’re trying not to come while you’re salivating on this hot, delicious pussy, but this train of thought is ridiculous. Back to the pussy…

She’s settling into the rhythm of the flicker. It’s time to change again before she comes too soon. I move from a flicker to a circular motion over the same area, this time inside the inner lips and around to just underneath her clit and back. The flicker gave her so much stimulation over the tip of her clit that if I circle over it, she might detonate before I’m ready. An orgasm that comes too quickly may relieve the need to come, but it does nothing for stress.

Her hands have moved down to her sides and are now clutching the duvet. Her body is convulsing a bit and she’s anxious to come. I’m anxious for you to come, baby, but not yet.

I want this to be deep and hard for her, so after a few minutes of the circular cooldown, I move back to the flicker with a combination of the bottom-to-top lick that I started with. The stiff tongue is merciless; it concentrates stimulation right where you want it instead of spreading it across the entire pussy. She’s calling out to God again as I hold that pussy open and that tender flesh effortlessly reaches out to my tongue. Her body is starting to stiffen, and her legs have just the slightest tremble. Not too much, Grey, not just yet.

I go back to the circular motion, but this time, I lick deep inside the inner lips, up, under, and over her tightening clit. I know that it’s maddening, but she still won’t come just yet. This is just enough pleasure to keep her burning. I don’t torment her for long with that move, just a minute or two before I move on to my final rhythm.

Up and down and up and down, stiff tongue over and under that clit—up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down…

“Christian! Oh, God!” she’s panting hard now, signaling me that she’s about to come. I wait and continue my rhythm… up and down and up and down and up and down…

Her legs stiffen, her mons hardens, and her clit is starting to pebble, but still not yet… up and down and up and down and up and down…

Her head drops back, her hands are gripping the duvet with a fury, and her pelvis stiffens. She’s quiet—no more calling to God. She’s preparing for the explosion. That light sheen shows up on her torso.

Now, she’s ready.

Just when I’m sure that she can’t take anymore, I clamp down on her pussy with my entire mouth, devouring her core like a starving man, my tongue still firm and manipulating her clit. Almost instantly, she grabs my hair violently and howls out her orgasm, her body bowing forward into me and her juices nearly gushing into my mouth.

It’s fantastic!

I have to hold her down and her howls become whimpering cries as her orgasm seeps out of her, and when it’s too tender for her to bear, she begs for me to stop my ministrations. I gently kiss her inner thighs, causing her to shiver and protest softly. Her hair is wild, and her chest is heaving madly as she tries to catch her breath. I remove what’s left of her panties and drop them on the floor, then I remove the rest of my clothes and drop them with her panties. I crawl into bed next to her and gather her in my arms.

“Are you cold?” I ask. “Do you want to get under the covers?”

“Make love to me, Christian,” she simpers, “please…” I pause.

“Are you sure?” I say, my brow furrowed. “I meant it when I said this was only for you.”

“Yes,” she breathes, “please…”

“You don’t have to ask me twice,” I say as I roll over on top of her. She thrusts her hands into my hair and kisses me hungrily. Shit, she’s on fire, and I’m rising very quickly. She wraps her legs around me before I even have a chance to get inside of her.

“Please… please…” she begs against my lips, and her pleas go straight to my already hard dick. I pull my hips back and she’s already wide open and so wet that my head slips right inside of her.

“Jesus!” I hiss and she gasps, pushing her hips forward onto me. Son of a bitch, she’s fucking hot.

“Ana… baby… slow down,” I warn. I have the vision of her pussy in my head and the taste of it on my tongue. She’s wrapped around me, pulling me into her and she’s gobbling my mouth like she’s trying to suck her flavor from my tongue.

“I can’t… please…  I need you…” Shit, I’m at her mercy. With the perfect angle and her pussy sopping in cum and her newly heightened arousal, I slide right into her balls deep.

“Aw, fuck, Ana,” I lament. “This is gonna be quick.”

“Please, please…” she beseeches as if she didn’t even hear me. I’m blind with pleasure. This hot, gorgeous, sexy nymph wrapped around me and riding me from beneath—I have to thrust only slightly to get full penetration because she’s pumping so hard onto me that I can feel everything, all her insides everywhere! I thrust my tongue into her mouth and lap hungrily, succumbing to the passion as I grasp her shoulders, holding her as close to me as I can. She matches my fervor as she holds handfuls of my hair, lapping my tongue just as wildly and pulling every bit of pleasure from me imaginable.

I bend my knee for leverage so that she doesn’t push me away when she pumps up onto my cock. We’re both lost in the moment, the only sound in the room is our feverish breathing. God, she’s so sexy and so beautiful and she feels so good…

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

She screams into my mouth only a few minutes after I enter her, never breaking our kiss. The tortured sound coupled with the insane clamping on my dick, our unbelievable closeness, and the fact that she’s still fucking me like a goddamn racehorse sets me off so violently that my knee buckles and I fall onto her with my full weight. This doesn’t hinder her, though. Somehow, with my entire body weight pressed onto her, she’s still fucking me, crying out her orgasm and drawing every bit of semen involuntarily out of my balls.

I dare not move my mouth until she stops. She’s stuck in one of the longest, single orgasms I’ve ever seen her have and my cock is giving it his best fight. Her pussy is clamped so tight onto me that even if I was flaccid, she could still get results. My balls are empty, though, popping and tender, and my dick sighs its own sigh of relief once my wife’s body falls limp on the bed.

Dear God!

We’re both panting and sweating, trembling and nearly crying. I didn’t intend to have sex with her. I just wanted her to come so that she could relax… but then she begged me, and dear God! I can’t even move.

How are we going to get under the covers now?


A/N: “Some other metal than earth”—Beatrice’s character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing says that she would not fall in love until God made men out of “some other metal than earth,” meaning never. She ended up falling in love with Senior Benedict, by the way.

“The Deuce” is the name of the bus that travels down the Las Vegas Strip from the south end at the Las Vegas Premier all the way downtown and back.

Yes, that incident with Rebecca Romijn Stamos really happened. I think I saw it on TMZ.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last on the menu or you can click HERE.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, or you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking HERE

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 2

I didn’t mean to trigger so many people and so many bad experiences with last week’s episode. I’m sorry. 

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

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

Season 5, Episode 2

ANASTASIA

Marilyn was truly a sight for sore eyes this morning… somewhat.

While I’m very glad to see her, I can’t get over how pale and frail she looks. She absolutely looks ill. Nobody’s saying it out loud, but it’s written all over everyone’s face as she greets them on Monday morning.

