Raising Grey: Chapter 83—Basking in Barossa Valley

FUN, FUN, FUN!!!

I enjoyed writing and editing this chapter so much that there will be no warnings besides that the previous disclaimers apply. Travelling through the Barossa Valley was so much fun, and I adored the experience more than anything that I’ve written in Book IV so far, and that says a lot. Please, please, please try to follow the pictures on the Pinterest page for this chapter as you read. I guarantee it will enhance your experience immensely. They can be found at THIS LINK and there are eight Barossa Valley subheadings. If you’re a visual person like me, you won’t regret it!

Thank you all for going on this journey with me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Chapter 83—Basking in Barossa Valley

ANASTASIA

St. Hugo’s was a divine experience. It was almost spoiled by two uncouth cows who pointed me out, once again, as Christian’s bracelet, but he quickly put them in their place without saying a word directly to either of them while at the same time making me feel every bit the beautiful princess.

I still don’t understand what strikes people’s ire so much about us. I guess it’s okay to be young, rich, beautiful, or happy, but not all four. I’m not saying that my husband is a bad person, but in his business dealings, I’m certain that he has pissed off a person or three. I haven’t done anything to anybody! Yet, they come at me with their claws bared for no reason whatsoever…

Because I’m married to Christian…
Because I’m pretty…
Because we’re rich…

I don’t even know anymore. I’m working on my pledge to not let what people say about me bother me so much, but I have to admit that I’m not doing such a great job. I’ve never been able to embrace the concept of not liking someone simply for the cause of not liking them. They either think I’m a gold-digger or a trophy wife. Do they think I’m not good enough? And if not me, then who would’ve been?

What would satisfy the criteria of marrying the great Christian Grey—another billionairess? Then they would have been angry with her for being too damn ambitious and wanting too much.

He’s beautiful and he married a beautiful woman. What if he had married a dog? They would be talking about his taste and her looks.

He’s young and I’m young. What if he had married a cougar? That May-December “romance” would have gotten quite the un-rave reviews!

And God only knows what major shit they would be talking if we had marital problems splattered all over the tabloids.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, so I’m back to the way of thinking that I need to let this shit roll off of me. I just didn’t think I would be subjected to that jealous type of scrutiny in a foreign country where no one knows who we are or anything about us. I guess people are just naturally catty and there’s really nothing you can do about that.

Bearing this in mind, I have every intention of eating way too much food and drinking way too much of the delicious offerings of the region, and anybody who doesn’t like it or me can kiss the darkest, wettest part of my lily-white ass!

Jacob’s Creek is our next stop and it’s so close that we could walk. Nonetheless, I have no arguments with taking the short jaunt in this beautiful classic Chrysler. We’re adding the delicious St. Hugo’s Cabernet to our wine cellar, and we’ve decided to keep one bottle of the Screaming Eagle and one of the St. Hugo for our collection. However, I believe in living and enjoying life and I plan on drinking the rest.

Just like at St. Hugo, we enjoy four tastings from the winery’s cellar door exclusive Heritage wine collection paired with four delicious courses matched perfectly with the wine. I remember the steps involved in the tastings and what to look for—techniques taught to me by my husband on our honeymoon. I’m proud and a bit astonished that I remember these things since these are very specific details and our honeymoon was before the accident that has subdued a lot of my memories.

I combine the knowledge I received from Christian with a bit of my own knowledge and repeat the steps from the tasting at St. Hugo’s…

Hold the glass by the stem so as not to affect the temperature of the wine.
Examine the color and body of the wine. Is it dark and rich or easy to see through like colored glass?

I remember my husband speaking of the dress of the wine—the color. He taught me that that darker the color, the older the vintage. So, while some of our reds are ruby and a bit transparent, the older wines are darker, richer, and more of a brick color.

I swirl the glass and examine the legs. They’re thick and a bit heavy on some, not so much on others.

Cover my nose with the glass and absorb the smell to pick up certain notes in each vintage before I take a sip and aerate the wine to give my tongue the chance to ponder the flavor.

I make the most of the experience. Jacob’s Creek boasts fine wines and delicious dishes to tempt the palate. However, I must say that St. Hugo’s felt more personable where Jacob’s Creek seemed a bit more mass-production-commercial to me. There was even the option to have a picnic lunch on site, but even that seemed more like, “Here’s your box—now go down past the old fig tree to the creek… with all the other people who bought a box lunch.”

John’s keen senses zero in on the fact that I’m not enjoying this experience as much as St. Hugo. I don’t hate it—it just seems like a bit of a downgrade. We don’t dawdle at Jacob’s Creek for too long before we’re back on another picturesque journey to our next winery.

The Charles Melton Vineyard is a bit more my taste. This winery is quaint—the quaintness of St. Hugo, but not such a large scale. At the risk of being considered a snob, I feel that if you’re going to spend the day in wine country riding around in a vintage luxury car and spending $1000 on a single bottle of wine, none of the wineries that you visit should feel like you’re walking into a liquor store.

Charles Melton definitely meets the mark.

This winery is mainly known for its delectable shirazes and grenaches, two vintages that were somewhat unfashionable when the winery was founded in 1984 but have grown majorly in popularity since then, especially in this region. These wines aren’t as pricey as the St. Hugo, but they’re surprisingly delicious. The winery specializes in only a few blends and you get to sample them all. I’m happy to order a case of the La Belle Mere Grenache Shiraz Mataro and the Grains of Paradise Shiraz. The Grains of Paradise boast a complex sweetness reminiscent of sitting in a swing or in the grass in the meadow on a cool spring or slightly cooler summer Sunday afternoon while the Grenache begs to mature for a few years in the cellar to richen the Barossa ripeness and the boldness of the smoky, dark, sweet fruits.

We don’t get the pairing experience at Charles Melton without actually ordering a meal. However, we’re able to indulge in tastings of olive oil and cheeses, and smoked meats from the local butcher between cellar door visits.

I’m beginning to feel the effects of some of the wines by the time we reach the Yalumba Winery, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging in the Winemaker’s Lunch on the Yalumba Signature Lawn. Now, I’m already a sheet or two to the wind, not completely over the edge but feeling mighty fine. This apparently means absolutely nothing to the sommeliers at Yalumba, who for whatever reason feel that you should taste as many wines as your body can possibly hold.

I have officially lost count of how many wines we’ve tasted before we even get to lunch. You taste three to four wines—maybe five—at each winery that you visit. This place has something like 15! Just to taste! This doesn’t include the pairings with lunch. And the wines at Yalumba are devilishly delicious! There are four different heavenly Rieslings in the tasting, and I even like the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc… and Chardonnay is definitely not my thing unless it’s part of a pairing. I’m very pleasantly surprised by the Eden Valley Virgilius Viognier and the Grenache of Rosé, but I have a feeling that my prior libations may have contributed to my enjoyment of these elixirs.

We sample a concoction called Running with the Bulls Tempranillo—and not even my previous inebriation helped with that experience. That’s a definite no.

The Cabernet/Shiraz mixes make up for that experience, however—the Signature blend as well as The Scribbler blend. I can see some of these making their way back to the States with us.

Somewhere in between the seventh, eighth, tenth tasting, I don’t know, it’s time for us to have our Winemaker’s Lunch. I inform Christian that I’d like a case of the Signature and Scribbler blends. He subsequently decides that he wants the Eden Vineyard Shiraz Viognier and Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc. So, he arranges for the wines to be shipped. No sooner than he put his Amex Black back in his wallet that I turn around and come face-to-face with the same two cows that we saw at St. Hugo’s walking into the cellar door.

Now, I’m not toasted, but I’ve been officially dipped, and the filter is off.

“Oh, look, there’s second place! Or third… or tenth… or whatever,” I blurt out with a giggle while pointing at them and leaning on my husband who tries and fails to stifle a laugh. I’m sure that if they didn’t get my meaning, he did.

If I’m a trophy wife, they’re way down on the placement list!

“Come, my inebriated Butterfly,” he says, putting his arm around my waist to stable me as we leave the cellar door.

“Bye!” I say cheerfully looking over my shoulder while waving at the cows who were talking about me earlier.

“I love it when you’re like this,” he says, scooping me into his arms once we’re outside, “not too drunk but pickled just enough.”

Live acoustic music is playing on the lawn while we enjoy the sunshine, great food, and yet more wine pairings from Yalumba—Old Bush Vine Grenache and The Guardian Shiraz Viognier blend, both from Samuel’s Garden. Lunch consists of decadent courses ranging from prosciutto-wrapped scallops to lamb, Scotch fillets, and smoked salmon. Tarts, cannolis, and souffles with vanilla bean ice-cream complete our meal and we sit in the sunshine allowing it to digest a bit. After a tall, cold glass of water and a trip or two to the ladies’ room, my high has worn off a bit—not completely, but a bit, and I’m ready to hit the valley again.

I’m sitting happily snuggled in the arms of my husband in the back seat of the vintage Chrysler, smiling widely on the inside and probably on the outside as well, as we once again travel down picturesque streets with rolling green hills lined with beautiful trees. As we approach the more populated areas, we see cozy little houses and then a church, followed by more commercial-type buildings—still a bit of a small-town feel, but more business and commerce in this area… the grocery store, the cheese shop, the post office, the beauty salon.

Once again, it could be all the wine, but I’m beginning to think of John as a personal friend of ours. He has proven to be a wealth of knowledge throughout our excursion, providing entertaining commentary on the history and culture of the Barossa, the amazing wines, local characters that we’ve seen or met along the way, and the culture, architecture, and terrain of the region. It was he who suggested that we sample the cheeses, meats, and wares of the area in between our tastings to accommodate our alcohol intake from the wineries that provided tastings without parings. We quickly learn that our wine-tasting experience is bespoke, and I’m more and more pleased that John is our guide through the enchanting valley.

Our next stop is Penfolds.

We pull up at a tan stucco building in the middle of the city. I frown a bit because I’m expecting more experiences like St. Hugo’s and less like Jacob’s Creek, but even Jacob’s Creek wasn’t this commercial—full asphalt parking lot and the building looks like it could be anything… a factory, a storage facility, a hardware store. There are no vineyards, fields, or trees anywhere, and I just don’t have a good feeling about it.

Apparently, my face said that out loud.

John informs us that the Penfolds Magill Estate Winery and Cellar Door is more than an hour away, and he didn’t want us to leave Barossa Valley without having tried their flagship Grange.

“Give it a chahnce, sheila,” John says. “OI’m cehtain you won’t be disappointed.”

Well, if John says so…

We enter the well-too-lit cellar door and I feel like I’m in a liquor store again. It’s worse than Jacob’s Creek… at least they had the creek!

John tells the vintner where we’ve traveled most of the day and informs her that he thinks we’d like the “A Taste of Grange” and the “Laboratory” experience.

Though the location is missing the ambience and the je ne sais quoi of the other on-site cellar doors, the experience is still wonderful. The staff is unbelievably accommodating, and I think I tasted more wine than I did at Yalumba… and just as tasty! The Taste of Grange experience is fabulous, and our host is just as engaging as John is. We get the opportunity to taste a number of delicious luxury granges from various years. He was right and I feel a little guilty about judging the book by its stucco cover.

Oh, but the experience isn’t over yet. The “Laboratory” experience that John spoke of refers to the Winemaker’s Laboratory, where you get to create your own blend of Penfold’s to take home. I noticed that other wineries have the option available, but John never suggested it and I was too busy tasting the wines to ask about it. We each got our own lab jacket and begin the process of blending the wines to create our own custom vintage. Of course, my husband wants the perfect white blend while I aim for the perfect mixture of dark fruits and full-bodied richness characteristic of my favorite Cabernets.

More blending, more tasting, and we leave this blessed establishment with two bottles each of our custom blend—going in the Chrysler with us and they may make it onto the jet—with a personalized label on each bottle that boasts Christian and me as “Assistant Winemaker” on our respective bottles.

Of course, we can’t leave without the world-renowned Granges of Penfolds. Yes, they boast a hefty price-tag, but they’re worth every penny! We get a mixed case of the Granges including the 2012 Grange St. Louis with crystal decanter, and a second case of the Cabernet. I had to include the 2010 Bin 707, one of the darkest and richest blends I’ve tasted with hints of blueberry and mulberry in a dense black core.

We depart our glorious experience at Penfolds and head to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop for afternoon tea. I’m more than pleased to see that as we drive toward Maggie Beer’s, the roads are looking more rural and rustic like before. Not to besmirch Penfolds by all means, but this is more what I expected when travelling through Barossa Valley.

How do I describe Maggie Beer’s?

Maggie Beer’s is a produce shop, wine shop, cookery, eatery and pheasant farm tucked back off the road just outside of the city not four miles—or six kilometers—from Penfolds. The entrance looks very rustic, but inside is a gorgeous country-kitchen-type feel on a much larger scale exuding a general store vibe with the extensive line of fresh jams and products.

Birds are roaming free on the grounds—large birds with babies. I think they’re pheasants, but I’m not sure since this is also a pheasant farm… where the pheasants are cooked and eaten. There is, however, an aviary of native birds on the grounds, one of which is a beautiful peacock with a royal blue neck and a fabulous green plume of feathers behind him. At one point, he also finds his way out of the cage and struts around for us, showing off his long, colorful feathers.

Maggie Beer and her husband Colin started the pheasant farm in the 1970’s and became the first breeders of quail and pheasant in Australia. From there, they opened the farm shop and the restaurant and became quite famous in the area. With the success of the restaurant, they started to make pate to sell to the public. They came full circle to sell the pate in the farm shop and the operation just kept growing and growing. Now the restaurant and farm shop are favorites in the neighborhood, and Maggie is famous for her seasonal recipes, condiments, pastes, and marmalades. Many of her cookbooks are sold in the farm shop and I’ve procured a wicker basket which is filled with several of those books right now.

Although we could if we wanted to, this is the one place where we didn’t have any wine. There were too many other things to see and taste. The Eatery is a bustling dining area with yellow chairs that leads to an outside eating area—a brick patio that connects to a wooden deck over the Blue Lake. There are no demonstrations occurring at the time, but Maggie Beer’s has an open kitchen with chairs in front like a small theater as well as a full kitchen with multiple cooking stations for demonstrations and classes.

Christian and I browse the various wares of the shop, tasting homemade jams on gourmet crackers—raspberry pomegranate, Seville marmalade, fig and fennel paste, and salted brandy caramel just to name a few. I’m completely lamenting the fact that there’s nothing like this place that I know of in Seattle, but I’m certain that with the Marketplace there, I can find something somewhere locally that has all the fresh produce, jams, and exotic flavors that I see here… or at least something similar.

As I sip a delicious cappuccino, I’ve passed my basket on to Ben to carry while I look at the various “hampers” for sale. “Hampers” are selections of various jams, flavors, marmalades, etc., combined in a seasonal or flavor group and sold as a package. I choose the Favourites List Hamper, the Maggie’s Favourites Hamper, and the Fine Spread Hamper, making sure that my selections include the delightful marmalades and jams that I tasted today as well as a variety of cooking wines, chutneys, sauces, and verjuice.

We’ve now moved from coffee to pear cider—an indescribably tasty experience—and I continue with my shopping and browsing, being sure to choose gift sets for Gail, Keri, and Ms. Solomon. I’m not sure that the pastes, pates, and jams would be to Keri’s taste, but there’s one way to find out.

As we relax on the wood deck, we watch the turtles swimming in the Blue Lake. While sipping another coffee along with a tall glass of cool water, we enjoy small servings of three decadent desserts—orange ricotta cake, Meyer lemon pie with apricot jam, and dried pear and glace ginger Eccles cakes. As the dreamy confections melt on my tongue followed by the smoothest coffee I’ve ever tasted, I can’t help but ponder how troubled my spirit was not so long ago. This experience seems worlds away from where we were just two days ago—the tragedies and suffering at Port Arthur and the tormented spirits still stuck in that place. How the two places and experiences can be in the same trip, but be so hugely different is totally beyond me.

I don’t linger on it too long as I enjoy my burnt fig, honeycomb, and caramel ice cream. Yes… I must find something like this in Seattle!

I feel very good about my haul from Maggie Beer’s and I’m ready to move on to our next experience. It’s late afternoon and my buzz is dying a bit, which means I need more wine! John tells us that we have one more stop before returning to St. Hugo’s for dinner and then taking our ride back to Adelaide to conclude our trip to wine country.

“You’re playful when you’re tipsy,” Christian says when we get back into the car.

“No, I’m not,” I say, my high from earlier nearly totally abated after the rehydration, coffee, and small amount of exercise at Maggie Beer’s. “I’m logical when I’m tipsy. My mind clears, my thoughts are logical, and my filter’s off.”

“And apparently, that makes you playful,” he counters with a laugh. I chuckle.

“Maybe… under the right circumstances, but you’ve never seen me wine drunk. Usually, if I’m wine drunk, I’m angry.”

“I have seen you drunk,” he protests, his brow furrowed. “On the Slasher.”

“I was Cosmo drunk on the Slasher,” I correct him. “I was not wine drunk. You’ve never seen me wine drunk. I’ve only been wine drunk one time that I can remember during our relationship and that was…” I trail off. No, now is not a good time to bring that up.

“That was when?” he presses.

“Early,” I say, “very early in the relationship.” I still don’t want to talk about it.

“I don’t reme…”

“Let’s… let’s not, okay?” I say beseechingly. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. We’ve been having a great day. Let’s not ruin it with unnecessary and unpleasant memories.” He twists his lips.

“I can’t argue with that,” he says, tightening his grip around my waist.

“Excyuse the intrusion,” John says from the front seat, “but my OI sy thaht from what OI’ve seen, yew two hahve the roight fohmula foh a long and happy marriage.” I smile.

“We’re still working on it, John,” I admit, “but I certainly hope you’re right.”

“I know he’s right,” Christian says softly before kissing my temple. “

Our final stop before dinner is the Seppeltsfield Tasting Room. According to John, this is one of the most distinguished wineries in the Barossa Valley. We had originally intended to stop at the Torbreck Winery, but then discovered that some of the blends from that winery originate from Seppeltsfield. So, why not just go to the source?

Seppeltsfield Winery prides itself on delivering history in a bottle. That’s quite an ambitious goal, to say the very least. In light of this, patrons and connoisseurs frequent the establishment expecting absolutely nothing but the very best. As such, Seppeltsfield strives not to disappoint.

The Seppeltsfield tour isn’t a short one, and certainly not boring. John and our Seppeltsfield host keep us engaged and entertained as we learn about the impressive 163-year history of the winery. The grounds of the winery combine old-world charm in the 18th and 19th century architecture with modern landscaping that ties the old with the new and presents a fabulous backdrop. While wandering around the grounds of this estate, you awe at the glorious modern fountains and endless date palm trees while simultaneously feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Throughout the tour, we see the original 1851 Seppelt Homestead where the Seppelts lived as well as the fully-restored Seppeltsfield cottage, both available for lodging with a reservation. Christian comments about how small the quarters are. Our host informs us that these lodgings were actually indicative of the wealthy in that time, especially since the Seppelts had the bigger picture in mind—farming, winery, village, the whole kit and caboodle.

We also see the Elm Walk, which is a favorite for weddings, and the 1860’s blending cellars. Some of the original equipment used to create and barrel the wines and can still be seen on-site.

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Strolling through the beautifully restored grounds and admiring the gardens and the exquisite landscape, we also see the Dining Hall that was used until 1890, Winemakers Terrace & Chimney, better known as the distillery, used until 1877, and the Laboratory used until 1945. The 19th Century Clydesdale Stables have been redeveloped into the JamFactory Art & Design Studios while the Bottling Hall last used in 1900 is now the home of the Seppeltsfield Cellar Door.

I don’t know that any of the other wineries have one of these as it wasn’t pointed out to us throughout our tour, but the Seppeltsfield has a Gravity Cellar. The Gravity Cellar is built into the hillside on descending terraces consisting of 120 big open top tanks that allow gravity’s natural pull to direct the course and flow of the fruit through the winery, which means less handling of the fruit and a purer fermentation process.

We tasted some of the wares of the cellar door after our initial overall tour of the grounds. Our tasting consisted of a flight of four wines from the Paramount Collection—two styles of Apera, a Tokay, and a Muscat. It’s very easy to see why this is one of the oldest and most distinguished wineries in the Barossa, having an entire village built around and named after it. However, our hosts were strategically saving the best for last.

Our final trip is to the Centennial Cellar. Mere words won’t do justice to our experience in this place. A barrel of the best crops of Tawny from each year dating back to 1878 is housed in this cellar with instructions that it was not to be bottled for at least another 100 years from the date it was barreled. As such, there are several tours with different historical themes that are based on tastings from this cellar. But make no mistake—as this is the crown jewel of the Seppeltsfield Winery, it’s gonna cost ya!

Our tour of the Centennial Cellar includes a combination of the Moments in History experience and the Centenary Experience. For the Moments in History, we taste wine from various times through history—from 1969 and the year of the Moon Landing; from D-Day in 1944; from 1939 and the end of the Great Depression; from 1972, the year the Watergate scandal began; from 1997 and the death of Lady Di; and of course, 1985… the year a Butterfly was born. Oh, and of course, from 1983—the year of the birth of my favorite mogul.

There’s seems to be a strange reminiscent connection to tasting wines from those years, not that you were magically transported to the event because of the year of the wine, but I do feel a bit of connection to the time and year of the occurrences and it does make you think. It seems somewhat… symmetric how different the wines differ from our birth years, even though we’re only two years apart. The most current wine we tasted is the 1997, and there’s no mistaking that the older the wines are, the more powerful the flavor and more distinct the vintage.

I have to say that none were as profound as the Centenary Tasting, where we’re able to taste a 100-year old Para Vintage Tawny. Still in the bowels of the winery where the aromas hypnotize almost as much as the flavors—who am I kidding? I’m tipsy again, but not too tipsy to appreciate this experience.

Our host dips a wine thief into the barrel of 1914 Tawny—much like he did with the many other barrels that we’ve tasted, but a new wine thief each time draws out a sample and fills a small tasting glass. These are not the wine glasses that we’ve been using. These are small, crystal verres à vin—something like a tiny sherry glass.

We watch in awe as the fluid seeps slowly into the glass, oozing down the side before filling the triangular bottom of the glass and rising up the angles. Our host hands us each a glass and I attempt follow the wine-tasting techniques that I’ve learned…

No.

It’s difficult to follow the traditional tasting rules when you experience a 100-year-old wine. The elixir flows out of the wine thief like heavy olive oil. The slowness with which it fills the glass is not theatrical. The wine is thick… rich, dark in color like fresh molasses and clinging to the sides of the glass like a thin syrup.

No smelling…
No swirling…
No aerating…

Just taste.

“That’s remarkable,” Christian nearly purrs as he sips the wine.

“Incredible,” I whisper as the most indescribably rich, full-bodied flavor coats my mouth. I close my eyes and savor the taste of an insanely decadent and delicious wine that I’ll probably never taste again. When I open my eyes, my husband is staring at me… in that way.

“Warren,” he says to our host. “Is there any way that I can get some of this shipped back to America?” Warren already has that I’m so sorry look on his face.

“We don’t reahlly sell the Centennial Collection, sir,” Warren says, “not in volume anywy. We have collectible oitems that ahr avaylable to be ohdehed and pehsonalized. However, thy tayke some toime to bottle, and thy can be vehry expensive and in small quawntities.”

Now, I’m expecting my I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now husband to start waving around his Amex Black, demanding immediate satisfaction. I’m surprised when the suave and reserved Christian Grey appears.

“I see,” he says. “So, can you tell me my options?”

Wow. I try not to let my expression betray my astonishment at my husband’s diplomacy. Granted, he’s not always a bull in a China shop, but when he wants something, he wants it and there’s no negotiating… and I can tell he wants this. I take another sip of the elixir. Dear God, it’s divine.

“Mmm,” I say, letting the flavors coat my tongue again and momentarily floating off to an ethereal experience. When I open my eyes this time, John, Warren, and Christian are all looking at me. I swallow hard.

“Sorry,” I murmur, shrinking a bit. Warren clears his throat and turns back to Christian, garnering his attention.

“The Collection can be ohdehed in 100ml ohr 375ml collectible bottles…”

I stand by quietly and demurely as Warren explains how the Centennial Collection is sold—bottles smaller that an American soda can for nearly $3000 American each… and they take about a month to ship to the States… after they’re bottled. So, it could be six to eight weeks before we even see this stuff.

Noting that Christian hasn’t lost interest at the mention of the quantity or the price of the 1914 blend, Warren continues to explain that the Tawny will be bottled by hand and presented in a Jarrah timber box with a serial number and a certificate of authenticity. I hate to tell you this, Warren, but if I know my husband, that pretty box and that pretty bottle won’t mean anything because my husband plans to sit and watch me drink it. I’m careful not to take the last swallow of the vintage left in my glass until we’re about to leave.

I quickly calculate in my head that 375ml is about a cup and a half. Considering that I’ve taken two sips of the tasting already in my hand and there remains one more healthy swallow, we could get five to six good tastings out of that bottle considering that my tasting may have been about ¼ of a cup—and assuming we can preserve the wine somehow once we’ve opened it…

“Is it at all possible that I could get three bottles?” Christian asks.

Three bottles?? Is he insane? That’s nearly $10,000 for just over a quart of wine! It’s good, but it’s not that good.

“Three bottles?” Warren asks incredibly. “Of the…” he trails off.

“The 1914 Centennial Para Vintage Tawny blend—the 375ml… $2750 each you said, right?”

“Um, yes sir, plus shipping.” Warren appears to be nearly dumbstruck.

“Good,” Christian says. “If we order them now, I may have them by Valentine’s Day.” He looks over at me and winks.

“Capital tour, Warren, capital tour,” Christian says, turning his attention back to Warren. “Lead the way, sir.”

Warren’s face takes on an almost ethereal glow as he collects the tools of his trade, and I finish my last sip of the extra-terrestrial elixir.

*-*

The sun has made its way across the sky and we have arranged for several bottles from the Seppeltsfield Winery to be shipped to Grey Crossing in Seattle—including three bottles of the Centennial Collection—by the time we make our way to dinner. At first, we had planned to return to St. Hugo’s, which would have been nice, but we had already been there—and apparently, John read my expression and deduced that I would much rather go somewhere new as our last stop in Barossa Valley, so he makes the executive decision that our final stop will be on the way back to swap the Chrysler for the Mercedes before we return to Adelaide, but it won’t be St. Hugo’s.

Our drive is only about nine minutes and we arrive at another winery called Artisans at Barossa. I wonder if one of the ways that the Barossa stays in business is by keeping its guests drunk—my buzz from Seppeltsfield hasn’t worn off at all by the time we get to Artisans.

The car has barely stopped when I see the door opening and a gentleman that isn’t my husband standing there holding the door for me.

“Ma’am,” I hear him say in an Australian accent. At the same time, I hear another accent refer to Christian as “sir” as he exits the Daimler. I smile at the gentleman and take his proffered hand to help me out of the car.

He nods once and Christian is by my side almost immediately. I didn’t want to be rude to the guy, but I knew Christian would be bumping him out of the way in moments. Of course, my husband wraps my hand around his forearm and begins to lead me away. I look over my shoulder at the guy still holding the door of the Chrysler, looking a bit crestfallen.

“Thank you,” I say while he’s still in earshot. He raises his head to me, smiles, and nods again. I fall in step with my husband and he raises a brow at me.

“What?” I say. “You swooped in like a lion claiming a piece of raw meat. I just didn’t want to be rude.”

“Forever charming the locals,” he chides gently.

“I haven’t been charming the locals!” I retort quietly… at least not intentionally. Christian scoffs a laugh.

“Yeah, and I didn’t just spend $10,000 on just over a liter of wine because you looked and sounded like you were coming while you were drinking it,” he declares before leading me into the winery.


CHRISTIAN

Three thousand dollars a bottle on 100-year-old wine.

Yes, one of those bottles will be a collectors item, but at least one of those bottles will be part of a Butterfly fuck-fest. I could have fucked her right there on the cellar floor with the sounds that she was making sipping that stuff!

And then this valet or whatever he is comes flying to the door to let her out before the car even stops. Did he fucking smell her arriving? I know she’s sexy, but damn. And I’m sure he nutted himself when she turned around and said, “Thank you.”

So, John has brought us to another location called Artisans since Butterfly hinted that she didn’t want to go back to St. Hugo’s. I’m surprised, because St. Hugo’s was very nice and I wouldn’t have minded having dinner there, but my lady wants to see something else, so it’s something else we’re seeing.

The Artisans of Barossa has a restaurant called the Harvest Kitchen. Apparently, they feed you and feed you—all the fruits of the field and the meat of the land, whatever’s in season—until you don’t want any more all while they’re pickling you in various wines. It’s one flat cost per person for the experience, although I’m not really concerned about the cost. I’m more concerned about my wife. I just want her to enjoy herself.

We are seated at a table for four next to the window with a beautiful view of the deck and the vineyards. The tables are somewhat close, so the other diners in the restaurant are nearly sitting in your lap. I’m not sure that I like that, but I don’t get time to protest as the parade of food and wine begins almost immediately.

There are several bottles—not just glasses, bottles of wine placed on our table. We try to inform the staff that our security detail will not be drinking, but apparently, word travels fast in the Barossa, and I hear a whisper or two about the couple doing the Daimler tour and purchasing cases of wine at every winery, including $10,000 worth from Seppeltsfield. I have a feeling that John may have had something to do with how fast word is traveling, but again, as long as my girl has a good time…

I’ve come to discover that Artisans of Barossa carries several different varieties of wines from several different labels… or sublabels, I’m not sure—such as John Duval and Sons of Eden. In addition to the endless flow of food, we indulge in several John Duval reds and whites, as well as a variety of Sons of Eden Grenaches, Shirazes, Rosés, and Rieslings. The other Artisans include Schwarz Wine Company, Hobbs of Barossa Ranges, Massena, and Spinifex Wines, and the staff is intent that we taste them all!

The food begins and it, along with the wine, just keeps coming and coming. The menu begins with charcuterie and cheese with Schwarz Wine Company Meta Grenache; anchovy on grilled sourdough with basil and tomato; a separate cheese, fig, date, and prosciutto tray with some vintage of Red Muscat that fails me at the moment; and Tweedvale labneh with Ras el Hanout and nigella with two sourdough “croutons” shaped like a butterfly… and Spinifex Muscat a Petit Grains—a delicate and somewhat sweet white wine which, surprisingly, we both like.

My wife begins to draw attention to our table as the food and wine parade continues. She repeatedly asks the staff for information on what she’s eating and drinking, which they’re only too happy to provide since her aura is infectious—so infectious in fact, that other diners nearby somehow find it appropriate to join in our conversation and meal, explaining to Butterfly what wines have been paired with which foods and why. One couple, we learn, is also here from the United States, vacationing from North Carolina. Another is from Vancouver while a third joins us from Hawaii. Butterfly engages everyone like we’ve all arrived together.

Our food and wine parade continues with Sons of Eden Freya Riesling and crispy fried Barossa free-range chicken; fig and stout beef empanadas and Hobbs of Barossa Ranges Tin Lids Shiraz Aria Secca; fried gnocchi with truffle & Parmesan mousse; smoked fish brandade with more sourdough “croutons”; Hutton Vale Farm Merquez sausage with fennel; ancient grain salad with vache curd and pomegranate molasses dressing; and Hutton Vale lamb pide with yogurt, fresh herb salad and pomegranate molasses and two Rosés and more wine—I have long since lost track of the vintages.

For dessert, we have vanilla ice cream with salted caramel and popcorn—the strangest combination I’ve ever seen and surprisingly compatible. I’m quite surprised when my wife—who prefers a Cabernet over any libation in the world—partakes in what one of the staff calls Artisans Riesling Spritzer, made with Freya Riesling with ginger, verjuice and ice. My wife’s a red drinker and she had two of these in addition to all the wine we’re drinking!

The wine and conversation keep flowing and we have now attracted the attention of an older, graying gentleman who was sitting alone at a table near the window at the other end of the room. He asks if he can join us, and the couple next to us—from North Carolina—invites him to pull up a chair. I can see that he has zeroed in on my Butterfly, but I won’t behave like a Neanderthal, at least not yet and especially after all the wine I’ve had… not as much as Butterfly, but I’ve had my fair share.

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I watch his interaction with the group—or lack thereof—and each time my lady speaks, his interest is piqued. He’s good at making it appear that he’s conversing with the group when he’s clearly only engaging Butterfly. Jason and Lawrence are now on alert, but not DEFCON, just alert enough to keep an eye on the situation, as am I.

He’s well-traveled, divorced or never married—my guess is never married—probably in his early to mid-fifties, sophisticated and refined… and he’s French. He’s also no fool. He’s waiting for my reaction to him and I won’t show my hand. Butterfly is sitting across from me and I haven’t done anything to show possession or piss on my territory. He knows she’s mine and he’s setting the table—nothing overt, but sly little signals and subliminal messages, waiting for the gauche American to emerge so that he can come off all suave and sophisticated and show my wife what she’s missing.

I’ve devoured bigger fish than you in the boardroom, Gaston.

In the meantime, she who claims that she’s not charming the locals appears to be making friends left and right with her witty banter even with her limited knowledge of wine. Her ignorance appears to enamor her with the staff and the other patrons of the restaurants, with our uninvited dining companions getting a kick out of telling her what notes she may be tasting in certain wines as she admits that she has had so many that the flavors are all running together. Gaston, whom I discover is named Maxime, decides to test her on that fact, declaring that there is a hint of boysenberry in the John Duval Grenache.

“Hmm,” Butterfly says, aerating the wine before swallowing, even though she had already tasted the vintage several times before during the evening, along with several other wines. She’s still bubbly and smiling, but she’s quite drunk as she tests the spirits on her tongue.

“It could be my pickled brain, Maxime,” she says to her quizzer, “but I don’t taste any boysenberry. Cranberry… or maybe raspberry… but no boysenberry.”

“That is because you are correct, madam,” our French dinner-mate declares. “There is no boysenberry in this blend.” My wife fakes a scoff.

“Maxime, you cad!” she declares, pretending to be affronted, “why would you lie to me?”

“Not a lie, Mrs. Grey,” he clarifies. “A test, and you passed.” He wipes his lips with his napkin and stands. He knows he’s been whipped. I’m not falling into his trap, but that doesn’t stop him from pulling one last trick.

“It has been a pleasure,” he says in his smooth French accent. “You have made what would have been a boring dinner alone quite delightful.” He takes her hand and leans down to kiss it, but pauses before his lips touch her skin and looks at me. I want to tell him to get his paws off my wife, but… I just nod once. He presses his lips gently to her hand before raising only his gaze to make eye-contact with her.

“Au revoir, madam,” he says, his voice low and a bit suggestive.

“Enchanté, monsieur,” my wife replies softly. Maxime places his free hand over his heart before releasing her and stepping next to me.

“She’s exquisite,” he says in my ear before walking past me and leaving the restaurant. Yes, Gaston, I know… believe me, I know. My wife carries on with the tables around her once Maxime is gone like she and this fucker didn’t just share a tender moment—in his eyes, anyway. Right now, she’s floating on spirits and having a good time, holding court with a bunch of strangers with six watchful eyes on her. She knows she’s safe, and she’s glowing with enjoyment. Women and men alike are captivated by her conversation and company at the moment. Who am I to interfere?

The sun is setting over the horizon and although my Butterfly is still having a good time as the Belle of the Ball—even though her Gaston has vacated the premises—she yawns, and I know that it’s time for us to leave. Jason and I leave Lawrence with her as we go to relieve ourselves. We head to the restroom to refresh ourselves before we leave, and I see something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere ever…

A line at the men’s room!

It’s short, but it’s a line, nonetheless. I look over at Jason, who shrugs and we just wait. There are four guys in front of us and the first two at the door are having a conversation that I can’t help but overhear:

“Aye, ya get a load o’tha brunette in tha puhple dress?” one says to the other. You mean the brunette in the purple dress with the husband that’s standing two people behind you?

“Yeh,” the other concurs. “She’s a real lookah!”

“OI’ll say… gohgeous and sweet. Whehr d’ya get one a’those, mate?” the first one continues.

“OI dunno. She’s gotta be one of a koind. Most Amehricans OI’ve met ahr real arseholes,” the second observes. Jason looks over at me and I shake my head, signaling him not to engage. She’s not here and she can’t hear them.

“Cehful thehr, that bloke she’s been haynging on’ll prob’ly lop ya balls off!” The first cautions. Damn straight.

“No shite!” the second says. “OI would, too. It‘s a real gem he’s got thehr. Whut’s he cahl ‘er… Butterfloy?”

“Yeh. He’s a real goneh, but wouldn’t you be?” the first says.

“In a minute, mate. In a minute…” and the conversation moves on to something else before they head into the restroom a few moments later. I don’t need to be told, but yes, my hot wife is an international sensation.

Once we get inside, I see why there’s a line. Everybody’s wine kicked in at the same time and there’s limited “facilities” inside. Bloke #1 and Bloke #2 quickly wash their hands and leave once Jason and I enter the restroom, the two men before us apparently having run in and run out in record time. As we’re washing our hands once we handled our business, I decide to quickly pick Jason’s brain.

“Jason, by any chance, do you recall the situation Butterfly was alluding earlier?” I ask.

“Which situation, sir?” he questions while drying his hands.

“About her being wine-drunk earlier in our relationship?” His brow furrows for a moment, then his frown is replaced with recognition.

“Oh, yeah, I remember,” he says, tossing his paper towel in the trash. I stand there expecting, drying my own hands and it takes him a second or two to catch on.

“The demise of one Anderson Sheppard tie?” he hints. Tie… tie… oh, the tie! It’s unbelievable to me that that particular thought has occurred to us twice during this trip. Well, once for me and now once for her.

“Yeah,” I say disposing of my paper towel, “I can see why she wouldn’t want to rehash that. Not one of my prouder moments.”

“Indeed, sir,” he says as we exit the restroom.

By the time we’re leaving Artisans, we have eaten way too much food, drank way too much wine, and made good on our reputation to have a few cases of their best vintages shipped to Seattle, including Paul Duval’s Grenache to remind her of her “test” with Maxime, and two of the Eligo Master Class Set from the same vintner. Butterfly is just fine to walk to the Daimler. However, once we get back to our original destination to swap into the Mercedes, she’s out like a light.

She’s going to hate that she’s missing such a beautiful sunset in wine country, but the pictures will have to do as I must carry her from one vehicle to the other so that we can return to Adelaide. The trees and the sunset make you feel like singing the theme to the Lion King.

I thank John for a splendid day and ask him if it’s customary—or impolite—to tip him for a job well done. He declines and assures me that I’ve purchased enough wine to ensure that he’ll be able to maintain his priority standing with the local wineries, and only ask that I give him and the tour a good review on social media.

Social media… hmm.

I shake his hand after I’ve deposited my inebriated wife into the Mercedes, and we’re on our way back to the hotel.

An hour later, we arrive at Peppers and my pickled princess pops up like she wasn’t asleep for the entire ride. She exits the vehicle and strolls carefully into the hotel and to the elevator, then to our suite where she removes her shoes at the door and heads straight for the bathroom. Hoping that she’s not in there paying homage to the porcelain gods, I go to the other bathroom to get ready for bed.

Once I’ve taken care of my incidentals, I come back to the bedroom still in my jeans and I fully expect to see her face down on the bed sleeping off the alcohol—but no. She’s still in the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom, only now the shade is open so that I can see her. She’s gloriously naked and I immediately have to talk my dick down. She’s cleaning her breast pump, signaling me that she has emptied her breasts before coming to bed. Now, she picks up a brush and meticulously begins brushing her incredibly long hair.

Hmm, she doesn’t look like she’s stumbling drunk. She even does that thing where she holds her head forward to brush the back of her hair and she’s not toppling into walls or anything. And I’m just sitting here watching her… watching that glorious naked body preparing for bed, preparing to lay next to me and torment me while she sleeps off the alcohol and I talk my raging, thumping dick down. I’m so mesmerized by her that I don’t notice that she’s staring at me through the glass, still brushing her beautiful hair. I take a deep breath to control myself and stand as she finishes her nighttime grooming before turning off the lights and coming into the room.

“Why are you still wearing those?” she asks when she looks at my jeans.

“I was distracted,” I say. “I’m just getting ready for bed.”

“Well, take them off. I want to suck your dick,” she says matter-of-factly.

Wha…?

