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.

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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/

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 19

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 19

ANASTASIA

It’s kind of hard to maneuver a field trip when one of the occupants of your party is all about gourmet food while another is barely eating.

Sophie is excited to go to the gourmet restaurants and food sites and even just to taste whatever local fares that Vegas has to offer, while Marilyn only sits at various tables picking at the smallest servings of the simplest foods, if she ventures to eat anything at all. She doesn’t look as sickly as she did when the trip began. Her coloring isn’t so pale, but her hair still looks very brittle and she hasn’t gained a pound. She hasn’t lost anymore that I can tell, thank God, but she’s downright skinny now, and she’s never been that way.

I don’t want to send her back to Seattle because the last thing I want is for her to be alone and that far away. However, whenever we go on some kind of food excursion, she escapes to her room anyway. I wonder what she does in there all alone for hours. I know that she’s been meditating and doing some yoga, but that doesn’t take up an entire day. Does she just sit around and mope about Gary day in and day out?

“Have you checked on Gary at all?” I discreetly ask Al at brunch on Sunday. He shakes his head.

“I’ve been a bit distracted, Jewel,” he admits.

“I’m sorry,” I reply, “it’s just that since he responded to you faster than he spoke to anyone else, I thought…” I trail off. “If he’s doing half as badly as Marilyn, I’d be concerned.” Al looks across the room at Marilyn typing away on her phone.

“She’s still not eating?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Her shakes and supplements are packed full of nutrients,” I tell him. “She’s worked herself up to maybe a course per day, but it’s nowhere near enough. She supposed to be slowly introducing food back into her system, but I think she’s going too slowly.” Al shakes his head.

“I think you’re right. You might want to have one of your Jewel talks with her,” he says.

“I have been,” I say. “I’ve been keeping an eye on her as much as I can, but I know as well as anybody that when you’re in love with someone, it can take years to get over them.”

“She’s not going to survive for years at the rate that she’s going,” he says, pointing discretely at Marilyn.

“I know,” I lament. “I’ll call Philip and see if he can check in on Gary. I’d hate to know that he’s suffering a similar fate.”

“He looked fine when I saw him at Christmas, Jewel,” Al says, “just heartbroken.” I shrug.

“Heartbreak hits different people in different ways, I suppose,” I reply.

*-*

Dinner this evening is at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant, Hell’s Kitchen, in Caesar’s Palace, where you’re greeted with Satan’s flaming pitchforks at the door… I mean literally in flames! Burning! Unfortunately, Gordon’s not here, but there’s a video of him right at the door chastising someone for posting a picture of some unpalatable dish online. Further inside the restaurant, there is Gordon Ramsey and Hell’s Kitchen merchandise—cookbooks, mugs, T-shirts, etc.—and then there’s the restaurant consisting of a large bar and a huge dining room.

The chefs all cook in an open kitchen behind a large bar that’s marked red on one side and blue on the other. I don’t watch the cooking show itself, but Sophie tells me that this looks just like the set where the teams compete, and she is absolutely mesmerized. There are several screens around the restaurant displaying active flames. It’s different, but kind of exotic. The sun has gone down and the view out of the window is spectacular. We’re looking at the three lighted fountains in the courtyard and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Needless to say, my husband has ordered everything on the menu, and with the size of our party—minus Mare, unfortunately—there won’t be a problem with the volume of food. Knowing that Sophie is our little aspiring chef, he wants to make sure she gets to taste everything that the restaurant has to offer and give her critique.

Sophie shies away from the raw seafood dishes and leaves them for the adults—mainly the adult men as Christian and Jason decimated the oysters on a half-shell while Daddy, Al, James, and Chuck all tear into the Hell’s Kitchen grand shellfish tower, shrimp cocktail, and caviar. I manage to snag some of the tuna tartare before they destroyed it.

Sophie is more attuned to the hot appetizers when they arrive and even more enthralled with the entrees. I scold the gentlemen, reminding them that this is Sophie’s experience as they can have it at any time, and they need to stop being barbarians and allow her to taste the food first. True, she didn’t want the raw fish, but of course, she’s going to want the other dishes. Christian raises his brow at me, and I raise my brow right back, while Jason puts his fork down and Daddy, James, and Al all snicker at the other end of the joined tables.

I take each dish and present it to Sophie. She smiles and takes a small serving of each, tasting each one like a seasoned professional food critic. She identifies the various flavors in each dish, mostly by watching the shows on the various food channels and paying attention to each texture as she allows the food to tantalize her tongue. The way that she describes the food, she has a table full of adults hanging on her every word the way that she did at the wedding…

“I didn’t expect for that combination of flavors to work so well together. The scallops aren’t seared too hard—just enough of a crust to compliment the puree and the apples…”

“I didn’t expect to like pumpkin soup, but the texture is so creamy, and the flavor coats your tongue…”

“I have to admit that I expected more from the Wagyu meatballs, but the polenta is delicious…”

Gail watches proudly as the adults wait for Sophie’s critique, then taste each dish, searching for the flavors and textures that she highlighted. Jason beams, showing all 32 of his pearly whites, his chest sticking out like a prized stallion, boasting that his Baby Boo is one day going to be a 5-star chef.

I have no idea why, but I can never say “no” to a Quinoa salad. However, it can be a bit filling, so I only eat a small bit of it and share with anyone at the table who wants some. When it came to the table, I almost didn’t share it. It’s red quinoa mixed with honeycrisp apples, dried apricots, goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts, and a honey vinaigrette dressing. I can honestly say that I’ve never had a quinoa salad this delicious, and Sophie concurs.

We had to order four of Gordon Ramsay’s famous Beef Wellingtons. The adults, again, allow Sophie to taste the signature dish first, and upon reading the food orgasm on her face before she praises the tenderness of the beef filet and the flakiness of the pastry, they tear into the dish leaving nearly clean plates behind in the melee.

The desserts are utterly divine. The salted caramel apple sponge cake and ice cream creation is delicious—smooth and creamy and indulgent. I’m not a fan of the peanut butter cheesecake, but Keri loves it! James and Daddy think it’s the bee’s knees, too. However, Sophie’s favorite—and mine—is the pineapple carpaccio… shaved pineapple, citrus foam, coconut sorbet, coriander, and passion fruit. It’s served in a large, clear-glass bowl with a plate-like rim and the server comes to your table and pours liquid nitrogen into the bowl in the center. If you’ve ever seen liquid nitrogen, it causes this smokiness to rise from the bowl and swirl in between the little pineapple and sorbet mountains and across the table. It makes the dessert not only delicious, but also visually aesthetically pleasing… and fun!

It’s still early when we leave Hell’s Kitchen and begin to head back to the Waldorf, but once we get to the valet at the hotel, Jason pulls me aside from the rest of the group.

“I thought you should know that Carol just left me a message,” he says. Carol… that’s Marilyn’s security detail. “She’s at the fountains at the Bellagio with Marilyn. She decided to take a walk and now she’s just sitting there by the water. She figured you might want to know.”

“She figured correctly,” I say, looking over at Christian. “I’m going to the Bellagio. Marilyn is there at the fountains. I just want to go check on her.” Christian’s brow furrows.

“You don’t think…” He trails off.

“I don’t think,” I say firmly, “but I don’t want her to be alone either.” I look at Chuck. “We’re going for a walk.”

“You’re walking?” Christian says, aghast.

“Yes, Christian, we’re walking,” I tell him. “Trust me, I’ll be more camouflaged in the crowd on the strip than I was with the entourage surrounding me on the courthouse steps.” He shakes his head.

“Chuck, take the car,” he says. Chuck gets into the driver’s seat of the car and waits for me.

“Christian, can you see the mall right there?” I ask, pointing to the Shops at Crystals. “The Bellagio is literally on the other side.”

“That’s great, and this is Vegas. There’s a whole fucking lot of people on the street and a whole lot of shit can happen. There’s the car. Take it or leave it. I mean it, Anastasia!”

I want to be mad, but Christian never really orders me to do anything. I’ll get a chiding, a gentle warning, his Dom voice… or something, but he never outright orders me to do anything. If he’s doing it now, he’s extremely concerned… and he’ll have Metro block the street off in five minutes.

I glare at him for a moment, kiss him on the cheek, and dutifully get in the car.

Chuck has to track Marilyn’s phone for us to find her by the fountain. She’s just standing there by the balustrade staring out at the water. Carol is nearby, but not too close—an attempt to give her some privacy, no doubt. I walk behind her and announce my presence so as not to startle her.

“Hey,” I say softly.

“Hey,” she responds without turning around. “Don’t worry, Bosslady, I’m not going to jump.”

“I didn’t think you would,” I say. She looks over at me.

“You didn’t?” she says with a mirthless smile. I shake my head.

“No,” I say. “I know you’re smarter than that. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She turns back to the water.

“No,” she says with a heavy sigh, “I’m definitely not okay.” Her voice cracks with sadness and the hint of unshed tears. “I can’t see or feel anything but darkness and sadness and gloom and despair, and while I don’t want to die, I definitely want this to end.” And now she begins to cry.

“I miss him, Ana,” she says, looking out at the water, a steady stream of tears running down her cheeks. “I miss him so much that I can’t even breathe sometimes. It’s the worst at night. I still haven’t learned how to sleep without him. I’m lucky if I get an hour or two of sleep at a time and even when I do, I just dream about him. Then, I wake up alone and cry because he’s not there or because I’ve dreamed about him leaving me again.

“I got one of those weighted blankets to help with sleeping and when I wake up under the blanket, it’s painful—emotionally and physically. I think it’s too heavy for my body, because the part of my body that it’s laying on hurts like I’ve been working out all night… but even more so, it feels like he’s holding me. So, I turn around to hold him back and it’s this damn blanket, so it hurts even more.

“I can’t eat oatmeal,” she continues. “I can’t even see oatmeal. He ate it every day without fail except Sunday. We ate anything else for breakfast on Sunday—eggs benedict was his breakfast of choice on that day, but we ate whatever… but every other day, it was oatmeal. I would put butter and sugar and cinnamon in mine; he would put syrup in his.

“I can’t eat Chinese,” she says, “orange chicken to be exact. My Gary is a creature of habit. Every Wednesday, it was orange chicken…” She pauses. “Is… was… is… I don’t know anymore.

“That’s why it’s hard for me to eat, Ana,” she confesses. “Food makes me sick. Particular foods make me think of him, and then they turn my stomach, and no matter how hard I try to keep them down, I can’t. I want to vomit now just talking about food. You, of all people, should know that the mind is a powerful thing, and right now, mind over matter is working in his favor.” I frown.

“Why would you say this is in his favor?” I ask. “Do you think he would really want to see you this way?” She scoffs weakly.

“Ana, do you even think he cares?” she asks with disdain. “I know he doesn’t wish me dead—he’s not a horrible person, but I’d bet everything I have that he wouldn’t care that I’m going through this. He’d probably wish I’d suffer more for killing his baby.”

That statement makes her weep. She briefly cries into her hands a soulful, mournful sob, and then she stops just as quickly as she started. A few people stop to look at her and her horribly tear-stained face, but she just blankly stares in front of her and they eventually just move on.

“I wake up every morning filled with dread,” she says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just putter along during the day—second by second. I don’t see any relief. Yoga and meditation fill some of the many seconds of the day, and then somewhat help me get to the next second, but I can’t see beyond the next second.

“I can’t see my future. I don’t know where I’m going. Everything I saw had him in it. Even though I didn’t see kids immediately, I still saw him. I’ve never loved anybody in my life the way that I love him. I know women—and men—have often said that they’ll never love again, but I can truly say that I can’t see ever loving anybody else in my life the way that I love him. I can’t fathom how I’ll ever love anybody ever again. And I can truly say that had I known I would end up like this, I would have kept the baby.” I look over at her.

“That is so unhealthy, Mare,” I tell her. “Whatever you do, never have a child just to save your relationship. It’ll never work…”

“Tell it to my heart, Ana,” she says, turning her gaze to me, “I can’t hear you.” She turns back to the water. “Having a baby and loving and caring for Gary’s child would be worlds better than what I’m feeling right now, even if I had to care for it alone. I would have a purpose, a reason for living, for waking up every morning. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would have loved that baby with my whole soul had I known that this was the abyss I would be plunged into by giving it up.

“I know what I look like, I’m not blind or stupid—and I know what people think, but I don’t care. If they can’t help me get to the next second, I don’t care what they think. It doesn’t even bother me; it doesn’t hurt. Nothing hurts more than what I’m feeling right now.”

I want to say something so badly to make her feel better, to tell her that this pain won’t last forever, to convince her not to regret her decision because it cost her relationship, but I know that I can’t. I know that losing Edward made me want to curl up in a ball and die many nights; had me shying away from men and relationships for a long time; had me sobbing in the parking lot of my condo years after we were history because the rest of my friends had significant others and I didn’t—I was too afraid to step out and give someone else a chance because losing Edward hurt too much.

I link my arm in hers in a show of solidarity, just so that she knows that she’s not alone. We stand there for several minutes, leaning against the balustrade and saying nothing. After a while, we hear music, and the water comes alive. I had forgotten about the water shows at the Bellagio fountains. It’s some medley of some upbeat rock or pop song, and we watch the water and lights respond to the music and the beat, Marilyn silently wishing for “her Gary,” and me silently wishing I could somehow stop her pain.

*-*

I’m back at the hospital on Monday morning, being subjected to the cold, but professional demeanors of the nurses. My aloofness towards my possibly dying mother is now known among all of the nursing staff and they treat me with enough professionalism to grant all of my requests and make sure that my mother’s needs are tended to, but they don’t show me any warmth or concern that you would normally show to the family member of a patient.

I put on my armor and try not to let it bother me, but it does. It does bother me. I could do what she did and just not show up, just not come at all. I could hire someone to come in here and make sure that she’s okay, not even come back in here until the thirtieth day of her fucking directive to pull the plug, or just wait until she kicks the damn bucket to claim the body.

But no, I come in here nearly every day, asking about her condition and if there’s been any change, having the dying flowers cleared from her room and making sure that the fresh ones stay, even talking to some of her visitors and hearing from them about how much she loves me and how she regrets what she did to me as a teenager and what a wonderful person she is now.

Today, when I get here, she’s in a cozy tartan nightgown. Someone has washed and combed her hair and she actually looks a bit more content. I know the staff is waiting for me to storm out of the room, demanding to know who changed my mother’s clothes, but I’m not. Someone—maybe Wendy—brought her something that they felt she would be more comfortable in. I can’t deny her that.

I sit silently next to her bed and text Laura about how I’m feeling; about how unfair I think it is that she’s being looked upon as the poor little victim and I’m basically being pegged as the bad guy because I’m not all broken up about her condition. Laura gives it to me straight.

She tells me that as long as I’m on my mother’s turf, that’s how it’s going to be, and I just have to deal with it. She’s made a life for herself where she is and those who know her love her because of what they know about her. Those who don’t know can only go by what they see, and what they see is a stand-offish daughter who only does what’s necessary to keep her mother alive.

“They don’t care about your story,” she tells me in a chat. “Your details are not what’s important to them—hers are. Her well-being and waking up, her friends and those who love her, that’s what’s important. You need to get her squared away, whatever that means—physical therapy, the best home care, burying her, whatever it is—and then you need to go home! You’re not going to find any peace until you get out of that place. Some of our monsters, we don’t need to face. We just need to leave them buried. Get the sentencing, get your mom squared away, and get the hell out of Vegas. That’s it and that’s all.”

She’s right and I know she is. It’s just that getting to that point is hell. Most people here treat me like vermin, and I have to stay here until I get everything squared away. How do deal with that? How does anybody deal with that?

I’ve taken a little time to look at Sophie’s Facebook page. It’s highly monitored, so she’s very careful about what she posts, but she did post the meals that we ate at Hell’s Kitchen and that she’s having fun in Vegas. I know for certain that the Adventure Dome is Saturday, but Jason and Gail took her to the Shark’s Reef at the Mandalay Bay today and lunch at Border’s Grill. Her friends have commented on and liked her photos of the Beef Wellington and pineapple carpaccio, and I smile remembering how much we enjoyed the dessert.

I’ve lost track of time quietly surfing through Facebook videos and feeds and I hear someone enter the room.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Wendy says. “I didn’t know you were visiting. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

I look at my watch. It’s much later than I intended to stay. I might as well let someone keep watch that wants to be here.

“No,” I say, rising from the seat.  “I really need to get going. I need to check on my children.” She raises a brow but says nothing.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Wendy says, removing some things from her bag and placing them around my mother’s room. “I brought some of her things from her home. I’m hoping the familiar might help to bring her out of this. I… was the one who brought her the gown.”

“I thought it might have been you,” I reply. “I’m sure that if she could speak right now, she would say ‘thank you.’ Those hospital gowns are awful.” I speak from experience.

“I’m sure she would,” Wendy replies, her voice cracking. She turns away from me and goes to the restroom. I think she’s going to compose herself, but she returns quickly with a small cup of water. She pours the water into a diffuser and adds a little oil to it—eucalyptus, I think. It’s not overbearing, so I think it should be fine. She looks adoringly, but sadly, at her best friend.