What the hell happened to Marilyn?

With her being away for so long and no one knowing why she was gone, the main whisper around the Center is that she has the big “C.” This is a perfect example of how the rumor mill gets started.

“She doesn’t have cancer, for Christ’s sake,” I scold some of the gossipy kitchen staff. “And it’s none of your business what’s happening with her unless she wants to tell you. So, stop drawing conclusions and spreading false rumors about something that you know absolutely nothing about!”

Duly chastised, the kitchen staff shut down their misguided conclusions and the rumors stopped just after lunch. At least, they stopped around me.

Marilyn quickly jumped right back into her work, exclaiming how awful my calendar and commitments looked and wondering how many of them I had missed while she was gone.

“Did you totally delete your appointments with Ace?” she asks horrified. “There’s none of them here. What’d you do, fire the guy?”

“Actually, yes,” I reply. She raises a questioning gaze to me. I sigh and remove my glasses. “He threw me out of his office during one of my sessions…”

“So, you fired him?” she asks confused.

“No, not yet,” I reply. “The next week, his wife called and cancelled my appointment, on the day of my appointment. The next week, he texted me and told me that my appointment was cancelled. After that, I skipped two weeks. I just didn’t feel like dealing with the rejection.

“The following week, we went to Australia, where I had several epiphanies and discovered after five weeks of no therapy that my therapist may not be helping me as much as I thought he was. I still journal; I still talk to people as needed; I still meditate and do my yoga; and I still have Ace on speed dial, but the weekly sessions are over. They’re not helping anymore.”

“How have you been doing since you stopped seeing him?” she asks.

“Overall, pretty good. I’ve had a few hiccups—I’d be worried if everything was peaches and cream after I fired my therapist, quite frankly, but all and all, things are okay with me. It was the right decision.” After a pause, I add, “Now, I’m going to ask the question that nobody wants to ask. Are you well?” Marilyn frowns.

“What do you mean, ‘Am I well?’” she asks.

“Physically,” I say. “Have you been to the doctor since the termination? Is something going on with your health?”

“No, I haven’t been to the doctor. It was an abortion, Ana, not open-heart surgery. There’s nothing wrong with my health. I feel fine.”

“Then why do you look like you’ve lost half your body weight?” I ask. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“You’re being dramatic,” she says. “It’s just a few pounds. I’m depressed. I have the right to be a little thinner.”

“You’re using present tense,” I say. She rolls her eyes again and meets my gaze.

“What? What do you mean?” she asks.

“You’re saying that you’re depressed, that you have the right to be thinner. I take it that means that you’re not eating.” She sighs like a petulant child and drops her gaze back to her iPad.

“And you’re still depressed, that means you’re still not eating.”

She doesn’t raise her head or acknowledge my statement.

“Look at me, Marilyn!”

The petulant child raises her eyes to me again.

“You’re dangerously thin. You’ve lost a tremendous amount of weight in a short time and the ‘C’ word is already floating around the rumor mill. My God, how could your parents watch this and not be concerned?” Her demeanor changes immediately.

“Because they were more concerned about my immortal soul than my earthly coil!” she snaps, immediately dropping her gaze back to her iPad. I sit silently watching her and waiting for her response.

“It’s just a little weight,” she says without raising her gaze. “Trust me, it’ll be back in no time.” I don’t press the issue… for now. I just get back to the work at hand.

We’ve gone over some of the things that need to be done and Marilyn is frantically working to get her calendar—I should say my calendar—and notifications back to where they should be. I’ve noticed her daydreaming more than once and this time, she’s toying with her finger nervously, rubbing the spot as if it hurts. I’m only just remembering that she used to wear a promise ring there that Gary gave her last year. As if she’s suddenly conscious that she’s worrying her finger, she stops and turns her focus back to her iPad.

“Can you ever forgive him for leaving you?” I ask.

“I already have,” she says, her voice small as she concentrates on her iPad.

“Because you still love him?” She sighs.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s ever going to change, but no. I understand how he feels. I don’t think he could ever understand how I feel… but I get it. So… yes, I’ve already forgiven him.”

“Enough to take him back if he asks?” She pauses for a long moment.

“Can we please change the subject?” she beseeches. I sigh. She needs to talk this out, to come to grips with her raging emotions, but I guess now isn’t the time.

“I’d really like to not have to work at all this weekend,” she interjects. “I need to find a place to stay.” I frown.

“I can’t stay in that apartment,” she says, hugging her iPad close to her and looking at the ground. “It’s worse than being at my parents’ house. I can’t do it. And I don’t want to be alone. I thought I could handle it, but I can’t. I was fine at the hotel. There weren’t so many memories, but now I’m back and I feel like I’m going to die.

“It’s Gary’s apartment,” she continues. “He paid the lease and I can’t stay there… for obvious reasons. I’m calling movers to come and get my things and maybe I’ll put the bulk of them in storage while I try to find somewhere permanent, but it was hell sleeping in that apartment last night… or trying to sleep in it. When I’m gone, let him know that he can move back in. I’m surprised he didn’t move in while I was at my parents’.”

“I don’t think he knew that you were gone,” I reply. The truth is that nobody has seen Gary. We know that he’s working, but he hasn’t really spoken to us since the breakup. He called me once on Christmas, but that’s it. He probably thinks I’m going to harass him about Marilyn.

“You have any idea where you’re going? Have you looked at any places yet?” I ask.

“My old apartment is obviously gone, so that’s out,” she says. “I’ll find something.”

“And in the meantime?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I can’t stay with my parents. Even if they were close enough, they drive me crazy,” she says. “They haven’t ostracized me, but they’re acting like they have to cast demons out of me because I murdered this innocent child.” Her voice cracks as she says it. “I wish I hadn’t done it,” she confesses. “I would have kept the baby had I known it would be this bad.”

You feel bad?” I ask.

“Gary’s hurt and I’ve lost him forever. My heart aches and I can’t stop it. My parents are treating me like Satan’s spawn instead of their daughter. Nothing much would have changed if I had the baby…” I frown, horrified.

“Nothing much? Are you kidding? Your entire life would have changed!” She raises her eyes to me.