My dick reacts, but my brain is slow on the pickup.

“Baby, I’d love to be inside you—especially inside your mouth—but… you’re drunk. That’s something I don’t do. It always has to be consensual…”

“Do I look drunk to you?” she asks. “Do I really look like I can’t give consent to fuck my husband?”

“Uh…” I’m speechless at the moment. I’m standing here with a rock-hard cock disputing my beautiful, naked, horny wife about why she can’t suck my dick.

“I am not drunk,” she protests. “I’m a little pickled, but I’m not drunk. I’m completely sentient, and I said I wanna suck your dick. Now, are you really going to deny me?”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear she’s stone cold sober when she says that.

“Absolutely not, Mrs. Grey,” I reply.

“Good. Now, shut the fuck up and drop your pants.”

You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m unbuckling and unzipping before she even gets the words out of her mouth. In moments, my jeans are in a mound at my ankles. She pushes me gently and I fall backwards onto the bed. She quickly removes my pants from my ankles, pushes my thighs apart and situates herself on her knees between my legs. She wraps her lips gently around the head of my cock and I already know, she plans to tease me incessantly tonight.

Fuck! Get ready, Grey.

I lick my lips and prepare myself for the orgasm refusal ride of a lifetime, especially after all the orgasms I refused her last night before I finally let her come.

“Damn, baby, you look so good,” I breathe as she looks up at me with beautiful, blue come-hither eyes, her hands at the base of my throbbing cock and her lips and tongue softly and deliciously teasing the head. I have to lean up on my elbows to watch her, which means that I can’t touch her unless I want to lay flat or balance myself on one of the most insane ab workouts I’ve ever done.

She licks and licks and licks, never taking her eyes off mine, until my dick is hot and hard and thumping. The friction from her tongue is insane and I’m fucking losing my mind with need. I drop my head back, unable to hold it up anymore through this damn torment, and I feel my cock slide into her mouth, but then out again, her lips teasing my shaft gently. The fire I was feeling a moment ago is slowly subsiding, being replaced by a different pleasure that slowly rising on the skin of my cock.

What is she doing to me? I lament inwardly. I swear if she had kept up that small amount of friction, she would have gotten a big fountain, but she changed up the rhythm on me and now…

While I’m contemplating my situation, I feel her mouth cover my cock again, but she doesn’t pull back. What is she doing? I try to look down at her, but her hair is covering her head a bit—not completely, but enough to obstruct my view.

But not enough to obstruct the feeling!

“Ah! Shit!” I exclaim as I feel tightening and a little friction on the head of my cock—just the head. What the fuck? I focus my pleasure-blinded eyes and see that she’s deep-throating me, but her mouth is not on my cock—just her throat.

Holy mother of God, this woman is inhuman!

“God! How do you do that!” I hiss, trying not to thrust into her throat. She throats my cock so that I feel the heat from her mouth on my shaft, but not the friction, but I can feel that throat wrapping around that head!

“Jesus! Fuck! Jesus!” I choke, my cock burning and thickening with pleasure. She has never done this shit to me before! I know my wife’s a freak, but she’s a fucking superfreak when she’s had a few drinks in her.

“God! Ana! Fuck!” I groan, and I can’t help it. I grab her hair and lift it away from her face, holding it in the back of her head like a ponytail. I have to see this. I won’t push her head down on me, but I fucking have to see this.

She lets me watch for a few moments—my impressive cock balls deep in her mouth and the feeling of her throat hot and squeezing the head of my dick. I groan, my hand and thigh shaking from trying not to thrust.

Either she needed air, or she knew that I was breaths away from coming, because she slides my cock out of her throat, almost igniting an orgasm. She pauses for a few moments and I find myself anxiously sliding to the edge of the bed so that I can sit up. After a brief break, my shaft is in her mouth again. This time, she’s giving a blowjob. Her head is bobbing wildly on my cock and shaft and her fist is pumping where her mouth is not, following her mouth with every stroke.

“Sweet Jesus!” I hiss, holding her hair as her head bobs on my cock. I have no idea if I’m pushing her head down onto me, but my hand is clenched in her hair, holding on for dear life. My cock is being worked mercilessly and I feel myself rising yet again from the new stimulation. I hold my head back, panting and choking and trying to get air in. Fuck! It’s so good… I’m gonna come…

Her mouth releases my cock with a pop, and I swear my whole body shakes in dismay. Fuck, that was fucking more than my cock could take. I can feel the sweat forming on my chest and back. It hasn’t even been that long, has it? A few minutes, she’s been doing this? I don’t even know.

She pushes me back onto the bed and makes me move all the way to the top so that she can get on the bed with me. She nestles herself comfortably between my legs and takes my shiny, aching, pink cock in her hand again. Now I can see her ass, and her hips, and delicious mouth and tongue teasing my dick, and her eyes daring me to come… and she starts over, massaging that little bundle of nerves as she holds my cock.

Dear God, not again…

I fist the sheets next to me because I can’t be responsible for my actions this time when she denies me this orgasm. It’s rising… slowly… hot, hard, and intense. She licks with purpose, that same bundle of nerves, over and over again. I groan in my chest. If she’s going to stop, I want her to stop before it gets too intense… too painful. I don’t think I can take it this time.

I groan again and grip the sheets. I feel it. My balls are tightening, and the ache of release is coming. Stop, for God’s sake!

I begin to pant. I can’t stop it! My thighs are tightening, and my knees and legs are weak—and she keeps going and going, that delicious stimulation that goes right to the pleasure nerves. I’m gazing at her, beautiful and intent in her purpose.

Please…

Did I say that out loud? Did I think that? What did I do? Whatever happens, she has pushed me to the point where I don’t have control of my body anymore. All my muscles are tightening and I’m about to blow. If she stops at this point, it’ll be for nothing because…

“Fuck! Fuck! Aw, shit!”

As she licks that sensitive bundle on the underside of my cock, cum squirts gloriously out of the head and runs down over my dick and her hand. My shaft is so fucking red and hard that it looks almost painful and I can’t even identify the sounds coming from my chest and throat, but she keeps licking and licking, a new spurt flowing with every stroke of her tongue. I’m gripping the sheets nearly in agony—she made me wait for so long… didn’t she? Or did she just turn me on so much that it felt like an eternity?

I watched her sashay her naked ass around that bathroom until I was hypnotized, and my cock was thumping out of my pants.

Then I watched her do things that made me want to come so badly that I could cry, but I was already there.

It hasn’t been that long. She just fucking made me want her really bad, then she tormented me intensely to make it seem like it was longer than it was. Now, I’m coming so fucking hard and my balls are so full and heavy that I’m certain that even after this cosmic blast, I’ll still be ready to go again in a very short period of time.

When my cock has given all the initial offering that it’s going to give, I fall helpless onto the bed, twitching with every touch knowing full well what’s next before she even speaks…

“I’m not through with you yet…”


A/N: Christian keeps referring to Maxime as “Gaston,” who is the male antagonist from Beauty and the Beast

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~~love and handcuffs

 

 

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Raising Grey: Chapter 82—Now, Where Were We?

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

There are probably some bad attempts at French laced in here, too. Beware, you’ve been warned!

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 82—Now, Where Were We?

ANASTASIA

I am on fucking fire.

My body is completely alight with orgasmic release and I’m still trembling for more. I didn’t know he packed toys and I have no idea when he had the time to do it because I packed his bags, but I’m sure the fuck glad he did.

Maybe he picked something up when we separated in the Marketplace.

Who the fuck cares?! Get back to the “alight with orgasmic release” part!
I have to agree with the Bitch on this one.

He’s rubbing my ass and playing with that heavenly butt plug while I catch my breath and come down from a blinding climax. His hands anoint the sides of my body from just under my arms all the way down my thighs to my knees before he issues the command that I hoped I would hear.

“Turn over.”

I roll over onto my back, still blindfolded and mindful of the butt plug still inserted.

“Are you comfortable?” he asks when I’m situated.

“Yes,” I whisper, my hands resting on the bed on either side of my head.

“Good,” he says. I feel him leave the bed for a moment and I wonder with anticipation what he’s doing. I take this time to try to decipher the scents in the room. Lilac for sure… no, maybe it’s jasmine… mixed with…

I hear him come back into the room and feel the bed dip when he returns. I feel a strawberry against my lips, so I open my mouth and take a bite. As I’m chewing, I feel his body over mine and his lips cover my mouth. I open slightly, and cool wine flows from his to mine. I swallow the mouthful of strawberry and wine, totally food seduced at this point. A bit of the chocolate confection from dessert passes my lips and I savor the flavor as his body rises from mine, and moments later, oiled hands anoint my neck and shoulders.

He keeps me alight with sensations, causing one to flow right into the other—the strawberry into the wine into the chocolate and back into the massage. I purr with satisfaction as his oily hands travel from my shoulders down and over my breasts and nipples over my torso and abs and down to my pelvis. He reoils his hands to spread copious amounts around my mounds, my outer lips, the sensitive crevices at the junction of my thighs and pelvis and my top and inner thighs.

His hands travel masterfully all over the front of my body, touching and tempting me. Then, I feel a strawberry at my lips again. I bite and chew and wait for the wine, but it doesn’t come. Instead…

“Ah!”

Gentle pressure closes over my nipple. I bite my tongue and breathe in. It’s not his mouth—it’s a nipple clamp, the adjustable kind. I wait as he secures it, just enough to plump and sensitize my nipple. He doesn’t dawdle. He goes straight to the other one, which has become taunt in the process, and attaches the second clamp. He pauses for a moment, and even blindfolded, I can tell that he’s admiring his handiwork.

I feel him cover my body again, his erection pressing into my leg—and his mouth closes over one nipple and the clamp. I cry out in arousal, pushing my breast up towards him as his hand teases the other nipple in the clamp.

“Christian…” I whimper, so turned on that I can barely think. I keep my hands on the bed next to my head—it’s better this way—and his mouth feasts on my nipple while his fingers play with the other. Then he switches, giving both nipples the benefit of his talented tongue. I have to hurry and swallow the strawberry so that I don’t choke on it from my radical breathing, and the sweet flavor lingers on my tongue while my man stimulates my nipples.

It’s glorious!

He moves away from my nipples and slowly slides down my body, rubbing and planting kisses along the way. My breathing is more controlled when he gets to my feet and starts a gentle massage with the oil again. Yes, that’s jasmine. It’s a favorite scent of his… and mine, along with cinnamon and vanilla. His massage is gentle and firm at the same time, relaxing my ankles, my calves, my knees… and giving my throbbing clit a brief reprieve to recuperate. I know Christian Grey enough to know that the orgasmic stimulation is far from over, and it’s not the butt plug or the nipple clamp that’s giving it away.

It’s the thigh massage. The way that his hands are spread open on my thighs, kneading upwards so that his thumbs run across the crevices gently over my outer lips, he’s about to attack.

He straddles my legs again and there’s a pause in his massage. When he returns, the texture of the oil is different. Even though I can still smell the jasmine in the air, it’s not as strong. It’s not in the oil, and I’m very soon to find out why.

“Mmm… mmm…” I groan. He continues his massage, up the top of my thigh, across those sensitive crevices, over my outer lips, only this time, the tip of my clit is protruding ever so slightly, and his thumb zeros right in on it. He runs his oily thumb up and down just inside my lips with each upward motion of his hand, pressing my clit in and pushing it up, stroking it just so between my lips. I want to crawl off the damn bed as I try to stifle my whimper.

“Let me hear you, baby,” he encourages.

“Ah,” I gasp, the heat so hot and the moan releasing some of the pressure in my chest. His thumbs feel so good, one stroking my clit and the other teasing the crevice between my pelvis and thigh.

“Christian!” I breathe, grabbing my breasts and stimulating the nipple clamps there. I hear him gasp and he continues to rub intermittently, giving me seconds to recoil before I’m squirming on the bed again in ecstasy.

He moves his hands to my thighs and pushes them open—not eagle-spread, but open enough. He puts his hand over my mons, pressing firmly and squeezing just enough to heighten arousal, using the base to open my lips so that the clit protrudes just a little more than it did when he pleasured it with his thumbs.

Well, maybe more than a little more… I feel air on the underside. I can tell that he’s positioned between my legs, on his knees maybe…

“Oh, God,” I gasp deeply as I feel something I’ve never felt before—wet, smooth, soft. He starts at the tip of my clit with a titillating tickle, and I turn my head and bite my lip, sinking into a pleasure I’ve never felt before.

Is it a feather? No, it’s much heavier… thicker than a feather.

It moves from the tip of my clit, slowly down the underside and over the surface of my inner lips. Then it travels back up the same way that it started.

It moves up… and down… and up… and down… up and down… and up and down… flicking over and off the top of my clit just once… then it comes back… starts at the tip and moves down the underside and over the inner lips… then up again… then down… The strange stimulation is sending ripples through my body and even causing my thoughts to stutter—enough to ignite and keep me burning, but not enough for orgasm unless he keeps going and going and going. He’s exquisite in his meticulous movements, back and forth masterfully, like an artist.

An artist…

That’s what it is! It’s a paintbrush!

This has to me the most agonizing, glorious new thing I’ve ever felt! Wherever he got this idea, I owe ginormous homage and he needs to tell me how I can get some, too! This is fucking genius!

My whimpering is almost embarrassing, but this feeling is divine and irresistible. I can’t be silent… I can’t keep still… dear God, my stomach muscles are fucking aching and my pelvis is actually cramping with pleasure! How can that be?

Several moments later, the brush makes its final stroke and I’m panting in ecstatic exhaustion. Every time I’m about to come, he changes the rhythm and stimulation so that it brings me back a bit, not enough to start over, but enough to stop the rise to orgasm. It’s maddening—and magnificent!

Next, I feel cold air on my clit. He’s blowing on it, I know he’s about to dive in and taste the rainbow. What will he do—deep massage with a firm tongue? Fast, tormenting flicks to bring me to a quick release? A deep clitoral suck accompanied by a two-finger g-spot stimulation? Oh, no. Not just yet. Mr. Grey has other plans for me.

He lays his head on my inner thigh while placing his hand gently on the other to spread my legs. His tongue licks lazily over my inner lips and up to my clit, firming a bit when it gets to that fiery bundle of nerves, up and down like he’s casually licking an ice-cream cone. He repeats his lick over and over, his breath panting gently in contentment as his tongue covers all the necessary skin, never missing a spot in a gentle, sensual erotic caress.

“Oui… oui… mon amour,” I breathe as I flex my tightening clit. His massage doesn’t change, though his grip tightens a bit on my thigh, his hand presses flatter on my stomach and he continues to lick… and lick… and lick…

Fire is burning in my chest and my stomach is quivering madly, right where he’s pressing it—not to mention this infernal butt plug is still in my ass and that pleasure hasn’t ceased since the first orgasm! The rhythm syncs with my body and I feel the tightening in the small of my back.

And so does he.

The rhythm stops and he lifts my legs to expose my core and ass. He holds one leg up and commences a circular feast, around and around with a flexible rolling tongue—his entire tongue—as his free hand pushes, turns, pulls, and manipulates the butt plug.

Putain d’enfer, il l’a encore fait!

I whimper, nearly sob, my protest as my core continues to burn, but the orgasm backs away. I can’t take much more of this. The massage is delicious, round and round with his tongue masterfully covering my clit then traveling down to my vaginal opening and back up to madly manipulate that love button. Over and over he repeats the cycle, causing me to tremble and my muscles to clench painfully, but if it rises again and he changes rhythm, I’ll certainly expire.

I need it deep! I want to come!

“S’il vous plaît,” I whisper my plea, my voice desperate. “S’il vous plaît…”

He groans in his chest and situates himself between my legs. He throws my legs over his shoulders, reaches around my hips and cups both breasts, clamps and all.

“S’il vous plaît,” I groan again, more loudly this time, certain that he’s going to deny my again. Even though it’s heightening my pleasure, I can’t take any more. He massages my breasts firmly, causing my nipples to pebble in excitement. He parts my lips with his and proceeds to give my core the deepest, most sensual kiss—no teasing; his tongue, lips, and mouth are purposeful.

“S’il vous plaît, Christian, s’il vous plaît,” I beg. I’m desperate. The massage is so deep, so hot, I’m right fucking there. If he stops me this time, I’ll scream… I’ll cry… I’ll rip his fucking throat out! He can’t stop!

He massages harder, squeezes harder, kisses deeper, licks and sucks wildly, his mouth is watering all over my core, causing a delicious slip-and-slide sensation down there. I clamp my hands over his and squeeze and he moans, diving deeper into my core…

God, don’t stop… please don’t stop…

My back is so tight that it hurts, and when the orgasm starts to creep, I literally sob in my throat. I won’t be able to stand it if he stops.

I feel my legs cramping, stiffening… no…

I lock my ankles behind him and thrust my pussy into his mouth begging him in my native language not to stop and let me come. His kiss reaches down into me and wrenches a painful, merciless orgasm from my loins that has me screaming, still begging him not to stop—literally paralyzed with pleasure and pain as this climax wraps around my clit, these nipple clamps, and that butt plug all at the same time.

I think I’m still coming in my ass when he leaps to his knees, lifts my already elevated hips to his pelvis and thrusts double-digit inches of hard, hot, pulsing meat inside me. I scream at the pleasure. I love his mouth and tongue, but nothing feels like his dick!

“God damn, you’re so fucking hot!” he growls as the plunges into me over and over, like an animal. He thrusts and thrusts and thrusts, mindlessly, before he throws his head back and growls loudly, his eyes squeezed shut and his face twisted. He’s breathing like a bear and I don’t know if he came, but he snatches his rock-hard dick out of me. He tortures my clit with the head of his dick over and over, breathing and grunting like a bear before sitting flat on the bed.

“Turn around!” he growls, his voice deep and hungry. I move very quickly. “On your knees!” he commands. Okay, doggie-style. “Give me those pillows.”

Okay, not doggie-style.

I get into position as instructed. He opens his legs and rests them on my calves.

“Get comfortable, however you have to. Get on this dick and fuck me til you come.”

Til I come? I just came! You sure about that, Grey? I look over my shoulder at him questioning and he glares back at me as if to say, “What the fuck are you waiting for?’

Okay, you asked for it.

I wait for him to lie back on the pillows and I sit down on his pelvis—not on his dick, on his pelvis. I bring my calves from under his knees and open my legs as wide as I can.

This is my damn party? Then, I’m going to have it.

I grab that beautiful rock hard and veiny piece of flesh and stroke gently. The oil from my pussy is coating his skin and he grunts when I grab him.

“Get on with it!” he demands.

“Quiet!” I hiss. “This is mine now.” He forcefully grabs my hips as a warning, and I throw a glance over my shoulder.

“What are you gonna do?” I taunt. “Fuck me?” I glare at him, still teasing the head of his cock with my oily hands. His hips move ever so slightly to match the stimulation as he grits his teeth.

That’s what I thought. And now, Mr. Grey, I’m going to drive you crazy.

I begin to rock my hips up and down so that my open pussy strokes the side of his dick while my oily fist still grips and manipulates his head.

“Shit,” he hisses softly as he grips my hips. That’s right, Grey, just lay there and let me do what I do.

The veins on the side of his cock stimulate the underside of my clit and I lick my lips. Damn, that feels good. I get a little lost in the feeling of his glorious cock rubbing against my clit and I forget for a moment that there’s a man attached to it that’s going to come quickly if I don’t stop. His agonized groan brings me back to the here and now.

How about a little tease, Grey?

I plant my feet on either side of his hips and steady my hands on the bed on either side of him. Using only my hips, I massage my clit with the head and side of his dick—achingly slowly pumping my pelvis so that my clit rides up… and down…  and up… and down… over the slit and pulsing ridge of his head and partially down the side of his shaft.

“Oh, my God, yes,” I breathe as I watch the show between my legs; the head of his dick appearing and reappearing just beyond my mons; the burn of the friction going straight through my core…

“Jesus!” he prays quietly as his hands reach around my body and tease my tender nipples. One of the nipple clamps has fallen off, but both nipples are still hot and taut.

“Uh!” I groan, throwing my head back as pleasure once again shoots from three different directions. I know this has had the same effect on him that his changing rhythm had on me—that he’s still on fire, but has drawn back from “ready to blow.” I slide against that dick a few more times, biting and licking my lips in my own ecstasy until I’m nearly over the edge myself, and then I stop. I need that magnificent piece of meat inside me for this orgasm.

I resume the initial position he requested, situating myself between his legs and my calves under his thighs, causing him to bend his knees and open his legs very wide. With my ass in the air and the ass plug staring him in the face, I reach between my legs and thrust my finger into my core. I momentarily stifle the moan that wants to escape, but fail in the effort when I drag the moistened finger over my throbbing clit and massage it gently.

“Christ, baby, you’re so damn hot,” he breathes forcefully.

Like you wouldn’t believe, Mr. Grey, like you wouldn’t fucking believe.

I reach down and grab his cock and rub the head against my clit two or three times more before I guide him to my hungry opening. There, I hold him in place while the opening and lips of my aching pussy gently and slowly tease the head of his cock. I can feel the ridge just inside my vagina as the release and reentry make that luscious, wet “kissing” sound. I’m insanely turned on by this, so with him watching it, I know that he’s losing his fucking mind.

“Anastasia,” he breathes, his voice tortured, “God, you’re too much…”

“You make me this way,” I reply, my voice steeped in passion like a mindless horny nymph.

A few more vaginal kisses and I slide effortlessly down onto his cock, all the way to the balls. He groans loudly and places both hands on my ass. I start a rhythmic glide with just the slightest directional roll, raising my ass up towards him when I drop onto his dick, then pulling my hips down and forward when I rise off of it. His pleasure sounds are tortured, deep, and sexy, and my core is on fire filled with his thumping meat.

“Christian,” I mewl, “you feel so good… you’re so hard…”

I fight to keep my rhythm now with him filling me wall to wall. I know he’s rising to orgasm because he so thick and wide inside me, and I am once again producing that heat and wetness that’s accumulating on his dick and leaving an arousal cockring at the base near the balls. It would be embarrassing if it wasn’t so fucking hot and I wasn’t so goddamn turned on.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Grey,” I pant breathily. “I’ll come… I’ll come really fucking hard for you.”

“Fuck!” he hisses as he rubs my lower back, and I can feel his thighs tightening with pleasure. He wants to enjoy it, so he’s going to hold out until I blow. I push back onto his dick repeatedly so that I get maximum penetration and he groans again.

“God!” I gasp as I pump harder. His hands are still grabbing my ass and one of them moves and pushes the butt plug.

“Oh, God,” I exclaim, the pleasure so much that I can’t concentrate on my movement anymore. I straighten my body and balance on my knees, still bouncing on that wonderfully, deliciously hard cock. One hand moves to tease the nipple still painfully confined in the nipple clamp while the other shamelessly moves to circle my burning clit. I feel the sensation rise immediately from my feet, taking only a few seconds to overtake my thighs. Just as it begins to tingle and burn deep inside my core, he grabs my hip and pulls the butt plug out.

I scream and detonate into such a dangerously violent orgasm that I can’t even tell what the fuck is going on at the moment. All I know is fire and light and dizziness and trembling and screaming… lots and lots of screaming. My attempt to seduce my husband has backfired and I’m having one of the longest, hottest, heaviest, most mind-numbing orgasms I have ever fucked myself into.

I don’t know how long it is before I come down from that electric display and experience, but when I do, I’m on my knees, my chest flat on the bed with hair sticking to my sweaty face, panting profusely. Once I’m able to breathe a bit, I lift my head just slightly and catch him in the mirror. I didn’t know it was there.

He hasn’t come. I know he hasn’t because he’s still very hard inside me, but he’s smirking at my back—clearly unaware that I can see him.

Mo-ther-fucker, I’ll show you…

I put my hands flat on the bed and curl my back like a cat stretching from a deep sleep. Then, I roll my hips again, like I did in the beginning, only faster… and harder… and faster!

I get another glimpse of him in the mirror and that smug look has left his face. His hands have grasped my hips again, trying and failing to control my thrust as his mouth alternates between biting his lip and clenching his teeth.

“Slow it down, fuck baby, slow it down,” he begs breathlessly. Fuck you, Grey. Come, you cocky motherfucker.

“Uuuuhhhh!” I moan sensually, knowing that the sound of my voice will help to set him off, and partially because I absolutely adore how he feels inside me, even though there’s no hope of me coming again tonight. I lean up on my knees again and thrust my hands into my hair, lifting it sensually over my head, closing my eyes and puckering my lips as I roll my hips relentless and fast over his cock.

“You feel so good,” I mewl truthfully, “so good…” I add a gasp to the last two words and his breathing is no longer controlled. He’s losing it.

“Good… Fuck…” he hisses as he grabs my hips right below my waist and sinks into the bed a bit to angle his cock more.

That’s it, Grey. Give it to me. I’m going to milk you dry.

I fall back onto the bed with a helpless mewl, steady myself on my hands, and bounce my ass on his dick in an intense buns-of-steel workout while clenching my Kegels so hard that it’s a wonder my IUD doesn’t pop out like an orange seed. After a few minutes of bouncing and listening to my own mewling, I glance in the mirror to check on my husband.

His head is thrust back and he’s firmly holding my hips. His lips are moving like he’s saying something, but nothing comes out. After a few moments, his eyes return to our joined bodies and I reach behind me a stick a finger in my ass where the butt plug used to be.

“Oh, fuck!” he growls at the sight and begins to wildly thrust into me, overpowering my smooth, massaging stroke. He pumps into me feverishly, gritting his teeth and grunting and throwing his head back again. When the first cry of orgasm escapes his lips, I rise off his cock, open my ass, and capture his ejaculating shaft between the cheeks. Surprised and impassioned, his eyes open wildly, and his mouth is gaping as he’s gasping for breath.

I roll my still-oily ass over his squirting dick and watch him gaze in amazement as I hold it between my ass cheeks and pump the cum from his balls.

“Fuck!” he chokes. “Oh, God, do that! Do that! Fuck, yes! That ass! Oh shit! Shit! Shit! Shiiiiittt!”

His eyes are plastered to my ass like he can’t believe what he’s seeing—a fantastic stream of candle-lighting shooting up out of my oily ass from his dick. My husband sounds like he’s passing a kidney stone and I’m taking extreme pleasure in watching his haughty ass irk out an orgasm as intense as the one I just had. In fact…

I raise my hips, swivel and drop my pussy onto his still pulsing cock. He screams as I pull and push slow and hard, flexing my Kegels over his dick to mimic the tighten-release-push-pull of an oily handjob on the head and walls of his shaft.

“Gooooooooooddamn! Goddamn! Goddamn! Goddamn!” He’s twitching and trembling as he rides out the aftershocks and I smile to myself as he finally falls limp, breathless, and helpless, his body silently calling for mercy.

*-*

Had it not been for Jason calling to wake us, we might have missed out on the day’s events. As it turns out, a car will be arriving at 9am to take us to the Barossa Valley for a wine tour. The Valley is only an hour away, but Christian rightfully had them coordinate everything with Jason. I’m a bit jealous right now because for all intent and purposes, Jason is Christian’s Marilyn… and Andrea is Christian’s Marilyn. And Andrea has a Luma. Marilyn doesn’t have a Luma. She organizes my life all by herself.

I really miss Marilyn.

As we’re a bit pressed for time, I use the en suite to pump, shower, and prepare for the day while Christian uses the second bathroom. I can’t have another day where I don’t speak to my children, so when I’m done pumping and prepping, I call my babies for a little facetime. Keri informs me that Minnie is becoming a bit crabby and wouldn’t take her bottle last night. I’m certain it’s because she’s accustomed to the changeup between the rubber nipple and the breast—and she’s not getting one of those. This is further driven home by her elation to see my face on the phone and her subsequent displeasure with having to give the phone back to Keri. I can’t stand to hear her anguish, especially since I’m inadvertently causing it, so I hand the phone to Christian and let him get a little baby time while I try to nurse the wounds of my breaking heart.

“It happens all the time, baby,” he says, putting his arms around me and trying to comfort me while I stare out the window overlooking the City of Churches.

“Was she still crying when you ended the call?” I ask, never turning to face him.

“She settled a bit,” he says, pulling me against him… which means that she was still crying, just not as much. I suddenly can’t wait to have her in my arms.

“I’m a terrible mother,” I say, wiping away a tear.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You are no such thing,” Christian scolds gently. “You’re both having a bit of separation anxiety. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Now I want you to stop that ridiculousness right now. It’s not true and I don’t have to tell you that.”

“I just… I shouldn’t have left her,” I protest.

“She’ll be fine,” he coaches. “What are you going to do when she goes to school?”

“Oh, God,” I say, and I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I drop my face in my hands and begin to weep. I hear my husband sigh heavily and I can imagine that he’s totally exasperated with me, and that just makes me cry harder.

“Don’t cry,” he says softly, turning me around to him and wrapping his arms around me. I stand there and weep into his T-shirt for several minutes until it’s covered in colored moisturizer and tears and he has to go and change it, and I have to wash my face and refresh my make-up. I still don’t feel good about leaving my baby, but I feel a little better since I’ve had my cry… I think.

Christian emerges in a white Izod over his jeans, declaring that he has no more T-shirts and will have to have the ones he has laundered since we still have two more days—including today—and the trip back to Seattle. Quite frankly, I like the Izod better.

39f548032e3227319813a69b6ab79224-christian-grey-jamie-dornan

I’m looking very Sex and The City in a comfortable flowy Halston Heritage lavender mini cut just above the knee and a pair of Louboutin Madmonica spiked open-toe cork wedge sandals. We rush down to breakfast so that we aren’t starting the day and an hour-long car ride to wine country on an empty stomach. That definitely wouldn’t be a good idea. My little crying spell and the subsequent cleanup cut our eating time in half, so we have a simple breakfast of eggs, Canadian bacon, roasted tomatoes, toast and juice—something that we can eat quickly, but not too quickly, before the car arrives.

“You were sleeping like the dead,” I say quietly to Christian during breakfast.

“I put in a lot of work last night,” he says proudly. “Bringing your beautiful wife to three orgasms is quite the feat.” He winks at me.

“Oh, really?” I challenge. “And I guess I had absolutely nothing to do with that last one, huh?” I raise my brow at him.

“Well… I… you… um…” Amazing. I’ve brought my husband to a stuttering mess.

“Um-hmm,” I say, filling my fork with food. “Well, while you opted for quantity—which was quite nice—I concentrated my efforts on quality. How do you think I did?” I throw an innocent gaze over at him, full well remembering watching him in the mirror muttering silent prayers while I rode his pulsing shaft relentlessly.

“You…” He clears his throat. “You… um… you did fine.” He quickly takes a sip of his coffee. I smile devilishly at him. I’ll just bet.

“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” I say, eating the food from my fork, chewing and smiling triumphantly. “By the way,” I add once I’ve swallowed my food. “Your choice of music…” I say, trailing off. He raises his gaze to me.

“Did you like it?” he asks.

“It was… a lot of new stuff. Some oldies… I didn’t think you were into the new stuff.”

“I can’t take credit for this song list,” he admits. “I typed a request into Pandora and just let it play.”

“What was the request?” I ask curiously.

“Baby-making music,” he says proudly. I burst out laughing.

After breakfast, a private van picks us up to take us on a beautifully scenic drive through the city of Adelaide and all the way north to the Barossa Valley. The ride will be approximately an hour long with plenty of sites to see along the way.

“Um, ma’am, I nohmally don’t comment on attiyah, but ya moight wanna chaynge ya shoes,” the driver says as we approach the car. Christian glares at him for a moment. He only glances at Christian momentarily before turning his attention back to me.

“It’s… foh ya comfoht, ma’am,” he adds. “There’ll be a lot of walking, ma’am,” he says in an attempt to get me to change my shoes. I immediately see the concern for my feet since I’m wearing wedges.

“Don’t worry about me,” I say with a warm smile. “Heels and I are old friends. I’d be much less comfortable in flats, and I have no problem taking them off if they become unbearable, which is not likely.”

“The touh is mohr than six hours, ma’am. If yoh’re shuh…” he urges once more. I appreciate his concern.

“I’m sure,” I smile. “Thank you for your kindness.” I elbow Christian in the side as he’s still glaring at the guy. “Stop it!” I chide softly. He looks down at me and I cock my head at him as an additional warning. When he appears to behave, I smile again at the driver and get in the van.

“Come on, Christian,” I chide gently to keep him from further harassing our driver. He leans in and sits next to me.

“The first thing he noticed was your shoes, huh?” he says as our security follows us into the van. It’s a late model Mercedes—it seats seven, but I’m not sure of the model.

“He’s probably trained to do that, dear,” I point out. “Can you imagine how many women have come on the tour wearing the wrong shoes and did nothing but complain the entire time?” The driver gets into the car and confirms what I’m saying.

“She’s roight, mate,” he says to Christian. “I don’t know whaht thehy’re expectin’, but plenty o’ sheilas get in wehring six-inch heels and thehy’re miserable halfway through the trip. Imagine how ya’d feel troying to enjoy ya day with blistahs on ya feet!! I always check an’ give ‘em toime and option ta chaynge. I’m sorry… I didn’t mean ta offend ya.” Christian sighs and waves him off.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I’m just… very possessive of my wife, and it’s been an… interesting trip on that note so far.” I chuckle.

“Tell me about it!” I murmur mirthfully. The driver smiles in the rearview.

“Thanks, mate. Roight, then, shall we go?” He smiles widely and starts the car.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, including the gorgeous vineyards that lay before us once we clear the city limits. They’re everywhere along the road through the Adelaide Hills, from really small patches of land to huge estates. I’m captivated by the beautiful landscapes, but not so captivated that I can’t tell that my husband is distracted. Is he still pissed off at the driver?


CHRISTIAN

“I wanted to have more information for you before I called you with conjecture, sir,” Josh says as I’m drying my hair. I brought the phone into the en suite with me and it’s a good thing I did. Josh has information hot off “the presses” for me.

“What do you have?” I ask as I begin my grooming routine.

“Lincoln is talking to anyone who’ll listen. She’s a media dream and nightmare at the same time. She’s very indiscreet. She gives enough information to have you chomping at the bit, but it’s not hard for the educated researcher to decipher exactly who she’s talking about—they just can’t afford to speculate without further information.”

“Fuck, I was afraid of that,” I hiss around a mouthful of toothpaste. “How close is she to a release date?”

“She’s aiming for May,” Josh says. Shit, that means she’s got a lot of information already on paper, or at least shared with her fucking ghostwriter. “She’s got a good solid timeline in front of her and nothing between her and the tell-all but air and opportunity.” She picked the perfect time to leak her story—right after our exposé hit the air.

“Did she make you for working for me?” I ask.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “If she did, she didn’t let on, or she just doesn’t care. She didn’t give me the name of her ghostwriter either. She gave me a penname, but at the moment, it leads nowhere. I’ve got Alex looking into some things for me and I’m discreetly chasing a few leads myself.”

“Shit!” I hiss. “So much for nipping this thing at the bud.”

“Don’t lose faith,” he says. “It’s only been a few days. Sometimes, it takes a little more digging to find the buried treasure. That’s why I was waiting to call you…” and I got impatient and jumped the gun.

“She gave me pretty much the same information that she’s giving to any other reporter that comes through there,” he continues. “Everything she said to me, we’ve already read in the papers, but to her, it’s fresh and new information every time she gives it. So, I listen for fresh and new information. I listen for context clues that nobody else would know to listen for. Like I said, I’m chasing a few things to narrow down a few solid theories, but I won’t relay information that sends you in the wrong direction—I have to know for sure.”

“I appreciate that,” I reply with a disappointed sigh. I’ve been literally itching for some information on the crazy bitch, and pretty much… nothing.

“I do have some other information, though,” he adds. “The warden cornered me as I was leaving…”

Oh, now we’re getting somewhere.

“What did he want?” I ask.

He asked who I was working for. I told him that I was freelancing, that I’m hoping to get an angle that nobody else has gotten and I’ll sell my story to the highest bidder. It’s easier to get what you need from a crook if you come off as cutthroat and hungry than if you show any signs of ethics whatsoever.”

“What makes you think he’s a crook?” I ask. He scoffs. “I mean, I pretty certain that he’s crooked. I just want to know what makes you think he’s a crook.”

“Upstanding member of society and leader of industry has been trying to get in touch with you for several days on a matter that you know will directly affect him and you avoid his calls… You’re either crooked or stupid—or both!” I twist my lips. Excellent judge of character.

“He asked if I had gotten any material that was worth printing. I told him that I hadn’t. Everything that she gave me, I already knew. So, he dangles a carrot in front of me. He says the book, the story, and the possible subsequent movie rights are likely to blow the top off the social scene and quite possibly the financial scene. He knows it’s you. He didn’t say so, but he made enough references. I don’t know what Lincoln said, but he knows, and at this moment, he’ll protect her through the screenplay to get his payoff.”

Well, this is just fucking great. She didn’t have to tell him much of anything. Of course, he knows it’s me. I paid his ass off to keep her quiet. Now, he’s avoiding my calls and siding with her, giving her carte blanche when it comes to talking to reporters and her fucking ghost writer.

“He wants to get the profits from the book. She just wants to tell her story, but her story is so sick and twisted, I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to write it. The way she portrays the roles of certain characters, it’s not pretty. Her rendition will implicate people and suggest that they’re pretending to be victims when they fully participated in the activities.” She’s obviously referring to the fact that I became a Dom once I came of age and continued the BDSM lifestyle…

Or at least that’s what I thought.

“The brief description that she gave me made it look like she had a club—a coven, if you will—of pedophiles; that they engaged in consensual sexual relations with minors and that said minors joined the club and continued the cycle when they became of age.”

“Wait a minute… what?” I say, staring horrified into the mirror.  

“I can’t make it any clearer,” he says. “There are underground pedophile sex clubs all over the world. It’s disgusting, but it’s true. It’s a real movement, and there are a lot of people involved… a lot! Her basis from what I can see is that she was part of—or the head or madame of—one such organization. And Christian, she can say what she wants, because she’s writing it as fiction. So, whether it’s true or not, the sensationalism of it will have this shit flying off the shelves. Think O.J. Simpson and If I Did It.

Oh, hell. That’s already a horribly touchy subject. Now, we’re comparing my life and the lives of several other sexually victimized young boys to the story of a man who may or may not have nearly beheaded the mother of his children and her male companion?

And now, I don’t have Holstein’s cooperation because he’s more concerned with a piece of the possible pie. Fine, fuck it. They want to play dirty, then it’s dirty they’ll get.

“And no clue on BD Simmons.” It’s a statement in the form of a question.

“Nothing concrete,” Josh says. “Again, I won’t put flawed information into the hands of the most powerful man on the western seaboard.”

“Duly noted,” I reply. That really wouldn’t be wise. “I need you to keep me posted the moment you do get something concrete. My response to this matter will be swift and sure. Time and discretion are of the utmost essence.”

I end the call and try to pretend that this information has not soured my entire mood.

“You’re not here.”

My wife’s voice brings my attention back to the fact that we’re cruising along a country road on our way to one of Australia’s many famed wine regions. I can’t hide the fact that I’m completely distracted by the conversation that I had with Josh this morning. She’s probably going to be pissed that I called him, but… I have to tell her something.

“Excuse me, parlez vous français?” I say, leaning forward to the driver. He glances in the rearview mirror.

“I’m sorry, mate?” he says.

“Parlez vous français?” I repeat.

“Sorry,” he says, watching the mirror and the road, “not shuh whaht cha sayin’, mate.”

“No problem. Thank you,” I say, turning to my wife to have the entire conversation with her in French.

“J’ai parlé à Josh ce matin,” I say. She sighs.
(I spoke to Josh this morning.)

“Qu’a t’il dit?” she says.
(What did he say?)

“Il essaie toujours de savoir qui est l’auteur, mais Holstein protège Lincoln.” She rolls her eyes in frustration.
(He’s still trying to find out who the ghost writer is, but Holstein is protecting Lincoln.)

“Je le savais!” she hisses. “Je le savais putain! Cela explique pourquoi il ne prenait pas vos appels.”
(I knew it! I fucking knew it! That explains why he was not taking your calls.)

“Ça a empire,” I inform her. “Elle donne l’impression que nous étions un club secret de pédophiles… comme si nous étions un groupe entier cherchant des enfants et les recrutant plus tard dans leur cercle quand ils sont devenus majeurs.” Her eyes widen in horror.
(It gets worse. She gives the impression that we were a secret club of pedophiles… as if we were an entire group trolling for children regularly and later recruiting them into our circle when they became of age.)

