Grey Continued: Episode 38—Family Affairs

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 38—Family Affairs

CHRISTIAN

She was too tired for aftercare last night. If I had put her in the bathtub, she might have sank and drowned. What can I say? I wasn’t ready to come yet—I was building up to the big one, but she ripped it out of me against my urging her not to. Oh, it was big, but I still said don’t. So… she had to pay.

I think we both enjoyed the punishment.

I’m glad she safeworded. I had no intention of continuing, but she didn’t know that. So, when she’s done, she’s got to tell me she’s done.

She may not have been able to do aftercare last night, but she’s certainly going to need it this morning. I don’t know if her muscles are going to ache, but her pussy sure the hell is. I don my clothes from yesterday and head back to the house.

I hadn’t planned on any kind of extracurricular activities on the boat last night. It just kind of… happened. As such, I don’t have any supplies out there—no clothes, no real toiletries to speak of, no painkillers or arnica cream for sore joints, nothing. I hate being unprepared, but when the moment is right, you can’t let it slip away…

She had to know that coming out of the bathroom with no bra on would set me off. I mean, hell, her tits were just sitting up there staring at me like, “So what’re you gonna do?” Intentional or not, that question required a swift and sure response.

I won’t tell her, but I think I fucked my dick into submission, too. I probably won’t be able to share the bath with her because my. Shit. Is. Sore! To much friction, I think… if there is such a thing. My balls will need cold water, not hot. At this point, the heat is likely to send me to the moon, and not in a good way.

No one is awake when I enter the Crossing. I head straight up to our bedroom and my en suite. After swallowing two ibuprofens, I make good on that idea and use the detachable showerhead to run a little cold water on my balls.

Aaaaaaahhhh… heaven!

Will Butterfly need cold water in her nether regions as opposed to hot? I’ll ask her when I get back to the boat.

I hadn’t intended to shower and change when I came to the house, but that cold water was calling my name and I needed relief. I think the ibuprofen is kicking in, too, because Greystone isn’t screaming in my boxer briefs. I put together an overnight bag of a change of clothes, a few toiletries, and of course, some ibuprofen for Butterfly. I go back down the elevator and head back across the lawn to the Slayer.

Butterfly hasn’t moved. She’s still fast asleep when I get back. I’m going to have to get her down to the bath in the master stateroom when she wakes, but there’s no hurry. For now, I just let her sleep.

I open my phone to check my emails. I’m cleaning out the junk while sitting in bed next to my sleeping wife, when an email from Allen catches my eye. He sent it last night and the title makes me get out of the bed and head to the office across the hall.

This computer is old… like dog years old, and every time I come in here, I always make a point that I need a new computer for the boat. Then, I forget about it just as quickly as I think about it because I probably only use this thing once a year and only then to check my emails. However, since it does access GEH’s network, that’s reason enough to upgrade it.

I log into my email and search for Allen’s message. There’s an attachment so I download it and read the one sentence contained in the body of the email.

I was going to tell you yesterday, but I thought better of it since we were all having such a good time.

The subject is what made me stop scrolling and come to the office. Three words…

Green Valley Sentences

I click to open the attachment and look at the contents. As it stands, Sullivan’s case set a precedent that it’s going to be hard to get a conviction on the kidnapping charge unless you can prove they were part of the kidnapping, but the other charges will be easier. The standing convictions, however, made it easier to get pleas as accessories in most cases. My eyes scroll down the page and I read the fates of the other people arrested in the case:

With all the convictions that racked up against Vincent Sullivan, George is now an accessory to all of those. One could argue that he didn’t want to testify against his brother because if he’s convicted, he now becomes guilty of these crimes as well, loosely translated. However, if his behavior was completely due to his loyalty, now he has nothing to lose by taking a plea. Larson didn’t let him off easy, though. He knew he could make the case stick if he went to trial, but he’s trying to avoid Jewel having to testify. As a result, he dropped some of the charges provided that Sullivan did the full sentence on the ones that remained.

George Sullivan got obstruction of justice, evidence tampering, aiding and abetting, and accessory to the battery charge with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm; 15 – 30 years and a $350,000 fine.

Kevin Van Dyke, Brian Malehan, and Justin Roundy—assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, and involuntary manslaughter; 15 to 25 years and a $25,000 fine.

Randall Marshall—assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, and reckless endangerment; 10 to 15 years and a $25,000 fine.

Something to note here, Carly Madison-Perry got into the car with four other girls—three that were arrested and the videographer, who of course is now deceased. That means that they had to be present at the kidnapping. The two guys who loaded Jewel into the car were also identified—one mainly because his car was identified as the one used for transport after Jewel was hit over the head. He offered to roll on the other guy, but the other guy had already taken and registered a plea. To that end, here are the fates of the five living people discussed.

Timothy Leahman and Blaine Nelson—assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, kidnapping, and involuntary manslaughter; 25 to life with possibility of parole after 25 and a $100,000 fine.

Mary Wiseman, Rhonda Yick, and Vesta Evans—assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, accessory to kidnapping, and involuntary manslaughter; 18 to 40 years and a $75,000 fine.

I hate to tell you this, but Joseph Kulp and Lana Mulligan feel that there’s not enough tangible evidence to convict them, so on the advice of their attorneys, they’re waiting for trial. This means that Jewel will be called on again to testify.

Shit. Shit shit shit! This is exactly what we were trying to avoid. And what the fuck is reckless endangerment? I Google the term and I don’t like the definition. It makes it sound like his role in what happened to her was an accident. I guess he had the best lawyer, but at least he still got 10 to 15.

I scrub my hands over my face wishing there were some way—some legal way—I could make these two rodents disappear. What kind of creeps would do what they did to Butterfly and then walk away with a clear conscience? Granted, nobody wants to voluntarily go to jail, but for fuck’s sake, man…

Before I shut the computer down, I send an email to the requisitions department to get a laptop delivered to my home as soon as possible. I stand up and head back to the bedroom.

Butterfly is sitting up in the bed. If I’m honest, she looks pretty bad. Her hair is matted in some areas and wild in others. She looks like she’s gone a few rounds with a twister… and lost.

“You should get some more rest,” I say, trying not to tell her that she looks like hell warmed over.

“I can’t get comfortable,” she mumbles. “I ache all over.” Ibuprofen to the rescue… but she should really eat something first, as should I.

“Okay, so, in light of the current circumstances, would you like a hot bath or cold water on your cooch?” She pushes a large bunch of the matted mess out of her face and looks at me.

“Huh?” she says, groggily.

“I’m only asking because cold water did wonders for my tender dick and balls this morning,” I say with a shrug.

“Hu… ha… ah… oh… oh, okay…” Boy, it took a long time to get there. “Do we have any ice?” she asks.

“Not on the boat, I don’t thing so,” I reply. She frowns.

“Yeah, I think I need an ice pack, Christian,” she says.

“Oh, I’ve got one of those,” I tell her. I head to the small closet near the bridge and locate the first aid kit. I retrieve the ice pack from inside and pop the tube inside to activate it. Once the mixture cools, I hand it to her. She takes it from me and sticks it right under the covers and on her magic spot.

“Oh… oh, that’s good. That’s really good,” she says and falls backwards on the bed again, holding the ice pack to her promised land. I try not to laugh at her, especially since the last thing that I ever want to do is to cause discomfort to my happy place. That was a long and somewhat brutal fuck last night—not rough, but grueling.

“Hello!” I hear from downstairs. Good Lord, it’s too early for people to be bothering us on a Sunday morning.

“I’ll be back,” I say and I take the winding staircase down to the main desk. I can’t help the smile that forms as I remember fucking my wife on these stairs last night.

“Glad to see you’re still breathing,” Jason says as he and his wife set the table for breakfast.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I ask.

“I don’t know what he saw, but Ethan was red as a beet when he came back to the house last night,” he says, and I can’t resist the smile again.

“Okay, don’t elaborate,” he adds. “I saw you, but I didn’t see Her Highness, so I told the wife that it may be a good idea to bring breakfast out here this morning.”

“You assumed correctly, Mr. Taylor,” I say, uncovering one of the plates to see a delicious spread of breakfast foods.

“You were working this morning?” he asks. I nod as I steal a piece of bacon.

“Only a little, while Butterfly was still asleep,” I say while chomping on the salty deliciousness. “I need a new computer for the office here, and the verdicts came in.” They both freeze and look at me.

“The verdicts?” Jason asks.

“The pleas,” I tell him, “for Green Valley.” Gail twists her lips and grabs the carafe of orange juice.

“I’m going to go start coffee,” she says and she heads for the galley.

“What are we looking at?” he asks as he sits in one of the empty chairs. I join him and snag another slice of bacon.

“It’s a pretty even spread,” I reply. “The smallest plea was 10 – 15; the largest went up to 40. Sullivan got 15 – 30.” Jason whistles.

“I didn’t think they’d give it to him that hard,” he says. “He’s a cop. Depending on the crime and the jurisdiction…” He trails off. I know exactly what he’s trying to say. Some jurisdictions would go easy on cops while others rightfully think that violation of your vow to protect and serve deserves punishment to the fullest extent.

“Well, I’m out of my area on this type of thing, but I’d say 15 – 30 is the least they could do for that asshole,” I reply. “How did you know that I was working?”

“I heard you come down the stairs,” he says.

“Oh, we’re sleeping upstairs,” I reply. He frowns and I just raise my brow at him.

“Don’t elaborate,” he says. “I don’t know where you get all the energy.” I shrug.

“I’m enjoying it while I have it,” I tell him. “And come on, you’re not old. Stop acting like this is all news to you.”

“Well, I’m not in the habit of talking to men about their sex drives, but I haven’t met anybody anywhere who can boast the escapades that I know you’ve had and I don’t even know all the details.” I chuckle. Yes, Mr. Taylor, there are some stories to be told in my boudoirs, but as you said…

“I won’t elaborate,” I say with a wink. “What was Ethan looking for anyway when he came back here?”

“His sunglasses,” he says. “Maybach Diplomats. His wife bought them for him as a wedding present.”

“Now, why would he wear those on a boat?” I ask. “He could’ve lost those in the water.”

“Don’t ask me,” he replies. “I don’t even know what to do with a $60,000 pair of glasses. I guess I’ll never really understand the rich. I get wanting to buy special gifts—like your Hublot. You wear that nearly every second of every day—but a $60,000 pair of sunglasses? That’s the price of a luxury car! And even if you wear them every day, you’ll only wear them for a few minutes unless you’re sunbathing. I don’t know, I can just see so many other things that can be done with that kind of money.”

“Well, it was a special day and a special gift, so cut her some slack,” I say. “Where the hell did he leave them anyway? Does he even know?”

“He says the last place he put them was on the entertainment center,” he says turning around to search the entertainment center. We both spot the diamond-clad glasses at the same time. I have to admit, they’re very stylish—modest, yet elegant.

“And there they are,” Jason says. “I’m going to leave them there. I don’t want to be responsible for a $60,000 pair of glasses.”

“No worries,” I say. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to come back and get them himself.”

“Coffee’s ready,” Gail says coming out of the kitchen. “Orange juice is in the refrigerator when you’re ready for it. You can put the plates in the warmer if Ana’s not awake yet…”

“You better put them in the warmer before he eats all the bacon. Save some for Her Highness!” Jason scolds. On cue, I steal another piece of bacon. There’s plenty—stop policing the bacon! Gail shakes her head and takes two of the plates and their covers to the kitchen.

“Tattle-tell,” I sneer. Jason laughs.

“Yeah, yeah, get over it,” he says, retrieving the other plates and taking them to the kitchen. I finish crunching my most recent piece of bacon while they put the plates in the warmer.

“We’re heading back to the house now,” Gail says when they exit the kitchen. “Call us if you need anything.”

“Call before you come back to the boat,” I jest. Jason rolls his eyes.

“For God’s sake, let that woman come up for some air!” he scolds.

“I’m not mounting her right now, am I?” I tease. He asked for it. Gail just shakes her head and walks out of the parlor to the main deck.

“I swear, one day that thing is going to shrivel up and fall off,” Jason says, following his wife. Blasphemer!

“I doubt it,” I reply once he’s left the parlor, then go to alert my wife of breakfast.

She’s fallen fast asleep when I get back up to the captain’s suite. I gingerly lift the covers to see that she still has the ice pack on her crotch. That can’t be good.

I carefully move her hand and remove the ice pack. Can’t risk any freezer burns, now, can we? I get a little closer to examine her skin. I’m not sure what I’m looking for—how do you determine if a cooch has been damaged?

“Are you fucking kidding me get away from my pussy!” she yells all in one breath while moving away from me and I leap back like she hit me.

“I’m not trying to touch you, baby. I’m just trying to help. You fell asleep with the ice pack on it. I’m sure that’s not good,” I defend. Her expression changes.

“Oh… oh… okay, then,” she cedes, still backing away slightly. I can’t help it. I burst out laughing and hand her the ice pack.

“What’s so fucking funny?” she asks, snatching the ice pack back and replacing it on her happy place.

“You are,” I reply. “I’ll admit, I’m not in as bad a shape as you, but I did need help this morning, too.” I go to the overnight bag and retrieve the ibuprofen and hand her two pills.

“Why didn’t you safeword sooner if you were in so much discomfort,” I scold gently as she takes the pills from me and I hand her the orange juice.

“Because I wasn’t in this much discomfort last night,” she says before swallowing the pills and some juice. “You know what they say, too much of a good thing…” She trails off.

“It’s never my intention to hurt you like that,” I instruct, “and I’m paying for it a bit as well, but not as much as you are.”

“I’ll live,” she says. “This isn’t one of those times where you pushed me past my limits and I let you. We were both in the moment and yes, you pushed me and I wanted to see how far I could go. When I couldn’t go anymore, I told you. Now, I’m paying for the distance.”

“In the spirit of full disclosure, I couldn’t go anymore either.” I raise a brow at her and she laughs at me.

“You’re full of shit. I’ve seen you go longer than that,” she says, smacking my arm.

“No, you haven’t,” I tell her. “You’ve seen me go long, and you’ve seen me come more times, but you haven’t seen me go longer than that. I forced several orgasms out of you last night with my dick. Only two of them were with my mouth.” She twists her lips.

“Well, it serves you right that your dick is hurting, too, then. Now, excuse me while I go and scream through a piss.”

She scoots off the bed and heads for the bathroom. I don’t want to hear her scream through a piss, so I go back to the dining room to retrieve the food and a tray. She deserves breakfast in bed.

*-*

We spent the day on the boat so that Butterfly—and I—could recuperate. Ethan eventually retrieved his glasses and couldn’t look Butterfly in the eye. First of all, youngster, I’m certain you’ve eaten some pussy in your day and if not, I’m not sure why my sister married you. Second, if you haven’t eaten some, I know you’ve seen a porno or three. Why are you acting like you’ve never seen a man give a woman head before?

I’m in my office on Tuesday morning when I get the email from Aggie that the brindles have arrived. She has also attached pictures of the growing red-noses. I respond to her email explaining what our schedule will be in Italy and when we plan to return, asking if she could board the puppies for a couple of weeks until we get back to the states. As it turns out, the brindles will be just ready to come home when we get back, so she would only be boarding the red-nose.

I look at the pictures and the brindles are just as beautiful as the red-noses. Since there’s such plentiful and handsome litters of both pups, I include in my email my choice from the red-nose pups, which will be a girl, and that we’ll be choosing a boy from the brindles. I hope Butterfly won’t mind. My thoughts are interrupted by a knock at my door. I raise my eyes to see Alex standing there.

“You looked a little engrossed in what you were doing,” he says as he steps into the office.

“Just picking out dogs,” I say, turning my attention to him. He raises a brow, and I’m not sure if I told him that we were getting pit bulls. It can wait.

“What’s up?” I press.

“I’ve got some information on that woman from Helping Hands—Susan Yardley.” He walks over to me and drops a file on my desk.

“What do we have?” I say, opening the file.

“Nothing of any consequence,” he says, “but whoever said that she might be trying to work the system, they may be onto something. She’s not even married—never has been. That’s not to say that there’s not a significant other that she may be just calling her husband, but there’s no evidence of it. No police report filed, no hospital records showing any injuries, no visible signs or trail of abuse anywhere. She was, however, recently released from her job about 90 days ago. Ferrell has been kicked out of three public schools for bullying or fighting. She was evicted from her apartment right before she showed up at Helping Hands. Near as I can tell, she approached the station with the story, because they paid her for it.”

“How much?”

“Juice on Anastasia Grey that can be corroborated? Ten grand,” Alex says.

“They paid her 10 grand for that garbage?” I bark.

“It was the truth, Christian,” he says.

“It was a partial truth,” I hiss. “They threw her out because she was fighting, and she lied to the Center to get in there! Even though she was homeless, she wasn’t abused. Now, she’s put all those other women at risk because she and her boorish son couldn’t behave themselves, and she got paid for it. Where is she now?” Alex glares at me.

“She’s a civilian, Christian,” he warns, “and she didn’t lie.”

“I didn’t say I was going to get her. I just asked where she was.” She made my wife cry… after she tried to help the cow. He pauses.

“She’s at Extended Stay America on Stone,” he says finally.

“Leave,” I say. “I need to think.”

He stands and leaves the office. He’s right. There’s nothing I can do to her. She didn’t lie. She didn’t do anything illegal. Any harm that she could’ve done to Helping Hands was undone by the other lady in the fight. She’s just a horrible human being. Oh, how I wish I could make this woman pay for being a bitch.

I take my anger out on a couple of acquisitions that appear to be dragging their asses. I’m not in the mood to fight any more poison pills, nor do I feel like negotiating around golden parachutes, especially not today.

But alas, the fates have shined upon me because just as I’m preparing to leave for the day, I get a call from the front desk.

“Mr. Grey, I think you should know that Sarah walked out of the building today and she’s been approached by a man on the sidewalk. The conversation doesn’t look heated, but she doesn’t look pleased either.”

“Is it her husband?” I ask.

“I don’t know for sure, but I think so…”

I end the call and take the express elevator down to the first floor. Sure enough, there’s some guy pointing in Sarah’s face on the sidewalk right in front of the building. Boy, this fucker really has balls.

I walk out of the building and right up to her and he’s so busy berating her that he doesn’t even realize I’m there.

“Excuse me,” I say, interrupting his tirade. He turns angry, disbelieving eyes to me.

“This is a private conversation! What the hell do you want?” he snaps.

“It’s not a private conversation. You’re having it on a public sidewalk,” I say matter-of-factly. He narrows his eyes and quickly grasps Sarah’s arm as if to move her along. I grasp his wrist just as quickly and squeeze—hard. He has mechanic’s hands—strong, rugged, scarred from years of working with tools. He can really hurt her, but I won’t let him.

“Get your hands off me!” he says through his teeth.

“Get your hands off her,” I say, calmly.

“This is my wife!” he hisses.

“Estranged wife,” I reply, “so like I said, get your hands off her.” I hear a shuffle behind me, and Fletcher’s gaze moves just beyond my shoulder. I’m assuming my security has joined me.

He reluctantly releases Sarah’s arm, but I keep a grip on his wrist a few more moments. He flexes his fingers a bit after I release him.

“May I ask why you’re accosting my godmother out here on the sidewalk?” I inquire.

“Godmother?” he says in disbelief. “She ain’t got no godkids!”

“She does now!” I announce. “And she has filed for divorce from you, so why are you here?”

“We’re still married!” he shoots. “And I ain’t signing no papers, and half of whatever she gets from you still belongs to me!” I shrug.

“All she has is a job where she works, an apartment where she’s paying rent, and a whole stack of bills that you left her with. Are you going to pay half of that?”

“Her address is here! And she’s got a fancy lawyer, so she’s making more money than she’s letting on,” he protests firmly.

“That fancy lawyer, that’s my lawyer, and he’s doing this pro-bono. And this address—this is where she works with lots and lots of security. So, what are you gonna do, take half my building? Just how brave are you?

“You’re a letch of a man,” I tell him. “You let her get evicted from her home and as far as you knew, she had nowhere to go. I found her in a homeless shelter. Your wife, in a homeless shelter begging for help. And now you show up here because you think she has something that you can latch onto! Well, let me tell you this. Any assets that she could acquire at this point, I’ll be glad to put them in the name of GEH until. You. Die!”

He’s looking at me like I’m crazy because he really doesn’t know who the fuck I am. I lean in to him.

“Fletcher,” I say, calling him by a name he never gave me. That gets his attention. “I know who you are; I know where you work; and I know where you live. You have abused this woman for the last time. There are cameras fixed on us right now and I have you on camera assaulting her until I stopped you. That’s perfect evidence to press charges, but we’re going to try this the easy way. Don’t you ever. Put your hands on her again, or you’re going to have to deal with me personally, and then you can deal with the police.”

“I’m not scared of you, kid,” he boasts.

“And yet, you let her go,” I point out. “You’re not afraid of me? Fine. Try putting your hands on her… anytime, anywhere, and see what happens.” I glare at him and await a response. Nothing.

“Leave her alone, Fletcher,” I say. “Sign the papers and get out of her life.”

Fletcher appears to be about to say something, but we hear a voice behind us.

“Aunt Sarah?”

We turn around to see a determined Marlow walking towards us. What the hell is he doing?

“Are you okay?” he asks Sarah while glaring at Fletcher with a furrowed brow. Sarah rubs his arm as if to soothe a dog that’s about to charge.

“Yes, Marlow, I’m fine,” she says, her voice calming. When did this happen? I didn’t introduce them. He must be another person that she infected with her kindness.

I look from her to Marlow, and then I remember—he doesn’t take kindly at all to domestic abuse having experienced it firsthand. 

Aunt Sarah,” Fletcher repeats. “Looks like you’ve got a whole family here I didn’t know about.”

“Looks like you’re right,” I confirm.

“More than you know,” Marlow threatens, still not taking his eyes off Fletcher. “Aunt Sarah, may I drive you home?”

“I’ll be fine, child,” she says, still rubbing his arm. He turns a tender, beseeching gaze to her.

“Please?” he says. It’ll make him feel better. A smile plays with the corner of her mouth.

“Of course,” she says sweetly as if a courtier has just asked her out for coffee. He returns her smile before looking at me.

“Christian, is this conversation complete?” he asks. “It’s been a long day, and Aunt Sarah should really get home.”

“Go on and get her home, Marlow,” I say, “and thank you.” He nods and takes Sarah’s hand, folding it gently into his elbow, and leads her to the parking garage. I turn back to Fletcher.

“Anything else… Fletch?” I say, my voice menacing. He looks at me, angry but defeated, and leaves without a word. Jason’s voice is behind me in moments.

“Sir,” he says.

“He’ll wait for a minute,” I say, watching his retreating back, “and then he’ll become angry that she has a support system. Then, he’ll follow her home and try to get her alone and then she might become a statistic. Full surveillance on him—not that bullshit we had on David! If he’s heading to 20 feet from her, make your presence known. If he breaches that perimeter, take him down and call the police. He means her no good.”

“Protection order?” he asks.

“I’ll talk to her and Allen tomorrow,” I reply. We all know that a protection order is just permission to take someone down. It won’t stop anyone from getting to you if they really want to.


ANASTASIA

“You were noticeably absent from the festivities this weekend,” I say to Sophie as we’re going over outdoor furniture choices for the villa.

“Not that noticeable,” she murmurs.

“Yes, that noticeable,” I correct her. “By the time Jason called you, he realized that he had seen the twins more that day than he had seen you. Even then, you didn’t immerge until it was time to go home.”

“Just trying to stay out of the way,” she replies. I frown, and she gives me that surly, teenager “Seriously?” look.

“Are you telling me that you hid out on a four-story, 150-foot yacht with more rooms than your apartment so that you could avoid Marlow?” I ask incredulously.

“We used to be friends, Aunt Ana,” she says. “We used to be cool; he used to like me. Now, he hates me. If he forgets that I’m alive, then maybe he won’t hate me so much,” she replies. I‘m completely taken aback by this logic.

“Sophie!” I say, shocked. “That’s a horrible thing to think.”

“Any worse than hearing him tell a stranger to ignore me because I don’t know how to behave around company?” she retorts, her voice horrified. Jesus, I don’t have an answer for that.

“Aunt Ana, the damage is done now,” she says, her voice reserved. “Marlow hates me. I should have left his girlfriends alone and I should’ve stayed away from them in the first place. If he doesn’t see me, he can’t hate me forever, and I don’t have to hear him say terrible things about me.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” I say. “Tell him that you regret saying those things about his girlfriends and see what happens.”

“Honestly, that’ll be worse than avoiding him. I’m just going to stay out of his way and wait for this thing to blow over. I am sorry that I said those things about his girlfriends, because if I made any of them feel as crappy as I feel now, well I guess I got what I deserved.”

Without a word, the grown-up young lady that I had become accustomed to seeing stands up and runs out of my office. I know that dance. She’s crying, and it’s best to leave her alone.

I regret bringing it up now. It’s bad enough for someone to say something cruel or hurtful to you, but for it to come from someone that you like? Just stand me up at the wall and throw knives. I pull out my phone and send her a text.

**I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. **

I sigh heavily and go back to the choices for patio furniture that Aaron sent me. The villa is mostly finished and we’re just adding the final touches to it now. I’m becoming more and more excited about our trip. There’s way too much to learn about Rome on the internet, so I stick to focusing on the things that interest me the most—the most prominent sites like the Roman Forum, what has to me some of the most famous ruins in Rome along with the Colosseum and various other surrounding areas. I almost can’t contain my anticipation the closer we get to our vacation.

When I’ve finished choosing the patio furniture, I read more of my emails to see that Josh confirmed that he’ll be able to come on Wednesday to take the pictures of the twins and of me and Harry for Father’s Day. I don’t know how or when I’ll present Christian with his gift since we’ll be in Italy on Father’s Day, but Mandy will give Daddy his gift on my behalf.

I also see an email from my husband that the brindle pit puppies have been born, and that he took the liberty of choosing a girl from the red-noses and we’ll get a boy from the brindles. Fair enough. They’re all beautiful pups and I wouldn’t have the first idea how to choose anyway.

I also see that he has discovered that Susan Yardley is most likely a con artist and has probably gotten over at Helping Hands’ expense. I beg to differ because Penelope’s interview nullified everything that Yardley said. What’s more, other channels got a hold of the interview and they’re airing it in its entirety and offering commentary. While there are mixed reactions, Yardley is largely being made out to look like the opportunist, taking advantage of my kindness because I happened to be a billionairess and then exploiting the situation for gain.

It didn’t help much that it was leaked that she was paid handsomely for the story.

However, all’s well that ends well, because Penelope ended up escaping to safety and starting a new life while Susan is somewhere in some motel, living off her few thousand dollars and most likely looking for another gig when that runs out. Oh, and while my beloved Laura informs me that there are a few people slamming Helping Hands on social media, there are even more people supporting us and praising the work that we do, as evidenced by the increase in donations over the last week.

Take that, Yardley!

I shut down my computer and head upstairs to see what’s going on with the twins and the rest of the house and notice that I have a text message. It’s a response from Sophie.

**It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Sorry I bailed. I’ll see you tomorrow. **

*-*

The photo shoot was darling. The candid pictures of Minnie and Mikey were priceless along with the formal pictures that I had taken of them. We took some seated pictures with me and the children as well. Josh has suggested that we get together and take a family picture and I couldn’t agree more. We haven’t had anything taken together like that since our wedding and our babies are getting so big. I wonder how the Greys would feel about a generational picture—with all the children and grandchildren and everybody… I think that would be fantastic.

We had to get creative with pictures of me and Harry so that it didn’t look like a mother and son picture. We both have brown hair, so sitting him on my lap made him look like my kid.

We opted for fun shots—me giving Harry a piggy-back ride; Harry chasing me on the back lawn; both of us leaning our faces on hands and looking lovingly at the camera; things like that. We also opted for a shot of Mandy with Harry in her lap, and one with them in the same position and me standing behind her with my hands on her shoulder. I really like that one.

I’m slowly putting my wardrobe together for Italy and making a list of some things that I might need. Christian has already told me that Victoria will be coming along when we get to Milan to help style me with the latest and greatest fashions. So, I’m having a time deciding what I should bring. Enough clothes for two weeks and just rotate the outfits? Maybe enough casual clothes and accessories for two weeks and then round things off with a few dressy outfits and one or two formal options… maybe three. Yes, that sounds like a plan.

As I’m combing through my wardrobe over the weekend, I realize that I need to get rid of some of these things. I’m a throwback-vintage kind of girl, but some of this stuff I haven’t worn in ages, and I don’t really have any intention of wearing them again. I work at a homeless shelter, and although every woman isn’t shaped like me—or even like I used to be—I’m sure that someone would be able to put these things to use. If not, I’ll just donate them to another charity…

Okay, this was a massive fucking undertaking. I have a lot of goddamn clothes! What the fuck was I thinking? I’m tossing piece after piece out of the closet when I hear a bewildered voice in the bedroom.

“Um… dear? Have you… lost something?” It’s my husband, of course.