“You would have let me bring the baby to work,” she points out. “And Helping Hands has a nursery…”

“I’m a billionairess with a full-time assistant, full-time nannies, and full-time staff—and I had to choose between my practice, Helping Hands, and my babies. You really think your life wouldn’t have changed?” She drops her eyes back to her iPad. “You did what you felt you needed to do for yourself. Neither decision was going to be easy, and they would both be full of regrets no matter what you chose. You’re only tormenting yourself by second-guessing your decision because you can’t go back and undo it.” She sighs.

“Yet another reason to change the subject,” she says, with the same shaky voice. “Is it okay if I have the weekend off?” I twist my lips.

“Of course, it is,” I say softly. “We usually don’t work weekends unless there’s an emergency anyway.” A few moments pass and I say, “You know I’ve got the condo. Courtney’s staying there now, but there’s plenty of room.” She shakes her head.

“Me and Court are cool and all, but not cool enough to be roomies. You pay me well, Boss Lady. I’ll find a place.” I know you will, but I don’t want you to be alone. You don’t look well and you’re scaring me!

Here comes the Owie House again.

“I have eight bedrooms—pick one,” I say. She raises her eyes to me, then realization dawns.

“Oh, I’m sure Christian would just love that,” she says sarcastically. I twist my lips.

“Are you forgetting how many bedrooms I have?” I say. “As long as you don’t come out of those rooms in any state of undress, we’ll be fine. Besides, having my personal assistant truly at my beck and call would be a dream come true—even if it is only temporary.” She smiles weakly.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better,” she says. I lean forward on my desk.

“Do you have any idea how handicapped I was without you? Any clue?” I ask. She cocks her head at me.

“If you’re calendar’s any indication, yes, I do!” she declares.

“Courtney’s wonderful. She did the best she could, but she’s not you,” I reply. “Look at all the people that live here,” I add. “Val and Elliot are here, and some days, we never even see them! You could go for days in this joint and not bump into each other… and you work here! No commute. Put your furniture in storage—you can use the storage at my condo if it’s not much, I know that’s empty. Hide away in the furthest bedroom from humanity if you choose and take some time to regroup. That way, you don’t have to stay in the apartment, you don’t have to be subjected to the cathobapticostal condemnation and casting out of demons for choosing to terminate your pregnancy, and you can take your time and find a nice place on your schedule. No pressure.” She frowns.

“Have you talked to Christian about this?” she asks. I pull out my phone and start texting.

“No,” I tell her, “but he’ll be fine with it.”

“I don’t want to make this decision until you talk to your husband,” she protests. I raise my eyes to her.

“Would you rather not stay there?” I ask. “I don’t want to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do.” She shakes her head as my phone buzzes, and I continue to text.

“It’s not that,” she says. “I’m sure I’ll have privacy. I just don’t want to impose, seriously. Right now, the easiest thing for me to be is invisible…” which is why I don’t want you to be alone.

“That’s not healthy,” I reply, “but I guess it’s somewhat expected under the circumstances.” My phone buzzes again. “And I’ve talked to my husband,” I say, showing her the texts.

Ana: I’d like for Marilyn to stay with us for a while until she finds another place.

Christian: Okay.

Ana: She’s worried about being an imposition.

Christian: Eight bedrooms?? Almost 15,000 square feet?? We’ve already got a tribe living there. What’s one more?

Marilyn almost laughs after reading the text. That’s progress.

“Thank you,” she says, her voice soft and grateful. I’m glad I turned the phone around before the next text came in.

**Garrett’s being an asshole. **

**No, he’s not. He’s hurt and he has a right to be. I just wish this wasn’t so hard on either of them. **

**There you go with that PC-ness again. She needs him, and he deserted her. That’s all I see. **

**I understand. I won’t dispute you on that. But he’s still my friend, so what are you going to do when he comes around? **

**Don’t worry, I’ll behave. **

“What is it?” Marilyn asks, noting my constant texting.

“Oh, nothing. We’re just discussing that we have to keep our chandelier swinging and jungle noises to a minimum,” I jest. She laughs. “Honestly,” I interject, “he doesn’t agree with Gary’s handling of this situation.” She drops her head.

“Neither do I, but I understand.” she says sadly. “I might as well be dead to him. He was everything to me… still is—and I thought I was everything to him, but apparently, I’m not.”

I want to tell her that it’s just not that simple, but to her, it is.

“He was my heart and soul. I can’t even put into words what he meant to me… means to me. I want to hate him so badly, but I can’t. I swear to God, I would have kept the baby had I known it would turn out like this.”

Tears are falling down her cheek faster than she can catch them. I’m glad the door is already closed.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” I tell her, “but wouldn’t you have just been swapping one set of problems for another? You clearly said that you weren’t ready.” She shakes her head.

“I know,” she says weepily, “but this feels like it’s never going to end. It’s never going to stop hurting…” she trails off, weeping.

“It will, Mare,” I try to comfort her. “It doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will.” She does her best to pull herself together, but she’s still sniffling.

“You may want to put me in the room farthest away from you and Christian,” she chuckles sadly. “I still spend most of my nights crying and I don’t want to disturb you.

That’s it.

“Fuck finding a place of your own. You’ll store your things on our property, and you’ll stay as long as you need to.”

“I can’t…”

“Yes, you can,” I interrupt her. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m very worried about you. You went straight from a horrible, traumatic breakup to living with your parents who subjected you to weeks of religious bullying and emotional warfare. You really haven’t had any time to heal and now, you’re trying to move back into your old apartment where all the wounds are ripped open again. You look like you’ve lost at least half of what little body fat you had and quite frankly, I’m scared. You’re going to come to my house where you can have good company whenever you want it and good food so we can fatten you up.” She laughs through her tears again.

“Good luck with that,” she says. “My mom may be a fundamental fanatic, but she’s the best cook on the planet! She couldn’t even get me to eat. I can’t keep anything down.” I frown.

“What are you eating lately in an average day?” I ask. She shrugs.

“I don’t know, I’m not keeping a diary,” she says.

“What did you eat yesterday?” I ask. Her eyes go skyward as she tries to think.

“I had a cup of tea and some toast before I left Spokane. Then, I had an orange in the afternoon. I had Chinese delivered to the apartment for dinner.” I caught that. She had it delivered…

“But did you eat it?” I ask. Her shoulders fall.

“Yes,” she answers suspiciously. My eyes narrow.

“And?” I press. She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“Boy, nothing gets past you, does it?”

“No, so spit it out,” I chastise.

“I did,” she replies.

“No, you didn’t. You’re holding something back…”

“No, I did,” she says, her turn to interrupt, “I spit it out—or up. I couldn’t hold it down.” I shake my head and close my laptop.

