Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 69—The Hard Answers

 

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

 Chapter 69—The Hard Answers

CHRISTIAN

Jason and I are back in the courtroom and I’m feeling better now that I’ve given my testimony and drawn more strength from my Butterfly. Jason’s demeanor is cold. He’s stiff, like he should be in uniform sitting on the stand. He doesn’t look left or right and concentrates an icy blue glare nowhere else but at the person who’s speaking to him.

Skinner has him recount his version of the story, which starts when he received a signal that there was trouble in my office after I pressed the panic button. He knew about the closed-circuit television and activated it before leaving his office to assess the situation. However, when the situation began to escalate, he routed the audio to his earpiece and quickly moved into position behind the hidden panel in my office. Alex had been notified from the first panic button, but not the police. I didn’t know that. Maybe I did, but at the time, I can’t be sure.

Nonetheless, he hadn’t been behind the panel a few moments before the situation had already escalated to Elena proclaiming that she would kill me and then herself, leaving Butterfly behind to mourn. Jason had only just released the panel lock when I was saying goodbye to Butterfly. There was nothing else to do but leap. He remembers talking to us about his allergies to the medicine and telling me that he had been hit in the shoulder, but he remembers little else.

Underwood couldn’t shake him. Jason’s story never faltered from exactly what he relayed had happened. Underwood kept trying to get with questions that started with, “But you can’t be certain that” and “How could you know if you weren’t in the room?” But Jason stoically gave him back everything he tried to give. That military training came out in full force and that squirmy little asshole wasn’t going to make him budge.

“What do you feel for Mrs. Lincoln now, Mr. Taylor?” Underwood asks.

“Nothing,” Jason says, flatly.

“No hatred? No disdain? No wish for revenge?” he presses.

“No.” Underwood is taken aback.

“You’re quite the evolved human being,” he says. “Even your boss indicates that he has a wish to see Mrs. Lincoln pay and the bullet never hit him. No wish for retribution or retaliation for your pain and suffering?” Jason never flinches.

“Sir, I did two separate tours when I was active duty. I was always prepared to lay down my life for my country. I’ve seen creatures in the desert that were more dangerous than that woman. She doesn’t scare me. She doesn’t bother me. She doesn’t impact me in any way. Her actions initiated a forced leave of absence that I didn’t really want and that was all. I don’t have time or desire to concentrate on her or chase her down for a mini-bullet to the shoulder. Time, life, and karma will deal with her if justice does not. I’m certain of it. Anything else?” He doesn’t give up. He has to see this military man break.

You don’t know Jason Taylor. Hell, I don’t know this Jason Taylor.

“So you’ve never once considered being the hand of justice and giving Mrs. Lincoln what she deserves? She did shoot you after all,” Underwood says.

“My name is Jason Taylor. No matter how you manipulate my name, neither ‘time,’ ‘life,’ nor ‘karma’ will come out of it.” Skinner stands.

“Objection. I’d like to know what the purpose is of this line of questioning,” he says.

“Quite frankly, so would I,” Judge Burgess asks. “There’s no debate here that the defendant shot the witness. Maybe he’s angry, maybe he’s not, but what relevance does that have to the case?”

“It… um… will show relevance to Mrs. Lincoln’s state of mind,” Underwood retorts. He just wants to get under Jason’s skin and we don’t know why.

“In what way?” His Honor asks. “Are we now asserting that she somehow knew that she would shoot Mr. Taylor as well?”

“No, Your Honor,” he flounders, “but that her actions in shooting him had no consequences.”

“Again, that would be based on an assumption that the defendant knew she was going to shoot Jason Taylor. Is this your purpose for this line of questioning?” Tread carefully, asshole. That’s another premeditated attempted murder charge.

“No, Your Honor,” he concedes.

“Then I suggest that you get to a correct and relevant point in this case or abandon this line of questioning. Objection sustained.” Underwood looks at his notes as if he’s reviewing for further points to cover. You’ve got nothing, asshole. Sit down.

“No further questions for this witness.” It’s somewhat remarkable. His testimony was pretty short, but he was the one who got shot. He looks at me and I give him a short nod before he takes a seat behind me.

“The prosecution calls Anastasia Grey to the stand.”

The bailiff goes to the door and moments later, my beautiful Butterfly strides confidently into the courtroom, the picture of elegance and professionalism. She plants herself onto the witness stand and crosses her legs at the knees, sitting up straight—not one sign of weakness or fear in her. No matter what happens today, I’m already proud of her.

“Please state your name for the record.”

“Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey PsyD,” she replies, her voice clear and strong. Immensely proud!

“Dr. Steele-Grey, do you recall the incidents on the afternoon of March 19, 2013?”

“I do, and Dr. Grey is fine,” she replies. Skinner nods.

“Would you please tell us in your own words what you recall?”

“I was shopping for wedding dresses that day with my best friend. I was losing my mind and we called Christian… Mr. Grey… who suggested that I come to the office for a late lunch. When I arrived, there was yelling in his office—a woman’s voice. I won’t lie; I wanted to know what shrew was in my fiancé’s office yelling at him that way. So, I went storming right in.”

“What did you find when you entered?”

“The defendant was on one side of the room pointing a gun at my then-fiancé. He was standing back by the bar near his desk. She was angry before, but she just lost it when I came into the office. I immediately recognized my gun…” She shakes her head.

“Your gun?” Skinner asks.

“My Beretta,” she says. “It’s not a very large gun, but it’s not very small either, and I have small hands, so it has… had a hairpin trigger, and she’s waving it around like a damn water pistol! And there was one in the chamber…!”

“Okay, you have to help us out. What does ‘one in the chamber’ mean?” Butterfly nods.

“She had cocked the… pulled the carriage back and loaded a round into the chamber, which makes the firearm ready to fire. So now, she’s waving around a semi-automatic with a hairpin trigger and a round in the chamber ready to fire.”

“Again, Dr. Grey, I don’t mean to make you keep repeating yourself. For the laymen, can you please tells us what you mean by ‘hairpin trigger?’” She nods again.

“It’s a play on words. It’s actually ‘hair-trigger.’ It’s meant to indicate that the trigger can be activated with just the force of a ‘hair.’ Of course, it can’t, but the term means that the trigger needs very little pressure to fire.”

“How did you know that was your Beretta?” Skinner asks.

“That’s the gun I used to get my CCW. That’s the gun I used at the firing range along with my Glock, on occasion. I would know that gun anywhere—not to mention that she taunted me and my fiancé that day, saying how ironic it would be for me to be shot with a bullet from my own gun.” I shiver as I recall hearing that bitch say that to my Butterfly.

Butterfly continues and relays the incident in intrinsic detail, all the way to the point where she passed out and ended up in the back of the police car in my lap. I had forgotten to include the part about singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” to calm me down and Jason had forgotten it completely, but Butterfly remembered, and it left an impression on the jury. Some of them covered their mouths in sympathy or horror while she relayed the tale.

“Mr. Grey paints a picture of Mrs. Lincoln that insinuates that she’s delusional. What’s your professional opinion of her behavior?” Skinner asks.

“I can’t give you my professional opinion of her. I’ve never treated her or evaluated her,” I tell him. “I can only tell you what I’ve observed and ever since I’ve known that woman, I’ve been the root of all of her problems. I didn’t even know who she was until after we had started dating! We were spending a quiet, very intimate Sunday afternoon at home and here she comes! I was horrified because she treated me like I wasn’t supposed to be there when she barged in on us! I had no idea who she was; I wasn’t even dressed and she expected me to leave. Chri… Mr. Grey informed me as she was coming up the elevator that they were no longer friends and he had already told her not to come to his house anymore. He vehemently made this clear to her once again before walking out of the room and she still wouldn’t leave.

“She showed up everywhere. She was like a recurring rash. We had a protection order against her and it still didn’t stop her. She even showed up the night of my father’s wedding. My father’s wedding, for God’s sake! I don’t know what disorder this is they’ve come up with, but what’s more accurate is something where you destroy everything you touch and then you blame everyone else for the carnage you leave behind!”

“Objection! Dr. Grey did indicate that she’s never treated or evaluated my client,” Underwood says.

“It’s an opinion, not a diagnosis, Your Honor,” Butterfly retorts.

“However, counsel did ask you for a professional opinion and you did offer this opinion in response to that question,” Judge Burgess says. “Sustained.”

“Am I allowed to offer a personal opinion?” I ask. He nods.

“Yes, you are, but you must specify that’s what it is before you offer it as you have introduced yourself as Dr. Anastasia Grey.” Butterfly nods.

“Yes, Your Honor.” She turns back to Skinner. “In my personal opinion, she’s the most delusional person I’ve ever met in my life—and I’ve met a bunch!” Stab! Stab! Stab!

“Thank you, Dr. Grey,” Skinner says. “No further questions at this time.”

Now it’s time for Underwood to take a stab at my wife. She sits up straight again. Noting her posture, he lights right into her.

“Readying yourself for battle, Dr. Grey?” He says “doctor” with immense contempt. Butterfly is unmoved. She’s clearly ready for him.

“Should I be?” she retorts.

“I only want to get to the truth,” he says. Butterfly doesn’t respond. “You’ve given us quite an account of the events of March 18th, Dr. Grey.”

“No, I haven’t,” she says. He raises an eyebrow at her.

“Oh?” he says, innocently. “Have you omitted something?”

“Yes, I have… quite a bit. The entire day in fact, considering that the events in question happened on March 19th.” Shit! I didn’t even catch that. What is he playing at?

“Oh!” he says, mocking embarrassment. “My mistake.”

“Yes, it was,” she replies, unmoved.

“So, you’ve given us quite an account of the events of March 19th, Dr. Grey, and you’re sure you haven’t left anything out,” Underwood says.

“I’m sure,” she says.

“However…” He retrieves a document from the evidence table. “We have reports here from Detective Randall Fischer and Officer Charlene Daly of the Seattle Police Department that during questioning, you didn’t remember anything after the shot was fired.”

“That’s correct,” Butterfly says, without hesitating. Underwood clearly didn’t expect her to answer so quickly. It takes him a moment to recoil as he obviously expected a denial of some kind.

“So you don’t deny that it?” he asks.

“No, I don’t, she says. “I was in shock after the initial gunfire. I later had total recall.” He scoffs a laugh, turning his attention back to the documents in disinterest.

“Well, isn’t that convenient.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“No, it’s unfortunate,” she replies, bringing his attention back to her. “You have no idea how scary it is to black out from shock and lose several moments of your life, then come back to yourself and discover what kind of damage you’ve caused. Yes, I disarmed her and kept her from harming someone else, but I could have killed her… with my bare hands! I couldn’t live with that!” The first chink in Butterfly’s demeanor, but she quickly recovers.

“That’s interesting. What if I told you that my client will testify that you threatened to kill her more than once?” Underwood says.

“Objection!” Skinner declares.

“Your client will also testify that it’s my fault that she doesn’t have Christian right now, but I think we all know how false that is,” Butterfly interjects before the judge has a chance to interject.

“You’re saying you’re not the reason for their break-up?” Underwood says.

“They were together?” she asks, with a smile. “Look at him and look at her… seriously?” There are sad attempts to hide chuckles around the room. He clears his throat.

“You said that you conveniently had total recall of the details of the incident after the shot was fired, but your recollection never became part of the police file. Why is that?” Underwood asks.

“Because I never went back to update the police file. My recollection came during one of my sessions with my therapist.” He raises his eyebrows.

“Your therapist!” he declares incredulously. “The shrink who sees a shrink, how interesting!” Oh, he’s like a kid with a new toy.

“Yes?” Butterfly says, expecting.

“Are you unstable, Dr. Grey?” he asks.

“Well, I don’t know, is everyone who goes to a therapist unstable, counselor?” Whoa! Careful. You don’t know who’s on that jury.

“I don’t know either, Dr. Grey, and I’m not referring to everyone who goes to a therapist. I’m referring to you.” She smiles sweetly.

“Well, in that case, my that has never indicated that I’m unstable, but I guess you would have to ask him. I’m not in the business of diagnosing myself.” She folds her hands on the stand in front of her.

“I see, Dr. Grey. Apparently, the physician cannot heal herself,” he says in a condescending tone.

“Most physicians can’t and really shouldn’t try,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’ve yet to see a surgeon who can perform a procedure on himself.”

That shut him up. Next topic!

“Please forgive me for bringing up yet another painful situation in your life, but isn’t it true that on November 7, 2013, you were in a car accident?” Oh, shit.

“Yes, that’s true.” Butterfly still doesn’t flinch.

“And were there serious injuries from that accident, Dr. Grey?”

“Yes, counselor, there were. I suffered internal bleeding, multiple lacerations, and traumatic brain injury.”

“Can you be more specific about the traumatic brain injury, doctor?”

“Sure thing, counselor.” That’s the second time she’s done that and he flinches. She’s onto him, and giving him exactly what he’s giving her. What I love so much is that her use of the word counselor is so much edgier than his use of the word doctor. “I suffered from a diffuse axonal injury.” She turns to the jury. “Think shaken baby syndrome.” A lot of them nod in recognition. “My brain swelled and I was in a coma for twelve days.”

“Isn’t it true that when you awoke, you had lost your memory?” Underwood asks, and here it is.

“Yes, that’s true,” she replies.

“And what had you forgotten?”

“From the time just before I met my husband,” she says.

“And you miraculously remember everything now, doctor?” he says, his tone condescending.

“No, counselor, I don’t,” she says, and he flinches again. Give that doctor shit up, man. “I still have moments when things are still coming back to me.”

“So, Mrs. Grey…” he took my advice, “you have forgotten large chunks of your life, yet you expect this court to believe that you remember everything that happened that day last March in the great detail that you’ve described without any coaching?” he actually laughs a disbelieving laugh as he says this.

“Yes, because it’s true,” she says, still very matter-of-factly.

“Come now, Mrs. Grey. Let’s be reasonable. You admitted that you couldn’t remember facts from that day on that day. Then you subsequently had a very tragic accident that resulted in traumatic brain injury and memory loss less than six months ago. Yet, you want us to believe that although you are still recalling other details of your life, you remember every detail of this incident perfectly?” Underwood presses.

“Yes,” she says simply, “I also expect you believe that during that time I successfully carried twins who survived and were delivered healthy and strong by natural childbirth less than two months ago—also an unlikely medical event under the circumstances. Would you like to see the pictures?” It would appear that Butterfly has won this round, but then she appears to give him more ammunition.

“But, I’ll tell you what… don’t believe me,” Butterfly says. I have to choke back a gasp and the defense zeroes in on her.

“Are you saying that you’ve lied to this court, Mrs. Grey?” he accuses, feeling that he has her on the ropes.

“No,” she says, unshaken. “I’m saying that you’re right. I had an accident last November and I’ve lost quite a few details of my life. My memory’s been compromised. Things come back to me in pieces if at all. At the time that woman tried to kill my husband with my gun, I couldn’t remember what happened. I blacked out.” Underwood smiles widely and allows Butterfly to continue to dig her hole, so to speak. “I later recalled what happened, but then, I had an accident and lost my memory. I couldn’t even remember my wedding. I remembered loving my husband; I just couldn’t remember marrying him until days later. I woke up very pregnant with our twins and horrified because I didn’t know how it happened.” She throws a glance at Elena, who looks like she swallowed something bad.

“So if you are remiss to believe my recollection of the events of that day, I don’t blame you,” she says, looking sincerely over at the jury. “My memories are a bit questionable to the outside observer.” She pauses for a moment. “But there’s a video!” she adds. “Believe that.” The attorney falls silent.

“That’s not the issue here, Mrs. Grey!” he snaps.

“Isn’t it?” she says, still maintaining her cool demeanor. “You see, your goal here is to discredit me and my testimony as a witness, and I can’t stop you from doing that. As much as I would like to see justice done, I’ve had some problems, and my recollection is questionable. So even though I currently remember everything that happened in that room as if it happened yesterday, you have the right to question my recollection of those events. However…” She begins to count on her fingers. “… Believe the man she tried to murder. Believe the man who took the bullet. Believe the fact that my Beretta was stolen and I never got it back; it’s up there as exhibit four. Believe the police report that I filed weeks earlier reporting that gun stolen. Believe the forensic evidence. Believe the officers that are going to testify. Believe the video. Discredit me all you want. Don’t believe me if your logic and sense of reason leads you not to—but believe everything else.” She folds her arms and sits back on the witness stand. The attorney clears his throat and attempts another diversionary tactic.

“That’s a very nice speech, Mrs. Grey, but the fact remains that your memories have been tainted and your testimony is questionable, isn’t that so?” I just shake my head.

“Didn’t… didn’t I just say that?” She looks at him incredulously before turning to the judge. “Didn’t I just say that?” The judge nods, but she has already turned to the jury. “I’m sure I said that. Didn’t I say that?” Members of the jury nod and she even looks at Elena. “Didn’t I say that?” She turns her attention back to the attorney? “Do you not understand English or did you not hear me? Wait, I got it… let’s try something else.” She clears her throat. “Oui monsieur, mes souvenirs sont entachés. Ils peuvent être très discutables. Cependant, regardez la video.”

She holds her hands up and waits for recognition from the attorney. I stifle a laugh.

“No?” she says. “Okay, how about this. Esyay irsay, ymay emorymay is aintedtay osay I amay otnay ebay uhthay estbay itnessway, utbay atchway uhthay ideovay!”

She holds her hands up again, waiting for recognition from the attorney.

“Still no? Okay, I’ve got something else.” She holds up one finger. “Yo dog, my brain corked. Got knocked upside da head, don’t know what happened—but dat joint prob’ly on YouTube.”

By now, several people in the courtroom—myself included—are covering their mouths and giggling quietly. Butterfly, on the other hand, is still approaching the situation like she’s seriously trying to get through to this counselor.

“Nothing?” she says, when she gets no response. “Okay, last shot…” and she breaks into sign language. I didn’t even know she knew sign language!

“Counselor,” Judge Burgess interjects, “I think you should move on. To be quite honest, the witness is making a fool out of you.” Daunted, Underwood turns his attention back to Butterfly.

“Your theatrics are quite entertaining, Mrs. Grey,” he says, clearly not amused.

“They really shouldn’t be,” she retorts. “I’m all for everybody deserving a fair trial and I’ll play my part, but I was there… and I do remember. I remember watching her aim my gun at the man that I love and seeing my life and my happiness ending in a moment! So, you do what you must, counselor! You do your little song and dance and you make those people believe that I don’t know what I’m talking about and you let that monster walk free and set a precedent in this new trend of ridiculous court cases that proclaim that as long as we convince our children that the rules don’t apply to them that it’s okay if they go out and kill people. Then we can set them loose on the city and pray that none of them are roaming your neighborhood with your family. I’m raising twins. We can start with them!”

Her once cool demeanor has been replaced with such contempt that my blood runs cold. The room falls silent and I think the attorney thinks better than to go toe to toe with an angry mother who has just informed him that she’s waiting for the success of his trial to decide if she’s going to teach her children to kill then set them loose in his neighborhood.

“No further questions for this witness,” he wisely concludes.

“I think it’s time for lunch,” Judge Burgess bangs his gavel. “One hour recess.” Butterfly stands and glares at the defense attorney with a serious half-smirk on her face. It’s clear that he didn’t break her, but oh how he wanted to. She leaves the witness stand with the same confident stride she had when she walked up to it. She walks over to me and I put my arm around her waist.

“You were amazing,” I breathe in her ear.

“Thank you, Mr. Grey. I’m so glad I made you proud.”

“More than you’ll ever know.” I pull her to me and kiss her sweetly, then again. She wraps her arms around my neck and get a glance of the Witch over her shoulder, looking longingly at me. I close my eyes and block her out, embracing my wife and caressing her back, inhaling her scent and allowing it to comfort me. When I open my eyes, they have removed the Pedophile.

“Let’s go see if we can commandeer a quiet room somewhere and have a sandwich or something. Trying to go out for lunch is a useless task,” I tell her.

“I agree,” she says, taking my hand and allowing me to lead her out of the courtroom.


ANASTASIA

“So… we need to talk.”

Christian has found a quiet room for us to have lunch and Chuck has procured some chicken salad sandwiches and sodas to hold us over until we could get a decent meal at home. When my husband begins a conversation with we need to talk, I’m not very hopeful of the outcome. Given the events of the day and our current location, I’m scared shitless. I swallow the final bite of my sandwich, certain that he deliberately waited until I had finished my lunch to break whatever news he has to me that he is about to tell me.

“Okay,” I say, bracing myself for the monsoon.

“Some things came out during my testimony,” he says. “I need to call my parents and you should probably call Ray…” He trails off.

“Christian, what is it?” I’m really scared now. He sighs.

“They know why Elena’s in jail right now,” he continues. “They know the lengths and depths of her depravity, and now… they know that I was one of her victims.”

I can’t hide my gasp. These implications are very far-reaching. His family, my family, his business associates…

“Have you told Vee?” I ask. I shake my head.

“No,” he says. “There’s more.” What more could there be? “There was an implication towards the lifestyle. I diverted the question, but anything besides an outright denial is enough for speculation.”

Fuck! I can’t tell my father that! He reads my expression and takes my hand in his.

“I’m sorry,” he says, sincerely. I shake my head.

“No… this is not your fault,” I tell him. “It’s just… there’s such a stigma attached to the lifestyle and I just don’t want it to follow us. I’m not ashamed of what we do in the privacy of our own bedroom, I just feel like it should stay in our bedroom.” I sigh. “What was said?”

“Her asshole lawyer made a comment about both of us partaking in the same lifestyle and at the time, we were talking about her being a pedophile. Sometime before or after that, I had said something about her beating and fucking me in her dungeon, but at this point, the comment was close enough for me to divert the conversation to her pedophilia. I freaked out. I roared at him for insinuating that I would take part in pedophilia. Then I made it clear to him that I was not going to drag any of my private affairs, nor that of my family, nor anything about my business out into the open for him to pick apart because his client is on trial for murder.”

“Bravo, Mr. Grey!” I tell him. “It sounds to me like you did what needed to be done to dodge that bullet.”

“Don’t celebrate yet,” he says. “She has yet to testify. She threw me under the bus once just to keep from being disowned by my mother. What do you think she’ll do to avoid being convicted of attempted murder?” I shake my head.

“So what do we do?” I ask. He takes a drink of his soda.

“We’ll run the PSA again for starters,” he says. “That was one of the purposes for it in the first place. The requests for public appearances are really going to start pouring in for you. We’re going to need a plan of attack if this becomes a topic of conversation, which it will. Paparazzi are really going to be relentless about a statement, so we’ll have to make one—but we won’t address it until it comes to light. We have to cross each bridge as we get to it, but we just have to be prepared so that we’re not ambushed. I’ll have Mac release a statement about the molestation. We can’t avoid that one.” I sigh heavily.

“And so it begins,” I say. I wanted to get back into the swing of things and start taking the twins to the Center with me, but I can’t do that now. They might get hurt just trying to get them past the press. I definitely can’t leave them for a whole day every day, either, so I’ll have to return to work only part-time, and what about Green Valley? Will I have to travel down there to testify at Michael Underwood’s trial? Underwood… no wonder I didn’t like that attorney’s name. I’m only just now making the connection.

“What are you thinking?” Christian asks, and it’s only now that I realize that I have fallen silent. I rub my eyes.

“Just that I was hoping to get back to work after we were done with the trial, but I may have to make some changes now. I wanted to take the twins into the Center some days, but I don’t see how that’s going to be possible.” He’s silent for a moment, causing me to raise my head to him. “What?”

“Nothing. It’s just that… I mean, I knew that it was going to be a problem with privacy and safety and the twins and such but…” He trails off again. I examine his face.

“You didn’t expect me to cooperate,” I say. He shakes his head.

“It’s not that…” he begins.

“Yes, it is,” I interrupt with no malice. “Admit it, Christian. You didn’t expect me to cooperate and now you’re surprised.” He shrugs and picks at an invisible piece of lint on his pants.

“Maybe a little,” he mumbles. “I didn’t expect for you to just fall in line. I hoped you would understand, but I did expect a little resistance.”

“I don’t blame you,” I respond. I can be rather difficult to deal with and there’s going to be so tightened security in my future, especially when it comes to my children. I can’t remember one time when that’s happened and I didn’t give him some kind of backtalk about it. “Right now, what say we just skip this part of the conversation for now and decide exactly how much we need to tell our parents about this, because I would really like to tell Ray as little as possible.” He scratches his chin.

“I’m going to have to let you make that decision, Butterfly,” he says. “Grace and Carrick know everything. All they need to know now is that it might go public.”

“And what will you do then?” I ask. “If this goes public, won’t this affect how your colleagues look at you?”

“It’s not an ideal situation,” he admits, “but all they can ever do is try to use it as a weapon against me—a weakness. They can only speculate as to what I do and how I participate. They have no idea. You never come to a dogfight armed with speculation and conjecture. Anybody in this business knows that. And if any of them wants to play hardball with this topic, that would be an early Christmas present for me. This is an arena where futures are made and destroyed, so if you step into the coliseum, you had better be armed with a sword and a shield because coming at me with this shit is like running against a gladiator with a pocket knife.”

I believe him. I know my husband and nobody had better step to him with any bullshit about this matter.

“If that’s the case, Christian, then why all the secrecy? Why not just come out with your lifestyle in the very beginning?” I ask.

“Because it was nobody’s business what I did in my sex life,” he replies. “People had their theories and I was okay with that, but no one needed a first-person view into my bedroom. Then, there was my family. Remember, I didn’t want even want them to know. Once that basically exploded in my face, then there was Elena and her trial coming out and not wanting to be associated with that. Then there was your family and all the far-reaching ways this information could affect us—even Cholometes breathing down my back and for the record, he already knew and tried to use that against me, too. He’s a submissive.”

“How do you know that?” I gasp.

“Same way you do,” he says. “I’m a Dom. I know. You knew when you dominated him in my den,” he adds. Shit! I didn’t think he picked up on that.

“I… suspected,” I stumble, “and I didn’t do that on purpose. I don’t just walk around dominating people.” I suddenly feel ashamed… and dirty.

“I know that,” he says, reaching for my hand. “You don’t intend to walk around turning people on or driving people crazy, but you do.” I raise my eyes to him. Suddenly, I want to cry. I just wrap my arms around his neck and hold him close to me. If he dominated someone in front of me—at the same time he was dominating me, no less—I’d feel helpless and furious at the same time. I’m not sure that I could tolerate it. It’s an abuse of power and I’m only just now realizing that I did it. To me, it feels like a form of cheating.

“I’m sorry,” I say, unable to fight the tears that burn my eyelids. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve betrayed his trust.

“Hey,” he closes his arms around me. “None of that. I didn’t bring it up for that. You did what needed to be done at the time, I know that. It wasn’t sexual—you were furious, and I wasn’t angry. I was never angry.” He pulls me back and wipes my tears with his thumbs. “Had I known you would react this way, I never would have even mentioned it. Don’t you think if I had a problem with it, I would have said something before now?”

“That doesn’t make it right,” I say in a sobbing voice.

“But it was necessary at the time,” he says, pulling his handkerchief from his pocket and gently dabbing my face. “I knew that. Your instincts are never wrong, and they told you what to do even when you didn’t know it. Do I want you to exercise that power regularly? No, I would prefer you didn’t. It’s one of the things that made me fall in love with you. Do I know that it’s most like the reason that we haven’t heard from that bastard since? Yes, I do. Am I grateful for that? More than you’ll ever know!”

I choke out a laugh behind my sobs and he kisses me gently.

“I hate it when you cry… but I can’t resist kissing you when you do. Your lips are so soft…” He kisses me again… and again. His hand cups my face and several slow, soft, sweet kisses later, I forget what I was crying about.

The afternoon is full of testimony from witnesses for the prosecution—Alex has to testify since he was the one who presented the video into evidence. Watching that thing again chills my blood to no end. Even though I knew what was coming, I still jump at the sound of the gunshot. This time, I can see Jason emerge from the sliding panel in Christian’s office. It happened in a split second—he moved like lightning. At first, he wasn’t there, and then, he was. It wasn’t all dramatic like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. He didn’t necessarily throw his body in front of him. He just ran into him and pushed, like he was tackling him—like a linebacker. I see now that was the best way to result in the least damage. Had he done the whole Bodyguard thing, she may have hit an internal organ.

She watches the video stoically. Not a single flash of emotion, recollection, or remorse crosses her face as she watches herself pull that trigger intent on ending my husband’s life, not even when members of the jury gasp when the shot is fired. I want to leap across this barrier and scratch her eyes out again! She truly is a stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell, and she needs to go back where she came from!

My reaction was swift and sure, like the wrath of God. I cover my mouth and almost want to cover my ears when I hear my own heart-wrenching shriek after the gun was fired. I see Jason flinch only slightly in my peripheral, but that’s the only emotion he’ll reveal during these proceedings. The court frowns on displays of affection, but Christian puts his arm around me anyway, asking if I’m okay as I sit shivering in my seat and watching the ungodly exchange of blows between me and Elena. The jury is glued to the screen as we beat the living shit out of each other and I watch my husband painfully examine his best friend, asking where he’d been hit.

My stomach burns with the need to wail and I cover my mouth and try to cry silently. Tears stream unbidden down my face as I relive Christian flinching away from me when I reach for him and running to the bathroom, praying that the bullet didn’t hit a major artery in Jason’s shoulder. When Jason starts singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” I lose it. The sob I was choking on coughs very unladylike out of my throat and cuts through the relative silence that’s fallen over the room, save the chaos that’s erupting on the video. I know this is going to be a spectacle soon, so I leap from my seat, heaving uncontrollably and dash for the door. I burst into the hallway as if the oxygen on the other side will help stop the flow of my tears and the involuntary heaving of my chest.

It doesn’t.

I lean against the wall for support, certain that I’ll pass out any second as I hear a camera or two flash to capture this moment for posterity. I don’t care. I couldn’t watch that video another second. I sat through as much as I could, but reliving those horrible moments in living color was more than I could stand. I could have killed that woman. I really could have killed her. Christian, sobbing over his best friend; Jason, singing that damn song not knowing if these were truly his last moments. Goddamn that evil demonic bitch!

The seconds that it took Christian to burst out of the courtroom behind me felt like hours. Relief floods through me faster than I can process it when I see him standing in front of me, his eyes full of concern.

“Baby! Baby, are you okay?”

I can’t form any words. I’m heaving so hard reliving the goddamn moments on the tape, wishing I had killed that bitch and so glad that I didn’t at the same time. I can’t focus or think and my head starts to spin.

“Breathe, Baby. Please, breathe…”

That’s the last thing I remember.

*-*

I awake in someone’s chambers… again. At least I wasn’t on the stand this time. I’m trying to breathe around this apparatus on my face and take in my surroundings at the same time. I don’t know where I am. This isn’t the same judge’s room… and I’m not on a sofa. I’m on a stretcher! And this is an oxygen mask on my face! I mumble something and move my hand—or try to move my hand—to get this thing off my face, only to find that Christian has my hand cemented to his.

“Butterfly!” The word is a heated whisper and he’s in my face in seconds.

“Get this off of me,” I slur, grasping at the mask.

“You need it, Butterfly,” Christian protests.

“No, I don’t,” I say, grabbing the mask finally and trying to pull it from my face.

“Okay, okay, wait.” He gestures to someone and a paramedic—a paramedic—comes over and removes the mask from my face.

“Don’t be difficult, Anastasia.” I look up and Carrick is looking down on me, speaking in a fatherly tone. Oh, God, exactly how big of a spectacle have I made of myself?

“I don’t need the oxygen,” I say, trying to sit up.

“You’ve been out for over twenty minutes,” Christian scolds. “You say you don’t need the oxygen, but I draw the line at you getting off that stretcher.”

“We’ll need to take her in now,” I hear one of the EMTs say.

“No!” I protest as clearly as my meek little voice will allow.

“Anastasia…” Christian chides.

“Could she be pregnant again?” Carrick asks.

“Not unless I can have this reaction in two days,” I answer him. His brow furrows.

“More information than I needed about my daughter-in-law,” he says sweetly looking down at me.

“You asked,” I remind him. “My children are exactly six weeks and four days old. We just got back from a weekend away.” I give him a knowing look.

“Jesus, Christian, what did you do to her at that cabin?” Carrick jabs.

“Dad!” Christian protests. I shake my head as much as the stretcher will allow. The situation needed a little levity. I squeeze Christian’s hand to garner his attention.

“Crying or fainting… remember?” I say. I told him when I passed out at Morton’s grave and again when I passed out before the cuffs came out on the fateful day that has us in this wonderful establishment today that my reaction to immensely stressful situations that bring on way too much adrenaline too fast is either crying or fainting. He examines me for a moment, then thrust his hand in his hair, the worry slowly starting to leave his face.

“God!” he exclaims. “It hadn’t happened in such a long time, I forgot. You scared the shit outta me.”

“I’m sorry. I just… I couldn’t…” I feel the tears coming back. He takes one of my hands in both of his.

“Okay. I know. I know,” he says, kissing my hand.

“Mr. Grey? Mrs. Grey?” The EMT is attempting to get our attention. I begin to sit up.

“Slowly,” Carrick warns, gently grasping my shoulder—to assist or halt my ascent, I don’t know, but it does a little of both. God, he’s as protective as his son. I try not to roll my eyes as I slowly sit upright on the stretcher. “How do you feel?” I wait a moment to see if my head is spinning or if there are any residuals from the fainting spell. I nod.

“Fine,” I tell him. “I feel fine. Shouldn’t you be in a courtroom somewhere?” I ask with a smile.

“I was,” he says. “I was just leaving to go back to my office when I saw my son white as a ghost carrying my unconscious daughter to parts unknown.” Daughter… my heart warms immediately. “He was clearly stressed out, sweating profusely, and about to ruin a perfectly good Anderson & Sheppard, so I asked Judge Morris if we could borrow his chambers. And here I am.” I smile warmly at him and put my hand on his cheek, relaying gratitude and love.

“Thank you,” I say just above a whisper. He returns my warm smile along with a blush.

“You’re welcome,” he says, taking my hand and giving me a gentle peck on the forehead. “Try not to do that to us again, okay?” I nod.

“I’ll try.” I’ve gained another father… something I wish I could have had in Morton since he claimed to love my mother and stayed with her until his death. I’m certain that part of the reason she was so cold and distant to me all those years had to do with the fact that he, for whatever reason, couldn’t stand my guts. They shared a mutual distaste for me—it was probably one of the things that kept them together for so long. I was just a kid, and they could have very easily gotten rid of me by sending me home to my father. But no, that decision wasn’t lucrative enough.

“Okay, Dad, enough schmoozing with my girl,” Christian says. “What are you trying to do, steal her away from me?”

“An impossible task, I think, son,” Carrick says. “Besides, she’s quite lovely, but I only have eyes for one.” He winks at me.

“Can you and Mom make it to the Crossing tonight, Dad?” Christian asks. “I really need to talk to you.”

“I can, but I don’t know about your mother. I think she’s on call tonight.” Christian murmurs an expletive.

“Okay, well, you may have the task of relaying a message to her.”

“Can’t you tell me now?” Carrick asks. Christian looks around.

“Definitely not!” he says definitively. “And I’m taking Ana home. We’ve had enough of this for one day.” He reaches down to lift me off the stretcher.

“Christian, I can walk!” I protest firmly. I don’t want to be carried out in front of the press. He reads my expression and stands upright.

“I hate to tell you this, baby, but they’re everywhere—even wandering around with fancy cell phones. They’ve already got pictures. Stretcher or my arms; the choice is yours.” He’s completely unwavering. I frightened him. When I frighten him, he needs this. I sigh in surrender and open my arms to him. He scoops me up like he’s carrying my clothes with nothing in them. I’m certain he could carry me with one hand.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” he says to the EMTs. “You can send the bill to my office,” and out we go, down the hallway, out the door and down the stairs to flashing lights and questions about what happened and why Christian is carrying me. He looks straight ahead to the Audi SUV parked at the curb, his only task to get us to the car. I listen to the questions being thrown at us and carefully answer only one.

“Mrs. Grey, are you alright?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you.” I lay on Christian’s shoulder as he quickly and easily takes the rest of the stairs. Chuck opens the door for us and Christian climbs in with me in his lap. Chuck closes the door behind us and two raps on the roof later, we’re off to Grey Crossing.

*-*

“Hello?”

I swallow hard when my father answers the phone later that evening. Carrick was able to come by and Christian is speaking to him in his den. I didn’t have the chance to ask Daddy and Mandy to stop by and this can’t wait, so, I’m having this very sensitive conversation over the phone.

“Hi, Daddy,” I say softly into the phone.

“Hey, Sunflower,” he greets me. “How are you? You’re all over the news. Are you okay? I tried not to worry and bug you. I knew you would call. I’m so glad you did.” He’s talking a mile a minute. I want to laugh, but our conversation is no laughing matter.

“I’m fine, Daddy,” I say. “I need to talk to you about the trial.”

“Okay,” he says. “What’s up?” I clear my throat.

“Some things came out in the trial that may make the news very soon and I want you to hear about them from me before you hear about them in the news.”

“What’s going on, Sunflower?”

“You know that horrible woman was originally arrested for her crimes against minors—young boys, pedophilia…”

“Yes, yes, I know.” He cuts me off and I know immediately that this is going to be harder than I thought.

“Well, today, it was revealed in court that Christian was one of those boys.”

The line is quiet for a long time.

“Oh my God,” he says, softly. “How’s Christian?”

“He’s okay,” I tell him. “He came to grips with this quite some time ago, but this is something that he really didn’t want to be public in that way.”

“I can see why. Are you okay?”

“Yes, Daddy, but… that’s only part of it.”

“There’s more?” he asks, appalled. I nod, as if he could see me.

“She introduced him to a lifestyle at a very young age. It’s the only thing he knew. He practiced it…” I clear my throat. “… Into adulthood and we… still practice now.”

“And what is that?” Daddy asks cautiously. I close my eyes.

“BDSM.” There is a long silence on the line. “Da…?”

“WHAT!?” my father roars on the other end. “Are you serious? I give my daughter to this man and this is what he brings you into?” He is furious. I have to take control of this conversation right now.

“He didn’t bring me into anything, Father!” I snap. Daddy is silenced immediately. “Yes, he practiced before we met, but I learned about BDSM in college during my human sexuality studies and when he spoke to me about it, I was already curious. I had already seen it in practice and I consented to it.”

“You consented to be abused?” he spits.

“He doesn’t abuse me!” I retort. “And I don’t abuse him.” There’s silence again.

“You do that to him?” he asks, confusion lacing his voice.

“We do it to each other,” I tell him. “It’s purely consensual and it’s none of that hardcore, crazy shit that you see on the internet. I wouldn’t stand for that. Look what I’ve already been through!”

“That’s why I don’t understand this!” he snaps. “Why would you subject yourself to something like this after what you’ve already been through?” I sigh.

“Because, Daddy, our relationship is not like what you see on the internet or what you may have heard. Yes, there are some very deviant aspects to the lifestyle, but Christian and I practice nothing like that. Our experiences are about desire, adventure, and mutual sexual satisfaction.”

“I don’t understand, Annie,” Daddy says. “Everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve ever heard about… the lifestyle…” He says the word with so much contempt. “… Has been whips and chains and sexually deviant behavior. Didn’t you say that sick woman on trial practiced this crap?”

“Yes, but I’m trying to tell you that’s not the only aspect of it and that there’s nothing sexually deviant about what Christian and I do.” He’s not hearing me. He’s a traditional man with traditional values and all he’s ever heard of BDSM was dungeons and abuse and female degradation and the taboo things that he’s probably seen online. I can’t get him past the sadomasochism part of the BDSM lifestyle to even explain to him how what Christian and I do is so different.

The conversation goes on for about twenty more minutes without my father hearing one thing I say about mine and Christian’s relationship being more loving and giving than about bondage, dominance, and submission. Nothing I say gets through to him. Every rebuttal that I give him to his preconceived notions are met with more preconceived notions. The conversation finally ends with him hanging up on me, telling me that he has to let this whole thing sink in and can’t talk to me anymore right now and me sitting there staring at the phone like it’s going to give me answers that I’m probably never going to get.

I’m beat, way too tired to sit here and argue with my closed-minded father about the many aspects of BDSM and that Christian and I don’t practice the extreme shit that he sees on sexually deviant websites. To each his or her own, but that’s not us and I can’t get him to see that.

I drag my ass up to our bedroom and strip down to nothing, climb into the hottest shower I can stand and attempt to scrub this day off of me. I’ve already told Gail that the day has been a bit too much for me and that I’ll need her to please handle the twins’ feedings. Thankfully, she agreed. So, while I’m in the shower, I just allow the milk to express from my breast under the flow of the hot water instead of pumping it. I almost forego washing my hair because it’s hell if I sleep with it wet and I don’t feel like drying it, but I can’t resist letting the water run all over me and my head in and attempt to rinse away every single thought of the day… that smug ass lawyer, Pedo-bitch, the video, the fainting, the conversation with my father.

I swear my skin was numb by the time I got out of the shower. I dry my skin and reach for a warm nightshirt. I wrap my hair in a towel, grab my moisturizing lotion and head out to our bedroom.

“There you are,” Christian says, rising from the bed and walking over to me. “Dad wanted to say goodbye before he left, but you had disappeared.” I sit on the bed with my lotion in my hand.

“I needed a shower,” I tell him, “this has been a long ass day.” I bend my legs and begin to moisturize my skin. He holds out his hand for the bottle.

“Let me,” he says. I hand him the bottle, too weary to protest. He never asks what’s wrong; he just goes to work on my legs and ankles. I sit back on the bed.

“The conversation with my father didn’t go well,” I tell him. He freezes momentarily, then proceeds with his massage.

“Oh?” he asks.

“No,” I say. “He’s stuck in his narrow-minded, Puritanical views and I can’t get him to budge.” He frowns as he moves to open my nightshirt.

“That’s… odd,” he says. “I would think… he would understand, or at least listen to you.” He starts to caress my torso with the moisturizing lotion. He removes one arm from the nightshirt and begins to moisturize that arm.

“I thought he would, too,” I say, removing my other arm from the night shirt, “but try to tell Daddy that his little girl is into BDSM.” I say. Christian frowns.

“Yeah,” he says, moisturizing the other arm. He is the father of a daughter now, isn’t he? Even if she is just an infant…

“I just didn’t expect him to be so unyielding,” I tell him. “Daddy knows I’m no dummy or wimp. I thought you called off the wedding and I left so that I could decide what I wanted. Why would he think I would submit to something I didn’t want?”

“Is that what he thinks?” he asks, going into my dressing room.

“Yes,” I say loud enough for him to hear me. “I had to convince him that you didn’t bring me into this…” He’s coming back with my brush and comb and two hair ties. “… And that I was interested in it before I met you, but he could only focus on the sexual deviance of the lifestyle. I think I’m just going to have to let it marinate for a minute before I try to get him to listen to reason.” He removes the towel from my head and starts to work the tangles from my hair.