“I’m going to go and let you visit,” I tell her. “Thank you again for the gown.” She smiles softly at me.

“It was my pleasure,” Wendy says and turns back to my mother. “Hey there, old girl,” she says, taking the seat that I vacated next to my mother. “Shall we continue book three of Gideon Cross?” She pulls a book out of her purse and begins to read to my mother. I quietly leave the room and close the door behind me.

There’s no way to get to the elevators without passing the nurses’ station. I nod at Chuck, don my Jackie O’s, and walk past the judgmental cows at the station without looking left or right, headed for the elevator.

*-*

I spend the rest of the evening with my young friend Sophie and my babies. Christian is happily left to tend to all matters GEH while I tend to my mother, then he later joins us in the Romper Room/Disney suite where I completely escape from reality and play childish games and watch cartoons and Disney movies and eat finger foods with my babies… until I have to get up in the morning and adult again.

But not today.

It’s Tuesday, and the boys are on baby duty while Gail, Keri, and I take Sophie on the food tour. I couldn’t convince Marilyn to go, so she’s staying behind to help the guys with the twins. I beg Al to try to get in touch with Gary again. Marilyn has her good days and her bad days, and I can only imagine what Gary’s going through.

We decide to do a small group tour with just the four of us since the tour is mainly for Sophie and we want her to be the center of attention and not have to worry about what others are thinking about her as she proceeds through the various restaurants and sites.

We start at Mercato Della Pescheria, an Italian restaurant located in the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian and Palazzo hotels in a portion of the combined locations called St. Mark’s Square. The tour includes a chef’s choice tasting of House-made Italian specialties. It’s set up like an outdoor Italian restaurant with the wrought iron tables and red and white tablecloths, and the ceiling of the Grand Canal Shoppes is painted to look like the sky while the hallways look like the streets of Italy complete with building-façade storefronts.

“This is good practice,” I say. “We’ll be going to Italy this summer for a few weeks.”

“You will?” Sophie asks. “You guys go a lot of places.” I nod.

“Christian bought me a house there,” I tell her. “I have to decorate it before we get there. Maybe you can help me.” Her brows rise.

“Really?” she asks, her excitement palpable. “I have no idea what to choose.”

“Really,” I reply with a laugh. “We’ll be learning together, because I have no idea what to choose, either.”

“I’d like to go to Italy one day,” she says. “I want to learn to make authentic Italian cuisine.”

“Well, I don’t know what the plan is for the summer, but maybe with your Dad and Gail’s permission, we may be able to work something out.” Her eyes widen further, but then drop.

“Now, you’re teasing,” she says.

“No, I’m not,” I reply. “You know I can’t make any promises because there’s a lot involved in being able to travel overseas, but it’s not impossible and I can at least see if it’s something that we can do. So, keep realistic expectations and since we can’t do spring break, we’ll see what we can do for summer vacation. Deal?” She makes the pondering face and nods.

“Sounds reasonable,” she says. “The idea that you’d like for me to go is really cool… even if it doesn’t get to happen.”

I keep forgetting that Sophie is so young sometimes with the things that come out of her mouth. She’s had quite the life to just barely be a teenager—she’s seen way too much in her young little life.

Let’s not forget the things you saw in your young little life.
This is nothing like that and we’re not going to compare them. So, if you don’t have anything constructive to say, shut the hell up!

The last person I need to hear from right now in this place in my fragile state of mind is the Bitch. She can only do more harm than good at this point.

Our tasting at Mercato Della Pescheria includes a Burrata board with aged balsamic, grilled bread and marinated vegetables, along with gnocchi pomodoro with fresh mozzarella and cacio e pepe alla ruota. I usually have a very scrutinizing tongue, but Sophie had me beat this time. All I tasted was spaghetti with Parmesan cheese, but not our little aspiring chef.

Let’s start with the fact that she had to explain to us how it was going to be served. They roll this huge wheel of cheese over to you on a cart where they’ve cut a bowl into the center of it. Then they place the hot pasta right from the pan into the “bowl.” They scrape the cheese from the inside of the bowl and mix it into the pasta, which Sophie informs me has already been tossed with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper. When they plate it for us, Sophie has a bit more pepper ground over her serving.

She tastes the pasta with every bit of the attitude of a food critic. She takes a small serving of the dish and puts it in her mouth. She chews purposefully, like she’s weighing the textures and flavors in her mouth. You can see her rolling the mixture around on her tongue and everyone at the table—including the server—is silent.

“Is the Bucatini domestic or imported?” she asks the server. He’s rightfully a bit taken aback.

“Imported, miss,” he says. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” she says. “I just want to be able to tell the difference.” Gail and I look at each other, obviously impressed. Our guide, Justine, not so much. She actually looks like she’s tasting something bad.

“Do you know the cheese, miss?” the server asks.

“Hmm,” she says, taking another forkful. “It’s either Parmesan or pecorino. I’ve never tasted pecorino before, but I know it’s close to Parmesan and this is close to Parmesan, not quite Parmesan.” He smiles.

“Very good, miss,” he says, almost proudly. “It’s pecorino.” Sophie smiles and claps her fingers together quickly, also proud that she identified the cheese. I had already said Parmesan.

“What’s Bucatini?” I ask anyone who’s listening. Sophie begins to answer.

“It’s…”

“It’s a heavy pasta like thick spaghetti, but it has a hole in the center,” Justine interrupts. I assume that she didn’t hear Sophie begin to explain the pasta to us. Sophie doesn’t pay her any attention. She just shrugs and finishes her pasta. I nod at Justine and wait for her to get distracted.

“What does she mean by ‘holes?’” I lean over and ask Sophie. “It just looks like spaghetti. I don’t see any ‘holes.’”

“Regular spaghetti is a solid noodle,” Sophie says conspiratorially, “Bucatini’s a long tube. Think ziti noodle, but long and skinny.” I open my mouth in realization, then look closer at the noodle and see exactly what she’s talking about.

“I don’t know why I was expecting to see holes straight down the noodle.” I shake my head at my ignorance and take a forkful of the pasta. Sophie giggles and continues with her tasting.

Our next stop is Royce Chocolates for truffles. As it turns out, Sophie’s no stranger to Royce’s Chocolates even though Justine tries to make it appear that these are the most exclusive chocolates in the world. The store looks a bit like a confectioner’s booth that just popped up and snagged the last little corner spot in the Canal Shoppes. No offense to Royce’s; the truffles are divine, but our tour guide is just droning on and on and on about the chocolates, and while the adults in the group are trying not to take the wind out of the poor girl’s sails, Sophie’s young truth filter is in full effect.

“They’re delicious,” she says, enjoying a chocolate and creamed caramel truffle, “I just expected them to be different, I guess.”

“Different than what?” Justine inquires.

“Than the ones at the store in Seattle,” she says. “It’s the same manufacturer, so I guess they would be the same.”

“There’s a store in Seattle?” Justine asks, and Sophie’s brow furrows.

“Bellevue,” the clerk says, nodding as we turn to look at her. Feeling a bit sheepish about her lack of knowledge, our tour guide quickly gestures us out of the chocolatier. I don’t mind that she likes her job; I just think she needs to be a bit more informed about the stops on the tour, or at the very least, curb her enthusiasm a bit.

We wander through St. Mark’s Square a little more, and we stop to watch as another server in another area makes a tiramisu tableside. Sophie watches in awe as the espresso-soaked ladyfingers are layered into the pan. I don’t know if the people at the table can actually eat the confection when it’s complete as the cream portion usually needs to chill overnight.

“She can’t have any of that on this tour,” Justine says haughtily. “The espresso mixture contains alcohol.” I just glare at her.

“And if the mascarpone cream mixture is done correctly, it has rum in it,” Sophie interjects like it’s obvious. “I know that!”

Sophie is clearly becoming irritated with Justine’s behavior, but she’s refined enough not to respond in kind. Although upon leaving the impromptu tiramisu presentation, she did ask, “What’s wrong with that lady?”

Our next stop is Cañonita, a location that prides itself on Mexico City soul food. Sophie is a bit reserved as the tour continues and I don’t like that. The foodie tour is for her enjoyment and I’m rather enjoying the benefit of her knowledge of the different ingredients even though I was well aware of the inclusion of Grand Marnier in the espresso mixture and rum in the mascarpone cream.

“Sophie, are you okay?” Gail asks, noticing her reservation.

“Am I allowed to say anything?” she asks matter-of-factly. I frown.

“Of course, you are,” I reply. “You can say whatever you like.” She rolls her eyes and sighs.

“Well, I was born on Cinco de Mayo,” she begins, “so every year that I can remember since I’ve been alive, I’ve had a Mexican meal on my birthday. Since we’re on this tour, I was wondering are we just going to eat the standard Mexican foods, or can I taste something different?”

“You can have what you like,” Gail says. “If you want something different, we’ll pay for it.” Sophie twists her lips.

“I’d really like to try the Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno,” she says. “I’ve never had it and I think it would be good.”

“We don’t have time for that,” Justine interjects.

“Wee’ll. Mek. Tyme!” Keri says slowly and deliberately, waiting for Justine to respond. I think her irritation is rubbing off on Keri. When Justine says nothing, Keri turns to Sophie.

“Come, Miss Sopheh,” she says, putting her arm around Sophie’s shoulder, “tell uhs aboht de duck.”

The corners of Sophie’s mouth rise in a small smile and she begins to tell us about Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno while it’s being prepared in the back. Justine sits at a separate table close by with her arms folded and her legs crossed. I have no idea what her problem is.

“The menu says that the Pátzcuaro Duck Relleno begins with duck confit, which is a French dish,” Sophie continues. “So, I wanted to see how a French dish could become a Mexican dish. I know the manchamantel sauce is clearly Mexican. I think the combined flavors would be very interesting.”

Sophie always amazes me talking about food, because the 13-year-old girl disappears, and we have this connoisseur in front of us.

“Hah do yah knoh so much abot fuud, Sopheh?” Keri asks. Sophie shrugs.

“I just really like learning about food,” she says, “where different dishes come from, what they mean, what spices they use, how it’s supposed to taste. I’m going to be a chef one day. I don’t know what my specialty will be, but I want to know about foods from all over the world.”

“Well, you’re off to a very good start,” I tell her. “Did she tell you that Ms. Solomon showed her how to make that delightful ham and pineapple sandwich and she got it right on the first try?” Gail turns to Sophie in honest surprise.

“No, she didn’t!” Gail says, with pride. “You should have told me. I’m proud of you.”

“It’s just a sandwich,” Justine says under her breath. No one else heard her, but I did. I’m trying not to feed into it. It’s beyond me why she feels threatened by this 13-year-old girl.

“Okay, what’s next?” I ask once we finished the delightful duck dish while Justine deliberately and slowly ate the crab cakes, enchiladas, and ceviche that was intended for the tour. She took more time to eat her food than we took to eat ours, but she said that we didn’t have time for the duck. Then she haughtily tells us…

“Well, we’ve only got an hour left and there are four more stops on the food tour, so we won’t make them all.” I try not to let loose on this woman, because I’m always letting loose on someone, and it could just be me being sensitive. Instead, I just ask, “What are the four remaining stops?”

“Well, first, there’s the Honolulu Cookie Company, where they have the exotic Hawaiian goodie bag that most likely has the best shortbread cookies you’ve ever tasted in your life. Then, there’s the William Carr Photo Gallery—he’s a well-known artist acclaimed for his ability to capture the beauty and perfection of creation…”

She sounds like she’s reading from a pamphlet. I look over at Sophie.

“I had truffles,” she says. “I don’t really have a taste for cookies.”

“These aren’t just any cookies,” Justine retorts. “These are Hawaiian shortbread…”

“No, thank you,” Sophie says calmly. “You said there’s an art gallery. Are there pictures of food or something?” Justine’s brow furrows.

“Why would you ask that?” she says.

“I’m just wondering what an art gallery has to do with a foodie tour,” Sophie replies. “I can understand if it was a museum tour, but…” Sophie shrugs.

“I was thinking that myself,” I say, my voice low.

“Well, generally, the more mature patrons appreciate the art, but if you don’t want to go…” Her tone is condescending.

“Well, you clearly said that we don’t have time for the other four stops, so what are the last two?” I shoot, trying not to bite this bitch’s head off. Noting my irritation, she quickly tells us that the last two stops are a bookstore and a Peruvian restaurant called Once, pronounced On-seh. We opt to skip to Once and see what Peru has to offer.

I’m so frustrated when we get to Once that I ask for a table for five. Justine proceeds to tell the host that we’re with the foodie tour. I quickly correct her.

She’s the foodie tour,” I tell the host. “We want a table for five.” I gesture at Gail, Sophie, Keri, Chuck, and myself. When the host nods, I turn to Justine. “You said we have an hour—we’re going to order.”

Justine’s eyes narrow at me, but I don’t watch her long enough to formulate a response. When we are seated, I ask Sophie which appetizers she thinks we should try and if she’s familiar with the cuisine.

“Some of it,” she says. “Ceviche is universal, but if you are going to get it, I would get it here since the dish is originally Peruvian. I think the braised fennel would be good, and I’d definitely like to try the Chicharron Karaage and the scallop and shrimp dumplings.” I nod.

“I’m going to eat whatever she’s eating,” Gail laughs, and I concur. Keri orders the oxtail Bibimbap and Chuck orders the prime New York Steak Anticucho. Justine is seething that no one is talking to her or paying any attention to her as we enjoy the last meal on the tour—not a tasting, a meal. She keeps looking at her watch and sighing impatiently.

When we finish our meal, I charge it separately to my Amex and we leave the restaurant. Justine is trying to wrap up the tour. I don’t know what she’s expecting—it was a bad experience for me. Sophie seems unmoved. She finally announces that the tour is at its end and turns to Sophie.

“How old are you, may I ask?” Justine asks Sophie.

“Thirteen,” she replies. “I’ll be 14 in June.”

“Mm,” Justine remarks unimpressed before turning to me. “You may want to introduce the concept of humility into her life a little more,” Justine says, then turns to walk away. I gasp, at a complete loss for words. Sophie is looking aghast, and Gail is furious.

“You hold it right there!” Gail announces in a voice that makes us all freeze. “How old are you?” Justine folds her arms again.

“I’m 26,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Well, you have a lot of growing up to do!” Gail retorts. “That young lady is the picture of decorum. She was never rude to you once and you’re just upset that she knows more about your tour than you do! I saw your face when she told us about the tableside service at Mercato, and it’s not her fault that she knows that Royce has several locations and you didn’t.

“You announced that she couldn’t have the tiramisu when all she was doing was watching. I thought you were going to have a stroke over the duck. Then you tell us that we don’t have enough time to finish the tour, but you have a coronary when we ask to skip to the end! Is this your first day? Because you’re utterly terrible at this!”

Justine gasps, but doesn’t have a comeback for Gail’s chastisement.

“You remember that name, young lady—Sophia Taylor—because if you stay in the food industry at all and even if you don’t, I guarantee you’ll hear it again. Now, you get your act together or I’ll have your neck and your job, and that’s a guarantee!” Gail shoots.

Justine’s hand shoots to her chest in that clutches pearls way. She’s shocked that after no one really checked her on her attitude, she thought that she could take liberties with us and Gail let her have it.

“I… I’m sorry!” Justine says, aghast.

“Don’t apologize to me!” Gail says. “Apologize to her! You nearly ruined her day!” Justine turns to Sophie, but Sophie turns to Gail.

“She didn’t ruin my day, Momma Gail,” Sophie says succinctly. “The guy at Mercato was nice to me; I got to eat French duck made Mexican, and really good chicken, scallops, and shrimp. And we still have Sur La Table tomorrow. I’m fine, she doesn’t have to apologize. Can we please go now?”

Chuck stands a few feet away like he has all day, smiling widely as Sophie delivers her speech.

“Are you sure, Pumpkin?” Gail says. “She owes you an apology.”

“I’m sure, Momma Gail,” she says. “Let’s just go and find some gelato. I’d like that.” Gail smiles.

“I’d like that, too,” she says, turning to Justine. “You could learn a thing or two from that little girl, but I’m sure that you won’t.” She turns back to Sophie. “I love gelato,” she says. “Let’s go find some.”

I didn’t have to lift a finger.

I fall in step with Gail and Sophie. We walk all the way back to the other end of the Grand Canal Shoppes to a gelato stand called Cocolino. We each order our flavor, then take a seat and enjoy our treat. While we’re eating the gelato, I must ask the question that’s burning in my head.

“Sophie,” I ask, “she did owe you an apology. It’s not okay for anybody to treat someone that way, especially when she was being paid. Why didn’t you want her apology?”

“Because she didn’t want to apologize,” she says, matter-of-factly. “Do you remember when Marlow snitched on me at Christmas?” I glance over at Gail quickly. She raises her gaze to me, but turns back to her ice cream.

“Yes,” I say.

“If I had apologized to them, it would have been because they made me do it, not because I wanted to or because I was sorry, because I wasn’t… and that’s why I didn’t do it. This was kinda the same thing. She wasn’t sorry, and to be honest, what she was doing didn’t hurt me. She just looked kinda dumb. And Momma Gail was right. She was just mad ‘cuz I knew more than she did. They don’t pay me to know this stuff; I just like food channels. That makes her look real bad.”