“Vous n’êtes pas sérieux,” she whispers incredulously. “Qui dans leur esprit accepterait d’écrire quelque chose comme ça?” I shake my head.
(You’re not serious. Who in their right mind would agree to write something like this?)

“Tu sais aussi bien que moi qu’il y a un public pour tout, bébé,” I reply. “Vous devez juste trouver le créneau qui est prêt à écouter vos conneries.” She drops her head in her hands.
(You know as well as I do that there’s an audience for everything, baby. You just have to find the niche that’s willing to listen to your bullshit.)

“C’est irréel.” she laments. “C’est absolument irréel. Si je n’en étais pas personnellement conscient, je ne penserais pas qu’un être humain puisse survivre avec autant de mal. Je plaisantais quand je l’appelais «démon puant, méchant, sale, visqueux, visqueux, démone pédo-salope de l’enfer», mais que cette horrible reine diabolique appartient vraiment au plus profond les profondeurs du pire tourment éternel jamais imaginable. Il n’y a absolument aucune rédemption pour elle. Elle marche à pied détérioration, damnation et destruction et elle doit être détruite…”
(This is unreal. This is absolutely unreal. If I wasn’t personally aware of it, I wouldn’t think that any one human being could survive harboring this much evil. I was joking when I called her a ‘stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell,’ but that horrific, wretched, inhuman, devil queen really does belong in the deepest, hottest depths of the worst eternal torment ever imaginable. There is absolutely no redemption for her. She is walking deterioration, damnation, and destruction and she must be destroyed…)

I had all but forgotten about that name, but Butterfly is right. This woman is pure evil personified, the worst manifestation of Satanic personification—Princess Beelzebub unleashed on this earthly realm, and the world would truly be a better place without her in it.

My wife has completely gone off on a French tangent now. All the men in the car—including the driver—have gone a bit pale and are looking everywhere but at us, and as far as I know. I’m the only one who knows what she’s saying… maybe…

“Do you speak French?” I ask Lawrence. He shakes his head.

“German, sir,” he says. I look at Jason. I know Spanish is his second language.

“A word here and there, sir,” he says, “enough to know she’s pissed.”

“Stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Butterfly snaps. We weren’t… only that last statement, but I’m not going to be the one to dispute her on it. All the men quickly turn their attention to anything else—the scenery, the road, a speck of lint on the carpet, anything safe—while I turn my attention back to one angry little Butterfly.

“I shouldn’t have told you,” I confess, “at least not now. It’s going to ruin your day.”

“No, it won’t,” she says matter-of-factly, “because I know that you’re going to do everything humanly possible to rectify this situation. I know that you’re going to use your endless resources to make sure that this woman is not able to ruin the many, many lives that she could possibly ruin—now or ever again—with this ridiculous undertaking. You’re going to do what needs to be done to put an end to this—or I will.”

Three sets of eyes zero in on my wife and I’m sure it would have been four if the driver could look at her without putting us all at risk.

“Butterfly…” I begin my protest.

“I’m going to let you handle this, Christian,” she says, her voice unwavering. “I’m going to watch, and I’m going to let you handle it. But if for any reason, you are unable to stop this from happening, I want you to remember something—all those boys, their families, my children! I will stop at nothing and no one to terminate this ridiculous pursuit! She wants us to believe she’s crazy? Fine! I’m crazier! She will not jeopardize the lives of my children and that is my final word! And that’s not a threat, Christian, that’s a promise!”

I’m glaring at this woman possessed because I swear, I’ve never seen her before. Al usually tells me which version of “Ana” I’m dealing with when she steps out of herself, and he’s not here to identify this one for me. I’m quickly running through my head all the Ana’s he has introduced me to…

Knife-throwing Ana…
Marine’s Daughter Ana…
First-Blood or Rambo Ana…

Shit, I don’t know. All I know is that she’s glaring at me with the glassiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen, her pupils so constricted, they’re almost invisible. I fucking well better answer her.

“I. Will take. Care. Of this,” I say, finitely. She glares at me for a moment longer before she slowly nods once.

“Good,” she says firmly. “Keep me posted.” She turns her gaze away from me and back to the scenery going by outside the window. I throw a cautionary glance at Jason, who returns my glare before glancing over at Lawrence. A silent conversation ensues between the three of us to not let her out of our sight or she just might hurt someone today. The conversation inside my head is much more detailed.

Get this shit on lockdown or there’s going to be fucking hell to pay.

*-*

Tensions ease once we arrive at our destination. Butterfly has all but forgotten our conversation about the Pedophile, and it’s my job to ensure that her thoughts don’t wander in that direction again. Granted, it’s my fault they wandered in that direction in the first place, but I couldn’t keep the truth from her, especially since my ire and distraction was written all over my face.

“Hello,” a friendly gentleman greets us when we exit the Mercedes. “Ma nayme’s John. OI’ll be yohr touhr goide tahdeye.” I take Butterfly’s hand as Jason and Lawrence exit the vehicle.

“I’m Christian. This is my wife, Anastasia. These gentlemen are my security detail.” John’s brow rises.

“Political official, ahre ya?” John asks. I shake my head.

“No, nothing like that… but perfectly legal,” I assure him.

“Can nevah beh too syfe, eh mate?” he says with a nod before continuing directly to the next topic. “Tell me, whaht’s yohr expehrience with woine?”

Hmmm, how do I answer that?

“My wife is basically a Cabernet woman, but can be easily swayed with smooth reds,” I begin, and Butterfly playfully slaps my arm. “One of her favorites is the Screaming Eagle from Napa Valley. We discovered it on the wine train tours a couple of years ago.”

“Yes, OI’m quite familiah with the Screamin’ Eagle,” John confirms. “Which yeahr?”

“2006,” I confirm. “It’s apparently hard to find, but our concierge was able to locate a dozen and have them shipped to our home.” John nods.

“Have ya had tha pleasah of tha ’92?” he asks. I shake my head.

“I can’t say that I have.” John nods again.

“Extremely rahe vintage, mate,” he says, his voice laced with a bit of awe. “Aged in 60% new oak; it’s mohe puhple than woine colored and has a jammy black currant aroma mixed with hints of oak. Very difficult ta locyte and OI’ve huhd of bottles runnin’ upwuhds of 500,000 Amehrican!” He pauses for a moment. “Sorry thehre, mate. OI get a little carried awy talking about the woines.” I wave him off, playing down the fact that I’m thoroughly impressed with his knowledge of wines.

“Don’t be,” I excuse, “I’m a bit of a connoisseur myself, versatile with a preference to dry whites. I may pick your brain about what exclusive blends the region has to offer.” John smiles widely.

“OI’m yoh goiy, mate,” he says happily.

“I’m afraid we haven’t been able to expand our palates much since our honeymoon,” I add.

“Ah, newlyweds?” he asks. Butterfly giggles.

“Somewhat,” she replies. “We’ve been married for 18 months.”

“Yeah, thaht’s still newlywed,” John says. “Ahr little cornah of tha world hehr is whaht we cahl a woine town—everything hehr is centehred on tha woine.”

“I’ve heard that you have some award-winning Shiraz in these parts,” I coax. John smiles widely again.

“You huhd correct, mate,” he says gleefully. “Did ya do anythin’ special on ya honeymoon? Somethin’ that stuck out to ya, maybe?” I shrug.

“Well, our honeymoon started in Paris, then continued in Greece,” Butterfly says. “To be honest, the entire trip was pretty special, so it’s hard to pick just one thing. We had a tasting at Le Dokhan’s…”

“Ah, Le Dokhan’s!” John interrupts, “worhld-renowned champyne, oldest estahblishment in Pehris. You both must have vehry discuhning palates.”

“We’ve tasted a wine or three,” I confirm.

“Well, in thaht cyse, OI’ve got tha perhfect day in moind foh ya. Fahllow me and we’ll get stahted.”

He walks ahead of us and leads us to a rebuilt and refurbished 1962 Daimler Chrysler. Apparently, this beautiful classic car will be our transportation for the day.

“Ooo, very nice,” Butterfly says as she climbs inside.

John is quite chatty during the course of our tour and I’m very soon to discover why. He’s very proud of the Barossa Valley having lived here most of his life and conducted tours for over 20 years. He boasts having given this tour to dignitaries and wine connoisseurs from all over the world and promises to look me up so that he can add our tour to his updated list of bragging rights. He informs us that our tour has no specific itinerary and that if at any time we don’t like the course of the day to let him know and we can adjust accordingly.

We take a short drive to St. Hugo first. Although my wife was distracted with thoughts of Elena Lincoln’s demise on the trip to the valley, she’s quite attentive as John informs us of the history of St. Hugo. She remembered to bring the camera this time, and she’s taking several shots ranging from the picturesque countryside to quirky street signs pointing in various directions.

At the risk of sounding like the terrible snob that I can be, I’m extremely pleased with the vibe we’re getting from the Barossa Valley, and even more pleased when I hear of the settlement of the area. Most of Australia—particularly the ports we visited earlier in our vacation—was settled by convicts or others who had been exiled to Australia from England. Contrarily, settlers of South Australia and the Barossa Valley came looking for a better life. They were mostly merchants and farmers, those in search of their fortune on the shores and bush of Australia in the late 1800’s. Most prominent in this area were German settlers, and many of the vineyards they planted are still around today.

I’m not ashamed to say that the spirit that my Butterfly is gleaning from this area is much more relaxed and pleasant than the monsters she acquired at Port Arthur. So, yes, the snob in me is much more partial to the Barossa Valley, and I intend to do more research on our excursions in the future.

As we arrive at St. Hugo, John tells us that the current winery is comprised of original structures from the ruins of William Jacob’s winery, which was built over 150 years ago, as well as new additions designed to seamlessly tie in with the old ruins. We travel down a winding driveway with a stunning view of half-century-old cork trees—one of the few plantations of its kind in Australia.

Our tour begins with a short but refreshing walk through the vineyard. We note that some of the vines have been named and John tells us about how some of the names were chosen. One of the royal families came to the vineyard for an exclusive tour called the Sainthood Experience and the row of vines was named after them. Parcels from the vineyard of that row were picked and a custom wine was blended, where it is stored to age for three years and will then be delivered to that family. I don’t bother asking what that experience costs—I can imagine that even I would find it exorbitant.

After the tour, we head into a cozy tasting room, cellar door, and restaurant to literally enjoy the fruits of the field with a few other patrons of the vineyard. It’s easy to see that John is well known in the area. He takes pride in showcasing his knowledge and sharing his personal Barossa friendships and connections. It’s like he’s part of a special club that knows the inside scoop of all the secrets of the land—a wine fraternity, if you will.

Watching the wines being poured into the glasses is almost a spiritual moment. You can almost see the blends flowing out of the bottle and into the glass in slow motion, and your mouth waters with anticipation to taste it. The way the wine washes up from the bowl of the glass and gracefully caresses the sides enhances the experience. It’s almost like you’re watching a vintage being born in front of you even though you know that’s not the case.

Each tasting is accompanied by a very small gourmet entrée to complete the wine-tasting experience—a light degustation, not the complete chef’s experience, but we didn’t want that right now. Unlike the regular practice of pairing the right type of wine with the food, St. Hugo’s chef chooses his foods to complement the wines. After all, the wines are the stars of the show. The dishes are arranged with the wines according to taste—bitter, sweet, sour, fatty, savory, etc. We taste the various wines along with the simple dishes and ingredients and pick our favorites—which flavors we felt went best with each vintage, and which vintages we preferred over others. I’m pretty partial to the signature Shiraz while Butterfly predictably leans to an incredibly decadent Cabernet.

John is only too happy to inform the vintner that we would like three bottles of the 2005 Signature Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon to be packed and prepared to take back to the States. Reminding us of the tax and hassle of getting the wine through customs, he offered to send it directly to our address in Seattle. I wouldn’t have minded the tax on the wine—at $1000 a bottle, it couldn’t have been much for someone like me—but he raises a good point about the hassle of customs, and we may find more wine that we’d like to ship home. In light of that information, I agree to have the bottles shipped and give him our information for the shipping.

Just as I’m finishing the transaction, Butterfly scoffs loudly and indiscreetly. I frown and turn to her.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. I know she’s had a bit of wine, but it’s no more than we’ve had at a normal dinner and we’re just getting started, so it can’t be that.

“I must be one helluva hot dish!” she’s says uncensored. Okay…

“Well… yeah, but why is that a bad thing?” I ask.

“Because people can’t believe for the life of them that we just met, fell in love, got married, and started a family. I just have to be a trophy wife!”

That statement tells me everything I need to hear. There’s only one other group of people in the cellar door with us and they’re standing just to the left of her—two couples about our age examining the wine menu. At least the men are examining the wine menu. The women are looking over at Butterfly. They subsequently divert their gaze when they see me glaring at them.

“You are a trophy wife, baby. Get used to it,” I say loud enough for them to hear. They giggle and Butterfly gasps. “That’s because you’re one hell of a fucking prize. And the next time someone says that about you, just remember that they’re only saying it because they’re so goddamn jealous that they could chew out their own fucking tongues.”

I raise my brow at her and wait for acknowledgment. I get it in the form of her beautiful, coy smile that I know is only reserved for me. I lift her chin and kiss her gently.

“Never get upset about trolls, baby,” I say, still holding her chin, but looking at the cunts who disparaged her. “They’ve got nothing on you and they know it, and that’s why they try to cut you down.” I bring my eyes back to Butterfly’s. “Comprendre?”

“Oui, monsieur,” she replies sweetly. I brush her lips with another soft kiss.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say, taking her hand and tucking it into the crease of my elbow. “The riff-raff is starting to bother me.”

As we pass the couples still standing at the counter, I hear one of the men say, “Geez, what the fuck did you say?’”


A/N: Yes, they’re everywhere!

More music from the special night:
Usher—
Trading Places
Nelly and Kelly Rowland—
Dilemma
Usher—Lovers and Friends
Trey Songz—
All We Do
Slo Mo—
Ride
Jeremiah—
Birthday Sex
Guinuwine—
Differences
Trey Songz—
On Top
K Camp—
Blessing

Putain d’enfer, il l’a encore fait!—Fucking hell, he did it again!
S’il vous plaît”—”Please!”

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Adeliade,” “Peppers,” and “Barossa Valley” sections, and there are a lot of them!!

And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 81—More Melbourne Mischief

Happy Mother’s Day!

So, I simply delete smart-ass, snarky-ass, or disrespectful comments. I was addressing them at first, but with all that has gone on in my real life and the people I’ve lost—particularly as of late—and the things that I’ve gone through, this place over here is going to be completely drama-free for me. So, if I read the first three words, the first sentence, or whatever place where your comment looks like it’s going downhill, I stop reading and delete it. So, if you want to write an insult or something horrible or harmful just to see that shit on your own screen because you’re going to be the only one who sees it, then be my guest, because it’s immediate trash to me. I don’t read them anymore. The only drama on this page will be between the characters. Have a nice day! 😀 

Falala will like this chapter. 😉

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 81—More Melbourne Mischief

ANASTASIA

After we spend a good two hours or more in the aquarium, my husband has the great idea to go to an indoor market for lunch and to look around. He knows that I hate shopping and if I’m aching for an indoor market, I have the Marketplace on Pike Street. Another market in Australia isn’t going to impress me.

Oh, dear God, was I wrong!

Now, I’m not besmirching my beloved Pike Place, but when you see wares from different places that aren’t what you’re accustomed to, you can’t help but get lost in the splendor.

Although I skip past the sport shops and vitamin stores, I wander into this clothing and accessory shop called Pussycat Black. They have a lot of wonderful handmade and local wares, most of it with a vintage flare. I’m not sure what the concept is in the store, but a lot of the items appear to be grossly overpriced. Now, apparently, these prices shouldn’t mean anything to me because I have money to burn. However, just because I can burn it doesn’t mean that I want to. Nonetheless, I wander around with my husband and my bodyguard in tow, seeing if there’s anything that catches my eye to entice me to part with my money.

I see this one dress on the wall that I think is really cute. When I approach to get a closer look at it, I see a picture of the dress on a model and the damn thing is horrendous.

I find a couple of pairs of handmade resin earrings and a bracelet that I like, and I decide to get them even though they’re overpriced, too. I decide that there’s nothing else in the store that I want and head for the cashier to pay for my earrings.

“That’s all you’re getting?” Christian asks. “I would have thought this would definitely be your type of store.” I shake my head.

$129 striped T-shirt“They have some very quaint items in here—things I might even be tempted to wear, but there’s no way in hell you’re going to get me to pay $129 for a striped T-shirt.” I point to the white T-shirt with horizontal stripes. “Who came up with that idea?” He raises a brow.

“Well, maybe they’re catering to a certain type of clientele, baby,” he says.

“Yes, I can see that,” I say, “the type of clientele who just spend money for the sake of spending it.” He shrugs and I turn to the cashier who’s looking at me a bit distastefully. I can’t be angry with her. I am talking about her job after all.

“That’ll be $167,” she says a bit impatiently. Christian frowns.

“I thought you just got earrings and a bracelet,” he says.

“I did,” I say, twisting my lips at him before turning back to the cashier. I pull out my Amex Black and hand it to her with a smile. Her expression is originally a bit put off… until I hand her the card. They never see the name on the card, they just see the card. Black has a name all its own.

Yeah, bitch, I can buy your entire inventory. I just don’t want it.

“Thank you, ma’am. Have a good day,” she says, handing me my card and my wares once they’ve been paid for and bagged.

“Thank you—you, too,” I reply with no malice before leaving.

A short while later, I’m in this trading post called Acanthus and it’s reminding me of that simpler time again, when I had just signed the papers on my condo and the kitchen was in the process of being redone. I only had the quirky, mismatched dishes from my college years and planned for the time when I would buy all new kitchenware, flatware, glassware, and cooking utensils and pans for my new gourmet kitchen. I see beautiful ceramic chargers and vintage glassware and hurricanes from Portugal, jewelry from Spain and Italy. However, the thing that has me spellbound with nostalgia is a set of ceramic dishes in a watermelon motif. They are the gaudiest things I’ve ever seen, and I buy the whole set—two platters, two bowls, three pitchers, everything… the entire awful thing.

As the vendor wraps my dishes and puts them in shopping bags for Ben to carry, I spot Christian coming out of a bookstore, but not just any bookstore… a cookbook store! I can’t help but wonder what the hell made him go in there. Then I remember that lovely dinner he made for me. I’m sure he had help, but all parties involved swear he did all the work. It doesn’t matter, though—the thought and the effort were delightful, and the dinner was delicious.

“What did you get?” I say, walking over to him and his shopping bag. He shamelessly reaches into his bag.

“They had a copy of the original Joy of Cooking from the 50’s. I thought Gail would get a real kick out of trying to teach me some of these,” he says with a laugh. “And I got these so that I wouldn’t be a total failure in the kitchen.” He shows me another book called Quick Easy Recipes Cookbook and a third one, Cooking Basic for Dummies. He’s really serious about this cooking thing.

“I could show you a recipe or two,” I offer coyly with a small shrug, “if you like.” He smiles.

“I think I’d like that a lot,” he says sincerely before planting a tender kiss on my forehead and taking my hand.

We walk by a shop called Lollie Lovers and I’m almost tempted to go inside—candy as far as the eye can see! Then, I suddenly have another flashback…

The Great Candy Caper of Anguilla.

Needless to say, I decide against going into Lollie Lovers.

Further into the marketplace, we stumble on a shop called Pompous Paws. It’s full of the cutest outfits for pets and I suddenly get the strangest urge.

“I want a pet, Christian,” I say, still looking inside the store, “besides the fish.”

“A pet?” he says in horror. “You want a pet? You mean something that has to be cleaned and chased and shits all over the house?” I turn and look at him.

“Yes,” I say firmly. “I want a pet. It’ll be good for the kids, too. We don’t have to decide on anything immediately, but keep it in mind—I want a pet.”

I walk ahead and look at the other shops. I’ve planted the seed, Mr. Grey, I’m not going to change my mind. The only questions to be answered here are what and when.

After I locate three lovely V-neck sweaters for Christian in The Cozy Possum, I realize that my wares will soon be more than I can carry, and I pop into a little store called By Avalon and purchase two shopping bags that serendipitously read, “Hooray!!! I remembered to bring my shopping bag.” I can’t decide if I like the black canvas with the white writing or the gray canvas with the black writing, so I buy one of each and continue with my shopping.

Hooray Bag Gray

Apparently, they tease you with the shops near the door and their “quirky” resin jewelry and $130 T-shirts when the real gold mine is clearly further inside the marketplace. Allepo Style and Fabric Fever have silk and cashmere scarves and soft and luxurious textiles that go on and on for miles and will have me in beautiful wraps, wraparounds, and custom-made genie pants for a year! I’m trying not to go overboard as I choose meter after meter of gorgeous fabric and scarves and then wonder how I’m going to get it back… to wherever we’re going to take it. Just as I’m pondering my dilemma, I see Jason walking in my direction, but no Christian.

“Where’s Christian?” I ask when he closes the space between us.

“He’s in one of the shops over there,” he says. “Do… you need me to take something?”

“Yes, but where the hell are you going to take it?” I point to the pile of fabric building up at the cash register along with the scarves, sweaters, and dishes in poor Ben’s arms.

“Whoa,” Jason says under his voice. “Wait here… and carry on.”

Carry on what? I’ve got enough fabric here to—ooo, that’s pretty…!

A few minutes… and several more meters of fabric later, Jason and Christian return, each with a piece of rolling luggage.

“Jesus, what did you buy?” I ask. Christian holds up his shopping bag from the bookstore and one other shopping bag almost the same size, but I can’t tell what’s in it. I frown.

“Why the luggage, then?” I ask.

“These are for you,” he says.

“Oh, you’re not serious!” I say, affronted. “Are you being sarcastic right now?”

“Really?” Christian says in disbelief. “Let me think.” He pretends to ponder the situation, then points to the mountain of fabrics—that has actually grown since I spoke to Jason.

“Yeah, no,” he says firmly. I twist my lips at him.

“Asshole,” I say, turning away from him.

“Have you paid for these yet?” Jason asks, looking at the stack of fabrics.

“No,” I reply petulantly.

“Give her your card,” Christian says. I glare at him. Reading my expression appropriately, he adds, “I didn’t say you had to stop shopping.  I said, ‘give her your card.’” I twist my lips again and hand the cashier my card who smiles at me accommodating. I think I’ve bought enough anyway.

“So, you’re just going to drag all this stuff around?” I ask as the cashier begins the tedious process of ringing me up and folding the fabric.

“No,” Jason says, “As soon as the boss told me where you were, I secured a car.” Okay, now I am perturbed.

“So, you were just so positive that I would go overboard?” All three men raise bemused glares to me. Jason grabs the first stack of folded fabrics.

“Was I wrong?” he asks with sarcastic blinks.

He’s got me fucking dead to rights and I hate it! I’m standing there pouting for a while until my eyes catch the most beautiful and brilliant flashes of blue. It’s almost as if the world falls away and I’m floating across the marketplace to the magnificent creations that make these really cute and expensive resin pieces that I bought earlier look like cheap pieces of plastic.

This ungodly beautiful creation called opals.

Dear God, I’ve died and gone to jewelry heaven. I don’t remember seeing anything this exquisite since I first saw the Chanel collection. How much of this will Christian let me buy?

I have no idea how long I’m in this booth talking to this vendor about the different kinds of opals—black opals, white opals, fire opals, boulder opals, crystal opals; solid opals vs doublets or triplets. Before the conversation is over, I’ve fallen in love with three sets of earrings, six pendants, four rings, and a bracelet… but I’m a bit stunned that everything is labelled “simple and classic,” yet priced upwards of $3,200 each!

Christian and Jason have taken the luggage with my latest acquisitions out to the car while Ben stands nearby as I shop. Christian most likely has my Amex and I’m going to have to justify this purchase when he gets back. The stones are all the same, but different, and I don’t know which ones I want. The thought of putting any of them back is sheer torment!

I’m trying to make my choices before the men come back to the booth, but it’s agonizing. The opal ring with the red in it is the hardest to find and most sought-after, but the cuts that have the combination deep-blue with iridescent green stones are so stunning. And the pendant with the sunshine yellow burst—I haven’t seen another piece like that in the entire booth! Then I have so many rings and earrings… one bracelet, I think, so I can probably keep that one. I’m toiling over which ones to reject when I see my husband’s arm extending over my shoulder handing a credit card to the vendor.

“Which ones, sir?” the vendor asks.

“All of them,” he says without flinching. I’m certain that I’m standing there with the deer-caught-in-headlights look right now. Christian turns his attention to me.

“You were right about the resin jewelry and the T-shirt. This?” he says, gesturing to the exquisitely beautiful array of jewelry laid out over the counter. “You want this.” He turns back to the vendor.

“Ring ‘em up. Nice boxes, too, please,” he says.

“Yes, sir, of course,” the vendor says gladly. Christian turns back to me.

“Sometimes, you remember who we are, and sometimes I think you forget,” he says. “There’s nothing that you want that you can’t have as long as we don’t have to kill someone or overthrow governments to get it… even stinky pets.”

At first, I feel very contrite, and then I feel warm all over.

“How do I say, ‘thank you’ without turning into a sappy, overexuberant pile of goo?” I ask.

“You just did,” he smiles before leaning down and placing a soft kiss on my lips. “Now, we’ve got a choice. We can go down to that last street down there and see what other things we can spend our money on, or I’ve just learned that there’s a food tour that’s about to begin. I’ve bribed one of the guides to let us slip in and tastes the sensations of the Market, or there’s probably a café or something…”

“Food tour!” I exclaim before he finishes his sentence. He laughs and leads me over to the food area… one of them anyway.

Where to begin?

The booths in the food court and meat alley are so unassuming, but dear God—so much food and the majority of it is produced locally! Let’s start with what I call the “Pesto Bar…” Every variety of olive—pitted, sliced or stuffed—in creation and “pestos” of any kind that you can imagine and even some that you can’t!

Beetroot, tzatziki, olive and eggplant, smoked salmon, something with feta, regular hummus, spinach and pine nuts…

Some of the combinations are like, “why would you do this?” But they were delicious!

We pass by a tea hut and the fragrances are divine. The tea is sold in bulk and I see apple pie tea, Eva’s organic yummy-tummy tea, velvety vanilla chai tea, sleepy slumber tea, and cold and flu tea—complete with a warning to seek medical advice for colds. I take notes as we were passing the bulk spices to see which ones may be available at the Marketplace in Seattle and which ones I may want to have imported. I’m thinking that I might want to start doing some cooking again. I’m missing F&L Ana and I need to get her back.

This of course has me looking at the various fancy cookware available, but I won’t look to that until I know exactly what we have at the Crossing first.

Over to Dianne’s Delights we wander and the apparent “queen” of the antipasto. Oh, dear Lord, the taste sensations here! More marinated olives, fresh falafel and tabouli, Tasmanian smoked salmon, marinated bocconcini, and peppers and deli meats stuffed with the creamiest and most delicious cheeses.

Next, we have a lobster ravioli tasting at the Pasta Shop, then on to the French Shop for tastings of exotic cheeses, including Saint Angel Triple Cream and Truffle Brie.

Truffle Brie… $120 per kilogram! Who the fuck are they feeding???

Nonetheless, I get to taste this heavenly cow’s milk from the gods during the tour along with divine marinated artichokes and amaretto figs before we head over to the Polish Deli for more delicious deli meats coupled with some French Ciabatta from Andrew’s Specialty Gourmet Breads. Now, I don’t know who my husband bribed, but I get the feeling that we’re getting a bit more than what’s normally on the tour because I’m getting healthy pieces of meat and large chunks of bread, and I didn’t see anybody else get any of that truffle Brie.

But who am I to complain?

Until…

We make our way down the meat and fish hall where all the fresh food is butchered. I could have gone my whole life without seeing the giant head of a raw salmon freshly butchered. While I appreciate the work that goes into providing these fresh foods from local growers and farms, I’m not that keen on seeing the preparation process in that much detail. It’s a good thing I’m not particularly squeamish, a point that was put to the test when I saw the fresh lamb brains.

Yum.

Once we get past the indoor slaughterhouse… okay, I’m being dramatic, but still… we get to chomp on some fresh fruits and nuts.

Outside, we get fresh, hot doughnuts from the doughnut truck before we all sit down to a lovely board of fresh cut cheese, exotic fruits, and delicious wine at the outdoor picnic area where the organic fruits are sold. And thus ends our tour.

“That was utterly delightful,” I say as I finish my wine. I lean in to my husband. “I’m not crazy, am I?” I say. “We got a little extra on this tour, didn’t we?” He does that back-and-forth kind of nod.

“The coordinator might have recognized me,” he admits. I frown.

“American?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Australian, but he knows who I am.” He finishes his wine. I sit for a moment and enjoy the sunshine, doing a little people watching. When I look back at Christian, he’s staring at me… maybe through me, I’m not sure. His mind is definitely somewhere else.

“Christian?” I say his name trying to get his attention. A slight eye movement indicates that I’ve broken his daydream.

“Are you having a good time?” he asks. That’s a strange question to come out of nowhere.

“Yes,” I say. “I went a little crazy in the marketplace, but yes, I’m enjoying myself immensely.”

“A little crazy?” he chuckles. “I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with all those fabrics.”

“Fabrics,” I say incredulously as if testing the word.

“Yes, fabrics,” he repeats. “When Jason pointed you out and I saw the stack before you were even half-done, I knew that we’d be checking some more luggage.”

“Fabrics!” I repeat. “I easily bought nearly $50,000 in opals and you’re more impressed by the fabrics?” He twists his lips.

“We spent more than that on one piece at Chanel in Paris,” he points out. “You could’ve bought the whole damn store for all I was concerned.”

“Wow,” I say, shaking my head. “More money than sense.”

“It had nothing to do with the money,” he says, moving closer to me and putting his arm around my waist so that no one can hear our conversation. “It’s your eyes.” I examine him curiously.

“My eyes?” I question. He nods.

“When you were paying for your fabrics, you completely floated over to that booth and forgot all about your current purchase and your card—don’t do that again, by the way.”

What was the harm? I knew he and Jason were still there putting the fabrics and scarves in the suitcases, and the cashier wasn’t going to let them walk away without ringing me up. It was a simultaneous process, and he would have to sign the receipt, so I knew he would see the card. Nonetheless…

“Then, I was walking over to you at the booth, you were looking at those pieces with a longing and admiration that I can’t explain, and I knew that you were trying to decide which ones you were going to put back. But most of all…”

He slides over so that our hips are touching, and I suddenly feel very warm… again.

“Those stones were stunning,” he says, his mouth so close to my face that I can feel his warm breath on my neck and the shell of my ear. “The blues in some of those pieces… they’re perfect! Like your eyes… right at that moment…”

His lips gently brush the skin of my neck before his tongue burns a trail up to my ear. I shiver as he licks around the shell of my ear, then whimper at the feeling of his mouth closing gently over my lobe. A jolt shoots through me when he sucks it into his mouth and gives it a sensual nip.

“Stop,” I whisper helplessly. I don’t have a spare pair of panties with me, Mr. Grey.

“I will,” he says, giving my earlobe one final suck and kiss, “for now, but tonight… you’re all mine!”

I take in a deep breath and release, his promise hanging in the air between us.

“Now, Mrs. Grey,” he says, putting only a little space between us. “What would you like to do next?”

“Well, I know Jaxon and the girl at the market both said something about ‘Fed Square,’ so let’s give that a shot.” He nods and stands from the table.

“Fed Square it is,” he says, taking my hand and helping me up from my seat. The parking lot isn’t very far away, and Jason leads us to a black Cadillac SRX parked there.

Well, that’s not pretentious at all.

Anyway, we climb inside and about 15 minutes later, he drops us at Federation Square. When I step out of the SUV, I’m captivated by a beautiful church literally right across the street.

“Is that St. Paul’s Cathedral?” I ask, pointing at the church.

“Yeh, sheila,” a passerby says without stopping.

“We may not have enough time to do both,” Christian warns. “Our flight to Adelaide leaves in a few hours.” Hmm…

“If we only have time for one, I think I’d rather see the cathedral,” I tell him. I can imagine just more shopping, photo ops, and site-seeing in Fed Square. I’d rather have the photo ops in St. Paul’s.

There are no services going on right now, so the photo ops are endless. There are people just chilling outside on the balustrades like college kids milling around the student center having lunch. Even though I’m about to enter what is clearly a very majestic temple, you know that you’re visiting a place that truly belongs to the citizens of the city.

The plaque just outside the door proudly boasts that the stonework of the church was restored between 1963 and 1967 and the undertaking was made possible by “gifts of the churchpeople and other citizens.” Yeah, it belongs to the people.

So, let’s start with the 15-foot-tall stained-glass doors. Honestly, I don’t know how tall they are, but the guy standing in front of the door wasn’t even half as tall as the door and he’s an easy six feet. You can easily make out the depiction of the four books of the Gospel in the beautiful stained glass, which casts a welcome light into the large sanctuary.

There are all kinds of historical bits and pieces to be seen here and heard there, but with a limited amount of time ahead of me, I’m more interested in the features and the stunning architecture.

There are amazing stained-glass windows throughout with intricate dedication plaques detailing to whom the windows are dedicated. There are numerous other plaques commemorating the lives and contributions of several other citizens, not only to the church, but to the commonwealth as well, including but not limited to the lives lost in wars throughout the years. One such plaque honors the shipmates of the H.M.A.S Australia who were killed in action during World War II, all of the plaques marked with the profound words, “Lest we forget.”

The detail in the architecture is a thing of wonder—the stories in the glass windows and the Narthex screen; the eight-point Persian tile that boasts eight titles for the Messiah; the majestic columns of the nave and the intricate carvings in the pulpit and the archbishop’s throne. The floors are made of imported granite, marble, and alabaster tiles and the lectern at the altar is an impressive brass eagle that holds a large bible on its back. Even the large baptism immersion font off to the right is a sunken pool of luxurious marble.

The Chapel of the Ascension is marked for quiet prayer and spiritual meditation. As I enter this seemingly sacred space, I can’t help but think of that scene from that movie from the 50’s with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember, when he visits his grandmother and Kerr’s character takes a moment to pray in the chapel.

I finally tire of looking at the collection of plates and cushions utilized by different Australian dignitaries and decide to take a seat in the main sanctuary to rest my feet. The pews are much more comfortable than I expected them to be.

Ben informs us that Jason has procured something for them to eat since they didn’t partake in the foodie tour with us and asked if we were going to be leaving the sanctuary anytime soon. Christian assures him that we will stay here and rest until they have finished their meal, which they will be eating just outside the door on the balustrades where I noticed others sitting when we entered. We won’t have enough time to see Federation Square before we have to go to the airport, so we just relax here in the sanctuary.

My mind wanders to the conversations that Laura and I had and the many things I want to change when I get home—my way of thinking and handling things; the press and all the horrible things they say about me and my family; all the preconceived notions which, contrary to what we had hoped, had truly not been dispelled by the exposé we did a while back.

We put our children and our lives in the spotlight for nothing as far as I’m concerned. Yes, a few people have called and requested to become part of the complaint and investigation that I hope to lodge on the licensing board, and I don’t know the extent of the donations and such that can measurably be attributed to the interview, but overall, it seems to just have brought more vermin out of the woodwork. I’ll have to do what I can to combat its effects while trying to decide what other steps I need to take in my screwed-up life. It all seems pretty clear now—the path and steps that I need to take—when just a few days before, it seemed so mottled…

“There’s a reason why Jason has to be so detached when we’re out of the country.”

Whe… wha… huh? Where did that come from?

I look over at my husband who’s gazing ahead at the altar… at least I think he’s looking at the altar.

“What?” I ask bemused.

“There’s a reason why Jason has to be so detached when we’re out of the country,” he repeats. “You never know what’s lurking around the corner, especially when you’re in a foreign country. When you start exchanging the type of money that I do, you’re either very talented or you’re corrupt. I’ve run into both—the latter more than I’d like to admit.”

I don’t say anything. It’s not like I really know how to respond to that.

“I sprung it on him last minute… going to Madrid. He had no time to prepare. I don’t even know how he was able to get the plane cleared and in the air so quickly for an overseas flight.”

I’m not sure I want to hear this right now, but for some reason, he needs to tell me.

“We didn’t know what we were walking into, and I didn’t care. I was reckless and foolhardy, feeling the old Christian Grey that didn’t need anything or anybody—at least that’s what I was trying to get myself to believe. It’s very hard to explain what was going through my mind… or wasn’t going through my mind. Thoughts of my life in Seattle, my babies, you… they were physically painful, so I just… didn’t.”

I fight the tears burning in my eyes. I’ve cried enough over this situation, and I’m resolved not to cry over it anymore.

“I was so hard and cold, I didn’t recognize myself, but I focused on that feeling, that demeanor, and it turned out that I needed it. Capito is a crook, and I may have found it out eventually, but I certainly wouldn’t have found it out had I not surprised him in Madrid.”

So… what’s the thrust—I’m supposed to be grateful that you ran out on your family, your wife and children, because it saved you from a bad business deal?

“I requested to see the factory that he was holding out on. He took us on a wild goose chase to keep us from getting to the factory. He was leading us outside of the cellular signal area and we had to think fast or possibly end up out in the fields somewhere cut off from civilization.”

Uh-oh… I’m not liking the sound of that.

“Jason’s fast thinking and incredible bluffing skills got us out of that situation, but we still weren’t out of the woods yet…”

He stares straight ahead the entire time he tells me about the trip to the tiny little sweat shop this guy Capito took him to and I’m still waiting for the reason Jason couldn’t at least let me in on where they were and that everything was okay…

And that’s because everything was not okay.

“We’re on our way back to the hotel when Jason notices that we’re being followed. Once again, he has to think quickly to keep us from ending up in a ditch somewhere…”

A ditch somewhere…?

“We had no backup, it was just me and Jason as backup was at the factory waiting for us to arrive, which we never did. It was like something out of a spy movie. We’re flying down these narrow streets, swerving and curving at breakneck speeds, coming up with an immediate plan while flying through the streets of Madrid. We didn’t know who was in that car and we didn’t know what they wanted. We only knew that they didn’t care that we were aware that they were following us. We put enough distance between ourselves and the car to dash into an alley and jump out, armed with our Glocks…”

Oh, dear God!

“We had seconds to duck into a couple of nearby doorways before they were right behind us jumping out of their car. I was trying to remember everything Ray taught me in a split second because it was coming down to this moment.”

Even though it’s in the past and he’s alright, sitting here in front of me whole and well, my heart is racing as I anxiously await the outcome of the confrontation.

“I wasn’t taking any chances,” he says. “The guy on my side the of alley saw my Glock before he saw me. I had the fu—…” He pauses, no doubt remembering that he’s in a church. “I had that thing aimed right between his eyes. He could probably look down the barrel and tell you the brand name of the bullet in the chamber. Had he sneezed wrong, his brains would have been splattered all over that alley.”

I’m trying so hard not to lose my cool as he recounts this story to me. He’s right—this is one really bad cops-and-robbers tale.

His eyes are still transfixed in front of him as he recalls that day in Madrid.

“I guess the other guy was too focused on me because Jason had time to come out of his hiding place and plant his Glock right in the guy’s skull. It turns out that they weren’t armed, thank God, or if they were, they never had time to pull their weapons.

“Jason speaks Spanish and he said something to the other guy—I have no idea what. The only word I recognized was amigo. The guy says something about Capito wanted them to make sure that we got to our hotel. Of course, he did. He didn’t want us to take any detours because we knew where the real factory was. We just didn’t know what the real factory was.”

I already know this is bad news.

“Once we ‘convinced’ our escorts that we were okay to find our way back on our own, we made plans to meet Cox and Williams at the factory that night. When we got there…”

He stops talking and I turn to him, waiting for him to continue the tale. He doesn’t.

“What, Christian?” I ask, urging him to finish the story.

“I’d like to know why nearly every major operation or successful venture that I’ve seen over the past couple of years has some kind of ties to human cargo,” he says, his voice low. Oh, dear God, what did he see?

“Human…?”

“Young girls,” he says. “They were loading young girls into trucks. The building was outfitted just for this. When we saw the plans, we thought they were barracks for sleeping between shifts. They were dorms… storage dorms…” He trails off again.

“Oh, my God,” I breathe. He swallows hard.