“I’m sure he’ll come around. Ray seems like a reasonable man to me. Maybe it’s just the shock of it all.” He separates my hair down the center and begins to braid one side. I feel the tension begin to ooze out of my body as he continues to care for me. “Remember how I was so afraid to tell my parents? After they got over the initial shock, they rallied behind me.”

“Yeah, but they got over the shock immediately,” I protest as he fastens the first braid with a hair tie.

“No, they didn’t!” He corrects as he starts the second braid. “Remember Dad breaking down in my apartment?”

Oh, yeah. I did forget that.

“Yeah, but they never blamed you. They blamed Elena, like Dad blamed you, but then they got shocked and got over it. Dad is like… completely unmoving. Every time I try to explain to him that we have a mutually giving relationship, his brain goes right back to bullwhips and spiked collars and leashes and ball gags and cages…”

“But we don’t do anything like that!” Christian interjects.

“I know! But he couldn’t hear. When you say ‘BDSM,’ that’s all certain people see. Unfortunately, my dad is apparently one of those people!” He finishes my hair and puts the comb and brush on the nightstand.

“I wish I had an answer for you, Butterfly,” he says, stroking my face gently. “Give him time, I guess. He loves you… he’ll come around.”

I gaze adoring into his eyes, filled with love and compassion for me at this moment. He only wants me to feel better when this is mostly his catastrophe. He’s still going to have to worry about how this will affect his life… his business… I’m just worried about Daddy. I sigh as I consider that possibility.

“What is it?” he asks. I close my eyes and lean close to him, breathing him in.

“I wish I could make you feel what you make me feel,” I say softly. He frowns.

“What?” he asks.

“Just…” I sigh. “All the love and the warmth… and the things you do to my body… the way you take care of me… you make everything all better. I wish I could make you feel it.” There’s a sadness in my tone when I say it. He examines me for a moment, then stands from the bed. Without a word, he removes his T-shirt and then his jeans and boxer briefs in one movement. He stands before me, naked and glorious, and I sit on the bed in the same state of undress. He runs his hands over my braids to the ends and lets them drop on my breasts. He then takes my hand and presses it against his penis. I’m shocked at first. He’s completely flaccid, but with my hand under his, him manipulating my fingers on his erection, he’s hard in seconds—and I do mean seconds.

We’ve had sex every night since Friday; I don’t know if I can do it again tonight, but something in the way he’s looking at me—saying nothing, having me touch him… it’s making me… yearn for him.

He lays me down on our bed, situating my hands over my head. He crawls into bed between my legs hovering over me. He pushes my legs open wide and brings his face close to mine. I feel him at my opening, his hands on either side of me on the bed, but he doesn’t enter me. He’s looking into my eyes, so close that our lips nearly touch, but don’t. I feel his breath… taste his breath, but I can’t touch him. He moves his head as if he wants to kiss me, but he doesn’t. I start to pant from his proximity, his energy, it’s almost like a drug.

I feel him harden against me, the head right against my clit, but he doesn’t move. I swallow hard. He’s still looking at me… looking through me… God, his eyes… I see such… wanting and yearning there. I tilt my head and get lost in the story, the needful beseeching to be loved.

His breath becomes my breath, or mine becomes his, I don’t know, and I feel him slowly slip inside me… so slow that it takes an eternity for him to sheath himself in my sex. We’re still breathing the same air as he fills me, then pulls out all the way to the head until the slit in his penis is kissing my clit again.

Oh, my God… what is this?

He still says nothing as his head throbs softly on my clit, suddenly pebbling hard underneath him. Nothing else is touching but our breath… and our eyes… if you can consider that touching. I want to whimper, but I dare not make a sound. His head slides down my clit and into my core a second time, so agonizingly slowly that I can count the seconds until I’m filled with him again.

Thirteen. Thirteen goddamn seconds and I’m burning with each stroke as he pushes into me like never before. What is he doing to me?

Like the first time, he holds himself there for a moment before pulling out just as slowly as he entered, and my core is on fire. His penis is getting harder and harder, throbbing more and more each time the slit comes out to kiss my clit. By the third time he exits and meets my clit, his slit is pulsing so hard that my pebbled clit actually slips inside a bit. The sensation is so insane that I’m not quite sure how to handle it. By the fourth time, I’m panting wildly into his open mouth, unable to contain myself any longer. He matches my uncontrolled breathing, and I feel his semen begin to explode on my clit. He closes his eyes and slips into me again to ride his orgasm inside of me and the feeling is so hot that I burst into flames behind him, trembling underneath him—our lips and bodies still never touching. We concentrate only on our sex and the pulsing, pumping, burning, throbbing we feel from five simple strokes.

“Did you… f-feel that?” he chokes, without opening his eyes.

“Y-yes!” I mutter, barely able to speak.

“Th-that’s… what I… f-feel… for you.” A single tear escapes from his eye and slides partially down his cheek before dripping onto mine. I bring my hands from over my head and cup his face, examining him closely. He’s trembling—not like he’s cold, like he’s holding on to a weight and his body is about to give out under the pressure. I wipe the tear away with my thumb and gently run my tongue over his parted lips. His breath becomes more labored, but he doesn’t reciprocate and he doesn’t open his eyes. He just stays there with his body suspended over mine, his sex still buried inside of me. I feel all of his love, all of his helplessness and surrender, just how much he truly belongs to me.

I caress his hair and face and lick inside of his lips, his breath coming in short bursts now. We are still everywhere else except my hands caressing his face and hair and my lips licking his… and my heart, reaching out to his and melding with it, joining with it until two hearts become one.

God, how I love you…

He breathes heavily into my mouth and I worry that he might hyperventilate. He doesn’t close his mouth, nor open his eyes, and I watch him attentively, lost in some kind of otherworldly state. He doesn’t move a muscle except for his labored breathing. I don’t move either, except to caress his face and hair and adore him and infuse him with my energy and love. And then…

He grunts in his chest, then whimpers mournfully… longingly. His breaths are staccato… and then, he’s coming again inside of me. I’m amazed, but I don’t stop what I’m doing—licking his lips gently and caressing his hair and face. His lips don’t move. I know they don’t, I’m kissing them… but I hear the words as if he’s spoken them loud and clear.

Ana… my love…

I choke a sob as tears slide unsummoned down my temples. His hands move from their position on the bed beside me. He pushes them under my shoulders and his hands come up to cup my face. He opens his eyes and gazes at me with so much love flowing from him that my body fills with warmth and heat and I become helpless. My body falls limp underneath the weight of his as I weep softly.

We’ve changed roles.

His lips close gently over mine, but mine remain slack… weak from the onslaught of emotion. His lips wander from my mouth to my cheek to my ears, my neck…

I’m yours… I’m yours… do with me as you will…

Gentle lips continue over whatever part of my body they can reach as he holds my head in place with his hands and, even after two orgasms, begins to drive into me—slowly and deliciously, only slightly faster than before… a torturous slow grind; loving, attentive, and meticulous.

I love you, Ana…

Did he say it? Am I hallucinating? Oh, God… So much… feeling! So much.

I love you… I’m yours, too… I belong to you…

Oh, God, I’m going crazy! He’s kissing me; he’s not talking. Oh, God, the emotions… I’m losing myself…

Stay with me… don’t go… remember the matches…

Matches? What matches? Oh, the matches!

His mouth closes over mine and I return the kiss, trying hard to focus on the here and now and not the burning in my heart and soul, the need to reach to a plane higher than this one and when it hits…

My body curls into his and I whimper helplessly, repeatedly. He continues to hold me down as my hands grind uselessly on the pillow on the sides of my head, my back arching into his body and this cosmic release that’s burning bright hot red fire and light through my pelvis, chest and torso and reverberating to each one of my extremities. He doesn’t cover my mouth or extinguish my cries. His mouth is on my neck, now, talking to me, telling me how much he loves me, how he feels everything that I’m feeling, begging me to stay with him…

I think.

I’m wheezing when the burning stops and the light dissipates. The emotional and physical impact of what just happened almost too much to bear, but I’m still here… I didn’t burn all the matches.

… But I came damn close.

My love is still gently driving into me, still holding me, still loving me, caressing me and speaking to me in a way that only we can communicate. He takes his time—using his body and his heart to usher us both into a night filled with cosmic love, tantric energy, and rippling orgasms.


A/N: See the author’s note in chapter 58 for the reference to Like Water For Chocolate and the matches.

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

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Love and handcuffs  
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 62—Reality Check

Am I wrong to say how much I LOVED everyone’s comments on their own sexual frustration? Hee hee hee…

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

Chapter 62—Reality Check

ANASTASIA

“Don’t come.”

His voice is raspy, tormented as he drills into me. I don’t know where we are. The room—I think it’s a room—is dimly lit. My hands are bound together at the wrist, over my head and behind me so that my arms are slightly bent. It feels like rope—velvet, soft. I’m bound to a vertical pole or bar of some kind. I’m partially dressed… in one of my wrap crop tops, my bust propped up on beautiful display and shimmering with sweat. Whatever skirt I’m wearing is bunched up around my hips and I’m wearing sky-high platform stilettos. I’m standing, well, tiptoeing, on some kind of platform and Christian is in front of me, naked except for the white linen shirt open and hanging from his shoulders.

“I want to touch you!” I protest, the words high in my throat, steeping in the pleasure of an orgasm that I’ve been fending off for I don’t know how long.

“I know,” he groans deep in his chest. “We’ve both been bad, Anastasia. We’ve denied each other… so now, we have to deny ourselves.” He’s holding one leg up to allow himself unfettered access to my hot pussy. He drills into me, slow, deep and purposefully, my pussy swallowing him all the way to the balls. His thrust is slow, steady and delicious when he withdraws, harder and deeper when he pumps inside of me to the hilt, one hand gripping the cheek of the leg still planted on the platform. It would gently smack then grip with each thrust to ensure maximum penetration, then slide between my ass cheeks and up my ass with every other stroke just to repeat the process over and over, drilling inside of my tight pussy, my lips wrapping around his dick and the walls so tight that he has very little purchase to move. His hips move like a meticulous sexy dance, a deep stroke, then a slow, delicious, agonizing pull, the smaller wiggle and circle as he thrusts, but a concentrated long, slow withdraw that gives me the full effect of his long, thick cock hitting every part of my pleasure center—the hungry lips that caress his shaft; the spongy inner walls that suck him into their warm tunnels and coat his skin with my wet, creamy arousal; my throbbing clit that pebbles and trembles every time he wiggles his hips and thrusts into me.

“I’m not coming yet, either, baby,” he groans. “I’m going to push into this tight, hot pussy until I can’t stand it anymore.”

“Oh, God,” I lament as his dick continues to drive into me. I open my mouth to try to breathe, but he covers my mouth with his, owning it entirely, his lips and tongue performing the same agonizing movements in sync with his hips and dick. He’s fucking my goddamn mouth and moaning hungrily into it with each stroke, each lap of his tongue. I’m dizzy when his lips slowly pull away from mine.

“My God, you’re delicious,” he says, licking across my lips before moving down my jaw to my neck and the exposed mounds of my breasts. This is a goddamn sensation overload.

“Christian… please…” I squeak.

“I know, baby,” he says. “Feel it. I feel it, too… the burn… Let it burn, baby…”

And burn, it is; I feel it everywhere, radiating from the origin in my core to every little aching hot spot on my body. When he leans over to bite one of the nipples protruding from the material of my crop top, I nearly lose it. I scream in pleasure and leap a bit, away from his grasp, but inadvertently shifting our positions.

“Mmmm, you like that,” he growls low before biting the other nipple.

“Christian!” I cry out. It sounds surreal, though, like someone else is doing it. I shift again and end up landing straight on his dick, my leg wrapped around his hip.

“Mmmmmmmmmm,” he croons, “that’s much better.” Where I was angled for him to thrust forward into me before, my repositioning had now angled him to thrust slightly up into me. He has a firmer grasp on my ass and since my leg has wrapped around his hip, he now uses both hands to grip my ass, steadying me and pushing me down onto his drilling dick. Oh God, I’m going to die.

“Yes, baby,” he grunts, passion in his voice. “Right there… right the fuck there! God, this fucking ass!” His new angle and new stroke are making me dizzy, my pussy burning and throbbing, pulsing with pain and pleasure. I can’t… I can’t take anymore.

“Christian, I… I can’t stand it… I’m going to come…”

“No,” he breathes, “Feel it. Feel me moving inside of you, filling you, burning for you so bad that it’s painful. Aaah, God, it’s so hot, so tight…” His stroke never changes as his left hand cups my ass without letting go and his right hand grabs the cheek anew with each thrust, one hand holding me and one hand pushing me in and down hard on his dick with each thrust. I feel every vein as he sinks into me and pulls out with painful deliberation, the new position causing his crown to stroke sensitive spots that I didn’t even know I had.

“Please…” I breathe, now delirious with pleasure. “Please let me come…”

“No,” he breathes, the torment of his own orgasm thick in his voice. “Feel it!” he chokes. “Hot and hard for you; my balls, thick, full, and heavy for you! The burn of me inside you; I feel you contracting. Hold it… hold it, baby. Gah!”

The feeling is agony for him just like it is for me. I don’t know how to stop the contracting once it starts, and he’s not relenting, pumping inside of me, the same maddening pace.

“Christian!” I beg. “I can’t! I can’t!”

“Hold it!” he growls into my neck. “God, this ass! This fucking ass!” He’s clutching the cheeks tighter, grasping firmer with each stroke, pushing me harder down on his dick. “So goddamn round and juicy and sexy and you still fit perfectly into my hands.” He buries his face in my neck, grunting with each stroke before he starts to lick and suck my skin.

“This is what we deny each other, baby,” he says, feasting on my skin and pumping mercilessly into my weeping pussy. “This is what we deny each other when we stay away from each other, when we refuse to satisfy each other.”

“Yes! Yes!” I pant, delirious and completely out of control.

“Fuck! Fuck! Ana!” He almost sounds feminine when he says my name and I know he can’t take it anymore. He struggles to maintain the stroke, but I feel him coming hot and wild inside of me.

“Ana!” he whines again, still stroking through his orgasm, in physical pain from holding out so long. I know the feeling. I’ve totally lost control and I don’t know what to tell my body to do now. I feel his erect dick pop out of me, still spurting juice, the moisture inside my pussy seeping out and running down my leg. He only takes a moment to compose himself before he’s inside of me again.

“We won’t… do that… again…” he pants, and I know he’s talking about the denial we’ve done by not coming to each other… but this can’t be happening now. I haven’t had my checkup. I haven’t been cleared…

“Come for me, Ana.”

I have no control over my body. I don’t know if I’m coming or not. I’m so lost in pleasure that I can’t think. Can this be happening right now? Can we be having sex right now?

Just as I try to make sense of what’s going on, the explosion begins painfully in my pelvis and causes me to sit straight up in my bed. I feel Christian’s hands nearly violently squeezing my ass and his copper curls cover the space between my legs. I scream through a detonating orgasm as he licks and sucks hungrily at my core, grunting like a starving man. I can still fucking feel him inside of me. Damn, that was hot! When I’m reduced to high-pitched whimpering and panting. He quickly releases my pussy and scoots back on his knees. When I raise my head, his dick is hard and veiny and ready to blow and he’s pumping it with his fist, unable to withstand the pressure anymore. Remembering his words in my dream…

“We won’t… do that… again…”

I scramble out of the blankets and forward to my husband, quickly latching my mouth onto his angry dick. He gasps quickly, loudly, the surprise and pleasure grabbing him like a vise.

“God…! Ana…! Fuck…!” He’s totally surprised at first, but it only takes seconds for him to surrender and fall back, sitting on his feet and cupping my head, unable to stop himself from pushing it down on his dick.

“Anaaaaaaaaa…” He makes the same nearly feminine sound that he makes in my dream, only he draws my name out more this time as he comes hard and strong in my mouth. “Gooooooood!” He almost cries as he sits paralyzed on the bed and I drain his aching balls and penis of every drop of their sensual offering. He’s breathless and weak when it’s over, breathing and wobbling like he’s hanging from invisible puppeteer’s strings. I crawl up to my knees, facing him, his gray eyes sleepy and grateful. I must have the same look in my eyes, because my body feels like spaghetti. He cups my face and kisses me with all the strength he can muster. I feel a slight twinge of eroticism when our juices mingle in our mouths. His moan and deep licking says he feels the same thing. We’re both too spent to do anything more about it right now.

It’s just past dawn and my trembling husband takes me in his arms and lies down in bed with me. We wrap ourselves in the blankets and snuggle into their warmth and each other.

“What happened?” I ask, once he catches his breath. He pauses for several moments.

“You were dreaming,” he says. “At least I think you were dreaming.”

“I was,” I confirm. I feel him nod before he kisses my hair.

“You were moaning… and writhing. I almost woke you until I realized…” He trails off. “I thought it would be cruel,” he says with an ironic laugh. I feel a little shy that he watched me have an erotic dream. “You were so sexy. You looked like a little nymph, just lost in pleasure. Your nipples got hard, then my dick got hard. I could smell you. God, you smelled so good.” He starts kissing my neck. “You were calling my name.”

I feel a small shiver run down my spine. It’s been four days since we agreed not to deny each other and yet, I have this dream.

“I was dreaming of you,” I confess.

“What was I doing?” he asks, gently cupping my breast. My breath catches in my throat.

“Loving me,” I breathe. “Fucking me. You were driving me wild—grabbing my ass and pushing me down onto you. You told me not to come…”

“I did?” He rolls me onto my back and brings his mouth to my breast, biting the nipple like he did in the dream.

“Christian!” I breathe.

“What else did I do?” he coaxes.

“That!” I pant. “You did that!”

“You weren’t dreaming,” he says. “I did do that.” He pinches my nipples between his finger and thumbs before kissing me gently. “What else did I do?”

“You… grabbed my ass…” I pant.

“Well, we know I did that,” he says, his voice husky.

“You said it was… juicy and round… and still fit… in your hand…”

“I really said that, too,” he says, kissing my breast. “I know you’re going to be working out, but do me a favor and try not to lose your ass. You know I’ll love you no matter what, but that thing is beautiful. When I was holding it that day in my office in those genie pants, and a few minutes ago, while you were coming, there was no way I could avoid blowing my load. You’re gorgeous and your body is coming together without you really trying. And you look fucking scrumptious!”

That did me a world of good!

“We can’t have sex, Mr. Grey, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to fuck your brains out right this minute!”

“Twelve days, baby,” he says. “Twelve more days and we’ll lock the doors, close the curtains, and rip the walls out of this bitch! But in the meantime…” He takes two fingers and lusciously licks them with his long tongue. When they are good and wet, he slides the moistened fingers under the covers, between my legs, and over my clit. I only have a second to gasp before he covers my mouth with his.

*-*

“Hello, beautiful girl.”

Christian is captivated by his four-week-old daughter, quietly staring up into her father’s loving gray eyes. He has a ritual with his children. Every day, he sits on the floor in the family room with his legs crossed, holding one of them in his large hands like the treasure that they are, gazing down into their eyes, and talking to them about everything and nothing. He tries to get to them both, but sometimes, baby number two is asleep before his conversation with baby number one is complete. So, he’ll try to pick up the conversation later, or the next day, so that neither child gets more Daddy Time than the other.

Today’s story brings me to tears.

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Anastasia. She had shiny mahogany hair that was three feet long and the bluest blue eyes in the whole world that sparkled like sapphires in the sun. She had a kind heart and a loving soul and brought joy and happiness to nearly everyone she met.”

I’m coming through the kitchen looking for a snack and some water after doing my yoga. He’s in front of the sofa and can’t see me. I tuck myself behind the archway between the kitchen and family room to listen to his tale.

“One day, Princess Anastasia was walking through the land and met a curmudgeonly king named Christian. He was a grumpy old sort—mean and unhappy, and his subjects were afraid of him. None of them liked him and King Christian didn’t have any friends. He was only surrounded by people who wanted to do him harm.

“When Princess Anastasia met King Christian, well, she didn’t like him much either. ‘You’re an evil narcissist,’ she said. ‘I will tell the high council and they will throw you into the dungeon and take away your kingdom!’”

I have to cover my mouth to keep from laughing at his interpretation of our first fight.

“Well, King Christian couldn’t have that, so do you know what he did?” He pauses for a moment. “He frightened poor Princess Anastasia. He threatened her and made her afraid, so she had to call the Duke of Fleming and the Earl of Forsythe to come and escort her back to her cottage.” His voice is soft and full of remorse.

Did I… Did I ever tell him that?

“But soon,” he continues his story with a sigh, “King Christian fell in love with the princess against his will. He didn’t want to tell her, so he sent his knights to guard and protect her until he could find a way to tell her how he felt. At first, King Christian himself didn’t even know how he felt, but I can tell you now that it was love.”

I feel the tears burning in the back of my eyes.

“Many things tried to hinder King Christian and Princess Anastasia’s love—the evil Duchess of Pedo-Land, the wicked Midget of Mortonville and her Pickled Piper sidekick—even had the horrible Count David who kidnapped the fair princess and locked her in his dreary tower. There were even times when King Christian himself did things to sabotage their love, but they were meant to be and against all odds, they were married and King Christian made Princess Anastasia his queen.

“But then, one day, tragedy struck. Right after the dastardly Viscount Myrick was captured and sent to the stocks for trying to crumble the kingdom, a new threat would rear its ugly head in an attempt to rip our fair couple apart. For a poor peasant girl pining for King Christian and jealous of the fair Lady Anastasia attempted to the destroy the queen and her valiant knight Sir Davenport in their carriage. And while the poor peasant met her untimely demise, Lady Anastasia fell into a deep, deep sleep.”

His voice sounds tormented and Minnie’s eyes are pinned to him as if she knows exactly what he’s saying. I can just see over the sofa, and Mikey is in his napper—eyes open, sucking a binky, also mesmerized by his father’s tale.

“King Christian was devastated,” he continues. “He called on the best physicians and apothecaries in the land to stir his beautiful bride, but nothing could be done. He was content to wait for her to wake, but alas, the practitioners told him that their sorcery was only allowed to sustain her threescore days.”

He swallows hard trying to make the truth of the accident sound like a fairytale, and I can’t hold my tears back anymore.

“King Christian vowed to spend her last days with her and never left her side. All of his trusted advisors tried to get him to leave her, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t stand the thought of being without her for even one minute. He sat with her. He read to her. He talked to her. He cried with her. He laughed as if she could hear him. He barely slept for fear that she would awaken and he would not be there.”

I have to cover my mouth to muffle my sobs. I can feel his pain radiating across the room and wonder why he decided to tell this story at this moment.

“She smiled sometimes. She even spoke, but she didn’t wake. For days, she didn’t wake. It felt like forever, and he counted the seconds. One million. Thirty-six thousand. Eight-hundred seconds… or… something like that.”

He whispers the last three words, shaking his head as if to shake the thought and pausing for a moment.

“But…” his voice cracks a bit as he continues, “two days shy of a fortnight later, Lady Anastasia opened her beautiful sapphire eyes. King Christian was ecstatic, but alas, the fates were cruel because the beautiful queen didn’t recognize her king,” he whispers.

And I’m weeping again.

“King Christian was devastated all over again. How could this be? He had sat by her bedside for twelve days and couldn’t remember getting twelve minutes of sleep. How could she not know him? But fret not, young Michael and Mackenzie fair, for true love always knows its counterpart. While King Christian ached for his queen, Lady Anastasia’s soul called for her love and pulled her from the grasp of the dragon amnesia, returning her to the cradle of the arms of the man she loved.”

My chest is heavy and I ache all over again as I hear him tell the cruelest story in the kindest way that he can to his children about the horrible twelve days that he almost lost me; about thinking that I wasn’t coming back only to have me awaken and not recognize him. How the pain of those moments tore at him and the relief he must have felt when I finally remembered who he was.

He’s still cooing at his baby girl when I enter the room. His gaze breaks for a moment and meets mine, a deep frown forming on his face when he gets a good look at mine—tearstained and broken. I kneel beside him and use my thumbs to gently stroke his furrowed brow, pushing away the frown I see there before cupping his face with my hands.

“Queen Anastasia. Loves King Christian. With her whole heart and soul,” I breathe through my tears. His beautiful gray eyes focus on me, full of more emotion than I can identify—love, gratitude, fear, admiration… a plethora of things. I stroke his face with my hands and plant a tender kiss on his lips before gently stroking his hair, then back to his cheek as I pull my lips away from his and look into his eyes again.

“I adore you, Anastasia,” he says, his voice deep and a bit raspy, still holding his daughter. I close my eyes and lean my forehead to his.

“I know,” I whisper. “Thank you.” I sit down next to him and lean on his arm, gazing at our children. Mikey has drifted off to sleep, his binky occasionally bobbing in his mouth. Minnie’s little mouth makes a very small “O” and I know she’s not far behind her little brother. At this moment, as cliché as it sounds, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.


CHRISTIAN

I put two portfolios and the tiny box containing my gifts inside the double-fold leather gift box and snap it shut. I needed my gifts to be appropriate and in light of our life together and how things are changing, I think… I hope… I’ve made the right choices. I take the black leather box and go in search of my wife. I don’t get very far. I find her at Atlantis watching her favorite fish, Marty, swimming among the ruins and I’m immediately concerned.

“Butterfly?” I ask as I cautiously approach her. She turns to face me, smiles softly, then looks back at her fish. I walk over to her and put my arm around her waist. “Are you okay?”

“Did I ever tell you that Allen and James had to come and get me from the center that day?” she asks. That’s a strange question. Is that why she’s standing here?

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I don’t remember if you told me, but I was there. I wanted to confront you. I was waiting for you, but the moment I saw you, I knew how I affected you… I think… that’s when I fell in love with you.” She turns quickly to face me, apparently shocked at my revelation, then tiptoes and slides her arms around my neck kissing me deeply. I embrace her and return the kiss, feeling the heat transfer from her body to mine and hating that I have something in my hand and can’t hold her properly.

She’s a bit breathless when our lips part, and she brushes hers against mine.

“Things just… come back,” she breathes. “It’s like… I’m living them all over again… the feelings, the love,” she whispers, brushing her cheek against mine. “It’s so fresh and new, yet so familiar.”

“You… forgot… loving me?” I ask, a little bruised.

“It’s a constant struggle, Christian,” she says, tortured. “I never forgot loving you. It’s the only thing I never forgot. I forgot our wedding. I forgot meeting you. I forgot who you were, but I never forgot loving you,” she weeps. “Most of my life came back to me in the hospital. Thankfully, I knew who you were, but even now, there are small bits still missing… and… not so small bits. As they come back… they can be a bit overwhelming.”

I gather her in my arms and try to comfort her. I don’t know what memory has caused her to feel so lost, but I just want her to know that I’m here.

“Twelve days,” she breathes, her mouth buried in my neck, “1,036,800 seconds not knowing if you would ever come back to me… I don’t think I could survive it.” Her voice cracks and she weeps again.

“Sssh,” I soothe. “You came back to me, though. I didn’t lose you. You’re here with me now.”

“But the torment… of not knowing…” She squeezes me hard. “I just… I don’t know. Maybe the emotions of post-partum depression are starting to sink in.”

Oh, we can’t have that.

I take her hand and walk her away from Atlantis, leading her to one of the barstools.

fancy-necklace-jewelry-gift-box-prestige-collection-black-44“Sit.” I gesture to the stool and Butterfly takes a seat, attempting to wipe the tears from her cheeks. I pull my handkerchief from my jean pocket and hand it to her, waiting for her to clean her face. I put the box on the bar between us. It looks like one of those leather boxes that hold expensive jewelry, like large necklaces, but there’s no jewelry in this box.

“I wanted to get everything right when I did this, and I hope that I did,” I say, sitting on the stool next to her. “I need you to know that you mean the world to me, and that I will never be able to match the two precious gifts that you have bestowed upon me…” My throat gets a little dry as I’m suddenly choked up with emotion thinking of our children, so I clear my throat. “However, in an attempt to begin to express my immense gratitude, please accept these small tokens of my appreciation, my beloved.”

I slide the box over to her and she cleans her face, grasping the handkerchief while looking at me, surprised.

84824364“Tokens?” she says. I nod. “Push gifts?” I nod again. Her delicate fingers stroke the box before popping the snap and opening it to reveal the “tiny box” and portfolios inside. She opens the tiny box on top to reveal the obvious Audi key and a wide smile grows across her face.

“You bought me a car?” she giggles cutely. I smirk.

“You might want to look at the specs first,” I say, gesturing to the first portfolio in the box. “We never replaced yours since the…” I swallow hard and sigh. “Well… you…” I drop my head. We were just talking about the accident and this was supposed to get her mind off it, and now I’ve brought us full circle, so much so that I’m feeling the effects of it myself. In true Butterfly fashion, she puts her hand on top of mine to comfort me and graces me with a wide and beautiful smile. I return her smile with one of my own and she takes the portfolio out of the box and opens it.

key1c550e201-1e9e-4ff2-9e90-9f1039476daalarge“Scuba blue metallic 2014 Audi Q7,” she reads aloud. “Twenty-inch, 10-arm-turbine design wheels with Anthracite bicolor-finish; fine Nappa leather and cloth interior with Piano Black inlay; driver and front passenger dual-stage airbags; front thorax side airbags and Sideguard head curtain airbags; rear side airbags; lower anchors and tethers for children in rear seats; panoramic sunroof; Bluetooth wireless technology; keyless start…”

She begins rattling off the many physical and safety features of her new Audi before throwing her arms around me and laughing heartily.

“Only Christian Grey could think to make me the sleekest, hottest, Audi minivan mom on Mercer Island!” she says giggling profusely.

“Well, technically, it’s an SUV, not a minivan.” She lets out a genuine but incredulous laugh.

“It has built-in car seats, a rear cargo cover, and a tailgate! It’s a minivan, Christian!” she laughs. “And it’s perfectly beautiful! I love it! Thank you!” She’s still giggling with tears in her eyes. “Where is it?”

“It’s in garage number two.”

“I wanna see it!” She leaps off her seat. I grab her arm before she escapes.

“Ah, ah, ah, not yet,” I tell her. “You have to see your second gift first.” She pokes her lip out at me. “Come on, Mrs. Grey. You can play with your new toy later. I want you to see this one first.” She mocks a pout and climbs back onto the stool.

“Two gifts,” she says removing the second portfolio.

leather-portfolio“Two babies,” I say matter-of-factly, and she smiles at me. She opens the portfolio and begins to examine its contents.

“Christian, this is…” She reads further, then starts to flip through the pages. “Christian!” Her hand flies to her lips as she realizes what she’s looking at. “Oh, my God, Christian, are you serious?”

“Yes,” I say softly as I watch her eyes dart across the pages in the portfolio. “Quite serious.”

“How…?” Her voice is barely there. “Christian… this is… Rome… Venice…” She covers her mouth and gasps loudly. “Villa… Anastasia?” she says, barely able to get the words out of her mouth. She raises glassy eyes to me. “Christian, you didn’t…”

“I did. I want us to go in June… for our first anniversary. Our honeymoon was interrupted. We won’t allow anything to interrupt us this time.” She bolts into my arms before the words are out of my mouth, winding herself around my body and weeping.

“It’s too much,” she cries into my neck.

“It’s never too much,” I croon. “Nothing is too much for you.”

“Oh, Christian,” she weeps, “I love you… I love you so much…”

*-*

Marlow and I are sitting in the deli Monday morning going over his most recent progress reports and some ideas that he has for improvements to some of the areas of his old neighborhood. I have to admit that this young man has come quite a long way since that first year I decided to mentor him at GEH. Seeing his growth firsthand has made me want to become more involved in programs that assist underprivileged children—especially since I started out as one of the forgotten myself. I know that my mother and my wife have Helping Hands and they do a lot of good work for abused families, and the Faces of Abuse PSA—which is still running—has a lot to do with bringing attention to the Center and getting the word out that there is help for those who thought there was none. However, I want to help in a different capacity, so I’m brainstorming with Marlow to come up with ideas for a more hands-on approach.

Our meeting today has a dual purpose. I also want to meet with Radcliff to see his progress and to move on to the next steps in his program, for lack of a better word. He’s been liaising through Andrea since I’ve been on paternity leave and I haven’t seen him in weeks. I barely recognize him when he walks into the deli.

“Jim?” I say questioning when he gets to our table.

“Hi, Christian,” he says, proffering his hand. He looks a hundred times better than he did when we last met. His coloring is healthier and he’s put on some weight.

“You’re looking well,” I shake his hand and gesture for him to sit. “This is Marlow Whitehead. He’s my protégé, so to speak. Marlow, this is James Radcliff.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Radcliff,” Marlow says, shaking his hand. Jim greets him with a smile. “I have to get back to school, now. I’m going to be late for Calc. So, I’ll see you later, Mr. Grey.”

“Don’t forget to ask Mr. Hemsley about that last proposal,” I remind him. He nods and waves as he leaves the deli. I turn my attention to Jim. “So, how have you been?”

“Better,” he says. “I was sick for a while, but you already know that.” The waitress brings him coffee and he orders a burger and fries. “I’m doing much better now, though. I was on some meds and rest and now I’m back to work. I got a studio close to the job. It’s all I can afford right now. I’m paying child support to Thelma and trying to put some money away to get us another place so…” He trails off and takes a sip of his coffee.

“Have you spoken to her yet?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Not since just before Christmas. It’s not that I don’t want to. I just… I want to make sure I have something to tell her.”

“You have something to tell her,” I say and he raises his eyes to me. “Start with ‘I’m sorry.’” He drops his head and nods.

“I know you’re right, but I don’t know how.”

“What do you mean you don’t know how?” I ask, appalled. “Are you saying you’ve never apologized to anyone?”

“No, I’m saying that I don’t know how to put into words that I put her and my son in danger and I want her to forgive me for that,” he says. I nod.

“Well, I’m no shrink, but that’s a good start,” I say. “Speaking of which, have you thought about talking to one?” His eyes sharpen.

“I’m not crazy!” he snaps. Why does everybody think talking to a shrink makes you crazy?

“Do you think your wife is crazy?” I ask.

“No!” he snaps.

“Well, she talks to one. Do you think I’m crazy?” He glares at me.

“Rich people always talk to shrinks,” he says, waving me off.

“No, they don’t,” I retort. “People who need help always talk to shrinks, or at least they always should—but they don’t. But, hey, it’s your life. If you don’t need any help, by all means, just keep muddling along.” I take a sip of my coffee. He sighs.

“How do I talk to a shrink?” he says, sort of resigned and defeated.

“Look, don’t do this for me, man. You’re the one who needs to approach your wife and tell her that you put her in a life-threatening position and don’t know how. So, if you think I’m beating you down about this, don’t do it because it’s not going to help you.”

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I completely agree with you, but I do need help talking to my wife, so I’m going to talk to somebody, okay?” he says, begrudgingly. His voice has an edge to it and I respect the fact that he’s being honest.

“Fine. So, what’s next?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I guess I have to find somebody to talk to.”

“I’ll ask my wife,” I tell him. “I know she won’t take you on, not only because she’s treating your wife and it’s a conflict of interest, but also because she really doesn’t like you.” I say honestly. He cocks his head at me.

“Your wife is a shrink?” he asks. I glare at him.

“Didn’t you know that?” I ask incredulously. He shakes his head.

“I thought she was a social worker.” My turn to shake my head.

“Shrink.” He looks into his coffee.

“That’s strangely comforting.” How so? “To know that Thelma had somebody—a professional—to talk to,” he says, answering my unasked question. There’s hope for you yet. I pull out my phone and dial Butterfly.

“Well, hello handsome. Miss me already?”

“Always, but I’m calling in a bit of an official capacity.”

“What’s up?”

“I have a friend who needs some professional guidance and I was hoping that you could point me in the right direction.”

“Psychological guidance?”

“Yes.”

“Can you give me a little insight so that I can make an educated recommendation?” Oh boy.

“No experience whatsoever with talking to shrinks. Alpha personality, looking for an emotional and mental makeover, and needs to formulate a very difficult apology.”

“Is he an alcoholic?” she asks.

“No.”

“Okay, so AA is out. No other addictions, I assume.”

“No, nothing like that.” I confirm.

“Domestic violence?”

“Not as such,” I evade.

“Elaborate,” she presses.

“Not physically abusive, per se, but… oppressive,” I admit. She gets quiet.

“James Radcliff?” she pings. Goddammit!

“Will I ever be able to keep anything from you?” I ask.

“No, and why didn’t you just say it was him?”

“Because I didn’t think you would help him,” I say honestly.

“I wouldn’t,” Jim admits. I raise my eyes to him and put my finger over my lips to silence him, but it’s too late. Butterfly’s silence tells me that she heard him.

“I’m a professional first, Christian,” she says, and at first, she says nothing else. I’m chastised and remain silent. “He needs to speak to someone who specializes in family therapy. He needs to understand his role as a husband and a father, as head of household and protector, not dominator!” Her words bite a bit and her tone is sharp, but she reels it back in. “Tell him to call CCFW and ask for Maxine. I’ll tell her to expect his call.”

“Okay,” I say, my voice soft. “Thank you… I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For questioning your professionalism.” She pauses again.

“Don’t do it again,” she says softly.

“I won’t… I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“You’re still making that trip?”

“We’re about to take off now.” I clench my fist and my chest tightens.

“Be. Careful.”

“You know that I will.” I nod as if she can see me.

“Call me when it’s done.”

“I will.” We end the call. I swallow looking at the phone. Jim is looking into his coffee, at his watch, anywhere but at me. Yes, I will share tender moments with my wife no matter who’s listening. We’re granted a reprieve when the waitress brings his lunch. I scribble Maxine’s name and CCFW on a napkin and hand it to him. I had completely forgotten that Maxine was a psychiatrist. In fact, she used to be Ana’s psychiatrist.

“Call this woman. She’s at the Center for Child and Family Well-Being. I don’t know the number—you’re going to have to Google it. She’s actually a close friend. She’ll help you or at least point you in the right direction.” He takes the napkin and shoves it into his pocket before taking a large bite of his burger. “I see you got your appetite back.” He nods and chew his food.

“Lunch is the one meal I splurge on, since it’s the middle of the workday,” he says after swallowing his bite. “Everything else is dry cereal and those noodle packets. It’s okay though. I’m not starving and I do fine.” I nod. I reach into my suit jacket and pull out an envelope. I put it on the table and push it over to him. He raises his eyes to me while chewing his lunch.

“You know the house is worthless,” I tell him. “The land… I don’t think they’re going to be able to do anything with it for a long time. It’s pretty much a total loss, Jim. I’m sorry, but I figure you should walk away with something.” He sighs and wipes his hands on another napkin. Tearing open the envelope, he pulls out the cashier’s check inside and sigh heavily.

“Ten thousand,” he says. “That’s not much to some people, but it’s a mint to me.” His voice is drenched in disbelief and gratitude. “Ten thousand dollars for that deathtrap.” He covers his mouth and valiantly fights back tears. “Thank you, Christian,” he says, successfully choking down his tears.

“You’re welcome.”

“I’m… going to deposit this into an interest-bearing account and start looking for a house, see what I qualify for.”

“That’s a good idea,” I tell him.

We talk for a while longer about his plans for work and where he wants his family to live. He’s feeling better about talking to Maxine to help him talk to his wife. I can tell that he’s missing her terribly and it’s a trial just getting through each day without her, but he’s basically punishing himself for what he put her and the baby through, convinced that if he can’t get himself together—emotionally and financially—that they’re better off without him. I can’t argue with that logic, but I remind him that she married him because she loves him. She had his baby because she wanted to raise a family with him. Being without him would be more painful than being with him if he just gave up, so he can’t afford to do that. He leaves our meeting with new determination and a promise to call Maxine before day’s end.

I leave our meeting with a slight feeling of dread. After getting some long-awaited news this morning, I conceded to my wife attending a final conference that I never thought would have to occur in a million years. The encounter makes my stomach turn, and I can only sit idly by and wait until the meeting is over because I know that it’s something she must do.


ANASTASIA

“Follow me, Mrs. Grey, Mr. Davenport, Mr. Lawrence.”

Carrying only a manila envelope containing necessary documents and having turned in just about every other worldly item that we own except the clothes on our backs, we’re escorted down a well-lit hallway with large, plainly marked doors on either side. The guard opens one of the doors and steps aside to allow me to enter. Beyond the door is a nondescript gray room with one large caged window and a caged light recessed into the ceiling. Another guard stands in front of the window watching over a lone gray table with three chairs—two on my side and one on the opposite side facing me… its occupant, one scruffy, unshaven Edward David.

Quite the contrast to Mr. David, I’m vamped in a white mock tuxedo pants suit with a plunging black mock neck wrap halter top, white pumps, my signature straight Cher hair, contrast dark make-up and dark burgundy lipstick. I had fresh henna applied to my hands and halfway up my forearms yesterday, so it’s a beautiful shade of dark orangey-brown. His pupils dilate when I walk into the room. I raise a brow and smirk at him.

“Hello, Edward. You’re looking fit,” I say, my lip rising in the corner.

“Hello, Rose. You’re looking fat,” he replies with a smirk of his own. I scoff.

“You wish,” I chirp, “but that’s okay. I’ll give you the extra pound or three. I just delivered twins as I’m sure you’ve heard.” I remove my suit jacket and drape it over the back of the chair, showcasing my ample breasts in the mock halter and tiny waistline precariously held in by a remarkable pair of spanks. The French cut gives way to round hips and ass cheeks that would make Barbie jealous and my slacks fall nicely over my curves, just enough to accentuate my shape and not so tight as to give it that Kim K distorted look. His smile fades at the display and his lips part, and I know that I’ve had the desired effect. “But we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about you.”

“I don’t have shit to say to you,” he says defiantly, sitting back in his seat.

“That’s okay,” I tell him, sitting in the seat across from him. “I’ll do all the talking.” He looks at the guard over his shoulder.

“You can take me back to my cell. I don’t want to hear anything she has to say,” he says, but the guard doesn’t move.

“You know, Edward, I normally do things by the book, but I’m slowly beginning to realize that I’m the only fucking person who does! So, you know what? I’ve learned that money and power are beautiful things to have. And this time, I’ve used my money and power to pull a few strings of my own. So, I bought your time today, and your ass is mine. Do you know what that means, lover?

I spit the last word with so much disdain that it bounces off the walls and makes him and the guard behind him flinch.

“It means that you’re going to sit still, shut up, and listen to what I have to say, and if you don’t, then I’m going to use that same money and power and make the rest of the day pretty fucking hard on you. Do I make myself clear, Eddie?”

Edward frowns at me, then looks back at the guard, who folds his arms, crosses his legs, and leans against the window. Edward turns his attention back to me.

“What exactly do you want, Bitch?” he hisses. I raise an eyebrow.

“Is that any way to speak to a lady?” I say, mocking hurt. “I think not.” I look over my shoulder and nod to Chuck, who walks around the table and stands right over Edward. Edward eyes him warily, then turns his gaze back to me.