“Would you like for me to go with you so that you can pick up some things for the week? We can handle the heavy lifting on Saturday.”

“You’re already giving me a place to stay,” she protests. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” I say. Rising from my seat, I swipe the screen on my cell phone and call Chuck.

“You okay?” he answers.

“Jesus, am I that bad?” I ask. He sighs.

“I just never know what to expect when you call before quitting time.” I shake my head.

“Well, keep your boxers on. All is well with me, but all is not well. I need you and Carol to bring the cars around. We need to go to Marilyn’s and pick up some things. Have Tate and Rebe get Keri and the twins back to the Crossing, unless Carol wants to switch with Tate for a while as there might be some heavy lifting…” Chuck scoffs.

“Are you kidding?” he asks. “Have you seen Carol?”

“Well, not without clothes, no,” I say matter-of-factly. He chuckles.

“She’ll be fine,” he says. “She has bigger biceps than Christian.” Egad, don’t tell him that!

“Don’t publicize that, okay?” I warn. There’s a moment of silence.

“Affirmative,” he says. “I’ll get the transportation ball rolling.”

“Thank you,” I say before ending the call.

“You don’t have to do this,” Marilyn says.

“Quiet, Little Orphan Annie,” I say, packing my things and grabbing my coat, handing Marilyn hers. “You’re wasting away in front of me. This situation requires an immediate intervention and I’m the one to do it.”

*-*

You can tell that no one’s been to the apartment since she left, not even to check on it. It has that stale, needs to be cleaned smell. She just stands in the door and looks around the room.

“It’s barren,” she says. “We had so many good times here, but you wouldn’t know it looking at it now. It’s gray in here—it looks like the death angel himself brushed through every room and left his aura behind.”

She hadn’t even unpacked. All there is to do is clear what’s left of her things out of the apartment and clean it.

“Please grab those two bags over there,” she says to Chuck and Carol, pointing to the luggage that I assumed she had taken to Spokane with her. She goes into the kitchen and returns with a large roll of black garbage bags.

“Ana, can you help me please?” she says. I frown and follow her into the closet.

“You’re going to pack your things in garbage bags?” I ask, horrified.

“Trust me,” she says. She removes a bag from the roll and tears a hole right in the bottom of it, rendering it basically useless… or so I thought. She takes a handful of clothes from the rack of the closet, still on the hangers, and hands them to me.

“Hold this,” she says. I take the handful of garments from her and she proceeds to put the bag over the garments, sticking the hooks from the hangers through the hole at the bottom of the bag. She takes the garments from me, hangs them back on the rack, and ties the bag closed at the bottom.

Instant garment bag.

“That’s kind of clever,” I tell her. She nods.

“Yep, and the clothes are still on the hangers. So, when I get to your house, I hang them in the closet and rip off the bags.” I nod. Work smart, not hard.

After about an hour, Marilyn had enough of being in Gary’s apartment. We had gathered most of her things and agreed to come back this weekend to situate the rest. She deduced that her car being here is what prevented Gary from coming to the apartment, so since she was going to be staying with us, she would leave it here until she packed and removed the rest of her things to eliminate the risk of running into Gary. Her relationship is over. She doesn’t like it, but she’s accepting it.


CHRISTIAN

I’m sitting at my desk thinking about the conversation that I and my wife had the day after Christmas about Management 101. My meeting this morning is with the human resources department along with Ros and Lorenz. Last week, I reviewed a sampling of our annual reviews and my wife is right—these reviews are shit. There appeared to be no measurable goals and feedback was shoddy, at best.

Further investigation showed that the managers in each department are responsible for the content and conducting of the annual reviews as well as the feedback and follow-up. There’s no accountability for leadership, and no useful feedback for employees to promote improvement. It’s just like Ana said—management isn’t motivating the people in the trenches and, as a result, we have shitty work coming from the trenches, and if there is any hidden talent down there, it’s hidden in the shit. Once again, my wife was right. I have no idea how my company hasn’t folded by now.

In an attempt to get everyone involved instead of just having another heads will roll meeting, I put Lorenz in charge of a brainstorming session where we put the ideas that my wife suggested to work. How do we create a system of reviews that holds each employee—management and subordinates—responsible for their performance on an ongoing basis, with continuous feedback and evaluation to identify weaknesses and opportunities before they become critical?

I was amazed how the room came alive. Many, if not all, of the people in my human resources department have degrees and some of them are in management. The whiteboard was full of ideas and poor Andrea had her hands full trying to keep up with the minutes of the meetings. Many of the ideas mirrored the suggestions of my wife, but in more detail…

Holding management accountable to levels below and above them will keep them on their toes and prevent them from doing the old soft-shoe when performance reviews come around.

Specific goals need to be set for all employees that are measurable and align with the goals of the organization.

Employees need to know that they are not only striving for excellence individually, but also as a team. If one employee is lacking, they bring the team down, in which case, the team will be able to motivate said employees to identify opportunities to improve and achieve their goals.

The meeting went on all morning. When it was complete, each attending had a task to bring back to the next meeting where they would work with Lorenz to construct a new method of reviews that would be more conducive to the company. Two really important points came out of this meeting besides the birth of the creation of a new system of performance reviews:

I was able to pass this ball off to Lorenz and the human resources team. Even though the initial idea came from me by way of my beautiful and intelligent wife, I don’t have to monitor the progress of the project. I could delegate the responsibility to one of my other executive team, leaving me to deal with other pressing matters. I’ve become so accustomed to handling things myself—and everyone letting me—that the concept of delegation is sometimes hard for me to grasp. I don’t know who can really do exactly what needs to be done unless someone steps forward and says, “Hey, I can handle this for you.”

The second thing… Ros contributed nothing to the meeting. She didn’t have a suggestion, she didn’t take any notes, and her expression barely changed at all for three hours. If I were to guess, she was just sitting there wondering when it was all going to end. She sat in the meeting the entire time like she was watching a movie at the drive-in. All she needed was the goddamn popcorn.

I don’t have time to ponder what the fuck is going on with her because the moment I get back to my office, Alex has left a message that he wants to meet with me, and I’m quite anxious to know what he has to say.

“Holstein is losing his mind trying to see who’s got it in for him,” Alex says when we settle in my office and I activate the scramblers. I’ve just been informed that besides the lovely Christmas inconveniences that he’s had so far, he received a box of live rats on his doorstep on Saturday. His wife and children were put up at a hotel while he contacted exterminators in hopes of getting the things out of his house.