I just had a 13-year-old girl explain a very adult philosophy in the most simplified terms I’ve ever seen.

If your apology is not sincere, I don’t want it—that’s one of my biggest mantras.
If my apology is not sincere, I’m not going to give it—see the first mantra.
I’m not going to let the fact that you don’t know what you’re saying or doing ruin my good time—in other words, “Sucks to be you… I’m bigger than this.”

I can’t remember the last time I was prouder to be Aunt Ana.

CHRISTIAN

“Dude, she left that woman’s face cracked and on the ground.”

Chuck is telling us about the ladies’ day out on the foodie tour. I was sure that it would be something harmless and fun, but it appears that the tour guide had a bug up her butt.

“Are you telling me that the person in charge of the tour got into it with Sophie?” I ask.

“No, Prince Gallant with your flaming sword, that’s not what I’m saying,” Chuck says. “Sophie knows a lot about food, more than I even think we know she knows…”

“That’s because Food Network and the Cooking Channel were her companions while her mother was binging,” Jason says. “She still watches them now. If we stocked her kitchen, she could make her own meals.”

“That might be a good idea, so that she can get some practice… but I digress,” Chuck says, getting himself back on track. “She knew what kind of cheese they were putting in the pasta. She knew the origin of a Mexican dish that really came from France. She knows the alcoholic content of tiramisu. She could have done a better job as a tour guide than the tour guide. Little Miss Raven Hair didn’t like that very much.”

“Did she insult my daughter?” Jason asks. Chuck twists his lips. “What did she say?” Chuck clears his throat.

“At first, she was just making little cracks about the food,” Chuck says, “talking over Sophie when she was trying to talk. In the end, the tour ended at Once, and the women all ignored her completely. That pissed her off. I think she thought Ana was Sophie’s mother, so she tells Ana that she needs to teach Sophie some humility. I could see the hairs rise on Gail’s neck from across the room.”

Jason immediately scoffs a laugh. I can imagine that he’s seen the hairs rise on Gail’s neck from across the room, too.

“Have you seen the Karate Kid?” he asks, doing the pose that Daniel does before his finishing move.

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“I have,” Jason says, still laughing.

“The minute her mouth opened, I could see Gail doing it in my mind’s eye. I thought that would be the end for that girl, but the finishing move came from Sophie. Gail demanded that the lady apologize to Sophie, but Sophie told Gail that she didn’t want the lady’s apology, that the lady didn’t ruin her day, and asked to go get gelato. Imagine having a 13-year-old girl tell you that your apology is beneath her.”

I hiss at the implication. That had to be painful. I’m convinced that Sophia Taylor is not of this world. Second only to my wife, she’s one of the most rounded people I’ve met for what her mother has put her through.

“Classic,” Jason says, “fucking classic. When you guys go to Sur La Table tomorrow, make sure she gets everything she wants.” Chuck laughs.

“Make sure you tell her that,” he says.

“No matter where we go, there’s always one,” I hear Butterfly say as she enters the Romper Room suite.

“Hello, dear,” I call out to her. She stops in her tracks and examines me for a moment.

“He already told you,” she says, coming further into the room.

“He did,” I say. She shakes her head.

“Well, for once I wasn’t the object of ire… but a child? Seriously?” she says, taking a seat among all the playthings.

“There’s just no accounting for taste, I guess,” I comment.

“Indeed!” Gail says, nearly storming into the suite. “The nerve of that child! Twenty-six indeed! She behaved like a toddler. Teach her some humility… teach yourself, you wretched little heathen! How dare she insult my stepdaughter that way! She doesn’t even know her. She’s guiding the tour and didn’t even know there was a Royce Chocolates in Seattle! She’s guiding the tour! Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?”

“We heard,” I reply. Why did I do that? Right at that moment, Sophie enters the room with an expression I can’t quite read.

“You okay, Baby Boo?” Jason asks.

“Mm-hmm,” she says in a manner that indicates that she’s not saying another word.

“I’m calling her boss!” Gail continues to rant. “We paid for that tour! We paid for Sophie to be treated that way. A grown woman—angry with a child on her tour. The very nerve! I’m going to go and call that place right now!” and out of the room she goes, off to make some tour guide’s life a little more difficult. Keri looks cautiously around the room before speaking.

“Wheh ah da tweens?” she says.

“They’re napping,” I reply. “They should probably wake soon.”

“Ah’ll goh chek on dem.” She kisses Chuck on the cheek and heads off towards the bedroom. We all look at Sophie, who purses her lips, then finally speaks.

“Momma Gail is mad!” she says, her eyes a little large and her face full of ill-suppressed mirth. “I thought she was going to rip that lady’s throat out!”

“What did she say?” Jason inquires.

“She didn’t say anything bad, it’s just how she said it,” Sophie says. “It was like… she wasn’t Momma Gail—she was somebody else.”

“Daniel-san,” Chuck says under his breath, and Butterfly looks at him bemused.

“She told the lady that she was terrible at her job and not to forget my name because she was going to hear it again someday. We were in the middle of the mall! People were staring at her; the lady was really embarrassed… it was awesome!”

Normally, I would advise a youngster that it’s not necessarily a good thing to take joy in someone else’s calamity, but I think the young lady had this one coming.

“Here’s the best part,” Butterfly says, turning to Sophie. “Why didn’t you want her to apologize to you?”

“Because she didn’t mean it,” Sophie replies. “She wasn’t sorry for what she said to me. She was sorry because Momma Gail got in her butt about it. If we had just huffed and puffed and left, she would have been fine. She reminds me of my mom… mad because Daddy did something for me or gave me something.” She scoffs in that irritated teenage way, rolls her eyes, and waves the situation off. “I just wanted to go have ice cream.”

Jason is quiet for a moment, but Butterfly correctly thinks to fill the dead air.

“Well, they had better not behave that way at Sur La Table tomorrow or that franchise is going to be Sophie La Table by the time we leave,” she says. Sophie giggles.

“That reminds me,” Jason says. “You have your own kitchen, and I think you’re old enough and responsible enough to start practicing your own dishes. So, when you go to Sur La Table tomorrow, you can get anything you want to outfit your kitchen.” Sophie’s eyes widen.

“Really?” she says in a high whisper. “Dad, are you serious?”

“I’m completely serious,” he says. “You can have whatever you want, and if it needs to be shipped, just have them ship it… and we’ll get a couple of extra fire extinguishers, too.”

“Daa-aa-aad,” Sophie whines, “I used to cook when I lived with Mom, just not gourmet stuff.” Jason’s face hardens.

“You did?” he asks. Sophie shrugs.

“Yeah,” she says. “If I didn’t, I’d starve… or I’d have to eat Pop-Tarts for life.”

“How long have you been cooking?” Jason asks. Sophie ponders her answers as Gail and Keri re-enter the room with the twins.

“About…” she ponders a moment more, “three or four years.”

That would fucking make her nine years old.

“What do you know how to cook, Sophie?” Butterfly asks, trying to get information and diffuse the situation at the same time.

“A lot of stuff,” she says. “I haven’t cooked all the stuff, but watching the TV shows and things on YouTube, I can probably follow any recipe you give me.”

“What have you already cooked?” Butterfly probes.

“I can cook breakfast,” she says. “I can make hamburgers and fried chicken. I tried to bake a chicken once, but it came out kinda dry. Then I learned I needed to take the innards out and turn the temperature down… and baste, so…” She ponders a little more. “I can do lots of Asian food—stir fry, pepper steak, shrimp fried rice… I know how to make sweet and sour sauce, too.”

“What’s the first thing you remember cooking by yourself?” Jason asks.

“Oh, that’s easy. Grilled cheese… I burned my hand,” she replies matter-of-factly.

“You burned your hand?” Butterfly interjects. “Badly?”

“Real bad,” she says. “I still got the scar. See?” She turns her hand over and shows us a straight scar from the bottom of her palm across the top of her wrist. It almost looks like the scar tissue from a knife slash. Jason frowns deeply.

“Shalane told me you fell off your bike and cut yourself on a piece of glass,” Jason counters. Sophie shakes her head.

“Nope. Grilled cheese,” she says, looking at her hand again and shrugging like it’s no big deal. I can see the steam rising from Jason’s head. “Don’t worry, Dad, I know how to make a great sandwich now. Ms. Solomon taught me.” Jason smiles tightly.

“She did?” he asks, trying to control his voice.

“Yeah, it’s ham and cheese and pineapple and it’s really good,” she boasts.

“Will you make one for me when we get home?” he asks. Sophie beams.

“Sure, Dad,” she says, proudly. “I’ll make you anything you want.”

“Pumpkin?” Gail says. “Will you please take Mikey for me and help Keri get them ready for snack time? I want to talk to your dad for a minute.”

“Sure, Momma Gail. C’mon Mikey, let’s go get treats.” Gail puts Mikey on the floor and he immediately takes Sophie’s hand and allows her to lead him to parts unknown.

“Jason, are you okay?” Gail asks once Sophie has left the room.

“Anything she wants,” he says to his wife. “I mean it. Anything that will allow her to create anything she wants…” He trails off.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” Gail says. “If anybody’s worth it, she is. And I really think we’ll be cultivating her dream, so why not get her started as soon as possible with the best utensils money can buy?”

“I don’t mean to get giddy over what is apparently a serious and very solemn moment, but this is going to be so much fun!!!” Butterfly declares gleefully while shaking her fists, adding the needed levity to the situation and causing Gail and Jason to snicker.

And just like that, crisis averted.

*-*

“Does Sophie have a passport?” Butterfly asks as we’re getting ready for bed.

“I don’t know,” I reply, nonplussed. “I don’t think there was ever a reason for her to have one before now, but I would have to ask Jason. Why do you ask?”

“I think it would be great if our trip to Italy was a family vacation,” she suggests, climbing into bed. “Not the entire trip, but maybe the last leg or so of it. I’d like for my babies to be there for a bit, and that would mean Keri and Gail, which would also mean Sophie. What do you think?” He shrugs.

“I don’t see why not,” he says. “It would definitely be a really good experience for her, and I’m certain that having the twins there for part of the trip would help you to relax. I’ll talk to Jason and see how he feels. This wouldn’t have anything to do with the whole Bad Taste Italian experience, would it?”

“It has everything to do with it,” she says shamelessly. “While we were at one of the restaurants, Sophie mentioned that she would like to go to Italy one day and taste authentic Italian cuisine. I told her that we would be going this summer and said that I would run it past you, Gail, and Jason to see how you all felt about it. I didn’t make any promises, though, because I don’t know if there’s any bureaucracy involved with her being able to leave the country or even if Jason would want that.” I chuckle.

“At this point, Jason would gift her the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and if there’s any bureaucracy involved with her being able to leave the country, he’ll get past that, too,” I say climbing into bed next to her. I turn the light off as she snuggles under the cover. I wrap my arm around her waist and pull her against me, pressing two kisses on her shoulder.

“You’re a really good Aunt Ana,” I say, as she snuggles into me and falls off to sleep.

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 18

@Sweet Peach75, I have no idea why, but I happened to go to my website spam folder and there were like three posts in there from you! I’ve put them back on the site, but you guys, if you post a comment and you don’t see it after a day or so, hit me on that “contact me” link so I can check my spam. I’m going to check it more often just in case. I’m so sorry about that, Peach!!!

Thanks to all of you who like and retweet my links. Twitter and I just don’t seem to agree with one another. I get on there as often as I can and I try to follow it. If it weren’t for the sites (this one included) that automatically tweet my shit, I wouldn’t be there. So, again, I thank you! 

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 18

CHRISTIAN

“I haven’t eaten anything yet, and I’m starving. Can you please order something from room service?”

“Of course, baby. How far away are you?” I hear her ask Chuck.

“About twenty minutes,” she says, her voice defeated.

“Will you need a drink?” I ask. She sighs.

“Just wine… and a cranberry spritzer.”

“I’m on it,” I tell her. “Come on back to the hotel and everything will be right as rain.”

“Yeah, sure,” she remarks. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” I reply, and end the call. I dial Keri’s number.

“Yes, Chtistian?”

“Are the twins still asleep?” I ask.

“Noh, dey jess weke up,” she replies.

“Good. Butterfly is on her way. She’ll be here in twenty minutes. I’m having room service delivered down there for her.”

“Okeh, wee’ll be wehtin,” she says, and ends the call.

I order room service to the “baby suite,” then sit impatiently, waiting for my wife to return. I’m concerned about how she’ll feel about the babies being in Las Vegas. Will she be happy they’re here, like Allen said, or will she be pissed that I brought her children to this forbidden place—and without asking her first? Maybe she’ll be both—happy at first and then pissed, or vice-versa.

Well, I wanted to see them, too, and we probably won’t be going back to Seattle until her mother wakes or kicks the bucket—whichever comes first. So, there.

I get that nervous sinking feeling in my stomach when I hear her enter the suite. It turns to concern when I see her face.

“I thought Chuck was with you,” I say.

“He nearly bolted from the elevator saying he had to pee and took off in the other direction,” she says. No, he’s trying to get a few moments with his girl before we descend.

“You look like it’s been a rough day,” I say. She tosses her coat onto the big chair and sighs.

“Not so much,” she says. “I just… I don’t know how you can see someone in such a vulnerable position and not be concerned. I look at her and right, now, she’s completely at my mercy. I want to make sure that she’s taken care of, that she gets everything that she needs, but any time I think of feeling any emotion for her, it’s nothing but anger. I think about me being in that bed—no one caring about me—and her room is full of flowers. I think about no one coming into that room to see me, not even her, but her best friend came today and just sat with her for a long time. She even knew who I was.

“It seems so petty to compare her situation now with mine back then. It seems childish to say, ‘Well, you didn’t care about me, so I shouldn’t care about you.’ It seems so ridiculous to be jealous of her flowers and envious of her visitors and hateful that so many people appear to care for her, but I couldn’t get that! Not even from her!”

She puts one hand on her forehead and one on her hip, turning away from me and taking several deep breaths. I move in closer to her and gently grasp her arms.

“This hate is heavy,” she says, her voice thick and low. “I can’t keep carrying it, but I don’t know what else to feel. I feel like she doesn’t deserve the kindness that she’s getting, but that’s crazy.” She shakes her head. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’re human, Butterfly,” I tell her. “She hurt you. She left you all alone. You were just a kid. You can no sooner get over those feelings of helplessness and desertion than I can get over these burns on my chest and where they came from.”

She stiffens, but it’s true. We were both traumatized in our childhood, and the scars are a lot deeper than the ones left on our skin.

“My mother is dead,” I tell her. “I don’t have to worry about forgiving her or wondering why she did what she did, because she’s gone. Your mother is alive—she’s still able to account for her sins against you and deep down, that’s what you want. You want her to feel the loneliness and the seclusion that you felt at your weakest moment, but whether she wakes up or not, she’s not going to feel that. She has accumulated a support system here, and they’re concerned about her, and you have the right to feel the way that you feel, because you didn’t have that support system when you needed it the most. We’ve both healed the best we can from those scars, but they still run deep.”  She shakes her head.

“I have to deal with this somehow,” she says. “I can’t shed any more tears over this. I can’t let it take over my life. In a couple of weeks, one way or the other, this ordeal is going to be over for me. I’ll have some therapy with Ace or Laura in the meantime and deal with it however I must.”

“Laura?” I ask. “You’ve been having therapy with Laura?”

“The few conversations I’ve had with Laura have been more fruitful than the two years I’ve spent with Ace. Her conversations are not really therapy, they’re more organic. They’re geared more to helping you get well and deal with your issues than to keep you coming back for more sessions. I think I like her methods better. I’m going to have a talk with her about studying her methods and incorporating them into my practice with the families at Helping Hands.” I twist my lips and nod.

“That’s probably a good idea, Butterfly,” I say, “especially if you see the good in what they’re doing for you. I just don’t want you to discount the good that Ace did, too. His methods really helped you out in some of your hardest times.”

“Yes, he was very helpful in a lot of ways,” she says. “I think I’m just put off by the fact that he couldn’t seem to actively help me with the Boogeyman, and that seemed pretty important to me.” I nod. I understand where she’s coming from. However…

“Well, for now, I want you to put all of this stuff in a little box and come with me. I have a surprise for you.” I take her hand and lead her to the door.

“Christian, I really don’t feel like being around people right now,” she protests, “and where’s my food?”

“Humor me,” I say, retrieving the key from the sofa table as we head out the door.

 “Where are we going?” she asks as we pass the elevator.

“A few more steps, my love,” I tell her, and she sighs impatiently. When I knock on the door of the suite, Chuck opens it with a smile.

“I smell food,” she says. “The food is in here…?”

When Chuck clears the doorway, it looks like we’ve walked right into Romper Room. The entire suite has been transformed into a toddler-friendly play area, complete with wall decals, oversized blocks, playhouses, floor tiles with letters and numbers, the whole nine yards. Percy really went over the top making a home away from home for my children.

“What in the world?” Butterfly says as we step into the suite. “What is this? You want to play with toys?”

“No, but I figure you might want to play with those,” I say, pointing to the living room area. There Keri sits with a fidgety Minnie and Mikey standing next to her. Butterfly’s hands fly to her mouth and she gasps loudly, tears immediately springing to her eyes.