“You may have seen the news. Last year around Thanksgiving, Chuck and I were in an accident. We both nearly died. He’s been out of commission since then. Just now getting back on his feet. He’s been suffering from a bit of… cabin fever—just itching to get back to work, see some real action. On top of that…” I put the manila folder on the table and entwine my fingers on top of it. “… His girlfriend went back to Anguilla a few weeks ago, and he’s a bit on edge right now. So, if I were you, I’d be nice to me.”

“Or what?” Edward says, defiantly. “He can’t do shit to me in here!” I nod at Chuck, who hauls Edward out of the chair and lands a gut punch so hard that his lungs most likely catapult out of his chest and into the next room before pouring him uselessly back into the chair. I lean forward on the table, taunting him while he’s choking in pain and gasping for breath.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” I pause while he wheezes. “Oh, I thought you were saying something.” I sit back in my seat and cross my legs. “See, you don’t get it. I have no conscience when it comes to you! There are no rules in this room. Do you need a further demonstration or do I have your attention now?”

I wait for a few more moments while he ceremoniously coughs and gags and when his performance is finally over, I continue my tale.

“You’ve been a bad boy, Edward,” I begin.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he chokes out, his voice raspy.

“Well, it looks like I’m not going to get my settlement from you after all, because your business is riddled with criminal activity.”

Various emotion flash across his face in an instant before he quickly recovers, sits up straight in his seat and declares, “I’m sure I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, sure you do,” I say casually, “extortion, money laundering, identity theft—just to name a few. It’s quite the racket you’ve got going on… emphasis on the racket.

“Not my racket anymore,” he says, smugly.

“True, you sold the business to me, but you still committed the illegal activity.”

“Your problem now, not mine.”

“No, lover, not my problem. Still yours. You see, when you own a house and you commit a crime in it, just because you sold the house doesn’t mean you sold the crime.”

“I didn’t sell you a house.”

“You didn’t sell me a crime, either.” I fold my arms and lean back in my chair.

“What happened? Did someone come to collect?” A knowing smile creeps across his face. I shrug.

“If anyone comes to collect, I’ll send them to you,” I say sweetly.

“They’ll know I don’t have the money, lover,” he taunts, using my word. “They’ll follow the cash and come to collect from the business.” I twitch my lips and nod.

“Hmm, that’s too bad, because if they do, then they’ll have to collect from the Feds!”

I say the last word so hard that it echoes through the room and causes a silence that resonates like death. Edward turns pale white as a ghost and I swear he looks like he’s going to faint. With a freshly henna-clad hand, I push the envelope over to him, knowing what’s inside. It’s a copy of the United States’ Attorney General’s preliminary report delivered this morning, indicating that suitable evidence has been found to pursue criminal charges for violations of the RICO act. Also in the letter is a declaration clearing me of any charges as I was not the owner of the business during the criminal activity, but also indicating that the federal government will be seizing Edwise pending further investigation.

Check.

“The Feds…” He repeats the word like he can’t believe I said it or he doesn’t know what it means. You stupid fuck, you know exactly what it means!

“Here’s what happens now, Edward,” I say, sitting back in the seat again and placing my arms on the armrest. He’s a bit distracted by my impressive cleavage now on display through the oval opening of my shirt. I deliberately run my fingers across my exposed mound and then point to my face. “Eyes up here, lover,” I say. His jaw tightens.

“I haven’t had a woman in over a year,” he growls. “You come in here with your goddamn tits on display and you don’t expect me to look?” I giggle sheepishly.

“Of course, I expect you to look. Why do you think I wore this get-up? I need to be sure I have your attention,” I taunt, standing from the chair and stepping away from the table. I hold my hands up as if to model my outfit. I know I look good. My blouse dips in at the waist, accentuating my flattening stomach and flaring out demurely over my hips and ass and the flowing white pants that cup my frame. Nothing is too tight; everything falls just right to allow you to see the goods and leave just enough to the imagination. I spin slowly that he can take it all in. Look at what you’re missing.

“Commit it to memory,” I say, framing my body and showing of my henna hands and arms. “I’m sure you already have, only this is not the body you remember. So, yes, please… get a really good look.” He ogles me for a few moments longer before I take my seat again, then his eyes are back on my boobs. “Show’s over now. I need your attention.”

Chuck smacks him upside the back of his head like an errant child, and he throws Chuck a hateful glare.

“So, here’s my theory.” I entwine my fingers on the table again. He still hasn’t opened the envelope. “You thought you could give the business to me and not have to deal with your… partners anymore. You’ve now pushed that responsibility off onto me because—as you said—they’re going to follow the money, so they’re going to try to collect from me, or so you thought. In addition, you’ve cleaned up your debt with me because you’ve turned over all of your assets to me, effectively killing two birds with one stone. You have veritably paid one debt with another and thought you could wash your hands of them both.

“In effect, part of that is true. Your debt to me is settled. You used your assets on hand to settle your lawsuit. So, we’re even in the eyes of the law. However, in the process of trying to push your rotten eggs off into my lap, you have effectively turned over all the evidence that almost since the day you started your business, you’ve violated just about every RICO act and regulation in existence, and if they keep looking, the Feds might find that you’ve violated the entire thing.

“The evidence runs so deep that I’m certain they’ll find that your business was mainly a racketeering ring and the software and hardware company was just a front. Your dumb ass kept a paper trail and electronic records and I have spent most of your money following that trail… and I turned every single bit of it over to the Feds. All of your emails, all of your telephone records, text records, financial reports, banking information, tax returns, contacts, asset reports, correspondence, communications, properties, everything. If you had a sticky note under a desk in a storage closet in the basement, they’ve got it!”

Looking at him now, I’m sure he’s about to pass out. He’s broken out into a visible sweat and his hair is sticking to his face.

“What’s the matter, Eddie?” I ask with contempt. “Was this your last attempt to make a stab at me and yet again, it backfired on your ass? When are you going to learn that you can’t break me? Everything that you try to do to me, you might as well do it to yourself—you’ll be better off that way and it might hurt less. I have no idea who any of the people are that you were dealing with. Everything is coded and the Feds are going to break the codes; you know that… and your people know that, too. So how was this supposed to hurt me? It couldn’t be the money; I’m already a billionaire. You couldn’t have expected to stick me with this crime because you were an LLC… or is that what you expected to happen?”

His eyes are darting around and he looks like a caged animal trying to escape. I’m not sure he heard any of the last few things I said. I think he’s having an anxiety attack.

Get the fuck outta here…

“Son of a bitch,” I say incredulously, just above a whisper. “You did! You did expect for it to fall on me. How could you possibly expect this to fall on me?” I’m really talking to no one in particular now, just kind of speaking into the air. “This is Business 101. LLC—your act doesn’t follow me… how could you not know that?”

He still looks sick. Now, I’m really glad I came because I really needed to see him face-to-face for this. I take a deep breath so that I can finish this death blow.

“Bring that fucker back,” I say to Chuck.

“Pay attention!” Chuck says, slapping Edward hard in the back of his head. Edward’s hands hit flat on the table to steady himself and when he raises his eyes to me, his glare is death… and it doesn’t move me at all. I get up and walk over to his side of the table. His glare follows me as I lean down into his face.

“I’d soften that gaze if I were you. You wouldn’t want to make me nervous,” I threaten, employing Christian’s patented stare. He swallows and his gaze softens only slightly. That’s all I needed, just to see that chink in the armor.

“So, let’s weigh your options,” I say, walking back to the other side of the table and taking a seat. “You can find some kind of way to warn your contacts so that they can cover their asses, but know that the Feds are probably watching you now. Or you can turn state’s evidence and tell the Feds who those people are. They’ll probably put you in protective custody. Either way, once you’ve served your term here, you’ll most likely spend the rest of your life in federal prison. You have no money left to pay the numerous fines you’re going to accumulate for your multiple crimes, so… get comfortable, Eddie, because life as you knew it is over.

“Even though I didn’t see a penny of my settlement, you gave me an even better gift. You gave me the ammo to fry your ass for the rest of your motherfucking life. Thank you, you miserable piece of shit. If you weren’t such a selfish fucking asshole, you could have saved yourself all of this. All you had to do was not be a narcissistic piece of shit, but no, Eddie had to get his way. Eddie had to fuck everything walking. I left you alone. I walked away and you couldn’t leave me in peace. No, you had to come back and stalk me and harass me and kidnap me, cause me pain and hold me responsible for your fucked up, sadistic behavior. And look where it got you. All you had to do was leave me the fuck alone and walk away.

“When you saw me at that party, you should have kept walking, but you saw another victim. You saw another Camilla, you sick fuck! You tried to recreate that girl you victimized and it cost you everything! You should have left me alone. How does it feel now, Edward? How does it feel that you fucked with the wrong one? So, get used to it, because the best you can hope for now is to end up somebody’s jailhouse bitch!”

Checkmate.

I stand up, smooth my shirt and put my jacket back on. I take one last look at Mr. Edward David, the man that once held my heart and at one time, could pluck my strings like no other man alive. That seems like such a long time ago, like it never happened. I don’t even recognize him anymore. He’s slumped over in the chair almost face down on the table, his shoulders heavy with utter defeat. His hands are clasped one on top of the other on top of the still unopened envelope. He doesn’t have to open it. He knows what’s inside. He knows his fate is sealed just like that envelope, and if he opens it, it will only bring the reality to light.

“To coin a phrase from one of my favorite movies, ‘I want you to know that I will forget you after this moment and never think of you again. But you, I am quite certain will think about me every single day for the rest of your life.’”

With those words from my mouth, his head falls to the table with a thud. He’s powerless and vulnerable. He has nothing left. The only thing he can possibly hope for after this is if someone takes some kind of pity on him. The only thing he has left is this institution. He can’t even go back to his parents. This is his life now. Ben knocks on the door and the guard on the other side opens it and lets us out.

We retrieve our items from reception and the warden is waiting for me when I’m just about to leave the prison.

The Warden? Christian… of course.

“Mrs. Grey?” He extends his hand to me. “I’m Ronald Holstein, superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary.” I take his hand.

“Mr. Holstein, a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“I was informed by your head of security that you would be visiting us today. I was again contacted by your husband voicing his concerns about your safety and well-being. I do hope your visit was… bearable.” I smile. How politically correct. “I don’t dare presume to say ‘pleasant.’ No one ever wants to visit this place.”

“I appreciate your candor, Mr. Holstein,” I tell him. “Yes, my visit was bearable, and quite necessary. Thank you for accommodating me on such short notice. As you know, the situation was very delicate and could not be put off.”

“I’m not aware of the intricacies of the situation. However, the details are unnecessary. I’m glad we were able to meet your needs.” He pulls a card out of his pocket. “Let me know if I can be of any further assistance and please give my regards to Mr. Grey.” I take his card and nod.

“Thank you again, Mr. Holstein,” I proffer my hand once more and he accepts the shake.

“Mrs. Grey.” He nods at me and we part ways as I head to the front gate with Chuck and Ben in tow. Pedo-Bitch is somewhere in these walls… I think. I don’t know. Her trial is coming up soon. Next month, I think. I’ll have to look at my calendar. Hell, I don’t even know if I would make a credible witness anymore. I’ve suffered memory loss.

The ride is silent from Washington State Penitentiary back to Walla Walla Airport and the GEH jet. None of us say anything until the pilot tells us that it’s safe to move about the cabin.

“Can I get you anything, Mrs. Grey?” I’m daydreaming when Constance—GEH’s newest young flight attendant—comes to offer us refreshments.

“Do you have any dry red wine?” I ask.

“Yes, ma’am,” she responds.

“Cabernet Sauvignon?” I ask, hopeful.

“Of course. Mr. Grey insists,” she smiles.

“The biggest glass you’ve got,” I say. She nods.

“Mr. Grey also insisted on large bowl glasses.”

“God, I love that man!” I sigh heavily as I lay my head back on the seat. I feel Chuck’s hand cover mine, but I don’t open my eyes.

“You okay?” he asks. I nod.

“I’m closing the book on a chapter of my life, Chuck,” I tell him. “There’s nothing else that I have to do with that man, ever.”

“Let’s hope not,” he says. “You declared total war. That’s a dangerous game. You didn’t just destroy him; you tormented that man in the process. Yet more proof that I never want to piss you off.” I sigh heavily.

“I loved that man once. I once looked into those big, brown eyes and saw my future there… my entire life.”

“You were young…”

“I was blind!” I snap, glaring at him. “I was blinded by his charm and the need to be desired by someone—genuinely desired by someone. He saw that. He was searching for that and he saw it me, just like the predator that he is. I was wearing like a goddamn banner and he groomed me just like a pedophile grooms a child. When I was ripe, he plucked me.” I turn away in disgust. “I walked right into danger just like I did with Cody Whitmore—willingly—only this time, I slept with it… for years!”

I sigh again wondering how I could have been so gullible, so stupid as to just wander aimlessly right into the mouth of the beast, not once, but twice. Constance cautiously approaches and hands me a large bowl wine glass of my beloved Cabernet. I clutch it for a moment, staring into the concoction and the answer comes to me like as if I’m staring into a crystal ball.

I was lonely and hurt. For years, I was made to feel like I was nothing and no one. I was brought up in a home of love and kindness for the first part of my life and then, out of nowhere, it was ripped away from me and I was traumatized. The foundation of security that was laid for me was torn from under me and I was cast into the wilderness—literally—with no direction, no affection, and no instruction. I could have died. I thought I would. I wanted to. I reached for any bit of hope and love that was offered to me, even if it was offered by the devil, and twice, it was.

Now, I have a daughter.

“Make sure your daughter knows what a jewel she is,” I say, turning my gaze back to Chuck. “Make sure she knows how important she is. Don’t throw her to the wolves.” He furrows his brow at me for a long moment, but the nods wordlessly. I turn and look down into the deep bowl of burgundy liquid in my hand.

“Adieu pour toujours, Monsieur David,” I say, taking a large swallow of the comforting elixir.


A/N: The quote that Ana says to Edward comes from a movie called “Ever After.” It’s a Cinderella story where Danielle—the Cinderella character—gains the favor of the prince before the ball, but when she presents herself to him, her stepmother outs her as a “slave” in her household. Having lost the prince, the stepmother sells Danielle to another evil man, but she escapes just as the Prince has come to his senses and comes to rescue her. The stepmother and the bitch stepsister that “Mom” was trying to hook up with the Prince were summoned to the castle and once there, convicted of lying to the Queen and sentenced to be stripped of her baronness title and sent to America penniless unless someone was willing to speak for her. Danielle emerges as the Princess and “speaks” for her stepmother, who is forced to bow to her and call her—of all things—Your Highness. Danielle says the infamous quote above about never thinking of her again before asking the King to send her and her daughter off to a life of servitude in the castle. The younger daughter, who had been nice to Danielle, moved into the castle with Danielle and a young knight that she had fallen in love with. Ever After Scene

Adieu pour toujours, Monsieur David”— “Goodbye forever, Mr. David.”

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

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

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 43—Eye to Eye

 

eye-contact

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

Chapter 43—Eye to Eye

CHRISTIAN

“Arrogant fucking son of a bitch!” I fuss at no one as the Audi SUW drives up the I-5 to Helping Hands. Fucking asshole shows up at my place of business demanding that I tell him where his damn wife is and she had to run away from him because her baby was hungry. How blind and selfish can you be that you would let a baby suffer that way, let alone your wife who just gave birth…

“You heartless fucking savage!” I could strangle this asshole with my bare hands. He comes rattling that 1919 Ford P.O.S pickup truck with the broken and bouncing hatch sporting more rust than paint up to the front door of GEH, fresh with a black and white escort! Thank God the paps weren’t out, although I can almost guarantee that somebody got a picture.

“Somebody ought to strip him naked, tie him up, and leave him in that house for a few days!” Then maybe he’ll understand how that helpless baby felt all this time—cold, hungry, helpless! “Fucking asshole.”

It takes far too long for us to get to Helping Hands for my taste and I’m opening the door before the car even stops.

“Boss!” Jason stops me. What the fuck do you want? “Maybe we should wait and let him talk to his wife.”

“The hell I will!” I say, stepping out of the car and slamming the door behind me. Snow crunches under my Cesare Paciottis and they’re probably ruined for life as I barrel down the walkway and brush past the asshole to get to the door before he does.

“Watch your step, Grey!” he threatens.

“Fuck you!” I throw back at him, my eyes burrowing through him and waiting for a response. Receiving none, I open the door and go in search of my wife. I spot Lawrence first standing at the guard’s station with two of the armed guards.

“Where’s Ana?” I ask in a menacing voice.

“She’s in her office with…” His voice trails off as he sees Radcliff coming in behind me. He’s never met the man before, I imagine, but his stance indicates that he knows what he’s dealing with. He makes square eye contact with Radcliff and folds his arms. “She asked me to stay here with the guards and make sure that no one becomes disruptive and needs to be removed.”

“Good man,” I respond. He’s adopted his no-nonsense tone of voice and I have no doubt that he’ll bounce this motherfucker out on his ass while the cops watch. It’s a good thing Chuck’s not here… Radcliff would probably be dead by now. “Would you please let her know that we’ve arrived?”

“Smitty?” He calls to one of the security guards behind him without taking his eyes off Radcliff. “Please call Dr. Grey and let her know that her husband is here.”

“Yes, sir,” the uniformed guard responds and goes off to retrieve my wife. There’s a bit of a stare-off between Lawrence and Radcliff for a moment, before Radcliff says, “Why are you staring at me?”

“Just making sure that you don’t need any of my special attention,” Lawrence replies.

“I don’t need anything from you,” Radcliff snaps.

“See that you don’t!” Lawrence retorts. His words are sharp and his eyes are sharper. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that they knew each other before this encounter and that meeting wasn’t good. Radcliff doesn’t retreat, but clearly yields and never says another word to Lawrence, nor does he make eye contact with him.

A few moments pass and I see my beautiful wife come around the corner. What a welcome sight. Beside her is a much healthier looking Thelma Radcliff than I saw yesterday—still frail, but she’s wearing clean clothes. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail and her cheeks have more color than they did before. Butterfly hovers protectively near her, and my mother is behind them both. Mrs. Radcliff doesn’t say anything. She just looks impassively at her husband.

“Get Jimmy. Let’s go!” he orders her. She frowns at him.

“No,” she says firmly.

“No?” he asks, bemused.

“No,” she repeats. “What are you even doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at work? You know, that job that’s supposed to solve all of our problems?”

“Yeah,” he retorts, his hands flailing, “and thanks to this shit, I might have lost it now.” Mrs. Radcliff glares at him.

“This shit!” she nearly shrieks in disbelief. “This shit! You’re right! You’re absolutely right! Your wife and son living in a cold, dark house in the dead of winter, freezing and nearly starving to death is shit! Having to walk six miles in the snow in sneakers with my son wrapped in towels because I can’t even afford bus fare, that’s shit! Having a husband who will turn down good food, warm clothes and new furniture because he’s too damn proud to take a handout, that’s shit! This whole damn situation is shit—shit shit shit!” She is livid and losing control, but I get the feeling that she has needed to lose control for a long time.

“Watch your mouth,” he says in a menacing tone.

“Watch yours!” she shoots back, unmoved by his tone.

“Thelma…” Butterfly says. Mrs. Radcliff takes a few deep breaths to calm herself.

“That’s enough of this now, Thelma,” Radcliff says. “Let’s go.”

“Didn’t you hear me the first time, Jim?” she says, now calm and raising her head to her bully husband. “We’re not going anywhere, least of all, back to that cold, dark house with no food. My son is sleeping—in a crib. He drank a bottle today, the whole thing, and then he burped and went to sleep. He didn’t cry himself to sleep because my breast wouldn’t give him milk. I took a nap today on a real mattress, not a busted up piece of cotton and springs stuffed with whatever clothes we could find. No, Jim, we won’t be going back to that house with you.”

“So this is how you treat your husband?” he scolds. “You defy him and belittle him in front of other people. My opinion means noth—“

“Oh, save that submissive wife crap, James, it’s getting old!” she growls. Butterfly and I glance at each other for a moment, but realize that the whole submissive concept that she’s talking about is completely different than what we practice. “You still haven’t answered my question. What are you doing home in the middle of the day? You barely have two pennies to rub together to keep that bucket of bolts running back and forth to your job once a day, let alone twice, so what was so dire that you had to stop and come home?”

Yeah, come to think of it, what was so dire? Was he bringing food to his family? He’s not answering her question, so she folds her arms. “Well?” she says, expecting and he still doesn’t answer. Butterfly looks at me, questioning.

“He said he was coming home for lunch and he found them gone,” I say to my wife, but loud enough for his wife to hear me. “That’s when he showed up at my place of business with the police and basically accused me of kidnapping.” He narrows his eyes at me like I’ve said something wrong and he wants to beat the hell out of me. Go ahead, make a move, Sport!

“You came home for lunch?” Mrs. Radcliff says, bemused. “There’s nothing in the house to eat! Why were you…” A look of cold realization comes over her face. I know that look. I know it well. Her feelings are clearly reflected in her eyes—the same feelings I had when I discovered that the Pedophile had controlled me for 14 years. She’s had an epiphany—a horrible, soul-shaking, life-changing epiphany.

“You came back to make sure they didn’t return,” she says, her voice cold, “to make sure they didn’t bring me anything.” When he doesn’t respond, she looks down, shakes her head and sighs. “We would have died in that house,” she says, more to herself than to anyone else, but we all hear her. “We really would have died in that house. Unbelievable,” she adds with a tragic laugh. “UN-fucking-believable.” She turns to Officer Lockhart and squares her shoulders.

“I’m fine, officer,” she says. “My son and I weren’t kidnapped. I came here on my own free will. I asked Dr. Steele-Grey and Dr. Trevelyan-Grey to please take my baby if they couldn’t take me because he was starving and I could no longer produce milk. Dr. Trevelyan-Grey assured me that she could help us both, so we will be staying here until I can get on my feet and take care of myself.”

“The hell you will!” Radcliff barks. Lockhart looks at him, then back at Mrs. Radcliff.

“Ma’am, are you being abused?” Lockhart asks.

“Does she look like she’s being abused?” Radcliff barks.

“I said ma’am. Are those cuffs looking good to you again?” Lockhart glares at Radcliff. He frowns back at the officer, but quiets immediately. He turns back to Mrs. Radcliff.

Ma’am,” he repeats, “are you being abused?”

“Physically, no,” she responds, “but my baby and I are being denied basic necessities like food and a warm, comfortable place to live in winter. My husband can’t provide these things right now and he turns away any help that I secure for us. It’s my understanding that if I can’t provide these basic necessities for my son that the state can take him away from me. So I’m meeting with a social worker today to secure food, proper medical care, housing, and financial assistance for me and my son.”

“You’re right, ma’am,” Lockhart says. “The state can remove the child if you fail to care for him.” Mrs. Radcliff nods.

“Another welfare mother,” Radcliff hisses. “Well, not my son. She can’t keep my son from me and he’s not staying here. She can stay if she wants, but she can’t have my son.” Lockhart looks to my wife and my mother.

“Is there any kind of custody order in place?” Lockhart asks.

“No,” Butterfly says, “Thelma will be speaking to a social worker in about twenty minutes, where she will be describing the squalor and famine that she escaped this morning to save her son’s life. Her statement along with Dr. Trevelyan-Grey’s statement concerning her examining Jimmy and his physical condition and my statement of my examination of and session with Thelma and her physical and mental condition will become part the record and testimony should this situation go to a court trial. Let it be known that we were matched to this family by the Greater Seattle Adopt-a-Family Coalition. As a doctor, I’m bound by law to report any cases of abuse or neglect of a child that I witness. When I saw the living conditions of that four-week-old child, I was calling Child Services this morning just when Thelma walked in the door begging for help.”

“So?” Radcliff retorts defiantly. “What does that mean?” He turns to the officer.

“It means that by law, we can’t force her to give you the child,” Lockhart says.

“And the short translation of the rest of what the good doctor said,” Santiago adds, “is that in twenty minutes, she’s starting a paper trail to show that she’s been living in squalor and trying to take care of her son and you’ve been hindering her so that if you attempt to petition the court for custody, it won’t look too good for you because this information will be a matter of record.”

“On the contrary, her paper trail started in October when she signed up for the Adopt-A-Family coalition,” Butterfly interjects.

“Oh, it goes back further than that,” Mrs. Radcliff laments. Just how long have they been living like this? What kind of monster is this guy?

“Oh… really? Well, then I think you get the idea,” Santiago says dismissively to Radcliff.

“So what happens if I just go through this place, find my son, and take him with me? Just like I don’t have a custody order, neither does she. That means you can’t stop me from taking my son.”

“Let’s say for the sake of argument that you did that,” my mother says, coming around from behind me and Butterfly and moving next to Mrs. Radcliff. My mother somehow stands taller as she steps in front of me. Peeptoe high-heel sandals make her legs look longer in a wine-colored pants suit with cigarette legs and a short jacket. She folds her arms and faces off with Mr. Radcliff.

“Let’s say that I, as the director of this center, am telling you that you are not allowed beyond this room without express permission from the proper personnel; that if you decide to go beyond this room tonight or any moment hereafter that you will be guilty of trespassing. Let’s say that you forego that information and choose to attempt to proceed beyond this room anyway, at which point, any one of the numerous security personnel that we have on staff here as well as any one of these well-trained personal bodyguards would most likely tackle you to the ground face first and hold you there until the police can arrest you and charge you with trespassing. Seeing that you have already brought the police with you,” Mom gestures to the officers, “we can assume that process won’t take long.

“However,” my mother continues, shifting her weight to her other foot and now moving her hands to her hips, “let’s just say that by some miracle, you still managed to get past all of the security personnel and trained bodyguards and you scooped little Jimmy up from his warm, comfortable bed and took him back to that hell that you call a home. You would no sooner get your foot past the threshold before the police and child services would be there to take him away from you. At that point you would be charged with child endangerment and willful neglect and would have to find some way to make bail. Then your beautiful baby boy would end up in foster care instead of with his loving mother who is doing her very best to take care of him because you so selfishly would not allow anyone to help you or her.

“So just for the sake of argument,” she now clasps her hands in front of her, “that’s what would happen if you just ‘went through this place and took your son,’ but make no mistake, Mr. Radcliff. I am not remiss to tell you in front of all of these witnesses that I will personally put this stiletto heel right through your throat before I would allow you to take that newborn baby back to a cold, dark house with no food and I will gladly spend time in a jail cell because if it!”

“Mom!” I exclaim before I can catch myself.

“Quiet, Christian!” she shoots without breaking her glance with Radcliff. “What’s it going to be, Mr. Radcliff? You can go toe-to-toe with any one or several of these men, but in the end, you’ll still have to get past me.”

He won’t even get to you, Mother, but I’ll let it go for right now.

anti_bullyingRadcliff looks at my mother with an expression that I can’t quite read. It’s… curious, I think, like he doesn’t know what to make of her. The bully, it appears, has left the building. His power has been stripped from him and he’s like a fish out of water. He looks beyond all of us and his gaze settles on his wife.

“So this is really how you want to play this,” Radcliff says to her.

“No, James, this is how you want to play this,” she replies. “I never called the police—you did. I just went somewhere that would help my baby. You would really let us live like that? Your wife and newborn child? No food? No phone? No heat? In the dead of winter?” Everyone in the room is now either staring at Mrs. Radcliff with sympathy or glaring at Radcliff in disgust. Wait a minute… didn’t he say yesterday that they had heat?

“I tried to get help and every time I tried, you turned it away—why? Because you’re too proud to accept a handout. My baby was sleeping in a dresser drawer. I was sleeping in a bed with springs poking me in my back four weeks after delivery, yet you turn away a brand new bed and crib. I’m washing my baby’s clothes in the sink with cold water and face soap and you turn away a washer and dryer and laundry supplies. Luckily, they had this center to take that months’ worth of food you wouldn’t accept even though it appears that I’m starving and 20 pounds lighter than my pre-baby weight less than a month after delivery—or have you been too blinded by your pride to even notice?”

Food, a bath, and a change of clothes have given Mrs. Radcliff the strength that she needs to stand up to her husband and tell him what she really thinks of him—how she feels for what he has put her and their baby through. He stands silent, listening to her rant about not eating for days and sneaking food from the neighbors so that she could produce milk to keep their baby alive. She prayed that the hospital would keep them for just one day so that she could get a decent meal. She stole food from the hospital trays and rationed it out—that’s how she survived for a few days until the food ran out. The whole story is really sad and pathetic.

“I was drawn to your strength once,” she tells him. “I felt that you would always hold me up. You would always have my back and never let me fall. I never knew that strength meant that if things got rough, you would let me die before you let me ask for help.” Radcliff’s face softens for the first time during his wife’s tirade, and I think she has finally hit a nerve. “Is this what you meant?” she asks, her voice cracking. “Is this what you meant when you told my mother on her deathbed that you would take care of me?” The tears fall freely from her face now and Radcliff suddenly looks broken.

“Thelma, no…” he says, his voice cracking as he reaches for her, but the damage is done. She raises her hands, avoiding his touch, weeping openly as she takes two steps back—away from her husband.

“I took care of Jimmy,” she says through her sobs. “Whatever happens to me, I took care of Jimmy. Dr. Grace says that h-he’s healthy and I d-did a good job. I a-asked them t-to t-take Jimmy and take c-care of J-Jimmy because m-my milk stopped a-a-and I c-couldn’t take c-care of Jimmy… anymore and th-they took us b-both.”

“Baby, please…” Radcliff tries to appeal to his wife, but she’s having none of it.

“No!” she squeaks through her tears. “Dr. … Dr. Ana says that… i-if I eat right and… e-exercise that I might gain my healthy weight back in a month or so and… I should be producing m-milk again in n-no time. They c-could have taken m-my baby away f-from me. Th-they could have s-said th-that I was an unfit m-mother, but they di-didn’t. They s-saw that I n-needed help and they h-helped me. So you ch-chose your p-pride over us… and I choose my baby over you!”

She spits the last part out before she turns around and buries her face in Grace’s chest and weeps bitterly. Grace holds her protectively, like a broken child, one hand on her hair and the other around her back. She’s glaring at Radcliff, not in a threatening way, but in a manner that warns him that it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to try anything unwise. He stands there silently gazing at his weeping wife. Lockhart puts a hand on his shoulder.

“Mr. Radcliff,” the officer says, gaining his attention. Radcliff turns sad eyes to him. “You should go now, sir.”

Radcliff looks back at his wife, then at the officer and nods.

“If I may,” Santiago adds. Radcliff raises his eyes to him. “My opinion may not mean anything to you, and that’s fine if it doesn’t; but if you want any hope of salvaging this situation and I’m not saying that there is any, you better learn the meaning of one very important word—humility.”

Radcliff stares for a moment, then he bows his head and leaves with no resistance. The officers talk briefly with my mother, Mrs. Radcliff, and Butterfly before they follow Mr. Radcliff. My mom nods to Ana and takes a still weeping Mrs. Radcliff away somewhere in the Center. I can’t help but gather my wife in my arms and hold her close to me. How could he be so selfish? So cruel? His wife and child were dying—how could he not see that? I could never… but I did. I did once… when Ana was falling apart right after the fundraiser fiasco. God forgive me… please don’t let me ever do that again.

“We men can be such assholes,” I murmur in her hair as I kiss her head repeatedly.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” she says, looking up at me. “It doesn’t last… usually.” I smile at her and kiss her nose.

“I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.” I hold her hand and walk her back to her office.

“Tell me what happened with Courtney,” I say when we get there.

“The same thing, minus the threats,” she says as she slowly sits in her seat. “I think she wanted to cooperate—to be my ‘slave,’ so to speak…” She makes those finger quotes to drive her point home. “… But that was never the purpose of the exercise. If she could have seen this woman, how she stood up to that man and got help for her child, she would have understood what I was trying to show her. He never touched her, never beat her, but he had her in a mental prison. She didn’t want to leave because in spite of everything, she loves him and wants to be a good wife. But he couldn’t be a good father and husband, so she chose being a good mother over being a good wife—and it broke her heart.”

“You’ll never have to make that choice, baby,” I tell her, still feeling the need to wring Radcliff’s neck.

“I know,” she says, sweetly, “but we both know that women, mothers, families are struggling every day. Most people aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouths and quite frankly, I hope Courtney chokes on hers, although that might not be an issue soon.”

“Oh?” I ask, curious.

“The main reason that she showed up today is because her grandmother is not speaking to her. She hasn’t been since Saturday. Add to that her little tête-à-tête with you and she’s scared shitless. I’d wager that Addie is about to send her back to her parents.” That would be fantastic, although I would still keep that bitch under watch.

“Serves her right,” I say. “She doesn’t know how to behave around normal people, send her back to the riff-raff she’s accustomed to dealing with.”

“Where does she come from, Christian?” I shrug. I don’t really know where she comes from, but if she’s going back, I better find out so that I can have security keep an eye on her.

“I know she’s from some terrible place back east because the Wilsons always made it seem like they rescued her from a fate worse than death, but I never found out exactly where—somewhere in Kentucky, I think. I’ll have Welch find out for sure. Of course, you know, I still don’t trust the bitch.”

“I don’t care about her anymore,” she says. “She left here crying.” What?

“Crying? Those crocodile tears like when she accused my sister of stealing?”

“No, I think I really hurt her feelings. Take that back home with you, Melon Girl.” I nod.

“So now, I’m really going to find out where the hell she’s going.” Butterfly frowns, waiting for elaboration. “Baby, on top of possibly stripping her of her fortune, you stripped her of her pride.” She scoffs quietly.

“She stripped herself,” Butterfly retorts, “but I know what you mean—she won’t see it that way. She’ll blame me. Do what you must, husband, and I’ll be ready.”

“That’s why I love you.” She smiles. “Have you had lunch?”

“No, I haven’t. Would you like to take me somewhere?”

“Shouldn’t you wait to speak to Mrs. Radcliff’s social worker?” I ask. She frowns in recollection.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” she laments.

“We can have something delivered. Unlike some husbands, I would love to spend my lunch break feeding my wife and children.” She giggles sweetly and nods. Just then, my mother comes breezing into the office.

“She’s talking to the social worker now,” Mom says. “She’ll have us paged when it’s time to talk to us. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“On the contrary, Mother,” I say, standing from my chair, “What was that? Were you trying to get me arrested? If that gorilla had even flinched in your direction, I would be in cuffs right now. What’s the deal with egging him on?”

“I wasn’t egging him on, Christian, I was challenging him,” she corrects me. “Most bullies aren’t accustomed to people standing up to them, so when it’s time to put up or shut up, they usually shut up. He’s a classic bully. He uses words and bravado to push his way into situations, and most people back down from him. With Thelma, his weapon was her love and loyalty. However, when it comes to Jimmy, her love and loyalty is stronger. And for the record, young Mr. Grey,” she folds her arms and takes that stance again, “you all may not know it, but I hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.”

What. The. Fuck. Who is this woman and what has she done with my mother?

“What?” I exclaim. “Since when!?”

“Since I was sixteen,” she says, flippantly. “Why do you think I insisted on an instrument, a language, and a martial art—just to keep you flexible?”

“When do you practice?” I ask.

“Every weekend,” she says. “You just assumed that since I’m your mother, all I do is fix children and bake, but no… I confront and take down bullies, too. Trust me, he wouldn’t have gotten past that doorway, but I’ve seen his kind before. He wouldn’t have even tried.”

“So why did you let Mia off the hook?” I say with my hands on my hips. She frowns.

“Let her off the hook?” she asks, bemused. “I was under the impression that you enjoyed kickboxing, Christian.”

“Well, I do, but you still said that we all had to take up a martial art, and she didn’t have to…” I protest, like it’s going to do any good now.

“I couldn’t twist her arm,” Mom retorts. “If she wasn’t going to fight, what was I going to do—force her? Besides, she eventually came around.”

“Since when?” I ask incredulously, my voice several octaves higher than its normal tone.

“Since she saw me take my trainer down in the backyard once summer and decided that she wanted to be bad ass like her mom,” Mom says with a smirk. Son of a bitch—little, playful Mia. No wonder she effortlessly beat the hell out of the Pedophile last year. She was probably practicing.

“How proficient is she?” I ask.

“She’s a brown belt now,” Mom says. How did I not know this? “You underestimate the women in your life,” Mom adds, as if she were answering my question. Butterfly clears her throat, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Lunch, Mrs. Grey,” I order.

“I didn’t say anything,” she defends.

*-*

I go into the community room of the center in search of Jason. I run into Lawrence first.

“Where’s Jason?” I ask him.

“He’s over there.” He points to a small area off in the corner that looks to be another guard’s station—or it used to be a guard’s station. “He’s having a heated conversation with the vessel that delivered his child.” I frown.

“That’s a colorful and not very flattering way to refer to her,” I say with little sincerity.

“I’m being as respectful as I can only because she’s Sophie’s mother. Jason is supposed to get holidays with Sophie and apparently after ‘Thanksgiving with the Greys’ was foiled, Shalane is throwing a monkey wrench into Christmas.”

“She’s using us as a reason to keep him away from Sophie?” I ask, appalled. He shakes his head.

“No,” he says, “she’s been doing this for years.” God, that’s got to be torture! I can’t imagine having children and not being able to spend the holidays with them because my ex-wife is a spiteful, vengeful…

“Mrs. Grey would like a chicken Caesar salad. Any ideas where she can get one around here?” I ask.

“I’ll take care of it. Anything for you, sir?”

“If you can find it, a stacked club sandwich and some fries… and bring us some cola, lemonade, and some ginger tea if you can find it.”

“Will do.” He turns to leave.

“Do you mind if I ask you something, Lawrence?” He stops and turns his attention back to me, a little shocked by my question.

“Yes, sir?”

“Why were you so cold to Radcliff when you first saw him? Not that he didn’t deserve it, but you hadn’t even seen the guy before that moment.”

“I didn’t need to see him,” he replies. “I saw her.”

Okay…

“That baby, man,” he says, familiar… like we’re old friends. He’s shaking his head in disgust. “That baby would not stop crying. He was in pain. He was cold and hungry and suffering. Of course, your first instinct is to put a bottle in his mouth, but I thought he was going to chew the nipple off with no teeth.” He shakes his head again. “His little fingers were white… almost blue. All she wanted to do was get a bottle in his mouth. She was almost dead herself. What kind of…” He trails off. “No human being should be forced to live like that! Nobody! But a newborn baby? A mother just after giving birth? I didn’t need to see him. I saw them!” And that’s all he needed to say.

“I completely agree,” I say, patting him on the arm.


ANASTASIA

The meeting with the social worker was brutal. Poor Thelma has to basically cut all ties with her husband and draw a battle line in the sand in order to get the assistance that she needs from the state. He has effectively become the enemy and they have to treat him like a “deadbeat dad.” No better for him, allowing his wife and son to live that way!

The issue is that the requirements of the state dictate that either you’re for me or you’re against me—there’s no in between. I’ve often taken issue with “the system’s” tendency to villainize an absentee father, but in this case, they are spot on. Radcliff’s actions in turning away assistance at every turn to the detriment of his wife and child were clearly not in the best interest of his family. So, as it stands right now, Mr. Radcliff is looking at a future of visitation and child support.

This does not mean that the family is irredeemable, of course. There’s always therapy, marriage counseling, and reunification meetings if the couple decides that’s what they want to do. Ultimately, the goal is the mother and father being together and raising the child successfully as a unit, but the operative word here is successfully—the other is unit. The conditions that she was living in were deplorable, and I mean to ask her how she found herself in that situation. She mentioned something about being a submissive wife, but surely, she couldn’t have been talking about the kind of lifestyle that Christian and I practice. Her situation shouldn’t be imposed upon a dog, let alone a faithful submissive that bore your child!

In the early afternoon, Christian and I enjoy lunch at the Center while he gives me a delicious massage of my ankles and feet. They are in torment today and I don’t think I’m going to able to endure this swelling much longer. I nearly fall asleep until he reminds me that we have a session with Dr. Baker before we go to Lamaze this evening. I have to admit, I’m not looking forward to this session, but I think it’s necessary. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to Dr. Baker just now. I just remember that we usually see her on matters about our marriage. He had another therapist before… I went to him for help once and something bad happened…

Floyd…?

I remember breaking dishes and a cold park.

Quinn…?

He didn’t like me and he made it known the first time he met me. No matter—we don’t see him anymore anyway.

The session with Dr. Baker was a bit harrowing… like swallowing nasty cough syrup that refused to go down and just kept coming up in the back of your throat. I had to rehash my feelings about the spanking and explain why I put the coats at every door. Apparently, she didn’t know that part. She agreed with Christian—and Ace—that this was behavior of someone that was traumatized and she was glad to hear that I removed the coats on my own. I admitted to her—as I did Ace—that I’m still remiss to go outside without a coat, because even though the coats are no longer at every door, there’s still that mental barrier that reminds me of what happened the last time I did it. It’s not like I break into cold sweats or anything. I’m just reminded not to go outside without a coat in inclement weather. Christian didn’t like hearing that and Dr. Baker is of two minds about it. I maintain that I went outside in the cold without a coat and endangered my health and indirectly, that of my children; this is simply a reminder not to do it again. Dr. Baker agrees that, in strict construction, this is true, especially in the context of our relationship.

“However,” she adds cautiously, “if going near an external door immediately makes you think of the consequences of a spanking, I’m sorry to tell you, but that’s PTSD, Ana.”

“PTSD?” I nearly shriek. “Okay, no offense, Dr. Baker, but you’re being a bit dramatic.”

“You said it, Ana, not me,” she defends. “You’re a doctor, too. How would you define it?” I’m so glad you asked.

“Exactly like I did,” I retort. “I’m not standing at the door, trembling, shaking, unable to move, and having flashbacks of being abused. I’m reminded that when it’s cold outside, I need a coat. Yes, that memory came with a spanking, but like you said—that’s the context of our relationship. If what you say were the case, every memory-recall incident that I have is PTSD, and I have a lot of them. In case you forgot, I recently lost my memory.” I glare at her.

“You’re too close to the situation, Ana. It’s hard for you to see it.” Now, she’s placating me.

“That’s exactly why I can see it,” I reply, “because I’m in here, and you’re out there. I’m not frozen with fear and indecision when I come to an outer door, Dr. Baker. If I look outside and it’s sunny and 80 degrees, I’m not going to say, ‘oops, coat.’ That’s PTSD. The fact that it’s cold outside and I say, ‘hmm, I need a coat,’ that’s not PTSD. That’s common sense. Yes, I failed to do it once; and yes, my husband spanked me, but it’s still common sense.”

“Why are you so defensive about this?” she says in that shrink tone that I’ve sworn that I would never take with a patient. It’s that “I’m right, and we’re going to talk about this until you realize that I’m right” tone. So I’m going to stab that tone right in the throat.

“Because I’m a doctor and you just misdiagnosed me!” I say, frankly, throwing her smarmy tactic right back in her face. She sighs, knowing that she’s caught and that tone won’t work with me, but she’s still not willing to admit defeat so easily.

“And this is why doctors make the worst patients,” she laments.