How the hell do you deliver a box of live rats?

Alex informs me of the lovely things we have prepared for the weeks to come for our favorite little traitor, and I must admit that the finale warms my fucking heart. Elena’s small and gradually growing mishaps are a delayed Christmas present as well. She’s suffered everything from a black eye to a busted lip to a sprained ankle. Hers and Holstein’s comeuppance will culminate right at the same time.

I guess now would be the time to start terrorizing that smarmy-assed secretary, since she wants to mouth off with the big boys, let’s see if she likes how the big boys play.

The buzzing in my pocket informs me that I have a text message. I remove my phone and see that Butterfly is informing me that Marilyn will be staying with us for a while. I shrug inwardly. The more the merrier. Chuck’s parents left this morning after being assured that he would be okay, and Harmony will be moving into Escala at the end of the week. Even though Valerie and Elliot have moved back in for a while, they’re pretty much a staple at my house to the degree that they permanently have their own room.

Butterfly tells me that Marilyn is protesting, and I remind her that we have eight bedrooms, then express my displeasure with how Garrett handled this situation. I’m staying out of it for the most part, but I feel that if you love someone, you shouldn’t desert them even when they piss you off. Believe me, I’m still kicking myself for the Madrid excursion, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

Alex is still filling me in on the progress of Alcatraz and the plans to be put in place for one Ms. Greta Ellison when Ros bursts into the room without knocking or being invited. I glare at her.

“Excuse me, but when has it been acceptable to burst into my office without permission?” I ask. She just looks at me.

“We have a development on the Fraser account,” she says.

“That didn’t sound like an apology and you haven’t answered my question,” I bark. She rolls her eyes.

“I don’t have time for this,” she says, dropping the file on my desk. “Look at this.”

“Keep fucking with me, Rosalind, and you’re going to have a whole lot of goddamn time on your hands.” I declare coolly. She raises a surprised gaze to me. That got her attention. “Now, pick up your file, get the fuck out of my office, and try that shit again.”

She blinks a couple of times like she can’t believe what she’s hearing. I’m not going to repeat myself, so she had better move her ass. As if suddenly realizing that I’m not fucking playing with her, she retrieves the file and marches back out the way that she came in. At this point, I wouldn’t give a fuck if she didn’t come back.

As it appears that’s exactly what she decided, Alex and I resume our conversation. A few moments later, my intercom comes alive.

“Rosalind is here to see you, sir,” Andrea’s voice says uncertainly. I look over at Alex, who actually rolls his eyes in disbelief. My sentiments exactly! My first inclination is to make her ass wait for a few more moments, but I decide instead to let her in with the intention that if she brings any of that premenstrual I am woman hear me roar bullshit with her, she’s going to be roaring on the other side of that goddamn door.

“Send her in,” I say. I deactivate the office scrambler and clasp my hands in front of me while glaring at the door. She’s slightly more docile when she enters, and her temperament cools even more as she approaches my desk, no doubt noting the please fuck with me today expression on my face.

“We have an issue with the Fraser account,” she says, handing me the file. I stand and indignantly snatch the file from her hand, giving her a healthy dose of the attitude that she feels I should contend with from her.

“What am I looking for?” I say, my voice low and firm as I skim through the information.

“You should see it there in a minute,” she replies. Don’t test me, lady. Tell me what the fuck you want. I cut a sharp glare at her.

“What. Am I looking for?” I ask more firmly in case I didn’t make the question clear the first time. She sighs.

“On the first page…”

We go through the file and the areas for concern over the next few minutes. Alex excuses himself to “take care of some things” while we’re going through the information. After we decide on a course of action, I lean back in my chair.

“Tell me why you couldn’t solve this on your own,” I ask. “This is pretty elementary.”

“I don’t know where your mind is lately, Christian,” she retorts. “I may think one course of action is the best and you’re totally against it.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” I counter. “You’ve had autonomy in this company since the day you first came on staff. I don’t second guess your decisions. I may decide that there’s something that I don’t want to do, like I may shut down a merger, but I never second guess your decisions. You didn’t need me for this, and I had to take time out of my day to tell you what you already knew. Why?” She purses her lips.

“It’s like I said, I don’t know where your mind is. We used to be in sync, but lately, our thought processes have been extremely… polar.” I shake my head and cut right to the chase.

“You confuse me, Ros,” I admit. “You get all touchy because of my wording of something and because of my decision to perform random drug testing and we actually found several people who not only had traces of drugs in their system but were also high on the job. And for the life of you, you still can’t admit that I was onto something. You actually didn’t like my decision, and you still can’t admit that I was right. You act like I’m taking toys out of your little play box and I won’t let you come and play in mine. What the fuck is up with you?”

“I’ve already told you there’s nothing up with me,” she says, flatly. “If you insist on thinking otherwise, there’s nothing I can do about that.” My expression doesn’t change, although inside, I’m sick of her shit.

“You can go now,” I dismiss her, turning my attention back to my computer. She turns on her heels and marches out of the room, and I ponder my words.

You can go now…

Has Ros outlived her usefulness? She’s been a part of this company almost from the very beginning. It’s always been her and me with our noses to the grindstone. Good, bad, or ugly, we’ve always managed to pull this company through. Now, there are changes—lots of changes—occurring in our lives, personal and professional.

She and Gwen were engaged when she started here, but they married after she had been with GEH for a year.

Things went floating merrily along for a few years and then I met Anastasia. That’s when the ship started falling apart.

As soon as I turned my attention from the company for the slightest moment, balls began dropping all over the place. I would go out of town on business trips at the drop of a hat and there was never a problem, but as soon as I started taking trips with my girlfriend-then-wife, she started having problems and I had to hire Lorenz. Now, we’ve got help and she’s still behaving as if she’s having a problem pulling her weight. If I didn’t know for sure that she was gay, I’d think she was pregnant. And that brings up another point…

She’s getting to a point where she’s downright rude to Anastasia. She shows her absolutely no professional courtesy as an owner of this company, but she also acts as if she doesn’t even like her as a person. Once again, if it weren’t for the whole gay thing, I’d swear she was a spurned lover!

Has she outgrown GEH? Has GEH outgrown her? Is it time to suggest that she update her resume and review her professional options? I would give her nothing but a shining recommendation, but sometimes, people just don’t fit anymore, and I can’t have someone on my team that I feel is not on my team anymore.

I thrust my hands into my hair. I can’t deal with this right now, but can I afford to put it on the back burner until the situation becomes detrimental? I shake my head and call Allen.