“Yeah, my mind!” I reply, coming out of the closet and examining the huge mess of clothes on the floor. “I was beginning to choose my wardrobe for Italy and had the grand idea to thin out the clothes I don’t wear anymore and have not intention of wearing.”

I gesture, frustrated, at the massive pile that has accumulated on the floor.

“Well, step away from that for a moment,” he says. “I’ll tell someone to come and sort through this pile.”

“I want to take these things to Helping Hands,” I protest.

“All the more reason to have someone sort through them,” he says, taking my hand and helping me to maneuver around the massive pile of clothes. “Besides that, you left your phone on the counter downstairs. It’s been ringing incessantly. I think you should look at it.”

I take my phone from his hand and swipe the screen… 702 area code. It called five times.

I raise my gaze to Christian and his expression is impassive. I go to my voice mail application and check it. Only three voice mails. I play the first one.

“Dr. Grey, this is Dr. Hamlin. I’m contacting you concerning the next stage in Carla Morton’s treatment and her possible release from the facility. Will you please return my call at 702-555-4398. It’s important that we speak to you. Thank you.”

I listen to the other two messages and they’re nearly identical to the first one. I raise my gaze to my husband and his expression still hasn’t changed.

“Why would they call someone repeatedly like that on a Sunday afternoon like she’s dying?” I ask. “I have Wendy down as her contact. Why are they calling me?”

Before he has a chance to respond, the phone rings again… 702.

“Is my mother dying?” I ask when I answer the phone on speaker.

“No,” he answers, slowly, sounding somewhat confused.

“Then, why would you call me six times in a two-hour span on a Sunday afternoon?” I bark.

“Because there is important information regarding your mother’s treatment and the next step,” he responds.

“Is it life-threatening?” I ask. “You left three identical messages—one was enough. In fact, one call was enough for me to know that I needed to return your call.” He’s silent. I shake my head. “What is so important that you felt the need to call me six times?”

“Well, generally, Dr. Grey, family members want to know when something is happening with their loved ones, especially when their participation is required,” he replies haughtily.

“So, by your response, I take it that it’s regular practice for you to call family members back-to-back like that when they don’t answer their phones,” I reply just as haughtily.

“It’s normally not necessary,” he retorts. “I usually get an immediate answer or response from a concerned family member.” I look up at Christian and I can immediately see fire burning in his eyes. Oh, we’re going through this again, and here I thought this one understood.

“So, I guess you’ve never experienced anybody being away from their phone ever in your career.” He doesn’t respond. “Or your phone is stapled to your hand as well, right? You’ve never missed a call… do you take the phone in the shower with you, too?” Still no response.

“And if I were one of those swooning concerned people prone to extensive worry about my loved one, I’d be passed out on the floor right now wondering why you’re calling me six times! Now, once again, what is so important that you felt the need to call me six times?”

He’s still silent.

“What the fuck? Is this thing on?” I yell. I can hear the phone moving.

“Are you finished?” he asks. What the fuck? He put the phone down? I end the call and go about the business of blocking the number. He can fucking call Wendy. She has power of attorney and she can make any decisions he needs.

“Dear God, where did they find these people?” I lament out loud as I enter his number in the blocked list and press save. “I’ve never seen a group of so-called medical professionals like this before in my life.” Then again, they’ve probably never seen anything like me before either.

“That makes two of us,” he says. “So much for sensitivity training.” I look over at him.

“Drop it,” I say. “They’ve got the money. They’ve got Wendy. I’m not involved anymore…”

Well, at least I thought I wasn’t.

Tuesday afternoon, I get another call from an unknown number to my cell phone. I suspected it was Nevada, but I gave the number the benefit of the doubt.

“This is Dr. Hamlin,” he says when I answer.

“Oh, you’re speaking to me?” I ask surprised. “You called me six times and when you finally got me and I began to voice my opinion, you put the phone down. We have nothing to talk about. You have Wendy Scorcio’s information on file. She’s Carla’s caregiver and she has full power of attorney to make decisions on my and Carla’s behalf. You don’t need me and I refuse to be disrespected by any more of you people for one more moment because I’m not falling down in grief over my mother’s condition…”

“Mrs. Grey…” he interrupts.

“Dr. Grey!” I bark.

“I apologize, Dr. Grey,” he replies. “We are completing your mother’s evaluation and discharge. Yes, we have Ms. Scorcio here, but we really need to have you present as well. I know that you are unable to be here physically, but if I can have just a few moments of your time, I can Skype you into the meeting.”

“Why do you need me present?” I ask, perturbed.

“Because you are her living next of kin. We just want to make sure that everything is in order.”

I sigh impatiently. Do they need a house to fall on them to realize that I don’t want anything to do with this? I don’t really care what they think of me—I just don’t want anything to do with this.

“Fine,” I say. “You have my email. Send me the Skype invite.”

I end the call and stand. I put my “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door, then close and lock it. I take my seat and pop my neck like I’m about to go into a price fight. I open my email and find the link for the Skype invite, click on it, and wait to be admitted in.

When the picture comes up, there’s Dr. Hamlin, Wendy, and my mother all in what looks like his office.

“Thank you for joining us, Dr. Grey. I realize this is short notice,” Dr. Hamlin says. I just nod, but I don’t respond.

“This is Carla’s discharge interview and we just want all parties involved to know what’s going on, what’s going to happen from here, and what’s going to be necessary for Carla’s recovery. I’m fully aware that Ms. Scorcio has power of attorney to make decisions for her. However, Dr. Grey, since you were the family member who originally agreed to have her admitted, we just want to make sure that we are taking all steps necessary in the interest of full disclosure for Carla’s continued treatment…”

The conversation goes on for about another five minutes with Dr. Hamlin pretty much verbalizing disclosures and covering his ass. This is interrupting my day and I really want him to just get on with it. Yes, yes, whatever you need, here’s the money, can I go now.

After all of his disclosures, he finally gets to the part where he’s talking about Carla’s delicate condition and the circumstances that she’s found herself in and the best way for her to get out of it and heal and blah blah blah blah blah, and all I’m saying to myself is, “Wendy, I don’t see you taking notes and I hope you’ll remember all this shit.”

Somewhere during the conversation, he mentions something about the support of family and friends and how her recovery is crucial to her support system. When he gets no response from me, he decides to call me out.

“Do you understand that, Dr. Grey?” he asks.

“Oh, I heard you just fine, Dr. Hamlin,” I reply.

“But do you understand?” I’m not going to argue with him.

“I understand that she needs a support system, and she has one there in Nevada. I’m in Washington,” I respond flatly. Dr. Hamlin sighs.

“Carla, is there anything that you want to say?” he asks. Carla sighs this time.

“I’ve… I know you don’t want to hear this from me. I know it’s too late, but I’m sorry. I understood before now what I lost and what I did, but I understand even more now. I get it, Anastasia, believe me, I get it. I really feel horrible for what you went through. That’s why I testified in that trial—not because I was trying to get anything from you, but because I was trying to make it right in whatever small way that I could. I’ve been trying to get on with my life all of these years and it never worked. I was never able to find happiness or peace because of what I had done to you. I don’t expect you to welcome me into your heart with open arms. I just want you to know that I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me—that you’re doing for me. I know you don’t have to. You may not believe it, but I love you, Anastasia. I love you now and I always will.”

Oh, dear God, I think I’m going to vomit. I scoff shamelessly at the computer, looking down and shaking my head.

“Dr. Grey, your mother is being very sincere. I can’t imagine what’s funny,” Dr. Hamlin says. I raise narrowed eyes to the computer.

“You love me now,” I say with tragic mirth. “You love me now. Where the fuck were you when I needed you? Where the fuck were you when I cried myself to sleep for three years wondering why you didn’t fucking care about me? Where the fuck were you when your beloved husband berated me day after day after day, after I was beaten within an inch of my life—branded like an animal, my baby killed after I was raped? Where were you when at 15 I had nobody—nobody! Every day, I woke up regretting that God didn’t take me in the night! Where were you then, Mother?

“Everyone looks at me like I’m this horrible ungrateful child who has no pity on her poor mother—what the fuck do I have to be grateful for? Pity on you? Where was the pity when I was in a coma! Where was the pity when I laid in that hospital wishing I were dead? White walls, no visitors, not even you, yet you had a room full of flowers while you were unconscious and he has the nerve to lecture me about a support system? I’ve done everything in my power to make sure that you are comfortable and that you have everything you need, including a support system. But if it weren’t for Daddy, I could’ve died in that hospital room and you never would have known!

He was my support system and you ripped me away from that!” I bark. “What’s more, you and that rotting monster profited from it! You wouldn’t even look at me and you love me now? All offense intended, Mother, take that love and shove it up your ass. I don’t need it anymore.”

“Dr. Grey!” Dr. Hamlin scolds.

“You’re toxic to me, mother,” I say finitely. “Nothing good for me can ever come out of a relationship with you. I don’t want you near me and I don’t want you near my children.”

“Dr. Grey, your behavior is completely contrary to what we’re trying to accomplish here!” Dr. Hamlin interjects.

“Hey, shrink?” I say, sarcastically. “She’s not going to have a relationship with me. That boat has sailed. It’s a reality. Now, help her deal with it… or don’t! I don’t care. Whatever you do is not going to involve me.”

“Then why are you here?” he asks.

“Because you told me that in order for her to be released, I had to be here. You lied. You tricked me into coming to this meeting to try to orchestrate some type of reconciliation between us, I see that now. You’re pursuing her mental well-being at the cost of mine! Where did you get your license, from a correspondence course?” His brow furrows and he glares at me.

“Mrs. Grey,” he begins in a scolding tone, “you clearly have issues with unexpressed anger and it’s causing you to be unable to forgive your mother.”

“Oh, I have forgiven my mother,” I correct him. “Years ago, I let go of that shit that she did to me, that she allowed to happen to me, but that doesn’t mean that I must allow her back in my life! She’s the one who came at me with that ‘I love you’ shit after years of neglect and emotional abuse. She told me her feelings and I told her mine. And it’s Dr. Grey!” I bark at him, “or didn’t they tell you that I’m a shrink, too?” His eyes widen.

“You’re a psychiatrist?” he asks shocked.

“Yes, I am, and your tactics are completely backwards. You can’t force someone into a reconciliation. This isn’t an intervention. This is an attempt at medical and emotional bullying! Is this something you normally do? Have you lost your mind?” He glares at me.

“I don’t tell you how to treat your patients, Dr. Grey, and I don’t appreciate you trying to tell me how to treat mine,” he shoots. I twist my lips.

“Yeah, sure. Closed my private practice to focus on my family and my charity and I still have a waiting list as long as you are tall. I might know a little bit about this.”

“Why are you seeing to her care if you hate her so?” he asks.

“Because when and if I find myself in her situation or anything like it and my children have to care for me, I want to be able to say that I did my best by my mother, no matter what, even though she didn’t do her best by me! I want my children to know that I love them and look at me and be proud of me instead of feeling the shame and disdain that I feel when I look at that woman!”

“Okay, look,” my mother says, “I did horrible things to my daughter. I allowed horrible things to happen to her. As a result, she wants nothing to do with me, and I accept that. Now, you’ve orchestrated this meeting and every time she sees me, she berates me. I’m not going to sit and listen to it this time. So, if her approval is what you need to let me out of this place, then I guess I’ll be an eternal resident!”

My mother rolls herself to the door, opens it, and rolls out of the room. The door slams closed behind her. Wendy looks at me and then Dr. Hamlin, then follows Carla out of the room.

“Dr. Grey…”

“You need my approval, you got it. Let her go home. Let her out of there, or I’m having you investigated. I’m already questioning your methods.” I end the Skype.

I can’t fucking wait to get to Rome.

*-*

“Do you know that bastard called me at work?” I say to Christian when I get home.

“What bastard?” he asks while sitting at the breakfast bar chomping on Sophie’s truffles.

“Dr. Hamlin,” I reply. He frowns.

“You gave him your work number?” he asks over the chocolate. I shake my head and snag one of his truffles.

“Let me rephrase,” I say. “He called me while I was at work.”

“I thought you blocked his number,” he says, his mouth still full of chocolate.

“I did, he called me from an unknown number,” I reply, taking a bite of the truffles.

“Okay, and how did that go?” I scoff, almost spitting out my chocolate. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“It’s not,” I say after swallowing my chocolate. “Do you remember the really big fight that Grace and I had after the Adopt-A-Family Affair where she engineered a meeting between Addie and Courtney?”

“How can I forget?” he says. “Hamlin tried to engineer one with you and Carla?”

“Not try… did!” I snap. “He tricked me into a Skype meeting by telling me that he needed to discuss Carla’s discharge instructions with me since I was the next of kin who had her committed. It seemed reasonable enough, so I met with them—all of them. I should’ve known something was up when he started the meeting with a billion disclaimers.”

“Disclaimers?”

“Yes, ‘In the interest of full disclosure, we have to’ blah blah blah. It all started sounding like wah wah talk to me and I wasn’t even paying attention anymore until he got around to talking about her support system. He’s going into great detail about how she needs her family and friends around her… and now I’m thinking Wendy was in on this shit, too, because she didn’t even seem surprised and wasn’t taking any notes about anything he said…”

“Okay, you lost me,” Christian says, and I realize that I’ve left something out.

“He asked me if I understood that Carla needed her friends and family and I told him that I understood what he was saying and that she has a support system in Nevada. That’s when he asked her how she felt about what I said, and do you know what this bitch did?” He remains silent and waits for me to continue.

“She told me she loved me,” I hiss folding my arms.

“W… what?” he says, disbelieving.

“You heard me. After everything she put me through, this selfish, callous, self-serving, demonic, wretch of a woman had the audacity to tell me that she loves me!”

“You must have been mistaken,” he says, and I can tell he’s utterly stunned. “There must’ve been a mistake…”

“There’s no mistake,” I clarify. “That psychotic, neurotic bitch sat there right in front of her doctor and her beloved Window and had the nerve to say she loves me. ‘I love you, Anastasia. I love you now and I always will.’” I repeat her words with mocked sincerity and disdain.

“What did you say to that?” he asks, still in shock.

“I told her to shove it up her ass!” I shoot. “You love me now. You fucking love me now. What’s different now, Mother? The fact that you can’t fucking walk? That you’re fucking helpless without me? That you fell in love with an absolutely perfectly worthless piece of shit who died rotten physically and spiritually and left you alone and penniless? What’s the difference between 15-year-old Anastasia Steele who was lost and forlorn and broken without you and grown ass Anastasia Grey—Dr. Anastasia Grey—who don’t fucking need you no more because she got her own money and her own life?”

I’m pacing around the kitchen huffing like a horse. Delusional, narcissistic ass witch. Why does all the fucking liquor have to be downstairs?

I can’t wait for the elevator. I take the back stairs down to the entertainment room only to find the Christian has made it down there before me. What the fuck did he do, teleport?

He puts a glass on the bar and pours me a double-shot of vodka. I throw the damn thing back before I can even think about it.

I’m not going to cry… I’m not going to cry…

“Nobody’s going to blame you if you do,” he says, pouring another double-shot. Did I say that out loud?

I shake off the thought and down the second drink.

“I wanna dance,” I say. I pull out phone and look for the docking station.

“There’s no docking station down here?” I ask.

“Alexa, play music,” Christian says. Who the fuck is Alexa?

“What would you like to hear?” What the fuck is that? Who the fuck is that?

“Who the hell is that?” I ask appalled.

“That’s Alexa,” he says. “It’s voice-control virtual AI that’s wired into the communications system and can do a few things if you ask her nicely.”

“How long have we had that?” I ask.

“Only for about a month,” he replies. “It relies on the same AI that does the voice and face recognition in the house. It just has a few more capabilities.”

Just as he’s explaining what the fuck Alexa is doing in my house, my phone buzzes with a text. My vision is a little groggy, but I can make out that it’s from none other than Carla’s beloved Window:

**She’s been released. **

I close the screen and leave the phone on the bar.

“Alexa, play 80’s dance music.”

“Here’s some 80’s dance music…”

Almost instantly, I hear the synthesized drum beat of Take On Me by Aha. I move to the middle of the floor and begin to fling my hair and dance with abandon, working to forget the demented, self-centered, unfeeling woman who claims to love me.


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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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.

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 intitled “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: Episode 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

Back from the funeral—shit happened there that can only happen in Detroit. Glad to be home. I haven’t emailed yet, but it’s been too long since I posted something.

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 37—Saaaaaaaaailing Takes Me Awaaaaaaay…

CHRISTIAN

“You know, I’ve never been on your boat before,” Jason says as he helps Gail, Sophie, and Ms. Solomon load the food onto the Slayer after they have surrendered their shoes and changed into slippers.

“Never?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Even with it moored here, it’s patrolled by other members of the team. I’ve never been on it.” I shrug.

“Well, welcome aboard,” I say as we climb the stairs.

“Straight through there,” I say to Gail, pointing her towards the kitchen.

“You forget,” she says, “I have been on here before.” She gestures her head for the rest of her party to follow her. I smile and head to the main aft deck.

“Ahoy!” I hear my wife say as she boards our boat wearing a beautiful flowing sun dress, an oversized sun hat, and her Jackie O’s, carrying our son.

“Hello, beautiful,” I say, giving her a kiss before taking my son from her arms. “You wanna see the bridge, son?” I ask.

“Kay,” he replies, even though I’m sure he has no idea what I just asked him. I head off to the bridge to show my son the command center.

“One day, this will be yours,” I say, standing him by the wheel as I sit in one of the captain’s chairs, “or something like it,” I correct myself. This boat will be way too old by the time he’s old enough to sail.

I remember when I first got this thing. I liked the size and the power. I never intended to have a family on it. Now, my 16-month-old son is trying to steer.

“Shit!” he declares with a full-tooth smile on his face. I shake my head.

“Don’t say that around your mom,” I warn, accepting that the damage has already been done and she has no one to blame but herself.

I pull my vibrating phone from my pocket and answer it.

“Grey.”

“It’s Wallace, sir. Harp’s at the gate.”

“Let him in and have one of the guards bring him back,” I say.

“Will do.” I end the call. I can sail the Slayer on my own, but when I plan to entertain, I need a first mate. That’s Harper’s job, to navigate the waters while I spend time with my family. I stay on the bridge for several more minutes waiting for Harper.

“Pleasure to see you again, sir,” Harper says, shaking my hand when he finally arrives.

“Thanks for coming on such short notice,” I reply.

“To sail the Slayer?” he retorts. “No problem. I love being able to navigate this beauty. I brought new boat shoes. The old ones are probably dry-rotted,” he says, showing me his new shoes still in the box. I nod and he steps into his boat shoes.

I give Harper some instructions on what we plan to do today before I head back down to the main floor to see how things are shaping up.

“Jesus, this thing is monstrous on the outside, but it’s even bigger on the inside,” Jason says, when I come down from the bridge. “This is definitely what it’s like to have money to burn.”

I laugh at him. This wasn’t money to burn. I wanted this boat—the biggest thing on the Sound and definitely the biggest on the lake. It was like moving a house getting this thing across the bridge. Hell, it was moving a house because this thing is bigger than some houses.

“Have you seen everything?” I ask.

“Oh, I’ve seen everything,” he says, “including the his and hers bathrooms in the master bedroom. Foresight?” I twist my lips.

“Gia Mateo,” I say.

“Oh,” Jason says, rightfully looking around for Butterfly who is nowhere in sight, thank God.

“Is everyone on board?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“We’re waiting for the Donaldson/Johnson family and we’ll be ready to go,” he says.

“Plan on leaving without us?” Elliot says, holding Valerie’s hand.

“I thought you were going to meet us at Mom and Dad’s,” I say. “You almost got left behind.”

“We thought why wait with Mom and Dad when we could sail?” he says.

“Where’s Steele?” Valerie says.

“Grey,” I correct her. She twists her lips.

“Look, old habits are hard to break, and she’s Steele-Grey. So, where’s Steele?” I shake my head and look at Jason.

“Probably down below,” he says. “She went to show the boat to Al and James and her parents.” Valerie nods and heads towards the bow of the boat.

“Gia Mateo, huh?” Jason says as we head towards the main aft deck to wait for Marlow and his family. “That explains the parlor. Her Highness is a bit possessive when she talks about certain rooms.”

“That would be because she knows that Mateo designed these rooms with herself in mind, and now these rooms belong to her!” I state finitely.

“Yes, I would say that neither of our wives have a liking of Gia,” Elliot says. “With good reason, though.”

“We haven’t missed the boat, have we?” Maxine says as she, Phillip, and Mindy head to the dock. I see Marlow and his family coming around the house. I thought they were the last ones that we were waiting for.

“Um, no,” I say. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting you.”

“Oh,” Maxine says. “Ana told us to come. Something about Elliot and Val’s vow renewal.” I slap my forehead.

“Of course! Duh!” I say. “Don’t just stand there, you idiot. Help the woman get on the boat,” I poke at Elliot.

“Yeah, clean it up, Bro,” Elliot says, reaching his hand out to help Maxine. “Hey, Phil,” he says and he helps Maxine board the boat.

“Hey, El. How’s it hanging?” Phil says, handing Mindy to his wife.

“To the left, I think,” he jests, giving Phil that one-armed bro-hug when he boards the boat.

“Is Garett and Marilyn on board?” I inconspicuously ask Jason.

“Yes, sir,” he nods. Good. That’s all of the Scooby Gang.

“Do you know of anyone else that’s supposed to board that I don’t know of?” I ask him as the Guests change out of their street shoes. He shakes his head.

“You, me, our families, Chuck and Keri, the Steeles, Ana’s Scooby Gang, Elliot and Val that we’re just learning of, and Marlow and his family. I don’t think there’s anybody else. Your parents, Herman and his family, and Mia and Ethan are all going to be at Grey Manor.”

“Well, Mia better not change her mind because she’s going to get left behind,” I say as Elliot takes the Guest family back into the parlor.

“We’re not late, are we?” I hear Marcia’s voice and raise my head to see her family crossing the yard.

“Nope, you’re just in time,” I say. Zac helps Marcia onto the boat and then Maggie and a young lady that I assume is Marlow’s date before he and Marlow board the boat.

“Always lovely to see you, Christian,” Marcia says giving me a quick hug. “You remember Zac.”

“I do,” I say, proffering my hand to Zac. “Welcome aboard.”

“Thanks, good to see you again,” he says. “This is a pretty impressive vessel.”

“Wait until you see the inside,” I say with mirth causing Zac to laugh. “Marlow.”

“Hey, Christian,” he says cautiously. “Elise, this is Christian Grey and Jason Taylor. Christian, Jason, this is Elise.”

At least she’s dressed respectably.

Before she has the chance to say anything, Sophie comes out to the deck.

“Dad, Momma Gail says she forgot some things in the kitchen…” She stops cold when she sees the group of people standing on the balcony, probably embarrassed that she interrupted. “They’re all still on the counter.”

“Did she specifically say what?” Jason asks. Sophie turns her focus to her father.

“She said just bring the bags. You can’t miss them,” Sophie instructs.

“Ooookay,” he says. He changes back into his street shoes and heads down the stairs to the dock.

“That’s Sophia,” Marlow says, not very loudly, but loud enough for me to hear. “I apologize in advance for anything rude that she might say to you because she doesn’t know how to behave around company. I suggest you just ignore her. We’ll have a good time either way. It’s a big boat.”

“I’ll say it is,” Elise says with a bit of wonder in her voice. I see Sophie stiffen in my peripheral vision. That wasn’t very nice.

“Um, Dad, uh, I’ll come with you,” she says. She changes into her sneakers and nearly jumps off the boat.

“I got it, Baby Boo,” he calls back.

“It’s okay,” she says, running behind her father. “I wanna help.”

What the hell just happened?

“Mr. Grey,” Elise says, holding her hand out to me. “It’s nice to meet you, sir.”

“Likewise,” I say, taking her proffered hand. Once I shake it, she clasps her hands in front of her and moves closer to Marlow. He must’ve coached her about her behavior, or hopefully she already knows how to carry herself.

“Um… what’s with the shoes?” Maggie asks.

“Well, I don’t like dirt from the ground or the street on my boat. It doesn’t get cleaned as often as the house and certain gravel can destroy the floors. So, you have to change into a pair of these slippers, or you can go barefoot if you like.”

“I think I’ll go barefoot,” Maggie says, and the other ladies concur. The gentlemen all wear a pair of the slippers.

As they all move towards the parlor, I catch Marlow and pull him aside.

“What was that about Sophie?” I ask. It was kind of rude. He looks around to make sure no one is in earshot.

“You haven’t seen it, Christian,” he admits. “She acts horrible around my dates. She talks about their clothes and their hair, their bodies… everything. She’s the worst version of a bratty little sister.” I never got that impression from Sophie. If anything, I would say she was exactly the opposite.

“You’re not talking about that number you brought to my birthday barbeque, are you?” I accuse.

“Okay, Rochelle was asking for it, but even before her—the wedding, Thanksgiving, Christmas… every time. It’s awful. The only way Rochelle and I got any peace is that I told her to ignore Sophie, so I just got it out of the way in the beginning this time.” I twist my lips.

“Hmm,” I say. “Well, I think you may have hurt her feelings,” I add.

“I doubt it,” he counters. “She’s brutal with her insults. So, I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“No?” I say. “Did you see the way she just leapt off the boat? She’s lucky she didn’t fall into the lake.” He sighs.

“Well, she’ll just have to get over it,” he says. “Not once has she ever apologized to me or my dates, even when Gail called her on it. I’m not apologizing to her. I meant what I said, and we’re going to ignore her for this trip, because there’s nowhere for us to hide on a boat.”

The inner me is shaking my head at him as he goes into the parlor where much of the family has gathered. I wait for a few minutes for Jason and Sophie to return with the supplies Gail sent them for. It’s not much and Jason didn’t really need any help, so I know that Sophie was making a getaway when she jumped off the boat. I secure the deck as they change their shoes and I catch Sophie right before she enters the parlor.

“Are you alright?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says, her voice unassuming.

“You just… left the boat pretty quickly. It’s obvious that Jason didn’t need any help,” I point out.

“Oh… yeah, well, I just wanted to get my phone and my notebook before we left,” she excuses.

“Okay,” I say. “So, it had nothing to do with what Marlow said.” She twists her lips uncomfortably.

“He’s just a bonehead boy trying to impress his bonehead girl,” she replies without making eye-contact with me. He did hurt her feelings.

“Is what he tells me true?” I ask. “Do you say rude things about his dates?”

“Yeah,” she admits quickly. “It was a phase I was going through—angry or something, I don’t know. It won’t happen again I’m over it.” She says the last part all in one breath.

“He says you never apologized…”

“That’s because he squealed on me!” she retorts, feverishly, finally raising her eyes to me. “I wasn’t going to apologize after he squealed on me!” I seem to remember something about that.

“Are you going to be okay?” I ask, genuinely concerned about her feelings. She moves her gaze from mine again and nods.

“I’m fine,” she says, none too convincingly. “They’re going to ignore me and I’m going to ignore them. Everything will be fine.” I twist my lips and nod. That’s no solution, but it’ll have to do for now.

“Okay. Go on inside. We’re getting ready to leave.” She nods and hugs her notebook to her body. I watch as she walks through the parlor, never looking left or right and going straight back to the dining area, probably to the kitchen.

I love my yacht. It’s really a superyacht, but a certain person who shall be unnamed refused to call it that, so I’ve begrudgingly shortened it to yacht. It’s a beautiful vessel—a water resort if you will. Twenty people can live on this yacht if need be—12 in staterooms and eight in the staff quarters. It’s a statement in mahogany, chrome, and glass. I’d never seen anything like it before and that’s what I wanted.

My boy stands at my feet and pretends to steer as I guide the Slayer away from the dock and into open water. It’s been a long time since I got my hands on that wheel and I miss it. I’m going to have to get into the practice of spending more time on my yacht.

“Getting to know her again?” Butterfly asks when I descend the stairs from the bridge. She takes Mikey’s hand and sends him into the dining area where the rest of the guests are.

“Yeah,” I say. “She’s really yar. I’m going to have to get you into that bridge one day, even if you just sit on the sofa and watch me work the wheel.”

“That sounds so hot,” she says, raising a brow at me.

“That was the intention,” I reply.

“You know, the last time we were on this boat, you got fucked,” she says suggestively.

“And here we are again,” I point out.

“You tryin’ to get lucky, Grey?” she says, closing the space between us and teasing the skin on my chest. She’s the first and only woman in the world able to make my scars an erogenous zone.

“Is that option on the table?” I say, looking down at my bite-size wife in this gorgeous flowing sundress and her bare feet and trying not to growl.

“It’s always on the table,” she purrs, and for a moment, I literally forget that we have several other people on the boat. I take a deep breath to get the beast in check and tame Greystone before he gets started.

“I’ll bring you up and let you watch me bring her back to berth. Then, once we’ve gotten everybody off the boat, I’m going to fuck you on the nearest surface.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” she whispers and my cock twitches. I inconspicuously rub the side of her breast before teasing the nipple with my thumb. It’s immediately taut against my finger, and she takes a deep breath and licks her lips. Yes, baby, if I’m going to be hot and bothered, so are you.