“There were four of us, each with a Glock. There were at least four guys on that loading dock. We’re certain there were more in the truck and definitely more inside the warehouse for the number of girls they were moving. Best case scenario, we’re outnumbered, and we get into a shoot-out with several guys who have guns just like ours and we all end up dead. Worst case scenario, they have semi-automatic assault rifles and we all end up dead along with several young girls. There was nothing we could do.”

He shakes his head and continues the story without turning left or right.

“We hauled ass out of there before we were discovered, and I helplessly turned the information over to Alex to contact the proper authorities. I thought about the families of these poor girls and just for a brief moment…”

He pauses again.

“That was the first time I thought of you, even for a second… but I was an asshole, and it was only for a second. I refocused back on the situation at hand—on Capito and the hotel and what was right in front of me right at the moment… as did Jason. Our sanctuary was that hotel suite. That’s when he could talk to his wife and his daughter, let his guard down and find out what was going on back home… back home…”

His voice trails off for a moment, then he clears his throat.

“I detached,” he admits. “I couldn’t feel or think about feeling while I was there. There was too much anger—too much rage, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, so much danger. I didn’t really feel anything else until my mother called wanting to know what was going on and told me about your fall. That’s when I demanded that Jason tell me everything.

“And he did.

“He knew every single detail from your first, teary-eyed phone call to the hours you spent in the window seat in the twins’ room to the very moment you moved to the guest room. He knew that I left, but he never knew why. He managed to compartmentalize all this information, but still stayed laser-focused to keep me safe as I went blindly chasing after danger. He knew everything that was going on with you every second from the other side of the world and when I asked for it, he gave me every detail. He’s a professional. He had to remain professional. He had to keep his mind clear, or any one of those situations could have very well ended in our demise.

“I just wanted you to know that he wasn’t ignoring you,” he continues. “He didn’t disregard your feelings or what you were going through back in Seattle. He had to protect me—really protect me, and his task required incredible focus and skill. Under the circumstances, he had to trust the staff in Seattle to take care of you and the twins. He couldn’t protect us both, or I may not have come back alive.” He turns to look at me for the first time in the entire conversation. “I just wanted you to know.”

I swallow hard at the thought that Jason had to be Christian’s veritable eyes and ears in an unknown situation that turned out to be quite dangerous and could have been worse had he stumbled into that warehouse.

“Thank you for telling me,” I say, my voice cracking. He entwines his fingers with mine and kisses the back of my hand. I quickly wipe a tear from my cheek with the other one.


CHRISTIAN

“Sir?”

Butterfly and I have been sitting in silence in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Cathedral for quite some time now—I’m not really sure how long. She didn’t ask me any questions about the details of Madrid. She never has, really, and this time was no different. I have no idea why I told her this story, especially after Laura explained her version of the Boogeyman to me. God, I hope I haven’t inadvertently opened a proverbial can of worms.

I look over my shoulder and see Jason and Lawrence standing a few pews behind us in the middle aisle of the church—close enough for us to hear them, but far enough to give us some privacy.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, sir, but we really should be getting to the airport,” he says. I nod and look over at Butterfly, who’s staring ahead at the same altar I used to give me strength to tell her that terrible story.

“Are you okay?” I ask. She takes a shuddering breath and releases it before she nods and stands. She put her bag on her shoulder and proceeds a few steps down the aisle until she’s face-to-face with Jason. Looking up into his eyes, she stands on her toes and plants a kiss on his cheek. My friend and head of security is quite nonplussed as his brow furrows and he looks over at me.

“Just say ‘thank you,’” I instruct him. Jason touches his cheek and raises one brow.

“Thank you,” he says to Butterfly, his voice rising at the end as if he’s asking a question.

“Thank you,” she says softly, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulling him close to her. He looks at me puzzled and I simply gesture to him to return the hug. He shrugs and returns the hug.

“Whatever it is, you’re welcome, Your Highness.”

*-*

We land in Adelaide at just before 10pm. We didn’t bother eating on the plane because I have plans for us when we get to the hotel.

We check into the penthouse suites of the Peppers Waymouth Hotel with our weekend luggage and the items that I retrieved from the shops in Melbourne. Butterfly is a bit more introspective than I like and I’m hoping I haven’t completely soured her mood with my tale of the events of Madrid.

I dismiss Jason and Lawrence to their suite and head to the bathroom. It’s too late to call Seattle and talk to the twins, so I call down to the front desk to prepare the meal I ordered for our arrival and begin to set up the en suite.

I begin a bath in the large sunken tub with essential lemongrass oil and chamomile bubble bath I acquired from the Marketplace. I set various candles on the ridge of the tub and once the water begins to rise and the aroma fills the bathroom, I raise the shade that separates the bedroom from the bathtub to reveal the ambient light through the glass between the rooms. Butterfly stands frozen gazing through the glass at me as I finish the preparations in the en suite. I watch her sit on the bed facing the glass and place her hands daintily in her lap. When the steam from the bath causes the window to fog, I lean forward and wipe the condensation from the glass and smile at her. She graces me with a coy smile of her own.

I leave the bathroom and as I’m about to proceed to her, the bell rings for the door.

“Stay put,” I say. She smiles and I leave the bedroom, go through the living room and answer the front door. The bellhop brings in a chilled local champagne with strawberries and two glasses and informs me that our special meal will be ready in about twenty minutes. That’s plenty of time to bathe my Butterfly and set up the bedroom.

Leaving the champagne on the dining table, I go back to the bedroom and help my Butterfly off the bed.

“How do you feel?” I ask. She nods.

“I feel fine,” she says softly. I nod back. Hopefully, her melancholy has passed, but I’m going to do my best to make her feel good.

I unzip her dress and allow it to drop down her hips. She pushes it off and it falls to the floor. I pick it up and lay it across the chair, then turn my attention to her strapless bra. The pads are a bit moist inside when I undo it, so I know that her breasts are heavy with milk and need to be relieved. I instruct her to walk to the en suite, which she does, still clad in her blue denim wedges and a pair of white, lacy French cut panties. I watch her walk for a few steps, then follow her into the bathroom.

Butterfly Hair Clip Chapter 81Simple Twisted Bun Chapter 81“Have a seat,” I instruct, and she sits on the side of the bathtub. I crouch down and undo her shoes, removing them one by one. She doesn’t take her eyes off me and her lips part as her breath quickens and her hair falls over her shoulders. I don’t want it to get wet, so I reach into my bag of wares from the Marketplace and pull out an expandable butterfly clip. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I asked the cashier for a butterfly clip, but she assured me that with the length of Butterfly’s hair, this one would work better.

She was right.

I fashion my wife’s hair into a simple bun like the cashier told me and gently secure the teeth of one comb on each side of the bundled mass of hair, capturing the bun in the elastic bands between each comb. I’m proud of my accomplishment, especially since this is my first time doing it.

“Come,” I beckon, and she stands for me. I push her tiny panties down her legs and take her hand as she steps into the bath.

“Too hot?” I ask as she appears to flinch when her feet touch the water. She shakes her head.

“No,” she purrs, “it’s perfect.” She takes the sides of the tub and slides that luscious body down into the water, moaning the entire time, and I have to coax my cock to behave. I didn’t think to get any kind of bath pillow for her, so I roll one of the bath towels into a bolster and position it behind her head.

“Comfortable?” I ask. She nods.

“Yes, but my milk is going to start expressing on its own in a minute…”

“That’s okay,” I tell her. “It’s good for the bath and I’m sure you need relief.” Not that I’m complaining, but her breasts literally spilled from that bra when I released them. She nods.

“I do,” she concurs, sinking into the tub. I smile.

“I’ll be right back.” I leave the room and go to the dining room. I retrieve the champagne and glasses first, taking them to the en suite before going back for the strawberries. I pour a glass for my lady and proceed to feed her a few strawberries while she relaxes in the tub. With my free hand, I gently stroke each of her breasts, allowing the tender caress and the hot water to coax the milk from her heavy glands. The bubbles dissipate a little as they mix with the milk, but Butterfly doesn’t seem to mind. I know I don’t.

After a few minutes of fondling my wife’s breasts and feeding her strawberries, I refill her champagne glass and take to the task of cleaning that beautiful body. I remove my pants and shirt, but remain in my boxer briefs and sit on the edge of the tub, my feet in the water with her. I start with her feet and begin to scrub the grit of the day away with a bath sponge. I move up her legs to her calves, her knees, her thighs. I skip to her shoulders, her arms, her chest and breasts, her back…

Once she has finished her second glass of champagne, I help her stand and gently scrub the rest of her back, her beautiful ass, that luscious peach at the junction of her thighs. She’s thoroughly aroused as I use the sponge to rinse her clean, squeezing the water over her skin to rinse away the rest of the bubbles. I step out of the tub first, then help her out and wrap her in a bath blanket, pleased that I managed not to get her hair wet.

“Do you need your breast pump, or are you okay?” I ask as I dry her body. She reaches up and takes one of her breasts in her hand and gives it a gentle squeeze. A few drops of milk gather on the nipple and drip down to the floor…

And my mouth waters.

I can’t help but lean down and take the soft, pink thing in my mouth, licking the sweet nectar from her skin. She moans involuntarily and I realize that I don’t want to take her all the way to the edge just yet. I pop her nipple out of my mouth and kiss it gently before bringing my eyes to hers.

“Breast pump, I think,” she breathes, “just for a bit, they’re… kind of light… just not empty.”

Okay… I have to get this woman set up on her breast pump right this second or my plans for seduction are going to be shot down the tubes by the instant need to fuck! I instruct her to have a seat on the banquette bench and I help her get the breast pump attached before I kiss her and leave the en suite. I take a deep breath to compose myself once I’m on the other side of the door, then I proceed to the closet with the extra linens to get another bath blanket.

It’s a good thing, too, because while I’m standing there, the doorbell to the suite rings again. It’s most likely our dinner and I’m standing here in my skivvies. I reach into the linen closet to get a towel and find a terrycloth robe folded in there.

Thank God.

I retrieve another bath blanket before donning the robe and answering the door.

“Your meal, sir,” the bellhop says, standing at the door and awaiting instructions. “Where would you like it?”

“You can just bring it inside,” I say, walking away from the door and going to the bedroom to retrieve my wallet. I get a glance of my wife through the glass in the bathroom. She has switched the breast pump to the other breast.

Don’t stand here too long, Grey. There’s a hot meal waiting in the next room…

The other hot meal… in the other next room.

I pull the door shut and return to the living room.

“Thanks,” I say, handing him a bill out of my wallet.

“Thank you, sir!” he says, happily, and I assume I gave him a hundred. Once he’s gone, I put the bath blanket on the rolling table carrying the food and roll it into the bedroom.

Let’s see if we can catch lightning in a bottle twice.

I lay the bath blanket over the bed and place my other essential oils on the nightstand— muscle and joint oil for her shoulders, back, and feet; unscented body and massage oil for those delicate places; and jasmine for some aroma therapy. I go to the bathroom to retrieve her and she’s just rinsing her breast pump.

“There wasn’t much milk in them, but I just wanted to be sure not to make a mess,” she says. I take her face in my hands.

“It’s never a mess, baby,” I say. “You nourish our children with those two miracles, and when we’re alone, I think it’s very sexy.” I kiss her gently and pick up her champagne glass. “Your glass is empty,” I say filling it again.

“Are you trying to get me drunk, Mr. Grey?” she says.

“No, just relaxed,” I say, taking her hand and leading her to the bedroom. If I can get her into half the amorous state she was in when we were in Napa, I will have achieved my goal. Here’s hoping.

I sit her down on the bed and retrieve the candles from the bathroom, placing them strategically around the bedroom before lighting two sticks of lotus incense in burners. When I look over at her, she has finished what’s left of her champagne and the candlelight flickers off her face while casting yet another ambient glow around the room. She looks ethereal, but this time, I’m going to feed her before I ravish her. I remove my robe and join her on the bed.

I uncover the plates and trays for dinner and I’m very pleased with what I find—cracked lobster claws and split lobster tails with mushroom quinoa risotto, prosciutto-wrapped green beans, Brussels sprouts tossed with pomegranate, and fresh herb Italian bread with sweet cream butter, all accompanied by a local Moet. I pour her a glass of Moet and hand it to her. Then, I begin feeding us both from the healthily-stacked plates of lobster.

“Mmm,” she purrs, “That’s superb.”

“I’m very glad you like it,” I reply. I taste the lobster myself and I must agree, it’s very good. “I hope the day was enjoyable for you.”

“It was,” she agrees. “I had a wonderful time at the aquarium and tasting the food in the Marketplace was a real treat.” I feed her more of the lobster and Brussels sprouts with pomegranate. “I never would have thought to combine those two, but that’s a very tasty combination,” she declares. I taste the combination.

“Hmm,” I say, “I’m not really a pomegranate man, but the way they seasoned and combined it, it’s really delicious.”

I continue to feed her and myself from all the dishes as we talk about everything and nothing. Some of our topics are humorous while others lean to the serious side. Nothing has soured my lady’s mood, thank God. We finish dinner and the bottle of Moet and move on to dessert. I chose two local favorites each for a separate taste sensation. First, we indulge in a tipsy cake, a pudding-like scone topped with caramelized fruit and brandy sauce and accompanied by a slice of roasted pineapple. In the words of my Butterfly, it’s divine.

The second confection—or combination of confections—is called sticks and stones. It consists of a mixture of chocolate bark, charcoal passionfruit pebbles, chocolate “soil,” crunchy chocolate twigs, and hazelnut custard.

“Lie down,” I instruct once we’ve finished our desserts. I help her get comfortable on her stomach and remove the butterfly clip from her hair, fanning it over the pillow and away from her body.

To my delight, there are more adult toy stores around Queen Victoria Market than I ever would have known. I didn’t find any in the market, but there were a couple that were just a few blocks away, so I was able to procure a few items to assist with tonight’s activities. I retrieve my goody bag from its hiding place along with a couple of hand towels from the en suite and remove the blindfold inside. We really didn’t need a blindfold—we could use just about anything, but I wanted one anyway… blue, like her eyes. I slide it over her head and adjust it on her eyes, telling her to relax.

Of course, we can’t have a massage without music, but I didn’t think about that until this moment. I retrieve my phone and open Pandora and type in the words “baby making music.” Some kid starts singing about his girl going to the club and I’m not sure that’s what I want until I listen for a minute and the song slows down talking about dancing in slow motion.

New music—hmm. I need to plan better next time, but I’ll just let this station play and hope for the best. I swear to God, I’ll throw that damn phone against the wall if it fucks up our mood.

I won’t deny myself the pleasure of feeling her hot soft skin against my cock, so I quickly remove my boxer briefs before I straddle her thighs.

I rub a mixture of the joint oil and the jasmine oil between my hands and begin a deep soothing massage on her shoulders and back. She moans her approval as I work my way down her spine to the small of her back, outlining little flowers and shapes on her tattoo while gently kneading and massaging away any lingering stresses from the day.

I masterfully use my fingertips and knuckles up and down the muscles of her back until she’s putty and mush on top of the bath blanket. I re-oil my hands and bring them down to her ass cheeks, massaging and kneading and coating her glorious derrière in the lightly scented oil. My God, her ass looks heavenly. I spread the oil into the crease and between her cheeks. I stay away from her core—for now—as I don’t want the scented oil to irritate that luscious pearl, but I thoroughly anoint her inner cheeks and rosette and watch her lick her lips as I stimulate the bundle of nerves.

I move off her thighs and kneel next to her, spreading the oil over her legs and thighs moving quickly to her feet. She sounds almost orgasmic as I apply pressure to the balls and heels, then sensually run my nail up the arch. She nearly leaps off the bed with that move.

So far, the music is cooperating with me as another sultrier tune begins and I strategically travel back up her legs, kneading and massaging the oil into the front and backs of her calves, then just the backs of her knees and the backs and insides of her thighs, paying a little extra attention to that one spot behind her knee that’s attached to her pleasure center. I push her legs apart just a bit, just enough, then continue my massage up the back of her thighs, cupping the crease right under her cheeks for my own enjoyment before teasing the top of her ass crack once more.

Once I’m satisfied that the oil is massaged well enough into her skin, I retrieve more items from the goodie bag—intimate wipes to clean my hands and to clean the items I want to use. I retrieve the next surprise from my goodie bag, clean it with the wipes and dry my hands, anointing both with the unscented oil before I move back to that beautiful ass.

I open her ass cheeks and circle her rosette with my oily finger. She gasps and it clenches ever so slightly, so I massage it again in sensual circles. Her hands clench on the pillows, then release as her back arches and her ass rises only slightly toward me.

Fuck, I’m getting hard.

As her ass rises towards me, I slide my hand between her legs so that my oily fingers run across her clit. She gasps loudly and mewls as I tease her gently, long slides with my oily hand. I feel her clit hardening and I don’t want her to come yet, so I slow my strokes and soften the pressure. I move my hand to her inner thigh so that my oily fingertips gently massage the aroused skin of her clit. Her breath is heavy and so sensual. I see gooseflesh rise on her back when I press my thumb between her cheeks and breach the opening of her rosette.

She moans quick and quietly, and I know that she’s enjoying herself. I am, too… watching her beautiful body respond to my ministrations and massages. I press my oily thumb a little deeper into her asshole and move my fingertips to the opening of her core. My fingers circle at both openings, preparing them for what I have planned next, and she squirms with pleasure, trying to control herself at the same time.

No need to control yourself, baby. I’m going to make you come—several times.

When her breathing has become panting, I take the oiled butt plug lying next to us and gently begin to push it inside of her. She takes a deep breath and I pause with the entry, pushing my middle fingers deeper into her pussy while massaging her clit with my index finger.

“You okay?” I breathe, almost unable to control myself.

“Yes!” she pants. “Keep going.”

Music to my ears.

I push the butt plug in a little further, and a little further, and a little further still, until her sexy ass swallows it and the blue jewel sits out over her rosette.

Fuck, I’m going to make you come so hard.

I push my whole hand between her legs from behind so that the middle finger runs back and forth over her clit while the index and third fingers massage her lips and the sides of her clit. She’s writhing and moaning in so much pleasure and her skin begins to flush. Too soon, but I continue the stroke bringing her right to the edge before I stop the stimulation.

“Please,” she mewls.

“Ssshhh,” I soothe, rubbing her inner thighs. “Don’t worry, baby… I’ll take care of you.” She takes a deep breath and relaxes into the bed. She was so close, it was cruel to pull her back like that. I’ll give her the first orgasm.

I open her legs a little more and straddle one of her legs so that she can’t close them, and it gives me such a beautiful bird’s eye view of her oily and wet, hot pink and ready pussy. I stick my hand into that hot, delicious mess and plunge my thumb into her core.

“Ah! Oh, God!” she cries out as she nearly leaps off the bed. The fingers of that same hand focus on that hot clit, around and around, over and under, massaging ever surface and side of the sensitive skin. Her panting is feverish as she raises her ass to me, affording me full and unfettered access to her pulsing core.

Her ass… mmmm…

I turn the butt plug in her ass, and she cries out again, unable to control her screams. Fuck, that shit is hot! I continue finger-fucking her, massaging that clit, and I gently start to pull the butt plug from her ass—not all the way, just enough to apply pressure to the rosette.

“Christian!” she pants. “God!”

I know, baby. Give it to me.

I pull the butt plug a little more, continue fucking with my thumb, and massaging with my fingers, over and over…

When I see the sheen through the oil and feel her body stiffening, her clit becoming firm, and her leg starts to tremble, I push the butt plug back into her ass hard…

And she detonates.

“Christian!” she screams as her body begins to convulse and her leg shakes uncontrollably. I keep massaging until she stops shaking, stops pulsing, and begs me to stop.

“Please… pleeeeaase…” she’s beseeching me, and I pause.

Pause…


A/N: Every time Falala said, “Opals! Opals!” I was like, “Falala, wait, it’s coming!” LOL.

Trey Songz—Slow Motion
Kelly Rowland—Motivation
Trey Songz—Love Faces
August Alsina—Kissin’ On My Tattoos
Bando Jonez—Sex You
Chris Brown—Poppin
Drake—Hold On, We’re Going Home
Jeremih—I Like ft. Ludacris

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Melborne” sections, and there are a lot of them!!

And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

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

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 80—Melbourne Mischief

For those who didn’t know, I recently lost my brother. That’s why I’ve been a bit MIA.

I received this beautiful picture (Dot Art from Australia) from one of my favorite people and readers in the whole world. She has always supported me from the day that I knew of her existence, even if she didn’t understand or agree with what I was writing. Last year, she sent me snowflakes (with words inside) when we didn’t get any snow. This year, we got snow, lol. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I will put it near my desk where I can see it every day (and where all the literal “magic” happens) to make sure that I remember why I love doing what I do. Thank you so much, Falala. I hope you don’t mind me sharing. My Muse is alight with love and gratitude. ❤

I also heard that the royal baby shares a birthday with our Falala. Happy birthday, darling!

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

Oh, song lyrics in here, too. So, for those who don’t like song lyrics, you might want to skip that part, too.

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 80—Melbourne Mischief 

ANASTASIA

“You should get a social media page,” Laura says as the four of us are enjoying dinner at the Paradise Restaurant. I look at her like she’s grown five heads.

“I can’t do that,” I reply.

“Why not?”

“Because Christian likes his privacy…” I look over at Christian.

“I didn’t say Christian should get a social media page,” she interjects. “I didn’t even say you and Christian should get a social media page. I said you should get a social media page. No offense, Christian.” To my surprise, my husband doesn’t protest.

“I’m an extension of Christian,” I tell her. “We’re in the public eye a lot—the press, the tabloids… If I sneeze, the gossip rags are printing that I have the flu before someone can say ‘bless you.’” She shakes her head.

“Ana, President Obama has a Twitter page. You need to be on social media. Everything that you’ve told me that you’re trying to do—exposure for your center, your battle with the medical licensing board—you can reach exponentially more people with a social media page.” I shake my head.

“I don’t know,” I tell her, still looking to Christian for backup and getting none. “We need to consult our public relations people.” She frowns again.

“You have to ask your public relations people if you can start an Instagram?” she asks bemused.

“Yes,” I say. “The simplest things can become wildfires if they’re not contained properly.”

“And there’s those monsters again…” she mumbles.

“No, no,” I tell her. “Those aren’t monsters. Those are harsh realities. Just before we came on this trip, we had just put a lawsuit to bed for an idiot who flashed me an offensive tattoo on live radio.”

“Ana,” Laura begins in disbelief, “are you honestly telling me that you two sued someone for having a bad tattoo?”

“No,” Christian finally interjects. “We sued him for being an asshole.”

“Oh, they’re doing that now in the states?” she says. “Maybe I need to go back for a while. There’s a few I’d like to drag through litigation—one in particular…”

“Ovah moi dedd body!” Jaxon says, drawing a chuckle from me and Christian.

“We didn’t sue him because of the tattoo,” I say, bringing the story back around, “But the tattoo started it. I was doing live radio shows for a while—just local stuff, but talking about the Center and my situation with the medical board. This jerk was on one of the highest rated radio shows in Seattle…”

I share the unflattering story of Rossiter flashing me on the air and subsequently assaulting my dad, the “mysterious” beating that led to the defamation suit, and Rossiter finally agreeing to leave town, all without using his name. Laura now frowns deeply and stares at me.

“Who exactly are you guys?” she asks. I sigh. Here we go…

“Take out your phone and Google ‘Christian Grey’ with an ‘e’ and ‘GEH Enterprises.’” She raises a brow.

“Google?” she says incredulously.

“Google,” I reinforce. She shrugs and takes out her phone. After swiping the screen, she taps some words into her phone… and then she’s silent for a solid three minutes.

“I take it you found him,” I say. She raises wide eyes to me.

“Jesus, Ana, this is you?” she asks. I shrug, not quite sure what she’s looking at. “He’s worth more than Jaxon’s whole fucking family! And they’re worth a lot!”

“Yeah, he’s got a penny or two to rub together,” I say.

“A penny?” she says incredulously. “Seriously, Ana?” She turns to Christian. “Industry giant with interests, even here in Australia. How do I not know who he is?”

“Well, I don’t know, but everybody else does,” I lament. “It was actually quite refreshing to be around people who didn’t know who we were.” She whistles and shuts the screen down.

“Well, at least you’re not the mob,” she says as she puts her phone away. Thank God! I didn’t want anything to get weird between us because of who we are.

Our dining experience in Paradise turns out to be just that… an experience, that is. To begin, the restaurant is themed like a garden… the Garden of Eden, if I were to guess. There are people—hosts and hostesses of sorts—interacting with the diners. They’re running around like water sprites or flower children or something, communing with the earth while they engage you in their folly. They have names like Blossom, Idalia, and Apollo, and they greet you at the door or they walk along with the server as he’s bringing you some spacy drink.

Blossom comes along with our first drink, a Frozen Paradise Daiquiri Fishbowl… and yes, it’s really served in a goldfish bowl—with four metal straws. In her spacy little way, she tells us about Paradise. She tells us about the water sprite in the swing hanging from the ceiling that’s about a whole story above us with a train from her dress that hangs all the way down to the floor. She then tells us the plight of the acrobatic fairies dangling from the cage-like crescent moon also hanging precariously from the ceiling. In addition to the servers, I’d say there’s about seven to ten performers that engage diners in conversation and interactive garden play.

The food leaves nothing to be desired. Beautiful, colorful dishes in natural and garden themes are as tasty as they are creative, and the four of us feast and fill on beautifully artistic presentations of exotic and delicious foods that we would never think to order if we weren’t on a luxury cruise, including exquisite cheeses, truffles, and delicacies that I can’t even pronounce, let alone recognize.

Our food has been consumed and our first drink devoured when Apollo follows the second server over to our table with yet another frozen drink. This one is inside of four separate globes with straws inside. It’s some kind of rainbow drink made with multicolor jellybean vodka and lemonade. When the server leaves, I take a sip of my drink while Apollo decides to “mime” out each of our names. He did a mini-dance representing the King of Pop for Jaxon. He crossed his body for Christian, which I thought was strange since Catholics—and not Christians—are known for crossing their body.

Not to be confused with an eagle or a seagull, I scissor my hands at the thumbs and gently flutter my fingers. Apollo immediately guesses a butterfly. Laura just makes a universal sign for the sun, so he calls her Solari. I have no idea why she did that, and I have no idea what physical representation he would have come up with for her name.

The entire establishment is multileveled, and you can explore it from a ramp that spirals around the edge and connects to each level. Once the meal is complete, I decide to stroll up the ramp and observe the goings-on of the establishment. Christian declines the invitation, deciding instead to “watch me walk.” I shrug, take my globe, and begin my stroll around the restaurant and lounge.

“He’s been attentive this evening,” Laura observes when we get to the second level. He’s always attentive, but she’s right… tonight more than usual.

“He has,” I acknowledge while observing the activities on the main floor. “What did you say to him?” I ask before sipping my drink.

“Nothing much,” she says, unfazed. “I think I may have just given him a different perspective of a situation he already knew.” I nod.

“Like you did for me,” I say, raising my eyes to her. She leans on the rail and faces me.

“It’s like I said, Ana,” she says, “same… but different.” She takes a sip of her drink. “Knowing what I know about the two of you now, I understand why he reacted how he did to our conversation. I wish I had known before, but I’m certain that I wouldn’t have handled it differently if I had.”

I’m not sure I’m at all comfortable with her digging into my husband’s brain that way. If you think my monsters are something, you aint seen nothin’ yet!

“Christian is… a strong personality, unwilling to show any weakness, but not incapable of feeling it,” I warn, a little more firmly than I intend.

“I know that, and so does he,” she says, again unfazed. “What I find so remarkable about this relationship is how protective the two of you are of each other. You fight hard, but you love harder. It makes for a very intense relationship, but if you’re not careful, it can also make for a very short lifespan.” I frown deeply.

“Are you talking about us or our relationship?” I ask, somewhat appalled.

“Both,” she says. “Your fires burn hot for each other, but if either or both of you dump all of yourselves into it at the beginning, there’s nothing of you left. Eventually, if you can’t always have that spark—that fire—that you feel right now, you’ll begin to resent each other for not being that person that lit that spark in the first place, and you’ll hate the fact that you lost yourself in the process. And let’s face it—that’s not good for your health, and neither is constantly worrying about the well-being of the other; not trusting their instincts to do and be the right thing, make the right decisions, or know what’s good for them and what’s not. You’re both protectors—even to your own detriment. You need to know when to protect and when to allow yourself to be protected.

“You must find a medium where you settle into happy contentment—where he looks at you the way that he’s looking at you right now not because you’ve detoxed and decompressed and you’re glowing from the spa and you’re wearing a knockout dress, but simply because the atmosphere of the room changed because you’re in it now.

“I don’t know why we met, Ana,” she says, turning back to view the activities below. “I don’t know what brought us together, but you already know that I’m a firm believer in fate and destiny and all things mystical. You meet me and a few days later, you’re highly unnerved by a spiritual disturbance and here I am… and you haven’t seen your shrink in weeks. Coincidence?”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” I say, never looking at her.

“Let him be him,” she says, her voice comforting, “and you be you. Let life happen and take every advantage or opportunity to be happy. Prepare for the unexpected, but when the bad comes, work your way through it, and when you’re done, rejoice in overcoming it. And Ana, by no means am I telling you to love your husband less. I’m only stressing that you don’t forget to love you in the process. Am I making any sense?” I sigh.

“More than I would like to admit,” I say, moving away from the rail and walking up the ramp a little more. I’m the shrink. I should have known these answers long ago, and it took someone who has no fucking clue whatsoever to help me see the light and get through one of the biggest obstacles I’ve ever had to face. It makes be feel… different… about my profession and how things are handled… how people handle me…

“He adores you,” she says. And I him, I think to myself. “And he knows that we’re talking about him.” I look down at him and see his eyes fixed on me. I lean on the rail again and gaze at him—his sexy new haircut and how good he looks in his slacks and blazer, his shirt open just a bit at the collar… a button or two, I think.

He looks scrumptious, and my mouth waters just looking at him. I run my tongue over my straw, take a drink, then suggestively wipe the corners of my mouth.

“You two could fuck without even touching each other,” Laura observes. Her voice intrudes my thoughts and I look over at her.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” I lie, finishing my drink and placing it on the bar-ledge of the railing before beginning my trek back down the ramp.

“I’m sure you do,” she laughs, “and I’m sure you’ve done it more than once.” She falls in step behind me. “Don’t be ashamed of your passion, enjoy it! Most people live their entire lives never once feeling what the two of you feel for each other.”

“You confuse me,” I say when we get to the bottom of the ramp. “In one breath, you warn me about allowing my passion to burn too hard and in the next breath, you tell me not to be ashamed of it and to enjoy it. Which one is it?” She raises a brow at me.

“Don’t you know, doctor?” she asks, and I suddenly feel like I’m talking to Ace’s Smartastic ass again. I turn and begin to walk briskly away from her.

“Ana,” she calls firmly, and I stop, folding my arms and looking at her. I’m a little tipsy from the alcohol… maybe more than a little, but I’m still pissed.

“You don’t like that,” she says, closing the space between us. “Why?”

“I get tired of people assuming that because I’m a psychiatrist that I have all the mental answers. I don’t! If I did, I’d be on a mountain in Tibet somewhere, handing out valuable tidbits of knowledge while people came from all over the world just to hear my wisdom! I certainly wouldn’t be running away from dead people on an island and I certainly wouldn’t be seeing a shrink myself!”

There, I’ve said it. I don’t have all the answers. I never even claimed to have all the answers. Why do people assume that just because I have a Ph.D. and M.D. behind my name that I automatically have all the answers—even to my own problems? It’s infuriating!

“I see,” Laura says coolly. “That was presumptuous of me and I apologize.”

Suddenly, I’m taken aback by that statement. No one who ever expected me to know it all ever apologized to me. They just continued to argue that I should know… even Ace. Now, I’m wishing I had some of my drink left.

“What I should have said is that we’re human and we have to find happiness wherever we can. You and Christian find extreme happiness in your passion. Go with that, but in the process, please remember who Ana is. Go ahead and get lost in the passion… just don’t lose yourself completely. Does that make sense?”

That’s the same thing Michelangelo said to me when I talked to him about the whole submissive thing a while back. Now, Laura’s saying it, too… and Christian said something the other night about our scene, but my head is too cloudy to remember it right now.

“Can we please stop with the serious talk I need to have some fun,” I say almost in one breath. Laura smiles and as if on cue, Apollo meets us at the bottom of the ramp.

“Butterfly, Solaris, come.” I frown at first as he takes our hands and leads us through the clouds.

“Fly, Butterfly,” he says as he mimics the gesture I did earlier to denote my name, so I fly. He leads me and Laura to the stage and instructs her to “shine” because the flowers need sunlight to grow and the birds and butterflies need sunlight to flourish. On the other side of the stage is the girl who said something yesterday about my hickeys. She’s some kind of bird.

I won’t fuck with your flight if you don’t fuck with mine.

Luckily, we all have fun fluttering around the Garden of Eden in Paradise and there’s no need for a butterfly to take a bite out of a bird’s ass because she stays on her side of the garden.

It’s late when we emerge from Paradise, and it’s clear that Laura and Jaxon are feeling a bit amorous.

“Whadya sy we call it a noight, love?” Jaxon says suggestively to his wife.

“I’d say you lead, and I’ll follow,” she replies coquettishly. They turn their attention to us.

“Whaht’s tha plan foh tomorrow?” Jaxon asks. “OI see ya didn’t book any excuhrsions.”

“Well,” Christian says, “we’re just going to see what sites we can in the city. You know we’ll be debarking in Melbourne.”

“Yeah,” Laura whines with a frown and her shoulders fall. “That makes me sad. It was really great sailing with you guys, Ana,” she adds trying to hide her disappointment. “Do you know what time you’ll be leaving the ship?” Christian and I look at each other and he shrugs.

“Not really sure,” he says. “I guess we’ll wake whenever the sun wakes us, then have breakfast and leave after that.”

“Whoi don’t we meet fah brekky?” Jaxon says. “Have one lahst meal befoh ya shove off?”

“Oh, that sounds so depressing,” Laura says, “but let’s. I’ll help you set up a Facebook and Twitter page so that we can keep in touch.” I raise my brow at her. “You don’t have to use your real name. Just let me know if you decide to change it.” I nod.

“Okay, that sounds like a plan. Christian?” I say.

“How’s 10:00?” he asks.

Pehrfect!” Jaxon says. “We’ll see yah in tha mohrnin’.”

Once a slightly distressed Laura heads off to be comforted by her husband, Christian takes my hand and leads me through the deck and outside.

“We should think about planning a trip to Italy,” he says softly. “You know I wanted to go this summer, but with Pops’ passing…”

“It couldn’t be avoided,” I interrupt. “The family had to be together.” He looks at me and nods.

“You’re so beautiful, Butterfly,” he says just above a whisper. “Do you have any idea what you mean to me?”

“Yes, Christian, I do,” I reply just as softly. His brow furrows as he pushes his fingers into my hair and cups the side of my face.

“Do you really?” he asks a bit more earnestly. “Do you really know that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without you? That I’m not just saying that?”

Laura’s words choose this moment to come back to me, about losing yourself in the other person. We’ll have to talk about that… but now isn’t the time.

“Yes, my darling,” I say softly, “I do know.” I cup his opposite cheek with my hand. “I know.” He presses his forehead to mine and closes his eyes. I feel his fear and uncertainty. I don’t know what Laura said to him, but I need him to know that this is where I want to be.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for us, Christian,” I say softly, “for our family.” He raises his gaze to mine. “The future doesn’t seem so scary anymore…”

And it really doesn’t.

“No?” he says, somewhat surprised. I shake my head.

“No,” I reinforce. “I mean the unknown will always be a little frightening, but it’s not terrifying. I know I can handle it… and I know that we can conquer anything as long as we work together.” His lips form a flat line.

“Yes,” he breathes, pressing his forehead to mine again, “as long as we work together.”

I feel his caution, but I don’t know what’s causing it. I’m wondering what Laura said to him and if that’s why he’s feeling so rudderless. I pull back from him and meet his gaze again, giving him a reassuring smile.

“I like this look,” I say, running my fingers through the extremely short but soft waves in his hair. “I think you should keep it.”

“I thought you might not like it,” he says, running his own hand over his cut. “I know how you like to play with my hair.” I tighten my fingers in the short strands and he stifles a gasp.

“I still can,” I point out, “but I may have to get used to not seeing the JBF look you have when you grab at it yourself.”

“If you can grab it, I can grab it,” he proclaims. Our gazes lock and he leans down and presses a soft and sensual kiss to my lips, his tongue caressing mine just once and sparking a small fire inside of me.

“Come,” he breathes. “Let’s go gaze at the stars for our last night aboard.”

He leads me to the very top deck—the “adults only” deck. There’s no one up here, but there are chaises around for lounging and enjoying the view. I haven’t seen many children on this cruise, but apparently, they’re not allowed on this deck.

Christian removes his blazer and reclines on the chaise, gesturing for me to come to him. I sit on his lap and after a bit of adjustment, nestle myself sideways between his legs, after which he drapes his jacket around my body. I settle into the warmth and look at the sky. It’s amazing to me how the Australia night sky looks so much different than the Seattle night sky. It’s all connected… isn’t it the same sky after all?

 

Then I put that Ph.D. mind to work. Even though it’s the same sky, the constellations that Seattle sees at midnight in December are definitely going to be different than the constellations that Australia sees at midnight in December. Same sky, different constellations.

“Same, but different,” I say softly.

“Hmm?” Christian says, his voice content. Well, I can’t leave that hanging out there, especially not knowing what Laura said to him.

“I was just admiring the clear sky and thinking that it looks so much different than the Seattle sky at night. I’m not into astronomy, but I wonder if we ever get this sky during the course of the year.”

“Hmm,’ he says again. “That’s a good question. Without a bunch of charts and diagrams, that’s something we’ll probably never know. For all we know, this particular sky may not show up on our side of the world until noon.” I twist my lips.

“You’re right…” hence the comment, same, but different… like you and me.

“What made you think of that?” he asks.

“Just the fact that the sky looks so different, but it’s the same sky,” I tell him. “This may sound silly, but it reminds me of that song from An American Tail.” I look up at him and see absolutely no recognition in his eyes. Okay, I forgot. This is the man who hasn’t met many fairytales or cartoons—none at all, in fact, before me.

An American Tail is about a family of Russian mice who travel to America for a better life…”

“Oh, a Disney movie,” he says, some realization in his voice. Close enough.

“A cartoon, yes,” I say. “During the ride, Fievel—one of the mice—gets thrown from the ship. He manages to make it to New York, but now he’s separated from his family. The entire story is about Fievel trying to reunite with his family, but while his mother and father think he’s dead, his sister is convinced that he’s still alive. At some point in the movie, Fievel and his sister Tanya are both looking at the night sky and singing the song, Somewhere Out There…”

“Wait,” he interrupts. “That song came from a cartoon?” he asks. I chuckle.

“Yes,” I tell him. “Fievel and Tanya are looking at the night sky in different parts of New York saying that even though they’re apart, they might be wishing on the same bright star and…”

“Sleeping underneath the same big sky,” he finishes. I look up at him and smile.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Wow,” he says incredulously. “I wonder how many other songs came from cartoons that I never knew about.”

“Well, let me think,” I say, trying to scan through my brain and think of the songs that I know. “Colors of the Wind by Vanessa Williams…”

“Which one did that come from?”

Pocahontas,” I reply. “Remember Grandmother Willow, the tree behind the door in the twins’ room that creeped you out when you first saw it?”

“Yeah… oh, yeah, Pocahontas,” he says.

A Whole New World by um… Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson,” I continue. He frowns and shakes his head. “I can show you the world shining, shimmering splendid…”

Still no recognition comes across my husband’s face, so I sing the chorus…

“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew…”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard that,” he says finally.

“That’s from Alladin, the cartoon with the big blue genie. You’ll definitely have to see that one now that Robin Williams is gone.” He frowns.

“What does Alladin have to do with Robin Williams?” he asks.

“He was the voice of the big, blue genie,” I say. My husband’s mouth forms an “o.”

Circle of Life, Elton John,” I continue, attempting to get away from the morbid, “The Lion King.”

“Geez, I feel so out of touch,” he says.

“Don’t,” I comfort him. “There’s no way for you to know this at this point until you had children. Wait until you get to the really old stuff, like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” He twists his lips.