“Allen Forsythe-Fleming,” he answers.

“Allen, when are we supposed to go to Nevada?” I ask.

“February 2nd,” he says. Jesus, I hope this shit is somewhat in order with the company by then. There’s no telling how long we’ll be in Vegas for this fucking circus.

“Do we have a final headcount?” I ask.

“For…?” he asks.

“How many people are going,” I say, as if it’s obvious. “Ana’s dad wants to go; you’re going; we have security. Do we have a final head count?”

“Oh… no, I didn’t think about that. I’ll call Jewel and see who all we’re expecting. Is everyone going to have security?”

“Liaise with Jason to see how much security will be needed for the amount of people traveling. He also usually makes my travel and lodging arrangements, too. Do we have any clue how long this thing might take?” I ask.

“I would say prepare to be there for at least a week, but quite possibly more than that. I remember Jewel watched most of the Double-Dicker’s trial stream live on some court channel. I don’t know if they’re going to do the same for this one. Part of me thinks they will and part of me hopes that they won’t.” My brow furrows.

“Explain,” I press.

“It’s much more sensational than the Edward David trial, so I would think they would want to stream it. On the other hand, Jewel’s been through enough. This was a terrible and, quick frankly, very personal time in her life. I wouldn’t want to see that splattered all over the news.” I nod as if he could see me.

“Hear, hear,” I concur.

*-*

I’m exhausted when I leave the office today. Ros tried my patience three more times before the day was over and I just don’t have time to deal with her attitude along with everything else happening with the company. She just came back from vacation and it’s done absolutely nothing to improve her sour ass mood. As such, I can’t very well send her off on another one, but something’s got to give because this female is working my last fucking nerve.

When I get home and we enter the garage, I’m expecting to see Marilyn’s car in the last bin, but there’s nothing. I leave my coat and boots in the mudroom and decide that I’m way too tired to work out. This day really wore me out.

I step into the family room to see Keri and Gail minding the twins as they watch some Disney cartoon on television.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask, wearily.

“Upstairs,” Gail replies.

“Marilyn’s not here?” Gail nods.

“That’s where Ana is,” she says. “They arrived not too long before you and they’re probably upstairs unpacking some of her things.” I nod and reach for my son.

“Hey, little prince,” I say, lifting him out of the Pack-n-Play. “I guess they had to confine you to make sure that you wouldn’t run amuck all over the house, huh?” Mikey babbles something incoherent as he pats both my cheeks.

“Hes seestah won beh too fah behahnd. Look!” Keri shows me that Minnie is standing and taking several steps on her own. I sigh heavily about how quickly it seems my children are growing.

“Gail, have we thought about childproofing at all?” I ask.

“I’m already on it,” she replies. “Ana actually beat you to it.” I smile softly.

“Of course, she did,” I say, looking back at Mikey. “Your mom thinks of everything.” I kiss him on the cheek, lean down and give my Minnie Mouse a kiss before I go in search of my wife.

I take the elevator to the upper level and I can hear women talking the moment the doors open. Good grief, did she stick the poor girl on the other end of the house? Sure enough, I follow the voices to the last bedroom and there they are. The door is open, but I knock anyway. Butterfly and Marilyn both raise their heads to me, and I’m not prepared for the sight that greets me.

“Hhi,” I say, with a little more emphasis on the “h.”

“Hey,” Butterfly says, somewhat surprised, but rising to greet me. She gives me a small peck on the lips, and I enter the room.

“Hi, Christian,” Marilyn says as she stands. I try not to allow my expressions to betray my thoughts, but I don’t think I’m doing very well.

“Hi, Marilyn… how are you?” I ask cautiously.

“As well as can be expected,” she says, with a shrug. You sure about that?

“What?” she says after I’m silent for a while.

“Forgive me if I misspeak, but… are you well?” I ask. She raises a brow at me.

“Yes,” she says, with no malice. “I…” She looks over at Ana, who shrugs one shoulder at her. “I’ve been a bit… depressed. It’s… a little hard to eat.”

“A little…?” I nearly gasp. “It hasn’t been that long. What’s it been, like a month? Two?” Marilyn drops her head.

“One month… one week… five days…” Her voice trails off as she whispers the last two words, and I suddenly feel so bad for her. I sigh heavily.

“Marilyn,” I say, my voice softening as I close the space between us, “I know you’re hurting, but you’ve got to eat. You’ve lost so much weight. There’s absolutely nothing healthy about the amount of weight you’ve lost since I’ve last seen you. You’re in a mansion now… with a cook… and a butler… please, eat.” She drops her eyes again and nods.

“I’ll do my best,” she promises. I take her hands.

“That’s all I can ask,” I say, giving them a squeeze.

“You can’t say I didn’t warn you,” Butterfly says to Marilyn.

Dammit, I wish she had warned me! This poor girl looks like she’s knocking on death’s door. She was thin to begin with—not skinny, but fit. Now, she looks downright frail, and her makeup is doing nothing for her skin. It’s ashy and her face is sunken, like it’s barely hanging onto her bones. She doesn’t look like the Grim Reaper, but compared to what she was, she’s pretty damn close!

As I’m pondering the situation with Marilyn and how to get her back to a healthy weight without force-feeding her, I catch a glimpse of black plastic in the closet.

“Um, why are there garbage bags hanging in the closet?” I ask, pointing to the bags.

“Oh.” Marilyn walks to the closet. Dear God, she looks even thinner from behind. She quickly rips away one of the trash bags to reveal several garments now hanging neatly in the closet.

“Garment bag in a pinch,” she says. “Easy packing and unpacking when you’re in a hurry.” I purse my lips and nod.

“That’s pretty smart,” I say. “There might be a market for something like that.”

“Well, take the idea, Mr. Mogul,” she says. “If anybody can sell it, you can.” I smile.

“Do you mind if I steal my wife for a minute or two?” I ask, looking over at Anastasia. Marilyn waves me off.

“Take her,” she says. “I think she’s babysitting me.”

“I’m not babysitting!” Butterfly protests.

“Then you won’t mind coming with me and letting Marilyn get settled, right?” I say, cupping her elbow and guiding her off the bed. She looks back at Marilyn as if she’s leaving her pet at the boarders for a week.

“You’ll be alright?” Butterfly asks like a protective mother.

“Go,” Marilyn says, shooing her off.

“I’m right down the hall if you need me,” Butterfly continues, trying to stall as I gently lead her away.