“You’re right,” I concur, “doctors do make the worst patients, but you were wrong, Dr. Baker. When a doctor gives me a diagnosis that I don’t like, I may frown and get angry, but I won’t contradict them if the diagnosis is correct. I will begrudgingly accept ‘traumatized,’ because had we been talking about someone else, I would have said the same thing, but right now, you’re wrong.”

“Ana, you’re the patient. How can you be so sure?” she says, emphatically. She’s so positive that she’s right, and suddenly, his name comes to my head.

Flynn! His name was Flynn!

Well, she’s no Flynn, I’ll give her that. She’s just incorrect right now. We all make mistakes and I’m about to drive hers home. I reach for my purse and open it to the middle compartment. Christian calls my name, but he’s too late. I’m already holding my purse open so that the good doctor can see my Beretta.

“I know PTSD,” I say slowly and in a low voice while she observes my gun, then makes eye contact with me, maintaining an impassive gaze. “I have PTSD, but not with this.”

The room is silent for a moment as I close my purse and sit it next to me. I take a deep breath and look at her again.

“I was raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead at 15 years old. I was in a coma for three weeks, my guardians at the time couldn’t have cared less if I lived or died, and many days, I wished I had. I’ve lived with that and dealt with that for nearly 15 years. The situations have infiltrated every facet of my life, but I’ve managed to maintain a full, healthy life nonetheless and help others in the process. However, I don’t have that inbred sense of ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ that everyone else does. Anytime anything really scares me, I mean really spooks me, I reach for my guns. I’m trained by a Marine and a 6th Dan martial arts specialist the kill or maim a man in several ways and I can disable an assailant in six seconds no matter what his size, even while eight months pregnant. Just after we first met, Christian watched me nearly kill a man for attacking me from behind.”

She looks over at Christian and although I don’t look at him, I know he’s nodding or something in the affirmative.

“I know PTSD, Dr. Baker. Unfortunately, we’re old bedmates, and this. Is not. PTSD.”

One thing I remember about Dr. Baker is that she’s not easily intimidated, not that I was trying to intimate her. She’s also not easily impressed or swayed. So this conversation that I just had with her had no effect whatsoever.

“While I understand that horrible experience you had left you suffering from a clear and obviously severe case of PTSD, this much less traumatizing situation has left you with a few symptoms of the disorder as well. While it may not be as severe a case as what you already encounter, it is still a slight form of PTSD.”

I shake my head and smile. She’s not letting down and neither am I. She’s all or nothing. She reminds me of a doctor who wants to prescribe morphine for a splinter.

“I disagree,” I tell her, “and I’m going to leave it at that, because we are two mental health professionals that have differing opinions on this issue. The difference is that I have personal experience with this condition. Do you?” I wait for her answer. She gives none. “I didn’t think so.”

“I didn’t say ‘no,’” she says impassively.

“You didn’t say ‘yes,’” I retort, just as impassively. “I expounded on my personal experience with PTSD. As a patient and as a professional, I told you why I feel it doesn’t apply to this situation. Your turn.” I clasp my hands and give her the floor. She examines me for a moment, then speaks.

“You’re right, Dr. Grey, I don’t have any personal experience with PTSD, but that doesn’t make my diagnosis any less accurate.” I shrug.

“Well, again, I disagree with your diagnosis, both as a patient and as a professional, but I’m not going to argue with you further.”

“Understood,” she says, and just like that the conversation is over.

And when I say over, I mean over.

She and Christian continue to talk about how the punishments have affected the marriage and our communication and lack thereof. While I show no hostility, I offer absolutely no participation. After about ten minutes, she acknowledges this fact.

“Nothing to say, Mrs. Grey?”

“No,” I say, matter-of-factly. Christian looks at me.

“Baby?” he says, examining my eyes. I give him a clear, guileless expression and he doesn’t know what to make of it, so he turns to Dr. Baker.

“Mrs. Grey has shut down,” she announces, kind of like it’s a shortcoming on my part, but I don’t even feel any animosity about it. He looks at me again, his brow furrowed.

“She’s right,” I say flatly and Christian gasps a bit. “You see, what we should be talking about right now is that I punished you based on one set of facts that you gave me. You left out some crucial details that would have affected the punishment that I imposed, most likely making it less severe. I’m having a bit of a problem with that because we agreed on ‘no punishment for punishment.’ Yet, it appears to me that you withheld facts from me knowing that it would most likely result in a more severe punishment as a means of alleviating your guilt for punishing me. Now, with me saying that—which you already knew—there’s no way for us to productively move forward with this conversation with her operating under the premise that I’m suffering from PTSD from your original punishment. To the observer, that totally skews my intentions for punishing you… to the left or to the right, depending on how you look at it. Did I hold back because I was afraid of retaliation once my time on the submissive seat came again? Or did I go completely gung-ho because of what you did to me when I was the submissive?”

“Very perceptive, Dr. Grey,” she admits. I turn to her.

“Don’t praise me just yet, Dr. Baker,” I say unmoved, “because I feel that this exercise is the equivalent of cutting open a patient and looking for cancer when he really has an appendicitis. You’ll never get to the bottom of what’s really wrong because you’re looking in the wrong place and worst of all, you’re not listening to the patient. If the patient tells the doctor, ‘hey doc, my foot is hurting,’ the doctor’s not going to go looking for a dislocated shoulder.”

“Oh, now, you’re being dramatic, Dr. Grey!” she retorts, and it’s the first bit of emotion I’ve seen from her all afternoon.

“Okay, let’s put it in a better perspective then. Earlier this year, I vomited all over a defense attorney in a courtroom full of people then passed out on the stand. I went home and took a pregnancy test that came up positive. I went to my doctor and I told her, ‘Doc, I vomited, I passed out, I took at test, it came up positive—pregnancy is a real possibility.’ What do you think she did, told me I had a hernia?” Dr. Baker sighs heavily, exacerbated.

“See, your reaction says a lot,” I tell her, now more animated, “because the difference between pregnancy and this thing…” I point feverishly and repeatedly at my temple, “… is that we’re talking about the mind. You can’t see this. You can’t point to a problem and identify it. The mind is complex and beautiful and terrifying and none of us knows what’s going on inside of it at all times—none of us—which is why. You have. To listen. To. Your patient!”

And suddenly, I’m Stoley. He didn’t know what was wrong with him, but slowly discovered what wasn’t wrong with him and was ready to end his life because he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Everybody slapped a label on him, whatever conveniently fit, and they were all wrong. It was something so simple, and they were all treating the wrong thing—just because nobody wanted to listen.

I listened, and that’s all he needed… and it saved his life.

So, excuse me, Dr. Baker, but no—while you may be able to help my husband, you can’t help us.

“Well,” she says, folding her hands in her lap. “I guess we’re done for the day, then.” She looks at me, awaiting a response. She’s expecting surrender. I have nothing to say, lady. I’ve said it already. “Mrs. Grey?”

“Dr. Baker?” What?

“Do you have anything to say?”

“I’ve said it,” I reply. “Did you not hear me?” She shakes her head and chuckles, then proffers her hand to Christian.

“Good luck, Christian,” she says. Good luck? Smarmy bitch. Christian takes her hand and shakes, her shot not getting past him.

“Dr. Baker,” is all he says, looking at me in his peripheral. He stands and helps me to my feet. She clasps her hands in front of her, certain not to proffer her hand to me. No worries, there’s always a place for my hands. I rest them on my baby bump.

“Dr. Grey, it’s been…” she trails off.

“Enlightening,” I complete her sentence.

“I certainly hope so,” she says, still trying to jab at me.

“I know so,” I reply, but not for the reasons you’re poking at, doctor.

“Baby…” Christian cups my elbow. He’s had enough of the standoff. Quite frankly, so have I.

Knowing that we would most likely talk about what happened in the session on our way to Lamaze, Christian drives one of the Audi sedans while Jason and Ben follow in one of the SUV’s.

“That could have gone a bit better,” he says cautiously after an eternity of silence.

“A bit,” I say icily. Then I sigh, realizing that he’s not the bad guy here. “Christian, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the goal here. That session was a bit disastrous at best, but ultimately, it’s most important that we understand why we needed the session in the first place.” He sighs.

“I felt like I abused you,” he says softly, “like I needed to be punished for what I did to you.”

“Then you should have talked to me,” I tell him, “because I now feel like the true reasons for my punishment were now all lost in translation…”

“I know, and I’m sorry,” he interrupts me. “I can assure you that they were not. I promise you that your messages came through loud and clear. I didn’t think of spanking you during my punishment. I thought of all the ways that my behavior with Cholometes cost my family; I wasn’t thinking of the pain that I had caused in your punishment until the end, when it was all over. I think I may have subconsciously left out those details, I don’t know. I was hoping that Dr. Baker could help me work through that, but…”

“But what?” I ask.

“Well, you two just had the stand-off at the O.K. Corral,” he states.

“So?” I say. “I just don’t appreciate her misdiagnosing me. By her logic, every action that has ever bought about a reaction or a consequence has resulted in some form of PTSD, because let’s face it—we only learn that bad decisions are bad decisions because of their consequences. So the hundreds of billions of people who have lived and died and walked this earth and continue to do so and have had learning experiences from their mistakes, big and small, are simply walking, talking, breathing, functioning cases of PTSD. Her strict construction doesn’t allow for anything else. Do you see why that bothers me?”

“Yeah, but…” he trails off again.

“But, what?” He’s starting to irritate me.

“I can’t keep firing shrinks, baby,” he laments. Where did that come from? I look over at him.

“Christian, if I told you to start seeing Dr. Culley, would you do it?” he frowns.

“No!” he says in an obvious tone.

“Why not? She’s a doctor.”

“She’s a… lady doctor… I mean… a female… I mean, a gynecologist!” he’s stumbling over his words.

“Meaning she doesn’t really specialize in what you need,” I help him.

“Ya think?” he says, a bit horrified.

“Not every doctor fits every patient, Christian,” I tell him. “Dr. Culley’s my doctor, but she’s not a very good fit for you. I didn’t tell you to fire Dr. Baker. She does fine for you, but she’s no good for me. If you’re ever in a situation where I feel like you need to speak to someone and she’s not helping you, trust me, I’ll tell you if I see it, but I don’t see that yet.” He looks at me for a moment, blinking several times.

“Did you have to go through the whole gynecologist thing to make that point?” he says, obviously uncomfortable. I can’t help but laugh.

“Sorry,” I say insincerely.

After Lamaze, we have the Davenports over for dinner again and Chuck couldn’t be happier. It’s like he has a new lease on life. He’s moving around more without the wheelchair, still keeping it nearby since he doesn’t want to overwork his ribs. He’s really doing great, though. I can’t wait until he’s back on his feet again.

Tuesday is Christmas Eve and who’s left of the Davenports are pouring into Seattle. I have no idea how Nelson and Christian have managed to keep this away from Chuck, but they have. I’m only spending half the day at Helping Hands to make sure that everyone is settled in and ready for the holiday, then I’m going home. I really hate the fact that I can’t do my cookie bake this year, but my ankles say that it’s a definite no-go and it’s just too much work. Still, I miss my traditional Christmas Eve, for so many reasons. I don’t have long to lament my situation when Grace comes into my office with a strange look on her face.

“What?” I say. I know this is going to be bad, weird, or both.

“I know this is going to sound very strange coming from me, but I think you should give Courtney another chance.” My brow furrows. Who is this woman in my office pretending to be Grace Grey?

“Excuse me?” To say that my tone is incredulous is an understatement.

“Believe me, I’m the very last person to be a proponent for her and I can hardly believe I’m doing this myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that girl contrite in my life. I don’t know where she came from or what’s so bad about it, but I believe that she would rather shovel manure than go back there.” I shake my head and shrug.

“I can’t fix her,” I tell Grace. “She’s irreparable. She doesn’t want to be fixed. She wants to walk around in this little Courtney bubble doing whatever the hell she wants and treating people however she wants with her skewed view of reality. She’s waiting for her grandparents to die so that she can collect their fortune. That’s probably why they’re sending her back to East Hell or Midwest Purgatory or wherever the hell she came from. Maybe that’s what she needs. Maybe that’ll teach her to appreciate her life and the opportunity that she’s been given. She’s so callous, whatever situation her parents are in, I bet she doesn’t even speak to them. Addie sure doesn’t talk about them. Is this her son’s child or her daughter’s child? I don’t even know.” I shake my head again. “Let that situation fix her because I sure as hell can’t.” Grace pulls a chair up to my desk.

“Ana, there’s something else. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something else.”

“I don’t care what else, Grace. It’s not my problem anymore…” Just as I’m finishing my sentence, Courtney comes around the door frame. She looks like hell! Well, I shouldn’t say that she looks like hell, but she doesn’t look like the bratty little bitch that I know. She’s wearing a pair of plain jeans and a plain gray sweatshirt. She looks like she’s been crying for days.

I would normally look at someone in this condition and feel some kind of sympathy, but right now, I feel absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’ve felt this kind of stoic nonchalance of someone’s obvious pain since… since…

… since my mother came to Seattle.

“I don’t know why you’re here,” I tell her. “There’s nothing I can do for you.” I look back down at the documents on my computer. I see movement and then I hear Grace’s voice.

“Just talk to her, Ana… please.” Grace has surrendered her seat to Courtney. How can she expect me to talk to this woman? I want nothing to do with her. Seriously! There’s no vendettas, I don’t want revenge. I don’t want to see her suffer. I don’t care if Karma kicks her in the ass or not—I simply want nothing to do with her.

“Mom?”

Oh, hell. As if Courtney’s day wasn’t bad enough, I hear Mia calling for Grace. I so badly want to call out “She’s in here, Mia,” but like I said, I really don’t want revenge. I just want this girl gone. Much to Courtney’s dismay, Mia soon locates her mother.

“There you are, Mom. I tried to call you, but you wouldn’t pick up and I have a bit of a crisis that needs…” Her words trail off as she turns to her left and sees Courtney sitting in the chair in front of my desk. It’s clear that she truly can’t believe her eyes. She’s stunned silent for a moment—something I’ve never seen before.

“Hi, Mia,” Courtney says in a soft, mousy voice. Mia’s eyes sharpen and wider.

“It spoke!” she exclaims, pointing at Courtney. “Oh, my God! Did it speak? To me?”

Mia…” Grace chides gently in that way that often brings Mia to heel, but not this time. Mia turns her glare to her mother.

“Mom! Really?” Her only two words and Grace is sent into knowing silence.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Grey,” Courtney says. “She has a right to her feelings.” What exactly did her grandparents say to her?

My feelings!” Mia scoffs. “You mean the feelings half of the general populace, right? Most of which, you’ve fucked.”

“Mia!” Grace is no longer gentle.

“What? Are we now pretending like you’re not a flaming, evil, wretched bitch?” Mia continues, ignoring her mother’s warning tone.

“That’s enough, Mia!” Grace snaps. Mia glares—and I mean glares—at her mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom, but when have my feelings for her ever changed?” Mia shoots, angrily. “When have I ever not made it clear that I can’t stand the air that she breathes?”

“That does not give you the right to be crude and classless!” Grace scolds.

“I’m crude and classless!” Mia repeats in disbelief. “Well, I guess that’s better than being a whorish, nasty, easy, thirsty, thieving sure thing that will sleep with anything with a pulse!” she snaps at a dismayed Courtney before turning back to her mother.

“Don’t worry, Mom. I’m done being crude and classless!” she seethes before turning on her heels and marching out of my office and down the hall. We never even got to the reason why she came looking for her mother in the first place.

“Boy, you really don’t have a fan club, do you?” I hiss at Courtney, who just looks at her hands and remains mute. I look back at Grace. “I don’t know what you expect me to do because I tried to help her and it didn’t work. I don’t have any more time or energy for this. I’m ready to enjoy Christmas with my family. I don’t want to deal with her.”

“Courtney has made it clear that she has learned her lesson and she really wants to be a better person. Against my better judgment considering my experience with her and my daughter, I believe her.”

“I realize that she made things uncomfortable for Mia, but she threatened me! Security is on full alert and I’m carrying again because we didn’t know what to expect from her!”

“I know,” Grace admits and I just glare at her. Who told her? Oh hell, who cares? She and Addie are friends, Christian’s her son…

“And you expect me to help her?” I squeak incredulously. “To even want to be in the same room with her? Mia gave her daggers. I have much worse in my repertoire and the ammunition to back it up!”

“Please don’t make me go back there,” Courtney finally speaks, her voice breaking. I’m staring at her like an alien being. “Please! I’ll do anything you say. I’ll sort garbage; I’ll clean; I’ll shovel snow. Just please, don’t make me go back.”

My eyes narrow. What the fuck is this?

“I don’t have time for your Academy-Award-winning performances, Courtney!” I hiss, remembering the wailing act Grace described from Nordstrom’s. She drops her face in her hands and begins to weep.

“Please…” Her cries are pained. “I’ll do anything! Please, I swear! I swear, I’ll do anything! Just don’t make me go back!” Her voice portrays agony and her tears are sincere. She’d walk through fire rather than go back to wherever the hell she came from…

And I still don’t feel a goddamn thing.

“So all this time,” I say, folding my arms and sitting back in my chair, “all this headache, this haughty attitude, this ‘I’m the Queen of the World’ bullshit…” Grace makes to say something and I hold my hand up to silence her. For one, I’m not Mia; and two, I’ve got the floor. I’m talking to this chick and she’s going to listen. “All this time I’ve been threatening your trust fund and all it took was the real possibility that you would go back to where you came from?”

She drops her hands in her lap, still sniffling and crying… and nodding.

“You threatened me and my safety,” I nearly growl. “You put my entire staff on full alert for your ass. My husband was ready to crack you in two with his bare hands!”

“I… know,” she confesses in stuttering breaths.

“Oh, you have no idea, young lady!” I snap.

“Yes, I do!” she says, raising serious—though red and puffy—eyes to me. She does. He sent her one hell of a message. Ha! Go, Baby, go!

“Yeah, you do,” I acknowledge, and just like that, this threat is neutralized. “I don’t need a damn slave, Courtney. You weren’t doing me any favors being here. I was trying to teach you something, to show you how the other half lives so that you could understand the magnitude of the lifestyle that you live and be grateful for the opportunities being afforded to you, but you already know, don’t you?” My voice is harsh and unforgiving. She chokes and covers her mouth, nodding as she cries into her hand. I roll my eyes.

“You can go now, Grace,” I say. I’m not playing with this chick and I mean it. I don’t have time or energy for these fucking games. Grace quietly leaves the room.

“What do you want?” I nearly growl at her. I don’t trust her and I don’t want her around me. She raises wary, watery eyes at me.

That doe-eyed shit doesn’t mean a damn thing. I reach into my purse and pull out my Beretta. I lay in on the desk, pointed away from either of us, the magazine in my other hand out of her sight. Her eyes grow wide.

“I don’t bluff, little girl,” I tell her, “and I don’t make empty threats. If that’s what you were doing, I advise you to stop right now, because this is what yours caused.” She swallows hard and stares at my gun. “Not a Magnum, I know. After the meeting with my husband and our security team, we decided that six bullets just may not be enough.” She raises her eyes to me again. “What. Do you. Want?”

“I…” She reaches for my desk and I snatch my gun. In three seconds, the magazine is in and a round is in the chamber. I never take my eyes off of her in the process. She starts to shake.

“T… tissue!” she says, a shaky hand pointing to the tissue box on my desk. I shake my head infinitesimally and twist my lips. Totally empty threat—amateur.  I pick up the tissue box and throw it at her.

“A bit of advice,” I begin as I release the magazine from my Beretta. “Don’t make any sudden moves in the direction of someone’s firearm…” I slide the chamber and release the final round. “… Especially after you’ve threatened them. I could cost your life if you’re dealing with someone with less control.” I load the single round back into the magazine and place the gun and the ammo back in my purse. “How ridiculous does that look?” I say. “I’m a pregnant woman—a very pregnant woman—carrying twins and about to blow any second, and I’m walking around with a goddamn Beretta. Isn’t that fucking ludicrous?” I stare at her and wait for her to tell me what the fuck she wants from me. She dries her eyes and her face and holds her head down.

“I’m sorry, Ana,” she says in a small voice. And? So? Yes, you are, very sorry. Extremely sorry. Now what? She’s quiet for a moment, but I’ve said everything I have to say to her. It’s her turn now. Noting my silence, she raises her eyes to me.

“My parents live in squalor. They always have. I didn’t know how bad it was until my grandmother showed up and took me away from it. They always told me that she was rich, but that she didn’t want us. I never believed them. Why would she not want us? So I convinced myself that it was a lie, that she didn’t exist… until she showed up and took me away.

“When we first got to Washington, I was still thinking like I was in Chuktapaw.” Chuckawhat? She smirks sadly at my expression. “Don’t even strain. It’s a little broke town in Kentucky. You won’t even find it on a map. When I put that shirt in Mia’s bag, I was going to tell her about it later. I had spent all my money and I really wanted it. I didn’t expect for us to get caught. When we did, I panicked. That’s why she hates me.”

“I know,” I say, stoically. Get to the point, Melon Girl. I don’t have all day.

“I can’t go back there, Ana,” she says. “Drugs and filth and crime and… I can’t go back to living that way.”

“You’re an adult,” I reply flatly. “You’re 24 years old. You can live wherever the fuck you want.”

“No, I can’t,” she retorts. “It’s like you said, I have nothing—no skills, no experience… I never held a job. I haven’t gone to school. I have nothing, ‘no human value whatsoever except parts.’” She drops her head again. That last part was recited, I can tell.

“Where did you get that tidbit of knowledge?” I ask sarcastically.

“My grandmother,” she chokes, just above a whisper, holding her head down.

“Wise woman,” I spit before I can catch myself, but then the meaning of the words floats back to me. Her grandmother told her that she has no human value whatsoever except parts. Parts. That means that she would have to die and her body parts be divvied up—then, and only then, would she be of any value whatsoever. That’s pretty damn harsh.

Yet, I’m still finding it hard to locate that sympathy button.

“I already know what you’re trying to teach me,” she admits. “I know about the misfortunes of the people on the other side of the tracks. I used to be one of them. I need to learn something else.”

“What?” I snap. “What do you need to learn?” Her eyes are glassy again.

“I don’t know,” she squeaks, “but I need something else… anything else, but I need something else! Please!” And it’s the first sincere thing I feel she’s said all day.

Fucking fucking hell fucking shit hell fucking bitches fucking hell!

“You owe me,” I say through clenched teeth. “You stole my peace and you fucking owe me. Why should I help you now?”

“You shouldn’t,” she says, somberly. “Hell, I wouldn’t, but I hope you will anyway.”

I am literally grinding my teeth.

“C’est vraiment des conneries!” I exclaim. This fucking brat bitch! Way to ruin my goddamn holiday! “Merde! Merde! Merde! Putain! J’en ai ras-le-bol! …”

I have no idea how long I ranted in my native tongue—from a prior life, I think… or something like that—but it must have been a while. When I look up, Marilyn and Ben are both cautiously peeking inside the door and Courtney is looking at me like she has just seen Jesus.

“Go find somebody to help in this joint for the next two days,” I say to Courtney through my teeth. “I don’t care who! I don’t what you do! Just find a fucking purpose! I don’t even want to think about you until after Christmas!” She nods and stands. She turns to thank me, but thinks better of it when I narrow my eyes at her.

“Courtney!” I bark her name as she gets to the door and she turns around to face me.

“If you cross me again, just one more time, you’re gonna get a three-man beatdown, because I swear to God that me and my babies are going to beat your motherfucking ass! Are we clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she says without missing a beat and leaves the office. I’m nearly taken aback by the show of respect, but too pissed off to care.

Christian is not going to like this.


A/N: I know that everyone was expecting a showdown between Radcliff and Ana. However, there couldn’t be a showdown between Radcliff and Ana. It had to be between Radcliff and his wife, because he wasn’t listening to anybody else. He wasn’t even listening to his wife in the beginning. His only power over her was in the fact that she stayed and listened to him. He never beat her, but she stayed and obeyed. The only way that she could get him to hear her was to leave.

Not only that, but as big and bad as Radcliff pretended to be, Christian had him sweating and shaking before they left Grey House. He didn’t dare cross Ana too hard.

Don’t bother trying to translate Ana’s ranting. She’s just cursing a lot.

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 40—The Day After… Again

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

Chapter 40—The Day After… Again

CHRISTIAN

I’m in my own bed. Butterfly is sleeping comfortably next to me. There’s a fire going in the fireplace… and I’ve got to piss. Damn, I don’t want to move.

I move as quietly as I can, trying not to rouse her. The alarm hasn’t gone off yet and the fire is still going that I built last night before we fell asleep. It’s dwindling, but not dead yet. I slide out of the bed and go the en suite. I prepare myself to lift and aim so that there isn’t urine all over the seat, then I remember that I’m no longer wearing the chastity device.

Thank God!

Sweet unrestrained relief! I almost don’t want it to end. I examine my penis carefully. I only wore it this time for 24 hours, so there’s no chafing or bruising, but it’s still sore as fuck from the restraint and from last night’s workout. There’s a tiny bit of tenderness around the head and I’m not sure what’s causing it. A&D Ointment will do the trick for that.

I clean myself thoroughly and apply the ointment to the head of my cock. The relief is immediate, but I still feel the tenderness. It looks like I’m out of commission for a couple of days or soul.

“Sssss, fuck!” I hiss, grimacing with the pain. I don’t know if it was the chastity device, the blowjob, the hand job, or the endless fucking, but that little sensitive ridge can’t stand any contact to speak of this morning. I put a little more ointment around the ridge.

“Well, I was about to get jealous, but that doesn’t look pleasurable.”

Her voice startles the shit out of me. It looks like I was unsuccessful in attempting not to wake her.

“Sorry. I was trying to be quiet.”

“The noise didn’t wake me. Your absence did,” she says, walking into the en suite. “Are you alright?” I nod.

“Just a little irritation,” I reply. “Nothing serious.”

“Let me see.” She kneels down and puts her face right at my dick. Fuck, that shit turns me on. Settle down, Grey. You’re out of commission, remember? “You’re right,” she declares upon closer examination. “That’s a bit of friction burn. You’re using the right thing, though. You should be right as rain if you use the ointment for about 24 hours, three or four times. Has this happened before?” I shake my head.

“Not that I can remember,” I respond.

“Have you ever been in a chastity device before?” I nod.

“Many times,” I tell her, “but for unreasonably longer periods of time. They cause chaffing, but usually after several days.” She looks down at my penis.

“Well, that’s not chaffing, so we know that’s not it.” She seems relieved.

“You were worried?” I ask.

“A bit,” she responds. “You came so quickly when I released you. I was just hoping… you know…” she trails off. It was a new experience for both of us.

“You made your point, Mistress,” I say, pulling her into my arms. “I belong to Anastasia Grey… and I need to remember that before I make dumb decisions.” I lean down and kiss her chastely before touching my forehead to hers. “And Anastasia Grey belongs to me.”

“Yes,” she whispers, closing her eyes and touching my cheek. “Please remember that before you make dumb decisions.”

“Yes, Mistress,” I say softly, kissing her again.

We’re cuddling in bed again, caressing each other’s skin after I have put another log on the fire.

“Wings,” she says softly. I frown. What made her think of that? “I should know what it is, but I don’t remember,” she whispers. I stroke her hair softly and kiss her forehead.

“It’s my sexual safeword,” I tell her. “You told me not to come. I didn’t know if I could, but I couldn’t stop it. I tried to safeword, but it was too late.” She releases a quick and heavy breath.

“I knew it!” she laments quietly. “I knew it was a safeword.”

“I didn’t tell you,” I try to explain. “I only gave you sails and knots. You had no way of knowing… and you didn’t punish me for coming. I would have called foul if you had.”

“I still don’t…” she sighs heavily. “It’s a safeword. I don’t know what I should have done.”

“You did what you should have done,” I assure her. “You comforted me; you let me know that it was okay that I came; and we continued without a problem.” I raise her head to meet my eyes. “It was a remarkable night, and I’ll never forget it.” She searches my eyes for answers, then gently strokes my cheek.

“It was bearable, then?” she asks, a bit uncertain.

“Bearable?” I ask, bemused. “Any more bearable and I would be the one pregnant!” I didn’t know what else to say. She literally fucked me senseless! With her hand, with her mouth, with her body, with her mind—I nearly went insane. She bursts into quiet laughter and shakes her head. Crisis averted. When her laughter has subsided, I capture her gaze again.

“You were perfect,” I say softly. “The perfect Mistress, the perfect Domme, the perfect lover… perfect—in every way.” I kiss her gently, reverently, and she relaxes, but only for a moment. She narrows her eyes at me and pauses. “What?” She stares again, then turns on the bedside lamp. “What is it?”

“We have a problem,” she says, still examining me.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, anxiously.

“The collar,” she says, her voice and expression full of dismay, “it left a bruise.” My hand instinctively goes to my neck. I don’t feel anything. How did we not see it in the bathroom?

“It’s okay, Baby,” I say.

“How is that okay?” she protests. “Now I know how you felt after you spanked me.”

“That was different,” I say, sitting up to face her. “I’m not black and blue—and even if I were, what you did with the collar, you did with the purpose of pleasure. You even tried to take it off and I told you not to, remember?” I glare at her, waiting for her to recall my request. She nods.

“Yes, I remember,” she replies.

“You punished me,” I say. “You paddled me… humanely. Even then, you paused and checked, and I wasn’t black and blue. Chastity cages can be brutal and cruel. Believe me, I know. Even with your use of the cage, you were lenient and caring. The punishment fit the crime. What I did to you…” I shake my head. “That was different.”

“I don’t understand,” she says, frowning.

“You couldn’t lay on that side, Ana,” I respond firmly. “You weren’t even yourself the next day. I don’t like how it made you feel and I don’t like how it made me feel and I won’t do it again!” Her eyes grow wide.

“You won’t spank me again?” she asks, dismayed again.

“Not like that,” I point out. “I should have exercised some restraint. I shouldn’t have spanked you on your hip, and I shouldn’t have done it while your skin was wet. I don’t know what else I shouldn’t have done, but I just know that I won’t do that to you again.”

“Don’t you see that’s how I feel about this?” she says, gently touching my neck. I sigh.

“Baby,” I begin, taking her hand in mine, “did you find any pleasure in that spanking I gave you?”

“I came really hard,” she replies.

“That was after and that was because of the sex, not the spanking. Was there anything pleasurable about the spanking? Anything that you can remember?” She looks at me and then shakes her head.

“No,” she replies. “There wasn’t.”

“When it was over, you cried… and cried and cried and cried. The next day, you were… stoic, for lack of a better word. When I came home and found coats at every door—even balcony doors that we haven’t even used—that’s the behavior of someone who’s traumatized, not someone who has learned a lesson. I feel like I abused you and I scared you and even Dr. Baker couldn’t make me feel differently. Is that how you feel about this?” I ask, pointing to my neck. I haven’t even seen the bruising, but whatever it is, it’s not as bad as what I did to her.

“No,” she says, her voice shaking a bit.

“When you think of that spanking, does it make you want to fuck me?” I ask.

“No!” she says, almost appalled, and that answers my question.

“The collar,” I breathe, “was pleasurable. From the moment you put it on me, I felt the ownership of belonging to you. Whenever I touched it, I thought of you. I had to cover it with a scarf to go to the doctor’s office, and though I was unhappy about not making it to the appointment, I was relieved that I no longer had to cover my collar. When you tightened it…” I slide my arms around her and kiss her gently under her earlobe, “that enhanced my orgasms, and you knew that. The collar was never for punishment; but you still managed to use it for pleasure. When you wanted to remove it, I begged you not to.” I trail kisses down her neck to the hollow just above her chest. “And when I think about it now, I want to fuck you even though I know I can’t. So yes, this is different because this…” I bite her chin and she gasps and whimpers, “… battle scars, baby.”

I hold her head and kiss her passionately. She melts in my arms and moans in my mouth, making me want her more and more. I run my hand down her naked body and over her baby bump, stopping when I get to the promised land. She’s hot and wet, and I sink two fingers into her.

“Ah!” she cries, breaking our kiss. “Christian! Wait… you…” she’s panting.

“Sssshhh,” I soothe, brushing my lips against hers. “Come for me.” I cover her mouth again, kissing and massaging her until she’s trembling in my arms again.

*-*

Butterfly has taken the day off from Helping Hands while she and Marilyn attempt to ascertain what’s happening with the deliveries that should be going to the Radcliffs. I haven’t met them yet, but Butterfly tells me that they are very much in need of the things we’ve purchased. I know that we plan to see them this weekend, but I agree that if for some reason the deliveries are being denied, we should hold off on sending anything else to the address until we have the opportunity to speak to them.

I feel like a whole new man today, but it didn’t come without a bit of a bumpy ride in the morning hours. I’ve expressed my regret to my wife about that extreme spanking I administered a couple of weeks ago and after she was duly sated and resting in my arms, we had agreed that we wouldn’t take spankings off the table and that there definitely had to be more moderation in the act than there was when I spanked her then. However, the conversation came at a bit of a cost.

Earlier that morning…

“Why did you fight Brian in the first place?” she asks as we’re getting dressed. “You’re a bit of a firecracker, I’ll admit, but I’ve never seen you pushed to violence like that. It couldn’t have been that he was going to tell me about the baby, so what was it?” I run my fingers through my hair. I’ve been punished for my malfeasance and I sure as hell won’t do it again. Why do we have to rehash this now?

“He wouldn’t go away,” I tell her. “He proved it when he showed up at the house. Your speech was powerful, but he already knew all that. Yet, he still showed up here. I don’t know if he just had to tell you that he loved you or he had to be rejected by you face to face, but he just wouldn’t go away, and I’m not sure that he’s going to stay away now.” I won’t tell her that I think he’s as unstable as David and I think he’s going to come back for her. I don’t know what this power is that she has over men, because she has the same power over me, but they have to have her—even if it’s to her detriment. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this fucker no matter what he says.

“The Pedophile wouldn’t go away, and you weren’t pushed to violence over her…” she begins.

“No, but you were,” I point out. She pauses. Knocking her over a sofa in a room full of people, knives at her throat, nectarines upside her head, ultimately choking her out and landing her Pedophile ass in the hospital… she has to know what I felt. I can see the scenes playing in her head just as they played in mine.

“He might come back,” she laments, confirming my fears from before. “Then what? Are you going to be in this fight again?” I shake my head.

“No, Butterfly, I’ve learned my lesson. I already knew, but there’s nothing like the hand of my Mistress to drive the point home.” She raises her eyebrows.

“How do I know this?” she asks. “Ultimately, the punishment was desirable for you… or at least that’s what you led me to believe.” I swallow hard.

“In the end, yes,” I admit. “The orgasm that I had after you removed the chastity device was unmatched, mostly because of your gentle touch and the fact that I’ve never been handled after being released from the cage. But the device is not just physical—it’s psychological; I’m sure you’re already aware of that. It’s extreme, because it not only physically prevents you from touching yourself, but you mentally understand that your dick is not yours. That’s a tough pill for a man to swallow.

“For this to have been your first time using the device, I’m surprised that you were so knowledgeable on how it should be used,” I tell her. “When used as a punishment, the cage can be brutal. Believe me, I know. I’ve been forced to wear it for up to a week.” A shadow falls over her face and she frowns deeply.

“A week??” she squeals, appalled. I nod.

“It wasn’t used as a punishment or to teach me a lesson. It was used to break me down—like you would break a horse… and it worked. When I saw that thing in your hand, I wasn’t pleased. I felt like if you were going to go to the extremes that she did, I would safeword and you would have to release me, but I was fully prepared to be restrained for longer than I was.”

“That’s horrible,” she gasps. “That’s just awful to do that to someone for days on end.”

“I knew I deserved punishment,” I tell her. “I knew that the pain that I had caused by my actions required something drastic. You have to know, though, that the chastity device has never been used as an effective means of punishment for me until you.” She frowns again.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“I have intensely magnificent orgasms when we’re together, the best of my life. I know pleasure; it’s something that I’m not unfamiliar with. I also know the agony of being restrained in a chastity device, but I’ve never known one right after the other,” I point out. “Whenever I was released from the chastity device, it was ‘go take a shower,’ and that was it. I knew the discomfort of it; I knew what was going to happen when it was all over and I just prepared my mind for it when I saw it coming. In the end, it just pissed me off. It made me fear her, not revere her, which is why she had so much control over me for so many years.

“When you employed the device, I was able to feel immense pleasure after immense discomfort and it left a lasting impression on me. I was helpless, I was spent, and I had no control over my orgasm—none whatsoever. That’s never happened. I was able to see the difference between the two extremes immediately and it was enough for me to know that I would want to avoid the chastity device again if I had to. Considering what got me to that point, I have no will or desire to see Colostomy any time again ever in my life. If he has information that would save my life, he has to talk to my security—not me ever again.”

“That’s how I feel about the coats,” she points out, and I still think it’s different. “That still doesn’t tell me what pushed you to fight him in the first place.” I don’t know how to explain it to her so that she’ll understand.

“I had reached my limit, Butterfly,” I tell her. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I just couldn’t. He was always there, always around. He taunted me that he wouldn’t go away and he was enjoying it. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Even Jason and Welch saw that this guy wouldn’t quit. They told him how pathetic he was acting and he didn’t even flinch. If another man told me that I was acting pathetic, not only would I change the behavior that made me appear pathetic, but I’d probably shove my fist down his throat…”

“Maybe that’s why he wanted to shove his fist down yours,” she says, kneeling on the bed in her underwear. She looks really hot.

“We were both ready for that,” I say after pulling a T-shirt over my head and pulling Butterfly’s key from under it. “We would have gladly ripped each other apart at a moment’s notice. The mere hint of it was just fuel on the fire.”

“What, did he threaten you?” I shake my head.

“No, except with information,” I say. Her brow furrows.

“Okay, so what did you mean by ‘the hint threw fuel on the fire?’” I pull a turtleneck out of the chest of drawers and pull it over my head.

“He was acting all cocky like he had something to hold over my head. I knew the information was useless, but he was just going to keep digging until he found something. When he found nothing, he would just stick around to irritate me. That’s when Jason and Welch told him how pathetic he was—how sad it was that he was pining after a woman that he could never have. Then he starts talking about how he waited for you; the whole sob story about how he sat on the sidelines while you were getting over David and how I pretty much came in like a thief and stole you away.” I pull on a pair of black jeans.

“The more he talked, the more pitiful he sounded. It was like his whole life was centered and focused on this one thing and if he couldn’t have it, he was going to make our lives as miserable as possible. Then he was taunting me and telling me that he was never going away and I just kept thinking, ‘Fuck. I’ll never be rid of this asshole.’ Finally, Welch suggested that we slug it out in the ring and get it over with, so that’s what we did.” Her baby blues suddenly sharpen as she blinks, bobbles her head, and refocuses.

“What?” she exclaims. Okay, what did I say wrong? “Okay, wait a minute. This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing? You guys actually planned this?”

“Well, no, I think it was a bit of both,” I respond. “It wasn’t like ‘Showdown at the O.K. Corral at high noon’ or anything like that, but it was a bit spur of the moment.”

“Okay, Christian,” she begins, a frown marring her beautiful face. “I really need you to help me understand this, because if I’m hearing you correctly, all of this happened because you succumbed to peer pressure from your security team.” I have no idea why that statement rubs me so wrong, but now I feel like I need to defend my honor… and my adulthood.

“That’s not it at all!” I retort. “You make it sound like we were a bunch of pugnacious kids just looking for a fight. I’m willing to take my medicine for my mistakes and I made several, but what I won’t allow you to believe is that the mere suggestion that I fight this guy was what led me to beat his ass—that I’m so impressionable that someone can just say ‘fight’ and I fight. I was at the end of my rope. I had overlooked him, fought him with words, a few times he even came to me with information that he felt would be damning to our relationship and I told him to just tell you. Anything! Just get the fuck out of my face! I did everything I could! I used every tactic in the book—intimidation, jealousy, belittling, ignoring him, information, everything! And he just kept coming back! He wouldn’t go away! He was like an incurable disease. Hell, even you told him there was no hope. You made him swear to protect me, for fuck’s sake! Yes, Jason and Welch made a suggestion, but believe me, I had already thought of it at least a hundred times before. I wasn’t coaxed or led into a fight like a schoolyard boy—I wanted to kick his ass. I wanted it so badly, I could taste it! But I didn’t think about what it could cost me in the end. I only thought of the moment. My actions have consequences, and I need to see that.”

I can never adequately describe the look she gives me. It’s confusion mixed with horror mixed with something else I can’t even explain.

“Why didn’t you tell me this?” she asks, her voice begging, but searching at the same time.

“Because if I had, you would have gone easy on me,” I replies.

“You’re right!” she shrieks. “I thought you were being mindless and careless and selfish! I wanted to show you that your behavior is unacceptable!” Her blood pressure is no doubt rising and I have to make it stop. I snatch her in my arms and hold her tight, close to my body.

“Don’t you see?” I implore her. “I was! I was being mindless and careless and selfish! I didn’t think ahead! I should have thought of how this would have affected others—you, my babies, my mother, those incompetent fucks at Mercer Hospital, Ray, Amanda… this shit reached so far and I didn’t think about any of that!”

“That’s not your fault!” she says, fighting to look up at me. “That’s his fault. He didn’t care…”

“I can’t blame him. I can’t hold him responsible for my actions. I have to think before I act…”

“He provoked you!” she protests. “Beyond reason! It was much worse than I ever could have imagined and you didn’t tell me.”

“He’s not responsible for my decisions,” I say again. “He’s an asshole. He deserved what he got, but I can’t hold him responsible for what I did. I can try to explain it away, but the truth is the truth. I was thinking about me… not you.” She suddenly stops struggling in my arms and falls limp, not a surrendering limp. It’s different. I look down at her and I can see the wheels turning.

“We’re not talking about the fight anymore… are we?”

Are we? Shit. I don’t think we are. I sigh. I can’t even lie to her. I didn’t know the conversation had turned until she just said it. She’s right. We’re not talking about the fight anymore. I release her so that I can look into her eyes

“Christian?” I can’t even answer her. I can’t find the words. “Oh God, Christian, no…” She sits back on her feet and covers her mouth.

“Baby…” I try to stop those wheels from turning.

“Christian, please tell me I’m off track… please…” she beseeches me. She’s a smart woman. I can’t tell her that she’s wrong because I know that she’s right. “Oh, God.” She covers her face with her hands. I tried to keep it from her. I didn’t want her to know, but in all honesty, I figured why not kill two birds with one stone?

“My actions have consequences,” I tell her. “You told me that. Dr. Baker told me that. I can’t just run around doing whatever I want anymore. It’s not just me.” She’s shaking her head feverishly.

“No,” she says, shaking like she’s trying to shake away a bad thought. “This is not right. This is not how this is supposed to go…”

“I was wrong, Baby,” I say softly. “I was wrong when I got in the ring with Brian, and I was wrong when I spanked you that way.”

“But this is not how this is supposed to be!” she wails, shaking her fist on each word. “Don’t you see? It can’t be like that! It can’t!” She’s getting more and more upset. I sit on the bed next to her.