Keri says something to the twins, no doubt along the lines of “Go to Mommy” or something like that. Having gotten his land legs sooner than his sister, Mikey darts to his mother and she drops to her knees in just enough time to scoop him into her arms. A few moments later, Minnie joins the hugfest, and my wife is on her knees, holding her babies and sobbing. It’s a sight that would bring the toughest of us to tears.

Allen, Ray, and Marilyn have come to the suite while my wife is blubbering in the middle of the floor to her babies. When she pulls them back to say something to them that I can’t decipher through her tears, Minnie replies with something equally indecipherable while patting both hands on Butterfly’s cheeks and Mikey makes a vain attempt to wipe her tears from her eyes.

A protector even at one year old.

I kneel down next to her and rub her back, trying to calm her crying a bit. She releases the children and they immediately head to the colorful little table and the toys it carries.

“How could you bring my babies to this horrible place?” she sobs, turning to me while still on the floor.

Uh oh.

I turn to Allen, whose eyes have widened, his mouth falling open. She rises up on her knees and catches me in a fierce embrace.

“Thank you,” she sobs in my neck. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you…”

I slowly wrap my arms around her, still stunned by her earlier chastisement, but happy that we’ve averted a crisis. While we’re wrapped in our embrace, I catch my daughter out the corner of my eye standing next to her mother. When I look down, I see her patting Butterfly on the leg.

“Methinks the Lady Mackenzie wants your attention,” I say. She releases my neck and tries to compose herself. I hand her my handkerchief, and she wipes away what tears she can manage before turning her attention to Minnie.

“Yes, Minnie Mouse?” she says, her voice still shaking. Minnie points to something on the other side of the room and uses her usual indecipherable speech, to which my wife answers, “Show me.”

Minnie takes her hand and Butterfly doesn’t rise from her knees. She crawls behind Minnie in white slacks and Louboutin red-bottoms to whatever thing has captured my daughter’s attention. I sigh heavily and look over at Allen, who stretches his lips in that way that confirms, “Yes, we dodged a bullet!”

Butterfly spends the rest of the afternoon playing games with her children and completely forgetting about the late lunch I had ordered. After a couple of hours, we order dinner to the twins’ suite and everyone comes down again to have a family meal, which consists of cold smoked ahi tuna poke, lamb chops, beef tenderloin, rotisserie chicken, cedar plank salmon, day boat scallops, whipped mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, and foraged mushrooms with red velvet cake, vanilla bean crème brûlée, and lemon mousse cheesecake for dessert. Unfortunately, tiramisu is not on the menu, so my beloved wife settles for red velvet cake.

Our children enjoy chicken fingers and French fries with finger fruit for dessert. My picky daughter bypasses the finger fruit and opts for the broccoli instead… strange kid.

The children have had a very big day with their first trip in an airplane, walking into a toddler wonderland, and the excitement of seeing their parents again. The adrenaline of the day crashes down on them very quickly after they’ve had dinner and they both fall into a food-induced slumber, Minnie in her mother’s arms and Mikey in the highchair next to me. Allen and Ray have gone back to their rooms for the night and Marilyn is sitting next to Butterfly. They’re chatting about… whatever. Marilyn is sipping on her smoothie as usual, but I didn’t see her eat anything today at dinner.

I look at her carefully, and her hair is dull and stringy. She keeps it in a small bun most of the time, but right now, it’s in a ponytail. There’s no bounce to it. It looks like hair when it’s oily and limp, but it’s dry and visibly brittle. Her skin looks pale and her face is unhealthily narrow. Her clothes are hanging from her frame and even her eyes look dull. I remember clearly when her face was fuller and her skin had a glow, when she looked healthy and athletic instead of frail and sickly. It’s not that I watched her, but I saw her nearly every day. I wish I could say that she’s looking better, but she’s not.

“Did you invite Marilyn to the spa with you yesterday?” I ask discreetly.

“Yes, but she didn’t want to go,” Butterfly replies. Maybe a massage and a treatment will help Marilyn begin to feel like herself again.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I ask, loud enough for the room to hear me.

“Well, I’m not going to see my mother tomorrow because I’ll be spending the entire day with my babies.” She kisses a sleeping Minnie on the forehead. “When I was carrying them in my belly, they gave me strength when I felt like I couldn’t make it. Now, I barely know how to function when I’m away from them. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?”

“What about you, Marilyn?” I say. “Why don’t you and Keri kick back and take advantage of the free spa packages that come with these rooms?”

“Thank you, Christian,” Marilyn says. “Maybe I will some other time, but Keri, you and Gail can go, and I’ll stay here with Bosslady.” I nod and drop it, allowing Keri and Gail to coo over going to the spa. I really wish Marilyn would go. This situation actually appears to be aging her.

“Ana, I don’t mean to talk business with you, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see you alone all day. Carl sent the figures for the proceeds from Tina’s jewelry auction. It was quite the haul.”

“Really?” Butterfly asks with interest. “Did you see how much?”

“After auctioneer’s fees, 1.7 million,” she replies.

“Whoa! Really?” Butterfly exclaims. “Have you told Grace?”

“Not yet. I just saw the email before dinner,” Marilyn says.

“Do me a favor and forward it to Grace. She’s going to be thrilled. She was just telling me about the grant proposals that she and Courtney are working on.”

“Oh, yeah, speaking of Courtney,” Marilyn says, sitting back in her seat, “I talked to her today, too. Things seem to be going well overall. Her and Vick are doing great. She got her grades and she’s ecstatic…” She trails off.

“There’s a but in there, I hear it,” Butterfly says. I hear it, too. Marilyn sighs.

“She’s a bit depressed… and pissed,” Marilyn continues. “It appears that even though her relationship with Addie is flourishing, her grandfather committed a major faux pas. Just after we came to Nevada for the trial, he offered her $1 million in cash. He wasn’t convinced that she had turned her life around and he wanted her out of Addie’s life to spare Addie the heartbreak of discovering that her granddaughter was still the conniving little brat that she had previously proven to be.

“Courtney. Was. Livid. She told him that if her grandmother did give her something at this point, she would give it to Helping Hands because you guys were the only ones who gave her a chance and believed in her when she really was worthless. She told him that she completely understands how he feels and why he feels that way, but that she’s not going to allow him to torment her anymore, that she didn’t want his money, and that she never wants to see him again.”

Whoa! That’s severe.

“She really shouldn’t cut her grandfather off,” I interject. “He has a lot of contacts—in the business world, in society… He could really be helpful to her in the future.”

“He’s already cut her off, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney’s right. I totally get why Fred feels the way that he does. Courtney was insufferable and incorrigible, but she didn’t come to them asking for forgiveness, to be accepted into the family, or for any money or support from them. In fact, she shunned it. She avoided all contact with them. Addie came to her. Even then, she had the condition that if they felt the same way that they felt when they sent her back to Hukatucky or whatever the name of that place was that she didn’t want to be bothered—she was fine without them.

“I don’t know what Fred is expecting from her, but if he feels that she’s still irredeemable, then he needs to separate himself from her. Stop being around her and stop antagonizing the girl.”

“He’s only doing the same thing I did with Carla, Butterfly,” I say. “I tried to hand her money to get out of your life and leave you alone if she was coming back into your life to cause you grief and she turned it down, too.”

“It’s completely different, Christian,” Butterfly says. “Courtney was a self-centered, irresponsible little brat and that hurt Addie and Fred a lot. My mother watched me be tormented—physically and emotionally—and then she contributed to that torment. Addie and Fred discovered over the course of a few months that Courtney was a seemingly unsalvageable bad apple. I suffered for years at the hands of my mother.

“Courtney turned her life around on her own terms and decided that what she did, she would do it while no one was looking. My mother gave a moving performance about how horrible she and Green Valley were to me, about how she wishes she could take it all back and that the money I gave her is in a trust fund for the children, but she had an audience—a very large one at that. She cut her own deal to give her testimony, and even if she was totally sincere about her change of heart, I am nearly 30 fucking years old. The pain that she put me through is completely immeasurable and its effects spanned decades. One courtroom testimony—though quite stirring—won’t make up for what she put me through.

“Courtney did nothing like that to Addie and Fred, nor has she tried to come back and get in their good graces. They came to her.”

I can’t argue with her. She’s right about all of it. I just can’t help but feel like…

“I wish there was some way that everybody could come out of this not so hurt,” I admit. “We all know that Courtney was a real piece of work, but she appears to have turned her life around. And Adelaide and Fred are old and dear friends of our family. I just wish it could be easier for everybody.”

“You’re sweet,” my wife says softly, “but sometimes, this is just the way it is, baby.”

“Yeah, I know. I just don’t like it.”

*-*

My wife is happily spending the entire day in Romper Room watching various Disney movies and playing with toys like she’s a toddler herself. She awoke this morning, took the fastest shower known to man, donned a pair of yoga pants and a sweatshirt, scoffed down her breakfast way too quickly to digest, and announced that she will be spending the day in the babies suite if I wanted to find her. With her permission, I take a few hours to catch up on all things GEH.

I’ve discovered that with the new system of employee reviews, we’ve had a few resignations—some of the workers in the trenches and a couple of people in middle management, nothing to be concerned about. When asked why they were resigning, many of them gave some form of the same answer—they felt like they shouldn’t have to justify why they deserved their raises.

My company is scraping its ass on the ground like an ailing dog, being dragged down by incompetent assholes, some of whom don’t have the leadership skills of a gerbil, and I’ve got people who feel they shouldn’t have to tell me that they deserve their raises simply because they’ve done everything they were told to do… no initiative, no latent leadership skills, no problem-solving, no nothing, not even speaking up to say, “I had an idea, but my opinion wasn’t respected.”

Well, if that’s how you feel, then goodbye—and good luck on your next STAR behavioral-based interview where you’ll have to explain why you quit your last job with a very lucrative company with endless opportunities for advancement and when and if you proved at any point that you could be a valuable member of the team.

My status report has come in on the Pedophile as well. I look over the pictures that were forwarded to Alex. They’re glorious! She’s sitting in a wheelchair and her skin is hanging off of what you can see of her face. Her blonde hair is once again growing out to its brown and gray roots, and she truly looks like she’s got one foot in the grave. It truly warms my heart.

After an email or twelve to various departments and my executive team, I head down to the Romper Room suite to see my babies… all of them.

*-*

“They’re playing all your songs tonight, Al,” Butterfly laughs.

“Looks that way,” Allen concurs.

James flew down to be with Allen for the weekend and a few of us take a chance again to get out of the hotel. Butterfly found a place online called Oddfellows. It’s north, just on the outside of the Freemont Street Experience near the courthouse. It’s an alternative-type dance club where I would suspect no one would know who we are or at least they wouldn’t expect us to be here. Each night has a theme, and tonight is 80’s night, apparently right up Butterfly’s and Al’s alley.

The order of the day is jeans and casual clothes, so I didn’t have to worry about my girl wearing some skimpy dress that would be the envy of all the women and the desire of all the men. There’s a skimpy dress here and there on the dancefloor—which has a small stage and a huge, wall-sized video screen as its backdrop—but not Butterfly. No, she wants to dance and gyrate, and that silk shirt, black jeans, and Louboutin stilettos are still enough to showcase that beautiful body and cause a few women to sneer and more than a few men to salivate.

My girl has had a Cosmo or two and is bouncing happily in her seat to the music, an eclectic mix of artists from what sounds like the 80’s and maybe a touch of the early 90’s.

“So, how do you distinguish between Allen’s songs and your songs?” I ask. “You’re both singing them all.”

“Well, Al was the quintessential white boy, so he introduced me to Billy Joel, Duran Duran, the B-52’s, A-ha, and Wham, to name a few. I was the reverse Oreo, so to speak, so I introduced him to Motown, Kool and the Gang, Bobby Brown, and Salt-n-Pepa. It appears that they are tapping into the 80’s white boy tonight.”

Just as she finishes that statement, the familiar twang of the beginning of Take On Me fills the air and my girl deliberately begins to wildly bob her head like a hand-banger, after which she leaps to her feet and begins to do that dance where the girls bounce back and forth on their toes from one foot to the other, her hands doing a calmer version of the swim, and all I can think to myself as she and Al pipe out the lyrics is, “Who is this girl?”

She went to the hospital briefly this afternoon and when she returned, I was informed that we were going out tonight. She disappeared into the bedroom for an hour or two and when she emerged, she was wearing the ensemble that she’s wearing now, quickly putting the kibosh on my more formal garb and instructing me to go and change. We’ve had a seafood dinner and my wife and her gay boyfriend are feasting on a dessert of Cosmos and 80’s music.

Once A-Ha has finished singing the last bars of the song and the lead singer bursts out of the cartoon world and into live color on the life-sized screen, Allen and Butterfly return to the table with me and James to quench their parched throats with a swallow or three of their Cosmos. Just as they’re catching their breath and reminiscing over yet another 80’s tune, an unfamiliar intro of horns begins to play. Butterfly looks up at Allen in acknowledgement and Allen raises a brow at her.

“Do you remember it?” Allen asks her.

“Of course, I remember it!” Butterfly replies.

“Well, what’re we waitin’ for?” Allen says, sliding out of the booth. Butterfly giggles as he takes her hand and they head off to the dancefloor. I look at Jason, who just shrugs. A few moments later, we watch as Allen and Butterfly break into a perfectly choreographed routine of what looks like a mixture between a foxtrot and a jive, and with all the spins and perfect steps they’re doing, you can’t really tell who’s leading. I look over at James, who’s as stunned as I am to see them dancing together like that. They actually look like they can compete professionally.

What’s more, I don’t think I’ve seen my wife smile this widely in weeks.

“Do you ever feel left out of their little club?” I ask James honestly. He shakes his head as he swallows his beer.

“No,” he says, “Allie makes sure that doesn’t happen. We have our own little club and everybody can’t be a part of that one.” He raises his brow and takes another drink of his beer. I remember Butterfly mentioning to me once that they dabbled a bit in the lifestyle. I don’t know if they’re still in it or how deeply they’ve gone, and I dare not ask without invitation, but he’s right—no one should be privy to the “marriage” club relationship unless you’re practicing Polyamory, and that’s a huge no-no for me and Butterfly. I don’t want anyone else’s hands—male or female—on my woman!

“I’ve never seen a friendship like theirs,” James continues. “Never. If I wasn’t certain of Allie’s love for me, I’d feel threatened. I’m a little jealous that I never had a friendship like that in my entire life.”

“I think we’re both lucky to have found them,” I tell him. “They’re in love with each other as much as two people can be in love and not share a sexual relationship. For her to have the capacity to love him unconditionally and then love me, too… yeah, I’m the luckiest man alive.”

“I might have to dispute you on that one, Chris,” he says, watching his husband finish a flawless dance with my wife. They were clearly in their own world and appear a bit surprised to discover that the dancers cleared a small hole in the dance floor for them to finish their routines while the spectators looked on, and they’re a bit taken aback when the room erupts into applause for them.

I discover later that the song that gave them dancing feet is called Mambo #5.

My girl returns to her seat and a Cosmo and a bottle of water later, she’s back on the dance floor, perfectly mimicking the steps—and adding a few of her own—to the Salt-n-Pepa, Push It and Janet Jackson Control videos.  

And now I know how my girl learned to dance. She probably spent quite a bit of time mimicking music videos.

I have to admit that concept behind the Tainted Love video, I can’t get with that. It looks too creepy to me. I’m surprised that I’ve never seen it before now. He’s singing to a little girl—he looks like a fucking pedophile. Jason notices my expression and leans over to me.

“You okay, Boss?” he asks.

“This song was popular back in the day, I remember it,” I tell him. “This was the concept behind it the whole time?” He looks at the video, then looks back at me.

“I… I don’t know,” he says. “But you know the eighties, Boss. There was a lot of artistic expression that didn’t necessarily make sense.”

“There’s nothing confusing about that,” I retort. “He’s singing to a child about tainted love. That’s disgusting! Who approved this message?”

“I wouldn’t get too upset about it, Boss,” Jason says. “The song is 35 years old and the guy singing it is probably twice as old…” and probably out molesting children if his video is any indication!

I purse my lips and shake my head. How jaded must my mind be to get this angry over a 35-year-old video whose director obviously adopted a very fucked up sense of creative license?

“You’re not off the mark on this one, Chris,” James says, bringing my attention back to him. “I think it’s weird, too, and that’s putting it nicely. It’s making me pretty fucking uncomfortable. That song was originally done in the 60’s by an artist named Gloria Jones—this is a cover. She made it very clear that it’s about a relationship gone sour and she’s singing to her lover about how she feels their love is one-sided and now putrid. Where the concept falls that he’s singing to a little girl is beyond me.”

“Thank you!” I say, throwing my hand in the air. “I’m not crazy! I still like the song, but that video sucks!” I bottom out my bear and search for the waitress to get another one. While I’m searching the room, my eyes land on Butterfly and her lifetime dance partner now dominating the floor to Paula Abdul’s Straight Up.