“Let’s get back to our guests,” I say, planting a soft, chaste kiss on her lips before I abandon her nipple.

*-*

It’s a beautiful day to sail and everyone appears to be having a good time. Ray nearly expired when he asked, “How much does something like this run you,” and I told him. Yes, it’s extravagant, but I love my boat.

I’m pleased to discover that nearly everyone has a passport and those who don’t have them yet are all on their way. I tell the current parties what information I can before we get to my parents’ house. We’re all snacking and having light drinks for the morning, preparing for lunch when we get there.

The ladies are all sunbathing or soaking in the Jacuzzi except for Marlow’s date, who chooses to stay by his side with the men while we chew the fat about whatever strikes our interest. While we’re sipping cocktails and talking sports or shop, Ms. Solomon brings a lovely platter of sweet and savory petit fours to the Skylounge. Ray immediately digs into the toasted baguettes. I’m not sure what’s on them, but I can see bacon and scallions.

“Mm, mm, mm,” Ray says. “How do you and my daughter stay so thin with a gourmet cook on staff? These are delightful.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ms. Solomon says, “but I didn’t prepare these.”

“Oh! Well, Gail,” Ray corrects as Marlow and Elise come over to partake in the spread along with Elliot, the human vacuum cleaner.

“Thank you,” Gail says, dropping some plates next to the tray and heading towards the deck with a second tray, “but it wasn’t me either.”

“Well, who was it,” Jason asks, “the petit four fairy?”

“In fact, it was,” Gail says, “and don’t let her hear you teasing her or you may not get any more truffles.” I sit up straight in my chair. If this goon fucks up my truffles…

“Sophie?” Jason asks almost incredulously. Gail nods as she clears the door and Marlow looks at the tray he’s been attacking like it just attacked him.

“Why are you so surprised?” I say to Jason. “Those damn truffles almost caused an international incident!”

“And that dinner,” Jason reminisces. “What was it? Coq au vin?”

“How could you forget?” I reply. “And those fluffy mashed potatoes? My wife and I ate the leftovers in bed that night with our fingers.”

“Your fingers?” Zac says and Jason laughs.

“Hey, don’t laugh at me! You were almost in a sugar coma the next day!” I defend.

“Wait, wait a minute,” Marlow interrupts. “We’re talking about Sophie? Sophia Taylor? Little blonde girl?”

“There’s only one Sophie that lives here,” I point out. “And you!” I say, turning back to Jason. “You almost missed Christmas cookies.”

“What do you mean?” he asks, bemused.

“You ate an entire batch of chocolate truffles to keep me from getting any,” I accuse. “You weren’t going to get a single Christmas cookie!”

“Her Highness makes enough of those cookies to feed a third-world country!” Jason retorts. “I’d like to see you try to keep me from getting some of those cookies.”

“Her Highness?” Ethan asks, while chewing on a macaroon. “Wow, these are good.”

“My daughter,” Ray says, still chomping on toasted baguettes. “I’m going to stop eating now before I don’t have any room left for those steaks!”

“You have to call her Her Highness?” Ethan asks. How does he not know this?

“It was a joke,” Al interjects, “and don’t say it to her face or she just may throw you off the boat—mid-sail!” I warn. Ethan chuckles.

“Thanks for the warning,” he says, and I’m certain that’s exactly what he intended to do. Crisis averted.

“Wait, I thought Sophie was up on deck sunbathing with the ladies,” Jason says.

“Nope,” Gail says, breezing through the Skylounge again, “she’s in her favorite place—the kitchen.”

“The kitchen is Sophie’s favorite place,” Marlow says, incredulously. It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yep,” Gail says as she descends the stairs to the main floor.

“So, wait,” James asks. “How—and why—did you plan to keep Christmas cookies from Jason over some truffles? It sounds like you may have averted that situation… may being the operative word.”

“Okay, so…”

I tell them the story of Sophie’s freshman French dinner, how everything was amazingly delicious and how my head of security and best friend was hogging all of the leftover chocolate truffles. I had planned to mooch some from him the next day, but he ate them all before he even went to sleep. As a result, I declared that he wouldn’t be able to partake in any of my wife’s divine Christmas cookies. My wife then enlisted Sophie to make me a batch of chocolate truffles every week so that I don’t have to kill my head of security.

“Wow,” Garett says, with mirth, “you two grown men are fighting over chocolate balls.”

“You haven’t had these chocolate balls,” Jason says. “If you had, you’d be fighting over them, too.”

“Speaking of which…” Gail ascends the stairs again with a large bowl of Sophie’s chocolate truffles. “Sophia says not to fight over them. There are plenty, but they have to stay refrigerated.”

As soon as she moves from the table, I take five of them and pop a sixth in my mouth.

“And you were talking about me,” Jason says, going over to the bowl.

“You heard your wife… there’s plenty,” I say with a mouthful of chocolate. Marlow’s date takes one and tastes it.

“Wow,” she says, the first thing I’ve heard her say since “It’s nice to meet you, sir.” She looks at Marlow, who begrudgingly takes one of the truffles. You can read the surprise on his face when he bites into it. Yeah, chocolate Nirvana, huh, kid?

“They’re alright,” he says, trying to blow it off.

“Well, you certainly don’t have to eat ‘em,” I say. “That leaves more for me.”

“Sophie’s truffles are down here?” my wife asks as she and six other bikini-clad women invade the Skylounge with Gail behind them.

“Why did you tell them?” Jason whines.

“Because I knew you wouldn’t,” she says. “Over there on the counter.”

“You’ve got to try these, ladies,” Butterfly says as she leads the charge to the chocolates.

“And stop whining,” Gail says, “I told you there are plenty.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jason laments.

“Oh, my God, these are great!”
“She made these?”
“Do you think she’ll give me the recipe?”

The women all descend the stairs headed to the kitchen.

“To accost my daughter for the secret recipe to the truffles,” Jason laments.

“Dear God, would you put on your big boy pants?” I say. “She had to get it from somewhere.”

“My daughter’s brilliant. She might have come up with it on her own,” Jason says, and Marlow coughs, drawing all the attention in the room to him. He coughs again.

“Sorry,” he says. “Choked on a truffle.”

I’ll just bet you did. He’s feeling some pretty thick animosity towards that little girl, it appears. I’ve never known Marlow to be unfairly biased or accusatory. Sophie did admit to ragging on his dates before now. Maybe it was worse than I thought. They’re just going to have to work that out on their own.

A short while later, we’re docking at my parents’ house and the rest of the family is boarding the yacht along with insane amounts of meat that Dad has been barbequing since dawn. The boat is definitely on full house as we shove off to sail the lake for the afternoon.

There’s food being served everywhere. Keri and Gail have taken all of the children down to the staff’s quarters to eat together in the common area while the rest of us spread out between the dining salon, the upper aft deck, and the Flybridge to eat our lunch—which is more like a huge dinner. Steaks and burgers and sausages and chicken and grilled salmon, various salads and sides… and Sophie made tarts for dessert—petit four sized and several varieties. I’m certain I’ve eaten enough food for four people.

Once everyone has had their fill of delicious vittles, Dad mans the bar on the Flybridge and we all grab a seat somewhere to talk about Elliot and Valerie’s wedding.

“I was able to get some information from your decorator, Aaron,” Mom says, “and the back patio and lawn facing the lake is absolutely perfect.” She gives Elliot and Valerie printed pictures of the back of our villa and Valerie’s mouth falls open.

“That’s beautiful,” she exclaims. “Look at the view. It’s stunning.”

“I’m so glad you approve,” Mom says. “I need a final head count. If I’m not mistaken, we’re at about 30 people?” It’s a question not a statement.

“Give or take one or two, I think you’re right,” Butterfly says.

“So, I’ll plan for 35 in case I miscounted.” She scribbles something in her little notebook. “I have some ideas for particulars, but I wanted to know what you two were thinking.” She looks to Elliot and Valerie. Elliot shrugs.

“Well,” Valerie chimes in. “I definitely have a particular idea. I hate to spring this on you ladies but Maxie? Ana? Mia? You’re all going to be brides’ matrons.”

“What?” Mia says in surprise. “We’re going to be the only guests at the wedding!”

“Yep, and I want wedding pictures. I didn’t get any before because I was sick. I didn’t expect a wedding because I thought…” she trails off and gets emotional. Elliot puts his arm around her and squeezes her hand. She takes a deep breath.

“I thought I would be very heavy with child and I’m not so I want wedding pictures,” she says all in one breath, her voice cracking. The room is quiet for a moment and Butterfly is the first to speak.

“Then, you’ll get wedding pictures,” she says. “Have you thought about colors… what you would like for us to wear?” She turns to Mom.

“I haven’t chosen any particular colors,” Mom says. “I was going to lean to your urging on that matter, although I did find the most darling arch with an array of colors in it that would go with anything you decide—all the colors of summer.” She hands Valerie another picture and Valerie examines it.

“What a wonderful idea,” she says, looking at the picture, then at Mom. “We’ll do rainbow.” Mom ponders it, then nods.

“Oh, that’s perfect,” Mom says. “I hadn’t even thought of that. It gives me a great idea for centerpieces.” She scribbles in her notebook again.

“I know just where you can get the dresses, ladies,” Valerie says. “The same place I got mine.”

“You already have your dress?” Mia asks. Valerie nods.

“I picked my dress out the day after we said we were having a wedding in Como. I wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Well, thanks, Marshall!” Butterfly complains. “That’s kind of like a rite of passage, you know.”

“Yes, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures,” Valerie says, and it’s now that I realize that she and Butterfly both call each other by their maiden names.

“Christian,” Dad calls from the bar. “You’re out of Bombay Sapphire. Do you have any downstairs?”

“I’ll go check,” I say and I head down to the Skylounge. I retrieve an unopened bottle of Bombay from the liquor cabinet and move towards the aft deck again. The doors are open and I can hear talking on the deck.

“You said she didn’t know how to behave around company,” I hear Elise say. “Do they keep her in the kitchen for that reason?”

Where the hell are they hiding? I didn’t see them when I came down the stairs.

“No,” Marlow replies. “The Greys aren’t like that. Neither are the Taylors.”

“Yeah,” Elise says, “they seem like really nice people.”

“They are,” he says. I peek my head out and look around the deck. I finally locate them on the far end close to the back of the boat. I wonder if they’re trying to hide. If so, they didn’t pick a good spot.

“So, you’re going to Italy this summer. You didn’t tell me,” she accuses.

“I didn’t want you to get jealous,” he replies mirthfully, putting his hands on her waist.

“Now, why would I be jealous, Mr. Johnson?” she replies. “You’re not my boyfriend. Besides, you’re only going to Europe for a week. I’ll be studying there next term.”

“Rub it in,” he says, before he kisses her.

“’Scuse me, Uncle Christian,” Sophie says, and she’s standing behind me with a tray, most likely to take to the Flybridge… until she looks out onto the deck and sees Marlow and Elise. Her shoulders fall and she turns around to go back the direction that she came. She’s still hurting from what he said about her earlier.

“I’ll take it,” I tell her. She smiles a tight smile.

“Thanks, Uncle Christian,” she says and hands me the tray before she heads back down to the kitchen. I thought she was helping with the kids and eating dinner. I turn around and clear my throat before I step out onto the deck. Marlow and Elise jump when they see me.

“You do know that’s glass, right?” I say, gesturing my head to the door I just exited. Marlow purses his lips guiltily.

“And it’s open?” I add. I wink at him to let him know that he’s not in any trouble, but he should probably take his making out somewhere more private.


ANASTASIA

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I thought sure that Grace was going to have a “Mia-pink-flamingo-pixies-flying-over-the-water” moment with Val’s wedding, especially a destination wedding at an Italian villa in Lake Como, but I was wrong. Grace put together some really spectacular ideas—modest, yet elegant—without even personally seeing the venue. She presented suggestions, very good ones in fact; she sought input; she offered different options for Elliot and Valerie to choose from. She did better in terms of cooperation and conservatism than she did with either of her prior children.

And Val’s one request of me… how could I refuse? I didn’t know she was still so raw from losing her baby. I don’t remember the due date, but I would imagine that right about now, they would be preparing for the baby to be here. They made the announcement at Thanksgiving and it’s May. She would probably be about to pop somewhere within the next month or so. I won’t ask her when the due date was. I’ll just be there if she needs me.

After lunch has settled, we all take a much-needed dip in the lake. The party moves to the parlor and the main aft where we can lounge and swim easily from the deck, and   Marlow’s date Elise finally comes to join the women. I can only imagine what he must have said to her to make her plaster herself to his side all this time. I didn’t think she was anti-social. I just thought, and probably correctly so, that she was afraid.

It turns out that she’s a trust fund kid from here in Mercer, but she doesn’t have that high-nosed, over-affluent attitude. She’s very well-spoken and cultured, and she’ll be graduating with Marlow in a couple of weeks, after which she’ll be headed off to Cambridge. I must admit, I’m impressed with this one.

That makes me wonder how Sophie’s making out today.

I haven’t seen her since we boarded, but the boat is huge and we’re all spread out. I can’t imagine what she could have thought to say badly about this one. She’s pretty, smart, and the picture of manners and decorum… and Sophie did say that her days of insulting Marlow’s dates had ended. I guess that remains to be seen.

“Mandy, I have an idea and I need to run it by you,” I say while we’re lounging on the deck.

“Okay, what’s up?” she asks,  

“Did you have any specific plans for Daddy for Father’s Day?”

“I got some gifts and I’ll cook dinner, but nothing huge. Did you have something in mind?” she presses.

“Yeah, I did,” I begin. “I’m having professional pictures taken of the twins to present to Christian. I was wondering what you thought of having pictures of me and Harry taken for Daddy.” She gasps.

“Oh, Ana, that’s a wonderful idea!” she says quietly. “I’m sure Ray would cherish that for the rest of his life.” I smile widely.

“Excellent,” I reply, pleased that she agrees. “Our photographer will be setting up here on Wednesday. If that’s too short notice, I can make it another day.”

“Oh, no, Wednesday’s fine. What should he wear? Should I buy him a new outfit?” She’s now positively giddy. 

“Only if you want to,” I laugh. “He doesn’t need to dress up. I think comfortable, casual, Just Harry will be perfect…”

We make a date to meet at the Crossing for lunch to do the photos, and I head to the shower in the master bath to wash my hair and bathing suit. When I’m done, I realize that I’ve packed a change of underwear in my little bag, but no bra.

This is not good.

My boobs are perky and although going braless wouldn’t be the end of the world, it’s just not something that I generally practice. I don’t have to worry about the leakage issue anymore since I’m no longer breastfeeding, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe nobody will notice…

Wrong!

My husband zeroes in on me the moment I come out of the master bedroom, and although no one else can see it, he’s salivating! I can see him swallow the moisture in his mouth from clean across the room.

He makes a B-line over to me and takes my hand, seating me next to him at the dining table with Mia and Ethan and Val and Elliot, like the conversation they’re having requires our immediate attention. I fold my hands on the table and try to pay attention to whatever this riveting conversation is that draws us to the conference, only to discover that my husband only wanted to sit at the table to play “Tickle Me Elmo” with my inner thigh.

At first, it’s tolerable. It’s just a gentle caress. But then, he starts to move his fingertips across the skin, this barely-brushing motion that’s causing chills to creep down… and up… my leg. I try to adjust myself, clear my throat to get my bearings, but it’s no use. He continues what should be a harmless caress on the sensitive skin of my inner thigh, but it’s not harmless, and he knows it.

“Well, you can actually live like a king in Bali for a little bit of nothing,” Mia says. “The exchange rate of the rupiah to the dollar is insane!”

Bali… think Bali… what do you know about Bali?

“We live like kings wherever we go, Mia,” Christian chimes in like he’s not strumming a fucking melody on my skin. “No offense, but…” He gestures a shrug with his free hand. “That’s the kind of money we have.”

And this feeling is now actively creeping up my thigh and hitting its intended mark.

My clit starts to burn—not a forest fire, just a little spark… but Jesus, what a spark!

No matter how I try to concentrate on other things—big, hairy, disgusting men… changing dirty diapers… anything—I can’t distract myself from the incessant tickling on my inner thigh. I can’t move or squirm to alleviate it, and even though I try to will myself to close my legs it just ain’t happening. A few more moments later, the nicest little burst hits my click and causes a shiver to run through me that I must camouflage with a cough and a clearing of my throat and I hold my head down, cover my face, and try to catch my breath.

“Ana, are you okay?” Mia asks concerned.

“Yes,” I breathe. “Yes… yes, I’m fine. I just… suddenly got a little hot. Maybe a bit too much to drink. I’m going to go on over to the bathroom and… splash a little water on my face.”

“You want me to come with you?” she asks.

“No!” For God’s sake, no! “No, I’m fine, really. I’ll be right back.”

I quickly make my getaway and close myself into the nearest head. Good Lord, that man is just… sex personified! He got nowhere near my clit and I nearly burst into flames in front of four other people. How embarrassing!

I splash some water on my face and pull myself together before I open the door to see Christian leaning on the wall across from the bathroom.

“Feeling better?” he says with a knowing smirk. I shake my head at him.

“You are so wrong,” I say.

“And yet, you love me,” he says, playfully wagging one eyebrow. I move to pass him and go back to the dining room.

“Hey,” he says, catching me before I get past him.

“What’s this thing with Sophia and Marlow?” he asks. I can’t hide my reaction, so I just frown really hard.

“What thing?” I ask, trying not to let on that I know anything.

“It’s like a feud or something,” he says. “He saw her come out onto the deck to ask Jason to get something for Gail before we shoved off. He told his date to ignore her because she doesn’t know how to behave around company.”

Ouch! Oh, dear God, he did that again? The agony…

“Did Sophie hear that?” I ask.

“I’m afraid she did,” he says. “I don’t know who else heard it, but I did. It really hurt her feelings.” I roll my eyes. Dear God, this is getting worse. “Didn’t you say there was some argument at Christmas or something?”

“The twins birthday party,” I say. “I can’t remember what she said, but Marlow told Gail, and I think Sophie would have rather jumped off a cliff than to apologize.”

“Well, they should be even now,” he says, “because after he said that, I’m sure she’d hitch a ride on a shark’s back to get off this boat right now.” I grimace.

“That bad?” I ask. Of course, it’s that bad. Christian scoffs.

“You didn’t find it strange that I was bringing you refreshments earlier?” he says, folding his arms.

“Yeah, we noted it,” I say.

“There’s only one stairwell up to that deck,” he says, “and Marlow and his date had it blocked. Wild dogs couldn’t have dragged her out there, so you almost didn’t get them. She would have thrown that tray into the Pacific before she stepped out onto that deck, so I took the tray instead.”

“That explains a lot,” I reply. He raises a brow at me.  

“What do you mean?”

“When we’re at home and we have a get-together like this, I usually see Sophie at least once. Unfortunately, I’m the one who usually catches the smarmy remarks to the girlfriends,” I reply.

“Well, that explains it,” he remarks.

“Okay, now, what do you mean?”

“Those divine chocolate truffles, he would chew glass before he admits how good they were. I almost got offended that he was disparaging my truffles!”

I chuckle about him wanting to defend the honor of the truffles, but immediately sober about the escalating situation between Marlow and Sophie. We’ve got one of them jumping off a proverbial cliff, hitching a ride on a shark, avoiding wild dogs, and throwing hors d’oeuvres into the ocean before she chances an encounter with him while the other is chewing glass to avoid saying something nice.

“Dear God, I hope this blows over soon,” I say. Christian shrugs.

“It’s just plain old sibling rivalry,” he says. “I know they’re not actually siblings, but he’s the closest thing to a brother she’ll after have.”

No, my love, I’m afraid it’s much more than that.

Almost on cue, when we walk into the parlor, Jason asks where Sophie is.

“I’ve seen every other kid on this boat at least three times today,” he says. “I’m not sure I saw Sophie once… at least not since we shoved off.”

That’s because she’s in hiding.

“Settle down, killer,” Gail soothes. “She’s probably somewhere with her face in that notebook.”

“What notebook?” he asks.

“Try to keep up, dear. She’s walking around with one all the time. Last week, it was purple with peace signs. This week, it’s yellow with doodles,” Gail informs him.

“Oh, boy,” Jason says taking out his phone. “Do I even want to know what type of teenage ramblings are going on in those?”

“Probably not,” Marlow scoffs from across the room. Yeah, probably not.

“Sophie, where are you?” Jason says into his phone. “Well, come on up. You’re missing all the fun… Okay, love you, Baby Boo.” He ends the call. “She’ll be up in a minute.”

I could hear Marlow rolling his eyes.

As it turns out, he had nothing to be concerned about, because Sophie never came up until it was time to disembark and Jason never thought to call her again. Even then, she walked right past Marlow without a word.

“Thank you, for having me, Mr. and Mrs. Grey,” Elise says, shaking my hand as she leaves. “I had a really nice time, and this is a fantastic yacht.”

Well, she just earned a brownie point with Christian by calling it a yacht instead of a boat.

“It was a pleasure,” I say with a smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.”

Marlow says his goodbyes and we watch as they walk down the passarelle and begin the trek across the back lawn.

“I think this has been the best one,” Christian says, “that I paid attention to, anyway. The only one I really noticed was the last one he brought here.”

“How could you not notice her?” I ask. “I guess that talk you had must’ve sunk in… at least a little bit.”

“Here’s hoping,” he says, “because if he ever brings another ‘junior-skank-in-training’ into this house…”

He trails off as people begin to file off the boat and we’re wishing them goodnight. Between greetings, he keeps inconspicuously rubbing, pinching, and caressing my nipples to notify me that he knows I’m not wearing a bra. This fucker is starting a fire again, and people keep wanting to strike up a quick conversation on the way off the deck. It seems like it’s taking forever to get everybody off this fucking boat.

Chuck and Keri are the last to go, helping Ms. Solomon with some of the utensils and such from the kitchen. The moment their feet hit solid ground, Christian grabs my hand and drags me back to the parlor. I’m flung unceremoniously onto the sofa the minute we clear the sliding doors. I gasp from the surprise and he doesn’t waste time. He drops to his knees and digs right under my dress. Locating his goal, he grabs my underwear with both hands and effortlessly rips them from my body. He tosses them… wherever, grabs both legs and quickly snatches me to the edge of the sofa. I have to move quickly to keep from hitting my head on the hard trim.

Before I have a moment to complain, his face is buried deep between my thighs and he’s on a mission. Good Lord, is he on a mission! His tongue is pressing hard against my clit, digging deep for an orgasm that’s been riding the surface since just after the first one at the dining table and intensifying each time he copped a feel.

The burn is fast, and that’s what he wants. He’s sucking just hard enough the bring that orgasm down and I’m clawing at the sofa as his efforts are bringing me closer and closer to his intended result. Suddenly, the sound of the sliding doors interrupts my ascent and I’m horrified to see Ethan standing there somewhat stunned.

Christian stops his feasting and lifts his head to see who the fuck dares to interrupt us right now.

“I… forgot… um… never mind, I’ll get it tomorrow,” he says and turns around.

“Yeah, you do that,” Christian says, and before Ethan could even clear the deck, he’s back in my pussy again. I grind against his face, my hand grasping his hair, chasing that orgasm that waned when Ethan came to the door.

“Hah… gah…!” I pant as I feel it creeping into my hips again. He groans into my core, locking my hips with his arms and hands while giving my pussy a deep and titillating massage.

“Oh… God…” I breathe, squirming towards the burn and away from it at the same time as my husband hungrily devours my clit, leaving no part of my pussy neglected. My ass isn’t even on the sofa as I grind up into his face, holding a handful of hair for leverage.

“Ye… yes… don’t stop… don’t stop…” I beg as that familiar clenching grasps my pelvis. Dear, God, it’s going to kill me. It’s been burning all day ever since he teased my fucking nipple at the bottom of the stairs, and that orgasm at the dinner table only made it worse.

“Ah… ah…”

“Mmmmmmmmmm,” he hums into my crotch and sends shivers up my back along with the burning that’s flaming in my clit. His hands stealthily move up to my breasts, cupping them firmly as he thumbs my nipples, bringing them to that same tautness he found while teasing me earlier.

I’m nearly crying as the resulting orgasm ravages my body from tit to clit, causing me to rise from the sofa with my thighs firmly clamped around my husband’s cheeks. He rises to the challenge and clamps firmly down on my clit, suckling every bit of juice and pleasure that he can draw out of me. I groan helplessly as I clench the back of the sofa behind me, my body quaking through a powerful climax.

I’m sure that my body hasn’t stopped pulsing when he rises up to me and shoves his tongue in my mouth. My flavor on his lips is so hot and my pussy is still thumping. I wrap one arm around his neck to find that he has freed his cock, and he quickly and roughly thrusts it into me. I gasp in his mouth and he groans a primal sound before he begins to pump feverishly into me, never removing his lips from mine. He tears at my dress, ripping it open to gain access to my neck, and when he does…

“Ah!”

He’s pounding into me—hard, deep, and merciless—as his mouth moves to my neck. I feel his teeth against my skin… in my skin, I don’t know… and the suction and grunting as he marks me. God… it’s heady…

“W… wait…”

He’s in another world somewhere, painfully sucking my skin and bringing the blood to the surface, grunting primally with each deep thrust…

“Christian…”

He releases his spot, but quickly latches onto the other side, sucking but also lathing with his tongue as he does. I close my eyes and surrender. He’s lost to the passion, to the animal urge, and I have to go with him, let him ride it out…

He grabs my ass with one hand, securing me against him, and the back of the sofa with the other. I hold onto his shoulders as he drives deep into me, the impact and eroticism making me fucking dizzy. He’s primitive right now—animalistic—instinctively and unyieldingly hungry… and I made him this way. It’s… empowering… to know that I can do this to him.

I do my best to meet his thrusts, but he’s in total control of the movement, driving into me and only releasing my skin to yell…

“Fuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk!”

I feel him thumping inside of me, coming hard and long and grunting with each pulse. I can only imagine how it must feel, and it’s turning me on again.

Dear, God, that was the hottest thing ever… and I didn’t even come!

My husband stays there for a moment, somewhat draped over me on the sofa, catching his breath. It doesn’t take long.

He gathers me into his arms and, with my arms and legs wrapped around him and his cock still inside me, he carries me to the dining room and sits me on the table. He’s out of his clothes in nanoseconds and moments later, he’s on his knees on the table above me, breathing like a bear and staring hungrily down at me. He grabs both sides of my dress and rips it open, buttons flying everywhere.

Damn, I kinda liked that dress…

He dives right into my boobs, taking hungry mouthfuls as he positions himself on top of me. He pushes my legs apart with his hips and thrusts into me again.

“Aah!” I gasp. Fuck, he just came! How is he still so fucking hard?

He entwines his fingers with mine and begins to grind hard into me, grunting with each stroke and moving with masterful force and precision. Fucking hell, this is intense. He’s that upward stroke and grind, deep with an awesome amount of friction and pressure right against my clit.

Oh, yes! Oh, fuck, yes!

Over and over, he punishes my pussy with this deep and intense stroke. And when he feels like he’s not getting deep enough, he lifts his leg to get more leverage, causing my legs to open wider and drape over his. He releases my hands and grasps the edge of the table over my head—even more leverage—and his hips pivot masterfully back and forth, up into me, thrusting hard and deep and reaching those places that only he ever could.

I reach down, grab his muscular ass, and squeeze. It spurns him on and he thrusts harder and deeper, as if he could. Feeling his glutes flex and release with each thrust and his cock burning against the inside and outside of my core—the combination is too much. I push my head back, open my mouth, and whimper.

Here it comes…

And then, he stops.

“Noooo,” I whine, but he ignores me. He’s breathing like a marathon runner, still inside me. I’m aching to come, so I try to move my hips to get that needed friction to push me over, but he presses his pelvis hard against me preventing me from moving. He’s calming himself before he comes, but I fucking want to come!

He withdraws from me and climbs off me and off the table, his cock rock hard and angrily standing at attention. I begin to protest, but he gathers me in his arms and wraps me around his body. While walking towards the front of the boat, he masterfully drops me back down onto his shaft.

“Fuck!” I scream in surprise. I assume he’s taking me to the bedroom. I assume incorrectly.

He turns to the curving stairs and halfway through his ascension, he drops and starts to fuck me right there on the stairs… and well!

How he does this I have no idea. The stairs curve and I’m like bent sideways with my ass on one of the stairs facing the banister and holding on with both hands. He’s got one of my legs over his shoulder and one wrapped around his leg some kind of way. He’s on his knees and he’s pounding into me hard and fast.

I’m not accustomed to a hard, fast fuck. It’s always either a slow, deep grind or a medium rhythm with a deep thrust, but the way he has me open right now…

Ho-ly cow!

“Fuck this shit is good!” he grunts, his hips pivoting faster than I ever think I’ve felt. I’m just getting into the rhythm when he stills, and I lament that he may be coming again.

He’s not, but he was apparently pretty fucking close.

He gathers me up again and continues his ascent up the stairs. Holding me up with two handfuls of ass, he hooks a left and carries me to his bridge, depositing me onto the table in front of the settee.