“Oh, come on,” he jibes. “That’s just some word kids made up.” I release a high-pitched scoff.

“No, it’s not! It’s a song from Mary Poppins!” I correct him.

“Mary… I don’t believe you!” he protests. “Sing it!” I immediately break into song.

“It’s Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Um-dittle-ittl-ittl-um-dittle-I, Um-dittle-ittl-ittl-um-dittle-I…”

“Okay! Okay! I believe you!” he stops me. I can’t help but laugh, because if you’ve never heard the song before, it goes so fast that it can be kind of shocking. I lay my head on his lap and look up at the stars again once I’ve contained my laughter.

“You’re a great mom,” he says softly. “Our children are so lucky.” I put my hand on his chest and push off of him so that I can look in his eyes.

“They have a great dad, too, Christian,” I say. “You’re kind, generous, protective to a fault… and you love them…”

“But I left them…” he interjects, “and you.” I swallow hard and take in a deep breath.

“And hopefully, you’ve seen the err of your ways and you’ll never do it again,” I reply. He gazes at me for a long moment.

“I’ll never do it again,” he whispers. Here’s hoping…

“Good,” I say, and lean up and kiss him softly. Our gazes lock when I pull away, and he pulls me to him and kisses me earnestly.

Remember that spark that I referenced earlier? Yeah, it’s a full-blown blaze now! He’s grabbing my ass and groping my breast; his tongue is plunging into my mouth, exploring every crevice as he holds me captive against his body. I can barely breathe as he devours me like a starving man and I’m powerless to his will.

We neck on the upper deck for what feels like hours until I’m so aflame that I could fuck him right out here in the open. Then, he tells me that he just needs to hold me—like he did that night in Anguilla. Part of me wants to stomp and pout—why didn’t he tell me this before he got me all worked up? And then I think about it. We’ve fucked for like half the trip. I can keep my hormones in check for at least a night.

Alright, Mr. Grey. I’ll behave myself and snuggle.


CHRISTIAN

My wife is looking flawless in a black and white fitted striped maxi-dress as we head to breakfast on Friday morning. Her original hickeys have faded a bit, but she has a new, smaller one on the other side. She displays them like badges of honor with her back and shoulders bare. I think she looks simply scrumptious.

So as not to look like a total toad next to my exquisite wife, I go with a Beckham-esque look with black jeans and a black button-up. I leave Jason to get our bags off the ship and to the jet, which should already be at Tullamarine Airport, and Lawrence will accompany us for the day. He has decided to wear a suit today, and I assume that Jason may have had a talk with him about his effectiveness in Sydney.

We meet Jaxon and Laura at the Bistro for breakfast since Butterfly liked it the last time we ate here.

“You two are a really handsome couple,” Laura says when we enter the restaurant. “Your security looks really sharp today. What’s the plan?”

“So far, we’ve only made plans to see the Melbourne Aquarium,” Butterfly says. “Not sure where to go from there.”

“Don’t be afryed to ahsk the locals what’s poppin’ ta’dy,” Jaxon says. “OI can sy check out Fed Square. Lots ta do and see thehre. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a soite, or the Austraylian Centah of the Moving Image. And thehre’s lots of street aht if yah touh the city on foot. Ohr you cahn tayke a look around Queen Victohria Mahrket or Luna Pahrk.”

I got most of that… I think.

Laura helps Butterfly set up a Facebook and Instagram page under and assumed name with the option to change it once we talk to Mac about the implications of a social media presence.

“It can be really helpful to you,” Laura says. “It’s a great way to connect if it’s done correctly… like us.”

“Here, take my email and my cell number,” Butterfly says. Laura nods.

“I’m so accustomed to social media, I forgot those were options,” she laughs, pulling out her cell phone.

We feast on a breakfast of gourmet French toast made with cinnamon-brown-sugar brioche and served with syrup and fresh fruit; apple-cinnamon crepes topped with apple compote and vanilla yogurt; seafood crepes made with baby shrimp, fish, surimi, and mushrooms in a velouté sauce; flat iron steak with tarragon-Hollandaise sauce; corned beef hash and eggs; sweet potato French fries, Café Mocha, and Mimosas.

Jaxon tells us about going to Melbourne strictly to visit his mom’s grave. He doesn’t tour the city at all to avoid running into his overly snobby relatives.

“OI’d love foh them ta meet you,” he says before taking a bite of his steak. “Thaht wood cuhrtainly tyke the wind outta thehr sayls!”

“I wouldn’t mind making the trip with you,” I tell him once I swallow some of my seafood crepe. He shakes his head.

“OI think it’d be an exsahcoise in futility,” he says. “Some people ahre jes too fahr gone.” I nod and devour more of this delicious seafood crepe. Jesus, Gail or Ms. Solomon may have to find a recipe for this.

We dawdle as long as we can before we finish our breakfast and move to debark the ship. Jason has taken care of packing our things and double-checking the cabin to be sure everything is leaving the ship with us. I had to pull a lot of strings for us to be able to debark in Melbourne. First, I was supposed to get the request to the cruise line a week before we took our trip… in writing! I hit the antiquated fax machine the day before we flew out to Sidney. I needed—and received—a response the same day.

Getting off the ship in Melbourne instead of sailing back to Sidney was a little costly and a bit of a trial. We had four people who had to “check out” of the cruise much like you check out of a hotel. If I hadn’t, they would have listed the four of us as missing passengers. Luckily, when we flew out of the states and into Australia, our passports were already stamped. So, we didn’t have the hassle of having the cruise line vouch for us and handle our immigration issues because we were already stamped in.

I did, however, have to pay for the entire cruise for four people as well as an additional fine for each of us to get off the boat even though we didn’t cruise for the last two days of the trip. It’s not that the money is any big issue, but I am a bit miffed at our travel agent who insisted that Barossa Valley was an absolute must to see wine country…

The entire goddamn continent is wine country!

For the reaction that Butterfly had to Port Arthur, we could have skipped that part of the trip and toured the Tamar Valley or any of the numerous other locations that boast wine tours. I’m sure that my wife would have much rather been traipsing through rows of fresh grapes, tasting delicious wines, cheeses, and truffles, and enjoying an education on Shirazes, Cabernets, and Rieslings than trying to shake off the burdensome spirits of the dead!

The trip and itinerary through the Barossa Valley are the only part of the trip that was actually planned for us. I believe the agent is getting some kind of kickback for booking it. It better be a-fucking-mazing or I’m reaming her a fucking new one when we get back to Seattle. I’m already going to take a bite out of her ass for what is clearly a set-up. I’m sure that there are other ports we could have visited besides Port Arthur, and I’m not happy about that at all.

When I’ve signed every possible form and nodded a hundred times that I understood that we had to make our own way back to Sydney—or in our case, home—I send Jason on his way to the airport to secure the jet and to get us and our luggage to Adelaide later this evening. Once again, Lawrence stays with me and Butterfly. Once we’re on Melbourne soil, Jaxon and I bid one another a heartfelt and fond farewell with promises and intentions of seeing each other again. Tearing Laura and Butterfly apart, however, is proving to be a Herculean feat!

“I feel like I’m saying goodbye to one of my sisters,” Laura sniffs. Butterfly smiles.

“Then we’ll just have to make sure that we see each other again, won’t we?” my wife says. Laura nods, still in Butterfly’s arms.

“You take care of yourself,” she says, her voice cracking, “and don’t forget our talk.”

“I won’t forget,” Butterfly says, “not a word.” They hug again before they release and Butterfly hugs Jaxon goodbye. I wrap my arms around Laura.

“I won’t forget either,” I say quietly in her ear. She scoffs a sob.

“Take care of her,” she whispers. “She adores you, and she’ll do anything for you. Treasure that and make sure she knows that you do.” I pull away from her and look into her tear-filled eyes.

“Excellent advice that I intend to take,” I say softly before placing a gentle kiss on her tear-stained cheek.

“Ay!” Jaxon barks. “Don’t ya be givin’ ahll ma smooches awy!” He moves closer to us. “Goh grope yah own woife!” Laura chuckles.

“He wasn’t groping me,” she protests.

“OI saw the mate with a handful o’ me Lahrie!” Jaxon jibes. “Thaht’s gropin’ as far as OI’m concuhned! And the kissies on yah cheek! Whaht wass’at?”

Laura raises her brow and shakes her head. That’s when I realize that this performance is strictly the stop his “Laurie’s” crying.

“My apologies, sir,” I say, placing my hand on my chest and mocking extreme contrition.

“OI’ll let ya sloide this toime,” Jaxon says, pointing a finger at me, “but don’t let it happen again!”

We quickly part ways to keep Laura from weeping again and flag a taxi to our first destination, the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium. Butterfly doesn’t get to the aquarium anymore, and it used to be one of her favorite pastimes. I knew for certain that we would visit this place the moment I knew that Melbourne would be one of our ports of call.

Once we pass the admissions counter, we go down this colorful hallway to a darkened room and a large round glass tank—very large, like nearly the size of the room. It’s called the Bay of Rays—as in sting rays—and it’s a 360-degree tank that looks almost like the bottom of the ocean and you can walk around it and see the different fish inside. I’m more than a little squeamish of sting rays.

“Be careful, baby,” I say as she leans over into the tank to get a closer look. She looks up at me.

“They’re very gentle, Christian,” she consoles, but I’m not convinced.

“Isn’t… didn’t… Isn’t that what killed the Crocodile Hunter?” I say quietly, so that the nearby children don’t hear my question. Butterfly stands.

“Well, yes, but that was different,” she says softly, also aware of the children around her. “First, he was in the wild submerged in the water with the thing. Second, from nose to barb, that stingray was longer than you are tall, and it felt threatened. I’m sure these specimens are accustomed to people. And third, I don’t want to be that close to a stingray. So, keep your shirt on, Mr. Grey.”

I guess I shouldn’t be too afraid of these specimens. They’re coexisting just fine with several other fish in the large, circular tank. The children don’t seem to be intimidated at all, but I can’t help it. We’re talking about my beautiful Butterfly here. I can’t discount the fact that a beloved conservationist and zoologist was killed by one of these things.

They look like they actually have fins instead of barbs, though, and when they swim to the side of the tank, they look like they’re smiling at you. As long as she doesn’t get into the tank with the damn things and they stay on that side of the glass, I guess I’ll be okay.

Our next stop is the Rockpools. Now, even though there is no deadly sea life in this area, it’s interactive, which means that you can stick your hand in the tank. Butterfly quickly takes advantage of this opportunity, seizing the moment to touch “sea stars” and shark eggs. No thank you.

“What’s the difference between a sea star and a star fish?” I ask the young guy on the other side of the exhibit.

“There’s no difference,” he tells me. “A sea star has a calcified skin that protects them from most predators, but they’re often called starfish when they’re not fish at all. They’re simply invertebrates with no backbones, like sea urchins and sponges. Would you like to hold one, sir?” I put my hand up and shake my head.

“Oh, no thank you,” I tell him. “I’ll just take pictures of the beautiful nature lover here,” I say, as I snap a picture of Butterfly closely examining a red and yellow star fish, er… I mean, sea star.

The Ancient Ocean provides information on prehistoric sea life, including some specimens that are still around, like the mudskippers and the pig-nosed turtles. My wife is totally immersed in the display, awed by the large teeth on the outside of the tank, said to be the actual size of the prehistoric Megladon. I’m not as enraptured by the whole experience as she is. However, I take great joy in watching her have so much fun, so we could spend the entire day here for all I care.

We take an escalator to the lower level, where we find the Coral Caves and the Art Aquarium. Now, the Coral Caves were nice to see, with all the nemo fish painted on the wall, but the shining moment for me is the Art Aquarium. My very adult wife with two twin children at home sits down at the child-sized table and colors a picture of a fish. I take several pictures in case she wants to later deny this moment… but it gets better. You scan this picture into some high-tech projector video whatever thingy and you wait for a minute and what happens?

Your fish appears on the screen—a simulated fish tank with fish on it that other “kids” have colored—and your fish is alive and swimming in the tank! I thought my wife was going to lose her mind.

There’s even one portion of the aquarium that talks about crabs. Here, we find a large crab shell—the ones the hermit crab carries on its back. There are several facts about crabs all over the wall, including crabs in tanks and the unforgettable fact that a crab can grow a limb back if it loses one. What’s more unforgettable is Butterfly’s interaction with the crab shells on the floor. One is pretty large—about three feet or so—with a glass crab inside, strictly for show. The other is larger, maybe four or four and a half feet round and empty.

My wife crawls inside of the damn thing.

I take several pictures of her crouched inside that thing… just in case she gets stuck, so that I can show our children. No such luck—my wife is a rubber band.

“Now, that’s probably the ugliest thing I’ve seen today,” Butterfly says when she sees the Japanese Spider Crab.

“The day is young, my dear,” I reply, and she swats my arm.

Down a flight of stairs we go to yet another sublevel where we find the Shipwreck Explorer and its guardians, the lionfish. Butterfly is once again mesmerized by this unique fish that I find somewhat unattractive.

“You like that thing?” I ask surprised.

“It’s interesting,” she says. I raise a brow.

“Maybe you’ve found a new favorite fish.” She rubbernecks to me and frowns.

“And replace Marty? Never!” she declares. I laugh.

“I’m sure Marty appreciates your loyalty.” I say as we proceed over to the Mermaid Garden.

Here’s where I discover that the stingrays in the Bay of Rays were not the ones to be concerned about. The ones with the killer barbs are more contained—in large tanks not accessible to the public like the open tank in the first room. However, they’re in this gigantor panoramic Oceanarium with harmless statues of mermaids in various poses as well as not-so-harmless massive sharks and huge stingrays, one of them so large that it basically takes up the entire ceiling above us.

Oh, by the way, idiots—er, I mean, people can choose to scuba dive with the sharks, which is exactly what one idiot is doing along with a guide or something while we watch. I don’t care how tame they are in captivity. You’ve got to be three eggs short a dozen to choose to swim with Jaws, much less pay to do it.

Did I mention that these things are in a very dark room that’s pretty much a 360-degree tank that leads to a tunnel where these things are floating all around us and swimming over our heads?

“Well, I’m thoroughly creeped out,” I say. My wife looks over at me.

“Christian, you really need to chill out,” she says in a soft, scolding voice. “The fish in the open stingray tank were more likely to get us than these are.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I say as I hurry through the tunnel. My wife, on the other hand, dawdles inside the death tube, communing with the fish and gazing into the “ocean” depths as if she would sink into it and become one with it if she could. I take a picture of her looking so ethereal with her hands pressed against the glass and mesmerized by the fish inside. Then I have to think of something playful to say to snap her out of this faraway look that she often gets when she stares at the water… because it scares me.

“I’m going to change your nickname from Butterfly to Ariel,” I say. She turns to me.

“You remembered,” she says, dreamily and somewhat surprised. Yes, I remembered. I don’t know how I remembered, but I did. It’s a little factoid that was probably stashed back into the recesses of my mind along with the fate of the Gingerbread Man that my mind dug out when I needed a quick and relatable distraction.

“Wonders never cease,” I say, having drawn her daydreaming away from the blue depths. “Just don’t expect me to remember the words to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Come out of there now, please, I think to myself as I hold my hand out to her.

“Well, it wouldn’t suit me,” she says, taking my hand. “In theory, a mermaid is a beautiful creature, but she has dragged many men to their deaths. Not only that, but as much as it soothes me, I can’t breathe underwater.”

Exactly my point.

“So at least I don’t have to worry about you leaving me to become King Triton’s mistress,” I jest. She chuckles.

“No, dear,” she says mirthfully, “I’ll keep my feet planted firmly on dry land.”

So, back up the ramp we go to the Crocodile Lair and the Coral Atoll. The Croc Lair… yeah. For starters, there’s a pretty big replica of a fossilized crocodile in the lobby. Upon closer examination, I can’t help but wonder if this thing isn’t some kind of distant cousin to the big ass fucker in the lair! This monster is so big that you’re wondering how the hell did they get him in there and who the fuck feeds him. Fucking hell, while we’re talking, what the fuck do they feed him?

“What the fuck is that?” I murmur to my wife without moving my lips.

“Um, dear, you’re in a crocodile’s lair,” my wife says. “That would be a crocodile.”

“I know what it is!” I quietly snap at her, affronted. “I mean, what the fuck is it?” My wife facepalms herself.

“Come on,” she says, leading me over to the information wall on the beast.

His name is Pinjarra and supposedly, his body is ten times the size of his head. If that’s the case, that thing has a pretty big head! I think somebody miscalculated. He’s about 16 feet long, weighs nearly 1700 pounds, and he’s older than I am. Yeah, what the fuck does he eat? That’s probably why he’s in there by himself… he ate all the other crocodiles!

Oh, and when they’re sitting around with their mouths open like they’re about to chow down on dinner but nothing’s in their mouths, they’re panting like dogs to cool themselves down. How cute… not!

The Coral Atoll is harmless enough. It’s a giant circular and concave tank full of extremely colorful and diverse variations of coral and a variety of fish and sea life, including a green moray eel and several blue fish that my wife keeps referring to as Dory.

Up we go again to yet another level of this never-ending expedition, where we’re able to look down into the lair of the 16-foot monstrosity that we left on the floor below. No thanks, I’ve seen enough of you, buddy.

More to my liking was the Rainforest Adventure. This is a huge tank something like the Bay of Rays, only bigger… and it looks more natural because there are rocks and plants inside, trees with vines draping and extending to one another, and tanks in the walls that either look like caves or are painted with tropical backdrops that mimic the forest

This room is much more calming than just about any room in the aquarium… for me, anyway, except maybe the coral exhibits.

Butterfly wanders around the exhibit leaving me to my own vices. I guess she figures there’s nothing to really creep me out in here.

She figures correctly.

I enjoy being in here and seeing the different harmless species of fauna of this portion of the rainforest, not to mention that it’s very colorful and inviting in here. There’s a very harmless-looking sea turtle or three in the large tank, accompanied by lungfish—so named, I discover, because they’re the only species of fish that can actually breathe air. One school of thought is that the lungfish, which actually has lungs and can live to be 50 years old, is the missing link between humans and fish.

I’ve never dug into or studied evolution as such, and I honestly couldn’t say which school of thought I’m more particular to—that of evolution vs. Creation, that is. I have to say that I ultimately believe that there’s a greater power in the universe, I’m just not really sure how to identify it. I’ve never been particularly religious, but if I had to answer the question, “Is there a God,” I would have to say that my answer would be, “Yes.”

As far as evolution is concerned and the ideas that dinosaurs once roamed the earth and that man was once a water-dwelling being who decided to crawl out of the water, mysteriously grow bones, and become land creatures, I don’t know about all that. I know what the science books say and all that, but I guess if I had to put my theories into words that I would say that life and man came from a combination of both evolution and creation.

It’s too much for me to ponder on a trip to the aquarium. Why does vacation always send me on some kind of introspective spiral? Greece, Anguilla, the MONA, Port Arthur… well, Port Arthur did a number on us both. I guess I can ponder the relationship between man and a prehistoric fish without any problem after that experience!

There’s so much to see in the Rainforest exhibit—frogs, crabs, turtles, and large green snakes that my wife avoids like the plague. Probably the most menacing little guy in the entire display was Boyd’s Forest Dragon, menacing only because he gave Butterfly a little fright. He’s a reptile—very colorful—but he was perched on a branch inside one of the caves and gave her the willies.

There appeared to be fishing poles of some kind attached to the outside of the large circle exhibit, but we never found out what they were for.

We take the escalator back down to the ground floor and I discover that we’re finally on our last leg of our journey. It was educational and informative, even a bit interesting, but it seemed to take forever! I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s time to board the plane once we leave this place.

At the foot of the escalator is the Seahorse Pier. Now this is a bit of an extraordinary experience. I’ve always known that seahorses were a thing, but I didn’t know that there were other variations of them. I also never knew that there are these things called sea dragons.

“Butterfly! C’mere, look at this!” I exclaim with the excitement of a third grader. She comes over and examines the new world with me.

The sea horses are easily distinguishable by their familiar shape, but they come in so many sizes and colors. I find myself particularly drawn to a dramatic orange sea horse, just because I’ve never seen them in that color before.

But the sea dragons! Some of them are just long, slender little creatures of different colors that vary in length—some may have a small hump, like a beginning sea horse; others may have a slightly fatter body. The really remarkable ones are the leafy ones! They look like random, stray, leafy pieces of flora in the water. It’s fascinating!

Also in this exhibit is the chameleon of the sea, the giant cuttlefish. He’s a bit of an ugly guy, but he can change the color and texture of his skin to match his surroundings even though he can’t see color. I find that kind of curious. How does he change if he can’t see colors? As it turns out, the tiny nerves and cells in its body can “see” the environment and change colors.

To the left of us is a doorway that leads to the Bay of Rays, so I know we’re back where we started from. However, to the right of us is a movie theater that’s showing a 4D version of a movie called Ice Age.

4D… what the hell does that look like.

“I’ve heard of this. Is this one of the movies I need to see?” I ask my wife. She twists her lips.

“Well, first, it’s a series,” she says. “There’s about four of them out right now. Second, I’m not really sure if this feature is part of the series as I personally haven’t seen them all. And third, nah, you don’t really need to see it if you don’t want to. It’s cute, but not really a classic.”

I nod. No Ice Age for me. I’ve got enough to keep up with.

Speaking of the Ice Age, our last exhibit before we see daylight is the Penguin Playground. Nothing really special here—we just get to watch the penguins frolic and play in a recreation of their natural habitat. We watch the King Penguins with their yellow beaks and chest and impressive size. The King Penguins are smart because if you put something colorful up to the glass, they’ll follow it through the water. Not to be outdone, the gentoo penguins who are known to be the champion swimmers of the two species will follow the colors with even more balletic precision. Though we don’t see any at the aquarium, we’ve come to discover that there are places here in Melbourne, too, where the fairy penguins come in to nest after sunset.

“Jesus, it’s bright as hell out here!” Butterfly says, searching through her bag. I happened to ask one of the cashiers in the gift shop which direction would be best for us to go once we left the aquarium, as I’ve completely forgotten everything Jaxon suggested at breakfast.

“Well, ya got a coupla choices,” she had said. “Ya can take tha 30 strayte down ta Fed Squeh ohr ya can take Weeliams down to Queen Vic.”

She pulls out what looks like a tourist map and shows me in a “you-are-here” type of way where we are and where she’s suggesting that we go.

“Fed Squeh is nice and all—thehr’s lots to see, but you moight want to wayte til dahk, unless ya got tickets to an event or something…” which I don’t. “I prefer Queen Vic duhring this time of day.”

“Queen Vic” is Queen Victoria Market. Both destinations are extremely close, and her description makes me think that there’s not necessarily anything we’d want to see at Federation Square before sundown. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that’s the impression I got. So, when Butterfly finally locates and dons her Jackie-O’s, I look down at my little map and make a decision.

“Where to now?” she says.

Queen Vic it is.


A/N: If, for some reason, you live under a proverbial rock, the Crocodile Hunter was Steve Irwin, world-renowned Australian Zookeeper and conservationist. He had a televised nature program; he owned a zoo in Australia; and I’m told that he was in Dr. Doolittle and Happy Feet. I had seen clips of what I called his crazy antics with animals and he had a lot of close calls. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that “under a rock” comment, but I didn’t really keep up with the guy and even I knew the day he died. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Irwin#Death

For anyone who may not know, Ariel is of course the main character in The Little Mermaid.

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Luxury Cruise Ship” and “Melborne” sections.

And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

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

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 79—Tassie Trauma

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

Oh, song lyrics in here, too. So, for those who don’t like song lyrics, you might want to skip that part, too.

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 79—Tassie Trauma

ANASTASIA

The guide tells us that locals claim that there has been some sort of paranormal activity in all the areas of Port Arthur for over 100 years. Christian frowns.

“What is it?” I ask.

“In the C block,” he says, “I could swear I heard a man coughing in one of those rooms.” I twist my lips.

“There are a lot of people on the tour. They were all around the prison. You may have heard an echo…”

“No,” he says firmly. “It wasn’t an echo. I heard a man cough in one of those rooms.”

I just look at him. I won’t debate whether or not he actually heard someone coughing in the criminally insane area. This place is already giving me the creeps, so the last thing I want to think about right now is ghosts.

And speaking of ghosts…

The tour guides talk about a ghost tour held on the grounds at night. We’ll be at sea headed to Melbourne by then, but they tell us about it anyway, since not everyone on our tour is from the cruise and may want to partake. During the tour, guides would explain the different types of ghost who haunt Port Arthur.

First, there are the ones you hear. They may be close by, they may be off in the distance somewhere—a noise or footsteps, like the cough that Christian claims he heard.

Then, there are the ones that just leave you with a horrible, bone-chilling feeling that someone’s standing right behind you.

Finally, there are the worst ones, the supposedly physical ghosts. They pinch you or shove you, or they throw you to the ground. According to the guides, all of these encounters have happened on the ghost tour.

They do creepy things like move suddenly and tell you not to look into windows, make loud noises, send someone ahead with a lantern to see if the coast is clear, shit like that to make the tour exciting

When I’ve had enough of the heebie-jeebies, we head back to the visitors center, but not before we visit one more important site.

Across from the Port Arthur Historical Site is the Memorial Garden—another open-air building. This building is the shell of the Broad Arrow Café where the worst massacre in Tasmanian history occurred in 1996.

On this final leg of our tour, the guide gives us the background and the condensed version of what happened that fateful day in April, 18 years ago…

A man named Martin Bryant devised a plan to shoot two people—David and Noelene Martin—whom he felt conspired to secure property that Bryant’s father was planning to purchase, leading to his father’s depression and ultimate suicide. After killing the Martins at that very same property, he locked up, drove to a second site claiming to want to purchase some cattle, then headed to Port Arthur.

After a back-and-forth of sorts about parking, he parked at the Broad Arrow Café—the shell of the building we’re standing in now. He took a duffle bag and a video camera from his car and ordered some food. Eating on the outside deck, he tried to make conversation with the people outside. After finishing his meal, he took his tray back inside, pulled out an AR-15 automatic rifle, and began his shooting spree. In the café were…

A group of people on an outing, taking a break from caring for sick family members with cancer…

Workers, cooks, and other staff of Port Arthur…

Families having a simple lunch in a café…

Bryant’s wake inside the café resulted in 20 people killed and 12 injured in 90 seconds.

Moving to the parking lot, he opened fire on people trying to hide in and around two buses outside. People running to the historical site and down the road and along the shore tried to escape. By the time the shooter got in his car and left the parking lot, his toll was 26 dead and 18 injured.

Although the recount of the massacre is horrifying and unsettling, the most heinous and sickening portion of the tale involves that of Alannah, Madeline, and Nanette Mikac. Fleeing the parking lot on foot, Nanette was carrying her three-year-old daughter Madeline with six-year-old Alannah just in front of her. Bryant caught up with them, made Nanette kneel and shot her in the temple and killed her while she was begging for the lives of her children. He then shot Madeline twice—in the shoulder and chest—and then chased Alannah into the woods and shot her in the neck, killing both children.

I immediately get a picture in my head of a three-year-old Minnie, falling at the hands of a brutal, heartless killer and his bullet with no name on it. I fight not to swoon right then and there at the horrendous mental image, but the helpless feeling only lasts a moment. What kind of monster chases down and murders helpless children? As the killer’s face forms in my mind’s eye coming for my babies, all I can think of is, “Not if I see you first, motherfucker!”

At the toll booth ahead, he shot four more people and injured one, then carjacked the BMW of his victims. At a service station further up the road, he kidnapped a man and shoved him in the trunk of his car, shooting and killing his girlfriend in their Toyota Corolla. The toll is now 34 dead and 19 injured.

Bryant returned to the scene of the original crime with his hostage. When he arrived, he began shooting into passing cars, injuring four more people, two of which stopped at a nearby establishment and called the police. After an 18-hour standoff where he killed his hostage and set the building on fire where he was holed-up, he was arrested and hospitalized for his injuries.

His family says that Bryant was distressed by his father’s suicide—that he felt the Martins purchased a guest house at Seascape that his father was trying to purchase, causing some hardship for the killer’s family, and setting the rampage into motion as he killed the Martins first and ended up back at that location at the end of the situation where he was arrested. Apparently, the events that set him off were well before Bryant’s inheritance, as he was apparently very well off. All accounts say that his father died three years prior… three years, he held this grudge then went on a shooting spree.

The final toll on April 28, 1996—35 people killed, 23 wounded.

There are still varying judgments about Bryant’s mental state and capacity, including one that he has no recollection of the events of the massacre. However, this horrible event was the catalyst for the gun laws in place in Australia today.

Having had enough of death, brutality, psychological torment, and murder, I’m only too thrilled to leave Port Arthur and board the shuttle to the Tasman National Park. I sit in deep contemplation of the stories that I heard today—men being driven out of their minds in solitary confinement; harsh and brutal punishments meant to break the bodies and souls of even the most hardened criminals; serial killers chasing down and murdering little girls…

There was a boys prison somewhere in the area, too—a boys prison! What could a young boy have possibly done to be shipped from England to here in the 19th Century—a trip that normally takes eight months? And at the end of the harbor, there’s a little island full of nothing but dead people, said to house the marked and unmarked graves of 800-1100 people. That’s a lot of damn dead bodies!

With all this beauty, manicured lawns, memorials, and historical importance, all I gathered from this place is death and suffering. I could feel the helplessness of the prisoners in the separate prison and the longing of those who watch the water through the bars of the main penitentiary. And now, I’m not so convinced that Christian didn’t hear one of the previous occupants coughing in one of the cells. I’m not even sure how people can live here now…

“You alright?”

I don’t know what my face is saying, but my husband is prompted to inquire about my state of mind. I look at him, then at Laura and Jaxon, and back out the window, shaking my head slightly.

“Right now, I’m having a TMI overload,” I say.

“Ah, Poht Ahthuh can do thaht to ya,” Jaxon says with a nod.

“Why do people come to hear these stories?” I ask, turning on him for answers, frantic and a bit angry. “There’s nothing here but tales of heartache and misery, death and murder. I know there’s history here and I’m supposed to see the historical value, but I’m sorry, I don’t see it. I just see despair and death with a beautiful garden that’s grown over and a memorial where dozens of people were killed for no good reason at all—there was no statement trying to be made, no protest, nothing. Just an idiot who claims that he doesn’t remember what happened. I’m not saying that it’s okay to kill somebody for those other reasons, but…” I trail off, too angry and unable to finish my point.

“TMI,” I repeat. “I could’ve gone my whole life not hearing the story about those two little girls being chased down by that murderer. We paid for this?” I say to Christian.

“OI know this is a hahd playce foh someone to swallow,” Jaxon begins, “but in tha wayke of the tragedy, Australia has some o’ tha strictest gun lahs in the wohld. Amehrica could lehn from thaht considehring the tragedies we always see on tha news.”

“You’re only partially correct, there, Jaxon,” I argue. “With the mass and school shootings, there does need to be some kind of gun control. Unfortunately, at this point, Australia’s example isn’t going to work for the United States.” Jaxon frowns.

“Whoi not?” he asks nonplussed.

“America’s too far gone, dear,” Laura interjects. “Australia had the right idea. As soon as they saw a problem, they zoomed in on it. America waited too long.” Jaxon looks from his wife to me and I nod.

“If America tried to do the sweeping gun laws that Australia has now, law-abiding citizens would turn in their guns and the criminals and gang members would still have theirs,” I say. Jaxon turns to Christian.

“Australia nipped the problem before it became an epidemic,” Christian tells him. “As harsh as this sounds, the best way I can describe it is to compare it to a person inflicted with a fatal disease, like cancer. Australia caught it and stopped it at the initial tumor. America’s in stage four. Can something be done about it? A lot of people seem to think so, but in the meantime, people still want to protect themselves.”

Jaxon looks from face to face as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing, which he probably can’t.

“OI don think OI could live loike thaht,” Jaxon says. “OI’d be in constant feah of tha Puhge!”

“A lot of people are, Jax,” Laura says for me. “A lot of people are.”

I’m able to decompress a bit during the hour or so that we spend at the National Park. We start at Pirate’s Bay, where there is a rugged coastline and rocky formations known as tessellated Pavement. This unusual and rare feature appears in flat sedimented rock formations on ocean shores. The rock has fractured into rectangular squares that look like tiles called tessellations. This is one of the natural wonders in Tasmania said to be caused by the salt water settling on the rocks and causing both concave and convex tessellations.

We then spend some time at the famed Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen, two of Tasmania’s famous natural phenomena. Watching the beautiful water and studying the stratification of the rocks helped to calm my uneasiness from the tour we took earlier this morning. The nature walks also contributed to bringing me back from the edge.

Jaxon tells us about real Tasmanian devils which, by the way, look nothing like the cartoon. I’m dying to know where they got that concept from because besides the fact that Tasmanian devils are scavengers, they don’t destroy everything they touch. We don’t actually get to see any because they are in preserves in the north, but Jaxon seems to know a lot about them.

I get the idea about the incoherent noise, because when they find a carcass, they let loose this scream that attracts other devils—like a dinner bell. They have to do this because even though their jaws are strong and their teeth are sharp, they’re so small that they can’t tear a carcass apart on their own. However, with the help of a few friends, they’ll leave absolutely nothing behind.

There are a lot of “devil” preserves, but not many Tasmanian devils in the wild. The ones in the wild are dying off because they’re infected or diseased with a form of face cancer. They pass it among each other by biting each other in the face when they’re trying to tear apart a carcass. As a result, a lot of Tasmanian devils in the wild have died, and preserves are waiting for the rest of them to die off before they release the healthy ones into the wild to rejuvenate the population.

Believe it or not, I can’t wait to end this excursion and get back onto the ship. The trek through the Tasman National Park was beautiful with its nature walks and natural geological wonders, but this part of Tasmania has left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m ready to go. I opt to forego the late lunch on the island and get back on the early water shuttle back to the ship. I tell the rest of my party that they are free to stay, but this place is really messing with me and I need to get away from it.

“Guys, why don’t you go and… do guy things? I’d like to talk to Ana for a while,” Laura says once we get back to the ship. Christian looks at me, then at Jason.

“Ben can come with me if you like,” I say, noting the concern in Christian’s face.

“Um, sir, you should be okay on the ship… remember?” Jason says.

“I… would feel better if Lawrence were with her…” because you’re not with me. “No offense, Laura…”

“None taken,” Laura says, waving him off. “I’ve seen him be invisible. I just want to have a little chat with Ana.” Christian still looks uneasy.

“I promise, I won’t run off and join any convents or rock bands,” I say, kissing him on the cheek. “C’mon, Ben.”

Laura and I leave Jason and Jaxon to tend to Christian and she and I head to a blues spot called Maderno’s for a late lunch, with Ben close behind.

“You and Christian are opposites,” she says. “Same… but different.”

“You’re right,” I say, examining the menu.

“You’ve got a big monster in your closet.” My head jerks up from my menu and I glare at her. “And I’m right about that, too.”

How could she possibly know that?

“Our monsters are strange things, Ana,” she continues. “They follow us everywhere and they manifest themselves in different forms. They pop up when we least expect them and when we least want them, and they scare the shit out of us.”

Suddenly, my guard is down. I’m immediately open and raw and I want to cry.

“It’s okay,” she says. “I consider us friends and I hope you do, too, even if we never see each other again.” I clear my throat uncomfortably.

“I consider us friends,” I choke, barely able to get my words out.

“Good,” she says. “Waiter?” She waves one of the servers over. “We’re going to need two hurricanes, the smoked mozzarella ravioli in lobster cream sauce and the New England Clam chowder.” He nods and he’s off. I didn’t even order and that sounds really good, except…

“What’s a hurricane?” I ask.

“Some delicious fruit juices, and a lot of rum,” she says. I look over at Ben, who nods at me.

“Sounds like my kind of drink,” I reply.

Two hurricanes and two appetizers later, I’m tearing into the breaded flounder fillet while Laura is chomping on shrimp and mushroom Alfredo. The hurricanes were to burn the Tassie experience out of me and help me loosen up about my monsters.

“My monsters don’t seem so big lately,” I confess. “At first, it seemed all encompassing, but over the last few weeks or so, not so much.”

“What’s been going on over the last few weeks?” she asks, taking a healthy forkful of her Alfredo.

“Well, for one thing, I’ve been focusing on everybody else’s problems but my own,” I say.

“Okay, that could mean a couple of things. What else?”

“I haven’t seen my shrink,” I confess. “He kicked me out of his office a few weeks ago and he cancelled my last two appointments.”

“How have you been dealing with the monsters since then?”

“Journaling,” I reply. “Meditating… when I get the chance. So much has happened that I don’t get the chance to meditate and my journal entries are mainly about other people.”

“Well, that concerns me,” she says. “Your monsters don’t just go away, and as soon as you’re rid of all these distractions, they’ll be back. You’re not dealing with them, Ana, you’re avoiding them.”

“How did you know I had monsters in the first place?” I ask. We’ve talked about some things, but nothing in grand detail.

“The way you reacted to Port Arthur,” she replies. “I told you I’m a spirit guide. You weren’t simply dismayed by the stories you heard and the vibes you got from that place. You were offended. You were offended for the convicts. You were offended for the children in the boys’ prison. You were offended for all those bodies on the Isle of the Dead. You were offended for all those people who were killed at the Broad Arrow Café. The dead spoke to you—they gave you their outrage and you carried it, because you have a like monster. Now, you’re drinking spirits and chasing the other spirits away. It doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t stop people from trying to make it work. That’s how alcoholics become alcoholics.”

“If you know this, why did you give me alcohol?” I ask.

“Because you needed to chase the other monsters away, and now there’s nothing left but yours. Tell me about them.”

I furrow my brow. Do I want to tell her this?

“You haven’t spoken to your shrink in weeks. Tell me about them. I don’t need to know what brought them on, I just need to know what they are.” I sigh and roll my eyes.

“I had something really bad happen to me as a kid,” I say.

“Yes, I remember the reference to the tattoo.” I finish my hurricane.

“It wasn’t until I became an adult that the monsters really came out. Things started happening—crazy shit, regular life shit, just shit. Now, I’m just afraid that the monsters are all going to eat me up.”

“Which monsters are going to eat you?” she asks. I shrug.

“The monsters that are coming to get me,” I say, and I sound like a toddler to myself. Her brow furrows and she ponders my statement for a moment.

“Oh,” she says in sudden realization. “So, you’re not afraid of present monsters. You’re afraid of the monsters that are coming.”

“Yes!” I say, my voice sounding like “Eureka!”

“So, what are you going to tell Minnie?” she asks. I frown.

“What?” I’m confused.

“What are you going to tell Minnie?” she repeats. “You’re her mother. You’re her first line of defense; her female role model. What are you going to tell her when her monsters come—to be afraid of them before they even get there? What do you tell the people seeking sanctuary at the help center? They’ve got some real monsters. What would you tell your patients? Why is any of this stuff that you would say to them—to your daughter—not good enough for you?

“Yesterday, you sat on a bus… or somewhere… and declared that you were tired of women hating on you because you’re beautiful and your husband is beautiful. You’re willing to take control of a bunch of catty bitches that you may never see again—who’ll only have an effect on you for the moment, but you can’t conquer impending monsters? The monsters are in your head. What sense does that make?

“Knowing and fearing that the monsters are coming is a very natural thing, but knowing that they’re coming gives you plenty of time to prepare for them. You don’t fall prey to them, Ana. You get ready for them and then you battle them. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some, but they. Won’t. Kill you. And guess what? That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.

“We’re all going to die one day,” she says, finishing her second hurricane. “One day, a hundred years from now, we’re not going to be here anymore. Are we going to sit right now in fear of that day? That’s the ultimate monster, when everything that we know in this life on this side ends. So, we’re going to sit every day and wait for it to end? Fear death’s arrival every day?

“I’m not! I’m going to live. I’m going to eat well, exercise, and do what I can to fend off this monster as long as possible. I’m going to live right, make good decisions, and when I see the monster coming—in dangerous situations, in bad habits, in illegal activities, in toxic people—then I’m going to avoid those things. And I’m going to do that for every monster that crosses my path. I’m going to analyze the situation, come up with a solution, then I’m going to implement a plan. If the monster gets the best of me, then I’ll implement another one. No monster—no monster—is bigger than me, but they’re always going to come. And what am I going to do… hide from them? Be afraid of them? Might as well send the big monster now if that’s what I’m going to do.