“Go-wah!” Marilyn says, a little more urgently. I put my arm around my wife’s waist and guide her out of the bedroom.

“Don’t miss dinner,” I say sternly to Marilyn and raise my brow at her. She nods noncommittal and rips another garbage bag from her clothes in the closet.

“Why did you stick her all the way down here?” I ask as I lead my wife away from Marilyn’s door.

“She wanted the farthest room,” she replies. “She still cries a lot.” I shake my head.

“Jesus, somebody should tell him what he’s doing to her. She looks like hell!”

“We don’t know what this is doing to him,” Butterfly defends. I want to ask whose side she’s on, but Marilyn is her PA and friend and is now living here, so she’s obviously on Marilyn’s side; and Garett is her longtime friend, so I can see why she would be on his side, too. She’s stuck in a bad place, and I’m glad it’s not me!

“Where’s her car?” I ask.

“Still at Gary’s apartment,” she says. “She left it there in the parking garage while she was out of town. As such, Gary never came near the apartment, we’re thinking it’s because he thought she was there. Her logic is to leave it there until the end of the week until she gets all of her things from the apartment and avoid the chance of running into Gary.” I twist my lips again.

“If this is how you felt when I went to Madrid, I am so, so sorry,” I lament. She closes her eyes and shakes her head.

“It’s water under the bridge,” she says. “It’s over and done; let’s not bring it up.”

Her reaction lets me know that’s exactly how she felt. I pull her into my arms and kiss her forehead.

“Minnie’s going to be walking soon,” I say as we walk towards the stairs…

*-*

With a broken-hearted Marilyn, a mourning Valerie, and a soul-weary Elliot at the dinner table, we try to keep the conversation light, but try though we may, there wasn’t much participation from our latest house mates. Valerie dutifully ate her meal, mostly in silence, while Elliot devoured his food like the caveman that he is. I’m not insulting him; I’m always happy to see that someone has a healthy appetite, especially with the young lady to my right looking as if she needs to be holding a sign that says, “Will work for food.”

I try to keep the conversation going as much as I can by talking about Butterfly’s solid idea for revamping performance reviews and even Ros’ bad attitude throughout the day. Butterfly chimes in with discussion about the school year starting and Keri taking her tests for her American teaching certifications soon. We covered everything we could think of from the Christmas cookies to Freeman finally being out of the brothers’ hair, but nothing could ignite a table-wide conversation.

Marilyn dismally picks at her food and I’m certain that she hasn’t eaten two bites before excusing herself from the table. I watch her walk from the table with her head down, looking like she’s headed for the gallows. She’s so thin that I’m afraid if a good storm occurs, she would be whisked away to the Land of Oz. I want to demand that she come back to the table and finish her meal, but she’s a grown woman, not one of my children. When I look over at Butterfly, she’s watching Marilyn walk away with the same concern that I am. She finally just shakes her head and begins to pick at what’s left of her own food.

“She’s lost weight,” Valerie says finally, and I’m glad that she’s talking.

“Yeah,” Butterfly laments. “She’s not taking the breakup well at all.”

“That’s not a bad breakup,” Valerie protests. “We’ve seen bad breakups, Steele. We’ve been bad breakups. That’s more than a bad breakup.”

What can she say, that Marilyn is also in mourning for the loss of a baby that she wasn’t really sure that she wanted and that she willingly got rid of? Valerie’s mourning losing a baby that she and Elliot wanted more than anything. This would very likely put a rift between them.

“Yes, Val, it’s more than that, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it,” Butterfly says.

“Garett’s an ass,” I mumble before taking a mouthful of food.

“Christian,” my wife warns gently. I glance over at her and she’s scolding me with her look. I turn my attention back to my meal.

*-*

The apartment has been cleaned from top to bottom. The sunlight from the glass windows lights the entire space and the view of Elliot Bay is just as spectacular as it was when I first moved here. Escala was one of the first things I purchased when I began to make my fortune. It was a status symbol. It was me thumbing my nose at my father because he thought I was out of my mind to throw away the opportunity of a Harvard education to go out on some “half-cocked business endeavor.” When Fortune named me as one of the top twenty up-and-coming businessmen of the decade, I celebrated by buying my first sports car…

And this penthouse.

I remember personally choosing every piece of furniture that decorated this space—every dish, every lamp, every sculpture and vase, every piece of art. It’s empty now. I’ve just finished the closing and signed the papers transferring ownership to Harmony, and now the space is waiting for her to come in and make new memories.

Memories.

It’s not like I can pretend that the things that happened in this space didn’t happen. I was mostly happy here. My life went through many transitions, but for me, they were all good. Each transition was better than the last, even the time I spent with Lincoln.

Elena.

I haven’t said or even thought her first name in quite some time. She’s been The Pedophile or Lincoln or even that blonde bitch or just that bitch, but nothing more. Now, in this empty space, I remember a lot of our relationship, what she used to mean to me.

In those days, she was everything—a mentor, a friend, a trusted confidante, a lover. It was a relationship that I hadn’t shared with anyone else, ever. I didn’t know what it meant to have friends or people you confided in, only her. I only had my family—and John, and my life was so steeped in secrecy that I couldn’t even confide in my family.

I trusted no one. I thought everyone was out to get me, everyone. Submissives only wanted the gifts that I could give them or the pleasure I released on them. If they wanted more than that, I terminated our contract and didn’t look back. No one sought to really be my friend. They only wanted what they could get from me. I had learned to distance myself from people a long time ago, especially since I couldn’t stand to be touched.

Jesus, that seems like ages ago.

I still have a phobia of strangers touching me without permission, but things have certainly changed over the past several years.

I wander up to what used to be the playroom. The walls are now painted a calming ecru. The chains, tracks, and carabiners have all been removed from the ceiling. I had completely forgotten that there were windows in here. I had that entire wall covered with artificial soundproof walls that only showed a landscape from the outside.

All the equipment has been removed from the walls. It and the furniture from this room have been taken by Artemis to be sold on consignment with the proceeds going to my account for whatever other services I may need from him in the future—everything except the Chesterfield chair. Butterfly and I decided to keep the chair for Downtime and put it in our sitting room.

Downtime is a specific time for us to communicate while in character—me as Dominus and her as soumise. During the Munch, we learned that Downtime can be called by either of us when we need to discuss something, particularly about our relationship, but it could be anything at all. It’s another way for us to connect as Dominus and soumise in a non-sexual atmosphere unless we choose to transition into a sexual act. It can be used to reconnect after we’ve had a disagreement. Downtime can be very powerful in maintaining a strong, loving, and respectful BDSM relationship if utilized properly.