“Lay back!” he growls. I do as I’m told and lie back on the table. He lifts my leg, opening me wide and enters me again. I almost pick up right where I left off.

“Shit!” he hisses, pumping fast into me again and gripping my breast with his free hand. He’s rough and primal and it’s turning me on so much that I can hardly think. This table is smaller than the dining table so I reach out and grab both sides and hold on for dear life.

Just in time, too.

I end up releasing the table and covering my face, nearly clawing at my hair with the intensity of the orgasm that follows. My entire body clinches as I whimper and I feel myself shrinking.

“Aaaww, fuuuuck!” I hear my husband exclaim as he grabs both legs, holds them together straight up against his body and nearly drags me off the table, thrusting into a pussy that is no doubt pulsing and clenching as bad as my body is.

“Oooooohhh,” he laments as my core grabs him and pulls him in and I’m still thunderstruck from this orgasm. I’m still pulsing and I can feel him thickening inside me when he stops moving.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he’s hissing with each breath as I descend, still holding my legs together and against him with both arms. When my vision clears and my pussy stops pulsing, I look up at him. His head is back and he’s breathing deeply…

And counting… he’s counting… he still didn’t come!

Well, that will never fucking do.

He releases me and falls into his Captain’s chair, his eyes closed, his dick hard, still counting and trying to control himself. What the fuck, man?

I climb off the table and crouch down in front of him. He raises his head and opens his eyes. I gently lick the head and tease the frenulum with my tongue and he stiffens in the chair.

“Ana…”

I wrap my hands around his cock and take the head into my mouth, sucking firmly but gently.

“Fuck,” he hisses softly. “Baby… don’t…”

I pretend not to hear him. His cock is angry and thick and veiny and he is moments from blowing. Why the fuck doesn’t he want to come?

I clamp down onto his cock and get to work, tightening my mouth over the head and bobbing up and down, stimulating the hot, tight skin of the shaft. He grips the armrests of the chair and hiss deeply as I fuck him with my mouth.

“Baby, don’t make me come!” he commands. I ignore him. My total purpose is to make him blow like a rocket in this chair so that he thinks of me every time he takes the helm of his vessel. Fuck the fact that we christened the bridge, I’m christening this damn chair.

Baby…. Ssss, fuck, stop…” he hisses as I continue to bob on his cock, squeezing and jerking the base of his shaft. I look up into his face. His eyes are clouded; his teeth are gritting. His face is grimaced in an erotic mask and his abs are flexing wildly. He grabs my hair and thrusts, throwing his head back and forgetting himself for a moment. Then, he glares back at me, passionate fire in his steel gray eyes.

“Ana!” he whispers harshly. “Stop!”

It’s a command… and I still ignore it. Seeing my purpose, he tightens his hand in my hair and attempts to pause my assault. That only spurns me on. I bob harder, faster, using both hands to manipulate his shaft. He growls in his chest with each breath and even though he’s clamping painfully onto my hair, he couldn’t stop me right now if he wanted to. I see that orgasm in his eyes… and I want it!

With one final, gut-wrenching growl, he starts to come. When I taste it in my mouth, I release his cock and madly manipulate his frenulum with my tongue. He’s glaring at me—aroused, angry, shooting his load to the moon. He’s gripping the chair with one hand and my hair with the other as impressive streams of cum shoot from the head of his dick and paint his chest and torso. His dick is still throbbing, his cum-covered chest rising and falling violently with his breath as I gently lick his cock, head, and frenulum post orgasm. But when he catches his breath…

I yelp as he snatches my head back by my hair and glares at me.

“I fucking told you to stop!” he hisses

“I’m… sorry… Sir…” I pant, frightened… and immeasurably aroused at the same time.

“Oh, you’re going to be,” he threatens. He stands from the chair, releases my hair, and grabs me by the forearm.

“In the bedroom… now!” he commands, shoving me towards the door. I scurry into the captain’s quarters and onto the bed. He moves to the edge of the bed and now, he’s standing over me. I really can’t tell if he’s aroused or angry. He’s not flaccid, but he’s not standing at attention. He falls down, mouth at my pussy again, and puts his arms under my thighs.

“Give me your hands,” he commands. When I do, he grabs them firmly, immobilizing me and begins the most merciless flicking assault with his tongue that I can ever remember.

“Shit! Oh, shit!” I exclaim, trying in vain to squirm away from him. I’m trying to kick and do anything to get away from him, but it’s not working. He holds my lips open with his lips and continues to relentlessly flick my clit, nothing else. He just keeps going and going and going and I’m dying here. After a few minutes I know I’m going to come, but then he stops and says those two words that I dread right now.

“Don’t come.”

Oh, he’s got to be kidding! I raise my head and look down at him like he’s lost his ever-loving mind, but he doesn’t care. Seconds later, he’s right back at it again, open-mouthed flicking my clit with no obstructions. The burn never stopped and it’s even more intense when he started again.

“Christian, I can’t…” I plead, but he doesn’t stop. He’s intent on his task and he’s not even looking at me. He stops for a moment and blows on my clit, the cool air soothing and arousing at the same time. When he sets back to his task, the burn is once again more intense than before.

I know what he’s doing. He’s going to drive me out of my fucking mind.

“Christian, please,” I beg. I won’t be able to stop this. With each stop and go, it returns even more intense and he’s ignoring my pleas, and it finally hits…

I shriek out a fiery orgasm that has been building and building from the inside out even though he wasn’t inside me. He maintains that flick, intensifying it only slightly to wring that orgasm from me. My body is a trembling, useless ball of mush when he crawls on top of me and impales me with a steel-hard dick. I’m too weak to even protest.

You’re so disobedient,” he hisses. “I said don’t come. So, since I can’t have it one way, I’ll have it the other!”

He pins my hands down at the wrists and grinds, deep, hard against my clit. He pulls my nipple into his mouth and sucks hard, then bites it. The pain is surprising and the sensations are a bit overwhelming. I’m tender and tired, and I can’t resist. For a few minutes, I just lay there, trying to recover from the last orgasm, but he doesn’t stop—biting and nipping and grinding and thrusting, and even though my body is tired, my pussy has other plans.

“Nooo,” I whine, but he continues, manipulating all the right places, just the right way. I’m rising fast—he’s pushing all the right buttons and a few minutes later, I’m pulsing around him.

“Yes, that’s it,” he croons victoriously. “give it to me. Give it all to me.”

When the orgasm wanes, he flips me over lying flat on my stomach. He climbs atop me again and straddles me, his dick easily breaching my core and going deep, hitting all my inner walls with my legs closed.

“Aaaaaahhh,” I whine as he puts both hands on my shoulders and uses them for leverage. “Yeessss…!”

“Christian…” I whine. He’s going to make me pay. I made him come when he said don’t and now, he’s on his second or third wind and I’ve got to deal with it. And this position usually makes me come pretty quickly. I still tender from the last two orgasms, so it takes a little longer, but it doesn’t fail. A few minutes into the rhythm, my tender pussy is burning again with another forced orgasm.

Once my trembling stops, he’s up on his knees bringing me with him. He effortlessly sits me on his lap and impales me from behind again, holding my face and neck so that my head falls back onto his shoulder, his free hand wandering down to my clit as he fucks me. His breathing in my ear turns me on and I’m completely fucking useless.

“I know your body,” he threatens. “I know how to break you down. How many times do you think I can make this happen? Three? Five? Ten?”

“Please…” I pant.

“Please what, Anastasia?”

Yeah, please what? He told you not to make him come and you did. What do you expect?

Resigned to my fate, I relax my body and let him have it.

“That’s what I thought,” he says, turning my head to his and plunging his tongue into my mouth.

We go at it for hours, and I’ve come so many times, I’ve lost count. Each time I think I can’t take anymore, he brings me right back up—a different stroke, a changed position, a firm bite or a soft nibble, a lick, a pinch—repeatedly until I can’t think straight anymore. Even though he hasn’t said so, the Dom is in full effect and total control.

I try to tell him that I’m tired, but he doesn’t hear me. He just strums those guitar strings again and I’m alive once more. He has me on top of him and he’s fucking me from behind, a handful of tit in one hand and a wet clit in the other. I’m rising quickly to my 99th orgasm—who knows—as he pumps slow and deep into me when he makes an announcement. 

“I want that ass,” he growls as he fucks me. “Can I have it? Can I have that ass?”

“Yes!” I breathe.

“Can I?” He grunts, still thrusting into me. “Can I have if?”

“Yes!” I nearly wail. “Yes, you can have it!”

“Tell me!” he demands, pumping into me and bringing me closer.

“Take it!” I wail. “Take my ass, Sir, please!” Hurry, before I come.

I didn’t know I had slipped into soumise, but he seizes the moment with yet another predatorial growl. On his next withdrawal, he pulls out of me and guides his incredibly hard cock to my rosette. It resists his entry.

Come on, I beg my body, please let him in.

I’m panting like a racehorse and I do my best to relax my muscles to grant him entry. I gasp at the sting when his head breeches the opening. It hurts a bit, but I breathe through it.

“Yes,” he growls, “that’s it…”

My body responds to his voice and to the invasion in my ass. It’s a pain that I like, a pain that turns into pleasure. And as he pushes deeper and deeper into me, slowly inserting another inch and then another into that forbidden place, that pain intensifies and slowly begins to transform into pleasure.

“Oh, God!” I gasp quickly.

“Yes!” he hisses as he pushes deeper into me, then withdraws a bit and goes deeper still. “Fuck, yes!”

He repeats the process, a little more… and a little more… until he’s all the way in my ass, balls deep. I have to control my breathing as he just stays there, buried deep in my ass. It feels glorious.

He begins to move—slowly, pulling out of my ass halfway and then thrusting slowly back in. I almost can’t take it. He groans again with each thrust and my body sings, bending to his will, wanting him to go on and on and on…

And he does.

Once my body succumbs completely to him, he squeezes my breast and moves his hand from my clit to my core, inserting three fingers to fuck me while his palm manipulates my clit… and he deliciously and slowly fucks my ass.

It’s sensation overload. He’s all over me and I’m completely blinded by the pleasure. When I come this time, it will be over.

His hand crosses my body to my other breast and he adjusts his other hand somehow in and on my core. His thrust intensifies and then quickens. I feel him thickening in my ass and even though he’s not pulling out as far as he was before, I can still feel the thrust… and the thickness. His thrusting motions are now guiding my body against his hand—in my pussy and on my clit—and while he’s fucking my ass, his motions are making my body fuck his hand.

I nearly collapse against him as I realize I have absolutely no control.

“That’s it,” he coaxes, his voice primal as he fucks me everywhere, “that’s it…”

The sensation is rising painfully slowly, like an object coming at you in slow motion. You know it’s going to hit you, but you can’t stop it. It starts in my feet and my breast, a little tickle that teases me to let me know what’s coming. It moves up and down simultaneously, and my husband continues to voice his approval. He knows it’s coming. He knows it’s going to rip me to shreds… and he likes it.

It’s still taking its time, but knowing that it’s coming, my husband won’t stop and he won’t change his stroke. My body is already frozen, from exhaustion and from the pre-orgasmic pleasure I’m feeling right now.

“Yes… yes…” he continues, and I don’t know if he’s talking about what he’s feeling, or what he knows I’m feeling. It doesn’t matter… it’ll be over soon.

“I wish I could see you,” he laments, never losing his stroke. “I wish I could see your eyes… I know they’re beautiful… so beautiful…”

Now, how can he say the sweetest, most romantic things when he’s been tormenting me all night?

He continues that thrust in my ass that causes that crazy intense anal orgasm and he’s pulling one through my clit, too, and once the feeling from clit, ass, and tits all converge…

“Oh, Goooooooooooooddd!” I scream as the most intense orgasm of the night rips through my body.

“Fuuuuuuucck, yeeeeeeesssss!” I hear him yell through my screams. I can’t stop. The burn is painful—everywhere. All of my muscles… nothing, I have control of nothing. My throat hurts, my ears are popping, my body is begging for rest and relief. I’m done.

Dazzling colors paint the backs of my eyelids and my body is vibrating with sensation. I’m weeping… truly weeping with every breath and I don’t know what to do with myself.

When I come down and truly realize where we are, I feel him breathing and grasping my body. I still hear my weeping, and I feel my body drenched and helpless against his. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I’ll beg if I have to.

“W… whistles,” I weep. “W… whistles… please… no more… please…” he has to stop. My body can’t do anymore.

“Ssssssshhhh,” he soothes, still holding me, planting gentle kisses on my face as I cry.


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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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 31

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 31

ANASTASIA

“How did things go with Sarah?”

I went into the office for a long overdue department head meeting this morning and learned that Sarah’s background check had come back clear, not that we had any doubt that it would. Upon hearing that, Sarah had to interview for the position just like any other candidate would. I was leaving the office when they were setting up the interview.

“She agreed to come in and interview this afternoon and I have to admit, she was stellar,” Christian says. “The interview took place in the first-floor conference room, so I watched from my office. I wanted to know if she was going to be a true asset to the company or if I was just going to be taking care of her… because I would if that was the case.”

I can’t argue with that. If he hadn’t, I would.

“I had nothing to worry about,” he says. “Sarah’s skills were being wasted at that parking structure. She has excellent leadership skills. She’s very quick on the pickup. She was answering questions and solving scenarios faster than they could throw them at her. I’d love to know where that Marsha bitch is now so that she can see what a goldmine I have in her place.”

“That’s a term that you seldom use,” I point out, surprised.

“I seldom have cause,” he replies. “This woman was really a bitch.”

“Please, explain,” I say, entwining my fingers over my laptop keyboard. “The only Marcia I can think of is Marlow’s mother and I know you couldn’t be speaking of her.”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “Do you remember that incompetent security company that was assigned to your condo when David vandalized your car?” I twist my lips.

“I remember the car being vandalized and I vaguely remember something about the security company.” Even now, all this time after the accident, I still have problems with my short-term memory—at list with incidents that occurred a few years before that fateful day.

“Well, David vandalized your car and that security company—which I owned—was completely clueless even though the entire thing was caught on closed circuit TV. When I went about the business of finding out where the weak link was in the company, I discovered it was the director, Marsha Sims, who spent our entire meeting trying to illuminate that I was a chauvinistic man afraid of women trying to usurp her authority. Keep in mind that the entire time, the security company was going through an internal audit.”

“Hmm, and where is she working now?” I ask.

“Hell if I know, but not for me,” Christian replies, “hopefully for one of my competitors. I’ve got a real professional in the seat now. After that internal audit a few years back, I condensed the four companies into one and had them headquartered at GEH. With Sarah’s in-depth knowledge of security protocol, she’ll have the commercial security department in tiptop shape in no time.”

“I have to say that they weren’t one of the sore spots that we had been keeping an eye on… not that I know of anyway,” I point out.

“That’s because they weren’t that bad off,” he says. “They were fair to midland, but not slacking as badly as everyone else was. As fate would have it, that supervisor fell ill just after Christmas and took early retirement. Unfortunate for him, of course, but serendipitous for Sarah.”

“Is he okay?” I ask. “I hadn’t heard of any of the department heads falling ill.” Christian’s face turns solemn.

“Stage IV cancer unfortunately,” he says, “and he wasn’t the department head, Alex is. He would be just under Alex in the organizational chart as one of the subdivisions of security.” I twist my lips.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say. “That leaves Sarah with quite the shoes to fill.”

“I have a feeling there’s a lot more fire to that woman than we think. She was just… meek to her husband, for lack of a better word.”

“Meek like… submissive?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I think it was more than that,” he says. “I know there can be some assholes out there that try to use BDSM as an excuse to abuse women, but I don’t think that’s what this was. I think this was a powerless man—or a bully—who just took his frustrations out on a woman who didn’t have anybody else and he knew it. We find most of our strength from within and that’s understandable, but a lot of our strength derives from the fact that we’re not standing alone. It’s easy to victimize somebody who’s all alone. If I’m on my very last leg, I would draw more strength from the fact that you and the twins depend on me, so I can’t give up on whatever it is that I’m trying to do. If there’s no one standing behind me, I may not be so gung-ho to fight if the ship is sinking.” I shiver.

“That’s depressing,” I say. He shrugs.

“Be that as it may, a man standing on his own doesn’t have as much to fight for as a man who clearly has something to lose.” I shake my head.

“When does she start?” I ask, turning my attention back to my computer.

“Tomorrow,” he replies. “She wanted to get going as soon as possible. She feels like an imposition, staying at the Fairmont on our dime and all. She’s more than ready to stand on her own.”

“Well, it won’t be long now. All she has to do is find a place and she’ll be all set.”

“Yeah, she’s right, though—she’s not accustomed to handouts.” He walks over to my desk and looks over my shoulder. “What are you working on?”

“Answering emails and seeing what decorating ideas have… Oooohh!”

“What?” he asks.

“Aaron has sent me an email.” I click on the email and there’s no body to it, just a subject line that says, “Villa” and an attachment named, “Play me.”

“Play me?” I say, looking at the file.

“Huh?” Christian asks bemused.

“Aaron’s email has nothing in the body, but there’s an attachment.” I click on the attachment. “It’s an mp4.”

“Oh hell,” he says. “I’m going to let you watch it. “If he’s sending you a video, either it’s great news or terrible news. Either way, I see dollar signs. Let me know how that goes.”

He kisses me on the cheek and quickly leaves my study. I download the attachment and see that the video is 27 minutes long. Good grief. I settle in and prepare myself for him to hit me with the bad news.

He’s front and center when the video comes to life and I can tell that someone else is holding the camera.

“Hello, Ms. Anastasia,” he says, and he appears to be standing outside. “So, I know you looked at the virtual tour, but it really didn’t do this place justice. Also, it was furnished with all that other shit, so you really can’t see the beautiful bones you have to work with here. Forgive me if I start to sound a little effeminate, but this is what I live for.

“Look at this. Have you seen this?” He flourishes like Vanna White as the camera follows him to the front doors. “Look at this. Distress wood oversized double doors with iron hinges. That’s not metal, baby. That’s iron. Come on… come inside…”

He gestures to the camera operator to follow him into the house. He dramatically opens both doors with another large flourish.

“Look at this!” he declares. “Look. At. This!” He twirls with his arms held out to demonstrate the space. “Listen… lead glass windows, travertine stone floors, mahogany floors, 100-year-old pine floors, stone walls and fireplaces, antiqued walls…”

He’s rattling off the attributes of the house as he parades through it pointing at various amenities. His poor cameraperson doesn’t have an opportunity to get shots of the house. They’re just filming Aaron as he points in different directions.

“Designer plasterwork—look at these walls, girl… Are you getting all this?”

“No, I’m not, Aaron, you’re going too fast,” I hear a female voice say. Aaron waves her off.

“You just gone have to keep up,” he says as he keeps walking. “Get that! Do you see that?”

The camera pans up to a sight the totally warms my heart—low ceilings and large wood beams.

“That’s in this part of the house. Another part of the house has high ceilings and stone floors. Ana Baby, this house is three houses in one. Looka here! Looka here!”

He gestures to his right and the camera pans to a beautiful wood staircase.

“Solid wood staircase going up to the second floor, and there’s a wrought iron staircase on the other end going down to the wine cellar, which still has wine in it, by the way.”

Aaron spends several minutes telling me about the structure and attributes of the house, including the fabulous and luxurious indoor pool area.

“The bones are amazing!” he says. “You don’t need to paint or resurface anything the floors are fabulous no walls need to be knocked out it’s a decorator’s dream I’m never leaving!”

I laugh to myself as he says the entire last sentence in one breath.

He walks us through the parlors and bars and bathrooms and a stunning kitchen with medium two-toned oak wood, mullioned glass, brunette marble countertops, and deluxe appliances and fixtures that create the perfect mixture of traditional Italian and modern convenience. Not only does it not need any renovations, but also… it’s fucking gorgeous!

These walls are a classic sandstone finish. Magnifique, my dear, magnifique! I’d bet anything that those beams are walnut,” he says of the beams we see on the ceilings throughout the house.

The ceilings in this room are straw and plaster. I haven’t seen this technique before, but it works for the old-world look….

You’ve got a door in here that looks like it’s carved from cedar—Bolivian, I think. Hold on, look at this hallway floor.”

He gestures the camera to a small area where the walls look a bit like a stonewash Tuscan in the colors of a sunset and directs the camera to the floor.

Oh. My. God.

“Girl! Tapestry! Marble tapestry! I’ve never seen anything this beautiful!”

To be honest, neither have I!

“You’ve got a lot of wrought iron in the back and some of it is aged—distressed with a rusted look. I say you leave it that way, but that’s just my opinion. You got red sun onyx in one of the bathrooms back there. It’s like whoever had this house didn’t know what they wanted to do with it, so they did everything with it and sold it once they ran out of ideas.”

After running around on the first floor for at least 20 minutes, we finally make it to the second floor.

The good thing about Italian villas—small bedrooms. The concept of the bedroom to the Italian—sleep and sex, that’s it.”

He quickly dashes in and out of several small bedrooms only big enough for a bed, an armoire, and a bench… maybe, and a few others that were a little larger, but not by much. There are more rooms on the second floor including areas that he called the “Mr. Darcy” rooms. I don’t know how he made that connection since Darcy was English and we’re in Italy, but c’est la vie.

I know I’ve put you to work on ideas for the house but trust me on this one. You’re going to want a mix of Baroque/Rococo with a touch of the modern. You’ve got areas in this house that are screaming muted, neutral colors and old Italian flair. Then your areas that take advantage of the natural light need a bit of a modern touch without going overboard. Even still, you have other areas with rustic and organic textures and architecture that can be Tuscan or Old-World. And then you have the Mr. Darcy areas that require a more finished look that’s not Beverly Hills or Manhattan 5th Avenue. No one style is going to work in this house, Love, and I’ve got to get to work toot sweet calling my vendors and locking down some European connections. I’m so excited! I’ll be in touch. I’ll have some sketches for you tomorrow and I’ll add some ideas to the Pinterest page. TTYL!”

My head is spinning from all the information that he just gave me in the video, and I’m just as excited seeing the house without all that crap in it—what I could see, that is. I’ve got a wonderful feel of what it should look like and contrary to what I originally thought, the mix of modern and old world is just eclectic enough to work.

And what the hell is TTYL?

We have a 15-hour time difference between us. I have no idea how we’re going to do this in two different world zones! I shoot him an email back suggesting that we find a time to talk that’s not too early or late for either of us and directing him to the ideas that I’ve already included on Pinterest. I express my glee with his findings and excitement to see what we’re going to do with the place, and finish by asking him what the fuck TTYL is.

*-*

It was a full day at Helping Hands today. I took a look at the information that Liam Westwick was looking for while he was here, and nothing seems out of place. Hopefully, that means that he won’t be back. I didn’t tell Christian about his visit. I felt that there was no need to open that can of worms since I wasn’t here anyway, but if he shows up again for any reason—whether I’m here or not—Christian will be the first to know. Once is a coincidence. Twice is a mission.

I settle in to my study when I get home and open my email to see that Aaron has sent me several stills of the rooms and layout of the villa. This is good considering the fact that he was so animated in the video that although I got a very good idea of the “bones” of the place, I had no visual feel for the actual size and shape of the rooms. I’m getting more excited to get started on choosing the décor now that I pretty much know what I’m working with.

I think I’m going to want a bit of oasis décor in the room with the indoor pool. It’s not just a room with a pool. The large pool is off to one side and the other side is a large mosaic tile floor with natural light coming in from a wall of windows that leads to a patio. Yes, I have plans for that space.

After dinner, I invite Sophie down to the study to go over some ideas for the villa. Having gotten a smart aleck response from Aaron to “ask a teenager” for the answer to my question, I decided to pose it to Sophie. I’ll have an answer for him for that one.

“Sophie, do you know what TTYL means?” I ask.

“Talk to you later.” Um…okay, was it something I said?

“Oh… you have to go so soon?” Sophie frowns.

“No,” she says bemused, then she laughs. “No, TTYL means ‘talk to you later.’”

TTYL… talk to you…

“Oooooohh,” I say in realization. “Well don’t I feel dense… and old!” Sophie giggles.

“Who was talking to you in text speech?” she asks.

“My designer,” I reply. “He was so excited about the ‘bones’ of the house, I think he just forgot.”

“Okay, I speak text and food. I don’t speak designer. What are ‘bones?’” she asks.

“So, as creepy as it sounds, it’s just what it sounds like. Bones are the frame of the house—the walls, the floors, the ceiling, the stairs. He sent me some great pictures and I can pretty much go in any direction I want and not go wrong.”

I start by showing her the pictures that Aaron finally got around to sending me of the various spaces as well as the blueprints.

“Wow, there are a lot of bedrooms!” she says.

“Tell me about it!” I concur. “He must have meant for us to invite family because there’s only four of us. Even if each of us brought our own security, that’s only eight. At the most, that’s six, maybe seven bedrooms. This place has 14 bedrooms!”

“Geez! Fourteen?” she says.

“My sentiments exactly. Luckily, they’re small, so we can just toss a bed and some accoutrements in there and call it a day!”

“Ooo! Like a doll house!” she says.

“Yes!” I nod, “exactly like a doll house.” I secretly decide that this will be her primary job since she’s showing the most enthusiasm about it, and of course she’ll be able to help with the rest of the house.

“Look at the kitchen,” I say, showing her a picture of the kitchen. She does a slow gasp.

“Wow,” she says dreamily. “Oh, wow, Aunt Ana, that’s beautiful…” She gazes at the picture and almost drifts dreamily off into it. At this moment, I hate Shalane to my very core and hope beyond hope that one way or another, she finds a heart and signs the documents to allow Sophie to come to Italy with us.

“What do you think?” I ask her.

“That I hope I get to cook in it,” she says, her voice cracking slightly at the end. I reach over and squeeze her hand.

“I hope you do, too,” I say. “Not that I’m trying to change the subject, but I’m trying to change the subject. I knew you were interested and even knew that you had a little background knowledge, but I had no idea you would be so talented. When did you find time to hone your cooking skills so well?”

“I practiced a little before Dad bought me la kitchen extraordinaire. Now, I’ve been doing lunches for my friends at school. They’re my guinea pigs and they love it.”

“Really?” I ask. She nods.

“It’s only two or three of them, and I don’t do it every day. I change up some of the ingredients of traditional meals and see how it works. I’ve had some successes… and some flaming failures. Those don’t make it to school,” she laughs.

“Well, you never know until you try,” I say, “and I’m sure that some of the greatest chefs found their best recipes from what you’re doing right now.”

“I ultimately want to get Gordon Ramsay’s beef wellington exactly right. I’m too nervous to try, though,” she admits.

“I am absolutely positive that you can do it,” I confirm.

“It was so good, though… remember?” she says, dreamily, and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of a memory that she will no doubt cherish for life.

“Yes, it was,” I agree, “and he’s only human, so you can do it.” She smiles sincerely.

“Thanks, Aunt Ana,” she says. “I will, someday.” I squeeze her hand again and turn back to the computer.

“Now,” I say. “I don’t want to keep you up too late on a school night, but I’ve decided that to start with, I’m going to put you on chamber duty and see what you come up with…”

“Chamber duty?” she asks bemused.

“The bedrooms,” I clarify. Her face lights up.

“Oh, cool!” she says, turning her focus back to the computer.

We exchange emails and I send Sophie pictures of the blueprints and of the bedrooms. My only requirement is that one of the rooms closest to the master bedroom has to be for the twins. We go through a few pictures of baroque and rococo designs and I don’t expect her to remember them, but I’m just trying to put some ideas in her head. She heads off to her apartment not too late in the evening, promising to send some ideas to my email.

I sit back in my office chair and ponder my life and Sophie’s after she has gone to bed. She’s got quite the harrowing tale to only be 14 years old. Granted, it’s nothing like mine and if Jason has anything to say about it, it never will be—but harrowing, nonetheless. So many times in just the last few years, her story could have had such a different and more tragic outcome.

What if that burn had been deeper? The scar shows that it was a really bad burn and it was so close to her wrist.

What if one of those times Shalane was on her drug binge, that creep had taken Sophie? Where would she be now?

For that matter, what if it hadn’t been a drug bust that night and she was successful in handing Sophie over to that guy? What did Shalane think he was going to do with her? Did she even care? The thought of someone even attempting to hurt Mackenzie makes my blood curdle and I feel bile bubbling in the back of my throat.

And what if Jason’s contact hadn’t told him that Sophie was at the police station that night? She would definitely be in the system now, and that would be a tragedy in and of itself.

My story could have turned out much differently, too, but everything that happened to me—good or bad—led to the person that I am today. While I am a firm believer of the saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” I can’t help but wonder what hardships that I—or Sophie—could have bypassed on our journey and still came out on the winning side of the equation. I can only hope that her experiences will ultimately lead to a happy outcome. Despite her mother’s interference, it seems like she’s going to be okay.

I close my laptop and head towards the elevator.

*-*

“You seem a bit reserved today,” I say to Marilyn during lunch on Wednesday. She shakes her head.

“Introspective,” she says. “I’m thinking about me and Gary.” I raise my brow.