I’m mesmerized once again watching her mimic the moves in the music video with Allen as the perfectly in-sync backup dancer. I completely forget what I was bitching about watching her flawlessly execute that Butterfly thing that Paula Abdul does with her legs. She’s graceful and beautiful and if there’s conversation going on around me, I can’t even hear it anymore. I could watch her all day.

Next, another Paula Abdul song comes on accompanied by a video that would disturb me as much as the Tainted Love video… if it wasn’t so cute. It’s the video for Opposites Attract, and Paula’s love interest is—of all things—a cartoon cat. The entire video is a dance video and she and Allen never miss a step. They use whatever room the other dancers give them, whether it’s a few feet or the entire stage area of the dance floor. After watching her execute some of the rubber-band moves of Paula Abdul, many people usually just move out of the way. I’m totally blown away when she and Allen mimic the tap dancing scene near the end of the video.

Fuck, is there anything this woman can’t do?

They stroll back to the table like Paula and ScatCat strolls off the screen at the end of the video, smiling so hard that their faces should break. Amidst the thunderous applause and cheers, they’re cut off by one of the women that was dancing just before they get to the table.

“Are you guys a couple?” she asks. “You look great together!”

“Thank you,” Butterfly says sincerely. “No, we’re not. Actually, we’re both married. He’s my gay boyfriend.” She squeezes his hand and lays her head on his shoulder.

“And she’s my fag hag,” Allen replies, laying his head on hers.

“Wow, really?” the girl says, somewhat wistfully. “You’re kind of hot.” James reaches up and takes his husband’s free hand, guiding him to the seat next to him.

“I think so, too,” James says protectively.

“Wow,” she says, looking at Allen and his husband, “two hot guys. You can’t go anywhere in public, can you?”

James chuckles loudly and Allen laughs as the young lady’s eyes travel around the table and land—widely—on me. Butterfly slides into the booth next to me and latches onto my arm, smiling at the girl.

“Please tell me that’s another one of your gay boyfriends cuz I’ll turn him straight,” she says without taking her eyes off me. Butterfly shakes her head and flashes her rings.

“Nope. Husband,” she says with a smile.

“Shit!” she says. “Sorry,” she says to Butterfly, repentant and with pouty lips, then she rolls her eyes. “Three hot guys.” Her eyes wander to a lone Jason sitting on the opposite side of the table in a chair he commandeered and brought to the table. Before she can question, he holds up his finger and flashes his ring.

“Fuck!” she exclaims. “Four hot pieces of man-candy and they’re all taken! Figures!” She throws her hands up and marches, frustrated, away from the table, causing us to burst out in laughter while Jason just shakes his head.

“I had no idea you guys could tap dance!” I point out once our admirer has left.

“She can’t, I can,” Allen says, proudly.

“Well, she was doing a pretty good job up there,” James says.

“Only because he taught me that routine,” Butterfly says before taking a healthy chug of what must be room-temperature water.

“And she scares the shit outta me doing it in stilettos!” Allen chimes in. “The entire time, I was afraid that she would tweak her damn ankle!”

“But I didn’t, so keep your shirt on,” she says, waving down a waitress.

“My girl can do anything in stilettos,” I say, remembering what she said to me after our first night together. James’ brow furrows.

“Anything?” he asks, puzzled.

“Anything,” Butterfly confirms.

“Can you rock climb?” Jason asks, with a smirk.

“If it’s me or the rock, I’ll figure it out,” she replies.

The waitress has made her way to the table and Butterfly gets another round of drinks, lots of water, and soda for Jason. Once the waitress returns, I hand her a $100 bill and thank her for the drinks.

“I’m hungry again,” Butterfly announces after chugging an entire bottle of water.

“I can see why,” I say. “You’ve done a workout up there that would put Zumba to shame.”

“And I’m sweating like a pig,” she says, pulling the material of her shirt from her body repeatedly, using it to fan herself. “Give me your blazer,” she says.

“Why? Are you cold?” I ask.

“I will be in a minute if you don’t give me your blazer,” she says, and snatches her drenched silk shirt right over her head… in the middle of the damn club. I’m stunned just looking at those beautiful mounds held up by a stylish black sports bra.

“Shit!” Jason says, ripping off his suit jacket to cover Butterfly while she uses her 100% silk shirt to dry her sweat to a background of whooping onlookers.

“Your Highness!” Jason scolds over the music.

“Heeeeey! We agreed!” Butterfly protests.

“Your. Highness!” Jason reinforces, saying the second word so hard that Butterfly jumps in her seat. “Please! Don’t ever do that again!”

She stares at him like a child being scolded by her father. His words are a request. His tone is, “If you pull that shit again, you’re grounded for a month.”

“Okay, okay, sorry,” she says in a whiny, petulant, teenager voice. She buttons the suit jacket which is at least three sizes too big for her, her sports bra still peeking out from the neckline. She rolls the sleeves up to accommodate her hands, never raising her gaze to any of us while she’s doing it. I’m certain that she’s feeling chastised and a bit embarrassed. She had better be glad I was hypnotized by her tits or my reaction may have been a bit more… animated.

“Okay,” I say when she has fiddled with the sleeves a bit too long. “Back to the dancefloor.”

I push her out of the booth and slide out behind her. I’m dragging her to the dancefloor by her hand and she’s somewhat stomping behind me with her head down like I just told her to go to her room.

Geez, Butterfly, spoiled much?

I dance a little with her and she’s not into it at all, doing the obligatory two-step with minimal movements of her arms.

Well, this will never do.

“Okay. Fine. You don’t want to dance with me? I’ll dance by myself.”

I turn away from my wife and begin a series of crazy gyrations reminiscent of the final scene of Footloose. It’s not really bad, except if you take away the weird dresses and prom decorations, you’ve got one guy on the floor looking like he’s having a seizure.

When I turn back to my wife, she’s got one arm crossed over her chest and one hand covering her mouth, stifling a smile that she’s trying not to let show.

“No?” I say, shaking my head. “Okay, how about this?” For my next rendition, ladies and gentlemen…

I begin a really bad… and I do mean really bad rendition of Austin Powers’ fembots dance. Seriously, the dance was already bad on its own, but I made it worse. Now, both my wife’s hands are covering her mouth. And for my finale, folks…

I break into a flawless rendition of Napoleon Dynamite’s “Vote for Pedro” dance to Canned Heat… only I’m dancing to Break My Stride. And, well, flawless may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I must admit that Napoleon Dynamite was one of my guilty pleasures, so I know that routine very well. If it’s not flawless, it’s pretty damn close.

“Okay, okay, you’re making a fool of yourself!” my wife says, halting my exquisite execution through her laughter by putting her arms around my waist.

“Yeah, but I made you laugh, didn’t I?” I say victoriously.

“Heartily,” she says as I pull her against me and kiss her quickly.

“And he’s right,” I say, holding her over Jason’s way too big suit jacket. “What you did was worthy of a punishment. If you ever do it again, you’re going to get one, and you’re not going to like it. Understand?”

My voice is sober, but not harsh. It’s matter-of-fact. If you’re a bad little Pussycat, you’re going to get spanked. She nods and drops her head like a good little soumise.

“Yes, Sir,” she replies softly, and I hear it loud and clear as if she were speaking through a bullhorn. I put my finger under her chin and lift her head.

“Good girl,” I say, kissing her softly again on the lips. “Now, let’s go find something to eat.” I take her by the hand and lead her from the dancefloor.


ANASTASIA

Last night’s workout has turned out to be murder on my joints. I’m exhausted and sore, but not too tired to have breakfast with my children. I’m able to convince Marilyn to have a few pieces of fruit, but I’m certain that we’re going to have to graduate to more real food for her very soon. While Pedialyte, Ensure, and smoothies offer sufficient nutrition for her, she can’t survive off of those things indefinitely.

“Daddy, why do you call me ‘Sunflower?’” I ask when we are the last two people at the table. He raises his brow.

“I’ve… called you that almost since you were born,” he says. “Why do you ask?” I drop my gaze.

“My mother’s favorite flower is a sunflower,” I say. “It took me nearly 30 years to find that out and I found out from a stranger.” Daddy gasps.

“Oh,” he says, sadly. “I forgot all about that. Yeah, that might have been where it came from, come to think of it. I did love that woman once upon a time… very much. It wouldn’t have been too far fetched. I’ll stop if it bothers you…”

“Absolutely not!” I scold. “’Sunflower’ is something special between us that just happens to be her favorite flower.” Daddy nods and drops his head.

“I know why you didn’t tell me everything, but it hurts that you didn’t tell me everything.” I sigh heavily.

“I didn’t have the heart, Daddy,” I reply. “Those details are even hard for me to watch right now, and I remember everything vividly, like it happened yesterday. It was selfish of me not to prepare you guys for what was coming, but what could I do?”

“Nothing, Sunflower,” he says, his eyes filling with tears. “You couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t do anything then and you couldn’t do anything now.” He throws his gaze to the ceiling, trying to fight his tears.

“The only times I’ve ever cried was over you,” he admits. “I was broken when I lost Carla. I was destroyed when I lost you. It was the worst pain I had ever felt when you left me.” I cover my mouth and choke back a sob.

“I know, Daddy,” I say once I’m able to speak. “I felt the same way about you. All those horrible things she made me say to you…”

“I knew it wasn’t you, Annie,” he says. “The words weren’t yours and I could tell right away…” He trails off. “When I showed up at that hospital and you were all frail and weak, dear God, I wanted to burn this city down to find out what had happened to you. I was so angry with Carla. She couldn’t even tell me what was going on! She didn’t have any answers. She blamed you the entire time I talked to her, saying that she had no idea what you had gotten into. Your bruises were mostly healed, but you still looked broken. The pictures that I saw… I had seen men tortured in POW camps that didn’t look that bad.

“All these years, she just walked around like, ‘Shit happens,’” he says, his voice cracking. “Then, she had the nerve to show up at the hospital after you were kidnapped; all that shit she said in the press… Who the hell does she think she is?”

Daddy is getting angry and he’s crying freely now. Daddy’s right—I don’t remember ever seeing him cry. Marines don’t cry, but he’s crying now.

“How could she birth someone into the world and then treat her that way?” he sobs. “I wouldn’t treat a dog the way she treated you. And dear God in heaven, when she called me and told me that you were missing again…!”

Daddy is weeping now. His body is shaking violently with his sobs. I hold his hands tightly as he cries, my own dam bursting along with his. He’s been holding this in for a lot of years. He needs to get it out.

“I did everything I could to keep you,” he sobs. “This never would have happened if she had just let me keep you. I would have protected you… spared you all this agony…”

“I know, Daddy,” I weep. “I know you would.”

“Your capacity for kindness never ceases to amaze me, Annie,” my father says with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I’m not ashamed to say that after hearing her version of what happened, and what she felt, and knowing what you went through, I would have immediately pulled the plug on that woman!” He says the last part through gritted teeth.

“I’m angry and hurt for everything that she did to me,” I admit, “everything that she allowed to happen to me—from ripping me away from you to allowing her monster of a husband to mistreat me to the entire ordeal with Green Valley. I’m hurt and disappointed and enraged down to my very soul… but if I just let her die, then I’m no better than she is.

“At the end of the day, I have to live with my decision. That’s why I’m making sure that she’s getting the best care, but it’s not out of love or devotion. It’s out of human obligation. I’m her next of kin, and I will see her through to the end of her advanced directive or until she awakes, whichever comes first. Then, I’ll put her in a nursing home or the grave, whichever is necessary.”

“That’s still more kindness than she deserves as far as I’m concerned,” Daddy says, wiping his eyes. “I would either be donating her body to science or walking away and leaving her right where she lay! I guess the Man Upstairs has to work on my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven her for what she put you through.” I squeeze his hands.

“Forgive her, Daddy,” I say, through my sniffles. “I have. I can’t hold onto it anymore. I forgave her years ago when I gave her that money and told her to get out of my life. It still frustrates me that she did the things that she did, and that she was so heartless and cruel, hence my recent meltdown. That’s what happens when I dwell on it. That’s why I don’t dwell on it. You shouldn’t either.” He sighs heavily.

“You’re so wise, Annie, that it scares me sometimes,” he admits.

“Trust me, it can be a very heavy cross to bear,” I lament, wrapping my arms around my Daddy and hugging him with all my might.

Later that afternoon, I stop in at the hospital to collect more cards from more flowers and have some of the older arrangements removed. I told the nurse that she could decide what to do with them since some of them look like they may have been dying. I can still see the disapproval in her eyes when I give her instructions even though she doesn’t say anything to me about how she feels. It’s none of her business anyway. Henry, my mother’s guard today, shows me her visitors’ log.

Fourteen people have been here to see her since I said she could have visitors. What was that, like a couple of days ago?

I push down the anger, envy, and resentment that I feel each time I think about the number of visitors that this selfish adult grandmother has received in just the past few days that a 15-year-old girl wasn’t afforded in several weeks.

“Neti, neti,” I repeat to myself, standing in my mother’s room. “Neti, neti…”

Studying with Marilyn about meditation and restorative yoga, I came upon this simple Sanskrit chant. Neti, neti which simply means not this, not this. It’s used to push away bad omens, bad thoughts, bad situations. I use it to try to cleanse myself of the hateful feelings and energy that consume me when it comes to dealing with this woman. My negative energy can’t be conducive to her healing, and it’s certainly not conducive to mine.

“Neti, neti… neti, neti… neti, neti…”

I recite the damn thing all the way back to the hotel.

*-*

“Aunt Ana!”

Sophie gives me a big hug once she and Gail get to the hotel Saturday evening. She appears to be very happy to be here.

“Sophie!” I say, returning her embrace. “So… Vegas. How many of your friends can say this is where they’re spending their semester break?”

“None,” she giggles. “Most of them are talking about going to some exotic place for spring break, but I’m in Vegas now!” I laugh with her. There’s no use in spreading my hatred for this place. A lot of people like it here; I just don’t.

“I know that Gail and Jason have some things planned, but I’ve got a thing or two planned as well,” I tell her.

“It’s not all kiddie things, is it?” she laments. “I want to do some kiddie things, like I want to go to the Adventure Dome, but I don’t want to do all kiddie things. I want to do some grown-up things, too.”

“Like a Las Vegas food tour?” I ask, “Or dinner at one of the world-renowned chef’s restaurants?”

“Yeah!” she replies, starry-eyed.

“Well, that’s what I’ve got planned,” I tell her, and she hops in place and claps.

“Oh, yay!” she says. “When do we go?”

“The restaurant is tomorrow night, and the food tour is Tuesday. Is there anything else besides Adventure Dome that you want to do while we’re here?”

“I want to go to Sur La Table,” she says. “I’ve been to the one in Pike’s Place and I wasn’t really impressed. I want to see what the one here looks like.” I nod.

“Your wish is my command,” I tell her. “I’ll talk to Gail and Jason and see what they’ve got planned and we’ll fit it in among their plans, okay?” Sophie nods happily.

“Okay,” she says. I type into my phone memos to check out Sur La Table. The moment Google sees the name, it suggests the cooking classes that they have at the store in Summerlin. That would be fantastic! I’m glad my phone is on silent or Google would have blown my entire plan!

“Aunt Ana… I know why you’re here,” she says solemnly. I raise my gaze to her. I don’t really know how to respond. “It’s all over the news at home.”

I swallow hard. How do you explain something like this to a 13-year-old girl?

“I know about your mom, too,” she says, looking at her hands. “I just wanted to get that out.”

“Okay,” I reply.

“I don’t really understand this whole thing,” she says, her brow furrowed. “I really thought the police were supposed to help you.” I sigh heavily.

“Most of the time, they are,” I reply. “This guy… had a brother he wanted to protect more than me.”

“Well, that’s just… crappy,” she says. I know what she really wants to say, and crappy wasn’t it. “Everybody has somebody they want to protect. Does that mean that I have to worry about if the police are going to put somebody else’s well-being before me?”

I shake my head. I can’t tell her that this won’t happen. They very well might put someone else’s well-being before her for many reasons, including but not limited to protecting their own family.

“Let’s hope that’s not the case, Sophie,” I tell her. “I would think that overall, the police would want to do the right thing, which is to protect and serve the public. I feel that even though there may be a few bad apples, overall, the police are good people.”

“I hope you’re right,” she says, “but I still think I want Daddy to teach me how to shoot when I’m old enough.”

“Well, it’s not a bad skill to have,” I concur. She’s quiet for a moment.

“What they did to you,” she says, looking down at her hands, “it was horrible. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard… even more horrible than my mom doing drugs… even more horrible than here trying to sell me to that guy…”

“That was pretty horrible,” I interrupt her with a furrowed brow.

“This was worse,” she said. “Somebody saved me… the police saved me. Nobody saved you… and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

I’m doing my best not to get choked up. I know what she means, but that’s a huge responsibility for a little girl to take on about something that happened before she was even born.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, baby,” I tell her, taking her hands. “These were horrible people and they did a horrible thing, and now they’re being punished.”

“I’m still sorry,” she says, now looking in my eyes, “I’m sorry that someone came to save me, and no one came to save you.” Oh, dear God.

I know what she’s feeling, and I can’t explain it away. I just take her in my arms and give her a really big hug.

“Thank you, Sophie,” I say, trying to keep my voice from cracking. “I think that’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me.”