“Listen to me,” I begin. “Nothing anyone could have said or done could have fixed what I did or how I felt about what I did. In this instance, the punishment did fit the crime. I was selfish and thoughtless, and you couldn’t go easy on me. I told you what you needed to know—the basics. It was the truth.” Her shoulders drop. She knows I purposely omitted some of the crucial information—and I did, particularly after I fully realized my role in everything that happened.

“Christian, please don’t ever do that again,” she says, obviously fighting back tears. “I asked you… I asked you why, and you didn’t tell me. You only gave me a part of the story… a small part… and you knew that I wouldn’t accept that.” She drops her face in her hands. “We agreed,” she laments. “We agreed that there would be no punishment for punishment. Whatever discipline we had in our relationship would be warranted. We agreed…”

“And it was warranted, Butterfly,” I try to comfort her. “No matter how I felt about what I did to you those weeks ago, this punishment was warranted—for all the reasons that you mentioned. I could have lost so much because I was aching to beat that man’s ass. I could have handled it differently. I really could have. Looking back on it, I had plenty of other options, but I was so caught in the moment that all I could think of was teaching him a lesson. I couldn’t see the consequences until I had to face the consequences, and Baby, that can’t happen again.”

Her big blue eyes bore through me right into my soul. I need her to understand that sometimes, there’s only one way that I can learn; that pain really is a teacher for me, but only when that power is wielded properly.

“It’s masochistic, Christian,” she tells me, shaking her head. “It’s not the nature of our relationship. I don’t like it and I won’t participate in it.”

“Baby, I promise you that I’m not ‘tit-for-tatting’ here, but don’t you think that you accepting that spanking was a bit masochistic?”

“No!” she says without missing a beat. “There were no missing facts with my punishment. I’ll admit that I didn’t like the fact that you waited until I went to bed and got comfortable. I feel like you deliberately let me fall into a false sense of security only to rip me from my comfort zone and punish me. You wanted subdued and that’s what I felt—for the whole day I felt subdued…”

She’s yelling now, not about what she did to me, but about what I did to her. She’s had some repressed feelings, too. When I wanted her to talk about them, she wouldn’t. Maybe she couldn’t. She’s letting it all out now, and it only took two weeks and a punishment on me for her to release it. She’s weeping now and her rant goes on for several minutes, but she never once says that she regrets the spanking.

“Can you tell me that you never thought about that spanking while you were punishing me?” I ask her. She sighs.

“I thought about it once… before we started the scene. Only once, and even then, only in the context of me putting myself and the babies at risk and you putting all of us at risk. I was confused and a bit resentful because you punished me for it and then turned around and did the same thing yourself. But it was never revenge, Christian—never revenge, and I can’t do this anymore if that’s what it’s going to be.”

“It won’t, Baby,” I say, taking her face in my hands. “You felt like the punishment you received fit the crime. You just weren’t pleased with how it was carried out. I understand that. I really do. There were a lot of extremes that I crossed that night, and I needed you to tell me what they were. Only one was visible, but the rest weren’t.” I raise my eyes to the wrap hanging near the balcony door in the sitting room. “I should really say two were visible.” She drops her head, but I put my finger under her chin to raise her eyes back to mine.

“I felt like the punishment that I received fit the crime, too,” I tell her. “I don’t like the chastity device. I would prefer that we don’t use it again, but it’s not a hard limit. I don’t feel like anything that you did was extreme. I didn’t deliberately withhold information from you, but when you asked me what happened, I gave you the bare bones and nothing more. I wasn’t being masochistic although part of me did feel like I deserved a portion of the punishment for what I did to you. If anything, it may have been a bit of topping from the bottom, so to speak. A lesson that you need to learn as a Domme is that as long as you’re not cruel or acting out of anger, if your intention is to teach, you need to go with your first mind. It was effective. That’s what you wanted. It wasn’t cruel. Do you understand?” She closes her eyes and sighs heavily. I think she gets part of it, but still not all of it.

“I’m going to move the coats,” she says softly. I nod.

“Good, because I didn’t like seeing them.”

“That’s not why I put them there,” she begins to protest.

“I know,” I stop her. “You’ve already explained why you put them there, but I’m glad that you see that they’re not necessary.” I pause for a moment, trying to find a way to lift her heavy heart. “I won’t do this to you again—the extreme spanking, ripping you from your comfort zone… and I won’t use you punishing me to satisfy my own guilt.” She raises her eyes to me. “We need to be more open with each other. It’s almost like we’re afraid to talk. We’re about to be parents. That’ll never do.”

She nods, surrender evident in her posture, even though she’s still sitting on her feet in the bed.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I say. She raises glassy eyes to me again. “Do you know what the worst part of the punishment was?” She shakes her head. “That I didn’t get to sleep with you.”

Sadness clouds her eyes as she stares at me.

“I thought about you all day, about the lesson I was supposed to learn. I slept like a baby in my den because I fell asleep reciting my mantra… I belong to Anastasia Grey.” I kiss her gently on the cheek. “The punishment fit the crime, Baby. We’ve just forgotten how to talk to each other, and we can’t let that happen. It’s causing too many problems.”

She drops her head again, nodding in agreement, before her body starts to shake with sobs. I envelop her in my arms and kiss her hair. We’ve both learned a lot, but we’ve still got a lot of learning left to do…

Present…

She has agreed to see Dr. Baker with me on my next visit since Dr. Baker already knows all about what I’ve done and how I feel. She’s supposed to go see Ace today, so I don’t know what that visit will be like, but I think she should see him alone so she can freely discuss how she feels.

We talk about the country clubs for a moment. God, I hate country clubs. I just never saw a use for them—except for the ones with marinas where I could moor my boat, and I could moor my boat at any marina for a fee. Now, I have my own marina. So what’s the use?

However, in my new and enlightened level of understanding, I can see why she wants to join. Big or small, Anastasia Steele has always had her own merit. She didn’t make her accomplishments by being Ray’s daughter, Allen’s friend, or David’s girlfriend. Her achievements were all her own. All of a sudden, she meets me and everything that identifies her is Christian’s girlfriend, Christian’s fiancée, Grey’s wife. She had a simple life before she met me, but it was still her life. She had a thriving practice, so successful that she could afford to live in a million-dollar downtown condo overlooking Elliot Bay; she had a waiting list longer than the Constitution; and she could afford a very comfortable lifestyle—including a new car and a stylish wardrobe—all while only working two and a half days a week.

She could come and go as she pleased and didn’t need a bodyguard following her everywhere she went. She’s skilled in martial arts and can take down a man twice her size, and when fear and danger reared their ugly heads, she didn’t hide from them. Instead, Annie got her guns. She is the embodiment and the epitome of the quintessential independent woman and she’s got more people than not placing her importance on “Grey,” including Grey. She has proven that she could handle the media. She’s never really misstepped in front of them. She momentarily froze while leaving the brunch the day after Maxine’s wedding and she was just discovering that she was pregnant when she barfed all over David’s attorney.

I did just drop the iron hammer on her when I said that she couldn’t do those radio spots. I didn’t even talk to her. Maybe she can still do one or two of the interviews. We can talk about it, but I have to insist that she wait until after the babies are born. If her opinion and her voice are important to them now, they will still be important to them in a few months.

I have my follow-up appointment for my eyes today. Butterfly came along to be sure and tell the good doctor that I was following instructions. He was surprised to see that most of the bruising was gone. I told him that it was a homeopathic remedy that helped restore my coloring, but doctors tend not to be pleased with that information. So that’s all the information that I gave him. The issues with my eyes have nearly corrected themselves and as long as I don’t get into any barroom brawls in the near future, the doctor has given me a clean bill of health. I was hoping that this meant that things were looking up for us, until I got a bit of information from my wife that set me off.

“Christian, I have a question for you,” she says as we’re walking into the grand entry and Windsor takes our coats.

“What is it?”

“Where are my guns?” Her guns? Shit! I was hoping we wouldn’t need to have this conversation anytime soon. I sigh heavily.

“I was dreading this day,” I begin, “but I knew it would come. I really wish you wouldn’t carry them, especially with the babies about to be born, but I know I can’t stop you and I know that the threats to us are real. Security has your guns. They’ve had them since the accident. You can have them whenever you want. There’s a safe in the bookshelf in your office for them.” She nods.

“I want them,” she says. I nod, feeling somber and a bit forlorn.

“May I ask what brought this on?” I ask. She pauses for a moment, then sighs.

“Courtney threatened me,” she says softly. What the fuck? That melon-clad bitch that came on to my wife is now threatening her?

“What?” I snap.

“She’s upset because Addie gave me control over her trust fund to make her behave while she was at Helping Hands. It didn’t work. It just pissed her off even more. I’m meeting Addie for lunch tomorrow to let her know that I’m giving up. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m not putting myself or my children at risk because this little brat doesn’t want to be taught, but I don’t know what that means for Ms. Courtney. She was very clear yet very vague in her threat.”

“What did she say?”

“’I know people, Bitch.’” Oh, yeah, that was a threat. This woman must be on meth. She can’t believe that her name holds more power than Grey. She must be really desperate to get Ana out of the way, but what she doesn’t know is that after the last couple of weeks we’ve had, she couldn’t have picked a worse time to make such a fatal mistake.

“Christian?”

I didn’t know that I had been standing there silent for so long until she calls my name. This cunt thinks she regrets she ever met us now? She ain’t seen nothing yet.

“Activate two-way communications.” Beep. “Locate Jason Taylor.”

“Yes?” Jason’s voice comes over the intercom system.

“Please bring Mrs. Grey’s firearms to my den.” Without hesitation, Jason replies, “Yes, sir.”

“We need to have a quick security meeting in fifteen.”

“Has something happened, sir?”

“Yes, it has,” he says. “Fifteen.”

“Yes, sir.”

“End two-way communications.”

“Christian, I don’t really want to make a federal case about this. I just wanted to bring it to your attention.”

“I’m glad that you did and it is a federal case, baby. When someone threatens you, take it seriously. You never know what they’re thinking or what they’re capable of and you’re messing with her money.” I gently touch her cheek. “And if something happens to you and my children, I don’t know what I would do… so, yes, this is a federal case.” She gazes at me for a moment, then she nods.

“You’re right. It’s very serious. I don’t know what she’s capable of either and I don’t want another psycho bitch situation on my hands,” she says with a sigh.

“Don’t worry, Baby. You won’t. I’ll make sure of it.” I lead her by the elbow through the house to the elevator. I’m doing my best to control my anger as we ride to the ground floor. This bitch must be insane to threaten my wife. It’s not enough that she came on to her like some common floosy in a nightclub. Now, she’s throwing threats like she’s got some kind of power.

When the elevator opens, Jason is already standing there with a lockbox in one hand and an attaché in the other. He, too, is trying to remain impassive, but I see it in his eyes. We’re a family—a strange little family, but a family nonetheless. When you attack one of us, you attack us all, and he wants to know why she wants her guns.

“Your highness,” he says, handing her the attaché.

“Thank you, Jason,” she says with a nod. “The Beretta?”

“Yes,” he says. “The Glock and Magnum are in here. Where would you like them?”

“Hold on to them and bring them with us,” she says. Jason raises his eyebrows.

“Us?” he says.

“Yes, us,” she replies with missing a beat. “Too many decisions that affect me are made without my knowledge or input. I didn’t sit helplessly by while life happened to me before I was Anastasia Grey and I’m not about to start now. This woman threatened me and I know that this meeting will be about security measures and changes that are going to take place in light of this and in light of Asswipe Cholometes and his latest actions. If you think for one second that I’m going to sit on the sidelines when I learned how to shoot before he did…” she points to me, “…you’re mistaken. And if you want to talk about whether or not you think I can take it because you have an extra appendage between your legs that I don’t, carry two human lives in your body for nine months and then push them out through a hole that starts about as round as a sharpie and has to expand to about the size of a grapefruit and then we can talk.”

Fucking hell, I didn’t need that visual!


ANASTASIA

Her Highness has spoken and I’m waiting for the boys to say something. I think Christian is stuck on the sharpie/grapefruit analogy. Jason is just standing there frowning.

“Boss?” he says, looking to Christian for guidance. Yeah, Boss?

“Huh?” Christian is still stunned. Snap out of it, Grey! I put my free hand on my hip.

“If you want my cooperation, you’re going to have to accept my participation,” I say.

“Oy!” Jason says, putting his hand on his forehead. Christian finally shakes off his stupor.

“No, she’s right,” he says, finally. “She’s thoroughly trained in self-defense, trained and license to carry and fire a concealed weapon, and now she’s not only a target because of who I am, but because of who she is. She should be present to be apprised of and part of security protocols, especially as they apply to the immediate family.”

I try to hide my immediate shock that he agreed with me so easily, first on the country clubs and now this. I’m so accustomed to dealing with Iron-Fist-Control-Freak Grey that Agreeable-We’re-A-Team Grey is catching me a bit off guard.

“You expected me to fight you on this?” he asks.

“A little, yeah,” I respond. I’m only being honest. I had security before I even knew I had security. He took off to Vegas without consulting me and that was totally about me. He put a tracker in my phone without telling me. Yes, it eventually saved my life, for which I am eternally grateful, but it still would have been nice if someone had told me this was happening… or better yet, asked me if this was okay. The first time I talked to the press in Anguilla, he had a total meltdown—and that situation turned out to beneficial because it sniffed out the mole in his public relations department. Even then, he still wouldn’t concede that I may just know what I was doing and all this time later—and several interviews later—he still doesn’t trust me to have a structured interview with the press.

He sent spies to my hen party. He didn’t tell me about the hacker until it almost ruined our marriage—that and the fund-raising fiasco, that is. I had no idea why Brian was in on the whole thing until I put two-and-two together for myself, which resulted in a lovely anxiety attack. Then, after the man inadvertently put our entire family in danger because he and his fellow Neanderthal wanted to go Mano y Mano, he sneaks the man into our home to discuss buying Brian property for his misconduct. My ideas are shot down like I’m some birdbrain who has no idea what I’m talking about; decisions are made about my life before I even have an inkling of what’s going on; and I am completely and totally kept out of the loop on security protocols more often than not. Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical!

“More talking, remember?” he says, reminding me of our conversation this morning. “More communication—no more being left out of the loop; no more hiding things.” His eyes examine mine, looking for a connection. I’m still a little stunned, much like he was moments ago with the sharpie/grapefruit analogy. I blink a few times and acknowledge his statement.

“Thank you,” I say sincerely. It feels good knowing that we will both be a part of these important decisions from now on. He smiles and takes my free hand. “Jason, lead the way.”

“Den or center?” Jason asks. Center? What the hell is Center?

Matrix Handprint“Center,” Christian responds. Jason nods and begins walking towards the den. Christian and I follow behind him and we actually pass Christian’s den. He places his hand on the wall and it actually lights up green—like The Matrix. It’s a handprint panel lock disguised behind what looks like veneer or veneer paper or something. Of course, the wall opens and he leads us into a small dark vestibule. Once the wall closes behind us, he has to clear another panel lock and the wall in front of us opens…

… And we’re in Security Central, like Jason’s office at Escala, but on steroids. Once again, I am reminded of a top-secret installation where a lone harmless-looking security officer sits guard over an elevator that takes you down to a facility that will change your life forever…

men-in-black-3-poster-excerpt

Four other people that I’ve never met look up from computers or papers or down from monitors and every last one of them does a double-take when we enter the room.

“Mrs. Grey!” One of them says, leaping to his feet at his seat. The others stand as well, though not as urgently as the first guy. Why the shock? This is my house.

“Is Mrs. Grey the only person you see?” Christian says tersely. Urgent Guy clears his throat.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he begins. “No offense, but I just never thought we would even see Mrs. Grey in here.” I roll my eyes. Of course, you didn’t, Merry Man.

“Please have a seat,” Jason says, gesturing to the conference table in the middle of this huge room. That’s it—I’m certain that the people who lived here before were preparing for Armageddon or something. There’s just no other reason for a room this large to be hiding behind the wall. You could hide a family in here!

I put my attaché down on the table and take a seat with Christian next to me. Moments after I sit, Ben is wheeling Chuck into the same entrance that we just came through, followed by Chance and three other guys that I don’t know.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Chuck says, trying to keep the atmosphere light, yet it’s anything but. “Wow, tough crowd,” he says, rolling up to the table. Once everyone is seated except for the two guys watching monitors, Jason says, “The floor is yours, Boss.” Christian entwines his fingers on the table.

“That same melon-clad bitch who came on to my wife at the Adopt-A-Family Affair has now threatened my wife,” he says. Jason raises his eyebrows.

“Wilson?” he asks incredulously. I nod. “What brought that on?”

“I had lunch with Adelaide last week and she and I agreed that her spoiled granddaughter would learn some valuable lessons if she spent time with the less fortunate. So, it was arranged that she would spend some time volunteering at Helping Hands.”

“Obviously, that didn’t go over so well,” Chuck chimes in. I scoff.

“Like a lead balloon,” I confirm. “She was insufferable, so Addie gave me control of her trust fund to get her to cooperate.”

“Oooo,” Chance says and a lot of the other men react in similar fashion.

“You have control of her money?” Jason asks.

Had,” I correct him. “She doesn’t want anything to do with this project. She has a plan for her life and as ridiculous as that plan is, she feels that she doesn’t need my help to fix her or anything else. The only reason she was coming to the center was because Addie—through me—was threatening her trust fund. I don’t think she really believed that I had control of her trust fund until she lost $120,000 and now has to wait a year longer than before in order to collect.” Now there’s hissing all over the room. Apparently, many of these people would react similarly had I taken money from them.

“May I ask how that came about?” Jason probes.

“She didn’t show up at the Center one day. No matter how insufferable she behaved, she never just didn’t show up. So, I called Addie to find out if she was okay and Addie was certain that she had just stood me up. We came up with a formula of how much it would cost her for however long it took her to check in with Addie. She froze Courtney’s accounts and discontinued her cell service. Courtney came into the Center yesterday breathing fire. She basically told me to get the hell out of her life and leave her alone. Then she issued the threat.”

“What was the threat?” Chuck asks.

“‘I know people, Bitch,’” I say.

“Eeeeeeeeeeyeah, that was a threat,” one of the other guys says.

“You all know that I don’t take any threats lightly, no matter how small,” Christian says. “If someone says they’re going to do something, you should believe that they’re going to do it—and this girl is an unknown. I don’t know if she’s blowing hot air to try to scare Ana or if she’s serious about her threats. I do know that my wife just asked me for her firearms, so she’s taking this very seriously.”

“Her firearms?” Ben asks. “I didn’t know you carried.”

“I don’t like the idea of carrying while I’m pregnant, but I dislike the idea of being unprepared even more.”

“I was wondering why the hot pregnant lady was carrying a Pelican Storm Attaché,” I hear one of the guys say under his breath. I look up to see who said it, but everyone is wearing a straight face. If Christian or Jason heard it, neither of them is letting on.

“Baby, in addition to a CPO, I want you to have covert surveillance for a while. I know how you hate having a lot of people looking over your shoulder, but…”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I interrupt him. “There’s going to be more once the babies are born, so I might as well get used to it.” He tries to hide his relief, but let’s face it—I don’t trust Melon Bitch. So, better safe than sorry.

“Jason, I’m going to need to discuss some particular needs with you, but right now, I don’t know what they are,” Christian says.

“Duly noted,” Jason answers.

“Chuck, how’s it looking? When does it look like you’ll be back on your feet?” Christian asks.

“I start physical therapy after Christmas, so I should be moving around mid- to late January. I guess it’ll be up to my boss when I can start doing ride-alongs,” he says.

“No, it’ll be up to the doctor,” Jason corrects him. Chuck scowls at him. “Don’t look at me like that. You’ve got a leg broken in two places and a bum chest cage. While I’m impressed with the whole crutches thing, you take it as quickly or as slowly as the doctor says you can.”

“That’s not fair,” Chuck mopes. “How long were you out after you got shot?”

“Don’t compare our injuries,” Jason scolds. “I had a hole in my arm. A few stitches, some stretches and a few rotary exercises and I was good as new. The bones that hold your body weight and make you able to run and move were shattered. Make sure they heal properly. Don’t rush it.”

“I need you in one piece,” I add, hoping that the words will calm his wayward wishes to roam too quickly.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says, twisting his lips and begrudgingly admitting defeat.

“So, Butterfly,” Christian says, trying to get the conversation back on track, “what’s the plans with the guns? I know the Glock is usually in the glove box, but right now, there is no glove box. The Beretta normally stays by the bed. We don’t need that. You usually carry the Magnum.”

“I don’t know yet,” I admit. “I’m thinking about trading in the .44 for something lighter.”

“That’s a really small gun,” he says, his brow furrowed.

“It’s small, but it’s heavy,” I say. He nods. “The .44 is kissing up on two and a half pounds; the other two are less than two pounds loaded. To be honest, they’re all basically the same size. The Mag just looks smaller because of its contours. For now, I’m trying to decide if it will be the Beretta or the nine.”

“The .44 can’t be the same size as the Glock,” he says in disbelief. I shrug.

“You’ve got the lockbox. Look at it yourself,” I challenge him. Refusing to take my word for it, he puts the lockbox on the conference table and opens it. “Remove the Glock first. You know the drill,” I say, placing the attaché on the table and opening it to reveal my Beretta. We simultaneously remove the guns that are both without magazines. We release the slide to make sure that there are no rounds in the chamber. I set the Beretta down first and he sets the Glock down. It’s clear to see that with only slight differences, the guns are basically the same size.

“Well, of course those two are going to be similar,” he says.

“Yeah, but if we put one down and you size it up with the Mag, you’re going to think the other one is bigger. Now, the Mag…” I tell him, pointing at the Smith & Wesson still lying in the lockbox. He flips open the chamber to make sure it’s empty, then sets it down with the Glock and the Beretta.

“Son of a gun,” he says. “No pun intended. I would’ve sworn the Magnum was smaller.”

“Actually, it looks like it might be a hair bigger, but I don’t feel like pulling out the measuring stick,” I say facetiously.

“If that Glock is standard issue, the .44 is bigger—not by much, but it’s bigger.” Jason’s voice is the first we’ve heard since we started talking about the guns. Everyone else except Chuck is staring at me like some kind of exotic animal.

“Not to mention,” I begin, looking momentarily around the room before turning back to Christian, “I think I’m moving beyond a six-shooter life. It was simple when I could wave a gun and scare away the average predator. Now, the threats are a bit more menacing.” I scan the room again and no one’s eyes have moved. “What!?”

My tone of voice snaps many of them out of their stupor. A couple are still lost in some sort of trance. Jason loudly clears his throat to gain the attention of the last two gawkers.

“Forgive my staff, Your Highness,” he says, rolling his eyes. “No doubt, unless she was in combat scrubs, they’re not accustomed to seeing a woman handle a gun that way.”

“Your Highness? You really call her that?” one of them asks incredulously.

“Apparently, they’re not accustomed to a woman being in the room having functioning eyes and ears either,” I shoot at the idiot that just made that comment. “Yes, he really calls the hot pregnant lady carrying a Pelican Storm Attaché Your Highness,” I say, coining the phrase I heard from that general direction a few moments ago. “Not that it should be of any concern to anyone, but it’s a private joke from when we first met.” Some of the men shift nervously in their seats. Others just look at each other bemused.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I really didn’t mean any harm by it,” he says. Christian sits silently, clearly letting me take the floor with this group of He-Men. So, I do.

“Duly noted,” I say dismissively. “You all better get used to seeing a little bit more of me. Scratch that—make that a lot more of me, because I intend to be in on the planning for security protocol from here on out. My dad is a Marine. I’m licensed to carry and I can shoot all three of these handguns with precision. I’m trained in Krav Magna by a 6th Dan martial arts master. I can take any one of you down in a fair fight. Ask him,” I say, jerking my head at Christian. Several of them turn to Christian simultaneously, and I can see him nodding in my peripheral vision. I fold my arms over my baby bump.

“I realize that the fact that I’m sitting here looking like a frail and fragile, dainty little feminine whale makes it a bit difficult to see me as an equal. I also understand the fact that I don’t possess some of the essential machinery to be allowed into the boys’ room adds to that difficulty. However, this excess weight…” I gesture to my baby bump, “… will very soon be two little human beings for whom I would gladly risk my life, and not because I’m being paid for it. To that end, I will not be the little woman who stands by the side holding the babies while the big men protect me from the big bad world.” Christian sits back in his chair and crosses his ankle over his knee. Jason hasn’t moved or spoken, and the rest of the room is my captive audience.

“One last thing before we continue,” I say. “The next person that makes a derogatory statement or a comment about me like I’m not in the room, I will fire you. Either of these handsome gentlemen to my left or my right or the hero in the wheelchair will tell you that I do have that power.” Several of them look from Christian to Jason for confirmation.

“I don’t have the floor right now,” he says, perturbed at those still staring at him for confirmation. “You better listen to her because she’s the one talking.”

Clear enough for you, boys?

“I’m not a ball-buster. I’m not a socialite. I’m not a trophy wife. I’m not the little woman. If you cooperate with me, I will cooperate with you. What you give to me, you will get back. If you respect me, I will respect you. If you piss me off, you will know that I’m pissed. Is there anything that I just said that is unclear to anyone within the sound of my voice?” I hear murmurings, but no acknowledgement of my statement.

“Hello? Do I need a bullhorn?” I ask, my voice powering across this very large room. “Do you all understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” Various attentive “yes ma’ams” float back at me from different directions. “Thank you. There’s no misunderstanding about anything that I said?” Again, various “no ma’ams” float at me. “Good, because if there’s anything unclear that you need clarified or anything that you need to discuss with me, now’s the fucking time!” I feel my blood pressure rising a bit and I fight to control it. Christian leans in and rubs my back, trying to calm me. The room falls silent and I have to say that I’m glad Christian let me handle that without interfering.

Shit, that felt great! Bunch of Neanderthal, male chauvinist…

“Now that we’ve established some ground rules,” Jason begins when the room falls silent, “we can discuss some changes in protocol that I see coming in the very near future—not only because of this recent threat, but also because of the pending birth of Mr. and Mrs. Grey’s children as well as the importance and vulnerability of the people who are closest to them on a regular basis.”

The conversation becomes very official with Jason confirming what Christian said, that I will have a covert surveillance officer assigned to me. Another officer is going to start shadowing Ben particularly when Marilyn is with me because there’s more than one person to protect, and there will permanently be more than one pretty soon anyway.

Courtney, of course, has gone on the watch list. I’ve told Christian that I plan to have lunch again with Addie tomorrow as I haven’t told her what’s happened between me and Courtney, yet. She probably thinks Courtney has been coming to the center these last two days and learned her lesson from losing a chunk of her trust fund and having to wait longer to collect. Nothing could be further from the truth and I’m not looking forward to her reaction when I tell her that I’m abandoning the project and why.

I am the last to know that Al has agreed to personal protection and that he will be assigned his CPO today. My father and Amanda vehemently declined, stating that they didn’t want that kind of infringement on their privacy. Christian has left the door open for them to change their minds, but if I know Daddy, he’s steadfast in his decision. I didn’t even know he had offered to security to my parents. Speaking of which, I can’t wait for Christmas next week because I really miss my little brother and I want to see him.

“It’s just a precaution, baby,” he tells me. “My parents agreed to covert surveillance. Mia turned it down flat, but Ethan was on board. So right now, it’s just covert for them, too.”

“And Elliot?” I ask, feeling the slightest twinge in my stomach about Valerie, but only the slightest twinge.

“Elliot agreed to covert because his shrew girlfriend wouldn’t have anything to do with GEH security. I get the feeling that if she could change him from being a Grey completely, she would do it.” I hold my head down.

“I didn’t ask about her,” I say, signaling that this part of the conversation is over. He gently holds my hand on the conference table.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Christian apologizes. I just nod and wave him off.

“So what’s next?” I ask.

“For you to ask Marilyn if she’s okay with having security of her own,” Jason asks. I frown.

“Why would Marilyn need security?” I ask.

“Because when you’re in public, you two are joined at the hip,” Jason replies.

“Exactly,” I retort, “which means I’ll already have a tribe of security for me and the babies. So, why would she need a separate officer?”

“For when you two are not joined at the hip,” he finishes. Oh… yeah, there is that.

“Do you really think she’s in some kind of danger working for me?” I ask. Jason twists his lips.

“I wouldn’t say that she’s in danger, but you are high profile now, which means she’s high profile. Honestly, Your Highness, it’s like the boss said—it’s just a precaution. If there were any real and present danger, we wouldn’t have let any of the family or personal staff turn down close personal protection.” I nod.

“Okay.” I’ll have to take his word for it. These are obviously things that were in the works before I came into the meetings, so I just have to pay attention and listen carefully… and try not to see Doomsday in every security initiative I hear. That’s easier said than done.


A/N: Remember in Paging Dr. Steele, Ana refers to Christian’s security team as “Men In Black.” When you first walk into the installation, there’s one guard, and an elevator that takes you down to the facility. 

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

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Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 35—Broken Fences, Faces, and People

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

Chapter 35—Broken Fences, Faces, and People

CHRISTIAN

I don’t think anyone particularly wanted to face the day on Sunday after the emotionally taxing day that was Saturday. Nonetheless, we all gather for breakfast to make sure that everyone is still alive and well. Chuck surprises us all by asking Jason to get in touch with his parents for him. As he and Joseph are officially no longer speaking and Chuck now knows that his parents are still alive, someone will have to be listed as his next of kin. He informs Jason to tell his parents what happened and what’s going on just like he told Joseph. Chuck can’t go through the whole thing again that he went through with Joseph. The disappointment and rejection were too much for him and he can’t take it anymore. He just wants them to know that they will be notified to dispose of Chuck’s remains if something happens to him. Jason solemnly accepts the task.

Jason and I later collaborate on blueprints for Butterfly so that she can decide where to place Gail’s office. Gail has ceded the task to Butterfly after having discussed that the most functional location would be somewhere near the kitchen, yet close to stairs and elevators so that she can get to the children quickly once her job duties change. I call Butterfly down to my office after she has indulged in a nice long nap and bring her into the collaboration.

We can’t seem to agree on what would be a suitable space for a home manager’s office. To me, anything less than 500 square feet would be stifling. According to Gail’s instructions, anything more than 250 square feet is extravagant. Two hundred and fifty square feet! What the fuck can you put in two hundred square feet?

“I was willing to work at the kitchen counter,” she had said. “The office was Ana’s idea.”

And there you have it. My wife thinks like me and feels that an office is necessary… Gail doesn’t. There has to be a compromise, so 200 square feet it is.

Luckily, we discover a large enough hollow between the pantry and the laundry room that would serve as an office for Gail. I’m concerned about the lack of ventilation and natural light, so I’ll get with Elliot and see what can be done about that. As the babies will be here in less than two months, we don’t want remodeling going on when they arrive. So this has to be done quickly.

Everyone pretty much goes to their corners for the rest of Sunday afternoon, except for Jason who collaborates with Welch to find Chuck’s parents. I have to say that I don’t envy him that task. If Chuck’s parents are anything like his brother, I don’t even want to meet these people.

“Mom told me you looked like you’d been in one of those brawls you used to get into when you were a teenager. Aren’t you a little old for that, Bro?” Elliot scolds when I call him on Monday morning to discuss the office.

“Not for this,” I tell him, still fighting a bit to hide my lisp. My lip isn’t swollen anymore thanks to Gail’s tea, but my face is still a fright with the bruising and my teeth are still a bit loose. I actually have an appointment with the dentist this afternoon to see if there’s any permanent damage. Thank God he didn’t hear me when I had the lisp or I would have never lived it down. I really don’t want to go through the whole thing again. I didn’t even explain to Mom why I look like this.

“You know you got to tell me what happened…”

“No, I don’t,” I interrupt him. “I don’t want to have this conversation. I was fighting for my wife and that’s all I’m going to tell you. Now about this office…”

“Did somebody say something about her ass?” he presses.

“Elliot!” I yell into the phone.

“Alright, alright. You don’t have to yell,” he finally concedes. “Where do you want this office?”

“Thank you,” I hiss. “Near the kitchen. We’ve found a space between the pantry and laundry room. Gail and Butterfly say it’s big enough, but it looks pretty small to me, so you would have to come and look at it.”

“Near the kitchen—any load-bearing walls?”

“Now how the hell would I know that?” I ask him.

“I know. My bad. I’ll come over and look at the blueprints. As a matter of fact…” I hear him shuffling around a bit, then more shuffling, then more shuffling and he’s back on the phone again. “Are you talking about that space that starts behind the wall in Q-17?” I scan the blueprints on my desk.

“No, it’s M-21,” I correct him.

“Shit, I know that, I was just testing you, Dude. You brought the blueprints to work?”

“I’m not at work.”

“You’re not at work.” It’s a statement, not a question. “On a Monday morning…”

“I look like hell, so I’m working from home. Don’t ask me anymore questions.” The skin around my eye is actually starting to look this yellow-greenish sort of black bruising color. I’d scare old ladies and children if they saw me. As it is, I don’t know how I’ll get to the dentist without making a scene.

“This office is for Gail?” he asks. I think he’s being an asshole because I said don’t ask any more questions.

“Yes,” I nearly hiss.

“What’s she going to be doing in it?”

“She’s going to be the home manager and the nanny.” Elliot whistles.

“How is she going to do both of those?” he asks.

“Less home manager, more nanny,” I say. “That’s why we have a staff.”

“As you should,” he says. “That’s a lotta house!”

“I know, Elliot. That’s why we have the staff.”

“And she’s going to manage them… and be your nanny.” When he puts it like that, it does seem like a lot. Gail hasn’t indicated that she couldn’t handle it, but we’ll just have to see.

“Is the office going to present a problem?” I ask.

“Not that I can see,” he says. “There are no load bearing walls, which is a miracle in that Greek temple you live in! Man, all those damn columns were a fucking nightmare during the remodel! There are no windows in that area, though. It’s going to be stuffy as fuck if we don’t pipe the ventilation system through there.”

“Yeah, we were concerned about that, too. Can you do it?”

“Yeah, I can do it,” he says.

“How long will it take?”

“About three weeks.” That’s cutting it kind of close.

“How soon can you start?” I ask. “The babies are due in exactly eight weeks and you know they’ll most likely come early. Even if you start this week, I know you won’t be doing anything next week because it’s Christmas, which most likely puts us right in danger of bumping into B-day,” I point out.

“I’ll send Felix and Irv over this afternoon to start taking some measurements and see if we can get the wall knocked out if that’s okay with you. Getting that wall knocked out and getting the spaced taped off is going to be the biggest part of it. Then we have to get the electricians in there to get it wired. Ana’s already got some of my guys coming in on Wednesday to look at one of your downstairs libraries to rewire for her PA.” Yeah, she mentioned something about that to me yesterday. “We’ll see how many birds we can kill with one stone. I’ll see if Ray can get in tomorrow to look at the ventilation system and see how big a job that’s going to be.”

“Ray?” I ask, surprised. “Ray Ray? You mean my father-in-law Ray?” The line is quiet.

“Yes,” Elliot says in a sing-songy voice, like this is something I’m supposed to know. “Ray and I work on a lot of projects together, ever since he got that project with the city last year,” he informs me. “Quiet as it’s kept, I knew Ray before I knew Ana… not long before I knew Ana, but before I knew Ana.” Well, what do you know?

“How did I not know this?” I say, frowning.

“You didn’t ask,” Elliot answers. “We were actually bidding on some of the same contracts. When I beat him out of a few and he beat me out of a few, we discovered that we have complimenting skills. He only has the basic construction skills while I have the advanced—master builder. He, on the other hand, has the masonry and carpentry specialties and he’s certified in HVAC, which is why I’m going to have him come by tomorrow and see how hard it’s going to be to get some heat and air into that little cubbyhole.”

“Cubbyhole is right,” I concur. “Why didn’t you guys ever tell the family that you were working together? We never would have thought to ask. How long have you known you were working with Ana’s father?”

“Since last Thanksgiving,” he says, “we just didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s not, is it?”

“No,” I reply, “probably more of a novelty if anything. So listen, I have an appointment this afternoon, so I won’t be here from about two until maybe three thirty. If you’re not coming with the guys that are supposed to be knocking walls out, make sure security knows who they are. You’ve been here enough times to know the drill.”

“Yeah, I know what to do,” he confirms. “I’ll talk to you after the guys give me some numbers.”

“Will do.” I end the call with him just as I see Butterfly and Marilyn come into her office through the aquarium. I never get enough of watching her move. I gaze on her for a few moments before she disappears out of sight of the aquarium. I call Andrea on my desk phone.

“Who do I have on the books today, Andrea?”

“Nothing critical, sir,” she responds. “You have the department heads and the two status meetings. There is that Meet-And-Greet later in the week with the Fairlanes…” I could care less about the Fairlanes right now, but skipping out on a Meet-And-Greet is bad form.

“Have all non-essential meetings proceed without me this week and cc me on all meeting minutes within 24 hours. I look like I’ve been hit by a fucking bus,” I inform her.

“Yes, sir.”

“Reschedule all critical meetings for next week or ASAP thereafter, including that damn Meet-And-Greet. I’ll see if I can coerce my pregnant wife to come along for added effect.”

“That should work in your favor, sir,” she chirps. “It actually gives new companies a sense of security knowing that the new owner is a family man.”

“Sometimes,” I tell her, “other times, they see right through it… that I’m parading my hot, pregnant wife around like a trophy. That hothead Georgie Jr is sure to think that’s exactly what I’m doing.” She clears her throat.

“I’ll reschedule them for next week, sir.” I can see through that change of topic.

“What is it, Andrea?”

“Well, no offense, sir, but… isn’t that what you’re doing? I mean, sort of using Ana to gain an emotional advantage?”

“Well… yeah, maybe a little, but he works for me now, so he’s not allowed to say that, and if he does, I’ll put him out on his ear.”

“Sir, you can’t do that…” I’m silent for a moment.

“Have we met?” and now she’s silent for a moment.

“I stand corrected,” she says. “Ros has asked for an hour.”

“Tell her to call the house conference line as soon as she’s ready.”

“Understood.”

“Anything else?”

“If anyone insists that they must meet with you today or this week and can’t reschedule? You know they’ll be at least one.”

“Let me know who they are and I’ll determine if that’s the case. Then we’ll do a conference call if necessary.”

“Will do. I think that’s all for now, sir. Conference phone or blackberry for emergencies?”

“Blackberry.”

“Yes, sir. Called away, unavailable until next week?”

“Good enough. No additional information. Everyone who needs additional details already has them.”

“Very well, sir.” I end the call and look over the projections for Fairlane again. I make a special note of these frivolous employees that were hidden under maintenance expense and wonder to myself if any of them will have the nerve to show up at the Meet-And-Greet. I think I’ll have Andrea come along as well and shadow me with a list of the employees so that she can subtly alert me to the people who may be trying to secure a position that will most likely be eliminated after the new year.

I click on another file that I don’t think I’ve had to open in months—Project Free Butterfly. I don’t think I’ve actively been in this file since I left Green Valley, right before the kidnapping. The information flow and flow of events happened so quickly that I never had time to examine the file. I was always updated by word of mouth from Allen or that asshole AG or even the press. I set out to ruin the people that hurt my Butterfly, but these people have truly been their own worst enemy.  Once Whitmore’s house of cards came tumbling down, a good measure of Green Valley’s elite and some surrounding areas came tumbling with it. He was really small-time in the big scheme of things, thank God. He very well could have had some attachments to organized crime. As it turns out, he was a celebrity only in his own mind. He was only puffed up to his own delusions—no bigger or more important than any other businessman in Green Valley. He just spent his money like he was super-important and presented himself as such. In terms of real influence, he was nobody.

Once the dominoes began to fall, he was nothing more than the hustler. He was the money mover—the one everybody came to. In the end, he was the one who brought everybody down. From my computer, I can watch as small fortunes and life savings of people who had dealings with Whitmore are frozen, dwindled away or investigated—people who may or may not have even had anything to do with what happened to Butterfly. I feel bad for those who got caught in the crossfire, but not if they were involved in illegal activity. This is what it gains you. Speaking of which…

“So, I got the information that you wanted on those foreign officials,” Ros says when she calls me on the conference line.

“What do you have?”

“Check your email. As you can see, you’re looking at some mid-level officials in these countries. These are not really the people that can make or break you in terms of power, but legally and publicity…”

“I get it,” I say as I open the file that she’s sent me. She’s right. If the information had gotten any higher than this in any of these governments, they wouldn’t be contacting me. They would already have legal proceedings initiated to prosecute me. These are most likely the crooked politicians who watch manifests and make passports disappear so that it’s easier to traffic more prime candidates as opposed to immigrants or refugees seeking political asylum. If you ever heard of Americans getting lost in foreign countries or being arrested then coming up missing in the system somewhere, these are usually the culprits that are responsible for them ending up as part of some crooked, amoral rich asshole’s harem in some obscure corner of the world… much like that movie Taken.

“Did Welch help you with this?” I ask.

“Somewhat. He didn’t know why I was asking.”

“Why didn’t you tell him?”

“I didn’t know if you wanted me to,” she responds. “You told me to find out who the squeaky wheels were. You didn’t tell me to ask Alex.” I guess I did, didn’t I?

“You do know that Alex knows everything there is to know about me and my company, don’t you?” I confess. “He even knows some things that you don’t.”

Ouch,” she says, and I don’t know if she’s really bruised or just kidding.

“That’s his job, Ros. It’s the nature of the beast,” I tell her. “You know that you’re irreplaceable in your own way, but so is he.”

“Yeah, yeah, tell me anything,” Ros says, now mocking injury. “So now what?”

“Well, this is where it gets tricky,” I tell her. “This is where the boys are separated from the men…”

“… And the girls from the women.” She’s always been a bit of a feminist.

“Do you see any women on this list, Ros?” Silence. “There’s a specific reason for that. Women often have a hard time exploiting and objectifying people…” A vision of the Pedophile immediately comes to mind. “Well, at least to this kind of extreme,” I correct myself. “The brothels, massage parlors, sweat houses—you may have found some women in those kinds of things. The hard core trafficking—sexual slavery, hard labor—you’re not going to find many women, if any.”

“Well, Sir, I know you’re about to go on your fact-finding mission. Don’t be surprised if you find a few vaginas when you turn over those rocks,” she says matter-of-factly. I think she’s a bit slighted.

“Ros, surely you’re not taking this personally,” I say a bit bemused.

“No, should I be?” she responds flatly, and that’s my cue to end this topic. The last thing I have time for right now is to stroke her ego about whether a woman can be as ruthless as a man when I already know the answer. There’s a crazy blonde bitch in jail right now that’s proof positive that a woman can be more dangerous than a man any day, but in this instance, I doubt I’ll find too many women.

“Well, I’d love to continue this lovely conversation, but you’ve given me another project that needs my attention.”

“And now, I’m being dismissed.” And a bit catty.

“Yes, Ros, you are. Thank you for the information. Have a good day.” I end the call. I appreciate that she’s one of the people that won’t take my shit. However, she does need to remember which of us is the boss. I email the list over to Welch and call him.