“Oh?” I ask. “Anything you care to share?”

“We had that talk,” she confesses to me and she sips her iced tea. Uh oh… that talk?

“You did?” I ask. She nods.

“Yeah,” she says. “It was pretty brutal. There was a lot of crying, some accusations… we got our feelings out.” She looks at her drink. “I could use something stronger… but it’s not part of my regimen.” That doesn’t sound good.

“How did it work out?” I ask.

“We were both hurt by some of the revelations,” she admits. “We still are. We’re letting things simmer for a while. Emotions are very high… and they need to settle.”

“You’re taking a break?” I ask, my hope diminishing.

“Something like that,” she says calmly, a little too calmly.

“Is it something like that, Mare, or is that it?” I ask.

“It’s something like that,” she repeats. “We agree that we want to be together, that we want to fight for our relationship, but emotions were extremely high, and a lot of things came out—things that were hard to say and to hear. I’m going to have quite the session with Dora tomorrow.” She sips more of her tea.

“We’ve decided that it’s better if we sort things out in our own space. Living together affects the energy when you’re trying to work things out. So, he’s going to stay in his apartment and I’m going to stay here… unless you guys are ready for me to go.”

“You can stay here as long as you like, Mare. We’ve already had this discussion.” She nods.

“Good, because I don’t have any prospects right now… We’ve also decided to take a couple of days to marinate over everything we’ve discussed so as not to have a heated conversation about our latest discoveries. We’ve agreed not to dismiss them and to have calm debates about our differences, but it’s just not possible right now. We’re way too emotional.” And you’re way too logical at the moment.

“So, you guys called a time out,” I say. She nods.

“Yep… until Saturday.” She drops her gaze into her tea. “I really hurt him,” she adds. “I knew I did, or at least my decision did. I just didn’t realize how much. I really love him, and while I understand and accept that he didn’t deserve to go through what he went through, I didn’t deserve to go through what I went through, either. And this relationship counselor is not helping.” I frown.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I feel like she’s tiptoeing around us and she doesn’t know what to say,” she says.

“Maybe she’s taking it slow,” I defend.

“Maybe she is,” Marilyn concurs, “but that’s not what we need. We’re beyond the goal-setting ‘where would you like to be in five years’ state. I’m all for setting goals and breaking them down into tasks, but we have definitive, volatile issues that we need to deal with right now and she’s not helping us to address them.” I twist my lips.

“Maybe you need a couple’s perspective,” I say. “That’s what me and Christian needed—not that sterile ‘how does that make you feel’ bullshit, but that get-your-hands-dirty, no-nonsense, no-hiding, ‘why the fuck did you do that’ kind of therapy.” She raises her gaze to me.

“Where did you find that kind of therapy?” she asks.

“We didn’t, it found us,” I reveal. “Jason and Gail. That was brutal, but it was what we needed. We had referees to tell us when the conversation was over, because when it stops being productive, it’s over. But they also helped us face the hard truths about our relationship because they approached us as friends—no fear of getting fired, just getting in and getting the hands dirty. I believe it’s part of what saved our marriage because there’s so many steps in getting back.” She shakes her head.

“We don’t know Gail and Jason well enough to do that. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.”

“But you know me and Christian,” I retort.

“I don’t think Gary would be comfortable with that!” she says.

“Marilyn, from what I’m hearing from you, Gary’s been talking to Christian more than you think,” Her brow furrows.

“You think so?” she asks surprised. I scoff.,

“Ask him,” I say. “See how he feels about having couples therapy with us instead of this loser that you’re seeing on Monday nights.” She shrugs.

“Well, it couldn’t hurt. I’ll see what he says.”


CHRISTIAN

“Jesus, man, where have you been hiding her?” Alex asks when he comes into my office on Wednesday. “She’s incredible. First day on the job and she could spot issues that have been issues for years with just one look. I better stay on my toes!”

“I haven’t been hiding her,” I say. “I just didn’t know she was out of work.”

“She’s got a case if she wants to sue the company that fired her,” Allen chimes in. “There’s every bit of a reason to argue mitigating circumstances in her actions. Time was of the essence—we knew that then, and we know it now. That asshole was planning to move Jewel…”

“I don’t think we’ll be pursuing that,” I cut him off. “What’s done is done. Let’s just let sleeping dogs lie.” Allen raises a brow at me.

“Mr. I-Want-Blood Christian Grey wants to let sleeping dogs lie?” he says, nonplussed.

“Oh, no, I’d sue them all the way down to their toenails, but I really don’t think that’s what Sarah wants. I think she just wants peace and to be independent again.” Allen twists his lips.

“You may be right about that,” he says. “I asked if she and her estranged husband had any community property that she wanted to attach, and she just shook her head. When I talked about his shop, she stopped me in the middle of the conversation and told me that she didn’t want anything from that man but his absence. It’s probable that if she doesn’t want to pursue anything from him, she most likely won’t want to drag anything out with her old employer either.”

“Exactly,” I reply. “It’s like pulling teeth just to get her to take what I think is due to her. She truly doesn’t want anything more, especially not something that may cause her trouble.”

“Well, I have work to do, so I’m going back to my office. I’ll talk to you guys later.” Allen dismisses himself and leaves the office. Alex watches as he gets on the elevator and stands and closes the door. I watch as he walks over to my desk and activates my scrambler.

“So, the governor was right about one thing,” he begins. “The heat is on with that particular ‘missing person’ because it has the whole ‘Hollywood Madam’ smell to it.”

“I figured as much. Any additional information?” I ask.

“In fact, there is. Her… most recent male companion is the one under the most scrutiny now. If you remember, he liked to watch, so Little Red Riding Hood had a favorite toy that used to come around and participate in the show. She’s the one that put out the APB on her missing girlfriend. She knew about Daddy, for lack of a better word, but when there was no word from Red for a couple of weeks, she rightfully became concerned.”

“So, where does it stand now?” I ask.

“Same place,” he replies. “Those closest to you are the usual suspects, so that’s why the spotlight is mostly on him as her plaything filed the missing persons’ report. The only reason the police are really sniffing this hard is because they’re hoping to find that big conspiracy buried under the disappearance, but all evidence leads to her packing up and leaving town—that maybe she got spooked when her source suddenly fell ill, but her car is gone, her ID, most of her personal belongings, and her bank accounts have been cleaned out.”

“So, what if this phantom manuscript they’re hoping to find pops up somewhere?” I ask.

“Sources say that they’re probably going to leak that they did find a manuscript to try to shake some loose fruit from the trees, so be ready. Even if there was a manuscript remaining out there, it would be like The Help—great reading, but still conjecture without the support of the characters or the author. Not only that, but anyone who tried to publish that book right now would have to have the physical backing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and balls the size of Jupiter. The ghostwriter with all the information has come up missing and the source is suddenly drastically indisposed. And who are their prime suspects? Some of the most powerful men in the state—and if they look close enough, it’ll probably go further than that. Who wants that kind of uncertainty to publish a book? And even if it turns out to be a New York Times best seller, how much would you pay for a good night’s sleep?”

“Won’t you following the tracks and digging into the case shine the light back on me?” I ask.

“Not at all,” he replies, “for several reasons, the very smallest of which is that they pulled you into this. They questioned you first. You not wanting to know what the meaning of this was or wanting to get some answers is much more suspicious than you digging around in it.”

“Good point,” I say. “Does it look like they’re going to drop it anytime soon?”

“We won’t know until and if they say they’ve found a manuscript. Anybody who could possibly be in that book is going to be tearing their hair out trying to get more information on what’s in it. And I can tell you now that the word will be that forensic psychologists and profilers are deciphering the ‘Fleiss Code’ in the book to determine who all the big names are. So, when and if this drops, it’s important that you remain calm and undisturbed.”

“That won’t be a problem,” I reply. “It’s like I told Charlotte, anybody who thinks they could possibly publish anything about me would be looking at years and years of injunctions and lawsuits. Imagine what would happen if the boys in blue tried to build a case like this on me based on conjecture.”

Grateful for the update from Alex about the situation that I would have hoped would long ago be part of my past, I get back to work on the business of mergers and acquisitions. Lorenz and Ros primed two deals while I was in Vegas as I opened the floor for new prospects once the company started looking like what GEH should and the executive and administrative staff got their asses in gear. These two new prospects look deliciously ripe for the picking, and one of the companies is begging for a white knight, and with just a little direction, they can be totally stable again. A third looks like they’re going to need some work even if we do acquire them.

Speaking of acquisitions, I’m signing the papers for the sale of the final division of Fairlane LTD. I had to do a little clean-up to make them presentable, but I made a fortune on selling the company off bit by bit. Junior did everything he could to stop me—press releases, sabotage… He didn’t get that his father’s poison pill was the very worst that could be done and it didn’t make a dent in the situation. He hands over a soiled bride and then becomes angry when the groom chooses to take action.

What’s more, there hasn’t been a word from Fairlane, Sr. It’s like he took his payout and ran, leaving all the mess in Junior’s hands to deal with. With the way that his son behaves, I have a feeling that this was an expensive lesson that Sr. wanted to teach him. And what an expensive lesson to learn. He didn’t leave him broke—he still had his job and his position. He just had to play nice with the new boss, which he didn’t do.

I wouldn’t fire him, because that meant I would have to give him a severance package. He could only quit, and that meant leaving with nothing. So, he tried to make his presence unbearable for me. Little Boy, Fairlane was a subsidiary—a fast-fading subsidiary that was quickly being parceled and sold to the highest bidder, no string attached. Just show me the money and take it. What he thought was a bargaining chip quickly became a rotting potato rind, and all he did was kick and scream and have a temper tantrum, complaining to the press about an acquisitions king making an acquisition and selling the acquisition for a profit… Ooooo, hot news.

Now, with the sale of the last division of the company, his future is uncertain at best. Maybe he’ll play nice with the next owners, assuming they decide to keep him on.

While continuing through my emails for whatever other pieces of information may be vital, I see a communication from Mrs. Riddick in Nevada. It appears that the sensitivity training has begun for the staff at Summerlin Hospital. I would think that in this kind of environment, these professionals would already know how to treat someone going through something like this. Really, Carla could have died. Then, what would they have said to my wife after treating her so horribly?

Mrs. Riddick made it a point to tell me that the Stoic Sisters—the two shrews from the hospital board—were among the first to be required to take the training, along with the catty nurses who have been reprimanded for their treatment of my wife. I forward the email to Butterfly as I’m sure it’ll be a welcome bright spot to her day.

The rest of the week proceeds without incident, unless you count the surprise that my wife sprung on me on Thursday about being relationship counselors to Marilyn and Garrett.

“Are you serious?” I ask. “I hardly think they would want to break down the intimate details of their relationship to me.

“And why not?” Butterfly retorts. “I came home that night of the party to find you two chatting it up on the balcony. Oh, and I guess Gary came up with all these ideas to win Marilyn back all by himself—flowers and poems and, oh, the self-made serenade playlist of songs. You certainly had nothing to do with that, right?” I thrust my hands into my hair.

“We just kind of happened upon those conversations,” I protest. She twists her lips.

“Um-hmm,” she says. “I suppose Gary was just skipping through the house and you said, ‘Hey, Gare, let’s have a chat,’ right?”

Now she’s being sarcastic.

“Men are different than women,” I say. “They feel strange about… spilling their guts to someone else with all the dirty little details about their relationship.”

“Did you feel that way talking to Jason?” she asks.

“Jason was different. He knows everything there is to know about me… my lifestyle, my childhood, my business, everything.”

“Well, I’m that person to Gary,” she says, “but he needs a man’s point of view, and you’ve been the one giving that to him. I think they really need this, just like we needed Gail and Jason, but if you’d rather not…”

“No, no, you’re right,” I say, thrusting my hand in my hair again. “I’ve just… never been in this position before—counseling someone else on a relationship? It just seems like delicate territory and I don’t want to fuck up. What do I say to them? How do I do this?”

“You listen to what they have to say, and you respond with how you feel just like you have been with Gary on his own… except don’t reem him out like you did at the party. That would be counterproductive.”

“No, I know that,” I lament. She pauses.

“I’ll be there to help you,” she says, pushing the fallen strands of my hair out of my face. “We’ve learned a lot in the course of our relationship, and you’ve grown so much. We’ve grown. I see a couple who looks just like we did only a few months ago, desperately wanting to be together, but they don’t know how. I think they can benefit from what we’ve learned about relationships—about each other and about ourselves.”

“I’ve never had to deal with an abortion, though, baby,” I tell her. “I don’t know how to empathize with losing a child.”

“But you know how betrayal feels,” she interjects, “or at least your interpretation of it. That’s what we’re dealing with.” I sigh heavily.

“I’ll try,” I say. “I certainly don’t want to leave them out in the cold, so I’ll try.”

*-*

Monday and our first “session” with Marilyn and Garrett come only too quickly for my liking. My wife is right, though. If anyone is going to be able to help them get back on track with their relationship, it’s going to be someone that knows them well and won’t pull any punches. Both of those are true with me and Butterfly. I don’t know Garrett as well as Jason knows me, but I know him well enough… and he already knows that I won’t pull any punches with him. I’ll give it to him straight whether he likes it or not.

The four of us have gathered in my den after work, the same place where Jason and Gail counseled me and Butterfly. Butterfly and I are each sitting in one of the wingback chairs while Garrett and Marilyn are both sitting on the sofa across from us.

“So, we all know why we’re here,” Butterfly begins. “I’m glad that you guys decided to do this. I know it’s not an easy process, but it is necessary if you hope to move forward.”

“We’re going to start by setting a few expectations,” she says. “First, this is going to be a difficult process. It’s not going to happen overnight. Second, but should be first, we are going to respect each other’s feelings in this process. That doesn’t mean that you should bite your tongue and not express your feelings, but it does mean that you shouldn’t be disrespectful to anyone in this room. I expect for emotions to run rampant, but I still expect for respect and consideration to be the primary focus or there won’t be any progress.

“Third, Christian and I are not here to take sides. We won’t be arbitrators. At the most, we’re here to help you and to help interpret your feelings. We need you both to be receptive, because we know that some of what you hear is going to be tough to take.”

Those expectations help me to breathe easier. The last thing I want for them to think is that this is going to be a fix-all or that we’re here to solve their problems. Just like me and Butterfly, they’re going to have to work through what they’re feeling and come up with a solution. It wasn’t easy for us; it won’t be easy for them.

“The easiest place to begin is where you left off with your couples’ counseling,” she says, and Garrett scoffs an impatient sigh.

“Gary?” she says.

“It was a waste of time,” he says, frustrated. “She had us setting relationship goals like we had never met before. We’ve got real issues—real problems, and she acted like she wanted us to tell her what color our kitchen would be.” Butterfly frowns and we both look at Marilyn. She nods.

“Considering where we are and where we’ve been, her methods were just that ineffectual,” Marilyn confirms.

“Wow,” Butterfly says. “Well, she may have been on the right track to have you set goals for your relationship, but she clearly wasn’t going about it the right way. What was she telling you to do?”

“’Gary, I don’t like it when you’ and ‘Gary, it hurts me when you…’” Marilyn’s voice is syrupy and pretentious as she mimics the process of her previous couples’ therapy sessions. I squint and grimace so hard in confusion that Gary gestures at me as if to say, “Exactly.”

“Yeah… yeah, you’re way beyond that,” Butterfly confirms. “Did you tell her that you guys had just come off of a three-month break-up brought on by the termination?”

“We did,” Garrett says. Butterfly clears her throat.

“During your sessions with her, have you talked about the termination and how it has effected your relationship?” she presses.

“Briefly,” Marilyn replies.

“Briefly?” Butterfly mimics my previous grimace and looks at me.

“Where did this woman get her license?” she wonders out loud.

“You’re asking me?” I retort.

“No, I’m verbally expressing my horror,” she says before she turns back to Marilyn and Garrett.

“Eventually, we are going to talk about goals. It’s important to outline where you want to be when this is all over… but let’s back up a bit, shall we?”

“Fine by me,” Garrett says.

“Ditto,” Marilyn concurs.

“Marilyn confided in me that the two of you had a talk,” Butterfly says. “She didn’t give me the details, but she did tell me that the two of you were very hurt when the conversation ended—so hurt in fact that you decided to take a few days off.”

I didn’t know that.

“We need to talk about that—about that discussion and the revelations that were uncovered. You need to decipher how much of it was reality and how much was just painful outburst; what specifically brought it on and what you need to address to move forward.”

They’re both quiet for a moment.

“You have to talk to us,” I tell them. “We have to know where to start to be able to help you.”

More silence…

“I told her how I felt,” Garrett begins. “I told her exactly how I felt the day she came back to the apartment after the termination. I wasn’t politically correct. I wasn’t polite or respectful, I called her out of her name…” he trails off.

“What did you call her?” Butterfly asks.

“A murderous bitch,” Marilyn says when Garrett doesn’t reply. I try not to visibly flinch at the description. I don’t know how successful I am.

“Do you really think that?” I ask Garrett. His head is down as he answers.

“I did,” he says honestly. “That day when I saw her and she had killed my baby, that’s exactly how I felt.” Marilyn turns her head away from the group as she listens to Garrett.

“But do you still feel that way?” I ask, my voice even. He slowly shakes his head.

“I know… that it’s so much more than that… that there’s so much more to all of this… so, no… I don’t.” His words are slow and controlled. Not practiced, but controlled.

“Then I need you both to look at me,” I say. All three heads turn or raise in my direction. Butterfly is praying that I don’t say the wrong thing. Garrett is expectant and Marilyn is crying again. I sigh before I speak.

“Your tongue is the most powerful muscle on your body,” I say. “The tongue can heal and kill with a word, so remember this. If you don’t really feel that way, never say that again. There are things that you can say to someone that you can’t take back, and I can guarantee you, that’s one of them. Those two words on their own have connotations that dig deeper than a backhoe. How much more powerful do you think they are when you put them together and say them to the woman that you claim to love?”

Garrett sighs heavily and covers his face with both hands, dropping his head in dismay.

“I know you’re hurt,” I say. “You both are,” I add, turning to Marilyn, “but please remember that what you say—now and later—will have long and far reaching consequences. Don’t hold your feelings back, but don’t say anything that you don’t mean or that you don’t want to stick, because whatever you say, especially right now. Will. Stick.”

Garrett nods under his hands and Marilyn tries to wipe away her tears. I hand her my handkerchief and she nods her thanks.

“Gary,” Butterfly says, “it’s okay that you felt that way. It’s even okay that you said that you felt that way, but it’s not okay if you still feel that way. Do you?” He sighs and moves his hands from his face, now covered in tears.

“I don’t,” he says. “It still hurts that my baby is gone, but I don’t feel like it was murder… and I don’t think she’s a bitch. I’m going to therapy myself to deal with the loss… but no, I don’t feel like that.”

“What were you thinking when you called her that?” she asks.

“I felt like… I was very emotional,” he says. “I felt like the therapist wasn’t addressing what we needed to address, so I had to address it…”

“You said this at therapy?” Butterfly asks.

“No,” he says, shaking his head, “I said it the next day.”

“How did you feel when you heard that, Marilyn?” Butterfly asks.

“Like I didn’t want to see him again,” she says.

“I sensed that,” Butterfly says. Marilyn and Garrett both turn their gaze to her. “Forgive me, but I have to say this. When you were talking to me, even though you didn’t give me any details—you just said that you guys cried and things were said—I saw it. I saw it and I heard it. I’ve paid close attention to you for these last few months. I’ve been worried about you. I knew when nothing was working. But I saw something last Wednesday when you talked to me that I hadn’t seen the entire time you’ve been going through this. I saw the end.”

Marilyn doesn’t respond.

“You were a bit withdrawn like you had been, but not forlorn. When we talked, I could tell that your whole relationship was up in the air, hanging in the balance and totally dependent on what happened when you saw Gary on Saturday.” Garrett looks over at her.

“We were supposed to go out,” he says, “but you didn’t want to. We spent a little time together. We talked, and then you told me that you were tired.” Marilyn rolls her eyes.

“Did you hear what he said to me?” she asks, her voice incredulous. “Did you hear what he called me? Is that something that he’s going to throw up to my face when he’s angry? I’ve seen couples do that. I’ve seen them reach into the past and find a hurtful statement or a painful moment and throw it in the other one’s face to win a fight, or because they’re emotional!” She tearfully spits the word out with disdain, the word that Garrett used not five minutes ago to describe his mental state when he said those words to her.

“Is that what he’s going to do to me? Is that what I have to look forward to? Because I can’t do that. I can’t live like that—I won’t! I had my reasons for what I did—real, valid reasons. Women make this decision every day, and my reasons have consistently been dismissed by those who claimed to love me the most. I’m not even speaking to my parents right now because they blindly threw me in judgment. After being without you for months, feeling like I wanted to die every second of every day, enduring some of the most tortuous pain that I’ve ever felt in my life, then to have you come back and lodge those horrible insults at me… I’ll take being without you. It’s more than I can bear, and I won’t tolerate it… ever!

Go, Marilyn! The inner me is doing a fist pump right now that no matter what happened between them, she will not accept his abuse.

“What do you say to that, Gary?” Butterfly asks.

“She’s right,” he replies. “I’m hurt… I’m getting better, but I’m still hurt. No matter how much I hurt, she didn’t deserve that.” Marilyn sighs heavily, then uses my handkerchief to dry her face.

“So, what happens when you feel that way again—when you’re angry and you can’t control your tongue?” I ask.

“I’ll remember the things that she said that night… the things that she said tonight. I’ll remember her face,” he says looking over at Marilyn, “and I’ll remember that you can’t speak to people that way, that I can’t talk to her that way.”

He fucking better remember, because he’s seriously about to lose his woman.

“Can you love her after feeling this way about her?” Butterfly asks.

“I do love her,” he replies. “I love her so much. I just want to get past this and heal.”

“But you may never heal from this,” I interject. “Your feelings are raw, and they’re real. What do you do if you can’t heal?”

“I’m already healing, Christian,” he says, his eyes still full of tears. “It’s a slow process, but I am.” He turns to Marilyn. “I know you didn’t just kill my baby,” he says, “even though my baby is gone. You made a decision, a decision that you felt you needed to make. I need you to understand that decision hurt me, ripped me to my core. For months, I would venture to say that my pain was just as unbearable as yours. I cried and I cried, and there seemed to be no end in sight. I thought that pain would never go away. And then I saw you…”

He drops his head again.

“I was still hurting when I saw you, but it was like the world just stopped. You looked haggard and broken and sick. You really looked like you were dying and I couldn’t even think clearly. At first, I felt like your parents—like your sin had caught up with you and you were paying for it. God forgive me, seeing your pain soothed a bit of mine. I’m sorry, but it’s true. But seeing the effect that this was having on you…” He shakes his head.

“When you ran outside to the golf course and you fell on the grass, I thought you were going to die. I thought this was the last straw and you were just going to keel over and I had to get to you before you died. You screamed and I swear the heavens cracked open in anguish. I just wanted it to stop. I wanted it all to stop… all of it.”

He drops his head into his hands again. This is hard for him to talk about, and I feel like a first-class heel for all those times that I called him an asshole.

“I don’t know how to deal with these feelings,” he admits. “They’re all-consuming. It was bliss when the love was all-consuming, but the pain… I’m getting help, but this is really unfamiliar territory to me.” Butterfly sighs.

“You two are remarkably like Christian and me,” she says. “Mare, you have some guidelines on what a relationship should and shouldn’t look like and this is Gary’s first real relationship.”

I look incredulously over at Butterfly. Is she having one of her moments? Did she forget that disaster that Garrett brought to Escala at our first F&L? What was her name—Britany?

“You didn’t have any relationships before Ana?” Garrett asks incredulously, breaking my train of thought. I turn my gaze quickly to him.

“I had relations, but not relationships,” I clarify as I look back to Butterfly. “Aren’t you forgetting someone?” She raises a brow at me.

“Am I?” she asks, expecting.

“He’s talking about Bethany,” Garrett says. Bethany! That was her name.

“No, I didn’t forget Bethany,” Butterfly replies, matter-of-factly. “He met Bethany right around the time that I met you, and he broke up with her in our presence. Do you call that a relationship?” I twist my lips. No… no I would not. I’ve had submissives who lasted longer.

“That’s where you’re similar,” Butterfly says. “You had both had encounters, but they were very short—or meaningless—and never went anywhere. Christian was emotionally closed off with all of his females and you never sealed the deal before Marilyn.”

Okay, there’s a news flash! Never sealed the deal before Marilyn? Garrett was a virgin? I fail to hide my surprise.

“Yes, Christian, I was still a virgin when I met Marilyn, even though I had previously fallen for an obvious thot and brazen hoochie,” Garrett informs, adequately reading my thoughts. Whew! Yeah, they need us. This guy has absolutely no direction and I totally know how that feels. Had there been any real relationships in his past, he wouldn’t have dared let those words escape his lips about Marilyn.

“Marilyn?” Butterfly coaxes. “You look like…”

He was hurt!” she spits, interrupting Butterfly. “His baby is gone. He was emotional. This was my body… is my body! My health and nine months of my life—and then some!

“I’m 25 years old!” she declares. “I haven’t traveled. I haven’t done anything with my life yet. I’m going day by day, saving some money, but I haven’t made any concrete plans for my future. I don’t own a house; I’m not financially well-off. Nobody could understand why I didn’t want a baby right now? Were you ready to have a baby when you were 25?” she shoots at Gary. His face blanches and he doesn’t answer.

“Motherhood and childcare and medical expenses,” she continues, her voice rising with her emotions. “My whole life would change! My future was being written for me and nobody felt like I had a say in that. I can still have children! When I’m ready! But nobody felt like I had the right to say that I wasn’t ready right now!

We were using protection. I don’t know what happened. All of our behavior and actions said that we weren’t ready right now. But when it happened, suddenly all bets were off and all of our precautions meant nothing! I had the right to choose, all right—the right to choose to have this baby or lose everything important to me in my life… the man I love, my parents respect, my damn appetite and sense of self-preservation, everything!” She leaps from her seat and walks over to the window, sobbing fervently.

“You gave me the world and then you took it away!” she sobs. “I’m not just hurt—I’m angry! I’m completely undone! You showed me paradise and with no warning whatsoever you kicked me into hell! How could you?” she wails.

We’re all stunned for a moment. I’m not sure any of us have seen this level of fever and emotion from her in months. It’s been quiet disintegration or silent mourning, but not shouting from the rooftops hurt and angry.

“You wonder why I can’t be touched?” she wails. “You wonder why I can’t let you in? Why I can’t trust you… or anybody? My mother and my father—the two most important people in my life—turned their backs on me; shunned, disgraced, and condemned me—for the same reason you did!”

She’s screaming now. Gary stands to go over to her, but Butterfly catches his arm and shakes her head. He wants this to stop, but Marilyn needs to get this out.

“There was no right decision,” she cedes tearfully, “not for me, anyway. The decision wasn’t mine to make. It was everybody else’s. I had no say in the matter. I may never be able to speak to my parents again unless I want to hear about this each time that I talk to them, and now I have to worry about hearing it with you? No! No! I won’t do it! I’ll be alone. I’ll never let anyone touch me again. I’ll never let anyone near me again before I endure that! Any of that! Ever again!”

She buries her face in her hand and sobs and wails mournfully, the same hopeless crying that she was doing on the putting green a few weeks ago. Gary wrenches from Butterfly’s grasp and goes over to Marilyn, wrapping his arms around her shaking body from behind.

“Baby, I’m sorry,” Garrett says, his voice thick with tears. “I’m so, so sorry. I was hurt… I am hurt, but I didn’t think of you at all during this whole thing and that was so selfish of me. We could’ve gotten through this, but I didn’t care. I was only thinking about my own pain. It was hard, and this could’ve been a bump in our relationship—a big bump, but a bump nonetheless—and I’ve turned it into a cavern. I want to fix this… with my whole heart, I want to fix this. I don’t want to be without you, and if I haven’t completely destroyed everything, when and if you’re ever ready to have children, I want to be that guy. I know it’s going to take time and work to get past this, but we can do it, I know we can. Please, baby. Please, give us another chance, I’m begging you…”

Marilyn quickly turns in his arms and wraps her arms tightly around his neck, weeping on his shoulder. He holds her close and lets her cry. Yes, there’s a ton of work to be done here, jointly and severally, but I’d say tonight’s session is over. Butterfly leans over to me.

“The tongue is an organ,” she whispers to me.

“It’s a muscular organ,” I say, and I know of what I speak.


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

Pictures related to the progress of the Italian Villa can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/italy/italian-villa/

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

 

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 24

In honor of my beloved Falala who had the courage to put her safety and well-being above others’ opinions. I would have worried about you the whole time, my friend. Thank you for your strength. ❤ 

The picture has nothing to do with the chapter. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.