*-*

Dinner tonight is at the Buffet at Aria, and poor Sophie wants to try everything on the menu. The food is spectacular, the dessert divine, and my honorary niece is eating herself into a stupor. Even my normally picky eater Mackenzie is shoveling different fruits and vegetables into her mouth.

Marilyn didn’t even bother to succumb to the pressure of a buffet, so she’s sitting this one out.

“We’re in Vegas,” Christian says to Chuck while Keri and Gail are off at the food stations. “Have you asked her?”

“Of course, I have,” Chuck replies. “I didn’t expect her to be here, so I left the ring at home, but I was prepared to buy another one if she had said, ‘yes.’”

“So, I take it that it was a ‘no,’” Christian replies. Chuck sighs.

“She’s afraid of something, but I don’t know what it is,” Chuck replies. “I adore her, and I’m certain that she loves me. I just don’t know why she won’t marry me.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to be beholden to you,” I say. “I love Christian very much, but I wouldn’t want that either.”

“Well, first of all, I wouldn’t do that to her,” Chuck says, slightly affronted. “And second of all, she wouldn’t be. She’s here on her own visa and her job is with you, just like mine is. Granted, she got it because of her affiliation to me, but let’s face it. As much as I love her, if she was shit, you guys wouldn’t let her tend to your children. And now, she’s got her teaching certification, so she really doesn’t need me that way. I don’t think that’s it.”

I think it is. I think she doesn’t want to lose her independence and that she’s afraid that if she marries an American and she’s Anguillan, that’s just what might happen.

“I see those wheels spinning,” Chuck accuses. “You know something I don’t.”

“You’re right,” I confess. “I know how it feels as a woman making my own way and not wanting to lose that feeling. As much as I’ve become accustomed to the lifestyle that I enjoy with my husband, if something happened and I lost it all tomorrow…”

“Which is impossible,” Christian interjects.

“But if it did,” I retort, “I could still go out into the big, wide world and fend for myself. I’m just saying. I don’t know if that’s the problem, but maybe you should ask her what she needs in order to make that step. It may not be that she doesn’t want to spend her life with you. It may just be that you’re asking the wrong question.” He rolls his eyes.

“No offense, Ana, but I can’t hear the shrink right now. I love that girl, and if asking her to marry me is not the right question, then I don’t know what is. Excuse me.”

He stands and heads for the door, and I think he’s going to the restroom. I watch him leave, then crack my neck and finish my wine.

“I’m sorry I asked,” Christian says. I shake my head.

“It’s not your fault,” I reply. “I’m always trying to shrink someone else and I can’t even shrink myself. I’m all tied in knots in this place. I’m barely hanging on from day to day. You all had to bring my children down here to keep me grounded. Who am I to try to give someone advice on how to live?”

“A licensed psychiatrist and a damn good one,” he says, putting his arm around the back of my chair. “You do know what you’re talking about, and you’re right. He just doesn’t want to hear it. He’s raw from another let-down. And baby? When a doctor is ill, she doesn’t diagnose herself without tests. Don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have all the answers for all this crazy shit that’s going on in your life.”

I will not cry…
I will not cry…

“I thought I was supposed to be the shrink,” I say, laughing to fight my tears. He smiles widely and kisses me on the cheek.

“We both know I’m no shrink,” he replies. “I just love you and I want you to be happy.”

I smile and lean on his shoulder. I love Chuck and Keri, too, and I want them to be happy. I just wish I knew what was really holding up Keri’s decision


A/N: Freeds opened in Vegas—Henderson to be exact—in 2017, not 2015. Creative license.

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 17

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 17

CHRISTIAN

“Oh, absolutely, Mr. Grey.”

I don’t want Butterfly to know what I’m doing, so I’ve come down to the concierge’s office to make all of the arrangements. Percy informs me that he will do whatever is necessary to make my children comfortable for our stay. He has a second desk in his office, and he has allowed me to use it to make calls to get the children here without Butterfly knowing. She’s going to see her mother today out of duty, but she’s in bed this morning. She said she didn’t feel like getting up after that horrible crying spell she had last night. I told her that I was going to have a meeting with security—which I did—but now, I’m handling getting the children here.

“I’ve ordered two new cribs and baby linens from Buttercup Baby,” Percy says. “They’ll be here by noon and they assemble them for us as well.”

“Outstanding,” I tell him. “I’m surprising my wife and I’m sure that she wouldn’t be comfortable with the babies sleeping in cribs that have been used by others. You know new mothers…”

“Yes, sir, I do,” he says with a smile. “My youngest is four.” He winks. “We’re childproofing the Presidential Suite down the hall from your security suites. We’ll remove one of the beds from the two-bed room and it should accommodate the cribs nicely. We’ll also remove unnecessary furnishings from the suite to make room for any other equipment, playthings, etc. that we’ll be moving into the room. The childproofing should take about an hour and should be done by the time the cribs arrive.”

“Can you order supplies from that baby store, too? Diapers and such… I’ll have our nanny prepare a list for you. I don’t want them to have to pack the entire house on the jet. The refrigerator will need to be stocked, too. I’ll just have her call you. Her name is Gail Taylor.” He raises his brow.

“Taylor… any relation to Mr. Taylor?” he asks. I nod.

“She’s his wife,” I reply with a smile. “Long story.”

“No doubt,” Percy says with a smile. “When do you want the suite to be complete?”

“No later than tomorrow morning if you can pull that off. I’ll be eternally grateful,” I reply. “You have my Amex on file. Use it however you need and give me itemized documentation of what’s spent. Even a billionaire knows a write-off when he sees one.” Percy nods.

“I can pull it off. Leave it to me, Mr. Grey,” he assures me and leaves the office. I call Gail and give her Percy’s direct number, then inform her to have the children ready to travel in the morning. I’ve recruited Marilyn to help us with baby care duties for the rest of the week as Keri will be coming alone with the twins and their security details. Gail and Sophie will come on the weekend and stay the next week as Sophie will be on winter break next week and the stay won’t interfere with school. She and Gail can stay the week and then go back to Seattle while we sit in this holding pattern.

Everything has to be done covertly so as not to tip Butterfly off. I’m certain that if I suggest bringing the twins here, she’s going to disagree and try to kibosh the idea, but once they’re here, she’s going to be really happy.

I go back to the suite and find Butterfly in the living room, lounging across the big chair in one of the terrycloth robes.

“Is everything okay?” she asks when I enter the living room.

“As well as can be expected. Nothing’s burning down,” I say, feigning disinterest. “What’re you doing?”

“Talking to Laura and being amazed by how news from America gets to her faster than it gets to me,” she replies. Oh, dear Lord, what now?

“Well, she’s active on social media, darling, and you’re not,” I remind her.

“Maybe I should be more active, then,” she replies. I immediately panic.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Butterfly,” I warn. “We could very easily become targets of some crazed lunatic. You know there are people who stalk social media to find out your habits, your comings and goings, any weaknesses that they can exploit.”

“Oh, keep your shirt on,” she says. “I’m not talking about exposing trade secrets or the combination to the family safe. I’m just talking about paying more attention to certain topics. I’ve already set up a Twitter account with Laura’s help.” I frown.

“Another account?” I lament. “Butterfly, if you share even the slightest opinion, someone may be able to decipher who you are.” She turns her gaze to me.

“Christian, even the POTUS has a Twitter account. You really need to lighten up,” she says before turning her gaze back to the phone.

“Yeah, but he has a much better security force than we do,” I comment. She looks at me and rolls her eyes. “You’re asking for it,” I add.

“Sure, I am,” she says, still scrolling through her phone. “Relax, Christian. There’s so many Anastasia Greys and Christian Greys that if I were to put my name, rank, and serial number on here, they still wouldn’t know it was me.”

“You don’t have a rank and serial number,” I reply. She glares at me.

“Okay, this portion of the conversation is over or you’re going to frustrate the fuck out of me.” Well, I’m not trying to do that. I just want her to be careful.

“What’s your handle?” I ask. She raises a brow at me.

“Why? Are you going to send me a friend’s request?” she says sarcastically. I give her a knowing look. “Oh, gosh, seriously, Christian?” she whines.

“Anastasia?” I warn. She sighs heavily and rolls her eyes again.

“I’ve told you before, I’m sure, but it’s Mercer Doctor Lady. And quite frankly, Christian, there’s nothing to stop me from making as many IDs as I want,” she retorts.

“Except that you won’t because you know that I won’t be pleased,” I reply, sending off a text to Mac about my wife’s new hobby and her username.

“Keep fucking with me,” she mumbles, and I’m sure that I wasn’t supposed to hear it. I raise my gaze to her and she’s looking back at her phone.

“So, what’s the word on the Greys in Cyberland?” I ask.

“Nothing new,” she says. “Just that my mother is dying in the hospital and a bit of buzz about my purple silk suit, that’s all.”

“Your mother is dying?” I ask, my brow furrows.

“Not that I know of,” she replies, “but with that advanced directive, who knows?” Her thumbs are typing away on her phone. “Jax says, ‘G’day.’” I chuckle aloud imagining Jaxon’s accent saying that very thing.

“Tell him, ‘G’day,’” I reply mocking a very bad Australian accent.

“They’re talking about maybe coming to the States sometime this year since they have new friends in Seattle,” she adds.

“That would be great,” I reply enthusiastically. “Tell them to let us know for sure since we’re planning to do Rome this summer.”

“Do we have dates yet?” she asks as she types into her phone.

“No, but we should probably work on that soon,” I reply. “Are you going to the hospital today?

“I haven’t decided yet,” she says. She drops her hands into her lap with her phone. “Christian, is it wrong that I resent her flowers?” I pause.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I say. “Why do you resent her flowers?”

“Because nobody sent any to me,” she says, gazing in front of her at nothing. “I don’t remember how long I was in that hospital and no one sent me anything—no ‘get well’ wishes, no flowers or stuffed toys, nothing. She’s got so many flowers in her room that if she gets any more, I’m going to have to have some of them taken away. I didn’t get a damn thing. The only present I got was Daddy coming to get me out of there. I’m jealous and I’m angry and I don’t think she deserves it. What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Not a damn thing,” I chime in quickly, and she turns her gaze to me. “The only thing that I see wrong is that you’re asking if you’re wrong. The woman who was supposed to love you over everything else left you to die. You awoke alone in that cold and sterile room and you were only 15 years old. Notwithstanding anything that happened before or after that moment, no human being—let alone a young girl—can be expected to walk away from that unscathed. As far as I’m concerned, you have every right to resent the human kindness that’s being shown to her, apparently by several people, when this one person who should have extended a mother’s love to you didn’t do it. And that’s my professional opinion.”

“Your professional opinion?” she says with a strained smirk.

“Yes,” I say, moving over to sit on the floor next to her chair and taking her hand. “I think what you’re doing right now is nothing short of amazing, and that anyone else in your position who has been through what you’ve been through would let that woman rot… and rightfully so.” She looks at the ceiling and sighs.

“Inside,” she says, “deep inside where I’m hurting and I don’t let anybody in, that’s really what I want to do. I want to walk away from this whole thing and let all of her flower bearers take care of her, but I can’t. I can’t bring myself to do it. For so many reasons that I can’t verbalize, I can’t bring myself to do it.”

“Butterfly, take comfort in the fact that you’re a good person with a conscious. You’re a better person to your mother than your mother ever was to you, and if the only drawback that you have is that you resent those damn flowers, then resent those damn flowers. I recommend that you start getting rid of them when you get back to the hospital if there’s that many…”

“I’m not trying to be petty, Christian,” she protests.

“You’re not being petty,” I retort. “Getting rid of all of them, that’s petty. Getting rid of some of them, that’s not. You’re just thinning them out.” She sighs.

“I could send them to rooms with people who don’t have any flowers… like I was.” She drops her gaze into her lap. She’s reliving this whole thing over again and it hurts like hell to watch it. I rise to my knees, cup her cheeks in my hands, and kiss her gently.

“I think that would be a wonderful idea,” I tell her, rubbing my nose against hers. “Guess what I found out?”

“What?” she asks.

“That place with the crazy cakes on television—Vegas Cakes?”

“Yes,” she says expecting.

“It’s called Freed’s Bakery and they’re just down the road a bit. What do you say we order some sweets and get lost in a mountain of German Chocolate and fruit tarts? They deliver.” A wide smile spreads across her face.

“Oh, Christian, that would be divine!”

*-*

We spend what’s left of the morning and a good part of the afternoon in sugar-induced giddiness, after which my wife decides to let Mini-Morton sleep in peace for the day and she and Allen head to the spa for the rest of the afternoon. Now, I don’t know how appropriate it is, but I feel like we need to get back to ourselves. What always helps me get back to myself is a good scene.

We haven’t been in the playroom since we started seeing Artemis and Savvina, which means we haven’t had full-on playtime while exploring our new rules and dynamic. I know that we need to be mindful of what we’ve learned, but making too many advanced plans for a scene somewhat defeats the purpose. It’s more like an appointment instead of playtime, and who needs that?

I take the time that my wife is in the spa to do a little shopping. I haven’t been BDSM shopping in a while, not for travel toys, anyway. That trip in Australia was quick and dirty. This one will be slightly different—travel toys that can go home with us if we like. She had a wonderful reaction to that paintbrush on her clit. I never would have thought of that had the girl in the store not told me about it.

I’ve found some divine toys and bondage items at this store called Lovers Lane. I’m taking a chance coming here, but I don’t want to get any substandard products and my research tells me that this place is the best.

A blindfold, a leather crop, a butt plug, some oils, lube, sanitizer…

Thigh-high black stockings with the thick lace, elastic trim—no garter required…

BDSM wax play candles…

I pick out a few items that I need, the old faithful implements as well as a few new ones. I buy more things than I plan to use, but I’m going to try to use as many of them as I can, even if our escapade has to pick up on another night.

I’m a little aroused already thinking of the things I plan to do to my Pussycat. I’ll have to ease her into the new stuff and gauge her reactions to them. Hopefully, she’ll remember what she’s learned about her limits, but it’ll give me great pleasure to watch her carefully and see for myself what things she can and cannot take. I remember my training, and I’m going to take it slow, but I think we both need a scene right now—a pretty intense one at that.

I can hardly wait to get my hands on my little Pussycat

*-*

“Christian?”

I hear her call my name when she gets back to the suite. She stopped for Chinese with Allen, giving me more time to prepare myself and the suite for playtime. We won’t play in the bedroom. That’s too predictable. The en suites are not practical with all the hard surfaces, but we’ll be utilizing the rest of the suite as needed.

I emerge from the bedroom in my Dom uniform—black slacks, white linen shirt, and socks and shoes. I’m careful to never present myself to her in only this simple garb… unless I’m ready for action. She’s removing her coat and stops, stuck in suspended animation when she sees me. I slowly close the space between us, and finish removing her coat, tossing it onto a nearby chair.

“Would you like to play, Pussycat?” I ask in my Dom voice. She swallows hard and her pupils dilate.

“Yes, Sir,” she breathes, dropping her gaze immediately. I put my finger under her chin and raise her gaze to mine. Then I take a few steps back.

“Take off your clothes,” I say. “Don’t take your eyes off mine.”

She steps out of her shoes as she undoes her slacks, not slowly or sensually, but at a leisurely pace… not hurried, just comfortable, careful to keep her gaze on mine.

She slides out of her slacks and tosses them on the chair with her coat. Next, she undoes the buttons of her shirt, removes it and tosses it onto the chair as well. She’s standing there in her bra, panties, and pantyhose awaiting instruction.

“Everything,” I command. She slides carefully out of her pantyhose and panties simultaneously before reaching behind her and undoing her bra, all of her underthings joining her other garments on the chair.

I stand there and soak her in for a while—her full, round breasts, her curvy hips and luscious thighs, her shaved core hiding from me…

You’ll fuck her soon enough, Grey. Draw it out… make it worth it.

I reach in my pocket and retrieve the stockings.

“Put these on,” I say, handing them to her. She takes them from my hand and proceeds to gather the first one to put it on. I walk behind her to observe that glorious ass when she bends down to put the stocking on her foot. I groan audibly when she does, and she remains in the bent position while gently pulling the stocking in place to her upper thigh.

Oh, Pussycat, I plan to torment you as much as you’re tormenting me right now.

Mentoring with Artemis and Savvina exposes us to enough BDSM—with the occasional bondage fuck are slight impact play in between—but we haven’t had a full scene in months! We’ve learned new parameters since we’ve been seeing Artemis and Savvina, but we haven’t put them to use yet in a full scene. I plan to do so this evening.

I produce a butt plug from my other pocket and put it in my mouth. As she’s about to stand upright, I grab her ass firmly which signals her to stop. Her legs are still slightly spread from donning her stockings… Perfect. I push my hands in between her legs and thrust my middle finger into her pussy, my third finger rubbing her clit.

She gasps, but she’s wet as fuck! She’s even tighter than she is wet. I circle my finger inside of her, gathering the wetness inside of her warm walls while the finger on her clit aids to increase the lubrication. Her breathing picks up a bit, and she puts her hands on her thighs to support her weight. I crouch behind her so that the display is right in my face. My cock is hardening to solid steel as I watch my finger disappearing into her core, her juices spilling out into my hand. I feel the warmth and meatiness of her inner walls and it’s almost unbearable imagining being inside of her.