“How much information can you get me on foreign officials?” I ask him.

“Depends on what you need,” he says.

“I need weak spots, good weak spots, and I need them fast—preferably before my children are born,” I say. “I have a few low level and a couple of mid to possibly high level government officials in countries where those mysterious subsidiaries were carrying on questionable practices. Apparently, in some areas, they get a cut of the traffic. In other areas, you have to grease their palms to keep their mouths shut. Either way, when the traffic stops, you have to grease it some more to keep them from blowing the whistle on you.”

“Oh, that,” he says with little concern.

“Oh, that?” I say, appalled. “You knew about this all along?”

“I hate to tell you this, sir, but this kind of thing happens all the time. I just didn’t know GEH was involved in any of it.”

“Yeah, neither did I!” I exclaim.

“There’s a very easy way to take care of this, sir, but it may cost you…”

“I’m not paying these people anything!” I declare. “They’re the worst kinds of criminals and if I could turn them all in without destroying my company, I’d do it in a minute!”

“No, you’re not going to be paying them anything, but you’re going to be paying somebody to help clean this up,” he informs me.

“Oh. Well, that I can pay,” I concede.

“And I can guarantee you that whatever you know, it goes deeper. So, give me what you know and I’ll get back to you…”

“I’ve already emailed you a list. What do you mean you’ll get back to me?” I ask.

“You don’t get your hands in this, sir. You let other people take care of this. This is why you hired me. Now, you have to let me do my job. Do you trust me?”

“Of course, I do.” I trust him with my life, much like I trust Jason. I just don’t like being left out of the loop.

“Then, you have to let me handle this. Know that it’s going to cost you, but it’ll go away soon enough.”

“You may need to talk to Ros,” I say.

“Why?”

“I didn’t know how to handle this, so I put her on finding out who we needed to speak to. Like you said, I didn’t know how deep this goes.” I hear him sigh. “Is she in danger, Welch?”

“I don’t think so, but she is your second in command, so we’ll just have to play it by ear and see whose cage she’s rattled getting her information. I’ll let you know what I find out. I was wondering why she was asking me questions about Bosnian government. Now I know.”

“Apparently, someone approached her in some way and she brought it to me. So technically, she was involved before I was.”

“So whoever it was already knows that she’s your second in command. I’ll talk to her.”

“You… might want to wait until after lunch.” There’s a pause.

“Why?”

“Because I pissed her off. Her panties are all in a wad because I said that we most likely won’t find too many women at the head of these rings.” He sighs again.

“Why would you purposely antagonize a liberal femme? Are you deliberately trying to make this hard for me? You’re right, of course. You’re not going to find any women at the head of the ring, but not for the reasons that you most likely told her. You won’t find them at the head because of the glass ceiling—because the men won’t let them in. The women in most of these countries have bigger hairier ones than some of these men, so you better watch your mouth, Mr. CEO.”

“Not you, too,” I lament. “Can we please just get down to business.  My teeth are starting to hurt.”

“Your teeth are hurting?” he says, surprised.

“Yeah, I’ve got to see the dentist today about these loose teeth.”

“Oh, that.” Yes, that. If I ever see Cholometes again, I swear to God, I’m going to hit him in the mouth with a fucking hammer. “Well, you’re going to be a bear, so I’m going to let you go.”

“Good idea. Keep me posted.”

Sure thing.” I end the call and run my hands through my hair. I don’t often get the feeling like I just want to go back to bed, but right now. I could just snuggle up with my Butterfly and stay in bed all day. I go over to the aquarium and look through to see what she’s up to. There’s a woman in the office with her. She’s not one of our staff. At first, they’re just talking. Then, she applies a blood pressure cuff and I realize that this is the home nurse that has come to check on my wife. It’s everything that I can do to keep from rushing in there and asking her how Butterfly is doing, but I stay put.

I watch their movements intently, attempting to garner what information I can about the visit from their body language. I know that Butterfly will tell me if there are any problems, but I’m still impatient to know that everything is okay. I realize that my cover is blown when the nurse removes the cuff from Ana’s arm and turns her head sharply in my direction, meeting my gray gaze head on. I’m under no misconception that my beautiful wife alerted her to my presence and she had to turn and see for herself. A man glaring through an aquarium? That’s preposterous! Except that it’s not. Butterfly gestures to me to come into the office, and I gladly oblige.

“Why didn’t you just come in?” She teases when I enter the door that adjoins our offices.

“I didn’t want to interrupt,” I say, honestly. “I didn’t want you to think I was hovering…”

“So you just gaze longingly through the aquarium.” It’s a statement, not a question. I twist my lips.

Yep, pretty much…

She just shakes her head and starts talking to the nurse again.

“Brandy, will you please tell my husband that I’m fine?” she says to the nurse. The young black nurse looks up at me then back down at her watch.

“He’s very distracting, I’ll tell you that,” she says after obviously taking Butterfly’s pulse and entering something into her iPad, most likely my wife’s vital statistics. “You’re surrounded by pretty men. You know that, right?” Brandy says to my wife.

“They never let me forget,” my wife says with mirth.

“Hey!” I protest. “I don’t know about these other pretty men, but I don’t walk around boasting my good looks.”

“You don’t have to boast them, Christian. They boast themselves.”

Mm-hmm,” Brandy says, without looking away from her iPad. At Butterfly’s silence, she responds, “Don’t look at me. You said it.” She raises her eyes defiantly to meet Butterfly’s glare. “How’s Winkin’ and Blinkin’?” she continues, not allowing the glare and uncomfortable silence to phase her.

“Active,” Butterfly tells her, “It’s like a wrestling match in there. I think the soccer players are changing sports.”

“That’s normal,” she says, still tapping on her iPad before raising her eyes to Butterfly again. “It’s cramped quarters in there and getting tighter by the day. You might feel less precise kicking and more ‘rumble jumble’ the closer you get to delivery.”

“Does that mean everything is okay?” I ask as she still hasn’t confirmed what Butterfly said when I walked into the room.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” she says with a deliberately over-exaggerated flutter of her eyelashes. I just roll my eyes.

“You know, I don’t know how you see any pretty under all this black, yellow, purple, and green that is my face.”

“That’s just bruising. It doesn’t hide the pretty,” she says, matter-of-factly. Frank little thing, isn’t she? “Looks like you got the bad end of a fight, though.”

“You could say that,” I reply, observing Butterfly’s hardening expression.

“Let me listen to your heart and lungs and we’ll be all done. Do you mind raising your shirt? It’s easier if I do this on your back.”

“Sure,” Butterfly says, never moving her gaze from mine and lifting her shirt. Brandy puts her stethoscope back in her ears and moves behind Butterfly.

“Wow!” she exclaims. Butterfly and I are both alarmed. What the hell? “I’m sorry,” she says, “I was just… I didn’t… that’s beautiful!” Butterfly frowns and looks over her shoulder at the nurse.

“What?” she asks, puzzled.

“Your art! It’s gorgeous. Did you get it all done at once or in stages?” Brandy asks. Butterfly looks at me bemused.

“The garden,” I say softly. She thinks for a moment before realization dawns.

“Oh!” she says, finally. “All at once… more or less…” I know she’s thinking about the first three letters of the gothic word on her back, and I so want to ask Brandy to just drop it. However, I can tell by her closely examining the work that she finally sees what Butterfly means by “more or less.”

“I see,” she says, softly. “Well, it’s very beautiful,” she reinforces, then changes the subject quickly. “Deep breaths for me, please…”

And just like that we’re out of the danger zone.

“So, everything looks fine so far,” Brandy says after her examination is over. “Your blood pressure is slightly elevated, but no higher than your average eight-month-pregnant woman, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just avoid anything too stressful.” She’s tapping away at her iPad again. “You’ve got an appointment with Dr. Culley on Thursday, right?”

“Yes,” Butterfly responds.

“So I won’t come on Wednesday. It seems a bit redundant. Has she already talked to you about expressing colostrum?”

“Briefly. She was going to go into detail on my next visit.”

“Good. She’ll let you know when it’s the ideal time to start.” She’s quiet again for a moment, tapping at her iPad. “I think that’s about it for us today, Ana—pretty routine, as you can see.” Butterfly nods and straightens her clothes. “Any questions for me?”

“Nope. As you said, it’s pretty routine. Thanks, Brandy,” she says, extending her hand. Brandy shakes gently.

“No problem. Now I get to check out the scenery while I leave.” She winks conspiratorially at Butterfly, eliciting a small giggle from her. “Take it easy, Ana.”

“You too, now, and thanks again.” Brandy nods and follows Windsor out of Butterfly’s office. Butterfly sighs and immediately turns her attention to some papers on her desk. I walk to the front of her desk and wait in vain for her to raise her eyes to me.

“You forgot about the garden, didn’t you?” I ask gently when she doesn’t look at me.

“Briefly, yes,” she admits. “That’s just how it is sometimes.” She shrugs puts a few items in her briefcase. Lately, she looks so much more businesslike when she leaves the house. I take notice of her attire, including the high-heeled shoes.

“Isn’t it about time to retire the sexy stilettos, baby?” I protest. “It’s not that I don’t love to see your mile-long legs in them; it’s just that the further along you get, I’m worried about possible spills and swelling and such.”

“Christian,” she says, “I was basically born in stilettos. Don’t worry about me. Besides, I always carry a pair of flats just in case my feet suddenly become the size of bowling balls—not to mention, it’s winter in Seattle. I always have a pair of boots to handle the snow. Is that okay with Sir?” she asks, sarcastically fluttering her eyebrows.

“Don’t test me, woman,” I warn. “The doctor said no strenuous activity, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get creative.” She twists her lips at me, then gives me a gentle peck.

“Goodbye, Christian. I’ll be home for dinner,” she says with a wave. Now, that’s a change. She’s going off to work and I’m staying home… figures.


 

ANASTASIA

Marilyn and I meet at the Apple store so that I can pick up my new iPad and she can choose her MacBook and docking station. I’m partial to a regular Windows laptop, but Mare prefers all things Apple, so MacBook it is. We arrange to have them delivered and installed at Grey Crossing. The staff is already moving the existing furniture out of the library as there won’t be much change except for a desk and some storage and seating and some additional wiring requirements.

We get to Helping Hands with plenty of time to spare and Addie and Courtney arrive promptly at 1:00pm as planned. Addie gives her rebellious little granddaughter instructions to do whatever I instruct her to do and she promptly begins to protest.

“Grandmother, this is so unnecessary. I don’t see the purpose of this exercise. I’m an adult. I really don’t need this.”

“Yes,” Addie says, “you are an adult with no direction and no purpose but to wait around and collect your trust fund. One day, that money is going to run out, and then what? What will you do—pray that someone else will take care of you? No, you need more than that out of life. You need to understand that life is more than just a dollar sign and I think this is just the experience for you.” Courtney drops her head and clasps her hands in front of her.

“Yes, Grandmother,” she says, with fake contrition. I shake my head infinitesimally because I already know what kind of day this is going to be, but I’m already armed and ready. So, bring me your best, little Ms. Debutante.

“Ana, dear,” she leans in and kisses me on the cheek, “I’ll see you later.”

“Addie,” I give her a cordial hug, “drive carefully.” She walks out of my office and the mood shifts immediately. Even though I advised sensible clothing, Ms. Courtney shows up in a pair of 7 For All Mankind contour crackle leather-like skinny jeans, a white angora sweater, and a pair of gray Jimmy Choo pebble Mendez high-heeled ankle boots.

“I see you didn’t take my advice about dressing sensibly,” I say, examining Courtney’s choice of attire. The little trick actually scoffs at me.

“I don’t know about you, Mrs. Grey, but where I come from, this is sensible,” she sneers. I fold my arms. So you’re going to be rebellious. You have no idea who you’re dealing with, little girl.

“Very well,” I say with a smirk. “Follow me.” I stand up and walk pass her towards the kitchen. She just stands there. “Are you waiting for a taxi?” She folds her arms defiantly. “Should I just call your grandmother back and tell her to come and get you?” At the threat of calling her grandmother, she rolls her eyes and falls in line behind me. Lunchtime is just wrapping up and it’s time to clean down the kitchen and start preparing for dinner. Perfect timing for an extra set of hands.

“Jessie, I’ve brought you some help,” I call to the kitchen supervisor. She’s a hard worker and a no-nonsense kind of woman, just the person I need to help keep an eye on this little pampered brat. She looks over at Courtney and raises an eyebrow at her as if to say, “What do you expect me to do with that?”

“Oh, you must be kidding?” Courtney scoffs.

“No, I’m not,” I say, impassively.

“I won’t cook in this outfit,” she protests.

“You were the one who said it was sensible,” I retort, shoving an apron in her chest, “and don’t worry. You won’t be cooking.”

“I don’t do manual labor either.”

“Everybody here does manual labor, including me. Get used to it.” I turn my attention back to Jessie. “Use her in whatever capacity you need her. She’s all yours until I come back to get her.” I look at Courtney. “You do exactly what she tells you to do. She reports directly to me and I report to Addie. Any questions?”

“Are you usually such a bitch?” she snarls.

“No, most of the time, I’m worse, aren’t I, Jessie?”

“Hideous,” Jessie pipes in without missing a beat.

“Well, I’d hate to meet her, because you’re a real fucking pill right now,” she retorts.

“Keep it up and you will, Sunshine,” I hiss. “Would you like to see just how miserable I can make your life?” I glare into her eyes and wait for her rebuttal. She thinks better of retaliation and takes a few steps away from me. “Give her hell,” I say in a low voice to Jessie. “I want that outfit completely unwearable by the end of the day. I’ll throw in a day at Dreamclinic for the whole kitchen staff if one of those shoes loses a heel.”

“Consider it done,” Jessie says.

Unfortunately, Jessie and I both realize that it’s not as easy as we thought it would be to break in Little Ms. Debutante as she successfully manages to avoid any work for the first thirty minutes of the afternoon. She’s lazy and refuses to do anything that she’s told. Only immediate threats of calling her grandmother seem to work, but the moment she’s out of your sight and comfortable, she’s just as uncooperative and rebellious as ever. According to Jessie, she is doing less than nothing and when she is doing something, she’s breaking dishes on purpose, she’s smart-mouthed, sitting around looking at the other workers, more in the way than anything. I’m not going to fight with this girl, nor will I play cat-and-mouse with her. I meant what I said at the country club. She disgusts me, and I will not allow her to waste my time.

“It begins,” I tell Addie after I dial her number.

“That was fast. What’s happening?”

“Absolutely nothing. She’s mouthing off at the staff. She’s more in the way than anything. I’ve got her in the kitchen—she’s probably rinsing glasses and chopping potatoes and she can’t even do that. I made sure that the staff knows that this is her first time doing anything, so I know that they’re not making her do anything strenuous, especially since she’s in there dressed like Lady Diana!” I hear Addie sigh.

“I knew this would happen. Okay, give me a few minutes.” She ends the call and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Courtney storms into my office.

“You called my grandmother?” she spits. “’Ana’s telling me you’re not doing what you’re told. Don’t make me have to come up there,’” she reads her grandmother’s text to me. “What am I, twelve?”

“I don’t know, are you?” I spit back at her. “Adults know how to act in public. Adults know how to take direction and do what they’re told. The staff is telling me that you’re belligerent and you’re having a problem with simple directions. So you tell me, are you twelve? Do I need to call your Dwanmaw because you’re going to have a hissy-fit every time someone tells you to do something? Do I need to sit a potty chair next to you, too? Trust me, I can treat you like a toddler if that’s what you want!”

“I don’t want to be here anyway!” she hisses. “This was your idea to get close to my grandmother—take me on like I’m some fucking charity case.”

“Fine, then call your grandmother and tell her to come and get you. I’ve already told you that I think you’re a lost cause and you’re not worth my damn time.”

“Do I present too much of a challenge for you, Mrs. Grey?” she sneers. “Afraid I might rub off on your little battered mommies?” And now I’m pissed.

“You’re not a challenge to me at all, little girl. I could give a fuck less if you gain anything from this very valuable experience that could change your life, but one thing is for damn sure. You will respect me and you will respect everyone in this place while you’re here. So you watch your tongue, you mindless, foul-mouthed little wretch, because if you think I can’t make your life a living fucking hell, you go ahead and try me!”

I have closed the space between us and before I know it, my animal instincts have kicked in and I’m ready to pounce on this uncouth little rogue—ironically calling her foul-mouthed while I cursing at her like a sailor. I suddenly remember that there are three of me and I can’t become vigilante all over this entitled, ignorant reprobate, so I return to my seat with a final warning.

“I’m not going to sit here and try to make you do what you need to do. This is going to be a learning experience for you whether you cooperate or not and you. Will. Learn!” I hiss.

“What exactly is your problem with me?” she asks, examining me through narrowed eyes. “I would have thought that you would have been flattered an attractive young woman found you desirable, but you act like I committed some kind of crime. I know I’m not the first person who has ever come on to you. Is it because I’m gay?” She can’t be serious.

“Oh, no, I have no problem at all with you being gay. What I do have a problem with is you not understanding what boundaries are. What I have a problem with is you expecting me to be so stupid that I would believe that you drank so much champagne at a red carpet charity event that it actually affected your judgment. I don’t know what you may know about me, but what you should know is that I’ve had a hard and fucked up life. What life didn’t teach me, school did. I’m a shrink—not much gets past me, especially about human nature. You are too old to be acting so flippantly in public—especially in the circles in which your grandparents circulate. You don’t understand how lucky you are, so this little exercise is to try to help you understand that.

“You’re no better than any of these people around you. The only difference is that you were born into money, and you have grandparents that take care of you. You’re not that much younger than I am, yet look at you and look at me. I had my degree and was a year into my internship by the time I was your age. Nobody gave me anything; I worked for it. You’ve got a big, fat trust fund waiting for you. So as far as you’re concerned, you don’t have to do anything. You can just sit and wait until it matures and then collect the money and live happily ever after, right? My guess is with the way that you’re acting now, you won’t see a penny of that money.” I turn away from her and I can just feel her scowling at me.

“So until you inherit your millions, or however much it may be, you will be a student at the Seattle School of Mrs. Grey.” Her eyes grow wide. “Hopefully, during your tenure, you’ll learn how to behave in a manner that will not embarrass your grandparents once you inherit your trust fund. You stand to inherit in about a year and a half?” She glares at me. “That’s not a rhetorical question!” I hiss. She nods, her gaze defiant. “One word from me and that year and a half can become two… or four… or never!” Her eyes grow large again.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” she exclaims.

“Don’t you wish,” I reply calmly. “That total amount can lose a couple of zeroes. I’ve already suggested that the lump sum becomes a monthly stipend.”

“A monthly stipend?” she asks horrified.

“Yes, a monthly stipend. You see, when your livelihood is in the hands of someone else, then your demeanor should reflect that. You shouldn’t be rewarded for bad behavior. So each month, you should have to earn your trust fund. You should be grateful for what you’re being given, instead of acting like a spoiled, entitled, little brat who can behave in any inappropriate manner she wishes.”

“Says the pampered billionaire’s wife!” she hisses. I just smile.

“I had my own before I met Christian and if he leaves, I’ll still have my own. You want to be able to say that, too—not because Grandma and Grandpa are lining your pockets, but because you made something of yourself. So, you can be mad at me all you want, but I’m not the one whose future is in the palm of someone else’s hands. Now, shall we begin again, or do you want to make another smarmy comment so that I can call Adelaide and tell her to add another six months to your due date?” Her face falls and she purses her lips. “I bet you wish you had never come on to me now, don’t you?” She narrows her eyes.

“I thought you would be nice. I guess looks can be deceiving,” she says sardonically.

“No, you thought I would be easy, and you’re right. Looks can be very deceiving. At first glance, you look like a very cultured young lady, so I guess we were both fooled.” I stand and walk pass her to the door. “You’ve wasted enough of my time and dinner needs to be served. Now bring your ass or get the fuck out. The choice is yours.”

“You really don’t…”

“I didn’t say speak!” I snap loudly, causing Ben to stick his head around the corner and survey the situation. “I said ‘bring your ass or get the fuck out…’ now!” I’m counting and if I get to ten, the twins and I are dragging this irritating little bitch out by her hair. I glare at her motionless through to seven before she finally finds the will to put one foot in front of the other. To the door or to the kitchen—it doesn’t matter to me, but I’m done playing with this little poodle.

“Pick up the damn apron,” I nearly growl through my teeth when we get to the kitchen.

“You don’t have to talk to me that way,” she says a bit subdued.

“You’re speaking again,” I warn. She glares at me and the room falls silent. “You can leave at any time,” I reinforce, “but I’m done playing these power games because I don’t have shit to prove to you.” I give her the same narrowed-eye look she gave me earlier and wait for her to retrieve her apron. All eyes are on us now, waiting to see if she will follow directions. She slowly takes the apron and slides it over her head. I wait while she ties it around her waist.

“Now, get over there and do what Jessie tells you to do and don’t let me have to come down here again.” She walks indignantly over to where Jessie is standing. I nod at Jessie and she nods back.

“You can’t work with your arms folded,” I hear Jessie say. I look over my shoulder and see Little Miss Melon drop her arms and await instruction before I walk out of the kitchen. Ben looks at me waiting for the sign that everything is okay. I nod, and he returns to whatever post he has chosen for the afternoon.

I’m back in my office reading my emails when I stumble across one from my loving husband labeled “Quality Items.”

What has he done?

I pull out my iPhone and open my email program.

To: Anastasia Grey
Re: Quality Items
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:21
From: Christian Grey

My Beloved Wife,

I couldn’t get you and those sexy shoes off my mind when you left, so I thought I would occupy it with more thoughts of something pleasing. Tell me what you think.

Your devoted husband,
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 I click on the attachment he has sent. He has sent three ideas for quietly trickling water effects—fountains and water walls for the Connection Room. Each one would be perfect for the space. I smile while thinking about connecting with him again in our finished room, not that much more needs to go into the space. I think of something else that I would like to see in that space and in the adjoining room.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Quality Items Indeed
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:30
From: Anastasia Grey

My Darling Husband,

What a wonderful break from my day. The idea of the water is quite comforting and would make an excellent addition to our space. I look forward to the moments we will share in that room. In fact, I have an idea of my own that I would like to share with you. Your opinion is highly appreciated.

Anxiously anticipating your response,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands

wm-bi-47-backlit-lvngrm-2I attach a picture of a fire element that I found online a few days ago and await his response.

To: Anastasia Grey
Re: Concerned…?
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:42
From: Christian Grey

Dearest,

While I love the idea of a fireplace in our space, don’t you think that may be unwise? There’s no natural ventilation in the room, which means a possible fire hazard with no oxygen control or ability to air out a smoky area.

Concerned for his lovely wife’s well-being (and his own),
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

 I have to chuckle to myself a bit. I can’t believe that he didn’t think I already knew that. I also can’t believe that I knew about some new technology before he did. It tickles me a bit.

To: Christian Grey
Re: I Thought You Knew Me Better
Date: Monday, December 16, 2013, 15:54
From: Anastasia Grey

Christian Grey!

I was certain that you knew that surely I wouldn’t put either of our lives in jeopardy! This is the newest technology in electric fireplaces, my love—LED lighting, in fact, that produces lifelike fire effects over logs or even crystals. It must have been better than I thought to have fooled the great Christian Grey. That model has the amber and yellow cast flames. I was thinking of something more appropriate for our other intimate area. I’d like your opinion on these items, please.

Again, awaiting your response and hoping you have a more open mind,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, Assistant Director, Helping Hands

maxresdefaultI send him a YouTube video of the description of the electric fireplace—this one has a base of crystals and I chose it specifically because the crystals and the “flames” can turn completely blue… like the new walls in the playroom. I’ve also attached a picture of deeper blue crystals showcased in an electric fireplace in an attempt to capture the blue of the walls. More importantly, I attached a picture of a bondage frame that could be attached to the ceiling and pulled down at will by a handle to mimic the carabiners in the old room. The frame even has a leather cross embedded in it to double as our St. Andrews Cross, but much less bulky and imposing.

I wait for several minutes for his response once I send the email to him. He’s had plenty of time to watch the video. It was only four minutes long and at least fifteen have passed. Just as I’m about to type another email, Grace knocks on my open door, startling me to death and causing me to scramble and close my email program. I don’t know why. I really don’t have anything to hide. Besides, I’m talking to my husband… or was.

“I’m sorry, Dear. I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologizes.

“Oh, it’s no big deal,” I tell her. “I’m a bundle of baby nerves these days.”

“I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything.”

“Nope. Just bouncing some ideas off Christian,” I tell her.

“How is my pugnacious son?” she asks, a bit of an edge in her voice.

“Apparently busy. He hasn’t responded to me yet,” I lament refreshing the screen and hoping for a new email. Nothing.

“Is it something I could help you with?” she asks. Oh, Grace, you’d probably faint dead out if you knew what we were discussing… or not discussing, now.

“No,” I answer. “This little thing requires my husband’s expertise, and apparently, something else has his attention at this moment.” I minimize my email program.

“Well, I didn’t really want anything. I was just coming to ask you—is that Courtney Wilson in the kitchen?” Oh, shit, I had forgotten all about Courtney. I look at my watch. It’s after 4:30. Yes, they’re setting up for dinner soon.

“Yes, it is,” I reply. “Addie and I had lunch last week, and we both feel that Courtney would benefit from being here at the Center and working around people who don’t have it as easy as she does. She’s basically had everything handed to her thus far and she doesn’t really understand just how lucky she is. She has this horrible sense of entitlement, and it’s going to be her demise if it’s not reigned in very soon.” Grace grimaces.

“Well, good luck with that, because she’s been that way for at least as long as I can remember knowing her,” she says. I frown.

“What is she, like, 24? That couldn’t have been very long, could it?”

“She’s something like that and it’s been at least 10 years,” she replies. “She’s been a bad seed ever since she was a child. That’s why her parents sent her here in the first place. They thought she was misbehaving because she was around a bad element. It turns out that she was the bad element.”

“Well, I can see how that would be so, but how did you find out?” Grace comes in and takes a seat.

“Mia is the embodiment of a social butterfly—the good time girl, but in a fun way. There’s never a dull moment around her. Everybody knows her, and everybody knows what to expect from her. So imagine my surprise when I got a call from Nordstrom’s that Mia had been shoplifting.”

I frown. Mia? Shoplifting?  I can’t imagine that Mia I couldn’t have anything her heart desired, so why would she be shoplifting?

“I was asking the same questions your eyes are asking right now. Rather than jump to conclusions, Carrick and I just went down to the department store to hear what was going on and to retrieve our daughter. We were regulars there—on a first name basis with security. When we got there, we found Addie and Fred and a crying Courtney vehemently trying to convince her grandparents that this gaudy silver shirt, retrieved from Mia’s backpack, was something that Mia had squirreled away and not something that Courtney had slightly slipped into her backpack. Mia was standing there, basically silent and observing the entire display. Now I know my daughter. Her father is an attorney and she wasn’t going to say a word until he got there. When we arrived, she proceeded to tell us how this shirt was something that Courtney wanted, not something that she wanted and she was not going to admit to taking the shirt because she had no idea that it was in her backpack.”

“How old was she when this happened?” Grace ponders the incident for a while.

“Fifteen, maybe,” she says. “Courtney had just gotten here; hadn’t been here a week.”

“What happened next?”

“Carrick spoke to Mia very officially. He told her that shoplifting was a very serious crime and that she could be arrested, but that she does have the right not to incriminate herself. I’ll never forget my daughter’s response. She said, ‘I know, Daddy, but I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not going to confess to a crime that I didn’t commit.’  Courtney is in the corner wailing, trying to get her grandparents to take her home because she claimed that she had nothing to do with this. Fred almost insisted that they leave until the guard informed us that he had requested the security tapes from the afternoon.” I raise my eyebrows.

“Really?” I say.

“Yes, really. One of the clerks vaguely remembered Courtney admiring the shirt. However, the shirt was found in Mia’s backpack. This puts both girls in question. If they were required to review the tapes, it would have become a police investigation and both girls would have been required to be held in custody until the tapes had been viewed. Courtney turned white.” I lean back in my seat and fold my arms.

“Cary asked if Courtney had something that she wanted to tell us and she just fell quiet. He looked back at Mia who said, ‘If I have to go to jail, then I have to go to jail, but I didn’t do this, and I won’t confess to something that I didn’t do.’ She never looked at Courtney once. She knew Courtney had put the shirt in her backpack and she wasn’t going to say it. I had had enough of it. I wasn’t going to stand by and allow this little delinquent to expose my daughter to an experience that she clearly did not need. I let Addie, Fred, and Courtney know in no uncertain terms that if my daughter spent one moment inside of a jail cell for something that she didn’t do that the moment Ms. Courtney got out of kiddie jail, they would do best to send her back to whatever hick town she came from.

“It was almost the end of our friendship, because they were intent on protecting Courtney and I was intent on protecting Mia. The difference is that they were trying to give Courtney the benefit of the doubt, but they didn’t really know her. I had raised Mia from a baby. I knew her quite well, and if she wanted that horrid looking piece of material, she would have bought it. Cary further drove that point home by asking Mia where her Amex was. She reached into her backpack—the same backpack carrying the horrid shirt, I might add—and pulled out her Amex. When Courtney was asked to produce her money, she didn’t have any. She had spent it all.

“Cary told Fred that he was going to have some big problems on his hands if our teenage daughter had to go to holding cell because his granddaughter tried to frame her for shoplifting. Fred turned to Courtney and told her that he was only asking her one time if she did this and she fessed up.”

“That’s all it took?” I ask. Grace snickers.

“Don’t be fooled, Ana, she’s very smart. She’s manipulative and conniving. I don’t know if she plays ignorant because I don’t spend any time around her, but there’s nothing stupid about that girl—arrogant, but not stupid. She knows exactly what she’s doing at every moment, and the walls were closing in on her. She didn’t have any other choice. Mia had her Amex; Courtney had no money; there was a clerk that saw her admiring the shirt. The security tapes were on the way; we were threatening her grandparents; and they were both likely headed to a holding cell. Her objective was to get out of that building, but that was out of the question now. If she got out, she was scot free, and that’s why she was wailing like she was in physical pain. We were a lot of people in a very small room, and she was hoping that the sound of her cries would have irritated us so much that we would have just let her go. Had we been dealing with anybody but my daughter, she might have won that battle, but this was my Mia we were talking about. She could have screamed until her voice was gone and my ears were bleeding. She wasn’t leaving that room until we got to the bottom of things.” She sighs heavily.

“So that was the end of that?” I ask.

original_gemstone-friendship-bracelets“Pretty much,” she says. “We didn’t speak to them for a while, but we pretty much buried the hatchet on that one. We just took Mia home—I don’t even know what happened to that girl, but Mia had one last message for Ms. Courtney. Mia had to pass her as we were walking out of the room. Well, Mia’s was wearing this cute little bracelet. It was gold-toned with pink and burgundy beads and three charms on it. Mia grabs the thing and snatches it off her wrist. Beads go flying everywhere. She has a handful of beads along with the charms and she launches them dramatically at Courtney!”

“No!” I gasp, wondering if any of the trinkets hit Addie or Fred or if they all struck their intended target.

“Yes! Oh, she was all dramatic about her crying, like the things had hit her in the eye or something. I don’t know if they really did. It turns out that it was some sort of friendship bracelet. Mia just stood there scowling at her for a moment before we left them there.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Her first impression on the Greys and she almost gets their youngest child thrown in jail. This is classic, truly classic.

“So… would you like to go with me to check on her?” I ask. She smiles conspiratorially.

“Sure,” she says rising from her seat. We walk down the long hallway and around to the kitchen. The transformation to dinner service is well underway and I can’t find Courtney for the life of me. I see Mare on a stool in the corner, comfortably sitting with her legs crossed and tapping into her iPad. She raises he her head when she sees me and smiles and waves at me. I shrug in an attempt to ask where the hell Courtney is. She points to a figure that I wouldn’t have pegged for Courtney if you paid me. Although she’s still sporting her apron, she looks like she’s wearing a wife-beater, and her hair on top of her head in some kind of messy bun. Grace and I walk over to where Marilyn is sitting to get the debriefing on this particular situation.

“What’s going on?” I say, unable to hide my mirth.

“Well,” Mare begins, keeping her voice low, “apparently fuzzy angora and dish water don’t mix very well. I’m not certain where the sweater is now.”

crocs-verdes-png“Is she wearing Crocs?” Grace asks. I look down at her feet.

“Yes, she is,” Mare says. She points to the Jimmy Choos on the floor next to her stool. “They left the plates that she broke earlier for her to clean up. Jessie’s a real piece of work. She actually hid some of the pieces—under the sinks, behind the stoves—it was a not so fun game of Where’s Waldo. I’m not 100% sure what happened to the shoes. I just know that she was on her knees at some point and when she got back to her feet, a few seconds later she was on her butt. Jimmy Choos went flying into the air, shoes went this way, heels went that way, and that’s all she wrote. Enter Crocs, and there you have it. Those pants are no good either.”

“Really?” I say, with a little too much enthusiasm. Mare looks over at me.

“Cheer down, Bosslady,” she teases, and I realize that I am taking a bit too much joy in this your woman’s calamity. “Apparently that sateen, crackle, pleather, skinny-shit changes color in water, so it looks really bad right now.” I chuckle to myself. I have to say that I’m pleased. Even Grace has that she who laughs last look on her face.

“Oh, and don’t worry. I heard you earlier. I’ve already ordered those complimentary massages at Dreamclinic.” She smiles at me.

And that’s why I keep her around.


 

A/N: She (he) who laughs last laughs best.

The bondage cross that I described earlier is the one from the FSOG movie. I couldn’t find a good picture of the cross by itself, so you just have to picture it in your head. 

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

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

Love and handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 26—Cleaning Up Old Dirt

Happy Birthday to Connie!

Happy New Year to everyone else!

My Facebook followers probably know that it’s been a busy week for me. Although I didn’t put it on my author’s page, it’s on my personal page that one of my sons got married on New Year’s Eve, so it’s been nonstop since the 31st. I’m still recuperating from the activities and the partying, but extremely happy to have a wonderful new daughter in my life. So it truly is a blessed new year for me! On with the goodies!

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…

social-clean-upChapter 26—Cleaning Up Old Dirt

CHRISTIAN

It’s not long after brunch was done that some guests started to leave, while others began to arrive. Luma is back on Sunday afternoon to see Pops after having spent most of the evening with them the night before. I think Luma might be sweet on my grandfather. There’s a significant age difference there, but hell, she might be good for him. My only concern is that her husband died of prostate cancer and now my grandfather is sick. Okay, change of thought… I can’t even consider right now the prospect of Pops dying.

“Hello, Luma,” Butterfly says, kissing her on the cheek. “It was so late when we got home. I’m sorry we missed you last night.”

“It’s alright,” she says sweetly. “It was late… and I had to get the girls home to bed. They played with little Harry so long…” She waves her hands in the air to emphasize the time.

“Where are they now?” Butterfly asks.

“They are with Marcia right now,” she says. “She was taking Maggie to play and ask if Mariah and Celida could go. So I come to see Burt and Herman.” She smiles in the direction of my grandfather and uncle.

“It’s lovely to see you again, Luma,” Pops holds his hands out to her and she hugs him warmly, but when it comes time to greet Herman, she’s suddenly shy. Son of a gun. It’s Uncle Herman that she’s sweet on! He greets her just as sweetly, but her blush doesn’t get by me. Oh, poor Luma. Uncle Herman is nursing a broken heart several decades in the making. I don’t think that’s an endeavor you’re going to want to undertake.

“Christian?” Butterfly’s voice brings me out of my contemplations. “You’re frowning. What on earth are you thinking about?” I shake my head.

“Too soon about work,” I lie. “There are some unpleasant decisions that I have to make tomorrow.” Not a lie.

“Well, let it wait until tomorrow,” she scolds, putting her arms around me. She’s wearing this royal blue maxi-dress that makes her look so fucking scrumptious. It’s enough to change my thought process.

“Mr. Christian, Ms. Ana, thank you for letting me stay. I had a lot of fun.” Sophie’s little voice sounds very melancholy as she says goodbye. Butterfly releases me and goes to embrace Sophie.

“It was so nice having you, Sophie. I know that twins will just love their bears. We’ll do it again sometime, okay?”

“I hope so,” she says sadly. “Daddy was right. You really are a nice lady.” Butterfly looks fondly at Jason, who refuses to make eye contact with her.

“Don’t tell your dad I said so, but he’s a big softy.” Butterfly winks at her and gives her a final hug before passing her to Gail.

“Bye, Pumpkin,” Gail says softly. “We’ll have our weekend again soon, okay?” Sophie clearly wants to cry as she throws her arms around Gail’s neck and hugs her tightly.

“Bye, Ms. Gail. I’ll see you soon.” She turns to me and doesn’t quite know what to do, so I kneel down to her height.

“You can come over whenever you want,” I tell her. Her eyes grow large.

“Really?” she says in awe.

“Really,” I reply. This is Jason’s home. His daughter should know that she is welcome anytime.

“Your house is really nice… and I want to see the babies after they’re born.” She still seems like she’s asking permission.

“I’m sure they’ll want to see you, too,” I say with a smile. She hugs me tight around my neck. I’m thrown off only for a moment, but then realize that this is a child—one that apparently needs all the love she can get. I wrap my arms around her and return her embrace. My mother gasps and clings to my father. Even Charles and Jason are a bit surprised.

“Thank you, Mr. Christian,” she says into my neck, and I feel a tear fall on my shoulder.

“You’re welcome, Sophie.” She pulls away and quickly wipes her tear. “We’ll see you next time, okay?” I say, intending to give her hope. She smiles and nods hard. Mission accomplished. Clinging to her bear that she built, she takes Jason’s hand and he leads her through the kitchen and down the hallway, no doubt to turn her over to her waiting mother. Butterfly and I just look at each other, no doubt thinking the same thing.

That will never be our children!

*-*

“So what’s so important that it needed my immediate attention?” Ros asks when she comes into my office. I summoned her very shortly after I got to Grey House this morning as there are a few issues that require my immediate attention.

“Do we have any deals on the table with Mulhaven?” I ask. “I know we had something cooking a few months back, but I can’t recall if we got them off the ground yet.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t know,” she confirms. “We only have a couple of testers, I think, so you wouldn’t be bothered with them until we finished the marketing research.”

“Kill them. Kill anything we have in the hopper. We won’t be doing business with Mulhaven.” She looks a little shocked.

“Okay, consider it done. May I ask why?”

“It’s personal,” I say, with no explanation.

“Got it. He came on to Ana.” God, am I that predictable?

“No, worse.”

“Worse than coming on to Ana?” she asks appalled. I explain what happened at the Adopt-a-Family Affair.

“Okay, he’s got balls, but this will put you in a bad light with potential mergers, Christian. It’s an act of bad faith.”

“No, it won’t. A ballroom full of people, most of them business contacts, watched as that man had to be escorted away from our table. Anyone who thinks I’m acting in bad faith after being insulted and possibly humiliated in public and in front of my wife by a collaboration hopeful is someone that I don’t want to do business with anyway.”

“Be certain about this, Christian,” Ros says, taking a seat in one of the chairs in front of my desk. “You’re setting a precedent here. What he said was insulting at best, a blow to your ego at worst. You’re sending a message that if you don’t kiss Christian Grey’s ass, you don’t do business with Christian Grey.” I raise my gaze to her.

“I’m surprised at you, Ros,” I say, clasping my hands on the desk in front of me. “This isn’t your first position in the business world. How many times have you had to kowtow to some asshole to get what you wanted? A raise? A promotion? The deal? The bid?” I await her answer. She sighs.

“More times than I liked,” she replies.

“Well, I’m lucky. I’m not that person anymore. People have to kowtow to me now, and I don’t even make them do that unless I feel like they deserve it. Most of the time, all I ask for is respect—for me as a man, for my station, for my position and when applicable, for my wife. This fucker knows that I’m one of the people that he’s supposed to kowtow to, and he broke all of those rules. It’s that simple. I don’t know if it was the alcohol talking, his age, or the fact that he’s been in business longer than I have, but all of those things should have sent a glaring message to him considering that I’m much more successful than he is in far less time. I don’t belittle other businessmen or make them feel like shit unless they have it coming because the toes you step on today may be connected to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow. No, I’ll be sending a louder message if I continue to do business with him than if I cease.” She nods.

“I see your point and I hope you’re right,” she says.

“You know I’m right, that’s why you stay. How many people and companies have I blackballed for far less offenses than this?”

“Quite a few.”

“And what’s the result? The only people who have succeeded in ‘coming at me’ have been personal attacks and even none of them have succeeded in carrying out their plans.”

“Duly noted,” she says. “Anybody else’s life you want me to ruin?” she adds with a bit of mirth.

“Those issues we discussed… with the subsidiaries. How is that coming along?”

“So far, some good, some bad. The sweat-house and experimental drug things were easily handled. Unfortunately, those things aren’t so uncommon in those areas and certainly aren’t illegal. You just don’t want your name attached to them in the states. The prostitution, though…” Shit, I knew it.

“What?” I ask.

“Those governments want their palms greased,” she says. “In some countries, the government is part of those rings. They get paid to keep their mouths shut, sometimes to facilitate easy trafficking, and that’s what they want from you.” I can’t pay those fuckers. They’ll never go away!

“Find out as much as you can about who we would specifically pay for that,” I tell her. “How much are they talking?”

“Millions,” she answers appalled. Not too much. “Christian, you’re not actually considering…”

“No,” I interrupt her question before she asks it. “Have we met?” Her lips form a thin line.

“Christian, I know that you’re a powerful man, but foreign governments… do you really want to take on that kind of opponent?”

“It’s not like I have a choice, Ros,” I reply. “Had they come to me with charges and accusations, legally telling me what needed to be done and what the consequences were for my business and probably myself, I could’ve gotten my real lawyers involved along with the American Embassy and tried to find a way out of this. Instead, they resort to extortion. I didn’t choose them as an adversary. They chose me. So before I roll over to their demands or consider throwing myself under the bus, I need to know what my options are.”

“You know that I seldom second-guess you on big business decisions, but this—I truly have to say that you should sincerely think about this before you leap.”

“That’s what research is for. Now how about we stop discussing this and you get me the research to make an educated decision? Don’t worry about me, Ros. I have friends in high… and low places.” She sighs.

“Very well, but I still don’t know about this.” She stands and walks to the door. “Just warn me when something really bad is about to happen, okay?” I pick up my desk phone.

“Don’t I always?” I dial out to Andrea as Ros leaves.

“Yes Sir?”

“Andrea, see if you can get Fred Wilson on the line for me.”

“Yes, sir.” I turn to my laptop and open the spreadsheet of the miscellaneous subsidiaries. We managed to turn a profit with more than a few of them—the reputable ones. We’ve turned some of the sour ones around and we’ve managed to get rid of all of the corrupt ones. Unfortunately, as I have just seen, they still manage to leave a stench behind. I sort the list and copy the corrupt businesses to a separate spreadsheet. I’ll have to put Allen on the task of seeing what my biggest penalties could be in these countries and if any of them include jail time. Jason and Welch are in a monthly meeting of the security staff, so I’ll just have to wait until they get out to run all of this by them.