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 24

ANASTASIA

I’m looking out the window of our Las Vegas suite trying to mentally formulate a plan of action concerning what’s next for my mother. Wendy is on her way over to help with that since she knows more of the ins and outs of this kind of thing. The sun is setting on the Strip and we’re trying to decide what the travel plans are going to be for the next couple of days. Everyone that’s here now came down in about two or three trips, and Christian has informed me that since he basically furnished the Romper Room suite that all that stuff is coming back with us minus the cribs and the bedding. He was going to leave the highchairs, too, but I told him to send those to Seattle so that we could have them on one of the other floors of the house.

On that note, Keri and Marilyn are getting the babies prepared to fly back in the morning with all the baby equipment and the extra security detail that has been here for the trial. The only people staying are me and Christian, Jason, Chuck, Marilyn, and two of the guards on rotation at my mother’s hospital room. They’ll remain here on rotating twelve-hour shifts with weekend relief until my mother is released from the hospital. She has agreed to that, but refuses to have 24/7 security once she leaves the hospital.

“I know how to tell reporters to leave me alone,” she had declared. “I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.”

I’m going to respect her wishes since she’s an adult and the only reason she had covert surveillance in the first place is because Christian thought she was trying to get to me.

Her psychiatrist was much more professional to me than all the doctors and nurses I’ve come in contact with since this entire ordeal began. Maybe he didn’t know the backstory…

A few hours earlier

“I’m going to be candid with you since I know that you’re a psychiatrist, too, Dr. Grey,” Dr. Hamlin says. “Your mother is suffering from severe depression. Of course, before knowing if she really did or didn’t attempt suicide when her car went off the overpass, I had to treat her like she’s a risk to herself and others. For that reason, she had to be restrained.”

I look over at my mother, who hasn’t raised her gaze the entire time I’ve been here.

“She’s clearly not restrained now, so…” I say, my voice trailing off.

“Your mother isn’t a constant threat to anyone. She’s just very unhappy,” he admits. “She’s had quite a few things happen, and she hasn’t sought any professional help for any of it.” He looks over to my mother. “She’s harboring a lot of guilt for quite a few things from her past, including her treatment of you…” he looks briefly over at me when he says that, then looks back to my mother. “She hasn’t healed from the loss of her husband, even though she’s trying to move on. She’s self-medicating, for lack of a better word, with her good deeds and giving back to the community, but it’s not fixing the problem.” He turns back to me.

“She’s borderline clinically depressed,” he continues. “She’s not suffering from major or manic-depressive disorder, but she is solidly dysthymic with occasional manic episodes. The occasional episodes are what give me cause for concern. It’s those moments that can be the most dangerous…

“Because it only takes a moment of desperation or hopelessness during one of those occasional episodes to do something drastic or harmful… or fatal,” I finish. He pauses.

“Exactly,” he says. I take the seat next to my mother’s bed and continue to listen to Dr. Hamlin. “As a professional, you know we have to get to the bottom of this. So, our first order of business was to find out what happened during that accident. I have to tell you that I’m still not sure, not because Mrs. Morton won’t tell me, but because I honestly think she doesn’t quite know.” I frown.

“Are you talking about, like, a blackout, or dissociative amnesia?” I ask.

“Right now, it could be either,” he says. “She had a head injury from the trauma, so there’s no way to tell if there was any pre-existing condition before the accident, something that could have caused a blackout, for example. She had a toxicology test done when she arrived to make sure she wouldn’t have an adverse reaction to the anesthesia—nothing, not even alcohol. If she had some sort of natural blackout, she just didn’t have control of the car anymore.  

“However, if she was overwhelmed by despair or depression, it could have been a moment of desperation and the immediate reaction was to turn the wheel to the guardrail—no thought or premeditation…”

“Just opportunity,” I say, looking at my mother.

“You’re a good psychiatrist, aren’t you?” he says after a beat. I turn to him.

“I had therapy after I left home and went to college,” I tell him. “After my therapy, this was my way of self-medicating.”

“Face the beast head-on,” he says.

“Exactly,” I reply. “That’s how I knew she sounded suicidal.” He sighs.

“She doesn’t want to die,” he says, turning back to my mother. “She’s just in despair, and she needs to come out of it. I truly believe this can be managed without institutionalizing her, but she’s going to be here for a while—mending from her physical wounds. I suggest we begin intensive therapy and a regimen of anti-depressants.

“She has some serious monsters that she needs to deal with, and she hasn’t done it. We covered a lot of ground in our sessions, but not nearly enough. Her ‘come to Jesus’ moment with you and the loss of her husband both happened within the last two years. She loved Stephen and now he’s gone. She never talked to anyone about that—never grieved properly. No one even came to his funeral except you, and even that experience was unpleasant. Once you left, she fell apart. Yes, her behavior to you even on that day was deplorable, but she was still grieving.

“She’s vicariously watching your life bloom through the press and she can’t be a part of it. She can’t see her grandchildren. She can’t celebrate your triumphs. It’s adding salt to her wounds. By no means am I telling you that it’s your responsibility to forgive your mother for how she behaved towards you, but it is her responsibility to forgive herself or if she doesn’t succeed in killing herself by opportunity, she’ll succeed by stress.”

I look over at my mother. I get everything he’s saying, and while I appreciate his attempt to remove the responsibility from me for my mother’s mental recovery, he’s still pointing to me as the source of her depression.

“What do you think of this, Mother?” I ask. He’s right about one thing. I’m not going to take responsibility for her. If she’s beating herself for the person that she was—or wasn’t—when I needed her, well then, she just has to deal with that. She shrugs in response to me.

“I’ve never really thought about dying,” she admits. “I told you how I feel about the so-called afterlife. I’m just tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of all the darkness and I’m tired of feeling like there’s no hope. Even the things that I do that make me happy only last for a moment and then they’re gone. And I really feel like no one would miss me if I were gone…”

I stand up and leave the room. I retrieve the sign-in logbook from the podium next to her door and re-enter the room.

“Well, I can tell you that’s not true,” I say, tossing the sign-in logbook onto her bed. Her brow furrows as she takes the book and opens it.

“What is this?” she asks.

“That’s the logbook of every visitor that has come to see you since you’ve been in the hospital,” I reply. “I’ve had to have flowers removed from your room three times to make room for fresh ones. I had the others delivered to other rooms that didn’t have any flowers because there were so many in this room that people couldn’t get in here.”

She turns the page and scans it, then covers her mouth, tears pushing through her tightly squeezed eyes. She shakes with sobs for a few moments, before she composes herself.

“I don’t like feeling this way, Dr. Hamlin,” she says between her tears. “What do I need to do to make it stop?”

Present

Of course, when we get to the root of her problem, I would be there. I fucking hate that. She didn’t take responsibility for my pain and I’m supposed to take responsibility for hers? I was a kid, and I did want to die. I wanted to die for nearly four years to get away from the hatred and the scrutiny and the ostracization—to feel safe walking to and from the bus stop and not like somebody was going to jump out at me, crack me upside the head again and finish the damn brand! She never felt that. She never felt the anguish, shame, and fear that I felt. No matter how badly she feels right now, she never felt that, and she never will!

And yet, I still feel shitty.

“Hey, God,” I say, looking out the window and over at the Aria Hotel. “It’s me again. I know You’re all perfect and everything, but I’m not. I don’t even want to be perfect; it’s too big a responsibility. I hate what she did to me. I hate how she made me feel. It was easy to let that go as long as I didn’t have to deal with her. Now, I feel like I’m succumbing to peer pressure—like I’m supposed to let her off the hook because she’s suffering so much now.

“The thing is that when I suffered, she wasn’t there for me. I didn’t have the knowledge that I have now and getting to the next day was pure hell. I couldn’t see the horizon or over the rainbow. I didn’t know what was waiting for me when I left home, I just knew that I had to get out of there. I was willing to run off into total uncertainty and the black abyss just to get away from her. I was afraid to turn to the one person that I knew still loved me for fear that she would find me, and now I’m supposed to feel guilty for her plight?”

I sigh heavily and drop my head.

“Forgive me, Lord, but I don’t,” I say, a single tear falling from my eye. “I feel somewhat guilty for not feeling guilty, for not feeling any kind of conviction for her human suffering. What kind of cold-hearted human being does that make me for not feeling guilty for what my mother is going through? I just want to get everything set up and get out of here.”

I know what’s going to happen to her now, and I know what needs to be done. I figure taking care of all of the preliminary things that need to be done can be done in the next 24 hours. Everything else can be coordinated through telephone and email and whatever other means, but on Friday morning, I’m flying out of this joint. I’ve had enough of this place.

“Give me strength to get everything done here that needs to be done and to get back to my peace,” I say finally and end my prayer.

A few minutes later, Marilyn comes to the suite to help me set up for my meeting with Wendy. She’ll be coming to help start getting things set up for my mother and to be listed as the primary contact wherever I need her. That conversation with my mother after Dr. Hamlin left was one to remember…

“Do you trust Wendy?” I ask her pointedly. She sharpens her gaze.

“With my life,” she says emphatically, as if the answer should be obvious to me.

“Good,” I reply, looking down at my phone, “because she’s going to be responsible for making decisions for you on my behalf when I’m not here,” I add as I compose a text to Wendy to come to my suite this evening. “I just want to be sure that you’re not in the hands of someone who would take advantage of you or abuse you.” My mother scoffs lightly.

“Anastasia, I trust Wendy more than I trust you,” she replies. I raise my gaze to her and she’s looking directly at me, unapologetic. I can’t say that I blame her. It should smart a bit after everything I’ve done for her in spite of the circumstances, but it doesn’t. I’d have to care for it to hurt. That’s Wendy’s department.

I’m not sure if she said that just to get under my skin, but just in case, I return with a shot of my own.

“As well you should,” I reply unfazed, returning her unapologetic glare. She deflates infinitesimally, and I see that I’ve sent her a message that I haven’t sent before. Any other time that we’ve talked before this incident, I’ve been at the disadvantage as a child, or I’ve been emotional or chasing her out of my life. This time, she gets to see that not only am I not the same child that she took advantage of, but that I can be as cold, callous, and unfeeling as she was during my time of suffering and that she really can’t do or say anything to hurt me anymore. The fact that she seems to have everyone falling at her feet and worshipping the ground that she walks on when she treated me like such shit… yeah, that hurt. But her direct actions and words… nah!

I know who you were, they don’t. If they know who you are now and they love you, all well, fine, and good, but they didn’t have to deal with what I dealt with and who I knew. I don’t know this person, and when I needed you, you weren’t this person to me. So, yes, you should trust one of them more than you trust me.

*-*

“This is the best bed for when she comes home,” Wendy says, showing me an adjustable queen-sized bed with rails and a pillow-top mattress. “If you were looking for something not so costly, there’s this one. It’s a full and the mattress isn’t a pillow-top, but it’ll still serve the purpose.”

“Why the queen instead of the full?” I ask.

“It’s easier for me to change her position in a queen,” she says. “She can roll all the way over without having to scoot. It’ll help prevent bed sores, and I expect for her to be in bed a lot… at least for the first few weeks or so, until she comes to grips with her situation. That’s why I suggested the pillow-top.”

“Get that one, then,” I say, looking at all the equipment my mother is going to need to keep from going to a nursing home—shower chairs and catheters and bowel assistance kits, a wheelchair… the house is going to have to be retrofitted for accessibility. We’ve already looked into purchasing a van and having it fitted with a lift. The list goes on and on and on, but I count it a blessing that Wendy is already familiar with all of this.

There’s going to be a huge outlay of money to get everything prepared for my mother in the time before she goes home. We’re expecting her to be headed to rehab in about a month when her broken bones heal, but we already know there’s not much they’ll be able to do with her legs. This will be to help her deal with the abilities that she has lost and to function without the full use of her legs.

I’ve already spoken to Christian about issuing a credit card to Wendy since we’re not going to be here, and that’s one hell of a step. In light of that, I let Wendy know that the spending will be monitored closely by our accountant, just in case there’s any temptation to spend on something frivolous or unnecessary.

“I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m threatening you, so please don’t take it that way,” I say to Wendy. Her pupils constrict and I have her full attention.

“I think this was what my husband was trying to say to Abe, but it didn’t go well, so please let me get everything out.

“You already know that my relationship with my mother is estranged at best. I never intended to see or talk to her again until it was time to bury her. When my security informed me that her car went off an overpass, quite frankly, that’s what I was prepared to do—bury her. The only thing is that when I heard the news and I came face to face with possibly having to bury my mother, I didn’t know how to feel. At first, I just wanted to be near my children, but I was leaving them at the time to come here. Then, I was just numb. For hours, I was numb.

“When I got to the hospital, I saw myself lying in that bed, hopeless and helpless. I didn’t know that she had a support system. I thought it was just me. When all her friends started coming around, I started to feel like the intruder. I still do.

“I don’t know any of you people, but my mother does… and she trusts you, so I’m leaving her in your hands because I don’t have a choice short of moving down here or moving her to Seattle. Both of those options are impossible for me and at least one of them is impossible for her.

“What my husband was trying to tell Abe is that I can’t be worried if my mother is being taken care of or taken advantage of. I have way too much on my plate to add that stress to my life. It’s clear to see that you and Abe care for my mother, but with all the unknown variables, I cannot stand by and allow her to deliberately be misused or mistreated. I don’t have that in me. She may not be my favorite person, but I don’t wish her any harm. I never have.” I drop my gaze a bit.

“Having said that, I have to say that I’m expecting you to be my eyes and ears, and I will say without hesitation that if I discover that my mother is being misused, mistreated, or taken advantage of in any way, there will be hell to pay by whomever is doing that to her. I’ll admit that for my own reasons, she’s not my favorite person, but she is my responsibility, and I will not stand by and allow her to be deliberately hurt. That’s the very least I can do for any human being.”

I raise my gaze back to Wendy’s face, and she’s gazing at me—somewhat softly with a slight curl at the corners of her lips.

“Understood,” she replies, and that’s all she says. I raise my brow at her.

“May I ask why you’re smiling?” I question, a bit perturbed.

“Carla thinks you hate her,” she says. “She’s clearly not your favorite person. I don’t expect any open-armed reunions and neither does she, but it’s clear to see that you don’t hate her. Even those immature, unprofessional, uninformed, nosey nurses know that you don’t hate her.” My eyes widen when she brings up the nurses.

“Yes, I know,” she says. “So does Carla. She’s too busy wallowing in her sorrow to say anything about it, but she knows. I felt it wasn’t my place…”

“My husband took care of it,” I say. “He’s very sensitive when it comes to me.”

“I can tell,” Wendy replies. “I can’t convince you that we only have Carla’s best interest at heart. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”

“I never doubted it,” I admit, “either of you. It’s just, these days, you just can’t be too sure. I can tell that Abe loves her. I know love when I see it.”

“I imagine you do,” she says. “You and that young man have passion written all over you.”

I try not to blush when she says that, then turn my attention back to the task at hand.

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly spends the rest of the evening and all-day Thursday making sure that everything is prepared for Carla when she’s discharged from the hospital. We know everything there is to know about Wendy and Abramio all the way down to the color of the socks donned on this morning and the security detail is still going to keep a covert eye on everything down here until further notice.

Butterfly is giving Wendy the golden ticket in the form of a corporate Amex Black strictly for Carla’s care. I was against it at first, insistent that all purchases should go through us first. However, Butterfly illuminated a good point, that if all purchases needed to go through her that she would never get any peace and she might as well stay here. It’s pretty much going to be the same anyway, since every purchase on that card is going to be pinged to the accountant.

Our children were on the jet first thing Thursday morning along with all the extra staff and the equipment from the Romper Room suite. Gail has assured me that the staff will be able to arrange the play area so that Butterfly can still have some space for her yoga and dancing. It’s a pretty big room, after all. She was pleased to hear that.

She went to the hospital Thursday morning so that she and her mother could give Wendy whatever authority was needed when it’s time for Carla to be discharged. She’s very serious about not coming back to Vegas. Finally, with as many loose ends tied up as could be, Friday morning, March 6, the Greys and the rest of their staff leave Vegas once and for all. Good riddance.

My wife falls dramatically onto the marble floor in the grand entry, thanking Grey Crossing for being “home sweet home” and declaring that she’s not leaving the house for three days. I won’t argue with that. I have no plans whatsoever of going anywhere either. I won’t even call Grey House.

But Grey House is intent on calling me.

“Chris, is Jewel with you?”

“No, and if you were looking for her, why didn’t you call Jewel?” I scold.

“Well, wherever she is, you two might want to get in the same room so that I only have to say this once,” he says.

“Why don’t you call her and tell her, and she’ll tell me? I’m right in the middle of something.” I’m actually trying to plan a party for Jewel to celebrate the verdict and sentence and getting the hell out of Las Vegas and you’re holding up my line.

“Trust me, whatever it is, it can wait. Find Jewel.” Son of a bitch.

“Activate two-way communications,” I say between my teeth. When the system comes alive, “Locate Anastasia Grey.” After a beep or two…

“Ana… okay, I’m with my babies, so who is this?” she says, and she sounds irritated.

“Your presence is requested in my study,” I reply.

“What?” she protests. I don’t repeat myself. She heard me. “This better be good.”

“Trust me, I’m saying the same damn thing, End two-way communications.” The system deactivates.

“I didn’t say she had to come to your study. I said, ‘find her.’”

“And I did, now you deal with her attitude when she gets here,” I reply.

“Like I’m dealing with yours?” he inquires.

“Damn straight,” I confirm.

“I’ll be waiting for your apology before this call is over.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” I retort.

“You can really be a pain in the ass sometimes, Chris,” he says.

“And so can you, like right now. You’re holding up progress. So, like my wife said, this better be good.”

“Who are you fussing at?” Butterfly scolds when she enters my study.

“Your gay boyfriend,” I reply. “Okay, she’s here, Forsythe, and you’re on speaker. Out with it.”

“That’s Forsythe-Fleming…”

“Out with it!” Butterfly and I demand simultaneously.

“Jesus, alright! Don’t get your hair in a bun! You were in different rooms, so I know I didn’t interrupt you fucking! Why so uptight?”

“Forsythe-Fleming, I’m two seconds from disconnecting this call,” I threaten.

“And I’m leaving,” Butterfly cosigns.

“Alright, alright! You may want to sit down…”

“Goddammit, Allen!” Butterfly yells.

“Okay! Geez! Larson’s been blowing up my email all day! Plea requests are coming in faster than he can process them.” Butterfly’s brow furrows.  

“Pleas?” she says. “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously!” Allen confirms. “Those people saw Sullivan’s verdict and they’re like, ’65 years? And he didn’t even get convicted of all seven charges? Fuck that!’  He’s getting people willing to turn state’s evidence on folks who haven’t even been charged yet. There hasn’t been a case this big since the Manson killings! You’re gonna make fucking history, Jewel.” She twists her lips.

“What a way to go into the history books,” she says, unenthusiastically.

“Yes, what a way!” he cheers. “You’ve set a precedent. You’re going to change bullying laws. What happened to you was horrible, but it’s going to be a catalyst for some serious reform. You just watch and see.”

“Well, I guess that’s something,” she says.

“I’m waiting for that apology, Chris,” he presses.

“Hold your breath,” I reply. “This is great news, but my wife still could have told me.” I can almost see him rolling his eyes through the phone.

“What’s more, this will give you ammo for your lawsuits.” I had forgotten about that. Butterfly visibly ponders the thought.

“Yeah… no.”  She says. My eyes widen.

“What?” Allen says

“No,” she repeats, “I want this to be over. This was enough. I don’t want anymore. Tell Larson that I’m fine with him taking whatever pleas he sees necessary. I’m not going back down there. And I’m not suing anybody.”

“Jewel, you’ve got a better case for compensatory and punitive damages than the Goldmans and the Browns and they won. Are you sure you want to do this?” Allen asks incredulously.

“And how long is it going to take?” she asks. “How long is this going to follow me around? I was in Vegas for over a month and it was one of the most miserable times of my life. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want anything else to do with that place. Tell Larson to keep it quiet but to take whatever pleas he can get and shut this shit down. And yes, I’m sure. Karma will have to follow everyone else because yes, I’m done with this.” I hear him sigh.

“What about the cases that you have against George Sullivan, the Henderson Police Department, the Clark County District Attorney’s office, and the sitting DA in 2001? You want to squash those, too?” he asks.

“Especially those!” she declares. “Those are going to take longer than the others. I don’t have the strength for it, Al, I really don’t.” He pauses.

“Okay, if you’re sure that’s what you want,” he relents.

“Absolutely sure. Close this chapter as quickly and cleanly as you possibly can.”

“Okay, I’ll keep you posted on the pleas.”

“Can he please correlate that information with you?” she asks me. My brow rises.

“You really are done with this, aren’t you?” I ask.

“Completely,” she says. “I proved my point. They were wrong. They know it and now the world knows it. I don’t have anything else to prove. I’m washing my hands of this whole thing.”

“Okay, baby. I got you. Did you hear that Allen?”

“I heard it,” he says. “I’ll let you know information as soon as I do.”

“Thank you.” I end the call and turn to Butterfly.

“I think he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to go after the Green Valley gang,” she says, “but I’ve truly had enough of this, Christian. I don’t need their money and I don’t need to prove anything. I just want to get on with my life.”

“The only thing is—and I’m remiss to bring it up—is that you said that you were going to donate any proceeds from the lawsuit to Helping Hands. Now, they won’t get that donation,” I point out.

“Well, this is one time where Grace is just going to have to accept a donation directly from me to make amends… if you don’t mind,” she replies.

“Of course, I don’t mind,” I say, pulling her over to me with one arm and kissing her on the forehead. “Whatever you want, baby. This has really been a horrendous ordeal and I, like you, would definitely like for it to just be over.”

“Good,” she sighs. “I’m going back to be with my babies, and you can get back to… whatever you were doing.” I kiss her on the lips.

“I won’t be long,” I promise. She nods and leaves my study, and I get back to what I was doing before Allen called.

“Marilyn, did you have any luck?” I ask when I get my wife’s PA on the phone.

“I was able to get the Bennion Room next Friday from 5pm – 10pm. It was short notice and the best I could do, even with the name drop. You’ve got a live band and it seats 50. They can cater if you get them a menu by tomorrow noon. Otherwise, you’ll have to cater it yourself.”

“You are a fucking miracle worker,” I tell her. “No wonder my wife can’t live without you. I’ll put a menu together before I go to bed. Did they give you any options?”

“Check your email,” she says. I quickly open my email and see a list of the available options for a formal dinner at the Broadmoor Country Club.

“Fucking miracle worker,” I repeat. “Thank you, Marilyn.”

“Anytime,” she says and ends the call.

*-*

“I’ve just landed at SeaTac, sir. I really need to talk to you, and it needs to be face to face.”

Alex has called me on my cell phone Sunday morning just after I finish my workout. He’s got my antennae up since he’s calling me directly from the airport. I want to question, but I know he wouldn’t be calling me if it wasn’t important, and he definitely wouldn’t be requesting a face-to-face if it wasn’t imperative.

“I can meet you at Grey House if you’d rather not alarm Ana,” he adds.

“My going into Grey House on a Sunday would alarm her anyway. Let Jason know that you’re on your way. I need to shower.”

“Will do, sir.” I end the call and take the elevator to the main floor. As I suspected, my wife is at the breakfast bar drinking coffee and eating a bagel.

“It’s Sunday,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. “That’s not breakfast.” I fill a glass with ice and water from the dispenser.

“I just wanted something quick to keep from gnawing my arm off,” she says. “I plan to eat a real breakfast.”

“Speaking of eating… Marilyn,” I say, broaching the topic carefully. Butterfly sighs.

“I know. She’s not gaining any weight or looking much healthier at all. She nibbles, but she’s not eating. She hasn’t done anything recreational besides karaoke, which turned out to be a disaster. I still don’t think she’s sleeping, and when she does, she’s plagued by nightmares. I see her making emotional strides to try to get better, but as a professional, I’m afraid it’s not moving fast enough. It’s been a month and I would venture to say that she’s lost more weight rather than gained any.”

“You’re right, she has,” I say, finishing my water and filling my glass again. “This is not good at all and there needs to be some type of intervention or she’s going to do herself some serious damage.”

“She’s bordering on an eating disorder,” Butterfly says. “She’s been meditating and trying to find her center and get her mind back in the right place, but I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I don’t know that she can be committed or at least admitted like my mother was, but she really needs to be talking to someone, and something has to change soon.”

“What do you suggest?” I ask, taking another healthy sip of my water. She twists her lips.

“Let’s give it another week,” she says. “Let me do some gentle chiding and see if I can get some results. If not, I’m going to insist that she goes back to the doctor. I’m going with her, and I’m going to give it to her doctor straight about my fears.” I nod.

“I think that’s a good idea,” I reply. I unlock my phone and pull up a copy of the options that I chose for Friday’s dinner menu.

“What do you think of this?” I ask, sitting down on the stool next to her and showing her the menu.

“It looks like a gourmet feast,” she says, scrolling through the menu. “What’s it for?”

“It’s for Friday,” I say. “We’re having a gathering of friends at the country club—good food, drinks, and dancing—to celebrate the huge victory you had in Green Valley with the case. I was going to surprise you, but I kind of get the feeling that an ambush may not be the best thing.” She smiles and nods.

“I think you’re right, and I love you.” She kisses me quickly on the lips. “This is wonderful. Thank you.” She smiles at the menu again.

“Oh, so that you’re not stunned into thoughts of the Apocalypse, Alex is on his way over here to talk to me about something.” Her brow furrows.

“About what, may I ask?” she inquires, concerned.

“I don’t know,” I say, finishing my water. “He’s been in DC for the last couple of days. I’m assuming it’s something to do with that, especially since he’s coming straight from the airport.”

“The airport?” she says. “This doesn’t sound like good news, Christian.”

“Well, good or bad, I won’t know until he gets here, but I’m assuming that it’s pretty delicate.” She sighs.

“I hope it’s nothing else that we have to be concerned about,” she says. “It always appears that when it rains, it pours with us.” I nod.

“Hear, hear, but let’s keep positive thoughts about this until we know otherwise, okay? The only reason I mentioned it is because I’m going to get in the shower, and I didn’t want him to show up while I was still in there and you panic.” She nods.

“I appreciate that,” she says. “I’ll keep my head on until we find out what’s going on.”

“Good girl,” I say, and head up to the bedroom to shower.

Once I’m all clean, shaved, and trimmed, I come back down to the dining room to find a full breakfast spread on the dining table along with all the usual suspects… and Alex.

“I’m so glad you were able to make yourself at home,” I say to Alex as I take my seat and fill my coffee cup.

“She insisted,” he says, gesturing to my wife who is feeding Minnie a spoonful of apple-cinnamon oatmeal. “Have you ever tried to say, ‘no’ to this woman?”

She turns a gaze to me, and I raise a brow.

“Pass the eggs,” I say.

“I was trying to get him to tell me what brought him here straight from the airport, but he insists that it’s not breakfast conversation. So, since he came here directly after he landed, I’m certain he hasn’t eaten,” Butterfly says.

“I’m curious as to why you flew out so early,” I ask. “To get to SeaTac by eight, that means that you had to leave the east coast by, what, six?”

“Five,” he says, loading his fork. “There was no reason to stay.”

“It had nothing to do with the news you’re going to give me… like Washington wants you to come back to work for them and you had to fly back here early so you’d have enough time to get back to punch in tomorrow?” I load my plate with sausage, toast, hash browns, eggs, and pancakes. I raise my gaze to see Alex twisting his lips at me.

“No offense, sir, but in my line of work, you’re always working for Washington. Nice tactic, but no, I’m not going back to DC.”  

“Well, in that case, somebody pass me the syrup.”

We spend breakfast talking about the case—only a little—and more about Carla’s condition and what’s going to be done now. Butterfly is planning to go into Helping Hands tomorrow to get back into the swing of things and to get caught up on what’s going on. I’m chomping at the bit to know why he had to come here straight from the airport, so once breakfast is done, I dismiss everyone from the table that doesn’t need to be present and get down to brass tacks. Butterfly doesn’t leave.

“If it’s about GEH, I deserve to know what’s going on. If it’s about us, I deserve to know what’s going on.” She’s got me there. I shrug. Alex nods.

“Well, obviously there’s something you need to know,” he begins.

“And that is?” I ask.

“Robin Myrick is dead.”

I have to let the words sink in for a moment before I react, then I twist my lips.

“He’s been dead before. Why should I believe he’s dead now?” I ask.

“Because that little trip I had to take to renew my ‘clearances’ was only partially to renew my clearances. They were still good until August, but I got a little tip earlier this week. That trip was mainly to identify the damn body. They didn’t need me to identify it, but I wanted to make sure that fucker was dead.” He drops a picture of a blue-faced Robin Myrick with what looks like ligature marks around his throat, eyes partially open and blank with the mask of death. “Trust me, I touched that cold dead body. He’s gone.”

“Still fucking Ginger Creepy Guy even in death,” Butterfly says, looking at the picture on the table. I forgot that’s what she called him.

“Another suicide?” I ask in disbelief, looking more closely at the picture.

“It looks like it,” Alex says.

“It seems so fucking easy for somebody to kill themselves in jail,” I point out. “I don’t buy it, though. He was too fucking cocky. He didn’t want to die.”