I hear her breathing increase and one of her legs begins to tremble. She’s getting close. My Pussycat is such a sexual being that even the slightest manipulation with the right rhythm and pressure can cause her to explode. I have to stop or it’s game over for her.

I drag my wet hand from her core and her clit, causing her to gasp and moan again. Fuck, she’s such a nymph! I spread the wetness I’ve gathered from her pussy to her inviting little rosette, staring at me and begging for my attention.

Here I come, baby. I’ve hardly forgotten you.

Her pink little asshole puckers when I anoint it. I fucking love that shit. I coat her ass with all the moisture that I’ve gathered from her cunt, then slowly breach the rosette with the wet finger. I reach around her body this time and use my other hand to finger her clit, rhythmically, while pushing my finger into her ass. She groans, panting while I fuck her with my hands, and when her legs begin to tremble again, I cease the manipulation of her clit, but continue with my finger in her ass.

She’s breathing heavily again, and I remove the finger from her ass. Making sure that the butt plug is thoroughly lubricated, I pull it from my mouth and slowly begin to push it inside of her. She gasps, and visibly relaxes her asshole, allowing the butt plug to slide effortlessly inside. I literally drool when her asshole swallows the butt plug, leaving nothing visible but the large blue jewel.

“Fuck,” I hiss quietly, wondering if I’m going to be able to complete the scene before I dive into her and fuck her senseless.

“Stand,” I tell her, rising upright behind her. She obeys, panting sensuously.

“Go over to the dining table.”

Yes, Pussycat. I don’t have any of my benches here, so the dining table will have to do.

Greystone is angrily pulsing against my pants as I watch the rolling-hip-wobble-ass-butt-plug-walk across the room and over to the dining table. There’s no use in even attempting to hide this erection. I can see the prominent outline of my hard cock straining to get out of these clothes. If I didn’t have my shirt tucked in over it, the head would be sticking out of my pants right now.

I walk over to the dining table and move in front of her. She gasps when she sees my cock through my pants and licks and bites her lips. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

“What are your safewords, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Bells, whistles, and…” She pauses and I nod. “Ladybug, Sir.”

That’s right, Pussycat. You can’t come without permission.

“I can trust you to use your safewords when needed, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Yes, Sir,” she replies. I take a deep breath and hand her a ponytail holder.

“Good girl. Now, while I love your hair, I don’t want it to get in the way,” I say. She takes the ponytail holder and quickly fashions her hair in some kind of ponytail-bun assuring that it will stay out of the way for the rest of the scene.

“Up with you now,” I say, holding my hand out to her. She takes my hand and, using one of the chairs as a step, she climbs onto the table on her knees.

“Come down here to the end,” I coax, and she brings her knees almost to the end of the table. Perfect. I take a blindfold—the final item in my pocket—and close the space between us.

“Lights out,” I say, softly, and tie the blindfold over her eyes. Her breathing quickens immediately.

“Spread your thighs a little wider,” I command, and she obeys. Her thighs are spread just so, and her clit is peeking playfully out of her waxed lips.

Control, Grey, control.

I move to the small table to the side where I’ve had all my other implements covered and retrieve the fur and leather cuffs. I take my time attaching the cuffs to her wrists before connecting them to each other behind her back. One of my favorite parts of BSDM has always been the binding, second only to impact play. I light one of the candles—blue of course—and turn back to my Pussycat.

There she is, kneeling on the table, blindfolded with her breast pushed out in front of her due to the wrist restraints.

Fuck!

I walk over to her and wait patiently as the wax begins to melt, ready to note her reaction from the first drop. Her chest is rising and falling in anticipation, and the blue wax finally turns to liquid, a single drop falling onto the top of her breast. She jumps from the sensation and gasps in surprise. Her knees fall open a little wider and her clit is now prominently protruding from her lips.

I wait, wait for her breath to calm, wait for the sensation to settle, wait for her safeword. She calms, and she doesn’t safeword.

“More?” I ask.

“Yes,” she breathes. “Yes… Sir…”

I allow another drop to fall on her breast and she gasps again, leaning back to expose more of her body. I let another drop fall, then another, and another… her abs, her chest, her neck, her shoulders. She writhes from the sensation, each drop causing a reaction. The candle is almost to the end and I have to light another. This one burns a little faster, the liquid running down her skin this time, turning her chest and abdomen into a beautiful blue sculpture.

When I light the third candle, I don’t know if I’m lighting it for her or for me. She’s loving this; her reactions are sexual and provocative, and she looks fucking divine. All this time, I haven’t spilled a drop directly onto one of her nipples…

Until just now.

Her gasp is audible—shrill, and she’s panting like a marathon runner. She doesn’t safeword, and I nearly come in my pants. I drop another drop on her other nipple and she gives me the same shrill gasp.