“You can’t pretend the monsters aren’t there, and you can’t run from them, but you know what? They don’t have to run your life. You grab those sons of bitches by the throat and you show them who’s boss. Only one of you can dominate the present—you or the monster. So, which one of you is it going to be? He has to go and find something else to do, someone else to terrorize, or die completely while you’re dominating the present. And what are you doing while he’s dominating the present—cowering in a corner? Crying and praying and hoping that he’ll go away? Living your entire life in fear when there’s nothing in front of you but opportunity?

“Here’s the thing, Ana,” she says, turning to face me, “you’re a spiritual being. We’re all spiritual beings, but yours is on display. It’s on your sleeve. I can see it… I can feel it. When you went to Port Arthur, you’re one of those people who connected with the troubled spirits there. At the risk of sounding hokey, do you remember the movie Ghost?”

“Who doesn’t?” Patrick Swayze at his hottest… except maybe for Dirty Dancing… What were we talking about again?

“You remember Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Oda Mae?” I look at her and twist my lips. “Okay, you know who I’m talking about. Do you remember every ghost in the city came to her house because they found out that she could hear them?”

“Yes?” I answer skeptically. Where is she going with this?

“It’s the same concept. You showed up and you caused a ripple in the continuum and all those spirits were drawn to you. You were bombarded by the spirits, and you were overwhelmed by all the death of all those people who died on that island. Whether they died in the prisons, at work in the fields, or from one of the bullets from Bryant’s gun, those spirits were drawn to you. We’re not talking about those people who lived there and lived out their long, happy lives and died with their family members surrounding them. Those people are at peace. We’re talking about the ones who died in turmoil—the souls who were tormented beings while they were alive or untimely ripped from their bodies during that massacre.

“You showed up and you picked that burden up at the prison. Then you went to the café and you picked up a few more. You carried it through the park and all the way back on the shuttle ride to the starting point. By the time you got back to the starting point, you were so angry at death—just another monster—that your day was over. Port Arthur held nothing more for you and you wanted to get as far away from it as possible. So, we came back to the boat. The problem is that the spirits are still in a state of unrest, and it’s all over you.

“But here’s the thing—that’s nothing any different than what happens to any other spiritual being. Having control over that spirituality is what makes one able to overcome those feelings. They’re able to conquer it and let it go, not live in it. They use their inner strength, their chakra, their chi—whatever it is you draw on—to overcome the anger or the overwhelming anguish, and you couldn’t. You have so many things holding onto your spirit that these spirits latched on, too. If you’re walking along with trash in your hand and you see a pile of garbage, your mind would say, ‘I need to find a garbage can,’ but human nature will throw it on the top of that pile.”

I kind of hate to admit that she’s right.

“That’s the same concept with all these spirits jumping on you,” she continues. “You’ve got the one friend who lost her mother, the other friend who just had an abortion, the other friend who was ambushed by her grandmother, and whatever else you have on your plate, and these restless spirits see this and they’re like ‘Hey, let’s hitch a ride!’ That’s why I was able to pinpoint your spirituality. Spirits know spirits, girl.

“So, here’s my question. We’re going to leave Port Arthur, and those spirits stuck here are not going to be an issue for you anymore. You’re not the first person who has had that kind of reaction to this place, and you won’t be the last. Then you’re going to go back to Washington and one way or another, all those problems and issues and monsters and spirits are all going to work themselves out, too. So, what are you going to do when theirs are gone and you’re face-to-face with your own monsters again?

“You’re in a constant state of Armageddon and you can’t survive that way—you’ll go crazy. Bad things happen. They’re going to happen again. They make us fight to overcome so that we can return to and appreciate the good times. So, are you going to let them run your life? If you do, you’re already dead. The entire concept behind living, being alive and being able to survive the bad is the reality of knowing that you can defeat the monsters. Even if you have to defeat them repeatedly, you can still beat ‘em! People can be fatally ill—they can have a death sentence and somehow come back. It’s the will to live, the will to fight, the will to win. How do you think people beat cancer?”

Cancer…
Jesus—Valerie! Shit!
The will to live, the will to fight…

I was constantly afraid of things that go bump in the night. Was afraid? Fuck, am afraid…

Suddenly, I’m seeing myself in everything that she’s saying.

He did a background check on me and I immediately went spiraling down the vortex of oh-my-God-they’re-after-me.

He came back home after a bit of soul-searching and suggested that we maybe postpone the wedding. I saw the death of all my future happiness and ran off to Montana.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant, I was afraid for the embryos to face the world.

I was frozen with fear when Christian was facing off with Robin Myrick and the hackers to the degree that I basically threatened Brian to keep him safe.

Granted, him running off to Madrid shook everything I knew, but even after he came back, I couldn’t see any horizon—nothing but gloom and fear and unhappiness, waiting for the next shoe to drop or the next boulder to fall.

And then, there’s Val… fighting that tumor and not even knowing if any of her friends would be there when she awoke… if she awoke. She named her monster, her unwelcome intruder. She named it Meg, a harmless little name for something that she planned to fight with every fiber of her being.

And she did.

She fought through surgery, through radiation and chemotherapy, through getting her head shaved and losing all of her hair, even through Kate fucking Kavanaugh tripping her at a garden party… and that ugly yellow house that she loves so much.

Meg… she calls it Meg.

What do I call mine—Boogeyman. Why? Because the Boogeyman is usually something you can’t beat. He’s the all-knowing, all-seeing manifestation of all things scary; the opposite of Santa Claus and worse than the devil; the scary blob of nothing that makes children behave for fear that he’ll “come and get me.”

I made it real. I gave it life. It may have started as a Meg, but I gave it life. I gave it the omnipotence of the Boogeyman.

Jesus.

I had the answer to my monsters all along and I’ve been sitting here… what? Hiding? Cowering? Shrinking? What? I can’t believe it was this simple all this time.

Accept the monsters. They’re going to come. It’s a part of life.
Be prepared for the monsters, but don’t live in them. Don’t sit there and let them run your life.
Do what you must to build up your armor so that you can fight when they come…

But you can’t let Meg live while you die.

Isn’t that what everybody was telling you all along?
They might have been, but I couldn’t hear them. They weren’t saying it in a way I could understand.

“I see the light,” Laura says. “I see it in your eyes. Let’s go to the spa and cleanse before it gets away…”

I’m lying on a hot thermal bench after a shampoo, condition, and scalp massage with some kind of homeopathic sacs on my eyes to help with the swelling from my crying. When did I cry? Right after a session of acupuncture. I cried like a damn baby. I felt like those tiny little needles were antennae drawing the weight of the world out of my body through those tiny holes… and through my tears. Waterlogged from my Sob-Fest, I followed the spa technicians as they guided me through a rainwater therapy shower-like hallway where seven different settings helped to release tension, wash away toxins, and aid in regaining my composure.

After a luxury facial that leaves my face as smooth as a baby’s bottom and a foot massage that pops nearly every joint in my feet, I take to an amber quartz crystal bed for the final soothing massage to release what’s left of my tension—a gentle rubdown with eucalyptus and juniper oil…

Eucalyptus…

… on the heated quartz crystal table. It’s magnificent and I totally forget where I am.

Now, I’m left to finish my cleansing on the heated thermal bench—it feels like sitting in a dry hot tub—and ponder all things Boogeyman. Why does my mind immediately go to the worst things that could possibly happen? If I were shrinking myself, what would I say about this…? What would I tell Minnie…?

“Mrs. G, you’re suffering from the worst type of phobia there is—phobophobia, the fear of fear. You’re afraid of being afraid… so afraid in fact that it has you paralyzed. You’re unable to make any solid decisions about your life or the future, afraid to step left or right because the unknown may come and gobble you up… may come. You almost stepped your drunk ass off a cliff three months ago, and what could have happened to you doesn’t scare you as much as what could happen, what’s waiting around the corner. Never mind the very clear and present danger of falling your ass off a cliff… No, you’re more concerned about the fact that Mr. G left you all alone and even though he’s back, you still can’t deal with the uncertainty. Uncertainty… there’s the worst phobia of all. You know what it’s called? Being human.”

I wasn’t always like this, at least I don’t remember always being like this. Even after Green Valley, when I came back to Seattle and slowly began to find my way, I remember finding some modicum of peace. What happened? What changed?

“Minnie, it’s a scary world out there, I know. Sometimes, it seems like things are all coming to get you at once, but I promise that it won’t always be that way. There’ll be good times and fun times, things to make you happy. When the bad times come, my little princess, you have to be strong. You have to believe in yourself and know that the bad times won’t last. You have to know that sometimes, you may have to endure some things—to wait them out—but other times, you can conquer those things. You can be your very own superhero and defeat the monsters. It won’t be easy, Minnie Mouse, but it’ll be worth it. And you won’t be alone. Even though there are some monsters that you may have to fight by yourself, there are a lot of people who love you very much, and they will never leave you alone. Remember, baby girl, you’re strong. You come from good stock, and you can conquer anything that comes your way. I love you.”

I’d like to say that I’m all better—I’m not, but at least I have a clearer and more productive perspective of what I’m dealing with… and it only took an island full of dead people, two hurricanes, and a spirit guide.


CHRISTIAN

Butterfly had a hard time with the Port Arthur tour. I’ll admit it was pretty creepy, especially that coughing that I know I heard in that cell, but she had a particularly rough time with it. I don’t think I’ve seen anything affect her quite like that. She wasn’t just affected; she was angry.

And I could almost feel the souls at that café crying for justice. That maniac that shot all those people is living and getting fat in jail. He’s not being punished for his crimes because whether he was or is mentally unstable or he doesn’t remember what happened, he couldn’t possibly care about jail if he killed all those people. The most feeling he had was running out of that burning room right before he was captured.

I’ve had enough of chewing the fat and sitting in the humidor with Jaxon. As he enjoys his cigar, he and Jason talk a bit about soccer… oh, I’m sorry… football. I’m not a smoker and while I don’t mind cigar smoke that much, we’ve been in here for the entire cigar, and it’s starting to irritate my eyes.

Cigar smoke doesn’t bother me as such. At the risk of sounding like the snob that I am, it has a more distinguished aroma than cigarette smoke—the good ones, anyway. Besides, cigarette smoke reminds me of… him.

Jaxon accommodates me once I’ve had enough of the humidor and we go in search of our women. Jason confirms with Lawrence that they’re in the spa. Good. That’s exactly what she needed. We enter the luxury spa—even grander than Miana’s—and I spot Lawrence sitting in the lounge with a magazine.

“Sir,” he says, standing and acknowledging my presence.

“Where’s my wife?” I ask.

“Inside, sir,” he says.

“Why are you out here?” I say, somewhat demanding.

“This is as far as I go, sir,” he replies. “I couldn’t very well watch them get their treatments.”

Duh!

“Of course,” I say, a bit more contrite. “How did she seem?” He twists his lips.

“Uneasy,” he says honestly. “She and the lady had an extensive conversation to which I was not privy, an impressive lunch, and two hurricanes… each.”

“Whoa,” Jaxon replies. I look over at him.

“Something I should know?” I ask. He raises his brow.

“D’ya knoh whaht a Huhricayne is?” he asks. I shake my head.

“No. Should I?” He chuckles a bit and Jason flexes his jaw and rubs his neck.

“In laymen’s tuhms,” Jaxon says, “a Huhricayne is one paht rum, one paht fruit juice, anothah paht rum, and anothah paht rum.” Jason hides his snicker at Jaxon’s description.

“So, basically, my wife is pickled… again,” I reply.

“Well, once she comes out of there, she probably won’t be,” Jason says gesturing to the spa. Jaxon nods.

“We’re fine from here, gentlemen,” I say to my security staff. I assure Jason that we won’t be needing them for the rest of the night and that I won’t let Butterfly out of my sight before dismissing him and Lawrence to try to have a little fun on our last evening on the ship. Jaxon and I enter the spa and go in search of our wives. We don’t have to look far before we see Laura sitting in a section of floating chairs over what looks like sand sipping tea and eating mango and cantaloupe slices.

“Thehre’s my possum,” Jaxon says upon seeing Laura, who raises her gaze and smiles at him.

Possum? Ew.

“Hello, pet,” she coos when she sees him.

Oh, dear God, if you only knew. That’s even worse. I look just past where she’s seated and I can see a woman in a room laying prostrate on a table with some kind of sacks over her eyes… like tea bags. Even with her hair wrapped, I know that’s my Butterfly. I’d know that body anywhere, even though she’s not moving, barely breathing. She looks serene… too serene.

“You look concerned,” Laura says, drawing my attention to her and away from Butterfly. I don’t respond. I don’t really know what to say.

“It was a rough day,” she adds, and I turn back to Butterfly. I watch her silently for a moment…

“We had a long talk.”

Laura’s voice draws my gaze back to her and I realize that it must have been more than a moment that I was gazing at Butterfly, because Jaxon is gone, and I didn’t even notice he left.

“She’s carrying a lot of demons,” Laura continues, gesturing to one of the floating chairs. I feel strange having this conversation with her. Is she about to betray a confidence by telling me the content of their conversation? Should I decline her invitation and wait for Butterfly to reveal these things to me?

Then again, how many opportunities present themselves to get an objective insight into your girl’s mind? I reluctantly, and anxiously, take a seat next to her.

Wow, these floating chairs are really comfortable.

“She’s a strange bird,” Laura says. “She’s an anomaly to most ‘regular’ folks, but I come across people like her all the time.”

People like her?” I ask. Laura nods.

“She’s intuitive. She’s more spiritual than natural, empathetic almost to a fault. She’s in the right profession—therapy and emotionally helping people who need it, but she’s got to learn to leave their demons at the door.”

I can’t argue with that.

“She’s loyal—faithful even if it’s to her own detriment. She’ll need you to guide her through that, to ground her…”

“How am I supposed to do that?” I interrupt. Hell, she grounds me. I’m the unstable one in this relationship… aren’t I?

“You are the hand that holds her, that keeps her aligned and steady. She guides the world, but you guide her.” I shake my head.

“I think you’ve got that backwards,” I confess. I’m the one with control of the world. I’m the Master of the Universe. She’s the one that keeps me in place—helps me to remember that I’m only human.

“Do I?” she asks, swinging one foot casually in the chair.

I think so,” I reinforce.

“Did you fall apart when you left?” she asks. I’m taken aback. This conversation has gone much deeper than I thought.

“So,” I begin, “she told you about our very temporary split.” Laura raises a surprised brow at me.

“Yes, but… she didn’t call it that,” she reveals. “Have you ever put a name to what happened?”

You mean like Liamgate? Liam… asshole.

“No, not really.”

“That could be one of the reasons that she’s having such a hard time with it,” she continues. “Was it a break-up or a break? How likely is it to happen again? You talked about the effects, but did you name the situation—actually tag what it really was?”

“We talked about it extensively,” I defend, “to nearly everyone that would listen—family, friends, her shrink, my shrink, she journals, we meditate… we’ve beat this horse about as much as it can be beaten…”

“And yet it lives,” Laura says.

Good grief, is this woman licensed?

“She’s already very spiritual, but she’s still an open wound,” she continues. “She’s like Velcro, and the demons and the spirits and the needy all flock to her. She’s a welcome mat and a door mat at the same time, and that’s why she was so overwhelmed by Port Arthur. It’s still open and it still leaves her vulnerable, and you may not have named it, but she did. She gave it a name. She calls it the Boogeyman.” I frown.

“I think you may have misunderstood,” I say. “The Boogeyman is her constant fear that something bad is going to happen.”

“I didn’t misunderstand,” she replies. “She’s had all kinds of bad things happen in her lifetime, and she may have retroactively related this fear to things that have happened to her before, but the Boogeyman didn’t show up until you went to Madrid.”

I fall silent, unable to dispute that most recent point of fact.

“The Boogeyman is not her fear of bad things happening—that’s just how she relates it. She felt safe and comfortable and confident and that security was unexpectedly ripped from her. All she was left with was uncertainty, complete and total uncertainty—nothing in front of her but a black hole. Nothing escapes from a black hole, Christian, not even light. And you wonder why when she slipped into hopelessness, she couldn’t get out.

“Fear is a very powerful thing, but fear doesn’t just happen. Something brings it on. She didn’t just wake up and decide the Apocalypse was around the corner. Something ripped her from her happy place, threw her into the abyss, and she’s been trying to climb out of it all this time. All of the clinical diagnoses and the opinions and points of others may have been correct—even helpful—but none of them turned that spotlight onto that darkness that’s inside her devouring her from the inside out. Then again, none of them could. Only she can do that.

“The Boogeyman is the manifestation of the fact that everything that she thought was, wasn’t. It’s the tangible reality that the security she thought she had could be ripped from her at any moment, because it was. We can try to put it into a different compartment all we want, but it is what it is.”

“We’ve taken breaks from each other before,” I protest. “It was hard, but the bottom didn’t fall out from under our lives. She took the time that she needed, then she came back, and we put our lives back together again. Why does this have to be different?”

I don’t know what I’m looking for. Maybe I’m looking for an escape from this responsibility—some other answer besides the fact that in leaving the way that I did, I totally broke my wife. She seemed to be dealing with things pretty well with the passing of time and her coping techniques, but it looks like that fucking trip to Port Arthur set her all the way back to the beginning.

“Are you talking about her trip to Montana?” Reluctantly, I nod. “Here’s the big difference between her escape to Montana and your escape to Madrid. Contrary to your belief that it lies in the commitment that you have now versus what you had then, that’s not true. It lies in what you’re not seeing and the message that each of you got when the other left.

“When Ana left, nobody but her assistant knew that she was gone, and even she didn’t know where Ana had gone. No one knew—her family, her friends, you, no one. Unless she was going to close up her practice and start a whole new life somewhere, you knew that she was coming back. You didn’t know what the circumstances would be when she returned, but you knew she was coming back.

“When you left, you took what you needed with you—you had your money and took Jason. As far as she could tell, you didn’t need to come back. You didn’t need her; you didn’t need your children; you could run your empire from anywhere, and you did. You left her the man that you were when you met her—cold, distant, a total loner—you and your security, and neither of you were forthcoming with information. All she was left with was ‘What do I do now?’

“You guys have talked about it and you hashed out your feelings, but you never made it an isolated incident. It’s a manifestation of everything bad that can happen. The bottom line, it’s the Boogeyman.”

Jesus, how long were we in that damn humidor?

“Well, then, what we really need to do is just isolate this thing, right?” She shakes her head.

“It’s too late for that,” she replies. “She has to battle that monster now, and you can’t battle it for her. She’s a strong woman, and you know that, but she’s delicate and sensitive, too. When it comes to you, you give her credit for her strength because she’s your anchor… but you don’t recognize her emotional weaknesses until she breaks down, and by then, the damage is already done. I understand that she’s your pillar, and I can see how and why, but you’re hers, too. You need each other, and when one is left with the uncertainty of not being able to have the other, the world falls apart.”

God, she’s so right. Nothing left me feeling more like a half a man than those twelve days that Butterfly was in a coma… not knowing if she would come back to me, not being able to see past the sixty days that I definitely had with her before I had to decide to unplug her or keep her alive as an incubator. I physically shiver at the thought.

“I can see that you have a story, too,” Laura says, “but we don’t have the time to hash it out. Besides, I’m all out of hurricanes.”

I chuckle.

“You would need a lifetime to hear my story,” I confess.

“No, not a lifetime, just a couple of hours and the right bits. How do you think Ana and I got so far?”

“I was just wondering that.” We both look back to the room where Butterfly is lounging just beyond the glass door.

“We’re all connected in some way, Christian,” she says. “It’s a matter of being able to let your guard down and let someone else in. She can do that easily. You, not so much.” She’s got that right.

“Where did Jaxon get off to?” I ask, feeling a bit too vulnerable. She smiles.

“The barber shop,” she says. “Through the lounge and to your right.” I rise from the chair.

“Thanks… for the talk,” I say. She nods once.

“Anytime…”

“Woild hohrses wouldn’t pull you away from thaht dohr,” Jaxson says when I ask why he didn’t invite me to the barber shop with him. “OI thought OI’d get meself a shayve n’ bockeh.” I frown and look at the barber.

“Shave and a haircut, two bits,” he says, singing the old jingle. I mouth an “oh” and nod.

“I think I’ll have the same,” I say. I had no idea what I was in for when I said that.

Sometime later, I emerge from the “barber shop” having a love/hate relationship with the staff there. My hair has been cut shorter than it ever has been before. My beard is trimmed to such precision that it almost looks drawn on my face. My nose hairs and eyebrows have been waxed… waxed! After that torture session, I was treated to an exfoliating facial scrub and steam, a five-minute jaw massage along with a neck and shoulder massage with a Sandlewood fragrance oil accompanied by a shot of fine whiskey to help ease the sting of having my skin ripped off! Jesus, women do this regularly?

I’m not so pissed when I look in the mirror and see the results. Shit. I don’t think I was this sharp on my wedding day.

When I get back to the spa, Laura and Butterfly are already gone, so Jaxon and I head back to our staterooms. Butterfly isn’t there either, but there’s a note on the table as soon as I enter the room.

Gone to Laura’s room to change for the evening. Tonight is semi-formal, so dress appropriately. We’ll meet you at Cagney’s Theater at seven.

Before I have a chance to wonder where Jaxon is changing since Butterfly has gone to their stateroom, he’s knocking at the door of my cabin with a garment bag in his hand. I can’t help but laugh when I let him in.

*-*

“So, tonight is our last night on board,” I tell Jaxon.

“Yeh. Lahrie told me. She’s feelin’ a bit bummed about it. Sez she nevah had a friend she could relayte to loike Ahnah. We’ll prob’ly nevah get tha two o’ them off the ‘Book.”

“The Book?” I ask, bemused.

“Faycebook,” Jaxon laughs. “Yoh a bit sheltahed thehre, Chris?”

“No,” I chuckle, “not at all. It’s just not feasible for me or my wife to be on social media.”

“OI’ll give it a week,” he taunts. “Get ready, Chris!”

We get to deck seven where the theater is, and I question Jaxon about what show we’re going to see. I’m certain that I hear nothing he’s saying, because as we bend the corner, I see a crowd of about five young men and in the center of them are our wives. Laura speaks to one of them while Butterfly stands demurely holding her clutch.

As usual, she’s fucking exquisite.

My heart actually begins to race when I see her. She’s wearing a beautifully modest black full-length sheath halter dress. The top looks like embroidered lace with a choker collar in the front—no splits this time, but she doesn’t need one to still look absolutely stunning. Her sunkissed skin is glowing and radiant, her mahogany mane full and shiny, cascading over her shoulders.

I know why women dislike her so. They want what she has—and I don’t mean money or even me. They want that class, sophistication, and ethereal natural beauty that she possesses… and they become angry with her because they don’t have it. Women often try to imitate her charm and elegance, but they fail miserably. They either come off overdressed, overdone, or skanky, but not my wife. Her beauty, grace, and sex appeal are effortless. No wonder men can’t control themselves around her. She’s a goddess. She leaves them powerless to behave themselves, poor suckers… and she’s mine, all mine.

My feet are frozen in their spot and I can’t stop staring at her. I’m struck dumb like the very first time I saw her. I’m afraid if I try to go to her, I might trip over my own feet and face-plant in the middle of the floor. She laughs sweetly, then her eyes lock with mine.

I’m captured.

I don’t know how the space closes between us, but in a moment, she’s standing in front of me.

“You’re beautiful,” I say.

“So are you,” she breathes. I cup her face and place a gentle kiss on her lips.

“Of couhse,” I hear someone lament. “Wy too hoht to beh hehr alone. C’mon, boys.”

Yes, run along, boys.

I admire my wife for a few moments more before I take her hand and we enter the theater.

I try to pay attention to the show—a Broadway review of hit songs from various shows. It’s actually very good, but I can’t help staring at my Butterfly. She’s glowing, like she’s shed the weight of the world and aged backwards five years or so. I just want to hold her and watch the moonlight dance off her skin. Luckily, the stage lighting has the same effect as it shines into the audience. As a result, I see more of my wife than I do of the show.

When the show is over, we’re trying to decide which restaurant we’ll visit for our last night on board. Laura and Jaxon will finish the cruise back to Sydney, but Butterfly and I will debark in Melbourne to fly to Adelaide and spend the weekend in the Barossa Valley. As we’re passing the Grand Plaza, I take note of the martini bar we visited—still open—and the fact that no one is at the piano. I stop walking and my wife looks at me strangely. I pull her over to the white baby grand and take a seat on the bench. When she takes the seat next to me, I think of the shortest song that I can play and sing for her that has the least chance of being interrupted…

She may be the face I can’t forget
A trace of pleasure or regret
Maybe my treasure or the price I have to pay
She may be the song that summer sings
May be the chill that autumn brings
May be a hundred different things
Within the measure of a day.

Jaxon and Laura join us and stand next to the piano while various patrons of the piano bar or people just sitting in the lounge turn their attention to tonight’s impromptu entertainment.

She may be the beauty or the beast
May be the famine or the feast
May turn each day into a heaven or a hell.
She may be the mirror of my dreams
A smile reflected in a stream
She may not be what she may seem
Inside her shell…

I don’t know why I picked this song to sing. It just seems right and it’s short, but as I belt the song out in as mellow a voice as I can, I realize the words are perfect for the moment and for how I feel about her, especially in light of the conversation that I had with Laura this afternoon. Can I be that pillar that she needs to find her way back to the invincible Butterfly that she once was?

She who always seems so happy in a crowd
Whose eyes can be so private and so proud
No one’s allowed to see them when they cry…
She may be the love that cannot hope to last
May come to me from shadows of the past
That I’ll remember till the day I die…

Jesus, that’s a bit depressing. Time to bring this back around.

She may be the reason I survive
The why and wherefore I’m alive
The one I’ll care for through the rough and rainy years…

Me, I’ll take her laughter and her tears
And make them all my souvenirs
For where she goes, I’ve got to be
The meaning of my life is She.
Sheeeeeeeeee, oh, She…

My wife turns her beautiful, smiling blue eyes to me and my heart is quickly filled with love. I kiss her gently, and again before I rub my nose against hers.

“I love you so much,” I whisper.

“I know,” she replies. “I love you, too.”

I cup her neck and place my forehead on hers. Do you have any idea how much I love you? That I would do anything, give anything, just to see you happy?

If that’s true, why are you so hell bent on hurting her all the time?


A/N: The song that Christian sings to Ana is She by Elvis Costello.

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

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~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 78—Traipsing to Tasmania    

I’m assuming that anyone reading my fanfic has read the entire FSOG trilogy and most likely seen all the movies. By now, I’m certain that you are fully aware that BDSM is an entire lifestyle practiced by an ENORMOUS community of people. To that end, if you do not agree with the lifestyle, I’m pretty certain that you knew that you didn’t agree with it by the time you finished reading the original trilogy. As such, why would you continue to read FSOG fanfiction knowing that it’s based on the trilogy and that the trilogy is based on a BDSM relationship if you don’t agree with the lifestyle? 

This is nearly the end of book four—BOOK FOUR! You didn’t know when you read that conversation between Christian and Ana in BOOK ONE, PAGING DR. STEELE, that this story would be about BDSM?

If you don’t agree with the practice of BDSM (not you, Falala, I know that you’re still trying to grasp it), that’s your prerogative and that’s okay, but don’t use my forum to slam it. First of all, you knew what you were reading when you started reading an FSOG fanfic and second, it’s not my responsibility to defend an entire lifestyle that was being practiced EONS before our great-grandparents were even a sperm in their great-grandparents’ DNA.

I’m certain that there are plenty of forums out there that share in your point of view about how inappropriate BDSM is in any relationship—marriage, casual, sexual, or otherwise. I Googled it came up with ten pages of forums that will welcome your anti-BDSM comments. This AIN’T one of those forums, and your comment has been deleted—no disrespect intended. Please post your anti-BDSM comments elsewhere. This is a REQUEST, not an ATTACK. Thank you. 

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 78—Traipsing to Tasmania    

ANASTASIA

Hobart is a beautiful city in Tasmania, built on rolling hills with Mount Wellington as its backdrop. Even though we’re on a ferry, it’s easy to see the beautiful 19th Century architecture throughout the city. The ferry driver is spouting several statistics about the location—second oldest capital after Sydney, mostly Anglo-Celtic despite the increase in immigrants from other countries, home port for Australian Antarctic operations, blah, blah, blah.

Should this interest me? I guess it should as a tourist, but sadly, it doesn’t. I’m not really sure what I should be interested in, but I know I don’t want to hear a bunch of stats.

“Some people compare the colonization of Hobart to the colonization of America,” Laura says to me when she sees that I’m completely uninterested in our tour guide’s stats and figures. “There are differing points of view concerning what wiped out Tasmania’s original inhabitants, the Aboriginal Tasmanians. Some schools of thought blame disease brought by the English when they built the convict settlement here. Others point to warfare and violence while there are still others that say that many died in what we would consider concentration camps.”

She looks out at the water for a moment.

“Being the spirit soul that I am, I tend to look at things a little differently than others.” She scoffs a laugh. “Who am I fooling? I look at things a lot differently. My ancestors are largely English. I have some Polish and a spot of German, but mostly English. Yet, I could never wrap my head around the European concept of manifest destiny. I realize the words were ‘born’ in America, but the concept was the same everywhere. No matter how they tried to explain it, what it basically meant was that the whole world was theirs and nobody else mattered. If that meant going across the land on several different continents and wiping out the natives, then so be it. Genocide was and is still justified as long as they got their piece of the land.” She turns around and leans on the railing.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get all philosophical,” she says. “I’m only one opinion. What does it mean? It just irritates me to hear someone spouting off about the depth of the harbor at the Hobart pier when there’s so much history here—so many untold stories. I can’t imagine that these people have traveled from so many different parts of the world to hear that the mountain there is 1300 meters tall. Is that why you’re here?”

“Certainly not,” I concur.

“There are barely any native Aboriginals left—Palawa, they’re called. I’m not sure that there’s any left of purely Aboriginal descent. And yet, here we are skating across the hillside like ‘This land is your land, this land is my land…’”

She seems very passionate about this and I wonder why she’s taking it so personally.

“Again, I’m just one person,” she sighs. “There’s one other heritage that I didn’t give you. I’m largely English, and some Polish, and some German… and I’m quite a bit Native American.”

My eyes widen and I purse my lips. Hence, the reason for taking things so personally.

“My ancestors know of being forced from their land, and their descendants—my grandparents and great-grandparents—talk about it a lot. They never let you forget. I’m of the Sac and Fox Nation. We were a merged tribe of the Sac and Meskwaki peoples. It didn’t help, though. We lost our land—most of it—and they tried to assimilate us completely in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Some of us survived, though—I’m still here to tell the story.

“I didn’t mean to give you an ‘American’ history lesson. I just feel like a tourist attraction like this would be better served by hearing the history of the land—maybe even as told by one of the true natives—instead of this whole ‘Look at us, look at what we did’ spouting of statistics that I’m hearing from this guy.”

I’m not so sure that the entire gory details of colonization would be story material for tourists. However, I have to agree that a bit of true history would be a lot better than hearing about how deep the water is in the harbor.

I’m relieved when this leg of the trip has ended, and we arrive at the MONA—an underground lair full of art dug into sandstone cliffs a short ferry ride from Hobart. The ferry ride that trip sent Laura down a very morose road and I’m hoping she doesn’t travel down it again. Of course, she would empathize with the Aboriginals given her heritage, but for some reason, I get a feeling that it’s more than that.

We order a breakfast of champions at the restaurant there and Christian and I tell Jaxon and Laura about our eventful night. We leave out the buck-wild spanking-and-sex-session that resulted in all the love bites, and I conveniently skip the encounter with that horrible couple at the pub who thought it was perfectly normal and natural to ask if we wanted to wife-swap. I don’t know or care what kind of “free love” vibe we’re emitting, but I’m absolutely certain that we’re not sending out signals that we want to share.

While I recount the events of the previous night to Laura and Jaxon, Christian keeps looking at his phone, occasionally typing on the screen. I want to ask him if we’re interrupting his work, but I don’t bother. It goes with him everywhere and I’ve long since gotten used to it, except right now, I kind of feel like he should be more engaged with current company than concerned about his organization back in Seattle.

“So,” I say to Laura and Jaxon, “I wasn’t with you when you planned the excursions, so what’s on the agenda today?”

“Well,” Jaxon begins, “fuhrst, we’ll trip around tha ol’ MONA hehre for an houh or so, then we’ll tayke a droive bahk down ta Kettering an’ catch tha fehry across tha wattah. Through Nohth Bruny we go, down ta Advencha By, an’ hop tha Bruny Oiland Cruise. Thehre’s plenty ta see on an’ around the oiland behfoh we hedd bahk to the big boat. Then we’ll staht ovah in tha mornin’ on Port Ahthuh. We’ll only have a few houhs but we’ll get a lot done.”

“It should be a scenic drive,” Laura says. “It’s sounds like about two hours if the shuttle is driving slowly, which I wouldn’t count on.”

I nod and finish my coffee, trying to ignore Christian and his tap-tap-tapping on his phone.

“Great. Well, let’s get going. I’d like to see what there is to see.” I wipe my mouth and stand without looking to my husband. If he wants to sit here and work, he can. I’m going to go look at the art of the MONA.

The MONA is located on the Moorilla Estate, which is a winery and brewery on the Berriedale peninsula of Hobart. I should really say that the MONA is located under the estate, as the museum itself is a labyrinth of displays that burrow three levels into the side of the cliff. There’s a small and unassuming building on the main level that you enter to get to the good stuff. The front is totally mirrored, and the entrance makes you feel like you’re walking into a vortex. After we’ve had our breakfast, it’s now time to see the meat of things.

Upon entering the museum, we’re given these iPods called “The O.” If you want to know what the pieces are that are on display, you follow them on “The O” as there are no wall texts in the museum. “The O” offers lots of information and the ability to interact more through information, interviews, and music without affecting the aesthetics of the museum experience. Basically, as you get close to the artwork, you get content on the piece, and two people standing next to each other can get different content on the same piece. If you have an iPhone, you can download the app to your phone without having to borrow one of MONA’s iPads, and you can save and retrieve your trip at any time on either device or even when you leave the MONA.

I particularly like the feature that allows you to get your information in detailed scholarly language, lovingly referred to as “curator’s wank,” or in simpler text that speaks more to your emotional, creative side. I chose the latter. I’m always in some kind of scholarly, intellectual situation—I don’t want that shit today. I’m intrigued to see what this little device will offer, although I’m not necessarily thrilled with the idea of looking down at a mobile device the entire time, considering the fact that I’m still harboring a little resentment for Christian being buried in his blackberry during a portion of our breakfast. Nonetheless, I take my little device and head into the museum as does Jaxon. Laura and Christian decide against the iPod. I can’t help but think it’s because he wants to be able to look at his phone instead of admiring David Walsh’s multi-million-dollar art collection.

Ben and Jason appear equally as “interested.”

It’s a bit underwhelming when you get inside. You have to descend this long and winding flight of stairs to the lower level of the museum and work your way back up through the art and exhibitions—or there’s a cylindrical glass elevator to take you back up, but there’s only the stairs down.

“Great,” Christian murmurs. “More stairs.” I groan inwardly.

“They help to work off all the food we’re eating during the trip, like that magnanimous breakfast we just had.” He spent a good portion of breakfast on his phone, so even though it would be uncharacteristic of him, I don’t even know if he finished it. I’m not sure if he catches the sarcasm, but I begin my trek down the stairs without a concern for it.

It looks very ominous once you get to the bottom. The architecture is very organic, nothing like the traditional art galleries I’ve seen—a far cry from the pristine displays in Greece.

I was yet to discover just how far.

You don’t really have any idea of which direction you should go as nothing is really labelled. There are no specific sections for “expressionist art” or “abstract art.” You just have to find your way based on desire or instinct. I decide that this is going to be one of those experiences like when I go to the aquarium… or when I used to go to the aquarium—just me and the fishies.

As I begin to work my way around the museum, the GPS inside The O gives me brief descriptions of the masterpieces. I explore the mobile device and find that I can listen to interviews, Walsh’s opinions and stories about a particular piece, music, poetry, or even differing ideas to spark conversation—all in context of what I’m viewing.

Jaxon and I talk a lot about what we’re seeing since we both have The O. He explains to me the significance of a giant mural on one of the floors called Snake by Sidney Nolan. It’s a Rainbow Serpent consisting of over 1,600 individual paintings. The Rainbow Serpent has significant meaning in the various Aboriginal cultures—all largely religious. I’m just amazed by the level of dedication it took to create a work comprised of so many paintings. I discover that the museum was specifically designed around this and other pieces, like an iron bookshelf with large glass shards called Sternenfall housed in its own zinc cube back up on the surface and an illuminated sarcophagus called Mummy and Coffin of Pausiris—one of the older pieces.

I’m particularly—and morosely—drawn to a piece called Cloaca by Wim Delvoye, an artist who seems to have a lot of pieces in the museum. In simplified medical terms, the cloaca is the combined intestinal, urinary, and reproductive organ in various species, including humans. In laymen’s terms, it’s the part of the body that produces shit.

That’s what this piece does—literally! It produces shit.

It’s a contraption made of eight distinct pieces. Seven of those pieces are tanks and hoses and such attached to a steel frame hanging from the ceiling. The last piece is the “asshole,” the shit-producing apparatus. Someone stands at a table situated at the head of the machine, prepares food, and “feeds” it to this device. The food proceeds through the machine where the different tanks remove the nutrients and fluids, mimicking different stages of the digestive process and at the final stage, it produces turds. Real fucking turds! It’s fascinating and disgusting at the same time.

Who the fuck thought this was art??

I wander past another piece called Formations of Silence: Freudian Flowers and read that the work is about life and death by an artist who was fascinated by the human body. Each piece of the art could either represent a flower or a human organ.

More bodily functions… for Christ’s sake.

And yet another body metaphor—Artifact, a giant head that displays a light show inside to simulates your consciousness at work. I have to admit, that piece looks kind of cool, though.

I stop and get a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Void Bar inside the museum and continue on my expedition, invariably thinking about the “shit machine,” of all things, while I’m drinking it.

Partially through the exhibits, I ask Laura why she opted not to get The O. She explains that she likes for art to grab her. She often visits museums without looking at the wall plaques. According to her, they take away from the art. That’s most likely what Walsh had in mind when he set up the MONA—no windows, just you in this artistic dungeon of sorts being forced to commune with each piece. I look around for Christian, wondering if he’s still communing with someone at GEH or something in his email, and I can’t find him. I look around and see Jason trailing me…

Odd.

That must mean that Ben is with Christian. Since I can’t visually locate Christian immediately, I look for Ben. I find him standing outside the narrow doorway of a room, so I walk in his direction. Just inside the doorway, I spot my husband… communing.

He’s standing there gazing at a mural of… drawers, I think. He’s entranced, like he’s reading one of his spreadsheets and trying to find the pattern or the formula for his next merger.

Not a bit bitter, are we?
Well, you picked a fine time to show up.
Stop acting like a ‘tosser” and go over there and communicate with your husband. He’s “communing” with the art.

Why must this fucking cow be fucking right all the fucking time?

I begrudgingly walk over to my husband who still hasn’t taken his eyes off the piece. He’s totally transfixed. His head doesn’t move, but his gray eyes dart from one drawer to the next. The pictures on each drawer are illuminated. They’re black and white circles that look like cyclones. In the middle of each cyclone is a face… in color.

The drawers open like drawers of a morgue, and of course, the piece is invariably about sex and death. The sex part, I don’t get, unless it has to do with the wall of records on the opposite wall in the narrow room behind us—actual vinyl records that appear to be breathing. We just had a conversation about how much death we’ve been confronted with and now we’re in a museum looking at various pieces that cause introspection about what? Death.

He opens one of the drawers and it says, “I love you” in a young boy’s voice. I open another one and the same sentiment is heard in a woman’s voice. It’s one of the creepiest things that I’ve ever experienced… or so I thought.

“What do you think she felt?” he asks. I frown.

“Who?” I ask.

“Her,” he says. “The crack whore—what do you think she felt? When she slept with strange men, prostituted herself for her next fix… When she got that fix… When she let that monster burn and beat me… Do you think she ever loved me? Even once? Why didn’t she just abort me if she didn’t want me? Why didn’t she just take me to the hospital or the police station and just leave me there? She couldn’t take care of me, so why did she make me stay?”