“Well, either he did it, or somebody did it for him, he’s dead. I touched that body—cold as ice. Robin Myrick/Louis Millfeld is now a memory. You may want to know that Myrick, Jr., was paying for his protection in the federal penitentiary with money that he had squirreled away that the authorities hasn’t attached while he’s awaiting his extortion trials. However, his well ran dry and he was starting to be treated badly in the pen. When you’ve got money and protection, you start throwing weight around that you don’t have, and you make a lot of enemies that way. He thinks that the feds have found his money when in truth, Anton Myrick drained his accounts and put the money in his personal stockpile.”

Anton. Fuck, there’s that name again.

“When Robin contacts his dear old Dad and tells him about his situation, Myrick informs him that he can’t send any money to Robin because Sunset will trace him and find him. He tells Robin that he has to tough it out in prison until the trial is over, and the trial date is coming up soon. It appears that young Robin is a pussy and he can’t take it, especially since he’s made quite a few enemies with his big mouth and now he can’t pay for protection. So, either he did himself or somebody did it for him. Either way, he’s dead.”

“When did this happen?”

“About a month ago,” he says. “Nobody’s claiming the body, not even his mother.”

“A month?” I say. “This man and his father orchestrated a hacking plan that could have wiped me out and nobody thought we should know?”

“Witness protection…” Alex begins.

“And yet his father is still moving money!” I accuse.

“We’re not sure of that, but that’s the theory.”

“So, if that’s the theory, why can’t we fucking put our hands on Anton Myrick? Myrick Jr’s trial was coming up soon, but they can’t put Sunset’s trials on a docket so that they can bring this fucker out and somebody can snipe his ass. What the fuck does he have to do, kill somebody himself?”

“I hate to tell you this, sir, but you know that Sunset is using you as bait, right?” Alex says.

“Do I look stupid?” I ask. “Of course, I know. Haven’t we had this conversation before?”

“I think we did,” Jason says. “I’m not sure if we all did.” Jason throws an inconspicuous glance at Butterfly. I thought I told him that she knows about Sunset… but it doesn’t matter.

“Well, you should also know that the Feds are most likely using Myrick as bait for Sunset,” he says. “Whatever Myrick has on him, it’s not going to change, and there’s no reason for them to wait to start the case against him. They want him to get antsy—to come out and find Myrick—and that’s when they plan to pinch him. What they don’t understand is that Sunset is patient. He’s got nothing but time and money. Just like you, he can wait ‘em out.

“We’ve got four players here, each with their own level of clout—you, Sunset, Myrick, and the Feds. Somebody’s going to slip. We’re all just waiting to see who.”

“So, basically, what you’re telling me is that I just have to wait until this sucker strikes again before I can get to him,” I lament.

“Pretty much, unless he screws up sometime before he strikes.” I sigh.

“I’m in the public eye,” I seethe. “He knows where I am. He can get to me. They know he’s after me, yet they won’t tell me where he is.”

“That’s not how it works, Christian,” he says. “The government feels that they have control over Myrick while they’re protecting him, so that if he does try to make a move on you, they’ll get him before he gets to do it.”

“Like they did with Myrick, Jr., right?” I say sarcastically. “I had to lead those fuckers right to him before they even had a clue what was going on! I fucking had to save myself and now, I’m fucking supposed to trust them with my life with this maniac? I don’t think so!” Alex just shakes his head.

“This is a real bang-up fucking guy,” I say in disgust. “He created this monster. Then when the monster presents himself in his image, he deserts him! He fills the kid’s head with lies and horror stories about who I am, making the kid come at me and then he leaves him to rot after the kid does exactly what he wanted him to do!”

I’ve never felt this way before in my life, let alone verbalized it inwardly or outwardly, but I’ll be glad when this motherfucker is dead.

“Well, in all honesty, Myrick is bound to have some kind of reaction to this,” Alex says. “If he’s as unstable as you say he is, he’s most likely blaming you for Robin’s death as we speak.”

“Then, he’s most likely blaming me because he’s as unstable as a two-legged chair,” I confirm.

“Should we increase security?” Jason asks. My wife’s head shoots up from the picture on the table. I ponder the idea for a moment.

“We actually have extra security in Sunset’s men,” I say. “They want his neck as much as I do and if he shows his face…” I do the beheading gesture with my hand.

“Yeah, they want his neck, which means they’ll take it at any cost, even if it means collateral damage. We’re here to protect you, they’re not. They just want the kill,” Jason points out.

“Well, isn’t this lovely after-breakfast conversation,” my wife says. I throw a glare at her. You were the one who decided to stay and listen—nobody forced you. Alex came straight from the airport saying that he had news. What did you expect him to say, that he’s getting married?

“I know, I know,” she replies, as if I just had the conversation with her aloud. I turn back to Jason and Alex.

“Covert,” I say. “Let’s not make it too obvious. The world doesn’t know what we know.”

We tie up some loose ends and Alex thanks us for breakfast before leaving to return to the city.

“Do you really think he would come after us?” Butterfly asks. “Wouldn’t it be better for him to just lay low since this Sunset guy is after him? Seriously, we’re right in the spotlight and that’s exactly the opposite of what he wants, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what he wants,” I tell my wife. “He convinced his son that I was Robin’s long, lost brother. That asshole knew he wasn’t my father. He knew I was a kid when the crack whore killed herself, but he convinced that man that I was the root of all his problems. So, here I am, a billionaire living in mansions and penthouses in the Pacific northwest while they’re toughing it out in the ghettos of Detroit… when they’re not hiding out in witness protection. I’d think I was the root of all evil, too, if I was in their shoes and didn’t know any better.”

“Thank you so much… I feel so much better,” she says sarcastically.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly, but this is not to make you feel better. This is a dose of reality.”

ANASTASIA

I’m beginning to look over my shoulders and in the rearview mirrors constantly as I’m heading in to Helping Hands on Monday morning. I almost expect for Myrick to swoop down from the sky on a rope like Batman and land on the hood of my damn car. I know that’s not likely and I’m being super paranoid, but I can’t help it after yesterday’s conversation with Christian.

This crazy ass fucker makes me nervous. He burned cigarette burns into the chest and back of a four-year-old for sport. He’s cocky enough to believe that he can outrun a gangster with a bounty on his head—which he has been doing for several years now, so I’m told. And now, his son is dead, and he likely blames my husband for that—the same four-year-old that he burned with cigarettes against whom he’s had a personal crusade for the last 25 years.

Yeah, this crazy ass fucker makes me nervous.

“Ana! Welcome back!” Ebony hugs me as soon as I hit the door.

“Thank you, Ebony,” I reply, trying to hide my anxiety.

We’re fine, everybody’s fine, I keep repeating to myself. Ebony and Keri get the twins situated and I head to my office.

Dear God, there’s a mountain of stuff that needs to be done. There’s no time to lament over or worry about Myrick because there’s too damn much to do. Requisition orders for books and supplies; the housekeeping and janitorial logs that need review; Grace has been knee-deep in the grant proposals and the compliance documentation since I’ve been gone, and the licensing board has been out here again, just to make sure that everything was running like it should be. She didn’t tell me that they had come out here.

“They didn’t send Liam Westwick again, did they?” I ask.

“As a matter of fact, they did,” she says. “He knows the lay of the land here, so to speak, so they sent him in the interest of saving time.” I twist my lips.

“How did things go?” I ask.

“It went well,” she says. “Everything went fine.”

“It’s a good thing I wasn’t here, then,” I remark, and I say nothing else about it.

It’s about 11:30 when I get a visitor to my office. I’m knee-deep in paperwork and it’s probably the last person that I expected to see. He knocks on my door to get my attention.

“Do you have a moment?” he asks as I raise my head.

“Fred! Sure, come on in,” I say, standing to welcome Fred Wilson into my office.

“I’m sure you heard what happened with my granddaughter,” he says as he enters my office. I sigh and gesture for him to take a seat.

“Yes, Fred, I have heard,” I reply after we take a seat. “The newsflash got to me all the way in Vegas.”

“I heard about that. Are you okay?” he asks. I shrug.

“I’m as well as can be expected,” I reply. “The whole ordeal took a lot out of me. I’m just glad to be home.” He nods.

“I’m sure you are,” he says. “You know, things happen that you really wished would have happened years ago and you have a hard time accepting that it finally happened.” I raise a brow at him.

“Are we talking about my trial or your granddaughter?” I ask.

“Both, I guess,” he says, entwining his fingers. “Addie tried for years to try to get that girl to see what she could become. She was conniving and sneaky and selfish. We gave her everything and it still wasn’t enough. By the time Addie had sent her back to her mother, she was at the end of her rope and heartbroken—totally disillusioned. I just didn’t want to see that happen to her again.”

“I understand,” I say. “I can even see why it’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Trusting someone after they’ve broken your trust is an extremely hard thing to do—sometime impossible. However, I’m of the firm belief that if you can’t forgive someone, you should just move on. If you can’t contribute positively to their journey, you should just leave them alone.” Fred chuckles.

“This doesn’t sound like the same woman who was accosted by my granddaughter a year and a half ago,” he remarks. I smile.

“It’s the same woman,” I assure him. “It’s just not the same granddaughter. I gave up on her, too, Fred. I don’t know if she told you, but I pulled my gun on her once when she showed up asking for help.” His brow furrows.

“No, she didn’t,” he says. I nod.

“I was still pregnant with the twins, and she had threatened me. I didn’t feel safe and I didn’t trust her, so when she showed up, I was ready. She’s not that girl anymore. She’s found direction and focus… and love. She’s found a purpose now when she didn’t have one before. I know better than most people who she used to be, but everybody deserves at least one chance for redemption. I’d say she’s utilizing hers pretty well.”

“I’ll be honest,” Fred says. “I really didn’t think she could change. I thought this was another one of her tricks, but she obviously has… considerably!”

“Yes, Fred, she has,” I say, “and she’s already been ambushed once into an unexpected meeting with her grandmother. I won’t be a part of having that happen to her again.”

“Thank you, Ana. I appreciate that.”

I look to the door and see Courtney standing there. My immediate reaction is to apologize and explain, but she waves her hand to indicate that she knows what’s going on.

“What is it, Grandfather?” she says firmly, folding her arms. She’s a bit perturbed. “Grandmother won’t speak to you until we’ve patched things up? Tell her that we’ve patched things up. She can call me to confirm it if she wants. You can go home now.”

She’s take no prisoners this morning.

“You’d lie to your grandmother?” he says. She scoffs.

“Contrary to what you think of me, Grandfather, I have no desire to cause problems in your marriage. That’s why you’re here, right?” He raises a brow.

“No,” he says. “My marriage is just fine. I just… I came because I wanted to talk to you.” She sighs.

“You said quite enough when you tried to buy me out of your life. You got your wish—I’m out of your life, and it didn’t cost you a penny. I’m not ditching Grandmother unless she says that she doesn’t want to speak to me anymore. What else could you possibly have to say?”

“I just want to talk,” he says. “Let’s have lunch…”

“We tried that, remember?” she retorts. “You stared at me the entire time like I was a jungle cat ready to pounce on Grandmother’s jugular. I don’t need that. I don’t need your money, and quite frankly, I don’t need you if that’s how you think you’re going to treat me. I understand that you don’t trust me, and I know why. I’ll give you that, but I’m not that person anymore and I’m not going to let you treat me that way!”

I feel a twang listening to her and thinking about my mother… not that person anymore…

“I believe you, Courtney,” Fred says. “I really want to sit down and talk to you, just you and me… please.”

“I really don’t think…” I gently touch her arm and she looks at me. I mouth, “Give him a chance.” She sighs heavily and petulantly and rolls her eyes.

“Fiiine!” she nearly growls, stretching the word. “I need to get my coat.”

“Courtney, wait.” I turn to Fred. “Fred, can you give us a moment?” He examines me for a moment, then nods and leaves the room. I turn to Courtney.

“Breathe in,” I say. She looks at me incredulously. “Courtney. Wilson. Breathe in.” She rolls her eyes again and breathes in. “Hold it… now breathe out.”

We repeat the process a few times until I see that she’s not as combative.

“If you go to this lunch with your armor up, you’re wasting your time.” Her gaze softens. “Talk to him. Listen to him. Try to understand what he’s feeling and try to make him understand what you’re feeling. If it doesn’t work, you tried.” She stares at me for a moment, then closes her eyes, sighs—not so petulantly—and nods. I give her arm a squeeze, then send her out into the battlefield.

Since I’m playing a massive game of catch-up, I ask Marilyn to pick up some of those kabobs that I like from the Mediterranean restaurant. When she returns, she looks peaked as usual and even a little green in the face, and I already know.

“I can tell by your face you didn’t eat anything,” I confront. “Does the smell of food make you sick?”

“I tried, Bosslady,” she excuses. “I got one of my favorite blueberry muffins from the coffee shop on Cherry St, and when I bit into it, it tasted like garbage.”

“You’ve been here for hours! What have you eaten?” She shrinks infinitesimally.

“Pedialyte,” she replies, her voice timid. I don’t let up. This has to stop.

“That’s not eating,” I say. “I know the doctor said that was okay as a meal replacement, but you can’t do that forever. You’re wasting away, Marilyn. Where are you now?” She drops her gaze.

“One-fourteen,” she says. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! You’re killing yourself here. I understand grieving, but this is becoming reckless.

“You’ve got five more pounds,” I say, and I’m being generous as hell. “Five more pounds, Marilyn, and I’m checking you in. You can go willingly, or I’ll call your parents, and I have no problems with an ambush.”

“Okay, okay,” she relents. Her eyes roll and I see the wheels turning. Could she really be progressing into an eating disorder and she just hasn’t recognized it yet? She’s giving herself an excuse not to eat because of her grief, but she’s really fucking hurting herself and this has to stop.

“You are going to the victory celebration on Friday, right?” I ask. If she doesn’t come, I’m taking her to the hospital kicking and screaming and I mean it. This hermit, starving herself shit ends right now! She looks at me as if I’ve just invited her on a lovely trip to the gallows.

“Who else is going to be there?” she asks, and I know what she’s asking, but she’s still going, whether he shows up or not.

“All my friends and family are invited, but to answer your unasked question, I don’t think Gary will be there. I haven’t heard from him in months.” Her expression is mixed with relief, regret, and a pinch of pain… well, maybe more than a pinch.

“Fine, I’ll go.” I would have done better to put her on punishment, but I can’t stand by anymore and watch this. We’ve tried it your way, Caldwell, and it didn’t work. Now, we’re doing it my way. It’s at this moment that I thank God that she decided to stay with me instead of getting her own apartment. I put my arm around her shoulder.

“You’re going to hate me, Caldwell,” I say, “because I’m your friend and I’m not going to let up on you. You had a social life before all of this and now, you don’t. You have other friends and I know that you haven’t spoken to them. If you have, you’ve done it in secret. This is not you. It never has been. Everything about you has changed, and I understand that grief can do that to you, but you can’t curl up and die, and it seems like that’s what you’re trying to do.” Her shoulders fall.

“That’s not what I want to do,” she admits, tears flowing freely from her eyes. Jesus, she can cry on a dime these days. Things are extremely hard for her, and I know it. That’s why I can’t let up. She’s gotten it down to an art to cry without sound or movement, just an unending flow of tears. I know that stifling sadness, so I just let her cry. 


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.

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 20

So, I’ve been a bit incommunicado because my birthday was this week. It was super hard without my mom, but I made it through and was able to do some celebrating this weekend.

As a result, the Muse has taken a bit of a hiatus. It happens sometimes, and I have some chapters that just need editing, so hopefully there won’t be any breaks from posting. Nonetheless, here’s the next chapter.

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 20

CHRISTIAN

I sit at the desk in the office portion of the suite trying to process the information that was just relayed to me a few seconds ago by a member of my security team. I don’t know if this is good news or bad news.

“How long?” I ask.

“About twenty minutes,” Lawrence says. “I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t just looked in the room.”

“What’s going on now?” I ask.

“Well, right now, she’s freaking out because she can’t walk,” he replies. “I don’t know if anybody called Her Highness yet or not, because nobody bothered to stop and tell me, knowing that I’m here for her safety.”

I don’t know what the atmosphere is at the hospital because I don’t go up there to see Carla. As many times as Butterfly has come home in tears, I imagine that it’s somewhat hostile. I run my hands through my hair. I have to make an executive decision here.

“Anastasia is on a field trip right now with Sophia Taylor,” I tell Lawrence. “She’s been looking forward to it and I’m not inclined to disturb her with this right now. I would say that if the hospital doesn’t contact her immediately to wait until they’re finished.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll keep you posted as much as I can,” he says, and we end the call.

Fuck. Carla’s awake.

Will Butterfly think this is good news or bad news? How will she take it? Should I tell Ray and Allen, or should I wait until she knows first? Fuck it, I think I’m going to need backup. I text Allen.

**Can you please grab Ray and come to my suite? I’m in need of your assistance. **

When they get to the door, I’m pacing around the suite trying to figure out what to do. I open the door and I must look a fright. Ray frowns deeply.

“What’s wrong, son?” he asks before he even enters. “Is Annie okay?”

“Yes, yes, sir, she’s fine. Please come in,” I reply, walking away from the door and allowing them to let themselves in. “Sit… or stand, whatever you prefer, but I’m going to stand.”

“What’s this about, Chris?” Allen asks, impatiently.

“Carla’s awake,” I blurt out. Both gentlemen’s brows rise.

“Oh,” Allen says ominously.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“Ooo,” Ray remarks just as ominously.

“Mm-hmm,” I counter.

“Does Annie know?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I don’t think so. The guard outside of Carla’s door told me that she was awake. He didn’t even call Jason. He said he wouldn’t have even known had he not looked in the room and seen Carla freaking out about not being able to walk. We don’t even know if they’ve called Butterfly yet.”

“Well, don’t you think we should?” Ray asks.

“Actually, no,” I reply, and he frowns at me. “She’s on a field trip with Sophie that she’s really been looking forward to. Waiting until they’re done is not going to change Carla’s condition, but it will definitely interrupt her day.” Ray twists his lips but says nothing. I look at Allen.

“You want us to know first in case she flips her lid when she gets back here,” he deduces.

“You are correct,” I admit. “I also want to know your honest opinion about not telling her yet.” Ray clears his throat.

“She stayed all this time to see what was going on with her mother. I think she should know,” he says.

“I don’t know, Ray,” Allen says. “I think Christian’s right with this one. Jewel’s been walking on the points of needles ever since she’s been here. She needs to decompress in the worst way every chance that she gets. I say let her have the day before she has to deal with this.”

“Too late.”

We all turn to see Jason coming into the suite.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Dr. Whatever His Name Is called her while she was in the cooking class. She knows.”

“Shit!” I hiss, thrusting my hands in my hair again. “Is she on her way to the hospital?”

“No,” Jason replies. I raise a puzzled gaze to him.

“No?” I ask. Jason shakes his head.

“No,” he confirms. “The way I understand it, she got the call, looked at her phone, and immediately looked at Chuck, who did this…” He puts his hands next to his eyes and opens them wide. “She gathered that not only that her mother was awake, but also that Chuck knew before she did, which means that the doctor took his time calling her. Bearing that in mind, she’s now continuing her class with Sophie and my wife on Florentine chicken.” I look over at Ray.

“I guess the decision was made for me,” I say.

“Why did it take so long for the doctor to call her?” Ray asks.

“I have no doubt that she’s going to ask when she sees him,” I say. “I get the feeling that she’s not a favorite at the hospital.”

“Not a favorite?” Ray says. “What the hell?”

“We all know how Butterfly feels about Carla,” I tell him. “If she shows that same compassion at the hospital and they have no idea why, she’s actually the bad guy. That’s why she comes in here crying a lot of the time. Carla has built up a support system in her time of need that Butterfly never had in hers, and she’s very bitter about that. What’s more is that I don’t think the hospital staff is warm to her at all.”

“Well, why the hell don’t they pick up a newspaper or watch the news?” he asks angrily. “They would totally know why she’s behaving the way that she is.” I shake my head.

“I don’t think it would matter,” I tell him. “If you’ve had your mother with you all the time, you can’t imagine her being in this kind of state and you not caring about it. I certainly can’t imagine that with Grace.”

Ray must have had a fleeting thought of his own mother, because he deflates immediately. I’ve never heard either of them speak of his mother, so I’m assuming that she has passed on.

“Well, they’re all assholes, then,” he says dismissively. “Making assumptions is one of the worst things you can do when you’re dealing with a situation like this. It’s already hard for all parties involved. Annie doesn’t need to have to deal with their judgmental attitudes on top of everything else!” He’s becoming angry.

“I’m right there with you, Ray,” I say, “but cooler heads must prevail in this setting. We’ve been here waiting for the outcome of this saga and here it is. What’s important now is being here for Butterfly during the difficult decisions she has to make in the coming weeks and months.”

“What’s difficult?” Allen says. “Put her ass in a nursing home.”

“Those are our feelings, Allen,” I reply. “They may not be Butterfly’s.” Ray cracks his neck and shakes his head.

“Now I know why my Sunflower hates this place,” he says. “No matter how I try to relax, get comfortable, or let loose here, I haven’t been able to do it. I’ve heard about people who move here with big dreams, gamble it all away and end up homeless. I’ve heard about people who come here on vacation and leave not even having enough money to get a taxi back to the airport. Even though it’s not my money, everything here is still expensive as hell. How can you possibly raise a family in this environment or hold down a job unless you’re a stripper or a blackjack dealer? I shudder to think what the housing market looks like.

“Everything here is brown. There’re no trees except those blasted palm trees, and they look phony. Their downtown is in the middle of a slum, their police look like they’re wearing boy scout uniforms, and my first and most significant encounter with this God-forsaken place was finding out that my daughter was damn near dead. I can’t wait to get out of here!”

I should explain to Ray how he’s only half-right about the many observations he has illustrated about Las Vegas, but why bother? I had a similar reaction during my first visit to this desert cesspool.

Arid, barren, lonely, dusty…

“We don’t have much longer to wait to wrap things up, Ray,” I tell him.

“I hate to tell you this, son, but there’s less time than even you think where I’m concerned.” He does a near-military about-face and leaves the suite. Allen rolls his eyes.

“It’s too much, Chris,” he says. “I don’t know how Jewel is doing it. This place is physically and emotionally draining. We come from a place where it rains or snows 90% of the time, and here we are in a city where there’s no precipitation and the humidity is minus twelve. It’s a wonder we’re not face down in our bed 16 hours a day. With all the crying poor Marilyn does, she should have just dried up by now.

“Then, the only moral support we get is from our group! Jewel is accosted in the lobby before she even gets to her room; she’s attacked in court; bombshell after bombshell falls in that damn trial. While she may have brought the Karaoke Confrontation on herself, she goes to a Japanese restaurant and is splashed with Haterade in the bathroom. The hospital is obviously treating her like shit. And poor Sophie goes on a food tour and gets hated on by the guide. A 13-year-old girl—who does that?

“Ray is right—this place is worse than Egypt for the slaves in the time of the Pharaohs. It’s fucking time to go!”

He turns around and storms out of the room the way Ray did. I thrust my hands into my hair again and sigh a huge frustrated sigh.

“Boss?” Jason says. I shake my head.

“Get the jet down here,” I tell him. “Make sure the pilot knows that he’s here for the duration and needs to be ready to fly at as short a notice as possible. We’re coming apart here; a few more days and we’ll be clawing at each other.”

“Will do, sir.”


ANASTASIA

We’ve entered Sur La Table and as far as Sophie is concerned, we might as well be in Wonderland! Her eyes are sparkling and she’s more than ready to peruse the wares of the store. We’ve intentionally come very early before our cooking class is to start so that Sophie can outfit her beginner’s chef kitchen. I’ve asked for the manager and requested one of his best kitchen techs to help Sophie choose what she wants.

“While we’re looking for quality items,” I tell him, “we don’t want to be sold on the most expensive items in the store that are going to draw the highest commission and be completely useless to our little aspiring chef or we will swiftly be returning them to the store in Kirkland, WA.” The manager nods.

“We only want your experience to be pleasant and memorable. Let me get Anaé for you. I believe she will be best suited to assist you today.”

Off he goes to retrieve Anaé and Gail also looks longingly at some of the kitchen utensils.

“You’re also going to be making some purchases for yourself, Mrs. Taylor?” I tease. Gail sighs and turns back to me.

“No,” she says firmly. “This is Sophie’s experience. I want her to get the most of it, especially after that cow we had to deal with yesterday.”

“Ladies, this is Anaé. She’s going to assist you with your purchases today.” The manager smiles and bows before leaving Anaé with us.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms…” She extends her hand to me. She’s young, like Justine. Let’s see if she’s just as stupid.

“Grey,” I say. “Mrs. Grey.” I take her proffered hand and she smiles widely, then turns to Gail.

“And Mrs.?” she says, proffering her hand to Gail.

“Taylor,” Gail says, flatly, taking her hand. Anaé pauses for a moment.

“You have chef’s hands,” Anaé observes. “You cook?” Gail raises her brow.

“I do,” she replies, a bit taken aback.

“Good. Then, you’ll be able to help with our choices,” Anaé replies and turns to Sophie. “So, you must be our aspiring chef. What’s your name?”

“Sophia,” she responds.

“Is it okay if I call you Chef Sophia?” Anaé asks. “If I’m honest, it makes me feel important while I’m doing my job.” A sincere smile spreads across Anaé’s face and is matched by Sophie’s.

“Sure,” Sophie says, fighting to retain her glee.

This is what I was looking for. Chef Sophia, I like the sound of that.

“If it’s okay, sometimes I’ll call you ‘Chef’ for short. Is that cool with you?” Sophie’s smile grows wider.

“That would be awesome!” Sophie exclaims in an excited whisper.

“Excellent! So, let’s get started. The first tool you should look for when you’re ready to build your kitchen is a chef’s knife.” Anaé tilts her head. “May I see your hands, Chef?”

Sophie gives both hands to Anaé and she examines them carefully.

“For an adult, I would say an 8-inch knife would be best. Your hands are smaller, so I think a 6-inch would be better for you to start with. We’ll have you hold a couple of them and see how you like the weight. I recommend the Wüsthof classic.” She looks over at Gail for approval and Gail nods. So, it’s off to the chef’s knives we go.

Anaé is really good at her job. She tells Sophie about the weight of the knife and how it should feel in her hand. She also shows her the proper way to hold a chef’s knife and, watching her, I realize I’ve been holding it wrong for years. When she shows Sophie how to follow through and cut with the knife, I’m actually glad I decided to come along to see everything I’ve been doing wrong.

Next, we move to the All-Clad stainless steel 3-quart sauté pan and saucepan, both with lids, and the 10-inch skillet. Sophie immediately begins to balk about things sticking to the stainless steel and wanting to lean more to the non-stick options. Anaé assures her that non-stick has its place and that we’ll be moving to the T-Fal non-stick pans next, but that any kitchen would be incomplete without stainless steel, which is ideal for glazing to make sauces and gravies. Gail also suggests the stainless-steel stock pot and the Dutch oven, confirming Anaé’s information.

“We normally don’t carry T-Fal,” Anaé says, “but we just started stocking the T-Fal professional frying pans. This is really a great pan because you can use it in the oven up to 400 degrees. It’s a wonderful non-stick option, Chef, as I’m certain Mrs. Taylor can attest to. It has one of the most slippery cook surfaces on the market. You can probably cook eggs in it without oil.

“It also has this thermal spot indicator in the center that turns solid red when it’s preheated properly. Since stoves are different, this is a great tool for beginners to know when to adjust settings based on what you’re cooking. You don’t have a 12-inch in your arsenal yet, so I suggest that size in the T-Fal.”

Gail watches carefully and makes notes as Anaé suggests different items for Sophie’s kitchen, including a top-of-the-line meat thermometer, dishwasher-safe mixing bowls with pouring spouts, and a utility board.

Now, the utility board really got my attention. I can’t say how many times I’ve been unwaveringly frustrated with my cute little cutting boards that match my kitchen and are only big enough to cut a damn onion—and only barely! Anaé recommends a large cutting surface—15×21, to be exact. It’s an OXO Cool Grips utility and cutting board. Now, that’s a cutting board!

We’ll go shopping for spices and a proper spice rack when we get back to Seattle. Anaé recommends a proper pepper grinder and a pinch bowl for kosher salt. To be sure that she has her needed kitchen utensils—whisk, grater, spatulas, tongs, slotted spoons and the like—we’ve also secured the OXO kitchen utensils and essentials sets. Gail also picks out a set of bakeware, casserole dishes, and a roaster for when Sophie is ready to graduate to those items.

I personally think no kitchen is complete without a blender and a mixer—even a small one of each—and this leads Gail to also add a simple food processor. Sophie’s sole special request at this point is a waffle maker. Who are we to deny her that? And let’s not forget good potholders, cooling mats, and oven mitts.