Caught lightning in a bottle twice. What’s more, that drop rolls down to the tip of her nipple until it’s hanging off in suspension and dries that way.

~~~Las Vegas Scene

Fuck, that is so fucking hot.

I finish the rest of the third candle on her thighs, then pull out my phone. I take several pictures of my beautiful blue nymph and our first experience of candle play. Her ecstatic poses and facial expressions captured in the pictures look like she’s posing professionally. I may need to put these in the playroom.

I put the phone away and quickly turn my attention back to my Pussycat. That clit is protruding so far, I simply can’t help it…

I pull a chair to the end of the table, have a seat, and run my tongue over the inviting clit. She cries out, leaning back onto her hands to support her weight. Looking at her this way, I already know that I’m going to fuck her in this position.

I lick her again, tasting her juices and wondering if these are new from the wax play, or the ones from when I finger fucked her earlier. No matter—they taste the same and still make me want to fuck the shit outta her!

I indulge in the pussy for a few more moments, tasting her and watching her chest rise and fall covered in the blue wax. It’s now that I realize that the wax most likely serves the same purpose as a gently flogging—to heighten the sensation and to bring the blood to the surface of the skin. That shit really turns me on!

I give her clit a reprieve and retrieve the harness from the table. I help her get back to an upright position and have her turn around so that her ass is to me. I kiss the cheek and give the butt plug a little turn and pull, enjoying her reaction to the sensation. I get a pillow from the sofa and instruct her to lay on the pillow with her ass in the air.

Yes, that’s it.

I attach the harness around her waist and then pull the leather strap between her legs and tighten it behind her. She whimpers, no doubt feeling the strap against her tender clit and feeling it push the butt plug into her ass.

Hold tight, Pussycat.

I finish the visual by binding her ankles together in a pair of cuffs to match her wrist cuffs. If she could only see how fucking beautiful she looks—bound, harnessed, and blindfolded on the dining table and served up like Thanksgiving dinner. I take a few more pictures of her for my collection.

“Okay, Pussycat?” I say, leaning down to her face.

“Yes, Sir,” she says, her voice relaxed but Nirvanic. I stand behind her and introduce her to a little surprise in the harness. The thick strap between her legs has a slit in the middle—not completely open, but with a nylon covering over it. I manipulate the slit so that the thin nylon covering is right over her cunt, so that I can play with her clit and feel her wetness slipping through at will. I don’t think she realizes it yet, but she will…

I retrieve my crop and give her a solid whack with the tip of it on her ass. She jumps from the first sensation but settles again. The second and third whacks cause her to gasp, but the fourth strike is a gentle flicking of her clit.

She squeals, then pants, whimpering and trembling. I flick it again, and she’s whimpering again. I flick it repeatedly and I see her body stiffen, as much as it can.

I return to pinkening her beautiful ass cheeks—a gentle spanking to pull the blood to the surface and then a bit of tormenting of the pussy.

I run the braided stem of the crop between her legs, over her opening and her clit. She groans deep in pleasure, almost unable to withstand the sensation. I watch her bite her lip to stifle the sound of the enjoyment, the only part of her body able to move is her hands in the cuffs. Her fists clench and she jerks when I strike her cheek with the crop, absorbing the impact of the blow. Her fingers flutter open and wiggle helplessly with any pleasurable sensation—flicking her clit with the tip of the crop; running the braided portion over the nylon slit in the leather.

Next, I torment her with the Plume feather tickler—her back, her ass, her clit, the bottom of her feet… I stop when she’s mindless with sensation.

I’m ready to fuck now.

She gets a reprieve while I strip. It’s a wonder my dick didn’t rip straight through my boxer briefs! It’s ready for a goddamn jousting match when I finally free it from my clothing.

Now, how will I take her?

Remembering that I want to fuck her in that position she was sitting in when I “waxed” her, I go to the Lovers Lane bag and retrieve the thigh cuffs that I planned to use on her attached to those ankle cuffs that she’s wearing.

Maybe later, but I’ve got other plans for them right now.

I attach the restraints to my own thighs and go get my Pussycat.

“Come on, Pussycat,” I say as I remove the harness from her. I release the clamp holding the ankle cuffs together, and Pussycat rolls to a sitting position, wincing a bit as her cropped ass meets the hard table. I help her to the floor and lead her to the living room. I take a seat on the large chair and guide her to my lap.

“Straddle me,” I instruct her, and she throws her legs over my thighs. Just as she’s about the descend on me, I straighten my cock and guide it right into her wet pussy. She freezes when the head breaches her core.

“That’s it,” I hiss, Greystone begging her not to get up. “Keep going.”

She’s still so tight that she has to ease down onto my eager dick, but when she has taken all of me, I have to take a deep breath to compose myself. I just sit there for a moment before I move.

“Lean back,” I command, my voice throaty as fuck. “Put your hands on my knees.”

When she leans on my knees, I put my arms around her and attach each of her wrist cuffs to my thigh cuffs. Then I sit back and observe her—spread out straddling me with blue wax over her breast, torso, and thighs… and her pussy wrapped around my cock.

“Okay?” I ask.

“Yes, Sir,” she purrs.

“Good… now ride me… slowly.”

She rises off my cock, slowly, then drops back down onto me… again… and again… and again. She licks her lips as her wetness coats me, making that delicious creamy sound as she fucks me. I scratch my nails over her body, removing the wax from her skins.

She moans, then whimpers, closing her eyes as she rides me.

When her skin is clean enough, I produce the battery-operated wand from just behind me. She leaps when I touch it to her clit.

“Ah!” she yelps, unable to keep quiet from the sensation. She continues to ride me, and I touch it to her clit again.

“Ah!” she yelps again. “Sir! I… I…”

“I know,” I reply, nearly growling. She’s tormenting me as much as I’m tormenting her. I feel my cock thickening inside her and I can’t help but touch the wand to my aching dick as she rides it.

“Fuck!” I hiss, throwing my head back in ecstasy. The damn thing isn’t even on its highest setting! Maybe somewhere in the middle. I touch it to her clit again… and again.

“Uuuuuuuggggghhhhh!” she laments, throwing her head back and quickening her pace on my cock. Her breath is getting heavier. Her tits are falling to the side just a bit and they look fucking divine. I open my legs a bit to get a deeper thrust as I wand her clit once more, a little longer this time.

“Aahhh, God!” she mewls, now rocking her hips forward a bit as she fucks me. Shit, I’m going to come like this. I raise my pelvis with each of her hip rolls, meeting her deeply as I wand her at the same time. She’s increasing her pace and as my dick gets harder, I pinch and rub her nipple with my free hand… and she’s still wearing that butt plug, too… and the blindfold.

She nearly sobs when I tease her nipple. She’s fucking me hard, fast and deep, dropping down on me with fire and fervor, her head back, her body bowed, and her hair falling out of the bun behind her and caressing my inner thigh with each wild and hard bounce. She’s whimpering and my dick is throbbing—hard! Fuck, I press the wand to her clit and feel the vibrations all the way inside of her. She freezes…

“Ladybug! Ladybug!” she pants!

I stop fucking her and move the wand. Her body is sweat-coated, flushed, and beautiful. Her chest rises and falls in such sensuality that I bite my lip to keep from thrusting into her again and pushing her over the edge. I stroke her body with my flat hand hard from her torso up and between her breasts. She looks positively delicious! She’s heaving as she slowly comes down from her near orgasm and my primal instincts are nearly eating me inside out. I watch her writhe from desire and need for several more moments, the Neanderthal inside beating his chest in arousal and frustration.  I can’t touch her sexually anymore without a check in.

“How’re you doing, Pussycat?” I say, and the tone of my voice surprises me—pure, primal Dominance seeded with just a touch of concern. She pants a bit.

“Good… Sir…” she breathes.

“Good girl,” I reply. When I’m certain that she’s not going to explode with the next movement, I reach around and release the clip from her wrist cuffs to my thighs. I attach the wrist cuffs together again in front of her and take her in my arms. Standing from the chair, I carry her back to the dining table and lay her down on her back.

“Hands over your head,” I instruct her, and she obeys. Fuck, she’s beautiful.

“Wrap your legs around me!” I say eagerly, almost unable to control myself. She wraps her legs around my waist, and I begin to thrust into her. I can’t help it. I can’t fucking control it. She feels so fucking good.

I grab her ass to hold her hips up for better penetration and my fingers brush against the jewel of the butt plug. Remembering that it’s there does nothing for my stamina and causes me to fuck her harder. She’s keening with every deep stroke and her body curls towards me.

Fuck, I’m going to come. She looks so goddamn good.

I thrust into her several more times, my cock searing in pleasure, my balls tightening almost to the point of pain. Her mouth is hanging open for several moments and she clamps her hands together in the cuffs, a familiar sheen forming her body.

“Ladybug! Ladybug! Lady…”

“Come for me, Pussycat…”

I barely get the words out of my mouth and she is exploding in orgasm around me. The feeling is so fucking phenomenal that I cry out shamelessly when my climax strikes, throwing my head back and yowling almost like a wolf to the full moon.

My Pussycat covers her face with her forearms, flinching from her massive release. I can tell she almost can’t stand the intense sensation. I’m not quite done with you yet, Pussycat. I have one more surprise for you.

I withdraw from my soumise and she closes her knees and draws them close to her, rolling onto her side. You’ll have a moment to recuperate, Pussycat.

I go over to the sofa and set up my final scene—pillows to prop up her hips, and my final two sex aids. I won’t torment her too badly. Her next orgasm will most likely be quicker than she expects and more powerful than the first. I watch her for a few minutes, examining her breathing and gauging when she has come down from her last orgasm. After a while, I walk over to the table and lean down to her ear.

“Are you ready, Pussycat?” I whisper. She swallows hard.

“Yes, Sir,” she says. I take her hands and help her to get off the dining table, then lead her to the large sofa.

“Bend over,” I instruct her. She obeys and I slowly pull the butt plug out of her ass. She hisses, then moans as it’s removed. I lead her back to the sofa and I take a seat. I lubricate my dick and instruct her to take a seat.

“Just sit right down, Pussycat,” I tell her. She sits on my lap, and I situate my cock between her ass cheeks. Her breathing is picking up again, and no doubt, she’s wondering what I have planned.

“Open your legs and lean back.” When she opens her legs, I begin to massage her with a lubricated pussy cup. She gasps at first. The lube starts off kind of cold, but it’ll warm pretty soon. The pussy cup has several little tickler fingers inside that’s going to drive her wild once I get it sealed on. It has a small, but powerful, rabbit vibrator attached to it, and… it’s a pump. So, it attaches with suction and doesn’t let go until I release it.

I’m shamelessly rubbing my lubed dick between her ass cheeks, taking pleasure in the friction and stimulation. If I don’t take my pleasure however I can get it, she’s going to come a whole lot sooner than I will, even with that valium-laced ass.

I manipulate that pussy cup until it feels like it’s in the right position—lips covered, but open a bit and exposed to the lubed fingers, then I squeeze the pump until it has a nice tight seal. She gasps a bit, but then bites her lip.

Yeah, I’ve got the right suction.

“Stand up, Pussycat.” She stands and I release her cuffs, leading her to the part of the sofa that has the pillows stacked.

“Feel your way,” I instruct her, while fisting my hard dick. “Lay face down with your hips on the pillows.”

Still blindfolded, she awkwardly feels her way to the sofa and the pillows with the pussy cup attached and lies with her ass perfectly sticking up in the air, her chest and head on the sofa and the pump hanging onto the sofa between her legs.

Shit, don’t come yet, Grey.

“Put your hands behind your back.”

She does, and I reattach her cuffs behind her.

Oh, hell. This is gonna be quick.

I position myself behind her and prepare myself. Do I turn on the pussy cup first and then enter her or enter her first and then turn on the pussy cup? Shit, with those controls located between her legs, I won’t even be able to reach the pussy cup once I’m inside her!

I set the vibration to two out of five and turn it on. She gasps loudly and jumps.

“You okay, Pussycat?” I ask.

“Aah… aahh… yes!” she breathes. “Yes… Sir!” Good. I open her cheeks to expose her rosette and slowly push my lubricated cock in. My lubrication has already begun to warm with the earlier manipulation of her ass cheeks and my hand. It takes a moment, but once I’m inside her, she feels like hot butter.

“Aaahh… oh God…” she moans. I haven’t even started fucking her yet, so I know it’s the pussy cup. I straddle her with my legs over hers, take both her hands in one of mine and stabilize myself on the back of the sofa with the other hand.

“You can come, Pussycat,” I say, my voice deep with passion.

“Thank you… Sir…” she breathes. I’m thrusting into her slow and deep and she’s moaning loudly with each thrust. Oh, fuck, her ass feels good. I’ve got this heating lube on my dick and she’s already tight as fuck and I love her ass so fucking much. It’s bouncing hard on my pelvis and caressing every fucking inch of my cock… and she keeps pushing it harder against me trying to get that deep anal stimulation that she likes. Not only that, but each thrust is pushing that sucking and vibrating pussy cup onto her clit.

Her moans are so loud that they’d almost be embarrassing if they weren’t so fucking hot. I fuck her harder, deeper and faster, opening my legs a little for deeper penetration and using her bound hands to pull her back against me with each thrust. I’m riding this ass like you would the mechanical bull and my dick is digging deeper and deeper with each thrust. Shit, I’m fucking blind and dizzy with pleasure. The heat is making this shit so intense, I don’t think I’m going to be able to fucking stand it when I come.

Pussycat’s hips have totally taken on a life of their own. I think she has forgotten that she’s even in a scene anymore. She’s fucking with purpose when her ass rises and rides with me.

“Fuck!” I hiss as I feel my cock burning inside and outside. “Fuck! Shit!”

My hips pump hard and fast into her and I feel a hard, burning stream of fiery cum rise through my dick causing me to kneel and grab my wife’s ass so hard that I’m certain I’ll leave fingerprints behind. I’m thrusting and pumping and coming in that ass so hard that I’m trying to be conscious of hurting her, but I can’t. This shit has total control of me.

After a few moments of hard coming and wild thrusting, I realize that I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

She buries her face in the sofa cushion and screams out a violent release, pushing her ass high and hard into me. She stays that way for several moments, squirming and coming and screaming. I’m coming down from my heated and crazy orgasm and she’s still going. However, she did start after I did. I knew it would be bigger… I didn’t know it would be that much bigger!

“Sir! Please! Take it off! Please, Sir, take it off!”

Shit, I forgot about that fucking vibrating cup!

Remiss to leave the valium ass, I slide quickly and carefully out of her and locate the switch to stop the vibration. Her ass is still in the air, but probably because she’s not going to drop her pelvis until I get that thing off of her. I release the pump and it falls into my hands, and her hips fall onto the pillows. She breathes a huge sigh of release but is still panting and trying to catch her breath.

My dick is still hot, but it has tapped out, too.

I release her cuffs from her wrists and kiss up her spine to her neck, then remove her blindfold. I stand from the sofa and lift her into my arms, situating her so that her exhausted body is cradled in my arms and her head is on my chest.

“Very well done, Pussycat,” I say as I carry her to the en suite, “very well done.”


ANASTASIA

I decide to go to the hospital and see about my mother on Wednesday morning. Christian’s been on the phone since the early hours, no doubt tending to his first love, and I truly need to see if there’s any change in Carla’s condition.

As I suspected, there are more flowers in her room. It looks like they brought more hospital tables in here to accommodate them all. I just shake my head and go to the nurses’ station.

“Is Dr. Lee in today?” I ask.

“Not yet,” the nurse tells me. “I don’t think he’s due to come in until the afternoon.”

“Is there any change in my mother’s condition?” I press. “Has there been any improvement? Any signals at all?” Her face falls slightly.

“I’m afraid not, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “Not to my knowledge anyway. The doctor would be able to better answer that question for you, though.” I nod, feeling a bit helpless.

“Her room is turning into a bit of a greenhouse,” I say. “Is it possible to remove some of the flowers and take them to patients who don’t have visitors… or no flowers in their rooms?” I realize that my situation was a bit of an anomaly. It’s rare that someone is admitted to the hospital and has no visitors, but I’m certain that some of the rooms can be brightened with an arrangement or two.

“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Grey,” she says. “I’ll get a cart and get to it.”

“Thank you,” I say with a soft smile before returning to my mother’s room.

“Um, Mrs. Grey?” the nurse calls behind me, and I stop. “In her condition… it’s not usual, but…” She’s having a hard time saying what she needs to say. Oh, for Christ’s sake, spit it out.

“Is Mrs. Morton allowed to have any visitors?” she asks finally. “A few people have come to see her and… we didn’t have your permission.”

I twist my lips. She is my mother. Anastasia Grey’s mother. Unmonitored visitors could pose a huge problem.

“While I’m here, yes,” I tell her. “I’ll have to make arrangements for a member of my security to be here around the clock. Once that’s settled, then she can have visitors in my absence.” The nurse frowns.

“Mrs. Grey I can assure you that she’ll be safe,” the nurse says. I shake my head.

“It’s way too much for me to explain, ma’am,” I tell her. “I’ll arrange for security as soon as possible so that well-wishers can come and see her freely.” She purses her lips, shrugs, and nods.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” she says and turns her attention back to whatever is on the counter in front of her.

Once I’m back in her room, I begin removing the cards from the arrangements, intent on sending thank you notes if my mother doesn’t come out of this alive or giving the cards to her and letting her do it if she does. I count the cards and make note of who sent which flowers since some of them will be leaving the room.

Twenty-two.

Twenty-two separate arrangements, and I didn’t even get one… not even a get-well bear from Mommy.

I’ve got to stop comparing this situation to mine. It’s my responsibility to make sure that she gets the care that she needs. If I continue to feel hateful towards her, I can’t do that. Maybe she did deserve these flowers from the people who sent them. Maybe she’s worthy of the love and concern they’re giving to her. I shouldn’t besmirch her getting that from them, because she sure as hell won’t get it from me.

As I’m putting the cards in my purse, the first of Carla’s well-wishers taps lightly on the door before entering.

“Yes?” I say, cautiously. She’s not wearing scrubs or a lab coat, so I know she’s not staff.

“Ana…” she says, her voice somewhat wistful as she proffers her hand. “Anastasia, hi. It’s… good to see you.” I take her hand out of courtesy.

“Do I know you?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m sorry. No, you wouldn’t know me, but I’d know you anywhere. I’ve seen pictures of you and Carla speaks fondly of you. I’m Wendy. Carla is my best friend.”

Best friend? Shit, you don’t have a lot of friends, do you?

“It’s… nice to meet you, Wendy,” I say, trying not to sound too strained. She smiles.

“I’m not surprised that you don’t know me,” she says. “I know that you and Carla don’t speak. It’s one of her biggest regrets.” Oh hell, I can’t hear this.

Like an angel from heaven, the nurse comes in with a cart and begins to remove the flowers.

“You’re taking her flowers?” Wendy asks, her voice a bit horrified.

“Not all of them,” I reply casually. “The room is exploding in flora and if this is any indication, there’ll be more to come. I’m just sharing some of them with people in the hospital who don’t have flowers.” Her expression softens.

“Oh,” she says. “That’s actually… a very good idea. Carla would like that.” She turns back to my mother and takes her hand.

“Hey, old girl,” she says softly. “You stood me up for Hallmark and ginger this weekend. I’m expecting you to make it up to me.”

She takes a seat next to my mother’s bed and just sits there rubbing her hand. I look around and the nurse has filled the cart. The arrangement with the bear is on the cart and I suddenly get a small twinge.

“Don’t take that one,” I tell her, pointing to the bear. “I just… have a feeling she might want to keep that one.”

“Leave the sunflowers, too, please,” Wendy says without turning around. “Those are from me and… they’re her favorite.”

They’re her favorite? Sunflowers? How did I not know that?

I nod to the nurse and she removes the teddy bear arrangement and the sunflowers from the cart, replacing them with two other arrangements before leaving the room. I turn back to Wendy and Carla and I suddenly feel like and intruder on their visit.

“I’m going to leave you alone for a while,” I say, leaving the room before she has a chance to stop me. Chuck turns to me when I exit the room.

“Nobody except staff gets in that room without my permission,” I say. He nods once, then I turn and I walk down the hall to the family waiting room. There are a few people in here, so I go to the far corner and make a call.

“Your Highness! Is everything okay?” I roll my eyes.

“Can you please answer the phone and say, ‘Hello’ or ‘Taylor’ or ‘Jason’ or something instead of answering the phone like there’s a fire every time I call you?” I chide quietly.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness, it’s just that…”

“I know. I don’t call you that often, but if something is wrong, doesn’t Chuck usually call you? How many times have I called you with a fire?” There’s silence on the other end.

“None that I can think of immediately,” he replies.

“Exactly, so turn off the lights and sirens when you see my name unless I tell you that something is wrong.”

“So, I take it that nothing is wrong,” he says.

“Are you speaking to Chuck?” I retort.

“Duly noted. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“I know that you had people watching my mother,” I tell him. “I need her to have an active security detail while she’s in the hospital.” He silent for a moment.

“You mean no more covert?” he asks.

“You can have covert if you need it, but I need someone posted at her door. She’s been having visitors and I don’t want any unscrupulous assholes to have access to her. All visitors will be required to show identification and sign in on a personal log. I don’t want to take any chances.”

“Understood,” he says. “I’ll get right on it.”

“And stop calling me ‘Your Highness’ or I’ll fire you,” I threaten.

“Yes, Your Highness,” he says. I end the call.

“Asshole.” I scroll through my phone and try to reach Keri, but her phone goes straight to voicemail. I call Gail and her phone rings twice, then goes to voicemail. What the fuck? I want to talk to my babies. Once I leave Gail a message to call me, my phone buzzes with a text. It’s from Gail.

**Knee-deep in household tasks. I’ll call you later. The babies are fine. **

That’s an odd text, but she must’ve known I was trying to get in touch with my babies. I call Jason back.

“Hello, Ana,he says, stressing my name.

“Good, now let’s see how long you can keep it up,” I reply.

“Don’t count on it,” he says. “Carla’s first detail should be there in about 20 minutes.”

“Good. Have you talked to Gail today?” There’s silence on the line.

“Earlier, yes. Should I be concerned?” he asks.

“Probably not,” I say. “I called to talk to my babies and the phone went to voicemail after two rings. Keri’s phone went straight to voicemail. I’m probably being paranoid, but that’s never happened before.” Jason chuckles.

“Never happened to you before, you mean,” he replies. “If she’s in her beloved pantry, you won’t hear from her for another hour or so, if you’re lucky.”

“She did say that she was knee-deep in household tasks…”

“Yep, pantry. Did she mention the twins that you’re concerned?”

“She said the babies were fine, but I can’t get a hold of Keri, either,” I whine.

“Well, I can’t help you on that one, but if she says the babies are fine, I wouldn’t worry.” I’m half-tempted to ask Chuck if he has spoken to Keri, but there’s no use in getting him alarmed.

“Who’s coming to guard my mother?”

Jason gives me information on the three guards who will be taking eight-hour shifts outside my mother’s door while she’s in a coma. They’ll set up some way to have visitors log in with us before they see her. He mentions his concern about them feeling like this is an invasion of their privacy.

“They’ll do it if they want to see her,” I tell him. “If they don’t, so be it.”

I finish the call with Jason, and briefly check in with Grace.

“How are you doing, dear?” she asks. “I can only imagine that it must be quite tumultuous in your life at the moment.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I confide. “It’s way too much to explain right now, but I’m emotionally exhausted with what’s happening with my mother.”

“I can’t even imagine what you must be going through with that situation. I’m definitely keeping you in my thoughts.”

“Thank you, Grace. She has a visitor right now, and I want to give them some privacy. So, I just wanted to check in and get an update on what’s happening at the center.”

“Oh! May I ask if she’s conscious?” Grace inquires.

“No, but people are still coming to see her, so…” I trail off.

“I see,” she says. “It may be good for her. It may help her out of the coma.”

“Yeah, maybe,” I say, brushing it off. “So, what’s happening with Helping Hands? How are things going?”

Grace gets me caught up on the early learning classes and the tutoring sessions. We’ve hired someone that can teach the classes for adult education and GED, so that’s fantastic. Keri is now certified to teach in the United States, so that’s good news for the early learning classes. Donations have slowed a bit since Christmas, but that’s the usual annual cycle. She’s hoping that the grant proposals that she and Courtney are working on—some of which have already been submitted—will bring another stream of funds into the center. We’re not pressed for cash or anything, but no need in waiting until we are to secure funding for the future.

I end my call with Grace and go back to my mother’s room to find that Wendy is still there. I turn to leave again, not wanting to force her to cut her visit short.

“Ana?” Wendy says. I pause and turn around.

“Carla told me about… your childhood, that horrible thing that happened to you. She told me about how she treated you. If it’s any consolation, she feels overwhelming remorse for not being there for you, and for the horrible way she behaved. She needs you now, more than ever… she needs you to forgive her…”

“Wendy,” I interrupt her, coming fully into the room, “I appreciate that you care very much for my mother. I’m sure that means a lot to her, but with all due respect, we are not having this conversation. I can’t begin to tell you what this woman put me through, nor do I care to rehash it. And no matter what she has shared with you, she can’t begin to tell you either. And contrary to whatever you may believe or whatever she’s told you, I have forgiven her. I forgave her years ago. I’ve already informed the staff to spare no expense to be sure that she gets the best care imaginable, and that’s more than she did for me. I don’t mean to be rude, I really don’t…”

“I understand,” she says softly before turning back to Carla and gently touching her hand. “I’m sure she appreciates you assuring she has the best care.” She squeezes Carla’s hand.

“Get better,” Wendy says to her. “We’re all waiting for you.” She squeezes her hand again, then turns to leave.

We’re all waiting for you… geez.

“If there’s anything she needs,” she says with concern, “please let me know. I’m sure you can handle everything, but there are people who would be happy to help if there’s any way that we can.”

“That’s very kind of you. Thank you,” I reply. She smiles, nods, and leaves the room.

I already know that I look like the villain to her new group of friends, but it doesn’t matter. Everywhere I’ve gone so far, somebody has treated me like shit. Why should this be any different?

I look over at my mother’s unconscious form. I want to berate her for doing it again—for bringing me back to a place where I’m obviously an outcast; where somehow, she has told her story so that she comes out smelling like roses and I come out smelling like garbage. God, I’m in hell. I want to scream at her and yell and say cruel things, but instead, I keep them to myself. What good would it do?

She looks helpless, nearly dead. I wonder if this is how I looked to her when she came to the hospital… when she left me there alone…

“Goodnight, Carla,” I say instead, and quietly leave the room. It’s nowhere near nighttime yet, but I won’t be back today.

Should I even try to be there when she wakes up? Why even bother? Is this how she felt about me when I was in that coma? Why did she feel that way? What did I possibly do—or represent—that was so horrible to her? She said she didn’t think about me; she only thought of herself. But if I don’t think of someone, they won’t feel like I hate them—they’ll just feel like I don’t care. I felt like she hated me.


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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 16

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

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

Season 5 Episode 16

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know,” she says.

“How do you know?” Christian asks.

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

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

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

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

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

“Ana?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daddy and Mommy dancing in the living room…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear God, she looks awful.

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

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

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

Huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, and she’s most likely paralyzed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dr. Grey, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

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

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

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

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

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

“She does.”

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

“It’s adequate,” he responds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes… yes, it is,” I reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will, thank you,” I tell her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, ma’am?” she replies.

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

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

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

“Would it be in her chart?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” he says, his brow furrowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will, Dr. Grey.”

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

*-*

“All rise.”

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five out of seven—excellent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Remind me,” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In his defense…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dammit.

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

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

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m serious,” I tell him.

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

“You are serious!” I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” I ask, aghast.

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll think about it,” I say.

“Think about what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, yeah, she’s mad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is she talking about herself or the twins?

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

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

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

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

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

Ray and Jason just stand there in awe and confusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Allen…” I try to protest.

“Chris. Bring. Her. Babies.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 15

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

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

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

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

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

Season 5 Episode 15

ANASTASIA

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

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

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

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

“Shoot,” she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re on Facebook?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Only at night?” I press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?” I ask.

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

An attempt to let go… I get it.

“Are you sure?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s a tough call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay,” she says.

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

“It was not,” she replies.

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

“Very much.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I got it, Bosslady,” Mare says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CHRISTIAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the fuck?

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

“Drive!” she demands. My brow furrows.

“Butter…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I end up driving through the airport.

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

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

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

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

Left, or right?

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

Wrong.

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

“Turn here!”

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

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

“Turn here!” she barks again.

“Ana!”

“Turn!”

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

“There!” she barks. “Park there.”

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

“Butterfly, what the he…”

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

“What?” I retort in disbelief.

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

“Anastasia, I hardly…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panties… she makes quick work of that, too.

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

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

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

“Sssssss!” I hiss as she envelops me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t come, Grey. Don’t come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My wife never stopped stroking.

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

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

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

Thank God for trees!

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

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

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

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

Boy, do I let go!

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir?”

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

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

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

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

“I’ll be there in ten.”

*-*

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

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

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

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

And my dick is rock-hard again.

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

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

Fuck, she’s fucking cruel.

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

Stay calm, Grey.

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

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

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

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

Fuck, that doesn’t help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*-*

“Oh, I’ve missed my babies so much!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?” I answer.

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

“What? What is it?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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~~love and handcuffs