I don’t even know how to answer his questions. Anything I say right now could set him off, and I can’t afford to let that happen in a public place—much less in the middle of the MONA.

He opens another drawer and yet another voice says, “I love you.”

“She killed herself,” he says. “She didn’t have enough money to feed me, to clothe me, to find a fucking baby sitter while she turned her tricks, but she had enough drugs to overdose. How is that possible?”

I move in closer and just stand next to him, looking at the faces staring back at us and wondering what they mean. Were each of these people in a drawer at one point—in the morgue? Are these random faces or are these people close to David Hall who passed away? Who are the voices saying, “I love you” and why?

“What do you think she felt as she was dying?” he asks as he closes a drawer. “Did she feel any pain? Did she see anything? Was there even the slightest moment of clarity… or regret… before she kicked over?”

I don’t examine the work anymore. I don’t need to know what it means. I only need to know that Christian is spiraling down each one of these little black-and-white cyclone holes with these little faces thinking about death…

And the crack whore.

It’s time to bring him back to the here and now.

I slowly slide my hand then my arm into the bend of his elbow. I then hug his arm with both of mine and wait for him to emerge from that dingy place of squalor in Detroit and come back to me… to our children.

He looks down and over at me and I give him a soft smile. It doesn’t matter what she felt. She’s not here anymore and she doesn’t have any answers for you. Stop torturing yourself.

“That little boy… he wants to know. He’s got questions that nobody can answer because she’s dead… but he still fucking wants to know.”

Yeah, you’re torturing yourself.

He sighs and looks down at me, coming back to the here and now for a moment. He moves the arm that I’m hugging, and I release it. He wraps it around my body and pulls me closer to him.

“What’s this piece called?” he asks. I touch the thumbnail on The O and pull up the information.

Well, that explains it.

“’When My Heart Stops Beating’ by Patrick Hall,” I inform him. He scoffs.

“Well, that explains it,” he says, repeating my sentiment. He turns us both to the door and we leave the tiny room.

We walk around the museum, arm in arm, hand in hand, or with me tucked under Christian’s arm—whichever makes him feel more comfortable. He confesses to me that he got a little baby time before I woke up this morning. I confessed that I, too, had some baby time yesterday while checking my emails, so we’re even. We agree to make sure that we talk to them together later if it’s not too late.

We happen upon a water piece, words made out of falling drops of water illuminated by tract lighting—a lot of work in this museum seems to be illuminated—called bit.fall by Julius Popp. We stand there in silence for several minutes reading random words as they fall and listening to the water splash at the bottom of the installation. It’s very comforting.

There are several more pieces to marvel at—or question—the room full of white books with no titles and blank pages, the bike on the rack that spews dirt on the wall, the exquisite sculptures hand-carved out of tires. But the one that invariably catches our attention was a seemingly harmless piece consisting of three white—probably plaster—casts on a black background. My mouth falls open and Christian’s head tilts to the side like he’s not completely sure he’s seeing what he’s really seeing.

Pussies. Yep, that’s what I said—pussies.

Appropriately labelled Cunts… and other conversations, the piece is three perfectly cast snatches—one in full bush, one in the typical pussy-mohawk with hair at the top and clean lips, and the one in the middle is completely Brazilian… clearly not all the same coochie.

“Are those…?” Jason begins.

“Yep, yes, that’s what they are,” Christian says, cutting him off before he finishes the question. My mind immediately goes to the Pussy DJ… and we paid to see these. I can’t help but see the humor in the irony of the situation, and I choke out a snorting laugh. Christian rolls his eyes and tries to stifle his own smirk, and thus, some much-needed levity is added to a pretty tense situation.

When we emerge from the MONA into the “bright light” once again, I take a moment to reflect on the hours we just spent in the cave. I had no idea this place was so macabre. It’s strange and awful and wonderful and fascinating all at the same time. It’s a contradiction in and of itself because it has subtle spiritual undertones and disturbingly anti-religious themes. Walsh describes the Amarna by James Turrell as “what God would do if he wanted to build a gazebo,” yet he declares himself a rabid atheist. How does one reconcile that—a reference to God mixed with a blaring belief that God does not exist?

Not to mention the parking space reserved for “GOD.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know who parks there as there’s a second one reserved for “GOD’S MISTRESS,” so… what’s the thrust here?

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This entire experience and all this crazy, beautiful, nonsensical art has revealed one fact to me. It’s not a small world. It’s a big world, a very big world, and there’s a lot of it that I haven’t seen. Tucked on this little island on the other side of the world is this museum that’s so unconventional that it truly shows you just how much of a speck you are in the universe.

Who crashed that damn car between those two walls?

What man records every single day that he spends in his studio until his death? And did he do it specifically for it to be displayed that way in that bunker?

What kind of mind thinks to burrow into the ground—deep into the ground—to build a museum that holds priceless, existential works simply to maintain the integrity of two existing structures on the land, in effect making them a part of the art exhibit?

I saw a sculpture of a dead horse; illuminated drawers of a morgue that speak when you open them; and one piece of art made from 1600… 1600!

And all this after experiencing the splendor that is the Sydney Opera House.

I am nothing!

We take some time to view the art pieces that are outside the MONA before we must take the 45-minute ride to Kettering to catch the Bruny Island Cruise. I guess living in Australia, particularly in Tasmania—you should probably get used to water travel.

There are beautiful—and strange—sculptures and pieces to see outside just like there are inside. Wim Delvoye is apparently a pretty popular “bloke” in these parts as his pieces are all over the place, but I’m extremely impressed with his Gothic Temple that sits on the grounds near the water with a backdrop of Hobart and his Flatbed Truck, Trailer and Cement Truck, which defies words and you simply must see it to believe it.

There’s an adult-sized trampoline, a tennis court, and the aforementioned car wedged between two walls with “sex, death, & bogans?” carved or written on the trunk, and I’m having another one of those “was this trip really necessary?” moments.

And a lovely platform and with a roof called the Amarna sits prominently on the ground, providing a lovely colored light show over the course of time. I’m told that the Amarna is quite beautiful and best viewed at sunrise or sunset. First, it is quite beautiful. Second, I wasn’t here at sunrise. Third, I won’t be here at sunset. So, I guess I’ll just have to take their word for it.

I truly think I’ve had about all the “art” I can take today, not to mention Christian’s brief trip down Hell Street, and I’m more than prepared to bid adieu to the MONA. It was an enlightening experience, but I’ve had enough. Jaxon and Laura were enthralled by the place and keep sharing their perspectives of the various pieces of art. I interject an opinion every now and then on the pieces I found interesting, and the rest of the boys just kind of listen until our excursion shuttle arrives. It doesn’t take long before our ride to Kettering is pulling up outside of the Moorilla Estate and we board to head to our next destination.

And Christian pulls out his phone again.

“May I ask why you keep pulling out your phone?” I ask, attempting to hide my ire. He looks over at me and raises a brow.

“Yes, you may,” he says matter-of-factly, “and there are a couple of reasons. First, it keeps vibrating and I keep getting messages from Holstein, the warden at the women’s prison who wouldn’t take or return my calls?” My turn to raise a brow. “He keeps leaving me messages apologizing for not returning my calls and asking me to call him back. He’s called me about five times in the last 12 hours. So, I can’t help but wonder what has set him off.”

“Ooookay,” I reply.

“Subsequently, Josh went up to the prison to do an interview with Lincoln to try to get some footing on the progress, purpose, and the actual author of this book. He’s gotten some solid information and he’s been corresponding with me on his findings. I’m wondering if Holstein has put two and two together, although I don’t see how since there’s no way to tie Josh to me.”

“He works for you,” I say with an unsolicited yawn. Where did that come from?

“To maintain his autonomy as well as his anonymity as a freelance journalist, he works for me under an alias. Only certain people inside the company know who he really is.” I nod, take off my glasses, and rub my tired eyes. I had to wear my glasses because they were a bit irritated from sweat running into them last night probably mixed with a little mousse.

“You’re sitting,” he says. I nod. I know what he’s referring to. I didn’t sit down on the ferry ride to MONA because my butt was still tender from the spanking and the water was a slight bit choppy. I was careful with my sitting at breakfast and didn’t sit down again after that until now.

“How do you feel?” he asks.

“I’m okay,” I say, softly.

“You brought eucalyptus lotion with you,” he points out. “Did you think something like this might happen?” I shake my head and lean over on his arm.

“I didn’t want to risk working out or swimming too vigorously and ruining my vacation,” I say with a yawn, resting my tired eyes. He lifts the arm that I’m leaning on and puts it around me. I nuzzle into his chest and absently listen to the conversations going on around me.

“Butterfly?”

My husband’s voice drifts through the fog of my brain. I open my eyes and realize that I fell asleep during our ride.

“Hmm?” I say, trying to pull myself out of the extreme comfort I feel snuggled here in his arms.

“We’re almost there, baby. You might want to get the sleepy dust out of your eyes.”

I stretch my arms over my head. Gosh, that was a really good nap, even though I missed the scenery. My eyes even feel better. I stretch both arms over the other side of my body, then bend down between my legs to stretch my back. I hear what sounds like the normal chatter of various conversations on the shuttle, so I sit up and continue my stretches.

“Mmm,” I hear someone say sitting across from me, “OI guess Americahns don know how ta keep thehr bedrooms in thehr bedrooms.”

I don’t react, but I’m sure she’s talking about me. I let her have her little comment and put my hands on Christian’s shoulders to get a good twist and stretch my lower back.

“Huh, look, moh on tha bahk,” she points out. “OI guess this koind a’thing is on display in tha Staytes.”

Geez, what a stupid cunt. Christian is looking at me and waiting for me to react, and I don’t, but when I turn around, she’s glaring at me with distaste. My eyes immediately go to Laura, who’s also sitting across from me next to the verbose bitch.

“Part of your new attitude?” Laura asks. I scoff.

“She doesn’t bother me,” I say, loud enough for the woman and the people around her—whomever she was talking to—to hear, “because the fact that I have a ginormous tattoo on most of my back to hide the brutal scars from a vicious act committed upon me as a teenager doesn’t offend or affect her or prompt her to speak on the origin of the art, but these hickeys give her cause for pause. I think she needs to get her priorities straight.” I quickly locate my Jackie-O’s and put them on, never making eye-contact with the object of my current displeasure. Say something, bitch. I will shred you.

“Butterfly,” Christian says, taking my hand.

“I’m not naked,” I say firmly without yelling. “I’m not indecently dressed and what’s more, I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m a beautiful woman and you love my body. A good portion of my back is covered in woodland creatures and goth letters and all she saw was the hickeys?

“I’m not going to wear a turtleneck in 80-degree weather—that’s about 27 Celsius to my metric listeners—because someone who doesn’t understand the concept of passion might be a little sensitive. We just left the MONA where we saw a sculpture on the wall of three bare anatomically-correct pussies, and this offends her?” I say, pointing to myself and now turning my gaze to the woman who was glaring at me a moment ago, who’s now staring gape-mouth at me. Laura doesn’t make the situation any better. She leans over and says something to the woman that nearly makes me lose my composure.

“Close your mouth, dear. You might catch a fly.”

The woman gasps and quickly closes her mouth, turning her gaze away from us and out the window. I conspicuously hold my hand up to Laura, who victoriously gives me a high-five.


CHRISTIAN

Even on the other side of the world, we can’t seem to catch a break. They despise us for being rich and then they despise us for acting like normal people. Once the shuttle arrives on Bruny Island, I take my beautiful wife’s hand and walk away from the twat that was talking shit about her. We have a quick lunch of fish, chips, and slaw at the Bruny Island Cruises Seafood Restaurant before we head into the Adventure Bay Visitor Center to get ready for our cruise.

“’Hehr, Chris,” Jaxon says, handing me two red jackets with hoods, two beanies, and two pairs of gloves. The jackets are a nice weight and have a yellow patch that says “Bruny & Tasman Island Cruises.”

“It moight get a little chilly on tha boat. It would have been a buhden carrying jackets ‘round the MONA.”

Well, he’s right about that, but I don’t intend to wear this beanie unless I have to. I grab two more jackets and hand the lot to Jason. Butterfly’s looking at the digital cameras.

“Are you looking at those for the cruise?” I ask, she nods. “No need. I picked up a couple at the gift shop on board yesterday when I found out where we would be going today. Jason has them.” She smiles.

“You think of everything,” she says. “And when’s the last time you gave that man a raise? You would be completely helpless without him.”

That’s a good question. He lives with me. I’ve always paid for Sophia’s schooling. I’ve never thought about giving him a raise and it hasn’t come up… at least not for the last few years.

“I’ll talk to him about it,” I say, seriously. “It may be time to do that.” We pay for the jackets, leave the visitor center, and prepare to board the boat for the cruise. It has already gotten cooler, so Butterfly puts her new red jacket over her sweater. She actually likes the beanie a puts it on over her braided hair, shoving the gloves in her pocket. She turns around to model for Laura, who is donning her own red jacket when I catch a glimpse of the woman who made the comments to her on the shuttle and pray that Butterfly doesn’t see her.

Too late.

“Is this better?” Butterfly says, holding her arms out for the woman to see. “You can’t see my hickeys now. Is this less offensive for you?”

The woman does this gasping thing and walks away from us, no doubt looking for her friends. Her best bet is to stay out of our way, because Butterfly is not going to let up.

A few minutes later and it’s onto the boat we go for the Bruny Island Cruise, away from Adventure Bay and around the southeastern side of Bruny Island. There really is so much to see on this cruise. It’s not really a cruise, though. It’s actually more exciting. We’re on an open boat skimming across the water like a speedboat around the large dolerite cliffs—a stone tougher than granite.

Where the Tasman Sea meets the South Pacific Ocean, our small boat rides the swells of the water and dolphins leap out of and back into the water alongside us. Some swim and dive separately while others swim in groups of three, four, or even five leaping out of the water all at the same time. It’s a synchronized dance between them—like they’re trained to do this, although you know they’re not because they’re free. It’s like something straight out of National Geographic, and it reminds me of swimming with the dolphins in Anguilla.

Next, the tour guide informs us that we’ll be seeing what is known as The Monument. What he really meant was that we would be skating over the water at top speed through a seemingly narrow passage between a gigantic dolerite formation on the right and the ominous dolerite cliffs on the left. Now, I did mention that dolerite is tougher than granite, so had our boat hit either the cliff or the formation, it would have been smashed to smithereens. I trust no one like I trust myself to guide a boat—except the captain of the cruise ship, of course—so I’m sitting on the edge of my seat the entire five seconds it takes to get around the cliff.

I must admit, however, that the photo ops of this trip are endless. These majestic cliffs carved out of these beautiful rocks are simply awe-inspiring, and I’m not easily awed. We see this phenomenon called The Blowhole. It’s not really a phenomenon—it’s really very simple. There’s a hole in the base of one of the dolerite cliffs. As the water rises and falls—as it always does, the pressure builds inside the hole, forcefully pushing the air and water out so that it flies high up into the air like a whale’s blowhole. But the water also flies out across the surface, so we have to keep our distance to prevent being sprayed.

We discover that we really need our jackets because some parts of the cruise are colder than others. There are some parts where we could just open our jackets and let the wind blow in our faces. There were other parts where we needed our beanies and gloves and actually should have purchased scarves as well. My wife teases me incessantly as she knew that I had no intention of putting that beanie on my head… until that cold air hit me.

Watching the fur seals play was an interesting event, and there are a lot of them! Many of them were just lounging along the rocks—natural beds along the cliffs that appears to be made just for them—while others took dips in the cool water. If we get too close to the cliffs, we have to let the boat coast a bit to keep from hitting them. One seal follows us around the cliff, leaping from rock to rock to keep up with the slowly cruising boat until a wave reaches up and douses his most-recent landing pad, pulling him into the water. He emerges a few moments later and abandons the idea of keeping up with the boat.

On another cliff, we see a gaggle of nests, each occupied by an albatross or two. Watching them fly reminds me a lot of soaring… and the fact that I haven’t been in a glider in years. Shit, I’m going to lose my wings if I don’t get in the air soon.

There were a few times when the cruise slowed to a crawl to travel through natural tunnels in the cliffs, allowing for the aforementioned photo ops. The entire trip is extremely majestic, and I find myself feeling slightly more spiritual than I’m accustomed to being.

I look over at my wife, laughing and enjoying the trip with our new friends and even with our security detail, and I realize why she was crying when we left the docks in Sydney, even though I knew it then. We’re so lucky—not because we’re rich, but we have each other and this beautiful family, and opportunities, and an entire world to explore. I’m sitting here mulling over my past and the crack whore when I’ve got my entire life ahead of me and nothing but opportunities—to live, to grow, to help other people… to have experiences besides those that money affords.

I need to put some things in motion when I get back to Seattle—besides dealing with the Pedophile and her impending book, and the warden who appears to be running scared now. My mother took me from hell and from squalor and even though I remember the terror and it’s had a lifelong effect on me, I spent most of my life in a bubble and I’m still in that bubble now. It’s time for some changes.

The cruise takes us from the north end of Bruny Island from Adventure Bay and back up the coast the way that we came. We enjoy a repeat of the sites and our group is treated to the migration of a few humpback whales. The tour guide informs us that humpback whales travel north up the coast through May and June. However, they migrate back down towards Antarctica from September through December, and we were just so lucky to witness the southern trek.

We get back to Adventure Bay mid-afternoon and take the shuttle again to Inala, a conservation property, that holds nature tours, where we learn about the endangered birds and wildlife on the island. From Inala, the shuttle takes us to the Hotel Bruny Bistro, a pub where we have dinner and talk about the day. Most of the ingredients used in Tasmanian dining are grown or harvested locally. We discover that their specialties are chocolates, cheese, and wine.

Looking around both here and Sydney, I realize that I didn’t really need to book a separate trip to “Wine Country.” The whole damn continent is “Wine Country” in one way or another. Nonetheless, I’m hoping we can capture the same magic in the Barossa Valley that we did in Napa.

We start dinner with an assortment of oysters from nude to grilled with bacon and Worcestershire sauce to beer battered with lemon accompanied by pitchers of Coopers Pale Ale. For our main course, Butterfly has chicken Parma with smoked leg ham, Bruny Island cheese and house Napoli sauce, with a salad and fries… or chips, I should say. I have the Tassie beef Scotch Fillet steak with vegetables and honey brown mushroom sauce.

Once we finish dinner, our last stop is to the Bruny Island Neck Lookout for the penguin walk. Just on the other side of the Bruny Island Neck, which is the narrow isthmus that joins North Bruny Island and South Bruny Island, is the penguin lookout. There are viewing and observation platforms that can be reached by—what else—a fucking lot of steps. Butterfly looks over at me as we step off the shuttle when she sees the stairs.

“There must not be an obese person on this entire continent,” I say before she speaks. “I sure haven’t seen any, and if they are here, they’re few and far between. I haven’t visited anywhere that hasn’t been an exercise in stair-climbing.”

“There were no stairs at the Tower Eye,” Butterfly disputes, “or in our hotel, or at Big Poppa’s. Okay, there were a few at Big Poppa’s, but it wasn’t an ‘exercise in stair-climbing.’”

“There were stairs in Sydney,” I correct her, counting off on my fingers, “there were stairs in Hobart at the MONA, and now there are stairs here on Bruny.” She folds her arms.

“Would you rather wait here at the bottom for us, old man?” she teases. What the fuck? I’m not that much older than she is.

“If you can do it, I can do it, girly,” I retort. She puts her hands on her hips.

“You know I can do it, Grey,” she challenges, popping her neck from side to side.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” I taunt. “Less talking, more climbing—chop, chop!” I gesture to the stairs. She shakes her head and scoffs at me.

“Stop whining, you little crybaby, and get your ass up the stairs,” she says before turning around and beginning her climb. Part of me wishes that she had worn her heels so that she wouldn’t be talking so much shit after all the walking and climbing we’ve done. The other part of me is thanking the fates that she didn’t, because I’d have to carry her down these steps. I pause for a second at the foot of the stairs and watch her climb. She turns around to find me and stops.

“Well, these stairs won’t climb themselves, Grey,” she chastises. “You throwin’ in the towel?”

“Nope,” I say calmly. “Just enjoying the view.” She raises her brow and purses her lips.

“Get your ass up here…”

Once we get to the top of Mount Everest, the guide there gives us some instructions and information about the march of the fairy penguins, as Butterfly calls it. Fully grown, they’re only two pounds and measure about one foot long. They’re nocturnal and during the nesting season, they make their way inland to the nesting grounds and their burrows just beyond the beach after dark to protect themselves from predators.

“Finally!” Butterfly exclaims softly, “Something that I want to see at sunset or dusk that I get to see!”

In order to see the penguins, we have to use flashlights covered in red cellophane and stay on the boardwalk or the stairs. If there are any people on the beach, the penguins won’t come ashore. Once again, I’m reminded of Anguilla and the night the turtles hatch and made a mad dash to the sea. It scared the shit out of my wife, who wasn’t my wife at the time. She later told me that she had flashbacks of the movie The Mummy, where the scarabs all swarmed out of his burial site. She swore that the world was ending, and the Mummy was coming up from the great beyond to claim our souls!

The wild sex on the beach that followed calmed her nerves enough to not be concerned, however.

The march of the penguins isn’t quite the same, though. There are several of them, granted, but it’s not a swarm of them. Though they’re small, they’re much larger than the turtles we observed running to the water. They clearly don’t like the light during this trek, and an idiot or three opted to shine bright lights on one or two of them, causing them to flee to dark places under the bridge and steps, and prompting heavy chastising from the rangers and guides.

Assholes.

Our little group is able to see several of the little critters make it to their burrows with our cellophane-covered flashlights, and Butterfly is even able to get a picture or three of the journey.

The time has come to make the trip back down the stairs and, as usual, Butterfly gravitates towards Laura to discuss their adventure. She doesn’t hang out with her female friends as much since we got married. I mean, Valerie is around often enough, but she used to have Food and Libations with her friends every weekend. Then they all—we all—got married and started having kids and… it just hasn’t happened nearly as much.

I take this opportunity to have a little chat with my head of security.

“Jason, do I pay you enough?” I blurt out where only he can hear me. His brow furrows. “I mean, have you gotten a raise recently.” Now, his brow rises.

“Sir, I get a cost of living raise every year,” he says.

“Oh,” I say. “I didn’t know. Is it sufficient? Did you get a raise when…?” I trail off. I’m hoping he knows what I’m asking without me actually having to say it. Even in the dark, I can see his face soften.

“I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, sir,” he says. “I don’t even have to pay child support anymore. You pay me quite handsomely. If there were a problem, I definitely would have let you know by now. And no, I didn’t get a raise when the blonde bimbo shot me. I got hazard pay, which is more than a raise—not to mention I got to lay up in your penthouse, eat your food, and be treated like a king without lifting a finger.” I chuckle.

“This is true, you freeloader,” I say with mirth. I’m suddenly a bit overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the day that Jason was shot. That bitch truly did almost take everything from me, including my best friend.

“Thanks, Jason,” I say, controlling my voice, “for everything.” He examines me for a moment before he answers.

“You’re welcome, Boss.”

As we’re riding in the shuttle back to Hobart, I look over at the woman who made the comments about my wife earlier. She has moved her seat and she’s not sitting across from us anymore, but she’s still facing us. I honestly attempt to decipher what her home life must be like.

Is there any passion in her marriage?
Is she even married?
Does she have a significant other at all or just this friend she’s sitting next to?

Laura is leaning on Jaxon catching a nap over what will be a nearly two-hour ride and I look over at Butterfly. She’s looking down at the digital camera, reviewing the pictures that she took throughout our day trip.

“Hey,” I say, quietly enough for only her to hear. She looks up at me and I jerk my head and add a soft, “C’mere.”

Her brow furrows at first until I jerk my neck in that “come hither” fashion again. She puts her camera in her coat pocket and zips it shut. I help her crawl into my lap, wrap my arms around her, and kiss her softly.

“Did you enjoy yourself today?” I ask softly.

“It had its moments,” she admits, “but overall, yes, I had a really good time.”

“What do you say we piss off some of our more sensitive shuttle-mates?” I ask. She smiles coyly.

“What did you have in mind?” she asks

“PG only,” I confess, “but I can’t guarantee that I won’t cop a feel or two.”

“Carry on, Mr. Grey,” she says suggestively, and I cover her lips with mine.

*-*

“Sir…”

This time, I had to be roused from sleep. The shuttle has arrived at the dock and it’s time for us to re-board the ship. I feasted on Butterfly’s lips until we had both had our fill and then… we fell asleep. She’s still asleep on my lap when Jason wakes me, and I have to rouse this angelic creature from sleep.

“Butterfly?” I say, softly giving her a shake.

“Hmm?” she responds, pulling herself from a deep sleep.

“We’re back at the ship, baby,” I say. I look across the seats and see Jaxon having the same problem with Laura. He cups her face gently and says something in her ear. She rouses a bit, but is having as much difficulty coming out of her fog as my wife. Butterfly uncurls in that way that makes me want to eat her alive, but I swear, I’m totally exhausted and can think of nothing but getting this woman to bed… to sleep! That’s odd.

When we finally wake our wives and get them to the platform to board the ship, Jason and Lawrence stay close in case either of them looks as if they may faceplant and we negotiate the gangplank. We make it safely back onto the ship and check-in before heading to the elevators. I push the button for our deck while Jaxon pushes the button for theirs. We ride in silence with two half-conscious wives unable to keep their eyes open and barely able to walk. We get to Jaxon and Laura’s deck first and he puts his arm firmly around his wife.

“Shall I walk them to their cabin, sir?” Lawrence asks, clearly concerned about Laura’s ability to walk. I’m about to answer when Jaxon speaks up.

“Thaynks, mate, but don’t trouble yaself,” he says cheerfully and sleepily at the same time. “I’ll nevah let ma Lahrie fall.”

“If you’re sure…” Lawrence presses. Jaxon smiles.

“Yoh a good egg, but no, I got ‘er,” he says. “See ya at brekky, Chris?” he adds.

“Brekky,” I say before the door closes. Jason turns to me.

Brekky?” he asks.

“Breakfast,” I tell him. “I only learned this morning—from context clues and process of elimination,” I add with a yawn.

“Oh,” he says and flattens his lip. When we get to our deck, the door opens, and I begin to walk. Butterfly doesn’t. Her feet stay right where they are, and she nearly goes down.

I’m not that damn sleepy. I’ll nevah let ma Buttahfly fall, eithah! I bend down and effortlessly scoop her up in my arms.

“I can walk,” she protests sleepily, never opening her eyes.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I say as I carry her to our stateroom…

Butterfly is awake bright and early on Thursday morning. She didn’t pump after we left the ship yesterday, so she was pretty swollen when she got out of bed. God knows I wanted to partake, but we don’t have the time.

Similar—but in contrast—to what she wore yesterday, today she wears a hot pair of black skinny jeans and a black and white halter tops identical to the yellow one that she wore yesterday, with all black sneakers and another black sweater tied around her waist. She has taken her hair down and put it in two pigtails, the waves from my braid cascading down her breasts.

Dear God in heaven, why is she tempting me?

Dressed similarly in black jeans, a black T, and black hiking boots, I take my wife’s hand and we head to brekky to meet Jaxon and Laura.

Like yesterday—when Butterfly thought I wasn’t listening—Jaxon informs her of what we’ll be doing. Since we don’t have nearly as much time as we did in Hobart, we’re going to do a quick tour of Port Arthur, then catch a shuttle to the Tasman National Park. We have to be back on the ship early this afternoon to sail to Melbourne, so today’s port of call will begin early and end early.

Our breakfast this morning is quite sweet and starchy. Aside from the poached eggs and “bangers,” we had waffles made to order with assorted toppings, mango French toast, and apple sticky buns. Butterfly has some kind of gourmet roast frappa-latte or something with her sweet, starchy brekky.

As Butterfly loads her fork with a slice of banger and some poached eggs, I notice that same woman walks pass our table that antagonized her on the shuttle yesterday. Butterfly is looking down and doesn’t notice her. She has joined some friends already sitting at a table near ours and unless she’s just getting an early start on her day, she’s taking an excursion, too, and I can only hope it’s not ours.

Her friends are not being discreet at all by pointing out that Butterfly’s the one with the hickeys that let the woman have it yesterday. I can tell that my wife can hear them.

“Butterfly,” I warn gently.

“Yes?” she says, loading her fork again, this time with waffles and French toast.

“Don’t let it get to you,” I reply.

“What?” Laura asks, blissfully ignorant of what’s happening.

“Same shit from yesterday,” Butterfly says before stuffing her mouth with food. Laura looks around and spots the group and the woman.

“She’s glaring over here again,” Laura says. Well, damn, way to fan the fire, Laura.

“I haven’t heard her say anything and I better fucking not,” Butterfly says with a mouth full of food. “I’ll stab her with this goddamn butter knife.”

“Butterfly!” I exclaim at the same time that Laura and Jaxon exclaim, “Ana!”

“Didn’t we come on this trip to decompress?” Butterfly says, raising her voice slightly. Oh, shit.

“Yes, dear,” I reply.

“Well, on that note,” she says in the same tone, “I’m not going to let some jealous, stuck-up, insecure, puritanical, unhappy bitch ruin my trip. So, like I said, she better not say anything to or around me today, because I’m not in the fucking mood. If she wants to say anything about me today, she’d better say it outside of my earshot, because I won’t be responsible for my actions and we’ve got bail money!”

Whoa! Butterfly doesn’t bother looking at her, but I do, and she swiftly buries her face in her plate, paying attention to her brekky like it’s the most interesting thing she’s ever seen. Her friends are clearly asking if Butterfly is talking about her, but the woman doesn’t acknowledge their questions.

“Won’t that ruin your trip?” I ask my wife once she swallows her poached eggs.

“It’ll be worth it,” Butterfly says before sipping her coffee.

“Ya got a little spitfoire on ya hands thehr, Chris.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“That I do,” I reply, “and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

*-*

Apparently, the ladies must have had other plans, because they don’t debark with us nor go on our excursion. Our ship doesn’t actually dock at Port Arthur, just inside the harbor near the island. There’s this platform call the Magic Carpet that rises up and down on the outside of the ship between decks 2 and 16. It serves as a restaurant and bar hovering over the water when it’s not in use for debarkation and embarkation for various excursions if the ship doesn’t actually dock, which is what we’re doing now.

The excursion boat actually takes us to the historic site. We debark at the ferry dock and begin our tour with a guide from the visitor’s center—a young guy with a hard and heavy Aussie accent like Jaxon’s, who’s a little too friendly with the younger women in the group, my wife included. He doesn’t do anything overtly disrespectful, so he gets to keep his life.

As we walk among beautiful English trees and lush manicured gardens, the guide gives us background concerning what we’re about to see. Port Arthur is a convict settlement. It started as a timber station in 1830 and went through a transformation or three until it closed in 1877. For the most part, it’s now an open-air museum. Much of the settlement still survives. Some of it has been restored. However, most of the buildings are roofless ruins of the Port Arthur penal colony.

Although it opened in 1830 as a timber station, there were so many convicts cutting the trees down that they made it into a prison in 1833. Our first official stop is the Penitentiary building. There’s a huge gravel yard in front of the building and many of the windows still boast the iron bars that prevented prisoners from escaping. The building looks large and looming from the outside, but once you get inside, they are large scaffoldings and landings that make it appear much smaller. Though I can’t imagine what it looked like in the mid-19th century, it looks pretty gloomy right now, even with the absence of a roof and all the sunshine shining in.

According to our guide, the first two stories were maximum security and the upper level was minimum security. I guess it makes sense, because if you have less supervision on minimum security, it may be easier to escape. However, to get out of the building, you have to get through the maximum-security floors first.

The trip from England was eight months by sea for convicts. Convicts also came from Ireland and North America, but most prisoners were English. As the Alcatraz of Australia, Port Arthur was virtually an island. So even if you did escape, there was nowhere to go. Most English prisoners at the time couldn’t swim.

Political and gentlemen prisoners were housed here as well, but it was simply like exile for them as they lived in cottages somewhere in the 30+ buildings that made up the settlement.

In the first part of its existence, Port Arthur’s convicts were not only involved in timber, but also in brick making, ship building, smithing, and shoe making. Later, there was a flour mill and a granary. A hospital soon followed, and as I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder what they did with the sick before the hospital was built.

We visit several ruins, including the shells of the aforementioned hospital, a large church, officer’s quarters, the guard tower, and an insane asylum, all constructed by convict labor except the insane asylum. The hospital has a plaque inside that says, “There is not the space required for the health of inmates.”

Ironically, the insane asylum has been converted into a museum, study center and coffee shop. Not so ironically, the “separate” prison is right next door to what used to be the asylum.

The “separate” prison was started in 1848 and opened in 1853—built for the worst and most violent prisoners who were housed in the A and B wing, and the C-Wing was for the criminally insane. The criminals were all deprived of human contact.

Initially, punishments were physical—horrible corporal punishments consisting of leg irons, cat o’ nine tails, that sort of thing. The year 1849 brought the psychological punishments and the Quaker concept of solitary confinement called “separate treatment.” The idea is based on the premise that a man with no distractions would become closer to God.

To that end, prisoners in the separate prison were locked in a cell for 23 hours of the day in total silence and only released for one hour for exercise. They were taken separately to separate yards, but every so often, there were two prisoners being transported at the same time. If this happened, one of the prisoners was forced to face the wall until the other prisoner passed. To further make sure that they didn’t recognize each other, they were required to wear special uniforms with hoods and masks. In addition, the guards spoke to each other in sign language to maintain the silence of the punishment and to keep the prisoners from hearing the sound of another human voice.

It makes me think of Elena.

Solitary wasn’t harsh enough for her to keep her mouth shut and leave us the fuck alone. Neither was a few weeks with Big Bertha or whatever the hell her name was. When I get back to Seattle and get the information from Josh, I have a few ideas for her and the not-so-loyal Warden Holstein. Couldn’t accept your bird in the hand, huh, gov’na? You had to go after the two in the bush. Have it your way.

Inside the separate prison was the punishment cell. The punishment cell or the dark cell was a room with one door and no windows. Men were placed in the cell for undetermined amounts of time and were literally driven out of their minds due to the darkness. Even the most hardened criminals were broken after a few months in the separate prison and even less in the punishment cell

Between the A and B wings of the separate prisons, a staircase led to the chapel, which contained tall, upright cubicles. Prisoners were led in one by one and placed literally in a box where they could sing the hymns and look at the preacher, but they couldn’t look at each other because the box was confining and the walls between them were too tall.

“It almost seems cruel that such a beautiful place could be so brutal,” Butterfly says. “Do you think it was this beautiful when it was a prison?”

“I can’t really say,” I reply. “Even with some of the buildings restored and the shells that remain, clearly some of the buildings that were here at the time are gone, so this wasn’t all rolling green hills like it is now.”

Even without the rolling green hills, the convicts in the main penitentiary got to see the water that would never again take them home and the poor unlucky souls in the separate prison saw the sky—and only the sky—for one hour out of a 24-hour day.

And in one of the cells in the C wing, I could swear I could faintly hear a man coughing…


A/N: Part II of the Port Arthur excursion will be in the next chapter

Although all the pieces that I describe were on display at some point at the MONA, I didn’t bother trying to find out which pieces were on display at the time that Ana and Christian visited. I found myself falling down too many rabbit holes as I was trying to put the storyline together, so I’ve used creative license for this trip, too.

Ana talked about preserving two buildings on the property. There are two Roy Grounds buildings on the estate, and the entire estate and museum were built in a fashion to connect and preserve these two buildings, located on opposite sides of the peninsula.

Ana references a guy who has his whole life recorded. Christian Boltanski made a deal with David Walsh to record every day of his life as he works in his Paris studio and have it live-streamed to a bunker on the grounds of the MONA.

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

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

The Australia Picture Board can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey-the-trip-to-australia/ and the pictures from today’s chapter are in the “Hobart,” “Bruny Island,” and “port Arthur” sections.

And of course, the regular Pinterest board is here: https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

I love you all from the bottom of my heart and I thank you for rallying to support me when I was beginning to doubt. I’ve always known that I can’t satisfy everyone, but I at least try not to offend. Thank you for your bandages, salve, and love for my weary Muse. She insisted that I give you a bonus chapter for your kindness and support.

As far as the accent goes, I’m not asking for forgiveness anymore. Here’s what you get.

Danger—Aussie accent ahead. Turn away now.

That’s it.

Smoochies!!

All other previous disclaimers still apply.

Chapter 77—Something He Can Feel

CHRISTIAN

This woman is sex on a stick and these fuckers are all nutting in their pants watching her roll that beautiful ass up there on stage talking about giving me something I can feel.

Oh, I feel it, baby. Believe me, I feel it.

When she finishes her song, a crowd of these fuckers rush the stage as if she could possibly be here alone. I take my time getting to the stage, watching her taunting them with her coyness as if she’s attempting to decide which hand to take knowing that she’ll only take mine. When I announce that I’m there to retrieve my wife, the fuckers all look like someone stole their lollipop, but they move the hell out of my way so that I can get my Butterfly. We have a few more drinks and she plays with the idea of going up and doing another number.

Over my dead body.

We leave and go to another bar called The Thorn. It’s an Irish pub with a real arcade in it. We’re the best dressed people in the pub and decide to make a night of it before we go back to our stateroom. We start with a game of bowling, with the smallest balls in the world. As it turns out, Butterfly is a mediocre bowler, and I end up winning two games.

Next, we play two games of pool—or at least that’s what I think we’re playing. We spend the entire time finding ways to distract each other’s shot. We do everything short of stripping and fucking right there on the table, which at this point I would gladly do. She’s determined to make me fuck her in some inappropriate place. I’m ready to tear into her like the succulent feast that she’s threatening to be and it’s taking everything I have to control myself in this setting. At one point, I find myself yanking that ponytail back and planting a shameless kiss on her mouth, wondering how that lipstick never smeared.

Oh… it’s that lipstick.

After a tie on the billiards table, we move on to darts. Now, I don’t know what’s in these beers that we’re drinking, but whatever it is, it lures me into some false sense of superiority that because I’m good at darts, I can beat this Marine’s daughter who once threw three knives at my ex-Domme—well, only one at her, but nonetheless, she threw three knives—and they all stuck in the same spot on the door. Even slightly tipsy, she whooped my entire ass… three times… well! I have been thoroughly spanked and sent out to pasture.

She’s a mixture of haughty victor and giggly schoolgirl and I’m totally triggered by it. I want to tie her up and spank her and fuck her and make her come in 19 different ways… but I don’t want to put a pause on our fun, and I know we’ve got excursions tomorrow and I don’t want to be exhausted. So, I put Sir back in my pocket, and vow to redeem myself in this game. I’m good, dammit! I can beat a girl at least once.

“You’re very good,” I hear someone say, interrupting us just as we’re about to start another game. Butterfly and I turn simultaneously to see who’s standing behind us. The statement came from a raven-haired woman somewhere between mine and Butterfly’s age. She’s wearing a long, white, formal dress with a cape attached, her blonde companion wearing a pair of black slacks with a matching vest, white shirt, and black tie. It appears that we aren’t the only ones who went straight from the formal dinner to the ship’s night life.

The woman is standing there with her fingers clasped loosely at her abdomen with this cat-caught-the-canary half-smile on her face. Her companion is sporting the same unsettling smirk. She’s looking from Butterfly to me and back to Butterfly, so I’m not sure who she’s talking to. I plaster the CEO expression on my face so as not to give away my inner thoughts. Butterfly isn’t so successful. It’s clear that she doesn’t trust this woman.

“Thank you,” Butterfly answers reserved. It’s a safe assumption that the woman was talking to her since she’s won all the rounds. We both stand there waiting for her to get to the real point of her interruption. They stand there gazing back at us, not saying a word, so Butterfly turns her attention back to the dartboard to start a new game. I don’t take my eyes off the couple who doesn’t seem to want to leave.

“I’d like to play a game with you,” the woman says as Butterfly is about to take aim at the board. My wife turns around and examines her. “If you don’t mind,” she adds.

Butterfly looks at the woman, then looks back at me. I shrug, signaling that I don’t mind if she doesn’t. She turns back to the woman.

“Okay,” she says, non-committal. “We can play.”

“Oh,” the woman adds. “I should have said that there’s a wager involved.” What the fuck is this bitch up to? Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“I didn’t agree to a wager,” she says. The woman smirks.