“Mr. Wilson, on line one, Mr. Grey,” Andrea tells me through the intercom. I pick up the line.

“Hello, Frederick, how are you?”

“Cut that Frederick crap, Christian. We’ve known each other way too long. Doing great. How about you? How’s Ana? She looked really good at the Affair. Everything okay with her health and the babies?”

“Yes, she’s coming along very well. We’re both very pleased with her ongoing recovery. We have an appointment with the neurologist later and we are expecting a good report.”

“That’s wonderful news, Christian,” he says, sincerely. “We both know how life can take a turn at a moment’s notice and…” He trails off. He lost his first wife and the mother of his children in a car accident. He’s remarried, now, but you can tell that he’s never fully recovered from the loss.

“I know, Fred,” I say, sympathetically. “If anyone can understand the horror that I went through waiting for my wife to wake up for 12 days, I know that it’s you.”

“Yes…” he says, fighting his emotions. “I’m glad that Ana is okay. I really am.” I can hear the smile in his voice.

“Thank you, Fred,” I respond. “She’s actually why I’m calling you today.”

“Oh? Is something wrong?”

“I’m afraid it is. At the Affair, Courtney came on really strong.”

“You’re kidding?” he says. “I thought she knew better than to try that! Everybody in a 300-mile radius and probably beyond knows that your devotion to Ana can’t be shaken. I won’t lie—I want my granddaughter to catch a big fish, but not one that’s already married!” I know that’s why he brings her to these charity events and red carpet affairs, but the way she’s acting, the only thing she’s likely to land is a sugar daddyor momma. The ridiculous melon display should have been proof enough that the evening wasn’t going to end well.

“I have a bit of a shocker for you,” I tell him. “She wasn’t coming on to me.”

“Well, who, then? Please tell me it wasn’t your father,” he says, his voice filled with dread.

“It’s worse than that, Fred. It was Ana.” There’s momentary silence on the line.

“What!?” He roars into the phone. “You must be mistaken. Christian, there’s just no way.”

“I’m sorry, Fred. I wish I were wrong, but if a man had come on to my wife like Courtney did, I’d be posting bail right now.” I hear him sigh heavily.

“Could this possibly be a misunderstanding?” he asks. He sounds like he’s almost pleading. Fred is very old-fashioned and somewhat narrow-minded. Learning that his granddaughter may be among the homosexual population is the last thing on his agenda.

“It was very clear,” I assure him. “My wife witnessed it, her best friend witnessed it, and I witnessed it. I did my best to distract her because we both thought Courtney’s intentions were towards me at first. I think I realized where here interests were before Ana did. Once Courtney made her desires clear, Ana looked to her best friend for confirmation—who, I might add, was the only one of us who verbally tried to discourage her advances. There’s no mistake, Fred. She was coming on to my wife.”

Fred is an old friend of the family and I’m only telling him this as a courtesy. My initial reaction towards anyone who makes advances at my wife is to squash them like a bug, but I’m trying to remember that I’m dealing with a female here—an unscrupulous, disrespectful, slutty female, but a female nonetheless.

“I’m sorry, Christian,” he says, his voice betraying his defeat. “I don’t even know what to say right now.”

“I just wanted to bring it to your attention. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to tell you how to handle something like this…”

“Oh, I have a few ideas, trust me,” he says, his voice now betraying his anger. “You’re positive there’s no way that you could be mistaken about this?”

“No doubt, whatsoever,” I assure him. “I was remiss to say anything as I’m not one to flippantly toss around accusations.”

“I know you’re not. I just wish with all my heart that there could have been a misunderstanding, but it’s obvious there is not.” Three knocks at my door let me know that Andrea needed my attention.

“Fred, I need you to hold on for just one minute.” Andrea sticks her head in the door. “What is it?”

“The front desk has been trying to call you, but as you know, your line rings to Luma’s desk when you’re on it.” I know what that means. Somebody’s here that I need to know about.

“Okay, give me a minute.” She nods once and leaves. I turn back to the phone call. “I hate to drop this bomb on you and leave, Fred, but I’ve really got to go. There’s something brewing in my lobby.”

“Nothing too serious, I hope,” he says.

“Nothing that I can’t handle. Thanks for hearing me out.”

“Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am that Courtney behaved that way. Please extend my apologies to Ana, for what it’s worth.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate that very much.” We say our pleasantries and end the call. I dial the three-digit extension to the lobby.

“Grey Enterprises, how can I help you?”

“What’s up?”

“Sir, there’s a woman at the front desk demanding to see you. I told her that she needed an appointment, but she started rambling on about possible criminal activity and calling the police and I know how you hate the publicity. Mr. Welch and Mr. Taylor are both in a meeting and they’ll be out shortly, but she demands to see you now. What should I do, sir? Should I call the police?”

“Who is this woman?” I ask.

“Her name is Janice Dodd.” Oh, fucking great. This must be Dodd’s wife. It would look bad if I just sent her away since I’m not supposed to have any idea what happened to her worthless husband.

“How should I know this woman?” I ask to throw her off the scent. “Please ask her.” I hear him ask her the question and she answers with a calm voice.

“She’s says Maurice Dodd is her husband.” I pause for a moment.

“Let her know that her husband doesn’t work here anymore.” I’m trying to stall until Jason and Welch get out of that damn meeting.

“She’s aware of that, sir. She says that she’s here to see you. She has some information that you may want and if you’re not interested, she says that she’ll take it to the police.” I sigh heavily. I can’t afford to let her leave without knowing what she knows.

“Have somebody frisk the bitch and bring her up to my office. Let her know that if she doesn’t want to submit to a search, then she can take the information that she has and get the fuck out of my building. The last unknown bitch that got into my office tried to kill me!” I slam the phone down. Just what I need, Dodd’s nosey wife sniffing around. She has information. I’m dying to know what it is, but not enough to lose my cool. My hands are clean. I have no idea where that fucker is. Highly-trained government operatives took care of that for me, and when the government really doesn’t want you to be found, you’re not found.

What to do? Sit down and act natural. This woman comes marching into my building demanding to see me and acting like she has something to hold over my head, so let her show her cards. I’m not giving her shit. I turn my attention back to my laptop and the spreadsheets I was analyzing before I called Fred. They must have strip-searched her because it was a full twenty minutes before she showed up at my office with one of the security personnel from the front desk.

“Sir, Mrs. Dodd,” he says before he allows her into my office.

“Are Taylor and Welch still in that meeting?” I ask him.

“It just adjourned, sir. Would you like for me to send them in?”

“No. Please tell them to make sure that they’re both at their desks.” I know they can watch me easily from there and Jason can be here in moments if things get hairy.

“Would you like for me to stay, Sir?” he asks.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, but stay close. I don’t know this woman and I don’t know what she wants.” I say it loud enough for her to hear me even though she’s not in the office yet. He nods and gestures her inside. She’s an attractive woman, about my age, well-dressed. Her black hair is pulled back into the tightest bun I’ve ever seen and her lips are a deep burgundy, like dark blood. Women wear those colors to draw men’s attention to their lips. Fuck, I hope she doesn’t intend to come on to me. That’s the last fucking thing I need.

“Mrs. Dodd,” I say with formality as I rise from my chair, “what do you want?”

“Well,” she says, somewhat affronted, “it’s nice to meet you, too, Mr. Grey!”

“You’ll have to forgive my lack of tact and hospitality,” I say coolly. “I’m not accustomed to unknown women pushing their way into my place of business, bullying my staff, making demands, and tossing threats to call the police for God only knows what reason.” I glare at her for a moment and wait for a rebuttal. “Now, like I said, what do you want? You have to know that your husband hasn’t worked for me for weeks, so why are you here?”

“That’s just it, Mr. Grey, I didn’t know that my husband wasn’t working for you anymore,” she says, flatly. I furrow my eyebrows and feign surprise. “My husband left for work one day—a Thursday or a Friday—and he never came home.” Now I don’t even have to feign surprise. If I came up missing, Butterfly would know the day, the hour, probably the minute, and the color of my underwear that day.

‘You don’t know the last day you saw your husband?” I ask appalled.

“It’s been a trying time, Mr. Grey,” she nearly hisses. “Nobody seems to have any information on him. I didn’t want to come here until I called and discovered that he didn’t work here anymore.”

“Which one is it, Mrs. Dodd?” I ask impatiently. “You told my staff that you did know that he didn’t work here anymore. You came into my office and said that you didn’t know he didn’t work here. Now, you say you called and found out that he didn’t work here, which means you did know that he didn’t work here. I don’t have time for games, so if this is your purpose, you can leave now.”

“I don’t think you want me to leave, Mr. Grey,” she says, taking a seat that I never offered her. “Grey House doesn’t need to be caught up in any kind of scandal.” I shrug.

“Scandal? This isn’t a scandal. Men leave their lives all the time. Why should I care? Why should anybody care, but you?”

“Humor me for a moment,” she says, crossing her legs. “When was the last time you saw my husband?” I fold my arms.

“Probably at one of the department head meetings,” I reply. “He was very inconsequential to me. I only deal with my department heads when I need them to do something for me. Other than that, I don’t speak to them on a daily basis, if that’s what you mean.” She purses her lips.

“How did you discover that my husband didn’t work for you anymore?”

“Are you leading a police investigation? Because if you’re not, I don’t have to answer any of your questions.”

“Do you have something to hide, Mr. Grey?” she accuses. “I’m only trying to find the whereabouts of my husband.” I lean on my desk.

“I don’t have anything to hide, lady, I just don’t like you. You strut into my building like I owe you something, and now you’re in my office interrogating me. Nobody does that to me, not even the goddamn police unless my attorney is present. You didn’t come to me saying ‘Mr. Grey, I need to find some information on my husband; can you help me?’ No, you came in here demanding answers and making threats… I don’t want to talk to you anymore. Get the fuck out of my office. Go to the police. Go to the President. Go wherever the fuck you need to go to find your husband. Good luck.” I sit down in my seat and look at my laptop again.

“You’re getting awfully testy for a man who has nothing to hide,” she says snidely. Lady, I’ve played this game with the best of them, and you can forget it. You want information from me. Whatever you got is worthless. I raise my eyes to her again, still sitting comfortably in the seat across from my desk and making no effort to move.

“I don’t think you heard me,” I say, firmly. “I said ‘get the fuck out of my office’ and you’re still here. That means that I can have you forcibly removed.” I push the intercom button on the phone. “Andrea, is security still out there?”

“Yes, sir,” Andrea’s disembodied voice informs me.

“Mr. Grey, please,” Mrs. Dodd says. “I only want information. I just want to know who the last person was that saw my husband.”

“Would you like for me to send them in, Mr. Grey?” Andrea asks.

“Stand by,” I tell her. I turn my attention back to Mrs. Dodd. “The next time you’re simply trying to get information from someone, you might want to try asking before you start throwing demands and threats. I don’t respond well to that shit and I don’t know anybody who does.” I stand and straighten my suit jacket. “Your husband left here one day and a few days later, our human resources department received an email that he wasn’t coming back… something about finding somewhere that appreciated him more. Now, I’m not of the practice of chasing down employees that leave my employ with no notice, but as he was a department head, I did investigate further to see what may have happened. Replacing a department head is a bit more difficult than replacing your average employee. I have someone standing in for him, but I still haven’t found anyone to replace him.”

“And what did your investigation reveal?” she asks with little interest. Why is she here? Does she know what was going on?

“It appears that he has been submitting ideas for products for the last few years and none of them made it out of the planning stages. I reviewed a few of them, and they were unusable. Many of them have already been in production for decades. Others had no demand or usefulness whatsoever. If this was his issue, I’m not sure who would appreciate that more.” I activate the recording devices in my office to alert Taylor and Welch that we might have a problem. “I couldn’t find anything else. He was the director of planning. There were no problems in the department and the only thing I could find were these ridiculous inventions that fell dead before I even saw them.”

“I see,” she says, crossing her legs again and examining me.

“Is there anything else, Mrs. Dodd?” I ask her. “I’m quickly losing my patience.” She folds her arms.

“I’m an excellent judge of character, Mr. Grey, and you’re hiding something,” she accuses.

“I’m a billionaire with countless enemies. I’m hiding a lot. What’s your point?” I’m not giving you anything.

“I think you know something about my husband’s disappearance.” I glare at her.

“Disappearance?” I repeat. “I didn’t know your husband was missing until you came into my office and informed me. You say that you’re a good judge of character, but you have apparently misjudged me if you think you can walk into my office and start dropping unfounded accusations. If I were you, I’d be very careful with that kind of thing.” My voice is controlled and I’m waiting for her next move.

“I have some information that I think would interest the police quite a bit,” she says confidently.

“Then go tell them,” I respond.

“I think you might want to hear it first,” she taunts.

“Well, I don’t have all fucking day,” I hiss. “Either tell me or get the fuck outta here.” She smiles and she reminds me a lot of the pedophile when she does it. Suddenly, I don’t want to be in the same space with her. She’s making my skin crawl.

“I know that my husband was part of a group that was taking money from you. Since that issue hasn’t made the news yet, my theory is that you found out about it and got rid of him. I don’t really care that he’s gone, but I do want my share of what he would have gotten if you hadn’t… made him disappear.”

This woman is insane. Even though she’s right, she’s got the balls of a gorilla. I sit down again, confidently lean forward on my desk and fold my hands.

“What do you think this is, the Godfather?” I ask her incredulously. “We live in the real world, lady. You don’t just make people disappear. However, let me enlighten you on something. You just walked into the office of a multibillionaire and confessed to knowledge that your husband had been stealing from me—mistake number one. In addition to that, you have accused me of being the one that made him ‘disappear’ based on this knowledge—mistake number two. On top of that, you’re trying to blackmail me to get money this man has stolen from me—mistake number three. Let me inform you of the repercussions of all of your mistakes.

“First, if you don’t contact the police about his disappearance, I will, because he’s now a fugitive from justice. In addition, your knowledge of his actions makes you an accomplice, so you should probably contact an attorney. In cases like this, all of his and your assets will be seized, including the house you live in. If you have children, you might want to find other lodging for them.

“Second, if I was that Mafioso that made your husband disappear, what makes you think you would get out of here alive after threatening me? Third, you have the nerve to try to blackmail me after your weasel of a husband was stealing from me? You have again misjudged me. You have added to your offenses, Mrs. Dodd, because every conversation in this office is recorded.” All of the color leaves her face.

“Mr. Grey, of course, this is just a misunderstanding. We can come to some kind of agreement about this. I mean, they’re all just theories.” She is terrified.

“Oh, yes, we can come to an understanding. Prepare to be visited by the FBI.”

“The FB…” she trails off.

“Yes, the FBI. Nobody knew about the embezzlement from my company. We were careful to keep it out of the news. Your knowledge confirms that your husband was involved. The man responsible for stealing from my company has been arrested and apprehended by the FBI. There are many more offenses for which he has to answer and he will not turn over his accomplices. This man is a long-time enemy of mine and has come at me more than once, at one point almost having me killed. I’m not one-hundred percent certain that he’s not responsible for the accident that had my wife in a coma for two weeks!” Mrs. Dodd is now in horror. She’s small-time and had she played her cards right, she could have had me over a barrel, but the tables have turned.

“My guess, Mrs. Dodd, is that your sniveling little husband saw his opportunity to escape, took what he could and ran when it got too hot in the kitchen for him. Judging from your total lack of concern about his alleged disappearance, I can only guess that there’s no love lost on his part for leaving you behind. I would say that he’s probably sitting on a tropical beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais with a young, busty blonde on his lap!” I hiss. She frowns deeply.

“Contrary to what you would believe, Maurice loved me very much. How do you think I knew everything about this little plot? I could give you valuable information, Mr. Grey, information I know that you don’t have right now—plans concerning the future of your company.” I have to admit that I’m curious about what she has to offer.

“What could you possibly tell me that I don’t already know? We have the mastermind in custody.”

“I know that there was someone else,” she says, confidently, ready to bargain her way out of the hot seat. “There was another player. He held all the cards. He was the one who made all of the decisions and Maurice was trying to get close to him. It’s not the one you have in custody. I know who that is. It’s someone else. Maurice wasn’t sure, but he knew that the second in command was answering to someone else.” My lips curl into a smile. I know who she’s talking about. I’ve already figured out that he had something to do with this once I left Detroit. This is no surprise. I just refuse to go on another wild goose chase, not right now.

“Mrs. Dodd, you’re telling me old news, and even if you weren’t, I don’t negotiate with extortionists. Now, I think it’s high time you take your treacherous, greedy, thieving ass out of my office, you wretched bitch. Taylor!”

Jason bursts into my office ready for action.

“Like I said, all conversations are recorded,” I remind her before I turn to Jason. “Get this worthless piece of trash out of my office before I forget I’m a gentleman!” I turn my attention back to the files on my laptop, intending to let Jason handle it from here.

“Ma’am!” Taylor says forcefully, showing as much disdain for her as I have, if not more. She begins to speak and I put my hand up to silence her.

“Mrs. Dodd, don’t say another word as whatever you say could be used against you in court… or just serve to piss me off further!” I raise a hateful glare to her, causing her to shiver and quickly leave my office. Jason comes back in and closes the door after he escorts her to the elevator. I disengage the recording devices.

“What should I do?” I ask him.

“Call the feds,” he says. “As far as they know, you only knew about Myrick from the money transfers. All trails lead to him. He’s the only one who knows that he had accomplices and he’s not giving them up. You just got information from an outside source that the man who left your employ a few weeks ago was part of a plot to embezzle money from you. If you don’t report it, it looks bad.” I nod.

“Get Welch in here. He’s the expert and he’s the one who has had contact with the feds—him and that Brian asshole. It looks even stranger for me to make this call without consulting my head of corporate security.” Jason nods.

“Duly noted,” he says as he dials his cell. “Alex, I need you in the boss’s office.” He pauses for a moment then ends the call. “Five, four, three, two…” There’s a knock at my office door. I frown at Jason.

“Come in,” I call out. Welch opens the door and walks in.

“He was already on his way,” Jason informs me. I look up at Welch.

“I was on the elevator when the recording stopped,” he says. I give him the quick rundown of the impromptu meeting that I just had and Jason’s advice that followed. He rolls his eyes.

“Jason’s right, call the feds. One of them gave you his card, I know it.”

“How about three?” I said, going through my card file and giving him the three cards. He looks them over and hands one back to me.

“Call him. Tell him everything she said. Everything. Try to act surprised, but more angry than surprised, that she showed up.”

“That’ll be easy.” I look at my watch. “Butterfly’s appointment is in an hour and a half. Should I do this now?”

“You better call the authorities before she does. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was on her cell right now.” I sigh and sit down at my desk and dial the number.

Forty minutes later, I end the call with the FBI agent after having told him every tiny detail given to me by Mrs. Dodd. This is the first time that I’m hoping this asshole is dead right now. This is one situation that I don’t need to come back and bite me in the butt. There’s still nearly an hour to meet Butterfly at the hospital.

“Mr. Grey, Mr. Mulhaven is on line two. He’s been holding for twenty minutes.”

“Fucking hell! You gotta be kidding me!” I exclaim. It’s been disaster after disaster ever since I walked in this morning, but I have to admit that I created this disaster.

“Put him through, Andrea. If anybody else calls except for my wife, I’m gone for the day.”

“Yes, sir,” she says.

“Mulhaven… that dumpy fucker from the party this weekend?” Jason asks.

“One and the same,” I reply. I see line two blinking and I hit the speaker. “Grey!”

“Grey! What the hell are you trying to do here? We’ve got deals in the making and suddenly I get a call from that bitch under you telling me that all deals are off?” I point at the phone and look at Jason and Welch in shock. I just killed every deal I had with you and you’re calling me talking to me like this? I guess I was too quiet for too long, because that prompted him to shove his foot even further down his throat. “What’s the matter, Grey? Trying to get the wife’s permission to talk to me? Was she that bruised by the harmless ‘man talk’ on Saturday? Is that why you pulled out of our business deals?” Enough of this shit.

“As a matter of fact, no, you pompous, arrogant windbag. Although I am extremely livid that you disrespected my wife, I pulled out of any possible deals with you because you disrespected me—just like you’re doing right now. What the fuck ever gave you the idea that you could speak to me like this? Have you been sniffing glue or something? I’m the most powerful man on the west coast—one of the richest men in America… internationally even, and you thought it’d be a good idea to piss me off?

“Did the fact that I refused to argue with you in public cause you to mistake my kindness for weakness? Is that how you made your laughable fortune, by insulting and intimidating the weak? I don’t intimidate the weak, Mulhaven. I crush them! In this business, the weak don’t get insulted. They get eaten! And I’m the hungriest motherfucker you’ve ever met!

“I’d be an unmitigated fool to go into business with someone who doesn’t respect me and even more of a fool to even entertain the idea with someone that I didn’t respect in return. Neither GEH nor any GEH subsidiaries will be doing any business with you. As I have no reason to discuss anything with you from this point on, please remove this number and any other GEH information from your contacts. Have a good day.”

“Grey, wait!” He suddenly sounds desperate, as he should. He has just become my latest pet project. I was going to turn my focus to what Kavanaugh Media was doing these days, but this will be so much more fun. I almost hang up the phone, but pause for a moment. “You know how it is, Grey. It’s one big cock strut. Who’s the biggest rooster in the yard? I was just trying not to appear weak…”

“So your response was to blatantly make me seem weak? Like I can’t control my wife for lack of a better phrase? Have you seen that woman? If anybody could control me, she could, but she doesn’t—especially when it comes to matters of my business.”

“Grey, please. You’ll ruin me…” I don’t care and quite frankly, I don’t want to talk to this stubby little fat fuck anymore.

“You did fine before you met me, Mulhaven. You’ll do fine without me. Have a good day.” I end the call. His voice irks me and there’s no way that I plan to do business with that asshole anyway. “Let’s go meet my wife.”


 

ANASTASIA

My husband makes it to the hospital before Ben and I do. Then again, he was already in the city. I’m hoping that Dr. Hill gives me the “all clear” to go back to work. I’m anxious to get back to Helping Hands.

“Hey, Baby,” I say when I walk into the hospital and see him.

“Hey, Butterfly.” He leans down and kisses me tenderly. He looks a little worn out. “Are you okay?”

“It’s been a long day,” he says, looking at his watch. “I’m not going back into the office after your appointment. Have you had lunch yet?”

“Of course. You know I can’t keep these two waiting,” I say rubbing my stomach.

“Well, we’ll find something to do with our afternoon. Let’s go get some good news.”

“I’m all for that,” I say as we take the elevator to the neurology department.

“Any dizziness? Nausea besides what you’re used to with the pregnancy?” Dr. Hill says as he shines a light into my eyes.

“No,” I reply. “The wound sites bother me though. They hurt… itch sometimes.”

“Throbbing pain?” he asks, examining my wound site.  I nod.

“Sometimes. It’s just a little… mostly an irritating little ache, though.”

“That’s normal. Alcohol with help with that,” he says. “When your hair grows back in, I would recommend some kind of vitamin ointment—on your head, not in your hair.” He puts the light in his pocket. “How about your memories? Any episodes? Are they coming back okay?”

“They’re coming back pretty quickly,” I tell him. “I remember the big things. It’s the small details that I’m still trying to fill in.”

“What’s the last thing you remember before you awoke?” he asks. I have to think for a moment.

“I remember Chuck—my bodyguard—coming at me in a haze of light. I think that was right before the other car hit us. I remember asking Christian ‘You’re going where?’” His head turns to me quickly. “I later discovered he went back to Detroit when all of this happened. I remember a really big fight with one of my best friends, but I’m sure that something else happened.”

“What gives you that idea?” Dr. Hill asks.

“We’ve never not been speaking… for over a decade now. Something else must have happened.” Dr. Hill looks over to Christian for guidance. Christian just shakes his head.

“There’s nothing missing, Dr. Hill,” he says. “I completely understand Butterfly’s reluctance to believe that one of her closest friends has just turned on her like this, but there’s nothing more to the story. The truth is that she’s telling you everything. She hasn’t done anything to Valerie. There isn’t anything additional to add to what she’s saying. She can’t remember anything else happening between her and Valerie because nothing else happened between her and Valerie. Valerie just snapped one weekend, and nobody knows why. Everybody saw it and nobody knows why. Valerie is dating my brother, and he almost skipped Thanksgiving with his family. He hasn’t skipped Thanksgiving with his family for as long as I’ve been Christian Grey, yet her irrational behavior almost caused him to skip this year.” Dr. Hill looks at me.

“As your doctor, I have to keep an eye on you and advise you on things that I think may be unhealthy for you. With a traumatic brain injury, I don’t think I need to tell you that stress is a definite no-no. If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you been friends with this woman?”

“About ten years,” I respond. Ten years, just gone down the drain for God only knows what reason.

“Ten years,” he repeats. “You’re not even thirty yet, so that means that you were teenagers when you met. Your life has changed. People change, Ana. That’s the big and the little of it. You’re not the same person that you were before; you can’t and don’t do the same things. You met in college—you’re not the same people anymore. Your life has changed significantly, much more significantly than hers. Even though you are both involved with very well-to-do men, you are an heiress now. I would venture to say that you do very little, if any, of the things that you used to do. Am I right?”

I nod helplessly. I know where this conversation is going, but I refuse to believe it. I just can’t wrap my mind around that concept.

“Everything that you once did requires significant changes for you to still be able to do them, correct?” I nod again. “This means that the person that you use to be to this woman, you’re not that person anymore. Sometimes, there is no explanation for bad behavior. Sometimes, people are just unhappy or jealous because they just can’t deal with the change. This may be what’s going on with your friend.” I simply refuse to believe that Valerie is just jealous. It has to be something else. “Have you considered that it may be something mental?” Is he serious?

“I’m a shrink. Of course, I thought about something mental!” I respond. “I told our mutual friend Maxie to try to talk to Val to see if something is going on with her. Could there be a chemical imbalance of some kind? Could she be falling into depression? Maxie was once my therapist and since Val has not yet turned on her, I thought that maybe she could get some answers and get to the bottom of this. I don’t understand what’s going on with her, but if she has some mental illness that makes it difficult or impossible to control her bad behavior, I wouldn’t want to desert her during this time. Even if she pushed me away, I wouldn’t allow it—but I don’t know what’s going on, so I can’t make a judgement call on the situation.” He shrugs.

“I’m a head doctor, but I’m not a shrink. Hopefully, your friend Maxie can help you all get to the bottom of this in terms of what’s causing her to act so strangely. You know it can be any number of different disorders or issues that could be causing this behavior.” He twists his lips and puts his hand on my shoulder. “It could also be that your friend is just plain jealous of you. These things happen. People’s lives change. What does your therapist say about this?”

“Not much of anything,” I tell him. “Everybody is in a bit of a conundrum about what’s going on with Valerie, so nobody can make any assumptions on what it could be. Ace is simply trying to help me deal with the change in our relationship and how it’s affecting me. Nobody knows what’s going on with Valerie except Valerie and she’s not talking! Valerie is just biting people’s heads off.”

“So it’s not just you.” It’s more of a statement than a question.

“No, but so far it’s people related to me. It’s me and Al because Al is closest to me. I don’t know if she’s said anything to Christian. Elliot’s not immune. I don’t know if she’s had any words with any of the Greys. Our friend Gary won’t engage because he’s afraid he’s going to be next. Maxie and Phil are pretty much Switzerland, so she won’t snap at them.”

“Okay, but Al has been your friend longer than Val, and your relationship hasn’t changed in terms of being close and leaning on each other. You changed, he changed. You guys grew together…”

“Well, it wasn’t an option,” I tell the good doctor. “He’s my best friend. He’s seen me through some of the worst parts of my life. We just knew what had to be done.”

“And apparently, your friend Valerie missed the memo. She’s lashing out at the people who are the closest to her, you in particular.”

Jesus, yes, that’s exactly what she’s doing. She’s got Gary cowering in a corner and she’s biting mine and Al’s head off. I frown. I’m the one that’s closest to her besides maybe Elliot.

“Maybe you should talk to your brother, Mr. Grey,” he says to Christian. “He might be able to shed a little light on the situation.”

“He doesn’t have to,” I interject. “Elliot spoke to me when he came by to tell me that he’s wasn’t going to be at Thanksgiving dinner. He’s getting the same treatment. So she is alienating the people closest to her.” He nods.

“You guys probably want to find out what’s going on with this young lady,” Dr. Hill says. “I can’t tell you what’s wrong, but I’m thinking that maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with being jealous of you or the change in your relationship unless she’s taking that out on everyone else.” I nod. Even on her worst day, Valerie is not that petty. She can’t be. I just can’t figure out what could possibly be the issue with her. “If it is some kind of chemical imbalance, you’re going to want to find out what it is before it gets worse. That’s my opinion.”

I just nod. I don’t know where to begin with trying to find out what’s wrong with Val. I don’t even know if she’s talking to Maxie to try to get some help. Oh, well…

“Now, in terms of you, while I’m concerned about your friend, I’m only concerned to the degree that her condition affects you. You’re my patient. I’m actually recommending that you have at least one professional de-stressing massage per week along with regular meditation. They will help you release the stress of the day and week and focus your energy on your healing, your memory, and your overall recovery. The massages are almost as good as meditation in terms of helping you focus, because different pressure points will draw out different thoughts and assist in your focus. Have those massages anytime you feel stress, but at least once a week. I’m actually prescribing that to you.” He starts to write in my chart.

“Mr. Grey, you’re going to be tempted to give her these massages. When the mood hits you, by all means, give your wife a massage—it’s going to assist in her overall relaxation. However, the de-stressing massage is a specific therapeutic massage and has to be done by a professional.” Christian nods.

“Duly noted,” he says.

“In terms of regaining your memory,” he begins, “your recollection is better than most. Let it flow. Things will come back as they come back. You are recalling things pretty quickly and I’m glad to see that you haven’t lost so much of your memory that you feel alienated from your primary support system—your family and friends. As you well know, that can be quite traumatizing and you’ve had enough trauma already. I realize that what you have already experienced is quite traumatizing, so imagine also having to deal with not knowing what your life is at all. You have a great support system even though one of your friends is acting strangely. When you were unconscious, this room was never empty. Having said all of this, I want you to take it easy with work…”

“Well, I’ve closed my practice and there’s basically only Helping Hands left.” He nods.

“In that case, I don’t see any reason why you can’t pick up your charity work at Helping Hands, but I still want you to take it easy.” I nod. That makes me feel a lot better.

“Thank you, Dr. Hill. I’ll be sure to take it easy, but I’m really anxious to get back to my work at the Center.”

“Keep me posted. I’m going to want to do a CT scan, but it can wait until after the babies are born. Other than that, it looks like we’re all settled.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Christian says as I stand and he helps me into my coat.

“My pleasure. So, Mr. Grey, have I won you over yet?” he asks Christian.

“Not quite, but you seem competent enough, so I won’t fire you yet,” Christian says, only half-serious. Don’t push it, Doc. You’re not that friendly.

Dr. Hill’s finally instructions involved taking pain pills as needed that are approved by my OB/GYN and to watch out for nausea and dizziness that seem outside of the norm. He told me not to be worried or get too frustrated with short-term memory loss and it’s to be expected in my condition. I just need to watch for anything particularly unusual during the course of time, but for the most part, I’m on the mend.

Christian tells me about his day on our way home from the hospital. I knew that little curmudgeon from the Adopt-A-Family Affair was going to end up blacklisted or something, so that doesn’t surprise me. What I didn’t know was that Christian was paying attention to the little kumquat that came on to me. I feel a bit embarrassed by the whole thing, but somewhat vindicated by the fact that Christian knew who she was and called her grandfather to alert him of her behavior.

He also told me the bad news about today—about the wife of the traitor that showed up in his office today and about his possible head-butt with some corrupt overseas officials. Neither of these situations sit well with me, but I tell him to keep me posted on them as I don’t like being kept out of the loop. The thing is that when it comes down to the traitor’s wife, I’m out of the loop anyway and always have been. There are some things I would just rather not know.

The house is quiet when we get back, more quiet than I’m accustomed to. Gail isn’t puttering around and neither is any of the staff. It’s late afternoon now, and Christian hasn’t had any lunch. I go into the kitchen to fix something for him and I swear, it’s like alarm bells go off somewhere in my house each time I cross the threshold into my kitchen. Like clockwork, someone always shows up seconds after I put my hands on the refrigerator handle and asks me what they can get for me. I understand that no one has to stand guard in the kitchen, but it never fails—if I touch that handle, someone appears. By the time I’ve opened the refrigerator, I really don’t need you anymore, do I? I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a hard-nosed or ball-busting bitch, but honestly, what’s the purpose of coming up behind me after I’m bending over in the refrigerator? If I’m looking for a snack, I can most likely get it myself now, right?

I must have thrown some look of death at this poor girl, because when I stand upright, she takes three steps back when she sees me, prompting Christian to come around the island and pull me from the refrigerator.

“Mrs. Grey was looking for something for me for lunch,” he says, holding me around my waist.

“Would you… like for me to fix you something?” she asks, cautiously, and I feel a little chastised for being so nonverbally aggressive.

“Yes, please,” Christian says, still gently guiding me away from the refrigerator. “Anything we have will be fine.” She turns a careful gaze to me.

“Mrs. Grey,” I’ve scared the pants off this poor girl. “Would you like something, too?” Why the hell am I suddenly so crabby? There was no need to glare at the girl like that when she was only trying to do her job.

“No,” I begin, still a bit bemused by my behavior. “No. Thank you, no… I’ve eaten already,” I say, trying not to sound bitter. I need to get out of the kitchen and let her work. I turn back to Christian. “I’m going to my office.” He doesn’t release me. Instead, he looks into my eyes and waits for a moment.

“Are you okay?” he asks, concerned. I sigh.

“I don’t know,” I respond honestly. “Suddenly, I just feel so irritated and I have no idea why. I must’ve given that poor girl the ice glare.”

“That, you did, baby,” he says, softly, and I see her stiffen. “Was it the subject of Valerie? Or the conversation that we had in the car?” I shrug.

“I don’t know. I think I just need to get this bug out of my butt,” I say with a shrug. “I’m anxious to get back into the swing of things. Maybe that’s all it is. I’m going downstairs for a bit. I’ll give Mare a call and let her know that our schedule starts tomorrow and we need to start getting some ducks in a row.” Maybe I’ll feel like my old self again if I just start doing the things I’m used to doing. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been in any resemblance of my old routine.

“Remember, the doctor said take it easy. Baby steps, okay?” he chides, gently. I nod.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Grey. I won’t overdo it.” He kisses me on the cheek and I head towards the elevator. As I’m passing the kitchen island, I see a perfectly prepared cranberry spritzer on ice in a tall glass with three fresh cranberries and garnished with a lemon shaving. I look at the peace offering—totally unnecessary, since I was the one being the arse—and smile. I gratefully take the glass. Cranberry Spritzer

“Thank you,” I say sweetly, trying to portray my apologies for acting so cold earlier. She turns around and greets me with a warm smile.

“You’re welcome, Mrs. Grey.”


 

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

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Love and handcuffs 🙂
Lynn X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 22—Thankful Again

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…

Table

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE GREYS

Chapter 22—Thankful Again

ANASTASIA

After an extremely blissful sleep, I stretch to get the blood flowing to my extremities. I open my eyes and—due to Christian’s light-eliminating drapes—I can’t quite focus. I rub them gently to see if I’m truly seeing what I think I’m seeing. I’m facing my husband; he’s sound asleep with his arm around me as usual… and he’s smiling! I don’t ever remember him smiling in his sleep since the day we met! Ever!

I just watch him and wonder what he’s thinking about. One thing never changes, though. He can always sense when I’m watching him. Sleepy gray eyes open to capture mine and I don’t bother trying to hide my Grey-gazing.

“Where are we?” he asks sweetly.

“In bed,” I reply. He closes his eyes and opens them again.

“So we are,” he says, still half asleep. He curls his arms tighter around me, pulling me closer to him and somehow fitting us together like a puzzle. I feel warm and secure in his arms… and protected. An air of contentment is flowing off of him and he kisses me on my cheek. “Good morning, Mrs. Grey,” he breathes, brushing his lips over my jawline.

“Good morning,” I purr, loving the early morning attention. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Happy Thanksgiving to you, too,” he replies, still planting soft, chaste kisses on my cheek.

“What were you dreaming about?” I ask. He moans… well, a gentle hum is more like it.

“A little girl and a little boy,” he says, between kisses, “playing out back at the beach, splashing in the water.” His kisses soften, moving closer to my mouth. “And a beautiful woman laughing and playing with them. It’s a wonderful sight.”

‘It sounds like it,” I say, closing my eyes as his gentle pecks become open-mouthed kisses on my chin and neck. “And where are you?”

“Sitting on the rocks,” he says, the soft and wet kisses now reaching my lips. “Watching and laughing along with this beautiful scene,” kiss, kiss, “and thinking what a lucky man I am.”

“You are?” I breathe, trying not to turn this tender moment into a sexfest. He’s driving me crazy with just these small gestures and the happiness that I feel in his kiss and hear in his voice as he describes his dream.

“I am,” he says, sincerely, but sensually. “And just when the little girl says ‘Daddy, come play,’ the beautiful woman turns around and gives me the most breathtaking smile I’ve ever seen.” His kisses are getting deeper. “And I open my eyes and she’s lying next to me, with that same beautiful look in her eyes, stealing my heart away.”

He kisses me deeper, not harder—just longer and more passionate. When he pulls his face away from mine, he lifts my leg over his hip and I feel him slide effortlessly into me. When did he take off his PJ’s?

“Ah, Christian?” I whine, taken completely off guard.

“Yes, baby?” he says, placing his hand in the small of my back and holding me against him as he slides sensually in and out of me. Was I going to say something? I’m bursting with warmth and pleasure, so much… I close my eyes and try to breathe, absorbing all of his emotion. My chest is heavy, like I’m not getting enough air.

“You look so sensual,” he says, his face breaths away from mine. “You’re glorious!” he adds, moving his other hand up to the back of my neck, ensnaring my entire body. I’m trapped in his embrace, safe in his arms, surrounded by his love…

“Christian…” What wanton creature was that? Her voice sounds almost ethereal. I can hear her breathing inside my ears. It can’t be me… can it?

He’s barely moving, loving me deep and slow, filling me but only pulling out enough for me to feel the fullness. His movements are slow and methodical, concentrating on one space, one sensation. I’m rising fast… so fast. No part of our bodies is separated. I tighten my leg around his hip, urging him to move faster… harder…

“No, baby,” he chides gently. “Relax… relax and let me love you…” So I do. I relax my legs, my muscles, every part of me and surrender myself to him. My body is mush and the feeling is so exquisite that I can’t even moan. I can only hold my mouth open and breathe, my arms trapped between our bodies as he owns this moment.

“Open your eyes, baby,” he says softly. “Let me see you…” I sleepily open my eyes and gaze at my husband. He’s in total control, watching me closely like he’s gauging my reactions. His pupils dilate, but his movements never change; his expression doesn’t falter.

“I loved you before I was created,” he says, nipping gently at my chin, “and I will love you long after my demise.” Oh my God, where did he pull that from? I feel like I’m going to implode!

“You are everything beautiful and wonderful and perfect in my life… every cell of me needs every cell of you,” he whispers. Okay, I’m definitely going to implode. What do you say to that? How about nothing? How about you just let him keep talking and making you feel like the most priceless creature on the planet?

“Mon Dieu…” I breathe, preparing myself to be torn inside out. His stroke never changes, nor does his facial expression, even though I can feel him getting harder inside of me.

“You’re exquisite, my love, breathtaking and astounding… and you’re mine. I’m unworthy and blessed because you belong to me.”

“Ah… Christian…” my love, my soul… my beloved husband… how do I tell you…?

“Ssshhh,” he soothes as if he’s reading my thoughts. “You are mine… and I am yours… completely yours…”

Yes, Christian. I am yours. I belong to you—wholly and completely—and you, my love, are mine.

A warming tingling feeling begins in my back where he’s holding me against him. He plants open-mouthed kisses on my neck and collarbone. His tongue caresses the skin under my chin, around my jaw and near my ear. When he gently sucks my earlobe into his mouth, then bites down, grazing it with his teeth, I see flashes of light behind my eyelids and that tingling in my back becomes bursts of fire like skyrockets exploding through my body. I tense involuntarily, clinging to his T-shirt and trembling uncontrollably. I take in three large gasps of air, but this orgasm—this feeling of a thousand tiny pleasure fingers raking all over my body—has snatched my breath away and I can’t make a sound. He buries his face in my neck and I feel his eyes squeeze shut tight as his body stiffens and he pulls me hard against him.

“Ana!” It’s a desperate, breathy whisper and I feel him throbbing as he empties inside of me. Oh God, it’s sparks me again—if I ever came down—and tiny bursts of pleasure sweep through my body again as my husband rides out his orgasm. Oh my God, what was that? That was the most draining and yet invigorating orgasm I’ve ever had in my life. What in the world has gotten into my husband?

I almost just want to go back to sleep after that, but there’s too much to oversee to make sure everything goes well today and I don’t have Marilyn to help me. Christian made getting started easier, though. He gently carried me to the shower and made sure that every crevice was clean. He washed and conditioned these super-long tresses before lovingly combing out the tangles and putting it into a looped ponytail for me. We have a plan for our dinner attire and everyone has been instructed to dress casually, so while we are setting things up for the day, I’ll be wearing sweats and a T-shirt and change into dinner attire later. Seeing that I am opting for something comfy and not-to-special, Christian gets one of the sporty scarves from my collection and wraps it craftily around my head covering the short-hair spot and allowing my ponytail to fall out in the back.

tipsaholic-beach-messy-bun-with-head-scarf“How did you learn to do that?” I ask, admiring my headdress.

“A little birdie showed me,” he says. I look at him skeptically. “YouTube,” he admits and kisses my nose. I’m truly moved by his gesture and I kiss him gently on the cheek.

“That’s incredibly sweet,” I say, unable to hide my admiration.

“Anything for my Butterfly,” he replies, cradling my chin. “Let’s go get things started before I take you back to bed.” I blink coyly.

“Yes, Mr. Grey.” He smiles and takes my hand, leading me to the elevator.

Al is always the first to arrive, but I’m pleased to see that he and James have arrived to join us for breakfast. Christian asked him to come early knowing that Marilyn wouldn’t be here and that I would most likely need some help. I’m so glad to see my best friend. He looks fantastic… refreshed, even. He’s certainly a sight for sore eyes.

“Have you seen the whole house?” I ask him after he hugs me warmly.

“I’ve seen some of it. Luckily, we’ve got four days, because I have a feeling that’s how long it’s going to take me to see the whole thing. Oh, but the facade is divine!”