I’m not really certain why they call it Downtime, but its description may have something to do with it. Butterfly would present herself to me as soumise, in whatever garment I’ve chosen for her for the evening, and she would then become Pussycat. She would sit in whatever position I choose for her—kneeling in front of me, sitting in my lap, or her head in my lap. Whatever her position, her head would remain below mine, indicating her willingness to submit to me. We’ve procured a plush pillow for her for the times when she will be expected to kneel.

We will, of course, communicate at other times, but Downtime is specifically to assist in the transition from vanilla to D/s, even if there’s no sexual act involved. It’s not required every time we want to make a trip to the Blue Room, but it’s recommended for couples who plan to practice on a regular basis, particularly in a married D/s relationship. During the Munch, Artemis recommended Downtime at least once a week. Butterfly got the same recommendation from Savvina.

I couldn’t imagine having Downtime in this room with those women who used to be my submissives. I’m certain that I’ve spoken to them more than once in a Downtime position, with respect and consideration for their immediate concerns, but this is certainly different.

At first, I didn’t want to use the Chesterfield chair. I remember making her fuck me until she was completely exhausted in that chair. She remembers the encounter fondly and indicates that she would like to see me sitting in the chair in my Dom uniform. I can imagine the comfort and pleasure I would feel with Pussycat at my feet in one of her Victorian nightshirts with nothing underneath, or simply a pair of white thongs, her head resting on my lap while I caress her brown tresses and we calmly discuss whatever may be pertinent at the time. It’s important that we don’t allow heavy feelings or anger to prevent us from doing Downtime. No matter what the situation, I’m still her Dominus, and she will always be my soumise.

It’s strange and somewhat appropriate that I would think of our new relationship standing here in this room where I first explored my role, tastes, and preferences as a Dom. It now looks like any other bedroom in the penthouse, but it has experienced many transformations throughout my journey of discovery.

At first, it was black. I had taken my cues from Elena and leaned to the familiar—black equipment, black furniture, nearly black walls. That worked for a few months, but I began to feel like I was lost in the darkness when I entered the room. My soul was dark enough; my surroundings didn’t need to be black, too. That’s why my apartment was always decorated in stark white with contrasting accents. It may have seemed sterile to some, but to me, it was comforting. White would definitely not do for the playroom, though.

The only other colors that meant anything to me were red, yellow and green. I certainly wasn’t going to have a yellow or a green room, and although red is the customary safeword, it seemed appropriate to me…

And it worked out very well.

The rich wood tones of the furniture and the deep, dark browns of the Chesterfields blended very well with the Red Room. There were a few pieces with black cushions or accents with blonder tones in the wood, but nothing too bright. It was inviting and foreboding at the same time, and absolutely perfect for my purposes.

I’m experiencing nostalgia again as I recall picking the pieces for my room. Elena had helped outfit the Black Dungeon, but I found Artemis through connections I had made on my own. He listened to what I wanted and offered suggestions on what the Red Room should contain and look like. He was right. The playroom was exquisite. I could hardly wait to leave work some Fridays and get back here to this room—to the comfort and safety it afforded me; the control I wielded in these walls. There’s nowhere in the world that I was more powerful than I was in this room, not even at my desk in GEH or at the head of the conference table while simpering executives hung on my every word. No… here… this was my realm, my central station of Dominance. My power was absolute, and I knew it

I brought many women to their knees… broke their bodies, then broke their hearts. They ached for the pain, coldness and cruelty I was dishing out. They returned for it weekend after weekend, and when I turned them away, they cried for it. Some of them even went insane. One of them died trying to kill my wife.

I sigh heavily thinking of the women I abused and destroyed in this room. Granted, they signed up for the physical pain, but not for the emotional warfare that I subjected them to… some of them anyway.

I feel her presence behind me, and I don’t have to turn around to know that she’s in the room. I’m feeling guilty for all the memories that flooded me when I entered this room, some of them still refusing to be exorcised.

“I’m sorry,” I say, conviction in my voice for my unspoken mental transgression. Butterfly comes behind me and wraps her arms around my waist.

“Don’t be,” she says, laying her head on my back. “This room is who you were, and a lot of who you are right now. Good or bad, it helped to shape the man that you’ve become—my husband and the father of my children. I can’t be upset about that.”

I cover her hands with mine and sigh heavily. I always thought that we would get back to this room for one last hurrah. Maybe it’s good that we didn’t.

“We’ve had more than a few hot memories in here of our own,” I comment with mirth. I can feel her smiling on my back.

“That we did, Mr. Grey,” she says, and I squeeze her hand in an effort not to slip into my own submissive mode. Mistress can be merciless as a Domme, and I must admit that I like it. I like it a lot!

“Remember the first time you subbed for me?” I ask. “You knew just what I needed even though I tried to make you stay away that night. I was certain then that you would be perfect for me. I already knew, but that moment erased any lingering doubt.”

“I remember it well,” she says. “I was scared shitless.”

“I know,” I reply, “but you did very well, especially for your first time.”

“I’ll never forget it,” she says into my back. I drop my head and take a deep, cleansing breath.

“Can we make a promise?” I say, and her head rises from my back.

“What?” she asks.

“Can we please promise that our lifestyle—our roles—won’t become so practiced that we don’t find any enjoyment in it anymore? That if we find ourselves becoming too sterile or too routine that we’ll talk about it and find a way to keep things fresh?” She’s silent and when I turn around in her arms, she’s smiling at me.

“I thought that’s what we were doing now,” she says, her voice soft. “I thought that’s one of the reasons we sent the Chesterfield back to the Crossing… for our Downtime… and ideas.”

I smile back at my coy little wife. Things will never be sterile or routine with her. She’ll always find new ways to turn me on even without trying. I cup her face in my hands and kiss her softly, and again.

“I love you, my beautiful Butterfly,” I whisper with my eyes closed, my forehead touching hers.

“I love you, too, my love,” she whispers. I kiss her again and release her face, gesturing for us to leave. She smiles at me and walks out of what used to be the Red Room. I turn around and look at the ecru walls once more, then leave the room, closing the door behind me.


A/N: The sale of Escala is final, and one chapter of the Grey Saga is definitely closing. What does the future hold for our couple, especially with one of the Green Valley trials on the horizon?

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

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 ~~love and handcuffs