“You’re backing out now?” the woman taunts.

“I’m not backing out of anything because I haven’t agreed to anything,” Butterfly clarifies.

jsl98f-l-610x610-dress-longdress-whitelongdress-capesleevedress-capesleeve-whitedress“You agreed to play,” the woman continues. She’s up to no good. It’s quite clear. Her companion is standing behind her leaning on a table, too cool for words, while she’s smoothly doing all the talking and trying to back my wife into a corner. Now, I’m observing everything—his stance; her demeanor; the fact that they’re both wearing wedding rings; the cut of his slacks to see if they’re tailored or if his suit is from the rack; the fact that her dress is tight around her hips and boobs, but so long that it bunches on the floor and you can’t see her shoes, which means it is from the rack or at the very least she doesn’t have a stylist. A mermaid dress is already restrictive, so it’s not supposed to bunch at your feet. I’ve fucked and dressed enough women to know that.

I’m trying to put a quick profile together of these two to figure out their M-O, and I’m wishing Jaxon was here.

“I didn’t agree to a wager,” my wife repeats. “No one agrees on a price if they don’t know what it is.” It’s not a price, baby. I don’t know what she wants, but she doesn’t want money…

Oh, shit.

“In high stakes, they do,” the woman purrs. “I mean, if you don’t have the balls…” She trails off and shrugs one shoulder infinitesimally. Under normal circumstances, she’d be saying everything to push my wife’s buttons, but not tonight. Tonight, my wife smells a rat and I’m glad she does.

“The answer is ‘no,’” my wife says, turning away from the woman.

“You haven’t even heard the terms yet…”

“And you won’t state them, so the answer is ‘no,’” Butterfly says firmly. “You approached me about a dart game. I couldn’t care less to play with you or not.”

“Well, here’s what I propose,” the woman says, seeing that her tactic isn’t working, and here it comes. Brace yourself, Butterfly. “If I win, we swap… just for the night.”

“Swap what?” Butterfly asks, bemused.

Yeah, swap what? I think to myself… Then I look at her husband. He’s eyeing my wife and I can swear that he’s seeing her naked. His pupils have dilated to the point that the black almost overtakes his blue irises completely, and I can just see his tongue running against the inside of his mouth. He’s so transfixed on her that it’s like I’m not even standing there. I shift my gaze down to the woman and she’s looking at me with pure lust brandishing in her gaze.

Swap.
Shit!

This is worse than I thought. They’re not looking to swing; they’re looking to totally exchange partners. What the fuck have we walked into on this damn cruise? I swear it’s like Woodstock without the drugs! No drugs that I know of anyway.

I’m about to say something, but my wife beats me to it.

“You’re out of your fucking mind!” Butterfly says, her voice low. The woman tilts her head to the side, only mocking slight surprise.

“There’s no need for us to be coy,” she says. “I know it sounds shocking when someone approaches you, but you always get past it.” She waggles her eyebrows suggestively.

“You may always get past it,” Butterfly retorts, “but you’ve got some kind of screw loose if you think I’m going to take part in something like that!”

“You’re afraid you’ll lose,” she taunts again, returning to her original tact now that her hand has been revealed.

“It’s a goddamn game of darts,” Butterfly retorts, her voice murderous. “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn game of darts? And win or lose, I wouldn’t even consider wagering my husband! What kind of sick bitch are you?”

“There’s no need to resort to name-calling,” the woman says calmly.

“Then I suggest you get the fuck out of my face, because there’s a whole lot more where that came from,” Butterfly hisses. Her fists are clenched now and I’m certain that if this conversation doesn’t end immediately, it will become physical.

I take the darts from my wife’s clenched fists and place them on a table that we were occupying nearby. I retrieve her clutch and my suit jacket from the seat where I had been watching it all night, I take my wife’s shoulders and turn her away from Proposition Pam and her trusty sidekick Swapping Sam and usher her quickly out of the pub.

She snatches her clutch from me and begins an intent march down the hallway. I give her a little room as I can see that she’s extremely irritated, but I don’t allow too much space between us. I put my jacket on and wonder if we’re going back to the stateroom now or if we’re going to try to salvage what’s left of the evening at another venue. We’ve taken several steps away from the pub in silence when my wife spins around, prepared to let loose on me.

“Why weren’t you more appalled by that?” she demands. I take a deep breath and release.

“Something that Jaxon said to me last night,” I reply calmly. This won’t be a fight between us. I’ll explain it, she’ll get it, and we’ll get the fuck out of here.

“And that was?” she asks, folding her arms. I straighten to my full height and respond.

“My Dom is showing, baby,” I say. She nearly gasps.

“And that makes that suggestion okay?” she says, damn near choking on her words. “Do you want that?”

“No, it doesn’t and no, I don’t,” I reply, my voice calm. “Last night, Jaxon asked me if we were swingers, not because that’s what he and Laura does, but because he saw something in me… and in you. He didn’t know what it is, and he still doesn’t, but he put me on notice that whatever it is, it’s showing. He told me that there may be other like-minded individuals on board—his term, not mine—that may approach us. He advised that I don’t lose my temper, but kindly tell them we’re not interested, which is what I was going to do, but you handled it quite well all on your own.”

She’s still glaring at me and even though her expression doesn’t change, I can see the thoughts and emotions running quickly through her mind and across her face. She’s trying to analyze the situation, the events of the day and the fact that she saw my Dom earlier and responded accordingly, what just happened in the pub. She’s having one of her three-second funnels but it’s taking more than three seconds.

“I should declare my win by forfeit.”

A smooth, suggestive female voice breaks our pondering, and I’m certain this cunt thinks that we’re fighting over her—which we almost were. Now, it’s my turn to douse that fucking fire.


ANASTASIA

She’s determined to get her claws into my man, even if it means sacrificing hers to me and I want absolutely nothing to do with that slimy looking motherfucker even if I was single! My husband turns around and looks at her. I don’t know what his gaze is saying, but her skin flushes all over.

I’m lying. I know exactly what his gaze is saying.

“What you fail to realize,” he begins in a honey smooth voice so close to his Dom voice that I nearly become a puddle right there on the deck, “is that even if you had played that game and won, you would have lost, because I wouldn’t have agreed to the terms.”

She’s speechless—and obviously hot under the collar—but her husband decides to speak on her behalf since Christian spoke on mine.

“Then you would have lost,” her husband says, conspicuously rubbing her hips and ass before sliding his arm around her waist. She smiles a victorious and seductive smile at my husband and he just shakes his head.

“It looks like you’ve already lost,” Christian says to the man, “because you’re willing to share.” He slides his arm around my waist. “I’m not.” He pulls me close to him and walks past them with a final sharp glare, his arm still around my waist.

And I’m seeing the proverbial “mic drop” with my mind’s eye. I know they’re watching us walk away and I simply cannot help myself.

giphy-1

I scamper in front of him to cut him off and lunge myself at him. He catches me in his arms and I wrap my legs around his waist, my dress falling open over my thighs. His hands cup my ass as he holds me up and we gaze at one another with a deep hunger in our eyes. I tilt my head and burn his lips with a kiss, my fingers thrust into his hair and my tongue lapping his, searching to taste the hunger in his kiss that I just saw in his eyes. He growls deep in his chest, squeezing my ass harder as his cock hardens enough for me to feel the head of it through his pants at the juncture of my thighs. I break the kiss and pull my face back from his. I gaze into his eyes again, still hungry… now ravenous!

“You know what’s next,” he growls in his throat. My lips are parted and even though I do know what’s next, I nod and don’t break gaze with him. He secures his hands on each of my hips and takes long strides down the hallway towards the elevator. I slide my arms around him and rest my head on his shoulder, catching the unnamed woman in my gaze. As I suspected, she and her husband are standing there watching us walk away, no longer touching, none of the make-believe pride and coveting he showed before apparent anymore. I flip her the bird moments before the elevator opens and Christian carries me inside.

He pushes me against the wall, shocking me. He sears me with another deep, hungry kiss and grinds into me for the few floors it takes to get to our deck. I want to dread someone seeing us, someone watching us on camera somewhere as I know they are, but I can’t. I don’t fucking care and I know that he doesn’t. I’m breathlessly horny when the doors open to our deck and surprisingly, no one’s outside the elevator. My husband secures me again and nearly does a sprint to our suite.

I don’t know how he got the door open with the key card. I’m sure he would have kicked it in if he could. He doesn’t bother taking me to the bedroom—the cabin was far enough away as it is.

“Get out of that dress!” he growls, nearly ripping his suit jacket from his body. His eyes are blazing! I can’t tell if he’s mad or horny. I quickly undo the hooks at the neck of my dress and allow the halter to fall taking my breast pads with it. I push it down my body to reveal a pretty pair of lace thong panties.

“Perfect!” he hisses while snatching off his tie. He walks over to the sofa and takes a seat. “Get over here.”

I walk over to him and stand in front of him, my eyes fixed on his shoes. He takes my arm and snatches me hard so that I fall over his lap onto the sofa, only wearing my thong and the patent leather nude stilettos.

“Give me your hands,” he commands. I put my hands behind me and he binds them with his tie and begins to caress my ass.

“What are your safewords?” he growls.

“Bells…” I say softly, “and whistles.”

“And the third?” he says, still caressing my ass. Oh, shit. This is going to be one of those.

“Ladybug,” I reply softly.

“Good,” he says. His hand leaves my ass and comes down hard. I almost cry out.

“You’ve been testing me all day,” he says, his voice low. Shit… I have?

“You wear this blue, thin fucking dress that makes you look delectable…” He slaps me hard on the ass and I jump. Shit, this hurts!

“You taunt me about being able to keep my dick up…” Yeah, I did do that.

SLAP!

“You wear these tight scraps of material wrapped around your body and showcasing everything that’s mine while slithering through the water like a fucking mermaid.” He rubs my ass with this description.

“I could deal with that, but then you get out of the water, glistening and slightly sunkissed, looking hotter than a lingerie model, and you enter a fucking bikini contest…”

Yep, I did that, too.

SLAP!

“Then you put on a red dress that’s screaming of sex and desire with those plump, kissable lips, that slicked-back come-hither hair, and these goddamn fuck-me pumps, and you wonder why the French women couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

Inner sigh… yep, that was me.

SLAP!

“And I won’t even bother describing that display you did on stage at karaoke! You had those fuckers nearly coming in their pants—men and women!” SLAP!

Ouch! Guilty! Fuck, guilty!

“And when it was all said and done, you’ve got motherfuckers wanting to swap partners with us just from watching you play darts…” SLAP!

Wait a minute! That wasn’t just me! She wanted to fuck you, too!

“That fucker would have fucked you right there on the pool table if you had agreed…” SLAP!

“He was salivating all over you like I wasn’t even standing there…”
SLAP!

“He was willing to hand over his hooker wife for one night alone with you. He probably put her up to it!”
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!

Okay, now I’m confused. Some trick propositions me to switch places with me for my husband and somehow, that’s my fault? I’m so caught off guard by trying to figure out the logic of that last one that the final slap reverberates through me and ignites the pain of all the others before it. Unprepared for the intensity, I involuntarily choke out a sob.

Before I know it, he’s snatched me off his lap and I’m on my knees on the sofa next to him. He’s breathless with uncontrolled arousal and he’s fighting feverishly to unzip his pants. When he reaches inside and produces his cock, it pops out of the little opening standing harder and taller than I think I’ve ever seen it… at least harder and taller than it’s been all weekend.

He snatches the wind out of me by effortlessly flinging me back over his lap—straddled this time—moving my panties to the side with the head of his cock and thrusting so hard into me that I cry out from the initial pain, still sniffling and whimpering. He’s balls deep inside me and breathing like a bear, his hips still as his cock sits fat and wide inside my aching, tight vagina.

He’s sitting there, not moving, panting through his nose and apparently fighting for control. When he opens his eyes, the fire is there again. His arms are wrapped around me, holding me close to him like a vise, and his hot breath is cold against my tear-stained face. He examines me, unable to wipe away my tears with my hands bound behind me or hide my sniffles and stuttering breaths. He does something at that moment that creeps me out and turns me on at the same time.

He licks the tears from one of my cheeks with one gentle lap.

Yeah, it creeps me out for a moment, but hell—he’s tasted my cum, my breast milk… tears can be much stranger.

“It’s because you’re so fucking beautiful,” he hisses. “Don’t you see what you do to men? They lose their goddamn minds over you, present company included! At the passenger terminal before we even got on the damn boat; at the swimming pool; at dinner…”

I hold my head down and try to control my whimpers. He pulls me even closer to him and my head falls on his shoulder.

I will not weep harder.
I will not weep harder.

My ass hurt like hell, but the heat combined with his dick thrust deep into my pussy, him holding me this close with my bound hands clasped in his, him actually licking the tears from one of my cheeks a minute ago, and his primal jealousy right now and the need to be vindicated—it’s all making me hot as hell

“Sit up,” he commands, the Dom back in his voice. I take a deep breath and release it, pulling myself to sit up straight. He drops his arms from around me and lay them on the sofa. I don’t raise my head. I wish my hair was down so that it could hide my face right now.

“Fuck me.”

I’m almost caught off guard by the command… almost. My hands are tied. He’s going to make me use my legs to do it. Fine. I use my knees and thighs to rise and fall over his incredibly hard cock, my pussy producing the needed lubrication almost immediately.

“Faster!” he demands. “Harder!”

I pick up the pace and bounce on his cock testing my strength and stamina with every rise and drop.

“Yes!” he hisses, gazing at me like a serial killer examining his next victim. “That’s it. Just like that!”

I risk a glance at him and he quickly undoes the buttons of his shirt and releases his cuff links, staring at my wildly bouncing tits the entire time. I concentrate on my thighs and on controlling the muscles to maintain my stroke. He groans once as he finally discards his shirt and works on loosening his pants.

“Goddammit,” he hisses as he finally gets his pants open. His cock is still restrained by the pocket of his boxer briefs, but he’s still madly enjoying the ride. One hand grabs one of my bouncing tits while the other firmly clasps my hip. He’s licking and biting his lips deliciously and he looks so fucking good.

“That’s it, baby,” he growls, throwing the typical playtime decorum out the window. “Fuck that dick. Fuck it hard, baby.”

And fuck it hard, I do. I don’t need him to tell me that I can’t come without permission. He made me say my third safeword, so it’s understood. But dammit, he’s going to come like a goddamn rocket if it’s the last thing I do!

I’m fucking him like a master, but he still exhibits that amazing stamina that he does when the Dom is here. He grunts every time I drop my pussy down on him, grabbing, caressing, or tormenting some part of my body or another. He’s licking his lips and biting me and sucking me—he even violently grabs my ponytail and holds on while I ride, but still never moves his hips. The ponytail holder gives up the fight sometime during that exercise, and my hair is free now.

When he’s on the edge, he grabs my ass cheeks with both hands and throws his head back. The shock of pain from my spanking ignites me and almost shakes my concentration. I throw my head back in agony as with the constant stimulation in my pussy and the wild groping, biting, and hair-pulling, losing my concentration means that I’m going to come. Luckily, he beats me to it.

“Oh, yes, Anastasia!” he groans through his orgasm. “Fuck me! Don’t stop!”

I keep the bounce going even though my thighs are burning in torment. I concentrate on the pain to keep myself from coming from this insanely pulsing cock inside of me. Keep… going… keep… going… keep… going…

“Stop! Fuck! For God’s sake, stop…” he begs, and I stop bouncing. My thighs hurt like fuck and I’m gasping for breath, sweat pouring down my face and into my eyes, my hair now free from its ponytail and wild all over my head. He’s panting heavily, still gripping my ass, and I squeeze my eyes shut from the pain, biting my lip to keep from crying out. My thighs are burning and will probably lock in this position in a moment and I’m thoroughly exhausted, just sitting on his lap and his still very erect cock. I’m trying to give myself a pep talk because I know it’s not over.

C’mon, Grey, catch your breath, get it together.
It’s just a little sweat, it won’t kill you.
You planned to work out anyway, so here you go. Don’t be a baby.

“Get up.”

Well, that wasn’t my voice. That was my Dom.

I close my eyes and concentrate one more time on stretching my thighs to rise off his dick. When I’m successful, the damn thing pops out of me and bounces off his belly with a thud, still standing at perfect attention like he didn’t just beg me to stop fucking him. I lift my leg from over his body and throw it over my own, landing on my butt—and my hands—on the sofa.

“Stay there,” he commands. Sure thing. I’m too weak to move.

He stands with little effort and toes out of his shoes, using his feet to step on his socks and remove them as well. He drops his trousers and maneuvers his boxer briefs over his very erect dick before pushing them down as well and stepping out of them both. Now, he’s gloriously naked in front of me and I would be excited except for the fact that I’m exhausted. He takes a seat on the floor with his back against the sofa and his legs bent and spread. He gets very comfortable down there.

“Come,” he demands.

Yeah, I wish I could!

“I actually heard that thought,” he says. “Get over here!”

Whatever. You can’t punish me for what you think you heard. I push myself off the sofa and move to stand in front of him.

“Other way,” he says. “Ass to me.”

Oh, fuck. What is he going to do, make me ride him reverse cowgirl now? I do as I’m told and stand in front of him with my ass in his face. I can’t straddle him because his legs are open.

“Now, that’s a very pretty shade of pink,” he says, kissing one cheek and then the other. I’m a bit shocked by the gesture, but I don’t react. “Sit.”

Now how does he expect me to ride him with his legs open? I’m not doing that shit—my legs are too weak.

“Do I need to repeat myself?” he says, his voice a bit threatening. “Goddammit c’mere!”

Fine, but the moment he commands me to fuck him, I’m safewording.

I bend my legs to sit as commanded, and my right thigh totally gives out on me. Unable to control my stance or support my own weight, I fall in the most ungraceful way onto my Dom with a helpless yelp as I’m going down. I’m terrified that he’ll think I’m being defiant, but even more terrified that I’ve injured his extremely erect penis. I know that he won’t randomly just hit me—that’s not the nature of our relationship. Nonetheless, I’m still tense and preparing myself for whatever backlash there may be for my assumed malfeasance.

The fact that we just sit there silent for several moments heightens my anxiety. I hold my head down, fearing punishment, and it appears that I’ve landed on his abdomen and his erect dick is precariously placed between my legs and against the lips of my vagina.

Thank God for that!

Sure enough, uncharacteristic to the nature of our relationship when we’re in D/s mode, he slides both hands under my arms, places them on my shoulder, and gently pushes me back against his body. I don’t know what to expect from this unusual tenderness, so I just lay back and wait.

His hands roam my body, gently caressing my abdomen and torso before traveling up to cup my breasts. I’m trying not to be lulled into a false sense of security, only to have said security ripped from me by some sadistic command to see me suffer slowly for daring to display my sexiness, but my breasts are swollen with milk and quite sensitive, and his touch is making me hot again. It doesn’t matter that I try to hide this from him, because he knows my body too well—he can smell my slightest arousal.

Just like clockwork, a few moments after I feel that familiar burning twinge in my clit, I feel his body stiffen a bit and his touch is firmer, kneading my body back into his. He pinches one of my nipples while gently teasing the tip of the other with his finger.

Talk about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time!

I bite my lip to stifle the moan that begs to escape my chest. My legs weaken completely and fall open, and my Dom takes his cue. With one movement of his hips, his erect penis is between the lips of my vagina. I take a deep breath as he moves his pelvis back and forth, his dick stroking against my vagina.

Oh. Hell. I. Will. Not. Survive. This.

Still bound by his tie, my hands are pinned between us and I flatten them against his abs. Well, that didn’t help. I can feel his muscles undulating each time his pelvis moves. He cups my breasts firmly and sinks his teeth gently into the meat near my shoulder. He’s trying to make me come.

“No… no…”

Shit, did I say that out loud? I don’t know. I’m delirious with pleasure. My body’s on fire and I want to come… badly!

He puts his hand under my thigh and lifts me just a bit, pulling his hips back at the same time. With very little effort, his cock slides into me and I release a whimpering breath of ecstasy. God, he feels so good…

“God, yes…” he groans, “that’s it.”

He undulates his hips a few times, pushing that magnificent organ up and into its counterpart and I nearly lose my mind. I release my body to him as I can’t fight him anymore and concentrate on holding my orgasm like I did in Anguilla.

Anguilla… no, this isn’t like Anguilla. This is different—much different.

My soft body turns to mush against his firmness and my pussy is getting hotter and hotter, coming closer and closer to climax. One hand moves from my breast and an arm slides around my waist, holding me firmly in place against his stroke, now deeper than before. I whimper in my chest, the friction and penetration so delicious. Can I hold out? Just a little longer?

He torments me this way for several more moments before he puts both hands under my thighs and lifts me up. Spreading my legs wide, he thrusts repeatedly—and uninhibited—into my wide spread pussy. I have no purchase to resist and he has me helplessly spread open, pummeling repeatedly with his masterful stroke.

“Ah!” I cry out involuntarily. Silence is impossible.

“Feel it,” he taunts, “feel the pleasure, Anastasia, but don’t come…”

There’s no pain to concentrate on this time… only pleasure. Only the pleasure of his hard, pulsing cock drilling into me while he’s holding me open. Dear God, I’m going to die.


CHRISTIAN

Fuck, my dick feels so good driving into this hot pussy from base to tip. I hear her whimper and I know she’s close. She’s getting wetter and wetter. I tried to keep the Dom at bay. God knows I tried, but she kept pushing and pushing—even when she had no idea that she was doing it. I’ve been at the very edge for over 24 hours. When she leapt into my arms in front of those crazy fuckers that wanted to swap mates, I couldn’t take it anymore. All of the events of the past 36 hours just overran my primal inner urges. I had to dominate her to keep from jumping overboard. Yes, it’s that serious.

She’s drenched in sweat and whimpering with each stroke into her. It’s torture and I know it is. I’m not going to make it any easier on you, little Anastasia. You’re going to feel the burn tonight.

I move my hands from her thighs to just behind her knees, lift her body off my dick and drop her back down onto it—repeatedly—while I thrust into her. Fuck, I feel my dick getting harder and my balls tightening. I can’t see it, but I imagine that fat pussy wrapped around my dick teasing the head with every thrust and leaving a ring of cream and juices right near my balls.

“Fuuuucck!”

I succumb to the unexpected orgasm, dropping her onto my dick and gripping her around her waist, emptying hard deep inside her. The climax is so hard and we’re both completely out of breath that I’m afraid it might have been the swan song, and I’m not ready for that. But no, Dom Dick indicates that he’s not quite finished yet. My submissive must suffer a little more tonight.

I contemplate taking her to the bed for our finale, but this area rug is soft and plush. It’ll have to do. I reach behind me and retrieve one of the pillows from the sofa, placing it on the floor next to us. I don’t expect her to do anything at this point, just take what I’m giving her. I roll us over so that she’s lying on the pillow and I’m behind and on top of her, straddling her with her legs closed. My dick didn’t even come out of its happy place.

With her hand bound and nestled in the small of her back, I open her ass with both hands and admire her puckering rosette as I stroke between her legs and into her pussy. It’s tight and hot and ready to blow and now, I’ve pushed her legs together. She’s losing her mind. I lean my weight onto her pink cheeks and stroke, stroke, stroke—deep and long. She doesn’t need pressure in this position to drive her mindless. She needs friction and rhythm, and I’m giving it to her just right. She groans mournfully and I watch her rosette again, puckering and opening with each thrust. My mouth waters, and I regret not having a butt plug at the moment.

When she begins to pant, I untie her hands. I need to be close to her, to have her hear me… and feel me.

I pin her hands next to her head with both of mine, entwining my fingers into hers.

“I’m going to mark you,” I whisper harshly in her ear, “so that they know that you’re mine!”

I lean down and first sink my teeth into her neck, causing her to cry out. Then I replace my teeth with my lips and tongue, licking and sucking and bring the blood to the surface of her skin. She moans helplessly as I continue to dig into her sex while giving her a conspicuous love bite. It’s driving me fucking insane. If she doesn’t tap out soon…

When I’m satisfied with the bite on her neck, I move to her back, just below her nape sinking my teeth in first then licking and sucking, just like before. I keep my stroke hard, deep, and steady into that clenched pussy, determined to make her surrender before I do this time.

She’s whimpering so much that she almost sound like she’s crying, and I vaguely remember bringing her to tears with her spanking. My bites now become sensual, open mouthed kisses on her back. Fuck, she feels so goddamn good. I lay onto her body, thrusting hard into her and pulling down on our clasped hands for traction, losing myself in her… over and over and over…

“Lady… l… lady… ladybug…”

“Come!” I command her in a harsh whisper. “Come, baby!”

She squeezes my fingers entwined in hers and buries her face in the pillow, screaming out a violent orgasm and thrashing about underneath me. I thrust repeatedly into that tightening, pulsing pussy until a few moments later, I’m burying my face into her back and repeating her actions, grunting and growling out a fearsome climax until my back, balls, and throat hurt from the pressure and the vibration.

“Fuck,” I breathe as I fight to catch my breath. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…”

*-*

Her milk had begun to express on the rug during our session, so I run a bath for her and have her soak for several minutes, allowing the heat to soothe her aches and to help express the rest of her milk as I wash her hair before carrying her to the bedroom. She stayed on her side and I think I may have gotten carried away a bit, but I’m a Dom and I don’t apologize for being one. Besides, she didn’t safeword… until she was about to come.

I didn’t bring any Arnica cream because I didn’t have any intentions of doing a scene on this trip. I look through her toiletries, hoping to find some baby oil or the olive oil that she uses on her nipples, but I find something better.

Eucalyptus lotion.

Did she know that we might do something like this? Did she do all those things to trigger me on purpose? I’ll have to ask her about it, but not right now.

When I enter with the lotion, she’s lying on her stomach with the covers thrown off her. She’s completely shattered, but her eyes are still open—tiny slits that refuse to submit to sleep. I sit on the bed next to her and warm the lotion in my hands. Starting at her shoulders, I begin to work the tension out of her body. I knead with just enough pressure to ease the tightness in the muscles of her back.

When I get to her ass, I examine it closely. I remember a spanking that made me not want to spank her ever again—where her ass was bruised, and she put coats at every exit of the house. I check for bruising, welting, broken skin. The pinkness has faded a bit and her skin is still flushed from the bath, but there are no vicious bruises like before. I’m relieved to see that.

Coating my hands again, I gently rub the lotion into her ass cheeks. She flinches at first, then settles. I don’t linger there, just enough to get the soothing ointment into her skin before moving to her thighs. She actually whines when I begin to knead them. I know they hurt like hell from the workout she got at the very beginning. I was going to make her ride me again until she fell and I realized that her legs couldn’t hold her up anymore.

Had she decided to do this without me, she would have made a great submissive, because she can endure a lot and she doesn’t readily give in. For the same reasons, I have to learn when to pull back, because by the time she does finally tap out, she’s completely destroyed. She’s convinced herself that I need her to go the distance, so she will, but the distance may be too far for her. She showed me this that night in Anguilla and had she not safeworded in the next few minutes, I would have told her to come.

By the time I finish her feet, she’s fast asleep. I smooth a little more lotion on her bottom, a little deeper into the skin this time since she’s asleep, then go to the bathroom and retrieve a brush. I gently brush the kinks out of her long hair and braid it before it dries, securing it with a ponytail holder.

I examine her face in her sleep. Her resting face tells me much more than her conscious face. She can hide her expressions—except her anger and her intense displeasure—when she’s awake. She can’t hide anything when she’s asleep. Her face tells it all—happy, fear, anguish, distress…

Peace.
Right now, she’s completely at peace.

I turn off all the lights and climb in bed beside her, covering her with the blanket before crawling under it myself. I gently trace her sleeping face and pouty lips as I lay on the pillow facing her.

“Sometimes, I love you more than my soul can handle…”

*-*

I awake before she does in the morning. I’m mindful that we need to get going soon if we’re going to make the excursions with Jaxon and Laura. I look over at my sleeping wife. She’s asleep so hard that I hate to wake her. If she says that she doesn’t want to go on the excursions, I’ll honor that request, but I have to give her that choice.

I reach over and stroke her hair gently, and then her cheek, pushing the stray strands of hair from her face. She protests a bit, but then opens her eyes and looks at me.

“Good morning,” I say softly. She inhales deeply and releases a sigh.

“Good morning,” she says weakly.

“I need to ask you something.” She blinks a few times and tries to focus on me. “Do you remember when we had that conversation about BDSM training? Back in August or September before everything went south?” She blinks a few more times, still trying to focus and wake up.

“Do you remember?” I ask again. Maybe I should have waited until she was more conscious before I asked the question. She gently clears her throat.

“I remember some of it, yes,” she says softly.

“Why don’t you ever safeword?” I ask. Her eyes widen a bit, indicating that she’s more alert than she was a moment ago. “You safeworded last night when you were about to come, but you cried before safewording when I spanked you. Why?”

She looks like she’s about to answer, but she doesn’t, so I continue.

“I think you may have the wrong idea about being a submissive,” I tell her. “Being my submissive doesn’t mean that I break you down until you’re bare. I did that to you in Anguilla and I almost lost you. You may disagree, but I know better. It doesn’t mean being weak either; but it also doesn’t mean having to prove that you’re not weak. The D/s relationship is a give-and-take. We both have to get something out of that experience and spanking you until you cry is not something that gets me off.”

Even though she’s still lying down, her gaze drops.

“I need you to look at me because I need to know that you hear me.”

She raises her guileless blue eyes to me again.

“You set me off in so many ways—whether you were trying to or not. Yes, I wanted to regain control, but not in a way that would cause you anguish. You give yourself to me, and I take that, but I try to give you something in return…”

“You were a full-on Dom before you met me,” she says softly. “Canes and whips and paddles and handcuffs… You gave up a lot to be with me, to adapt to me and allow me into your world. You used to go all out on your submissives before me and I know it. I saw everything in the playroom at Escala—everything!”

“That’s why we don’t have that playroom now,” I say calmly, but firmly. “That’s not who I am anymore. I’m not Christian Grey, single Dom billionaire out whipping little brown-haired submissives on the weekend. I’m Christian Grey, husband to Anastasia Grey, father to Mackenzie and Michael Grey, and part-time Dominant and submissive. There’s nothing about me that’s the same as it was before. Is that why you feel like you have to take everything until your body is wracked with pain? Be spanked until you cry? Fuck until your legs don’t work? Submit until you’re too weak and exhausted to keep your eyes open…?”

“I’m not weak,” she declares softly. “I don’t know how far you need to go until you go, and when you need me to have that strength and stamina to endure, I can!”

“Yes, but to the end of your wits!” I say a bit more firmly. “I don’t want any of the Domination fiascos we’ve have before—where you’re completely shattered and not always in a good way, and I’m feeling guilty for what I’ve put you through. Is that why you take such intense scenes? Because you think I need to be the guy that I was before?”

“Apparently, you do!” she says, sitting up in the bed. “You can go for hours! You can spank or whip or flog until your arm gets tired! You can fuck like a teenager—over and over and over again and never tap out. You’ll go as far as I’ll let you and I’m not weak!”

“As far as you’ll let me!” I repeat. “Did you hear that, Anastasia? As far as you’ll let me! I’ve had meetings with every single one of my submissives to discover what their soft and hard limits are; to see what they could take; to set boundaries. Yes, I’ve tested their limits, but not beyond the point of reason. Yes, I’ve punished them, but they knew when to tell me to stop. Not once did I ever take a submissive past her limits once I figured out what I was doing! I made a few mistakes as an amateur, but not once I found my way.

“I’m a Dom. I’m a full-on Dom. I’ve been a full-on Dom for years, but our relationship is supposed to be different. I didn’t feel anything for those women. I felt care and concern, but not love. I love you. You fulfill a need for me, and I love you for that, too. But when I’m in Dom mode, I can go the distance. I can go all the way and more because I take my cues from the submissive. I never know that you’ve had enough or too much until it’s over—when you’ve been broken over the rack, bottom bruised from a shower spanking, or twitching from not being able to come. That’s not what our relationship is…”

“What am I supposed to do?” she shoots, so near tears that I can see them in her eyes waiting to fall. “Your power seeps through your pores! It’s effortless. Women see you and don’t know what to do with themselves, and if you think it’s just the face, you’re wrong! It’s the way you carry yourself, it’s everything about you. The money and the good looks are just a bonus. You lived a lifestyle for years where when you needed relief, you got it from a submissive.

“I’m under no misconception of who you were, but when you can’t get that relief, you’ll turn into someone else! I love that Dominance about you. I don’t want to see it leave, but I don’t want to lose it because I can’t satisfy it!”

Oh, dear God, is that what this is about? Is that seriously what this is about? All the time she’s pushed herself beyond limits I know she couldn’t take, the times I’ve pushed her thinking that she was reaching her limit and not knowing—until later—that she was already past it? Doesn’t she know I worship the fucking ground she walks on? That even if she never subbed for me again, I would still love her with everything I have? Everything I am? I look at her glassy eyes and remember our conversation from that morning:

“After our talk yesterday, I realized that I didn’t know nearly enough about the dynamics of the D/s relationship to handle what was going on with you. We were on a precipice, and our next move would determine the fate of our relationship. Would we come out of this okay? Would we end up in a totally vanilla relationship? Would you have determined that I was able to give you what you needed as a wife but not as a submissive? Would you resent me and turn to others for your D/s needs? Would this be the beginning of the end for us?”

I never put her mind at ease about those questions because I wanted her to keep talking. They’ve been burning in her mind all this time and probably much longer—through the Westwick thing, the Boogeyman, every fight and disagreement… Jesus, if I felt that way about her, I’d go insane. I gather her into my arms and kiss her eyes before the tears have a chance to fall.

“We’re going to need to do some more training,” I tell her, “and we’re going to start when we get back to Seattle.” I brush my lips against her temple and gently caress her hair. I’m putting the kibosh on playtime until she fully learns what it means to be a submissive—to give of herself without losing herself. All this time, she’s just been some girl taking beatings and fucking for me. I don’t think she’s seen who she really is at all in this process, and if she did, she’s lost it.

Once I’ve brought my wife back from the brink of tears, I fire off a text or two to some old friends of mine back in my training days. We’ll need some very professional training for husbands and wives once we return and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m out of my element here. She may not be fully aware of her role as a submissive, but likewise, I think I’m off the mark for being a husDom.

Right before I shut down my screen, I see that Holstein has tried to call me three times. Either he has finally decided to return my calls, or he’s got wind that something is on the cooker with Lincoln. Too little, too late, Ron, I’m taking this matter into my own hands.

My girl successfully recovers from the seriousness of our conversation and presents herself in yet another tasty ensemble—this time a pair of white skinny jeans, a yellow and white polka-dot halter… and sneakers! Butterfly never wears sneakers. These are a pair of Nikes—white with a yellow swoosh. She ties a white sweater around her waist that does nothing to cover that glorious ass.

And once again, I feel like a troll.

“I’m never calling Vickie again,” I say when I see her.

“Well, you can hold Vickie responsible for the jeans and the sneakers, but you’d have to blame Grandma Ruby for the shirt.” My eyes bulge out as she does a full turn to show me the shirt… and the love bites on her back and neck.

“Um… baby, you do remember our scene from last night, don’t you?” She looks up at me. God, I never realize how short she is until she loses the heels.

“You mean the hickeys?” she asks, unfazed.

“Yeah,” I reply, and it sounds more like a question.

“Nobody knows me on this trip except Laura and Jaxon and from what I understand, they have a pretty good idea how we get down,” she replies. “No offense, my love, but I have nothing here but a summer wardrobe. Unless you intended for me to spend the rest of the trip with a towel wrapped around my back, somebody was going to see this. Then again, you knew that.” She gives me a sarcastic smile.

Well, yeah, I did know that.

“Turn around,” I sigh. The one on her neck is clearly a love bite, but I want to see what the ones on her back look like. I don’t want anyone to think she’s a battered wife.

Uh, yeah… clearly love bites, too.

“You’ll do,” I lament, knowing that everybody’s going to look at her and then look directly at me.

“Well, thanks,” she says, picking up her backpack. I take it from her.

“I’ll carry that for you,” I say, admittedly still feeling a bit of a sting of guilt from last night. She gives it to me and reads my expression.

“It was grueling,” she admits, “And strenuous, but all’s well that ends well, right?”

I sigh inwardly and nod, just because I really don’t want to talk about it anymore. She let the cat out of the bag that she takes more than she probably would under normal circumstance because of me—because she’s concerned that I’ll be displeased or dissatisfied. Inevitably, she thinks that’ll lead to me leaving her or cheating on her. I’ve tried to impress upon her that that will never happen, but it hasn’t worked, especially considering the fact that I jumped ship when the whole Westwick thing happened—pun intended.

“We better go,” I say, taking her hand. “We don’t want to keep our tour guides waiting.”

I lead her to the door thinking about the texts I sent earlier to mentors that I hope will help us on our path.

Jason and Lawrence follow us to the conference area to meet up with Laura and Jaxon. Other passengers going to port and to excursions are waiting there as well. Laura is dressed similarly to Butterfly in a flowy strappy blouse and jeans while Jaxon looks like me—T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers. We exchange greetings and Laura gives Butterfly a hug. Just as I suspected, Laura looks at my wife, then turns a wide-eyed gaze and a knowing half-smile to me.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say dismissively.

“The breast is bettah, mate,” Jaxon says with mirth, “an’ less conspicuous.”

“Unreachable at the time,” I say with no further explanation.

“Ah,” he and Laura respond simultaneously, eliciting a giggle from Butterfly. She locks arms with Laura and they effortlessly start chatting away.

We’re out early as our outings to Hobart, Port Arthur, and surrounding areas are going to be squeezed into a day and a half and we don’t want to miss anything. We’ll most likely only be back on board to sleep, and back off tomorrow morning for the rest of our excursion.

We’ve docked in Hobart, but our excursion is yet another boat ride—a ferry from Brooke Street Pier to the Museum of Old and New Art. Twenty minutes or so later, we’re having “brekkie,” as Jaxon calls it, at the restaurant in the museum called The Source since our day started so early. We’re all having “The Big Fry Up,” which is farm fresh eggs, smoky bacon, sausage, grilled tomato and mushrooms, hash browns, and beans. I’m somewhat shocked to see my wife pull out those sexy ass Buddy Holly glasses to eat her breakfast. I try not to react, but Jaxon reacts for me.

“Chris,” he says, dragging my name out in a sing-songy type manner, “no offense, mate, but ‘ow do ya deal with thaht?”

“I need you to be more specific,” I reply.

“She maykes nuhrd glasses look sexy,” he says just above a whisper so that only I can hear him. “Ya must be beytin’ ‘em off with a stick!”

“Oh, you have no idea,” I lament, taking a drink of my black coffee. Like clockwork, Butterfly and Laura’s conversation migrates to last night.

“When you pull lipstick out of your makeup case and the first thing you think when you see it is ‘dick sucking red,’ you should probably put it back. But nooooooo, Anastasia had to wear the dick sucking red lipstick, and now she’s wondering why half the female population of the ship hates her,” Butterfly says.

“It can’t be that bad,” Laura remarks.

“Yes, it is,” we say simultaneously.

“Last night,” Butterfly continues, “two French-speaking cows at our table talked about me through the entire meal.”

“How did you know they were talking about you?” Laura asks nonplussed. Butterfly tilts her head and twists her lips.

“Oh,” Laura says knowingly. “Tu parle français.”

“Yes!” Butterfly retorts forcefully. “Fluently! And you?” Laura laughs.

“Not a word,” she says, “that is, except ‘tu parle français.’” Butterfly snorts a short laugh.

“Well, I’m telling you, I get it everywhere, and probably in more languages, too. I like to wear nice clothes, I like to keep myself fit. I’m attractive, and I know it. I’m tired of constantly getting into verbal sparring matches with women because they hate me because I’m beautiful or for the fact that I’m with a beautiful, wealthy man. I’m going to start finding another way to handle it, just like I did with those cows at dinner. And the glares that I was getting from the women in the front row…” She turns to me. “You didn’t see them—I got the last laugh with them, too, because their men all came rushing to help me off stage. What do they want—they want me to look like a toad standing next to you? Gain 25 pounds because I’ve had twins and that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do? Leave you or expect you to leave me because I’m not good enough for you? Fuck ‘em, I’m done.”

“Um, you skipped something,” Laura points out. “Front row? On stage?”

“Oh, my friend, do I have a story for you…”


A/N: 

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

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~~love and handcuffs