“Wait until you see the rest. It’s like a dream,” I tell him as I lead him to my office. “I never thought I would ever, ever live anywhere like this in my whole life. It’s so perfect and I’m still learning my way around. There are a few rooms missing, so to speak, but Christian and I will tackle those once the babies are born.” Al nods and looks conspiratorially back down the hall from where we came. “What’s going on, Allen?” I ask once we get into the office.

“I’m so glad we’re alone. I thought I would burst if I didn’t tell you soon.” He thrusts his hand out to me and there I see the most beautiful diamond and platinum ring. I gasp.

unique-mens-diamond-wedding-rings“Al,” I breathe, snatching his hand to get a closer look at this gorgeous creation. “Did you get married?”

“No,” he answers nearly bubbling over. “We’re engaged. We’re getting married next spring!” He’s almost jumping out of his skin.

“Oh, Allen! I’m so happy for you!” I say, nearly moved to tears. “What brought this on?”

“You did, Jewel.” Me? How did I bring this on? “He said that he’s watched Christian over these last few months and how he did everything in his power to keep his family safe and happy; that even with all of his money, he couldn’t prevent tragedy from falling upon him. He watched Christian run from city to city and state to state trying to protect the things and people closest to him and when it all came down to it, nothing he did could have saved you from the accident. Just when it looked like he was getting to the bottom of things, another monster reared its ugly head and he almost lost you. James said that—at the risk of sounding cliché—it made him realize how short and precious life is. You hear it every day, that things can change in an instant and just like that, what you have can be gone or someone that you love can be snatched from you.” He sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk and I sit in the other one facing him.

“I thought you were a goner, Jewel,” he says, his voice cracking. “I didn’t recognize you when I saw you. It was…” He has to take a moment to compose himself. “Your entire face was bandaged except for one eye and it was swollen shut. They said your ear was…” He starts to weep. I take his hand in both of mine.

“I’m okay, now, Al,” I say softly. “It was a close call and I know it could have been catastrophic, but it wasn’t. I’m here and I’m fine. My brain is still a little corked, but I didn’t kick the bucket and I didn’t lose my babies. I’d say we won this one, huh?” He nods, still weeping.

“The ‘could-have-been,’ Jewel,” he sobs. “I don’t know what I would have done. I know it’s selfish and we should have been thinking of Christian. He never left that room… not once, but I couldn’t think of him. I could only think of myself and how I would possibly go on without my split-apart.” And now, I’m crying, too. It is a harrowing thought. I don’t know how I would go on without him either. I love Christian. With all my heart, I love him, but I would feel like a part of me was missing forever if something happened to Allen.

“I understand,” I whisper through my tears, clinging to his hand. There’s nothing else I can say.

“That woman—the one who hit you, Naomi—I’m glad she’s dead.” I raise my head and look at him, eyes wide. “I know it’s a horrible thing to say, and one day, I’ll ask for forgiveness… but not today,” he weeps. “Not today.”

“Ssshh,” I soothe him through my own tears. “This is supposed to be a happy time for you. You’re supposed to be giving me good news,” I scold gently. He nods and pulls a handkerchief from his pocket. He’s never carried handkerchiefs before. I guess Christian’s influence is rubbing off on him.

“I know,” he says fighting to compose himself. He takes several deep breaths. “I’m glad you didn’t die, Jewel,” he says as he dries his tears. “I would have found that woman. I swear to God, I would have found her.”

“I know,” I say, squeezing his free hand. “I’m not glad that she’s dead per se, but let’s just say that I’m not mourning her passing.” I pull one of Christian’s handkerchiefs out of my bra and wipe my face.

“James just came home last night and dropped down in front of me on both knees. I was sitting on the bed organizing what we were packing for this weekend. He just blurted it out. He said he wanted to marry me. That he was in love with me.”

“What did you say then?” I ask.

“I said, ‘no.’” You said what? My expression must have asked every question my mind was thinking. “I was sure that he was just being overly emotional and that he was going to regret the situation later. Of course, I want to marry him, but I don’t want it to be some spur-of-the-moment, ‘I’m scared’ thing. That’s when he showed me the ring.” He’s getting weepy again, but quickly composes himself. “He told me everything that he was thinking when you were in the coma. The one thing that kept going through his head, he said, was that he kept asking himself if he could live with me not being his if something like that happened to me tomorrow. He said he didn’t want to wait another second and I had to convince him not to go to City Hall tomorrow.”

“Why not?” I ask. What’s stopping you?

“Well, for one thing, City Hall is not open tomorrow,” he laughs. “But for another, I don’t want anything dramatic, but I don’t want it to be that informal. Something small, but not cold… and I can’t do it without my Jewel.” And the tears start to fall again. “Besides being my best friend and soulmate, you’re the whole reason this happened, and not because of the accident. Because you convinced him to tell me how he felt in the first place, and you convinced me not to be afraid of my feelings, and you held me together when I thought he was leaving me for Jose. He and Christian are pretty close, too, and I think he would want Christian there. So… there you have it.” I smile through my tears and clean my cheeks again.

“I guess we have another wedding to plan, huh?” I laugh.

“I guess so. It looks like the entire Scooby Gang is going to be married soon, huh?” he says and I immediately think of Elliot and Val.

“Well,” I say, changing my train of thought, “Marilyn and Gary have gone to Portland to introduce Gary to the family, but Mare assures me that there are no wedding bells in the immediate future.”

“They’re both young,” he says. “They have plenty of time. They may even decide that they want someone else.”

“This is true,” I concur.

“Then there’s Valerie and Elliot.” I don’t raise my head. “She’ll always be part of the original Scooby Gang, even though right now she’s acting like a lion with a violent ass infestation of fleas.” Eeeeewwww! That is such a horrible visual.

“Al! Good fuck, that’s awful!”

“Do you have a better description?” I shrug. No, I don’t. “Will we be graced with her presence today?”

“Fortunately not,” I respond. “Unfortunately, that means that Elliot won’t be here either.”

“How does Christian feel about that?”

“None too happy, and I don’t know if he’s told the rest of his family… or if Elliot has, but I won’t be the bearer of that bad news.”

“I hear ya,” he says. He looks down at his ring again. “It’s really very beautiful.”

“Yes, it is,” I agree. “I’ve never seen an engagement ring for a man, but I would have to say the setting is perfect…” Before I finish my thought, the intercom buzzes. “Yes?”

“Mrs. Grey, breakfast is ready. Would please meet us in the dining room and feed my beautiful wife and children?” His voice makes me melt. “Oh, and I guess you can bring my freeloading head of legal with you, too.” Al laughs loudly.

“You love me and you know it!” Al retorts.

“We’re on our way, darling,” I say with a smile. Al and I stand. I link my arm in his.

“Congratulations, Yin,” I kiss him on the cheek. “I love you.”

“Thank you, Yang, and I love you, too.” He puts his hand over mine and escorts me to breakfast.

Chuck and Keri are already at the table and Keri is positively glowing! She looks rested and refreshed, and Chuck looks like the cat who caught the canary. I wonder if everyone had the same morning Christian and I had… or if Chuck gave in last night and took the pain meds, finally allowing poor Keri to get some rest. There’s no sign of discomfort from him and quite a bit of canoodling between the two of them, so I would say that it’s probably both.

“Good morning, everyone,” I chirp when Al and I enter the dining room. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Well, you’re in a particularly good mood today,” Gail points out as she places a platter of some delectable looking egg creation on the table.

“It’s a beautiful day. It’s my first Thanksgiving in my new home. My family and friends are all going to be here. I’m happy and lucky to be alive… I am just so ready for new beginnings and great things.” I squeeze Al’s arm. He pats my hand and smiles before taking the chair that his fiancé has pulled out for him.

“That’s certainly a healthy outlook on life,” Jason says.

“I wholeheartedly agree.” I walk over to James and kiss him on the cheek. “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good visit.”

“Too long,” he says in that caramel-smooth voice, flashing that smile that made me forget he was gay when we first met.

“You worked tirelessly during the hacker situation. I know my husband couldn’t have done it without you. He might still be looking for that asshole right now if it weren’t for you. Thank you.”

“He paid me well,” he jests, but not. I know that Christian paid him handsomely for his work. “He’s become a friend—a reluctant friend and I can understand why, but a friend nonetheless. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t offered some kind of assistance… and Allie would have never given me a moment’s peace.” He smiles. “Did he tell you? I know he told you.”

“He did,” I smile. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“What are you two conspiring over there? I’m ready to eat!” Jason interrupts us and we all sit down to Thanksgiving breakfast.

Now I don’t know how we are supposed to function after this meal or how we’re supposed to attack the mammoth endeavor that is Thanksgiving dinner. We had egg and cheese frittata, fried rice discs under over easy eggs and Canadian bacon—a breakfast stack, they called it; bacon and leek quiche; banana-coconut pancakes; tornado hash browns; buttermilk biscuits; glazed maple walnut kringle; chocolate-cheesecake muffins; and blackberry buttermilk smoothies. I told Gail that I want something this decadent for my first breakfast after I have my babies. I already hate hospital food and I’m sure that I won’t want whatever selection they have for breakfast after all that pushing.

Like the best friend that he is, Al runs around the house helping me make sure that everything is perfect. Keri helps, too, which I really appreciate since she’s a guest, but I know that she really wants something to do besides sitting around worrying about Chuck. I’m concerned that with all this room and all these people and all this help, I’m still going to forget something…

Are all of the mini-fridges stocked enough?
Do we have enough alcohol and beverages for everyone’s taste?
Have we made the correct accommodations for Pops with his illness and mobility issues?
Will everyone be comfortable in the rooms that we’ve chosen?

Nobody told me until today that the boat resort will be security central for the holidays. So at the last minute, I’m trying to make sure that the sleeping accommodations out there are acceptable as well as enough food for those who will be working on Thanksgiving or required to stay overnight. I know that Jason has a “security central” in one of the many hidden rooms in the mansion—and I know that there are many—but this is going to be the meeting place, check-in location, shift-change and break area, football hub, etc., so I want it to be as comfortable as possible.

Most of everything that needs to be done is in my head, so Allen makes sure that I don’t run around like a headless chicken. There will be no lunch today since breakfast was massive and dinner will be served at four, but there are plenty of snacks, covered trays, and hors d’oeuvres if anyone gets hungry.

I also spend this time getting to know Keri a little better. It turns out that she’s an only child and her mother passed away several years ago. She does have cousins, aunts, and uncles, but her relationship with her father is strained at best. He wasn’t present when her mother passed and hasn’t been a constant in her life since she was a child. She’s a teacher at one of the private schools in Anguilla. The island is so small, it makes me wonder just how many schools Anguilla has.

She’s of British citizenship since Anguilla is one of the British Overseas Territories. She’s here under the visa waiver program and she can stay for up to 90 days before she has to return to Anguilla. She wants to stay until Chuck’s leg heals and he can walk around on his own, which should be just over the two-month mark, at which time he should already be in physical therapy. It’s watching the pain that gets to her. It’s not as bad as it was, but it’s only been three weeks and he’s still hurting a lot. He broke both bones in his leg, so he can’t support any weight on it whatsoever. Because one bone often helps to support the other, it may take longer to heal, which means more pain. That collapsed lung and the broken ribs are probably the worst since he’s not in any kind of immobilization apparatus and still has to breathe deeply to promote the healing of his lung. The pain from the ribs will most likely last longer than the pain in his leg. I couldn’t imagine any of this recuperation without the assistance of pain meds, and I’ve learned that my assumption this morning was still incorrect. He flat out refuses to take them.

It’s easy to see that Keri is exhausted. Chuck was involuntarily medicated while in the hospital because he was unconscious. When he awoke, he was still on the meds begrudgingly because of prior needed surgical procedures. Once he was coherent enough to turn them down, he refused them, and he’s been in pain ever since. It’s affecting her tremendously because you just can’t turn off your feelings and ignore the pain when someone that you love is hurting. She has to sit and watch him hurt, and again, I can’t imagine seeing Christian in pain and unable to make it go away. I moved back to my condo that first year that he got the flu and he couldn’t take it. The flu!

I think this weekend is actually going to be good for her. We will be eating great food over the next several days, doing some extensive shopping tomorrow and the spa tomorrow afternoon. She and Chuck will get to spend some quality time with each other on Saturday night as many of us will be going to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. There will be a lot of bonding time as they are guests of ours for the next several weeks and Chuck is not here as an employee. I can only hope that this will help lighten the load that she’s bearing.

It’s very early afternoon when it appears that everything is as organized as it’s going to get. We have snacked a bit to keep from eating too much and we have kept moving to get the digestive system flowing. Our weekend guests will be arriving soon, so we make sure that Al and James are settled in their room before Christian and I go to change our clothes.

“Christian, has anyone mentioned to your parents that Elliot is not joining us?” I ask as I slip into a comfortable pair of white maternity skinny jeans. Christian sighs.

“Elliot told her that he would rather keep the peace than spoil anyone’s holiday. Thanksgiving is at my house, so…” He shrugs. “Even if it were somewhere else, they certainly couldn’t expect for my new wife to uninvite herself from Thanksgiving.”

“I so hate that this is happening,” I lament. “It just doesn’t make any sense. I’m remembering some of what happened on my birthday, but there must be something that I’m missing because I can’t seem to think of anything that would cause us to fall out this severely.”

“No, you’re not missing anything, Butterfly,” he says as he slides into a pair of white jeans. “We all witnessed the meltdown, and I’m told that several people witnessed the initial confrontation. She’s just acting completely unreasonable and no one actually knows why.”

“How did Grace and Carrick take it—Elliot’s absence, I mean?” I ask, pulling on my black T-shirt.

“He told me that Dad was pretty quiet—which means he was pissed—but Mom went nuclear. Mia doesn’t know that he’s not going to be here because he just told us, so I imagine that’s going to be another meltdown. I’m not looking forward to that.” I put on some clean socks and my white skippies while Christian just slides into a pair of deck shoes. We’re ready except for my hair.

“I hope people will just relax and have fun today, in spite of the discord that seems to be floating in the air.”

“Well, there’s no discord here, Mrs. Grey,” he says as he unties my head scarf. He leads me to my dressing room and sits me at my vanity. He runs his finger through my hair and gently massages my scalp. He arranges my hair in the long, flowy “Cher” style I wore last Christmas and holds my hair down over the short spot with a sporty black and white striped headband.

“You’re so perfect,” he says, kissing my nose.

“So are you, Mr. Grey,” I say, wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing tight while laying my head on his chest. “So are you.”


 

CHRISTIAN

“Oh my God, you two look adorable!” My mother says when we greet her and my father at the front door. Ana and I are dressed like the Bobbsey Twins, both in black T-shirts and white jeans. Ana’s shirt has a heart right over her stomach with the word “bump” written inside it. My shirt has big block letters right across the chest that read “The Man Behind The Bump.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I tell her, kissing her on the cheek. “I’m so glad that you’re here.” Her eyes grow large.

“What is it, son? What’s wrong?” I smile.

“Nothing’s wrong, Mom. I’m just glad you’re here. You too, Dad,” I say extending my hand to my father.

“Glad to be here, Christian. This is quite a place you have here,” he says, looking around the grand entry.

“Yes, it is,” Butterfly chimes in. “I live here and I’m still trying to get the lay of the land myself.”

“Well, just from what I’m seeing, it really is absolutely stunning.”

“Thanks, Mom. Look, there’s lots and lots of house to see. I’ll have Windsor show you guys to your rooms and then you can roam around until your heart’s content.” I look over at my grandfather, who is now in a motorized wheelchair. I know this means that his health is deteriorating and he’s going to need a kidney sooner rather than later. I lean down to his chair.

“Hi Pops,” I greet him, with a smile.

“Christian!” Pops exclaims. “This is really something!”

“I’ll say!” Uncle Herman chimes in. “You’ve got great taste!”

“Yeah, it’s a statement in ‘everything your heart desires,’ but only the best for my girl.” Butterfly blushes. I gesture to the butler to come and get their bags. “Windsor, please show my parents to guest room one upstairs. Show my uncle and grandfather to guest suite three downstairs.” Windsor nods and gathers my family’s things.

“Please follow me, Mr. and Mrs. Grey, sirs,” he gestures to my father and grandfather.

“You guys have the larger suite on the lower level. It’s the only one with two bedrooms. As you can see, this place is huge, so we have a voice activated intercom system in case of emergencies. We got you an adjustable bed, Pops,” I tell him. “You’ll be very comfortable.”

“Christian, you shouldn’t have gone through the trouble,” Pops says.

“It was no trouble, and you’ll thank me for it later.” I smile. “Windsor is going to take you around to the elevator and show you to your rooms.”

“Elevator!” Mom says in surprise.

“Again, very large house, very pregnant and fragile wife. There are actually two elevators.”

“I’m not that fragile,” Butterfly protests, hitting me on the arm. I rub the spot where she hit me in mock pain.

“Okay, okay,” I whine to everyone’s amusement. “Windsor, why don’t you show my parents to their room and I’ll take my grandfather and uncle downstairs.”

“Yes, sir. Please follow me,” he says to my parents.

Uncle Herman and Pops are even more fascinated by the splendor of the house as we take them on a mini-tour of the rooms we travel through to get to the guest suite. I discover that my grandfather is a water spirit like my wife, and he is stunned into silence by the Grecian aquarium in the entertaining room. Uncle Herman leans in close to me.

“If Dad comes up missing, you’ll know where to find him,” he says, pointing to the aquarium. I chuckle quietly.

“You like it?” Butterfly asks quietly, standing next to Pops.

“It’s breathtaking,” Pops responds, gazing at that fish as if he would dream to be one of them.

“It’s my favorite,” Butterfly adds, turning to gaze at the fish herself. Pops looks up at her.

“You have more than one?” he asks like a seven-year-old in wonder.

“Yes,” she smiles down at him. “I have another wall aquarium in my spa, and there’s a smaller one in the wall that connects Christian’s and my office. I promise to show them to you later.”

“Why later? They can show me the bed anytime. I want to see the fishes now!” Fishes… oh, good Lord. Butterfly laughs that genuine enchanted laugh that makes both me and my uncle gaze at her. Why is my uncle gazing at my wife?

“Okay, Pops,” she says, adopting my name for my grandfather as she squeezes his hand. “My spa is in the same direction as your apartment. We’ll go our way and let the gentlemen get you guys settled. Do you two mind?” I look at Uncle Herman.

“No, but be warned. You’ll never be able to shake him now,” he says. Butterfly laughs.

“Well, that’s just fine by me,” she says, squeezing Pops’ hand again…

“So when did the wheelchair become a necessity?” I ask Uncle Herman when we’re alone in their suite. He sighs.

“About two weeks ago,” he says, “when Annie was in the hospital.” Annie? I don’t know if she’ll like that. I don’t know if I like that. Ray is the only one that calls her Annie. “You know he’s already elderly and frail, and the health issues just aren’t helping matters any. He’s getting weaker, Christian. He’s barely able to walk most days. He can get around if he needs to, but it’s getting harder and harder with each passing day.” He puts his face in his hands. “God, I miss Shannon.”

“Shannon?” I ask. He raises his head, his brow furrowed.

“Wow. I thought Annie would have told you by now.” And there he goes with that Annie shit again. He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. “Shannon is my ex-wife. I fucked that up big time. Whenever holidays come around, I think about her a lot.” He pulls a picture out of his wallet and hands it to me. “I really miss her.” I take the picture from his hand and it looks like an old picture of my very beautiful wife.

“Is this some kind of joke?” I say frowning. He shakes his head.

“No, son, it’s not,” he says, reaching into his wallet for another picture and handing it to me. It’s a picture of him in a tux standing next to—whoever this woman is, in a wedding dress.

“That’s my Shannon,” he says. “Annie caught me staring at her a while back and saw fit to put me in my place before you caught on. I assured her that it wasn’t what she thought—that she reminded me of Shannon and if she caught me looking, it’s only because I saw my wife in her.” I hand him back the pictures and he gazes at them with real pain in his eyes. “She loved the holidays… loves the holidays. Only now, she’s loving them with someone else.”

“You say that you fucked up. You cheated?” I ask. He nods.

“She never trusted me again and just like that, it was over.” He put the pictures back in his wallet. “No need to worry, though. Annie’s kind and sweet like Shannon, but she’s just a kid… and she’s not my Shannon, only her doppelganger.”

“Have you thought about getting out there again, seeing what’s on the market so to speak?” I ask him. He’s a good looking guy, like my father. He could find a nice, lonely widow somewhere that needs companionship, too.  He laughs sadly.

“I’d only be looking for Shannon,” he admits. “No, son. I had my chance and I blew it. I don’t want anyone else now if I can’t have my Shannon. I’m an old man, and if God hasn’t seen fit to bless me with companionship by now, maybe it’s a sign that I just have to ride out this journey alone.”

“I don’t believe that, Uncle Herman,” I tell him. “I believe that life has opportunities for you as long as you’re alive. That’s how I made my fortune. That’s how I found my wife when I wasn’t even looking for her. I was a happy bachelor. I had encounters that lasted as long as I was interested, and then I let them go. A long-term relationship was the very last thing I wanted. Then, Hurricane Anastasia came through and blew me off my feet. She wouldn’t take any of my shit; she wouldn’t kowtow to me; she gave it to me straight. We hated each other! I wanted her to heel and she wanted me to go away.”

“You’re kidding!” he says in disbelief. “Heel how? She’s an adult.” Uh-oh… think fast, Grey. No use in telling him about the whole D/s thing.

“When I say jump, people jump. They don’t ask ‘how high,’ they just do it. Here’s this 5-foot-2, 5-foot-3 little doctor lady trying to tell me what I had to do and wouldn’t do what I asked. You see, I got into an accident. A drunk driver rear-ended me and ultimately totaled my car while I was sitting at a light. I was sitting at a light and he runs smack into a $65,000 sports car! Granted, it wasn’t the money. I can replace the car, but when the police showed up, he suddenly pretended to be hurt. He said I stopped short and caused the accident. Oh, I’ll just bet that I stopped so short at a stop light that you ran into my car so hard that you took out the entire rear end.” I shake my head. I’m getting angry again just thinking about it.

“I just lost it, Uncle Herman. Decked the guy right there in front of a cop.” Uncle Herman whistles.

“Not smart, son,” he laments.

“Not smart at all,” I concur. “I went before this hard-ass judge who threw the book at me. I still don’t know why he wanted to make an example of me. I’ll admit that I was wrong for hitting the guy, but this judge—and all of law enforcement, it appears—wants to punish me because I’m rich.”

“You’re an alpha male, Christian,” Uncle Herman says. “I knew it the first day I met you… at your wedding. Authority figures don’t always do well with alpha males.” I shake my head.

“That’s why I try to stay away from them, but it couldn’t be avoided this time.” He nods. “Anyway, I got community service—which I’m ashamed to say that I bought my way out of. I also got twelve group sessions of anger management, which the stubborn ass doctor wouldn’t let me out of.”

“Let me guess, the stubborn ass doctor is now your beautiful wife…”

“You get the picture. We were at each other’s throats for about two weeks, then two weeks after that, we were kissing in my office.” Uncle Herman laughs loudly.

“You don’t waste time, do you, son?” he asks. I shake my head.

“It was a bit of an accident… on both our parts. We had another meltdown soon after that and she quit group therapy.”

“She quit?” he asks, bemused. “You made her quit?” I shrug.

“I didn’t make her quit,” I defend. “She quit because she was disenchanted with the results of group therapy, but I don’t doubt that I was the catalyst.” He nods again. “Anyway, faced with the possibility that I would never see her again, I resorted to stalking her.”

“Oh, that’s really mature,” he teases.

“I was desperate,” I admit. “I thought she would be gone out of my life for good, so I had her followed for a while and talked to a few people before I crashed her date with her ex-boyfriend.”

“She had a boyfriend when you met?” Uncle Herman asks, appalled.

“No, he was an ex when we met, but apparently he ignored the memo,” I reply sarcastically. “Butterfly was trying to let him down easily because the guy wouldn’t go away. We got together that evening and we’ve been together ever since, but he turned psychotic. We just concluded a trial about four months ago where he got over twenty years for kidnapping her and causing her bodily harm.”

“Wow…”

Uncle Herman and I talk for several more minutes before we realize that dinner will probably be served soon and we’re still sitting downstairs in the guest quarters. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m really upset that my grandfather won’t let me buy him a kidney. I know it’s illegal, but people do it all the time and Pops’ health is beginning to deteriorate quickly. I’ll try not to think about it this weekend, but next week, I’ve got to find out if there’s something more that can be done to help him.

When we get back upstairs, Mia and Ethan have arrived and Mia is fawning all over Pops as usual. She’s very fond of him and I can tell that he really loves the attention. Luckily, dinner is not being served just yet. I hear little Harry off in the distance somewhere putting up a fuss, so I know that Ray and Mandy have arrived, and I have made it just in time to greet Luma, Mariah, and Celida. The girls actually look like they’ve grown a bit when I see them and Luma looks twenty years younger in jeans and a casual blouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her dressed in jeans!

I kiss her on the cheek and introduce her to Pops and Uncle Herman. She takes an immediate interest upon discovering that Pops is waiting for a kidney.

“How long have you been on the list?” she asks, sitting next to him with a cup of hot chocolate.

“It’s been quite some time,” Pops admits. “Over ten years.”

“That is a long time,” Luma says. “I had a coworker a few years back. She waited 12 years for a kidney, but she finally got one. She’s doing fine, now.” Pops smiles.

“You don’t say?” Pops says and Luma nods.

“So don’t give up hope, Mr. Grey,” she says, smiling and squeezing his hand. He returns her smile.

“I hadn’t planned to,” he says cheerfully. “Even if they ever tell me there is no hope, I’m going to smile on my way out.” Luma nods sadly. She’s seen so much loss in her time on this earth, I can’t imagine that she wants to talk about death now. “And call me ‘Burt,” Luma. Nobody calls me ‘Mr. Grey.’” Luma smiles and moves closer to him.

“So what kind of home care are you doing right now?” she asks. They’re conversation takes off and I look to my right just in time to see a very tall young man enter the family room.

“Wow,” Butterfly says when she sees Marlow. “You’ve gotten so tall. I mean, you were already tall, but… wow!” Marlow’s maudlin look transforms into a wide, sincere smile as he and Ana walk into a full embrace.

“You scared the shit out of me,” he says softly, but not softly enough.

“Marlow!” Marcia chides.

“Sorry, Mom,” he says, still bending over and cradling Butterfly. I’ve known from the beginning that he’s had a schoolboy crush on her, and right now, I can only imagine that he’s feeling some level of the same relief that I did knowing that she’s okay—probably even more so because she remembered him right away.

“It’s okay, Marcia,” Butterfly says, pulling Marlow back so that she can get a good look at him. “That’s just how we talk. It’s always been that way… though you shouldn’t use that language around your Mom and little sister.”

“I know,” he concedes. “Mr. Grey always tells me to be mindful my language around ladies, which means I should probably be more mindful around you, too.”

“Oh, don’t you change one bit for me,” Butterfly scolds, pulling him into another embrace. “I like you just the way you are.” He smiles a content smile as he hugs my wife. He’s very, very fond of Butterfly, and he was having a very hard time of it while she was in the coma. He wouldn’t even come to the hospital to see her. He kept saying that if she was going to die, he didn’t want his last memory of her to be that of her lying helpless in a hospital bed. He called to check on her at least twice a day and I had to put Jason on Marlow-watch. I was afraid that if something happened to her, all of the hard work that we had done to this point would have been for nothing. He has told me more than once that Ana is his only real friend. He likes and respects me, but he loves Butterfly—as an emotional mentor and a confidante. He would have been unsalvageable had she not regained consciousness.

“I was afraid that you wouldn’t remember me.”

“Oh, Marlow, you underestimate your impact on the average human being,” she laughs. “I could never forget you. I remember that I called you Little Mr. Angry when I first met you; told you that I would kick your ass and you said that I was strange.” Marlow frowns.

“No, you didn’t,” he protest. “You did say that you would kick my ass, but you didn’t call me ‘Little Mr. Angry.’” Butterfly purses her lips.

“Well, you didn’t hear that part,” she says conspiratorially. “I said it under my breath while you were staring out the window at nothing.” Marlow scoffs good-naturedly.

“Yeah, you remember me,” he says with a small chuckle.

“Hello, Maggie,” Butterfly says to the shy little girl standing behind her brother. “You look very pretty today.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. Mommy said we could all wear jeans, so I wore these. They’re my favorite.” She shows Butterfly her very sparkly jeans.

“Well, I think they look very nice.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. These are for you.” She hands Butterfly a small gift bag.

“Oh, you got me a gift. You shouldn’t have.” Butterfly looks in the bag and gasps. “Lindors!”

“Mommy says every lady likes Lindors!” Maggie announces proudly. Butterfly smiles widely.

“Your mommy is right. Thank you very much, Maggie.” She leans down and gives Maggie a kiss and a hug… and I see an immediate problem. Mariah and Celida both have crestfallen looks on their faces. Just when I’m about to discreetly bring the situation to Butterfly’s attention, Mariah and Celida conspire for a few seconds before Mariah takes Celida’s hand and they walk over to Butterfly.

“Excuse me, Miss Ana,” Mariah announces proudly. “We got you somethin’, too.”

“You did?” Butterfly raises an eyebrow. Celida nods and proudly presents a lollipop from her pocket. Butterfly giggles and puts her hands over her heart, noticing the significance of this gesture immediately. She kneels down and gathers the girls in both of her arms, hugging them warmly and kissing each of them on the cheek. She holds her hand out to Maggie, who joins this syrupy display.

“You are all so wonderful! Thank you so much for my sweets and thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving with me.” All three girls beam proudly. “Maggie, may I please share my chocolates with my other friends?” Mariah’s and Celida’s eye grow wide as Maggie nods enthusiastically. Butterfly looks to Luma for approval, who nods and smiles sweetly. Butterfly turns to the two little ladies who are nearly bouncing with anticipation.

“You can each choose one to eat for later. It’ll ruin your dinner if you eat it now, okay?” They nod and each choose a chocolate from the bag. “Be careful when you eat them. They’re truffles, and they’re veeeery creamy inside, so they can get a little messy.”

“Thank you, Miss Ana. Thank you, Maggie,” Mariah says, causing Maggie to beam further. Butterfly smiles and nods and, being the little director that she is, Mariah takes the lead again.

“I’m Mariah. This is Celida. She’s my sister. Everybody calls her CeCe.” Maggie is still a little shy, but waves and smiles at the girls even though they’re only about three feet apart. “We have to sit at the kids table, but it’s like a grown-up table. I’ve never seen a kids table like this.”

“Really?” Maggie is intrigued now. I guess she’s never seen a kids table that looks like a grown-up table either. Mariah nods hard.

“Uh-huh! It’s got glasses like the grown-up glasses, and pretty, pretty plates, and real napkins!” The girls are caught up in conversation about the kids table and Marlow watches over them protectively while Marcia and Butterfly chat about her due date and Christmas on the way. I note that Marlow has effortlessly slid into the role as the man of the house since Damon Johnson is no longer a part of their life. He’s very patient with his sister and quite protective of them both. Johnson is up for parole or release soon and he’s going to be quite surprised if he tries to bully his son again. Not only has he put on some weight and bulked-up from the skinny little kid that I once knew, but he’s also a bit taller and he’s a quick study on the self-defense and fitness classes my security team has been putting his through. I’ve done some mock sparring with him every now and then and he’s got some impressive moves.

“Who’s that?” I hear Mariah ask.

“That’s my brother, Marlow,” Maggie says. “He’s a boy, but you’ll like him. He’s cool.” I nearly sputter over my drink and Marlow’s mirth is unmistakable as he receives his sister’s seal of approval. He patiently watches over the three girls as they chat about everything and nothing and I just scan the room, now filled with our family and friends. I never would have thought that I would see myself here, in my own home, with a beautiful wife and two children on the way, entertaining on Thanksgiving. I’m one lucky sonofabitch.


 

ANASTASIA

“If you will all please go to the dining room, dinner will be served in a few moments,” one of the servers announces to the gaggle of people who are occupying my home. I feel very blessed having our family and friends here, but Elliot’s absence is still the elephant in the room and as much as I hate to admit it, I miss Valerie.

We have moved to the dining room and are enjoying assorted beverages while we are taking our seats and waiting for dinner to be served. Jason inconspicuously retrieves his phone from his pocket and after looking at the screen, he leans in and says something to Gail and then something to Christian, who nods at him before he excuses himself from the table. I make note of the exchange and hope that everything is alright. Christian doesn’t seem concerned as he turns his attention back to Carrick and Grace and continues whatever conversation he was having.

A few moments later, Jason still hasn’t returned, but our attention is drawn to the slight commotion in the hallway near the Grecian columns.

“Maybe it’s this way,” I hear a woman’s voice say. Who the hell is this woman wandering around my house?

“Mo-o-om?” And there appears to be an agitated teenager wandering with her. Around the corner pops this bleached blonde woman in pants way too tight and a pair of high-heeled boots that don’t seem to fit the occasion.

“Oh!” she says, feigning surprise. “We were waiting for Jason and… Sophie just wandered off.” Sophie! Of course. Jason’s daughter. I assume this phony dragging poor Sophie behind her arm and blaming the child for her nosiness is her mother and Jason’s ex-wife.

“Oh, come off it, Mom,” Sophie says, her voice full of disdain. “I’m nearly a teenager, I don’t wander.” She folds her arms and completely ignores her mother’s scolding looks. She turns to face the other diners just as Jason is coming back into the dining room. “Daddy!” she says, her expression changing immediately as she darts towards her father. He walks around the woman and throws his arms open just in time to catch Sophie as she launches herself into the air. He laughs a deep and content laugh as he embraces his daughter.

“Hello, Baby Boo,” he says, sweetly.

“Mom says I can stay for the weekend if that’s okay with you.” He raises his eyes to his ex-wife.

“She can?” he asks her.

“Of course, she can,” the phony blonde actress coos, no doubt attempting to gain points with everyone around the table. No one knows who you are, you little fake. Christian and I know of you well, so it won’t do any good for you to try to suck up to anybody here.

“See? I told you,” Sophie says happily while Jason slides her to the floor. Jason looks over at Christian, who looks over at me. I stand from my chair.

“Well, Sophie,” I say, walking over to her, “we’re going to have a lot of people over this weekend, but we have a really big house and plenty of room. I hope you don’t mind a lot of company.”

“Not at all,” Sophie beams. “It’ll be nice to have people around.” I don’t even attempt to interpret that statement. “You must be Mrs. Grey.” I smile.

“Yes, I am. What gave it away?” I ask teasing. She returns my smile.

“You’re pregnant,” she says. “Dad calls you ‘Her Highness.’ He really likes you.” I laugh aloud.

“I really like him, too. Between me and you, your dad’s a smart aleck.” I throw a look at Jason, then put my hands on Sophie’s shoulders. “Everyone,” I say, turning around to the inquiring minds around the dinner tables. “This is Sophie, Jason’s daughter. Sophie, this is everyone. You’ll get to know them over the weekend.” She waves shyly as everyone greets her with a hello or a hi. Marlow rises from his seat.

“Hi, Sophie,” he says, walking over to us. “I’m Marlow. We have to sit at the kids’ table. It’s okay, though. They’re not whiney and messy like other kids.”

“Cool.” Sophie says with a shrug and follows Marlow over to the kids’ table. Jason clears his throat loudly.

“I know, Mr. Taylor,” Marlow says in that tone that says Jason has spoken to him two or three hundred times.

“Da-a-ad,” Sophie whines, “he just took me to my seat. He’s not trying to marry me. What are you—ninth, tenth grade?” she asks Marlow before turning back to her father. “What does he want with a 12-year-old?” This young lady is wise beyond her years. I’m very familiar with that attitude.

“Mrs. Grey, you have a beautiful house here.” Why does this woman’s voice irritate me so? I don’t even know her.

“Thank you,” I say politely. “And thank you for allowing Sophie to join us for the weekend. I’m sure Jason and Gail will love being able to spend time with her.”

“Miss Gail!” Sophie squeals from behind me. “I’m sorry!” She leaps from her chair and dashes over to Gail, throwing her arms around her neck. Gail lights up when she hugs her and smiles sincerely.

“Hey, Pumpkin, it’s okay. This is a lot to take in, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Sophie says dreamily, looking around the dining room. “It’s really nice… and the kids table is like a grown-up table—with real glasses and everything. I’ve never sat at one that big!” She seems amazed.

“Well, isn’t that sweet?” Ms. Phony says and I almost want to gag. Jason walks over to her.

“Well, Shalane, we don’t want to keep you from your plans,” he says, gesturing towards the hallway to show her out.

“What’s your rush, Jason? I have plenty of time,” she answers in a snarky tone.

“His rush, Mrs. …” Christian begins while rising from the table. He pauses and waits for someone to fill in the blank.

“Deleroy,” Jason almost hisses.

Ms. Deleroy,” she says, throwing an adoring look at Christian. Um, hello? I’m standing here!

“I see.” I feel him move and stand just behind me. “Well, Ms. Deleroy, his rush is that as you can see, we’re about to have Thanksgiving dinner with our family.” He gestures to the tables full of people. “While we do appreciate you bringing Sophie by and even more appreciate you allowing her to spend the weekend with us, we would like to get back to our dinner.” He slides his hand around my waist and I have to concentrate on not snarling at this woman. She looks from me to Christian, clearly crestfallen.

“Oh…” she says, feigning regret… though that part might be real as she didn’t get invited to join us for dinner. “I’m sorry. Yes, I do actually have plans for the evening. So, Sophie darling, have a good time.”

“Yeah, Mom,” she says, still with her arm around Gail. Ms. Deleroy mutters some sort of exiting pleasantries as Jason escorts her out of the dining room and no doubt, out of the house.

“Gosh, she is so embarrassing,” Sophie declares in a low voice.

“That’s not a nice thing to say about your mom, Pumpkin,” Gail chides gently, “especially in front of strangers.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says softly. Gail points to her cheek and Sophie smiles, kissing Gail softly on the cheek.

“We won’t tell Jason,” Gail says softly and they giggle.

“Won’t tell Jason what?” he says, back from kicking Ms. Phony out in record time.

“If we told you, then I’d be breaking my word, now wouldn’t I?” Gail says with an innocent flutter of the eyelashes.

“Don’t you two gang up on me all weekend,” he warns and Gail and Sophie giggle. “I’m sorry, Christian,” he says, only loud enough for me and Christian to hear. “I was talking to Ben at the gate and she just walked inside.”

“No harm, no foul this time,” Christian responds. “She had already been allowed onto the grounds. Just keep an eye on her when she comes to pick up Sophie.”

“Understood, sir…”

Dinner is served on the three tables we procured for the weekend and, of course, Thanksgiving at Grey Crossing is nothing less than the bee’s knees! There are three huge glazed and lacquered roast turkeys and a larger variety of gourmet sides than I’ve ever seen in my life! Roasted broccoli with pickled shallots and peanuts; blistered green beans with tomato-almond pesto; roasted squash with crispy bulgur crumbs; crusted baked macaroni and cheese; and browned butter sweet potato casserole, just to name a few. There are Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs making their way around the tables and this is the first time in a long time that I’m missing wine.

Grace and Carrick take a little while to loosen up—no doubt unhappy that Elliot’s not here. Mia pouts verbally a few times that her other brother is not in attendance as well. I can’t help but feel responsible for that and, knowing me the way that he does, Christian throws a scolding look in my direction more than once when I start to sink a bit into the melancholy. I try not to concentrate on it too much.

“Are you okay, Ana dear?” Grace has caught me in one of those pouting moments. I nod and force a smile, but I still know that it’s my fault for the most part that Elliot is not in attendance. Even though I didn’t do anything to bring this on, it’s still largely because of me that he’s not here. And let’s face it…

I miss my friend.

“I’m pregnant, Grace,” I say softly as I wipe away a stray tear. “My emotions are all over the place right now, and I have to say that the magnitude of this day is quite overwhelming.” Grace holds my hand and smiles.

“I can imagine that it is, dear.” While she’s comforting me, our attention is drawn to Christian who is gently tapping his glass.

“I don’t mean to interrupt your meal, but I don’t know when I’ll get this clan together again and I just want to thank you all for joining Ana and me in our new home for our first Thanksgiving as man and wife.” He holds his head down for a moment. “That’s a real mouthful,” he admits. “Just thinking about everything in that sentence… getting this clan together—that’s a bit of a melancholy statement. This is the first time in 27 years that I haven’t had Thanksgiving dinner with my brother…” Grace scoffs a bit at this statement. You can tell that she was hoping it would go unnoticed, but it didn’t. She caught the attention of most of the people in the room.

“I’m sorry, Christian,” she says sincerely. “Please continue.” Christian’s lips form a flat line, but he continues.

“Elliot may not be here, but we have Pops and Uncle Herman,” he smiles at his grandfather, who returns his smile while Herman takes his hand. “We have our extended family—Luma and the two little princesses and the Whiteheads. We nearly lost two of our trusted staff this year—both seriously injured in the line of protecting us, but thankfully, they are still here with us. Quite frankly, I think you two were just trying to cash in on the hazard pay.” There’s a bit of laughter at that statement before he continues.

“Gail, we would be hopeless and hungry without you…”

“Hey!” I protest loudly, eliciting more laughter from the table. Christian mocks shushing me while he continues with his impromptu speech. “Keri, we’re very happy to have you here all the way from Anguilla.” Keri smiles coyly then squeezes Chuck’s hand. “And little Sophie, we’re very happy to have you, too.”

“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” she responds in the cutest little angel voice, causing coos from all around the table.

“Mom and Dad, Allen, James, Ray and Amanda and my baby brother-in-law… Mia and of course, Ethan, you already knew that you were part of the family when you proposed to my annoying little sister…”

“You still love me,” Mia pipes in proudly and her brother winks at her.

“Last, but certainly not least, my beautiful wife.” He turns his Grey gaze to me and I’m certain that I’m going to be crying before he’s done. “You’ve opened so many new worlds for me when I thought that I knew everything there is to know. You taught me love and hope and fear…” He chokes on the last word. I reach over and gently squeeze his hand. “I never knew that I could feel all the things that I’ve felt in these last 18 months. It’s such a short period of time, but it seems like it’s been forever, because I can’t remember what life was like without you. I thought I lost you…” It’s getting harder for him to talk. “Now, in a few short months, you’re going to make me a father…”

And now the tears start. Surprisingly, it’s not me, but Christian who is crying. I rise out of my seat and put my arms around him. He pulls me close to him, and kisses my hair.

“I love you, Butterfly,” he breathes, his voice cracking.

“I love you, Christian,” I reciprocate, clinging to my husband. We take a moment, standing here in front of family and friends to exchange our feelings and draw strength from each other. Once he’s able to speak again, he raises his glass to the room without releasing me.

“Thank you all so much for being here with us…” He looks down at me. “…And for not dying.” I smile up at him and he pecks me on the lips. “Happy Thanksgiving!” he announces raising his glass higher.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” is the collective response from our family and friends.


 

A/N: I’ve only listed a few of the dishes from Thanksgiving. To see all of the dishes from Thanksgiving Dinner at Grey Crossing, go on over to the Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X