Two hours and one extremely happy Chef Sophie later, we go to the rear of the store to the communal kitchen and our cooking class. Today’s lesson is homemade pasta, Florentine chicken under a brick, butternut squash ravioli with hazelnut and pecorino, and Modena flourless balsamic chocolate cake. The three of us and a fourth person who took the class alone break off into a group and begin to mix the pasta as instructed—sifted all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt on a butcher block counter. We make a well in the middle of the stack of dry ingredients, then pour six eggs and some olive oil into the well. We begin to whisk the eggs and olive oil together, mixing in the dry ingredients a little at a time until it’s time to knead the dough with our hands.

I’m elbow-deep in sticky pasta dough when my phone rings. I decide to ignore it, knowing that if it was anything important, like my children, my husband or Jason would call Chuck or even Gail. Neither of them reacts to a phone ringing, so I continue kneading my pasta dough. We get to the part where we’re pressing the dough to the thinness that we want before we cut it into pasta when my phone rings again.

“Dammit,” I say under my breath. No longer elbow deep in pasta dough, I dry my hands a bit with a nearby hand-towel and I look over at Chuck.

He’s on his phone. Shit.

I reach into my pocket and check Gail and Sophie. Neither has been alarmed, so I fish my phone out of my pocket.

702-233… Summerlin Hospital.

I raise my gaze to Chuck, who’s looking dead at me now, his expression unreadable. The phone is still ringing in my hand, and I know he knows something.

What the fuck is going on, Davenport?

His phone is now back in his pocket and I can’t read his expression. Next, he puts his fists on either side of his face and opens his hands and is eyes wide…

My mother is awake.

I look at the phone in my hand which has now started to ring a third time, send the call to voice mail, and go back to my pasta.

I never knew that chicken under a brick is actually cooked under a brick…

*-*

My mother looks like shit when I walk into the room. At first, her gaze is down and she’s still in the neck brace. She looks like she’s been crying for a month. When she raises her gaze to see me walk into the room, there’s no emotion in her face—nothing like glee or relief that the daughter you kicked by the wayside when she needed you stayed here and endured massive bullshit to stay near you when you needed her.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” she says the moment she raises her gaze to the door and sees me.

“Obviously,” I say, allowing the door to close behind me.

“I have health insurance,” she says, “and I’m awake now, so you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

I glare at her. Is she trying to be the fucking martyr? For Christ’s sake, cut it out! Apparently, everyone loves you except me, so I plan on getting you squared away and turning you over to the hands of your fan club as soon as I possibly can.

“Well, Mother, unlike you, I am a human being with a human heart, and I’m not going to leave you here to rot. Although I would be completely within my rights to do so, I won’t do to you what you did to me. So, let’s cut the crap, okay?”

She falls silent.

“You’re right about one thing. You’re awake, so you can tell me what happened.” She raises a questioning eye to me then turns her gaze away.

“Isn’t it obvious?” she replies. “My car went over a damn overpass and I didn’t die!”

She sounds angry.

“Are you angry about the overpass or angry that you didn’t die?” I ask sarcastically. She scoffs tragically and rolls her eyes.

“I know I was horrible to you,” she says, her voice low. “There’s obviously nothing I can do to fix that. It hurts, I hate it, but I’ve accepted it. Now, I’m awake, and I’m going to make the point to you that I tried to make to your husband before the accident. If you’re only here to hurt me back, I’ve got that covered for us both. You can go now, and you can take that sentinel at the door with you.”

I’m actually appalled. How dare she talk to me that way! She should be thanking God that I’m here seeing to her care. What are you going to do, kick me out? You can’t even walk!

“And in case I’m reading your expression correctly,” she says, “I’ll call the nurse and tell her to tell the doctor that you’re not allowed to come back here. I’ll have them call Wendy and I’ll manage, one way or another!” My eyes widen.

“Well,” I say matter-of-factly, “I see you’ve found a reason to grow a backbone.” I fold my arms.

“Listen to me carefully, Mother. I have no will or desire to listen to your grandstanding or your ‘I’ve paid my debt to society’ type of conversation. I am not my husband. I’m the girl who sat there for years–part of that time in much of the same situation that you’re in right now—while you fucked me over… big time! I’ve been back and forth to this hospital waiting for you to wake up, making sure that you have the best care, following your prognosis, and finding out that you have an advanced directive, which is a whole lot more than you did for me by your own admission. So, cut. The fucking. Crap!”

She finally gets that appalled expression on her face that I’m accustomed to seeing.

“As a human being and your last living relative, I’m going to make sure that you have everything you need before I leave this God-forsaken place and make no mistake. This is not going to be a warm reunion where I suddenly have some epiphany that life is short and we have to cherish one another…” I mock a sympathetic voice on the last part. “I realized life was short nearly 15 years ago when I saw mine flash before my eyes, and you turned your back on me.

“This is no more than a transaction for which I am responsible, and I’m going to see it through like any of my other responsibilities. And unlike when I was laying in that bed, you know why I feel this way. And let me make something else clear. You don’t have to tell the doctors, the nurses, or anyone else that you don’t want me to be here. You don’t want my help? Fine. You just say the word and I will walk out that door, take my damn sentinel with me, and never look back!”

She’s hurt and shocked. I can see the tears forming in her eyes… and I really don’t care. When she takes too long to answer, I turn to the door to leave. I need this like I need another hole in my head.

“Ana!” she says, her voice cracking and I halt my exit without turning around.

“I would…” She clears her throat as her words are barely coming out. “I would really like your help, please,” she says. “I would appreciate it more than you know.”

I don’t respond to her sentiment. I simply come back into the room.

“You should call Wendy anyway,” I tell her. “She was here. She would want to know that you’re awake.”

“I will,” she says. “I’m just… not ready.” I raise my brow.

“You’re not ready to talk to your best friend?” I question. She shakes her head.

“No,” she says, “not yet.” I take a deep breath and remember what I just said… nothing more than a transaction for which I am responsible.

“What has the doctor told you?” I ask.

“About what?” Oh, dear God, give me strength.

“About your condition,” I say, my voice choppy.

“What? That I can’t walk? I didn’t need him to tell me that,” she retorts. “Something about a spinal injury, of course, and that the situation may or may not be permanent—there’s no way to tell. This lovely neck gear is due to the broken neck, which is probably going to take another month or so to heal completely. The remaining bruising on my body should be gone in a couple of weeks. I have a skull fracture, so I probably shouldn’t operate any heavy machinery.

“I’ve had a surgery on my pelvis that’s basically the same as a hip replacement, which is a bit of a waste since I can’t walk, but hey…” She trails off and shrugs.

“The slight discomfort I feel while I’m breathing is because of the collapsed lungs, but they should be back to normal in a day or two. That’s the least of my worries. I think I’ve covered it all now.”

She’s being extremely sarcastic, and I’m trying to find sympathy for her, but I can’t. I feel even more resentful with her being awake than I did when she was in a coma.

“Are you in any pain?” I ask in a purely professional tone.

“No,” she says, “not that I can tell.”

“Are you hungry at all?” I prod.

“No,” she says, flatly. I roll my eyes and leave the room, headed to the nurses’ station.

“I’m out of my element here,” I say to the nurse. The last time I had someone wake from a coma, it was Val, and Elliot took care of absolutely everything. “She’s not very forthcoming right now with her needs or feelings, so please provide her with whatever she needs to be comfortable.”

It’s obvious to anyone that we’re not the best of friends, but I’m not trying to see her suffer. The nurse stares at me for a moment.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” she says in a professional tone. I’ve never bothered to try to correct her that I’m Dr. Grey. In this setting, I don’t think it would matter.

I take a moment to get some coffee and check my emails. As quickly as I’ve been thrust into the Mother’s awake situation, I want to be snatched right back out of it. Waiting for sentencing for this asshole is the last thing I must do in Las Vegas and whatever my mother is going to need will be done from a distance. I’ll have her beloved Wendy be my liaison and she can bump me out of it completely if she wants to. I have too much animosity to give her the emotional care that she needs, so I might as well be removed from making any lifelong decisions for her if she can find someone that she trusts to do it for her—especially since she has such a fucking fan club here that hasn’t heard nor do they care about my suffering or my side of the story.

As I’m coming around the corner from the family pantry, I can just hear the nurses at the station talking about my mother’s condition. While everything else appears to be progressing quite nicely, her prognosis isn’t promising in terms of her being able to walk again. They’re talking about the physical therapy she’ll still have to endure to make sure that her bones heal correctly, but that it looks like she’s not going to be able to walk on her own.

And then the conversation swings over to me.

“She’s the perfect example of ‘money can’t buy happiness,’” one of the nurses says. “She’s always here alone—I don’t think I’ve seen her husband once. She’s cold and unfeeling to her mother. She’s so stylish, but she looks like she’s utterly miserable. God, if that’s what money does to you, I’ll work ‘til I’m dead.”

“Didn’t Dr. Lee say that she’s a doctor, too?” another one asks. “Shouldn’t she know how serious her mother’s condition is?”

“I don’t know, I think it must be honorary or something,” the first one says. “I’ve called her Mrs. Grey every time I’ve seen her, and real doctors correct you on that fast!

“Well, I think we should call the patient advocate or something for Mrs. Morton,” the second one says. “I can’t see that cold broad doing what’s in her best interest no matter how much money she’s throwing around.”

Why do I put up with this? Why should I have to put on the happy face and pretend that I’m okay with all of this in order for people to treat me with some modicum of respect? If it’s not the nurses, it’s the doctor. If it’s not the doctor, it’s my mother’s fan club. What the fuck do these people want from me?

The tears are flowing—quietly but hard—while I stand behind the wall and listen to the continuing conversation about how horrible I am to my now-crippled mother. It goes on for a while, but for some reason, I’m unable to move. As if the Star Trek teleportation gods heard what they were saying, their conversation halts to the sound of approaching footsteps and a honey-smooth voice.

“Hello,” I hear one of the nurses say sweetly. “How can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for room 2117. I’m going in circles.”

It’s Christian! That’s Christian’s voice!

I come barreling from behind the wall full speed as if I were already in motion instead of standing there and listening to these bitches talk about me, and nearly run smack into my husband.

“Whoa! Where’s the fire?” he says almost in jest before noticing that I’m sobbing.

“Butterfly!” he exclaims in concern as I take a step back. “What’s wrong?”

“I… I’m trying…” I stutter, “I’m trying…”

“Baby, c’mere, what is it?” He has that floundering tone in his voice as he moves to close the distance between us. I nearly run to his arms and he envelops me completely, squeezing my arms between our bodies as I cover my face and sob.

“Butterfly… what is it? Is she…?” I shake my head as much as I can.

“No… no…” I say from under my hands. I raise my gaze to him, and I know I look a fright.

“I want to… leave this place,” I tell him. “I want to… leave this place… and never come back… Nobody understands… what I went through… Nobody knows… what she put me through… and they don’t care!” I sob on his shoulder.

“You don’t have anything to prove to anybody, Butterfly,” he says, soothing. “Everyone who counts knows what you went through. We know she left you to die and we’ve all told you that you’re a very big person for even bothering to come here and see about her. You’ve got to stop breaking down like this, Baby. You’re going to frustrate yourself into an early grave and I won’t have it. I’ll set her up with the best home care money can buy and whisk you out of this place so fast, it’ll make your head spin! Is that what you want? Because I’ll get on it right now.”

This couldn’t have gone better if I had planned it. This entire conversation is transpiring not three feet from the nurses’ station with those same gossipy nurses listening in.

“Your Highness!”

I look up and Jason is walking quickly towards us. I roll my eyes.

“I thought… we agreed… that you weren’t going to call me that,” I say in a stuttering, whining voice. He sighs and cocks his head at me.

“Ana,” he corrects himself. “What’s wrong? Is she…?”

“No, she’s not dead,” Christian says, “My wife is just having another one of her ‘why-do-I-have-to-be-nice-to-mommy-when-mommy-wasn’t-nice-to-me’ breakdowns. I’m ready to get her out of here.”

“No… no…” I say, my voice still stuttering. “I’m going… to see this through… I’m going… to make sure… that she’s okay… and then… we’ll get her… the best care money can buy… and we’ll get out of here.”

“Good… okay. Come on, now, stop this,” he says, taking his handkerchief from inside his coat and dabbing my face while still holding me around my waist. “You know I hate to see this.”

I’m sniffling like a blubbering baby, trying to compose myself.

“Haven’t you shed enough tears over this, baby?” he says. “Fifteen years…”

I look up at him and throw my arms around his neck.

“I love you more than you’ll ever know,” I sob. He embraces me warmly.

“I love you, too, Butterfly. You know that…” He pulls me back, looks me in the eyes, and takes my face in his hands. “And I do know.”

I close my eyes and he presses his forehead to mine. His words and gestures calm me right down, and I’m able to take a deep breath. He kisses my tearstained cheek gently, and then my lips just as softly.

“Come on, now,” he says. “Let’s go see about Carla.”

He tucks me protectively under his arm and we walk towards my mother’s room. I can see the nurses in my mind’s eye staring at us as he guides me, sniffling, down the hallway, and choking on the words that made me cry.


CHRISTIAN

I don’t recall how bad Carla looked when I last saw her in this hospital room, but she looks horrendous now. Except for the places that still bear a bit of the bruising from the accident, her face is pale and peaked. Her torso is elevated, but both legs are in traction—why, I’m not sure. It’s not like she’s tempted to move them. She’s wearing a neck brace and she looks completely helpless.

Butterfly has pulled her hair back in a ponytail and washed the runny makeup from her face, so she looks a bit of a fright when she enters the room as evidenced by the obvious concern on Carla’s face when she first sees her—concern that immediately morphs into irritation when she sees me enter behind her. She sighs heavily and audibly and rolls her eyes as she can’t do much else.

“Carla,” I say as a means of greeting. She doesn’t respond. I raise a brow at her, and her expression doesn’t change. This is definitely not the same woman I encountered in Seattle a few years ago.

“We’d like to get to the bottom of the situation,” I say, moving to the foot of her bed.

“What situation?” she says, with her brow furrowed.

“Of the accident,” I reply in a professional tone, “of what happened.”

“What do you mean, ‘what happened?’” she asks confused. “Car, bridge, boom. What am I missing?” I resist the urge to roll my eyes this time. “If you think I did this to get my daughter’s attention, I’ve already told her that while I appreciate what she’s doing for me that she can leave whenever she wants.”

That possibility never occurred to me, but there’s no way she could have expected to survive a crash like that, so it’s highly unlikely… and I’m sure that Butterfly doesn’t need her permission to leave.

“That’s not what I meant,” I retort coolly. “We were just trying to find out if anything suspicious happened that you can remember. Did your brakes go out when you were heading towards the guardrail? Did you feel a bump or anything like someone hit you? What were you doing immediately before you got behind the wheel of the car? Did you feel woozy or dizzy?”

Carla looks even more confused than she did before. It’s like everything I’m saying is completely Greek to her. After a few moments, her brow rises as if she finally gets it.

“Does every event in your life involve a conspiracy theory?” she inquires with a frown.

“Most often, yes,” I reply. “Conspiracies are everywhere. I wouldn’t be alive without a healthy dose of skepticism and mistrust, and I certainly wouldn’t be a billionaire.” Carla twists her lips.

“That explains why you’re so paranoid,” she says. “That must be a terrible way to live.”

“So far, I haven’t been wrong. And if it keeps me alive, then it’s the only way to live,” I retort. She shakes her head.

“Well, I can assure you that there’s no conspiracy this time, Christian. Nobody hit me, nobody forced me off the road, nobody drugged me, and that I know of, my brakes didn’t malfunction. Unfortunately for your conspiracy theories, it was just me and the damn car, okay?”

“We’re not your enemies, here, Carla,” I chastise. “We’re only trying to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure that you’re not in any danger.”

“That’s not the impression you gave me,” she counters. “You made me feel like nothing would make you happier than if I just disappeared… died, even. I think your exact words were that you’ll bury my ass right next to my husband. I know how you feel about me and I know why. I’m not making any excuses for it anymore, but I didn’t seek you out. I didn’t present myself to you like, ‘Look what I did.’ I gave my testimony and I went home. You came to my house, shoving your money in my face and treating me like shit. So, you’ll just have to excuse me while I exercise my right to ‘a healthy dose of skepticism and mistrust!’”

Well, she hit that nail on the head, but fuck if I’m going to apologize to her. I meant what I said on her porch that day, every word of it. Any modicum of civility or kindness that I extend to her at this point is only to accommodate my wife.

She rolls her eyes and turns her gaze back to the tissue in her hand that she has now worried to sodden and crumpled shreds of useless tatters. I’m fighting to subdue the urge to present her with my handkerchief, but she relieves me of the responsibility by tossing the shredded mass into a small plastic bag on the tray table next to her and retrieving another handful of tissue to blow her nose.

“Okay, so you’re saying that no one sabotaged you or forced you off the road. You just somehow lost control of the car,” Butterfly concludes. “It’s not like we could find any evidence anyway. Your car was totaled. You’re lucky you’re alive.”

“Yeah, well,” Carla responds without lifting her head. “It’s not like I could drive it anyway. I’m perfectly fucking useless.” She says the last sentence under her breath, more to herself than anybody else. I can’t help but think about that old saying… how does it go?

The toes you step on today could be connected to the ass you will have to kiss tomorrow…

Or something like that.

“So, what’s the next step? What do you want to do?” Butterfly asks.

“Oh, I get a vote in this?” Carla retorts.

“Please cut it out with that ‘woe-me-my-life-is-over-and-I-don’t-have-anything-left-to-live-for’ shit. I don’t have time for it,” Butterfly chastises. “You have a long road of recovery and rehabilitation ahead of you whether you learn to walk again or not. You’re going to need to be strong and determined to overcome your limitations, but this doesn’t have to be the end for you.” Carla shakes her head and laughs tragically.

“You know what?” she says. “I think I want you to leave.” Butterfly’s brow rises as does mine.

“Oh?” Butterfly says.

“Yes, oh,” Carla retorts sarcastically. “Are you surprised? You asked what I wanted and I’m telling you. You can come back tomorrow… or don’t, but right now, I want you to leave.”

Butterfly is stunned into silence for a moment, but quickly recovers. She gathers her things and wordlessly walks out of the room. I don’t say a word. I simply stand and leave the room behind her. We head toward the elevator and we stop just as she gets to the nurses’ station.

“Do your homework!” she hisses to the two nurses behind the counter. “Google Anastasia Steele Green Valley. Find out why I’m so cold towards that woman before you attempt to judge me!”

She storms away from the counter and off towards the elevator. I watch her push the call button before I turn back to the nurses.

“I can only assume that you said or did something you probably shouldn’t have,” I say coolly. They both look at me gape-mouthed, eyes wide open like deer caught in headlights as I leave the station and join my wife.

*-*

I’m caressing her arm and she’s lying against me on the sofa as we sit in silence and watch the fire. I got the feeling that she just needed to sit and do nothing when we got back to the suite, so that’s what we’ve been doing for the last half hour. I’m sure that she’ll want to get up and go to the Romper Room suite soon to sit with the children, but right now, it’s just me, her, and the fire.

“Did you know that you can sing 99 Bottles of Beer from beginning to end almost 22 times from midnight to 6am if you repeat the last number without running right into the next one?” I frown. Where did that come from.

“What do you mean if you repeat the last number without running right into the next one?” I ask. She begins to sing.

“Some people say, ’99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer; you take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall, 98 bottles of beer; you take one down and pass it around, 97 bottles of beer on the wall, 97 bottles of beer…’ That way, the numbers just run right into the next one. I sing it where you start the verse over again when you get to the next number…

“99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, you take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall…

“98 bottles of beer on the wall, 98 bottles of beer, you take one down and pass it around, 97 bottles of beer on the wall…

“97 bottles of beer on the wall, 97 bottles of beer…”

Where is she going with this?

“Okay,” I say, “I get it. How did you know that?”

“That’s what I used to do instead of counting sheep when I lived in Green Valley with my mother and Stephen,” she says flatly. I freeze for a moment, but then catch myself and continue to caress her arm.

“It never worked,” she continues. “That’s how I know how many times you can sing it in six hours. Some nights, I was afraid to close my eyes. Other nights, I wanted to close my eyes and not wake up. There were times when I would close my eyes and Cody was raping me, or that gang was beating me. Then there were times when I couldn’t wait to close my eyes to get rid of the day.

“You can sing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt 1,440 times,” she says. “You can sing the original version of Shortenin’ Bread with all the verses 144 times. You can sing When You Wish Upon a Star 230 times…”

I sit there and listen to my wife recount the songs that she had to sing to help her get through the night those years that she lived with her mother and her stepfather. She was 15… and 16… and even 17 for a few months, and she survived by singing childhood songs over and over again until she could get out…

Somewhere Over the Rainbow—166 times…
My Favorite Things—360 times…
Under the Sea—117 times…
Bare Necessities—149 times…
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious—120 times…

By the time my wife got through about 17 songs, I had heard enough. It’s no wonder she knows everything about Disney that there is to know.

“I want to know how you planned your escape,” I interrupt her. “You were only 17.” She closes her eyes and sighs.

“I was the only girl who wore jeans to graduation,” she said. “We had a dress code for graduation and at first, they weren’t going to let me walk across the stage. I convinced them that I was too poor to buy clothes, even told them that my parents weren’t there, but that I had a pair of dress shoes and I could hide my jeans, and no one would know. They felt sorry for me.

“I had taken some of my savings and bought a pair of stilettos. It was the first pair I had ever worn. I had never walked in high heels before and these were four inches. I rolled up my pant legs and walked in those heels like I had been wearing them my whole life. I walked up on that stage, got my diploma ledger, and walked back to my seat. I would have left then, but there was protocol and all.

“When we got back to the assembly room after the ceremony, I grabbed my duffel bag from its hiding place, changed back into my sneakers, stashed my cap and shoes into it and walked out of the auditorium. I took the Tropicana bus to Las Vegas Blvd and jumped on the Deuce one last time down the strip to the Greyhound bus station.

“There wasn’t a single bus that day going straight to Seattle. I had to catch the bus to L.A. first and connect from there to Seattle. The whole trip was 35 hours long, and I had never felt freer in my whole life. I had one of those pay-by-the-minute cell phones. I didn’t use it, but I only had one number in it—Daddy’s, and only in case of extreme emergency. Luckily, there were no extreme emergencies.

“I did my homework and started out at Sacred Heart. I told them my story, that I was abused in Las Vegas and couldn’t go back. I showed them my brands and they helped me apply for financial aid and… you know the rest.” I sigh and continue to caress her arm.

“They just took your word for who you were?” I ask.

“No, they took the word of my brands,” she replies. “They spoke for themselves and they were even more gruesome than they are now before they fully calloused over, which took about three years.”

“I can only imagine,” I reply.

“And then those catty bitches at the nurses station had the nerve to be talking about me,” she hisses softly.

“I knew it,” I say. “I knew that’s what it was. What did they say?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she replies. “I’m going to report them to their superiors if they say anything else about me, but God, do I get tired of being Mrs. I-Want-to-Speak-to-Your-Manager. It’s fucking exhausting! Why is it so hard for people to treat you with respect and common courtesy? It doesn’t matter that they don’t know my story! It’s none of their goddamn business! They have no right whatsoever to play judge and jury over my life.”

“I completely agree,” I tell her. “What would you like to do?”

“Oh, Christian, fucking nothing,” she says. “Get this wrapped up and go. Home. That’s what I’d like to do.”

We sit in silence for several more minutes until we’re interrupted by the doorbell of the suite.

“Hey, Jewel, how are you feeling?” Allen says, coming into the living area of the suite. Butterfly walks into his arms and sinks into his embrace. Ray is right behind him.

“I’m as well as can be expected,” she says, “trying to get things wrapped up as fast as I can and get the hell outta here.”

“That’s kinda why I’m here, Annie,” Ray interjects. “I’m heading on back to Seattle. I stayed to help you deal with things in case she died. She didn’t die, so I’m going home to my wife and son. I’m losing my mind without them and this place isn’t helping. I hope you understand.”

“Of course, I do, Daddy,” she says, moving from Allen’s arms to her father, standing on her toes and hugging him. “Thank you for staying this long. You really didn’t have to, but I’m so glad you did. I’ll tell Christian to get the jet ready.”

“I’m already ahead of you,” I tell her, “but the jet won’t be ready until tomorrow morning. The pilot just got in and he needs some rest.”

“That’s fine,” Ray says. “I can wait another night. This place is just so draining. I have no idea how anybody lives here.”

“I think I’m going to have to hop that plane, too, Jewel,” Allen says. “We’re all in a bit of a holding pattern right now waiting for the sentencing and I, like Ray, wanted to be here for you in case your mother kicked the bucket… or in case you asked me if you should pull the plug.” She gasps and Ray raises a brow at him.

“It’s true,” he says unrepentant. “Ask Christian. Had you asked me from a legal standpoint about pulling the plug on that woman, I would have told you to do it. I offer no apologies. I have no love lost for that woman and I’m not evolved enough to be a bigger person when it comes to her. Hope you’ll forgive me.”

“I love you to pieces,” Butterfly says, giving him the same big hug that she gave her father. “I’ve got my babies here now to help me hold myself together. I have Mare and my husband and our wonderful staff who are more family than staff, but I couldn’t have made it this far without you guys, so thank you.”

They share a three-way hug and I watch my wife relax into the arms of her father and her best friend. I only hope I can hold her together this next week without them.

*-*

We spent the rest of the evening eating finger foods that, quite frankly, adults should not be eating, and if I had to hear Ilsa singing Let It Go one more time, I would have committed hari-kari. Thank God somewhere around the 150th time—yes, I’m exaggerating—my wife fell asleep on the floor with the twins. I left Gail and Keri to contend with our children and I carried my wife back to our suite and put her to bed.

It’s about 2am as I’m reading emails and working, and I see the email from Alex regarding Stoney Blake, Esquire… Vincent Sullivan’s attorney.

Jason’s words come to mind and I think about what he said about Blake only doing his job. As a businessman, I understand completely. However, as a loving and protective husband, I don’t give a fuck. He came after my wife with his claws bared and this is what happened.

He made Anastasia look like a 15-year-old harlot who deserved what those monsters did to her. And while Jason is correct and he did his job to the best of his ability, he didn’t put his effort into defending a young man whom he thought was in fear for his life, or in pointing the finger at the culprits of whom he was supposed to be afraid. Cody Whitmore came out spotless in his defense while my wife had to defend why she was vomiting. He needed reasonable doubt by any means necessary, and he got it on two of seven charges.

Now, he has to deal with the consequences of the means.

I begin combing through the information that Alex sent me. Typical lawyer information at first glance until I look at his financials. He has more than one offshore account with his name on it. That’s nothing suspicious for anyone who has more than a few coins to rub together, except that the sources of the funds to these accounts appear questionable, though not to the naked eye.

Money going into an offshore account, or any account for that matter, can come from anywhere. However, after a couple of hours of working my way backwards through the information Alex provided, I’ve discovered that the cash streams into these accounts are all coming from various other accounts all under three different holding companies of some Blakestone variety—Blakestone Holdings, Blakestone LTD, and Blakestone LLC.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with an attorney having holding companies as an umbrella for his money, but he’s moving some significant amounts. Is he the attorney to the rich and famous? Does he charge obscene amounts for his retainers? If it’s that innocent, why move the money through 10 separate banks for three different holding companies into three larger offshore accounts?

Because small amounts moving through random bank accounts don’t raise suspicion.

“For the love of God, must the crooked and wicked be so fucking obvious?” I ask aloud to no one.

Think about it… Robin Myrick played with me like a cat plays with a mouse, moving money around from account to account just to prove that he could before he started syphoning it out of my company. I nabbed his ass at the airport.

Holstein ends up getting pinned for cocaine and meth and all we were trying to get him for was the gun, and all because he was helping the Pedophile with that fucking book.

We won’t even discuss the Pedophile.

And Greta Ellison. For fuck’s sake, BD Simmons? Seriously? Could you be any more obvious? I let you go after I discovered that you were the one who stole the gun that could’ve killed me and my best friend and you decide to cross me again? Jesus H. Christ!

And now Blake. Unless my corporate, finance, billionaire mind is mistaken, this stinks of either money laundering or gross misappropriation of funds. The further back I go, I find no beginning trail for these funds. They just show up, and then they get split up, and then they come together again. Doesn’t he know that money in offshore accounts is not protected from the IRS or the feds? He’s an attorney—he has to know that.

“Do you ever sleep?” I ask Alex when he answers the phone.

“Apparently not when you need me,” he replies.

“I’m looking at Blake’s financials here,” I tell him. “Am I mistaken, or did you just give me a late Christmas gift?”

“You’re not mistaken,” he says. “Our young attorney is moving lots and lots of money from unknown sources. Either he’s creating a rainy-day fund for a whole lot of rich folks, or I’d say he’s washing some dollars. And if he’s laundering for the rich, they’re not going to own up to it. If I were to estimate, out of every 100 transactions, 80 – 95 of them are cash deposits. Nobody carries that type of cash around… nobody, not even you and your pocket full of C-notes.”

“So, how do we shine light on this little operation?” I ask.

“You have to ask? The IRS,” he replies, “with a little help from the feds. All I need from you is the word…”

“The word,” I say, before he even finishes his sentence.


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/

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~~love and handcuffs